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UnionDocs in Brooklyn and Berlin, DVDs, "Aftershock"

"What better way to spend Election Night than watching classic campaign ads and a political documentary?" asks Mike Everleth, pointing us to a multi-part special program happening tonight in Brooklyn and co-presented by UnionDocs and Cinebeasts. Following "a smattering of classic campaign commercials, ranging from the Eisenhower days to the wealth of populist YouTube-targeted spots from this year's midterms" (so reads the program; see ten of the wackiest from this year's go-round here) and Brian Springer's 1995 documentary Spin (Video Data Bank: "Pirated satellite feeds revealing US media personalities' contempt for their viewers come full circle"), there'll be a panel discussion featuring David Bushman, curator-in-chief of the Paley Center for Media, "News Dissector" Danny Schechter and playwright and screenwriter Beau Willimon, whose play Farragut North is currently being adapted as The Ides of March, with George Clooney directing Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood (Sony's picked it up for a release next December).

Tonight in Berlin, Andrew Grant, the co-founder of Benten Films known to many as Filmbrain, and filmmaker Pamela Cohn launch a new weekly series, Kino Satellite, at Das Direktorenhaus. Pamela Cohn has an overview of coming attractions and tonight's program, featuring Japanese-Canadian multi-disciplinary artist Alison SM Kobayashi, who "will be presenting four of her distinctive video pieces. Joining us for the second half will be Christopher Allen, creative director and founder of Brooklyn's UnionDocs documentary collaborative. Both of them will be there in person. In fact, Kobayashi and Allen happen to be on their European honeymoon. Lucky for us Berlin was on their itinerary."



Destricted, out from Revolver Entertainment, "is a compilation of eight short films that 'explore the fine line where art and pornography intersect,' according to the press materials." At Hammer to Nail, Nelson Kim runs us through the contributions from Matthew Barney, Brazilian artist Tunga, photographers Richard Prince and Santo D'Orazio, Marilyn Minter, Cecily Brown and the two "strongest entries" from Gaspar Noé and Larry Clark, but not before noting, "Just as everyone has different tastes in movies, everyone has different tastes in sex, so the fundamental truism behind any film review — what gets me going is likely to be different from what gets you going — is even more true than usual here."

"Think of Dark Star [1974] as John Carpenter's answer to the glistening designs and metaphysical ponderings of Stanley Kubrick's 2001," writes Sean Axmaker. "Deglamorizing the allure of space-age technology by giving it a drab, industrial practicality, Carpenter and co-writer/special effects supervisor/actor Dan O'Bannon give us not heroic space jockeys bravely exploring the unknown but 'truck drivers in space' stuck on the fringes of the galaxy in a broken-down ship long past a dry-dock overhaul, numbly trudging through the twentieth year of a mission to blow up unstable planets." VCI's "new edition (officially the 'Hyperdrive Edition,' with the tongue-in-cheek subtitle '36½ Year Anniversary') boasts a newly remastered transfer from a 35mm print and frame-by-frame digital restoration, but given its origins (shot on 16mm film in a USC campus studio) it's still a soft-looking film: clean and bright but fuzzy."

DVD roundups. Paul Matwychuk and Heather Noel, Noel Murray (Los Angeles Times), Stephen Saito (IFC) and Slant.

A couple of weeks ago, Twitch's Todd Brown noted that "distributor China Lion has struck a deal with AMC to bring Chinese blockbusters to US screens simultaneously to their release in China. It's a deal very similar to how AMC currently handles Indian releases and provides a solution better both for fans — as they get to see the films on the big screen without the lengthy lag required by traditional distribution — and for producers who cut out piracy concerns by releasing quickly."

One of those blockbusters — the blockbuster, actually, considering that it's China's biggest domestic hit of all time — is already in theaters in around 20 cities. Mike Hale in the New York Times: "To call Aftershock a melodrama doesn't really do it justice. Shortly after Feng Xiaogang's film begins, a woman whose husband has just died in the devastating 1976 Tangshan earthquake looks up and screams: 'God! You bastard!' And things go downhill from there. Before you know it, she has a Sophie's choice to make involving her two trapped children and a concrete slab.... The surprise is that while you're aware that Aftershock is extracting tears with a sledgehammer, it doesn't necessarily feel like abuse; it's easy to let yourself go along with it.... Mr Feng, director of the romantic caper A World Without Thieves and the romantic comedy If You Are the One (No. 3 in that box office ranking), has been called the Spielberg of China. In Aftershock the comparison makes sense in terms beyond commercial success. He somehow manages to mitigate the worst excesses of Su Xiaowei's script. The film may be a blunt instrument, but it's rarely maudlin... and is, on occasion, quite moving."

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Aftershock made Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter seem like a visual masterpiece. It’s odd to have my appreciation for one film heightened by my disdain for another; but, this seems to be the case between these two.

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