Picks, Pans, All That – Day Four: Sunday, April 6

April 6, 2008 at 3:29 pm 1 comment

These people are pure evil.

The Good

Join Us (Ondi Timoner, USA): Your last chance to catch Timoner’s follow-up to her indie rock doc DiG!, wherein she trails the recently deprogrammed former members of a crazy ass religious cult. Bone chilling. (7:15pm, Ritz East)

Summer Scars (Julian Richards, UK): PFF vet Richards (The Last Horror Movie) returns with a semi-autobiographical thriller about a group of young teenagers held hostage in a forest by a frazzled older mentalist (Kevin Howarth) who just wants to be their friend. Succinct (at under 70 minutes), it doesn’t do much you haven’t seen before, but it does possess an impressive turn from Howarth, whose volcanic-yet-vulnerable turn gives the film an uneasy feel. (12pm, Prince Music Theater)

The Deal (Steven Schachter, USA): Not even a little original but watchable nonetheless, this “love letter to Hollywood” co-written and starring William H. Macy as a washed-up producer fares a little better than most such correspondences, if only because the fast pace doesn’t give you enough time to realize how easy and familiar all the jokes are. (12pm, Ritz East)

American Teen (Nanette Burstein, USA):
On the Rope’s Bustein returns with a zippy doc on high school seniors in middle America. Aesthetically it’s not too different from VH1/MTV/etc., but it never remotely condescends and extends the same care to both the social outcasts and the evil popular types. (2:30pm, Ritz East)

Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts (Scott Hicks, Australia): Shine director Hicks, of all people, helms this probing but relaxed doc on repetition-loving minimalist composer Philip Glass. As a look at the artistic process, it’s never more than superficial, but as a look at how even so highfalutin’ an artist as Glass is Just Some Dude, it’s pretty priceless. Hicks shows Glass cooking for his family, practicing Buddhism and generally fumbling around; one highlight finds him dorkily interrupting an interview with his much-younger wife to inexplicably ask her for her e-mail password. Philip Glass, apparently, is not to be feared. (4:30pm, Prince Music Theater)

Me (Rafa Cortés, Spain): Another chance to catch this creepily mundane twist on Roman Polanski’s The Tenant, with a German worker slowly and awkwardly being installed into a passive-aggressive Spanish town. (4:30pm, The Bridge)

Side effects of the medicine for melancholy

Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins, USA):
More than just an earnest post-one night stand Amerindie, Jenkins’ drama excels thanks to strong leads, perceptive social analysis and a striking visual gimmick: filmed in B&W, it was colored (very minimally) in post. After a drunken hook-up, two African Americans in San Francisco try to bond, despite she being in a relationship with an away b.f. Jenkins third act dip into shrill histrionics is a bit unfortunate, mostly because its insights into being black and a hipster in one of the whitest cities in America had already been made, and eloquently at that. Still, a strong 80 out of 90 minutes is nothing to sneeze at, no? (7pm, Ritz East)

Edge of Heaven (Fatih Akin, Germany/Turkey):
See yesterday. (7pm, The Bridge)

First Person (Benjamin Herold, USA): Another of the fest’s hand-the-cams-to-the-Philly-kids doc, Herold’s film ups the diarists from two to six and bumps the age up to senior year. The central question is how many of these inner city youths will make it into college and the well-edited film finds plenty of small moments to offer a nuanced view. (9:15pm, International House)

Look how bored Tadanabu Asano looks

The Not So Good
Mongol (Sergei Bodrov, Germany/Kazakhstan/Russia/Mongolia): See Friday’s picks. (12pm, Ritz 5)

Universal Signs (Ann Calamia, USA):
How’s this for an attention-grabbing gimmick: the tale of a deaf man overcoming his grief, Ann Calamia’s locally-shot indie features no diagetic sound, duplicating the experience of being deaf for the audience. (Everyone hand signs, with subtitles.) Sadly the tale itself is sneaky Christian propaganda, with our deaf hero a miserable asshole who warms up thanks to the undying spunk of good Catholic girl Sabrina Lloyd (Sports Night). Look for Joe Dante regular Robert Picardo as a priest. (2:15pm, Prince Music Theater)

Lovely By Surprise
(Kirt Gunn, USA):
Nowhere near Adaptation but not quite down there with Stranger Than Fiction on the meta-writing movie continuum, Gunn’s indie overdoes on quirk, with a novelist struggling to write a tale of brothers looking for cereal on a landlocked ship and eventually crossing over to the real world. Reg Rogers, as a weary car salesman who crosses paths with these creations, gives a soulfully funny turn that helps to make it all the more watchable. And hey look! It’s Austin Pendleton! (2:30pm, Ritz 5)

For the Unknown Dog
(Benjamin and Dominik Reding, Germany):
See yesterday. (9:30pm, Ritz 5)

Help Me Eros (Lee Kang-Shen, Taiwan): Best known as regular lead/muse for minimalist master Tsai Ming-liang (The River, What Time is it There?), Lee makes a second go at directing with this shrill, neon-soaked knock-off of his usual boss. Lee plays a recently bankrupted wastrel who spends his time smoking pot and fucking a betel nut seller. This is where Tsai’s bad ideas go to die. (9:30pm, The Bridge)

ExodusHaven’t Seen
Exodus (left) reimagines the biblical yarn for our times, with the Pharoah reconceived as a right-wing politician and the Jews now England’s various “undesirables” (12:15pm, The Bridge). Japan’s The Matsugane Potshot Affair comically depicts the strange aftermath of a hit-and-run accident (2:15pm, Ritz East). The Pixar Story tells just that, though given their tussles with parent company Disney it ain’t going to be just bouncing lamps and anthropomorphic toys (2:30pm, The Bridge). PW music critic wanted me to tell you about the awesomeness of Kenny, an Australian comedy about septic tank worker with an accent so thick it requires subtitles (5pm, Ritz East). Heavy Metal in Baghdad shows just that (4:45pm, Ritz East). Phoebe in Wonderland stars Campbell Scott, Felicity Huffman, Bill Pullman and Patricia Clarkson – ‘nuff said, no? (7pm, April 6). Mirageman shows you what a lo-fi superhero movie from Chile look like (9:30pm, Ritz East). And Confession of Pain comes from Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, of the Infernal Affairs trilogy, and stars the great Tony Leung – and it only screens once (9:30pm, Prince Music Theater).

Also! I will be participating in a critic’s roundtable, along with folks from the City Paper and the Tribune, at Tbar, located at 117 S. 12th St., at 3pm (running till around 5). Come!

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What I Peeped: Day Three What I Peeped: Day Four

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