North Korea celebrated the 46th birthday of its dictator Kim Jong Il (the “Dear Leader”) by creating a hybrid red begonia in his honor, naming it kimjongilia. It supposedly symbolized wisdom, love, peace, and justice; none of which are at all in evidence in the North Korea portrayed in N.C. Heikin’s harrowing film about this modern-day slave state. A chain of starkly recorded interviews with people who escaped reveals not just the horror of their day-to-day privations, but also the depth of the near-religious indoctrination the state put them through…
Kimjongilia is in limited release now. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
The ghosts of the recent past never seem that far away in a certain kind of Irish spook story, of which writer/director Conor McPherson’s The Eclipse is an almost too-perfect example. A prolific playwright (The Weir, The Seafarer) and occasional filmmaker (Saltwater), McPherson can work his way around this sort of rainy tale with ease, crafting a mood that alternates between longing regret and bone-deep fright…
The Eclipse opens today in limited release. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The new movie of Stieg Larsson’s mystery novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor), is a quality translation, comparable to what Ron Howard could have done with his Dan Brown films had the source material been worthy…
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is in limited release now. You can read the full review at PopMatters.
A gloomy romance about beautiful people in the big, beautiful city, Remember Me flirts with preposterousness on multiple occasions but still comes through with its dramatic potency very nearly intact. Given that the film’s central relationship revolves around a guy dating a girl just to get back at her policeman father, this achievement is nothing to scoff at…
Remember Me is playing everywhere now. Read the full review at filmcritic.com.
Fresh off the buzz from their last two Jason Bourne installments, director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon graft their patented punchiness onto an Iraq War-based story about the hunt for WMDs and the political machinations behind it. If the film had worked, the results could have been the birth of a new genre: the action muckraker. But Green Zone fails on both counts, as thriller and smart drama.
Green Zone opens wide today. You can read the full review at Film Journal International.
Alice in Wonderland
Bearing about as much resemblance to its literary source as Electronic Arts’ Dante’s Inferno video game does to the fourteenth century poetry cycle it takes its name from, Tim Burton’s new 3-D version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland stands as a rather dire portent for things to come. If this is how film studios, particularly Disney, are intent to go about “reimagining” properties out of their back catalogs or the public domain, audiences would be better served to stay home and watch sitcom reruns; there’s less cynicism there…
The new Alice in Wonderland opens wide today. You can read the full review at Short Ends & Leader.
Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Süss
What do you do when your last name is that of a man synonymous with anti-Semitic propaganda? Do you change your name? Do you lash back at accusers and proclaim your ancestor a misunderstood artist too naïve to be guilty? Do you battle in causes diametrically opposed to that legacy, as a way of expunging the stain? Do you live quietly, aware that it was not your fault but unable to stem the tide of guilt?
With the far-flung family of German filmmaker Veit Harlan, a favorite of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and director of the still-banned 1940 hate film Jew Süss, their reactions cover all the above. Felix Moeller’s studious and inquisitive documentary, Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Süss, investigates the man behind the film and the disquieting legacy he left behind…
Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Süss is playing now in limited release. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.