Some Kind of Monster
"The Great Metal Meltdown"

Reviwed by Wendy R. Williams

"Some Kind of Monster" is darkly hysterical documentary about the band Metallica and their descent into group therapy/marriage counseling. Two filmmakers, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, followed the band during 2001-2003, shooting over twelve hundred hours of footage. The original premise was for the filmmakers to make a promo film for Metallica's new album, the now named "St. Anger". This album was Metallica's return to production after several years of hiatus from the release of 1997's "Reload". The promo evolved into a documentary, which turned out to not be about recording, after all. Instead we see a story about a multi-million-dollar corporation whose officers are forced to seek group therapy, so the business can survive and they can continue to reap the benefits of being Metallica-Of-The-90-Million-Albums.

When the filming began, the band had just lost their bassist, Jason Newsted. Jason was forced out when the band objected to Jason's working with another band, Echobrain. Jason had originally replaced bassists Cliff Burton, who died in a bus accident. Losing Jason was the catalyst for the band's decision to try to work out their differences, before they hire another guitarist and perhaps make the same mistakes. (continued)

Kang Je-gyu's
Tae Guk Gi
The Brotherhood of War
Korean with English Subtitles
Opens Sept. 10, 2004

Reviewed by Stephanie Alberico

I hate subtitles. I don't feel reading should be a prerequisite for
movie-going. However, Kang Je-gyu's new war film, "Tae Guk Gi," is an
exception to the rule. My understanding of the film came solely through the vivid imagery and not the words. Its message was strong and clear.

Director Kang Je-gyu delivers a courageous story about honor and betrayal, but most of all about brotherly love. The Brotherhood of War takes a look at the effects the Korean War had on its country, society, and families.

Kang Je-gyu is the acclaimed director of the foreign blockbuster, "Shiri." He has brought audiences another touching and emotional tale with this film. He proves his ability to create a distinct war film that features mammoth battle scenes and an underlying story about a divided nation, and a family torn apart.


Persons of Interest
Opens Friday September 3rd
September 3rd - 9th
Cinema Village

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

"First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me." Martin Niemoller

I am from Texas, the same state as our First Cowboy, George W. Bush. When I was in high school I attended a lecture at Southern Methodist University and heard Martin Niemoller. Niemoller was imprisoned by Hitler and spent eight years in prison, some of it at Dauchau. From then on, whenever he spoke he would always end with the above quote...."There was no one left to speak out for me." I really was not supposed to be there that night, we were in Dallas on a vacation and my parents heard he was speaking and wanted to attend. But like many accidental happenings, it had a profound affect on how I view life.

About a week ago, I went to see "Persons of Interest", a documentary about twelve Arabs (of the over five thousand arrested after 9/11), who were snatched off the streets of this our United States and held incommunicado, with no right to counsel, for up to twelve months. Each speaker, or group of speakers, was filmed in a bare room, furnished only with a bench, there they answered question from an unseen narrator. Each story was poignant, from the executive who was jailed because his son had a flight simulator and he had a used ticket to the World Trade Center observation deck, to the mother of three extremely rambunctious boys who was at her wits end trying to raise them without a father (her husband was deported).

Yes, we were attacked by Arabs, but we were attacked by specific Arabs with the intention to do us in, not the guys at the corner deli. Listening to the stories of these twelve men, it was impossible to not believe that most all of them had no ties to terrorists. Even the most cynical among us would have to admit that if they were terrorists, neither they not their families would have been willing to participate in a documentary about their experiences.

I was left with the horrible suspicion that our posse-in-power in Washington just decided it was time to haul in some "Injuns," and instructed their minions to grab the first Arabs they saw, on the off chance that they might know "something." Many of the detainees spoke of how they had come to America because they believed America was the land of the free, with opportunity for all, and how horribly delusioned they were to find out that they could be denied basic civil rights with hardly any outcry. The one adjective that came to mind to describe them is hurt, hurt because it happened and hurt because the rest of us did little to help. They all seemed bewildered, why couldn't people just see them and realize that they were just like us? But it did happen to "them" and it is continuing to happen to "them" and (to paraphrase Martin Niemoller), if we don't speak out now, in the end there may be no one left to speak out for us, and then we too may become "them."

"Persons of Interest" was produced by Lawrence Konner and directed by Alison Maclean and Tobiase Perse. It is being presented by the Documentary Campaign and screens with "Through the Wire" (a fascinating documentary about Australian protestors storming a detention center)and "Getting Through to the President" (a very funny documentary about New Yorkers using a payphone to call the White House comment line). "Persons" is coming exclusively to Cinema Village during the Republican National Convention. Tickets and information (212) 924-3363

Cinema Village| 22 E. 12th St


Mike Bencivenga's
Happy Hour
Opens October 22nd.

Reviewed by Jessica Cogan

Happy Hour begins like so many other tales of the city - soulful music, view of the New York skyline at night. But what ensues in Mike Bencivegna's film is a very personal look at deceptively stereotypical characters and what happens when happy hour ends and real life resumes.

The story follows Tulley (Anthony Paglia), a boozy smart ass who had once showed great promise as a writer but has since buried that talent under years of meaningless work as a copy editor and about 35,000 gallons of whiskey. Tulley is accompanied on most of his benders by his sidekick Levine, himself a writer suffering from lack of confidence and the inertia good times with Tulley brings on. One night at "the bar" Tulley meets Natalie (Caroleen Feeney), a school teacher who doesn't like children and seems tired out by life. The two hit it off (and hit the sheets) and soon the trio is inseperable.

But relationships built on such liquor-saturated ground are rarely stable, and when Tulley learns that his years of liver abuse have caught up with him, the dynamic of the friendships shift. Tulley feels death's urgency in finishing his novel - seventeen years in the works. Levine sees in Tulley his own future if he stays his present course. And Natalie must determine whether love is worth the pain it can cause.

The film is very atmospheric - great shots of the city, its (pre-Bloomberg) smoky bars and soaring corporate fortresses. LaPaglia's ragged voice over and the moody score round out the gritty-city feel. And while the film is heavy on drama, there are more than a few laugh-out-loud lines- mostly Tulley's - that lighten the mood. LaPaglia, Feeney and particularly Stoltz deliver fine performances and play off one another naturally.

Despite the rather gloomy subject matter - following an alcoholic in demise is hardly cheery - the film is finally hopeful. You just may not want to go out for a beer afterwards.


Jonathan Demme's
The Manchurian Candidate

Reviewed by John Pelham

The original (1962) "Manchurian" became a classic because it was so politically controversial for it's time, but it didn't gain popularity until 1964. Although this 2004 version has been released right before election time, that timing doesn't match the mass paranoia that followed the assassination of one of America's most beloved presidents. Setting that caveat aside, Jonathan Demme's "Manchurian Candidate" is a great film. It has been re-imagined and modernized to appeal to today's audiences. What hasn't changed is the ultimate paranoia that has been instilled in the characters and consequently, the viewers.

With a cast like Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep and Liev Schreiber,
it's hard to imagine that you wouldn't be watching performances that one may call a tour de force. Needless to say, you are. In a recent interview, Angela Lansbury (who was nominated for an Academy Award for the original) said that she was quite upset that they were re-making the film. Who wouldn't be if Meryl Streep was about to reprise your role. It's arguable whether or not you should leave a good thing alone. You know the old saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." And this is normally true for movies. But ultimately, Demme does the original justice in a world of ever-changing ethics and technological advancements. If you don't catch it in theatres, it's definitely worth at least a rental. I think I may even add it to my DVD collection.


Ferenc Toth's
Unknown Soldier
Urban World Film Festival

Starring Carl Louis, Layla Edwards, Randy Clark, and Postell Pringle

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

Living in New York can be tough all around, especially so if you are young and don't have loving parents with a working checkbook. Everything can go wrong and frequently does. Family and friends can be the only thing that keeps a young (even college-educated) person off the street.

"Unknown Soldier," written and directed by Ferenc Toth, is a poignant slice-of-life film about a young black guy named Ellison or "L" (played by Carl Lewis), who loses his comfortable life when his father dies suddenly, leaving him with nothing. Evicted from his apartment, he is thrown on the mercies of financially strapped friends and ends up spending many a night on the rooftops and in the doorways of Harlem. And by losing his home, he also loses any hope of staying apace with his girl friend, Tandee (played by Layla Edwards), who is moving on with her life by going to college in the fall. Forced into a homeless shelter, "L" is quickly seduced by the darker side of life, and starts running errands and "driving" for a charismatic local hood named Zee (played by Postell Pringle).

"Unknown Soldier" had a very limited budget and with its many hand-held camera scenes, it sometimes seems more like a documentary than a "film." Some of the scenes are so poorly lit, you can barely see the actors. But Mr. Toth's story shines through the dark. Carl Lewis is a natural actor who possesses an innate sweetness that carries the film. No matter what adversity befell "L" I really liked him and knew that in the end, he would be okay.

I saw the film at the Urban World Film Festival. As I was walking into the auditorium, I was surrounded by a large group of Harlem street kids. So I said to myself, "They've come to watch the film….a little different group from your normal film festival crowd, but this is the Urban World Film Festival and someone must have done some targeted marketing." Then I saw the film and realized that those street kids were the film's actors and they were all great! It was a very cool moment, one you can only have in New York. Bravo!

Maria Full of Grace

Joshua Marston's
Maria Full of Grace

Reviewed by John Pelham

I ate too much popcorn, plus I had to pee really badly. I thought I had problems. Try swallowing 62 pellets packed with heroin-pellets roughly the size of "Super-Absorbant O. B. Tampons"-and flying from Columbia to New York. Needless to say, Maria was full of more than just Grace.

Writer and director Joshua Marston's touching film, "based on 1,000 true stories," gives the audience a unique inside perspective on drug trafficking, as it follows Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno), a 17 year-old drug "mule" on her journey to the United States. A little bit of chance, quite a bit of money, and whole lot of desperation compels Maria to put her life at risk and accept this dangerous task. Sixty-two pellets and one extremely full stomach later, Maria is on the plane with a well-known colleague and a couple of others that she just met…all of them in the same situation. Marston does a fine job of keeping us in suspense as we watch the girls having to deal with a stomach full of drugs. It was made quite clear that if a pellet burst, it would result in a fatal overdose. Not to mention that if a pellet was missing after they were, um…passed over, the girls' families would pay the price. On the plane, one of the girls even had to re-swallow a pellet or two because she couldn't hold them in any longer. The plane lands, Maria and a couple others are randomly asked into questioning, some are luckier than others, and (one might declare) by the grace of God, Maria is sent on her way. But don't worry, more trouble ensues.

I hadn't realized this was a thriller, but I was on the edge of my seat throughout all of these scenes. Even when it's hard to imagine why someone would choose to do something like this, we feel sympathy for Maria. We want her to successfully smuggle into this country-not for the drugs, but for her safety.

But Maria's journey extends far beyond the point of her plane landing. There's an entirely different journey going on in Maria's mind throughout this movie, and by the end, we realize that the complete itinerary is all planned out. She has finally figured things out for herself. It leaves us feeling full of inspiration and hope for Maria…and alright, I guess you can also say, Grace.

Rural Route Film Festival

Galapagos Art Space
70 North 6th Street, Williamsburg

Reviewed by John Pelham

I felt like I was right back at home in the country when I sat down at the 2nd Annual Rural Route Film Brooklyn. With hay bales and farm paraphernalia amidst the barn-like theatre, this festival had found the perfect rural setting. The night opened with a few door prizes, like a stereotypical can of chewin' tobacco, which of course, the entire audience jumped to get their hands on.

The festival's opening selection was well chosen-that film being "Westless American." With six minutes of beautiful footage covering six U.S. states and including several national and state parks, this short was one of the highlights. Don't question why this man was running cross-country (quite literally), but just think Forrest Gump…seems to be that "he just felt like run-ning."

Another highlight was the film "Putnam," which featured some great camera work and classic visual techniques. The well-delivered story follows a Sheriff as he tries to find a guilty friend, that is, a friend guilty of murder. The director successfully gives us the notion of a very rural village with all of its lonely people going about their mundane business of everyday life…a perfect entry for this festival.

"Sobre La Tierra" (Upon the Earth), an Argentinian film, seemed to be the most didactic of the bunch. Two little boys fighting over one bag find resolution from a woman's wisdom at the conclusion of the eight minutes. The super 8 cinematography gives accurate representation of "the gritty nature of their argument."

Other films to round out the first showtime were:"Pardon! Pardon! The Cajun Mardi Gras Chase," a passionate film about popular teenage tradition; Bright Eyes' "Lover I Don't Have to Love", another beautifully shot film, but this time, a karaoke video; "El Pozo" (The Pit), an abstract digging; and "Hybrid," a biographical documentary which was sympathetic and personal, and intensified by its teary-eyed filmmaker sitting next to me.

If you missed it this time-no matter if it was the films or the chewin' tobacco that you were looking forward to-they'll be back again next year, that is, if they get enough of the necessary support.

All in all, the Rural Route Film Festival was entertaining. A wide range of films were chosen even within the boundaries of its "rural" guidelines-and even confined by the city limits of Brooklyn, this film festival was equipped to transport you back to the country. Ahh, there's no place like home.


Takeshi Kitano's

Japanese with English Subtitles
Opens Friday July 23, 2004

Flying Limbs! Squirting blood! Cross Dressing! Tap dancing!
What more could a girl want?

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

"Zatoichi," written and directed and acted by the very talented Takeshi Kitano, is a spoofy fun romp about a blind masseur who is both a skillful gambler and a deadly swordsman.   According to the press release, films about this blind swordsman ruled Japanese cinema from the 60's through the 80's.  Takeshi Kitano, who has worn many hats as a stand-up comic, actor and director, has now revived the story of "Zatoichi," a monk-like nomad who travels the countryside carrying a cane which conceals a hidden sword.  

Here is the synopsis from the press release:

"Zatoichi is a 19th Century blind nomad who makes his living as a gambler and masseur.  However, behind this humble facade, he is a master swordsman gifted with a lightning-fast draw and breathtaking precision.

While wandering, Zatoichi discovers a remote mountain village at the mercy of Ginzo, a ruthless gang-leader.  Ginzo disposes of anyone who gets in his way, especially after hiring the mighty samurai ronin Hattori as a bodyguard.  After a raucous night of gambling in town, Zatoichi encounters a pair of geishas - as dangerous as they are beautiful - who've come to avenge their parents' murder at the hands of Ginzo.

As the paths of these and other colorful characters intertwine, Ginzo's henchmen are soon after Zatoichi.  With his legendary cane sword at his side, the stage is set for a riveting showdown."

This story is both ancient and modern, a myth populated by quirky characters like a cross-dressing geisha who enjoys a dip in a communal hot tub.  Blood squirts and dismembered arms and legs fly but even the most sanguine scenes are hysterically funny, so who cares?  It doesn't seem real, and that is the charm. Bravo

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