By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Night. If R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming” were a movie, this would be it. Lawrence Johnston’s documentary offers up stunning images of Australia at night, while various ordinary people expound upon what night means to them, and an orchestral score swells. A brief detour into 9/11 and terrorism is weirdly incongruous, but overall, this is a real beauty to watch, though potentially fidget-inducing.
The Project. In this inner-city drama, a team of documentary filmmakers attempt to chronicle the life of an at-risk black kid on one hand, and a local police officer on the other. What they don’t realize is the manner in which the two are connected, and the way that connection will send everything into a dark downward spiral. Think of it as The Blair Projects Project.
Radio Corazon. An anthology of three stories of sexual indiscretion, based on actual phone calls to a popular Chilean radio station. A teenager blackmails her stepdad into taking her virginity, a mother falls for her son’s bride-to-be, and a terminally ill woman pressures her servant into sleeping with her husband. Fun stuff, but not nearly as steamy as it needs to be.
Red Like the Sky. Biopic of acclaimed Italian sound editor Mirco Mencacci (inexplicably renamed Mirco Balleri here), who, as a child in the ‘70s, was accidentally blinded while handling his father’s gun. As per Italian law at that time, he was removed from the public schools to attend a religiously run boarding institute for blind children, and it was here that he apparently learned—in spite of his strict headmaster—to create soundscapes. So terminally heartwarming, you might want to pop an extra Zantac.
Take. A grieving mother (Minnie Driver) goes on a journey to confront the man (Jeremy Renner), now on death row, who has caused her so much pain. Writer-director Charles Oliver has made a striking debut that’s almost perfectly cast. Unfortunately, the kid (Martian Child’s Bobby Coleman) is so annoying that it’s hard to get worked up over his loss.
Time Crimes. In one of the best movie opening sequences in recent memory, a peeping Tom (Karra Elejalde) tries to get a closer look at a naked woman in the woods, only to be stabbed in the arm by a man with a bandaged face. Fleeing to a nearby silo, he accidentally ends up in a time machine that sends him an hour into the past. The rest, unfortunately, is a bit more predictable.
To Touch the Soul. Documentary in which a group of students from Cal State Long Beach travel to Cambodia to teach HIV-positive children how to paint. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the students bonded with the kids, and that conditions over there are harsh. Well done for what it is, but better suited to the small screen.
Trying to Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon. Most people probably know Jack Sheldon best as the voice of Schoolhouse Rock’s “Bill on Capitol Hill,” but he had a long and storied career before that. Directed by talk-radio host Doug McIntyre and his wife Penny Peyser, this documentary has the feel of an all-star call-in show, with the likes of Merv Griffin, Clint Eastwood, Billy Crystal and more all offering anecdotes and opinions. A must-see for jazz fans.
Under the Sun. Mostly set around the Gold Coast of Australia, this surfing documentary focuses on the divide between competitive surfers and more Zen-like hobbyists. The filmmakers, however, seem more affiliated with the latter, as they use different film stocks, filters, speeds, and forms of animation to create an almost-non-narrative cinematic trance. Damned if I can remember any of the interviews, but it sure is pretty.
What We Do Is Secret. Shane West stars as Germs lead singer Darby Crash in this energetic biopic that mostly rocks, up until a poorly sketched-out ending that does little to clarify Darby’s demise. West nails the emotional tone of raw ambition mixed with crushing depression, though, and the music is great.
NOT WORTH YOUR $$
The Art of Travel. An uptight, wealthy city boy (Christopher Masterson) gets cheated on by his fiancee and decides to travel the world. When he bushwhacks in Panama alongside James Duval and Johnny Messner, it’s kind of fun. The rest is cloying and a structural mess, despite scenic locations.
Camille. A white-trash loser (James Franco) is pressured into marrying a beautiful but annoying loudmouth (Sienna Miller) who wants to honeymoon at Niagara Falls. Along the way, their motorcycle crashes and she dies, but inexplicably won’t stay dead. With hubby being accused of her murder, and the still-lively body starting to decompose, it’s a race against time to get to Niagara and rekindle their relationship. The bizarre premise is never properly explained or exploited; you’ll feel like the undead watching it.
El Brindis. A Mexican photographer (Ana Serradilla) travels to Chile to meet her terminally ill estranged father (José Soriano) and the family she barely knows, all of whom are Orthodox Jews. While there, she falls for the rabbi (Francisco Melo). If you were expecting fireworks or drama to ensue, don’t.