Herzog is an eccentric, and perhaps an acquired taste. This film hits you with the immediate bluntness and selfishness of a rookie documentarian, but an awareness that the man speaking from behind the camera might actually be someone worth listening to... not in a traditional documentarian sense of neutrality or cautious respect... but more akin to an entertaining and slightly absent-minded uncle waxing poetic and seeming a bit ridiculous, but still holding the room at rapt attention.
Encounters at the End of the World simply follows that eccentric uncle as he wanders around base-camp, talking about whatever wanders into our out of his mind, making unabashedly random and whimsical commentaries with glacial surety. It drags on, but Herzog is simply too forceful to let you go, and you end with a feeling that you were forced along for the ride but weirdly don't regret the experience.
Hero-worship is all too common, and this film sadly overindulges to the point of making an otherwise worthy subject instead a 2-Dimensional poster-boy for politically-correct heroism. However praiseworthy Desmond Doss's story, convictions, and actions may have been, the documentary does little to explore any emotion other than diamond-in-the-rough praise, with a requisite prelude of ingratitude and hardship. In the end, little is explored beyond a simple narrative that reads a bit too much like a propaganda film or comic-book reimagining (indeed, the film-maker cites his boyhood facination with a comic-book about Doss.) Doss himself is a bit too vague to provide much insight beyond that of a strange form of directors-commentary... and we are left with a sadly isolated view of an otherwise remarkable story, unable to connect any strings or make any inferences other than a big, blaring neon light leading down a path to hero-worship with as much substance as a Hollywood script-writer could manufacture in a weekend. Truly, the substance must have been there... but its direction and cinematic narrative structure have far too many stars in their eyes to unearth more than a few heartstrings to tug at.
A satisfyingly balanced, and for that all the more scathing, look into a rather minor but vocal sideshow of the American Heartland.
It feels like one of those micro-history books sitting in your local bookstore: focused on one subject and rarely if ever deviating to even briefly take a larger overview of its context, yet managing a true documentary level of implied social commentary, leaving the subject matter to work for itself. In that way, we can excuse this film for not tackling larger matters, such as Christian Fundamentalism as a whole, simply because Fred Phelps world is inherently isolationist and not open to these larger issues. The audience is left to interpret the morals and the role this group may have in the world at large, and for that, the film deserves a bit of praise considering the volatile subject matter that could easily have turned into a aimless hack-job. Instead, the documentary presents you with the axe, the grinder, and the instructions... and lets you handle the rest once the film is over. For that, its focus and lack of context is not misplaced: it knows the audience comes in with a preconception, and instead gives ammunition in the form of details, facts, and calm analysis. Satisfaction, and a fair bit of outrage, guaranteed... as long as one reads between the lines and doesn't make this narrow molehill of a subject into a broad mountain of disgust.
A classic of the spy-genre, in its all-out parody glory. Age has only added a new sheen of humor, as we guffaw at the retro aura (the kung-fu grips, the 1960's womanizing, go-go dancing, and ridiculous faux-buddhist upper-class chicness.
Our Man Flint is an essential entry in the genre of parody, and actually manages to stand on its own without knowledge of what it is trying to parody in a way that the more recent (and less sophisticated) Austin Powers has managed to do. Yet where Austin Powers is slapstick hilarity, Our Man Flint is buffoonishly mock-serious.... a parody style that fits the spy-film genre far more comfortably and more satisfyingly... and has aged remarkably well for a highly topical parody.
Lopsided and a bit misdirected, but overall entertaining and informative. The Botany of Desire is obviously trying to entice people into watching a film about something that sends most people to sleep: agriculture and botany. Not a sexy subject in the least, it tries its best (most obviously, in its title) to make its subject appealing to a mass audience. As such, it gets a bit anthro-centric and pop-culturey... complete with gimmicky title cards and simplified narrative structures.
Underneath all the polish though, is an informative and well-thought piece of educational film, notably the beautifully neutral section on Marijuana and the riveting socio-economic history of the Tulip. The genetic-food focus of the Potato, and the somewhat mythologized history of the Apple, the bookends of the film, fall short. Overall, it succeeds as education but looks a bit ridiculous as it tries to pantomime entertainment.
An original, and simultaneously THE original, documentary on graffiti culture, and by extension and to a lesser degree, Hip-Hop culture in general. The 1980's of New York may be long gone, but they are captured here not with beauty or compassion, but with a detached emphasis on humanity.
Well shot, well interviewed, and to a certain extent unbiased. At times it reads like a 60-minutes special, but at its best it provides a genuine, if sometimes too restricted and short, view into a world that has since evolved into something far more pervasive and different.
A disconcerting blend of fact and fiction. Accurate but overblown analysis of past revolutionary false-flag events cast an inappropriately logical light on further "revelations" concerning the London, NYC and Pentagon terrorist attacks of the past decade. A great deal of this conspiratorial message fails to stand up to true logical analysis... and much of the evidence shown fails to explain proper context, interview credible witnesses, or even explain any of its own accusations in greater depth.
Regardless, though, of the beliefs contained within, the film is laughably arranged with large red fonts punctuating word-for-word the narration, eerie warped images and a hilarious "special effects" mentality. I burst out in laughter as the film decries the use of mind-control fear-tactics as the film itself uses threatening music and huge, flaming letters to explain how you have been mind-controlled... and subsequently asked my roommates to re-watch the sequence to make sure I wasn't dreaming it.
Hypocritical and overblown, look to cooler heads to explain that unwholesome truths are rarely as exciting and clear-cut as this film makes them out to be. True analysis is rarely this rewardingly outrageous.
PS: As a response to the grandiose 5-stars on this site for this film, I would like to suggest that if anyone finds the information this film proposes to be even vaguely interesting, to please graduate to such writers as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein or Jeremy Scahill for a much more level-headed and complex analysis of the true effects of US foreign and economic policy over the last 80 years.
A violent gracefulness pervades Shane Meadows intimate semi-autobiographical story about White Nationalism in 1980's England.
You can feel the smooth sincerity of the film-making even amid the grit of its subject matter... which makes the film all the more endearing despite its seriously dark and alienating content. Meadows maintains a deep intimacy with the pulse of his setting that allows simple events to carry immense weight without need for over-dramatization.
Think of it as a grounded prequel to the "Clockwork Orange" which loses none of its visceral ambiance despite its sobriety.
A bizzarre gore-fest that delivers a seemingly endless amount of freakish situations... as if Kill Bill were combined with Videodrome and directed by a deranged Sigmund Freud.
Sadly, it doesn't have its tongue in its cheek nearly enough to be considered a comedy, nor is it coherent enough to be logically considered a horror film. In the end, the film takes its over-the-top gore far too seriously. Gore films are about the gore, naturally, but also absurdity. These core elements (gratuitous violence) must be supported by its cinematic elements (plot, dialog), rather than compete with them. As it stands, Tokyo Gore Police attempts to have a serious dramatic plot mixed with ridiculous violence... and the two don't mix well, resulting in a heavily layered but remarkably hollow pretension of a film. No amount of ingenious and satisfying torrents of blood, guts, and vagina-dentata can withstand such a brazen attempt to be taken seriously.
One should excuse director Nishimura, as a special-effects and make-up artist first and director second... but sadly, it is hard to excuse the film.
A low-grade action-film with a twist, "Next" manages a rather bold ending and some plot devices... if only it wasn't a decade or two too late to be anything close to innovative.
Time manipulation is a strained hook to hang a film on without an equally intriguing plot. Sadly, a nifty superpower given to a generally unlikable and boring character doesn't make them worthy of being the centerpiece of a film. While Nicholas Cage is admittedly given very little to work with, he doesn't help matters by prattling on about fate and destiny and a stalker-like conception of true love.
At least a bad modern film like "Jumper" used a superpower that has barely been used. "Next" bores us on two fronts simultaneously... they might as well have gone ahead and cast Keanu Reeves.
A churning, dark drama that inexplicably bills itself as satirical or humorous. The concept: to play out dark psychological drama against a paper-thin backdrop of comic-book heroism is jarring to say the least... especially when the self-importance of such a backdrop is continually torn and punctured by the presence of the reality underneath it all. This isn't a film about a superhero dealing with being human, or a human trying to be a superhero. In the end, its an average human dealing with being human and getting very messed up in the process.
Sadly, the plot is riddled with holes, and a small array of cinematic stylizations that eventually wear a bit thin.
It takes a bit of effort to see past the low-budgeted hurdles... but such effort is rewarded with a glimpse of the inspired acting by Rapaport (the film beautifully abuses his nice-guy persona) as well as the simple yet grittily accented story underneath it all.
A unique presentation of a depressing concept, which falters more often than it flies. Yet unlike other films, whose failures confuse or anger, one can clearly see (and enjoy) the film that lies beneath the blemishes. That achievement alone is something to be celebrated, and is the essence of independent film-making.