Big props to studios who make big budget B-movies: extravaganzas of sex, action and blood that titillate the senses but keep the mind on the backburner while still managing to say something about our culture. Arguments that all Hollywood blockbusters are B-movies are somewhat valid but few films achieve the coveted status of “good B-movie” and though Ninja Assassin certainly tries to get there and almost succeeds, it simply doesn’t manage to be as fun as needs to in order to succeed.
That’s not to say it doesn’t try. The opening sequence in James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta follow-up is a spectacular feast of darkness, blood and mind bending martial arts, a spectacle that starts the film off on great footing and which mixes its action with a touch of wry humour but once the title sequence finishes and the story kicks into gear, the film goes from fun to serious much too quickly.
Over the last few years, the term “American Independent Film” has come to mean something very specific which often has little to do with independent. Indie cinema has turned into a huge business supported by many of the big studios and the result are films that feel more like blockbusters than indies and first time filmmakers are left with the decision to either buy into the machine or strike out on their own via the DIY route which usually leads to small films, shot on video and marketed on the web in hopes of finding the support to get them noticed. Once in a while, a film comes along that suggest the method, however broken is still producing great films and filmmakers (I have foremost in mind Lance Hammer’s brilliant Ballast) and then a true visionary comes along and smashes through every expectation.
Having seen Redland, it’s little surprise Asiel Norton is one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 new faces of Independent Film. Heck, there should be a category for Norton as the single greatest visionary to come out of the US film scene in decades because not only is Norton a talented artist with vision, he’s also a man willing to push the medium in a new direction.
Since 1962, Burma has been a ruled by a Military Junta. In 1988, the country saw an uprising of the people and led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and supported by the students, it looked as though Burma might return to democracy but the protests were met by brutal force and ended in bloodshed and the killing of thousands of protesters. In 2007, the country saw more protests the likes of which had not been seen since 1988 but with a country closed to outsiders, news of the brooding revolution were quenched by the military regime. A small group of citizen reporters, men and women with video cameras and computers took it upon themselves to chronicle the events which were unfolding inside of the country and their footage is at the centre of Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country.
In today’s technology rich world, it’s nearly impossible to believe that anyone could go “off the grid” for any extended period of time but in Nomad’s Land – Sur les traces de Nicolas Bouvier, Swiss filmmaker Gaël Métroz proves that it’s not only possible but fairly easy to do.
The adventure began as a self-finding mission. With the works of Swiss traveler Nicolas Bourvier as a guide, Métroz set off with a camera on a self guided tour of the Middle East and Asia, a trip that nearly killed him but which also provided the young man with an intimate understanding of humanity. A travelogue of intense power, Métroz shares much with his icon Bouvier and his deeply personal connection to Bouvier’s adventures affect both his choices and observations, providing an interesting and intimate account of life in that region of the world.
Life is good for Pietro. He’s a successful TV executive, happily married and has a beautiful daughter but while on vacation, a day which starts off with great promise ends badly. While at the beach with his brother, he risks his life to save a drowning woman while at home, his wife has a nasty fall and dies leaving his daughter frightened and alone. In shock at the loss of his wife, Pietro is now left with the task of raising his daughter alone, a daughter who seems to be taking her mother’s death too well. Concerned that she’ll break at any moment, on the first day of school Pietro offers to wait by the door until school is out and when he calls the office to say he’s out for the day, we realize that he wasn’t exaggerating.