Friday, August 31, 2007

This Just In: New DVD Releases

Antibodies (Antikörper) 2005, directed by Christian Alvart, Germany
After confessed killer Gabriel Engel (André Hennicke) is captured, small-town cop Michael Martens (Wotan Wilke Möhring) interrogates him, hoping a journey into the madman's twisted mind will give clues to an unsolved murder committed in the same heinous manner as Gabriel's crimes. Gabriel claims to know the killer's identity but turns the investigation into a psychological game, leaving Michael questioning his own sanity in this German thriller.

Flower and Snake '74 (Hana to hebi), 1974, directed by Masaru Konuma, Japan
Frustrated by his lackluster sex life, businessman Senzô Tôyama (Nagatoshi Sakamoto) conspires to have one of his employees (Yasuhiko Ishizu) -- a sex shop owner's son -- kidnap Senzô's frigid spouse (Naomi Tani) and train her as a sexual submissive. But the domineering industrialist gets more than he bargained for in director Masaru Konuma's erotic, adults-only tale that explores the boundaries between sexual pleasure and perversion.

Great African Films: Vol. 1: Faraw! Mother of the Dunes, 1997, directed by Abdoulaye Ascofare
Director Abdoulaye Ascofare's drama follows Zamiatou (Aminata Ousmane), a mother who struggles to support her family in the wake of her husband's unjust incarceration. Life is already difficult in the desolate desert of Mali in Africa, but when her husband returns from prison a mentally and physically reduced man, Zamiatou will do anything to keep her two sons and daughter alive.

Great African Films: Vol. 2: Sia, the Dream of the Python (Sia, le rêve du python), 2004, directed by Dani Kouyaté
Dani Kouyaté's visually stunning film is an adaptation of a seventh-century African legend about a woman chosen as a sacrifice to a snake god to save a destitute village. The emperor picks the beautiful virgin Sia (Fatoumata Diawara) but no one tells her fiancé, Mamadi (Ibrahim Baba Cissé), about his lover's fate. Kerfa, a government leader with plans to oust the emperor, helps Sia and Mamadi, but can she live with being known as a traitor?

Great African Films: Vol. 2: Tasuma, The Fighter, 2004, directed by Daniel Kollo Sanou
In Daniel Kollo Sanou's comedy, Sogo (Mamadou Zerbo), a West African World War II vet, purchases a mill on credit believing he'd get paid his due pension. But when the money doesn't come through, Sogo finds himself in jail for not being able to pay off the mill. Having already waited over 50 years for his pension, Sogo joins in with the local women who come to his side in support.

Horrors of Malformed Men (Edogawa ranpo taizen: Kyofu kikei ningen), 1969, directed by Teruo Ishii, Japan
A medical student searching for his father discovers a deranged scientist on a remote island whose experiments combine humans and animals to produce terrifying creatures in this surreal and horrifying tale. The student soon unearths disturbing facts that link him to some appalling truths. Adapted from stories by horror author Rampo Edogawa and directed by Japanese exploitation auteur Teruo Ishii, the film remains banned in its native Japan.

Over at the Big Ranch (Allá En El Rancho Grande), 1936, directed by Fernando de Fuentes, Mexico
Poor ranch hand José Francisco (Tito Guízar) falls in love with homely girl turned beauty Cruz (Esther Fernández). Unfortunately, his boss, rancher Felipe (René Cardona), also adores her, and the resulting love triangle threatens José's job and their friendship. Director Fernando de Fuentes's romance launched the comedia ranchera genre, which combines Mexican folklore with musical comedy and melodrama.

Samba (Szamba ), 1996, directed by Róbert Koltai, Hungary
Larger-than-life Ottó Szamba (Róbert Koltai) is a theater actor in his small Hungarian village. Everyone in town loves him -- except his son Ottó Jr. (László Görög), who's so embarrassed by his hammy father that he shuns the stage. But when he enters college, the younger Ottó discovers he can't escape the acting bug. Koltai co-wrote and directed this satire on small-town attitudes and big-time egos, co-starring Éva Kerekes and Judit Pogány.

Snake Woman's Curse (Kaidan hebi-onna), 1968, directed by Nobuo Nakagawa, Japan
When a wealthy landlord causes the death of a poor farmer, enslaves the man's wife and daughter, and then kills a snake the wife was protecting, he unleashes the serpent's curse. Before long, the landlord finds himself being driven mad by deathly spirits as terrible misfortune rains down on his family -- including his son, whose young bride starts growing scales and green skin in this film from Japanese horror auteur Nobuo Nakagawa.

The Beautiful Washing Machine (Mei li de xi yi ji), 2004, directed by James Lee, Indonesia
Teoh's (Loh Bok Lai) secondhand washing machine has a personality as strong as that of his ex-girlfriend. After exploiting the temperamental appliance, Teoh sells her to the Wongs, whose son (Berg Lee) develops an attachment to her that causes a rift in his family. Teoh Kah Yong co-stars in writer-director James Lee's award-winning surrealist satire that's drawn comparisons with the work of visionaries such as Luis Buñuel and Jim Jarmusch.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rome was Burning

Last week the world-famous Cinecitta movie studios in Rome was badly damaged by fire. The blaze broke out in the lots being used for filming the production "Rome," which tells the story of the rise of the great Roman empire. Flames said to be more than 40 metres high quickly destroyed a hangar which stored set decorations to be used in the production, and went on to attack other buildings.
Guido Parisi, Rome's fire chief, said: "The fire has destroyed the set of ancient Rome, an area more than 4,000 square metres."
Cinecitta is a huge complex of more than 40 hectares a few kilometres from the centre of Rome. Thousands of films have been made at Cinecitta, including William Wyler's "Ben Hur" in 1958, and Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" and "Cleopatra" in the 1960s.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This Just In: New DVD Releases

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen ), 2007, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Germany
Set in 1980s East Berlin, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's debut feature (which earned an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film) provides an exquisitely nuanced portrait of life under the watchful eye of the state police as a high-profile couple is bugged. When a successful playwright and his actress companion become subjects of the Stasi's secret surveillance program, their friends, family and even those doing the watching find their lives changed too.

Crazy Cartoons, 2006, directed by Juan Miguel Figueroa Vega, Mexico
This compilation features more than 50 maniacally funny shorts from Mexico's CineFilms Animation Studios, the outfit spearheading Mexico's animation renaissance. Fans of "Beavis and Butt-Head," "The Simpsons" and the faux cartoon "The Itchy and Scratchy Show" will not be disappointed with this delightful collection, which includes episodes from four south-of-the-border series: "Cimerias," "Dobos," "Obeso" and "La Prepa."

Human Beings (Seres Humanos ), 2002, Mexico
After struggling for years to ignore their agony, a seemingly successful Mexican couple slips into despair a decade after the accidental death of their young daughter in this complex examination of the value of family. Dulce (Clarissa Malheiros), the mother, is a popular celebrity who's unable to reconcile her increasing popularity with the tragedy in her past, while her husband, Derek (Rafael Sánchez Navarro), retreats into a quiet insanity.

The Castle (Das Schloss ), 1997, directed by Michael Haneke, Germany
When land surveyor K. (Ulrich Mühe) arrives at a small village that houses a castle, local authorities refuse to allow him to enter. As he tries to convince the officials that they sent for him, they clamp down with increasingly complicated bureaucratic obstacles. Directed by renowned European filmmaker Michael Haneke, this visually stunning adaptation of Franz Kafka's absurdist novel first aired on Austrian television.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

As You Like It Asian-style

Kenneth Branagh has returned with his fifth Shakespearean translation to film. As You Like It premieres Tuesday on HBO and stars Kevin Kline, Alfred Molina and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Branagh’s twist on this version is the setting: 19th Century Japan.

He developed the idea while meditating in Kyoto, Japan, several years ago.

"One of Shakespeare's most enduring plays," according to the LA Times, "As You Like It is set in the magical Forest of Arden, where the beautiful Rosalind (Howard), the daughter of a banished duke (Brian Blessed), is forced to flee her uncle's (also Blessed) court. Accompanying her on her journey is her cousin Celia (Romola Garai). Fearing she'll be discovered by her uncle's men, Rosalind disguises herself as a boy. The guise proves advantageous when she decides to test the love and devotion of her admirer Orlando (David Oyelowo), who has also been exiled from the court with his jealous brother (Adrian Lester) in pursuit and trying to kill him.

"Kline, who has played such Shakespeare heroes and villains as Falstaff, Hamlet and Richard III on the New York stage, plays the lonely, melancholic philosopher Jaques, who Shakespeare scholars believe represents the playwright himself."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

More Korda Coverage

Hungary's new tax breaks, facilities are key draws
By Nick Holdsworth
Aug 7, 2007

EYTEK, Hungary -- Sweeping fields of sunflowers dotted here and there with the smaller enclosures of Chardonnay-producing vineyards roll away from a sun-baked hilltop that sits above this small village 16 miles northwest of Budapest.
The chalky soil is good for the grapes -- the white wines of Eytek are among the best in Hungary -- and the panoramic vista from the hilltop offers uninterrupted views of green below and blue above stretching to the Buda hills far on the horizon.
Once home to Soviet ballistic missile silos, today the hillside has been cleared of its Cold War contamination of bunkers, machine oils and munitions and a new world is taking shape.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Garcia Bernal, Luna Gala for Human Rights

Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, stars of Y Tu Mama Tambien, hosted a $300-a-plate gala dinner benefiting Mexico’s Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights and Witness.
Witness was founded by rocker Peter Gabriel to promote video and film that document human rights abuse.
"Documentaries show us the injustices in the country where we live, that this problem exists," Garcia Bernal told a news conference before the dinner. "We can't escape it."
Luna and Garcia Bernal, who recently launched the Canana production company, also want to use documentaries to raise awareness about failures of the Mexican judicial system, including the unsolved murders of more than 300 women in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas.
"Each day it's harder to live in this country and in this city'' and turn a blind eye to the poverty and injustice, said Luna, who recently premiered his directorial debut Chavez, a documentary on the legendary Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bond is Back

The next installment in the James Bond series is set to be filmed in Italy this Thursday in the Tuscan city Siena.
The scene is slated to coincide with the traditional barback horse race of Pulio through the town. As the race winds its way through the town, Bond – played by Daniel Craig – will be chasing his villain along the cobbled streets and across rooftops.
However, Craig isn’t likely to be around during the shoot. A helicopter crew will be filming overhead and Craig will likely be inserted into shots later.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Carved: The Slit Mouthed Woman (Kuchisake-onna) 2007, directed by Kôji Shiraishi, Japan
Three decades ago, a Japanese suburb was terrorized by the vengeful spirit of a woman in a surgical mask who asked victims, "Am I pretty?" before slaughtering them. Now, children in this community are disappearing again, leaving police and teachers to discover the reason and put an end to the new wave of carnage. Eriko Sato, Haruhiko Katô and Miki Mizuno star in director Kôji Shiraishi's terrifying chiller.

Graveyard of Honor (Shin Jingi No Hakaba) 2002, directed by Kinji Fukasaku, Japan
When Rikuo Ishimatsu (Goro Kishitani), a simple dishwasher, saves the life of a notorious yakuza boss, he's rewarded with a warm welcome into the criminal fold. Before long, Rikio has become a powerful gangster with several kills to his name. But has he also become a monster in the process? Controversial filmmaker Takashi Miike helms this bloody revamp of cult director Kinji Fukasaku's Japanese classic by the same name.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

This Just In: New DVD Releases

Perfidia (2007) directed by Christian Gonzalez, Mexico
Standed in a remote area, a gang of gun traffickers finds shelter at a widow's sprawling ranch in this crime thriller. The men decide to rob their wealthy host, but when strange events occur, the crooks start to lose their grip on reality. As their fear of the uknown increases, the men suspect that there's more than meets the eye when it comes to the mysterious woman. Roberto Ballesteros and Carlos Cardan star.

Falling (Fallen) 2006, directed by Barbara Albert
OK, so this isn’t a German film, it is in German with English subtitles. Five former high school friends -- now in their 30s -- reunite for a funeral. What begins as a sad gathering turns into a night of fun, bittersweet memories and surprising revelations in this drama from Austrian director Barbara Albert. The classmates --pregnant Nina, office worker Alex, prison parolee Nicole, actress Carmen and teacher Brigitte -- revisit the past, divulge present disappointments and face their fears about an uncertain future.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

"Lives of Others" Star Ulrich Mühe, 1953-2007

New York TImes
July 26, 2007
Ulrich Mühe, Film and Stage Actor, Dies at 54
FRANKFURT, July 25 — Ulrich Mühe, a popular German actor who won acclaim as a tormented Stasi officer in cold-war East Germany in the Oscar-winning film “The Lives of Others,” died on Sunday in his family home in Walbeck. He was 54.
The cause was stomach cancer, his family said. They said he was buried Wednesday in Walbeck, in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, where he lived with his wife, the actress Susanne Lothar, and their two children.
Mr. Mühe officially confirmed he had cancer only in the last week, in an interview that first appeared in the online edition of the German newspaper Die Welt on Saturday. He said he first learned of his illness in February and underwent surgery shortly after the Academy Awards ceremony that same month, when “The Lives of Others” was named best foreign film.
The film, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and released last year, received many German and European movie awards, won rave reviews and attracted a worldwide audience. Mr. Mühe won Germany’s golden Lola Award as best actor.
He played Capt. Gerd Wiesler, an agent with the East German secret police, who is assigned to keep a successful playwright and his lover under constant surveillance, only to become fascinated by them and protective of them as he grows disillusioned with the Communist state.
Born in Grimma, in the eastern state of Saxony, Mr. Mühe established his acting career in East Germany’s thriving theater scene and furthered it in the reunified Germany, becoming a popular presence in television and film as well.
The East German playwright Heiner Müller, who died in 1995, discovered Mr. Mühe in 1979 while Mr. Mühe was performing in the East German city of Karl-Marx-Stadt, now Chemnitz. Mr. Müller took him to East Berlin’s renowned Volksbühne theater. Mr. Mühe later joined the ensemble at Deutsches Theater in 1983, where he became a celebrated actor.
This year, Mr. Mühe had a major supporting role in “Mein Führer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler,” a comedy by the filmmaker Dani Levy, which received a mixed reaction by German critics but did well at the country’s box office.
Besides Ms. Lothar and their two children, his survivors include three other children, one of whom is the actress Anna Maria Mühe, from his two previous marriages.
Last year, Mr. Mühe lost a highly publicized legal battle waged against him about his right to continue to refer to one of his ex-wives, the actress Jenny Gröllmann, as a former Stasi informant, an accusation she denied. Ms. Gröllmann died of cancer last year at the age of 59, before the matter was resolved.
Mr. Mühe fought against the government as one of several artists demonstrating before the Berlin Wall fell. On Nov. 4, 1989, shortly before the wall fell and before a half-million people on Alexanderplatz in East Berlin, he declared the Communists’ power monopoly to be invalid.