A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop This ill-advised 2009 Chinese language remake of Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1984 debut Blood Simple proves that even an arthouse auteur like Yimou Zhang (Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers, Hero) can make a bad movie once in awhile.
Pariah – A shy African-American teen (Adepero Oduye) struggles to find her identity on the streets of Brooklyn in this Sundance 2011 hit. Mom (a scarily convincing Kim Wayans) is a devout church-goer (“God doesn’t make mistakes”) and Dad (Charles Parnell) is a stern policeman. Both parents are in a state of denial about their daughter’s sexual orientation and trying to come to terms with it in their own ways. Writer/director Dee Rees’ film debut is smart, sensitive, raw and real without being exploitative (imagine how this subject matter may have been treated by a male director) and Ms. Oduye gives a truly heroic performance in the lead role.
Special Ops – Martial arts actor A.J. Draven is a Special Ops officer stranded on a remote Island and battling a gang of ruthless mercenaries led by Stephen Bauer after being betrayed by higher ups back home in this, um, modestly produced action flick. In addition to the starring role Mr. Draven also co-produced and co-wrote the film with (among others) actress wife Stephanie Lemelin. Far be it from me to stomp on a dream (except to say that although Scarface star Bauer hasn’t had a lot of box office hits in recent years it is nice to see he is eating regularly … or drinking a lot of beer.)
Outrage – Takeshi Kitano is something of a national hero in Japan and enjoys a devoted cult following in other parts of the world as well. (In North America, he is known better as Beat Takeshi.) However, if you are wondering what all the fuss is about, this is probably not the film you wanna see first time out. (Try 2003‘s The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi ). A tale of infighting among Japanese mobsters, this 2010 release is tangled and tedious by turns and since Mr. K stars as well as writing the screenplay, directing, co-producing and co-editing the film, well, you do the math ….
Turn Me on, Dammit! – Despite the arresting English language title this film turns out to be a warm and often witty coming-of-age tale about a pretty teenager (Helene Bergsholm) trapped in a small Norwegian town and coping with runaway youthful hormones and a crush on a high school classmate (Matias Myren), much to the bemusement of her frumpy conservative mom (Henriette Steenstrup). Of course, this is a Scandinavian film and so some of the images and subtitled dialogue may be a tad more frank than an American teen comedy. Some things, though, are universal – like becoming a social outcast at high school following an unguarded remark. Ms. Bergsholm, with her dancing eyes and provocative smile, is a real charmer. Young Mr. Myren, from certain angles, looked to this viewer like a teen-aged Mark Wahlberg. Writer/director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen won Best Screenplay – Narrative Feature from NYC’s Tribeca Film Festival in 2011.
My nephew gave me a gift subscription to Netflix so that is probably why I am writing more about the films found on this site than I would under normal circumstances. (Hmmm … maybe I should change the name – for the purposes of this blog – to “Nephlix” – for the next five months or so.