Tag Archives: Elysium

Wednesday Round-Up: The Werner Herzog-Approved “Act of Killing” Screens in Rochester

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Sometimes I forget just how close to Buffalo Rochester’s George Eastman House is, and that’s a major oversight. Many, many films that never make it to Buffalo screen at Eastman’s Dryden Theatre, including August’s “Reality” and “Post Tenebras Lux.”

But the real score is “The Act of Killing.” It is no exaggeration to say that Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary is the most acclaimed film of 2013, and that makes its two Rochester screenings — 8 p.m. on August 16 and 2 p.m. on August 18 — important WNY cultural events.

The controversial film about 1960s Indonesian death squad members who murdered thousands of dissenters actually features the subjects themselves reenacting the killings. You can see how that would be controversial, right?

Two greats, Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, are executive producers, and both had insightful remarks on “Act of Killing.”

Herzog:

“I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal, and frightening in at least a decade … unprecedented in the history of cinema.”

Morris:

“Like all great documentaries, ‘The Act of Killing’ demands another way of looking at reality. It starts as a dreamscape, an attempt to allow the perpetrators to reenact what they did, and then something truly amazing happens. The dream dissolves into nightmare and then into bitter reality. An amazing and impressive film.”

It is, then, a film about history, but also about cinema itself. I can’t wait to see it.

Now, on to the rest of this week’s round-up:

A scene from the documentary “The Act of Killing”; courtesy of Drafthouse Films.

Weekend Preview: Sci-Fi, Strippers, Hallucinogens, Porn, Ultraviolence, Talking Aircraft, and Greek Gods

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I’m not sure there has been a more wildly diverse weekend for movies this summer, although I have a feeling I’ve said that before. There is big-budget, socially conscious science fiction (“Elysium”), an R-rated comedy (“We’re the Millers”), an odd Pixar-spinoff from Disney (“Planes”), a porn-star biopic (“Lovelace”), a strange, brutally violent revenge story set in Thailand (“Only God Forgives”), a story of a quest to find a Chilean hallucinogen (“Crystal Fairy”), and a kid-lit sequel about a teenager/Greek god (“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters”).

It’s a strange mix, really, and I find myself with little to say about most of it. I could care less about “Millers” (Jennifer Aniston continues her stellar march to big screen greatness), “Planes” (Disney tries Pixar, minus Pixar?), and “Percy Jackson” (the Chris Columbus-directed first film evaporated from my brain within seconds of viewing). Michael Cera stole “This is the End,” so I am curious about “Crystal Fairy,” but it has not really intrigued me yet.

“Elysium” is perhaps the must-see of the group. I was one of the few folks in America who did not like “District 9,” Neil Blomkamp’s ugly sci-fi smash, but I did admire its ideas and rough-around-the-edges aesthetic. I love the idea of seeing what he can do with lots of money, studio backing, and star-power (Matt Damon and Jodie Foster).

Response so far has been very mixed, but I am hopeful. I would expect it to spend one week on the top of the box office, but I fear it will underwhelm commercially. Like “Pacific Rim,” whether the movie interests you or not, we should all want big movies from unique directors to fare well. We need more Del Toros and Blomkamps.

I reviewed Linda Lovelace biopic “Lovelace” for the Buffalo News, and I’d call mine a mixed but slightly positive verdict; I gave it 2 ½ stars, and considered 3, but it’s very grim (intentionally, of course) and not all that insightful (especially after “Inside Deep Throat”). Yet much of it works, and as I explain in the review, it succeeds in showing why the success of “Deep Throat” should not always be viewed with a giggle. The circumstances for its star were awful, and that is clear after watching “Lovelace.”

Then, of course, there is “Only God Forgives,” which I wrote about a few weeks ago. It’s still a tricky one for me; I’m glad I was not reviewing it, since I still find it fascinating, absurd, and very, very difficult.

So invariably, there is SOMETHING of interest for everyone this weekend. Outside of the multiplex, The Screening Room offers “Murder on the Orient Express” — why not? — at 7:30 on Friday, Sunday, and Wednesday (August 14);

Bacchus has the great “Moneyball” on Wednesday (August 14); the UB North Campus shows two recent hits, “Iron Man 3” and “Fast & Furious 6,” at 8:45 on Friday and Tuesday (August 13), respectively; and UB South Campus features “Furious” at 8:45 on Wednesday (August 7).

Note also that David Gordon Green’s “Prince Avalanche” has arrived on VOD, and a number of interesting picks — “Drinking Buddies,” “The Canyons,” and this week’s “Crystal Fairy,” “Only God Forgives,” and “Lovelace” — can also be enjoyed at home. What is especially cool is that David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” one of the most acclaimed films of the year, will be available on August 23. I’ll be watching.

Photo from “Elysium”s official site