October 23, 2013
This has been a strong year for documentaries, with fine films running the gamut from "An Act of Killing" to "20 Feet From Stardom," but even in this crowd, "Let the Fire Burn" is something special. It's a brooding, disturbing documentary about an inferno that becomes an enigma and earns its considerable impact by telling an unnerving story and leaving it fundamentally unresolved. The events detailed here are some of the most unsettling in modern American urban history. On March 13, 1985, the Philadelphia police, stymied in a standoff that was the latest manifestation of a bitter conflict with a radical group called MOVE that had sputtered on and off for more than a decade, dropped an incendiary device on the row house that was the group's headquarters.
August 7, 2013
Feeling more like a mid-season episode of some television detective serial than a self-contained film all its own, "Blood" is a dour British crime drama that lacks much of a beating heart. Directed by Nick Murphy from a screenplay by Bill Gallagher, the story is set amid a small coastal town near an island that is cut off when the tides roll in, creating a place where locals often try to store their secrets. That includes a brother detective duo (Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham) who learned their trade from their father (Brian Cox)
July 3, 2013
"A Hijacking" is as lean, focused and to the point as its title. A cargo ship is hijacked in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and this expertly done, ultra-tense Danish thriller places you in the middle of the action in the most intense way. Gripping from first frame to last, the film unfolds on two fronts: the vessel, of course, but also in the Copenhagen offices of the company that owns it, where the firm's chief executive, Peter Ludvigsen (Soren Malling),...
June 12, 2013 |
The Brit-in-Italy scenario gets an emphatically grungy makeover in "Berberian Sound Studio," a twisted tribute to analog moviemaking and 1970s Italian Giallo horror flicks. Toby Jones plays the innocent abroad - not a traveler headed for a romantic thaw in the Mediterranean sun but a sound engineer who never sees the light of day and who's headed for - or perhaps already in the midst of - a mental unraveling. Jones' reserved Englishman, Gilderoy, has been hired to oversee the soundtrack mix on "The Equestrian Vortex," a piece of psycho-erotic exploitation chock-full of evil priests, tortured witches, secret libraries and the requisite poultry tunnel.
May 30, 2013 |
Ascending British actress Andrea Riseborough's face is an exquisite road map of pain, fear and resolve in "Shadow Dancer," a thriller that explores questions of loyalty against a backdrop of Northern Ireland politics in the early '90s. Riseborough plays Belfast-born young mother Collette, a tragedy-stricken daughter of the Troubles. After she's caught trying to blow up a London subway, an MI5 officer (Clive Owen) taps her to spy on her IRA brothers. Riseborough captures this queasy situation with grimly haunting grace.
May 16, 2013 |
Two years, two states. In 2009, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad laid out a plan to end the decades-long territorial stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians. But by 2011, despite Fayyad's efforts, including a successful campaign to improve Palestinians' economic and institutional infrastructure - a kind of "if you build it, statehood will come" - the situation remained deadlocked. This period of hope, progress, frustration and fracture is examined with equanimity and clarity by Israeli filmmaker Dan Setton in the absorbing documentary "State 194. " Setton focuses on the seemingly level-headed, optimistic Fayyad as he navigated the choppy waters of domestic politics and international diplomacy while pressing the United Nations for statehood and to make it its 194th member nation.