Some Kind of Monster
"The Great Metal Meltdown"
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
Kind of Monster is darkly hysterical
documentary about the band Metallica and
their descent into group therapy/marriage
counseling. Two filmmakers, Joe Berlinger
and Bruce Sinofsky, followed the band during
2001-2003, shooting over twelve hundred
hours of footage. The original premise was
for the filmmakers to make a promo film
for Metallica's new album, the now named
"St. Anger". This album
was Metallica's return to production after
several years of hiatus from the release
of 1997's "Reload". The
promo evolved into a documentary, which
turned out to not be about recording, after
all. Instead we see a story about a multi-million-dollar
corporation whose officers are forced to
seek group therapy, so the business can
survive and they can continue to reap the
benefits of being Metallica-Of-The-90-Million-Albums.
filming began, the band had just lost their
bassist, Jason Newsted. Jason was forced
out when the band objected to Jason's working
with another band, Echobrain. Jason had
originally replaced bassists Cliff Burton,
who died in a bus accident. Losing Jason
was the catalyst for the band's decision
to try to work out their differences, before
they hire another guitarist and perhaps
make the same mistakes. (continued)
The Manchurian Candidate
by John Pelham
The original (1962)
Manchurian became a classic because it was
so politically controversial for it's time,
but it didn't gain popularity until 1964.
Although this 2004 version has been released
right before election time, that timing
doesn't match the mass paranoia that followed
the assassination of one of America's most
beloved presidents. Setting that caveat
aside, Jonathan Demme's Manchurian Candidate
is a great film. It has been re-imagined
and modernized to appeal to today's audiences.
What hasn't changed is the ultimate paranoia
that has been instilled in the characters
and consequently, the viewers.
a cast like Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep
and Liev Schreiber,
it's hard to imagine that you wouldn't be
watching performances that one may call
a tour de force. Needless to say, you are.
In a recent interview, Angela Lansbury (who
was nominated for an Academy Award for the
original) said that she was quite upset
that they were re-making the film. Who wouldn't
be if Meryl Streep was about to reprise
your role. It's arguable whether or not
you should leave a good thing alone. You
know the old saying, "if it ain't broke,
don't fix it." And this is normally
true for movies. But ultimately, Demme does
the original justice in a world of ever-changing
ethics and technological advancements. If
you don't catch it in theatres, it's definitely
worth at least a rental. I think I may even
add it to my DVD collection.
Maria Full of Grace
by John Pelham
ate too much popcorn, plus I had to pee
really badly. I thought I had problems.
Try swallowing 62 pellets packed with heroin-pellets
roughly the size of "Super-Absorbant
O. B. Tampons"-and flying from Columbia
to New York. Needless to say, Maria was
full of more than just Grace.
and director Joshua Marston's touching film,
"based on 1,000 true stories,"
gives the audience a unique inside perspective
on drug trafficking, as it follows Maria
(Catalina Sandino Moreno), a 17 year-old
drug "mule" on her journey to
the United States. A little bit of chance,
quite a bit of money, and whole lot of desperation
compels Maria to put her life at risk and
accept this dangerous task. Sixty-two pellets
and one extremely full stomach later, Maria
is on the plane with a well-known colleague
and a couple of others that she just met
of them in the same situation. Marston does
a fine job of keeping us in suspense as
we watch the girls having to deal with a
stomach full of drugs. It was made quite
clear that if a pellet burst, it would result
in a fatal overdose. Not to mention that
if a pellet was missing after they were,
passed over, the girls' families
would pay the price. On the plane, one of
the girls even had to re-swallow a pellet
or two because she couldn't hold them in
any longer. The plane lands, Maria and a
couple others are randomly asked into questioning,
some are luckier than others, and (one might
declare) by the grace of God, Maria is sent
on her way. But don't worry, more trouble
hadn't realized this was a thriller, but
I was on the edge of my seat throughout
all of these scenes. Even when it's hard
to imagine why someone would choose to do
something like this, we feel sympathy for
Maria. We want her to successfully smuggle
into this country-not for the drugs, but
for her safety.
Maria's journey extends far beyond the point
of her plane landing. There's an entirely
different journey going on in Maria's mind
throughout this movie, and by the end, we
realize that the complete itinerary is all
planned out. She has finally figured things
out for herself. It leaves us feeling full
of inspiration and hope for Maria
alright, I guess you can also say, Grace.
THE 2004 RURAL ROUTE
SATURDAY, JULY 24 - SUNDAY, JULY 25TH
Galapagos Art Space
70 North 6th Street, Williamsburg
by John Pelham
I felt like
I was right back at home in the country
when I sat down at the 2nd Annual Rural
Route Film Festival...in Brooklyn. With
hay bales and farm paraphernalia amidst
the barn-like theatre, this festival had
found the perfect rural setting. The night
opened with a few door prizes, like a stereotypical
can of chewin' tobacco, which of course,
the entire audience jumped to get their
opening selection was well chosen-that film
being Westless American. With six minutes
of beautiful footage covering six U.S. states
and including several national and state
parks, this short was one of the highlights.
Don't question why this man was running
cross-country (quite literally), but just
think Forrest Gump
seems to be that
"he just felt like run-ning."
was the film Putnam, which featured some
great camera work and classic visual techniques.
The well-delivered story follows a Sheriff
as he tries to find a guilty friend, that
is, a friend guilty of murder. The director
successfully gives us the notion of a very
rural village with all of its lonely people
going about their mundane business of everyday
a perfect entry for this festival.
Sobre La Tierra (Upon the Earth), an Argentinian
film, seemed to be the most didactic of
the bunch. Two little boys fighting over
one bag find resolution from a woman's wisdom
at the conclusion of the eight minutes.
The super 8 cinematography gives accurate
representation of "the gritty nature
of their argument."
to round out the first showtime were: Pardon!
Pardon! The Cajun Mardi Gras Chase, a passionate
film about popular teenage tradition; Bright
Eyes' "Lover I Don't Have to Love",
another beautifully shot film, but this
time, a karaoke video; El Pozo (The Pit),
an abstract digging; and Hybrid, a biographical
documentary which was sympathetic and personal,
and intensified by its teary-eyed filmmaker
sitting next to me.
If you missed
it this time-no matter if it was the films
or the chewin' tobacco that you were looking
forward to-they'll be back again next year,
that is, if they get enough of the necessary
in all, the Rural Route Film Festival was
entertaining. A wide range of films were
chosen even within the boundaries of its
"rural" guidelines-and even confined
by the city limits of Brooklyn, this film
festival was equipped to transport you back
to the country. Ahh, there's no place like
with English Subtitles
Opens Friday July 23, 2004
Limbs! Squirting blood! Cross Dressing!
What more could a girl want?
by Wendy R. Williams
written and directed and acted by the very
talented Takeshi Kitano, is a spoofy fun
romp about a blind masseur who is both a
skillful gambler and a deadly swordsman.
According to the press release, films about
this blind swordsman ruled Japanese cinema
from the 60's through the 80's. Takeshi
Kitano, who has worn many hats as a stand-up
comic, actor and director, has now revived
the story of Zatoichi, a monk-like nomad
who travels the countryside carrying a cane
which conceals a hidden sword.
Here is the
synopsis from the press release:
is a 19th Century blind nomad who makes
his living as a gambler and masseur.
However, behind this humble facade, he is
a master swordsman gifted with a lightning-fast
draw and breathtaking precision.
Zatoichi discovers a remote mountain village
at the mercy of Ginzo, a ruthless gang-leader.
Ginzo disposes of anyone who gets in his
way, especially after hiring the mighty
samurai ronin Hattori as a bodyguard.
After a raucous night of gambling in town,
Zatoichi encounters a pair of geishas -
as dangerous as they are beautiful - who've
come to avenge their parents' murder at
the hands of Ginzo.
As the paths
of these and other colorful characters intertwine,
Ginzo's henchmen are soon after Zatoichi.
With his legendary cane sword at his side,
the stage is set for a riveting showdown."
is both ancient and modern, a myth populated
by quirky characters like a cross-dressing
geisha who enjoys a dip in a communal hot
tub. Blood squirts and dismembered
arms and legs fly but even the most sanguine
scenes are hysterically funny, so who cares?
It doesn't seem real, and that is the charm.