Category Archives: Film

“INNSAEI”— Science, Nature and Creativity

“Innsaei”

Science, Nature and Creativity

Amos Lassen

“Innsaei” is a story of soul searching, science, nature and creativity that takes us on a global journey to uncover how to connect within in today’s world of distraction and stress. Everyone is familiar with the term intuition but how many people really know what it is. We learn here that intuition is the sum of the experiences that one makes in the course of a life and the instinct that is innate to one. Two Icelandic women, Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir and Kristin Ólafsdóttir, interview people too see what they have to say about intuition.

There are research groups that measure intuition, but here we see Gunnsteinsdottir’s defining directional themes for her film: the discrepancy that is becoming more and more visible in individual human— looking at everyday experience between feeling and object, between human and measurement. The ability to look and the ability to trace sensitive perception is what the filmmakers want to show.

Our ability to perceive intuition implies a degree of empathy, not only for oneself, but for others as well. Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir was at the start of a promising career at the United Nations. She campaigned for women’s rights, helped traumatized women in Kosovo, and got a permanent position at the UN in Geneva. And then, at the age of 29, she felt burned out and resigned. With her friend, filmmaker Kristin Ólafsdottir, she embarks on a cinematic journey to academics, artists, spiritual teachers, and a school in England where children practice mindfulness. She examines what needs to be done so that people will not be cut off from their inner sources of power in the future.

The film explores the roots of the evil and the sources of a possible cure. Here she finds a key word in her own old Icelandic language: InnSæi. The word means the inner sea, the view inwards and the view from the inside to the outside. Being cut off from one’s own internal sources is the cause of personal suffering, but is also the root of far-reaching social ills. The film maintains that an inner compass has almost completely disappeared from the modern man.

“PULP”— A Comedy/Thriller

“PULP”

A Comedy/Thriller

Amos Lassen

Mickey King (Michael Caine) is a successful pulp novelist who is invited to ghost-write the autobiography of a mystery celebrity. His client, Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney) is a former actor -known for his gangster roles and real-life gangster connections. Now death is close at hand and King finds his job to be a lot more complicated than he first imagined.

Director Mike Hodges excels with the darker side of human nature and gets one of Caine’s finest performances with “Pulp”. Michael Caine, in one of his very finest performances, plays Mickey King, a writer of paperback pulp thrillers such as “My Gun Is Long” who is cornered by the associates of a faded Hollywood star named Preston Gilbert. Before King can meet Gilbert, he must go on a mystery coach tour. Soon, dead bodies are turning up and Mickey realizes that he’s in way over his head.

We see that he banality of the world is often lit up by people who are so much larger than life it’s hard to believe that they really exist. The film is an analyses the allure of fictional violence; glamour, machismo and the lack of consequence making this a very funny viewing experience. It also has a darker side which is largely kept as an undercurrent always close to the surface. Mickey King thinks he knows what’s involved in being the tough guy but the reality is that he really doesn’t. King may be physically prepared for the challenges that await him in the real world of violence and he’s hopelessly lost, drifting around in the middle of a sea of human corruption. When the film was first released in 1972, it flopped but since then it has gathered a small cult following over the years.

Extras include:

Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements, supervised and approved by director of photography Ousama Rawi, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

Original 1.0 mono sound

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

Brand-new interview with writer-director Mike Hodges

Brand-new interview with director of photography Ousama Rawi

Brand-new interview with assistant director John Glen

Brand-new interview with Tony Klinger, son of producer Michael Klinger

Original theatrical trailer

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector s booklet containing new writing by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

“MA’ ROSA”—A Family Drama

“Ma’ Rosa”

A Family Drama

Amos Lassen

Ma’ Rosa has four children and owns a small convenience store in a poor neighborhood of Manila where everybody likes her. To make ends meet, Rosa and her husband, Nestor, sell small amounts of narcotics on the side. One day, they get arrested and Rosa and her children are ready to do anything to buy her freedom from the corrupt police force.

Filipino auteur Brillante Mendoza brings us the story of a couple that moonlights as small-time drug dealers. Ma’ Rosa is Rosa Reyes (Jaclyn Jose), a no-nonsense kind of woman who we first meet as she is shopping for enormous quantities of instant noodles. Her teenage son, Erwin (Jomari Angeles) is with her. When she cannot get the proper change for her purchase from the cashier, we understand that money is an issue and this is why she and her husband (Julio Diaz) sell drugs from their corner store in Mandaluyong, a city that’s part of greater Manila.

 

The police raid the store and take the couple and their drugs stash to the station, where they are given the possibility to either go to jail without bail or pay 200,000 pesos (about $4,300), an enormous amount of money they don’t have, or to help police get their supplier so he can pay that amount. The policemen see this as the normal way of doing business. Much of the story takes place at the police station as the Reyes’s supplier (Kristofer King) is hauled in, beaten up and then manages to come up with only a part of the desired sum. The Reyes’s children — Erwin, his older brother, Jackson (Felix Roco), and their sister, Raquel (Andi Eigenmann) — are then sent out into Manila to come up with the remainder. Raquel begs family members for donations, Jackson tries to sell their TV and the Erwin gets most of the money by sleeping with an older man.

 

The film is straightforward with practically no subplots, metaphors and with no sense of wider societal context but there is a kind of inherence that the Reyes family is not the only one to be in a situation like this. We can assume that no one wants to go to jail but it’s never stated as such and of course, we wonder what would happen to either the parents or the children in their parents’ absence. We never know what Rosa feels about forcing her children to bail their parents out or why Erwin sells his body and compromises his own morals to pay for his parents’ crime.

Director Mendoza gives us an in-depth observation of a depraved police system. He disregards traditional methods of telling a story and the result is brutally honest look at corruption. We spend a lot of time sweeping inside a room of a police station where an unlawful negotiation takes place. The irony is that we see the police interrogate criminals when they are in fact criminals. We also see the financial struggle of Filipinos who use illegal in order to rise above poverty.

The film closes on an emotionally shattering note and is a work of understated confidence.

“D.O.A.— Now on Blu Ray

“D.O.A.: A RIGHT OF PASSAGE”

The Sex Pistols

Amos Lassen

NOW ON BLU RAY

Lech Kowalski’s “D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage” is an American’s take on this seminal English punk band’s only U.S. tour that shows the significance of the Sex Pistols. It is filled with fiery energy and you-are-there immediacy.

The film includes galvanizing concert footage, often with subtitled lyrics. If you’ve managed to forget how ferociously powerful the Pistols’ music was and still is, “D.O.A.” is an excellent reminder. Johnny Rotten lurches theatrically all over the stage seeming to stare right into the camera. That same camera also alights on audience members with spiked hair and heavy makeup, and he interviews enthusiastic onlookers as well as outraged attendees and Bible-wielding protestors. The Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren reportedly booked the band into venues that he knew would be problematic and Kowalski captures the fraught energy of this tour-cum-suicide mission.

In addition to the footage of the Sex Pistols in the U.S., Kowalski gives us interviews and performances from other punks back in Britain. Other performers include The Dead Boys, Sham 69, and ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock tearing through “Pretty Vacant” with his new band, The Rich Kids. Some of this may be tangential to the Sex Pistols and their tour, but it helps to paint a picture of the era, and it’s exciting to watch.

D.O.A. isn’t simply a celebration of punk rock. It is impossible to ignore the evidence of Sid Vicious’ heroin addiction and increasingly self-destructive behavior. We see him bleeding onstage and there’s a moment outside of one of the venues where he has to be guided in the direction of the door.

Kowalski’s infamous interview with Sid and Nancy is here, too. The pair of them lay in bed, with Sid barely able to keep his eyes open, and struggling even more mightily to offer coherent answers to Kowalski’s questions. “D.O.A.” was released less than two years after Nancy’s murder and Sid’s arrest for the crime and subsequent fatal overdose, and the freshness of the tragedies makes a profound contribution.

 The film is probably closer than punk fans might want it to be. ”D.O.A.,” intends to be outrageous and is mostly ugly and sad while giving the impression that punk is as misunderstood by those who like it as by those who don’t. The music, which is not particularly well represented here is less arresting than the atmosphere that surrounds it. The Sex Pistols come across as the real thing

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the main feature.
  • Original 2.0 Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • “Dead On Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Almost Never Was” – A feature length documentary about the making of A. A Rite of Passage produced by award-winning filmmaker (and former MTV Senior Producer) Richard Schenkman and featuring exclusive new interviews with PUNK magazine founder and Ramones cover-artist John Holmstrom, renowned music journalist Chris Salewicz, legendary photographer Roberta Bayley, Sex Pistols’ historian Mick O’Shea, former Rich Kid guitarist and Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure, and original D.O.A. crew members David King, Mary Killen, Rufus Standefer, plus never-before-seen interview footage of Pistols founder, Malcolm McLaren. (HD)
  • 12 page booklet with liner notes written by John Holmstrom, founding editor of PUNK Magazine
  • Reversible artwork
  • Rare Sex Pistols Photo Gallery
  • 2-Sided Poster included

Original Theatrical Trailer (3:48, SD)

“QUEST”— A Family’s Story

 

“QUEST’

A Family’s Story

Amos Lassen

“Quest” follows an African-American family over a five-year period in inner city Philadelphia beginning with the wedding day of Christopher and Christine’a Rainey. Christopher is a struggling rap producer working odd jobs on the side and Chrstine’a is a health-care worker with both physical and emotional scars. Because they both had sometimes neglected their children from previous relationships, the Raineys are determined to do the right thing for their young daughter Patricia.

The film is a detailed family study and meditation on the power of love and understanding, and the importance of continuing the struggle against long odds. There is violence in the Raineys’ neighborhood but the community members rally around each other. At one point, Christine’a watches as a campaigning Donald Trump describes the black communities of America as a “complete disaster”.

Director Jonathan Olshefski begins his film in 2008 when Barack Obama first ran for president of the United States, until the presidential election last autumn and gives us a microcosm of America as the hopeful dream is lost with the election of Trump. Olshefski takes us so deep into this family’s world and we see that poor black people are human beings who deserve empathy, respect, and inquiry. Olshefski devotes himself to rendering the quotidian textures of this family. Christine’a is the practical one, while her husband, Christopher, known as Quest, is the dreamer working in his shoestring music studio, attempting to break into the rap market. Christine’a and Christopher’s teenage daughter, Pearl, wants to be a musician as well, and there’s a particularly evocative and beautiful moment in the film where we see her tapping her fingers rhythmically.

We see how Christopher’s music serves as an escape from the reliable distractions, tedium, and tragedies of life. However, this tedium and tragedy keep interfering with the family struggling for a breakthrough. Christine’a’s 21-year-old son (from a different relationship), William, is diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor soon after his son is born, and Pearl hit in the head by a stray bullet on the street, losing one of her eyes. Christopher’s most gifted rapper, Price, is on the verge of succumbing to alcoholism. Life is far from easy.

The Raineys experience one terrible event after another and do so with grace and strength and we sense their socially ingrained pragmatism. Olshefski understands that Christine’a and Christopher rarely succumb to their emotions because they don’t have that luxury and we especially see this in an argument about P.J.’s (Pearl’s nickname) homosexuality.

Olshefski spent nine years befriending and filming the Raineys, and his finished documentary is a meditative study of the everyday realities of poverty, gun crime, and racism, whilst offering a moving portrayal of people united by love and affection.. Both Christine’a and Christopher are community stalwarts: she works at a local domestic violence shelter, while he runs a music recording studio for the local disenfranchised youth, alongside his regular job of delivering newspapers. Together they share bond that seals everything else together, both at home and in the wider community. They suffer hardship and strife, but their love endures throughout.

The camera always captures the family with unsentimental tenderness and genuine empathy. In the tender moments that we see, we feel a deep emotional response to the film. Love is a shield against the hard world beyond the family’s front door. We see the harmony in family and community, and a kind if wealth that is based on love. This family finds hope in each other’s support. Now with a right wing, White Supremacist-supporting President in the White House who succeeded America’s first black President, this film has even more impact. For the Raineys, and families like them, life will probably get much harder indeed

 

“TIME TO DIE”— A Landmark Mexican Western

“TIME TO DIE”

A Landmark Mexican Western

Amos Lassen

 After serving eighteen years in jail for shooting a man in self-defense, Juan Sayago (Jorge Martinez de Hoyos) comes back to his hometown to start a new life reunite with Mariana (Marga López).  However, the two sons of the man he killed are out for revenge, have been and have been waiting for Sayago’s return. d Mexican auteur Arturo Ripstein directed this film that is based on an original story by Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez (“One Hundred Years of Solitude”). Sayago served eighteen long years and what makes his sentence even more difficult to understand is that the man he shot had been goading him for a long time and his patience wore thin.

When Sáyago returned home, he found that his old life was long gone. His mother is dead, his house is in ruins, and his intended, Mariana Sampedro was married and widowed in the time he was away. Technically, she is available again, but it is not practical for Sáyago to think that way about the bereaved mother of a small boy, at least not while the Trueba Brothers are out for revenge.

Some of the old timers of the town have managed start to talk some sense into Pedro, the younger Trueba. He has a fiancée and would like to start a life with, her but his older brother Julián is determined to get revenge. This is both a “revenge drama” and a “contemplation of machismo.”

 We know exactly what destiny has in store for these characters just as much as they do, yet we are unable to turn away, just as they are powerless to alter their fates.

Bonus Features include:

  • Video Introduction by director Alex Cox (Repo Man)
  • Commentary by director Arturo Ripstein and actor Enrique Rocha
  • New essay by Carlos A. Gutiérrez, co-founder of Cinema Tropical 

“ANIMAL FACTORY”— Life in Prison

”Animal Factory”

Life in Prison

Amos Lassen

Ron Decker (Edward Furlong) is a troubled young man who is sentenced to a ten-year stint in us San Quentin State Prison for a drug-dealing conviction. He is totally inexperienced in the ways of prison life and is protected by Earl Copen (Willem Dafoe), an experienced con who seems to have the entire prison in the palm of his hand (inmates and guards alike). As Ron becomes increasingly arrogant and cocky in his privileged role as Earl’s confidant, he just might find himself in danger of biting off more than he can chew with some of the prison’s volatile inhabitants. 

 

Steve Buscemi directed this account of men caught up in the penal system and the deals they cut with each other, and themselves, in order to survive. Ron is young, educated, and middle-class and is serving a ten-year sentence for peddling marijuana. Copen has been in prison for 18 years and is known as “King of the Yard.” He gets drugs for his buddies, is friends with several guards, and knows how to play the “prison game”. Although Ron tries hard to be a good prisoner, he runs into trouble with a hillbilly (Tom Arnold) who nearly rapes him in a bathroom. We then begin to see the violent milieu of frequent stabbings and retaliations, in addition to the constant tension between the races and Ron begins to understand that he is no man of his own and wants to gain revenge on his attempted rapist. consciousness. He wants revenge. But Copen, who has gotten him a relaxed job in the library, is convinced that his young friend can achieve an early parole if he plays his cards right.

The mentoring relationship between the two men stands at the emotional center of “Animal Factory”. Copen helps Decker walk through a dark period of his life and offers him safety and a small measure of hope. We see a caring relationship.

Buscemi lets prison life speak for themselves. Ron quickly learns that nothing has prepared him for prison’s violence, rape, and racial tension, or the ways such underlying threats can reshape his character even if they remain unrealized. He finds some protection with his mentor whose multiple extended stints have made it easy him to develop connections among prisoners and guards alike. However, he is never sure of Copen’s intentions and at first keeps him at arm’s length, but he also finds his options elsewhere are limited and unpleasant. Violence is always in the background as an everyday possibility, and when it occurs, it flashes by quickly enough to seem almost unreal.

Ron and Copen’s relationship is an uneasy alliance that comes out of the possibility of redemption, or at least escape.

Special features include:

– High Definition digital transfer

– Lossless original 2.0 stereo audio

– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

– Interview with critic Barry Forshaw covering Eddie Bunker’s varied career

– Audio commentary by novelist/co-writer/actor Eddie Bunker and co-producer/actor Danny Trejo

– Theatrical trailer

– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacob Phillips

First Pressing Only: Collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Glenn

“HARMONIUM”— A Revenge Drama

“Harmonium” (“Fuchi ni tatsu”)

A Revenge Drama

Amos Lassen

“Harmonium” follows characters that are much like the kinds of people we meet in an Alfred Hitchcock film. Polite stranger Yasaka (Tandanobu Asano) disturbs the peace of emotionally unavailable patriarch Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) and his curious wife Akie (Mariko Tsutsui).This is a film about mood and as we watch, we try to regain some sense of calmness just like the main characters try to do. Characters go about their daily tasks. Akie oversees daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa) as she practices on her harmonium. Toshio works in his garage workshop and Hotaru skips home from a nearby playground. Yasaka, an ex-convict and old acquaintance of Toshio’s, is the only main character that has no set routine. His presence throws everybody off, but they eventually get used to him. They fear that something violent and abrupt will happen if they otherwise treat him like a threat. Maybe he’s as tranquil and non-threatening as he seems and not someone to be feared.

Writer-director Kôji Fukada vacillates between the normal and the nightmarish and between formality and the id. We really see this with the abrupt arrival of Yasaka who is one of Toshio’s oldest friends. When he is released from prison, Yasaka is invited to live with the family, with no explanation to the rest of them. With his rigidly upright posture and buttoned-up dress clothes, Yasaka gets along well with Mom and daughter. He presents himself as a compulsive truth-teller. But his presence is something else as we learn when the film moves forward. This is a film that works on the emotions and not on the intellect. Its binary approach cracks when a new and largely unexplained crisis happens and the plot moves ahead about eight years. Yasaka’s no longer on the scene, but the family is in even deep trouble. More than that I cannot say.

“A NEW LEAF”— A Dark Comedy

“A NEW LEAF”

A Dark Comedy

Amos Lassen

Part of the new Olive Films Signature Films, “A New Leaf” stars Walter Matthau as Henry Graham, who, because of his extravagant lifestyle, has run through his inheritance. He begs his Uncle Harry (James Coco) for a loan and convinces him to give him the money with the condition that it must be repaid within six weeks or Henry will forfeit all of his property. With the aid of his gentleman’s gentleman, Harold (George Rose), Henry decides to marry into wealth, and once the vows have been taken he’ll decide how to handle getting out of the marriage. Wealthy heiress Henrietta Lowell (May), a klutzy botanist and the woman of Henry’s get-rich-quick-scheme dreams is to be his wife. However, Henry deal with obstacles placed in his path not only by his Uncle Harry, but also by Andy McPherson (Jack Weston), Henrietta’s jealous and unscrupulous lawyer.

This is a love story about these two people, who are in desperate need of each other even if Henry doesn’t know it. He has dedicated his life to living it comfortably and with style and the courtship involves finding out about each other’s tastes. As an example, we see that he savors rare French vintage wine and she likes Mogen David and soda.

Henrietta easily falls for Henry’s charms/tricks very easily, but her conniving attorney tries to make life difficult for Graham. They eventually do marry though and Graham, who has no interest in being a married man, plots to kill Henrietta and claim her fortune. As he enters Henrietta’s life and finds himself improving it, becoming a better man in the process, there might be a glimmer of hope that he won’t go through with the act though. “A New Leaf” was writer-director Elaine May’s first feature and it is very funny.

Henrietta is a dysfunctional socialite lives alone in a Long Island mansion. She’s klutzy, gauche, and primitive in taste and lacks social graces. She falls in love with Henry because his boldness gives her confidence and they get married after a three-day courtship despite her crooked trustee lawyer Andrew McPherson who has been stealing from her for years. He strongly objects to the wedding and gives her proof that Henry is broke and marrying her only for her money. Settling down in her mansion after their brief honeymoon, Henry begins protecting his new fortune by firing the thieving household staff of seventeen after seeing how they are cheating her by not doing their jobs and getting paid excessive salaries. Henry then schemes to murder Henrietta by reading up on poisons. But on a field trip with her, Henry turns over a new leaf and pledges to protect Henrietta for the rest of his life.

The humor ranges from slapstick to witty dialogue to set piece shticks. The performances of the stars are excellent as are the performances of the supporting cast. The intelligent script is fresh in how May presents her self-important characters as losers but with charm. 

 

OLIVE SIGNATURE FEATURES

New restoration from 4K scan of original camera negative

  • Audio commentary by film scholar Maya Montanez Smukler
  • “The Cutting Room Floor: Editing A New Leaf” – interview with A New Leaf assistant editor Angelo Corrao
  • “Women in Hollywood: A Tragedy of Comic Proportions” – with director Amy Heckerling
  • Essay by critic, editor & film programmer Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
  • “The Green Heart” by Jack Ritchie, the source material for Elaine May’s script
  • Trailer

“TALON FALLS”— Becoming Part of Halloween

“TALON FALLS”

Becoming Part of Halloween

Amos Lassen

Four teenagers (Morgan Wiggins, Ryan Rudolph, Jordyn Rudolph and Brad Bell) on a road trip decide to take an impromptu detour to a haunted house Halloween scream park deep in the woods of southern Kentucky. After they see quite an assortment of torture and gore, they start wondering if what they are experiencing isn’t a little too realistic. Before they know it, each one of them is captured and made part of the horrific attraction they originally thought was all fun and games.

 

Horror films can be a lot of fun and this is one that is but it is also filled with a lot of gore and blood. When the four friends start to explore the crowded site, they are both repulsed and thrilled by the scenes of torture but halfway around they find themselves captured by the rednecks that run the park and they come to realize the ‘actors’ they saw in the torture rooms are actually unwilling victims being killed for real. They need to find a way to escape the nightmare they have found themselves in before it is their turn. This is horror strictly for entertainment purposes and there are plenty of scenes of gruesome violence and many chase sequences, featuring the final girl alive, Lyndsey (Morgan Wiggins). The film actually starts with her being supposedly rescued on the road and then we go back in time.

In the deep woods of southern Kentucky, an isolated town hosts a very realistic Scream Park. Welcome to Talon Falls, “where the torture is real and you’re the attraction.” “Scream all you want… No one believes it’s real.” Writer, director Joshua Shreve uses the real scream park for his independent torture film. The sets perfect because they are real. The people who run this real scream park know how to make things look realistic and this adds a great deal to the film.

We watch teenagers walk through a horror house laughing as they watch other people get tortured. Then it happens to them. This is a simple story and what I think makes this a fascinating film is that it all looks very real. The acting is fair and the screenplay is simple but for a low budget film, I was completely entertained—if that is the correct word to use for a horror film.

There is one excellent actor here and that id Tim McCain playing Tiny who mutely chases the four around the park armed with an axe and wearing a pig mask. He is the perfect bad guy who is both menacing and unstoppable.

There are several scenes of torture that were effective at making my skin crawl in places and some very effective dog attack sequences, but there was a bit too much blood for my taste. Jordyn Rudolph (who plays the other female lead) screams a bit too much for my taste and there are moments when the only sounds that we hear are screams. Sometimes a movie like this is just what we need to relax and have a fun time. It won’t win any Oscars but it is a pleasant (for lack of a better word) diversion.