Recommended To Varying Degrees
White on Rice (Indieblitz Releasing) — What if, by some glorious mistake, Savage Steve Holland (Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer) had been hired to direct the American remake of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata? The result might be something like Dave Boyle’s White on Rice, a genuinely funny fish-out-of-water tale about a hapless Japanese divorcee who has relocated to America in order to try to get back on his feet. The only problem is that Jimmy (Hiroshi Watanabe) seems determined to shoot himself in both feet at every opportunity. With impressive command of his medium, Boyle creates an absurd universe in which the most cartoon-like situations retain a grounded air of sincerity and sweetness. Read the rest of my review, then buy it on DVD.
I Am Love (Magnolia Pictures) — Luca Guadagnino’s years-in-the-making collaboration with Tilda Swinton is a sumptuous feast for the ears and eyes (thanks to John Adams’s score and Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography). Swinton plays a wife and mother whose passions are stirred at a point in life when it seems like the more responsible thing to do is stick with her normal routine. But as realized by Guadagnino, this blossoming is more than just a moment of weakness—it’s an act of personal triumph in which this woman risks losing her family in order to reclaim her long dormant individual spirit. Don’t walk into this movie hungry, because it will really make your stomach hurt. Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.
Kimjongilia (Lorber Films) — N.C. Heiken’s brutal expose of the North Korean dictatorship is quite sobering. I knew things were bad over there, but actually hearing stories firsthand from individuals who had managed to escape is a whole different experience. This type of filmmaking always borders on the bullying for my more passive sensibilities—I don’t like infomercials or propaganda—but in this case, it never crosses the line. Perhaps it’s because of the subject matter. Thank you, documentary cinema, for giving me yet another cause to feel miserable about, especially since there’s nothing I can do about it! Buy it on DVD.
Leaves of Grass (First Look Studios) — As a writer/director, Tim Blake Nelson has shown an extreme amount of versatility. With Leaves of Grass, he takes a step in yet another new direction. While it might sound reductive to compare this to the Coen Brothers (for whom Nelson has acted before), the off-kilter blend of comedy and intellect and violence in this black comedy owes an undeniable debt to their work. Edward Norton works overtime playing twin brothers—one an accent-free scholar living in the Northeast and the other an Oklahoma twanged pot grower—who reconnect after years and find themselves caught up in a world of trouble. Leaves of Grass is a very strange creature. Whatever one thinks of it, it’s nice to see movies like this still getting made. Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.
I’ll Come Running (MPI Home Video) — Although I’ll Come Running is a pop-infused romantic comedy/drama, [Spencer Parsons’s] daring narrative scope has more in common with a film like Sean Penn’s The Pledge. From the very beginning, it is impossible to tell where this initial one-night stand will take the film’s two lead characters, but by the story’s midway point, it’s obvious it’s somewhere they’ve never journeyed before. Read the rest of my review, then buy it on DVD.
Breaking Upwards (MPI Home Video) — Breaking Upwards seems to cross some artificial line into a realm where by no stretch of the imagination could one describe it as mumblecore. The carefully honed acting, beautiful, stable cinematography and pointedly decisive direction all tend towards more traditional Hollywood tropes. But the structure certainly draws from the loose narrative form that we’ve seen come out of countless SXSW projects over the last few years. Read the rest of Michael Lerman’s review, then buy it on DVD.
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