Television

Jobless Adman Makes a Fever Pitch

MOVIE REVIEW
As Luck Would Have It (2013)

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Sundance Selects

With the participation of Salma Hayek, one would hope that “As Luck Would Have It” could finally help launch Álex de la Iglesia from relative obscure cultdom to the international acclaim enjoyed by fellow zany Spanish melodramatist, Pedro Almodóvar. After all, Mr. de la Iglesia has delivered over the years an oeuver that includes such pure lunacy as “The Last Circus,” a Franco-era allegory involving murderous circus clowns; “El crimen perfecto,” about a lothario marrying a homely and crazy woman after she witnessed him accidentally killing a man and blackmailed him; and “The Day of the Beast,” in which a basque priest attempts to stop the birth of the Antichrist.

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A Romantic Getaway, With Murder

MOVIE REVIEW
Sightseers (2012)

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Ben Wheatley/IFC Films

If an Englishman’s home is his castle, then it follows that the English countryside is his kingdom. His enjoyment of the countryside is his democratic right, but this is made much, much more difficult when other Englishmen get in the way. “Sightseers” explores one way of solving this problem in the least pleasant possible way.

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The Auteur Brood

MOVIE REVIEW
Antiviral (2012)

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Caitlin Cronenberg/IFC Midnight

Following in a parent’s creative footsteps in far from uncommon in Hollywood circles, but children of famous directors usually progress to become successful actors (think of the Minnelli, Rossellini, Huston and Downey clans). In the rarer cases where the progeny decides to take up directing themselves, they often go to great lengths to distinguish their output from the style and preoccupations of the parent. So Marcel Ophüls gravitated towards dissecting documentaries that were the antithesis of his father’s swooping melodramas, and the younger Coppolas favor intimate quirkiness over the grander follies of father Francis.

Only in Canada do they do things differently. The deadpan humor of Jason Reitman’s films could reasonably be characterized as coming from the same stable as his father Ivan’s. And now Brandon Cronenberg follows the template initiated by his father David so closely that comparisons will inevitably be included in any review of the film.

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Blamespotting

MOVIE REVIEW
Pusher (2012)

Pusher-movie-review-richard-coyle
Vertigo Films

After biding his time for 16 years, Nicolas Winding Refn seems to have sprung into action and lent his name to variants of his original "Pusher" film across Europe in an attempt to corner the market. Hence his executive producer credit on "Black's Game," a vibrant and darkly engaging story of Icelandic drug dealers at the turn of the millennium; and almost simultaneously the same credit on the new British remake of "Pusher" itself, from which anything engaging and vibrant seem to have been ruthlessly purged.

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A Justice League of Their Own

TELEVISION REVIEW | 'SUPERHEROES'

Superheroes-superhero
HBO

In a perverse sort of sense, documentarians play a very similar role to that of an investigative journalist. They sense a story, pursue it endlessly, albeit with the permission of their subject and eventually bring that unreported story to the masses. It’s an important vocation imbued with passion and dedication; and yet while the aim of the documentarian is invariably didactic, his or her work is more often than not rip-roaringly entertaining.

Mike Barnett’s “Superheroes” is a fascinating example of a genre pic that manages to effortlessly suffuse entertainment with unbridled insight into a little known subject: that of the real-life superhero.

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Good Old-Fashioned Happy and Joy

John-kricfalusi
Courtesy photo

John Kricfalusi has staked out some idiosyncratic ground in his three decades as a working animator; and it doesn't take long to recognize his work when you see it. “The Ren & Stimpy Show” caused visible distress to Nickelodeon in the 1990s, and lingers in the memory of anyone who caught its U.K. airings on BBC Two. Before then, Mr. Kricfalusi had already worked uncomfortably for Filmation and Hanna-Barbera, and found a much more agreeable niche alongside legendary animator Ralph Bakshi. More recently, the man usually known just as John K. has directed music videos, animated the opening couch gag for an episode of “The Simpsons,” and continued to get into occasional trouble with broadcasters.

Mr. Kricfalusi came to the Encounters International Film Festival in Bristol to talk about some of his favorite animated films. We took the opportunity to ask him about the joys of old animation, why the Internet is frustratingly slow and his very dim view of motion-capture.

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Crying in the Night So Many Tears

MOVIE REVIEW
The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) (2011)

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IFC Midnight

Tom Six promised that “The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)” would make the first installment “look like My Little Pony.” By shunning the implied grotesqueness of the mad-scientist-gone-mental farce of the first “Human Centipede” in favor of in-your-face graphic violence, streams of blood, feces and gore, Mr. Six has done just that. Yet, whereas the original verged on the fantastical and as a result was laughable at times, Mr. Six seems determined to push the boundaries of taste further than ever before and as such there is very little of that lightness of touch here.

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The Constant Globe-Trotter

MOVIE REVIEW
360 (2011)

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55th BFI London Film Festival

Opening the BFI London Film Festival is Fernando Meirelles’s “360” — in reality an international production, but for London’s purposes the director’s second British film after “The Constant Gardener.” It’s a modernization of Arthur Schnitzler’s sexual-morality play “Reigen” (a k a “La Ronde”) adapted by acclaimed screenwriter Peter Morgan, who’s had most of his success with semi-fictionalized biographies such as “Frost/Nixon” and “The Damned United.”

Although the material is venerable, the film comes across as something of a Johnny-come-lately to the fad of interconnected stories, popularized in the last decade by Mr. Meirelles’s Latin American peer Alejandro González Iñárritu (who was surely first choice for this project).

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The Loss of It All

MOVIE REVIEW
Melancholia (2011)

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Christian Geisnaes/Magnolia Pictures

The Cannes Film Festival this year bestowed on Lars von Trier the rare distinction of being persona non grata after he expressed sympathy for Adolf Hitler. While his inflammatory Nazi talk was indeed inexcusable, Mr. von Trier was probably right drawing parallels between himself and a dictator reviled by the world. But unlike Hitler, Mr. von Trier does deserve our sympathies. After being taken to task by critics for systematically subjecting female protagonists to escalating cruelty throughout the “Golden Heart” and as-yet incomplete “U.S.A.: Land of Opportunities” trilogies, Mr. von Trier purposely did a 180 with “Antichrist,” in which the woman is the tormentor. But his critics only grew more vocal.

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A Life in a Dead Draw

MOVIE REVIEW
Bobby Fischer Against the World (2011)

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Dogwoof

Some celebrities are born. Others are made through willpower. Rarer are celebrities who attain such status in spite of themselves due to their sheer talent. Bobby Fischer was one of these, a chess player of unusual skill who began as a child prodigy. His victory, watched by millions, over Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship in Reykjavik was a metaphor for the Cold War. And then he dropped off the radar.

This question of what happened is not really answered by director Liz Garbus in this documentary. Originally produced by HBO, it is being screened theatrically in Britain despite coming off very much like a made-for-TV documentary. This shows the hunger people still have for information about Fischer. But it is never clear what point Ms. Garbus, who has extensive documentary production experience, wanted to make about Fischer’s life.

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