Thursday, October 6, 2011

The silent cinema speaks again

The American Conservatory Theater is currently staging Once in a Lifetime (through October 16th), a revival of the madcap George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart comedy about the time when the movies learned to talk. When first staged in 1930, this entertaining play about changes in the entertainment industry was a big hit. Then, the New York Times described it as one of the “funniest of the season’s pranks” and a “hard, swift satire – fantastic and deadly, and full of highly charged comedy lines.” Recently, in the pages of San Francisco Chronicle, critic Robert Hurwitt gave it an equally good review. He concludes his write-up by calling this new production “almost always charming and at times irresistible.”

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo in "The Artist"
Despite it being a comedy, Once in a Lifetime reflects a time of both artistic and economic anxiety. In the play, a trio of down-on-their-luck East Coast vaudevillians head West intending to pull off something of a con. In Hollywood, they pose as vocal coaches who offer to help silent film actors train their speaking voices for the new medium of talking pictures.

Accompanying the play is “Words on Plays,” an A.C.T. produced 44-page booklet which offers background on the original play and current production as well as on the tumultuous period in movie history which it satirizes. The booklet essays on this transitional period are worth reading, especially if you are unfamiliar with the changes brought about by the then new sound technology.

'Hoop Dreams' director says new film 'The Interrupters' a kindred spirit

TORONTO - There have been moments over the course of Oscar-nominated filmmaker Steve James' long career when he didn't welcome being identified simply as the director of "Hoop Dreams."

Filmmaker Steve James is shown in a handout photo
After all, while that basketball documentary is still held in impossibly high regard, it was released 17 years ago and James has pursued several other projects since.

But when it comes to "The Interrupters" — his acclaimed new documentary about a few brave souls crusading to curb inner-city violence — James understands that viewers may find memories of "Dreams" recurring, and he doesn't mind.

"I welcome it in this case because for the most part, it's been a very positive comparison," the director said during an interview in Toronto this week.

"I do feel like (the films) are kindred spirits in a lot of ways.... They're very different films but they also share some of the same sensibilities (and) concerns for the same issues if you want to call it that.... The audience comes away feeling that they've been transported in a way and feeling moved and shaken."

"I mean, the 'Hoop Dreams' comparison I get with virtually every film I make to some degree ... and sometimes I wish it weren't the case because you know, I've made a lot of other films. But in this case, I think it's a good thing."

Perhaps it also helped that having "Hoops" on his resume solidified James' street credibility during an often-taxing year-long shoot.

"The Interrupters" focuses on a street-level violence prevention program called CeaseFire, which aims to defy the tide of bloodshed on Chicago streets through conflict mediation.

The film gets its title from a cluster of courageous souls who put themselves directly in harm's way to perform those mediations, trying to defuse volatile situations with words, gentle physical gestures or, at times, sheer force of will.

New on DVD this week: 'Scream 4,' 'Fast Five'

This week’s home video releases are anchored by the latest entries to a couple well-known franchises.

In this publicity image released by The Weinstein Company, Courteney Cox is shown in a scene from the horror film "Scream 4."
Fast Five
✪✪✪ (out of ✪✪✪✪)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language Universal Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
The “Fast and the Furious” movies have never been the benchmark for cinematic quality, but expertly staged action sequences and a likable cast have helped them achieve an impressive box office run. Now a decade old, the series is still relevant and, surprisingly, getting better.

“Fast Five” is set immediately after the events of 2009’s “Fast & Furious,” and it is easily the best movie of the franchise. The action starts with former FBI agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and his girlfriend, Mia (Jordana Brewster), leading a crew of drivers in pursuit of a prison bus. Their objective? Freeing Mia’s brother, Dominic (Vin Diesel).

Because this is a “Fast and the Furious” movie, Brian and Mia mount a spectacular vehicular rescue, complete with a magnificent crash sequence. The next time viewers see them, they’re on the lam in Rio de Janiero.

Strapped for cash, the group gets caught up in an elaborate car heist that goes bad, leaving them at odds not only with the U.S. government but a powerful Brazilian crime lord. As the plot thickens, viewers are introduced to Lucas Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a no-nonsense Diplomatic Security Service agent intent on bringing Brian and Dominic to justice.

But “Fast Five” is not a simple cat-and-mouse game. Although Dominic and his crew are wanted by virtually everyone, they decide running isn’t an option. Instead, they plan a stupendously dangerous heist that will bring in enough money to allow them to “disappear.”

The movie plays out like “Ocean’s Eleven” on steroids, and brings in a number of players from past “Fast and the Furious” films. These include Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang and Matt Schulze.

The movie’s many action sequences are broken up by just enough plot to keep things interesting, and director Justin Lin’s handling of the material is smooth and satisfying. “Fast Five” is by no means a great film. The stunts are too over-the-top and the characters too silly for a claim like that. Still, there’s a joy in watching these players push automobiles to limits that are only possible at the movies.

“Fast Five” is available on multiple home video releases, all of which include extended and theatrical cuts of the feature. Other DVD and Blu-ray extras include a gag reel, bits on key characters and an audio commentary by Lin.

New documentary 'Urbanized' gives Detroit considerable screen time

Though Detroit is often singled out as a textbook example of urban decay, filmmaker Gary Hustwit cites the "spark, creativity and positive spirit" of the city's residents in his new documentary "Urbanized."
The New York filmmaker spent nearly a week here in June to gather information for the documentary, which explores the history and design of cities. The movie, he says, "is meant to open a dialogue about the way cities operate."

Detroit's People Mover is featured in "Urbanized," a new documentary by filmmaker Gary Hustwit
Nearly 40 cities from all over the globe are featured in the film, but only a dozen or so, including Detroit, get substantial screen time.
The movie, which premiered last month at the Toronto International Film Festival, screens Tuesday at the Detroit Film Theatre. The filmmaker will answer audience questions after the showing.

"Obviously, there are challenges facing Detroit, just as there are any city," Hustwit said by phone last week. "What impressed me most were the self-organized, DIY-style projects happening in the city, the urban agriculture movement and community gardens."

The filmmaker said he avoided editorializing in "Urbanized." "I just present," he said. "I see this as a series of conversations with people from all over the world, among them mayors, architects and developers of policy."

Among the Detroit residents interviewed is Mark Covington, founder of the Georgia Street Community Collective. "Sometimes this is the story of one guy trying to make his neighborhood vital," Hustwit said.
The filmmaker is best known for directing 2007's "Helvetica," about the way a single typeface impacted graphic design and culture. "All of my movies have been an exploration on the way design affects our lives," he said.

7 p.m. Tuesday at the DFT at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward, Detroit. 313-833-4005 or $7;50; $6.50 students, seniors.

New York Film Festival: Film Number 3 for the West Memphis 3

The infamous case of the West Memphis 3—three men convicted 18 years ago for the grisly murder of three young boys in Arkansas—came to a close in August when the state allowed them to walk free, following new evidence that cast doubt on their guilt. But you could also say that the cause célèbre surrounding them played a hand, too: They were boosted by a massive grassroots campaign that counted stars like Natalie Maines and Eddie Vedder as supporters.

New York Film Festival: Film Number 3 for the West Memphis 3
Expect their story to get another boost when "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," the latest installment in Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's documentary series about their case, receives its world premiere at the New York Film Festival next week. (The film premieres on HBO in January.) The docu duo have been chronicling the West Memphis 3 since their first film, "Paradise Lost," was released in 1996.

This latest entry is a rich forensic and historical trove, recapping the past while quickly bringing audiences up to speed on new evidence, new suspects and new personal developments. A lot of meaty twists here, including accusations that the father of one of the victims might actually be the killer, and that the purported satanic rituals pegged as the trio's original motive were bogus. But there are also humanistic moments, like when we discover how a Brooklyn woman moved to Arkansas to advocate for one of the men and then ended up as his wife.

Berlinger and Sinofsky document the revelations with meticulous, obsessive fervor. Here, they not only indict a flawed justice system, but also a culture of mass hysteria that irrevocably convicted the three suspects in the public eye.

"This happened at a time when there was this wave of satanic hysteria even though the FBI discredited all of those claims," Berlinger says at a press conference following a screening of the film at the festival. "But this was a region of the country where people literally believe in heaven and hell, and that the devils walk amongst us."

Sinofsky, sitting next to Berlinger, adds that the case was exacerbated by what he calls a "bully pulpit" that fueled a lynch-mob mentality. "Every Sunday, they were talking about the West Memphis 3 and their guilt. And when you had ministers going on the local news saying how guilty they were before jury selection, Joe and I would look at easy other and say, These guys are toast."

Now people have backpedaled, and one of the film's most satisfying moments features old interviews of folks who once condemned the men pitted against recent clips of them professing their support.
The story may be far from over, though. To barter for their release, the West Memphis 3 had to technically plead guilty while maintaining their innocence—a head-scratching quirk in the justice system. They've always maintained their innocence, and are keen on clearing their names. Do we see a "Paradise Lost 4" coming down the pike?

Cinema with a new dimension

Sydney's newest tourist attraction is a small cinema that appeals to more than just the usual two senses of sight and hearing. The Sydney Tower Eye has a floor that vibrates as waves crash against rocks on screen, a spray of mist as a skiff crosses the harbour and rushing wind as a father and son fly kites during a short 3D film that shows off the city's sights.

Feast for the senses
''It's a 4D experience, then you experience the views for real on the top of the observation deck,'' says Rob Smith from Merlin Entertainments (Australia), whose parent company also runs 4D cinemas at the London Eye and Blackpool Tower in England.

Similar cinemas have been running at theme parks around the world for more than two decades. When watching Shrek 4D at Movie World on the Gold Coast, for example, viewers are shaken by moveable seats, sprayed with mist and given a tickle around the legs when a snake appears on screen.

While immersive 3D has been a staple of mainstream cinemas since Avatar, the latest Spy Kids movie is screening in ''4D'' these school holidays. Harking back to experiments projecting smells into cinemas as long ago as the 1920s, Aroma-Scope involves a scratch-and-sniff card. American director John Waters famously had viewers doing the same thing for the smells of flowers, pizza, glue, gas, grass and even - yikes - faeces for Polyester in the early '80s.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

YouTube’s 20 Most-Shared Ads This Month [VIDEOS]

YouTubers, you have spoken, and this month’s batch of most-shared ads shows a lot of diversity. Yes, there are two cat videos (one in French), but there’s stuff that’s sad and disturbing, funny and fairly boring as well.

In an unprecedented feat, there are also no video game preview ads on this list. Instead, we could tally things up this way: References to classic sci-fi (2), A-list actors (2), animals behaving badly (4), stunts (4) serial killer turned good guy questioning the religious beliefs of another killer (1).

My favorite? Glad you asked. The ad for Byturen that illustrates what you think you look like when you’re drunk and what you actually look like. But the website‘s even better because you can get the same effect by running your cursor over the action. As far as PSAs go, this is powerful stuff. Then again, the lesson of another ad here is that one of those drunken nights might just land you George Clooney.

As always, we thank our friends at Unruly Media for compiling the Mashable Global Ads Chart. In raw numbers, these are the YouTube video ads that the world spent the most time watching in September.
Note: The list below does not include music videos, user-generated content or movie trailers. Unruly Media’s Viral Video Chart tracks 18 million shares per day through third-party APIs.

“Party Rock Anthem” (Kia)
Those lovable Kia hamsters are back and they’re dancing to LMFAO”s “Party Rock Anthem.” Somehow this will get you to buy one of the company’s cars.
9/11 Bud Commercial” (Budweiser)
The tenth anniversary of 9/11 prompted a big spike in views for this ad, which ran only once, during the 2002 Super Bowl.

Bouygues Telecom Présente les Chatons Telecom” (Bouygues Telecom)
LOL Cats, en française! This video examines what would happen if cats ruled the world, or at least, France. At least I think that’s what’s going on -- my high school French is a bit rusty. Still, even I know je ne said quoi when I see it.

More videos please visit YouTube

The Seth MacFarlane-Jon Stewart Feud; Spielberg's Tintin Trailer

We realize there's only so much time one can spend in a day watching new trailers, viral video clips, and shaky cell phone footage of people arguing on live television. This is why every afternoon The Atlantic Wire highlights the day's video clips that truly earn your five minutes (or less) of attention. Today:
The Seth MacFarlane-Jon Stewart Feud; Spielberg's Tintin Trailer

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and Daily Show host Jon Stewart once had a nasty phone back-and-forth after Stewart took offense to Family Guy tweaking him for doing shows during the 2007 Writers Guild Strike. Even more perplexing than the fact this happened four years and MacFarlane is dusting it off for his appearance on Piers Morgan tonight is the fact apparently knew all

The first part of Martin Scorsese's three-and-a-half hour George Harrison documentary Living in the Material World premieres on HBO tonight, and it's the installment you want to watch if you prefer Beatles-era George Harrison to deeply-mystical-and-unhappy George Harrison. Early reviews have complained that Scorsese's pacing is off and that he doesn't pay enough attention to the musician's early work. That task falls to Paul McCartney in the film's talking head sequences and he responds by walking away with the movie.

Gerard Butler’s fans launch campaign in support of ‘Machine Gun Preacher’

Gerard Butler has the best fans in the world. They are passionate, loyal and fiercely united, particularly when it comes to getting wider distribution for Butler’s latest film Machine Gun Preacher.

Gerard Butler stars in "Machine Gun Preacher."
In a grassroots campaign to get the film into more movie theatres, fan site is rallying support by asking fans to view the Machine Gun Preacher trailer on YouTube and to post favourable comments. Apparently the “powers that be” are monitoring the YouTube traffic. At the time of posting this article there were over 400,000 views. The goal is to reach 500,000 by Friday. The hope is that all the viewing and positive feedback to the trailer will cause the film to be screened in more theatres.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

If you’d like to do your part in support of Machine Gun Preacher then visit YouTube now to view the trailer and post your comment. Share with your friends and help turn the tide towards greater access to this incredible biopic based on the true adventures of Rev. Sam Childers. 

See you at the movies. This one in particular.

Michelle Williams in full “Marilyn” trailer – AWARDS ALLEY

Audiences will get their will get their first look at Simon Curtis’s “My Week With Marilyn,” with Oscar nominee Michelle Williams as screen legend Marilyn Monroe, when it screens as the Centerpiece at the New York Film Festival on Oct. 9 in the Alice Tully Hall. Given the fact that the awards hopeful opens wider on Nov. 4, I’m a little surprised we’ve yet to see a full trailer for “Marilyn.”
Well, that ends now.

The New 'Skinny' FruitHow This Strange African Fruit Is Making America Skinny
A clip has been posted on Yahoo Movies. I’m waiting in a proper embed, but for now, you can view it here:
It’s pretty great. A series of fleeting snapshots that set up the celebrity (Williams), the lover (Eddie Redmayne) who connected her to a disappearing reality, and the actor (Kenneth Branagh) put out by both of them. The clip kdoes an excellent job teasing Curtis’s work. Now I’m dying to see it.

Williams already scooped up her first trophy for her work as Monroe. She’ll be honored as the Hollywood Actress Award at this year’s Hollywood Film Awards in Beverly Hills. Could that be her first step on the long road to Oscar?

For complete Oscar and Film Festival coverage, visit our Awards Alley for the latest news items, reviews and interviews all season long.

Millar's "Superior" Teams with National MS Society; Vaughn Signs to Direct Movie

Award-winning comic-book writer Mark Millar is empowering people with MS with his envelope pushing latest character Superior, the first superhero ever to be diagnosed with MS. And he is sharing him with the National MS Society ( to help raise awareness for MS and the work of the Society.

Millar's "Superior" Teams with
National MS Society; Vaughn Signs to Direct Movie
The hugely popular comic Superior, which is part of the Millarworld line, follows the tale of a young boy living with multiple sclerosis who's granted a magic wish. He asks to be transformed into his favourite big screen action hero and uses his new super-powers to right the real world's wrongs. Whereas most superheroes fight criminals and stop bank robberies, this little boy uses his abilities to end the war in the Middle-East, feed the starving, rescue people from natural disasters and anything else the public wants. But have these incredible powers and worldwide adulation come at a price? This dark, magical tale has been described by critics as Big meets Superman, a unique take on the superhero mythos with a magical element that appeals to Harry Potter fans as much as the traditional superhero audience. The movie rights to this book were snapped up by Kick-Ass and X-Men director Matthew Vaughn with a view to turning this into a Hollywood blockbuster.

The MS Society helps people affected by MS by funding cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education, and providing programs and services that help people with MS and their families move their lives forward. Over the past two decades, tremendous progress has been made in advancing research to stop MS, restore lost function and to end MS forever.  In 2012 to further this mission the most aggressive research funding project ever undertaken is being launched, with a goal to raise $250 million over the next five years.

Graham McReynolds, Executive Vice President Marketing and Development at National MS Society, “We are most grateful to Mark for sharing Superior with us and are really enthused about our alliance. Through Superior’s innovative story, we hope to increase awareness about MS, the challenges it raises for people living with the disease and the importance of always following your dreams despite an MS diagnosis. We also hope to encourage the public to join the MS Movement and help speed the progress we’re making to create a world free of multiple sclerosis. We plan to spotlight Superior through the multi-channels of communication that the Society commands.”

Buster Bluth starts comeback of 'Arrested Development' shows, movie

The Fox TV series "Arrested Development" was never a big ratings success, but the show picked up its own kind of cult following. Rumors of a movie have followed since the series ended in 2006.

Buster Bluth starts comeback of
'Arrested Development' shows, movie
Now those rumors have resurfaced. "Arrested Development" creator Mitchell Hurwitz has said that he and the cast were trying to do about 9 or 10 episodes and a movie. He told the New York Times the first episode could focus on Buster Bluth, the neurotic brother.

“The latest joke we have is that it’s Cambridge, Mass., and these scientists in lab coats are waiting for somebody. Buster comes through the door in a white lab coat saying, “Let’s begin,” and they say, “You don’t get to wear the lab coat. We’re experimenting on you.”

Cast member/actor Jason Bateman commented, "There's business left to be done, but creatively we are all on board and have a very specific plan. I think we're targeting next summer to shoot it."

For show devotees, the Los Angeles Times points out that Bateman also said the movie was in everybody’s plans in April 2010. An encouraging sign would be that the complete cast did appear this past weekend.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Will World End Before or After Festival Does?

The opportunity to see two intimidating landmarks — “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” and “The Turin Horse” — is reason enough for any filmgoer with more than a passing interest in the evolution of world cinema to be grateful for the platform of the New York Film Festival. Because the chances that either movie will soon be coming to a theater near you, as they say, are next to nil, the best time to see them may be at Alice Tully Hall in the coming week.

Firat Tanis as a murder suspect in "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia," Nuri Bilge Ceylan's film with supernatural touches
The Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s stately, absorbing 157-minute police procedural, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” has only one festival screening, on Saturday. The great Hungarian director Bela Tarr’s “Turin Horse,” a 146-minute sigh of cosmic futility that he has said will be his final film, is being shown on Sunday. To say that “The Turin Horse,” the more difficult of the two, has no interest in ingratiating itself with audiences is putting it mildly. Once seen, however, it is not easily forgotten.

The other main-slate selections in the festival’s second week may be a little lighter, but that certainly doesn’t mean sunny. Two of the most highly anticipated both star the German-born Irish actor Michael Fassbender, who plays a sex addict in Steve McQueen’s “Shame” and Carl Jung, opposite Viggo Mortensen’s Sigmund Freud, in David Cronenberg’s “Dangerous Method.” Another award-seeking performance is Michelle Williams’s Marilyn Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn,” the festival’s official centerpiece, which I was unable to see before press time because the finishing touches were still being applied.

“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” begins with the haunting image of a three-car caravan, viewed from afar, as it winds its way through the Turkish countryside in the dead of night. The weary travelers include policemen, a prosecutor, a doctor, grave diggers and a confessed murder suspect taking the search party to his victim’s burial site, which he has difficulty finding.

The main characters — a whimsical prosecutor (Taner Birsel), a misanthropic police chief (Yilmaz Erdogan) and the doctor (Muhammet Uzuner) — each occupy a different moral universe, with the doctor, a Chekhovian figure, the story’s moral fulcrum. Flecked with magical realist touches and a sense of the supernatural, the film takes no shortcuts as its characters discharge their laborious and depressing duties. The autopsy of the corpse concludes the film’s sorrowful, unblinking dissection of the human condition. This third film by Mr. Ceylan to be showcased at the festival, following “Distant” in 2002 and “Climates,” in 2006, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” is, in a word, great.

“The Turin Horse” — directed by Mr. Tarr with his longtime collaborator, Agnes Hranitzky — takes its place along with Abel Ferrara’s “4:44 Last Day on Earth” and Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” (which was shown in the first week) as one of several festival movies to imagine the end of the world. In its preface, a facetious narrator tells of Nietzsche’s traumatized reaction to a carriage driver’s assault on a horse. The film, he says, shows what became of the horse.

In the bleak Hungarian plains, that carriage driver, a man of around 60 (Janos Derzsi), and his daughter (Erika Bok) go through their Spartan daily routine, as a gale howls outside their hovel. Their only food consists of boiled potatoes, peeled and eaten by hand and supplemented by palinka, a fruit brandy. As the daughter slavishly serves her father, who has only one functioning arm, the world slowly runs out of life over six days. The horse refuses to eat or drink, the well runs dry, and the light dims. Underscoring the utter gloom is a groaning minimalist soundtrack by Mihaly Vig.

By contrast, Mr. Ferrara’s sci-fi apocalypse is turbulent but shallow. The precise moment the ozone layer disappears has been calculated, and as the heavens spin with weird, misty lights, the Lower East Side neighborhood in which “Last Day on Earth” is filmed prepares for the end. The central couple (Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh) are tiresomely embattled lovers who in between fighting and clinging to each other, contact family members via Skype. The homemade montage sequences are packed with Mr. Ferrara’s usual religious imagery.

In neither “Shame” nor “A Dangerous Method” is the planet imperiled, but these films are hardly cheery. The performances by Mr. Fassbender in both convey a concentrated intensity that has already earned him comparisons to Daniel Day-Lewis.

For “Shame,” he teamed up again with the director of “Hunger,” the harrowing 2008 film about the prison hunger strike led by the Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands. Here, Mr. Fassbender’s character, Brandon, is a knotted-up Midtown Manhattanite who spends his office hours devouring pornography on the Internet and his free time in compulsive sexual pursuit. Staying with him is his emotionally unstable sister (an unrecognizable and very good Carey Mulligan), an aspiring nightclub singer who sings the slowest version of “New York, New York” you’ve ever heard.

Unsexy, despite scenes of strenuous copulation and nudity, “Shame” is a clinical portrait of a man in excruciating psychic pain for reasons that are never explored. Brandon’s every orgasm feels like an anguished death spasm. The film’s vision of Manhattan’s erotic ethos recalls Steven Soderbergh’s chilly portrait of a high-end prostitute, “The Girlfriend Experience.” You might even call “Shame” anti-sexual.
Thematically, “Shame” recalls earlier movies by Mr. Cronenberg, whose 1996 “Crash” imagined a cultish subculture of wounded car accident victims turned on by danger and mutilation. The horror-movie-like fascination with the visceral that colors many of Mr. Cronenberg’s movies is toned down in “A Dangerous Method,” a sleek, beautifully written and acted drama about the fractured mentor-protégé relationship of Freud and Jung.

Adapted by Christopher Hampton from his stage play “The Talking Cure,” which was based on John Kerr’s book, “A Most Dangerous Method,” it is a talky movie that largely transcends its stage origins because the moral and ethical disagreements between the two are so clearly laid out. And Keira Knightley’s portrayal of Sabina Spielrein, a kinky, initially demented patient who becomes Jung’s mistress and, later, a psychoanalyst, gives the movie a searing emotional spark.

This week’s roster also includes “The Kid With a Bike,” the latest neo-realist film by the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, whose work has been winning major prizes at the Cannes Film Festival for well over a decade. If “The Kid With a Bike” is a little softer than the typical Dardenne brothers film, any sweetness and light is just a glimmer of hope in the chaotic existence of the central character, the 11-year-old Cyril (the remarkable Thomas Doret), a rampaging child abandoned by his father and placed in a children’s home.

When a kind and caring hairdresser he meets agrees to be his part-time guardian, Cyril has a slim chance of landing safely off the streets. The movie’s jumpy, agitated style perfectly reflects his desperate hyperactivity.
In “Sleeping Sickness,” which won Ulrich Köhler a best director award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, a German doctor (Pierre Bokma) who has spent 20 years fighting an epidemic of sleeping sickness in Cameroon is visited by a young black, gay, French-born doctor (Jean-Christophe Folly) with Congolese parents who feels even more alien to the culture than the white doctor whose program he has been sent to evaluate. Provocative as it is, with evocations of “Heart of Darkness,” the movie, which is pessimistic about the ability of Western do-gooders to help Africans, feels frustratingly incomplete.

The Argentine filmmaker Santiago Mitre’s “Student,” set at the University of Buenos Aires, is the most hermetic of the week’s main slate. Entering what the movie portrays as a hotbed of ’60s-style political activism, Roque (Esteban Lamothe), a young man from the provinces, falls in love with a radical teacher. When he becomes a charismatic student leader, torn between various factions that callously manipulate him, his idealism crumbles.

The issues being debated in “The Student” don’t resonate beyond Argentina, or even the university. Even so, “The Student” conveys a variation of the same message that dominates the New York Film Festival with its high-minded austerity. Forget Hollywood escapism for a minute and visit the real world.

Singer Bertie Higgins makes action movie in Tarpon Springs

A retro-style thriller, "Through the Eye," starring Tom Sizemore and produced by Higgins, will have its Florida premiere Wednesday in Palm Harbor.

Singer/songwriter Bertie Higgins, who gave us the 1981 hit "Key Largo," is bringing his latest feature film, a thriller filmed here last year, to Palm Harbor this week.

Bertie Higgins, right, produced and his son, Julian, directed the action-thriller ''Through the Eye,'' debuting in Palm Harbor Wednesday
Higgins, who still sings about "sailing away …. with Bogie and Bacall," also is an independent film producer.
His retro 1970s style thriller "Through the Eye," co-starring Tom Sizemore, will have its Florida premiere Wednesday and Thursday nights at the Muvico 10 in Palm Harbor.

"It was filmed in and around Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor and New Port Richey last fall," says Higgins, who now lives in Burbank, Calif.

Higgins says the film premiered in Pasadena last month in a festival where it was nominated for eight awards and took home best director which pleases him because his son Julian directed the film.

"This is his third feature and I'm proud of him," Higgins says. Both father and son are graduates of Tarpon Springs High School.

Higgins and his son made "Poker Run," a biker action film released in 2009. They also produced a horror film "The Wrath."

"One of the most interesting aspects of the "Eye" film is many of the crew are young men and women from the immediate Tampa Bay area and the majority of them now live in the Hollywood area," Higgins says.
For example, the film's cinematographer Aaron Moorhead and co-editor Vincent Talenti also are Tarpon Springs natives, and established filmmakers in local Tampa Bay film making community. Both have relocated to Los Angeles.

Higgins also has a role in the film as a boat captain and friend of the movie's hero, a disgraced former cop played by Robert Thorne.

"My son won his first award as a director in the Sol Peska Film Festival, a Tampa Bay festival, when he was only 17," he adds.

Julian Higgins, 27, used to work at the Muvico in Palm Harbor when he was a teen. "I was sweeping up popcorn there when I was 16 and now my film will be on the screen," he says.

Set in 1976, "Through the Eye" tells the story of Jack Hooks (Thorne), a former cop set up by a corrupt partner Frank Rossi (Sizemore) and sent to jail for a drug crime he didn't commit.

Sizemore has a long list of film and TV credits including "Saving Private Ryan," "Black Hawk Down" and "Natural Born Killers."

Thorne's character gets out of prison in an early release deal offered by the DEA and is sent on a do-or-die mission into the "Eye" of the drug smuggling world with his boat captain confidant Mike Tragos (Higgins).
To view a trailer, visit this link:
Higgins says the Wednesday premiere, at Muvico Palm Harbor 10, 37912 U.S. Highway 19 N., Palm Harbor, is free to the public.

The event will include displays of costumes, vehicles and weapons used in the film and a Q&A with the filmmakers following the screening. There's also an after-party at Dockside Sports Bar and Grill at the Lake Tarpon Resort, 37611 US Highway 19 N., where some movie scenes were filmed.

The Thursday night screening charges admission with the majority of the proceeds going to local charities.
The 66-year-old continues to create music (he has recorded nine albums) and in addition to "Key Largo," a tribute the Humphrey Bogart film of the same name, he had success with songs "Casablanca" and "Just Another Day in Paradise."

Higgins and his Band of Pirates Band tour the world and played a concert in Clearwater this past weekend.

Five Favorite Films with Juno Temple

Juno Temple
Juno Temple's star is definitely on the rise. The daughter of punk filmmaker Julien Temple, the 22-year-old English-born actress began her career with supporting roles in movies like Notes on a Scandal, Atonement, and St. Trinian's -- and later delivered a lead performance in Jordan Scott's excellent, unfairly maligned boarding school drama, Cracks. She'll soon headline several films including William Friedkin's Killer Joe, Jonas Akerlund's Small Apartments and the long-percolating lesbian werewolf project Jack and Diane, in addition to starring as a "street smart Gotham girl" in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises -- a role that has fans speculating could be anything from Selina Kyle's sidekick Holly Robinson to Harley Quinn to a female Robin.

In the meantime, Temple appears in this week's Dirty Girl, an autobiographical comedy-drama from debut director Abe Sylvia. Set in the strange world of Oklahoma in 1987, the film follows the unlikely adventure of two misfit high schoolers -- Temple's trashy, promiscuous Danielle and Jeremy Dozier's overweight, closeted Clarke -- as they bust out of town and head for the Californian coast, a posse of angry and/or confused parents desperately on their trail. Which means Temple gets to wear anachronistic hot pants, flip the bird to religious zealots and strip to Sheena Easton's "Strut" -- things we're pretty sure won't be called upon for her employment in Gotham City. We caught up with Temple recently to chat about Dirty Girl, but first, she took a few moments to run through her all-time five favorite films.

The Movie Spew: Black Swan Director Plans a Noah's Ark Movie

Last week Warner Brothers offered Steven Spielberg a crack at directing a movie about the life of Moses. I guess this is one of those Deep Impact/Armageddon situations because it appears that there is a rival Biblical epic going on over at Paramount that just got a greenlight.

The Movie Spew: Black Swan Director Plans a Noah's Ark Movie
Paramount’s film will be about Noah (the guy with all of the animals and the big boat) and the project is going to be made with a $100 million budget by none other than Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky.
It’s an odd choice for the filmmaker known for dark hard-edged films like Requiem For A Dream, but I guess the guy might be secretly religious. Aronofsky apparently views it as a “sci-fi” story and had this to say about the impact the Noah’s Ark tale had on him.

"Since I was a kid, I have been moved and inspired by the story of Noah and his family’s journey. The imaginations of countless generations have sparked to this epic story of faith. It’s my hope that I can present a window into Noah’s passion and perseverance for the silver screen,” he said.

An epic sci-fi influenced version of Noah’s Arc from the guy who made Pi and The Wrestler? If nothing else, I’m intrigued simply because I can’t imagine what Aronofsky will do with the material. Hopefully it’ll have the dark intensity of his other work because the one thing no one needs is cheerful Aronofsky movie. That’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one.

Film tribute to Muslims who saved Jews from Nazis

THE STORIES of the Holocaust have been documented, distorted, clarified and filtered through memory. Yet new stories keep coming, occasionally altering the grand, incomplete mosaic of Holocaust history.
One of them, dramatised in a new French film, focuses on an unlikely saviour of Jews during the Nazi occupation of France: the rector of a Paris mosque.

Tahar Rahim, left, and Michael Lonsdale in Les Hommes Libres, directed by Ismael Ferroukhi. The film tells the story of how the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris sheltered some Jews from the Nazis and gave them fictional identities as Muslims
Muslims, it seems, rescued Jews from the Nazis.
Les Hommes Libres (Free Men) is a tale of courage not found in French textbooks. According to the story, Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the founder and rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, provided refuge and certificates of Muslim identity to a small number of Jews to allow them to evade arrest and deportation.
It was simpler than it sounds. In the early 1940s France was home to a large population of North Africans, including thousands of Sephardic Jews. The Jews spoke Arabic and shared many of the same traditions and everyday habits as the Arabs. Neither Muslims nor Jews ate pork. Both Muslim and Jewish men were circumcised. Muslim and Jewish names were often similar.

The mosque, a tiled, walled fortress the size of a city block on the Left Bank, served as a place to pray, certainly, but also as an oasis of calm where visitors were fed and clothed and could bathe, and where they could talk freely and rest in the garden.

It was possible for a Jew to pass.
“This film is an event,” said Benjamin Stora, France’s pre-eminent historian on North Africa and a consultant on the film. “Much has been written about Muslim collaboration with the Nazis. But it has not been widely known that Muslims helped Jews. There are still stories to be told, to be written.”
The film, directed by Ismael Ferroukhi, is described as fiction inspired by real events and built around the stories of two real-life figures (along with a made-up black marketeer). The veteran French actor Michael Lonsdale plays Benghabrit, an Algerian-born religious leader and a clever political manoeuvrer who gave tours of the mosque to German officers and their wives even as he apparently used it to help Jews.