The Look of Silence

Drafthouse Films

My neighbors were children when Hitler ruled Germany, gifted innocence by virtue of being born late enough but damned to the fallout of a divided country by being born too early. Every time we talk about the war, Oma signals that she’s done reliving the past by saying, “There are bad men in every country, there are good men in every country.”

When she first said it, I thought it was a defense mechanism. A reminder for herself and for us as outsiders that they recognize a pitch dark evil that now goes greatly unspoken. When she repeated the mantra in subsequent conversations, I realized that it’s the required coda that recognizes the real lesson of the Holocaust: it isn’t only Germany that has the capacity for large-scale terror, it’s every society in the world.

There’s a woman in Anonymous and Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence that looks remarkably like my Oma — tan, bright eyes, short grandma hair and a face drawn downward by almost a century of living. An Indonesian twin for my German friend.

Her son was killed during the mid-60s mass murder of “communists” in Indonesia, and the people who dumped his body in the river are still running the country. This was the reality that Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn and Anonymous explored in The Act of Killing, and the follow-up finds the other side of the story by focusing on the murdered man’s younger brother as he interviews the men responsible for the crimes.

Doctor Who Time Heist


One of the coolest things about the premise of Doctor Who is that it can dip into so many different genres. Sometimes, as in the case with this week’s episode, “Time Heist,” you get a mash-up of a few. Obviously we got a heist story here, and that was combined with the amnesiac thriller and the superhero team-up. Guest good guys Psi (Jonathan Bailey) and Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner), who join up with the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) on their latest adventure, are respectively reminiscent specifically of Marvel mutants Cable and Rogue. And who wouldn’t want a heroine called The Impossible Girl in a group tasked with such a mission: impossible as robbing the most secure bank in the universe?

So how did “Time Heist” wind up being one of the least exciting and imaginative episodes in years? The set-up was great, not necessarily the part where again we’re having a trip disrupt date night for Clara and Danny (Samuel Anderson) but the mysterious phone call and the sudden loss of memory and introduction of the new super-friends. Even the Karabraxos bank manager, Ms. Delphox (Keeley Hawes), has a delicious cartoonish villainy about her, all the way through the end in fact. There were some decent scenes, too, like the one where Delphox and her alien “Teller” wipe the brain of an accused customer and the guy’s skull collapses like a basketball that’s been popped. But that’s actually one of the many moments in this episode that are directed poorly by Douglas Mackinnon, who disappoints tremendously after helming last week’s clever and quite lively episode, “Listen.” 



Genre fans know the drill. If you have sex, you’re going to die. It will usually be at the hands of a machete-wielding madman, but whatever the case you will be dead before the post-coital bliss is rinsed away from your bathing suit area. Relatively recent horror flicks have played around with the concept by allowing their final girl protagonists to do the dirty and still survive, but the tradition remains as some kind of subconscious puritanical judgement.

It Follows takes that conceit and gives it a freshly paranoid and frequently terrifying new twist. Jay (Maika Monroe) finds out the hard way after giving it up to her new boyfriend one warm summer night only to wake up in a condemned building tied to a wheelchair. Her boyfriend (well, her ex-boyfriend now probably) begins his explanation with an apology. Having sex is the only way to pass “it” to someone else. What is it exactly? Well, it takes the form of a human, one that can look like a stranger or someone you know and is only visible to you and others who’ve been infected, and it walks steadily toward you. They’re slow but persistent, and if they reach you they bend, batter and break your body until you’re dead.

The bright side — aside from the hopefully awesome sex you just had — is that you can pass it to someone else by the same means and tell them to follow suit. Sharing doesn’t mean you’re free and clear though because if the person you pass it to is killed the spiritual STD returns to stalk you again. So yes, it is the definition of a gift that keeps on giving.

Princess Kaguya

Studio Ghibli

One of the most impressive things about The Tale of Princess Kaguya is its dual nature as a delicate epic and a powerful slower burn that’s never dull. It’s like watching a feather turn to stone over two hours before being knocked down by it (and those who know Grave of the Fireflies won’t be surprised that Kaguya has that kind of strength). This is a fine followup for Isao Takahata, who brings a half-century of animated storytelling and the tearfully hopeful Fireflies legacy to this ancient folktale.

As the cultural ambassador for Japan, it’s fitting that Studio Ghibli is the one sharing “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” — the country’s oldest surviving narrative — on this scale with the rest of the world. The story features an older man who discovers a tiny princess growing out of a bamboo stalk, who he takes home and raises as his own daughter. He also finds a hefty amount of gold, which allows him and his wife to bring the little bambina to the city to grow up in a mansion as a proper lady. The princess, who spent her earliest days skinning her knees and climbing trees with close friends in the country, rebels at every turn.

Fantastic Fest

Fantastic Fest

Boy Scouts, amirite? Always hating on atheists, gays and random sticks they find in the woods. But in Belgium at least they’re far from the worst thing hanging out in the forest.

Cub follows a gaggle of scouts along on a camping trip meant to engender team-building and survival skills, but the truth behind a local legend threatens to impede the former — by killing off members of the team — while creating a sink or swim scenario with the latter. A feral boy said to live in the woods is rumored to be behind a series of disappearances, but even if he’s real he may not be the biggest threat wandering the wild.

Sam (Maurice Luijten, who bears a striking resemblance to a young Belgian River Phoenix) joined the scouts with the baggage of a mysterious and violent past trauma, and the constant bullying he suffers at the hands of others does nothing to calm his inner turmoil. He’s dismissed after trying to tell the others that he saw a boy in the woods and instead forms a strained and silent relationship with the muddied and masked child. And then they all start earning merit badges in death.

Osamu Tezuka's Mermaid

YouTube Screenshot

Osamu Tezuka is hard to over-hype. Certainly the most influential animator in Japanese history and among the most significant contributors to the form worldwide, his work launched both manga and anime as we know them today. He’s been called the Japanese Walt Disney, a bold comparison to say the least. Yet it works because of the ingenuity they shared, as well as their impressively broad body of work. The American built an empire out of theatrical cartoons, animated features, theme parks and more. Tezuka has an equally diverse body of work, bridging the world of print manga and animated cartoons for both television and cinemas.

He also made a number of experimental short animations, one of which turns 50 years old this weekend. Mermaid premiered in September of 1964, right in the midst of a real hot streak for Tezuka. Astro Boy, which would become his most internationally successful series, was approaching its 100th episode. Big X, an anime series about Nazis and the young man who foils their plans, had just debuted in August. Galaxy Boy Troop, a TV series that incorporated both marionettes and traditional animation, was entering its second year. It’s something of a miracle that he even had the time to think about working on anything smaller and less commercial.

Vhs Viral

8383 Productions

In an ideal world, this would be a review of a Nacho Vigalondo short film that gets to praise simple sci-fi that gradually expands its surprises. Unfortunately, Vigalondo’s short Parallel Monsters is the meat in the middle of a shit sandwich called V/H/S: Viral.

The third installment of the horror franchise is a bumpy ride that abandons its original roots only to fumble the easiest concept imaginable. Instead of heading back into the creaky house with stacks of tube-filled televisions on the floor and pyramids of gonzo VHS tapes, it toys with uploaded cell phone videos as infections. In better hands it could have been the love child of Videodrome and a thousand editorials complaining about kids today with their dang-blasted YouTubes, but the handful of unconnected shorts tip the scale on how many interesting ideas we need to wade through before we get to capable execution.

Since it’s an anthology, it’ll be easiest to break it down by its component parts while hoping they’re eventually sold separately.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Liam Neeson‘s recent career resurgence as a mature action star has been moving along at a fast clip these past few years, and one constant through films like Taken, Taken 2 and Non-Stop (aside from the fisticuffs, respectable budgets and boffo box-office) has been his characters’ penchant for talking tough on a cell phone. The talk mostly consists of warnings, threats and promises for the evil-doers on the other end of the line, but it has quickly become part of his invincible hard-ass repertoire.

A Walk Among the Tombstones challenges that persona in many ways. Well, in a few ways. Okay fine, Neeson gives the villain grief while talking on a land line. The point is he’s still a tough-talking S.O.B. when his back is against the wall, and while his latest is a far more somber affair than the “fun” action pictures mentioned above his new legion of fans will find much to love here.

Matt Scudder (Neeson) was a cop once, but ever since a shootout left a bystander dead by his bullet Scudder has transformed himself into a sober, unlicensed private investigator. He helps people, and they give him gifts (of the cash variety). His latest case involves a kidnapping where the ransom was paid but the victim was murdered anyway, and now the dead woman’s husband (Dan Stevens) wants Scudder’s help in finding the villains responsible.


Warner Bros.

It was revealed this week that Matthew McConaughey is not returning to the glitz and glamour of the Magic Mike stage to resume his role of Dallas, godfather of all strippers. It’s like you win one Oscar and you just can’t wear a pair of casual leather chaps for the amusement of some Tampa cougars, geez. But blessedly, the several other stars from the cast are returning for the sequel — including  Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Alex Pettyfer, Gabriel Iglesias and Joe Manganiello – all unlimitedly talented when it comes to wearing tearaway pants, flirting with drug abuse and maybe crafting some custom furniture in their downtime.

The second installment, titled Magic Mike XXL and directed by Gregory Jacobs, will also brings a trio of talented women into the mix: Andie MacDowell, Jada Pinkett Smith and Amber Heard. While it’s unclear who MacDowell is playing, the plot involves our intrepid band of male exotic dancers heading on a road trip together to a strippers’ convention. It’s not exactly “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” with your siblings cross-country to Grandma’s, but family’s what you make it, right? Aside from the road trip premise, XXL‘s details are being held tightly under wraps. Aside from the stripping, of course. So, so much stripping.

Marko Zaror in Redeemer

XYZ Films

Sometime after making the highly entertaining, ass-kicking spy spoof Mandrill, martial artist and budding action star Marko Zaror wasn’t sure what to do with his time. He had begun considering going into real fighting — MMA style bouts that could help pay the bills. Then Robert Rodriguez called and asked him to make a memorable appearance in the otherwise unmemorable Machete Kills . It was back to acting and in the end, back to Austin where Kills debuted at Fantastic Fest 2013. It was in this moment, Zaror explains, that he decided that he wanted to come back with another movie. It was later that night, in Austin, over drinks with the two ladies in his life — his girlfriend and his mom — that Redeemer was born. Now here he is, back in Austin. Still kicking ass on the big screen.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Deadpool fans, your prayers have been answered. Also your hopes, your dreams and your cultish ritual burnings of all those copies of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The Deadpool movie is real. Fox confirmed (via The Hollywood Reporter) that they’ve set Deadpool for a February 12, 2016, release date, with Tim Miller directing. The visual effects artist was attached to the project years and years ago when it was first announced and has been championing the project ever since. There is no word yet on Ryan Reynolds starring, but he was set for the film way back when, and he has continued to push Deadpool as hard as Miller has, so he’s basically a lock already.

So much of a lock that I will eat an entire “Deadpool” comic, cover to cover, if Fox casts someone else in the role. I’m sure it won’t come to that, though.

If you’re not one of Deadpool’s screaming fans (it seems like roughly 50% of the Internet are), here’s a quick primer: Deadpool is Wade Wilson, a nutty ninja mercenary who underwent the same shady superpower treatment as Wolverine. He’s got the infinite healing powers, just not the adamantium skeleton. Also, the superheroizing process exacerbated two other things: his cancer (transforming his face into a lumpy mess of tumors, which he hides with a mask) and his nuttiness, which is basically full-on schizophrenia now. Thus we have Deadpool, the wacky, nigh-unkillable fourth-wall-breaking assassin.

Son of Rambow 01

Paramount Vantage

As one of the more enjoyable YA adaptations and one that skews male in its appeal, The Maze Runner could be a crossover hit this weekend. To be a part of the crowd, you’ll want to go see the story of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), a guy who wakes up en route to a mysterious courtyard that will be his new home until he can escape the surrounding labyrinth. And afterward, as you try to figure out all the questions you have about the plot and which might be answered in the sequel (and maybe prequel), you’ll want to go through this week’s list of movies to watch, each of them relevant to Wes Ball‘s adaptation of the James Dashner book.

First, though, you should also check out Ball’s previous films, all of them shorts. I shared his Student Academy Award winner, A Work in Progress, the other day. In the past we’ve posted his bigger breakthrough, an action sequence and proof of concept for a feature version of itself titled Ruin. There is a look to the latter that clearly helped the filmmaker (who also did effects work for Mike Mills’s Beginners) get the gig directing The Maze Runner. And maybe the rest of the series? That reminds me, this week’s recommendations come with a spoiler warning for their tie-in. Don’t read about the selections’ relevance until you’ve seen the new movie or you don’t care about spoilers.

The Zero Theorem


Editor’s note: This review was originally published on September 30, 2013 as part of our Fantastic Fest 2013 coverage.

A bald man, one without hair seemingly anywhere on his body, calmly sits naked in front of his computer screen as he watches what appears to be either a simulation or video of the awesome action of an outer space black hole. It sucks in all of the space circling around it like an endlessly flushing toilet bowl of stars, matter, and time. Our hairless hero is Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz). Qohen is neither the cunning villainous type nor the quick-witted heroic type, and his emotional characteristics are as bald as his head. We’re exposed to only a handful of states out of Qohen as we follow with him in his daily routine through a comically crazy and colorful future where he seems as physically discomforted by the assaults of this world as a prisoner released from Shawshank prison after fifty years. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry to do something; or probably nothing as I understand it.

Welcome to Terry Gilliam‘s The Zero Theorem.

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