Film Reviews

After being surrounded by a mob of shouting protesters, a U.S. embassy is stormed and overwhelmed.

Being able to work on a film as remarkable and quietly revolutionary as Samsara, which opened in Honolulu last week, turned into a privilege lasting more than six years–five in production and over a year in editing (including seven re-edits). The call came nearly seven years ago, from Samsara director/cinematographer/co-editor.

Parts Of The Same Circle, which screens in HIFF on Sat., Oct., 20 at 11:30am, is a remarkable achievement in three ways: It is a Hawaii-made D.I.Y. feature that displays a consistent and compelling filmic sense, it pulls off the most difficult of dramatic structures (weaving multiple storylines into a single narrative) and it presents its subject matter–death–in a way that is neither maudlin nor fatalistic.

Location truly is everything: Need an island paradise just north of the tropics (to avoid that pesky mosquito-borne malaria) and accessible by Boeing 707, the first tourist jet aircraft? Here’s Hawaii for your profit and pleasure.

Beautifully put together, intelligently handled, wonderfully acted–and full of surprises–writer-director Rian Johnson’s Looper, a Mobius strip of a time-travel movie, is destined to be a classic, one movie buffs have been awaiting a long while. Twenty minutes in, and you know you’re in the hands of inspired moviemakers, chief among them the writer-director, who blends sci-fi and moving drama so adroitly that it becomes a real movie, not the usual toy sci-fi-er made for people who grew up on “dramatic” TV series.

In the age of sail, Hawaii became known as the navel of the Pacific and drew ships of all nations to water, provision and, inevitably, engage in cultural exchange, some of it viral. Things haven’t changed much, thanks to the Hawaii International Film Festival, Oct.

Buoyed up by some brilliant acting, Paul Thomas Anderson’s newest character study is a jigsaw puzzle of a film. If the pieces do not quite fit together, it’s because the last piece–the story’s resolution–is missing.

There’s nothing like $4l2 million to come between friends, and so it is in Arbitrage, an overinflated item on the movie market these days. When a hedge fund magnate (an excellent Richard Gere) needs to cover a “hole” in his books–the aforesaid sum–he borrows it, abstractly, from a friend, and then defaults on repaying it.

The Spanish (-speaking) Film Club at the Doris Duke, held this week in conjunction with the Spanish cultural mission, is like a brief vacation. The cine-fiesta shows off familiar lives of quiet desperation, of selves disintegrating under the sway of family stresses–too much daytime television and mind-altering stimulants, among them love.

If the ‘Ohina Short Film Showcase is a barometer for the current state of Hawaiʻi’s independent film community, this year’s collection was notable for the number of women directors (four) and especially for showing that our local filmmakers can shoot, edit, stage fight scenes, spoof movie genres, and do pretty impressive animation. These are good skills to have, and all of the filmmakers represented in the festival are to be commended for their creativity and fluency.

Bravely navigating the usual interracial conflicts and claustrophobic familial schtick that have been a hallmark of Asian-American movies since The Joy Luck Club, the 2011 festival favorite Almost Perfect comes to the Doris Duke on Friends of Film Friday, Sept. 21 (opening reception 6-7:30 p.m.

Get out your thesaurus. Incoherent, pretentious, redundant, self-contradictory.

“Welcome. Scan.

That a French film, The Intouchables, is touted as the feel-good movie of the year may fill American cinemaphiles with equal parts disbelief, dread and resistance. For this reviewer, the terms “feel-good” and “French film” are mutually exclusive, based on such cringe-inducing attempts at forced fun as Delicatessen and Amélie.

I know, I know. A buddy movie about an old man and his companion robot?

September The Master Among the cognoscenti, a film about a man not unlike Scientology’s mastermind, L. Ron Hubbard, is the most eagerly anticipated film of the fall.

The Bourne franchise has a new boss: Jeremy Renner fills the Matt Damon-shaped hole left behind when Damon bailed, and some can see why he might have chosen to do so. The fourth installment in the franchise (a franchise that seems to unravel a bit more with each edition) is also under the new direction of Tony Gilroy, previously a writer on the other three Bourne films, but promoted to direct The Bourne Legacy when both Paul Greengrass and Damon pulled out.

As if we don’t already have enough of Will Ferrell and political campaigning, the bright and original minds of Hollywood apparently looked down from their offices and said to the people of America: “Here is more.” The Campaign stars Will Ferrell as Cam Brady, a fourth-term South Carolina Congressman who comes across as an unsympathetic, sleazy overcooked version of Ferrell’s George W. impersonation–he’s basically plagiarizing himself.

If you’re one of those who’s tired of reading about how wonderful Meryl Streep is, just stop reading now, Bunky, because you’re going to read it again. In this discussion of the marriage tale Hope Springs, which cannily hybridizes rom-com and darkish drama, Streep shines.

Who is Philo B. Farnsworth?

Warning: Ruby Sparks is not a date movie. Don’t be fooled by the breezy, indie-quirky trailers.

Relentlessly paced and hard-working–and despite the protean efforts of Colin Farrell– the re-boot of Total Recall, brimming over with too many action sequences (making it 20 minutes too long) somehow is just okay. The production values are amazing if a tad derivative, making the flick (and it is a flick) look like as if Blade Runner and Minority Report met and mated on the set of Transformers.

Small really is beautiful in this slyly funny, deadpan earnest indie, written and produced by a pair of women, Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson, that revolves around the self-doubt of a pregnant Sarah Sparks (Anna Margaret Hollyman). As her last name hints, Sarah is comfortable with electricity–in fact, she’s a one-woman Nerd Team.

The London Olympics opening ceremony–lavish, irreverent, shamelessly commercial–made one want to see more things Brit. The Deep Blue Sea took care of that.

One of the fun things about watching movies from a variety of cultures is to trace the migration of bits and pieces of “business.” As soon as somebody busts a move, you can be sure it will show up in half a dozen movies the following season–think of the Hong Kong chopsocky staple, the old run-up-the-wall-backflip. Cool back when, but lately?

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