H2N Pick of the Week

Weekly reviews from our friends at Hammer to Nail by Hammer to Nail Staff

  • The Tree of Life — A Hammer to Nail Review

    (The Tree of Life is distributed by Fox Searchlight. It opens in NYC and LA on Friday, May 27, 2010, and expands to many more cities in the subsequent six weeks, before opening nationwide on Friday, July 8. Visit the film’s official website to learn more.) NOTE: While I’d venture to say this movie can’t be “spoiled” by a review, there is a lot of specific detail contained in this (perhaps too lengthy) reaction. For what it’s worth, I suggest that you experience the film having read as little as possible beforehand. It seems implausible to me that anyone would…  Read more

    On May 26, 2011
    By on May 26, 2011Columns
  • Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo — A Hammer to Nail Review

    (Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo is now available on DVD through Factory 25. Visit the film’s official website to learn more. NOTE: This review was first published at Hammer to Nail in conjunction with the film’s theatrical release at Film Forum on May 12, 2010.) The knowledge that Jessica Oreck is an entomologist at the Museum of Natural History in New York City who has never previously made a film might cause one to worry that Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo will be an unavoidably stiff and grueling piece of video academia. Worry not, skeptic. Oreck’s wildly precocious exploration of Japan’s ongoing…  Read more

    On May 19, 2011
    By on May 19, 2011Columns
  • City of Life and Death — A Hammer to Nail Review

    (City of Life and Death opened on May 11, 2011 at Film Forum in New York City. Learn more at the film’s official website.) In December 1937, China’s capital city Nanking fell to the invading Japanese Imperial Army. During the weeks that followed, the Japanese raped, tortured, and butchered the city’s remaining inhabitants; the death toll varies widely, but some estimates put it at over 300,000. Lu Chuan’s epic film, which screens at Film Forum through May 24 and in select U.S. cities after that, dramatizes the Nanking Massacre (also known as the Nanjing Massacre) from multiple perspectives. The major…  Read more

    On May 12, 2011
    By on May 12, 2011Columns
  • Lord Byron — A Hammer to Nail Review

    (Lord Byron opens on Friday, May 6, 2011, at the reRun Gastropub in Dumbo. Read Zack Godshall’s “Revolution and Apocalypse: The Lord Byron Manifesto” if you haven’t already, then visit the film’s official website to learn more.) Zack Godshall’s Lord Byron was not shot on the Canon 5D (aka, the everybody’s-using-it-so-you-should-too-consumer-grade-Digital-SLR-camera-of-the-very-moment !). Instead, Godshall used a Sony Z1U that he purchased all the way back in 2005 (the horror!). This means that the movie’s images were captured at a 29.97 frame rate, as opposed to the more cinematic 23.98. Which is to say that this 2011 narrative feature has a…  Read more

    On May 5, 2011
    By on May 5, 2011Columns
  • The Arbor — A Hammer to Nail Review

    “Time heals all wounds,” goes an old adage with which everyone involved in The Arbor would likely take issue. Clio Barnard’s cinematic assemblage on English playwright Andrea Dunbar is certainly a document of sorts, but to call it a documentary would be to slight it: The Arbor is equal parts fact, reenactment, and archival footage. Adding to the genre-blending is a series of audio interviews recorded with Dunbar’s siblings, children (particularly Lorraine, in many ways the main “character” of the film), and acquaintances which Barnard then had actors lip-synch onscreen. The result is at first off-putting, eventually immersive, and unlike any…  Read more

    On Apr 28, 2011
    By on Apr 28, 2011Columns
  • Incendies — A Hammer to Nail Review

    Deep in the heart of the ongoing trend of immensely popular adapted art-house material, there lies a kernel of Hollywood thinking. Films like The Millennium Trilogy or Never Let Me Go subscribe to the same model as blockbuster hits like The Harry Potter series or Watchmen, meticulously attempting to follow the original text in order to satisfy fans of the source material. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s monologue-heavy stage play, Incendies is the rare anomaly of a film that attempts to evoke not the most accurate recreation of its source material, but the most accurate interpretation. Director Denis Villeneuve, the French-Canadian…  Read more

    On Apr 21, 2011
    By on Apr 21, 2011Columns
  • Meek’s Cutoff — A Hammer to Nail Review

    (Meek’s Cutoff is being distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories. It opens theatrically at the Film Forum in NYC on Wednesday, April 8, 2011. Click on the links to learn more. ) As much as I approve of Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff in every single way, I’ve been finding it incredibly difficult to write a review of it. Not that I don’t have anything worthwhile to say. It’s just that everything I’ve come up with so far sounds like film school pretension. Though term papers could — and hopefully will — be written about how Reichardt revises and revitalizes the traditional Western…  Read more

    On Apr 7, 2011
    By on Apr 7, 2011Columns
  • Le Quattro Volte — A Hammer to Nail Review

    (Distributed by Lorber Films, Le Quattro Volte opens theatrically at the Film Forum on Wednesday, March 30, 2011. Click on one of the previous links to learn more.) They’re called motion pictures, but in the case of Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte, that term isn’t quite accurate. Motion painting is more like it. Spiritual yet not overtly religious, playful yet dramatic, patient yet never ponderous, Frammartino’s extraordinary celebration of the cycle of life is as close to church as cinema can get. The beauty of this masterfully wrought docu-poem is that for all its superficial “art film” trappings, Le Quattro…  Read more

    On Mar 31, 2011
    By on Mar 31, 2011Columns
  • Fanny, Annie & Danny — A Hammer to Nail Review

    (After winning multiple awards during its festival run — including the Emerging Filmmaker Award at the 2010 Starz Denver Film Festival — Fanny, Annie & Danny screens for one night only, Tuesday, March 29, 2011 (for *free*, no less!) at the reRun Theater in New York City. Visit the film’s official website to learn more.) If there’s one universal truth about families, it’s that as cozy and loving and supportive as they can be, they can also be cruel and irritating and patronizing and infuriating and maddening and fisticuffs-inducing and… that will suffice for now. That truth is ratcheted up…  Read more

    On Mar 24, 2011
    By on Mar 24, 2011Columns
  • Redland — A Hammer to Nail Review

    (Redland is distributed by Zyzak Film Company. After playing at several festivals in 2009, it opened theatrically at Laemmle’s Sunset 5 in Los Angeles on Friday, March 11, 2011. See here for a list of future showings.) Though the influence of its cinematic forebears is readily apparent, nary a film comes to mind whose approach is as singularly visual as Asiel Norton’s Redland. Words prove woefully insufficient in conveying its imagistic intensity, but a few descriptions nonetheless come to mind: an aged photograph come to life, key aspects of which are out of focus or otherwise difficult to discern; a…  Read more

    On Mar 17, 2011
    By on Mar 17, 2011Columns
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