Handpicked By The Amoeba Staff

Films selected and reviewed by discerning movie buffs, television junkies, and documentary diehards (a.k.a. our staff).

Help!

Dir: Richard Lester. 1965. Starring: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr. English. Music.

Yes, it’s silly. For their second film with director Richard Lester, the Beatles abandoned the black-and-white, documentary-derived naturalism of A Hard Day’s Night for luscious color and a goofy plot spoofing the secret agent thrillers of the day. But Help! exhibits the energy and charm of its predecessor, thanks to its musical stars, who get a chance to cavort on some exotic locations.

The outline of the droll script may have been written on the back of a postage stamp. The Fab Four, playing “themselves” as before, are stalked by members of an Eastern cult, whose sacrificial ring has fallen into the hands (onto the hand?) of one Ringo Starr. An inept but nonetheless thoroughly mad scientist also covets the gem. The Beatles run from London to the Alps to the Bahamas in a fruitless attempt to elude their pursuers, abetted by a smitten priestess of the cult.

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Posted by:
Chris Morris
Dec 19, 2007 4:13pm

Hearts of Darkness

Dir: Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper. Starring: Francis Ford Coppola. English. Documentaries.

Francis Ford Coppola said of Apocalypse Now at its 1979 premiere in Cannes, “The way we made it was very much like the way the Americans were in Vietnam. We were in the jungle. There were too many of us. We had access to too much money, too much equipment. And little by little we went insane.” That madness is what you see in Hearts of Darkness, an extraordinary documentary about the film’s torturous, quixotic shoot.

With her own crew, Coppola’s wife Eleanor documented her husband’s protracted struggle to complete his epic about the Vietnam War; her footage is the basis of Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper’s feature. She came away with an intimate picture of the feature’s near-catastrophic progress, or lack thereof. Shooting in the Phillipines, Coppola replaced a lead actor after filming began; saw helicopters on loan from Ferdinand Marcos’ army diverted to fight rebels in a real civil war; witnessed the destruction of a main set in a ruinous typhoon; and was forced to halt production when one of his key players suffered a near-fatal heart attack. And then the volatile Marlon Brando showed up, overweight and unprepared for his role as the monstrous Colonel Kurtz.

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Posted by:
Chris Morris
Dec 19, 2007 4:09pm

Days of Heaven

Dir: Terrence Malick. 1978. Starring: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard. English. Drama.

The tale is simplicity itself: A young man (Richard Gere), his girl (Brooke Adams), and his spunky kid sister (Linda Manz) flee trouble in Chicago and find harvesting work on a wheat farm owned by a wealthy Texan (playwright-actor Sam Shepard). The couple, who are masquerading as brother and sister, learn that the farmer is terminally ill, and the young man encourages the woman to marry the farmer so that they can claim his fortune after he dies. Confusion, suspicion, disaster of near-Biblical proportions, and tragedy ensue.

Were it not for Manz’s deadpan voiceover narration, this pictorial masterwork could almost be a silent film – director Terrence Malick’s spectacular images tell the story. Shot by Nestor Almendros, who won an Oscar for his painterly cinematography (with an assist from the supremely gifted Haskell Wexler), Days of Heaven is among the most gorgeous features ever made. Filmed mostly in twilight’s “magic hour,” the film is bathed in hues of lavender and gold. It’s a rapturous visual poem that shocks the eye with its beauty.

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Posted by:
Chris Morris
Dec 19, 2007 4:00pm

The Dead Girl

Dir: Karen Moncrieff. Starring: Toni Collette, Britney Murphy, Giovanni Ribisi. English. Drama/Thriller/Mystery.

Broken down into roughly five stories, The Dead Girl is a film that intersects the lives of complete strangers in relation to the grisly murder of a young prostitute.

Toni Collette plays the unfortunate woman who has the displeasure of discovering a body on a hillside at an anonymous location. Her life is thrown into disarray as the local media and police swarm her once isolated life. As the caretaker of her extremely overbearing mother (creepily played by Piper Laurie), Collette realizes that with her new-found attention, she can move on and develop relationships with others, thus leading her into a strange encounter with a bag boy from the supermarket.

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Posted by:
Travis King
Dec 17, 2007 4:03pm

Daisies (Sedmikrásky)

Dir: Vera Chytilová, 1966. Starring: Jitka Cerhová, Ivana Karbanová. Czech. Foreign.

Daisies begins and ends with stock footage of war and industry. Between these two bookends two charmingly bratty young women (both named Marie) decide that because the world is bad that they will be too. They spend a lot of their time engaged in elaborate pranks often involving getting free meals from old men and creative slapstick destruction involving fire, scissors and lots of food.

The cinematography of Jaroslav Kucera is amazingly beautiful and innovative. His jarring use of colors, beautiful compositions and dreamy visual effects contribute to a carnivalesque mood that is both heavily psychedelic very New Wave. The distorted, strange sounds, the amazing sets and the wonderful costumes all reinforce Chytilová's wonderful vision.

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Posted by:
Eric Brightwell
Dec 5, 2007 3:38pm

You Are Alone

Dir: Gorman Bechard, 2005. Starring: Jessica Bohl, Richard Brundage. English. Drama

At first look, a film entitled You Are Alone, may not be at the top of your list of must sees unless, perhaps, you are alone. However, one must never judge the straight to DVD video by its title.

You Are Alone centers on two primary characters. Well, actually three. There is Daphne. She’s been accepted into Harvard, she’s beautiful and she’s alone. Then there is Britney. She’s seen things that most people won’t see in their lifetime. And then there is Buddy, a sad sack whose wife has left him, whose dog has recently died and his empty dark encapsulation that he calls home.

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Posted by:
Travis King
Nov 28, 2007 7:01pm

Year Of The Dog

Writer/Director: Mike White, 2007. Starring: Molly Shannon, Peter Sarsgaard, Laura Dern and John C. Reilly. English. Comedy/Drama

Mike White has a knack for making you feel uncomfortable. After all, he did pen Chuck and Buck as well as several episodes of Freaks and Geeks (both bodies of work are highly underrated). His characters can be so awkward that I sometimes need to look away.

Shannon plays a lonely executive assistant whose life spins out of control due to the untimely death of her dog, Pencil. Pencil was her life and now she has no life. That is until a kind veterinarian (Sarsgaard) offers Shannon a new dog to adopt. Not only does she fall in love with the dog but with the vet as well.

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Posted by:
Travis King
Nov 17, 2007 5:35pm

The Addiction

Dir: Abel Ferrara, 1995. Writer: Nicholas St. John. Starring: Lily Taylor, Edie Falco, Christopher Walken. English. Horror/Drama.

From the deranged mind that brought you Bad Lieutenant, Ms. 45 and King of New York comes a horror tale involving drug addicts, graduate students and vampires.

Not particularly scary or even bulging with production value, the film is still great fun for any fan of the vampire sub genre.

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Posted by:
Travis King
Nov 17, 2007 5:27pm

Tekkonkinkreet

Dir: Micheal Arias, 2006. Rated R. Anime.

Welcome to Treasure Town. It's an old and fading fantasy town quietly disappearing under the spread of modern Japan. But it doesn't stand alone. Black and White, two street orphans, rule Treasure Town with all the charm and wild crazy that every classic Peter Pan deserves. Don't confuse these cats with Disney's version. These lost boys live just this side of lunacy but are not without heart.

Change arrives like a slow earthquake and soon they are battling real gansters, alien assassins and urban development. Truth is a major player here and gives the fantastical its impact. Mythology explodes from every corner of this tale and threatens to trample our heroes, who are only children after all, into the dark recesses that inevitably follow change.

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Posted by:
Jessica Kaman
Nov 17, 2007 5:22pm

Follow The Fleet

Dir: Mark Sandrich, 1936. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott, Harriett Hilliard. English. Musical.

Follow the Fleet is not the formula that the Astaire/Rogers team is best known for. He's a sailor, and she's single gal making a living in the busy port of San Fransisco as a dance hall girl. Theirs isn't even the the only love story. Historically it's a piece that goes back a picture to when they were the lovable comic relief playing second fiddle to the more glamorous duo, Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott, in Roberta.

However, Fleet is loaded with adult humor and childish charm. Astaire in a sailor suit is hilarious. He looks so young and tiny compared to the bulky and once again co-lead, Scott, and Rogers seems a little crass standing next to the lithesome beauty of a young Harriet Hilliard (of Ozzie and Harriet fame). However their chemistry and spunk make the other two seem as flat and as interesting as soggy pancakes.

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Posted by:
Jessica Kaman
Nov 17, 2007 5:16pm
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