DVD takes

Distant (2002) 2.5/5

A slow-moving Turkish film that explores isolation in the midst of others. Reminiscent of Italian neorealism, the film is based on a down-on-his-luck villager going to Istanbul to find a job and moving in with a down-on-his-emotions photographer who hails from the same village. The film won the Jury Grand Prize at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival and the two lead actors shared the festival’s Best Actor award.

El Alamein (2002) 3/5

Italian filmmaker Enzo Monteleone takes a realistic look at an Italian army unit in the disintegration of Italian forces during the battle of El Alamein in North Africa in October-November 1942. Although it blazes no particular new ground in war films, it is intriguing to see a conflict examined from the standpoint of “the enemy. Supposedly based on first hand accounts, the film demonstrates a sad universality in the burdens and hardships soldiers encounter regardless of country or uniform.

Embedded Live (2005) 3/5

A DVD of the off-Broadway production written and directed by Tim Robbins about the Iraq War. Overall, the production is somewhat spotty and inconsistent. It is at its best when Robbins lampoons the Office of Special Plans, with the characters wearing masks appropriate for a Greek tragedy. The story, such as it is, also examines the media’s complicity with its war coverage, including a subplot on Jessica Lynch, and the impact on individual soldiers.

Oldboy (2003) 4/5

At times bizarre and graphically violent, this Korean film is an ultimately satisfying psychological study and mystery. After a friend gets a drunken Oh Dae-Su out of police custody, he suddenly disappears from a busy city street. After 15 years of confinement in a small room, Oh Dae-Su awakens to find himself released without explanation. Befriended by a chef at a nearby sushi bar, he learns he has five days to discover the reason for his kidnapping and imprisonment. Almost impossible to categorize but at times reminiscent of David Lynch, this film won a number of international awards, including the Jury Grand Prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival

Sin City (2005) 3/5

Clearly deserving of five stars for cinematography, this film drops in overall rating largely because I am not a real fan of either film noir or so-called graphic novels. Shot mostly in black and white, the film is heavily infused with selective color that bolsters not only the story but the extremely graphic CGI and special effects. In the end, though, the three intertwined stories taken from the graphic novels of the same name are lesser creations than the visual.

Death [in combat] is beautiful only in school books. In real life it’s pitiful, horrendous.. and it stinks.

Pvt. Serra, El Alamein

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