LiC’s pick of the week: Buck

LiC’s pick of the week is the terrific documentary Buck (review), but only if you live in Los Angeles or New York. Also, Los Angelinos will want to seek out the harrowing City of Life and Death which finally opens here. If you live elsewhere, Tree of Life (review) and Midnight in Paris (review) are both making small expansions and I recommend them highly.

  • Buck (****). This gentle, disarming and uplifting documentary about Buck Brannaman, the unconventional horse trainer who partly inspired the lead character in The Horse Whisperer, is more a human story than a horse story. It’s both really and pretty much a slam dunk for anyone who loves the animals, but Buck’s philosophy of empathy and patience applies to people as well. It’s especially remarkable when you see the man he’s become in light of the tortured circumstances of his upbringing. Quiet and soulful just like its subject, Buck is a must-see. (NY, LA)

  • City of Life and Death (****). This one opened in New York back in May, but it’s opening in Los Angeles this weekend and I finally had a chance to catch up to it. Filmed in a steely black and white, City of Life and Death is a haunting (and haunted), at times almost hallucinatory journey through the Nanking Massacre, 6 weeks of rape and mass murder following the city’s capture by the Japanese during the Sino-Japanese War in 1937. Interestingly, director Lu Chuan never chooses sides. As the aggressors, the Japanese are clearly the villains, but some of them are actually humanized and they suffer the hell they’re experiencing only from a different perspective. We spend time with the Japanese, the Chinese and with foreigners like the famous German businessman John Rabe who, like Oskar Schindler, tried to protect the people working for him. The resulting film is impressionistic and apolitical, but a deeply human look at the horrors of war. (LA. Opened in NY 5/11)
  • Page One: Inside the New York Times. Well, the title tells you about all you really need to know about this documentary, doesn’t it?  Basically it covers life at the NY Times during the recent upheaval as print media began fading away under the pressure of the internet. Solid reviews out of Sundance. (NY)
  • Green Lantern. Another week, another movie about a dude in tights with crazy superpowers. This time he has a magic ring that projects green light which he can form into anything he wants and it’s limited only by his willpower… except it doesn’t work on the color yellow and he has to recharge it each night with a special magic lantern. No, seriously. Ryan Reynolds is our hero. Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard, Angela Bassett, Tim Robins, Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan co-star. No thanks. (Wide)
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Jim Carrey and a bunch of farting CGI penguins. Welcome to cinematic hell. Abandon hope all ye who enter here. (Wide)
  • The Art of Getting By. This one got clobbered by critics at the Sundance Film Festival when it was still called Homework. The name change hasn’t done much to sway critical opinion. It’s a teen love story between mopey antisocial Freddie Highmore and the beautiful but inevitably complicated Emma Roberts. Something tells me this one will play much better to its target audience than it has for critics, but maybe not. (Limited)
  • The Battle for Brooklyn. The residents of a Brooklyn neighborhood fight progress in the form of a massive real estate development that would tear down their low-rise brownstones for skyscrapers and a sports arena.  (NY)
  • JIG. Here’s one for all five of you clamoring for a documentary about the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships which were held in Glasgow in 2010. It’s magically delicious! (Limited)
  • Kidnapped. Everything is just swell for the family at the heart of this Spanish thriller until a gang of masked hooligans shows up. This is why we can never have anything nice, because gangs of masked hooligans always ruin everything. Jerks. (NY)
  • R. Cast with actual ex-prisoners and ex-guards, this Danish drama tells the story of two men, a Dane and a Muslim, who befriend one another in order to survive the brutality inside a maximum security prison. (NY)

4 Responses to “Weekend Forecast: “My name is Buck and I like to… train horses””

  1. I concur on Buck. You can accurately guess what you’re in for from the trailer and that’s a good thing because this film really delivers a great story with lots to chew on afterwards.

    I am curious about Kidnapped. I’ve heard some good things.

  2. I know I’m probably supposed to be interested in “Green Lantern”, but there’s a smugness to Ryan Reynolds that I don’t like, and seems particularly abundant in this “Top Gun meets Lensmen” story. The aliens and outer-space CGI looks blissful, but the news of how the film focuses almost wholly on Earth diminishes my interests further. If I see this, it’ll be thanks to the good will Martin Campbell has earned from me thanks to his Bond and Zorro pictures, and little else.

  3. Didja know that line with the final “fuck” refrain was from Tobe Hooper’s EATEN ALIVE? The first sentence in the movie! Delivered by Robert Englund! Why am I shouting?!

  4. I have to admit I did not know Tarantino was ripping off… er I mean honoring Mr. Tobe Hooper with that line.

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