Double Agents: Cold War Revisited in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Gary Oldman in his Oscar-nominated performance as George Smiley

Spy thrillers have long fascinated the masses. Ever since the two World Wars, people have shown great interest in intelligence and counterintelligence, which only increased during the Cold War with its two adversarial camps. The most famous of the literary and cinematic secret agents is James Bond, the super-spy by English author Ian Fleming. He has become a global phenomenon in the last six decades, first as the main character of a book series in the 1950s, then in (so far) 22 big-screen adventures for the last half of a century.

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The unseen side of Japan: Nobody Knows

From L-R: Yuki, Kyokyo, Akira, and Shigeru

Hirokazu Koreeda did a fantastic job of telling the story of these young children, abandoned by their mother, who have to fight for survival.

The oldest boy, Arika Fukushima (Yûya Yagira) is smart, witty, and hard working. His mother often leaves him in charge to do everything from cooking, to paying the bills and taking care of his younger siblings. His mother is rarely around and sometimes she leaves money for the kids; which is never enough for the lengths of time she is gone.

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The Odd Couple: Dysfunctional Russian Lives in Boris Khlebnikov’s Help Gone Mad

Help Gone Mad
Engineer (left) and Zhenya (right) on one of their adventures

What would happen if you transferred Miguel de Cervantes’s peculiar twosome of Don Quixote and Sancho Pansa or Samuel Beckett’s equally eccentric pairing of Vladimir and Estragon from Waiting for Godot to the Moscow of the 21st century? This is exactly the experiment Help Gone Mad, an interesting Russian independent film by Boris Khlebnikov, seems to conduct. It is anything but an ‘ordinary’ movie, although the outline is pretty straightforward.

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The Way Back

'The Way Back'

Russian gulags were never known for their fair treatment of their prisoners, most of which were political prisoners, given unbelievably long sentences, often on chumped up charges of treason, espionage, or criticism of “Comrade Stalin.” The prisoners held in this gulag were no different.

Although a reasonably unknown film, the cast is made up of a surprising collection of A-list actors to include Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, and Saoirse Ronan. The other lesser-known co-stars are on par with the A-listers in this dramatic escape-turned-journey flick.

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Marty in Wonderland: The Verdict on Martin Scorsese’s 3D Adventure Hugo

Hugo Cabret
Hugo Cabret and Isabelle with the automaton

The grandmaster of the gangster genre and the cinema of madness is back. He has returned with a project that can in good conscience be described as peculiar and atypical for him. Martin Scorsese’s latest movie, Hugo, is a 3D adaptation of Brian Selznick’s children’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

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Golden Boys: The 84th Annual Academy Awards Coverage

2012 Oscars Logo

The 84th Annual Academy Awards have just come to a close. So what can we take away from it other than Billy Crystal being a charming, but aging host or the ladies gushing about Brad Pitt’s outfit? For starters, there were two big winners among the films: Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s 3D adventure, and The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius’s homage to the silent era. Each had received a double-digit number of nominations, and both won five times apiece.

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Noriko’s Dinner Table: alter-egoism and constant change

Noriko role playing in her father's strange play

“There is no suicide club,” says a nondescript man in his mid-thirties.

Confused, the middle aged man accepts the answer and walks away, only to reflect later on another thing the man said “the actors play their roles, and if their roles require them to commit suicide, then they do it.”

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I Saw The Devil: revenge at any cost

Soo-hyeon unaware at the cannibal's home

Min-shik Choi is back as the psycho killer in the murder-thriller I Saw The Devil. Min-shik’s character, Kyung-chul is cold, ruthless and deceptive. In the opening scene Kyung-chul is seen assisting a young woman with a flat tire. Soo-hyeon, the fiancé of the woman in the car talks with her on the phone as she waits for a tow truck. She begins to get suspicious when Kyung-chul ominously hangs outside her car window. He strikes with brutal swiftness with a hammer, knocking her out. Later he drags her back to his kill-house where he hacks her up despite her calls for mercy.

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A Life Less Ordinary: Roman Karimov’s Inadequate People and the ‘Russian Realities’

Inadequate People
Kristina and Vitali

There are those who complain that Russian cinema has abandoned its distinctive identity in favor of Hollywood conventions in recent years, and justifiably so. Ever since Timur Bekmambetov’s Night Watch, a surprise success in the United States and elsewhere in 2004, there has been a perplexing, sometimes even disturbing trend to move away from the trademarks of Russian filmmaking and cater to commercial American movies. Likewise, the major Hollywood studios invest in the country’s film industry. Disney’s first-ever Russian production The Book Of Masters (2009) demonstrates that as much as the involvement of Fox in the Revolution-era drama Admiral (2008) or Universal financing a modern version of the Soviet cult comedy An Office Romance (2011).

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Family Affair: Elena as a Thought-Provoking Character Study and Portrait of Life in Contemporary Russia

Elena and her husband Vladimir
Elena and her husband Vladimir

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Leo Tolstoy wrote at the beginning of his famous novel Anna Karenina. This was true for the aristocratic clans in the tsardom of the 19th century and it is still valid for many societies, especially contemporary Russia with its glaring social contrasts. Elena by director Andrei Zvyagintsev, mainly known for his acclaimed 2003 feature The Return, is such a modern family drama that unfolds slowly. The film takes its time to observe the characters and the respective environments they inhabit.

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Hollywood gearing up for this year’s Academy Awards

The Kodak Theatre in Hollywood

This year’s Academy Awards will be presented by two of American cinema’s biggestpranksters, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis who just recently finished shooting for the film The Campaign. Ferrell and Galifianakis are just two joining many big names hosting this year, to include Halle Berry, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Tom Hanks, Milla Jovovich, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller and Emma Stone.

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The Housemaid lacks originality, reinforces stereotypes of Korean society

Jeon Do-yeon and Lee Jung-jae in 'The Housemaid'

A shy young woman gets hired to become a wealthy Korean family’s maid.

Very quickly Eun-yi (the maid played by Do-yeon Jeon) finds her way into the good graces of the head of the household. The man’s wife is pregnant with twins, and is unable to please him sexually. The man begins to get ideas about the maid that he just hired. One night he comes down, and begins to fondle Eun-yi. Hesitantly, the maid gives in and appears to enjoy their clandestine sexual activities. Early on, the older, more experienced maid becomes suspicious and catches on to the affair. Meanwhile the maid begins to develop an especially close relationship with the couples’ daughter.

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Martin Mysicka (left) and Ivan Trojan (right) in character

Sympathy for the Devils: The World as a Rotten Place in Petr Zelenka’s The Karamazovs

Martin Mysicka (left) and Ivan Trojan (right) in character
Martin Mysicka (left) and Ivan Trojan (right) in character

Fyodor Dostoevsky is arguably one of the greatest novelists of all time. The interest of filmmakers in his work has remained alive, and even seems to have increased in recent years. Martin Scorsese, of all people, has signaled interest in creating another version of The Gambler with Leonardo DiCaprio and The Departed screenwriter William Monahan. Likewise, Russian television produced television series of The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov not too long ago.

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The Grey: a story about the inevitability of death, and the importance of self reliance

Liam Neeson in 'The Grey'

Liam Neeson’s performance in The Grey was unparalleled.

Though the story starts out somewhat like a would-be typical Hollywood flick following the done-to-death ‘great adventure’ scenario; the film actually incorporates many elements that would be more typical in an art house film, than in a Hollywood blockbuster. Furthermore, the film leaves the viewer with a somewhat ambivalent feeling about what the true intent of the film is. The most apparent theme appears to be triumph-over-evil. However, the dynamics are a little different in this piece from a regular triumph-over-evil scenario. The Grey depicts men who, even when the odds are stacked against them, and the chance of winning is nearly zero, continue to fight. This is a classic recurring theme in many Chinese fables. Though there is nothing that overtly indicates that that is where the plot was derived from.

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Bridges to Babylen: Generation P as a Cyberpunk Satire of Russian Consumerism in the 1990s

Babylen on the hunt for psychedelic drugs

“We’re waiting for changes,” Victor Tsoy, arguably the biggest rock star of the Soviet Union, exclaimed in the late 1980s. They would come only a few years later. The 1990s were a decade of transformations on both sides of the formerly bipolar world order, and the cultural climate was largely represented by their teens and twens. While the West had its ‘Generation X’, divided into many subcultures and generally disillusioned with life, as displayed by the alternative rock and grunge music of the era, the former Soviet Union had its own post-communist bunch of kids.

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