Category Archives: Review

Review: Tetsuo, the Iron Man (2010)

You never forget your first Tetsuo. Director Shinya Tsukamoto‘s 1989 industrial classic The Iron Man was a cold, hard slap across the face of film and music. Nearly two decades after the sequel, Body Hammer, he returns to his searing indictment of modernity and destructive capitalism.

The tetsuo – the iron man whose body is in rebellion as the organic transforms into metal – is different in every film. Photographer-turned-actor Eric Bossick takes the lead this time as Anthony, an American salaryman and familyman living in Tokyo with his Japanese wife and their child.

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Review: The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (2010)

Part of the remit of Fantastic Fest is to shock: And it’s hard to imagine that anything this year will push more buttons than Serbia’s The Life and Death of A Porno Gang.

Porno Gang treads very similar ground to A Serbian Film, the extreme shocker that stretched even the hardest of genre fans to breaking point at this year’s SXSW. Both deal with the traumatic melding of sex and death in the post-civil war Balkans, as a bunch of sexual libertines get themselves caught up in the strange and fetid world of snuff cinema. That said, Porno Gang is far less gruesome than Serbian Film. That also being said, that’s rather like describing a blast furnace as cooler than the surface of the sun.

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Review: Summer Wars (2010)

summerwars The funny thing about modern technology is that it’s everywhere: Even in rural Japan, it seems like everyone has email, two blogs and a Tumblr account. The remarkable Summer Wars may be one of the first movies to really approach that ubiquity, and not come off as bad cyberpunk.

Along with nitro-speedster Redline, Summer Wars is the second film from Madhouse Studios at FF 2010, but it’s a virtual world removed. Categorizing it is a near-impossibility: Sort of slice-of-life, sort of techno thriller, sort of action flick, not solely anything.

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Review: I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

I Shall Wear Midnight There’s a moment of sadness with every new Terry Pratchett novel. Since the English comedy-fantasy author’s 2007 announcement that he has Alzheimer’s disease, he’s admitted that each book may be his last. He’s undoubtedly bringing one part of his legacy to a bittersweet conclusion with the final tale of Tiffany Aching, the young witch on the mystical planet called Discworld. Across the first three books in the sequence of young adult novels (The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, and Wintersmith), Tiffany went from callow apprentice to respected hag o’ the hills.

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Review: Nevermore (2010)

nevermoreTechnically, Fantastic Fest ended on Thursday: But the final curtain did not fall until Saturday and the last Austin performance of Nevermore, horror icon Jeffrey Combs‘ one-man stage show about the life of Edgar Allan Poe.

Set in 1848, it presents a pivotal moment in Poe’s life: A year after the death of his wife and muse Virgina, the West Point graduate-turned-poet and author was engaged to essayist Sarah Helen Whitman and seemingly turning a corner in his career and personal life. But what looms over the performance is the dark knowledge for the audience that Poe himself will be dead within two years.

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Review: Bloodworth (2010)

There’s always a sneaking suspicion that every touring musician is just running away from home. In Bloodworth, the longer they stay away, the more everyone gets hurt when they return.

Adapted from Provinces of Night, William Gay’s 2002 novel of the Tennessee back waters, Bloodworth walks a similar path to another of his recently adapted stories, SXSW 2008 award winner That Evening Sun. Both combine a slow-burn rural drama with an ensemble cast of rare authenticity.

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Review: Redline (2010)

Looking to start your engines? Kick it into gear with Redline, the deranged turbocharged anime from Madhouse Studio. If Jack Kirby had been the artistic director for F-Zero GX, you’d get this a nitro-boosted sci-fi speedster that proves that hand-drawn animation can still burn off CGI.

The cursory plot sets a weird cadre of drivers and their souped-up machines against each other in the ultimate intergalactic road race. The only thing cooler than rockabilly antihero JP (voiced by Tadanobu Asano) is his gravity-defying hairdo. But he’s caught between on-track rival/unrequited love Sonoshee (Yū Aoi), killer robot warlords, and gangster race fixers: Can even his turbo-charged hotrod save him now? Continue reading Review: Redline (2010)

Review: Targeting Iran by David Barsamian (2007)

Targeting IranTo many Americans, Iran’s history began with the 1979 hostage crisis. For Iranians, the pivotal date is 1953. That was the year a CIA-inspired coup killed their fledgling democracy and installed the shah as a puppet ruler. This pivotal difference in worldviews, argues David Barsamian, is what has led Iran and the United States to the brink of war. American foreign policy, built on misconceptions about a rogue nation run by blood-crazed mullahs and pulling the strings of groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Iran is portrayed as a fractured nation where radicals use every rattle of the American saber as an excuse to marginalize and even criminalize moderates and reformers.

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Review: Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering and Life on a Biotech Planet by Denise Caruso

Scientists claim ordinary folks can’t be trusted to weigh the pros and cons of transgenics – swapping genes from one species to another. They know nothing about genetics (too overwhelmed by the “yuck factor”) and even less about risk assessment (numbers are hard). The problem, Denise Caruso argues in Intervention, is that scientists don’t know much about them, either.

Caruso isn’t some wild-eyed anti-science protestor. A former columnist forThe New York Times, she specializes in how new technology reaches the market. In Intervention, she examines how haphazardly transgenic organisms are being developed and have already been unleashed into the environment. A freely admitted generalist, her surprisingly approachable book is not a stats lesson on risk analysis, or a genetics primer. Instead, she asks what criteria scientists, regulators, and businesses use to make their decisions. What she finds is that the benefits of transgenics are almost an article of faith, with surprisingly little scientific or economic research to back it up. As she quotes Craig Venter, former president of Celera Genomics and a member of the human genome project, “My view of biology is, we don’t know shit.”

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Review: Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent by Fred Burton (2008)

ghostIn counterterrorism, there are only three truths: Facts are rare, wins are a matter of interpretation, and sometimes there’s no clear line between the wrong thing for the right reason and just the wrong thing. That triumvirate is the basis for Fred Burton’s autobiography of his time at the Diplomatic Security Service, dwelling in what he calls “the Dark World.”

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