The Man from Nowhere
Notes: This South Korean action crime thriller about “an ex-con is lured back into the drug trade.” The film, directed by Lee Jeong-beom and starring Won Bin was released in South Korea in August and played at the 2010 Fantastic Fest in December. It was Korea’s highest grossing film of the year with $42.4 million, and took the awards for best actor, best new actress, best cinematography, best music, best lighting, best visual effects and best editor at the 2010 Korea Film Awards. Here is an excerpt from Twitch‘s review: “Laced with black humor and some truly impressive action sequences, The Man From Nowhere is a quietly building slow burn of a film, one that arrives at a point of bleak ultraviolence so subtly that you hardly realize you’ve gotten there at all until the knives and guns come out and the blood sprays across the screen and you’re left thinking, “Oh, of course. That makes perfect sense.””
IMDB User Rating: 7.8 (433 votes)
Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (1 review)
Flixster User Rating: 99% (140 user ratings)
Release: The movie was released in limited theaters in the US on October 1st 2010, and is now available for preorder on DVD/Blu-ray (to be released on March 8th 2011).
Official Synopsis:

An ex-special agent CHA Tae-shik’s only connection to the rest of the world is a little girl, So-mi, who lives nearby. Her mother, Hyo-jeong smuggles drugs from a drug trafficking organization and entrusts Tae-shik with the product, without letting him know. The traffickers find out about her smuggling and kidnap both Hyo-jeong and So-mi. The gang promises to release them if Tae-shik makes a delivery for them, however it actually is a larger plot to eliminate a rival drug ring leader. When Hyo-jeon’s disemboweled body is discovered, Tae-shik realizes that So-mi’s life may also be in danger. Tae-shik becomes enraged at the prospect that So-mi may already be dead and prepares for a battle, putting his own life at risk.


Batman: Under The Red Hood
Notes: Directed by Brandon Vietti (The Batman) and adapted into a direct-to-video animated feature by Judd Winick (from his own 2005 comic-book story arc), Batman: Under the Red Hood tells the story of a brutal underworld boss, the mysterious Red Hood, who “takes Gotham City by firestorm.” GrouchoReviews wrote: “with its colorful, exciting action and well-defined emotional underpinnings, Batman: Under the Red Hood is the best yet in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line.” The voice cast includes Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs, and others.
IMDB User Rating: 7.8 (433 votes)
Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (6 reviews)
Release: Available now on DVD/Blu-ray and on Netflix Instant.
Official Synopsis:

Batman faces his ultimate challenge as the mysterious Red Hood takes Gotham City by firestorm. One part vigilante, one part criminal kingpin, Red Hood begins cleaning up Gotham with the efficiency of Batman, but without following the same ethical code. Killing is an option. And when the Joker falls in the balance between the two, hard truths are revealed and old wounds are reopened.


Waste Land
Notes: Devil’s Playground/Blindsight director Lucy Walker‘s new documentary follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from Brooklyn to Brazil to photograph the lives of people who work collecting and selling recyclable materials such as bottles, plastic, and metal in landfills.
IMDB User Rating: 7.8 (433 votes)
Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (41 reviews)
Flixster User Rating: 89% (312 user ratings)
Release: The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, and is now in limited release. A DVD will be released on March 29th 2011 (preorder here).
Official Synopsis:

Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores” — or self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both dignity and despair as the catadores begin to re-imagine their lives. Walker (“Devil’s Playground,” Blindsight”) has great access to the entire process and, in the end, offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.


Going Postal
Notes: This Sky1-produced UK made-for-television comedy fantasy is based on Terry Pratchett‘s 33rd Discworld novel about an artist who is conned into taking the job as Postmaster General in the Ankh-Morpork Post Office.
IMDB User Rating: 7.8 (1,286 votes)
Rotten Tomatoes: No reviews yet
Flixster User Rating: 82% (64 user ratings)
Release: Aired on May 30th 2010 in the UK, and is available on Blu-ray and DVD (region 2). No word on a US release.
Official Synopsis:

Suddenly, condemned arch-swindler Moist von Lipwig found himself with a noose around his neck and dropping through a trapdoor into … a government job? By all rights, Moist should be meeting his maker rather than being offered a position as Postmaster by Lord Vetinari, supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork. Getting the moribund Postal Service up and running again, however, may prove an impossible task, what with literally mountains of decades-old undelivered mail clogging every nook and cranny of the broken-down post office. Worse still, Moist could swear the mail is talking to him. Worst of all, it means taking on the gargantuan, greedy Grand Trunk clacks communication monopoly and its bloodthirsty piratical headman. But if the bold and undoable are what’s called for, Moist’s the man for the job — to move the mail, continue breathing, get the girl, and specially deliver that invaluable commodity that every being, human or otherwise, requires: hope.


The Illusionist
Notes: Academy Award-nominated director Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) returns with the hand-drawn animated The Illusionist. I got a chance to screen the film at the Telluride film festival, and it is a visually stunning testament to the art of 2D animation.
IMDB User Rating: 7.8 (1,286 votes)
Rotten Tomatoes: 86% (49 reviews)
Flixster User Rating: 79% (1,411 user ratings)
Release: The film is in limited release from Sony Pictures Classics.
Official Synopsis:

The Illusionist is one of a dying breed of stage entertainers. With emerging rock stars stealing his thunder, he is forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theatres, at garden parties and in bars and cafés. However, whilst performing in a village pub off the west coast of Scotland, he encounters Alice, an innocent young girl, who will change his life forever. Watching his performance to the excited villagers who are celebrating the arrival of electricity to their remote island, Alice becomes awestruck by our hero and believes his tricks are real magic. Following him to Edinburgh, she keeps his home while he goes to work in a small local theatre. Enchanted by her enthusiasm for his act, he rewards her with increasingly lavish gifts he has ‘conjured’ into existence. Desperate not to disappoint her, he cannot bring himself to reveal that magic does not exist and that buying these gifts is driving him to ruin. But as Alice comes of age, she finds love and moves on. The Illusionist no longer has to pretend and, untangled from his own web of deceit, resumes his life as a travelling entertainer, a much wiser man.


Notes: Directed and written by Lee Chang-dong (Oasis, Secret Sunshine, Peppermint Candy), a South Korean drama centered on “a woman at the end of her life in search of new meaning.” Poetry premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, and has been on the festival circuit ever since (hitting Toronto, New York, London, Dubai and more). Sean Axmaker wrote that “At its best, Poetry offers a complex combination of anger, yearning and compassion from a woman struggling to communicate herself as words fail her.” Poetry is a candidate for Korea’s official entry for best foreign language film in the 2010 Academy Awards, and the winner of the Best Screenplay award in Cannes this year.
IMDB User Rating: 7.8 (507 votes)
Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (5 reviews)
Flixster User Rating: 91% (359 user ratings)
Release: Will be released in theaters on January 28th, 2011.
Official Synopsis:

This quietly precarious film opens with an enigmatic scene of a young girl’s corpse floating down a river, only to then settle in with an elderly woman who cares for her troubled grandson in their modest home. She leads a simple existence as a cleaner and caregiver to an elderly disabled man. When her grandson becomes involved in a horrific public scandal, the crisis sends her into an existential downward spiral, and she turns to her newfound interest in writing poetry for solace and guidance. As in Lee’s previous works, POETRY explores the human capacity for bestial darkness and how our worst failings can define and shape our shared moral landscape.


Zero II
Notes: Often compared with Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, this Lithuanian comedy crime thriller has been described as a mix of “a gangster film and a soap opera”.
IMDB User Rating: 7.8 (1,829 votes)
Rotten Tomatoes: no reviews yet.
Release: No release date announced. Released in Lithuania in January 2010.
Official Synopsis:

When the under-worlds of crime and show-biz collide, hit-men buddies Max and Sylvester are suddenly thrown in the midst of bizarre events and soap-like drama. Faced with the onslaught of sleazy intrigues and silicon boobs, friends must still complete their task – retrieve a missing shipment of drugs. And then, there’s also a kidnapped delivery boy to save, loads of people to kill, dangerous women to love. The trick is not to lose your head. Or your balls. Whichever goes first.


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