The Devil's Sword (Mondo Macabro)
Few trash movies live up to their reputation, but here's a balls-out wonder that surpasses it. Grab a 12-pack of Bintang and cue up this jaw-unhinging slab of Indonesian sword-and-sorcery circa 1983 -- a start-to-finish feast of martial arts, mullets, flying heads, vestal virgins, dry-ice fog, and discount psychedelia, accompanied by a synth-cheese score that threatens any second to bust into Heart's "These Dreams." Barry Prima, the Patrick Swayze of Jakarta, plays it cool as the mystical ass-kicker who defies the Crocodile Queen and her rubber-suited minions to seize a super-powered sword. Words can't do the movie justice, unless they're blaring from a drive-in speaker. SEE! Exploding mushrooms! Interpretive dance! A death battle between a flying guillotine and a witch! HEAR! Endlessly quotable dialogue, such as "You polluted bitch-hound!" Essential. -- Jim Ridley
Find Me Guilty (Fox)
The Devil's Sword
Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Twelve Angry Men) is one of the great Hollywood directors, but Good Lord, his latest film is like a birdhouse built by a retired architect. Everything feels small and cheap, like a movie-of-the-week with f-bombs -- and still it's never less than watchable. A courtroom comedy based on a true story, it stars Vin Diesel as a mobster who defends himself in a 20-defendant, 73-count racketeering trial. There's no drama, and the laughs rarely rise above a chuckle, but the movie's enough fun to make you forget you're rooting for real-life mobsters to beat the rap. Diesel is charming, but showing up with a paunch, fake hair, and old-guy makeup doesn't exactly signal that next great step. This should feel like an end-of-career film for eighty-something Lumet, but for Diesel? -- Jordan Harper
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Cool and simple, but resonating invisibly out into our lives like an x-ray, Michael Haneke's Caché (Hidden) is a mystery wrapped in a tangle of sightlines -- you are rarely confident about what you're watching and never sure that watching will be enough. A Parisian couple (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) are inexplicably haunted by videotapes taken of them, by cameras that cannot have been present; eventually, the ensuing paranoia begins not only to unravel their family, but to reveal sins of the past. All the while, Haneke implicates us in the surveillance; we're never sure if what we're watching is live or Memorex, and whether the point of view is ours or someone else's. Caché has a devilish structure that makes every cut an occasion for what-is-it-now heebie-jeebies. -- Michael Atkinson
1000 Years of Popular Music (Cooking Vinyl)
"I've never thought of you as an entertainer," Richard Thompson is told during a break in this concert film shot at Bimbo's in San Fran, where The Greatest Living Singer-Songwriter starts with a circa-1260 ditty and ends with a Bowling for Soup single. It's not meant as an insult; the interviewer just means the former Fairport Conventioneer doesn't pander, hence the playlist of 22 ancient tunes ("Blackleg Miner") and top-of-the-poppers ("Oops!...I Did It Again") and in-betweeners that all sound right out of Thompson's own kit bag. The oldies are goodies, but it's the weight he brings to the disposable entries that makes this folk-rockumentary indispensable. Included are two audio discs and a wonderfully annotated booklet; of Ray Davies's "See My Friends" he writes, "Usually considered the first 'oriental' pop song." Uh, okay. -- Robert Wilonsky