John Sayles

John Sayles

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Corman's World: Exploits Of A Hollywood Rebel Review


Excellent
An essential documentary for movie fans, this exploration of the work of iconic filmmaker Roger Corman revels in the joy of exploitation movies made on a minuscule budget with lashings of gore, explosions and nudity. It's a glowing portrait of a man who changed filmmaking forever.

Corman's 400 films have tapped into youth culture in ways that studios never could. This documentary traces his career with interviews and clips, but also explores his impact on the industry at large. Clearly, he's not only an important filmmaker, but he's also a genuinely nice man (at one point, Nicholson breaks down and cries while talking about him). We also get glimpses behind-the-scenes on 2010's hilarious-looking Dinoshark, proving that his filmmaking methods haven't changed much in nearly 60 years. And we discover that his favourite filmmakers include Bergman, Fellini and Truffaut, whose films he distributed in America.

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In the Electric Mist Review


Excellent
French filmmaker Tavernier captures Louisiana with a remarkable eye. Even though the film meanders a bit, the skilful direction and camerawork combine with strong acting to create an engaging, insinuating thriller.

Dave (Jones) is a detective looking into the violent murder of a prostitute when movie star Elrod (Sarsgaard), filming nearby in a swamp, stumbles across the decades-old skeleton of a chained-up black man. In Dave's mind, the murders are linked, and as he questions a local mobster (Goodman), a partying investor (Beatty) and the film's director (Sayles), both cases get increasingly haunting. Dave also imagines that he sees a Confederate general (Helm) roaming the bayou around his house. And within this swirling mist, things start to make sense.

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Honeydripper Review


Grim
Somewhere right about the time that blues great Keb' Mo' shows up as a blind guitarist named Possum who loves nothing more than to pick at his instrument and dispense homespun wisdom with a wry chuckle, it becomes clear that Honeydripper is not going to be anything close to the film that it should be. For sure, it would be near impossible, and probably not even advisable, for a filmmaker to totally eschew cliché when placing a film in as weighted a setting as John Sayles has done here. A small town in Alabama named Harmony, circa 1950, with a mean white sheriff, a lot of dirt-poor black folk, a bucolic landscape of thick green forests and insect-buzzed cotton fields, and plenty of porches to watch life go by from -- the blues is in the air. It's all the characters can do not to burst into choreographed song and dance.

As usual with Sayles, there's a hard knot of a good story here. The film is named for the town's Honeydripper Lounge, a ramshackle affair that serves up a good fried chicken affair but whose old blues singer can't compete with the jukebox R&B getting blasted by the competition down the street. Danny Glover plays the owner, Pine Top Purvis, a piano player with a violent past who's in debt to everyone in town and about out of chances. His last one is a New Orleans hot shot named Guitar Sam who's got a radio hit and is booked to play the Honeydripper on Saturday; only problem is, when the train shows up, Guitar Sam is nowhere to be found, even though Purvis has plastered the town with ads. The whole thing is a scramble, with Purvis frantically (well, not frantically, maybe busily; it is the old South, after all, and things take time) working every last hustle he can to stay ahead of the creditors and the corrupt sheriff (Stacy Keach, playing it more for laid-back humor than menace) who will shut him down if he can't find somebody who looks and plays like Guitar Sam to show up on Saturday. Maybe that handsome fella who just hopped off the train and is chatting up Purvis' daughter could do the trick...

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Limbo (1999) Review


Unbearable
Hurt. Used. Betrayed. Angry. Abused.

These are words that could be used to describe the emotions of John Sayles' characters in his latest, Limbo. But no, I use them to describe myself after sitting through his latest little exercise in indie egomania.

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Eight Men Out Review


Excellent
When the White Sox lost the 1919 World Series, baseball's first scandal was born. We've seen bigger and better rows since then, but the Black Sox of 1919, with star player "Shoeless" Joe Jackson front and center, might be the most timeless. Cusack steals the show as George Weaver, who protested his innocence all the way. But it's the stories (Sayles's best film) of how baseball mistreated its stars and how gangs ran just about everything in Chicago that make the movie worthwhile.

Lone Star Review


OK
Lone Star can be simply described as an incredible mess.

John Sayles, darling of the indie film movement, has created this picture, an epic study of racial tension in mythical Frontera, Texas, a border town in the Rio Grande Valley. (The film was actually shot in Eagle Pass, quite a ways upriver from the Valley.) Set against the backdrop of a son investigating his father's involvement in the murder of a sheriff some 40 years earlier, Sayles wanders, Short Cuts-like, through the lives of 15 or so major characters.

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Silver City Review


Weak
What are they using on the moviemaking plantation this election year to have produced such a bumper crop of Democrat-leaning political films? The fertile harvest may have something to do with outright fear of a Bush win in November. Or, determination to clarify the issues for swing voters still formulating their judgments.

Now, after Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, Robert Greenwald's Uncovered: The War on Iraq, France's The World According to Bush, the upcoming Bush's Brain, and many more, filmmaker John Sayles adds his satiric shovelful with Silver City, a (fictional) feature film which explores the ramifications of a political system that lends itself to corrupt and unseemly influences.

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Men with Guns Review


Excellent
I've never been a huge fan of the work of John "Mr. Pretentious" Sayles, and Men with Guns is hardly short on pretension, but this is truly one of his best films. It's also one of his least-seen movies, and it's no wonder why: The story is told almost wholly in Spanish and concerns an urban, Mexican professor who chooses to travel into the jungle to find out what has become of his students -- all bound for rural destinations where they have pledged to help the poor populace. The professor's journey is hardly one of nostalgia, as one by one he finds they are dead or vanished, victims of the cruel army (aka "the men with guns") that have been ravaging the countryside. Chilling and gripping, despite the typical overwroughtness of Sayles. Federico Luppi, as the professor, looks like a Mexican Bob Barker. Surprisingly, this doesn't detract from the rest of the picture.

The Howling Review


Good
Werewolves are the least-regarded of all the classic monsters. While vampires have all the sex appeal and mummies have already had their blockbuster remake, werewolves have a tendency to seem low-rent and shaggy; basically like really angry dogs. 1981 changed all that with a brief two-film comeback for the hairy beasts: John Landis's An American Werewolf in London and Joe Dante's The Howling. Superior both in terms of its story and sense of humor, The Howling shares American Werewolf's post-modern cheekiness but knows when to rein it in and let the wolves howl.

Starting in a welter of televised static, the movie's setup is straight from a standard thriller: TV anchorwoman Karen White (Dee Wallace, one year before E.T.) is taking part in a police sting. She's been receiving letters from a man claiming to be the brutal serial killer currently terrorizing L.A., and as part of the sting, has agreed to meet him. After a cop mix-up and a horrific encounter between Karen and the killer in a peepshow booth, the killer is shot dead. Karen keeps having bad dreams, however, prompting her psychologist, Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), to send her up the coast to convalesce at The Colony, a retreat where his teachings - vague mumbo-jumbo about harmonizing the relationship between one's animal and civilized selves and something called "The Gift" - are put into practice. Then she starts hearing all that howling in the woods around her cabin...

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Sunshine State Review


Good
One prominent theme has run through the recent work of maverick filmmaker John Sayles: the search for identity. A need to belong. A desire to know one's place in the world. Within Sayles's trademark ensemble pieces, characters try to define themselves, with many at a crossroads in their lives... whether they know it or not. Most of the beauty and irony with which Sayles tells their tales is present in Sunshine State, but Sayles's narrative is a bit short in comparison to his previous opuses.

The brilliance of Sayles's stories is that he places these people within a much bigger parallel -- a geographical or cultural landscape that's changing as much as its inhabitants are. In City of Hope, it was an unnamed New Jersey city with political problems. In Lone Star -- in my opinion, Sayles's true masterpiece -- it was an evolving Texas border town. In Sunshine State, it's the fictional town of Delrona Beach, a sleepy Florida locale whose land and people are in the process of being overrun by shrewd real estate developers.

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Casa De Los Babys Review


OK
In a fit of Altman-envy, auteur filmmaker John Sayles has delivered a picture that has a situation instead of a plot and brought together a bevy of top actresses to act it out within a seemingly loose framework. But the lack of a plot doesn't mean it doesn't have a structure, and the one here is engineered to convey the range of needs and problems connected with first-world women adopting third-world babies.

Six women from the U.S. with different life experiences and unique values are brought together in their quests to adopt a baby in an unstated South American country (though shot in and around Acapulco, Mexico). The problem they all face is the bureaucracy that's in charge of the process -- one that feels uncomfortably arbitrary, subject to more whim than substance.

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John Sayles

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