Film still of "West of Memphis"
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Photography by Jeff Dailey

Amy Berg’s new movie
“West of Memphis”

January 25 2013
2:49 PM

When I heard about the release of West of Memphis, I was positively surprised that not even the media’s short memory could bury the story of the West Memphis Three. Indeed, after the three documentary films in the Paradise Lost series—the original from 1996 and the subsequent Revelations (2000) and Purgatory (2011) — brought considerable media, public and VIP attention to the case, director Amy Berg has partnered with producer Peter Jackson on a final chapter. For those who come cold to the film, tellingly describing itself as “an examination of a failure of justice,” this is the true story of three children who were brutally murdered in the woods of West Memphis, Arkansas; of three dysfunctional teens who were tried and convicted for the crime despite the lack of substantial evidence; and an eighteen-year legal fight over their continually maintained innocence, until their release in summer 2011 on the paradoxical condition they plead guilty. The Paradise Lost films, beside thrilling us with the legal elements of the case, offer a merciless portrait of the white-trash American province—replete with trailer parks, toothless mouths, and underlying prejudice—in a way reminiscent of Harmony Korine’s breathtaking Gummo. Selected for Sundance and Toronto film festivals in 2012 and was premiered in late December in NY and LA, hopefully this one will be as good as the previous ones while giving us what we still lack—closure. (Cristina Travaglini)

Film still of Miami Connection
Courtesy of Drafthouse

Forgotten B-Movie Masterpiece Miami Connection

January 4 2013
6:30 PM

The 1987 action flick Miami Connection was nationally released in the US for the first time in 2012. A few years ago, Zack Carlson, a movie programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse movie chain, bought a copy of the film on eBay and, after a small screening, realized its huge potential. The film stars (and was produced by) Korean émigré Y.K. Kim, a martial artist and inspirational speaker. Set in Orlando, Florida, it’s the story of aekwondo-themed electro-rock band Dragon Sound and its attempts to fight a cocaine trade controlled by a gang of ninja-bikers. In its opulent enactment of the trashy coolness of 80’s B-movies, Miami Connection might as well be an articulate post-modern prank. But the point of this gesture is that wave—once called “psychotronic” (from the magazine devoted to forgotten low-budget gems)—opposes mainstream cinema not from an “auteur” standpoint but from the ironic, light-hearted perspective of slackers. Miami Connection shows that loving quasi- proper or substandard products still has both viable commercial value and critical relevance. The case also reveals that the ’80s is still a mainstay of current Pop reference. The film’s slightly incoherent plot is more than redeemed by the mustaches, the choreographed fights, the bad lip-synchs, and the bland dialogues, in a setting that strongly recalls the TV we all watched as teens. (Francesco Tenaglia)

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