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Rotterdam 2012: Room 514

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Rotterdam 2012: Room 514

Sharon Bar-Ziv’s debut feature, shot over the course of five days after an intense period of rehearsals, strives for a handheld immediacy and raw emotional power that it only intermittently achieves. More than anything else, Room 514 plays like a stripped-down, if not downright impoverished, version of A Few Good Men, in which an army newcomer’s zeal is pitted against the unwritten, near-atavistic code of old timers and their ruthlessly programmed minions.

When Anna (Asia Neifeld), a Russian-born Israeli soldier serving as an MP, starts to interrogate members of an elite “Samaria Wolves” battalion about an alleged incident of excessive anti-Palestinian violence, she opens a can of worms quite impossible to handle. A young woman standing up to her supposed peers, she has to deal with a torrent of verbal abuse, ranging from sexist remarks (“You cunt”) to political allegations (“You leftie”) to ethnic slurs (“You little Russian”). Her dignity undermined but her resolve undaunted, Anna grows steadier in her sense of purpose after one of the soldiers decides to cooperate. But then things take a unexpectedly tragic turn.

The eponymous room, which comes close to being the movie’s only location, serves both as the interrogation locale and as a nest of passionate, if rushed, trysts between Anna and her fellow soldier Ezer, cheating on his fiancé and proving to be a pathetic wimp to Anna’s stick-in-the-mud class act. The film is an almost wall-to-wall talk-talk affair, shot in long, persistent close-ups that often eschew the conventional sense of editing rhythm; minutes on end can pass without Bar-Ziv granting a reaction shot to what’s being said by one character to another.

Defined by its maker during a post-screening Q&A as “a right-wing movie with a left-wing message,” Room 514 seems appropriately conflicted when it comes to its you-can’t-handle-the-truth politics. On one hand, the film seems enamored of the starched tough-army mystique; on the other, it’s clearly longing for some unattainable ideal of holding all authority fully accountable for everything it does. By the end of the story, Anna is both triumphant and severely admonished for being so, and since Bar-Ziv opts for a facile plot game-changer that has all characteristics of a cop-out, it’s difficult to discern what exactly the movie is saying about the abuses of power within the Israeli army, or anywhere else for that matter.

By the director’s own admission, Room 514 is supposed to serve as a “microcosm of Israeli society” (a puzzling statement for a movie sporting mere five speaking parts), but it’s ultimately too facile for that. As tentative in its politics as it is overwrought in its total reliance on overheated mega-close-ups, Room 514 doesn’t even approach the fierce intelligence and incisiveness of Nadav Lapid’s recent Policeman, which managed to deconstruct various ideologies shaping its characters’ lives, without confining its strategy to one-on-one ping-pong shouting matches. As it stands, Bar-Ziv’s first effort resembles a courtroom drama reduced to the size of an episode of In Treatment, except the HBO series has usually a much wider psychological scope and includes vastly superior acting.

The Rotterdam International Film Festival runs from January 25—February 5.

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Let Your Sanity Go on Vacation with a Trip to the Moons of Madness

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

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Moons of Madness
Photo: Rock Pocket Games

The announcement trailer for Moons of Madness opens with an empty shot of the Invictus, a research installation that’s been established on Mars. The camera lingers over well-lit but equally abandoned corridors, drifting over a picture of a family left millions of kilometers behind on Earth before finally settling on the first-person perspective of Shane Newehart, an engineer working for the Orochi Group. Fans of a different Funcom series, The Secret World, will instantly know that something’s wrong. And sure enough, in what may be the understatement of the year, Newehart is soon talking about how he “seems to have a situation here”—you know, what with all the antiquated Gothic hallways, glitching cameras, and tentacled creatures that start appearing before him.

As with Dead Space, it’s not long before the station is running on emergency power, with eerie whispers echoing through the station and bloody, cryptic symbols being scrawled on the walls. Did we mention tentacles? Though the gameplay hasn’t officially been revealed, this brief teaser suggests that players will have to find ways both to survive the physical pressures of this lifeless planet and all sorts of sanity-challenging supernatural occurrences, with at least a soupçon of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism thrown in for good measure.

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

Rock Pocket Games will release Moons of Madness later this year.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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