Capsule reviews for Jan. 25

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Venerable filmmaker Werner Herzog (using footage from a Russian television crew) again finds beauty in some of the world’s most remote landscapes in his latest documentary, in which he examines the daily routines of inhabitants of a snowy Siberian village, where it seems there are two seasons – winter and preparing for winter. The subject matter is unremarkable on the surface, but in this age of gadgets and technological enhancements, it’s refreshing to glimpse contemporary people who are the epitome of rustic self-reliance, as we learn how professional trappers build their own cabins, hunt for their own food, and construct their own canoes from tree trunks. (Not rated, 90 minutes).

 

John Dies at the End

The title doesn’t give anything away in this offbeat and ultraviolent supernatural comedy from director Don Coscarelli (Bubba Ho-Tep), adapted from a novel by David Wong, that’s completely scatterbrained but often funny enough to be forgiven for its flaws. After all, any movie featuring a monster made of frozen cuts of meat must have its virtues. The episodic story follows Dave (Chase Williamson), a slacker who takes an experimental drug that transports him across time and dimensions, only to put mankind in jeopardy in the balance. It’s woefully uneven and overly ambitious, but this silly and amusing nonsense is destined for midnight-movie and frat-house cult status. (Rated R, 99 minutes).

 

The Taste of Money

The latest melodrama about unscrupulous affluence from Korean director Im Sang-soo (The Housemaid) follows a wealthy family in a Seoul mansion that is torn apart by greed, power and sexual impropriety. Specifically, the characters include a rich executive (Baek Yun-shik), his manipulative power-hungry wife (Yoon Yeo-jung), and a young male secretary (Kim Kang-woo) trying to break into the world of high finance. The film hints but never makes clear whether it’s a direct follow-up to The Housemaid. Either way, it’s a feast for the eyes that starves the brain, filled with unsympathetic characters and clichés straight out of Wall Street and other corporate thrillers. (Not rated, 115 minutes).

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