I watched 23 films in the month of February. That's not quite one film a day but it isn't bad either. My theme this month was foreign films and I watched 14 movies not made in the United States and not initially using the English language. I write "initially" because I watched a few low budget Italian horror films and I could only find them in dubbed versions. Still, I call that a victory. My tentative theme for March is Madness. No, I won't be watching basketball movies, or even sports ones. But rather I'm using the basketball nomenclature and
February 2020 Archives
Foreign Film February comes to and end with a lot of very American movies and the conclusion of a terrific French series.
A very good introduction to the band and their music.
ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas is a documentary that tells the story of the band, from their origins through to 1983's Eliminator, their eighth and most commercially successful studio album. Guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill, and drummer Frank Beard sit for separate interviews until finally being gathered together for the final few minutes of the film. Throughout, there's a lot of cool archival footage and famous fans such as Billy Bob Thorton, Josh Homme, Steve Miller, and Dan Auberach also share their thoughts. Dusty Hill, an Elvis fan, grew up in Dallas. While kids, he started
The gang returns for a new adventure outside of Arendelle.
Frozen II represents a new pinnacle in feature film animation, with dazzling artistic and technical prowess, a surprising and engaging story, and the total mastery of its returning cast, directors, and songwriters. The only possible explanation for its absolutely shocking omission from the list of Oscar animated film nominees is lingering Frozen fatigue six long years on from the original blockbuster phenomenon, even though two other franchise sequels made the cut and the far inferior Toy Story 4 took the prize. Returning screenwriter and co-director Jennifer Lee has crafted a rewarding tale that kept me intrigued to the end. While
Paramount Pictures Announces 'A Quiet Place' Double Feature Fan Event in Advance of 'A Quiet Place Part II' Opening
In A Quiet Place Part II, the Abbott family must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence.
Press release: Paramount Pictures today announced that on Wednesday, March 18th, it will be offering fans of A Quiet Place the chance to relive the original film in select theatres and be the first to go beyond the path and experience the next installment, A Quiet Place Part II before it arrives in theatres nationwide, Friday, March 20th. Tickets for the double feature go on sale today, as ticketing launches nationwide for A Quiet Place Part II at https://www.aquietplacemovie.com/ Tickets can also be purchased at the box office at participating locations. The start time for the double feature is 7:00PM
A well-acted, thorough dramedy that avoids condescension over its subject matter.
It seems that even in today’s society, the idea of a woman not wanting to be a parent is viewed as somewhat unholy. In Saint Frances, 34-year old Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) is stuck with the pressure of being one once she has an unexpected pregnancy. Although she wants to have an abortion, Bridget tries navigating the ups and downs of motherhood with her job as a nanny to six-year old Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams) aiding her on her self-discovery. Initially, Bridget’s job is just a job to her. A way for her to get by as she deals with what her
A bold new direction for a well-worn franchise, and it works extremely well.
I've been riding the Alien train for the better part of 40 years now, and through the franchises high points and low, there's often a reliance on the familiar. How many times is Ellen Ripley going to show up, or some other female protagonist? Or Weyland-Yutani, a.k.a, "The Company"? Will it be Colonial Marines this time or blue-collar scoundrels going to war with a retrofitted blowtorch and some IEDs? There's a lot of sameyness in the universe, and while the thought of cruising through another Alien book was still interesting to me, I was prepared to sigh at repeated trope
Although it feels like it takes sides, Tread is a moderately neutral documentary.
Tread is more of a cinematic recreation of real events than a documentary. It's so cinematic that if it wasn't a true story it would have been a perfect revenge thriller. It's what I would call the marriage of tragedy and a vigilante revenge thriller. Marvin Heemeyer, the subject, is treated as the tragic hero with a proper hero's arc. All he wants is a peaceful life free of hurdles but when the world throws hindrances at him and keeps doing that for over 13 years, it's time for the working-class hero to pick up his weapon and fight back.
I'm not one prone to hyperbole but Deadly Manor might be the stupidest movie I've ever seen.
A group of teenagers decides to go camping at the lake. Four of them are in a Jeep, two drive a motorcycle (this will be important later). None of them seem to know where it is. The one guy who has been there before only has vague notions. No one even knows what the lake is called. They can’t find it on a map. Someone suggests that maybe it is too small to be on one. They pick up a scraggly looking hitchhiker. He says he knows where that lake is. He doesn’t say where he is going but he
A fearless, influential 1990 LGBTQ documentary headlines a new week of great releases.
As a member of the LGBTQ community, I'm always trying to find documents that depict our lives, especially with honesty and accuracy. There have been major ones about our hopes and struggles, including The Celluloid Closet, The Times of Harvey Milk, and How to Survive a Plague. However, the one I always seem to think about often is Jennie Livingston's brave and vital Paris Is Burning (1990), which depicts New York City's African American and Latinx Harlem drag-ball scene during the 1980s. It's a powerful and insightful look at the warmth and acceptance of people on the outskirts of a
Chasing Whiskey Documentary Brings the Untold Story of Jack Daniel's to Cinema Audiences Nationwide - May 11 Only
Journey across the globe to discover the heart and history of Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey.
Press release: The new documentary Chasing Whiskey - The Untold Story of Jack Daniel’s premieres in movie theaters across the country as a one-night event on May 11. More than a simple narrative of the origins and impact of Jack Daniel’s, the documentary joins Tim Matheson, Shooter Jennings, Eric Church, John Grisham, Tina Sinatra and more, on a 57,000 mile journey across five countries and 17 time zones that is equal parts thought provoking, insightful, moving and hilarious. Tickets for “Chasing Whiskey” can be purchased at www.FathomEvents.com and participating theater box offices. Fathom Events and Movie City Films, in association
There's a little bit for everyone - Stephen King fans, French film buffs, Italian horror fans, arthouse nerds - in this week's cool things.
Last month, I watched, on average, over one movie per day. I knew going into February I would not keep up with that schedule. My plan was to watch some of the many television shows I'd missed that everyone keeps talking about. I've managed to not only not watch as many films but also I've hardly watched any series. It has just been one of those months where my pop-culture consumption has been down. Luckily, this week the things I did consume happened to also be pretty cool and so I have plenty to talk about. Bed and Board The
Sundance Film Festival 2020 Review: Biggest Festival Highlights Handle Themes of Home and Immigration
Both "I Carry You with Me" and "Minari" are insightful looks at immigration, family, and the feeling of home.
The Sundance Film Festival is typically a strong hub for breakout indies that are U.S.-based and in the English language. However, the two best films from this year’s festival are not only foreign language titles, but interestingly, pictures about people trying to build a better life for themselves in America. One thrives thanks to its filmmaking flare while the other succeeds with its simple balance of humor and drama. The former film is I Carry You with Me, a harmonious portrait of queer love that also shows how love can transcend distance. As aspiring chef Ivan (Armando Espitia) falls for
A spooky premise and an excellent set of extras can't save this trilogy of films from getting hung up on.
A group of friends are hanging out. A cell phone rings, but nobody recognizes the ringtone. Finally, someone realizes it is hers but by the time she gets to it, she’s missed the call. The caller ID says it is from herself. Stranger still is that it is dated a couple of days in the future. There is a voicemail. It is from the girl who owns the phone. It begins with her talking about something innocuous - that it is starting to rain or some such thing - and ends with her screaming. That’s strange, everyone agrees, but it
Henri-Georges Clouzot tale of doomed love works like a film nor in a melodrama setting.
Manon Lescaut is an 18th Century novel by Antoine François Prévost. It was controversial at the time of its release, for it depicted a woman so full of greed she’d resort to low morals (cheating on her husband, turning to prostitution) in order to live the lifestyle she preferred. It was banned for a time in its native France, which of course means it was extremely popular. Twenty years after publication, an acceptable version was printed, toning down the scandalous details and injecting moralizing disclaimers. It remains a classic, so much so that my wife, ever the lover of French
Superstar artist writes and illustrates the fan-favorite ninja commando in upcoming G.I. Joe miniseries, debuting in June.
Press release: IDW Publishing is proud to share the first look at Snake Eyes: Deadgame #1, the first issue of an explosive new comic book miniseries written and illustrated by Rob Liefeld (X-Force, Deadpool)! Snake Eyes has long been the most mysterious member of the G.I. JOE team, but within the pages of Deadgame, he’ll finally be forced to play his hand! How long can he keep his past classified… and what deadly secrets will come back to haunt him? “G.I. JOE was my first obsession. Those were the toys in the sandbox with me, kung fu grip, eagle eye,
This puzzlingly fascinating masterwork from 1968 gets new life.
The late director Pier Paolo Pasolini was a very controversial filmmaker to begin with. His often taboo-breaking subject matter didn't exactly sit well with most critics and audiences, not to mention censorship laws. However, that's what made him one of the greatest in film history. He did films his way, with provocative themes, such as sex, religion, philosophy, and art, and how they can sometimes coexist in the same surface. His 1968 subversive classic, Teorema, definitely did just that. The film stars the great Terence Stamp as a handsome, and perplexing figure, known only as "The Guest", who mysteriously appears
The Great War is not terrible, but it’s nothing that special.
If you can’t guess what this film is about, all you need to do is google “The Great War” and you immediately know this is about World War I. There have been a lot of films and stories about Vietnam and World War II but not nearly as many about this war. It’s probably no coincidence that this finds its way to DVD right when 1917 has come out. It’s quite common for studios to pump out films with similar topics and themes at the same time. But the two topics it deals with that set it apart from the
A radical 1968 Pasolini masterwork tops a new week of releases.
The late, controversial director Pier Paolo Pasolini made his dangerous mark on cinema with blunt stories of taboo-breaking material, such as sex and religion, and how the two can sometimes coexist. There is his 1962 breakthrough, Mamma Roma, with Anna Magnani playing a former prostitute who becomes a market trader; his trilogy of life: The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, and Arabian Nights, and his most shocking final film, Salo: Or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975). But his finest work is 1968's Teorema (theorem), which remains a timely story about the masks we wear, and our true selves hiding underneath
With its swing-for-the-fences filmmaking and dynamite acting, Birds of Prey flies pretty sky high.
Given how Margot Robbie was one of the few saving graces of Suicide Squad, it should come as no surprise she was given a Harley Quinn spinoff. Despite the film being called Birds of Prey, it’s chiefly about the story of Harley Quinn and her journey towards independence and avoiding being defined by the men she’s served. It’s a journey done with such kinetic flare by director Cathy Yan and slight political undertones with its depiction of a group of diverse women combatting white male chauvinism. Birds of Prey follows Harley Quinn as she slowly joins forces with vigilante Huntress
Celebration to take place Friday, April 17 during the 2020 TCM Classic Film Festival.
Press release: Turner Classic Movies (TCM) today announced it will honor iconic actress and comedian Lily Tomlin with a hand and footprint ceremony at the world-famous TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX in Hollywood during the eleventh annual TCM Classic Film Festival on Friday, April 17. Tomlin, a Tony, Grammy, eight time Emmy, and two time Peabody Award winner, has had a remarkable career starting in the 1960s starring in cinematic classics, television staples and on stage. “Lily Tomlin’s talent has endured for fifty years because she knows who she is. She’s managed to play broadly drawn roles alongside more nuanced characters
Another week, more cool things.
Last week, I talked about how the themes of this month were going to be foreign films and films made by and starring people of color, in honor of Black History Month. I have utterly failed on that last one. Films by people of color are a large hole in my cinematic viewing history and I really do need to start filling it. But like so many other times when I’ve failed at watching certain types of films during one month, it all comes down to availability. White males have dominated the film industry since there was a film industry,
Swamp Thing (2019): The Complete Series Blu-ray Review: What Is and What (Unfortunately) Will Never Be
The complete first and only season of DC Universe’s Swamp Thing shows what could have potentially been a great series.
It was doomed from the beginning. Before making its debut on the DC Universe streaming service, Swamp Thing had its initial 13-episode first season cut to 10 episodes. Then, once it finally premiered, the show was cancelled after the airing of the pilot episode. The series was able to play out the remaining nine episodes, as the show aired weekly and didn’t release all at once. But the fate of the series was already determined, and those who stuck with it to the end, hoping to get at least some kind of closure, were left gravely disappointed. It’s a pity,
Six titles in May.
Hold off on that summer vacation budget because Criterion will be releasing six titles in May. They are John Sturges's The Great Escape; Dorothy Arzner's Dance, Girl, Dance; Paul Dano's Wildlife; John Cassavetes's Husbands; Scorsese Stories, a compilation of five early short films by Martin Scorsese; and given a Blu-ray upgrade Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales collection. Read on to learn more about them. Six Moral Tales (#342) out May 5 The multifaceted, deeply personal work of Eric Rohmer has had an effect on cinema unlike any other. One of the founding critics of the history-making Cahiers du cinéma, Rohmer
From GKIDS and distributed by Shout!Factory comes acclaimed animated features from Studio Ghibli.
Press release: Studio Ghibli and GKIDS, with distribution by Shout! Factory, will release Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo, from the famed Studio Ghibli library of films, on May 12 in limited edition SteelBook packaging with striking new art. The Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo SteelBooks will house Blu-ray & DVD combo packs, presenting the films alongside hours of bonus features and a booklet with stunning art and statements from the filmmakers. With this release, films from one of the world’s most coveted animation collections can come home to collectors in limited edition SteelBook packaging for the first time in North
Fans of variety shows and of this era of television should enjoy these episodes.
Sonny & Cher started as a singing duo and had their first big #1 hit in 1965 with “I Got You Babe” off their debut album, Look at Us. They never reached the same heights of success and failed with a couple of attempts at making a movie. They headed to nightclubs where they added comedy to their act with Sonny the butt of Cher's jokes and put-downs. After successful guest appearances and a TV special, CBS head of programming Fred Silverman hired them for a summer-replacement series that debuted in the summer of 1971 and ran for six episodes.
Writer/director Emerald Fennell presents an electrifying yet melancholic revenge tale with a masterful Carey Mulligan performance.
When Promising Young Woman begins, a cover of the song “It’s Raining Men” plays in the background as Cassie (Carey Mulligan) walks in broad daylight covered in blood. That song perfectly illustrates how it’s practically hunting season for Cassie who’s ready to combat the male species and will emasculate any strange man that she crosses paths with. After a terrible incident happened in her college years, forcing her to drop out, Cassie has been on a downward spiral with the film following her pursuit of justice over what happened. It also follows Cassie finding peace within herself, resulting in the
One of the best '80s slasher films, My Bloody Valentine returns to Blu-ray with newly restored video and audio.
My Bloody Valentine was, if not quite a box-office bomb, a severe disappointment. It was released right at the height of the slasher craze, a year after Friday the 13th had directly copied the formula of John Carpenter's wildly successful Halloween, upped the gore factor, and turned what was a phenomenon into an entire genre. Cheap and easy to make, most slasher movies were throwaways, only interesting in their sometimes innovative and gruesome special effects. And despite hitting the basic tropes spot on (takes place on a holiday, has a masked killer in an interesting costume, and plenty of "teenagers"
Alfonso Cuaron's hauntingly beautiful portrait of 1970's Mexico headlines a new week of releases.
When Green Book won the Oscar for best picture, it immedidately became a controversy, simply because it was a rather terrible pick, and also a safe choice. It felt more like a conventional Oscar-bait movie more than anything. The Academy really screwed up there, because Alfonso Cuaron's 2018 masterwork, Roma, should have been the choice. Not only was it arugably the best film of that year, but it was one of the best films of 2010s. Cuaron really hit his stride with his sharply moving depiction of not only its central family, but also Mexico at a certain time and
A 24-hour programming tribute airing on March 5 and special screening scheduled for TCM Classic Film Festival.
Press release: Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will celebrate the life and career of seminal actor Kirk Douglas with a 24-hour programming tribute on Thursday, March 5 as well as a special screening of Spartacus (1960) at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood in April. Douglas, who passed away on Feb. 5 at the age of 103, was known for his iconic work in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Acting in more than 80 movies before he retired in 2004, Douglas was recognized for breaking the Hollywood Blacklist by hiring Dalton Trumbo to write his film Spartacus (1960). He earned
An impressive endeavor with so many interesting things going on.
The NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show traces its roots back to the NAPDA (National Association of Piano Dealers of America), which formed in 1901 and had its first trade show in 1902. It was first held in Anaheim, California in 1976 and has returned many times since. Attendance is open to NAMM members, “pro audio professionals and buyers representing non-member companies, venues and houses of worship, as well as music educators and music majors,” and members of the media. This was my first time attending, and while I have visited numerous trade shows over the years, including San
Foreign Film February is off to a great start.
After a very successful January in which I watched many films from director Jean-Pierre Melville, I couldn’t decide on a theme for the month of February. I knew I wanted to go with some kind of topical theme rather than choosing another director or star as I feared choosing another director would mean that each month would be nothing but directors and perhaps actors, and it seems more fun to mix it up. Eventually, I narrowed it down to two choices: movies made by or starring African Americans as it is Black History Month, or foreign language films as Foreign
Rashaad Ernesto Green's second film features a stellar, intimate performance from co-writer Zora Howard, only to be let down by a weak third act.
When you first see Ayanna (Zora Howard), she looks to be in her element. She laughs with friends on the subway, flirting with guys standing opposite them. She chats without effort, but with speed and fluidity, in control of her surroundings. It provides a stark contrast to Ayanna only 90 minutes later, as Rashaad Ernesto Green’s Premature follows this 17-year-old through her summer before her first year of college. Ayanna wants to be a writer, and her poetry’s used as voiceover throughout the film, providing a constant rhythm to the coming-of-age drama. A few minutes into the film, she meets
Featuring all nine episodes from Danny McBride’s latest hilarious comedy plus bonus content.
Press release: Danny McBride returns and reunites the creative team behind Vice Principals and Eastbound and Down with HBO’s latest hit comedy The Righteous Gemstones. Ahead of the show’s second season, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is set to release The Righteous Gemstones: The Complete First Season on DVD April 14, 2020 for $24.98 SRP ($29.98 SRP in Canada). The two-disc set features all nine hilarious episodes plus an “Invitation to the Set” bonus feature. In addition to McBride, the comedic cast stars many familiar faces as series regulars including John Goodman (Roseanne, Treme), Edi Patterson (Vice Principals), Adam Devine (Pitch
It's like Seinfeld. A movie about nothing.
Sean Durkin's awaited follow-up to Martha Marcy May Marlene has the makings of a strong retro thriller, yet succumbs to being like a feature-length film adaptation of the SNL skit The Needlers only with a more dour atmosphere. It’s almost two hours of a couple who clearly should be getting a divorce, yet choose to remain together because they’re evident masochists. Here’s a quick overview as to who these masochists are. Rory (Jude Law) is a British businessman who moves his family back to London because he’s unsatisfied with the house and job he has in America. This upsets his
With puzzles and perils awaiting them in every car, and the relentless Steward on their trail, will Tulip ever find a way off the train and return home?
Press release: Created by Owen Dennis (former writer and storyboard artist from Regular Show), Cartoon Network’s mysterious and critically acclaimed series Infinity Train: Book One will be released on DVD on April 21, 2020 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Go on a journey will all 10 episodes from the first season and bring home some extra magic with over an hour of epic bonus features including commentaries, documentaries, animatics, and more! Infinity Train: Book One DVD is priced to own at $14.97 SRP ($16.99 in Canada). Join Tulip on a mind-bending journey aboard the mysterious Infinity Train, alongside her companions
Which of these titles would you like to see on the big screen?
Press release: The TCM Classic Film Festival will return for its 11th consecutive year and is set to take place Thursday, April 16 - Sunday, April 19, 2020 in Hollywood, CA. The following films have been added to the program: Dick Powell and Linda Darnell star in a U.S. premiere restoration of the fantastical comedy IT HAPPENED TOMORROW (1944); Harry Belafonte, Mel Ferrer and Inger Stevens star as the only living people in a post-apocalyptic city in THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1959) presented here in a new 35mm print; Vincent Price is the title character in a
Trey Edward Shults' latest is ambitious and also aggravatingly flawed.
The use of popular music can make or break certain scenes in movies. Martin Scorsese knows this, even though he uses the same Rolling Stones song (“Gimme Shelter,” for example) or variations of it in a lot of his movies. But no matter the song, its placement is practically perfect. Others, like David O. Russell, struggle in this department. The Fighter went for the obvious with Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle Again” and The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?” Silver Linings Playbook had a terrible use of Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be,” during an argument
The Garden Left Behind blossoms thanks to its central performance and effective storytelling.
When artists like Alicia Vikander and Jared Leto win prestigious awards for movies handling the trans experience, dedicating their awards to the transgendered community, it begs the question of whether trans artists themselves will be able to tell their own stories. Well, thanks to the FX series Pose, along with movies like A Fantastic Woman and the latest film The Garden Left Behind, they are able to be more front and center. Additionally, The Garden Left Behind digs into not only the experience of being trans in America, but a trans woman of color. How people are threatened just by
A U.S. anime hit returns with a pair of mediocre sequel series that totally misunderstand the original's appeal.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided the writer with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this article. The opinions shared are his own. FLCL (pronounced Furry Kurry or Fooly Cooly, dependent on one's mood) looked like it was the beginning of something. It was a direct-to-video anime series released in 2000-2001, which at the time in Japan generally meant a series that a production company was given a larger budget to produce higher quality animation, without the restrictions that were placed on anime television so the content was directed by the vision of the creator. And FLCL, written by
Arrow Video presents this late entry into the slasher genre that spends too much time developing character when it should be chopping up bodies with an axe.
It is always fascinating to me when the makers of low-budget slasher films try to inject their films with an actual story and well-developed characters. This seems rather pointless when all fans of the genre want is attractive people being hacked to death in creative ways. This is especially interesting as the majority of people who make low-budget slasher films wouldn’t know an interesting story if it slapped them in the face with a black leather glove, nor a well-developed character if it stabbed them in the eye with a shiny, sharp knife. Edge of the Axe is a Spanish-American
An underrated 1994 Spike Lee dramedy headlines a diverse week of good releases.
When it comes to the coming-of age film, Spike Lee is not exactly the first director that comes to mind. However, with his 1994 sleeper hit, Crooklyn, I think he made one of the very best films about youth and family during a certain time and place. With an amazing soundtrack and great performances from Alfre Woodard, Delroy Lindo, and especially newcomer at the time, Zelda Harris (in her film debut), you get a classic that mostly hits all the right notes. The story is set in Brooklyn, New York, 1973, when eight-year-old Troy Carmichael (Harris) tries to navigate growing
A mother's confession letter that is sure to resonate with the entire world.
If For Sama is a painting, pain is the brush. If it is a book, anguish is the pen. If it's metamorphosized into a human, a mother's love suffuses its heart while the fear and anger fill the mind. For Sama is beyond a personal film. Beneath the evident horrors intimately captured by the Waad Al-Kateab, the subject, narrator, and co-director of the film, lies a mother's confession letter to her daughter. "Heart-wrenching" is a milder word to describe the horrors, while befittingly construes a mother's agony. The agony is personal, but it resonates with the world, being the profoundly
Ben Whishaw carries a bold directorial feat that's like Uncut Gems on Valium.
Ben Whishaw has a knack for playing characters down on their luck with Joseph from Surge being the latest entry in his niche. Fed up with his soul-sucking day job as an airport security worker, Joseph decides to seek reckless adrenaline to get out of his sedate existence. His pursuit of thrills leads him down a path of criminal activity and self-destruction. As far as storytelling goes, that’s all Surge is. An employee in the service industry getting out of his boredom just for a day. Yet, writer/director Aneil Karia still makes it a vivid filmmaking experiment. Once the film
January was a great month for cool things. Here's hoping February has just as many.
I officially watched 34 movies in the month of January. That’s more than one movie per day. That’s a record for me. Only nine of those were movies I’d previously viewed. Six of those were from Jean-Pierre Melville, my Artist of the Month. I really enjoyed trying to watch a bunch of Melville films in January. I didn’t see all of the movies he directed but that’s a pretty good chunk. I’m not sure what my theme will be in February, but I’ll have to decide by tonight. I also suspect I won’t keep up my pace. There are a