In today's extremely terrifying times, where Donald Trump continues his reign of terror, you have to look back at the paranoid thrillers in the past, especially in the 1960s and 70s, to see how eerily relevant their stories have remained. There was The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days In May, Z, The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, among others. However, I think that 1975's quietly brutal The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, directed by Volker Schlondorff and Margarethe von Trotta, takes it even further with its stinging commentary on absued power, individual morals, and media manipulation. The film stars
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Volker Schlondorff and Margarethe von Trotta's 1975 disturbingly modern political thriller tops a new week of releases.
Roman Polanski's super underrated 1976 creepfest headlines a new week of releases.
Yes, I know that Roman Polanski is a very controversial figure today, and what he did in mid to late 1970s was incredibly wrong on every single level. However, sometimes you can separate the art from the artist, and Polanski is a true artist. From his stunning 1962 feature-length debut Knife in the Water, to his thrilling 2011 effort The Ghost Writer, he has proved that he can be a filmmaker of incredible eclecticism and sheer craft. In 1976, he concluded his 'Apartment trilogy' with perhaps his most underrated, but still creepy as hell, The Tenant, which takes paranoia to
Noah Baumbach's marvelous portrait of a marriage reaching its not-so-simple end tops a new week of interesting releases.
As I pointed out in my recent review for Marriage Story, director Noah Baumbach's soulful and deeply intense 2019 film, is an incredibly rich and sublimely acted portrait of a very broken marriage consisting of two people who realize that their journey together has really run its course. Like Kramer vs. Kramer, The Squid and the Whale (also directed by Baumbach), and Scenes from a Marriage, the film (at times funny and brutal) refuses to take sides, because Charlie and Nicole Barber (beautifully played by both Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson) both have logical viewpoints. Charlie, a New York theater
A mammoth box set featuring five standout films of the greatest martial artist of all-time tops a new week of great releases.
As we all know, the legendary Bruce Lee is/was the most influential figure in the history of martial arts, bar none. His legacy still continues to leave its mark on icons from Jackie Chan to Jet Li to Donnie Yen to Chow Yun Fat, and so on. He wasn't just a very physically perfect specimen; he also had the magnetism and charisma to complete the whole package. Although many of the films he made didn't have the best and most coherent plots, it didn't matter because he was in them. He was so amazing in his unfortunately brief time on-screen
A slightly dated, but very chilling sci-fi classic tops a new week of releases.
The 1950s was decade of sheer uncertainty and paranoia due to the threat of the Cold War and imminent doom for the entire human race. Because of this, there were many incredible sci-fi films that emulated that while also taking the themes of impending danger and aliens invading Earth even further into reality, where the stories and plots didn't seem so far-fetched. Director Bryon Haskin and legendary producer George Pal's influential 1953 classic, The War of the Worlds, is definitely one of the very best of them. The film starts off with a strange, mysterious meteor-like object landing in a
A 1985 harrowing and horrifying antiwar masterpiece headlines a new week of diverse releases.
"War is hell" is a famous phrase that many films have demonstrated, in sometimes painful or painfully graphic detail. It's not easy to get into the war film, because it opens up some major wounds, especially for veterans who really want to keep the sorrows and trauma of either killing the enemy or witnessing death all around them under the rug. There have been so many films that have shown war at its more horrible and soul-crushing, but arguably no other film in history has done so more frighteningly than Elem Klimov's deeply disturbing 1985 masterwork, Come and See. It's
A ravishing tale of the enrapturement of love and art through the eyes of women tops a new week of releases.
As we all know, June is #Pride month, and it is one of a celebration of the triumphs and struggles of the LGBTQ community. It can also be a reflection of how far cinema has come in its depiction of gay and lesbian relationships through love, yearning, and art. There is a sense of feminism that comes along with certain stories of same-sex companionship, and rightly acclaimed director Céline Sciamma's sexy and evocative Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), is one of the very best examples. The film also successfully details the obsessions that artists have with their subjects.
Buster Keaton's seminal 1928 masterpiece tops a new week of very interesting releases.
What else can you say about the legendary Buster Keaton (one of three kings of silent cinema, alongside Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd)? He was known as "the Great Stone Face", capable of delivering sheer emotion using his famous deadpan expression and superb physical and otherworldly visual gags to tell stories of his underdog characters put in often dangerous situations but rising above and winning the girl. However, as much as I do love his early classics, such as The General, Steamboat Bill Jr., and Seven Chances, one of my two favorites of his has to the 1928 elaborate masterwork,
A groundbreaking 1978 classic about a woman's reawakening starts off a new week of several low-key releases.
In a way, the 1970s was the decade of the woman. There were many films about women coming into their own, especially during the time of feminism. However, if there was one film that really captured the essence of the new, liberated woman, it was Paul Mazursky's 1978 game-changer, An Unmarried Woman, which also gave the late, great Jill Clayburgh not only her first Oscar nomination, but the most defining role of her career as a woman on the verge of a breakdown, but eventually picks herself up, dusts herself off, and begins life anew. Clayburgh stars as Erica Benton,
The greatest shark attack film ever made celebrates its 45th anniversary and tops a new week of releases.
What else can be said about Steven Spielberg's 1975 masterpiece Jaws that hasn't been said already? The legendary film has influenced pop culture ever since its release 45 years ago. Its now-famous (albeit complicated) production; superb direction; John Williams score; the amazing performances from Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw; and the still iconic opening remain the stuff of movie lore. Whether you've seen the film countless times or coming into it as a newbie, you're guaranteed to opt to stay on dry land. It continues to be one of the greatest films ever made, and a definite cautionary
A collection of early shorts by the legendary Martin Scorsese headlines a new week of stellar releases.
As we all know, Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema. His style, techinque, and craft have been imitated and influential since his 1967 debut, Who's That Knocking at My Door? However, he is also a truly gifted artist who became a major figure of the New Hollywood era during the late '60s and '70s, especially when he made short films during his time at NYU. The five shorts that accompy the release from Criterion, signify his artistic and innovative developments that would eventually lead to one of the most seminal and important directing
A flamboyant, but highly important watermark of feminist filmmaking headlines a new week of eclectic releases.
The iconic Dorothy Arzner was definitely an legend in the history of cinema. She was the only female director working in Hollywood during the "Golden Age", from the 1920s to the early 1940s, where she retired in 1943. She subverted the expectations of how women were depicted in film. Most of her characters were independent women trying to forge their own lives, and careers, without the usual scornful male dominance. Despite her body of work, it was her 1940 landmark, Dance, Girl, Dance, that would confirm her place in film lore. The film stars Maureen O'Hara and Lucille Ball as
A slightly flawed, but still exciting 1963 John Sturges classic starts off a new week of releases.
A lot of things have been said about director John Sturges' admire 1963 anti-war classic, The Great Escape. Audiences and critics have enjoyed it as one of the great ensemble films ever made; a rousing and thrilling escapist film with many memorable set pieces; and another star-making vehicle for 'The King of Cool', Steve McQueen. McQueen, James Garner, Sir Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, among other iconic actors, star as allied prisoners of war who plan an impossible escape for themselves and several hundred others from a German war camp during World War II. In typical fashion,
Six legendary films by one of the most revered filmmakers of all-time headlines a new week of releases.
The late, great Eric Rohmer (1920-2010) was a film critic, journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and teacher. However, he was best known for his gifts as a legendary director, especially of his portraits of the complexities of love and relationships between fragile, albeit clueless men, and the strong, somewhat elusive women who tempt or seduce them (or in certain cases, try to). The six films in the box set, which is going to be released on Blu-ray for the first time, don't exactly have compelling, and complicated plots, they are all a series of boy meets girl, boy flirts or falls for
A 2014 Wes Anderson modern classic tops a new week of releases.
Wes Anderson is one my favorite directors. His films combine quirky characters and deapan humor, but in mostly modern settings. Despite all the comedy, whimsicality, and unpredictability, there is always a subtle emotional streak that lingers underneath. Arguably, I think he has reached his zenith with his 2014 masterwork, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which on the surface seems like a mystery, but oddly enough, it also confronts a very dark side of 20th century European history that was mostly swept under the rug. The film stars Ralph Fiennes as head concierge Gustave H., who tries to keep everything afloat at
A 1984 John Hughes gem rounds up a new week of releases during continuous quarantine.
When iconic director John Hughes passed away in 2009, he definitely left behind a legacy of teen cinema that remains influential and groundbreaking to this day. His stories of teenage drama in the midst of sex, drugs, and peer pressure continues to strike a chord with youth, and his 1984 classic debut, Sixteen Candles, did just that. He also brought us the charming actress who would define the '80s and its teen culture, Molly Ringwald. Ringwald stars as Samantha, an adorable, if not extremely popular teenager reaching her 16th birthday. Adding to her angst is not only her older sister's
It was a rough day and so instead of talking about cool things I'm listening to John Prine.
Tomorrow is Easter. Due to social distancing, we won't be attending church, nor will we be having our traditional dinner with my parents and siblings. We won't be gathering with friends for the annual egg hunt. We will be doing what we've been doing the last several Sundays - we will sit at home watching television, reading books, and generally trying not to get on each other's nerves. We have some plastic eggs and we were planning on filling them with candy and letting my daughter hunt for them in the yard. Then the forecast said rain so we decided
A 1969 Jean-Pierre Melville classic starts off a new week of releases.
Legendary director Jean-Pierre Melville was always adept at captureing humanity under devastating odds. Whether it was people trying to survive wartime (Le Silence De La Mer and Leon Morin, Priest), or the super dark and desparate lives of the gangster (Le Cercle Rouge, Le Doulos, and Le Samourai), Melville was definitely one of the masters of cinema, period. Perhaps the most stark and mercilessly personal of his work is his 1969 thriller, Army of Shadows, which arguably remains his magnum opus. Based on his own experience in the French Resistance and the novel by Joseph Kessel (Belle de Jour), the
James Whale's classic 1936 adaptation of Edna Ferber's epic tops a new week of releases.
Director James Whale was mainly known for crafting legendary horror films/adaptations, such as Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, and The Invisible Man. He wasn't exactly famously connected to other genres, so he seemed like a very odd choice to bring celebrated novelist Edna Ferber's 1926 blockbuster saga, Show Boat, to the big screen. However, his 1936 interpretation of the story is considered to the very best and most faithful telling of Ferber's epic five-decade story of the lives of a theatrical family living on a Mississippi river boat. The great Irene Dunne stars as Magnolia Hawks, a
A very misunderstood '80s cult classic headlines a new week of pretty solid releases.
During the late 1980's, the slasher flick was getting stale, and everyone was trying to either make their own Nightmare on Elm Street, considering how big that film was in 1984, or just simply bailing on the genre. However, there were some standouts near the end of the decade, but for my money, the one that tops them all is Fred Walton's totally underrated 1986 effort, April Fool's Day. I always found this to be an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek fest that has aged way better than its contemporaries. It still contains a style and sense of humor that you don't often
Spike Lee's nightmarishly timely satire tops a new week of releases.
Obviously, when it comes to films that are challenging and confronting, I think that Spike Lee definitely comes to mind. His films are so on the nose, especially when it comes to the depiction of racism and the aftermath of it. From Do the Right Thing to Malcolm X to BlacKkKlansman, he continues to make movies that not only will slap you in the face, but also really give you something to think about. His savage, yet very underrated 2000 masterwork, Bamboozled, does just that. It's a truly uncompromising one that not very many people have seen, but should definitely
A landmark 1968 documentary headlines a new week of some pretty good releases.
The documentary is an often celebrated genre of film that depicts real life, real human behavior, and some of the most infamous moments in history. The famous team of the Maysles Brothers (Albert & David) and Charlotte Zwerin, sit near the top of the list of greatest documentarians, with their iconic portraits of the Rolling Stones disastrous 1969 tour at Altamont (Gimme Shelter), and the eccentric world of the Beales (Big & Little Edie), cousins of Jackie Kennedy (Grey Gardens). With their 1968 masterpiece, Salesman, they successfully captured the brutal and depressing side of an often nihilistic profession. In excruciating,
A box set of legendary director Sergio Leone's greatest classics tops a new week of releases.
Honestly, legendary director Sergio Leone made me a fan of the Western. His take on the not-so-favorite genre is darker, grittier, and more violent than those from the John Ford, or Howard Hawks era. They aren't fun or conventional; they're full of bad people doing very bad things. Although the plots are not the best parts of the films; it's the style, atmosphere, and obivously Ennio Morricone's breathtaking music that takes center stage. With A Fistful of Dollars (1964); For a Few Dollars More (1965); his first masterpiece, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966); his second, Once Upon
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
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
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
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 gorgeous 1999 Almodovar classic tops a new week of stellar releases.
Director Pedro Almodovar is one of the finest filmmakers in the history of film. He is truly the greatest master of the modern melodrama, works of colorful art that features strong women, explicit themes of sexuality, and symbolic approaches to story/plot. In one of his sublime masterworks, All About My Mother (1999), he arguably reached his zenith, by tributing his love and respect for females, their friendships, and the issues that connect them forever. Cecilia Roth stars as Manuela, a nurse whose life is emotionally shaken and devastated after her son gets killed in a hit-and-run accident. She moves to
Lucio Fulci's gore-iffic 1981 haunted house chiller tops a new week of releases.
The late Lucio Fulci will be forever known as the Italian "master of gore." His films have become influential templates of how gruesome blood and guts have been depicted in the horror genre, even if none of the plots are particularly original or inventive. His 1981 haunted house creeper, The House by the Cemetery, tends to get overshadowed by his more popular works, such as Zombie, City of the Living Fead, and The Beyond. However, Cemetery may arguably be his most accessible flick, because there is a sort-of sense of structure taking place that is actually missing from those iconic
Sidney Lumet's 1960 adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play heads a new week of releases.
Legendary director Sidney Lumet (1924-2011) had a knack for creating cinematic creations from some of history's greatest plays, novels, and true stories. Whether it was his iconic examination of Reginald Rose's timeless 12 Angry Men; Al Pacino's Sonny's bizarre bank robbery in Dog Day Afternoon; or a harrowing study of domestic and familial breakdown that surfaces Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, Lumet brought his own stylistic flourishes that continue to be beloved to this today. However, and this is painful for me to do this, but if I had to choose his most divided work, it has to