When it comes to classic melodrama, director Douglas Sirk can't be beat. In his films, which usually include themes of class, social status, wealth, and human frailty, these stories play out in rich, elegant Technicolor that you can overlook the sometimes overwrought weepiness. His 1954 effort, Magnificent Obsession, is often his most unconvincing film, but with the talents of Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman on display, you just go with it. The plot of a reckless, loaded playboy running over a distraught widow seems saccharin today, but back then it was an actual story. Again, you just have to go
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A 1954 Douglas Sirk weepfest rounds out a new week of releases.
Alfred Sole's underrated shocker gets a new, superb upgrade courtesy of Arrow.
When it comes to horror cinema, I think 1970s horror stands at the top for me. Everyone, even those who don't particularly care for the genre, has to have at least five or six favorites from that decade. There was something for everyone, meaning that every film, even the not-so-good ones had at least some type of theme to them. The '70s was a decade of hopelessness and uncertainty, and its horror flicks reflected that. Even more so, there were a lot of often overlooked gems that flew under the radar, including Black Christmas (1974), The Crazies (1973), Martin (1977).
A rather unknown 1991 travelogue with one of film culture's greatest scholars headlines a week of new releases.
As much I adore legendary film critic Donald Ritchie, I never knew he made a personal travelogue of his trip to Japan. Reading the premise, I actually found The Inland Sea promising, meaning that an individual allows the viewer to take a journey with them to faraway places. You're able to get a life-changing, or at least a spiritual experience that you wouldn't obviously get otherwise. I wish I had more to say, but I have never really heard of this small film until Criterion announced it for this month. It isn't packed with supplements, but the ones on this
A beguilingly weird swan dive into twisted childhood as if made by David Lynch and Terrence Malick.
When it comes to youth, the rites of passage are always paved with dark uncertainty and a celebral outlook on life. The imagination of children seems to come from bouts of incoming trauma and fear of growing up in a world that often doesn't share the same viewpoint. In a shocking way, The Reflecting Skin, director Philip Ridley's 1990 nightmarish portrait of American Gothic seen through the eyes of a child, definitely does just that while reaching levels of boldness that most directors wouldn't dare tread. Set in 1950s rural Idaho, mischevious eight-year-old Seth Dove (Jeremy Cooper) lives with his
A highly overlooked 1976 slasher headlines a week of interesting releases.
When discussing the slasher genre, the obvious classics: Halloween (1978), A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), Scream (1996), and most notably the granddaddy of them all: Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), always comes to mind. However, Alice, Sweet Alice, director Alfred Sole's 1976 chiller, is not usually on most horror fans' lips. It should be, because it is an unusual blend of terror and religious iconography that will creep you out. It's certainly not for everyone, but that's beside the point. It's also a slow burn filled with eerie uncertainty that brings to mind Don't Look Now (1973), which I think Sole
A 1989 masterpiece tops a new week of interesting releases.
The year 1989 was pretty great for film, although not for the Oscars. The overall winner was Driving Miss Daisy, which was a rather safe choice by the Academy. However, there were two other films that were more accurate, less syrupy representations of racial tension and prejudice: Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, and director Edward Zwick's Glory, which remains an emotionally charged and important picture about not only the bloodiest event in American history, but also the bonds between those not defined by the color of one's skin, but the moral code in which they live by. This is
Spike Lee's 1989 masterpiece tops a week of great releases.
When taking about some of the greatest films ever made, you have to include iconic director Spike Lee's equally iconic 1989 masterwork, Do The Right Thing, which still reverberates even after thirty years. It was a funny, evocative, and dangerous look at a never-ending, hot-button topic that refuses to lay down and die: racism. Honestly, some of us may think that the film seems shaky and a little dated, but that's besides the point. It's a slow burn, sweaty fever-dream that boils to a puzzling, controversial conclusion that reminds us that some things may have changed, but others still stay
A gritty '70s masterwork leads a week of interesting releases.
The 1970s was a hugely groundbreaking decade for film. During this decade, Cinema reflected on the aftermath of Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, women's rights, and the uncertainty of more political unrest. Director Alan J. Pakula reflected this with his unofficial 'paranoid trilogy', which included 1974's The Parallax View and 1976's All The President's Men. However, his 1971 neo-noir thriller, Klute, started it all. It's a film about menace, uncertainty, but also a woman's place in the world. That woman is Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda), a self-liberated call girl who's given one trick too many, and finds herself on the wrong
Fassbinder's classic trilogy stands out during a week of notable releases.
Legendary director Rainer Werner Fassbinder was one of the most uncompromising observers of human nature that cinema had ever known. He was also a rebel with a devil-may-care attitude, but not unsympathetically towards his characters; characters who were outsiders rejected by society and forced to live their lives the only way they knew how. The three films available in the new Blu-ray upgrade for his famous BRD Trilogy: The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979), Veronkia Voss (1982), and Lola (1981), showcase strong women who sacrifice their beauty for the things they want in postwar Germany, but not for the most
Legendary director Jean-Pierre Melville's 1961 non-gangster classic leads a rather slow week of releases.
When talking about the great Jean-Pierre Melville, you're automatically drawn to his gangster oeurve, which he definitely excelled in. This is apparent because of iconic films such as Le Samourai, Le Cercle Rouge, and Le Deuxieme Souffle, among others. However, he was a filmmaker of many talents, reveling in dramas as well, such as Army Of Shadows, Le Silence De La Mer, and his spirtual 1961 effort Leon Morin, Priest, which is my Pick of the Week. It stars film legend Jean-Paul Belmondo as Leon Morin, a man of the cloth who becomes the object of desire of all the
John Cameron Mitchell's 2001 cult classic rounds out a pretty great week of new releases.
Being that this is still Pride month, I think John Cameron Mitchell's Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) makes sense as my Pick of the Week. Although I have only seen the first half of the film, I know that it definitely compares to Rocky Horror as the new Midnight Movie, but with more emotional and oddly realistic poignancy. It also captures the spirit of rock and roll and how it connects within the soul of people who really desire their own voice. In terms of today's unholy and misguided transphobia, I think the film stomps the usual stereotypes to
Jordan Peele's creepy second work headlines a new, interesting release week.
Director Jordan Peele brings us a new cinematic nightmare with his inventive, sophomore effort, Us, which can be described as a home-invasion thriller like no other. However, Peele has some definite tricks up his sleeve. Although he only has two films under his belt (so far), this and his 2017 smash hit, Get Out, he already has garnered the reputation as a new master of horror. His brand of scaring viewers is the level of social horror, where the shocks are metaphors for the real problems that exist the world we live in. With Us, he tackles the hidden terrors
The writer/director crafts a horrifying portrait of humanity forced to look at itself, definite flaws and all.
When comedy icon and new horror master Jordan Peele made his 2017 smash, Get Out, he created a new type of horror, a horror that reflects the social bleakness of the world we live in today, especially in terms of racism. With his fantastically scary 2019 follow-up, Us, he goes even deeper and darker to depict how we have totally lost our identities to excess and privilege. In this case, he gives us a glimpse of something far more sinister and personal underneath the false comfort we have subjected to. The film starts in 1986, where young Adelaide 'Addy' Thomas
A stylish, disturbing, and super cool tale of vampirism from one of the finest Korean directors alive.
After the Twilight franchise nearly ruined the vampire film with its sour and teeny-bopper mix of staleness, Coldplay, and glitter, filmmakers set out to revigorate the genre by telling their own stories of the often bloody, sometimes erotic, and very dark nature of the vampire. Fortunately, there was Let The Right One In (2008), its terrific remake Let Me In (2010), Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), and director Park-Chan Wook's stunning 2009 thriller, Thirst, which lends a superb eye on not just vampirism, but also desire, disease, and the reflection of faith.
An Astaire and Rogers classic headlines a somewhat pivotal week of new releases.
When it comes to classic cinema, I think that the Astaire and Rogers films have to be mentioned somewhere. While they're short on plot, which means that Astaire and Rogers typically play their usual boy-meets-girl, girl-detests-boy, boy-and-girl eventually fall in love schtick. But when it comes to the dancing and musical numbers, they arugbly cannot be beat as perhaps the greatest duo in Hollywood history. And when you have them directed by one of the most celebrated American directors of all-time, Mr. George Stevens, you have a recipe for movie magic. Hence the point, with the new release of 1936's
A bittersweet, slightly satirical look at the dark side of food love.
Being a guy on the chubby side, I can definitely relate to films about the dangers of binge-eating and food addiction. Only a few of them are actually good and quite dark, including La Grand Bouffe; The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover; Super Size Me; and my new favorite, the late, iconic actress Anne Bancroft's 1980 sleeper gem and sole directional effort, Fatso. It's a wholly original and painfully funny take on the devastating obsessions we often have with food, as well as an equally hilarious portrait of Italian-American values and family life. The great comedian Dom
There's no sunshine in Claire Denis's low-key and bleak anti-romantic comedy about the absurdity of what we do for love.
For most people, love is a constant slope towards madness and eventual pain. We crave it, but sometimes, when it's not the type that we desire, we throw it away. Basically, adult relationships are messy, complicated, and according to celebrated director Claire Denis' 2017 bleak comedy, Let The Sunshine In, brutally human. With an amazingly complex and subtle performance by the usually compelling Juliette Binoche, Denis paints a frustratingly truthful portait of love that most directors couldn't or wouldn't touch. Binoche brilliantly plays Isabelle, a divorced but successful painter in Paris, whose frequent demands for love belittle her ultimate desire:
A hypnotizing and provocative film essay of a world reaching oblivion from one of cinema's most radical filmmakers.
Have you ever watched a film and wondered what's actually in the images you're seeing? Have you every looked at the world around you and asked yourself, "How did we get here?" Well, legendary French director Jean-Luc Godard does just that with his 2018 immersive film collage, The Image Book, where he, with his celebrated and also polarizing iconoclasticism, brings the viewer deeper into the cinema process and the difficult world we live in. Godard takes and pieces together fragments and clips from some of the greatest films ever made; digitally alters, bleaches, and washes them, all in the name
Diamonds of the Night Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Story of Youth Under Fire with a Brilliantly Fractured Eye
A startling and very tense debut from the most unflinching director of the now-ancient Czechoslovak New Wave.
There are many similarities between Luis Bunuel and underrated auteur/director Jan Nemec. They both use surrealism to dictate the often limitless boundaries of human behavior. When it comes to their films, you don't really know which is reality, and which is fantasy. However, you want to watch their cinema repeatedly to uncover more details that missed the first time around. While Bunuel depicts human behavior with a satirical edge, Nemec directs his films with surrealist details, but which a more serious viewpoint, especially when it comes to war and how it affects people in a certain time and place. This
Chloe Grace Moretz's amazing performance anchors this timely, funny, and at times difficult film of a sadly still existing subject.
The fact that conversion therapy still exists is appalling to me, and it is still a controversial topic that rarely gets talked about. However, there have been at least a few films that dealt with it in their own satirical or dramatic ways, such as But I'm A Cheerleader (1999), and last year's Boy Erased. But for me, I think that director Desiree Akhavan's understated and challenging The Miseducation of Cameron Post, also from last year, gets it right the most with its mix of humor, drama, and honesty. Based on the acclaimed novel by Emily M. Danforth, the film
A fascinating and utterly charming documentary about the true beauty of New York City.
There are 8,000 miles in New York City; miles that we all know, or have seen in movies and TV. But, what do we really know, especially about the unknown miles that remain usually ignored in this greatest of cities. That's what Matt Green discovers in Jeremy Workman's endearing 2018 documentary, The World Before Your Feet, which not only shows how beautiful New York City really is, but also how our curiosity can sometimes lead us to big and interesting adventures. This doc depicts Matt Green, an enigmatic modern-day Thoreau who goes on a five-borough journey from the many barbershops
A remarkable and impeccably acted portrait of 1950s suburban malaise from the early 2000s.
The partnership of acclaimed director Todd Haynes and actress Julianne Moore should be ranked up there with the collaborative works of Scorsese/De Niro, Allen/Keaton, and Burton/Depp, among others. Haynes and Moore have crafted some major and incredible films in the past two decades, such as Safe (1995), I'm Not There (2007), and Wonderstruck (2017). However, 2002's Far From Heaven, is where they both hit their stride. With this film, you truly get the essence of how brilliantly they work together. The story (an obvious tribute to Douglas Sirk's melodramas, especially All That Heaven Allows) is set in 1950s Connecticut, where
As unflinchingly honest and unforgiving as a film can ever get.
War is Hell. They're have been many films that tackled the often difficult subject of war, and its effects on humanity. And arguably none come more terrifying and brutal than Ingmar Bergman 1968's stunner, Shame. Although less remembered than some of his other films, such as The Seventh Seal, Persona, and Cries and Whispers, it's no less harsh and bleak, as well as unflinchingly honest and unforgiving as a film can ever get. Bergman mainstays and film legends Liv Ullmann and Max Von Sydow star as Eva and Jon Rosenberg, former musicians who escape the city engulfed in a civil
One of the very best films of 2018.
Director Hirokazu Kore-eda has made some of the best portraits of humanity for over two decades. These are stories of human beings in constant states of emotional and physical limbo that seem rare, honest, and fresh. They also describe certain parts of society that are usually and often overlooked in film. These amazing films include After the Storm, Still Walking, Nobody Knows, and Like Father, Like Son. However, I think his wonderful 2018 masterpiece, Shoplifters, is where he has reached his zenith. The film takes place in the margins of Tokyo, where a dysfunctional "family" of misfits makes ends meet
A very underappreciated masterpiece of toxic masculinity and bleak relationships.
When it comes to underappreciated figures of film, none are more legendary and important than Elaine May. After a successful series of improvisational comedy routines from the 1950s with the late, great Mike Nichols, she later developed a career as a very talented director and screenwriter with a deft and savage eye for complicated relationships. Even with brilliant films such as A New Leaf (1971), The Heartbreak Kid (1972), and her 1976 masterpiece, Mikey and Nicky, she continues to be often overlooked, because apparently, filmmaking only belongs to men. This should never be the case, because when talking about May,
A sobering, if slight look at teenage alcoholism.
After The Exorcist, Linda Blair's career got a bad rap because nothing else came close to the level of success she got from that film. Her later films such as Exorcist II, Roller Boogie, and Repossessed tarnished her credibility as a serious actress, especially considering the many Razzie nominations she unfortunately received throughtout. However, she did excel in demanding TV-movies where she played the much-abused victim. In director Richard Donner's 1977 TV movie, Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, she proved that she could handle uncomfortable subject matter, giving an unusually realistic portrayal of a young girl on the
An unflinching and sadly relevant drama of violence and ongoing oppression.
Racism is one those things that just doesn't seem to go away. Every day you turn on the news to find more unarmed black men being shot by white cops; white people calling the police on innocent black people, and the underestimation of Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately, it has gotten much worse, especially ever since an orange someone was elected President. The violent consequences of prejudice is mostly directed to the wrong groups, and director Euzhan Palcy's 1989 film, A Dry White Season, shows how that hate is definitely universal, meaning that it doesn't just happen in the movies. Based
The Atomic Cafe Blu-ray Review: How I Learned to Keep Worrying, Laugh Uneasily, and Continue to Fear the Bomb
One of the most essential films, documentary or otherwise, in the history of Cinema.
When converseing of satire about our deepest, troubling fear about potential nuclear catastrophe, Stanley Kubrick's 1964 masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, seemed for its time the only cinematic representation of very bleak humor of nuclear proportions. However, if there's one film that matches it for extremely black comedy, or ever betters it, it is the 1982 cult-classic documentary, The Atomic Cafe, which does the derision in such an absurd way that it actually remains as alarmingly vital as it obviously was almost 40 years ago. Mixed with Cold War blasphemy (or
The acting, direction, and writing represent a uniqueness rarely found in cinema.
In a year of dysfunctional families, alien horror, and more superhero nonsense, it was refreshing to finally find a film that doesn't cater to the usual tropes of what a film is supposed to be. You know, a depressing tale of a very emotionless woman who seems to be lost to everyone and everything around her, and director Christina Choe's troubling orchestration of the bizarre premise is arguably, for me, the true discovery of 2018. The film is NANCY. The story centers on a very lonely young woman, Nancy Freeman, who craves connection with others by creating distinctive indentities and
A wonderfully somber portrait of women at a crossroads.
As I have mentioned time and time again, the essence and importance of women filmmakers continues to be taken for granted. It is really a damn shame, because women have excellent ability to make their own films about life, love, and everything in-between. And fortunately, director Allison Anders is definitely one of them. With her stunning 1992 landmark, Gas Food Lodging, she elevates familiar territory while adding her own distinctive flair for women in emotional peril. Based on a novel by Richard Peck, the film takes place in a small New Mexico town where Nora (Brooke Adams), a single mother
A minimalist, but masterful portrait of harrowing family dynamics.
Stories about troubled families doesn't hit cinema too often, but when they're done well, such as in Rachel Getting Married, Ordinary People, Hannah and Her Sisters, and A Family Thing, they can hit hard. Such a case is director Terrence Davies' 1988 breaktrough masterpiece, Distant Voices, Still Lives, which brilliantly tells an all-too-real harrowing story, but with music, humor, and unsentimental truth. Loosely based on Davies's own upbringing, the film is told in two parts of the lives of a family in 1940s/'50s Liverpool, where siblings Tony (Dean Williams) and Maisie (Lorriane Ashbourne), along with their mother (Freida Dowie), gather
A masterpiece adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's eternal play about the conflicts of Black life.
While some movies about the African-American experience are embarassing and downright stereotypical, there are others that realistically transcend the bad taste, to tell truthful stories of the issues and obstacles that face people of color. Director Daniel Petrie's brilliant 1961 adaptation of celebrated author/playwright Lorraine Hansberry's eternal play, A Raisin in the Sun, is definitely one of the seminal films of all-time. It takes place mostly in a cramped Chicago apartment that houses the Younger family: Lena (Claudia McNeil), the strong and proud matriach; her son Walter Lee (Sidney Poitier), an ambitious but often reckless man; his wife Ruth (Ruby
A grainy, authentic look at New York youth during the dying days of Punk.
Films about women by women are pretty rare these days. These are stories about women taking control of their lives and reinventing themselves. Most filmgoers miss out of the opportunity to see and relate to characters who turn out to be just like them; characters who are just as self-absorbed, rebellious, and determined just like everyone else. Thankfully, there is director Susan Seidelman's landmark 1982 grassroots classic, Smithereens, which shows us what we're missing in film: the feminist touch. It also paints a low-key, but documentary-like portrait of the grim, desparate side of underground New York in the early '80s.
A slightly crude, but still chillingly effective TV classic about nuclear horror.
When it comes to nuclear annihilation, there have been many successful cinematic attempts to truly justify the horrifying reality of doomsday, such as Fail-Safe, Threads, The War Game, and On The Beach. However, in my opinion, director Nicholas Meyer's 1983 landmark, The Day After, is the outing that most people remember. It may have been a TV movie, but that didn't stop it from traumatizing an entire generation, telling a story of nuclear catastrophe experienced by everyday people. Set mostly in Kansas and Missouri, the film takes place before, during, and after the U.S. and Russia go to war with
I definitely have to recommend this shocking and masterful film.
As a filmmaker, Abel Ferrara has always stepped outside of the mold to deliver highly provocative works of humanity going completely awry. Whether it's insanity (The Driller Killer), female revenge (Ms. 45), hip-hop culture (King of New York), or police corruption (Bad Lieutenant), you can always count on him to piss off critics and audiences everywhere. He is a director of amazing extremity and unapologetic cruelty, and his very underrated 1995 cerebral horror classic, The Addiction, represents both at its most low-key and uncomfortable stride. Shot in crisp black and white, the film stars the always amazing Lili Taylor as
The late Bruno Lawrence's stunning performance highlights this gritty story of separation and brutal masculinity.
Sometimes films about divorce and parental miscommunication are difficult to swallow, especially because of how terrible they can be for the children involved. There are American films like Kramer vs. Kramer, Shoot the Moon, and Hope Floats, which are good but a little sugary. However, director Roger Donaldson's stark 1981 classic, Smash Palace, defies convention and cliche with harsh truth and blunt authenticity that typically goes unnoticed in modern film. It also shows how the location (in this case, New Zealand) can bring out certain facets to a film's plot. Based on a newspaper article, the film centers on the
Fassbinder's mythic performance fuels this vicious depiction of West German's social malaise.
When the legendary Rainer Werner Fassbinder died in 1982 at the age of 37, he really did leave behind an amazing body of work. He lived a hard life of drinking and drugs, but that didn't stop him from making films about human fragility and emotion. Also, he didn't just direct films. He also acted in many of them. His boorish, devil-may-care persona began with his 1969 feature debut, Love is Colder than Death, but it didn't reach its apotheosis until one year later in director Volker Schlondorff's controversial 1970 adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's 1918 debut play, BAAL. Fassbinder brilliantly
Not the best of horror documentaries, but Christopher Lee more than makes up for its shortcomings.
When it comes to the history of horror, there have been many documentaries tracing the beginning of this rather infamous of film genres, such as Nightmares in Red, White & Blue; Syfy's Masters of Horror, and Bravo's Scariest Movie Moments series. However, 100 Years of Horror, hosted by the late, great Christopher Lee, somehow gets overlooked. This may be a good and bad thing. Considering that the entire series consists of 26 half-hour episodes, narrowing in quality (VHS, mind you), but there is enough information to slighly satifsy the most jaded of horror fanatics. As the back of the DVD
A harrowing, if slightly polished, depiction of the sheer horrors of war.
When depicting war, no other medium can do it as mercilessly as film. War movies can be as dire and depressing as real-life war, especially when showing the emotional and physical toll that can inflict on soldiers. There are those as savage as Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, Oliver Stone's Platoon, and Elem Klimov's very disturbing Come and See. Then there are those as highly emotional as Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line and Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. However, director G.W. Pabst's 1930 early sound film, Westfront 1918, is a mixture of both. The film centers on four infantrymen: Karl (Gustav
Arrow pulls out all the stops for Billy Wilder's legendary 1960 masterpiece.
When talking about the greatest director-actor collaborations in film history, you usually here of Ford & Wayne, Scorsese & DeNiro, and Herzog & Kinski. However, you can't forget the work of (Billy) Wilder & (Jack) Lemmon, who crafted some of the most popular comedies ever made: Some Like It Hot, The Fortune Cookie, Irma La Dolce, and Avanti. But The Apartment, the cynical 1960 classic, represented both of them at their apex. It's more than just an uber quotable and beautifully shot film; it's an extremely revelant tale of corporate and social malaise. Lemmon, in one of his many signature
This season, Santa is bringing more than just presents and good cheer.
As usual, the horror genre gets a very bad rap, where many people and critics consider it to be the ugly stepchild of Film. This is none more apparent than the slasher history of the 1980s, where after the huge phenomenon of 1978's Halloween, there were variant degrees of success. Probably the most pivotal year in the '80s was 1984, where the big three were A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13: The Final Chapter, and director Charles E. Sellier, Jr's notorious Christmas slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night, which caused such a stir that it was denounced by parents
A quiet, but powerful mediation on the Western crossroads and the women who inhabit them.
When it comes to filmmaking, from the past to the present, it is always men at the forefront. However, and rightly so, women have been very important and essential to cinematic storytelling. And then there is the matter of American independent cinema, which has been quite the match for female filmmakers, and director Kelly Reichardt is one of the most astute and easily influential of the "Female New Wave." With her 2016 miracle of a movie, Certain Women, she continues to make it crystal clear that her unique approach to craft and substance sublimely haunts film. Adapted from three short
Home for the Holidays Blu-ray Review: An Unfairly Neglected, but Wickedly Funny Take on Family Dynamics
It's essential to those who want their own escape from conflicts by laughing and relating to those of other families.
All of us have them: that dysfunctional family that you don't want to deal most of the time, can barely tolerate, and find yourself at odds with. But deep down, you find yourself needing them, and wanting them around because they're your family, for better or worse. There have been many great films that depict the complications and brutal honesty between family, such as The Family Stone, The Royal Tenenbaums, Ordinary People, and even The Godfather trilogy. However, if there is one such movie that is always overlooked, it is iconic actress/director Jodie Foster's 1995 gem, Home For The Holidays.
We need films like this, especially now more than ever.
When it comes to the romantic-comedy genre, the cliches are always there, front and center. You always get the same story: boy and girl meet, fall in love, separate for a while, and reunite because they realize that they are right for each other. This is one of the many reasons why this particular genre has really faltered. Fortunately, this year's The Big Sick, written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, produced by Judd Apatow, and directed by Michael Showalter, throws all of those usual tripes out of the water, while also bringing real heart and soul to a
Salma Hayek's brilliant performance highlights a brutal dramedy of today's cultural insanity.
When it comes to making audiences squirm, dark comedies pretty much have that at a lock. However, with some of the best satires, they have something to say; they comment on genre cliches, certains directors/actors, and they unmask the choas of what's happening in the world. Director Miguel Arieta's razor-sharp Beatriz at Dinner successfully does just that. It is also one of the first great feel-bad films of the Trump era. Salma Hayek (in a marvelous, career-best performance) is Beatriz, an immigrant from a poor Mexican town who inputs wisdom and kindness as a spirtual-health practitioner/message in Los Angeles. She
Arrow pulls out all the stops for an all-time horror classic.
The horror genre tends to get a really bad rap. Yes, I know that some movies of this rather reviled film category are cheesy, campy, over and under-acted. They may not cater to everyone, or match their movie tastes. However, this genre is one of the most influential in film history. Horror movies are not just blood and guts, they can go beyond that to reflect on how insane our society has become. They also deal with people who dare to play God and go against the nature of death. And director Stuart Gordon's incredible and legendary 1985 adaptation of
An edgy and painfully honest TV show about the lives of comedians.
When it comes to being a comedian, there are good things (great material, popularity, success), and there are definitely bad things (accusations of stealing jokes, scorn from other comedians, drugs), but when it comes down to it, comedy and being a comedian can lead to a very important life lesson and rewarding career. There have been a few TV shows that showcase the often turbulent paths of comedians, but the semi-autobiographical Crashing (created by Pete Holmes and Judd Apatow), is actually the most realistic. The show stars real-life comedian Pete Holmes (playing himself), a Christian man who is gearing towards
Buena Vista Social Club Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Cuban Musicians Get the Recognition They Deserve
A landmark and infectious documentary about the joy of Cuban music and the great individuals who brought it to life.
When it comes to music, there are many styles and cultures: Mexican, Spanish, Portugese, etc. However, Cuban music seems to be for only certain tastes, and even sadder, the singular individuals who created it have become virtually forgotten. Thankfully, Wim Wenders' 1999 influential documentary, Buena Vista Social Club, gives new life to these all-but-ancient musical talents and gives the recognition they extremely deserve. It is also a documentary of how music, in general, can be a lifelong desire and reason for living. Wenders' camera and the legendary Ry Cooper, along with his son Joachim, travel to Cuba to find and
Sweet, sexy, and hilarious food for thought.
Some of the best films about food not only include food itself, but the reasons why it is essential, especially when it comes to culture, love, and satisfaction. Films about food can be entertaining, delectable, and hypnotic, such as Babette's Feast (1987), Big Night (1996), and Like Water For Chocolate (1994). However, as great as those films still are, I think Juzo Itami's 1985 classic, Tampopo, outshines them all. It is an endearing, sensual, and tasty 114-minute experience at the movies. Although the film is centered on the titular character Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto), it is really a series of vignettes
A criminally underrated tale of young rebellion during a truly vanished time.
I think it's safe to say everyone can relate to being a teen. Doesn't matter what time period you're in, there are always going to be trials and tribulations of the "youth years." There are some films about teenagers that have stood the test time (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club), while others instantly falter as soon as they're released (Bring It On, Twilight). Fortunately, Philip Kaufman's 1979 cult classic adaptation of Richard Price's best seller gets it quite right: from how it captures a bygone era (1963), and how it succeeds in telling a very modern story. Set in the
A visceral and eye-opening docudrama of sheer true-life horror.
In this day and age, politics have become a horror show, meaning that corruption and savagery usually comes first, and humanity in dead last. We have to deal with it on a everday basis; it tears up apart, and it continues to divide us, sometimes with really dire consequences. Director Felipe Cazals' chilling 1976 masterwork, Canoa: A Shameful Memory, shows us why. The film depicts, in docu-style, the horrifying event/incident that took place in the village of San Miguel Canoa during the year of 1968, where an innocent group of five university students were attacked and lynched by many of
An extremely moving and lyrical tribute to the power of Cinema.
As the most magical medium in the world, Cinema has the power to move us: to make us laugh, cry, and think about the world we live in. It also has the gift of defining and shaping our lives right in front of us, which is something that argubly no other medium can ever do. Director Giuseppe Tornatore's 1988 Oscar-winning masterpiece, Cinema Paradiso, affectingly shows us why movies are so majestic to our culture. The film tells the timeless story of Salvatore (Jacques Perrin), a successful filmmaker who returns home for the funeral of his dear friend Alfredo (Philippe Noiret),
A primitive but interesting pre-Code disaster flick of its time.
Today, when it comes to the disaster film, style is usually chosen over substance, meaning that a huge budget is mainly spent on the special effects rather than the overall production. This is a sad case, because there were once good and accessible flicks dealing with doomsday and its aftermath, including The Quiet Earth (1985) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Director Felix E. Feist's 1933 early Pre-Code outing, Deluge, sort of falls into the middle, where the more odd elements tend to overshadow everything else. Despite its mininal running time, it contains enough tone and complexity to overcome its obvious
An absolutely lyrical, and near-perfect story about love, race, and sexuality rarely depicted in film.
When it comes to films about sexuality, especially those from the LGBT point of view, you don't often see it mixed with race. It is usually about stereotypes, explicit imagery, and desperation to arouse the viewer just to get his or her reaction. Fortunately, director Barry Jenkins' stunning 2016 drama, Moonlight, breaks through those cliches to deliver a story as truthful and universal as one can and needs to get. Based on the unfinished play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney (who wrote the story), the film centers on the character of Chiron in three parts
Kenneth Lonergan crafts a near-perfect, and superb tale of humanity through the darkness.
Last year, 2016, was actually a great time for thought-provoking cinema. You had a modern musical; a story of a young man's coming-of-age; a scifi tale of alien contact; a tale of revenge, among others; and acclaimed director Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester By The Sea, a tale of redemption/courage/compassion through unbearable tragedy was a perfect reason why. It's a film or experience of a family's journey of hope through pain; community through extreme loss, and connection through personal struggle that everyone can relate to. Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, a Boston janitor, who suddenly becomes the sole guardian of his
A soulful and illuminating document of the human experience.
When it comes to human honesty, there is no better genre of film stronger than the documentary. In a time where special effects, explosions, CGI, and even 3D basically dominate the box office, it is very refreshing to know that some movies would rather deal with reality and what the world is really like. Director Kirsten Johnson's fascinating 2016 film, Cameraperson, shows us what being human truly means to be. In this brilliant snapshot, or series of tableux, Johnson captures in real time, stories of people, places, and things. Whether it is a young boxer in his first match in
The Watermelon Woman (Restored 20th Anniversary Edition) DVD Review: Completely Universal and Extremely Relevant
A fresh and sassy take on movies and LGBT culture, especially from an African American perspective.
With the exception of last year's immensely stunning Moonlight, there rarely have been films that tackle gay and lesbian counterculture, especially in terms of race. Usually, when it comes to the African American experience, being LGBT still seems to be taboo in today's society. Fortunately, director Cheryl Dunye's 1996 landmark film, The Watermelon Woman, broke the mold of not just gay and lesbian society, but also its viewpoint from the lives of black women. Even after twenty years, it remains a sharp and funny observation of love and filmmaking. Dunye herself stars as a twenty-something black lesbian working in a
An engrossing and thoughtfully revealing portrait of an American cinema master.
The great Sidney Lumet (1924-2011) was an American original, a genius storyteller, and a quintessential New York filmmaker whose versatile gifts created some of the greatest films ever made, including 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and Network among others. However, as amazing as he was, he is still highly underrated in film circles today. Award-winning filmmaker Nancy Buirski's enlightening documentary, By Sidney Lumet, gives viewers a chance to see the master himself in a new light, a light that should continue to shine over film history. This portrait with Lumet himself, which was filmed three years before his
One of the most beautifully ambiguous science fiction masterworks of the 1980s.
When it comes to science fiction films dealing with the apocalypse, sometimes bad CGI and special effects overshadow characters and their emotions. Filmmakers today seem to forget the intelligence and accuracy that can elavate stories of survivors dealing with isolation and anxiety of being the last people on earth. There are only a few films that really capture the intimacy of the end of the world, including Threads (1984), The Road (2009), and On The Beach (1959). However, if there is one that may outshine them all in my opinion, it is Geoff Murphy's 1985 classic, The Quiet Earth. It
A minimalist but sharply observed depiction of friendship and family turmoil in modern New York.
Personally, I prefer the smaller films, films that tell stories about humanity and its complexities. I feel that they make more impact than the overblown, big budgeted extravaganzas that we are faced with. Smaller films focus more on actually plot rather than special effects; they deal with people, places, and things on more realistic terms. Director Ira Sachs' beautifully realized Little Men is a prime example of how to make an amazing film about people and their lives. It is also a tribute to the complex beauty of New York, and how it can bring out the best in human
A misunderstood cult masterpiece of late '70s New York urban squalor.
New York is argubly the most cinematic city of all-time. It has been filmed by the likes of Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, and Sidney Lumet, among others. On the surface, there is so much life, elegance, and sophistication that comes out of every pore of this most famous of cities. However, there is always a very dark side to every beauty; the dark side that usually goes unnoticed, especially in film. With its authentic ugliness, raw documentary-like atmosphere, and punk-rock insanity, director Abel Ferrara's 1979 notorious masterwork, The Driller Killer, is probably the ultimate depiction of New York's grim underbelly.
Welles' legendary masterwork gets yet another Blu-ray release, courtesy of Warner Bros.
What can you say about Citizen Kane that hasn't already been said? Director/actor/writer/producer Orson Welles' controversial landmark film has been dissected, acclaimed, and talked about for over 75 years. Its innovative flashback structure, piercing cinematography, amazing performances, and overall production have been forever integrated into the popular culture lexicon since its 1941 release. It's also a very ambitious depiction of a man's epic rise and fall that remains accurate to this day. Everyone knows the plot to the classic film: the study of Charles Foster Kane, a powerful newspaper magnate who eventually becomes undone by his own ambition and wealth.
A haunting and noirish adaptation of one of Shakespeare's greatest plays.
Orson Welles was always a man of very electic tastes and certain cinematic desires. He wasn't just a dominating, and towering actor. He was also a director, producer, and writer whose many gifts became legendary in the history of cinema, especially with his 1941 breakthrough masterpiece Citizen Kane, which is often regarded by many critics as the greatest film ever made. However, his personality could be a little too larger-than-life, where his manic and perfectionist attitude took over many of his most iconic projects. His 1948 effort and adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth represents just that. It took the words and
One of the last great slasher flicks of the early 80's gets a stellar upgrade courtesy of Arrow.
During the early 1980s, the slasher genre was at an all-time peak, not critically but commerically. The more movies that were released, the more money was made. Although the quality of most of these movies declined after a certain point, there were some great ones to come out of that profitable boom. Director Larry Stewart's 1984 effort The Initiation is one of those great ones, a better and more stronger contribution to the most understood genre in movie history. It was also notable for being the debut of future film and TV star Daphne Zuniga in a leading role. So
The premise has been done repeatedly many times before, but never in such a broad and bold way.
Obviously as most of us know, there are many people who think that gay cinema is just a way of getting one's rocks off, which means that cinema of this type can be regarded as cheesy, one-note, and stereotypical. In my opinion, they are wrong because gay cinema is more than risky sex scenes, campy dialogue; and annoying characters; it can come from a place of pure cultural reality. This is the case with director Ray Yeung's 2016 film, Front Cover, a witty and romantic story of being gay and falling in love from an Asian perspective. The film centers
The late Wes Craven's gritty 1977 all-time cult classic gets a stellar upgrade courtesy of Arrow.
When legendary horror master Wes Craven passed away last year, it really shocked the world. Here was a man whose storytelling gifts knew no bounds. He didn't make your typical horror movies; every film he made had something truly relevant to say about the flaws and the dark, nasty side of society. Whether it was his very controversial and rather crude Last House on the Left (1972); his ultimate horror classic of the 1980s, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), that changed the face of horror for that decade; or his groundbreaking 1996 spoof Scream, which also redefined horror for
A surprisingly clever '80s movie with lots of "bite."
Usually, horror comedies are a one-in-a-million, meaning that some work (the Evil Dead trilogy, Slither), and others don't (976-Evil, Vampires Suck), but fortunately for Richard Wenk's 1986 underrated romp Vamp, the horror and comedy actually mix very well, while adding a little satire that helps elevate the film to cult-like status. With esteemed actors like Chris Makepeace, Robert Rustler, and Dedee Pfeiffer, and amazing make-up/special effects by four-time Oscar-winner Greg Cannon, this film can surely add itself to the pantheon of great comic horror. Makepeace and Rustler play Keith and AJ, two Los Angeles college roommates and best friends who
A brilliantly bizarre and slightly kinky farewell from Fassbinder.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder remains one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema. The way he filmed actors, especially women and their characters' emotions, was incredible. His close-ups revealed the inner torments of his characters' existences. However, he wasn't just a legendary director; he was also a gifted actor, albeit unorthodox one at that. Director Wolf Gremm's 1982 long-lost cyberpunk thriller Kamikaze '89 showed how much Fassbinder actually knew the skills of an actor. Unforunately, this was his final acting role before his untimely death from a drug overdose, which ended what could have been a very promising acting
A genuine and uncompromising biography of one of the most legendary women in the history of comedy.
As we all know, Madeline Kahn was a genius, a trailblazer, and a comedy icon. We fell in love with her ever since we saw her on the stage, and especially on the silver screen in such comedy classics as What's Up Doc? (1972) and Young Frankenstein (1974). The Academy certainly adored her when they nominated her for Best Supporting Actress for both Paper Moon (1973) and Blazing Saddles (1974). In these films and others, she proved that women can be funny and hilarious, as well as dedicated and intelligent to their craft. But, there was so much more to
A wonderful and inspiring look at fandom, friendship, and childhood dreams come true, no matter what the cost.
The power of film has its perks: you're able to collect anything and everything about film, you find and make friends with people who feel the same way about film as you do, and you become apart of a very special community that is passionate about this ongoing medium. Fandom can take a whole new life of its own, whether you're a trekkie, star wars fan, or comic book lover. If you're Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb, you go even further and you make a shot-by-shot remake of an all-time classic film, Steven Spielberg's 1981 masterpiece, Raiders of
The Immortal Story Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Marvel of Deep Emotion and Haunting Spareness
A minimalist, but soulful depiction of lost souls in the 19th century.
We all knew that Orson Welles was mad, but we also knew that he had the ability to make cinematic works of art that transcend any genre. After his legendary 1941 masterpiece, Citizen Kane, he felt that he could do anything, but after he changed film history with Kane, he started to feel the slump of Hollywood. This is definitely no apparent more than when he made 1948's flop, The Lady from Shanghai, that kind of signaled the beginning of the end of his gifts as director/writer/actor extraordinaire. However, he made a comeback, a sort-of experimental one, as he started
Return of the Killer Tomatoes Blu-ray Review: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Vegetables and George Clooney's Mullet
This is comedy at most silliest, but it is quite smart and very entertaining, while being self-aware and mocking.
Once in a while, there is a classic comedy, a comedy so funny and so legendary that it sets the standard for every other comedy that comes after it. The 1988 sequel, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, is not that movie. It is the ridiciously fun follow-up to sheerly absurd 1978 cult film, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, which was a spoof of horror-monster movies directed in the style of the Zuckers Brothers' films that redefined parody. While that movie did receive its fair share of love from a certain demographic, Return is actually the better film (yes I said
A personal and ultimate look at the complicated career of a 1950s Hollywood heartthrob as told by Tab himself.
As we all know, Hollywood can be a make-or-break industry, creating stars and destroying them. Some make it, while others don't. I think no one knows that better than Tab Hunter, the once dominating hunk of the 1950s, who became the biggest sensation of that decade. He was considered at the time the ultimate blue-eyed, blond-haired stud who graced the covers of countless magazines, and starred in many films. His amazingly good looks and all-American boyish sex appeal drove many of his fans to extreme frenzy, making him the epitome of the young matinee idol whom all others are measured.
A chillingly original depiction of Gothic horror and familial breakdown.
As we know, the horror genre is a rather dying one. In this case, filmmakers are forced to think up new ways to terrify their audiences. Some have failed, while others have truly succeeded. I think that director Robert Eggers definitely went far and beyond with the latter when he released his mesmerizing 2015 thriller The Witch. Not only does this film take you into some very dark places, but it also succeeds in taking the usual cliches of other horror films and turns them on their heads. The story takes place in New England during the 17th century, where
A film that should that stand the test of time with its powerful performances, terrific script, and truthful message.
There is no greater fear for a parent than the loss of a child to certain horrifying circumstances, such as death or the thought of someone kidnapping their child and doing vile things to them. The plot of director Lenny Abrahamson's 2015 moving film, Room, takes that rather basic premise and extends it into something much more harrowing, but ultimately inspiring. Based on the acclaimed novel by Emma Donoghue, the film will take hold of you emotionally, once you get past the intensity of the story. It centers on the seventh year of capitivity of Joy (Brie Larson), a woman
A soulfully creepy and courageous depiction of two lost souls crossing paths.
Films that deal with uneasy relationships, such as Sundays and Cybele, can have a certain uncomfortable effect on audiences. Maybe they can't deal with stories about characters who have questionable interactions with other people, or that they are in denial about their own lives, but however you see it, these types of films do start conversations. Director Ross Partridge's 2015 film, Lamb, is one such film. Despite the film's unhealthy subject matter, it is more of a heartbreaking tale of two broken individuals finding each other at just the exact moment. Partridge himself stars as David Lamb, a lonely and
The American Friend Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Tense Blend of Suspense and Character Study
An unusual, but beautifully made neonoir from one of film history's greatest directors.
There have been a few cinematic adaptations of famed author Patricia Highsmith's stories, such as 1951's Strangers on a Train, and 2002's Ripley's Game, but director Wim Wenders' 1977 acclaimed thriller, The American Friend, stands above the pack. It is one of Wenders' more accessible and entertaining films, in which the narrative flows with uncommon grace and suspense. It also contains one of iconic actor Bruno Ganz's best performances, where he inhabits every since he's in. In the film, Ganz portrays Jonathan Zinnermann, a terminally ill German everyman who gets involved in an elaborate murder plot concocted by the quirky
Two radical, challenging works by the great Agnes Varda get new life on Blu-ray.
As everyone, or at least film buffs, know by now that famous filmmaker Agnes Varda is the most influential female director of the French New Wave, making such classics as Cleo from 5 to 7, Le Bonheur, and Vagabond. She is one of the greatest directors of women, filming their lives and situations with not just feminist interpretations, but also a surreal reality that can hypnotize even the most hardened film-goer. And they come no more radical and beautifully histronic than the two films she made with famed singer/actress/fashion icon Jane Birkin: Jane B. Par Agnes V. & Kung-Fu Master.
Slasher film haven gets a deadly spin with this cheesy, but super gory little flick.
When it comes to the 1980s, the slasher genre was one of the most popular of phenomenons, with major franchises such as the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series dominating the box office. Although with sequel after sequel, video games, and merchandising, the slasher film was descending into self-parody, but with 1984's overlooked The Mutilator (aka Fall Break), the genre proved that it still had some nasty tricks up its sleeve, because it is one of the more vicious, and mean-spirited of all the decade's stalk-and-slash outings. As with most slasher films, there is a prior evil,
It's not just an entertaining an amazing film, it's a definite call to action.
Investigative journalism has become a dying art, mainly because people can get the news on the internet with their smartphones, laptops, and tablets. But the best type of journalism was when they did it the old-fashioned way, with immense dedication and breakneck focus to get the truth out there, no matter how tough and draining it really was. An obvious example of the way the process should be depicted on film was the 1976 classic, All the President's Men, which was made with extreme attention to detail, brilliantly acted and directed, and still relevant. Forty years later, last year's riveting
The Emigrants / The New Land Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Profound Cinematic Experience Like No Other
Jan Troell's masterful epic saga receives the deluxe Blu-ray treatment.
There have been many films about the dangerous journey of immigrants to America, the land of prosperity and new beginnings, such as El Norte (1983) and Sin Nombre (2009). However, I think none of them really possess the devastating and stark power as Director Jan Troell's epic masterpieces, The Emigrants (1971) / The New Land (1972), which were praised unanimously by critics and worldwide. It isn't difficult to see why; the entire saga is beautiful, authetic, and a profound cinematic experience like no other. Adapted from a novel by Vilhelm Moberg, it stars film legends Max von Sydow and Liv
The legendary Ms. Tomlin delivers her career best performance in one of the very best films of 2015.
You would think that a road trip movie about a girl and grandmother bonding would be another one of those meandering chick flicks that you see nowadays far too much. However, Director Paul Weitz's 2015 refreshing gem of a film, Grandma, is not that type of film and that's a very good thing. It's a devilishly funny, smart, and wonderfully real piece of indie filmmaking that doesn't come around too often. It's also a showcase for the legendary Lily Tomlin to do what she does best, which is to knock it out of the park. And she does. Tomlin stars
These Prada boots are made for walking...but all over you, literally.
In the fashion world, which can be very intimidating, it is literally a dog-eat-dog world where only the strong (and stylish) survives. You either have what it takes, or you might as well as look for another profession. Many have tried and succeeded, while others have failed miserably. The Devil Wears Prada, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, is semi-realistic, but it is pretty close to being an accurate depiction of that world. Based on the best-selling novel by Lauren Weisberger, the film stars Anne Hathaway as Andrea "Andy" Sachs, a naively perky but aspiring journalist living in New York
An entertaining, funny, and very insightful glimpse of a genius trailblazer.
When the great Mike Nichols passed away on November 19, 2014, it was a very shocking blow to not just film world, but basically Arts and Entertainment as a whole. He wasn't just a talented director; he was also a gifted actor, writer, producer and comedian who broke the mold of how eclectic a man of the arts can truly be. When you think of amazing men, his name usually comes up and rightly so because he was one of the great ones, a man with no equal. Directed by Elaine May, his former comedy partner from the late '50s
Bowie made many musical masterpieces, but it was hard to list them all. These are just a few that really spoke to me.
David Bowie was a genius, a rebel, a god, and a musical innovator who had no equal. He was brilliant, sexy, and unclassifiable; he was also quite radical. Just like the Beatles, his music defined and refined a generation. When I first saw him, he was like a beacon of light, this beautiful creature who didn't look like anyone I had ever seen. When I first heard his voice, chills went up and down my back like never before. Who was this handsome, androgynous man? Where did he come from? I decided to pick a few of these songs that
A modern day human psychology lesson, but with smart and insightful humor.
I am a really big fan of indie films; films that rely on characters and their issues, rather than special effects and explosions. The films of director Noah Baumbach, and especially those with his girlfriend, co-writer, and current muse, Greta Gerwig, actually quenches my thirst for understanding people and their flaws. With Greenberg and Frances Ha, Gerwig has been establishing herself as the indie 'It' girl for quirky, but modern women trying to comes to terms with their real selves, while dealing with their hangups, as well as those of the people around them. The more I see her in
Human savagery is the name of the game in Roth's gripping throwback to Italian cannibal flicks.
As we know, Eli Roth is one of those directors who is kind of a "love him or hate him" filmmaker, making movies that have been reviled and crucified by critics since his cult film Cabin Fever grossed out moviegoers back in 2002. As for me, I absolutely love him because his films successfully assault the audience and refuse to hold back. I have to say that they have the energy of Sam Raimi and the unapologetic gore of Lucio Fulci; they also have actual depths of intelligence that most of those pesky critics fail to realize. So case in
Probably the most disappointing week releases brings us a gory Western, a very flawed Fatal Attraction ripoff, a robbery flick that went nowhere, and more.
[Editor's note: Davy is filling in while Mat is away for the holidays.] Since everyone is getting over the Christmas holidays, I think they are just too stuffed with food and having to clean up all the wrapping paper to purchase the latest releases. Fortunately this week's releases will help people save a lot of money, and help them save for New Year's. With the exception of a bloody throwback Western, I don't think that people will be upset not to own the other releases. On paper, Bone Tomahawk sounds like a very interesting, successful tribute to the ultraviolent Italian
"It's not cranberry sauce, Artie."
Of course the slasher genre is of an acquired taste, mainly because of the lack of unqiue dialogue or acting. It is really based on how characters are killed and when. Detail was placed more on blood and guts among everything else, but in 1984 (the golden age of slashers), Wes Craven's classic Nightmare on Elm Street, became the greatest of all the '80s bloodbaths. But after its phenomenon, the genre went into steady decline. Slasher after slasher, movies became more cheesier and less original; it was the same formula over and over again. However, Blood Rage (shot in 1983
Celebrating 40 years of absolute madness and mythic pleasure.
What else can I say about The Rocky Horror Picture Show that hasn't already been said before. It is the greatest midnight movie ever made, the greatest cult film of all-time, and one of the most exhiliateringly strange cinematic experiences I've certainly ever had. However, this classic film does go much deeper than just its weirdness and uniqueness. It is a film that means a great deal to not just me, but the entire LGBT community. The film taught us that being different doesn't make us second-class citizens, it makes us stronger and more human. It was a statement on
A stunning depiction of the human condition.
When it comes to humanist dramas, most moviegoers don't usually take the time to see these films because of the lack of special effects, explosions, and dangerous stunts. They mostly stay away from films with challenging subject matter and character-driven narratives. These films tell stories about real people with real predicaments, sometimes with hopeful results, while others don't exactly end well. However, in director Noaz Deshe's 2013 harrowing White Shadow, narratives can be both tragic and hopeful. This is a really difficult film to watch, but with moments of extremely sublime beauty. This is a story of Alias, an albino
An inventive and chilling breath of fresh air for the horror genre.
The horror genre is kind of a dying genre, a literally tried-and-true category of cinema, where filmmakers are constantly trying to think up new ways of scaring moviegoers. The haunted-house group obviously qualifies as an attempt to revitalize horror cinema. There are films that have successfully taken us by surprise, including Ti West's The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, and James Wan's The Conjuring and Insidious; while others such as Courtney Solomon's An American Haunting, have almost destroyed the entire landscape with half-baked attempts at supernatural hauntings and possessed victims. Fortunately, Director Ted Geoghegan 2015's modern masterpiece We
Films like this deserve to be watched and talked about for years to come.
When Annie Hall was released in 1977, it was a gamechanger in depicting complicated adult relationships. It was smart, witty, and intelligently modern. Thiry-eight years later, director Jim Strouse's charming and brilliant People Places Things takes it a step further while giving a fresh and funny look at flawed people just trying to find love in their own ways, no matter how awkward their journeys become. Jemaine Clement (We Live in the Shadows) gives a marvelous performance as Will, a New York graphic artist and intellect, who finds his world turned upside down after he finds the mother of his
Maltin makes film buffs happy once again with a new, complete guide of classic movies from the Silent Era through 1965.
Although some books on cinema should be taken with a few grains of salt, not just because of some ways that movies are described, but also the movies that were chosen as well. As with the late great Roger Ebert, whose books on cinema are still the standard for anyone who wants to study movies and loves them, beloved film critic Leonard Maltin has also written his fair share of successful and sometimes infuriating books on film culture. Fortunately for us, his newest book on classic movies should enlighten and infuriate once again, which is great because it allows for
Another bizarre, sweaty, and dread-filled tale of Southern madness, courtesy of Tobe Hooper.
Horror films are like the misunderstood stepchildren of cinema, and when you talk about them, one of the best examples that always seem to come into conversation is Tobe Hooper's 1974 nightmarish masterpiece, The Texas ChainSaw Massacre, which remains one of the greatest and most traumatizing movies of all-time. However, as for his 1977 underrated follow-up, Eaten Alive (aka Starlight Slaughter and Death Trap), that movie continues to get lost in the underground shuffle; mainly since it's so bizarre, campy, and not for all tastes. This is unfortunate, because it is a strangely entertaining cult film that deserves to be
It remarkably delves into human connection and understanding that is needed in cinema.
In the midst of the overbaked summer blockbuster season, which means having to hear endlessly about big moneymakers such as The Avengers, it's very nice to settle down with complex character studies, films that focus on people and their limitless hangups. Unfortunately, most filmgoers steer clear from these types of films because of the lack of special effects and spectacle that makes most movies look way overdone. They do not want to relate to the characters; they just want to check their brains at the door. They miss out on the reality, emotion, and humanity/ Finding Neighbors (2013) successfully finds
Warning: You may need several bottles of Pepto Bismol and a few grains of salt for this one.
As many of us know, 1970s cinema was a changing time in a new kind of filmmaking, where the content was more sexually graphic and explicit than the decades before it. The most pivotal films of this kind included Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris and Pasolini's Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom, which were censored and banned outright. But since then, the shock of these films have become tamer and less explicit than films now are. Director Marco Ferreri's scandalous 1973 cult feature, La Grande Bouffe (The Big Feast), his once extremely controversial "food and sex" epic, joins these
A well-acted, if not entirely successful time capsule of 1980s New York
There have been many coming-of-age films set in the 1980s that work so well, such as Let The Right One In (2008), This is England (2007), Adventureland (2009), and Mysterious Skin (2004). Most of them centered on the often misunderstood, sometimes violent youth engaged in sex, drugs, and rock & roll. They touched upon the lost souls who were trying to figure out their lives, and their place in the world during a time of materialistic excess, punk rock music, and the ever horrible yuppie generation. Some of them managed to remain relevant, while others were quickly forgotten. In this
A few intriguing new releases for the fan of variety.
As an extreme film lover, I'm always torn between variety. Sometimes, there is too much to choose from, and it also depends upon the price. There isn't any doubt that I do like to have choices, it's that I like to choose from films that I would find interesting. When I'm not taking online classes, or doing horrible yard work, I only have a limited time to watch the newest releases. This week, there isn't a lot of choices, but these are some releases I found to be quite interesting and worth checking out. Yes, some of them sound strange,
A groundbreakingly potent depiction of bleak social commentary
When discussing some of the most influential LGBT films, Stephen Frears' 1985 modern classic My Beautiful Laundrette usually is one of the most talked about, because it doesn't just address the unforunate issues of homophobia, but also the brutal, sometimes tragic aspects of racism, social status, and cultural differences. One of the reasons why it remains such an influential film is because it showcases a same-sex relationship that is both tender and unusual. It is no wonder why this is considered, along side The Grifters and Dangerous Liaisons, one of his very best cinematic creations. The story centers on Omar
An often hilarious, but very timely depiction of the 'gay voice'.
There have been many documentaries about the depiction of the gay stereotype, such as The Celluoid Closet and Word Is Out. They showcased not just how the LGBT community was depicted since the 1920s, but how gays and lesbians live and continue to do so. Some are very funny (Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy), but there are others that are really serious and often tragic (The Times of Harvey Milk, The Case Against 8). However, David Thorpe's Do I Sound Gay? is a mixture of the two, in which he explores the the history of the "gay voice". After breaking up
This really is the most maddening story every told, but in a good way.
In this 1960s, the independent film boom was well under way of becoming the next big thing in cinema. The indie films of the '60s, included 'nudie cuties', drive-in flicks, rebel-youth outings, and most importantly, horror movies. These horror movies were a mixture of blood, gore, cheesy but method acting, and dated production values. However, for better or worse, they changed the way that underground films would be made since then. In this case, director Jack Hill's 1963 cult masterpiece, Spider Baby, remains one of the best of the bunch. Yes, it's not as serious as George Romero's 1968 revolutionary
An unusually exciting story of wild youth and fast cars.
When the 1960s arrived, there started a new type of film: the independent film. Films under this label were made outside the Hollywood system. They had limited to no budgets, unconventional or method actors, and sometimes cheesy production values. However, director Jack Hill's 1969 cult classic Pit Stop isn't the case. Although the film had a limited run, a next to no budget, and a radical story, it really rises above that to tell the story of rebellious youth with something to prove, obsession with fast cars, and pretty girls along for the ride. Hill's unique eye for detail, his
Kristen Wiig's magnum opus, or sort of.
We know that Kristen Wiig has proven herself to be actress of extreme range and talent, as she has demonstrated in comedies such as Bridesmaids and Friends With Kids. In just in few years after her Emmy-nominated stint on Saturday Night Live, she established herself as an actress worthy in dramas, and my personal favorite one is The Skeleton Twins. In director Shira Piven's Welcome To Me, an uncomfortably flawed, but quirky depiction of mental illness, TV obsession, and fame, she handles both comedy and drama with flair, even if the film can be mostly beneath her genius. She plays
A great film with moments of pure hilarity and emotional intensity.
When Harold and Maude premiered in 1971, it wasn't a box-office hit, but it did break new ground of how certain relationships are viewed. It also became one of the greatest cult films of all-time, not just because of its taboo subject matter, but because it was just so damn funny. Forty-three years later, director Bruce LaBruce decided to take the subject a step further in his controversial romantic comedy, Geronotophilia, a refreshing and frank depiction of generational conflict, race, sexuality, and aging. LaBruce is no stranger to controversy, making films of rebellious eroticism, with such cult movies as Huster
An extremely overlooked masterpiece of personal and spiritual redemption.
There have been many films about personal and conflicted crisis of conscience, such as American Beauty (1999), The Apostle (1997), and Magnolia (1999). However, as wonderful as these films are, I think that director Carol Reed's unjustly overlooked masterpiece Odd Man Out, easily outdoes them all, especially because of its subtle and sensitive depiction of ordinary people caught up in a web of troubles. This was one of Reed's breakthrough films, not just for its deft and thrilling storytelling, but it was also one of the first to address the circumstances of terrorism in human terms. It was adapted for
A deep examination of a very complex, but legendary visionary
Everyone knows the story of Stephen Hawking, the iconic physicist, cosmologist, author, and director of research. They also know that he struggles with a rare form of ALS that has afflicted him over many decades, but the coolest thing is that he doesn't let that unfortunate disease keep him doing his life's work. A Brief History of Time is director Errol Morris' quirky, idiosyncratic tribute to Hawking and his controversial ideas. In terms of Morris' other documentaries, including The Thin Blue Line, Gates of Heaven, and The Fog of War, Brief History ranks up there with those great works, while
A beguiling, wonderful film about first love and infatuation.
There have been many coming-of-age movies, such as The Yearling (1946), The 400 Blows (1959), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Breaking Away (1979), The Breakfast Club (1985), Stand By Me (1986), and Dazed and Confused (1993), that have made a really big impression on me, in terms of accurately depicting the trials and tribulations with growing up, peer pressure and parental dysfunction, and buddling love. And speaking of buddling love, Daniel Ribeiro's 2014 charmer The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho) gets it absolutely right. It takes the premise of newfound love and takes it to such new
An oddly interesting mix of socialism and bodybuilding politics.
Usually, when discussing movies of the 1970s, even the bad ones, there are some films that continue to get lost in the shuffle, and that includes director Bob Rafelson's 1976 bizarre comedy drama, Stay Hungry, adapted from a novel by Charles Gaines, who co-wrote the screenplay with Rafelson. I guess because of its weird story, a movie like this doesn't come around too often, and that is unfortunate, since the film is actually pretty good, once you get past its almost laughable premise. Future Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges stars as Craig Blake, the sole-surviving part of an affluent Birmingham, Alabama family.
A devastating and heartbreaking document.
Matthew Shepard was an innocent human being. A human being who was taken from this world all too suddenly. A human being who was viciously murdered, because he was gay. Murdered in 1998, in the prime of his life, by two inhuman, homophobic men whose names will not be mentioned in this review, mainly because they don't deserve to be recognized. Matt Shepard was a remarkable guy, who was a people person. He was smart, talented, and very articulate. Michele Josue's film debut tells us just that, and why he was such a beloved person. It also shows us why
Sam Raimi's ultracool, post Evil Dead B-movie.
As we all know, Sam Raimi is one of our favorite directors, cult films (The Evil Dead series), and blockbusters (the Spiderman series, Drag Me to Hell). Not to place criticism, but he does have a tendency to make certain films that have failed to live up the hyper-kinetic gruesome horror of his early classics, such as the ill-fated Crimewave (1985), The Quick and the Dead (1995), and most recently his prequel follow-up to the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, entitled Oz: The Great and Powerful. But he has made some really remarkable films, such as A Simple
A three-hour journey into London's most prestigious art gallery.
Although the documentary genre is a brilliant piece of cinema history, many people haven't exactly embraced it, and that unfortunately includes the distinct work of the legendary Frederick Wiseman, which consists of an almost sixty-year span, including such famous films as Missle (1986), Central Park (1989), La Danse (2009). Two of my favorites of him are the horrifying 1967 film Titicut Follies about the extremely deplorable conditions, and awful treatment of patient inmales of the Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane, and the other is probably his most popular film, the brutally transgressive 1968 high school documentary called High
Tati's own brilliantly satirical spin on the mechanical age
As we film buffs know the works of Chaplin, Godard, Dreyer, and Antonioni, we are able to see their versions of the stormy side of human nature, but no one in film history has quite of an effect on presenting the dark side of the mechanical age as legendary French director, Jacques Tati, whose classics somehow tend to get lost in the shuffle, especially talking about movie history. In a way, Tati is the "French Chaplin," since Chaplin's own Modern Times described the new harsh reality of the 1930s Depression era, while adding comical touches to surface the difficult situation.
Sleeping Beauty (1959) Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review: Same Great HD Presentation, but Less Features
A brilliant restoration of a now Disney classic.
In terms of film classics, there is always a Disney film in that pantheon, but unfortunately Sleeping Beauty (1959) isn't the first title that you would choose when naming Disney's greatest films, but nonetheless, it is one of the last great, hand-drawn animated films, regardless of what you really think of it. It is hard to think of a film, especially for kids that has had such a huge effect on how they see fairy tales. Although the story is pretty common, and kind of a letdown in terms of the essence of the fairy-tale princess, it's still pretty impressive
A despairing, sickening, and all-too-real descent into lost youth
Based on the horrifying true story of the murder of 10-year-old Elizabeth Olten in 2009, director Shane Ryan's very disturbing 2012 indie, isn't really about the murder itself, it is really about the bleak depiction of misplaced, disaffected youth. Ryan dares you to look away, as he centers his remarkable storytelling gifts on a group of lost girls who were not only responsible for the crime, but also on their own twisted lives of very dysfunctional, and often misunderstood emotional/mental discomfort. It evokes the "spirit" of such classics as Last House on the Left (1972), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974),
A surprisingly eerie twist on a now tired genre.
The huge, unparalled success of 1999's The Blair Witch Project was a blessing and a curse. It changed the way that independent films were made, especially horror movies, but then it spawned so many very pale, ridiculous imitations that basically drained most of the life out of the "found footage" genre of horror movies. Thankfully, Bobcat Goldthwait's 2013's surprise hit, Willow Creek, stands out from the pack and actually gives the genre some well-deserved new life. The story concerns a filmmaking couple (Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmore) making a documentary about the legend of Bigfoot. Jim (Johnson) has a lifelong
A really great read about a really a great director.
There are tons of books about film and film directors that actually miss the mark, but Fredrick Wasser's Steven Spielberg's America gets it completely right. It is one of the best books about one of the best directors of all time. Not only does it explain in great detail Spielberg's rise in television, but it also talks about the reasons why he would go to become one of the biggest names in film history. Spielberg redefined the term "blockbuster" with his still heart-pounding summer sensation Jaws (1975); he brought us to tears for life with his masterpiece E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
A very entertaining, but logical depiction of a worldwide epidemic.
While boredom is a very intimidating condition that affects all of us at some point in our lives, Albert Nerenberg's funny, bizarre, and anything but boring documentary, Boredom, finds a really interesting way of skewering that. It not only entertains us, but also makes us think of why we are bored, and how we can find ways of relieving our boredom. While only running 61 minutes, there is still a lot of good, solid information that pokes fun at the really challenging "disease" known as "being bored." There are a lot of people being interviewed who give us lots of
A ferociously brilliant, new American classic
There have been many films that center on the nature of revenge, but it is very rare that any of them will ever match the haunting strength of Jeremy Saulnier's 2013 modern masterwork, Blue Ruin. I don't think I have ever have seen such a raw, grim depiction of the flawed nature that comes with masculinity and the devastating truths that surround humanity, or the dark side of it. It is one of those films where everything came together like a flash of lightning that is so strong, I was left visibly shaken and stunned. The story concerns a quiet,
Bergman outdoes himself with an influential tale of identical madness.
In my own opinion, no other film in history has garnered so much critical analysis as Ingmar Bergman's 1966 masterpiece, Persona. It remains a film unlike no other that continues to one of the most chilling, strange, and metaphysical films ever made. Is it a film about two women's psychological neurosises? Or, is it a tale about the switching of personal identities? Maybe it's both, or something much creepier. Whatever it is, it remains one of my favorite films of all-time, one that I constantly watch, especially to uncover its many smoldering mysteries. It also a study of transcendental acting,
One of the very best documentaries ever made about the horror genre.
There have been many documentaries about the making of movies, especially about the horror genre, but Roy Frumkes' 32 year-old classic documentary, Document of the Dead, stands out as one of the very best ever made about the horror genre, period. Actually this review is about the re-edited, updated, and repolished 2011 version with new footage and new interviews. This is a brilliant showcase of director George A. Romero's legendary career, spanning from the late 1960s with his famous zombie flick, Night of the Living Dead in 1968, to his masterpiece 1978 sequel, Dawn of the Dead, which is mostly
A creepfest that's just as creepy as The Blair Witch Project.
Normally, I'm not into the whole "found footage" genre, because it can be a little cliched. There have been some good ones, such The Blair Witch Project, Cannibal Holocaust, Cloverfield, and Paranormal Activity. Others, such as Monster (nothing to do with the incredible Charlize Theron film) and The Amityville Haunting are really bad. I would have to rank Infliction as good, but not just good, but actually really great. The story centers on two brothers in North Carolina, who decide to go on a killing spree and tape their crimes. They target certain people, people who you don't think can
A film that deserves discovery from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
As we all know, the greatest year in Hollywood history was 1939, and it was really the year of Gone With The Wind, which remains one of the most popular movies of all-time. There were also other influential films, such as The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, Dark Victory, Destry Rides Again, and The Women. But, if there was one film that deserves discovery from this pivotal year, it is Ricardo Cortez's minimalist, but emotionally charged gangster classic, The Escape. The story takes place in the slums of New York, where reformed gangster Louie
Mel Brooks outdoes himself with a classic satire of moviemaking politics.
Although I prefer Mel Brooks' other masterpiece, 1974's Young Frankenstein, it took some time for me to warm to his raunchy, bold, and controverisal landmark, Blazing Saddles. What hasn't been said about this uproarious send-up of the Hollywood western, and Archie Bunker politics with a little bodily humor put into the mix? Let's say Mel Brooks knows how to make spoofs that are really funny, and turn that genre on its head, and Blazing is no exception. Many people have seen it and still laugh at the jokes, so I will try to be brief. The story centers on Hedley
Linda Darnell shines in a lesser-known good, but not great dramedy about Hollywood.
Making a film about the ups and downs of Hollywood is a pretty bold feat. Some have surpassed perfection: All About Eve (1950), Sunset Boulevard (1950), The Player (1992), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), and the criminally underrated masterpiece, The Stunt Man (1980). Others, such as Last Action Hero (1993), Delirious (1991), Full Frontal (2002), and Simone (2002), have totally missed the cut. As for Star Dust (1940), the third film starring the beautiful Linda Darnell, I would have to put in between. On one hand, it is a good comedy-drama about the accurate heartbreak of Hollywood, the other; the