Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1993) ***1/2

Long regarded as one of the best Batman stories and a fan favorite (I have multiple friends that are especially enamored with this film), I finally got around to seeing Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1993). I loved the Art Deco/noir styled animation, appreciated the darker turns, and the action scenes and voice acting are both impressive but I found the story a bit too straightforward and some of the beats straight up sappy. As films, I'll still take the BurtonBats any day.

Ocean's Eight (2018) ***

Ocean's Eight(2018) is a slick, enjoyable heist film that adheres a little bit too much to the formula of the trilogy that came before it but always remains fun. The cast is great, composer Daniel Pemberton provides a head-bobbing facsimile of David Holmes' style, and while director/co-writer Gary Ross doesn't make any bad decisions, neither does he really offer any surprises. I can't help but wonder what the film would have turned out like if Soderbergh had just directed.

Ninja III: The Domination (1984) ***1/2

Ninja III: The Domination (1984) is the kind of cult film that is a **** on an enjoyment level and about a *** on a film level so you kind of have to settle on the middle ranking. I love it but it's ludicrous. I love it because it's ludicrous. It has ninjas, a glowing floating sword, a love scene involving V-8, aerobics, a demonic possession scene featuring James Hong, an arcade game that shoots rainbow lights and a fantastic soundtrack/synthesized score. Producers Golan and Globus, director Firstenberg and writer Silke pull no punches (while the characters deliver all the punches) and go all out and all in. Extremely rewatchable.

For fans of Miami Connection(1987), Enter The Ninja (1981) and Big Trouble In Little China (1986).

Let The Corpses Tan (2017) ****1/2

Let The Corpses Tan(2017), Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani'savant-garde version of an Italian Western/robbery/siege film (their third), does not disappoint. It only got better on a second viewing, still sitting comfortably at the number two position on my Top Films Of 2018 (when it was released in the States).

Corpses blurs, scratch that, obliterates the line between reality and fantasy. It's pure art, pure cinema—chock-full of the bizarre eroticism, fetishistic close-ups, and over the top violence one expects from this brilliant directing duo, this time primarily featuring a sun-bleached backdrop and a more fleshed out (literally) story.

Corpses is a non-stop assault on the senses—an audio-visual heist (if you'll forgive the pun)—featuring superb sound design, schizophrenic editing, and a perfectly curated soundtrack of Italian cuts (heavy on the Morricone). Not for everyone, but very much for me.

A Scanner Darkly (2006) ***1/2

As a film (I have not read the Philip K. Dicknovel on which it is based )A Scanner Darkly (2006) is a tonally uneven but always engaging, hallucinatory, existential, dystopian portrait of drug users and police surveillance. I am a big fan of rotoscope animation, a painstaking and not often used technique, and while I wasn't head over heels for every scene in Scanner, it certainly has a unique, at times suitably disorienting look (given the subject matter), which I can appreciate. Richard Linklater does a solid job directing but I can't help but wonder what kind of film we would have got had Terry Gilliam directed, as he apparently wanted to in the early 90s (it's definitely more in his wheelhouse).

DB Mix Series 5 – Music: Year One

Hey everyone, it's the 16th day of the month—you know what that (sometimes) means! It's been four months since the last DB Mixeswere posted, so I hereby present to you: DB Mix Series 5 – Music: Year One.

For those unfamiliar with these music challenges—my cousin Bryan and I alternately choose a concept, we each choose the appropriate number of songs, make a playlist, share with each other, then I mix the playlists, design the album art, and share with you! You can check out the previous DB Mixes here.

The concept this month was chosen by Bryan—each of us was to make a 25-track mix of songs from the year we were born with no repeat artists on our own mix—which, for 1980, allowed me to use both Genesis track and a Peter Gabriel track (since, while they are different "artists", PG wasn't singing for Genesis anymore at that point anyway).

To recap our main rule—we never tell each other which songs we are going to pick, so the mixes are a surprise for us both. We h…

Audition (1999) ***1/2

Just shy of twenty years on, Audition(1999) doesn't pack quite the same punch that it did when I first saw it, but it's still a very good film with a level of reserve and depth—touching upon loss, longing, Japanese patriarchy and child abuse—lacking from some of director Takashi Miike's other work.

While I understand it's intentional (in order to lull the audience), barring a few jarring scenes starting at 43-minute mark, Audition is a very slow, ordinary drama (in both look and tone) until its final, unforgettable act. I get that the build-up approach is necessary and makes the ending that much more shocking (at least the first time), but I think there are other films that do the "slowburn to a crazy climax" thing just a bit better. However, those last 35 minutes really are something—hallucinatory, revolting, disturbing, but, at times, beautifully and dramatically shot.

Miller's Crossing (1990) *****

Miller's Crossing (1990), only Joel and Ethan Coen's third film, is a masterpiece (and they've made more than a few). But if you've seen it, you either agree with me or you don't. For me, it only gets better each time. It boggles the mind that audiences were gifted another (completely different) gangster masterpiece with Scorsese's (much more well known and loved) Goodfellas the same year.

But I'm not comparing—as I mentioned, the two films couldn't be more dissimilar. For one thing, Miller's Crossing takes place in 1929, during Prohibition. More importantly, the Coen's distill gangster and noir elements down to their essence, add their trademark humor and airtight, cyclical dialogue, delivered pitch perfectly (and in some cases in cartoonishly caricatured manner) by a flawless cast (down to the cameos). Then they shoot the whole thing (along with cinematographer and future director Barry Sonnenfeld) so effortlessly and stylishly that it's i…

My Life As A Zucchini (2016) ****

My Life As A Zucchini(aka Ma Vie De Courgette) (2016) is a beautiful, existential stop motion film about orphans, lovingly realized by director Claude Barras, wonderfully voiced by its young French cast and featuring a gorgeous score by Sophie Hunger.

Zucchinistrikes the perfect tonal balance—neither shying from nor wallowing in its at times dark subject matter. It has its lighter moments too, but never devolves to sappiness. Most importantly, it reminds adults what it's like to be a child.

It's a film that can appeal to all ages, with a simple story, unique character design, and a short running time. I loved this little gem and I could see myself revisiting it often.

For fans of Mary And Max(2009), Coraline(2009) and Frankenweenie(2012).

High Flying Bird (2019) ***

I was happy to find that High Flying Bird(2019) is very much a Steven Soderbergh film. And by that I mean that his style is all over it and it's only a sports movie in the way that Raging Bull (1980) is a sports movie. In fact, it's even less of a sports movie than that because there is literally one shot in the entire film that features any "game play".

To someone like myself that doesn't like sports at all, that comes as a relief. Bird is a solid drama that focuses on the mechanics of the business of basketball, rather than the game itself. Dialogue is the centerpiece and it's crisp and concise. André Holland is magnetic and the film is never boring. I can't say it's high on my Soderbergh rankings (it feels like a TV movie) or that it's one I'd rewatch frequently, but I always enjoy his output. As with his previous film, Unsane (2018), Bird was shot entirely on an iPhone (8, with wide-angle lenses), which I didn't even know until I read…