The Fury (1978) ****

Focus On Film: Episode 14 - May 2014 Criterion Titles

Focus On Film Episode 14 is up!
Download the MP3 HERE.

In this episode:

"Focus On Film Theme"Daniel Sardella

Beck 'Morning Phase' (2014) ***

Marketed as a companion piece to his previous album 'Sea Change', which makes sense as it sounds a lot like that one. I would say that 'Morning Phase' is less "depressing" sounding, but it's still very mellow. A friend of mine described it as a good "before bed" album.

That description is accurate, but is slightly unfortunate in my opinion as it typically means it's a mood album and not one that I can just throw on any time. 'Sea Change' happens to be the only Beck album I don't own (besides 'Golden Feelings', but I think even he disowned that one) and the one I listen to the least (I have MP3s), so this one may befall the same fate.

I do think the production is gorgeous and there are some nice melodies and instrumentation, but the songs are painfully simple at times and the lyrics very obvious. Many moments border on and even cross into "adult contemporary" and that's always a danger zone. When it comes to "acoustic" Beck LPs, I prefer 'Mutations' because it's less straightforward or 'One Foot In The Grave' for its lo-fi noise-folk. I hope Mr. Hansen hasn't completely abandoned his weirdness.


St. Vincent 'St. Vincent' (2014) *****

Wow. WOW. WOW.

This is just an incredible album. I can't remember the last time I had this good of a first impression of an album - probably Bowie's 'The Next Day', which was my favorite album of last year. And this could easily be my favorite album of this year (it's gonna be hard to top it anyway).

It's quite literally a perfect album - every track is concise, energetic, original, catchy.

Speaking of Bowie, I don't hesitate to mention Annie Clark in the same breath as him and Peter Gabriel because like them, she's a trailblazer. Every one of her 4 albums is unique and worthwhile. She changes her look regularly. And man, can she shred a guitar.

I can't even believe this is the same person I saw playing bass for John Vanderslice in San Diego in 2007, two months before her first album even dropped. Majorly looking forward to listening to this LP again - I can tell it's gonna get a lot of spins this year.


Rififi (1955) **** [Criterion Robbery Double Feature Pt. 1]

Truly featuring one of cinema's great sequences - a 24 minute "silent" robbery. If you're not glued to the screen and on the edge of your seat during said sequence, I don't know what to say to you.

The Thing (1982) *****

"You gotta be fucking kidding..."

"I dunno what the hell's in there, but it's weird and pissed off, whatever it is."

"There's nothing more I can do, just wait... This is R.J. MacReady, helicopter pilot, US outpost #31."

"I mean it."

"I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I'd rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!"

 "Yeah, fuck you too!"


In The Heat Of The Night (1967) ****1/2

Death On The Nile (1978) ***

Fun, but a pale comparison to/imitation of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974) (even down the US poster, pictured below). I had a bunch of issues with this film - despite its length (and it feels long), it leaves out a lot of what's in the book and adds in things I'm not crazy about - Poirot proposing theories out loud to passengers and also having him assemble the cast of characters to announce the murderer in the finale (something he does a lot in the Christie books, but not in this particular one).

Additionally, Ustinov is good, but doesn't hold a candle to Finney in my opinion. I realize that Ustinov portrayed the character of Hercule Poirot many times, as opposed to the lone outing with Finney, but something about the latter's performance embodies the character (or how I picture him when reading the novels) more accurately in my mind. Also, Lumet is a vastly superior director and it feels like Guillermin is aping him a lot of the time.

On the plus side, the score by Nino Rota is gorgeous and memorable, though not utilized enough. It was instantly familiar to me and I had never seen this film. I must have heard it somewhere. And the cast is great, though again I prefer the actors in ORIENT. A rewatch may garner some more love from me, but I watched this film minutes after finishing the novel and I have a lot of love for the book and film of ORIENT, so it was hard not to make comparisons to all three.


The Counselor - Unrated Extended Cut (2013) ***1/2

The extra 20 minutes didn't make it any better or worse, in my opinion. I still like this film a lot, but don't quite love it.


Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) *****

My favorite film of all time.

P.W. - loner, rebel

"I got some new items you might be interested in."

"Fruit, please."

"Fork over the money, Buxton."

"Is there something you can share with the rest of us Amazing Larry?!"

"The Alamo! In...the basemenT."

"I got a real bad temper!"

"There was this sound...like a garbage truck...dropped off the Empire State Building."

"I'm all alone. I'm rolling a big doughnut and there's this snake wearing a vest..."

"C'mon Simone, let's talk about your big 'but'."



"I say ya let me have him first."


"Now! Now!"

"You're gonna burn in hell!"

"I don't need to see it. I lived it."