Showing posts from 2017

The Apartment (1960) *****

The Apartment(1960) is one of Billy Wilder's very best films, in a career filled with many incredible films — the perfect blend of dry humor, mild cynicism and relatable drama. The themes (suicide, infidelity, men in positions of power) are still relevant and the tone is just right. Jack Lemmonand Shirley MacLainehave never been better and Wilder handles the dark subject matter with the utmost respectful.

Top Films Of 2017

1.   Blade Runner 2049****1/2 (Review, Review 3)
2.   Lady Bird ****1/2 (Take 2 Review)
3.   The Shape Of Water ****1/2 (Review)
4.   Paterson(2016) ****1/2 (Review)
5.   I Am Not Your Negro (2016) ****1/2
6.   Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri **** (ReviewReview 3)
7.   Lucky**** (Review)
8.   Logan Lucky**** (Review)
9.   Baby Driver **** (Review)
10. Get Out **** (Review, Take 2 Review)
11. David Bowie: The Last Five Years****
12. It **** (Review, Take 2 Review)
13. Dunkirk **** (Review, Take 2 Review)
14. Logan****
15. It Comes At Night **** (Take 2 Review)
16. The Killing Of A Sacred Deer **** (Review)
17. Kedi (2016) **** (Review)
18. Phantom Thread ***1/2 (Review)
19. Star Wars: The Last Jedi ***1/2 (Review)
20. Brawl In Cell Block 99 ***1/2 (Review)

Honorable Mentions
1.   The Disaster Artist***1/2 (Review)
2.   War For The Planet Of The Apes***1/2 (Review)
3.   Mother!***1/2 (Review, Take 2 Review)
4.   All The Money In The World***1/2 (Review)
5.   Spielberg***1/2…

Brawl In Cell Block 99 (2017) ***1/2

Brawl In Cell Block 99 (2017) is a solid ultra violent slow-burner for fans of Old Boy(2003), Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky(1991) and S. Craig Zahler's debut Bone Tomahawk(2015).

John Waters "Role Models" (2010) ****

In Role Models,John Waterspraises his heroes and those that influence him and in doing so reveals more about what makes him tick, what inspires him, and why we "happily damaged" fans love him so.

Phantom Thread (2017) ***1/2

Paul Thomas Andersonis certainly a director whose films don't always bowl me over on first viewing. I wasn't in love with either The Master(2012) or Inherent Vice (2014) the first time I saw either, though I appreciated his impeccable craft in both cases. I warmed to both films on "Take 2" and in the case of Vice, reading the book before my second viewing helped a great deal.

So we come to Phantom Thread (2017), a film that I absolutely need another viewing to properly gauge how I feel about it. Again, the technique is virtually flawless - the costumes, production design and acting is all high caliber, but my first impression leaves me underwhelmed. Thread feels a bit too straightforward for a PTA film. The characteristics and mannerisms of the two leads feel familiar for those who've seen Anderson's previous films, but there's not enough..."oddness" to them. There's subtle sociopathic jabbing that occurs but never any truly cathartic, bomba…

Carrie (1976) ****1/2

Carrie (1976) is the ultimate high school horror story. Countless films have been inspired by and imitated Carrie (and it's been remade twice) but none can match the delicious blend of melodrama, humor, tension and technique that De Palma created. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurieare pitch perfect, Pino Donaggio's score is sumptuous and melancholic, and Mario Tosi's cinematography is impressive and memorable.
Check out my BrianDe Palma Feature Films Ranked list here.

The Shape Of Water (2017) ****1/2

None of the magic of my first viewing (see review here) was lost on Take 2. If anything, it only got better. The Shape Of Water (2017)is a film that will stand the test of time with its simple yet complex beauty.

Faust (1926) ****

Murnau's Faust (1926) looms large as one of the best silent films ever made for its innovation, influence and ingenuity. The ingenious blend of drama, horror and humor combined with impressive f/x work make for a film that stands the test the time, with a message that rings true: love conquers all.

All The Money In The World (2017) ***1/2

All The Money In The World,Ridley Scott's second film of 2017 is definitely better than the first (Alien: Covenant) but still isn't up to par with the best of his work. The actors are all fine, the production quality is high, and the story (based on true kidnapping events) is intriguing, with some tense moments, but this is certainly middle tier Scott. Nevertheless, it's impressive to see the 80-year-old director still creating consistently solid films.

Focus On Film: Episode 60 - March 2018 Criterion Titles

Focus On FilmEpisode 60 is up!
Danman and Rygar talk about some things and most of those things are films + more!
Download the MP3 HEREIn this episode: March 2018 Criterion Collection Titles AnnouncementCriterion Most WantedBest & Worst Of The MonthLady Bird (2017), The Shape Of Water(2017), The Room(2003), Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth(1992)

Logan Lucky (2017) ****

A southern fried Ocean'swith hints of Out Of Sight (1998). Logan Lucky(2017) is so much damn fun — the best Elmore Leonard-esque film made since he passed.

The Man With Two Brains (1983) ***1/2

How I managed to only see The Man With Two Brains (1983) for the first time tonight is beyond me. It's incredibly funny, very much in the Zucker Bros style of physical humor, and I've never heard it mentioned as a great comedy. I bought it based on the Martin/Reiner combo, since I really enjoy The Jerk(1979), and I'm glad I did. I love the quirky score for this film too - a mix of Italian sounding prog with 80s synths. Looks like I'll have to pick up Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982) and finally get around to seeing that as well.

Doc Hollywood (1991) ****

I watched Doc Hollywood (1991) a lot in the early 90s. I hadn't seen it since then and I was pleased to find that it's just as charming, playful and funny as I remembered. This film was a perfect vehicle for Michael J. Foxand it definitely stands the test of time, even subverting expectations a number of times.

Warren Zanes "Petty: The Biography" (2015) ****1/2

I was late to the game reading Warren Zanes'Petty: The Biography but I'm incredibly grateful that he was able to release the book before Petty's untimely death earlier this year (I'm also grateful that I got to see Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers live in 2002). After Petty's death a couple of months ago (a celebrity passing that affected me as much as David Bowie's), I decided it was time I finally picked up this book to learn more about the man and band whose songs I grew up with and love. If you're a fan, this book is pure gold - no whitewashing, just honest interviews and the true story of the man and band that I always think of first when it comes to American rock 'n' roll. I only wish it were longer and even more in depth because I couldn't get enough.

Innocent Blood (1992) ***

Innocent Blood (1992) is a a fun and funny vampire meets mob movie mashup that's a bit too long and loses some steam in the second half. I somehow only managed to see this for the first time tonight. An enjoyable flick.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) ***1/2

I really enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi(2017) a lot—loved a lot about it, in fact. But I can't say that I got goosebumps at any particular moment like I did with The Force Awakens (2015). Maybe it's because, in the case of TFA,it had been much longer between SWfilms and the prequels didn't age well at all. Maybe I expected too much from TLJ. I do know that I am looking forward to a second viewing, and as I did with TFA, I will likely see TLJ again in the theater. I do really appreciate that Rian Johnson tried some new things. I wouldn't call it a sea change though—he stuck to the look and the lore and still largely succeeded in making a film with his own stamp.

The good: 
The battle sequences were excellent—largely coherent and well staged. The film felt strongest to me when it the focused on the link between Rey and Ren, and also the scenes between Lukeand Rey. Luke had a particularly strong scene where he got to show off his Force skills. The design was great and s…

Krull (1983) ***1/2

Krull(1983) is the best big budget box office failure cult Star Wars/Excalibur/Lord Of The Rings(with hints of H.R. Giger) knockoff in existence.

Joe Versus The Volcano (1990) ***1/2

I seem to recall having seen Joe Versus The Volcano (1990) multiple times before but as rewatched it I recalled almost none of it. I'm glad I revisited it — it's a really cute, funny, existential fairy tale with a dark tinge and some fantastic production design, channeling various directors from Fritz Lang to Terry Giliamto Tim Burton. These are the kinds of romantic comedies that I like — ones that aren't afraid to be original and a little weird.

Liquid Sky (1982) ****

If I recall correctly, the first time I saw Liquid Sky(1982) was when I was 13 or 14 years old. On "Take 2" I only remembered bits and pieces, but I thoroughly enjoyed the rewatch. What a bizarre, unique and highly influential little cult film. If you love weird cinema, Liquid Sky delivers one of a kind neon thrills with its blend of amateur acting, early 80s New York backdrop, Punk/New Wave fashion, a squonky/eery Fairlight CMI score, and experimental style.

The Shape Of Water (2017) ****1/2

The Shape Of Water (2017) is a beautiful, brutal adult fairy taleand a good old fashioned romance (with more nudity), all directed masterfully and impeccably by that modern movie wizard Guillermo del Toro.

Water most closely resembles the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunetin design, tone and even parts of the score by Alexandre Desplat, but I definitely got a Spielbergvibe too. All the leads are on point - Sally Hawkinsas the daydreaming headstrong mute, Michael Shannon as the imposing violent force, Richard Jenkinsas the vulnerable relatable loner, Doug Jonesas the literal fish out of water, both powerful and tender.

The story certainly follows a formula of sorts and the actors play strong archetypes but it's all filtered through the unique vision of del Toro. And what a vision - Water is easily the most gorgeous film of 2017 (giving Blade Runner 2049 (2017) a run for its money) and one of my favorites from this year as well. This is a movie that demands a second viewing in the theater.

The Disaster Artist (2017) ***1/2

The Disaster Artist (2017) is a really good, funny movie made with heart about a really bad movie made in earnest that turned out to be really funny.

The Room (2003) ***

I'm not sure what it is that is particularly appealing about The Room (2003) as a film, but on my third go-around it's still fun and ridiculous. Naturally I had to revisit it before seeing The Disaster Artist (2017) tomorrow.

The Brood (1979) ****

The Brood (1979) is when Cronenbergreally hit his stride. This tale of manifested rage holds up very well over the years thanks to strong lead performances by Reedand Eggar, a moody Shorescore (his first of many with Cronenberg), a high creep factor, and a perfect blend of psychological drama and low budget horror.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) ***1/2

A holiday sleaze classic. It's always Christmas on the "Warm Side Of The Door".

"Two ball in the corner pocket."

Get Out (2017) ****

On "Take 2" I think just a tiny bit of steam was taken out of Get Out(2017), Jordan Peele's race-centric mashup of Rosemary's Baby(1968)The Stepford Wives (1975) (with hints of KubrickCronenberg and Carpenter). Minor quibbles about backstory, character development and direction aside, it's still one of the best horror films in some time and one of the best films of the year.

Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992) *** [Hellraiserthon Pt. 3]

Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992) brought the series into the 90s and with it every cliche of that decade's horror films (bad fashion, poor performances, hyper-stylized camerawork, cheesy music). Gone is the cold blue look of the first two films, gone are the strong lead performances, gone are the tragic familial elements, and gone is the old school gothic flavor. While it ups the action, it also ups the silliness, particularly when it comes to the Cenobites (and even Pinhead is a bit too pristine). It's not bad per say and I like that it didn't simply try to replicate the first two films, but Hellraiser III works better as a slice of fun entertainment and less as a thought-provoking meditation on themes, as with the first film and the first half of the second.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) ***1/2 [Hellraiserthon Pt. 2]

I've always loved the first hour of Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1987) more than the rest of the film. The buildup in this case is much more interesting than the payoff. Once the characters actually go to Hell, Hellbound starts to gradually lose steam. I do appreciate the special f/x artistry that went into Hellraiser II and it's nice to get more Cenobite action but the delivery and the performances veer a bit too much into horror tropes and cliches at times in the last 40 minutes. Kenneth Cranhamas Doctor Channard is a much more menacing presence before he becomes a Cenobite, where he proceeds to do nothing but spout one-liners. Not to mention that some of the sets/design are a bit cheesy and the editing a bit sloppy in the Hell segments. Still, it's good grotesque gothic entertainment.

Hellraiser (1987) **** [Hellraiserthon Pt. 1]

Hellraiser(1987), Clive Barker's micro-budget horror classic of obsession and eroticism holds up very well after 30 years, thanks to excellent gooey special f/x, strong lead performances by Andrew Robinsonand Claire Higgins, touches of surrealism, a brilliant score by Christopher Young, and an iconic "villain" portrayed by Doug Bradley.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) ****

Three Billboards... (2017) sees McDormand, Harrelson and Rockwell giving complex, multifaceted performances in a film involving tough subject matter (rape, murder, arson, assault, discrimination, cancer, police torture, suicide and more) yet filled with humor and heart (and cuss words) throughout, all assuredly directed by McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths (2012)).

Eyes Of Laura Mars (1978) ***1/2

The Eyes Of Laura Marsis a slick little thriller, directed by Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back) and based on a story/screenplay co-written by John Carpenter.

Faye Dunawayplays a fashion photographer who can somehow see behind the eyes of a killer as they take out their victims. Her visions come across in her work, depictions of sexualized murder scenes. Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia and Rene Auberjonois all give good supporting performances but my favorite is Brad Dourif, who gets all the choice lines.

Carpenter draws heavily from his love of giallo here, to the point that if this was filmed in Italy, it would be a giallo. If Eyes was directed by an Italian, it feels like it might have been Sergio Martino or Luciano Ercoliand less so Argento, one of Carpenter's most named-dropped influences.

Lady Bird (2017) ****1/2

So far there have been 3 new films that I've seen twice this year (two of them twice in the theater) and they are, I suppose not coincidentally, my current Top 3 films of the year. 
Lady Bird(2017) was even better on "Take 2" (initial viewing here). It's rare that I am so instantly infatuated with a film. On this viewing even more so than my first, I was struck by how very much the gallows humor and tone of LB reminds me of the work of Hal Ashby, Wes Anderson, and Noah Baumbach, but with characters from the lower class replacing the affluent. I think that's what makes Lady Bird particularly relatable to a wider audience. 
I find it impossible not to fall in love with the titular character (and by extension Saoirse Ronan). She's flawed, she lies, she makes mistakes, but she's human, she's sweet, and she means well. The editing and tonal balance of this film is perfect too - every time I find myself tearing up at an emotional moment, it quickly cuts to …

The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) ***1/2

KFM (1977) is always hilarious and even better with an audience.

Hell Or High Water (2016) ***1/2

Hell Or High Water (2016) is a good solid film with a nice pace and strong performances. Not every choice hits home for me, but there is much to appreciate. I liked it the same as my first viewing.

Fires On The Plains (2014) ***

This version of Fires On The Plain (2014) (I've yet to see the 1959 version, based on the same novel) is a gory, nightmarish, surrealist take on the WWII film by cult director Shinya Tsukamoto. While I wish this had been shot on film, the video look does add a certain immediacy to the action, I suppose.

The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (1933) ****1/2

While Fritz Lang's first Mabuse film, the silent Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler(1922), was more epic in nature (and more than twice as long), in his sound sequel, The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (1933), he advances by leaps and bounds - more suspense, more narrative craft, and more compelling performances. It's easy to see the influence of Testament on the gangster and film noir genres, as well as Alfred Hitchcock

Jabberwocky (1977) ***

Jabberwocky(1977) is a solid first solo outing from Terry Gilliam, an entertaining, nonsensical romp. The shadow of Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975) looms large over this one and Gilliam still had a ways to go before finding his own voice, but once he did we were treated to a string of brilliant films throughout the 80s and 90s.

The 10th Victim (1965) ***1/2

In the tradition of The Most Dangerous Game and a precursor to Death Race 2000, The Running Man, and Battle Royale, The 10th Victim(1965) oozes 60s style in a future where humans hunt each other for sport. Impressive cinematography, snazzy production design/costumes, and a jazzy score make this campy cult classic a fun ride.

Focus On Film: Episode 59 - February 2018 Criterion Titles

Focus On FilmEpisode 59 is up!
This month Dan & Ryan are both let down by films whose titles start with the letter “S” and both fall in love with films whose titles start with the letter “L” + more!
Download the MP3 HEREIn this episode: February 2018 Criterion Collection Titles AnnouncementCriterion Most WantedBest & Worst Of The MonthSuburbicon(2017), The Snowman (2017), Lady Bird(2017), Lucky (2017)

Meantime (1984) ***1/2 [CCN30]

Hail the return of Criterion Collection Night! The previous one (#29) was over 3 years ago. Hopefully Ryan and I can make it at least a semi-regular thing again.
Mike Leigh’s Meantime (1984) is filled with impressively realistic performances, awkward close-ups, and a very unusual piano & horn score by Andrew Dickson (who also composed the excellent score for Leigh's phenomenal Naked(1993)). The film gives us what feels like an incredibly authentic snapshot of a despondent, unemployed, low income British family in the early 80s.
Recommended if you enjoy famous pasty actors in early roles, Muppet insults, and deep-thinking window repairmen.

Charlotte Gainsbourg "Rest" (2017) ****

On her fourth adult album, Charlotte Gainsbourgworks with 3 new (to her) producers, delivering another winner. I have to admit to being more of a fan of the sound of her previoustwoBeck-produced LPs (I have yet to hear the Godrich-produced 5:55(2006)), but the balance between whispered, low-key numbers and poppy, disco-tinged tunes sits nicely on Rest(2017).

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922) ****

With its many characters and twisty-turny plot, Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler(the first of three Mabuse films by visionary director Fritz Lang), can be confusing at times and its 4 1/2 hour run time can be a test of anyone's patience (though the film is split into two parts). Nevertheless, the cinematography is impressive, the story is engaging and the film is undoubtedly highly influential.

Rebecca (1940) ****

Though many critics have posited that Rebeccadoesn't feel so much like a Hitchcock film as a Selznick production (the director and producer famously clashed and Hitch himself largely disavowed the film), I think time has proven otherwise. Maybe it's a sort of amalgam of the two men's styles but ultimately it will be remembered as Hitch's film - it's excellent and deserving of the heaps of praise that it receives. 
Hitchcock's first American film is heavy on the melodrama (aided by a moody score by Franz Waxman) but features an indelible performance from its female lead. Shine Joan Fontaine does, perfectly portraying the shy, inexperienced, "uncultured" new wife, thanks in large part to Laurence Olivier's treatment of her due to his disapproval that Vivian Leigh(whom Olivier was dating at the time) was not cast as the nameless Mrs. de Winter #2. And Rebecca wouldn't be half as good without Judith Anderson's razor sharp portrayal of Mrs. Dan…

Ladyhawke (1985) ***

Ladyhawke is a fun, fantasy-fueled film from director Richard Donner (Superman, theLethal Weapon series). Released the same year as another much more popular adventure film from Donner, The Goonies, neither movie is one that I grew up with and if I had, I feel that I probably would appreciate both films a good deal more. 
That's not to say that Ladyhawke doesn't have merit though - Vittorio Storaro's mostly on-location cinematography is gorgeous, as is the film's female lead Michelle Pfeiffer(though she had more of a chance to shine in Into The Night, released the same year)
The story itself is fairly straightforward good/evil 80s fantasy stuff with a bit of a twist. Matthew Broderickis bumbling but charismatic and Rutger Haueris stoic but a bit awkward. The whole movie is a bit fluffy (there never really feels like there is a threat) but it's very entertaining. Recommended, if you're in the mood.

Le Samouraï (1967) ****1/2

A much (deservedly) lauded neo-noir from that master of the French crime film, Jean-Pierre Melville, Le Samouraïis an exercise in cool that bleeds style. From its monochromatic color palette to its downbeat/jazzy score by François de Roubaixto the mostly wordless performance by Alain Delon, Le Samouraï is widely (and correctly) regarded as Melville's best film. Its influence looms large over the likes of Walter Hill, John WooJim Jarmusch, and Nicolas Winding Refn.