Showing posts from 2018

Texas, Adios (1966) ***

Texas, Adios(aka Texas, Addio) (1966) is a solid shoot-‘em-up with a memorable theme song written by the film's composer Antón García Abril and sung by Don Powell. Released just months after the more successful (and better) Franco Nero-starrer Django (1966), TA doesn't have the same finesse as many other Italian Westerns (even as Ferdinando Baldi attempts to ape the Leone extreme close-up). Additionally, Alberto Dell'Acqua's (here playing the younger brother of Nero's character) reactions as a character are very inconsistent. There are some violent moments, but nothing shocking; TA has more in common with a traditionally-styled western like Peckinpah's Ride The High Country (1962). No big surprises from this one; just a decent way to spend 90 minutes.

Django (1966) ****

Django (1966) is widely and correctly regarded as one of the best and most influential Italian Westerns. There are a number of reasons for this—one is Franco Nero's handsome and manly titular antihero, who, despite a seemingly misanthropic and even sadist attitude toward humankind, has a certain code of ethics. Another is Sergio Corbucci's story and direction—iconic scenes of Django dragging a coffin across various landscapes, feuding Mexican revolutionaries vs. a former Confederate Major and his private KKK army, a town with the thickest mud you've ever seen, a thrilling bar fight, excessive hand torture, and a certain reveal of a certain beneficial weapon are incredibly memorable. And, of course, there is the music—Djangofeatures a rousing, grand, at times screeching score by Luis Bacalov and an unforgettable ear worm of a theme song that never gets old, crooned to perfection by Rocky Roberts.

Female Trouble (1974) ****

I only saw Female Trouble (1974) for the first time earlier this year when The Criterion Collection released their delicious Blu-ray of the film. My review from my first viewing is here. It was a blast to see the film with an audience this time, especially the type that at least some of them can appreciate (though judging by the silence during scenes I find really funny, I couldn't tell if some people were truly offended or not). I hadn’t had a good belly laugh like I did tonight for far too long. Rewatching FT put me in the mood, so as I type this I'm listening to A Date With John Waters (2007), an excellent compilation that I highly recommend.

For fans of Waters's subversive humor, guerrilla filmmaking and unique brand, Female Trouble is required viewing (and re-viewing) and don't you forget it!

You can find my John Waters Feature Films Ranked list here.

Eureka (1983) ***1/2

Eureka(1983) is a disjointed movie, a tonally schizophrenic mess, but not one without moments of pure cinematic brilliance. Much like his films that came before it, Nicolas Roeg's fragmented, experimental style is on display, perhaps a bit less so, but there is no question that this is one of his films.

There are scenes of violent savagery, of sexual abandonment, of dreamlike wonder. Some of the dialogue feels a bit forced and none of the characters are particularly likable, but they are always engaging and the film is never boring (not to mention that the cast is a very peculiar combination of stars). The score by Stanley Myers is sweeping and grandiose.

Much like the way that Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976) references the Orson Welles-starring The Third Man(1949)on numerous occasions, Eureka has obvious parallels to Welles's Citizen Kane(1941) and Gone With The Wind (1939) (which it name drops more than once), as well as parallels to the themes and style of TMWFT…

M.R. Mackenzie "In The Silence" (2018) ****

Full disclosure: M.R. Mackenzie is a friend of mine. I've guest hosted numerous times on the podcast which he co-hosts, Movie Matters. I also helped proofread this book, so this was my second read-through. And I like to support my friends in their creative endeavors. Regardless of all that, I can honestly say that his debut novel In The Silence (2018) is excellent. It's right up your alley if you're fan of gialli such as What Have You Done To Solange?(1972) and/or murder/mysteries in the vein of a modernized Agatha Christie.

A whodunit with a criminology lecturer named Dr. Anna Scavolini as its protagonist, Silence is a riveting page-turner that rarely lets up steam. When Anna returns home to Glasgow for the holidays she witnesses a former classmate die before her eyes. When the police fail to give the case the attention she feels it deserves, she proceeds to investigate on her own. Anna's discoveries will shock and repulse her in equal measure, as well as put her saf…

Street Trash (1987) ****

Street Trash(1987) is a film I have a long history with, dating back to frequent viewings on VHS with my friends in high school. It holds the distinction of being in my Top 100 Films, if only because it's so blatant in its offensiveness, but also because it delivers—gooey, slimy, splattery, neon gore in buckets, that is.

There's a loose plot involving decades-old booze called Tenafly Viper, which causes those unfortunate enough to drink it to ooze, bubble and drip to their death (why this happens is never explained, but hey, we need an excuse to melt some people here!). On top of that, a sociopathic Vietnam vet named Bronson who rules the roost at a junkyard has some major PTSD and proves a threat to just about everyone. Everything else is just sort of stitched together but that's part of the charm.

Yes, the film's characters are unapologetically mean, racist, homophobic and misogynistic, but it also paints a picture of the homeless, cops, prostitutes, and liquor store…

Murder Rock (1984) ***

Murder Rock (1984) isn't one of Lucio Fulci's best films but it's a solid giallo with a memorable Italo disco score by the legendary Keith Emerson. Purportedly, the producer had seen Flashdance(1983) and Fame (1980) and "forced" Lucio to incorporate similar elements to cash in on the success of those films. To be certain, Fulci's camera loves to linger on the (frequently nude) female form of the many models making up the majority of the film, but the dance numbers, whilst maybe a bit cheesy, are fun and impressively shot. Plus, I challenge you to find another film with as many glistening spandex-clad buttocks and crotches and stylishly shot murder set pieces.

You can find my Lucio Fulci Feature Films Ranked list here.

You can find my Giallo Feature Films Ranked listhere.

True Stories (1986) ****

David Byrne's True Stories (1986) is a unique, weird and wonderful film about the everyday lives of a bunch of unique, weird and wonderful people in the fictional Texas town of Virgil. Much of the film has no explanation or obvious connection but the randomness is what makes these stories so special. Visually and musically driven, True Stories, which mixes both actors and non-actors,is funny without being forced, charming without being corny and optimistic without being obnoxious.

The Favourite (2018) ****

Director Yorgos Lanthimos scores again with his most accessible film to date, The Favourite (2018), his third English language feature, after 2015's The Lobster(2015) and 2017's The Killing Of A Sacred Deer. While those other two films tend to be intentionally obtuse and as accessible as this film may be, it's still a bitter, darkly comic delight about what women of various statures will do for love, for country, and, in particular, for their own gain.

The cinematography draws much attention to itself but Lanthimos goes for broke (to great success) with swish pans, fisheye lenses, multiple exposure, and natural lighting à la Barry Lyndon (1975). All three leads are fantastic, as they plot, yearn, and backstab. The at times rapid-fire, acerbic dialogue is delicious. The costumes and production design are impressive and accurate but a wonderful juxtaposition is created by the crude language, anachronistic dance moves, and the repetitive, tense, atonal score. The movie is ve…

Blood Feast (1963) **1/2

Having finally seen Blood Feast (1963) I can now say that I've seen a Herschell Gordon Lewis film. And it was about what I'd expected: awful, laughable, cheesy, thinly plotted, and terribly acted but very entertaining. An important film for horror, impressive for having grossed $4 million on a $25K budget, and a huge inspiration to one of my heroes, John Waters, but not one I'd go out of my way to ever watch again.

Zombie (1979) ****

Lucio Fulci's Zombie (aka Zombi 2 aka Zombie Flesh Eaters(1979) is no perfect film, but it is a genre classic that never gets old. Full of blood 'n guts 'n maggots 'n eye violence (the mother of all eye violence in cinema, in fact), as any great Fulci horror film does, Zombie is the one that goes all the way and delivers where other horror films up until that point did not. The atmosphere is oppressive, the direction is technically impressive, Giannetto De Rossi's makeup and f/x are disgustingly delightful, and Fabio Frizzi's score is memorable.

You can find my Lucio Fulci Feature Films Ranked list here.

They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (2018) ***1/2

They'll Love Me When I'm Dead(2018) is a highly recommended companion piece to the film The Other Side Of The Wind(2018). Presented in a way that mirrors the techniques of the film it documents and directed by Morgan Neville, who directed this year's other excellent documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor?, TLWWID features interviews and footage from the cast, crew and people related to those that made the film, and helps make more sense of the at times confusing narrative of TOSTW, along with giving you a greater understanding of Welles's intentions and his struggle to complete it (which, sadly, he never did before he died).

The Other Side Of The Wind (2018) ***1/2

The Other Side Of The Wind (2018) is definitely a film that warrants multiple viewings. The rapid fire editing and multiple storylines make it difficult to decipher on a first watch, but just the fact that it finally saw the light of day is cause for celebration. The film-within-a-film footage is truly the highlight. It was as if Welles put on a mask (his own words) and channeled Jess Franco and Sergio Martino to make a satirical yet functional avant-garde psych film.

I highly recommend reading more about Wind here and watching the documentary about the making of this film, They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (2018), immediately after watching Windif you can. It helps make more sense of this film and gives you a greater understanding of Welles's intentions and his struggle to complete it (which, sadly, he never did before he died).

Women In Love (1969) ****

Ken Russell's Women In Love (1969) presents the many emotions and phases of love between men and women and between men and men. It's a film about sensuality, individuality, sexuality, possession, frustration, and breaking free of social norms—all through the lens of a cinema madman. Don't let the Academy Award win and noms fool you—Russell's version of this "love" story set in post-World War I England is personal, controversial, cinematographically and editorially experimental and absolutely of its time (the late 60s hippie movement, etc.). The four leads are all excellent, willing to go the distance in their portrayals of complex, deep-thinking, sadomasochistic individuals. The score by Georges Delerue is sumptuous but also jarring—the abruptness and juxtaposition of some of the musical queues is quite interesting. This is my kind of period drama.

Salem's Lot (1979) ***

It's hard to believe that Salem's Lot (1979) was only the second adaptation of a Stephen King story. It's also hard to believe that I somehow only managed to watch it for the first time now. King had only written six books by the time that SL started filming, so it makes sense (and I say only six because he's been incredibly prolific over the course of his career). It's just I sometimes forget that "King Fever" didn't truly ramp up until the 80s (with three feature films based on his works released in 1983 alone). Speaking of the 80s, just six months after Lot aired, Stanley Kubrick's vastly superior The Shining(1980) was unleashed—still one of the best King adaptations (and I don't care what the man himself thinks about it).

Salem's Lot aired as a miniseries on CBS over two nights, totaling just over 3 hours in runtime. There was also a theatrical cut (released in Europe and aired on cable TV) called Salem's Lot: The Movie, running ju…

Blood Rage (aka Slasher) (1987) **1/2

Blood Rage(aka Slasher) (1987) is not a good film but it sure is a good time. It's filled with every 80s slasher trope imaginable, from fashion—perms, mullets, striped Nike shirts, popped collars—to gore—lopped-off hands, beheadings, bisected bodies, machete stabs—to nudity (apparently women of all ages were super horny in that decade). Blood Rage makes no attempt at any kind of artistry whatsoever—from the flat, garish lighting to the subpar camerawork to skipping any semblance of a backstory or character development (Thanksgiving is very loosely involved, though does provide an amusing, if overused one-liner)—instead favoring and embracing its tastelessness.

The "plot" revolves around two brothers (Todd and Terry), both played in their adult form by Mark Soper, who actually does a decent job of distinguishing between the two in his performance—though his acting isn't particularly great (then again nobody's is in this film). When the two brothers are young and t…

Some Like It Hot (1959) *****

Some films deserve all the hyperbole they receive. Some Like It Hot (1959) is brilliant, hilarious, flawlessly paced, endlessly rewatchable, one of my Top 10 Comedies, one of my Top 100 Films, and in a word: perfect. Billy Wilder truly was a genius and Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon were incredibly inspired casting (really, can you imagine anyone else in these roles?).

You can find my Billy Wilder Feature Films Ranked list here.

Sugar Kane: "Boop-boop be-doop!" 

Spats Colombo: "These are my lawyers. All Harvard men."
Jerry/Daphne: "I tell ya, it's a whole different sex!"

Osgood Fielding III: "Nobody's perfect."

Midnight Cowboy (1969) ****

Midnight Cowboy(1969) is one of those classic, much-heralded films that, while I don't hold it in quite the same esteem as a lot of folks, I recognize how influential, important and exceptional it is.

Dustin Hoffman and John Voight's performances are impeccably honest and seamlessly natural. They portray the at that time cinematically unique friendship (or is it more?) of two down-on-their luck men who, despite hurling insults at each other, care deeply for one another. Director John Schlesinger and cinematographer Adam Holender's vision is grimy, varied, realistic, and, at times experimental (flashbacks, dream sequences, the party scene). John Barry’s (uncredited!) brilliantly simple, harmonica-heavy theme song, along with Harry Nilsson's memorable tune "Everybody's Talkin'" (used numerous times throughout the film) provide the appropriately melancholic mood to match the story.

The ending of Cowboy has an interesting parallel with Hoffman's previo…

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (2018) ***1/2

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (2018) is an anthology film by Joel and Ethan Coen that presents six unrelated Western stories that share a common theme: death. Each story is very different from the last and yet the sense of loss seems to grow as each one unfolds. Tonally, they are all unique as well, and yet all distinctly Coeny.

In the most amusing story of the bunch, the opening segment that shares the title of the film, Tim Blake Nelson is a cocky crooning cowboy with inventive ways of killing his rivals. The violence is over the top and TBN is hilarious. The second story starring James Franco and Stephen Root is another funny one but with a dark turn at the end. Segment three is the most somber but also my least favorite—Liam Neeson and Harry Melling are both quite good, but the story itself feels the least developed and seems to drag on the most out of the six.

Part four is basically a one man show with Tom Waits at its center, as a gold prospector. It's neither laugh-out-loud …

The Blood Spattered Bride (1972) ***

The Blood Spattered Bride(1972) is a slow-burn supernatural Spanish horror film with an interesting mix of vampirism, lesbianism (a la Jean Rollin), progressive gender politics and sleaze. Some scenes and images in particular are quite striking while others are a tad goofy, making for a mixed bag of a film. I had watched this before on Halloween twelve years ago and I did seem to remember the basic plot—that of a new bride who has visions of a long-dead bride who killed her husband on their wedding night, while fantasizing about killing her own husband—but largely forgot the rest. The movie was definitely worth revisiting—the ideas are strong; it's just too bad that the execution isn't a bit better.

One On Top Of The Other (aka Perversion Story) (1969) ***1/2

Lucio Fulci's One On Top OF The Other(aka Perversion Story) (1969) is a non-traditional giallo full of psychedelic fashion, double-crosses, sex, innovative camera techniques, beautiful actors (Jean Sorel and Marisa Mell) and a fantastically unhinged, brassy, jazzy Mancini-like score by Riz Ortolani.

You can find my Lucio Fulci Feature Films Ranked list here.

You can find my Giallo Feature Films Ranked listhere.

Candyman (1992) ****

Candyman (1992) is one of the best horror films of the 90s, in a decade that saw a definite downturn in quality from the heyday of the 1980s. Bernard Rose's film deftly walks that delicate line between class and trash—treating its Barker-based subject matter with respect but not shying away from the grue or the tropes that, when handled this well, we love. A bloody gothic-cum-urban tale of social status, fear, and romance with a grimy yet beautiful visual style, a compelling performance by Virginia Madsen, and an exceptional and exquisite score by Philip Glass.

Sisters (1973) ***1/2

I place Sisters (1973) in the lower half of my Brian De Palma rankings, but even as he was finding his footing, honing his Hitchcock homages, and perfecting his techniques (including those famous split screens), he was able to craft a very rewatchable, creepy, funny and exploitative thriller. Margot Kidder goes for the gusto in a suitably psychotic performance and Bernard Herrmann delivers an intense, Moog-driven score.

If you'd like to hear me discuss Sisters, along with two other De Palma films (my first time on a podcast!), with Movie Matters Podcast hosts Michael Mackenzie and Lee Howard in a special episode from 2011, you can do so here.

You can find my Brian De Palma Feature Films Ranked list here.

The Perfect Cure

I still think about the Agganis Arena show by The Cure that I attended with my friend Kate on 6/16/2016. I'd seen the band before in 2004 and that previous show was excellent because it was with Mogwai, The Rapture, and Interpol, but the setlist from the 2016 show was exponentially better. It got me thinking about what my dream Cure setlist*** would be...

With such a deep catalog and so many choice non-album tracks, it would be nigh impossible for The Cure to play my perfect setlist live but I decided it would be fun to create a playlist. I ended up with a sprawling 46-song, 3 hour and 21 minute compilation. In some cases, I chose single mixes because I thought they worked better in this context.

The list is below, along with a guide to where the tracks originated. I made a YouTube playlistso that you can all enjoy The Perfect Cure if you like (thanks to all the original posters for putting the songs up). I've also included pictures of the cover art that I made for the playli…

Wild At Heart (1990) ****1/2

Wild At Heart (1990) features my favorite young rebellious on-screen couple, Sailor and Lula, two innocents who deal with all the shit in their lives the only ways they know how—through heavy metal, sex, cigarettes, and their undying and true love for each other. WAH is a film about passion, crime, dancing, individuality, freedom, good and bad witches, temptation, menacing baddies, weird families, and much more, all filtered through the strange and wonderful mind of David Lynch.

You can find my David Lynch Feature Films Ranked list here.

Art School Confidential (2006) **1/2

Art School Confidential (2006) is to this day Terry Zwigoff's most recent film and I can only guess that is at least partly due to the poor reception that it received. And I can't say that I disagree with the consensus in this case—I seemed to remember liking this film more when I saw it the year it was released. I've come to realize that Zwigoff is a very inconsistent director—he made one masterpiece (Crumb(1994), my favorite documentary), one excellent coming-of-age outsider comedy (Ghost World(2001)), another solid documentary (Louie Bluie(1985)), a crude but funny and popular (though IMO overrated) comedy (Bad Santa(2003)) and then Art School Confidential—a solid, but underwhelming effort.

ASC comes off scattershot, due to a lack of a distinctive "voice." Part of that is because it doesn't go pulpy enough for its wanna-be dime store novel plot and it also doesn't have a particular visual style or tone (which could be argued is appropriate given that th…

Twelve Monkeys (1995) ****1/2

Twelve Monkeys (1995) is a film I've seen many times and it's always been a favorite—one of those films where you know all the beats and it's no surprise what's going to happen but it still holds your attention and moves you. Terry Gilliam has made more than a few sci-fi films and while Brazil(1985) is undoubtedly his masterpiece, 12M is a superb, at times Hitchcockian, neo-noir tale of time travel, a post-apocalyptic future and unexpected love. It features an excellent script co-written by David Peoples (Blade Runner(1982), Unforgiven (1992)), one of Bruce Willis's best and most vulnerable performances, a standout role by Brad Pitt, full of rapid-fire mannerisms and quotable dialogue* (no one plays nutty quite like he does in this film), and a memorable, melancholic score.

You can find my Terry Gilliam Feature Films Ranked list here.

*Fun fact: my first band, Sector Nine Eight, named one of our earliest cassettes (Shaved, Sterilized And Destroyed (1996), which I&#…

Suspiria (2018) ****

Suspiria(2018) is the best kind of remake and the best kind of art film. Re: the first point—director Luca Guadagnino and writer David Kajganich take the basic premise of Dario Argento's 1977 film, that of an elite dance school in Germany run by witches, and use it as a springboard to go gonzo. Re: the second point—a. I'm still not quite sure exactly how much I liked the film; I'm still processing it and b. Suspiria '18 is clearly a film that is not out to please a mass audience (and that is something I appreciate, when directors are willing to take risks), be that due to its running time (and it is just a bit too long, in my opinion), its languid pace or its grotesque imagery.

Guadagnino wisely chose not to imitate or pay homage to Suspiria '77's famous primary color palette (in particular red) and rather go with a more muted tone and create his own fantastic and phantasmagorical set pieces. There are references to all three of the films that comprise Argento&…

Jim Thompson "South Of Heaven" (1967) ***1/2

South Of Heaven (1967) was one the last few books written by Jim Thompson during his lifetime (he wrote three more novels before he died in 1977). The story of a young man in Texas (a staple of Thompson's work), his grueling job working on a pipeline, his elusive best friend, the prostitute he falls in love with, and the unsavory characters he wants to bring to justice, South Of Heavenhas a bit more of a poetic nature than a good deal of Thompson's usual fare (the lead character even writes poetry)—it feels like a Cormac McCarthy novel at times (right down to the title).

Torso – Hybrid English/Italian Audio Version (1973) ***1/2

Torso(aka The Bodies Show Traces Of Carnal Violence) (1973), was Sergio Martino's fifth giallo in the span of two years (!!), all five of which were written by giallo superscribe Ernesto Gastaldi. It's a sleazy but stylish slasher—filled with unnaturally beautiful women, absurdly oafish and clueless men, and an excellent score from Guido and Maurizio De Angelis. The plot is actually pretty straightforward as gialli go, but as with many of these films, the killer's reveal comes out of left field. The best part of Torso though is the disturbing final third, featuring an incredibly tense cat and mouse game and an impressive fight sequence.

You can find my Giallo Feature Films Ranked list here.

Videodrome (1983) ****1/2

I've watched Videodrome (1983) many times in my life (it's one of my Top 100 FilmsDavid Cronenberg is one of my Top 20 Directors, and this is my favorite film by him), even as recently as 3 years ago when Arrow Films put out their excellent limited edition Blu-ray of it. But I've never quite noticed the political undertones to the extent that I did during this viewing (particularly allusions to The Manchurian Candidate (1962)). Maybe it's the times, maybe it's because despite some dated (but awesome) makeup f/x from Rick Baker and an outlandish plot, Videodrome, at its core,seems scarily closer to reality than ever. Or maybe it's just because these things are cyclical—the zeitgeist changes, level-headed people stay level-headed and power-hungry people never stop being power-hungry.

You can find my David Cronenberg Feature Films Ranked list here.

Mandy (2018) ****

Mandy(2018) holds up well on "Take 2" and like any great film should inspire on repeat viewings, I liked it even more this go around (my initial review here). What stood out in particular this time was the humor throughout and also how I longed for more moments between Red and the titular character that we get so few of in the first half of the film. To paraphrase some thoughts by actor Linus Roache (who plays the villain of the piece), Mandy is a mystical, metaphorical, phantasmagoric tale of love and revenge from visionary (overused term, but truly applies here) director Panos Cosmatos.

Scenes From A Marriage – Television Version (1973) ****

Scenes From A Marriage (1973) is a fascinating portrait of two very human beings that treat each other mostly awfully but most definitely love each other. Full of long philosophical discussions and uncomfortable moments, SFAMis a depressing and sobering watch but a terribly compelling one brought beautifully to life by its two leads, Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson and directed by one of cinema's true masters, Ingmar Bergman.

You can find my Ingmar Bergman Feature Films Ranked list here.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) *****

There really is no other film like 2001: A Space Odyssey(1968). No other film before and no other film since. And there really was no other filmmaker like Stanley Kubrick. Before or since. It's a film of impeccable style, grace, and patience—filled with gorgeous visuals, sumptuous and occasionally terrifying sounds, and ponderous and unnerving moments. It's the existential sci-fi film to end all existential sci-fi films, and one to spark endless theories.

I had the pleasure of seeing the film in the new 70mm print earlier this year and this viewing, from the newly remastered Blu-ray, is just as gorgeous. It's definitely a step up from the previous BD. I bought the 4K package, but have yet to take that leap so it gives me something to look forward to—experiencing 2001 in 4K should be something special indeed.

You can find my Stanley Kubrick Feature Films Ranked list here.