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Showing posts from February, 2018

Cat People (1982) ***

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Paul Schrader's Cat People (1982) is a scintillating, glorious, mythical mess, a hybrid horror arthouse avalanche. Horror tropes are plentiful (particularly some brief but tasty gore) and among other "flaws," there is some off-putting editing and pacing. There's also much to savor though, including strong, animalistic performances from Kinski and McDowelland some nice throwbacks to the 1942 Lewton/Tourneur original.

It's a difficult film to recommend to anyone who can't handle copious nudity or avant-garde storytelling without giggling or bursting into nervous laughter. For the adventurous viewer, it's a rewarding, if frustrating watch - a film with so much potential that loses steam here and there, but is very rewatchable (though the animal treatment makes me sad).

The Breakfast Club (1985) ****

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Dear Mr. Hughes, 
I accept the fact that I had to sacrifice a whole 2 hours in my living room to watch your film. But I think you're crazy to expect me to write an essay telling you what I think about your film. I see it as I want to see it — in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what I confirmed is that it's smart, and well structured, funny, relatable, and a classic. Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours, Daniel Sardella

Jim Thompson "Bad Boy" (1953) ***1/2

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Mute (2018) ***

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I didn't know this until reading up a bit on it but apparently Mute(2018) has been a passion project for Duncan Jones since before he made his brilliant debut Moon(2009) (and I know I'm not the only one still waiting for him to make another film as good as that one).

The tech noir aesthetic in Mute is quite gorgeous, albeit a bit too enslaved to Blade Runner (1982) at times (there's also a really obvious reference to Twin Peaksthat I found simultaneously heavy handed and thrilling). The budget that went into the production design really shows though. Clint Mansell returns to Jones' collaborative team to score and the music is sad, pretty and even a bit Bowie-esque at times (Philip Glass' ""Heroes" Symphony" is used early on in the filmas well).

The three leads are all strong and I liked that Jones wasn't afraid to let a few of the main characters be pretty vile yet charismatic. The plot has some interesting elements but the execution is sli…

Annihilation (2018) ***

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I didn't know much at all about Annihilation(2018) beforehand and, in my opinion, that's usually the best way to approach a film that you have an interest in. I just knew that I loved Alex Garland's previous directorial debut, Ex Machina (2014). But he's real hit and miss with me - while I loved said previously mentioned film, Garland also wrote 28 Days Later (2002) (which I loved when it was released but not so much now), wrote Sunshine (2007) (which I loathed), and wrote Dredd(2012) (which was pretty fun). He also wrote the original screenplay for an upcoming movie based on the video game Halo (which I don't care about).

Annihilationis a film based on a book with an incredibly intriguing premise, that of a team of women who enter another...realm, shall we say (referred to as "The Shimmer"), to explore it and try to understand why all but one man from another team that entered did not return. What they find in The Shimmer is otherworldly and defies logic…

The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (1984) ****1/2

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The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (1984) is scattershot, imperfect and nonsensical but it's also unique, weird, a great time and could only have been made in the 80s. Starring a cast of future stars in early roles and featuring a whole lot of awesome and strange goings-on, it's the action adventure sci-fi bonanza cult flick that all the cool kids love.

The Silence Of The Lambs (1991) *****

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The Silence Of The Lambs (1991) is an all-time classic and one of (if not the) greatest psychological thriller(s) ever made. Its influence since its release cannot be understated. It's a film that offers new discoveries on every viewing. For example, one thing that struck me this time around were the parallels that the violent demise of a character in the ending of Silence shares with Taxi Driver (1976). In both films Jodi Fosterlooks on, horrified — in one as the instigator of said violence and in the other as a bystander.

Jonathan Demmewas quite the diverse director and was also responsible for what I consider the greatest concert film ever (Stop Making Sense (1984)).While Tak Fujimoto's cinematography is what might be considered a bit bland in tone for the large majority of Silence, his camera movements are assured and his use of close-ups striking. Howard Shore's score remains one of his best, subdued for large swaths of the films and building to dramatic crescendos whe…

Election (1999) ****1/2

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Election(1999) holds up incredibly well, 19 years after its release, a dark high school comedy on par with another favorite of mine, Heathers (1988). It continues to stay relevant, hilarious, relatable, and quotable. I can't claim to be much of a Reese Witherspoon fan, but she's brilliant in Election, as is Matthew Broderick, basically playing the type of schnook teacher that Ferris Bueller would have made a fool of. Morally and ethically I love this film.

Night Of The Living Dead (1968) ****

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With Night Of The Living Dead(1968), George A. Romeroset the bar for the modern zombie film (or "ghouls," as they are referred to in this one). By all means a classic and incredibly influential, I couldn't help but be bothered by certain aspects that never seemed to be so glaring as on this go-around. 
A lot of the acting isn't great and I find it a bit over the top. Given the primarily single location and theatrical feel of the film, it works to a certain degree, but it's still detracts a bit from my viewing experience. And I do realize that this film is 50 years old and part of the charm of NOTLD is the success it has endured on a such a low budget. 
There's also the "score” of library music, which does feature some cool and creepy electronic sounds, efficiently used, but also has a lot of stock music that would be more at home in 40s noir films.  
All that said, on the whole it's a historic debut and an important piece of cinema. The ending conti…

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) ***

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I seem to recall Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) being a better entry in the series than this. The tone is really uneven in this film — it can't seem to decide if it's truly grim or going for laughs (unlike the first film, which is full on grim and the second film which is full on comedy). There's definitely some disturbing violence but the scenes still cut away during the most graphic parts. What we get is a solid horror film but one that doesn't add anything new to the franchise (and none of the subsequent entries has either, though I still like the fourth one).

Con Air (1997) ***1/2

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In the pantheon of ridiculous, over-the-top 90s action films with quotable dialogue, Con Air (1997) ranks very high. Cage actually feels somewhat subdued in this one, but considering the rest of the ensemble, who all fire on every cylinder, it's not surprising. This is the kind of "dumb" slick action flick I like - one that realizes that the dialogue and characters are just as important as the explosions.

Marathon Man (1976) ****

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A long overdue first time watch. Schlesinger's paranoiac Marathon Man (1976) is one of those stylish 70s slowburn thrillers that I always enjoy. William Goldman, who wrote the screenplay from his novel, was on fire in the 70s. The direction is assured, the performances are strong, the slow pace is punctuated by sudden bursts of brutal violence, and the diverse score features a wide range of instruments, running the gamut from melancholic to tense to frenetic.

Endless Poetry (2016) ****

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Endless Poetry (2016) is another semi-autobiographical film from surrealist Alejandro Jodorowsky, a sister "sequel" to 2013's The Dance Of Reality. Picking up right where that film left off, Poetry continues the embellished and hyper-stylized story of Jodorowsky as a young poet and his artist friends in Chile. Once again filled with striking visuals, vibrant costumes and passionate performances, Poetry is another memorable film from a truly visionary artist.

Matinee (1993) ***1/2

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Matinee (1993), a film that had been on my radar since its theatrical release but somehow eluded me until now, is a loving tribute to the b-movie showman William Castle. It makes sense that Joe Dante directed this film, being a monster kid, but it's also something that John Waterscould have made, being probably the most famous devotee of Castle. Of course, that would have been a different take, I'm sure.

John Goodman was inspired casting but has less screen time than I expected. I didn't realize that the film is told more from the point of view of the teenagers, who do a great job, by the way (I'm more often than not irked by child actors). Dante mainstays Dick Miller and Robert Picardo turn in typically strong supporting parts and Jerry Goldsmith delivers one his many many brilliant scores.

Overall, Matinee is a very good movie about the art of moviemaking and more specifically movie presentation.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) ****1/2

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Only got better with a second viewing.
Three Billboards... (2017) sees McDormandHarrelson 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)).

One of my Top 20 Films Of 2017

The Nice Guys (2016) ***

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The Nice Guys (2016) is a good solid romp but didn't hold up as well as I remembered on a rewatch (Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) is very similar and vastly superior). I still think Gosling is very funny in this but the 70s setting just feels like window dressing — the humor and tone of the film is too modern for this to feel truly authentic (I felt much the same way about American Hustle (2013)). There is still a lot of fun to be had regardless.