Showing posts from March, 2018

Mother! (2017) ***

On Take 2 of Mother!(2017), I'm not sure any new complexities were revealed to me, unfortunately. In fact, I deducted a 1/2 star from my original rating. My original review is here.

My feelings this time around were largely the same — an ambitious, but frustrating affair (which I get, is probably the point). However I can't help liking the first half more when the film is mysterious in a Rosemary's Baby (1968) or Repulsion (1965) kind of way rather than beating the audience over the head (literally in the case of some characters) with its...message?

I get that the ugliness is intended and necessary for the story. The film just doesn't thrill me the way I wish such an arty venture from a talented director would. I'll always show up for an Aronofskyfilm though and whether I love it or not, I always appreciate films that divide opinions.

Flash Gordon (1980) ****

Flash Gordon (1980) never gets old. It's so much damn fun. It's pure entertainment. It just works.

Producer Dino De Laurentiisbasically supplants his earlier hit Barbarella(1968) into the 80s (with slightly less sensuality) while retaining some of the comic book style of the original FG 30s strips. The tone of the FG film is high camp and a lot of the f/x are laughable but the production design/sets are incredible and the costumes are fantastic and flamboyant. Not to mention the soundtrack by Queen kicks ass (and just you try not to respond with "Ah-ahh" when someone sings "Flash!").

Max Von Sydow is super sinister and maniacal as Emperor Ming. Though there is undoubtedly a negative "Yellow Peril" Chinese stereotype to his appearance, I personally find that it ends there, so I have less of a problem with the portrayal than some might. A pre-BondTimothy Daltondoes his best Errol Flynn as the dashing and headstrong Prince Barin. And has an actor ever…

What Have You Done To Solange? (1972) ***1/2

What Have You Done To Solange? (1972) is a very frustrating giallo for me because I always want to like it more than I actually do (and I've seen it 4 or 5 times). Which is to say that I really like the film a lot but enough about it keeps me from giving it that extra half star (i.e. an "excellent" film). If I gave 1/4 stars, this would definitely be a ***3/4.

Solange is an interesting blend of sleaze and social issues (teachers sleeping with students, teenage sex rings, homemade abortions, the patriarchy), yet it seems to linger a bit too long on its frequently nude female actresses, and revel somewhat in its excess, to be taken too seriously. But this is a giallo after all (so it should be a bit shocking) and it happens to be in my Top 10 Gialli (see my ranked list below).

It's just that when you combine the above nitpicks with other ones like some poor dialogue, some so-so acting, very unrealistic reactions by main characters to events that take place, and some sce…

Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key (1972) ****

Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key (1972) (easily the best title for a giallo ever) is a quasi-gothic thriller (very) loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat(1843).

Edwige Fenechis as charming and as impossibly gorgeous as ever, Luigi Pistilliis perfectly despicable, and Anita Strindbergplays unhinged like nobody's business. This is my favorite of Sergio Martino's multiple gialli and his direction is impressive. Bruno Nicolai's at times baroque score relies heavily on strings and harpsichord but also utilizes piano, guitar, bass and drums to great effect.

All in all Your Viceis a highly entertaining, gleefully melodramatic film that holds up excellently on repeat viewings.

You can find my Giallo Feature Films Ranked list here.

Blood And Black Lace (1963) ****

Blood And Black Lace (1964) is simultaneously the blueprint for the giallo and a distinctive and unique film in its own right. A gorgeously shot, technically flawless murder-mystery featuring vibrant colors, iconic imagery, haute couture fashion and an incredibly catchy theme song, B&BL is one Bava's best films and one of the best films in the genre.

You can find my Giallo Feature Films Ranked list here.

Let The Corpses Tan (2017) ****

Cattet and Forzani make their avant-garde version of an Italian Western/robbery/siege film and it does not disappoint. Let The Corpses Tan(2017) is chock-full of the bizarre fetishistic eroticism and violence one would expect from this brilliant directing duo, this time primarily featuring a sun-bleached backdrop and a more fleshed out story. A non-stop assault on the senses; an audio-visual heist, if you'll forgive the pun.

Unsane (2018) ***1/2

With Unsane(2018) Soderbergh continues to find innovative ways to tell stories that skew expectations and comment on issues without being heavy-handed. He also managed to make an incredibly tense horror/thriller on a super low budget with some great performances.

You can find my Steven Soderbergh Feature Films Ranked list here.

Suspiria (1977) ****1/2

Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977), the first and best film in his Three Mothers Trilogy, is best enjoyed if you let the gorgeous visuals and dreamlike quality wash over you and focus less on the absence of plot or dialogue. A blood-soaked nightmarish adult fairy tale with an all-time great score by Goblin.

Check out my Dario Argento Feature Films Ranked list here.

Screenshots from Synapse Films' stunning 4K mastered Blu-ray

Dead Or Alive (1999) ***1/2

Dead Or Alive (1999), like much of Takashi Miike's work, is a bit of a schizophrenic film. The first  10 mins are dizzying in a "what is even happening" kind of way, then the film is a mostly slow somewhat straightforward yakuza picture for the majority of the movie (with the occasional gross/disturbing/funny scene typical of Miike and one shootout near the end reminiscent of John Woo). Then there is that completely left field ending.

This was my first time seeing this one. As with other Miike films, I'll probably need another viewing to fully digest it but I'm still unsure why he decided to play it straight for most of the film's running time, only to go full bizarro at the end (unlike say Shinya Tsukamoto or some of Miike's own other films).

The 'Burbs (1989) ****

With The 'Burbs(1989) Joe Dante made a fun, darkly funny, quotable cult movie about next door neighbors that may or may not be crazed murderers. The Tim Burton comparisons are unavoidable art times but that's hardly important. And what a great cast. I like Tom Hanks. I don't fawn over him the way a lot of people do. But I think he is easily the funniest he's ever been in this film. Rick Ducommun is fantastic as well and threatens to steal the movie in almost every scene he's in. I love this film and it gets better with age.

Giallo Feature Films Ranked

Back in 2011, I posted about Giallo Films That I Own And Have Seen. Since then I have seen a great many more gialli. Inspired by Ryan's Giallo Rankinglist, I decided it was time that I made my own Letterboxd list.

While I don't own all the titles in this list, I have seen them all. Pictured below are my Top 10, but if you'd like to see the complete list (which will be updated as I watch and rewatch titles), you can find my Giallo Feature Films Rankedhere.

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962) ****

Titans Davis and Crawford's real-life off-screen rivalry fuels What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962), a creepy, funny, campy horror classic. My one criticism is that the film is a bit overlong.

The Crazies (1973) ***

I've always liked The Crazies(1973) but it actually hasn't aged as well as I'd hoped. The last time I watched it was in 2010 (just before the remake was released) and I'd seen it maybe 2-3 times before that. This most recent viewing of the  film seemed to reveal characteristics that knocked my opinion of it down a notch.

For instance, the acting. Richard France is the hammiest of the hams (and it works to a certain degree, but it's more humorous than anything). Richard Liberty is good here but he really gets to shine in Day Of The Dead(1985) (which is my favorite of the Dead films and which I prefer to The Crazies when it comes to Romero films with "men being macho/overacting/yelling loudly"). And while I'm sure the military drumming score is intended to invoke a feeling of tension and constant movement, I find it largely grating.

All of which isn't to say that I don't appreciate a good deal about The Crazies. The low budget spirit that perm…

DB Mix Series 1 – Late Night Tales

My cousin Bryan recently gave me a brilliant music challenge: make our own Late Night Tales playlists for each other. Take 1 artist from each letter of the alphabet, find a chill song from our available music libraries, make a 26-song compilation, then share.

Never one to half-ass something that I’m passionate about, I went the extra mile by editing and mixing the songs together, and designing front and inside covers to match the theme of the real LNT comps. Then I decided that I wanted to edit and mix the songs and design front and inside covers for Bryan’s playlist too.

Special thanks to my good friend Luke Awtry Photography for use of his photo of his cat Luna.

To download the MP3s and cover art for both comps, go here:

I'd love your feedback! Enjoy.

Jim Thompson "The Rip-Off" (1990) ***1/2


Evil Toons (1992) **

First off, there is only one (singular) "evil toon" in Evil Toons (1992) (and barely in the film at that). Second of all, this film is awful. But pretty fun with an audience, I suppose. If a poorly animated cartoon demon-wolf (brought to life through a poor excuse for a Necronomincon) terrorizing four actresses known primarily for soft and hardcore films (and spewing some truly Z-grade dialogue in truly Z-grade fashion), who take their tops off every 5 minutes, with occasional appearances from David Carradine and Dick Miller is your cup of tea than have at it.

It (2017) ***1/2

The minor quibbles that I had about It(2017) from the first time I watched it unfortunately turned into larger quibbles. I had feared this would happen. It is still very enjoyable and the best part is the friendship of the Losers Club but a lot of the characters are underwritten, the CGI still bugs me, the amount of times that Pennywise/things jump at/run toward the screen really bugs me, and the film feels too long. I'm very curious how the sequel will fare and how this film will age.

Yor, The Hunter From The Future (1983) **1/2

Yor, The Hunter From The Future(1983) is cheesy sci-fi sword & sorcery from the director of Cannibal Apocalypse(1980), starring the guy that played Captain America in the two 1979TV movies and one of the Bond girls from Moonraker (1979). It's got a killer theme song. If you're in the mood for Italian barbarian/Star Wars rip-off fluff, it's fun and funny.

It Comes At Night (2017) ****

It Comes At Night(2017) is a tense, atmospheric and ambiguous film with an excellent cast and an appropriately minimalist score. This simple yet effective low budget distopian slowburner holds up exceptionally well on a repeat viewing.

Thoroughbreds (2017) ***1/2

Shades of Heathers (1988) and American Psycho(2000) permeate Thoroughbreds (2017) but it never quite reaches the glorious heights of either of those classics. Regardless, this tale of privledged teens gone awry excels with the awkward friendship between the two leads (expertly portrayed by Olivia Cookeand Anya Taylor-Joy), a brief but strong performance by the late great Anton Yelchin, an unsettlingly dissonant, percussive score and some deliciously tense moments.

The Breaking Point (1950) ****

Michael Curtiz's The Breaking Point (1950) features a perfectly nuanced performance by John Garfield, a feisty femme fatale brought to life by Patricia Neal, razor-sharp dialogue and impressive staging. This second screen adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's To Have And Have Not(1937) is just as strong as (and in some ways better than) the 1944 Howard HawksBogie/Bacallversion (though the two films are quite different).

The Cat O' Nine Tails (1971) ***1/2

The Cat O' Nine Tails(1971), the second of Dario Argento's unofficial "Animal Trilogy" is my least favorite and perhaps the least inventive of the three films. It drags a bit here and there with a plot that can be confusing and seems to exist just to stitch the set pieces together (typical of the genre). But it's still a stylish giallo featuring a pair of charismatic leads (James Franciscus, Karl Marlden) and an excellent jazzy, atonal score by Ennio Morricone.

You can find my Giallo Feature Films Ranked list here.

Screencaps courtesy of Land Of Whimsy

The Dark Crystal (1982) *****

The Dark Crystal (1982) is one of my Top 100 Films ever (Top 10, actually) and it's safe to say my favorite fantasy film. It certainly scared me as a child but I love that Jim Henson (one of my heroes) wasn't afraid to go to dark places in a "family film," a quality largely lacking in today's entertainment.

TDC is a fairly simple story of good and evil with a hero on a quest to save his world from darkness (with the aid of a selfless and gifted female friend). What sets it apart is the masterful handmade artistry that went into making the film. I've always appreciated the monumental effort that it must have taken to bring TDC to life.

And the film stands the test of time. I realize that certain aspects of the film may appear dated and that it's not perfect, but it has the power to transcend. Every time I return to it, I am wholly absorbed in its world.

The Muppets may be Henson's most recognized legacy (and we're talking about a man who gave the wor…

BASEketball (1998) **1/2

I seemed to remember BASEketball(1998) being a lot funnier but 20 years on, it's just OK. There are a few pretty funny scenes, but nothing overtly clever or original — just a lot of outdated "dude" humor. David Zucker either wrote, directed and/or produced Airplane!(1980), Police Squad!(1982), Top Secret! (1984) and The Naked Gun series though, so he's still a legend.

Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) ****

I don't know what it is about older films but some of them, like Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), seem to stir a small sense of patriotism in me, in a way that modern films flatly fail at. A stirring, simple portrait and a great American film.