Showing posts from April, 2018

The Church (1989) ***

Of the four narrative horror feature films that Michele Soavi directed in his prime (1987–1994), The Church (1989) is my least favorite though it's far from a failure. 
Soavi's trademark surrealistic style is all over The Church and it's easy to spot that his mentor Dario Argento co-wrote and produced the film. The beautiful, atmospheric production design and practical effects/makeup are easy to appreciate and the synthesized score by Keith Emerson/Goblin/Philip Glass creates an appropriate environment. 
Unfortunately, the poor dubbing stands out like a sore thumb (a common practice in Italian films of the 70s/80s, though it's particularly distracting in this film), rendering some of the performances as laughable. Overall, it just feels less cohesive than Soavi's other three great horror films.
Recommended for fans of Rosemary's Baby(1968), Demons (1985), and Inferno (1980).

The Boneyard (1991) **1/2

The Boneyard (1991) is a Z-grade direct-to-video horror film that spends far too much time building up to a ridiculous final third that is worth the snooze fest and poor acting that precedes it. The plot is something about mummified corpses, a psychic and some detectives detecting at a funeral home, but all you really need to know is that you get silly but awesome creature f/x via some creepy Asian demon children, a bug-eyed Phyllis Diller monster, a giant zombie poodle and a score (and catchy AOR tune over the end credits) that are all better than this film deserves.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988) ***1/2

Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988) is a kult klassic that doesn't hold a candle to the plethora of horror/comedy hybrids from the 80s, but has a klunky charm that can't be denied. It's fun, silly, and impossible not to admire the production design/writing/direction by The Chiodo Brothers. It's also one of the few PG-13 horror films that works because you're too busy admiring the costumes and f/x to need gore or nudity.

The King Of Comedy (1982) ****

The King Of Comedy (1982) is a prophetic, funny and sad film about a man who will virtually stop at nothing to achieve fame. The always greatRobert De Niroplays Rupert Pupkin, an aspiring comic who stalks his hero, late night host Jerry Langford (played by the equally excellent Jerry Lewis).

When Pupkin is rejected by Langford's agency numerous times and can't take the hint, he devises a plan to kidnap Jerrywith the assistance of his friend, another rabid fan, Masha (played to obsessive perfection by Sandra Bernhard), in order to get his name out there. In some ways, Scorsese's stamp is less obvious, at least to me on this, my first viewing (took me far too long). But KOC is a highly influential black comedy satire that stands the test of time.

Recommended for fans of Network (1976), Taxi Driver (1976) and To Die For (1995).

You can find my Martin Scorsese Feature Films Ranked list here.

The Hitcher (1986) ***1/2

The Hitcher (1986) is a cat and mouse thriller, a suspenseful horror action flick, and a slasher with style. Rutger Hauer is a deliciously delirious and perturbing villain with no backstory, terrorizing C. Thomas Howell for seemingly no apparent reason. I was less sold on Howell, which isn't to say he doesn't give an impassioned performance, but I wanted something more from him.

Some parts drag in odd spots, but there are also some incredible stunts, and it's all shot beautifully. Recommended for fans of Duel (1971), Halloween (1978) and The Terminator (1984).

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) ***1/2

Mario Bava's The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963), the first true giallo film, draws heavily from Alfred Hitchcockand Fritz Langfor its look and feel. The title of the film itself is course a play on Hitchcock's two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 and 1956) as well.

Girl has more in common with film noir and hard boiled crime than the blood soaked gialli that would saturate Italian cinema in the early to mid 70s (starting with Dario Argento's 1970 film The Bird With The Crystal Plumage). This can be attributed to the mood and lighting created by Girl's B&W cinematography, its use of voiceover, and its debt to Edgar Wallace, Mickey Spillaneand Agatha Christienovels. There's also a playful nature running throughout the film that is absent from most other gialli (see the use of Adriano Celentano's addictively catchy song "Furore").

While certainly not the best giallo or really a terribly "exciting" film, The Girl Who Knew Too Much i…

Married To The Mob (1988) ***1/2

Jonathan Demme's Married To The Mob (1988) is one of those 80s comedies that doesn't take itself too seriously, isn't too deep, but also isn't dumbed down to the lowest denominator. It's just a fun, cute, gangster farce/screwball comedy in the vein of Some Like It Hot (1959).

Mob has a strong cast featuring a lot of name and character actors in roles of various sizes. Michelle Pfeifferis a joy as Angela, a vulnerable widower of a mafia man who just wants to start over with a normal, honest life. Dean Stockwell is charmingly sleazy as over-amorous mob boss Tony "The Tiger" Russo who pursues Angela, despite his territorial wife Connie played by Mercedes Ruehlthreatening both of them. And Matthew Modine is suitable as an earnest FBI agent, keeping tabs on Pfeiffer and (naturally) falling in love with her.

The score by David Byrneis very non-intrusive and the soundtrack has some great songs though most of them are relegated to the background (fun fact: Q Lazza…

DB Mix Series 2 – Spring Mix

One month ago my cousin Bryan gave me a music challenge—make our own Late Night Tales playlists for each other. We took 1 artist from each letter of the alphabet, found a chill song from our available music libraries, made a 26-song compilation, then shared. You can check out those mixes here.

We decided to keep these cousin (we're calling them "DB") mixes going. I chose this round's mix concept: Spring. The challenge was to take 1 artist from each letter of the alphabet (this time from Z–A), find a "spring" song from our available music libraries (it could be the title, lyrics, themes of rebirth, new love, growth, rain, etc.), make a 26-song compilation, then share.

We never tell each other which songs we are going to pick, so the mixes are a surprise for us both. We happen to have a lot of the same artists/songs in our respective (and large) music libraries and we often share artists/songs.

Amazingly, the first time we did a DB Mix, neither of us chose a…

You Were Never Really Here (2017) ****

You Were Never Really Here (2017) is the story of Joe, a hired gun who suffers PTSD from both his disturbed childhood and his time in the military, on a mission to rescue an abused teenage girl.

Featuring an eclectic and textured score by Jonny Greenwood, a soundtrack full of 40s tunes and moments of brutal violence, YWNRH is a hallucinatory and bleak film not without appropriately timed moments of humor.

Recommended for fans of Taxi Driver (1976), Hardcore(1979), Léon(1994) and Drive (2011).

Isle Of Dogs (2018) ****

For round 2 of Isle Of Dogs (2018), I'd say that I felt largely the same as my first viewing,which is a good thing because I loved it.

I will say that there are some beats in this film that fall flat, unlike Fantastic Mr. Fox(2009), which is close to perfect. Some of the characters don't do it for me, some are underutilized, and some of the scenes drag a bit, but on the whole the film is bursting with eye and ear candy. The voice work of Cranston, Norton and Goldblum in particular are all stellar. One thing I didn't mention in my original reviewis how excellent Alexandre Desplat's score is—at times full of drums beating like a heart, at times as sparse as a 3-note whistle.

Despite the shortcomings, my star rating hasn't changed and I could see myself enjoying many more viewings of Dogs, more than anything else to soak in its art form.

A funny, sad, charming adventure that still has thought-provoking statements to make about the lives of both humans and dogs, how w…

Mona Lisa (1986) ****

Neil Jordan's Mona Lisa (1986) is an engaging neo-noir that features top notch performances by Bob Hoskins as an ex-convict chaperoning Cathy Tyson's call girl. This unconventional working arrangement has a rocky start but soon blossoms into a complex relationship wherein the two care for each other, despite their faults and social statures. Recommended for fans of Taxi Driver (1976), Hardcore(1979) and The Long Good Friday (1980).

Walk For Hunger 2018

Hi Friends!

On Sunday May 6, for the ninth time, my cousin Bryan and I will be joining Project Bread in the 50th Walk for Hunger to take on 20 miles and raise money to end hunger in Massachusetts! We can't do this alone – we need your support.

Last year, money raised through the Walk supported 263 local programs in nearly 100 communities across the state, including food pantries, meal programs, local farms, urban gardens and early childhood and school nutrition programs. These programs address hunger on both the individual and systemic level.

Please help me reach my fundraising goal by donating to my Walk page! Just click on the link below and then ​the green button that says "Donate To The Danman Can." A sincere thank you for any support you can give​.​

The Company Of Wolves (1984) ***1/2

Neil Jordan's The Company Of Wolves (1984) is a surreal, wonderful, fantastical anthology film dealing with the exploration of a young girl's budding sexuality, a cautionary tale of the dangers of strange men, and a horrifying fairy tale with themes of female empowerment.

The cast (including Angela LansburyDavid Warner, the young Red Riding Hood-clad lead Sarah Patterson, and an uncredited cameo by Terence Stamp) are all great, even when the dialogue is a bit silly at times. The visual f/x, including a couple of wolf transformations, are at times impressive and at times laughable, but all the while endearingly bizarre. I love the artifice of the sets, particularly the well-staged, fog-enshrouded shots in the woods. I've seen Wolves3-4 times and always enjoy it. There really is nothing quite like it.

"And if there's a beast in men, it meets its match in women too."

Jim Thompson "Now And On Earth" (1942) ***1/2

Jim Thompson's first novel is a strong semi-autobiographical debut, devoid of his later signature hard-boiled crime style but very engaging nonetheless. Now And On Earth (1942) follows the life of the main character and he struggles to break free from working in an airplane manufacturing plant to do what he really wants to do full-time - write, all while trying to cope with his demanding family at home.

Deep Red - Export Version (1975) ****1/2

The last time that I watched Deep Red (Profondo Rosso) (1975), two years ago, I watched the "Original Version" (127 mins, sometimes called the Director's Cut) and I noted that I prefer this, the "Export Version" (105 mins, sometimes called the Theatrical Cut). I find that the Original Version is overlong and drags and I don't feel that the scenes that were dropped for the Export Version add any true substance to the film.

That aside, Deep Red holds up incredibly well on repeat viewings, due in large part to Goblin's fantastic and memorable score and a strong lead role played by David Hemmings. Deep Red also marks the first time that Argentohad a decent female lead character, thanks to Daria Nicolodi, who holds her own and has good chemistry with Hemmings. Daria was romantically involved with Dario and would greatly influence his future works.

This film has always been my favorite giallo and honestly ties for me as Argento's best film — it and Suspi…

Death Walks At Midnight (1972) ***1/2

Death Walks At Midnight (1972) is director Luciano Ercoli's second "Death Walks" film and third (and final) giallo(all written by "Godfather Of The Giallo" Ernesto Gastaldi). As with Ercoli's first "Death Walks" film, Death Walks On High Heels (1971), Midnight (and really that title has nothing to do with anything in this movie) is convoluted in its plot mechanics and Gianni Ferrio's score is Stelvio Ciprianilite. But Nieves Navarro gets to shine throughout much of the film as a strong female protagonist (who, unlike her character in High Heels, never once disrobes), there's some nice gore in a few scenes, and an ending more like that of a poliziotteschi — even featuring a final shot decidedly reminiscent of Dirty Harry(1971).

You can find my Giallo Feature Films Ranked list here.

Death Walks On High Heels (1971) ***1/2

Death Walks On High Heels (1971) is a twisty-turny giallofilled to the brim with red herrings. No matter how many times I see it I think I forget the mechanics (because the plot is so convoluted). It's a bit clunky at times, the sexy stuff in the beginning of the film feels a little out of place with the rest of the film (including a problematic racist depiction), and the overtly violent scenes actually feel a bit tacked on (despite being a key part of this genre). But it's a fun ride in the tradition of Agatha Christie - complete with the amusing stereotypical scene where the villain explains his motive at the end, the score by Stelvio Ciprianiis bouncy and breezy, and it never seems to take itself too seriously (the ending even has a winking freeze frame that you can't help but smile at).

You can find my Giallo Feature Films Ranked list here.

A Quiet Place (2018) ***

I saw the trailer for A Quiet Place(2018) a couple months back and thought it looked decent but it wasn't something I was dying to see. Right before it was released the buzz was wild, so I decided to check it out. And it was really really strong for 75% of the movie, one of those horror flicks that comes along and is way better than it has any right to be.

It's (obviously) a very quiet film, a slow burner in the vein of The Witch (2015) and It Comes At Night (2017), but with a whole lot more tension and suspense. The performances are all strong, the direction is solid, and the score is very good.

I was willing to suspend a lot of disbelief and I was really hooked into the film until the ending unfortunately nearly undid everything. In the last 15 minutes too much of the creatures is shown and the very last shot drastically shifted the tone of the entire film (which up until then was 100% serious and realistic). Still, Place is a good film and I would revisit it.

The Devil's Rain (1975) **1/2

I never thought that I'd say a film contains too many scenes of people melting, but here we are at The Devil's Rain (1975), an oddly paced (and thinly plotted) blasphemer featuring Ernest Borgnine(GOAT, literally, in this film) and kind…of…half-starring William Shatner (looking like he's wearing his own The Shape mask). Plus the rarely unmoustachioed Tom Skerritt being very serviceable in a weak role, Joan Prather - an actress who bears a striking resemblance to Riley Keough(at least in this film), and the film debut of John Travolta (uttering entirely two lines of dialogue and the same word at that)! The Devil's Rain had the potential to be a cult (pun intended) classic and it's fun at times, but it's mostly a snoozer.

Bowfinger (1999) ***

Bowfinger (1999) has aged pretty well. It's not a laugh a minute but there are definitely some very funny parts and the two leads shine. It's a charming, breezy and very rewatchable film where it's fun to root for the underdog.

Isle Of Dogs (2018) ****

As far as Wes Anderson stop motion films go, I like Fantastic Mr. Fox(2009) more, but Isle Of Dogs(2018) is a whole lot of fun (and I've only seen it once so its ranking could change). This is definitely a film that warrants multiple viewings in order to catch more details and appreciate the art behind the painstaking process of its creation.

Wes's style of storytelling suits the scenarios perfectly, this time around working from a story by himself, Roman Coppola(who previously co-wrote The Darjeeling Limited(2007) and Moonrise Kingdom(2012) with him), Jason Schwartzman(who has previously worked with Anderson as both actor and writer) and Kunichi Nomura (who voices one of the characters in this film). Anderson has always worn his influences on his sleeve and in Dogs the more obvious ones are references to the films of Akira Kurosawa(and as mentioned before, I'll have to see the film again to truly absorb those).

Isle Of Dogs is a funny, sad, charming adventure that still ha…