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Showing posts from 2019

Polyester (1981) ***1/2

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For John Waters' first studio (and biggest budgeted) film, Polyester(1981), he ditched the overt filth and midnight movie approach to make his version of an R-rated Douglas Sirk melodrama, casting Divine against type (trading his well-known monstrous persona for a sympathetic character), and scored a real Hollywood star, 50s heartthrob Tab Hunter.

Aided by a scratch-and-sniff gimmick, Odorama™, inspired by William Castle, Waters aimed his crude satirical sense of humor at suburbiatackling divorce, abortion, adultery, alcoholism, foot fetishism, and the religious right. While it's tamer than his previous films in regard to shocking on-screen gratuitous content, it benefits from improved production values, refined performances, and there's still plenty of memorable dialogue. His usual cast and crew of Dreamlanders are all there, just in minimized roles.

Polyester received good reviews and brought Waters to the multiplexes. This wasn't a bad thing. Though he never made a…

Häxan (1922) ****

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Writer/director Benjamin Christensen described his 1922 film Häxan as a"cultural history lecture in moving pictures." The silent film explores witchcraft in the Middle Ages and compares it to modern treatment (at the time) of mental illness, combining historical descriptions via intertitles with on-screen reenactments. In the process it created something the likes of which had never been seen before—a pseudo documentary/pseudo horror film—that serves all at once as a somber reminder of what superstition can cause people to do, a delightfully demonic romp, and a virtual handbook for goths everywhere.
Christensen himself plays Satan, lasciviously flicking his tongue at and luring women in various states of (un)dress throughout the film. All the iconic imagery you could want on this topic is there—black magic, a bubbling cauldron, a full moon, creepy forests, infant sacrifice, blasphemy, torture. If I'm being honest, those are the parts of the film that entertain me the mo…

The Laundromat (2019) **1/2

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I'll watch anything Steven Soderbergh does because he never repeats himself and I love that he balances blockbusters with passion projects, making both popcorn escapism and serious political dramas—sometimes within the same year. He made another film in 2019, High Flying Bird(my review here), also released by Netflix, and I enjoyed it, despite not being a sports fan in the slightest. I didn't like The Laundromatas much though and a lot of that has to do with the slapdash tone (Is it a breezy satire? Is it a scathing diatribe? Is it a documentary?), the lack of character development, and the irony of a "message" film like this being delivered by millionaires.

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

Scarface (1983) ****

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It's so interesting to see how one views a film at different points in their life or even depending on the mood they're in when they watch it. The last time I watched Scarface(1983) (my review here), I wrote how it didn't feel much like a Brian De Palma film. Now that it's been just shy of eight years since my previous viewing, I couldn't feel more different. Between the camerawork, the editing, the melodrama and the way De Palma takes the gangster picture to almost cartoonish proportions, it very much feels like his work.

Oliver Stone's script takes the very basic idea of Howard Hawk's fantastic original 1932 Scarface, transports the action from Chicago to Miami, switches the ethnicity of the characters from Italian to Cuban immigrants, and changes the means of power from illegal alcohol to cocaine. Stone's dialogue is part of the lexicon of cinema, like it or not. Al Pacino's performance is one of over the top bombast, an approach he's taken w…

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019) ***1/2

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I'm not sure that I needed to find out what happened to Jesse Pinkman after the conclusion of Breaking Bad(2008–2013). And honestly, there is nothing particularly revelatory about El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019). It feels more like two long episodes of the TV series than a film on its own right. But there's nothing wrong with that. Nothing felt out of place since series creator Vince Gilligan wrote and directed the movie himself. The production values are really high, as with the series.

Revisiting these characters was like slipping on a glove—no surprises, just a comfortable feeling. Aaron Paul is certainly excellent. And the film will always carry a certain level of noteworthiness due to it being the last performance by Robert Forster released during his lifetime (I found out about his passing as I was writing this review—R.I.P.). While I can't say that El Camino is necessary, neither does it feel like any kind of a betrayal or a letdown per se. It's just dif…

Predator 2 (1990) ***1/2

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While not the classic that Predator (1987) turned out to be, Predator 2(1990) is a worthy follow-up and a thoroughly enjoyable action/sci-fi flick.

Danny Glover was a bit of an odd choice to square off against the "silent, invisible, invincible, ultimate hunter" but somehow he makes it work in a cast filled with intense/over the top male actors—Gary Busey, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi and Morton Downey Jr. among them. There's definitely an additional level of comedy added that wasn't present in the first film, but it's also a gorier affair, at times dipping deeper into horror movie territory than its predecessor (or Predacessor? Sorry.) did. Stan Winston's alien creation gets some nice updates in costume and weaponry that are put to great use.

Stephen Hopkins was a solid choice to direct Predator 2. While A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, which he directed the previous year, is my least favorite of all the Freddy films (not counting the abysmal 2010 re…

Don't Look Now (1973) ****1/2

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Don’t Look Now (1973) has always felt like more of a thriller and a moving drama to me than a horror film—at least until the last 15 minutes. In that way it’s much like Daphne du Maurier’s (whose 1971 short story serves as the basis of this film) Rebecca (1938), which was also famously adapted to film by Alfred Hitchcock. Of course since DLN was directed by Nicolas Roeg, it's a whole different type of experience. Concerning a married couple in Venice following the death of their young daughter, DLN is a film that focuses on the aftermath of the death, the grief that pervades the couple, and two sisters (one clairvoyant) that persist in their lives. 
Roeg's film is noteworthy for many reasons. Among them are its actors' willingness to fully commit to their roles, its unconventional editing style and manipulation of time, combined with a fractured (and at times intentionally glacially paced) narrative, its frank depictions of nudity, including a sex scene between leads Julie…

Shaun Of The Dead (2004) *****

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It's difficult for me to fathom that Shaun Of The Dead(2004) is already fifteen years old. All the jokes and references still land, the dialogue is incredibly quotable and relatable (and the callbacks clever), the editing and story beats still impress, you care in one way or another for all the characters, and the film is ridiculously fun for the entirety of its runtime. SOTD is basically a perfect film, and, along with Re-Animatorand The Return Of The Living Dead(both 1985), is one of the Top 3 zombie comedies ever.

You can find my Edgar Wright Feature Films Ranked list here.

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

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I wrote on my second viewing of The Shape Of Water (2017)that it is a film that will stand the test of time with its simple yet complex beauty. After a third time through I still hold that sentiment.

TSOW is a beautiful, at times 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 there's definitely a bit of a Steven Spielberg/Tim Burton vibe 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, Octavia Spencer as the loyal thankless friend, and 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…

Addams Family Values (1993) ***1/2 [AF BD Double Feature Pt. 2]

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There's a sizable subset of fans that prefer 1993's Addams Family Values to its 1991 predecessor. As sequels go, it's quite good, but I still prefer the first film overall, even if I settled on awarding the same star rating to both. I'm not actually certain that I had ever seen this sequel in its entirety before. In any event, if I had, as with the first film, I hadn't seen it since the 90s so it was fun to revisit.

Barry Sonnenfeld returned to direct and did basically as good a job as he did with The Addams Family (1991). I don't think Paul Rudnick's screenplay is as good as the first film, relying a bit too much on silly humor that goes for a big laugh rather than a sly smirk (which is more my speed). The cast is excellent once again, given a chance to sink their teeth even further into the characters (Christina Ricci in particular is a delight), though I much prefer Judith Malina as Granny in the first film to Carol Kane—her performance isn't as good…

The Addams Family (1991) ***1/2 [AF BD Double Feature Pt. 1]

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After Tim Burton passed on directing The Addams Family(1991), Barry Sonnenfeld took the assignment as his directing debut. Previously Sonnenfeld had served as cinematographer on a number of great films (including the first three CoenBrothers features). Ironically, TAF had three cinematographers (including, finally, Sonnenfeld himself), due to Owen Roizman quitting and Gale Tattersall being hospitalized.

I hadn't revisited TAF since the 90s. I seem to recall that I saw it in its original theatrical run, but I I'm not 100% sure (you start to forget things that happened almost 30 years ago when you get older). I've seen some of creator Charles Addams' original cartoons and I've seen episodes of the The Addams Family(1964–1966) TV series, but I am no aficionado, by any means. However, as a film based on these characters, standing on its own merits, I find it really enjoyable—full of light-hearted gruesome fun.

The cast is pitch perfect—Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Chr…

The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (1974) ***1/2

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For 1974's The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires, legendary production company Hammer (best known for its Gothic horror output) joined forces with the legendary Shaw Brothers studio (best know for its kung fu output) to release an action-packed horror/martial arts mashup. It was the ninth and final film in Hammer's Dracula series, and the only one in that series where an actor other than Christopher Lee played the Count (apparently he declined the role after reading the script)—here played by John Forbes-Robertson.

Peter Cushing stars as Van Helsing (his fifth and final appearance in the role for Hammer), who, along with his dandy son Leyland (played by Robin Stewart) and a wealthy widow (Julie Ege)—an emancipated, sexually empowered woman (though she's useless in battle)—embark on a journey lead by one of his students (David Chiang) and his many brothers and sister (all masters of one weapon or another) to kick some serious vampire/zombie butt.

The f/x are cheap and dated w…

Chromatics "Closer To Grey" (2019) ****

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Chromatics fans were expecting their next album to be the much anticipated (and delayed) Dear Tommy, but instead the band has surprised everyone by dropping an entirely different album, Closer To Grey (2019)—their first in 7 years. The Roman numeral on the cover states that CTG is their 7th LP, and the band's label lists Dear Tommy as their 6th, even though it's yet to be released. Regardless, Chromatics' first full-length studio album since 2012's Kill For Loveis love at first listen.

In a similar move to KFL's opening Neil Young cover song ("Into The Black"), CTG opens with a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound Of Silence". Much like that Neil Young track, it's not a song I would have pictured Chromatics covering but when you hear it makes perfect sense. Chromatics are a band that can translate their stripped down sound to almost any cover and make it work. There's also another cover, of The Jesus And Mary Chain's "…

The Shining (1980) *****

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Even for a director like Stanley Kubrick (my favorite director, in fact), it's a bold move to claim a movie is a masterpiece before it's even released. But that's just what the attention-grabbing theatrical poster for The Shining (1980) by iconic designer Saul Bass did. Then again, Kubrick had made several masterpieces (almost all of his films are) prior to The Shining. And he had two more masterpieces to deliver after The Shining, which is my favorite of his films, #5 on my Top 100 Films list, #2 on my Top 10 Horror Films list, and what I consider to be a perfect film.

I hadn't watched The Shining for 10 years (far too long), but it's one of those films that burrows in your head—every moment is seared into my consciousness. It's less a terrifying experience for me as much as an unsettling one and absurdly funny at times. Jack Nicholson gives one of the all-time great movie performances—over the top, to be sure, but also one full of memorable facial nuances. S…

Predator (1987) *****

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The last time that I watched Predator(1987) was 11 years ago. That seems like an eternity for this particular film—one that I've watched so many many times growing up and one that I consider lightning in a bottle. It's simply a perfect blend of action, sci-fi, and horror with an unreasonably macho cast quipping one-liners like nobody's business. It holds up incredibly well and is endlessly rewatchable.

There's so much testosterone in this film it should come with a warning. The dialogue is highly quotable and the action sequences are bloody and bloody well executed (you can actually discern what is happening). In fact, director John McTiernan made two perfect action films—the other being Die Hard (1988)—in two consecutive years, which is no easy feat. Alan Silvestri's score is brassy, percussive and drives the action home. The acting is a notch above what you'd expect in a movie on this ilk, thanks to the intensity of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl WeathersBill…

Barry Gifford "Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels" (2010) ****1/2

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Having previously only been familiar with the characters of Sailor Ripley and Lula Pace Fortune through David Lynch's 1990 film adaptation (which I've seen many times and adore), it was a treat (and a revelation) to finally visit them at the source.

Barry Gifford wrote 7 novels concerning Sailor & Lula from 1990–2007, all collected in the 2010 book Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels. The first book in the series, Wild At Heart: The Story Of Sailor And Lula, was adapted very faithfully by Lynch for his film—save the ending, which necessarily needed to take the course that it did, in order for the characters to continue on in additional novels.

It's easy to fall in love with Sailor & Lula—theirs is a true and lasting romance, the kind that we all wish we had. They stick together through thick and thin, as the saying goes. They might appear a bit trashy to some, but they are always cool and their love reaches that of Romeo And Juliet proportions. They always seem …

Pet Sematary (1989) ***

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I hadn't watched Pet Sematary(1989) since 2007 and 30 years on it honestly didn't hold up as well as I'd remembered. It's a weird combination of mean spiritedness and attempts at both Greek tragedy and sentimentality. In some scenes it succeeds; in others the tone just isn't right. It's also a lot cheesier than I remembered (particularly some of the f/x).

Pascow—the helpful ghost—is a terrible plot mechanism and there are a lot of other tropey horror moments that kind of make me roll my eyes. Dale Midkiff is a very uneven lead—too over the top at times and too bland at others. Fred Gwynne, despite laying on the Maine accent a bit too thick, is the best part of the film. There are things to appreciate—the cinematography and score are both solid, the Zelda scenes are creepy, and Church (or rather, the multiple felines portraying him) is one gorgeous cat.

I've never read Stephen King's 1983 book but I imagine it must be better than either film adaptation …

Scared Stiff (1987) ***

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What do you get when you hire Mark Frost, the non-weird half of Twin Peaks's creative duo, to write a screenplay for a horror film? Somehow a really weird film involving a haunted house, the voodoo monster-ghost of a slave owner, a singer with poor psychiatrist boyfriend choices, gonzo gore f/x, and some poorly executed computer "graphics". Add in a boy with a desperate attachment to his racist Indian head lamp (which plays nicely into a plot gag eventually), a decent attempt at serious commentary on domestic abuse, and some dream-logic sequences that wouldn't be out of place in Hellraiser(also 1987), and you have Scared Stiff(1987). It's not a great film by any stretch, suffering (or maybe benefitting?) from a bit of the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach, but it's definitely fun, unintentionally (?) funny, and has some imaginative set pieces.

The Witches (1990) ***

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There are a lot of things to appreciate about Nicolas Roeg's film version of The Witches(1990). Chiefly Anjelica Huston playing the Grand High Witch—that's perfect casting right there. Also, the wonderful f/x by Jim Henson's (who executive produced) production company.

Additionally, for those of us who gravitate toward it, there is a dark edge here that was more common in children's movies of the 80s (The Witches was completed in 1989, but the release was delayed for more than a year) that is just not present any more. I only really tend to like children's films when they are dark (give me stories in the vein of Grimm's Fairy Tales(1812) all day long).

But unfortunately, Roeg decided to change the ending of Road Dahl's 1983 novel for his adaptation, which incensed Dahl to no end. Apparently, Roeg did film an ending that remained loyal to the book but chose to use the happier version, which I'm not crazy about. I also feel like there's something mis…

Night Of The Creeps - Director's Cut (1986) ****

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Night Of The Creeps (1986) truly has it all—zombies, exploding heads, creepy crawlies, and a date for the formal. It's classic, Spanky.

It has all of that plus aliens, killer slugs, axe murder, shotguns, a flame thrower, hot babes, dorks, frat boys, Tom Atkins, awesome one liners, 80s fashion, a B&W 50s intro, Tom Atkins, quasi gay male leads, a dorky male lead who gets the hot sorority girl, a handicapped best friend, a stereotypical Asian man, a token black police officer, characters named after horror/sci-fi directors (Romero, Carpenter Hooper, Cameron, Cronenberg, Landis, Raimi, Miner), sweet makeup from Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman, killer practical f/x and gore, more than one classic poster, Dick Miller, Tom Atkins...

Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949) ****

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Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949), one of the best of the Ealing comedies, is a misanthropic romp, full of gallows humor, wonderful performances, and economic writing/direction by Robert Hamer.

Dennis Price plays our antihero, Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini, who casually murders the members of the D'Ascoyne family, in order to inherit the title of duke (robbed of him due to his mother marrying below her social class). The eight D'Ascoyne family members that Louis murders are all famously brought to life by Alec Guinness. Price gives a delightfully dry performance and it's hard not to root him on, even though Louis himself is a bit of a cad. Along with his gleeful murder spree, our protagonist carries on an affair with a married woman, Sibella (deliciously played by Joan Greenwood)—every bit the equal of his plotting and vengeful Louis.

Although not necessarily a film of the laugh-out loud variety, Kind Hearts And Coronets is nevertheless a classic of British comedy, a bleak yet …

Ex Machina (2014) ****

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Three viewings in, Ex Machina(2014) holds up as a smart slowburn sci-fi with fantastic production and costume design, excellent performances, brilliant visual f/x, and an immersive score. Ex Machina is a thoughtful, engaging and aesthetically exciting film that topped my Top Films Of 2015.

For fans of Her (2013), Under The Skin (2013) and Beyond The Black Rainbow(2010).

Mary Poppins Returns (2018) ****1/2

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After a second viewing, I'm still over the moon about Mary Poppins Returns(2018). A few little bits and pieces don't thrill me, and I wish there was more of Emily Blunt as Mary, but I can’t deny the magic of this film, which topped my Top Films Of 2018 list. Please see my review from my theatrical viewing here.

Rambo: Last Blood (2019) **

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The world did not need another Rambo film. The fourth entry in the series, Rambo(2008), was a perfectly fitting end to the character. That film served simultaneously as a hyper-violent good time and a tonally well-balanced entry in the series. Rambo: Last Blood (2019) is none of the above. Rambo III(1988) has largely been considered the worst in the series, attempting to up the over-the-top nature of Rambo: First Blood Part II(1985), while becoming cartoonish in the process, but Last Blood is a much worse film.

By scaling back the action and the cause (Rambo's sort-of-niece gets kidnapped and his rescue mission leads to a mini-war with a Mexican cartel), the indication might be given that the series is hearkening back to its roots—First Blood(1982) is a decidedly small and more personal film compared to the rest of the franchise. But Last Blood is really just a generic action film—poorly plotted, sloppily edited, and unremarkably directed, with cookie cutter characters and a forg…

Deep Red - Original Version (1975) ****

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The last time that I watched Deep Red (Profondo Rosso) (1975), last year, I watched the "Export Version" (105 mins, sometimes called the Theatrical Cut) and I noted that I prefer it over this, the "Original Version" (127 mins, sometimes called the Director's Cut). As I've mentioned before, 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. It's also annoying that the additional scenes are only available in Italian—it's very jarring when the film bounces back and forth between the two languages, particularly within dialogue by the same character within a single scene.

That aside, Deep Red holds up well on repeat viewings, due in large part to Goblin's fantastic and memorable score and a strong lead role played by David HemmingsDeep Red also marks the first time that Dario Argentohad a decent female lead character, thanks to Dar…

The Big Lebowski (1998) *****

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The Big Lebowski(1998) is a stone cold cult classic from one of my favorite directing teams ever, Joel and Ethan Coen, responsible for so many classics. TBL is one of my Top 100 Films and probably the most quotable film that I can think of. Every scene is so ingrained in my head that I can envision it before it plays. I've probably seen other films that I love more times than this one, but I can probably quote 80% of this movie by heart. It's one of the few films that really does deserve every bit of praise it receives—just absolutely brilliant in every way.

You can find my Coen Bros Feature Films Ranked list here.

Hook (1991) ***1/2

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Hook (1991) is one of Steven Spielberg's most divisive films among audiences. It's even divisive to me, within my own opinion of it. Part of me unabashedly loves most of it. But part of me also recognizes the flaws that a lot of critics and reviewers have pointed out—that it's overlong, that it strikes a weird tone as it tries to appeal to both adults and children. But there are moments in this film that leave me positively grinning from ear to ear—at the wonder of it all.

When I first saw the film in the theater at 11 years old, I knew who Spielberg was (I mean look at the guy's 80s track record), but I was less concerned with "filmmaking" and the art of filmmaking. It was a fun fantasy adventure film and that was all it needed to be. As I grew older, I saw the film in a different light (both a blessing and a curse). Seams start to show, technology ages, and as I began to consider it among Spielberg's filmography, it sits just below the middle.

Robin Will…

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

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I've seen Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) three times now and while I've settled back on my original star rating, I still love this film (one of my Top 20 Films Of 2017). On a third viewing, it's a lot funnier than I remembered. Most of the characters are pretty unsavory, which I think confuses viewers looking for anyone to completely relate to, but that's kind of why I think it's so good—the lack of compromise to pander to the audience. Frances McDormandWoody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell give 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 Martin McDonagh.

The Last Detail (1973) ****

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Hal Ashby only made eleven feature films and one TV movie during his lifetime (in addition to editing a handful of films, including two classics) and The Last Detail(1973) is only the third of his films that I've seen.

While it didn't have the same impact that seeing Harold And Maude(1971) for the first time had on me, and while I think I like it just slightly less than Being There(1979), The Last Detail is an excellent film and one I can see myself revisiting. It contains one of Jack Nicholson’s best, most naturalistic performances, it has a spare, at times handheld feel, even approaching a documentary-like quality (partly because the characters feel so real), though it does have some beautifully long dissolves and satisfyingly long takes. It's roughly lit (intentionally by debut cinematographer Michael Chapman) and roughly recorded (some bits of dialogue aren’t even audible), which all just adds to the realism. Moments feel captured rather than staged—for example: the se…

Casino (1995) ****1/2

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At just under three hours long, I can’t think of too many other films that are as consistently entertaining throughout as Casino (1995). It never feels long, no matter when I watch it (and I’ve seen it many times).

On the surface, Casino might appear to be Goodfellas (1990) Pt. 2 (and there are certainly plenty of similarities), but even if that’s all it was (which it's not), I’d honestly be OK with it. With its frenetic pace, vivid costume design, plus Robert Richardson’s rapid fire camerawork and Thelma Schoonmaker’s brilliant editing, Casino keeps you glued to the screen.

Chocked full of classic songs by the likes of The Rolling Stones, Devo, and Harry Nilsson, and superbly acted by De Niro, Stone and Pesci, Casino is a fascinating and often hilarious exploration of what excess, glitz and greed will do to gangsters and con artists. And there is no one that does sprawling epics, particularly of the violent mob kind, like Scorsese. No one.

You can find my Martin Scorsese Feature…

The Impossible Kid (1982) **1/2

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The Impossible Kid(1982), the sequel to For Y'ur Height Only(1981), starring Weng Weng, the shortest adult actor (at 2' 9") in a leading role, is a Filipino spy/action spoof of the James Bond film series. It's not a very good film, but it's certainly an experience.

The way females fawn over Agent 00, he should have been called The Irresistible Kid. In addition to women throwing themselves at the Interpol agent every chance they get, TIK is filled with more kicks to the crotch (Agent 00's signature move) than perhaps any other film, impressive yet hilarious stunts (all performed by Weng Weng himself), uncomfortably long maniacal laughing, an endless supply of henchmen that would make a Bond villain blush, and an obvious Henry Mancini/Pink Panthertheme rip-off song. Having watched the English dub, I'm curious how the film would play in its original language.

It's a strange thing to watch a movie like this in 2019, where the whole film feels like a punchl…

It Chapter Two (2019) **1/2

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When I saw It (2017) in the theater, I awarded it four stars and really enjoyed it (my review here). On Take 2 six months later, I deducted a half star and enjoyed it a bit less but still really liked it. After seeing the sequel, It Chapter Two(2019), I was going to rate it three stars, but I settled on two and a half. Let me explain why.

Just about everything that made the first film feel both fresh, yet nostalgic, (and in that combination, special) is lacking in its follow-up. While the bond of the Losers Club is still strong, funny, and heartwarming, and while the older versions of the characters are very well cast in ICT, everything feels too familiar. The sequel is all spectacle, I found the scare scenes extra silly (and annoyingly chock full of CGI), and the film as a whole incredibly tropey. Sure, I laughed, I had some fun, and there are some genuinely strong moments throughout, but the third act was a snoozefest and the overall feeling I was left with was "meh."

I'…

Flight Of The Navigator (1986) ***1/2

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Right off the bat during its credit sequence, Flight Of The Navigator(1986) hits you with slow motion footage of dogs catching frisbees backed by the most 80s music imaginable. Totally rad. I know that I watched FOTN more than a few times when I was young, but I didn't really remember it well. For instance, I didn't recall that Paul Reubens did the voice of the film's spaceship robotic commander (which is crazy because Pee-Wee's Big Adventure(1985) is my favorite film).

I believe this was the first time I'd seen the film since the 80s. As I watched it, it started to come back to me. It holds up really well—providing a nice blend of nostalgia and timelessness—it both invokes childhood and stands as a film that parents can show their kids with pride. E.T.(1982) is clearly an influence and there is a bit of a Spielbergian feel to FOTN, but it's definitely its own film.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to Flight Of The Navigator's charm and longevity…

Spies Like Us (1985) ***

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There's still a few John Landis films I haven't seen and up until now Spies Like Us(1985) was one of them. It's very funny at times, thanks to two comic geniuses, but overall I found it to be similar to but a lesser version of Stripes (1981) (minus the extended boot camp sequences).  Enjoyable but predictable and very 80s, but it never quite reaches the classic status of other Landis films. "Doctor." "Doctor." "Doctor." "Doctor."



Heroes Shed No Tears (1986) ***

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John Woo's Heroes Shed No Tears (Ying Xiong Wei Lei) (1986) is a crazy action/war film that pits a group of mercenaries against a drug lord and his henchmen. Tonally it's all over the place—some scenes are highly dramatic, some are brutally violent and exploitative, and some are straight out comedic (and frankly silly)—but that definitely gives the movie a certain charm. Woo has disassociated himself from Heroes, partly due to the fact that he didn't shoot some of the scenes (such as the comedic ones mentioned before, which the studio had shot and added later), but it's never not entertaining (particularly the action scenes).

L.A. Takedown (1989) ***

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Michael Mann's L.A. Takedown (1989) serves as a decent dry run for his 1995 film Heat. A TV movie with the same characters, much of the same dialogue and staging, though much poorer acting, L.A. Takedown still offers some cool action scenes (particularly for a TV movie) and is a nice curiosity for Mann fans. If anything, even if I never watch it again, if L.A. Takedown allowed Mann to make Heat, a masterpiece, then I'm grateful that it exists.

The Nightingale (2018) ****

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For her second feature film director Jennifer Kent presents a grim and violent Australian period piece focusing on a young woman who, reluctantly teaming up with an Aboriginal tracker, seeks revenge for crimes against her family. Despite receiving many offers to direct other scripts and even being in talks to direct Wonder Woman (2017), Kent instead chose to and/or ended up making The Nightingale(2018).

Personally, having been burnt out on superhero stuff for quite a while now (I don't bother with them anymore), I'm glad that this ended up being her next film. The Nightingale is original, it's not a remake, sequel or part of a franchise, it's based in reality, it has two exceptional lead performances by Aisling Franciosi and Baykali Ganambarr, and it has a voice and vision. The film certainly isn't for everyone, given the difficult and visceral nature of particular sequences. But, while I liked Kent's first film, The Babadook(2014), I found The Nightingale to …

Apocalypse Now - Final Cut (1979/2019) *****

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40 years has passed since Francis Ford Coppola unleashed what many consider to be his masterpiece, Apocalypse Now (1979). Despite monumental obstacles in the form of severe weather, postponements resulting in the film taking years to make, budgetary and casting problems (including Marlon Brando arriving overweight and unprepared), improvisation on the part of Coppola in order to get a film that worked or Martin Sheen suffering a breakdown and near-fatal heart attack, and Coppola himself almost being driven as mad as his character Kurtz (all of which is documented in the superb Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse(1991)), Coppola did create a masterpiece.

Because Apocalypse Now is a film that rewards the viewer every time. There's always something new to appreciate or some aspect to be further enriched upon each viewing. Whether it's the incredible cinematography by Vittorio Storaro (the orchestration that must have gone into some shots is mind boggling), the immer…