Showing posts from January, 2019

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011) ****

We Need To Talk About Kevin(2011) is a challenging film about the complex relationship between an initially reluctant mom and her deeply disturbed son, and the terrible acts of violence that he perpetrates. I can't think of another film that I've seen that takes this type of divisive subject matter and focuses on a parent's perspective rather than the child's and/or the details (and in some cases exploitation) of a tragedy.

In non-linear fashion, we see Tilda Swinton (in a perfectly detached but powerful performance) as Eva before, during and after both her pregnancy and the horrible events that her son—played at three different ages by three different actors, though primarily (and brilliantly) by Ezra Miller as the teenage Kevin—commits.

At times, Eva seems to be disinterested and overwhelmed by being a mom but her love for Kevin remains steadfast, even when she doesn't "like" him, even when she makes questionable parenting choices (and huge mistakes), a…

The Hunger (1983) ****

Despite a studio mandated ending, The Hunger (1983) is an excellent horror/drama that begs the question—why did Tony Scott never make any more art films (particularly when this was his feature film debut)?? It's somber, it's romantic, it's tragic, it's gothic and, at times, it's incredibly 80s (very much embracing The New Romantic movement).

Scott's brother Ridley was clearly a big influence because The Hunger is a lot like a vampire version of Blade Runner (1982)—the mood, the pace, the cinematography (neon-lit studio apartments, long and winding staircases, and lots of slow-motion shots of doves).

Along with his understated performance, David Bowie's Dorian Gray-like aging f/x (courtesy of makeup wizard Dick Smith) are a marvel to behold—particularly sad and striking to watch now that Bowie's no longer with us (nor Smith, nor Tony Scott).

If you're looking for a slow-burner filled with devastatingly attractive stars and hyper-stylized set pieces, …

My Criterion Top 10

With the recent announcement by The Criterion Collection that they would not be restoring the custom list feature on their website when they finally bring back the My Criterion section of their website in a few weeks, I decided to recreate the four Criterion Top 10 lists that I made over the years (which I wisely saved before they were removed from the site nine months ago) on Letterboxd.

Here they are:

My Criterion Top 10 [Vol. 1] (originally posted 7/16/12)

My Criterion Top 10 [Vol. 2] (originally posted 4/23/14)

My Criterion Top 10 [Vol. 3] (originally posted 1/9/16)

My Criterion Top 10 [Vol. 4] (originally posted 3/2/18)

I hope you'll take the time to read the notes that I wrote for Vols. 2–4 (click on the orange spectacles). I'll make a Vol. 5 next year, to continue the trend of posting a Top 10 every two years!

The Killing Of A Sacred Deer (2017) ****

If treated as being on the same playing field as David LynchYorgos Lanthimoscould be considered a genius of sorts. Like Lynch, he doesn't play by the same narrative rules as most filmmakers and I say more power to him. He has a style that's his own and would be polarizing to the lowest common denominator. To those more adventurous souls, he has much to offer.

Lanthimos' trademark of stilted, awkward dialogue carries through to The Killing Of A Sacred Deer (2017), a psychological thriller about a surgeon whose family is threatened by a boy whose father died during an operation by the surgeon. Sacred Deeris incredibly (and blackly) funny at times. The more horrific elements only take hold on occasion, mostly through the jarring atonal soundtrack and sound design. There's a lot that's left unexplained, as with Lanthimos' previous film, The Lobster(2015), but in the case of Deer it doesn’t hurt the film—in fact quite the opposite.

You can find my Yorgos Lanthimos…

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) ***1/2

After a second viewing of Rogue One (2016), I've cooled somewhat. I detracted a 1/2 * from my initial viewing, but I still like it very much. I just found more things to be nitpicky about, I suppose.

Jyn’s turn on a dime, for one—she went from wanting nothing to do with the Rebel Alliance to championing their cause a bit too quickly, in this viewer's opinion. For another, Vader’s first appearance is very anti-climactic. Also, while I appreciate bringing back James Earl Jones yet again to voice the character, it's obvious that he’s older from his inflection, which they didn't match properly (considering he should sound as close to how he did in Star Wars(1977) as possible). That said, Vader does receive the most badass moment of the film later on.

When R1 was released I remember everyone talking about how the CGI used to put Peter Cushing's face on another actor's body wasn't up to snuff. For some reason in the cinema, on the big screen, I thought it looked…

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974) ***1/2

At its core Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (aka The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue) (1974) is Spanish director Jorge Grau's version of Night Of The Living Dead(1968). I don't mean that as a slight. Grau takes the same type of sociopolitical approach that Romero did in many of his horror films—in this case to comment on pollution, agriculture, and the police state—and uses it as a springboard to showcase grisly makeup f/x by Italian gore-master Giannetto De Rossi, who would use many of the same techniques and gags in Fulci's Zombie five years later.

In fact, its quite striking how much the atmosphere in the earlier Corpses resembles that Fulci film, along with his 1980 film The City Of The Living Dead. It also precedes both Romero's Dawn Of The Dead (1978) and Zombie concerning its display of gut munching, entrail ripping, and other forms of bodily harm, though Corpses doesn't go to quite the same gruesome lengths that either of those more famous undead films do to spl…

The Osterman Weekend (1983) **1/2

It's a shame that Sam Peckinpah's final film is also his weakest. Despite having an excellent cast and director at its helm, The Osterman Weekend (1983) is an uneven, slipshod movie, due to a number of factors—chiefly Peckinpah's failing health and disinterest in Robert Ludlum's source novel and his refusal to re-edit the film after poor test screenings, causing the producers to fire Peckinpah and re-edit the film themselves.

Additionally, though I love Lalo Schifrin, his score doesn't fit the film at all—the cheesy, sax-heavy queues sound like muzak. For an espionage film, Osterman is pedestrian, lacks suspense, and even Peckinpah's trademark slo-mo shots can't make the action scenes more exciting. John Hurt's devious spy is the highlight of the film, but it's hard to care what happens to the majority of the remainder of the mostly unsavory characters.

I think a remake is in some form of pre-production and I would actually welcome a new adaptation…

Crimson Peak (2015) ***1/2

Crimson Peak (2015) is absolutely gorgeous—the cinematography, lighting, costumes, and production design are all exquisite. Watching Guillermo del Toro go full gothic is quite pleasing. Peak reminds me a lot of Dracula (1992), though it's nowhere near as good. Still there's solid acting all around and a sumptuous score—though the CGI stands out a bit too much for my tastes but doesn't bother me enough to detract too much. Peak is a feast for the eyes but falls short in some respects—not a perfect film by any means, but an extremely entertaining bloody, Bluebeardian gothic romance (with ghosts)

You can find my Guillermo del Toro Feature Films Ranked list here.

Hitch-Hike (Autostop Rosso Sangue) (1977) ***1/2

Hitch-Hike (aka Autostop Rosso Sangue(1977) is the Italian answer to Sam Peckinpah, pulling elements from both Straw Dogs (1971) and Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia(1974) to present its own nihilistic take on violence, greed, misogyny, masculinity, and marriage—a down and dirty crime/road movie with a fantastic trio of lead actors and a frantic score by maestro Morricone.

Southern Comfort (1981) ***1/2 [Introspective Manly Men Double Feature Pt. 2]

It wasn't really until the last third of Southern Comfort (1981) that it felt to me like more than just a goofier second cousin to Deliverance (1972), another cautionary tale against backwoods fuckery (in this case National Guardsmen vs. Cajuns). That's not to say that the first two-thirds of the movie, where the excellent cast portrays a mixture of machismo, boneheadedness, stone cool, and ineptitude,—whilst delivering Walter Hill's snappy dialogue—aren't fun and engaging, but there's a tonal shift that occurs in the final act that ratchets up the tension and pushes the film into the arena of greatness.

The Standoff At Sparrow Creek (2018) *** [Introspective Manly Men Double Feature Pt. 1]

The Standoff At Sparrow Creek (2018) is a tense, well cast, dialogue-heavy, slowburn "manly" movie that plays out like a 70s drama. There's no score, very little action, and it feels very realistic. The premise may ruffle some feathers (a former cop-turned-militia man investigates a shooting at a police funeral), but the film doesn't appear to take sides—it’s more a presentation of grey on both sides. A couple of more exciting scenes would have earned it at least another 1/2 * from me, but Standoff does a great job with its single location and low budget. A solid debut from Henry Dunham for fans of Reservoir Dogs (1992), The Thing(1982), Assault On Precinct 13(1976), and Night Of The Living Dead (1968).

Short Night Of Glass Dolls (1971) ****

I'm not sure why, but before rewatching Short Night Of Glass Dolls (1971), I didn't seem to recall much from my initial 2010 viewing. Some scenes and plot points came back to me as the film played out, but it felt like watching Dolls for the first time, which was exciting—it shot way up to my Top 10 Gialli. Though this is most definitely an atypical giallo—there are no black gloves, no POV stalking, and almost no body count.

Naturally though, there is an investigation conducted by our main character (played by Jean Sorel), who is searching for his missing girlfriend (played by Barbara Bach), but it's difficult to go into detail without spoiling the film. A much more nuanced mystery and lacking the exploitative sex and violence that is common to the giallo genre, Dolls, as with All The Colors Of The Dark(1972) (my review here), does however feature a(n) (affluent) cult pulling the strings.

One of the most impressive aspects of Dolls is that it was Aldo Lado's directori…

Border (2018) ***1/2

Many of the same themes from his screenplay adapting his book Let The Right One In(2008) appear in John Ajvide Lindqvist's screenplay for Border (2018), based on a short story by the author—outsider love, pedophilia, a thirst for human destruction (whether out of necessity to survive or for the sake of vengeance). Border is a difficult film to classify, if one were inclined to—it touches upon a few different genres—romance, drama, thriller, mystery, horror, fantasy. It's a really odd and unique film, as well, and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of audience members laugh at inappropriate moments and have no clue how to react during others (particularly a highly unusual, explicit sex scene). Without spoiling anything, I will say that I really liked how well the film took disparate elements from various genres and aside from some jarring editing choices, both the leads were excellent and the film kept me engaged throughout.

Kinetta (2005) **

Kinetta (2005), Yorgos Lanthimos’s first solo feature-length directorial effort, feels like a student film that should have remained a short. Though it has many of the trademarks of his style—odd characters, a lack of score, frank nudity, stilted dialogue (very sparse in this one)—it lacks the humor and technical finesse of his other films. It’s also a slog to get through. It kind of reminded me of The Brown Bunny(2003), but even more boring. Not much happens and what does isn’t terribly interesting. Recommended for Yorgos completists only and even then, not particularly.

You can find my Yorgos Lanthimos Feature Films Ranked list here.

Dogtooth (2009) ***1/2

Dogtooth (2009) is Yorgos Lanthimos's most sexually explicit film and perhaps his most disturbing one, focusing on a father's bizarre isolationist and over protective nature toward his family. Taboos are broken, word meanings are improperly ascribed, weird dancing and random bursts of violence occur, all before an ambiguous finale. Compelling, funny, icky, and scary.

Return Of Sabata (1971) ***1/2

Lee Van Cleef returns to the titular role in Return Of Sabata(1971), the third and final film in Gianfranco Parolini's trilogy, comprised of the only three official Sabata films. Parolini goes further into camp territory than either of the previous films, but there is a stylishness to Return that hints at other genres, such as the giallo (particularly in the lighting and cinematography of the intro). Our grinning hero opts for numerous small, concealed pistols, as, aided by more than one humorous but useful sidekick, he rids a town of an unlawful clan's rule. This entertaining romp features a score from returning composer Marcello Giombini, which, with its jazzy stylings (pulsing vibraphone, psychedelic fuzz guitar and airy flute), is more akin to Mancini than Morricone. It also has a theme song that will get stuck in your head for days (馃幎He's the only invincible man in the countrysiiide馃幎). If you're willing to embrace the over the top nature, ROS is a lot of fun thr…

Kung Fu Hustle (2004) ***

Equal parts Jackie Chan, Looney Tunes, and spoof of its namesake's genre, Kung Fu Hustle(2004) is a fun, at times very funny, and sometimes obnoxiously silly martial arts gangster comedy. There's a bit too much ridiculous CGI for my tastes, but it works if you just go with it for this film. There are a lot of nice nods to films across various genres, and it's a really good time with the right audience.

Happy 8th Birthday, Blog!

Happy 8th birthday today to my blog, the danman can! As is tradition, below is the number of films I've watched per year since I've been keeping track.

2005 - 338 films (updated from 339)
2006 - 368 films (updated from 369)
2007 - 274 films
2008 - 269 films (updated from 270)
2009 - 233 films
2010 - 189 films (updated from 188)
2011 -237 films (updated from 236)
2012 - 254 films (updated from 253) 2013 - 352 films
2014 - 349 films (updated from 347)
2015 - 337 films
2016 - 270 films (updated from 269)
2017 - 265 films
2018 - 207 films (I'm not sure why the 2 film discrepancy between my log and Letterboxd below)

2018 was the year that I watched the second fewest films since I started keeping track, but it's also the year that I wrote a review (or at least a few sentences) for each and every film that I logged here on the blog, which hopefully means that I got a little more out of each viewing. If anything, it gives me a nice database of thoughts re: each film to search through any ti…

Adi贸s, Sabata (1970) ***

Adi贸s, Sabata (1970) was originally a film called Indio Black, Sai Che Ti Dico: Sei Un Gran Figlio Di... (which translates to Indio Black, You Know What I'm Going To Tell You: You're A Big Son Of A...) but the name was changed in America to cash in on the success of director Gianfranco Parolini's film from the year before, Sabata. This explains why lead Yul Brynner doesn't wear the same outfit or have the same mannerisms as the character from the first film, but he brings his own charismatic flair and swagger.

In an interesting bit of lead actor swapping, Lee Van Cleef (the original Sabata) was unavailable for this film but would later play Chris Adams in The Magnificent Seven Ride!(1972) (the fourth and final film in the series), the role that Brynner made famous in the first two films.

This second "Sabata" film isn't as good as the first, but it's a competently made, fun, humorous Italian Western with a good score by one of the genre's greatest …

Alps (2011) ***

As with Yorgos Lanthimos's other films, Alps (2011) is obtuse, absurdist, scoreless and features weird dancing. Unlike his other films, I found this one to be slow, humorless, cinematically bland, and not nearly as engaging. And yet, there is just something about his films that appeals to me. Alps is a bit similar to The Lobster(2015) and almost serves as a kind of test run for that (superior) film.

Obviously, after The Favourite(2018) landing on a lot of people's best of 2018 lists (including mine), Yorgos is on everyone's radar, but part of me hopes that he'll still make films that divide opinion like The Killing Of A Sacred Deer(2017). Even if I don't love every film he makes, he's definitely a director that I will continue to follow, provided he continues to make weird, off-kilter cinema. Let's just hope (for my sake) that he doesn't fall into the superhero trap.

Death Rides A Horse (1967) ***1/2

Death Rides A Horse (1967) is an effective revenge tale and an unlikely buddy film in one. The story involves a young man (Bill, played by John Phillip Law) who seeks to mete his own personal justice upon the men who raped his mother and sister and brutally killed both of them, along with his father, when he was a boy.

Lee Van Cleef plays Ryan, an ex-outlaw, out to kill the same bandits that Bill is after, for money he was cheated out of. The two actors compliment each other well—Law's chiseled good looks and his character's impetuousness paired against Van Cleef's gleeful grin and his character's sarcastic wisdom. Both men are crack shots and in the absence of Bill's birth father, their eventual alliance takes on a father/son like relationship.

DRAH is a bit too long and a bit rough around the edges, but it features one incredibly memorable shootout ("Piano player, hit three notes!"), the charisma of its two manly leads is strong, and the score by Italian …

Bad Times At The El Royale (2018) ***

Bad Times At The El Royale(2018), Drew Godard's take on a pulpy noir/crime film, starts off very promisingly but eventually settles into…maybe not quite mediocrity but something akin to it. After making Cabin In The Woods (2012), I would have expected Godard to subvert/deconstruct the genre a bit more.

My friend put it best—it's as if someone made a Tarantino-esque film from a description they heard about a Tarantino film secondhand from a friend. Godard takes 60s iconography—Motown soul, hippies, a Manson-like cult, G-Men, conspiracies—and mixes them all together, but the results ring hollow.

Additionally, the significance of most of the characters' back stories is never satisfyingly delved into, the score is nondescript wallpaper (the soundtrack is great though) and the run time is far longer than it needed to be (especially for a film with little character development). That said, the film is fun at times, the production design is colorful, it's well-shot and looks p…

Maniac (2012) ***1/2

Maniac(2012) is one of the few horror remakes that justifies its existence by finding that perfect blend of homage whilst carving its own path. On a rewatch, I found Elijah Wood's narration and heavy breathing/grunting a bit too theatrical but the inventive and well-handled POV technique, the incredibly gruesome f/x, and the excellent analog synth score hold up very well.

Working largely from Joe Spinell's story from the original 1980 film but substituting Spinell's sweaty, greasy, overweight Frank for a more slim, affable Norman Bates type, Maniac (2012) ups the gore—including many brutal scalpings—and trades the grime of late 70s NYC for the glamour and sheen of L.A. There are plenty of references to William Lustig's (who gave his blessing and served as a producer) original film, but this is no carbon copy. At times the look and style remind me a bit of Brian De Palma.

The characters are slightly more fleshed out (pardon the pun) than in the 1980 film and the flashba…

All The Colors Of The Dark (1972) ***1/2

All The Colors Of The Dark (1972) was Sergio Martino's third of five gialli (and likewise my third favorite of the five) made one after the other from 1971–1973, all of which were written by giallo juggernaut Ernesto Gastaldi.

Colors is the giallo answer to Rosemary's Baby(1968) (which Martino has gone on record stating was a big influence to his approach)—a hallucinogenic, psychosexual thriller complete with a Satanic cult. Colors also stands out because it doesn't have a high body count or a lot of bloodshed, no black-gloved POV shots, and, while there is nudity courtesy of gorgeous giallo queen and lead Edwige Fenech, the film doesn't ogle its female stars in quite the same way as many gialli.

Colors is handsomely shot—in particular the nightmare vision sequences are striking—and the score by Bruno Nicolai features an excellent, catchy choir-lead rock theme. I remembered really enjoying ATCOTD and this rewatch didn't disappoint—it ranks in my top 20 giallo.

You ca…

Top Albums Of 2018


Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) **

While I think that Repo! The Genetic Opera(2008) is a valiant effort, I am clearly not its demographic. The first time that I saw it, which was almost a decade ago to the day, I apparently enjoyed it more because this time I found most of it unbearable and gave it a full star rating lower. I guess it appealed more to almost 29 -year-old me more than almost 39-year-old me.

There are certainly things about Repo! that I like. The basic concept of the story is interesting and unique—that of a future where an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet, a biotech company called GeneCo offers transplants, but those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession by Repo Men; surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs, murder is sanctioned by law, and a young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family's mysterious history. The cast is diverse, weird and some parts are pretty funny. I don't hate musicals either, if the …

Top Films Of 2018

1.   Mary Poppins Returns****1/2 (Review)
2.   Let The Corpses Tan (2017) ****1/2 (ReviewTake 2 Review)
3.   Isle Of Dogs **** (Review, Take 2 Review)
4.   Suspiria **** (Review)
5.   The Favourite **** (Review)
6.   Mandy**** (Review, Take 2 Review)
7.   You Were Never Really Here(2017) **** (Review)
8.   The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs***1/2 (Review)
9.   The Other Side Of The Wind ***1/2 (Review)
10. Hold The Dark ***1/2 (Review)
11. BlacKkKlansman***1/2 (Review)
12. Unsane ***1/2 (Review)
13. Hereditary ***1/2 (Review)
14. Summer Of 84***1/2 (Review)
15. Thoroughbreads(2017) ***1/2 (Review)
16. Sicario: Day Of The Soldado ***1/2 (Review)
17. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ***1/2 (Review)
18. Searching ***1/2 (Review)
19. First Man *** (Review)
20. Halloween *** (Review)

Honorable Mentions
1.   Won't You Be My Neighbor?****1/2 (Review) +
2.   Black Mirror: Bandersnatch*** (Review)
3.   The Post(2017) *** (Review)
4.   Solo: A Star Wars Story*** (Review)
5.   A Quiet Place*** (R…

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010) ****

Similarly to Hot Fuzz (2007) (which I watched about 80% of with my friends/neighbors on New Year's Eve, immediately followed by this film), age has dulled a bit of the sheen of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World(2010), a film which up until now I have always rated a perfect score.

This was my fourth time watching SP and my first since 2012. While I did detract a full star, I still love it dearly. Unlike Fuzz, I think the CGI still holds up well in Pilgrim because it isn't supposed to be hyper-real, but rather fantastical, like the video games it frequently references. The production design, costumes, casting, and, of course editing (it's an Edgar Wright film, after all) are all fantastic. It's also commendable how well the film adapts the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley.