Last Few Movies LVII: It Done Happened Again

The last few movies I watched in an order representative of what I generally thought of them.

I shall not be stopped.

24. Being the perfect wife in a man’s world is a dystopian nightmare. Many talented people gathered together around a premise that was ripe for horror and satire and completely biffed it with this truly awful attempt at comedy called The Stepford Wives (2004). It pained me so much because there was so much potential!

23. The Alligator People (1959) is exactly as classy as it sounds. Cheesy science-less B-movie nonsense with flat-lighting, bad accents, and a depressingly bloated Lon Chaney, Jr. Points for having actual alligators on set and for the fun fake swamp scenery.

22. Sometimes you want something trashy and painfully early 2000s, and Queen of the Damned (2002) has you covered. Stuart Townsend stars as Anne Rice’s vampire Lestat, and boy oh boy could you have not asked for a more early 2000s pretty boy vampire guy tragically devoid of charisma. Like Stepford Wives, this thing had potential. A cursed vampire wakes up after 100 years and becomes a rock-star, and if the movie were actually about that, it could have been great. The rest is boring characters skulking around and glamoring everyone until the first vampire (played by the late Aaliyah) gets woken up and causes some mischief. It’s a very Korn and Linkin Park kind of a soundtrack.

21. Listen, David Lean is a filmmaking legend and I love me a light ghost comedy, but Blithe Spirit (1945) is not a particularly memorable one. Rex Harrison stars as an exceedingly English writer who hosts a séance as a lark and accidentally conjures his previous dead wife (Kay Hammond). This obviously leads to some complications with his current wife (Constance Cummings). It’s a wacky premise that’s just a little too stuffy and dry to do anything interesting with it. I want a whole movie about the quirky, old medium played by Margaret Rutherford.

20. A soldier assumes the identity of a dead waiter in order to kill Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (played by Erich von Stroheim). A few tiers beneath Morocco, and several football fields behind Casablanca, Five Graves to Cairo (1943) is a WWII spy thriller that I may remember for its haunting beginning (a tank, most of its passengers dead, careening aimlessly through the sand dunes) and for being one of those dramas having been made during the war.

19. Friday Foster (1975) is no Coffy. Based on a comic strip about a freelance photojournalist who chases the scoop, this murder investigation flick is pretty forgettable apart from its cast (Pam Grier, Yaphet Kotto, Thalmus Rasulala, Carl Weathers). It desperately needed more Eatha Kitt. She’s a joy to watch.

18. Please, do not ask me to recount the plot of Demonia (1990). The imdb summary says: “A Canadian archaeological team in Sicily accidentally unleashes vengeful ghosts of five demonic nuns who were murdered 500 years earlier, and the ghosts now set out to kill the group and townspeople alike.” And yeah, that sounds about right.

17. I Like Bats (1986) is an oddball Polish vampire comedy that bears the unique distinction of being the only depiction I’ve encountered wherein vampirism is a metaphor for being unwed. It’s a weird one, and I wished the themes were a bit more consistent or it explained more. Hard to recommend, but interesting for what it is. Also, what is with the whistling score?

16. Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, and Pam Grier star in Original Gangstas (1996). The new gangs are not like the old gangs. They’re all bravado and displays of cruelty. They have no honor or respect and exhibit no restraint. The only ones that can stop them and make the streets safe again are the old timers who may have started the whole cycle of violence way back when.

15. Italian genre movies between the 1960s and the 1990s were something else, weren’t they? Boldly stylish and absolutely inscrutable. Footprints (1975) [aka Footprints on the Moon, aka Primal Impulse, aka Le Orme] concerns a Portuguese translator (Florinda Bolkan) living in Italy following a freak-out causing her to wake up seemingly missing several days. She follows a series of clues to a mysterious but familiar hotel on the island of Garma. Also the film keeps cutting back to black-and-white footage of Klaus Kinski performing an experiment where he leaves an astronaut on the moon to watch him die. It’s a standard weirdo Italian fuzzy dream logic thriller that’s pretty slow-going, but boasts some nice cinematography by Vittorio Storaro, a wild finale, and a pleasant but brief appearance by Lila Kedrova.

14. Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. stars as a sort of Zorro of the high seas in The Black Pirate (1926). It’s got the biggest pirate ships you’ve ever seen and some classic silent swashbuckling action. It also is a very early example of two-tone Technicolor.

13. Rhys Darby is so breathlessly funny and likeable that he elevates the Canadian time travel comedy, Relax, I’m from the Future (2022), to heights that might have bee unattainable otherwise. It’s a clever little sci-fi adventure about an incompetent time traveler that taps into a lot of current day anxieties. Weirdly, the stuff that doesn’t work for me here is what was taken from the original 2013 short (a depressed cartoonist gets his attempted suicide interrupted by a fan from the future). Which is a shame, because the rest of it is pretty cool. Gabrielle Graham also gives a great performance as Darby’s present-day confidante.

12. I dig Sparks. Most folks who have chanced upon them, also do. Edgar Wright made a documentary about them. It’s called The Sparks Brothers (2021). They are a weird group. It dives into the band’s evolution from 1966 until now. And if you don’t leave without a massive crush on Ron Mael, I don’t know what to do with you.

11. Julie Andrews really is sensational. I grew up watching Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, but was never exposed to Victor/Victoria (1982). I was also a big Pink Panther fan, but this might be my favorite Blake Edwards movie I’ve seen. Andrews plays Victoria, a destitute soprano in 1934 Paris. She gets taken under the wing of an aging gay performer (played wonderfully by the Music Man himself, Robert Preston) who is also down on his luck. He proposes that, in order to get work as a novelty act, she pretend to be a gay man whose schtick is impersonating a woman singer. The gender bending scheme comes to fruition and soon hits a snag when a Chicago gangster (James Garner) is suspicious of the act’s realism based solely on his attraction to her. It’s a pretty funny musical, quite progressive for the time, and I love the chemistry and friendship between Andrews and Preston. It’s a movie to just make you feel good.

10. For a more authentic French musical, Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) is a romance in three parts starring Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo. Two young lovers, a poor mechanic and an umbrella shopkeeper, fall in love but when the girl is drafted to fight in the Algerian War, the girl has to decide how she will go on. Sumptuous colors paint the streets and interiors with such vibrance, that that alone should make it worth the viewing. It’s very French.

9. What an illustrious career arc Nicolas Cage has had. From Leaving Las Vegas to Con Air and Adaptation to Mandy, he’s carved out a uniquely unhinged niche for himself. Wild at Heart, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, National Treasure, Face/Off, The Rock. Come on. The guy’s unstoppable. Vampire’s Kiss (1988) is the one all the memes are from. In it, he plays a New York yuppie literary agent who, after binging cocaine and alcohol and chasing money and women for so long, starts to believe he is becoming a vampire. The thing I think people making fun of this movie don’t get is that it is a comedy. It’s a black comedy about a man going insane and abusing the people around him, but it is a comedy. And it rules.

8. Following a peculiar assassination inside the Seattle Space Needle, an American journalist (Warren Beatty) gets caught up in a twisted web of political intrigue and conspiracy in Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View (1974). One thing I really liked about this movie is the big, imposing spaces and the ever-present sense that our protagonist is being watched…also that the nefarious machinations pulling the strings in the periphery are always occluded in total ambiguity.

7. Olivier Assayas gets meta in Irma Vep (1996). Framed as a story about the troubled production of a remake of a silent French pulp serial by Louis Feuillade, it’s a movie about making movies, but it really delves into the precarious state of contemporary French cinema in the 90s. Plus Maggie Cheung is fun playing herself.

6. Michelangelo Antonioni utilizes stark industrial factories, empty interiors devoid of warmth, and desolate landscapes ensconced in smoke and fog to depict the state of extreme mental isolation of a woman (played by Monica Vitti) in Red Desert (1964). It’s a coldly beautiful and haunting film that requires an appreciation for its use of space and architecture as the driving force behind much of the emotion.

5. What if The Avengers were just a ragtag troupe of Italian sideshow performers caught up in the chaos of World War II, and instead of fighting some apocalyptic space laser they were just trying to stop a train? Gabriele Mainetti’s Freaks Out (2021) might be a skosh too long, but it is an energetic adventure that I’d highly recommend to anyone who wants an offbeat quasi-superhero movie with a bit more heart and balls. Is it a more important film than Antonioni’s Red Desert? No. Am I more likely to watch it again? Yes.

4. I finally finished George A. Romero’s zombie trilogy. Night of the Living Dead (1968) is an original masterpiece. Dawn of the Dead (1978) is basically the greatest zombie movie ever made. Day of the Dead (1985) brings the nihilistic undead horror trilogy to a fittingly gruesome close. Mad science is pitted against the evil military and a few survivors are caught in the middle. Also there’s like a million zombies outside the compound. Scathing social commentary and gore galore!

3. I first encountered Kaneto Shindo’s minimalist Japanese folk horror, Onibaba (1964), years ago for a college radio show I was hosting. It has never left me. And this re-watch kind of reminded me why. It’s a sweaty, visceral psychology play, pared down to essentially three characters: a widow, her mother-in-law, and a dirty man returned from the war. Amidst feudal wars, these characters eke out a meager existence in the tall grass, motivated only by food an survival. The widow starts a romantic fling with the man. Worried she will be left alone and not be able to survive, the nasty mother-in-law tries to manipulate and terrify her daughter-in-law into staying put. Gorgeously shot, superbly acted, and just a well told story.

2. Re-watching the Alien franchise might have to stop with Aliens (1986), because honestly after the amazing peaks of the first two, it’s all downhill from here. Both films are absolute masterpieces of sci-fi horror and action. The character of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is developed even more and becomes the ultimate badass. The rest of the series tries to get by on the atmosphere, chills, and Gieger xenomorph designs, but the first two films utilize all those things to perfection in service of a compelling survival drama in a true nightmare scenario.

1. Fans of absolutely breathtaking animation and sweet Japanese folktales look no further. Studio Ghibli’s Isao Takahata’s final film, The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013), is a lush, impressionistic, vibrant, tragic, inspiring, affirming story about growing up. The minimalist animation is executed with such sensitivity and deceptive complexity and the score is sparse but elegantly employed. This fairy tale chronicles life of a moon girl who emerges out of a bamboo shoot and is raised by a poor woodcutter and his wife. Like all good and very old stories, it uses the fantastical to reveal truths about humanity. In life, there are always too many goodbyes and different paths we might have taken.

Last Few Movies LVI: Everything, Everywhere, Altogether Now

I did it again.

25. Demonwarp (1988) is a classic example of how deceptive poster art can be. Because that poster slaps! The movie does not. George Kennedy stars (for a bit anyway) is this low-budget horror flick that features Bigfoot, zombies, aliens, nudity, human sacrifice, and still manages to be both boring and incomprehensible. I’ll say it. Bigfoot is a boring monster. If you think about Bigfoot and are full of wonder, consider you maybe don’t have any creativity or point of view.

24. I feel for director Bobcat Goldthwait here. He’s an interesting guy and I wanted to like God Bless America (2011), but the satire just rings hollow. A guy gets a terminal diagnosis and goes on a murder spree (along with a young girl who admires his gumption), offing anyone he feels is an asshole unworthy of life. It’s Saw, but as a quirky indie road comedy. It’s an angry film that hates a lot of the right stuff, but it’s caustic cynicism runs out of relatable righteous wrath by about 20 minutes. The movie feels small and weirdly cute, despite all the murder, and sadly, most of the comedy doesn’t work for me.

23. I mostly like the James Bond movies. Most of them are breezy and passable enough, even when they’re not great. I was cool with Daniel Craig as 007. I didn’t see Spectre, so I may have been missing something when I put on No Time to Die (2021). I liked the start, but quickly got bored. Maybe the sexy and suave super spy action thriller is a bit of a cozy relic from another time that doesn’t hit the same anymore. I don’t remember anything about this movie except that I wanted more Ana de Armas.

22. In the wake of movies like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a whole subgenre of transgressive rock musicals emerged. Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984) is a weird collision of hokey 50s style teen romance and tacky sci-fi cheese. This extremely cartoony movie is about some aliens (robots??) trying to find music on other planets (I think). It feels thrown together and is full of bizarre choices. For instance, Ruth Gordon (Harold and Maude, Rosemary’s Baby) is like 80 years old and is a tiny UFO-obsessed town sheriff and Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes) plays a chainsaw-wielding maniac for some reason. Despite most of the songs being forgettable, a fascinating romantic twist towards the end caught me off guard and had me respecting it more than I thought possible. Points for surprising me, movie. Points. There’s also a Jermaine Jackson music video in the first act. Better than Vicious Lips.

21. If you want to be trapped in a poorly lit house with a couple drunk Canadians and immobile ant monsters, then have I got the movie for you. Things (1989) is among the three most hard to endure movies I have ever seen. It is aggressively, incompetently, and incoherently made. Things is quite insane and it feels like you are losing your mind as your brain tries in vain to make sense of the murky, muddy images on the screen and the truly bizarre interactions between the characters. It’s also a hard one to sit through. On par with Alien Beasts and Black Devil Doll from Hell. We watch movies like this because they are an ordeal. Our group hated this one, but we felt it was somehow important for just how spectacularly awful it is. On every technical level, a much worse film than Demonwarp (and just about every film ever), but there’s something almost commendable about how bad it is. You’ve been warned. Now go hurt yourself.

20. I approve of filmmaker Jon Moritsugu taking PBS money and making this extremely punk indie flick. It’s decidedly edgy, countercultural, and John Waters-esque, but for me Terminal USA (1993) was not an altogether enjoyable cinematic experience, even if I respect its balls and how angry it made people. Indie films back then were just indie-er, y’know? I miss that.

19. Henry Jaglom’s Tracks (1976) is a weird little character study that takes place entirely on a train. The character in question is 1st Sgt. Jack Falen (played by Dennis Hopper), and, although he presents himself as put together, he is not exactly doing well. Love me a good trapped-in-one-location story. This 70s drama also has a nice meandering vibe that introduces a lot of random passengers to help populate the world.

18. I have a real love/hate thing with Raising Arizona (1987). On the one hand, this early Coen Brothers flick is well cast (Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter!), uniquely stylish, and Barry Sonnenfeld’s amazing camera work is mesmerizingly playful. On the other hand, the zany live-action cartoon physics and tone shockingly get boring to me after awhile. There are so many wonderful visual jokes that are inventively filmed, but there’s an emotional barrier that keeps me at such a distance that I must confess this is perhaps one of my least favorite Coen flick. (Although, lesser Coens is still watchable.)

17. I saw Barbarella (1968) years ago and remember thinking it was better than Flash Gordon. Upon re-watch (for the bits I stayed awake through), I must admit I was mistaken. Both movies are campy, brainless space mayhem, but Barbarella is just running on the fumes of how horny it is. Jane Fonda is fun in the role, and there are a couple good jokes and plenty of amazingly cheesy sets and over-the-top costumes. It’s a sleeker production, but I prefer Star Crash.

16. Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are Steven Spielberg (George Lucas, too) and Harrison Ford at their peak. Visually, kinetically, they are perfect American popcorn adventures. I’ve always had mixed feelings about the second entry, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). It looks incredible and has amazing action in the first and final act. The middle section gets sluggish, racist, and overly dark (however, memorably sick). People rag on Kate Capshaw’s grating performance as Willie Scott and Ke Huy Quan as Short Round signifying the series was becoming more kidsy, but honestly, Harrison Ford’s performance is so cold and distant that Indiana Jones himself kind of saps a lot of the joy out the film. Jones’ relationship with Scott is gross. His relationship with Short Round is odd. Maybe it’s a lack of chemistry between the actors. I don’t know. The bit with the bugs is fun and the minecar is still thrilling. Nobody cares about the magic stones though. Mixed bag. Some series highs and some series lows.

15. Richard Linklater returns to the trippy world of rotoscoping (his third, after Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly) with Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood (2022). The premise: in 1969, NASA scientists approach a 10 year old Houston kid to be their secret astronaut, after embarrassingly designing the cockpit to their rocket just a bit too small. From there, Jack Black’s narration launches us into a series of vignettes that go on to list every last detail of life in America at that time. It’s basically a boomer nostalgia overdose, but it’s entertaining and quirky and, having grown up with Nick-at-Nite and boomer parents, a lot of it felt familiar and cool. Ah, to have been a child in the 1960s.

14. Life, Animated (2016) is a feel-good documentary about a nonverbal autistic child discovering his voice through Disney sidekick characters. We follow Owen Suskind as he navigates the world and heartbreak and being alone. It’s a gentle peek into the lives of the Suskind family and an inspiring examination of the power of animation.

13. Robert Altman seeks to dismantle western mythology, and does so with some stylish costumes and a solid cast in Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson (1976). Like M*A*S*H, it’s a sprawling film with lots of characters and a lot to say. If you’re like me and into American history (particularly how Buffalo Bill Cody basically defined the modern conception of the cowboys and how the west was won with his travelling circus show), then you’re going to find this one pretty enjoyable. Stars Paul Newman as the lonely, insecure Buffalo Bill, with a supporting cast of Will Sampson, Frank Kacquitts, Burt Lancaster, Geraldine Chaplin, Harvey Keitel, Shelley Duvall, John Considine, and Joel Grey.

12. More angry movies about the increasingly perplexing nature of the world. Lu Lee Cheang’s Fresh Kill (1994) is a dry, experimental movie about a lesbian couple in quasi-dystopian Staten Island that is beset by television ads and evil corporate pollution. It’s weird and a whole vibe, but this is the version of New York City I choose to believe in.

11. Pirates of the Caribbean director, Gore Verbinski deserves credit for being the weird filmmaker he is. He swings big, and, even when it doesn’t fully work, it’s kind of amazing they let him get away with it. The Cure for Wellness (2016) is an expensive looking production. It’s a sleek thriller about the horrors of Swiss people and working too much. Vacation is presented as the enemy for many of the characters, which is kind of a refreshing twist. It’s all slow and classy until the end where it starts to get increasingly campy and silly, but as someone who enjoys classic horror melodramas, I was on board with it. It’s not amazing, but I’m a sucker for movies about health cults (The Road to Wellville is another example, although not really a good movie).

10. Don Bluth left Disney in the late 70s and became the studios biggest rival in the 80s. Bluth and company’s talents for animation are visionary. Sadly most of the movies they made were not particularly good. The Secret of NIMH (1983), is easily their best. Mrs. Brisby, a widowed single-mother mouse with a sick infant, must go on a harrowing quest to save him. This formidable quest introduces her to fearsome cats, ancient owls, and disturbing science experiments conducted on hapless rats who have mutated to become something more. Kudos to Bluth for having the audacity to willfully scare, disturb, and depress children. I mean that. This movie is full of fear and peril and the animation is so fluid and captivating (those smooth flowing capes and those herky-jerky walk cycles!). It’s a masterpiece of animation, hampered only by a somewhat obnoxious Dom DeLuise role as a clumsy crow (but the animators make the complex movements balletic). I could listen to John Carradine voicing the Great Howl forever though. That scene is also a perfect example of Bluth’s specialty: heightened animated horror. The owl is caked in cobwebs and has glowing eyes and a voice that sounds like the hollow of an ancient tree. It’s amazing. I just hate Bluth cutesie, twee stuff. Luckily, Secret of NIMH has very little of that.

9. Speaking of mice and Gore Verbinski, Mousehunt (1997) is a movie about two squabbling brothers that inherit a house that they wish to auction off, but first they must deal with a pesky rodent problem. I’ve seen this movie a hundred times and liked it a lot when it came out, and it only got better on a recent re-watch. On paper this should be a basic slapstick children’s comedy with cute animal hijinks. In execution it is a grungy, darker than-you’d-expect comedy that pays homage to classic comedy teams (like Laurel & Hardy, Abott & Costello, The 3 Stooges, etc.) as well as the golden age of Looney Tunes. But the real thing about this movie is that despite its squeaky, silly premise, every single person involved goes so hard. Nathan Lane gives a truly special performance as the egotistical Ernie Smuntz (as does Lee Evans, playing his softer brother). Their chemistry together is great. Verbinski’s immersive directing and Phedon Papamichael’s kinetic cinematography really pop. Christopher Walken has a very funny cameo as a creepy exterminator. All this is great, but the real MVP is Alan Sylvestri absolutely bringing it with a big orchestral score that builds so much of the scope and logic to this cartoony world. Drop a piano on my head, but Sylvestri’s work here is even better than Back to the Future. With all this great stuff, you honestly forget there’s a mouse in this movie.

8. More angry. People who have no interest in Vikings and Nordic culture will watch this because they loved Robert Eggers’ The VVitch and The Lighthouse. I know because I’m one of them. The Northman (2022) is a sweaty, blood-soaked historical revenge epic full of bone-crunching sound effects and deep, resonating throat singing. Based on the medieval Scandinavian legend of Amleth (itself an inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet), The Northman recounts the tale of a man who seeks to avenge his father, save his mother, and kill his uncle. Insane attention to historical detail, an incredible cast (although I could have used more Willem Dafoe and Björk), and a cold bleakness that feels like arctic wind cutting through to your bones all cohere to bring this testosterone-fueled tale of cycles of violence to life.

7. Before Scarface, The Untouchables, and Mission Impossible, Brian de Palma directed a wacky comic rock opera that is an adaptation of both Phantom of the Opera and Picture of Dorian Gray and is also a painful, brilliant satire and takedown of the music industry featuring songs by Paul Williams. It’s Phantom of the Paradise (1974). There’ve already been a few angry films on this list so far (and there’s more to come). It’s fresh and amazing and full of big feelings and predates Rocky Horror by a year. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.

6. I’ve reviewed Jim Sharmon and Richard O’Brien’s pseudo-sequel to Rocky Horror Picture Show before. But I had to see it again and I will remind people this exists any chance I get. Shock Treatment (1981) features a candy-colored aesthetic that lampoons American media, predicts the rise of reality TV, and boasts more O’Brien songs that genuinely rival its predecessor film. It’s anarchic and smart and full of frustration about marriage and romance and corporations and the vacuousness of TV culture. My only note is that it’s too complicated, a little unfocused on any particular character, extremely meta, and a skosh too clever for its own good. It’s got almost too much to say, and you definitely have to pay attention to follow it. I still love it unconditionally. Returning from Rocky Horror are Richard O’Brien, Nell Campbell, Patricia Quinn, and Charles Grey. Newcomers Barry Humphries and Cliff DeYoung (in an incredible dual role) are marvelous and major props to Jessica Harper, star of this, Phantom of the Paradise, and Suspiria.

5. It’s good to know there’s creativity and kindness out there. Directors, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, have proven themselves a formidably bizarre force with shorts like Interesting Ball, music videos like Turn Down for What with DJ Snake and Lil Jon, features like Swiss Army Man, and now Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), a multiverse kung-fu comedy adventure fantasy that’s ultimately about love and family starring the great Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Stephanie Hsu, and Jamie Lee Curtis. I sometimes praise a film for its humanity, and what I usually mean by that is its tenderness and compassion. Every Everywhere All at Once, for all its anarchic action, wild costume changes, and fluorescent colors is a very intimate and human movie. I thrilled. I laughed. I cried. Definitely deserving of the hullabaloo and general hoopla surrounding it.

4. God, Anna Biller’s retro style powers are captivating and unmatched. The Love Witch (2016) is a brilliant flick running on the fumes of its cleverness and vibes. Elaine (played wonderfully and hilariously by Samantha Robinson) is a hot, young witch casting spells to enchant men so that she can find the most amazing and important thing in the world: love. Not often does one encounter a satire about how romance itself is romanticized wrapped in a frilly, candy-colored 60s veneer reminiscent of a Hammer horror production, but Biller nails it. Sleek, cheeky, clever, and sexy.

3. You may have noticed I like my movies to have something unique about them. I saw this years ago and thought it was fun, but seeing it again with more grownup eyes made it me appreciate it so much more. Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves (1984) is a surreal fairy tale for adults and the best version of Little Red Riding Hood you’re likely to find. From it’s knobbly, gnarly forests shrouded in fog to it’s magnificently grotesque werewolf transformations, this movie scratches the itch for dark fantasy that respects its audience. I’m also a bit of a sucker for the Saragossa Manuscript-esque framing device of stories within stories. How many dreams have you had that have had their own lore? Also, Angela Lansbury is Granny.

2. I love an old timey boat movie, and there are plenty of stories about cruel sea captains high off the smell of their own farts (Mutiny On the Bounty, Moby Dick, The Caine Mutiny, etc.). This one, based on a Jack London story and directed by legendary filmmaker Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, Robin Hood, Captain Blood), stars cigar-chomping Edward G. Robinson as The Sea Wolf (1941). Beginning on the moody dark streets of San Francisco one night, circa 1900, a sordid collection of disparate characters haphazardly enter each others lives, and, through the tangles of fate, find themselves all onboard the infamous ship which never comes to port called The Ghost, helmed by the volatile and violent Captain Wolf-Larsen. I kind of love this stuff. Menacing, atmospheric shadows; smoke and fog; grizzled, sweaty sailors with gunk in their beards and grime under their nails. Lush cinematography by Sol Polito aside, the dark London tale of a domineering but insecure man of action clasping tightly on what little he does control while age and ailments – as well as a phantom rival brother out to murder him – gradually catch up to him is just compelling. This film has three cipher characters entering this unwelcoming world all from different angles, adding to the tension. I maybe even dug this more than John Huston’s Key Largo (if only because it’s more boaty).

1. I saw Alien: Resurrection on TV as a kid. At the time, I liked it well enough. In college, I finally saw Ridley Scott’s original Alien (1979). I thought it was great, but never watched it again. Instead, like many, I revisited the more action-oriented sequel, Aliens, much more. Aliens 3 was in there too. I used to say Aliens was my favorite. Let me adjust that state. While the story beats for Alien were not knew at the time, they were a masterclass in nailing those familiar beats with goopy flair to spare. Like the monster-in-the-house had never looked and sounded or felt quite like this before. And while the aesthetic has been duplicated countless times by other films, nothing quite compares to the nihilistic, claustrophobic, nightmare horror of Alien. It’s a perfect horror movie. It’s scary, yes, but it’s also fascinating because it is about the gruesome life cycle of a horrific, newly discovered organism. Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartright, John Hurt, and Harry Dean Stanton are all wonderfully cast, but it’s also the H. R. Giger xenomorph designs that make this movie stand out among a sea of copycats and wannabes. It has such iconic sci-fi imagery that it’s easy to take it for granted, but you really got to respect the classics, especially when they’re this effective. Still my favorite Ridley Scott film.

SHORTS:

What did New York City look like in 1921? Manhatta (1921) will show you. No narration. Just moving pictures. Experience the wonders of time travel!

The Delian Mode (2009) is a short doc about Delia Derbyshire, one of the pioneers in electronic music. It’s a fascinating look at the complexities of creating unique sounds in an analog era, as well as the life of one of its most influential co-creators. Crank the Dr. Who theme and pour one of for Delia.

One of the many uniquely American musical genres is the blues. Sit yourself down on a creaky porch and get out of the sweltering Texas sun and learn about the The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1968).

Last Few Movies LV: Mad Phil

First off, shout out to my girls: Mubi, Tubi, and Criterion. Y’all never stop delivering.

28. A British reality show where a random group of ladies have to survive a night in a mansion full of dinosaurs? That’s a schlocky enough premise that it should just be marvelously stupid fun. Alas, Dinosaur Hotel (2021) is just boring at best and cringingly irritating at worst.

27. The CGI in Dinosaur Hotel got me down, so I opted for an old fashioned Italian B-movie creature-feature with practical puppet effects. The crocodile itself in Killer Crocodile 2 (1990) is pretty fake looking but kind of neat all the same. The movie is slow, and while not it’s not very interesting or well shot, there is a scene where a couple of canoes full of kids and nuns gets attacked.

26. For the first 10 minutes or so, we thought Vicious Lips (1986) was going to be the spaced out Rocky Horror Picture Show style rock opera camp extravaganza we were hoping for. It quickly devolves into the movie just sort of killing time to reach the feature-length target time. It has some truly epic hair, but the real crime is that there weren’t more songs. A lot of tedium could have been forgiven had they actually made a musical out of this.

25. Without the presence of the unabashedly flamboyant Dennis Rodman, Double Team (1997) would just be another forgettable Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. It’s pretty dumb, but there are a few good action scenes and I’m pretty sure this is the only finale (SPOILER) that blows up Mickey Rourke as he’s being attacked by a tiger.

24. Sybil Danning sports one of the tackiest pieces of clothing ever made in Fred Olen Ray’s The Phantom Empire (1988). Some dopes go into the Adam West bat-cave and stumble upon a secret world that has mutants, dinosaurs, and scantily clad cavegirls. Why does Russ Tamblyn always get special billing in everything?

23. We watched Venom (1981) because it had Oliver Reed and Klaus Kinski – two famously massive egos with a penchant for alcoholism and violent tantrums respectively. Alas, the movie is a bit miscast and silly and ends up just being a boring hostage story but with the inexplicable inclusion of a highly venomous black mamba on the loose in the house. It’s less Snakes On a Plane and more *bong rip* what-if-Dog-Day-Afternoon-had-a-snake-in-it? Sterling Hayden is looking a bit grizzled, but clear-voiced Nicol Williamson provides a bit of a dramatic center as the police chief in the second half. Poor Susan George gets a pretty gnarly death scene.

22. Jordan Peele’s work will forever be compared to Get Out. Us (2019) boasts some nice cinematography and a stellar performance from Lupita Nyong’o as a woman returning with her new family to a location that has haunted her for years. It’s got a weird sci-fi twist and a lot of muddled metaphor and the movie spends way too much time providing lengthy expository monologues that attempt to explain and lend coherence to the mechanics of how the twists and reveals actually work… which end up leaving more questions, bogging the whole plot down with being too literal. It’s not scary, but it is confusing. There are few cool ideas that I wish the story had focused on a bit more. The muddled metaphor also feels a little lost in the movie’s need to explain everything to death.

21. An immortal witch with bleached hair walks around and collects victims for her weird rituals in Necropolis (1986). It’s ridiculous, but kind of awesome. The production value is low, but my brain would not have accepted the higher budgeted version of this.

20. I miss movies that get so specific about a town and a line of work the audience might be unfamiliar with that you start to find the characters in rooms and spaces you absolutely cannot identify, but you know it’s not set dressing; it’s just a place they found. My Bloody Valentine (1981) is a Canadian horror flick about a ghost coal miner seeking revenge. Points for being near a mine and building a movie around it, and points for some creative kills, and being maybe the only Valentine’s Day slasher movie(?). SPOILER: I kind of wish the antagonist was actually supernatural and not just the Scooby-Doo style reveal we get.

19. Ray Harryhausen stop-motion dinosaurs and Raquel Welch in a fur bikini are reasons to see this hokey Hammer production. One Million Years B.C. (1966) may not be exactly historically accurate, but credit for being a wordless drama about the lives of early hominids…who are very well shaven. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth is another film in the same vein, but none can hold a candle to the more grounded Jean-Jacques Annaud silent neanderthal epic, Quest for Fire.

18. Lamberto Bava’s Demons (1985) is a schlocky good time. People get invited to a mysterious movie screening and then audience members start turning into demons. It starts fast and doesn’t stop, complete with a sword-wielding motorcycle chase.

17. I enjoy pool. I like a cool underdog story. I love hypnotic Christopher Walken monologues. Poolhall Junkies (2002) hits a lot of familiar sports movie beats, but it’s slick and quick and has a few cute tricks. Even if pool isn’t your thing, it’s worth it for the few scenes Christopher Walken gets to chew to bits. Rod Steiger and Chazz Palminteri co-star.

16. This Serbian-Croatian production is a folk horror set in the late 1800s. Lepterica (1973) is the story of a flour mill in a tiny village that is being hassled by a vampiric ghoul from beyond the grave. While light on actual scares, what makes this one engaging is the fun dynamics between the village folk and some of their approaches to attempt to deal with the monster.

15. Albert Finney is Tom Jones (1963), a gallivanting bastard and cad in jolly old England, canoodling his way into the skirts of every dame that tickles his fancy. It’s classic sex comedy hijinks, made more interesting by its 18th century rules and setting. It’s cheeky editing and narration also gives it a touch of whimsy and buoyancy, and, if you’re a bit drunk, you might even forget to unfavorably compare it to Stanley Kubrick’s superior Barry Lyndon.

14. Josef von Sterberg’s steamy and ponderous romantic melodrama takes place a sultry, imaginary version of Morocco (1930) that never existed. Marlene Dietrich is an emotionally detached vaudevillian drifter who finds herself performing in a smoky Moroccan night club for the entertainment of foreign legionnaires (like equally aimless Gary Cooper) and mysterious millionaires (like Adolphe Menjou). It’s a sleepy sort of love triangle that never moves too quickly and always sort of feels like a dream. Everyone is running away from something. They’ve given up on hope, but still have the pangs of romantic yearnings deep within them that cause them to make seemingly erratic decisions. It’s slow, and it’s no Shanghai Express or Casablanca, but it’s worth it for the moody sets and Dietrich’s tuxedo.

13. Ken Russell is responsible for some of the most insane and fascinating movies out there: Lisztomania, The Devils, Women in Love, Altered States, Gothic, Tommy, etc. Lair of the White Worm (1988) is his drunken wackadoo take on a B-movie, I suppose. An immortal snake woman (delectably played by Amanda Donahoe who is giving her hammy dialogue 110%) is collecting virginal sacrifices to feed to a phallic snake demon (there’s a lot of phallic imagery in this one). It’s absolutely bonkers and boasts some wild hallucination sequences and a very young Hugh Grant and an even younger looking Peter Capaldi. Is it good? Who’s to say? It’s pretty damn fun though. There were bold choices that had us cackling and falling out of our chairs.

12. I never saw Weird Al Yankovic’s cinematic opus until now. Without the filter of nostalgia, I still enjoyed the gentle oddball comedy of UHF (1989). A nerd (Yankovic) realizes his dream of running a local TV station and discovers a hidden talent in a dimwitted janitor (Michael Richards). It’s cute and a nice slice of TV history, and goes down almost as smooth as David Byrne’s True Stories. Weird Al fans should definitely check it out if, like me, they somehow missed this one when they were kids. Would have loved a few more Weird Al songs in it though.

11. Frank Henenlotter turns his eye to the streets with Frankenhooker (1990). It’s a Troma film, so it is excessive, but still softer and more whimsical than Henenlotter’s Basket Case. An extremely superficial man’s wife dies tragically in a freak lawnmower accident. He’s also a bit of an amateur mad scientist so he takes this opportunity to reconstruct her entire body and design it to his own specifications. He develops crack that explodes prostitutes and then builds his perfect woman out of their parts. The movie is silly and goofy enough, but once the eponymous Frankenhooker herself appears, the movie just becomes so much more fun. It’s a movie that keeps topping itself with insane sequences and bizarro ideas, but the real star is Patty Mullen as the wife who finds herself a reanimated zombie girl channeling the thoughts of several sex workers. It’s a wonderful performance and the amount of fun she seems to be having is infectious.

10. Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest flick is a breezy and fun romantic drama that meanders through the 70s. Licorice Pizza (2021) is the story of a teen entrepreneur and hustler named Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) as he woos an older girl, the 25 year old Alana (Alana Haim). This will-they/won’t-they was much more affecting than in a typical romantic comedy, and it just looks and feels great. Also features Tom Waits, Sean penn, Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie, Harriet Sansom Harris, Maya Rudolph, John Michael Higgens, and Skyler Gisondo.

9. It’s interesting the movies I find myself returning to again and again. Takashi Miike’s oddball black comedy musical, The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001), is just so sweet and weird and comforting, that it keeps calling me back. A Japanese family starts a bed and breakfast in the countryside, but when their first customers tragically die, the family bands together to hide the bodies to avoid bad publicity.

8. If you’re not already on board with Guy Maddin’s esoteric sensibilities, then Brand Upon the Brain! (2006) might not convert you. However, if you jive with his unique brand of avant-garde surrealist humor, then buckle up for a weird journey through memory, trauma, longing, and lighthouses. I may be partial to My Winnipeg, but this one deserves the praise.

7. This one is a vibe. Air Conditioner (2020) is a dreamy Angolan drama that follows a man on a mission to acquire an air conditioner for his boss in a city plagued by a mysterious calamity: air conditioners keep falling out of windows and smashing onto the ground. This one is chill and great for its colors and atmosphere.

6. Robert Pattinson shines as a greasy bank robber who loves his mentally challenged brother and has one night to find bail money after a robbery goes awry in the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time (2017). It’s colorful and kinetic and the ticking clock builds tension. It may not be a good time for the protagonists, but it’s definitely a great bit of anxiety-inducing filmmaking.

5. Film restoration is important. It preserves amazing works of art, powerful political statements, and cultural time capsules that would otherwise be lost to history. And God bless Vinegar Syndrome for seeking to give an unfinished Z-grade kung-fu movie the royal treatment. New York Ninja (1984) had to be cobbled together and rewritten and re-dubbed decades after it was abandoned. The movie makes very little sense, but it looks great and it’s wonderful batshittery of a lost version of New York City where a man can witness his hot wife get stabbed to death on the streets, on his birthday no less, and use his birthday swords (and occasionally roller skates) to become the most conspicuous ninja vigilante alive. It’s chef kiss levels of lunacy and juvenile action and we absolutely loved it.

4. I keep giving Mae West more chances, and I’ve only been rewarded. I was lukewarm on My Little Chickadee, but I enjoyed She Done Him Wrong. With I’m No Angel (1933), I can officially say I am a fan. This sassy, smarmy, and oh-so-horny queen slays every scene with equal parts entendre and shade. West is Tira, a gold-digging circus performer who uses her sexuality to get the finer things in life from amorous men. That is, until she meets Cary Grant and actually, against everything she believes, falls in love. The last act is a literal trial where West basically lays out her case to the audience justifying why she is the way that she is. If Groucho Marx is Bugs Bunny, Mae West is Bugs Bunny in drag. Such a shame the Hays Code put an end to her reign.

3. Classic reggae stars populate the half-documentary world of Rockers (1978). This Jamaican musical film takes you through the neighborhoods of Kingston and into the life of Horsemouth (Leroy Wallace), an aspiring musician who gets his motorbike stolen and tries to get it back or get revenge. Wall to wall music and immersive cinematography make Rockers a must see. I dug this more than The Harder They Come.

2. Unrelenting visions of suffering unfold as we follow an assassin on an unknown mission deep into the mechanical and fleshy levels of what is perhaps the most ghoulish hellscapes ever filmed. This is the next logical step beyond The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb and a Tool music video. Special effects pioneer Phil Tippett spent 30 years putting his depression, his darkest visions, and his demons on screen for Mad God (2021). This film truly embodies the spirit of “This Won’t Be For Everyone”. It’s disgusting and monstrous, but also cathartic and beautifully crafted. At points we laughed because the film was not without moments of macabre levity, but also we laughed at the utter bleakness and horrific depths Mad God wanted to take us. In addition to loving the painstaking art of stop-motion, I also love this type of story; one that is less preoccupied with plot and characters, and more concerned with slowly revealing the mechanics and complex ecosystems of a fantasy world concocted out of someone’s warped imagination. Mad God is cryptic and grotesque and many will probably come away with different interpretations. Many will hate it. Personally, for me, I just wish the whole thing had been maquettes and puppets because the few human actors kind of broke the spell a bit (although Repo Man director Alex Cox plays one of the live people, weirdly). It’s one hell of a journey and it will haunt you and make you feel things. Inventive brutality and cosmic visuals aside, Dan Wool’s score must also be recognized. The music doesn’t hold your hand either, but it is powerful and majestic, like a grim cowboy dirge.

1. I’ve seen Ed Wood (1994) a million times and I will see it a million more. It’s a masterpiece. It’s one of the best movies about Hollywood history; one of the best movies about making movies; Tim Burton’s best film by miles; and one of the best movies of the 90s. Tim Burton’s biopic on the cross-dressing man who was once considered the worst director of all time is so funny, so tender, so gorgeously shot, and gushing with deliriously misguided optimism (despite the real life tragedies of the actual people depicted). Hollywood misfits rejoice. Stefan Czapsky’s sumptuous black-and-white cinematography, Howard Shore’s bold but sensitive score, and Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski’s hilarious and touching script all work together so well. And the cast! Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray, Jeffrey Jones, Patricia Arquette, Lisa Marie, and more give it their all.

SHORTS

The Showman (1970) is a short documentary about a carnival barker and performer who (along with his wife) take in runaway girls so that they can strip nude and be part of their knife throwing act.

What a voice. Lonnie Holley’s musical world is cacophonous and full of soul. I Snuck Off The Slave Ship (2019) combines afro-futurist surrealism alongside haunting sounds that seem to echo deep into the past and future. I also highly recommend the music video for Lonnie Holley’s I Woke Up

Based on a children’s story by Russell Hoban, The Marzipan Pig (1990) is a cozily animated short directed by Michael Sporn and narrated by Tim Curry. It chronicles the crisscrossing lives of a candy pig, the mouse that eats him and falls in love with a grandfather clock who doesn’t appreciate her until she’s gone, an owl that falls in love with a taxi cab light, and other curious characters. Life goes on without you; a heartening and mature message for any age.

Last Few Movies LIV: Here We Go Again

Look. Not everything in here is good. In fact, a lot of it isn’t. BUT, all of them have at least some redeeming qualities, and I found something to enjoy in each and every one of them. And some of it’s great! That’s why we do this. As always, in order of how much I dug it.

Classic' Film Review: Space Truckers ~ KIERON MOORE

23. I like Stuart Gordon. He’s the depraved guy behind schlocky masterpieces like Re-Animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak, Robot Jox, Dagon, and, weirdly, the story for Disney’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Space Truckers (1996), a sci-fi comedy starring Dennis Hopper and Stephen Dorff, is easily the worst thing he’s done that I’ve seen. It’s a little too colorful and goofy and no real sense of danger. Hopper feels too old and just generally miscast as the lead, really pulling an already obnoxious looking movie down several more pegs. Most of the comedy falls flat. The pluses: some fun miniatures and effects; derivative but practical evil robots army; Debi Mazar is in a space brassiere almost the whole movie; and Charles Dance appears to be having fun as a villainous cyborg.

The Pool (2018) Shudder Movie Review | Movie Reviews 101

22. I appreciate a solid single location flick (this list will have a few more of those). The Pool (2018) is a Thai survival horror about a dude who finds himself stuck in an empty pool for several days with no food, his severely injured girlfriend, and a crocodile that escaped from a zoo. That’s a fun premise and, while not all bad, it really rests on characters making some dumb decisions to get into that premise. Wished it was a little crazier.

Tank Girl (1995)

21. Finally saw the notoriously bad Tank Girl (1995). I absolutely loved the first 45 minutes or so. It’s so over-the-top and stylized, I lamented that more graphic novel adaptations were not as fearless and unabashed. Lori Petty’s Tank Girl is like a proto-Margot-Robbie-Harley-Quinn, but more of a badass than a ditz; Malcolm McDowell is a standard businessman bad guy but brings campy gravitas; and Naomi Watts is a mousey introvert who goes along for the ride. There’s some kickass animated sequences and wild comic book action… and then… oh boy… the kangaroo people show up. That’s when the movie starts to suck. The story goes completely off the rails, things stop making sense, the stakes are chucked to the wind, and I absolutely despised just looking at these repulsive hairless kangaroo monstrosities (which I’m sure were very expensive). Ice-T, even buried under the most upsetting full-body makeup, plays it so stone-facedly, no-nonsense straight that it’s kind of amazing.

Cinematic Wonders: Jabberwocky (1977)

20. Terry Gilliam’s first movie foray outside of Monty Python was Jabberwocky (1977), a film I thought deserved a second chance. It has a rich visual style that Gilliam would perfect throughout the 80s, but most of the cartoon style violence comes off as more interesting than funny. The way the plot becomes very complicated and gets sidetracked by the politics and socioeconomic situations of the kingdom, but in a distant, mocking sort of way reminded me of Terry Pratchett. It’s not a great film, but it has a few moments. Sadly, the eponymous Lewis Carroll creature is the least present and least interesting aspect of the film. I do believe a movie could be made out of Carroll’s nonsense poem, but this doesn’t feel like the one. Check it out to see early Gilliam finding his voice independent from the Python crew.

Adam McKay's 'Don't Look Up' Divides Critics: Are Oscars Still Coming? -  Variety

19. Everyone seemed to hate Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up (2021). Dr. Strangelove, this is not. As a metaphor for climate change, it’s not a perfect fit and the comedy feels a bit too broad and basic. Think lesser SNL. I do think this is how America would act if there literally was a comet on a collision course with Earth however. Everyone’s made their cases for and against this movie. It’s fine. Some things work. Others don’t. It does have the subtlety of a sledgehammer and most of the characters are impossible to like (I did appreciate Rob Morgan, Jennifer Lawrence, and Mark Rylance’s performances), but I have a hard time completely hating a film that tries to tackle the end of the world (and also dumps on the ego of tech bros with God complexes). It’s always going to have a few moments of humanity peeking through.

Hillbillys in a Haunted House - Joi Lansing 3 | arthur suerd | Flickr

18. A couple of old-fashioned southern entertainers and their manager go to a spooky house that has cobwebs, a gorilla, and some dusty old horror actors. I have a lot of questions concerning Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967). Like why is it “hillbillys” and not “hillbillies”? Was there ever a time where a 90 year old Basil Rathbone appealed to Southerners? Does Boots Malone (Joi Lansing) qualify as a hillbilly? I enjoyed this as a bizarre cultural artifact. It’s dumb and weird and strangely cozy. The songs are not great and it’s depressing seeing old Lon Chaney, Jr. in this, although not as depressing as seeing an even older John Carradine trying so hard with the material. Also features Linda Ho for some reason.

Return To Oz Review | Movie - Empire

17. I re-watched Walter Murch’s Return to Oz (1985), and I feel just about the same as I did the first time I watched it. Fun puppets and creepiness, but kinda plodding and not particularly magical (especially when compared to 1939’s The Wizard of Oz) and I hate everything about the Wheelers. Reasons to watch it anyway: cool puppets and stop-motion effects, Fairuza Balk’s first movie, the original Tik-Tok.

Episode 41 - Hollywood Cop (1987)

16. Amir Shervan came to America with a vision: to make the worst American action movies he could. Hollywood Cop (1987) has a lot of the hallmarks we look for in this type of thing (like an infant’s understanding of the mafia, for instance), and it falls above Killing American Style but below Samurai Cop (both Shervan films). Like a lot of movies of this ilk, there’s a cop who doesn’t play by anybody’s rules but his own and the ending is just 30 minutes of incomprehensible gun action that just meanders around stupidly with no sense of geography.

Film Critic, Esq.: L.A. Wars (1994)

15. L.A. Wars (1994) follows in a similar vein as Hollywood Cop. A lot of the movie is gangs going back and forth killing members of the other gang. There’s also a cop who doesn’t play by anybody’s rules but his own (this time with unnervingly large teeth), who infiltrates the mafia sort of begrudgingly and sort of by accident and it’s all very stupid. Lots of shooting, sex, and car explosions. You will feel the brain cells leaving your body.

The Four Feathers (1939) | Movies ala Mark

14. Zoltan Korda was a Hungarian filmmaker who I was introduced to through his films he made with Indian actor, Sabu (like Thief of Bagdad and Jungle Book). The Four Feathers (1939) is a sweeping epic of British imperialism of how one disillusioned Englishman (John Clements) refuses to take part in it and chooses to go to Egypt and rescue his friend (Sir Ralph Richardson) who has gone blind at the front. In order to do it, however, he goes in disguise as an Egyptian guy. Kinda weird watching a movie that’s sort of trying to fight British imperialism through the power of brownface, but this was the late 30s depicting the early 1900s. If you can get past the stuffy, casual British racism, you might enjoy the peeks into the culture of weird stuffy British militarism. I do actually find that aspect of it fascinating. The movie is colorful and a handsome production, but the only parts I found really fun were C. Aubrey Smith’s portrayal of an old English general bullshitting his way through past battles with the aid of various fruits. It’s very much of a time and a place, and, while I didn’t dislike it, it’s no Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

The Ghost of Peter Sellers' Film Review: A Troubled, Barely-Seen Comedy and  Its Erratic Star

13. The Ghost of Peter Sellers (2018) is director Peter Medak’s attempt to salvage some dignity decades after an undercooked comedy was sabotaged by weather, a destructive Peter Sellers, and an incomprehensible Spike Milligan script. I love Spike and Sellers and pirates, and even a few things Medak did, but the footage of the ghosted film looks unwatchably bad. Where I take issue is director Peter Medak’s Eeyore-esque sad-sack routine, trying to gain sympathy from all these old producers and agents he tracks down. Some of them don’t sugarcoat it, and good on them for telling him to get the fuck over it. I just kept thinking, this guy let one failed movie eat at him for years. I feel for the guy. Really. But Werner Herzog or Terry Gilliam would have harnessed that failure into greater resolve. Art is often riddled with failures and successes. Both have to give you the energy to move forward.

Cool Ass Cinema: Raw Force (1982) review

12. A guy who looks like Panama Hitler has a gang of embarrassingly dressed goons abduct prostitutes to take to a secret island run by a cult of cannibal monks who eat women to give them the power to summon the ghosts of disgraced warriors in Raw Force (1982). Why does Hitler man do this? Because he trades it for jade, a semiprecious mineral, that he can sell to tourists for dirt cheap. His plan is stupid and needlessly complicated and cruel. But then a boatload of shipwrecked karate champions and Cameron Mitchell washes up and fights for their survival. I’ve made this movie sound way more exciting than it really is. It’s got some fun high kicks and plenty of skin, but the highlight, for me, of this movie is Steve’s birthday party on the ship. It features like 200 new characters who all burn to death when the ship gets attacked. What a crop of wacky faces and personas.

RoboCop 2 (1990) - IMDb

11. Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop is absolute masterpiece of satire and action. Irvin Kershner’s RoboCop 2 (1990) is a shadow of its predecessor, but it’s still an entertaining watch. Peter Weller is back as the title character but the movie is less concerned with Murphy’s tragic struggle with the loss of his humanity. The real stars of this movie are Dan O’Herlihy’s corporate villain and Phil Tippett’s stop-motion hell-machines are marvelous to look at and the movie does have some laughs as well as copious amounts of bloody squibs. Tom Noonan plays a criminal whose brain gets placed into a massive robot, and it was on the set of this movie where he got inspired to switch gears and eventually write a play that would become a film appearing further down on this list.

Skies of Lebanon | Skies of Lebanon | 2022 Wisconsin Film Festival

10. Chloé Mazlo’s Skies of Lebanon (2020) blends live action, bright color palettes, stage backgrounds, animation, and other whimsically stylized touches to tell the story of a Swiss woman moving to Beirut and falling love and starting a family in the 1950s. When the civil war begins, her perfect life is in peril. It’s a sweet little film with some visual inventiveness to help the heavier subject matter go down easier.

As a species we're fundamentally insane.” | The Mist (2007) – FictionMachine

9. I can’t believe I didn’t appreciate Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist (2007) enough when I first saw it a few years ago. Set and setting, I guess. This time, while I still don’t love that early 2000s sheen, I was totally hooked into the story and the building tension and all the new monsters being introduced. It’s a perfectly structured monster movie, but with the added element of groupthink and human dogma being just as dangerous. After a few years in a global pandemic, I feel this movie that much stronger.

Frenzy (1972) | MUBI

8. I haven’t seen much of Alfred Hitchcock’s later films, so I gave Frenzy (1972). It does have that clunky feeling of a guy who might not be keeping up with the changing face of horror (the man got his start in silent cinema and really hit his stride in the 50s and 60s, but it’s a fun watch as a Hitchcock suspense comedy. This movie does possess a more pronounced perverse glee surrounding the act of murdering women, but the running gag of normal married life being so horrible is a humorous counterpoint.

Review: Taxidermy doc 'Stuffed' is both fascinating and freaky - Los  Angeles Times

7. Erin Derham’s documentary on the world of taxidermy, Stuffed (2019), was more elegant and interesting than I was prepared for. It truly captures the complexity and beauty of this unique artform, as well as the various philosophies and approaches to it. More to its credit, for a film about mounting dead animals, it is never morbid or grim.

Review: A London Night Goes Wrong in 'The Party' - The New York Times

6. Set in one house on one momentous evening, Sally Potter’s The Party (2017) brings together several great actors and gives them one bombshell after another to react to. It’s a breezy, efficient little dark comedy that’s smartly shot and fun to watch. Starring Timothy Spall, Kristen Scott Thomas, Cillian Murphy, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Emily Mortimer, and Cherry Jones.

On Location: The bridge from François Truffaut's Jules et Jim

5. No one makes love look like such a miserable prison of hormones and happenstance like François Truffaut. Jules and Jim (1962) is a haunting French New Wave classic that starts bubbly and effervescent before descending into the tragedy that is being in love. Beyond the story itself, however, the film’s cheeky style and editing flare give it a life that was altogether new back in the early 60s and still enjoyable to observe now. Today, we take it for granted that some films draw attention to the fact that they are films.

Life Itself (2014) | MUBI

4. Roger Ebert was an important figure to anyone who grew up in the 90s loving movies. This touchingly human portrait the legendary film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times chronicles his life as well as his death in exceedingly immediate fashion. What Steve James’ documentary, Life Itself (2014), does best however, is capture Ebert’s infectious worldview, optimism, and humanity, even in the face of death itself. Ultimately, a life affirming and beautiful tribute.

The 45 Best Movies of 1994— Was This the Best Year Ever? - Page 17 of 46

3. Tom Noonan wrote, directed, and starred in What Happened Was (1994), a wryly humorous and cringey first date drama set in one room. Even though this movie doesn’t have a crocodile in it, I still found it far more captivating than The Pool. It’s painful and funny and frustrating and sad. Noonan is great and Karen Sillas gives a wonderful performance as the woman who invites her coworker over for a date. Joe DeSalvo’s cinematography uses the limited space very well.

The House Movie Review: A Kafkaesque Nightmare!- Cinema express

2. This next one was tailor-made for me, so I may not be the most reliable person to recommend it, but I immensely enjoyed The House (2022). It’s a creepy and clever international stop-motion anthology film helmed by three different animation teams using different styles so I was doomed to love it. Emma de Swaef & Marc James Roels directed the first segment that chronicles the mysterious origins of the house and the first humans who lived them. The second – and my favorite – segment, directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr, shows the house in present where a modern rat is trying to sell it while dealing with an encroaching bug problem. The final excursion of the house, directed by Paloma Baeza, is a wistful but more hopeful entry that places the house within the context of climate change. Oh, and everyone is cats in that one.

The Phantom of the Opera' (1925) is a stunning example of early Hollywood  at its most lavish - PopOptiq

1. I’ve seen the old silent The Phantom of the Opera (1925) many times, but this was my first time watching with someone who had never seen it, and I was reminded why it’s so great. There is the plus of experiencing an almost 100 year old movie like time travel and observing the different acting styles and film techniques, but the movie itself is fun. The grim, perverse melodrama pulls you in. The lavish sets and creepy atmosphere are sumptuous. But the real star is, of course, Lon Chaney, Sr.’s deranged performance and his amazing makeup (which he did himself). I’m a big fan of Chaney’s acting, and if you’re ever looking for a gateway into silent cinema, horror and comedy are the best entry points.

SHORTS

Over the Fence (1917) A Silent Film Review – Movies Silently

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Harold Lloyd. Over the Fence (1917) has changed nothing.

Along the Moonbeam Trail (1920) | MUBI

Along the Moonbeam Trail (1920) is a fascinating curio about a fantastical voyage involving fairies, airships, and some early stop-motion dino work by Willis O’Brien over a decade before his crowning achievement of King Kong.

How to Take a Bath (Short 1937) - IMDb

Porn back in the day was weird. Anyway. How to Take a Bath (1937).

Hairat,' Jessica Beshir's Short Film About Love, Loss, and Hyenas - The  Atlantic

Hairat (2016) provides a snapshot into one Ethiopian man’s weird 35 year relationship with a pack of hyenas.

A Dog's Life (1918) directed by Charlie Chaplin • Reviews, film + cast •  Letterboxd

Charlie Chaplin plus a doggie? What’s not to love. A Dog’s Life (1918) also has some nice old timey runaway from the cops hijinks.

National Film Preservation Foundation: Fifty Million Years Ago (1925)

This German short is allegedly the first documentary on prehistoric life. Fifty Million Years Ago (1925) may be wildly scientifically outdated by now, but it’s a wonderful glimpse into the understanding of paleontology of almost 100 years ago.

Något att minnas, 2019. En film av Niki Lindroth von Bahr | Färgfabriken

My introduction to Niki Lindroth von Bahr (The House) was Something to Remember (2019), a haunting musical about the end of the world and the smallness of our little problems.

LAST FEW MOVIES LIII: Bring Me the Head of 2021

Can’t stop. Won’t stop. Gonna watch movies until I die.

Once again, I arbitrarily rank the last few movies I watched using a rigorous system that can be summed up as, “meh, it’s what I was vibing with I guess then maybe.” Enjoy.

i spit on your grave 1978 | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

26. I have an appreciation for nasty, low-budget grindhouse shocksploitation cinema. I get where it comes from. It has a place in film history. Meir Zarchi’s I Spit On Your Grave (1978) may be tick a few of the boxes for the sub-genre, but it was not really an enjoyable experience. Gratuitous and uncreative are words that come to mind. And as far as rape-revenge movies go, other films spit on this one’s grave. Camille Keaton is at least good as the lead.

Blu-ray Review: Uninvited - Broke Horror Fan

25. The Uninvited (1988) is a bad movie about a gangster guy who invites some hot bimbos onto his yacht but they invite a couple of dude-bros, but they are allowed to stay because the captain says they have no deckhands, but also also there is a science-experiment-gone-wrong that comes aboard with the girls. This experiment is never fully explained, but it is essentially a cat with a smaller, wetter cat inside of it that sometimes comes out and kills people or poisons their blood. It’s incredibly stupid and we all had a lot of fun watching it. If you like watching pathetic old guys and annoying 20-somethings yell at each other and die dumbly, then this won’t be a total waste of time.

Terminal Island (1973) - IMDb

24. This is more the b-movie sleaze I’m here for. Terminal Island (1973), directed by Stephanie Rothman, begins with a woman (played by Ena Hartman) being brought to a free range island penitentiary. Through her we are introduced to the life-or-death rules and gender politics of this open air hell. Clusters of prisoners, angered by the boss prisoner’s style, secede into factions and they proceed go to war with each other. It’s a solid premise that’s ripe for remake. This little surprise also stars a very young Tom Selleck.

Watch John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky | Netflix

23. If I never see another bio/doc on The Beatles, I’ll sleep just fine. John and Yoko: Above Us Only Sky (2018) gives us a peek into the recording of the album Imagine, and does a good job of letting us see just how weird making art can be. It’s a strange thing to capture an artistic lightning strike, but when it does strike, you had better be ready for it. And you better have the right people in your corner to help you bottle it.

Phantasm II (1988) Review |BasementRejects

22. We loved Don Coscarelli’s weird grave-robbing interdimensional horror so much, we vowed to watch all the sequels. Phantasm II (1988) was next up. A sleeker production than its predecessor, Phantasm II functions as a sequel/reboot of the original. It was almost impossible to follow, but they made Reggie more of a badass and those spiky, floating death orbs are back so, ya know. 4 stars or whatever.

The Bloody Pit of Horror: Yan gui fa kuang (1984)

21. I love finding insane stuff and unleashing it onto my friends. Stumbled upon Possessed II (1984), a batshit Hong Kong spook show that just keeps dialing up the crazy. Just the way we like it. I could attempt to describe the meat locker scene, or the scene with the owl and the rat, or one of the scenes where a lady jumps off a roof, or the scene where a little possessed girl absolutely gives it to her bully. But what would be the point? Best to just let it wash over you and try to figure out just what the hell is happening for yourself. One big surprise I must tell, however, was according to this movie, I guess the Hare Krishnas are right?

The Last Unicorn (1982) - Moria

20. Finally got to the Rankin-Bass production, The Last Unicorn (1982). Stilted yet stylized animation and a decent voice cast (Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Christopher Lee, Tammy Grimes, Jeffe Bridges, etc.) come together to tell this surprisingly deep fantasy about innocence and humanity, love and choices. Apart from Legend, how many movies about unicorns are there? The movie mostly won me over with its theme song.

Sweetgrass (2009) - IMDb

19. Lucien Castaing documents shepherds in Montana wrangling sheep one last time in Sweetgrass (2009). Like Leviathan, this documentary is light on exposition and explanation. The film is at its most interesting when it lingers on the day-to-day activities of working with sheep.

Wolf Guy (1975) - IMDb

18. Sonny Chiba might have the most powerful hair in the business. The eyebrows. The sideburns. Everything. Makes sense to cast him as the last of a defeated werewolf clan in groovy 70s Japan. Wolf Guy (1975) was another weirdo flick we found incredibly hard to follow. Stuff just sort of happens and you have to go with it. It’s a crime melodrama with some supernatural elements and we definitely would have rated it higher had the film not kept teasing us with a werewolf transformation that never comes. The film ends the day before he’s supposed to turn into a wolf. Lame.

Reality (2014) - IMDb

17. Quentin Dupieux seems to only be interested in making surreal meta-comedies. That’s fine. Not everyone will always be on his wavelength (myself included). However, I enjoyed Réalité (2014). A director (Alain Chabat) is trying to capture the perfect scream in order secure funding for his next movie. But that’s really not what it’s about. Or is it? I don’t know if it goes anywhere or really says anything, but most of me didn’t mind as I was consistently laughing and puzzling over it the whole way. A hypnotic shaggy dog story.

When Love Goes Wrong | video | song | Marilyn Monroe | Jane Russell

16. I’ve never been the biggest Marilyn Monroe fan, but I gave Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) a shot. Directed by Howard Hawks, it has all the glamor and musical numbers you would hope for in a production like this. Two showgirls – with very different attitudes towards men and romance – go on a fancy cruise ship together. Sardonic Jane Russell is the perfect friend/foil to ditzy Marilyn Monroe, and Russell’s impression of Monroe at the end is really what won me completely over.

The Aftermath (1982) — The Movie Database (TMDB)

15. We are always on the lookout for the next Breen or Wiseau. A misunderstood, deluded auteur who is really putting themselves out there. Writer/director/producer/star, Steve Barkett, has a bit more clarity and vision than some of the others, but all of the self-obsessed hubris we long for. The Aftermath (1982) is a typical brainless sci-fi b-flick about a post-apocalyptic dystopia, but with a sensitive-eyed, noble hero who eventually becomes incensed enough to do the violence. A little slow to get started, but villainous Sid Haig will see you through the middle bits until we get to the big, dumb, pew-pew shoot ’em up final act. Watch The Quiet Earth afterwards to cleanse the palate, if need be.

Empire of the Dark (1990) – MonsterHunter

14. Steve Barkett’s other directorial outing, Empire of the Dark (1990), may be less ambitious in scope, but it has two things that we love: underground devil cult and a grocery store shootout. Barkett is a little less of a goodie-goodie in this one, but still boasts them sultry baby blues. Clearly made on a much smaller budget, but much more fun and watchable than The Aftermath.

The Whistlers (2019)

13. The Whistlers (2019) is a sexy Romanian crime drama that employs the use of an obscure whistling language native to the Canary Islands in order for its characters to communicate over long distances yet with secrecy. Mobsters, police surveillance, secret codes, and double crosses. It’s admittedly a little hard to follow (especially once you realize it’s being told out of order), but the cast is good and its just such a sleek looking beast, you kind of get sucked in.

A Town Called Panic :: Zeitgeist Films

12. It had been a hot minute and I found myself revisiting the anarchic stop-motion toy world of A Town Called Panic (2009). Based on a Belgian series, the film follows the surreal misadventures of Cowboy, Indian, and Horse. On the surface, it may appear crude, but there is a deftness in its intentional minimalism, shot composition, and timing. It’s also very creative and funny.

The making of oversized 'Dune' villain Harkonnen: no CGI, just a lot of  prosthetics - Chicago Sun-Times

11. There’s still a thing or two I enjoy about David Lynch’s flawed adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel. That said, Denis Villaneuve’s update on Dune (2021) is pretty great. Political intrigue and ancient religions are moving pieces around a big, sandy board that is full of giant worms. I did wish it was a bit more visually interesting (Blade Runner 2049 spoiled us, perhaps), but if the sun-parched desert is bumming you out, just wait for Stellan Skarsgård’s Baron Harkonnen to show up and dominate the screen. And it really does need to be experienced on a massive screen. It’s just nice to see a big budget sci-fi epic take its time to craft a unique experience. We will have to wait and see what the second part has in store.

Review: Assault on Precinct 13 - Slant Magazine

10. John Carpenter is a legend and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) is another classic example of a simple idea working well in the hands of someone who knows how to handle the material. A mysterious gang, that almost behaves zombie-like (perhaps due to a sun-flare), is laying siege upon an all but empty police station. It has all the ingredients for a gritty thriller.

Nightmare Alley' Review: Del Toro Taps Bradley Cooper's Dark Side - Variety

9. Guillermo del Toro’s sumptuous visuals lend themselves to classic noir in Nightmare Alley (2021). Stan (Bradley Cooper) is a drifter with a dark past who finds a job in a circus, learns some mentalist tricks of deception, and then uses them to head to the big city (of Buffalo) and use his powers of manipulation to cajole his way into wealth. Naturally, things turn south. Noir typically delves into the dark side of humanity and often functions as a morality play, and this remake gets that. Like all del Toro flicks, the world this story takes place in is detailed and gorgeous, but danger lurks in the shadows. Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Rooney Mara, David Strathairn, Ron Perlman, Richard Jenkins, and Willem Dafoe co-star.

Nightmare Alley (1947) - Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review | High Def  Digest

8. Hot off the remake, I gave the original Nightmare Alley (1947), directed by Edmund Goulding, a look. I dig classic Hollywood and, while it could be argued that there are things del Toro’s version did better (the rules and culture surrounding mentalism being more fleshed out being one big improvement), there’s something more pure about this one. Tyrone Power is great as Stan and the three women whose affections he juggles (played by Coleen Gray, Joan Blondell, and Helen Walker) are all very good too. It’s almost shot-for-shot the same movie, but some scenes just hit a little harder – even without being overly flashy, stylized, or gruesome.

Jacky in the Kingdom of Women (Jacky au royaume des filles): Rotterdam  Review – The Hollywood Reporter

7. Cartoonists make some of the most interesting directors. Terry Gilliam, Marjane Satrapi, Dash Shaw, Mike Judge, Tim Burton. They just see the world through a more distorted lens. French cartoonist Riad Sattouf’s Jacky in the Kingdom of Women (2014) is a dystopian fantasy set in a Third World fundamentalist dictatorship. The twist is that it’s a matriarchy and all the men are burqa’d up subservient second-class citizens who dream of going to the ball and marrying the tyrant general’s daughter. Recontextualizing religious conservativism by swapping gender roles while also critiquing on government corruption wasn’t enough to make this wacky comedy memorable, so it’s also a riff on the classic tale of Cinderella. This won’t be for everyone, but this one got me. Stars Vincent Lacoste and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time Is Getting an Official Release After a  30-Year Production

6. Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey (2016) is basically watching the cosmos bits from Tree of Life without the other stuff. I kind of wish it were less theological and poetic and more cryptic and cold, but that’s me. Amazing shots of lost landscapes and stars forming reminds us that this giant, crazy, perhaps eternal universe has always contained powerful magic beyond our comprehension and will continue to do so long after we are gone.

Cool Ass Cinema: Conan the Destroyer (1984) review

5. Listen. I’m dumb. I like Arnold Schwarzenegger and I like sword-and-sorcery. And I write and illustrate a barbarian webcomic very much inspired by this type of nonsense candy so I’m a bit biased, but… Conan the Destroyer (1984) delivers. John Milius’s previous film, Conan the Barbarian, was a grand epic melodrama, but the Richard Fleischer directed sequel is a straight up fantasy comic book brought to life. Conan goes on a more kid-friendly quest this time since producer Dino De Laurentiis felt another R-rating would effect ticket sales. I’ll accept reduced violence in exchange for more monsters. That’s show business, baby. Grace Jones, Mako, Wilt Chamberlain, and Sarah Douglas co-star.

Watch Devil in a Blue Dress on Hulu – Stream of The Day | IndieWire

4. Is this peak Denzel Washington? Maybe. Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), directed by Carl Franklin, is a classic neo-noir detective thriller, but where pretty much all classic noirs were made with whites for whites, this one is set in the Black neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The 1940s set dressing and costumes are wonderful to look at, and Denzel is captivating as Easy Rawlins, a man who takes a mysterious job of finding a woman and unwittingly gets caught up in a murder plot. Don Cheadle shows up about halfway through to give the movie a punch of fresh energy. The movie is sexy as hell.

Memories of Murder

3. Bong Joon-ho movies are always so rich in human weakness. The Host, Snowpiercer, Okja, and Parasite are all fascinating and outlandish, but his earlier film, Memories of Murder (2003), is a pared down small town police procedural, based on a South Korean true crime event, that might be my favorite. Starring Bong Joon-ho regular, Kang-ho Song, Memories of Murder stands out among cop dramas because the police are not good at their job and are violent and haunted by these killings as they reveal their own incompetence.

The Ace Black Movie Blog: Movie Review: Midnight Run (1988)

2. Charles Grodin and Robert DeNiro have the most amazing comic chemistry in Midnight Run (1988). This was a movie that was on TV a lot, and I always knew it was funny, but I never sat down and watched the whole thing. DeNiro is a divorced ex-cop turned bounty hunter hired to pick up an accountant who stole money from the mob and bring him to Los Angeles. With mafia guys, the FBI, and other bounty hunters hot on their tails, the two men go on a car chase and shootout filled cross-country race. Like all good buddy movies, it’s all really just an excuse to explore male relationships. Yaphet Kotto, Dennis Farina, and Joe Pantoliano co-star. Another MVP for this movie is the absolutely bangin’ Danny Elfman score.

The Bowery. 1933. Directed by Raoul Walsh | MoMA

1. Pre-Code melodrama loaded with tough talk, casual racism, and big boy rivalries, The Bowery (1933), directed by Raoul Walsh, showcases a rowdy 1890s New York where everyone’s a wise-guy and grown men control neighborhoods based on their status and infamy. Wallace Beery and George Raft play Chuck Connors and Steve Brodie respectively. The two men are bowler hat wearin’, lady smackin’ rivals who, through a series of dares and stunts, try to win the respect of the lowly denizens of New York’s Bowery district. Swipes McGurk (played by Jackie Cooper) is a foul-mouthed street urchin taken in by Connors, and anchors the film with much needed heart. Fay Wray also co-stars as a homeless girl who winds up with feelings for both Connors and Brodie. There’s also a steamy saloon singer lush with billowing bloomers played by Pert Kelton. The acting and dialogue are fun, but the cinematography and atmosphere just bring it to another level. There are also plenty of nods to actual historical events and figures, from Brodie’s famous jump from the Brooklyn Bridge to an appearance by Temperance leader, Carrie Nation. It genuinely feels like time traveling to a different era. You can see a lot of inspiration for Scorsese’s Gangs of New York here – even down to the warring volunteer fire brigades. Watching this even made a lot of old Looney Tunes cartoons make a lot more sense (what a surreal experience to be watching a movie from the 1930s about the 1890s and have it retroactively make cartoons from the 1940s you watched in the 1990s make sense now in the 2020s). Balled together, it’s a fantastic bit of old New York mythmaking and history. It won’t be for everyone maybe, but I absolutely loved this movie and the all but forgotten world it depicts.

Last Few Movies LII: Post-Halloween Cooldown

More movies. All the time.

Hercules in the Haunted World (Ercole al centro della terra, 1961) - IT  CAME FROM THE BOTTOM SHELF!

21. This stilted Italian sword-and-sorcery schlock is aided by Mario Bava’s far-out colors and lighting. It’s Hercules in the Haunted World (1961). It’s got its moments – one of the few appearances of Procrustes (a hilariously specific villain with my favorite arbitrary rules in Greek mythology…in this movie he’s also a rock monster for some reason). But mostly, it’s a snoozer. Sorry, Reg Park, but my heart belongs to Lou Ferrigno.

The Ten — DAVIDWAIN.COM

20. The Ten (2007) is an anthology comedy film from the people behind Wet Hot American Summer and The State that sends up each of the Ten Commandments. Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Dekalog, this is not. It’s not as funny as the other projects these guys have worked on either. It’s a hit and miss, somewhat dated comedy with an all-star cast and a handful of funny moments. We watched it as a goof.

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974) – Midnight Only

19. I love me some classic Hammer horror, monstrous ghouls, and Caroline Munro. That said, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974) isn’t one of the more memorable combinations of these normally delectable ingredients. These characters are not great at their job. The suave Captain Kronos and his hunchbacked scientist sidekick take their blessed time catching a soul-sucking vampire. There’s some mystery about the vampire’s identity and how to kill it…which is really dragged out. The action doesn’t really start until the very end. You could watch this…or you could watch Fearless Vampire Hunters instead (a bit sharper and much better theme song).

The Ritual 🌲 - by Karl Delossantos - Smash Cut

18. The woods looks creepy enough in this well acted horror flick. The Ritual (2017) has atmosphere, good chemistry between its actors, and a wonderfully unique creature design…but it doesn’t do much and isn’t really scary. I love monsters. So why does this lose me once the monster actually shows up? A big, goofy monster that just spikes you onto a tree branch because of cult stuff just isn’t that scary. Perhaps worth checking out because everything leading up to the finale is very well done.

An American Pickle' Review: Seth Rogen's Bizarre Dual Performance |  IndieWire

17. Seth Rogen gives a wonderfully watchable performance as an Eastern European immigrant from 1919 who accidentally brines himself and wakes up 100 years into the future in An American Pickle (2020). Rogen also plays the man’s great grandson. The premise is marvelously whimsical and unique and poised to do amazing things…but ultimately gets rather squandered, quickly devolving into a story of petty tit for tat revenge between two characters that could have been anybody. When it’s tender and when it’s weird and fully unpacking the concept of confronting your heritage, it shines. I really wanted to like this one more. This concept deserves more. But even at its most uninspired, it still has a woolly Rogen doing a fun accent.

American Genre Film Archive NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR

16. God and Satan are on a train as the porter shows them stories of humans at their most depraved, and they bicker over whose soul belongs to them. This is Night Train to Terror (1985), a bonkers Z-grade horror anthology that makes absolutely no sense. And then I learned that it’s actually three separate movies that were edited down to be one single film (couched in a ham-fisted cosmic framing device). I found most of the stories cheap, sleazy, and hard to follow. Just the way I like it sometimes. It’s got some interesting ideas (I thought the death cult in story 2 was a neat premise) and some wonky stop-motion effects. At the end of the night, it’s only mostly a waste of time. The film even makes fun of its own hapless viewers with the repeated rock stanza: “Everybody’s got something to do. Everybody, but you!”

Convoy - Movies on Google Play

15. In the wake of the success of Smokey and the Bandit, Sam Peckinpah attempts to capture the spirit of the American trucker movie with Convoy (1978), starring Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, and Ernest Borgnine. Something about the 70s, man. These movies made the trucker lifestyle look like the coolest, sexiest, most American thing you could possibly do. While Convoy starts off pretty strong – several trucker buds are on the run after beating up some bad cops in a glorious bar brawl – the plot gets a more complicated than perhaps necessary and loses a lot of momentum and direction once the convoy actually starts. Like An American Pickle, I was in love with what this movie could have been.

Tales From the Crypt (1972) review

14. Sir Ralph Richardson is a sinister crypt-keeper who shows a few lost souls some piercing glimpses into their sordid selves in the original adaptation of Tales from the Crypt (1972). Based on the EC horror comics, this fright flick runs the gamut of typical morality tales of terror. Hammy acting and Chick Tract-esque simplicity aside, it’s an effective relic of horror anthology history that boasts some nice camerawork and a heartbreakingly adorable performance from Peter Cushing. You gotta love the clever titles for all the sequences when the credits role. A far better and more coherent – if a bit more conservative – entry into the genre than Night Train to Terror.

Further Beyond (2016) - IMDb

13. I’m not sure if I’ve seen a movie more hellbent on breaking down the methods of subtle deception within nonfiction filmmaking. Well, Orson Welles’ F for Fake, maybe. But here it is used to also show how the very way we talk about the past has the same manipulations of framing. Further Beyond (2016), directed by Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor, presents itself initially as a documentary about an Irish adventurer named Ambrose O’Higgins who traveled to Chile in the 18th century. As it goes, however, it also becomes, simultaneously, a deconstruction of the artifice of the presentation itself. You get sucked into the way we tell stories and recount the past and ponder on the mechanics of documentary filmmaking. The limited budget is far from an impediment here. It’s a gentle little film that tucks you in for bed under a cozy blanket while reassuring you that everything is, in fact, only one version of reality.

Episode 38 – Cape Fear (1962) – Bill and Ted Watch Movies

12. Robert Mitchum might be one of the few men capable of staring down and intimidating the stately Gregory Peck. Mitchum’s casting as the chilling ex-con, Max Cady, out for revenge against the lawyer (Peck) who put him away – not to mention the moody black-and-white photography – are what make Cape Fear (1962) a classic thriller. The movie really taps into primal fears, as well as the frustration of feeling impotent to stop the evil that is encroaching with ice cold calculation. The ever-present threat of physical and sexual violence is palpable. Peck’s character is a bit of an idiot and his plan is cockamamie, reckless, traumatizing, and results in a murder and the movie sort of sidesteps all that because, hey, a man’s gotta do anything he can to protect his family, I guess.

Watch City Slickers (Movie) | HBO

11. I remember catching this on TV a lot as a kid. Re-watching City Slickers (1991) now that I’m closer to Billy Crystal’s age in the film, I get it even more. It’s the quintessential male mid-life crisis movie. Three buddies (Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby) go for a two week cattle drive adventure. This naturally leads to several comic moments and some harrowing personal growth. It’s at its best when the guys are just riffing about life and making snarky remarks that reveal their character. Jack Palance is perfectly cast as the tough-as-nails cowboy, Curly, who imparts his sage wisdom that the secret to life is just one thing. It’s an enjoyable and still funny comedy from a bygone age – the early 90s.

Monster House (2006) - IMDb

10. Gave Monster House (2006) another watch with some kids. It’s just a real efficient little Halloween kiddie horror. The spooky old house in a quiet neighborhood eats people. And three kids have to stop it. I like that essentially it’s all set on one street. Cut the fat. Get to the house being creepy. Some funny lines and clever plot elements help it along. It’s simple, smooth, and fun. The motion-capture may come off as a bit of a weird choice, but it just sort of adds an extra layer of surreality. The character design feels like your on mushrooms.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is the Perfect Quarantine Novel - The Bulwark

9. Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) is an eerie shaggy dog mystery about missing girls from a fancy schmancy Australian school in 1900. It’s a slow-moving, trancelike yarn that is pleased to meander and stop…and then meander some more as we observe various characters reacting to the tragic disappearance. It is a little comical to me that everybody is only ever concerned about Miranda because she’s the hot one.

Chandu the Magician (1932) Review, with Bela Lugosi, Irene Ware and Edmund  Lowe – Pre-Code.Com

8. I’ll come clean. This is pretty cheesy, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for pulpy pre-Code 1930s genre movies. Chandu the Magician (1932) is as absurd as its title suggests. A white guy (Edmund Lowe) has trained for years in India to learn the ancient arts of astral projection, teleportation, and general magical trickery and discovers that the yogis that trained him want him to stop an evil mastermind named Roxor (played by Bela Lugosi) who has kidnapped his mad scientist brother-in-law in order to use his death ray to conquer the world. All of this is laid out in the first two minutes. Chandu’s also got a crush on an Egyptian princess. This is the type of exotic nonsense movie that tells its story efficiently and with some good atmosphere and does not overstay its welcome.

Dragon Hunt aka Dragon Kickboxers (1990) | Explosive Action | Action Movie  Reviews | Horror SciFi Bad Action B-grade DVDs

7. We absolutely loved Twin Dragon Encounter. Two good old Canadian boys with lustrous mustaches and a martial arts studio take their girlfriends camping in Ontario and wind up going toe to toe with an adorable group of militia men with a nebulous agenda. It’s such a perfectly lovable bad movie that just makes you feel good. Naturally, we had to see the sequel. The McNamara boys are back in Dragon Hunt (1990). The budget is bigger. There are establishing shots and close-ups now. It employs Eisentstein’s montage theory to evoke feelings and create tension. And this movie has stakes. It’s wonderfully great fun. The bad guy from the first film is back and he’s got a metal hand. He wants revenge. So he sets up an insanely elaborate plan to capture the McNamaras and force them to do a sort of Most Dangerous Game scenario where they have to defend themselves against wave after wave of ninjas and beefy boys. This sequel doesn’t have the innocence and sweetness of the original. The twins actually kill people in this one. A lot of people. Brutally. They straight up harpoon a labradoodle with a makeshift spear and leave it to bleed out to death. It does get a little tiring by the end, but it’s always good to be back up in the Muskoka woods with the boys and their thick, thick mustaches.

Phantasm (1979) - IMDb

6. Where have you been all my life, Phantasm (1979)? Directed by Don Coscarelli, this cult horror favorite boasts a bunch of fun and original ideas. Grave robbing! The Tall Man! Flying death orbs! Other dimensions/planets(?)! Either this is exactly your kind of thing or it isn’t. I won’t say too much, but I definitely want to see the rest of the movies in the Phantasm universe.

Hereditary (2018) - IMDb

5. I dug Midsommar, but was intimidated to watch Ari Aster’s earlier film, Hereditary (2018). Mainly because I knew it would be depression horror, which I find can be emotionally draining. Maybe I was just in the right headspace, but this slow-burn horror flick hit every intended mark upon my viewing. I felt sick, sad, disgusted, horrified, and genuinely impressed with the performances (particularly Toni Collette, who absolutely brings it). It kept me guessing with clever surprises and twists all the way to the end. It is an extremely well-crafted film with equal portions tragedy and terror, and I’m glad I finally got around to it.

The Keep 1983 – My Own Personal Hell

4. Like good drugs, a lot of what makes a movie great or special is the set and setting of the viewer at the time of viewing. And holy cow, did The Keep (1983) meet me just right. Genuinely a spiritual experience at the time. It’s flawed and messy, sure, but it’s got a weird hold on me now. We went in expecting a sort of Cannon style Indiana Jones horror knockoff. Instead, we got a WWII supernatural thriller retelling of the Golem legend with complex moral and religious themes and a wonderfully entrancing, and willfully anachronistic, Tangerine Dream score. It doesn’t all quite come together and a lot of things are left unexplained (I later learned that Michael Mann’s original cut was 210 minutes long, so the hour and a half version isn’t exactly the whole story), but that kind of almost lends itself to the ethereal mystery of this curious creation. Great locations. Great monster. Features Scott Glenn, Ian McKellen, Jürgen Prochnow, and Gabriel Byrne.

7 Looks From The Witches Of Eastwick

3. Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Cher play three single small town women just starting to realize that they might have some magical powers in George Miller’s The Witches of Eastwick (1987). Their chemistry is great and they never looked better, and they are abetted by an explosively watchable performance from Jack Nicholson, who plays a mysterious man who arrives out of nowhere to seemingly answer all of the girls’ wishes. Yeah, he’s the Devil. If a sexy fantasy-comedy about women discovering they’re witches and banging Satan before going to war with him (all directed by the guy who did the Mad Max movies) doesn’t interest you, then I guess we’re just different people.

Wes Anderson's New Movie The French Dispatch Pushed to 2021 | Pitchfork

2. With pastiches of Tati and Truffaut, Wes Anderson deftly cobbles together an erudite and visually dense anthology that celebrates art, youth, food, France, and – most importantly of all – journalism. It may be in vogue to critique Anderson’s twee dollhouse aesthetic overwrought in quirky symmetry, but I loved every cakey bite of The French Dispatch (2021). Gorgeous to look at; musical to listen to; overflowing with asides, ampersands, and addendums (both literary and optical). This expensive looking production recounts the death of a French-based American periodical publisher and celebrates his life and journalistic impact through the retelling of several previously published articles (that would appear in the final issue of The French Dispatch). It would be pointless to explain the plot further. It’s not so much what is being said, so much as how it’s being told – a perfect analogue for both the influence of writers on their stories and filmmakers on their films. Style over substance? That’s actually the point. A sprawling cast, charming Alexandre Desplat score, and all the clever, artistic flair you’d expect and more. If you were down with increasingly stylized whimsy of Moonrise Kingdom and Grand Budapest Hotel, then you’re going to enjoy this.

Cryptozoo Brings a Dash of Imagination to Sundance – SLUG Magazine

1. Cryptozoo (2021) is exactly the kind of movie I dream of and wait for. Dash Shaw’s earlier film, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, was excellent, and this is the perfect follow-up. Imagine a psychedelic Jurassic Park but with the fearless illustrative style of indie comics and vintage pulp sci-fi covers. A zoo for cryptids is under threat and a brave woman and her team must save it, but the imagination behind this film goes well beyond inventive creature design and unconventional animation choices. Cryptozoo deals with themes of exploitation, fetishization, stigmatization, conservation, capitalism, compromise, war, the failure of good intentions, and a world not knowing what to do with the diminishing number of unique things in it. So many ideas and so much visual flourish, all so cleverly and expertly executed. And I cannot say enough nice things about the hypnotic score by John Carroll Kirby. I know when I’ve found my candy, and I know it won’t be for everyone, but Cryptozoo is a rare and precious beast.

Last Few Movies LI: Catching Up

Not my favorite crop of films, but some truly interesting movies in here. As always, organized by how much I liked them.

Space Jam: A New Legacy' Embraces Crass Commercialism - The Atlantic

20. There are few things in this world that have brought me more joy than Looney Tunes cartoons from the 1940s and 50s. They are iconic, but, like the Muppets, haven’t always been utilized well since their heyday. I think the most upsetting thing about Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) is it’s boring. It’s just a big, dumb, unfunny eyesore of a movie. The original 1996 Space Jam ain’t no masterpiece either, but at least it had a couple decent jokes and a soundtrack that slaps. This intensely embarrassing sequel doesn’t even offer that. Space Jam: A New Legacy embodies Hollywood’s ugliest creative instincts of using an artistic medium to advertise existing IPs. And I figured as much going in, but I wasn’t prepared for how cynical and boring it would actually be.

Say Something Nice: SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION (1990) | Birth.Movies.Death.

19. Don’t be fooled by its proximity to Space Jam. This one a lot better than that (even if not a solid recommendation). Brad Dourif stars as a man slowly tapping into latent pyrokinetic abilities in Tobe Hooper’s Spontaneous Combustion (1990). I was briefly obsessed with this concept when I was a kid. Sadly the combustions in this movie aren’t exactly spontaneous. It’s kind of like a crappier version of Scanners. Or The Dead Zone. Most of the film I wished this had been a Cronenberg movie. But if you’re into schlock and some fun body burns, then it’s definitely worth a look.

How High Road To China broke all the rules of adventure movies - Den of Geek

18. Someone had the bright idea of putting Tom Selleck in an Indiana Jones knockoff and the result was The High Road to China (1983). It boasts some fun biplane action as they travel across central Asia, as well as some classic ethnocentrism (Brian Blessed plays a Waziristani warlord). Selleck looks great and he’s got some chemistry with Bess Armstrong, but this mediocre adventure loses most of its steam before act three.

Berlinale | Archive - Generations

17. Generations (2020) is a documentary consisting of 12 static shots of power plants and smoke stacks. There are some people doing things near them sometimes, but that really is it. You are struck by their immensity and the odd juxtapositions, but I’m not sure what this doc wants me to feel about these giant structures. I do confess I fast-forwarded once I got the gist of the shot. Not how the filmmakers intended, but I had a lot of movies to watch.

The Tiger of Eschnapur (1959) / The Indian Tomb (1959) | film freedonia

16. Fritz Lang, legendary German expressionist auteur behind Metropolis, M, Die Nibelungen, Dr. Mabuse, and more, made a pulpy adventure series (that inspired stuff like Indiana Jones) starting with The Tiger of Eschnapur (1959). Casual racism aside, it’s fine. I have a soft spot for pulpy action of a certain period that exoticizes distant lands and I like Lang a lot, but this was just sort of OK. It’s perhaps of a bit more cultural significance that High Road to China. And it has a pretty sexy dance.

Free Guy - Catholic News Service

15. You ever watch a movie that’s supposed to be a comedy, but you’re just happy it flows well and has nice, clear themes? Free Guy (2021) is that movie. I enjoyed it’s soft, cuddly humanism and positivity. But it’s not really funny. Admittedly, that’s subjective. But hey, all of this.

Drive-In Dust Offs: THE BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW (1971) - Daily Dead

14. I finally saw The Blood On Satan’s Claw (1971). Just some good old-fashioned folk horror with witches and demons.

Bad Trip' review: Subpar prank movie is disgusting

13. Eric Andre was the logical evolution of anarcho-comedy after Tim and Eric. I’ve enjoyed a lot of The Eric Andre Show (in small doses), and the prank movie, Bad Trip (2020), genuinely made me laugh quite a bit. I like that the pranks weren’t mean-spirited and they wound up revealing a lot of humanity’s positive impulses. Tiffany Haddish kind of steals the show.

First Thoughts on The Tragedy of Man / Az ember tragédiája (2011) – Feeling  Animated

12. I had seen Marcell Jankovics’s Son of the White Mare a few years ago. It was a visually unique animated fantasy that blended Hungarian folklore with modern allegory. The Tragedy of Man (2011) once again combines the classic with the modern, this time to tell the story of mankind’s futile striving in a cruel universe. God and the Devil play key roles as the Devil transports Adam throughout time to allow him to experiment with different forms of civilization before it inevitably all turns south and the board resets. The style is innovative and always changing, but can be alienating, and at 2 hours and 40 minutes, it’s a lot. The film also took 23 years to complete (reminiscent of Richard Williams’ The Thief and the Cobbler). While I liked the movie, I am probably more enamored by the concept – itself a product of Hungarian playwright Imre Madách’s imagination and presumably somewhat inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost. The futility of existence hits you like a hammer again and again. Fitting that one of Jankovic’s early shorts was an adaption of Sisyphus. But there is always a source of hope, whose very presence is folly, absurdity, and only a prolonging and compounding of the depression and meaninglessness that festers. I may be broken in the head, but I absolutely love this type of profoundly dark religious existentialism. Fans of bold and unique animated visions should definitely seek this one out.

Me Me Lai Bites Back - Midnight Pulp

11. Italians were kings of shocksploitation for a time. In the 1970s and 80s they started making increasingly graphic and exploitative cannibal films. One obscure little actress who appeared in several of these cannibalsploitation films (and met a horrifically brutal demise in each) was Me Me Lai. Naomi Holwill’s Me Me Lai Bites Back (2018) is the doc that tracked her down and got her take on her role in this weird chapter in film history. It includes interviews with her, some of the directors, and several fans of the genre and they all have the same glowing thing to say about her; that despite the brutal violence, gratuitous nudity, cultural insensitivity, rampant misogyny, actual onscreen animal death, Me Me Lai shines throughout all of these movies, lending a purity, innocence, and humanity that cuts through all the savagery. Having seen a few of these films, I agree. There was always something special and extra compelling about Me Me Lei. Glad I got to see this documentary and get a fuller picture of the woman and her life.

Lost in the Movies: The Story of the Fox

10. Ladislas Starevich was a Polish-Russian stop-motion animator who helped pioneer the artform in the silent era. The Tale of the Fox (1937) was his first feature-length film (he actually made it with his daughter, Irene). It’s a French film with classic animal fairytale logic and rules and a chaotic home-invasion ending that puts Home Alone to shame.

Three Crowns Of The Sailor (1983) - Raoul Ruiz - RoweReviews

9. I probably need to see more Raúl Ruiz films to better put Three Crowns of the Sailor (1983) in context. It was a weird and surreal series of flashbacks full of sailors, prostitutes, and ghosts. I don’t really know what to make of it all, but I was hypnotized by some of the cinematography (I hope you like split diopter).

Review: Yellow Cat - Cineuropa

8. A Kazakh ex-con and Jean-Pierre Melville aficionado fueled by his Herzogian dream of building a movie theater in the mountains runs afoul of the mob in Yellow cat (2020). Shot primarily in static tableaus with the unending steppes of Kazakhstan as the backdrop, it’s a flat, stoic, silly energy that sets this lo-fi tragicomedy apart. Kermek is a sweet and naïve protagonist that you just know is too innocent for this world.

Notturno (2020) - IMDb

7. Notturno (2020) is a documentary by Gianfranco Rosi that just shows daily life on the borders of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Kurdistan. What does life look like after so much war, terror, invasion, and occupation? It goes on, but clearly the region is living with many deep scars.

The Dead Don't Die,” Reviewed: Jim Jarmusch's Fiercely Political Zombie  Comedy | The New Yorker

6. Jim Jarmusch lends his slow, deadpan-but-groovy style to the zombie apocalypse genre in The Dead Don’t Die (2019). It’s easily the chillest zombie flick out there. Borderline relaxing. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but the sleepy, small town Catskill town setting and the fact that every character knows each other casts the central metaphor in a more haunting light. There’s a bit of satire about mindless consumerism and references to humanity’s negative environmental impact inadvertently inaugurating our doom, but ultimately it seems more to be a melancholic, shuffling omen of the inevitability of death in general. “This is all gonna end badly,” as Adam Driver’s policeman repeatedly portends. Not everything works for me, but I definitely enjoyed it. Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny, Selena Gomez, Tilda Swinton, Danny Glover, Steve Buscemi, RZA, Carol Kane, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, and more make up the ensemble cast.

FLC's Summer 2021 Lineup Includes Annette, The Woman Who Ran, Days & More

5. I love the band Sparks and I loved Leos Carax’s Holy Motors, so naturally I was pumped to see them working together for Annette (2021), a musical comedy-melodrama about a rough comedian (Adam Driver) and an angelic opera singer’s (Marion Cotillard) torrid romance and the eponymous marionette child they give birth to. I actually disliked it while watching it in the theaters, and even now there are some things I found annoying (I hate when films portray standup badly and I hate when songs are just one line repeated over and over again), but something weird happened. I have not been able to get the songs out of my head. The music itself is fantastic. And there were some truly powerful and unforgettable scenes. The opening “Shall We Start” number and Simon Helberg conducting the orchestra were among my favorites. It may seem like some of the ideas could have been fleshed out a bit better, but I dug most of the dry, deadpan humor and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie quite like this. Points for being unique and a thousand more points for the soundtrack which I can’t stop listening to.

The Green Knight (2021) - IMDb

4. I was super excited for David Lowery’s The Green Knight (2021). From the first trailer, it looked like a beautifully surreal adaptation of an Arthurian legend infused with horror. The Green Knight is not this year’s The Lighthouse (which I absolutely loved). It’s good. Mostly from a cinematography, art direction, and costume standpoint. Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), King Arthur’s nephew, desiring to get some quests under his belt, brashly challenges a stranger (and clearly magic and bog trouble…and voiced coldly by Ralph Ineson) during a Christmas feast. His hasty interaction leads him on a journey that will either result in death and honor or life without honor. It’s long, lyrical, and pretentious, and despite some of the liberties taken with the source material, there is something compellingly refreshing about experiencing a saga from another time.

The Suicide Squad Never Explains How It Connects to the Original

3. I had low expectations, but dammit, The Suicide Squad (2021) was fun. James Gunn basically makes a hard R-rated Guardians of the Galaxy grounded on Earth. It’s creative, gory, and isn’t afraid to show superhero costumes that look absolutely stupid. I didn’t want to like it, but I found myself laughing quite a bit and enjoying the crazy ride. Making Starro, a giant, colorful cyclopian starfish from outer space, the big baddie is fittingly absurd and wonderful. Viola Davis, Idris Elba, John Cena, Margot Robbie, and the whole cast is great, but I think we need more David Dastmalchian.

2. Toronto kickboxing brothers produce one of my favorite forms of cinema: the inept vanity project. Twin Dragon Encounter (1986) has it all. Martin and Michael McNamara take their girlfriends to the forests of Ontario where forest-dwelling gang members keep calling them “tiny” and “kids”. When the boys easily beat up these woodland hoodlums, the gang vows revenge and kidnaps the girls. I won’t spoil any of the laughs. Just watch it if you’re a fan of this type of flick. This goes in the pantheon along the films of Neil Breen, Y.K. Kim, Tommy Wiseau, Sam Mraovich, Deaundra T. Brown, and the rest.

Toy Story 4' Movie: Peter Travers Reviews - Rolling Stone

1. Once again, late to the party. I feel like Toy Story 4 (2019) came and went without much fanfare. Probably because everyone felt it was over with Toy Story 3. That was the perfect ending. Where else could they go? Well, the answer is somehow even deeper. Pixar’s series is never short on brilliant ideas and gorgeous animation. Woody’s story concludes nicely, while also giving each character room to grow. The Toy Story series doesn’t repeat itself. Each film has something different to say about growth and change and friendship. And it’s kind of incredible. Perhaps not as perfect an ending as the previous one, it’s always a welcome return to the world of toys.

LAST FEW MOVIES L: The Movie-ing

I watch many movies. Here are the last few.

Steppenwolf (1974) - IMDb

23. Based on a novel by Herman Hesse, starring Max Von Sydow, and advertised as having some innovative special effects for the time, I was ultimately bored and disappointed with the dour high-school existential pontifications of Steppenwolf (1974). It’s a damn shame really, because there’s a good movie somewhere in there, I think. It has pieces, but just a hollow presentation. No momentum. Stale direction.

Apocalypse Later Film Reviews: United Trash (1996)

22. My first foray into the films of Christoph Schlingensief has left me unsure as to whether or not I will indulge further into this anarchic German director’s oeuvre. United Trash (1996), starring Udo Kier and Kitten Navidad, chronicles the exploits of a mad German UN soldier in Africa and a possibly Messianic birth. The whole affair was wildly gross. There is clear satire at play, but ultimately I found it too abrasive for my tastes, despite my initial intrigue, and abandoned the movie before it finished.

Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton in Brain Dead. | Psychological horror, 90s  horror movies, Horror movies

21. Get a load of this. Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton in a movie together. Also Bud Cort with half his skull removed (and yes, that is George Kennedy in the photo, Naked Gun fans). It’s Brain Dead (1990) (not to be confused with Peter Jackson’s far more interesting Braindead from 1992), a weird sci-fi about brain science, evil corporations, and jam-packed with surreal dream logic. It’s loosey-goosey with logic, but enjoyable enough. It feels small and cheap at times, but that’s just part of its charm.

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, or How I Flew from London  to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes | Forgotten Films

20. Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines; Or, How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes (1965) is one of those old classic comedies from the 1960s about a wacky race loaded with a who’s-who of celebrities-of-the-day in the cast (think The Great Race, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Those Daring Young Men and Their Jaunty Jalopies, or even Around the World in 80 Days). English, French, Italian, German, Japanese, and American pilots show up at a green field in England in 1910 to race across the English Channel in biplanes and glorified kites. I remember seeing this on TV as a kid and forgot everything. Revisiting it hasn’t made much of it stick either. But it’s an interesting time capsule of a film that features some fun, eye-catching turn-of-the-century vehicles, as well as Terry-Thomas. The theme song ain’t bad either.

Page Hannah

19. I dug the original Creepshow anthology and while its sequel, Creepshow 2 (1987), isn’t anywhere near as good, it still offers up some decent, light-weight Halloween-flavored yarns – and an epilogue with a plea to take comic books seriously and remind people of the struggle horror comics historically have had through the years. A vengeful wooden cigar store Indian, an oil slick that eats teenaged swimmers, a ghostly hitch-hiker, and a little boy trying to evade some bullies all feature in this passable horror anthology. Honestly, the oil slick was the best one. The animated bits are wonky.

Vampire Hookers (1978) directed by Cirio H. Santiago • Reviews, film + cast  • Letterboxd

18. John Carradine looks to be about 100 years old in this sleazy, cheesy sexploitation horror flick. Vampire Hookers (1978) doesn’t try to hide what it is. It’s right there in the title. Some American navy boys are looking for prostitutes in Manila and get lured to a cemetery where a bevy of vampire ladies lurk. There are a few laughs to be had (both unintentional and not), but the real star of the film is the hilariously long sex scene about 2/3’s the way through and and the accompanying ridiculously unsexy musical track. I love John Carradine, but the real MVP here is Vic Diaz (a mainstay of cheap Filipino flicks of the time).

Rosamund Pike latest role has shades of 'Gone Girl' - Los Angeles Times

17. Rosamund Pike is Marla Grayson, a slimy legal guardian who uses the courts to prey upon the elderly to steal their money in I Care a Lot (2020). She essentially abducts an able-bodied old lady (Diane Wiest), lies to the court about her mental status, moves into her house, sells all her stuff, steals her savings and diamonds, and abuses her mercilessly in a nursing home. These facts do make it extremely hard to root for her as a protagonist. Even after she finds herself in hot water when it’s revealed the woman she has had the state kidnap is actually the mother of a deadly Russian gangster (Peter Dinklage), it’s hard not to be somewhat more sympathetic to the gangster’s side. It’s a bit derivative and has a few plot contrivances that may be hard to take seriously, but the cast is good and the twists and turns are well-executed. I love a good hustle or an antihero, but Marla is so unlikable from the start and her con so nasty, that it was very hard to want her to succeed in the end. But maybe that’s the point? But this isn’t exactly a Wolf of Wall Street style satire.

Toshio Matsumoto: FUNERAL PARADE OF ROSES (1969) - YouTube

16. If you ever wanted a glimpse into the dramatic world of the Japanese queer and trans underground in the 1960s, then Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses (1969) is the movie for you. Loosely based on Oedipus Rex, it’s a bit documentary, a bit arthouse, and wholly its own thing. This is probably the earliest cinematic example I’ve seen of portraying trans people in a human light.

Space Is the Place (1974) - Rotten Tomatoes

15. Enigmatic jazz composer and musician, Sun Ra made a movie. It incorporated a lot of his cosmic and pseudo-Egyptian themes and aesthetic, and not nearly enough of his music. Space is the Place (1974) features Sun Ra as a mysterious being returning to Earth to recruit Black people to go back with him to populate a strange, mystical planet. This movie is an interesting product of its time (and artist). I just wished it had leaned a bit more into its musical side.

Endless Poetry (2016) - IMDb

14. I am a dirty slut for Alejandro Jodorowsky. Endless Poetry (2016), his last narrative film and a sequel to his autobiographical Dance of Reality, is more of what you come to expect from this surreal Chilean mystic as he looks back on and re-examines his life, casting his own family as younger incarnations of himself. Self-indulgent doesn’t even begin to describe it. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? While not my favorite Jodorowsky film by any means, I think these two last films are a kind of miracle. We have here a truly unique artistic voice utilizing one of his favorite mediums to visualize his own insane autobiography on his own surreal terms; reliving past traumas and rebuilding lost fragments of times and places that have long since moved on. Like all telling autobiographies, they sometimes inadvertently reveal the shortcomings and blind-spots of their subjects in a way that is more honest than a retrospective could do. Perhaps more compelling than Jodorowsky’s evolving philosophies themselves, are the ways these two movies attempt to touch the past.

The Hobbit: The Tolkien Edit - Worthwhile Recut or Empty Purism? | Cultured  Vultures

13. We were all let down to different degrees when it came to Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. One of the biggest missteps from the start, many agree, was the choice to turn the lighthearted children’s book into a grandiose, bombastic epic stretched across multiple 3+ hour movies. Many have made their own edits so I decided to check one out. The Hobbit: The Bilbo Edition (2015) is still a 4 hour epic, but it trims the fat a great deal in service of remaining more faithful to the book and focusing on the real protagonist: the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (played just as endearingly as ever, by Martin Freeman). Azog is mostly gone. So is Legolas. No Radagast, Sauron, Tauriel, Galadriel, Alfrid, barrel chase, and a whole lot more. With these omissions, the construction of the story feels sturdier, more streamlined, and never off focus for too long from its chief protagonist and his journey. It works! Mostly. Better than the theatrical and director’s cuts anyway. It’s still too long. And things begin to crack under the weight of the lofty task by the time we get to the Battle of the Five Armies stuff. Some cuts, in their efforts keep it pure, get a little abrupt. All in all, however, this is a marvelous exercise. We all knew there was good stuff in the original movies. This edit does an excellent job of highlighting what it got right.

Blanche (1971) | MUBI

12. Everyone wants to bang the castle master’s wife in Walerian Borowczyk’s Blanche (1971). A clever little love triangle (only there’s like 5 people so…pentagon??) loaded with clammy castle textures and atmosphere. Admittedly, I found it slow, but the last act got me hooked.

Air Force One (1997) directed by Wolfgang Petersen • Reviews, film + cast •  Letterboxd

11. The ultimate 90s American action movie features Harrison Ford as the President of the United States and the only thing that can stop Kazakh terrorists (led by Gary Oldman) and save his family in Wolfgang Petersen’s Air Force One (1997). I must have seen this a bunch of times on TV as a kid, so this was a total guilty pleasure hot dose of nostalgia. It’s over-the-top and ridiculous, but that’s exactly why it works. Great cast, high stakes, and plenty of suspense. It’s superb blunt force trauma action movie directing. Would make a great double-feature with Con Air.

Review: I'm So Excited (2013) | Next Projection

10. Speaking of planes, Spanish auteur, Pedro Almodóvar, made a somewhat overlooked sex comedy about a flight that can’t land called I’m So Excited! (2013). While not my favorite Almodóvar flick, it’s breezy, funny, and oh so very gay. If you want something light, fun, and offbeat, I recommend this little film.

13 Assassins (2010-Japanese Movie) - AsianWiki

9. Takashi Miike may be a mad genius. 13 Assassins (2010) is a great samurai action movie that I will forever be unable to unfavorably compare to Kurosaw’s Seven Samurai. I’m just happy somebody is trying to keep the samurai genre alive. It’s so rich with mythology and tropes.

One Perfect Shot on Twitter: "EIGHTH GRADE (2018) Cinematography by Andrew  Wehde Directed by Bo Burnham Explore more shots in our database:  https://t.co/z8qbeAhwjA… https://t.co/uNlEOOjrsr"

8. Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade (2018) follows a girl (Elsie Fisher) on the cusp of going to middle-school. And boy does this movie capture the anxieties of middle school. And it understands the digital age and how images on social media impact our lives. Very clever and much softer than Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse.

DVD: Boy review - Taika Waititi's second feature is a big-hearted  coming-of-age comedy

7. A young boy (James Rolleston) idolizes his itinerant (absent) father (Taika Waititi) until he returns and the cracks in his fabled imaginary version of the man begin to show. Boy (2010) is another deadbeat dad and coming-of-age movie, but with Waititi’s trademark humor and gentle humanism. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to see it.

Gerardo Naranjo's 'Miss Bala' Depicts Drug War - Review - The New York Times

6. A young woman (Stephanie Sigman) enters a beauty pageant and gets sucked into the dangerous world of the Mexican drug cartels in Gerardo Naranjo’s Miss Bala (2011). Inspired by real events, it’s a tight suspense thriller that pulls you into this seedy underworld.

La moustache (2005) | Motion State Review

5. A man who has had a mustache for decades suddenly, on a whim, shaves it off. When no one – not even his wife – notices or even believes he ever had a mustache, it causes him to question the fabric of reality and anything even is. La Moustache (2005) could be about a lot of things or it could just be a bit of French absurdist comedy. Either way, it’s an enjoyably weird little drama.

The Symmetry of Buster Keaton's The General | by Tristan Ettleman | Medium

4. I am a diehard silent cinema stan. Like many, my gateway into early cinema was through the comedies. Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton are still recognizable names even after over 100 years have passed since their screen debuts. It is a resounding testament to their cinematic impact, iconic images, and well crafted gags. The Great Buster: A Celebration (2018), directed by Peter Bogdanovich, touches upon most of the common knowledge stuff surrounding the life of the amazing stuntman and stone-faced comic performer, Buster Keaton. This documentary delves into his early life as a child Vaudevillian, his filmography, his relationship with Fatty Arbuckle, his writing process, his risks, his hits, his injuries, his flops, his wives, his alcoholism, his connection to Charlie Chaplin, his renaissance, and his legacy. And all of it is set to glorious footage of his most daring stunts and most hilarious gags.

Chained for Life' review: A tart commentary on how we see the other - Los  Angeles Times

3. This is not the 1952 crime melodrama starring the conjoined Hilton Twins who also were featured in Tod Browning’s 1932 Freaks. That is a different Chained for Life. Although, I suspect a movie this in tune with how the film industry (and generally life itself) fetishizes and exploits people who are different, is aware of that other film. Chained for Life (2019) is an offbeat, satirical drama about making a movie with people that have physical abnormalities. It cleverly teases about the fact that many films that seek to humanize these people, ultimately cannot avoid being disingenuous to their proposed cause. One of their performers, played by Adam Pearson (Under the Skin), leads a group of different extras and bit players to make their own short films at night that better reflect the stories they themselves would tell. Chained for Life is astute, funny, and unique, and if any of that intrigues you, go check it out.

Dead Pigs (海上浮城, Cathy Yan, 2018) – Windows on Worlds

2. China is changing. It, like many countries, is an unwieldy mélange of ancient traditions and hyper-modernization. Dead Pigs (2018), directed by Cathy Yan, presents a comedic collision of the old world and the new as it follows several characters all trying to make it by in a quickly evolving and ever alienating Shanghai that seems to be leaving them behind. The events of the film begin in the wake of a mysterious occurrence; an unknown plague is killing off farm pigs whose bodies are found floating down the river. Heartfelt, honest, and humorous, Dead Pigs is one of the most enjoyable films I saw recently. It is perhaps also notable for being the first movie (I’ve seen anyway) that touches upon the weird topic of “white monkey jobs”.

Bo Burnham: Inside' to Hit Theaters for One Night Only - Variety

1. Perhaps the film(?) that best captures this present moment of pandemic burnout, quarantine malaise, and social media induced existential dread is the one-man-show, Bo Burnham: Inside (2021), written, directed, lit, composed, performed, and edited by Bo Burnham. Oftentimes it takes a singular creative vision to distill the zeitgeist and subsequently lampoon it while also taking it very seriously. Inside is a musical meta-commentary on the collective nightmare we all seem to be experiencing…or, at least our performance of it. Who better to tap into our narcissistic, performative (and yet also real) depression and our destructive connection to the digital realm than an artist who started out as a YouTube sensation? Brilliant musical arrangements and piercing lyrics seeking to call everyone out, not least of all Burnham himself. The whole performance and execution is quite a feat. Compelling, very funny, and deep.

BONUS SHORTS

Suite lacustre | IFFR

Fabrice Aragno’s Lakeside Suite (2019) is a visual meditation on clouds and water. This short puts the viewer in a quiet, peaceful, and contemplative state, if you let it. Just enjoy and respect the power and calm of nature without frills.

The Sky Is on Fire | IFFR

Emmanuel van der Auwera’s The Sky Is on Fire (2020) reiterates that our impermanence causes us to imagine the world is ending at every turn, because how could there be anything after we are gone? It reiterates this over and over as the camera takes us through a computer generated dystopic world that seems familiar yet eerily empty and fading away.

Last Few Movies XLIX: Bonkerser and Bonkerser

All these movies only make me stronger.

Movie reviews: 'Army of the Dead' advances the zombie genre, but its story  isn't as evolved | CTV News

22. Army of the Dead (2021) is a zombie heist action movie directed by Zack Snyder. Dawn of the Dead meets Escape from New York. But it sucks somehow. Aliens meets Ocean’s Eleven. But it’s an empty and joyless slog. It may not be satirical, smart, funny, scary, gory, exciting, or original, but it is incredibly dumb, overly color saturated, weirdly tedious, and out of focus most of the time. This was hard, because I love heists and I love zombies when they’re done right (they do feel a little empty and played out at this point, but I’m sure a talented writer can reanimate the genre with some fresh ideas) and I got suckered in because I saw comedian Tig Notaro in a teaser and thought she might bring a unique energy to what was maybe a fun action thriller. She does bring the energy (that seems to be from a different movie), but the writing doesn’t give her much to work with. Turns out she was added in post-production after the film dropped comedian Chris D’Elia. Army of the Dead is, perhaps, an intentional mixture of tired action tropes and weightless video game violence, but why do that with such a potentially fun concept? I haven’t seen much of his stuff, but maybe I’m not much of a Zack Snyder fan. Sorry.

Critters (1986) Review |BasementRejects

21. A gang of small, furry aliens called Crites crash land on Earth and terrorize a small town farmhouse. The more I delve into this franchise, the clearer it becomes just how Gremlins completely eclipsed it. Critters (1986) is a wacky sci-fi creature-feature that boasts some fun practical effects and designs, but lacks the necessary humor, peril, or compelling characters (not you, M. Emmett Walsh, you’re great) to make it truly memorable. Now I can forgive a goofy monster movie for not being scary or funny, but the critters themselves better deliver and rack up the body count. Alas, despite some moments of fun mayhem and a good premise, I weirdly prefer Critters II: The Main Course more…which also isn’t great, but it does feel a bit schlockier.

We're Still the Lunatics: A Special Edition of The 'Burbs | TV/Streaming |  Roger Ebert

20. People may hate me, but I do not love The Burbs (1989). At this point, I think I like more of who Joe Dante is and what he represents than most of his filmography. The structure is there, and there are some clever beats, but, for whatever reason, the manic, obnoxious, cartoony comedy did not work for me. Plus 2 points for Bruce Dern, but minus 4 points for criminally underusing Carrie Fisher and minus 2 more for making Tom Hanks annoying.

Alien: Covenant (2017) and Frankenstein (1931) | by Dimitri Ng | Cinemania  | Medium

19. Ridley Scott’s best movie, in my humble opinion, remains 1979’s Alien. While both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant (2017) fail to deliver the punches they promise, they do have some great ideas, amazing visuals, and Michael Fassbender. I love that Scott has been allowed to return to this world and explore it more, even if they don’t quite measure up. On a story level, Alien: Covenant functions better than Prometheus, but I weirdly liked Prometheus better simply for being a bit more weird and novel. Stick with the originals to get your xenomorph fix. Watch on to observe how the franchise changed over the years. The Alien franchise, both at its best and its worst, is a fascinating exploration into different filmmaking approaches. And the H. R. Giger designs still kick ass.

Poulet au vinaigre (1985) de Claude Chabrol – L'Oeil sur l'écran

18. I love a good small town mystery with a fun detective character. I am uninitiated into the world of Inspector Jean Lavardin (played by Jean Poiret) and didn’t realize he had made other appearances when I watched Claude Chabrol’s Poulet au Vinaigre (1985). The first half of the movie is a bit slow, taking it’s time establishing the characters within the town and the details surrounding the murder and coverup. When the inspector arrives, the story becomes a bit more engaging. All in all, a decent little mystery (especially when the unorthodox detective roughs up his suspects). He’s not exactly as charismatic as Columbo or Poirot, but he’s not without his charm.

Funny Ha Ha

17. Awkward young adult stammering mumblecore, here we go. Andrew Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha (2002) follows the trivial interactions between a recent graduate named Marnie (Kate Dollenmayer) and her college friends in the summer. Not much happens and it’s pretty aimless, but that’s sort of the point. Marnie herself doesn’t know what she wants or what she’s about. For fans of early indie mumblecore, this should probably be on your list. For the average movie goer, this won’t be for everyone.

SUPERGIRL (1984) • Frame Rated

16. I remember this being on television a lot and always being confused. Sitting down to watch it as an adult has elucidated precious little of the convoluted meanderings of what one might attempt to describe as a plot. Supergirl (1984) is an absolutely bonkers train-wreck of a superhero movie. Just watch this to scream at the TV screen. Don’t try to make sense of it. Credit where it’s due: Faye Dunaway chewing the scenery as an evil witch is so enjoyable. Peter O’Toole, in his brief screen time, hams it up pretty good. And Helen Slater as Supergirl herself looks great in the outfit…even if her story, powers, and character don’t make a lick of sense.

The Silent Partnter | Screen Slate

15. The Silent Partner (1978), directed by Anders Bodelson, is a gritty Canadian crime thriller with some fanciful pulpy flourishes. Elliott Gould plays a bank teller who gets wise to a would-be robber’s plan and winds up stealing the money himself and getting the criminal busted for it. But when the bank robber (Christopher Plummer) figures out what happened, he begins stalking and haunting the teller to get his share of the money.

14. Ever wonder where that image of Jackie Chan playing a coquettish Chun Li from Street Fighter comes from? It’s City Hunter (1993), a Hong Kong action comedy based on a manga. And while the non-stop stunt-work is as impressive as ever, the physics-defying broad slapstick, zany double-takes, and cartoon-sound-effects-laden onslaught wears thin and represents, to me, the absolute worst instincts of Chinese comedy. That said, City Hunter is unlike anything I’ve seen. It’s fast, frantic, frenetic, and pure lunacy that gleefully mows down copious amounts of innocuous henchman and innocent hostages alike (tone consistency be damned!). In addition to Jackie Chan and the usual Australian baddies, this movie also boasts a bevy of fun female characters that range from badass to big-bosomed. An altogether exhausting affair, City Hunter is like a Chinese Looney Tunes interpretation of James Bond. If you’re a Jackie Chan aficionado, or just curious as to just how bonkers a kung-fu movie can get, check this weird puppy out.

SOLD OUT: GETEVEN (aka ROAD TO REVENGE) (1993): 16th June, Bristol  Bierkeller | Bristol Bad Film Club

13. Road to Revenge (aka GetEven) (1993) is exactly the kind of vanity project we wait for. An inept, humorless man with negative charisma helms a film project that insists he’s the baddest action hero that ever sang karaoke and made love to the American flag. It’s an embarrassing, sexist, cringeworthy mess and deserves to be recognized alongside other so-bad-it’s-good fair. If you are someone who enjoys psychoanalyzing the misguided artistic endeavors of the narcissistic and talentless, you must check this flick out. We done cackled with this one.

Wiener-Dog (2016) | I Draw on My Wall

12. Todd Solondz wants to hurt people with his unforgivingly depressing brand of comedy. From Welcome to the Dollhouse to Happiness, he’s a director that wants to paint a picture so devoid of hope or joy, that one’s psyche is compelled to laugh lest we succumb to the void. Weiner Dog (2016) is no exception. Don’t get me wrong. I like Todd Solondz. But I also know what I’m getting into when I watch one of his films. Weiner Dog follows the adventures of a dachshund that bounces from sad owner to sadder owner. Like Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, the animal in question is merely a vehicle to propel us into the private dramas of the individuals that become peripherally entwined with it. Featuring Greta Gerwig, Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn, Julie Delpy, and Kieran Culkin.

The Reflecting Skin is "not Little House On The Prairie!" - SciFiNow - The  World's Best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Magazine

11. There has not been a deficit of off-the-wall WTF movies on today’s list, and Philip Ridley’s The Reflecting Skin (1990) lands squarely within the parameters of the precedent set by some of the wackier films mentioned above. It’s a full on surreal descent into depression on the prairie as we follow a young boy named Seth Dove (Jeremy Cooper) and his strange adventures in an isolated 1950s America nowhere town. The local foreign lady outcast might be a vampire. There’s some greaser guys who cruise around abducting kids. You got self-immolations. And Seth ends up custodian of an ossified fetus that he keeps in the barn. Words can’t really do justice for just how insane this movie gets, and I’m not even sure that I’d call it “good”. All’s I can say is that when 8-year-old Seth screams for minutes on end into the dispassionate setting sun, lifeless chunks of dry earth crumbling betwixt his fingers, I felt it. Co-starring Viggo Mortensen!

Film Feasts: Movie Meals to Give Thanks for (Mostly) | Tilda swinton,  Movies, Pretty table settings

10. Tilda Swinton plays a Russian woman married into an aristocratic Italian family who falls in love with her son’s friend who is an amazing chef in Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love (2009). It’s a glorified soap opera that feels weirdly cold and distant, and it moves very slowly. But when it’s not being boring, there is plenty of sumptuous cinematography showing off Italy’s fields, mountains, and architecture. And there’s Tilda. The last act has the most going on, and that’s when the score picks up and animates the drama a bit more.

Elio Petri – A Quiet Place in the Country | Jewish Museum Berlin

9. Horny Italian arthouse psychodrama doesn’t get much artier or hornier than Elio Petri’s A Quiet Place in the Country (1968). The piercingly blue-eyed Franco Nero stars as a manic modern artists on the verge of a mental breakdown and so retires to an abandoned estate to get some work done. But something draws him to this place. There was a tragedy long ago, and perhaps the spirit of young countess haunts the place still. This film dares to ask, “what if a crazy Italian guy desperately wanted to bang a ghost?” The Ennio Morricone score and frantic style make this one weird experience. This one definitely won’t be for everybody, and I found it maddening at times, but I can’t stop thinking about it. Or Vanessa Redgrave.

DVD Talk

8. Michael Cera plays an obnoxious American effete on a quest to do psychedelic drugs in Chile. His performance is quite the indictment of the average obtuse American abroad. The Chileans put up with their self-absorbed foreign friend – even accommodating his hasty invite (and ignoring his subsequent rude renege) of another American weirdo: a free-spirited hippie girl played by Gaby Hoffman. Sebastián Silva’s Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus (2013) is a funny and sweet road movie loaded with hallucinogenics and burgeoning maturity (in the form of realizing that other people have feelings and that maybe – just maybe – so do you).

The Event (2015) | MUBI

7. In 1991, in an attempt to fight back against the growing democratization of the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev, communists within the government attempted a coup d’etat that resulted in a media blackout. Protestors in St. Petersburg listened to the radio and handed out flyers to keep appraised of the events unfolding. Ultimately, the military refused to betray the angry citizenry, and only a few months later the Soviet Union was dissolved. Sergei Loznitsa’s documentary, The Event (2015), utilizes wonderfully restored archival footage that places you in the thick of the confusion and mounting concern among the people in the square. The footage is punctuated by Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake which the detained Gorbachev had play over the airwaves during the coup.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Ending, Explained

6. I’m late to the party, but Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) is fun. It’s a meandering plot about a fading TV cowboy (Leonardo DiCaprio) trying to get back in the game and his aimless stunt double (Brad Pitt) that is just filmed so well and so enjoyable to watch. Love him or hate him, Tarantino simply knows how to entertain, and his love letter to Hollywood on the cusp of the 1970s just encapsulates some of what American filmmaking does right. It mixes Hollywood history with a touch of revisionist fantasy in the same way that Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained did. It’s a bit of historical revisionism saving actress Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie) and thusly un-cancelling Roman Polanski. The film, apropos of nothing, asks, “but what if the Manson family went to the house next door instead and there was a stunt man on acid in there?” Perhaps it runs afoul of trivializing Tate’s tragic death and retroactively exonerating Polanski’s later pedophilic rape charges. And maybe all that’s insensitive and bad (maybe not nearly as insensitive and bad *and cringeworthy* as Zack Snyder using the song “Zombie” by The Cranberries), but it does make for one hell of a B-storyline for the main action to intersect with.

Inside Job - Movie Review : Alternate Ending

5. It’s worse than you think. Charles Ferguson’s documentary on the banking crisis and ensuing financial recession in America, Inside Job (2010), is a masterful chronicling of the powerful negative impacts of deregulation, political conflicts of interest, the mounting wealth gap, and just how and why these things keep happening. I wasn’t a fan of Adam McKay’s The Big Short. I dug J. C. Chandor’s Margin Call. But this is the best film to watch to get a fuller portrait of the scope and reverberations of the corruption within the American corporate and political spheres. Honestly, understanding this stuff is as important as knowing history and being familiar with the Abrahamic religions if you want to have a proper grasp on the western world and the current state of things.

To Sleep with Anger: You Never Know What's in the Heart | The Current | The  Criterion Collection

4. Director, Charles Burnett, paints a unique South Central LA fairytale in To Sleep with Anger (1990). A good, God-fearing family extends their kindness and hospitality to a Southern drifter and old friend, Harry (fantastically acted by Danny Glover). Though they insist he is not an imposition, Harry’s weird superstitions, overbearing manners, and greasy friends soon implant something like a slow-burn voodoo virus (yet with the insidious veneer of plausible deniability) throughout the house, affecting the family’s health and testing their resolve. A delicious, atmospheric film with some great performances.

The Art of Film — Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College

3. A young taciturn girl eventually called “Shula” (Maggie Mulubwa) randomly pops up in a small village and is immediately accused of being a witch – a claim she neither confirms nor denies at first – and is sent to a witch camp where she is the only child. I Am Not a Witch (2017), directed by Rungano Nyoni, is a brilliant Zambian satire on politics, superstition, gender roles, slavery, the media, and even the vacuousness of poverty tourism. Equal parts funny and tragic, I Am Not a Witch presents a harsh and familiar Kafkaesque world that left reason and humanity long behind.

Nothing is Written: The Last Detail

2. Hal Ashby’s The Last Detail (1973) is the story of two foul-mouthed navy guys (Jack Nicholson and Otis Young) assigned to escort a young simple seaman charged with theft (Randy Quaid) to Portsmouth Naval Prison. What follows is a gritty road trip where the power dynamics gradually lessen and the men connect more as men than as military personnel transporting a criminal. Their shared adventures bond them; all the while with the sad reality of their mission looming over their heads. Jack Nicholson gives an absolute masterclass in character acting. He feels so much a part of that dreary, cold world in which they are doomed to traverse. You simply can’t take your eyes off him. It’s also shot well and has a lot of personality and humor.

Brother (1997) - IMDb

1. An unyieldingly bleak portrait of post-Soviet Russia, Aleksei Balabanov’s Brother (1997) is a low budget dark crime drama with a great contemporary rock soundtrack by Nautilus Pompilius. After serving military duty, aimless Danila Bagrov (Sergei Bodrov, Jr.) winds up in St. Petersburg to meet his successful big brother who, it turns out, is actually a hitman on increasingly thin ice with his frequent employer. Danila gets pulled into the seedy crime world and, with not much else going on, adapts rather quickly to his new deadly line of work. While Danila does become a violent force, his connections to the people in his new neighborhood lend his character added layers of humanity that make his journey all the more harsh. The film seemed to have captured the zeitgeist of the cultural mood at that time (I’ve had it recommended to me by multiple Russians who grew up in the 90s, and I’m glad I finally watched it). Produced on a tiny $10,000 budget, Brother became a cult hit and even got a sequel in 2000.

BONUS SHORTS

The Hoff Twins - YouTube

Keep your eyes on Andrew “All Gas No Brakes” Callaghan. He’s a true gonzo journalist, unafraid to penetrate into the heart of the overlooked parts of American culture. He’s Hunter S. Thompson meets Harmoney Korine and his latest effort, The Hoff Twins (2021), showcases his knack for lo-fi aesthetics and affection for captivating oddballs living life out on the fringes of society and presenting them for what they are, without commentary (just some editing). Subscribe to his YouTube channels. Watch his stuff.

The Fall Review: Jonathan Glazer's New Short Is a 6-Minute Nightmare |  IndieWire

Director Jonathan Glazer gets real weird in The Fall (2019). A strange mob of masked figures catches a man caught up a tree and sentences him to the well. It’s surreal, eerie, and fascinating. Fantastic sound design.

Katrina Inagaki – Movies, Bio and Lists on MUBI

A little pirate girl and her faithful Teddy bear sail to New York City in Josephine Decker’s Me the Terrible (2012). Mischief is had and hijinks ensue. But too many shenanigans lead to loss. New York City is a dangerous place, after all. Childish and stylish, it’s a breezy little adventure complete with tricycle chases.

Spectrum Shorts | IFFR

A bear hunter accidentally stumbles upon a portal to the afterlife in Helen Haig-Brown’s ?E?anx (The Cave) (2009). An interesting mix of First Nations mythology and science-fiction.

The Heart of the World (2000) Guy Maddin's short tribute to cinema on its  100th anniversary is supremely beautiful. I am a … | Title card, Guys,  Interactive media

Two men love the same woman, but that woman, whilst studying the Earth’s core, learns that the planet is about to suffer a fatal heart attack in Guy Maddin’s Heart of the World (2000). It’s everything you come to expect from a Guy Maddin flick. Weird, funny, tragic, clever, creative, and looks like it was filmed a hundred years ago.

Suzan Pitt — Asparagus

Animator and surrealist Suzan Pitt creates a spellbinding, psychosexual, hallucinatory, stream-of-conscious art-piece and if none of that scares you away, then Asparagus (1979) is the animated short for you.

Last Few Movies XLVIII: still rough around the edges

My love of film knows no end. Once again, presented for your pleasure and curiosity, the last few movies I saw in order of how much I liked them. Rock on.

Bad Movie Tuesday: The Dungeonmaster (1984; aka Ragewar), another sword and  sorcery fantasy B-movie with a laser-shooting techno-anthology spin. |  Movies, Films & Flix

21. A jock/nerd inventor man gets so good at science that Satan kidnaps his girlfriend and challenges him to complete several video game style trials to get her back (each segment directed by a different filmmaker). This is Rage War (aka The Dungeonmaster) (1984). A strong start with some great 80s music, but an absolutely squandered premise. I had high hopes up until the games actually begin. The rules, tech, solutions to problems, and the Devil’s weirdly self-imposed limitations never make sense. It’s got some funny WTF things in it, but it runs out of steam by the halfway marker. Sadly, much like Highway to Hell (where a demon sheriff kidnaps a dude’s girlfriend and he has to rescue her from Hell), it doesn’t quite deliver what it promises. This movie could do with a remake because I absolutely love a lot about its concept.

A Talking Cat!?! (2013) - Cinema Cats

20. Objectively A Talking Cat!?! (2013) is a worse film, but I laughed a lot more and, let’s face it, I went in with the appropriate expectations. This cynically inept trash-fire, which somehow roped Eric Roberts into recording the cat’s voice into an old tin can at the bottom of the sea, aggressively oscillates between Christian movie and porno movie energy. Every single facet of production is lazy, putrid, empty garbage, indicating it was a cash grab relying on its cliched but kid-friendly talking animal bait. Anyways, it’s a great time if you’re in the mood to laugh at some embarrassing cinematic garbage.

Day the World Ended (1955) YIFY - Download Movie TORRENT - YTS

19. I saw this on TV as a kid and it was perhaps my first encounter with a movie that dealt with the end of the world. It scared me good, I tells ya. Re-watching Roger Corman’s Day the World Ended (1955) I still dig the hell out of its first act. This is another one where the premise is great – possibly the last disparate survivors of a nuclear fallout hunker down in a house with a deficit of resources and an abundance of tension. The drama between the straight-laced survivalist patriarch with his pure daughter and the skeezy gangbanger with his stripper girlfriend is the best part of this film. There is a radioactive monster prowling around outside, but that kind of sucks. Another strong start that gets tedious before it finishes, but worth it for folks interested in early low-budget examples of atomic age horror.

Swamp Thing (1982) Review |BasementRejects

18. Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing (1982) boasts a beautiful looking swamp location and a couple somewhat tender scenes between the scientist (Ray Wise)-turned-monster (Dick Durock) and Adrienne Barbeau that show why this movie was even made, but ultimately it gets held back by its inconsistently goofy tone and truly bad rubber costume (it looks better in the flat-out campy sequel, Return of Swamp Thing). I wanted more stuff with Barbeau and the gas station kid (Reggie Batts). Louis Jourdan is also fun and hammy as the villain.

Watch TCM - The Professionals (1966)

17. What a cast! Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Woody Strode, Robert Ryan, Claudia Cardinale, Jack Palance, and Ralph Bellamy star in the gritty western rescue adventure, The Professionals (1966). Kind of forgettable film, but if you dig the cast (and I do, even though no one ever gives Woody Strode enough to do in these movies, sadly), it’s a fine time.

Chinese Film 'The Wandering Earth' Imagines a Journey to a New Sun | Space

16. A colossal Chinese sci-fi adventure about the end of the world where the sun fizzles out so all of humanity lives in subterranean cities on one half of the planet and the other half is covered in rocket thrusters pushing the Earth through the cold vacuum of space in search of a new habitable zone? Why not? The Wandering Earth (2019) is dumb, big budget, bombastic nonsense of the highest order. It is huge on spectacle and melodrama and the preposterousness of the premise left me pondering how many people in China actually relate to the dogged desire to preserve the human race at such insane costs. My god. Have I become that cynical?

Ronin (1998) | OSN

15. I’m gonna say it. Robert De Niro never looked better than in Ronin (1998), directed by John Frankenheimer. It’s not amazing, but it’s kind of what you want in a slick Euro-flavored action thriller about guns-for-hire unraveling a cockamamie MacGuffin-chasing plot. My main beef with it is that it’s never better than its first act. But the cast (featuring Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgård, Sean Bean, and Michael Lonsdale) keeps it going even if it ultimately goes nowhere. Maybe I’m too forgiving, but I look for the things to enjoy in a less than perfect product.

AoM: Movies et al.: The Nutty Professor (1996)

14. Randomly revisited the remake of The Nutty Professor (1996) and…the script is pretty blah, but, man, does Eddie Murphy’s high octane performance(s) propel this wacky 90s comedy into something memorable. The weirdly somber moments where Professor Klump wrestles with his weight were actually more effective than a lot of the jokes. Ultimately, though, in 1996 we were there for the silly special effects and insane Murphy characters (playing Klump, his alter-ego Buddy Love, and the entire Klump family to great effect). Jada Pinkett Smith, Dave Chappelle, and Larry Miller are also nice to see onscreen.

Love and Monsters Joel vs Crab Monster Final fight 2 | HD clip - YouTube

13. I love monsters so a movie called Love and Monsters (2020) was always going to at least be a little bit interesting to me. But this apocalyptic survival horror comedy for the whole family, directed by Michael Matthews, was a breath of fresh air. Brilliant creature designs and effects (with some nods to stop-motion master, Ray Harryhausen) elevate this by-the-numbers hero’s journey into something worth checking out. Streamlined monster adventure with humor and some grade-A digital wizardry.

Violence Voyager • New Zealand International Film Festival

12. Violence Voyager (2018) directed by Ujicha, is probably the most messed-up movie I’ve seen in awhile, and that’s saying something. It’s a surreal sci-fi adventure about some thrill-seeking kids getting suckered into a mysterious theme park that turns into a hellish body horror nightmare. And it is a genuinely disturbing film, made all the more eerie due to its unique illustrated cut-out presentation. I’m actually on the fence about who to recommend this one too.

The Croods 2 Voice Cast: Who's Voicing Each Character In The Croods: A New  Age - CINEMABLEND

11. I never saw the first film, but I thought The Croods: a New Age (2020) was pretty creative, clever, and funny. It just struck the right tone for me and the animation was pretty to look at. I liked the family dynamic between the cavepeople family and the yuppie Bettermans. It was just sweet and nice.

Tonight is what it means to be young - Streets of Fire.ost - YouTube

10. I promise you, you will never see wetter, steamier, grimier 80s city streets than in Walter Hill’s alternate universe rock musical neo-noir, Streets of Fire (1984), featuring music by Ry Cooder. Diane Lane plays Ellen Aim, a fiery rock starlet who’s in a truly surprising relationship with Rick Moranis playing the most tough-as-nails nerdy dweeb-boy you ever did see. Enter a no-good, biker gang ringleader, shirtless Willem Dafoe in leather overalls and a greasy Flock of Seagulls hairdo (he looks like a cartoon weasel and it is magnificent) to kidnap the singer. But then there’s more terminally sarcastic and stone-cold characters to cock shotguns and ride in classic cars (Michael Paré as a gun-toting, dead-inside hero type who’s still not over Aim, and then there’s Amy Madigan as the coolest lesbian to fire a pistol square into a bad hombre’s chest. Also you got Bill Paxton in there somewhere). This movie is marvelous trash that never quite achieves greatness, mainly because the tone feels like it’s supposed to be a straight musical, but it skimps on the songs and just has the weird theater-y melodrama. A few more songs would have made this, even if my brain roundly rejects Moranis being a bad-ass. After awhile you may begin to wonder if it’s supposed to be the 80s or the 50s and why everyone is 32 years old, but just go with it. While not official, I feel Streets of Fire is in the same universe as the animated rock musical Rock and Rule.

Eating Raoul – IFC Center

9. You either vibe with Paul Bartel’s oddball understated humor sensibilities or you don’t. He’s not quite John Waters, but he’s got something interesting going on. Eating Raoul (1982) is a low-budget dark comedy about a milquetoast couple who decide to use the sex appeal of their female half to bait would-be Johns to their apartment so they can kill them, rob them, and sell their bodies to Chakotay from Star Trek: Voyager. It’s silly and pretty casual about murder, rape, and cannibalism, but that’s the aesthetic. The film works for me mainly because I love Mary Woronov and Paul Bartel’s chemistry and laid back performances. They later had a super weird cameo in another personal favorite: Chopping Mall.

Bone (1972)

8. OK, if Eating Raoul was too flippant with sexual assault for you, then Larry Cohen’s even more esoteric dark satire, Bone (1972), might not be your cup of tea. Yaphet Kotto stars as a rapist and burglar who invades a rich car salesman’s (Andrew Duggan) home and threatens to do unspeakable things to his wife (Joyce Van Patten). Not gonna sugarcoat it. This movie is weird. The characters feel like cartoon chess pieces. The chain of events meanders and feels distant, yet the (dated?) commentary on race relations, sex, marriage, and white tears is fascinating. Kotto, Van Patten, and Duggan are all great to watch. It’s rough around the edges and maybe a hard one to recommend, but there’s something about it that just struck me in a weird way.

Toys in the Attic (2009 film) - Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia

7. Czech stop-motion maestro, Jiří Barta, returned to his craft in 2009 to make Toys in the Attic, a cute but grim, tatterdemalion tale of a doll, her friends, and the evil Head of state. It’s like an Eastern European flavored Toy Story that’s just brimming with inventive details and imagination. I saw this years ago and was happy to revisit this cleverly realized realm again but with a younger audience. Entertaining for kids and adults. Toys in the Attic may be his most accessible work, but if you’re into Svankmajer, Norshteyn, or the Quays, investigate Barta’s shorts and his other feature (The Pied Piper) too.

The Man Who Would Be King (1975)

6. Michael Caine and Sean Connery star in John Huston’s adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King (1975). It’s an adventure story about two entitled Masonic Englishmen scallywags in 1880s India who concoct a dangerous scheme to traverse the perilous northern mountain glaciers, ingratiate themselves into the tribal societies of Kafiristan, train their armies with British guns, depose their rulers, and become kings…until things go awry. It’s all pure colonialism, but hey, that’s Kipling. Sort of Cobra Verde meets The Road to El Dorado. It’s a fun adventure from a bygone era about friendship and cultural insensitivity. And Christopher Plummer plays Kipling.

Vertigo Productions | Ten Canoes

5. I love it when film shows me a world I don’t know. Ten Canoes (2006) is an Australian Aboriginal morality folk tale that feels as old as the cheeky narrator (David Gulpilil) claims. And it’s directed by Rolf de Heer who did Bad Boy Bubby. Framed as a story within a story, it demonstrates why coveting thy brother’s wife is a big no-no. And it gives a peek into what ancient Aboriginal society was like, retaining a unique sense of humor and reverence for ceremonial rituals.

Carnage movie review & film summary (2012) | Roger Ebert

4. Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster, and John C. Reilly star in Roman Polanski’s Carnage (2011) based on the play by Yasmina Reza, a grimly comedic drama about parents of fighting children meeting to resolve the dispute and the deluge of judgement, insecurity, and vileness that bubbles to the surface just beneath the festering facade of civilized placability. It is only four characters talking in one location, but folks, shit. is. taut.

Little Shop of Horrors (1986) – Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center

3. Apparently, they restored Frank Oz’s big-screen adaptation of the 1982 off-Broadway musical which was based on Roger Corman’s 1960 B-monster movie about a dork in a flower shop who grows a mysterious plant that requires human sacrifices. Up until now I had only seen the happy ending cut of Little Shop of Horrors (1986) that was shown in theaters after bad test screenings forced reshoots. But what I saw this time was the darker – and far more thematically consistent – ending with one of the biggest, craziest, most expensive finales of all time. This movie goes so hard with everything it does. The puppetry and animatronic effects to bring the carnivorous plant to life look spectacular. The comedy is savage (especially from Steve Martin’s sadistic dentist and a cameo from Bill Murray). The horror is grisly and darkly comedic. And every song is a lung-busting showstopper. It is quite the achievement. With the restored dark ending, this easily tops Rocky Horror Picture Show for subversive 80s musicals that wink at classic fright flicks. And it stars Rick Moranis, if you didn’t know. Find the recut darker original ending if you can.

North by Northwest | film by Hitchcock [1959] | Britannica

2. I’ve seen North by Northwest (1959) dozens of times, but it’s a great movie. Ernest Lehman wanted to write “the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures” and I daresay he succeeded. Cary Grant has never been more Cary Grant and James Mason has never been more seductively diabolical. This mistaken identity thriller truly is the ultimate Alfred Hitchcock film, invoking all of his best tropes and then some. A New York ad executive is mistaken by some nefarious goons for a government agent and gets yoinked into a whole Cold War espionage plot. Start to finish, it’s great. He insists he is not the man they’re looking for, George Kaplan. Then he becomes an amateur sleuth to find the real Kaplan. He gets framed for murder. He goes on the run. He falls in love with the gorgeous Eva Marie Saint. He gets roped into the actual CIA and basically becomes Kaplan, only he’s not doing it for God and country; he’s only risking life and limb to bang that girl again, and that, I think, is the most relatable American action hero motivation that has ever been written. And Cary Grant just wears the absolute hell out of that suit. Way cooler than James Bond and trains have never been sexier. Cue the smashing Bernard Herrmann score!

Review: Embrace of the Serpent | Ciro Guerra

1. An Amazonian shaman in early 1900s Columbia re-examines himself and his changing jungle under the growing shadow of colonialism in Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent (2015). Karamakate (played by Nilbio Torres as a young man and Antonio Bolívar as an old man) helps two white foreigners at two different stages of his life navigate through the jungle after a mystical plant, feeling like an echo of who he was. It is a haunting, beautifully shot drama with touches of the surreal. Herzogian in the best way. It doesn’t offer easy answers, instead favoring a more pensive, spiritual recontextualization of the clash of cultures and loss of a mysterious way of life that was more connected to the natural world. Truly transcendental cinema that would not leave my mind.

BONUS SHORT:

The Moon's Milk: Animated Short and Making Of

Ri Crawford’s handmade stop-motion fairytale voyage to a strange time when the moon was close enough to touch titled The Moon’s Milk (2018) is exactly my cup of tea. Beautiful lighting, wonderfully weird, and creakingly narrated by the gravelly voiced Tom Waits. It’s on YouTube. Give it a look.