LAST FEW MOVIES LVX: Congratulations, Michelle Yeoh

We watched a bunch of movies again. Michelle Yeoh appeared in some of them.

I want to respect the hustle, but Death Kappa (2010) is just kind of ugly and annoying. At this point, I’ve seen so many movies that I’ve become very demanding of my yokai and kaiju fare. Waste of time.

I love big lug Lou Ferrigno in a low budget Italian sword-and-sorcery epic (thinking mostly Hercules, I guess). That said, Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989), directed by Enzo G. Castellari and Luigi Cozzi, suffers greatly from two glaring flaws: overall kidsie tone and the majority of the action being narrated by tension-murdering voiceover. Frequent Dario Argento actress, Daria Nicolodi, was apparently added in during post production to salvage a cinematic mess in Peter Falk a la Princess Bride type bookend segments, which really undercut all of what little build the film has going for it.

Cruel Jaws (1995) is a Jaws ripoff that’s pretty dumb and bad, but the shark is kind of cute in it.

The trifecta of Italian horror schlock bands together to make a movie that has a bit of a cult following, but frankly bored us. Claudio Fragasso (Troll 2), Lucio Fulci (Cat in the Brain), and Bruno Mattei (Cruel Jaws) team up to for Zombi 3 (1988), a jungly mess of flying heads and helicopters. The word tensionlessnss comes to mind. We all enjoyed the disc jockey though. Should have done more with that.

Michelle Yeoh stars in Magnificent Warriors (1987), an action-packed kung-fu Indiana Jones-style adventure set in a remote kingdom in Tibet during the Second Sino-Japanese War. On paper, I should love this. I understand that I’m a monster, but I absolutely could not focus on anything here. There’s some excellently choreographed action sequences, but the story is joylessly wacky, weightless, and weirdly without any personality. And all in service of saying that Japanese Imperialism is bad but Chinese Imperialism, well that’s another story. When it ended, I realized I had seen this on TV years ago… and didn’t really enjoy it then either. I love Michelle Yeoh, but she’s been in way better movies. Richard Ng is the best thing going here.

Brain De Palma does Hitchcock, softcore, and transphobia! It’s Dressed to Kill (1980), starring Michael Caine, Nancy Allen, and Angie Dickinson. I think if the whole movie were as bonkers as the last ten minutes, this would have worked better for me. But seriously, if you’re going to draw this many parallels to Hitchcock’s Psycho, you better bring more to the table than split diopter.

This movie is objectively bad and makes no sense, but it was exactly what I needed when it came into my life and I love it. Spookies (1986) boasts some isolated moments that are wild and/or so-insane-it-transcends-reason. A grim reaper explodes. An adult man uses puppets for everything. A woman turns into a spider monster. There are farting poop ghosts. A man dives through door. And none of it even comes close to coming together.

In a movie about every animal in the North American woods attacking a group of hikers, the best thing about Day of the Animals (1977) is a power-tripping shirtless Leslie Nielson. Take a shot every time Nielson calls Christopher George “hot shot”.

Robert Siodmak directs a British noir starring Charles Laughton. Sounds like great ingredients to me. The Suspect (1944) should have been more fun. It’s got a few suspensful scenes and a some nice fog-soaked streets, but it’s a bit slow and the atrocious fake English accents really got to me. I guess I prefer American noir.

I was a massive fan of the Adult Swim show throughout college. A part of me will always have a soft spot for Frylock, Meatwad, Master Shake, and Carl. Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm (2022) (the second feature-length Aqua Teen Hunger Force film after 2007’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters) differentiates itself from the show in that it kind of has a plot and a point to make. There’s still a lot of stream-of-consciousness surreal gags and purposely stupid nonsense that goes nowhere, but it’s mostly a jab at Amazon, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk (though it’s obviously no Sorry to Bother You). Is it good? Look, it’s beyond that, and I watched it on a plane. I was just happy to see the boys back together again.

David Cronenberg is such a perfect little sicko. I unabashedly love how grimy and gross he makes Canada look in his early films. Rabid (1977), like his earlier Shivers, is another non-zombie zombie movie. And it’s WAY weirder than rabies. After a pandemic, perhaps this movie is even more relevant now. Plus, there’s something really viscerally upsetting about a slimy, blood appendage with a fang on it that emerges out of a pulsing orifice located in the armpit.

Turkish action star, Cüneyt Arkın, stars in The Sword and the Claw aka Lion Man (1975), a pre-Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (aka The Man Who Saved the World aka Turkish Star Wars) medieval adventure about the rightful heir to the throne growing up a feral wild man with the strength to murder hundreds of men simply by touching their faces. The colors are garish, the costumes are cheap, the action is ludicrous, and the music is pilfered from better movies. But that’s kind of why you’d watch this sort of thing.

Gramps Goes to College (2014) is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in awhile, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a great time watching this cringey vanity project. Imagine, if you will, a 60-something year old man writing and starring in a movie about a 60-something year old man going back to college and trying to course correct America’s evil secular academic institutions with embarrassing mic drops stolen from even more embarrassing Christian apologetics books. It’s a real treat that feels pretty confident it completely obliterated the theory of evolution by comparing the human brain to a computer.

Twentieth Century (1934), directed by Howard Hawks, is a pretty mean-spirited pre-Code Hollywood screwball comedy about an underwear model turned stage actress (Carole Lombard) and her rise to stardom under the tutelage of an egotistical terror of a director (John Barrymore), and her escape to Hollywood, and the pair’s subsequent reunion on a train. It’s essentially a comedy about grooming and manipulation with casual gags about suicide and religious people being off their rocker. It’s high energy, that’s for sure. A lot of yelling and screaming and fast-paced dialogue. But that wacky, shouty, angry atmosphere does become tiresome before the film’s conclusion. Narratively it’s a bit shapeless, but I admire a lot of its roughness and John Barrymore’s absolutely Looney Tunes performance. I can see how it would have worked as a stageplay. As a movie, it’s interesting and I would love to see Barrymore in more comedies.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) is perhaps lesser Hitchcock, and it doesn’t hold up nearly as well as some of his best. There are a few pretty classically executed suspense setpieces, but the thing that really holds this one back (and I hate to say it) is Jimmy Stewart. I love Jimmy, but here he comes off as too oafish, creepy, and hostile with his wife (played with spunk by Doris Day). But that orchestra sequence! Also, I have to give it up to Brenda de Banzie in a small role but she brings a lot to it.

Doris Day is back. I saw these proto rom-coms a lot when I was a kid. Lover, Come Back (1961) was the follow up to Pillow Talk (1959) and it once again casts Doris Day as an uptight, sexless killjoy and closeted actor Rock Hudson as the serial womanizer and all around lovable cad. Tony Randall (the best thing about any of these movies) is the wormy little fop. The plot is basically a retread of the previous movie, but it has some great jokes and gags (alas, no Thelma Ritter in this one). These films are interesting in how much they lay the groundwork for romantic comedies to come, and for how poorly some of the gender politics have aged. The trio would later appear together again in Send Me No Flowers (1964).

Duke Mitchell, a nightclub crooner and Dean Martin wannabe (who starred alongside the most irritating Jerry Lewis clone, Sammy Petrillo, in Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla), apparently hated The Godfather. If he didn’t, he arguably wouldn’t’ve written, produced, directed, and starred in Massacre Mafia Style (1974) (aka Like Father, Like Son).

Like a lot of vanity projects of this ilk (i.e. small man contrives scenarios to portray himself as the coolest and best at everything and the most sexually desirable yet ultimately still put upon victim who deserves our empathy despite his massive onscreen killcount), it’s cringey and comical, but, unlike a lot of other examples of the subgenre, it’s actually shot decently and Duke, despite how much you hate him and his stupid hair, actually can deliver his overwrought lines pretty well. But it just sucks that he insists on giving himself so many lugubrious soliloquys, some of which seek to justify his character’s (or his own) deep-seated racism, sexism, and egomania.

Massacre Mafia Style has a point of view and is almost refreshing in its smaller, anti-Hollywood indie vibe, but fails fantastically under the weight of several huge time jumps, never knowing what is happening scene to scene, and the monumental hubris of its lead architect. I can respect the attitude that perhaps The Godfather perhaps does a disservice to Italians and mafiosos, but this movie manages to do far worse to them while also being a terrible film. All in all, a fascinating display.

Separated conjoined twins Duane and Belial Bradley return in Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case 2 (1990). The budget is bigger. The world is bigger. The monsters are more numerous and ghoulish. I defintitely appreciate how it picks up right where the first film left off and expands upon the lore and doesn’t do the same thing. This time, the boys end up in the safe haven of Granny Ruth’s secret home for mutant outcasts and such. It’s good. It’s clever. But, for me, I’m a sucker for the griminess and meanness and surprisingly complex nature of that first microbudget outing.

I suppose, as a treatise on beauty and aging and life and all of it, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (2013) a rather alienating presentation. Beautifully shot. Beautifully scored. Beautifully paced. Beautiful fashion. Beautiful vistas. It’s beautiful. But I can’t relate to any of it. This movie excels at making being rich and famous, yet blissfully detached and above it all in an extremely horny, dreamy Rome look good. But then…how could it not? Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) is always cool. He’s always smoking. He’s always more real than anyone else in the room. But then, if that’s our starting point, it’s a little insufferable watching a self-aware, mediocre man of high stature who got everything he ever wanted simply take a peaceful, soul-searching saunter through the tranquil Italian city and come to the conclusion that life has a lot of stuff in it that some of it is rather nice. It’s tough, because I guess I do like it, but I don’t like like it.

Charisma-less blank slate, Olivier Gruner, stars in the late Albert Pyun’s sci-fi masterpiece, Nemesis (1992). Don’t ask me to recount the plot. It’s a low budget movie with a lot of action occuring in dusty junkyards. It may be cheap and stupid, but it’s got style and wild camera movement that’ll keep you engaged. Also features Tim Thomerson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Deborah Shelton, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Brion James, Merle Kennedy, Jackie Earl Haley, and Thomas Jayne.

Maggie Cheung (Irma Vep), Michelle Yeoh (Supercop 2), and Anita Mui (Rumble in the Bronx) star in the superhero fanatasy action comedy, The Heroic Trio (1993). Chinese cinema of this stripe sometimes throws me with its tonal shifts. It’s all wacky, silly, cartoon mayhem until one of our heroes drops a baby down a shaft and its head lands on a rusty nail and the baby dies. But we’re quickly past grim violence like that and back to motorcycles spinning through the air and splitting bullets in half with shurikens. The plot’s kinda all over the place. A crazy guy is kidnapping babies to raise them as his unstoppable cannibal army, but none of that is particularly interesting. It’s more about the bonkers action. I do love Cheung, Yeoh, and Mui, and I feel like they deserved a better script to showcase their abilities, but I understand this is mostly a broad action comedy with goofy slapstick…that also blows up children while they piss themselves. Not their best work, but it’s definitely something and we had fun watching it. Every shot looks amazing with wind and fog and dramatic angles.

Looking for a classic East Asian cowboy kung-fu Western? Before America’s Shanghai Noon and South Korea’s The Good, the Bad, the Weird and Thailand’s Tears of the Black Tiger there was Hong Kong’s Millionaires Express (1986), written and directed by and starring the great Sammo Hung. It’s a well constructed sendup of the cowboy genre that features some fantastic kung-fu combat and daring stuntwork that should satisfy your itch for cowboy action comedy. It’s also a who’s who of Hong Kong action cinema. If you’re even just a passing fan, you’ll probably be like hey wait was that guy in so-and-so? It’s good fun. My only complaint: not enough train. The bulk of the movie takes place in a dusty town.

I’m still a big Arnold fan. Total Recall, Terminator 1 and 2, Predator, Conan, and Commando (1985) (and yes, in that order) are all amazing films and classics of a particular style of roided up American action flick. Commando is a simple story. Arnold Schwarzenegger is John Matrix, a retired special agent whose daughter (Alyssa Milano) gets kidnapped. This setup allows for our protagonist to go on a savage murder spree of hulking bad guys to get her back. Arguably the dream of every straight American male. It’s breezy and dumb and is peppered with the ratatat of bullets and plenty of explosions. If the opening credits featuring Matrix having cute excursions with his kid (sharing ice cream and petting baby deer) doesn’t clue you in to the winking nature of what’s going on then we must just speak a different cinema language.

We, as a society, can be pretty dumb about food. People seemed pretty divided on The Menu (2022). I went knowing nothing about it, and that’s probably what made me like it so much. I like a dark comedy that satirizes high society and gets a bunch of actors in a room together for a simple yet smart setup.Maybe it could have gone harder in any direction, but it satisfied me well enough. Ralph Fiennes (questionable regional American accent aside) is always fun to watch, and it is a joy to watch him devour every scene. And Anya Taylor-Joy eating a hamburger is the best ad for McDonald’s I’ve seen in years.

What happens when you put Stranger Things, Attack the Block, and The Thing in a blender? You get Nyla Innuksuk’s Innuit sci-fi body horror Slash/Back (2022). A handful of young girls in a tiny town in northern Nunavut are the only thing standing in the way of alien annihilation. Some of the kid acting and dialogue might not be the strongest, but the movie is a breath of fresh air. We need more gateway sci-fi and horror for kids. Not enough Gremlins, Krampuses, The Gates out there.

Road Games (1981) is a seemingly forgotten Australian truck thriller. It’s kind of like Rear Window, but for a trucker. This movie made me have to reassess what I think Stacy Keach is capable of. He carries this film and he plays it super weird. He’s funny and imaginative, but odd and poetic. Honestly? More likable than Burt Reynolds in Smoky and the Bandit. Dual is still the better truck movie, but that was Spielberg and who could compete?

What do ya know? I never saw Jennifer’s Body (2009) before, and, in a more just world, this would have been a bigger hit than Twilight. Snarkily written by Diablo Cody (Juno) and stylishly directed by Karyn Kusama (The Invitation), Amanda Seyfried stars as the nerd girl who watches her hot bitch friend (Megan Fox) succumbs to supernatural cannibalistic powers. It’s all done so well (even if it is SUPER 2009) and captures that caustic high school energy you need for a story like this. It reminded me of Ginger Snaps in that it uses monsters and magic to show how female relationships can change drastically over time.

Golan/Globus and The Cannon Group appeared in the opening credits and we braced ourselves. X-Ray (1981) (aka Hospital Massacre) was so much more fun than we expected. A woman (Barbi Benton) goes to the hospital for a routine checkup and the film unleashes a cavalcade of murder and terror. The way it teases you with anyone and everyone possibly being the crazy killer you have to watch out for is actually so dumb it’s genius. Everything scary about the hospital is here and dialed up to 11. Also there’s a crazy killer on the loose for some reason.

For me, Six String Samurai (1998) is all about the vibe. It’s a tongue-in-cheek rockabilly action flick loaded with kung-fu kicks and sick guitar licks. It just looks cool. A post-apocalyptic wasteland stands in between our hero and the mythical city of Lost Vegas. There is an annoying kid in this, but I’m willing to look past that for the film’s better points.

Pixar not even flexing hard here, but Luca (2021) was a visual delight. An adventurous fish boy runs away to hideout from his parents in a small Italian village. He makes friends and enters a local bicycle race. The stakes may seem little, but they are perfect. Luca has such a beautifully fresh feeling to it and the character arcs for both the parents and their kids is heartwarming. It may be lesser Pixar, but it’s cute and the lessons are nicely done.

Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash (2015) is a gorgeous looking drama that felt like a sexy cross between Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast and Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-Sac. It’s the psychological horror of univited guests ruining your peaceful vacation…and your life. Tilda Swinton (I love you) plays a rockstar recovering from surgery on a tranquil Italian island with her partner (Matthias Schoenaerts) when suddenly her manically extroverted old flame and producer played by Ralph Fiennes (I love you) shows up with his maybe-daughter (Dakota Johnson) in tow. The rest of the movie is the screw slowly turning and the sexual tension building, and it is marvelous. Ralph Fiennes can do anything.

Sometimes you gotta watch something more than once.

Folk music is an interesting thing to me. I was not around in 1960s Greenwich Village to see it all unfold firsthand, but I can see how it might be easily mocked and derided. What does New York City know about folk music? Isn’t American folk of this time kinda schmaltzy and kitschy? And what a curious oddity that even when the genre is being thoroughly lampooned à la a mockumentary like A Mighty Wind, it still somehow produces unironically catchy tunes that are just so bright-eyed and wistful that I find myself saying, “wow this is hokey. I love it.”

I saw Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) in theaters ten years ago. I dug it well enough, but at the time I didn’t appreciate the genius of it. It’s the story of a loser (Oscar Isaac) who has talent, but can’t seem to not step on rakes in his path. His decisions hurt himself and everyone around him. He’s a blackhole of failure. It’s a bleak portrait of an artist, but it’s not without empathy, and it is laugh out loud funny once you get on its wavelength. Midway through the film, Llewyn takes a car trip from hell to Chicago with an old, crotchety jazz musician (played by the always amazing John Goodman) who maybe puts a curse on him for a disrespectful (although deserved) response he receives. Was the jazz man a witch? Is magic real in this universe? Would it even matter or be detectable or change one thing about the already doomed trajectory of Llewyn’s life? Probably not. And that’s the kind of thing I think the Coen Brothers do best.

I feel like Inside Llewyn Davis doesn’t get enough credit among Coen films and deserves another look with fresh eyes. The look (cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel), the music (by Dave Van Ronk and T Bone Burnett), and the elusively elliptical structure of this film are all so well done. It’s like a darkly whimsical purgatory of cringe. The title character seems to be trapped inside the lyrics of a song he might have sung. Oscar Isaac is absolutely fantastic in it, and it’s worth it just to see him do a wacky little ditty with Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver.

After seeing Dressed to Kill, Brian De Palma redeems himself here. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to see Carrie (1976). A bullied girl from an abusively religious home discovers she has telekinetic abilities. The whole movie is a masterpiece, and I’ll chalk a good 75% of that up to Sissy Spacek’s face selling the hell out of it. I love stumbling into greatness like this. It’s why I watch movies in the first place.

Michelle Yeoh won her Oscar for her performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once, and since we’d been on a kick of watching some of her earlier work (courtesy of Criterion Channel), we revisited one of her best. Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) is a loving, poetic, and beautifully told romantic tragedy that embodies all the hallmarks of the wuxia genre. I’ve seen this movie a dozen times and it still dazzles me. Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat, and Zhang Ziyi exhibit their athleticism and acting chops in equal measure here. Yuen Woo-ping’s fight choreography is as breathtaking as ever (maybe even more now after a glut of overwrought-with-CG lesser action flicks). Anyway, if you never saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, go check it out. They really don’t make movies like this anymore.

Last Few Movies LVIX: Take a Shot Every Time “Blood” is in the Title

Why do I do these things?


OK so first of all, Hitler’s Girl (2013) is barely a movie. It’s mostly unrelated footage of director Paul Katturpalli on vacation in Yellowstone, Niagara Falls, etc. The rest is a pseudo Crash wannabe with the main plot (if there is one) centering around a college student whose Jewish girlfriend discovers that his grandfather was friends with Holocaust architect, Eichmann, and breaks up with him. We only watched this because we saw another Katturpalli movie (that will appear later on the list) and we thought we found another Breen. And he kind of is. But far less ambitious.

Bloodstone (1988) an extremely bad riff on the Romancing the Stone style movie where young sexy couple has an exotic adventure and sociopathically murder many men and remain blissfully unfazed and probably bone at really inappropriate times.

The pluses: Rajinikanth rocks (and he should be the hero!!!) and there is one (1) pretty nice car crash.

The minuses: there’s a lot, but Charlie Brill’s Kermit the Frog take on Indian people is pretty insufferable, so much so that the perplexing badness of the performance actually somehow eclipses the vicious racism of it. I actually kinda feel for him. He thought this was his Peter Sellers moment. And he totally biffs it.

Given the cast, Deadfall (1993) is an impressively bad film. Christopher Coppola doesn’t seem to understand mysteries, thrillers, neo-noir, or suspense. You got one weird Toni Clifton-inspired performance from Nicolas Cage for a bit (the only reason to watch it), and then you’re stuck with an achingly uncharismatic Michael Biehn for the rest.

Hell High (1989) is a fairly run-of-the-mill high school/teacher revenge thriller, but they really needed to recast the teacher to make this something somewhat good, which is a shame because it showed some promise at the start. After a solidly child-scarring prologue that ought to give our heroine the proper pathos needed to develop her into a full character, the movie veers off to be about a gang of high school bullies and their group dynamics. You know where it’s all heading, but it takes its time. Also slime is a thing. Slime is naturally occurring. Never evaporates. Will remain constant for decades. Slime. Yeah, I don’t know what they meant. In the end, slime aside, Hell High is an ersatz facsimile of the far superior Class of 1984.


A true blur. I don’t seem to remember much beyond copious amounts of female decapitations and a cozy grandpa Lucio Fulci ambling around aimlessly playing himself. Cat in the Brain (1990) is unique. Fulci wanders from scene to scene and is haunted by grisly visions of murder (but moreso, his therapist). I guess I prefer his earlier giallo thrillers over this meta-commentary on violence in cinema (or rather a slight satire on the brouhaha surrounding its effects on society).

Demon Wind (1990) is a decently fun Evil Dead ripoff. Genuinely impressed by the film’s audacity to continuously introduce new characters. Can someone explain what happened to his head at the end? The monster was cool.

Patrick Swayze is Pecos Bill, and this movie, unironically, is the version of American idealism I choose to believe in. Tall Tale (1995) is a lightweight family adventure that uses classic American heroes like John Henry (Roger Aaron Brown) and Paul Bunyan (a diabolically miscast Oliver Platt). I give a lot of points for the innocent concept and its heart being in the right place, but I cannot in good conscience say this is good.

In a high concept sci-fi adventure horror comedy where Dennis Quaid is a saxophone playing, horse track junkie who gets recruited to save the president of the United States by entering his dream world and facing off against nightmare imagery and the bad guy from Warriors, Christopher Plummer not blinking remains the most impressive aspect. Dreamscape (1984).


We watched The Astrologer (1975) aka Suicide Cult, directed by James Glickenhaus. But it was an accident. We were trying to watch The Astrologer (1976), directed by Craig Denney. The Astrologer is supposed to be super bad and weird. The Astrologer turned out to be too. But The Astrologer, I think, is supposed to be the weirder and funnier one between itself and The Astrologer. We’ll try to find The Astrologer next time. In the meanwhile, The Astrologer was also pretty bad and weird.

Look, The Mummy Theme Park (2000) is another movie that is barely a movie, but I actually gotta give them some credit for their in-camera tricks to make rooms look bigger. What can I say? I’m a sucker for model work.

Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (1973) doesn’t make much sense, and it looks like a very stinky sort of place, but using a nasty old amusement park as your horror backdrop is always fun. Feels like a weird dream. A weird, stinky, yucky dream. I especially liked when the dad blows up his RV (offscreen) and afterwards it’s just a boxspring and few pieces of wood somehow.

Charles Band’s Blood Dolls (1999) is an intriguing one. In a movie that has an insane billionaire with a cartoonishly tiny head, a spiritualist clown butler, an eye-patched dwarf in a tuxedo, and a gaggle of caged punk rock chicks who provide the diegetic soundtrack, and a plot revolving around the nature of power and love, the eponymous blood dolls are the least weird and least interesting thing here. It’s wild and insane. Not sure who this is for. But it swings for the bleachers, and you gotta respect that.


There’s no surprise Blood Tide (1982) isn’t fondly remembered. It’s a very slow creature-feature that has only 4 seconds of creature in it. BUT, it does have James Earl Jones absolutely chewing this movie apart and adding so much gravitas, ethos, and subtext to the script and characters (both his own and others whom he endows with backstory through his totally off-book performance). Jones is killing it. He’s drunk and in Greece shooting a B-movie, and he’s having a blast acting everyone under the table. He is utterly beguiling, and the fact that the movie itself doesn’t seem to grasp that is a tragedy. Who this movie chooses as its protagonists is deeply misguided.

Lila Kedrova, another treasured veteran thespian, is also bringing a lot to a nothing, throwaway role. Her scenes with the completely wooden (but lovely) Deborah Shelton are actually laugh-out-loud hilarious. Lila is doing great work with a role that required nothing, while Deborah is just a cinder block. You get whiplash watching them together.

Anyway. Not a good movie. Almost no monster and pretty stupid. But cool location, and recommended just to see a true craftsman like James Earl Jones bring so much cosmic life and energy to a film that simply does not deserve it. Lila Kedrova too, though she’s not in it much.

A John Carpenter movie about the end of the world featuring Victor Wong, Donald Pleasence, and Alice Cooper really ought be better than Prince of Darkness (1987). It has some cool visuals speckled throughout, but it squanders a neat premise and just feels a little too slow and devoid of compelling characters.

Cat People (1982) is a super horny and incestuous spin on werewolfism from the twisted mind of an Episcopalian. It’s weird and yucky and, despite kind of disliking it, I think I sort of respect it(?). That arm getting ripped off death was genuinely shocking. Couldn’t shake it for awhile. Wished it had like 30% more were-cat transformations and cat antics and like 80% less incest, but them’s the breaks. Paul Schrader, you little weirdo.

Fatal Deviation (1998) is a homemade Irish kung-fu flick that’s pretty lo-fi and silly, but there’s an earnestness that’s hard not to like. A man (James P. Bennett) returns home to find out who killed his father. Bad filmmaking, poor writing, and sick karate kicks ensue. Unlike a lot of bad movies that are fun to watch for their misplaced hubris, Fatal Deviation is more just watching a few good old boys having a bit of fun in their hometown. In that regard, it’s closer to Wakaliwood than Wiseau. This movie comes from a pure love of the genre it’s homaging, and less of an arrogant display of ineptitude.


Gilda (1946) is your boilerplate classic noir. There’s a lot in here that had been done better already in other films, but Rita Hayworth is having some fun.

Who has even heard of Carl Reiner’s erotic thriller spoof, Fatal Instinct (1993)? Armand Assante not getting to become another Leslie Nielson is a bit of a tragedy. Sean Young also gets it. She’s great. It’s no Naked Gun, but it’s that same comedy wheelhouse and there are a few sight gags that really got me.

Watched this one for Boris Karloff, who gives a great performance. Isle of the Dead (1945) is perhaps novel for the time as it centers around the horror of disease, death, and the susceptibility of the mind to superstition.

We finished rewatching the Alien Quadrilogy! There are no more Alien movies. None. Don’t worry about it. Given the seemingly limited new places the franchise was willing to go, making it sillier and grosser was at least a choice. Alien Resurrection (1997) is steeped in 90s French cinéma du look style (thanks to City of Lost Children director Jean-Pierre Jeunet at the helm now) and reeks of 90s meta snark (thanks to Joss Whedon’s script). It’s a mixed bag; more watchable and fun than Alien 3, and that’s something! Taken on its own as just a goopy science-fiction thriller with the odd touch of humor and Ron Perlman, it’s actually pretty solid. Forget about those first two movies. Those are long gone. This is 1997 now. And I know it’s controversial, but I think the new xenomorph design they went with for the end is effectively scary and weird. Good monster.

The Appointment (1981) is a British film that boldly asks: what if you were a middle-aged English man and you were possibly attracted to your teenage daughter but then you had to give evidence for an inquest to defend your firm on the same day as your daughter’s violin recital, and also three years earlier another random girl was sucked into a garden and police built a fence rather than solve the crime, and NOW you and your wife are having the same dream that rottweilers keep appearing and causing you to crash your car? What if that though? Like but what would you do? Anyway, this movie is a puzzlingly banal family drama that culminates in a truly spectacular car accident sequence. I may not really get the point, but I appreciate that this much time was devoted to such an odd project.

Yes, that is a bloodied Kyle MacLachlan with a flame-thrower. The Hidden (1987) is a classic detective thriller, but the killer is an adrenaline junkie space slug that hops from one human host to another. There are some things I would have liked to have been done differently, but I can’t fault a movie this direct and earnest. I wish the whole movie was William Boyett just stealing cars, eating steak, and taping up his body.

Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig return to the Knives Out world with Glass Onion (2022). It’s a fun, star-studded, twisty-turny, Agatha Christie-styled whodunnit. My only real beef is that it’s hard to outdo the surprise delight of the first movie or seeing that world through the eyes of Ana de Armas’ character. But, as someone who loves a classic detective story, it definitely scratches an itch.


I dig Andrew Callaghan and most of what Channel 5 (previously All Gas No Brakes) does. This Place Rules (2022) is their consolidation of the cultural vibes at play in America leading up to the January 6th attack. I may prefer their shorter YouTube interviews and minidocs, but this documentary does have enough going for it to make it well worth a look. It doesn’t cover new ground, but rather more intimately treads familiar territory in a more brutal and humanizing way.

If you ever wanted to see Guillermo del Toro’s monster-y aesthetic rendered in glorious stop-motion animation (and who wouldn’t?), Pinocchio (2022) is here. Co-directed by Mark Gustafson, this retelling sort of shifts the tale to be about fascism, death, and the importance of disobedience. I may have a few gripes with pieces of it, but on the whole it’s wonderful to see such a richly realized and original take on a classic.

Some might have watched Wendell and Wild (2022) for Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key as the eponymous demons. I love Key and Peele. But I watched this for Henry Selick’s twisted animation. Selick’s animation team is really pushing the limits of the medium. Astoundingly good character design and sumptuous worlds wondrously realized. The story is also pretty dense (perhaps scattershot even) and full of ideas with a lot to say.

Weird: the Al Yankovic Story (2022) is the biopic Weird Al Yankovic deserves. It captures that sense of irony and goofiness abundant in his songs, and Daniel Radcliffe’s performance is absolutely heroic. Magnificent.

I respect how unabashedly unromantic this film is. Swept Away (1974) is brilliant, but also a very hard watch. The classic set up of a spoiled bourgeois girl and a beleaguered communist sailor getting stranded on a desert island is ripe for wacky rom-com hijinks. Lina Wertmüller’s film is decidedly a much more nasty depiction of hypocritical class warfare as it gets consumed by latent retrograde gender politics…that are also ultimately stupid, abusive, and doomed. The comedy is supremely dark and steeped in things that are perhaps too real to truly laugh at. It can be, at times, uncomfortable. But that’s kind of it, isn’t it? Life is a mess and everyone is hypocritical and deeper than you think. I’ll recommend Seven Beauties over this one for folks interested in Wertmüller.


Legendary kaiju director, Ishirō  Honda, works on a smaller scale for Matango (1963), aka Attack of the Mushroom People. It’s a shipwreck survival story that employs interesting fungal props

Chef (2014) is what happens when you make Jon Favreau direct too many big budget studio blockbusters. This is his best, and one of his smallest. It dares to ask the question: why are you doing what you are doing? What does the art really mean to you? What is important in life? It’s a wonderfully positive story about doing what you love, learning from your mistakes, and drooling over food porn.

Several European women get kidnapped by a female Mongolian chieftain and just kind of hang around with them and observe their lives. What starts out as a stagey, gay variety show on a train eventually shifts almost into a documentary about life on the steppe. Ulrike Ottinger’s Joan of Arc of Mongolia (1989) is long and odd and has its own energy and style, but if you get on board, it will take you to places movies don’t often go. Ottinger’s films are definitely unique, and I’m interested in exploring more.

Wolf’s Hole (1987) is an odd little Czech riff on teen horror movies. Directed by Věra Chytilová (Daisies), it follows several high schoolers as they go to a mysteriously isolated ski camp run by a guy (Miroslav Macháček) who is clearly up to something. Although a little slow and misleading, it had a really compelling mood and solid kid performances. There is a sense of dread and unease that never lets up, and, while I might have liked a more spectacular ending, it was a cool subversion and ultimately more hopeful and optimistic than a lot of American slashers. Maybe because it’s actually about living under Soviet occupation and not shocking kills. An interesting, moody curiosity. More snow horror, please.

Here’s the other Paul Katturpalli movie. Clash in the College (2011) is the kind of incoherent garbage that we love around here. Recommend. So what is it? One passive Indian man’s seemingly detached interpretation of American ideological differences and the drama that can come out of that. Somehow the sound and editing remain the most egregious. Anyways, all the stars.

Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s Party Girl (1995) might as well be called “Parker Posey: the Movie”, because Parker absolutely makes this. She plays Mary, a loosey-goosey rave chick who winds up working at her godmother’s library and must learn how to turn her life around. It’s a breezy setup, but the wacky 90s indie style really hit the right combination of nostalgia buttons. Shot in two and half weeks on a budget of $150,000, it’s a reminder of what indie films can accomplish. Daisy’s mother, Sasha von Scherler, also gives a very nice performance as the tough but caring godmother.


Needs more Barabra Steele! That being said, Mario Bava’s first movie, Black Sunday (1960), is a pretty richly atmospheric gothic horror with plenty of stark, spooky shadows, an awesome castle setting, and a truly horrific prelude. Still needed more Barbara Steele.

It’s a simple, little tale about friends breaking up, but also it’s about The Troubles, and even more it’s director Martin McDonagh returning to Ireland and taking Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson with him. The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) is one of them gently sad and funny yarns (i.e. very Irish). It’s gorgeously shot and very well acted and made me feel sick. I love McDonagh’s rough and snarky hitman/crime movies, but there’s a steadier hand here that trusts the audience a bit more to go along for a little ride. Kerry Condon maybe steals the show with her handful of scenes. It’s not exactly Fatal Deviation, but ah, it hits me in me heart, it does.

Elem Klimov’s harrowing Soviet anti-war film, Come and See (1985), has gotten a lot of attention in recent years among certain extremely online cinephiles. I had put it off so far because I knew it would be heavy and couldn’t find anyone to watch it with. The story concerns Flyora (Aleksei Kravchenko), a young Belarusian boy with wide-eyed aspirations of leaving his podunk hamlet and attaining glory and adventure on the battlefront. War is not glorious. War is not an adventure. War is hell. War is the worst of humanity. The film chronicles the grisly horrors or war through the terrifyingly evolving visage of Flyora. You watch as innocence leaves him. You watch as he becomes things he never dreamed of. You watch as he becomes a shell. Heartbreaking, soul-crushing images abound, yet the film never takes us into a single battle. These are only the skirmishes and small interactions on the far outskirts of greater and much more terrible battles taking place elsewhere. It’s a masterpiece.

Hands down, Frank Henenlotter’s best film. It has to be. Brain Damage (1988) is a grungy, gross science-fiction horror-comedy about an ancient, silver-tongued, brain-eating space parasite and symbiote who manipulates his human hosts to get the delicious brains he craves. But the whole schlocky veneer is really just goopy subterfuge for a fascinating and humanizing allegory for addiction. It’s fast, clever, slimy, and if you’re like me and you enjoyed Basket Case and Frankenhooker, treat yourself to this mad magnum opus. Henenlotter brings an intelligence to schlock that is rare and I daresay artful. Perhaps that’s the most subversive thing of all.


I’ve taken a break, but I guess I’m back. Anyway…MOVIES!!!

Ouija (2014) is unscary, unengaging, brainless, CW-energy garbage. I totally get that this was probably made with 12-year-olds in mind, ergo not for me. BUT, if you want more context, the prequel, which appears later on this list, is actually pretty good.

I kept trying to justify the baffling choices. Do the astronauts have ridiculously high collars to evoke a Dracula costume and the twist is that the astronauts are the real Draculas, or that the collars protect them from space Dracula bites? Nothing. There aren’t even any vampires in Mario Bava’s Planet of Vampires (1965). I did like the giant skellingtons.

Even with a scene where a Dracula turns into a bat and is then grabbed by a guy who shoots its head off with a gun, this movie is still a bit of a letdown. Zach Galligan stars in Waxwork (1988), an episodic horror-comedy with some fun, but feels like it wastes its premise. There’s something cool in getting trapped in an evil waxworks.

Dragonslayer (1981) is very bad and very boring and has no fun performances, but it does mark that unique time in the 80s when Disney started making dark films and it does have like 3 minutes of a cool dragon tucked away in there.

Nicole Kidman is so young and this movie is so bad. BMX Bandits (1983).

Slugs (1988) takes a stupid premise (what if the slowest creature on the planet ate people?) and does its darndest to do something with it.

David Fincher deserves credit for bringing even more hellish doom and hopeless nihilism to the Alien franchise. And that is it. Alien 3 (1992) isn’t bad. And then Charles Dance’s character gets killed off and you’re on your own. Ripley deserves better. What your left with is a few interesting ideas, a bleak location, and finale so dark it’s kind of a marvel. But unlike the previous two installments, which are amazing technical achievements and a whole lot of goopy, xenomorphy fun, this one is just dark. Be dark, sure, but be fun about it, will ya?

Is this what Paul Scrader thinks sex is? The Comfort of Strangers (1990) belongs to a forgotten genre: the erotic thriller. If the whole movie was just lurid shots of nighttime Venice with Christopher Walken talking about his dad’s mustache, maybe I could do it. As it is, this one was just slow and weird. And why is Rupert Everett always acting too cool for school?

I am a fan of Satyajit Ray, but The Holy Man (1965) comes off as too simplistic for me. I like a movie where the skeptic topples the religious charlatan. But I think Ray executed a lot of these ideas better in Devi.

Stage Fright (1987), aka Aquarius, aka Bloody Bird. It’s a slasher movie about a guy who escapes a mental hospital, dons an owl mask, and murders random actors on rehearsal night. It’s fine for what it is, I guess. I like the owl mask.

For the love of god, stop putting Gregory Peck in romantic comedy thrillers. I love Peck. Peck’s my boy. But he cannot deliver these lines that were clearly written for Cary Grant. And absolutely zero chemistry with Sophia Loren. Skip Arabesque (1966) and watch Stanley Donen’s other European caper, Charade, instead. Or anything Hitchcock.

Jean-Claude Van Damme in the Bayou punches a snake. Hard Target (1993), for the right mindset, is everything you want in a brainless 90s action flick.

There’s a very simple and efficient movie hidden in here.

Lance Henriksen has a business where the rich can hunt the poor. They pick Jean-Claude Van Damme, a down-on-his-luck drifter who needs money. What they don’t count on are his survival skills honed from growing up in the bayou. Hard Target.

That’s not the movie though. Here’s the real movie:

A woman comes to New Orleans to find her father, a homeless war vet she hasn’t seen in 20 years. Turns out he’s been killed by rich people who pay to specifically hunt homeless war vets for sport. Naturally, the cops don’t care about a missing homeless guy. Plus there’s a police strike. She meets Jean-Claude Van Damme, a down-on-his-luck seaman who is behind on his union dues (but none of that really matters), who saves her from some thugs outside a bar. The bad guys can’t have her running around asking questions (even though the cops are not interested), so they keep trying to kill her… and the cops… and JCVD… and the guy who hired the father to be their quarry at the beginning because he didn’t know about the estranged daughter. The whole movie becomes the group of guys who run the rich-hunt-vets business trying to kill JCVD. And JCVD, who has almost no stakes in this (his only real stake is he needs $217 by the end of the week for his union dues), conservatively murders like maybe 50 guys? Instead of just moving to another country like they planned anyways, the bad guys just keep chasing JCVD and taking more and more damage. Also, you get Wilford Brimley as a moonshiner with a questionable Cajun accent as JCVD’s uncle. And lots of John Woo slo-mo and birds. It’s so much more needlessly complex than it needs to be and it somehow removes most of the logical stakes.

I’m not a fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme. He’s always a bit too humorless and blank to be a leading man. But the man can kick and he can rock the sweatiest, greasiest mullet you ever did see.

The modeling industry is predatory? Say it ain’t so! OK, so I think Nicolas Winding Refn needs be like 70% less high on the smell of his own farts, but Neon Demon (2016) was stunning to look at. Part of me is curious to see a Peter Strickland version of this idea.

City of the Dead (1960) (aka Horror Hotel), but more like three houses on a soundstage of the dead, am I right? It’s a low budget, fog infused flick about a town trapped in time by a witch’s curse. It doesn’t have enough moving parts or build much out of its premise to be classic, but it does have the appropriate Halloween mood and a distractingly American-accented Christopher Lee.

It may be that I watched Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) right after its abysmal predecessor, but this was a pretty solid prequel. Director Mike Flanagan immediately sets a tone and a style and lets you know you are finally in the hands of a filmmaker. It’s small, but effective and has some good scares. It may not be my thing, but I respect craft when I see it.

Luc Besson’s Subway (1985) is a jazzy, sleazy hangout sort of movie whose amazing soundtrack almost makes up for the fact that I have to look at Christopher Lambert’s face.

The Legend of the Stardust Brothers (1985) is the Japanese take on the Phantom of the Paradise-style subversive rock opera. It’s not as good as the films that inspired it, but it is a fascinating experiment, and I genuinely dig a lot of the songs.

This is one for the books. Fans of Neil Breen, Tommy Wiseau, James Nguyen, Deaundra T. Brown, and similar auteurs should rejoice. Love on a Leash (2011), a romantic comedy about a woman who falls in love with a dog. There is just so much going on and every scene will give you a million inane production questions to ponder (if the horrific editing doesn’t give you a seizure). All I’ve been doing is reading how this movie was made and tracking down interviews with anyone that was a part of it. It’s something.

We watched Sisters (1972) mainly for a pre-Superman Margot Kidder in a Brain De Palma movie. I don’t remember a lot of the details, but it was a weird one and I miss William Finley’s face.

When is George Miller going to make another Mad Max? I actually don’t mind waiting, as long as he keeps his imagination alive with oddball flicks like Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022). Most of the movie is just Idris Elba telling stories to Tilda Swinton in a hotel room, and I ain’t even mad. Visually and narratively sumptuous. This movie is horny for stories and I, for one, was swept up in it.

Folks looking for a black comedy Polish musical horror about mermaids and the entertainment industry can rest easy. The Lure (2015) is here and it’s a colorful oddity that surprised me.

Yaphet Kotto, Richard Pryor, and Harvey Keitel star in a working class Paul Schrader movie about unionization? Listen, these ingredients have got to be catnip for more people than just me. Anyway, Blue Collar (1978) is good.

This is what I like to see. Everyone on screen having fun. Remember when Robert Zemeckis made cool movies? Watch Death Becomes Her (1992). Two rivals (Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep) make a strange deal to stay young forever. What could go wrong? It starts off a little cartoony, but once the magic gets introduced I was fully locked in. Bruce Willis doesn’t get enough credit for being a comedy actor. Also, Isabella Rossellini, what are you wearing??

John Carpenter’s action comedy steeped in Chinese black magic, Big Trouble in Little China (1986), holds up well. Stroke of genius making Kurt Russell just a big, dumb idiot who winds up the sidekick for most of the ass-kicking. The only other person I could see in this role would be Bruce Campbell, and Kurt out-Bruces him here. I liked this well enough as a kid, but watching it again as an adult was pure joy.

Carnival of Souls (1962) was made for $33,000 and it is a marvel of what can be accomplished with a humble budget. A efficient, effective, Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge-style horror flick that meanders through empty churches and theme parks while terrorizing a survivor of a car accident with visions of ghouls.

A hitman movie that pontificates on the weight of human life and existence is such a films school cliché, that we may forget that some gems still work. The Hit (1984), directed by Stephen Frears, restored my hope in the tired trope. I chalk much of the success up to Terence Stamp, Tim Roth, and John Hurt being so great on screen, but the execution and Spanish countryside add quite a bit.

It may be trite for film snobs by this point, but S. S. Rajamouli’s historical action adventure from India, RRR (2021), rules. It’s the stuffed crust pizza version of a bombastic big budget action flick. It’s a blast and one of those rare occasions where I actually wish there had been more song and dance numbers.

Finally watched the rock opera about a German drag queen that had a botched sex change. John Cameron Mitchell writes (based on Stephen Trask’s play), directs, and stars in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001). It’s exuberant, fun, funny, sad, and a whole lot of other stuff.

Two struggling actors take a trip to the English countryside where their situation does not improve. Bruce Robinson’s Withnail & I (1987) is a classic English dark comedy steeped in alcoholism that celebrates friendship in a sobering way. Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann are wonderfully cast and the dismal drizzle and dampness never lets up.

Tony Curtis plays a slimy publicist trying to get to the top in the slimiest version of Manhattan gossip rag culture. Burt Lancaster plays the slimy media mogul that can offer success or crush a man. Smears and blackmail and cutthroat manipulation are the name of the game in Alexander MacKendrick’s (The Ladykillers) noir classic, Sweet Smell of Success (1957). Oozing with tough-talking masculine energy, it depicts a seedy underworld that no longer exists (at least, in that form). Co-written by Ernest Lehman, the movie boasts plenty of quick verbal jabs and gloriously, flowingly shot by James Wong Howe, this is a slick Hollywood flick that comes pretty highly recommended.

Mars and Beyond (1957) is a forgotten bit of retro Disney made-for-TV cosmic curiosity and speculative evolution. Refreshing optimism and also some ruthless roasting of contemporary sci-fi clichés. This is like the perfective combo of wanting to inform the general public about current scientific notions and the history of those notions, but then getting side-tracked with your rampant creativity, whimsy, and total bullshit (yet all with a sobering wink).

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.