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Archive for the ‘I don’t know’ Category

Titane

Friday, October 8th, 2021

TITANE is the ferociously unbridled, Palme d’Or winning second film from RAW director Julia Decournau. It’s bizarre and it’s intense and if you’ve heard anything about it you probly heard about an outlandish thing involving a motor vehicle that happens early in the movie. But regardless, if it’s something you’re expecting to see I recommend not reading anything about it, including this review, until afterwards.

If you should be turning back but haven’t yet, here’s the vague version. I’ve seen it called a horror movie, but it fits existing horror templates considerably less than even RAW did. I would describe it as more like a relationship drama in a surreal world, with a lead character who is intensely flawed, strange, and yet human. It has that transgressive non-literal adult situation that the Bible would be against had the technology existed at the time, some horrific violence, and some nightmarish violations of existing biological function. (I think the term “body horror” has become too much of a cliche so I’m trying to come up with new ways to say it when necessary.) But it settles down (sort of) into a story about extremely broken people finding each other and the miracle of unconditional love.

Seriously, just go watch the movie because if you don’t I’m about to ruin it by giving you the plot in the form of a TV Guide listing. (read the rest of this shit…)

Barton Fink

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021

“He’s poor, this wrestler! He’s had struggle!”


It used to be that August was a time for studios to release a bunch of movies they thought were bad or didn’t have high expectations for. You know, they release ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES and T2 early in the summer, hoping young people and families will go repeatedly throughout the summer. Once it gets closer to school starting up again there’s less chance for that, so that’s why in the year in question we were seeing weird rooster cartoons and weird dog cartoons and weird dog live action movies and weird Mickey Rourke movies.

Many things in the world of pop culture were shifting that month. While on the Lollapalooza tour, long-time goth fixtures Siouxsie and the Banshees actually actually made it onto the Billboard charts for “Kiss Them For Me.” (By the next summer they’d have a song in a Batman movie.) Pearl Jam released their first album. LaKeith Stanfield was born. But also Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do” love theme from ROBIN HOOD was still the #1 song!

This particular August ended with kind of a whimper – CHILD’S PLAY 3 (still the weakest Chucky movie four sequels later) was released on the 30th. But I thought I should end this review series on the August 21, 1991 release that happens to be one of the weirdest but also best regarded movies of the season. If I had to compare it to another ’91 movie I’d have to say it reminds me most of THE DARK BACKWARD, of all things. Well, and I case some fire stunts reminded me of BACKDRAFT. But those are stretches. This one stands alone. (read the rest of this shit…)

Taking Tiger Mountain

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN – not to be confused with Tsui Hark’s THE TAKING OF TIGER MOUNTAIN – is a surreal post-apocalyptic experimental black and white art film, shot in 1975, screened in 1983, and never released on video until Vinegar Syndrome’s recent blu-ray. It’s most notable as the first performance by the late great Bill Paxton, who is the lead as well as the production designer.

Like many people, I’m sure, I most associate Paxton with his funny whiny guy roles, especially Hudson in ALIENS. Game over, etc. And he stayed strongly associated with James Cameron as not only the lead in the present day section of TITANIC, but the real life friend who told Cameron, emerging from an actual expedition to the Titanic wreckage, about the 9-11 attacks (as seen in the Imax documentary GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS). They both came out of the Roger Corman school – Paxton worked as a set decorator on EAT MY DUST, BIG BAD MAMA and GALAXY OF TERROR, where the two first met. Though we all know Paxton ended up making it as both a leading man in blockbusters and a reliable character actor, remember that he directed the 1980 novelty music video “Fish Heads,” the 2001 supernatural religious thriller FRAILTY, and the 2005 golfing drama THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED. He was a filmmaker. But as a 19 year old working as a set dresser for the educational films of Encyclopedia Brittanica Features he befriended director Kent Smith (writer: MASSAGE: THE TOUCH OF LOVE; composer: VENEREAL DISEASE: THE HIDDEN EPIDEMIC), who thought he’d make a good star for an independent movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Climax

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

I’m not too well-versed in the films of Gaspar Noe. I still haven’t seen his early films like I STAND ALONE and IRREVERSIBLE that gained him a following and a reputation as a nihilistic wipe-your-nose-in-it gloom merchant. I have seen ENTER THE VOID, which taught me that he’s also a great stylist with incredible technical mastery in the area of long takes and seemingly impossible camera moves. I knew this one also had dancing, so I checked it out.

Here’s my pitch: STEP UP 3 meets mother! on acid. Literally on acid – it’s about a French dance troupe having a party in an empty school building and realizing somebody dosed the sangria. Everybody gradually goes from joyfully celebrating their progress on a new routine to getting paranoid, agitated and violent. The few who didn’t drink it are suspected of spiking it, and become targets for the others. Everybody is trying to fuck everybody else while also trying not to be fucked by everybody else. It turns into a dark, horny fever dream where the rooms keeping getting darker and redder and the camera more disorienting, eventually even upside down (shout out to the massage parlor robbery scene in TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1). I noticed that there was a whole lot of screaming and wigging out, but actually didn’t catch that 42 minutes of it was one unbroken take. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Neon Demon

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

tn_neondemonNicolas Winding Refn had been around for years before he draped Ryan Gosling in that silver scorpion jacket and became such a name among the movie savvy that he can get a John Hyams remake of MANIAC COP funded and put his initials on the beginning and end of his movies like they’re monogrammed towels. He’d had international acclaim for the PUSHER trilogy and VALHALLA RISING, but DRIVE was such a perfect balance of effective crime drama, zeitgeisty nostalgia and style, and arthouse indulgence that it became a bonafide cultural moment. And he’s been trying to punish us for it ever since.

I like that he lets his freak flag fly, and while most of my friends couldn’t hang with his follow-up ONLY GOD FORGIVES, it really spoke to me with its odd mix of revenge story deconstruction, broken martial arts movie structure and feverish surrealism. His latest, NEON DEMON, swerves even further off the road of logic and coherence in its exploration of the world of young models in L.A.

Elle Fanning (MALEFICENT, SUPER 8, THE NUTCRACKER IN 3D, SOMEWHERE), somehow looking five years younger and more naive than in whatever movie I saw her in last, plays Jesse, a newcomer to town trying to find gigs. Makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone, INHERENT VICE, SUCKER PUNCH) latches onto her after a shoot and introduces her to Gigi (Bella Heathcote, DARK SHADOWS) and Sarah (Abbey Lee, the Dag from FURY ROAD, also in GODS OF EGYPT), more experienced models who respond with jealousy and cruelty when the gatekeepers start treating her as something special. (read the rest of this shit…)

Meet the Hollowheads

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

tn_hollowheadsYou know what they say about people who work in movies as some job other than director: they really want to direct. It happens to actors, it happens to writers, it happens to Mel Gibson’s hairdresser who directed PAPARAZZI. It also happens to special effects makeup artists. Tom Savini directed the quite good NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake. Stan Winston directed PUMPKINHEAD and A GNOME NAMED GNORM and Michael Jackson’s GHOSTS. John Carl Buechler directed TROLL and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII and a bunch of other stuff. Kevin Yagher (partially) directed HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE. Of all these, the weirdest is the one that Tom Burman did, MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS.

Maybe Burman isn’t as well known as some of those other guys. In recent years his work has been on hospital-set TV shows – Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Chicago Hope, Nip/Tuck. Good work if you can get it. But he’s been in the business since the ’70s, creating the titular heads of THE THING WITH TWO HEADS, doing makeup for FROGS, THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF, THE FOOD OF THE GODS, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and the Wookiees in The Star Wars Holiday Special. His work spans from classic gore moments (MY BLOODY VALENTINE, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, HALLOWEEN III) to werewolves (TEEN WOLF) to fantasy (SCROOGED) to action movies (DIE HARD 2, THE LAST ACTION HERO, CON AIR). He worked on Sloth in THE GOONIES, the monster in HOWARD THE DUCK and the Supreme Leader in CAPTAIN EO.

But in the late ’80s he decided to make his own movie to exercise and showcase the skills of The Burman Studios, the company he ran with his sons Barney and Rob. I remember it was on the cover of Fangoria under the title LIFE ON THE EDGE, and that might be the only reason I was aware of it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Powaqqatsi

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

tn_powaqqatsilucasminusstarwarsGeorge Lucas and his big homey Francis Ford Coppola (CAPTAIN EO) are executive producers of Godfrey Reggio’s POWAQQATSI (Life in transformation), the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the Qatsi trilogy that began with KOYAANISQATSI (Life out of balance) in 1982 and ended with NAQOYQATSI (Life as war) in 2002. If you’ve seen either of those, or the ones by Reggio’s cinematographer Ron Fricke (I reviewed his SAMSARA in 2011) then you got a pretty good idea what this is like. Which is good, because my words might not cut it.

We could classify these as “experimental documentaries,” but they don’t have much of what anybody thinks of when they think of documentaries. No interviews, no narration, no onscreen text, no people talking at all. No storyline or argument made. No easily encapsulated subject or premise. Just themes.

They’re like cinematic paintings, or photo essays, or poems. They rhyme by having similar shots and images over and over again, all set to very repetitive (in a good way) scores by Philip Glass.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Goodbye to Language 3D

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

tn_goodbyetolanguageI can’t fake it, I don’t know enough about Jean-Luc Godard. I liked BREATHLESS. I kinda hated MADE IN U.S.A., but I have a Richard Stark bias.

I should see more of them, the earlier ones at least. I know his current reputation as a cantankerous anti-Hollywood zealot, so I knew I was on dangerous ground buying tickets to his divisive new one. It won a jury prize at Cannes and more recently was chosen as Best Picture by the National Society of Film Critics, but it was obvious from what little I’d read that it was not gonna be for everybody, or even mostbody. What attracted me, and the only thing I really knew about, honestly, was that it’s in 3D, and some have praised it for using 3D in innovative new ways. So as one of the last surviving 3D proponents it seemed like an event worthy of my time.

And it was, but uh… shit. What can you say?
(read the rest of this shit…)

A Huey P. Newton Story

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

tn_hueypnewtonPANTHER reminded me of one of the few Spike Lee movies I hadn’t seen, the 2001 made-for-cable A HUEY P. NEWTON STORY. When it comes to the Spike Lee Jointography there are three categories. There’s the main ones you think about – DO THE RIGHT THING, MALCOLM X, all the way through his recent OLDBOY remake. And sprinkled in between are the documentaries, often made for cable. They’re less widely seen, of course, but really good, movies like FOUR LITTLE GIRLS and WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE. But even rarer than that there’s the performance films. I gotta admit I haven’t gotten to most of these. PASSING STRANGE was one, that’s a Broadway musical. I did see ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY. That was pretty good.

A HUEY P. NEWTON STORY, A SPIKE LEE JOINT is a filmed version of a one-man show that Roger Guenveur Smith did starting in 1996 at the New York theater where Hair started.

I don’t know if you know who Smith is. He’s gotta be best known for playing Smiley in DO THE RIGHT THING, so I’m sure people walk up to him on the street every day and say “M-M-M-Martin. M-M-M-Malcolm.” He’s actually been in several Spike Lee movies, he was on Oz I guess, he was one of the stars of Steven Soderbergh’s improvised lobbyist drama K-Street on HBO. But also he was the bad guy in Seagal’s MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE.

He’s an actor I’ve always liked, but I could understand if you didn’t. He has a very theatrical style. He’s a character actor but he likes to show off. He always carries around a little stick of scenery in his pocket to chew on. MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE is an example of him getting a little loosey goosey with the accents. (read the rest of this shit…)

Soul Vengeance

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

tn_soulvengeanceAlot of people have recommended the PENITENTIARY trilogy to me over the years. Apparently it’s a pretty crazy movie property franchise of the VHS era, so it made sort of a minor cult legend out of writer-director Jamaa Fanaka. He came out of the UCLA film school and a group of young black filmmakers known as “the L.A. Rebellion.” Other members include Charles Burnett, Julie Dash and Haile Gerima, so he might’ve been the black sheep of the group, being more interested in exploitation type subject matter than his colleagues.

Although the PENITENTIARYs are what he’s known for, Fanaka (who was born Walter Gordon, by the way – he changed it to a Swahili name in college) actually started in the blaxploitation era. His first feature was 1974’s EMMA MAE, better known now as BLACK SISTER’S REVENGE. In 1975 he did WELCOME HOME, BROTHER CHARLES, which we will discuss here under its current video title of SOUL VENGEANCE. (read the rest of this shit…)