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Bill Chambers
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****/**** starring Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci written and directed by Harry Macqueen by Walter Chaw Tusker (Stanley Tucci) is an author of some minor renown who has a way with a toast and a loving, if sometimes crabby, relationship with his husband, Sam (Colin Firth). Sam is a concert pianist of even more minor renown whom Tusker teases at a diner along the route of a holiday they're taking in the English countryside by telling a waitress that Sam will be glad to sign an autograph for her if she likes. It's clear the poor woman doesn't have the first idea who Sam is, but she's very polite about it. Sam asks why Tusker does things like this when Tusker admits that half the time he doesn't get any joy out of it. Tusker says, "For the other half of the time." In his film Supernova, writer-director Harry Macqueen's script is consistently like this: understated, beautifully observed, intensely human. It's a two-hander with two of the absolute best actors on the planet, so how much script and direction do they need? However much it is, Macqueen gives them just enough. I love the way Sam says "Tusker" like "Tosca," the... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Film Freak Central
Intro - https://www.patreon.com/posts/35450667 Proposed Syllabus - https://www.patreon.com/posts/35580696 1 - THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION https://www.patreon.com/posts/35478566 2 - THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER https://www.patreon.com/posts/35529002 3 - OUT OF THE PAST https://www.patreon.com/posts/35620139 4 - CONSTANTINE https://www.patreon.com/posts/35687139 5 - JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO https://www.patreon.com/posts/35763094 6 - THE 39 STEPS https://www.patreon.com/posts/35855106 7 - SHERLOCK JR. https://www.patreon.com/posts/35974918... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #23: THE MUPPET MOVIE (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw The Muppet Movie (1979) U.S./Canada: Disney+ We started quarantine with the best-laid plans and nine months later--the duration of human gestation--find ourselves not somewhere we intended or could have predicted. We had a regular game night, but adding... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #22: THE THING (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw The Thing (1982) U.S.: Starz, DirecTV Canada: Crave Starz The rule my wife and I have for our kids about what they can watch is that there are really no restrictions, but the price is they need to have... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #21: NEAR DARK (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw Near Dark (1987) U.S. & Canada: rental only I got a graduation notice in the mail the other day from the daughter of close friends. I looked at it for a long time. The young woman finishing high school... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #20: THE BIRDS (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw The Birds (1963) U.S.: DirecTV Canada: Crave Starz With a strong foundation in classic Hitchcock and growing up surrounded by Hitchcock paraphernalia, my kids are, somewhat by osmosis, already fans. I didn't bother with a lot of background, in... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #19: ROMAN HOLIDAY (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw Roman Holiday (1953) U.S.: Prime, FlixFling Canada: FlixFling William Wyler is a titan. He had a twenty-some year run of hits, among them films like The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Mrs. Miniver (1942), and Wuthering Heights (1939).... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #18: THE WICKER MAN (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw The Wicker Man (1973) U.S.: Netflix Canada: rental only If it seems like we talk about religion a lot as a family, well, I guess we do. Not organized religion, per se, but belief, spirituality, and most of... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #17: SHAUN OF THE DEAD (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw Shaun of the Dead (2004) U.S.: DirecTV, Starz Canada: Netflix Zombie movies are complicated, and that complication is itself complicated. Is there something intrinsically metaphorical about cannibalism? Catholics would say so--or, rather, they wouldn't. The ingesting of... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #16: OUTRAGE (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw Outrage (1950) U.S. & Canada: YouTube Ida Lupino was tough, smart, resilient, and talented. The inheritor of a centuries-old legacy of stage performers, she was only reluctantly an actress and nominal star before parlaying her reputation into a career behind... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #15: DO THE RIGHT THING (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw Do the Right Thing (1989) U.S.: Starz Amazon Canada: Crave Starz I introduced Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing to my kids as the defining film of arguably the most important American director of the past forty... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #14: UN CHIEN ANDALOU (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw Un chien andalou (1929) U.S.: IndieFlix, Flix Fling Canada: Flix Fling My kids were raised on The Pixies and for as long as they can remember, I've mentioned that the words to "Debaser," in which lead singer Frank... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #13: THE SEASHELL AND THE CLERGYMAN + LA CIGARETTE (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928) U.S. & Canada: YouTube La cigarette (The Cigarette) (1919) U.S. & Canada: YouTube Germaine Dulac was a filmmaker (and a great one), but that may be the... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #12: FARGO (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw Fargo (1996) U.S.: Starz, DirecTV Canada: rental only My kids have a great deal of experience with the Coen Brothers. Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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Life During Wartime #11: LE GRAND AMOUR (Patreon exclusive) by Walter Chaw Le Grand Amour (1969) U.S.: The Criterion Channel Canada: The Criterion Channel Jerry Lewis once declared that he learned the meaning of the word "genius" twice: the first time when he looked it up in the dictionary, the... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at PATREON BACKUP
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***/**** starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Beulah Koae, Taylor John Smith, Nick Robinson written by Max Landis and Roseanne Liang directed by Roseanne Liang by Walter Chaw Roseanne Liang's Shadow in the Cloud opens with a vintage training cartoon for WWII flyboys about the dangers of gremlins clogging their bombers' works, indicating that whatever this film seems like it's going to be about, it's going to have a monster in it. And it's inevitable, once you know that, for you to think about how one of the episodes recreated for Twilight Zone: The Movie was "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," in which a gremlin on the wing of a plane terrorizes a nervous flier. And then how John Landis co-directed that film (though not that segment) and, through unimaginable carelessness compounded by his unfettered ego and well-documented lack of a moral compass, instructed a helicopter pilot to fly too low over illegal pyrotechnics, resulting in the chopper's crash and the brutal death of leading man Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen. Child actors who shouldn't have been working at that time of night due to labour laws, as it happens, but, shhh!: an artiste is at... Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2021 at Film Freak Central
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PALMER */**** starring Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Alisha Wainwright, June Squibb written by Cheryl Guerrero directed by Fisher Stevens MUSIC ZERO STARS/**** starring Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr.,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2021 at Film Freak Central
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½*/**** starring Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Ric Reitz, Beth Grant written by G.O. Parsons directed by Kevin Lewis by Walter Chaw Kevin Lewis's high-concept Nicolas Cage-vs.-Chuck E. Cheese thriller Willy's Wonderland misses because it believes it can't miss. Star Cage has built a career for himself as that weirdo who will do stupid movies, and here he is playing The Janitor, a man of no words who cleans things up. A real contempt for the audience roils off this garbage, the belief that there need be no real effort expended in the creation of this product as long as there's enough Nic Cage doing dumb shit as bizarrely as possible. It's lazy. There's one long exposition dump towards the beginning of it, delivered by a somehow and sorely overmatched Emily Tosta, about Satanic rituals and stuff at the local theme restaurant, and honestly, it was all done better in that video game "Five Nights at Freddy's", where the reason for the robot characters springing to homicidal life isn't really addressed at all. It's painfully bad, Willy's Wonderland, in exactly the way things are bad when a bunch of bros get together to capitalize on a phenomenon they can't begin to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2021 at Film Freak Central
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***/**** starring Anna Cobb, Michael J. Rogers written and directed by Jane Schoenbrun by Walter Chaw We spend our teen years--and, if we're not careful, our entire lives--imagining ourselves a player in a grand, romantic storyline where everything that happens has meaning, every misdeed receives justice, and every moment of grace is returned in kind. We need to feel like there's more to this than just chaos and meaningless suffering. Most of all, we need to believe that we have some control over how things turn out on both a personal level and a cosmic one, too. The alternative, after all, tends to be despair. I suspect the reason Boomers are the majority demographic in the Q-nonsense is their fear of a world in which they suddenly understand nothing requires some sort of recourse, no matter how tortured. The grand tapestry we picture is the foundation of religion and cults (to the extent that those are different things)--the food of philosophies and movements in absurd expressions poking holes in the Matrix. I don't know if the alternative to the delusion that there is meaning is better; I sometimes think about how nice it would be to give myself over to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2021 at Film Freak Central
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**½/**** starring Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Martin Sheen screenplay by Will Berson & Shaka King directed by Shaka King by Walter Chaw Shaka King's Judas and the Black Messiah is a fantastic Vietnam War movie that is not simultaneously a fantastic biopic of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. It reminded me a lot, and directly, of Brian De Palma's moral opera Casualties of War, which first challenged me to reckon with the American military not as a source of global good but as the perpetrators of atrocity at the whim of an inexorable capitalist, expansionist empire hiding behind the cowl of religion and white supremacy. In that film, '80s emblem of white, "compassionate" conservatism Michael J. Fox plays a green soldier who turns whistleblower as the witness to the misdeeds of his rapacious, brutal company commander, (Sean Penn). Based, like Judas and the Black Messiah, on true events, Casualties of War, again like King's film, sees white America as engaged in war crimes against minority populations. Alas, like De Palma's indisputably powerful piece, King's film is a better cultural self-excoriation than it is an examination of whatever's embedded in the American character that sees the flaying of Black... Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2021 at Film Freak Central
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****/**** starring Penny Fuller, Kentucker Audley, Grace Glowicki, Reed Birney written and directed by Albert Birney & Kentucker Audley by Walter Chaw Strawberry Mansion is very much like a live-action "Adventure Time", perhaps doomed, like Pendleton Ward's existentialist/surrealist masterpiece, to a long road to appreciation as something emotionally incisive rather than something especially but merely unconventional. Of all the antecedents it boasts (add eXistenZ, Alphaville, Tom Schiller's Nothing Lasts Forever, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Douglas Adams's work, and, um, Laura to the mix), however, Strawberry Mansion finally reminds me most of the Oliver Stone-produced miniseries "Wild Palms" in both its literal execution and the low thrum of underlying paranoia about the commodification of dream sleep. The danger is great that a stew as heady as this will be ponderous at best, indecipherable at worst, but it's delivered with a confident, even light touch by co-writers/co-directors Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney. As odd as it seems on the surface, the picture, again like "Adventure Time", has easy-to-argue themes and is guided by what feels like real, cathartic pathos. Strawberry Mansion's aggressive artifice actually enhances its emotional authenticity. I love this film. Preble (Audley) is a tax man performing an... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2021 at Film Freak Central
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Possessor Uncut ****/**** starring Christopher Abbott, Andrea Riseborough, Rossif Sutherland, Jennifer Jason Leigh written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg FREAKY **½/**** Image A- Sound A+ Extras B- starring Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Katie Finneran, Alan Ruck written by Michael Kennedy & Christopher Landon directed by Christopher Landon by Walter Chaw "You've gone strange on me," Ava (Tuppence Middleton) says to her boyfriend Colin (Christopher Abbott) one morning when he, frisky in the kitchen, reacts to her rejection of his advances with an expression that's impossible to read. Colin has gone strange. He really isn't himself. Ava is the daughter of a wealthy and powerful man, John Parse (Sean Bean), who has earned wealthy and powerful enemies, and though he's surrounded himself with all of the things wealth can buy, including a reasonable level of separation from the rabble, he's vulnerable to the mistakes he's made as the bad father he knows himself to be. I appreciate that his name derives from a word meaning "parts" or, colloquially, a deconstruction of a whole into the small, individual components of which it is composed. Brandon Cronenberg's Possessor has both nothing and everything to do with Ava and John and Colin; it is... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2021 at Film Freak Central
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****/**** starring Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe, Obi Abili written and directed by Madeleine Sims-Fewer & Dusty Mancinelli by Walter Chaw Just the image of a man, naked, fighting for his life against a clothed assailant after a sexually-compromised engagement feels by itself something like rebellion. Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer's Violation isn't the first in the struggle, but it's a powerful addition to a fulsome rape-revenge subgenre that, with classics like Abel Ferrara's Ms. 45, Lars Von Trier's Dogville, and Meir Zarchi's I Spit on Your Grave leading a to-this-point male-dominated field, has always had something on its mind about the way women are brutalized in a society that sees them mainly as appendages for male desire. What I like best about Violation, though, isn't its similarities to modern examples, but rather its relationship (not unlike Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring) to ancient examples such as Medea and Atreus. Indeed, the film lands somewhere between the two: the House of Atreus cursed because of a rape and playing out through the rendering and surreptitious cannibalism that Violation makes distaff through Medea's vengeful filicide (at least in the Euripedes telling). Violation is ancient Greek, too, in the pulling of... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2021 at Film Freak Central
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ZERO STARS/**** starring Zendaya, John David Washington written and directed by Barry Levinson's son by Walter Chaw An eight-minute diatribe is the noxious centre of Sam Levinson's intolerable ego trip Malcolm & Marie, distinct neither for the obnoxious volume at which it's delivered nor for the hollowness of its content, but because it manages to stand out at all, coming as it does in the middle of the other shouted invectives that form the rest of it. In this diatribe, flavour-of-the-moment, hotshot movie director Malcolm (John David Washington), on the night of the premiere of his well-received debut, reads a glowing early review by "that white lady at the L.A. Times" and rails on about "woke" culture and how he, as a Black director, is only compared to other Black directors as opposed to people like William Wyler and Billy Wilder? Does he mean real directors, or does he mean white directors? Does he mean that he doesn't like to be compared to John Singleton and Spike Lee because they are not good, or because they are Black and what he does, what Malcolm does, is entirely independent of his identity as a Black man? Is he suggesting that he... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2021 at Film Freak Central
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½*/**** starring Charlotte Kirk, Joe Anderson, Steven Waddington, Sean Pertwee written by Neil Marshall, Charlotte Kirk, Edward Evers-Swindell directed by Neil Marshall by Walter Chaw The first film of British director Neil Marshall's I haven't liked, The Reckoning is his contribution to the niche but endlessly rich Witchfinder General horror subgenre. What I've liked about Marshall to this point--from the Hawksian platoon-meets-soccer hooligan bonhomie of his werewolf debut Dog Soldiers through to his reboot of the Hellboy franchise (a widely-derided piece that I found delightfully perverse, gory, and hewing closer to the Mignola source, for better or worse)--is the efficiency and lack of sentimentality driving his narratives. His best-known picture, The Descent, is a triphammer thing, not an ounce of fat anywhere on its body--an instant classic about interpersonal tensions and resentments expressed through collapsing, wet, vaginal tunnels and the monsters that live there. It's a product of a distinct directorial voice that I could trace through all of his pictures. In contrast, The Reckoning could have been directed by anyone and, more to the point, feels a lot like it was directed by its star, Charlotte Kirk, who had a hand in its production and writing. It's a romantic... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2021 at Film Freak Central