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**½/**** starring David Thewlis, Laysla De Oliveira, Rossif Sutherland, Luke Wilson written and directed by Atom Egoyan by Angelo Muredda "He sounds like one of those people you hear about but don't see," Luke Wilson's pastor Greg tells bereaved daughter Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira) early on in Atom Egoyan's Guest of Honour, laconically cutting through an exposition dump as only Luke Wilson can. Greg is drafting his eulogy for Veronica's father, the recently departed health inspector Jim (David Thewlis), for whom the film itself is a kind of prickly eulogy. A cold fish with inscrutable motives (he claims he's just working to protect the public from contamination, even as he wields his badge with extreme prejudice), Jim is the quintessential Egoyan protagonist. He's a moral question mark in a suit, like the tax auditors and insurance adjusters who have served the somewhat dimmed star of English-Canadian cinema so well in The Adjuster and Exotica. Imbued with a puckish meanness by Thewlis, Jim is the lynchpin to a modestly successful exercise that epitomizes Egoyan's annoyingly self-serious puzzle-box style, as well as, thankfully, his playfulness. Greg and Veronica's present-day conversation, meant to furnish the former with enough material to celebrate someone he... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Film Freak Central
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**/**** starring Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, Maryann Nagel, Jake Weber written and directed by Jeffrey A. Brown by Walter Chaw What's the conversation to be had around William Eubanks's Underwater, Neasa Hardiman's Sea Fever, and now Jeffrey A. Brown's The Beach House? How all three, released within six months of each other, foreground a young, capable, female protagonist who understands better--and sooner--than anyone else the nature and intent of an all-consuming calamity. How all three are set in and around the ocean, that archetype of the unconscious for poets and philosophers. And how all three end with what is essentially a return--is it a reunion?--for their unheeded, uncelebrated triumvirate of seers. Indeed, they seem more like heralds than criers. The timing of the films is curious, certainly, and although H.P. Lovecraft seems the denominator for all three, in truth the better archetypal thread to pull here is the vagina dentata: the Charybdis, to be avoided for her indiscriminate thirst. They are fables of a very particular apocalypse, where a masculine impulse towards colonization, exploration, and industrialization has led to the Earth pushing back in pursuit of some sort of equilibrium. In that context, of course, it's a woman, particularly... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Film Freak Central
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Please note that all framegrabs are from the 1080p version ***/**** Image A Sound A- Extras A+ starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Richard Harris screenplay by David Franzoni and John Logan and William Nicholson directed by Ridley Scott by Bill Chambers "Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?" -Captain Clarence Oveur (Peter Graves), Airplane! Ridley Scott's Gladiator is good now. I suppose it was always good, if money and Oscars are indicators of quality, but for me, it was a late bloomer whose virtues have seemingly become more visible since the tide of its success receded. I remember Roger Ebert's review of the film, which he called "Rocky on downers," as one I felt a kinship with. In print and on television, he was especially dismayed by the "shabby" computer-generated Colosseum. The year before, George Lucas had set The Phantom Menace against digital cityscapes, but Gladiator marked one of the first times CGI was used extensively in a non-fantastical setting. (Harping on the Colosseum is a compliment, really, as in all likelihood it means the other products of the mainframe--the flaming arrows, the crowds, the patchwork performance of Oliver Reed--didn't draw attention to themselves.) In a currently-offline article... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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****/**** Image A- Sound B+ Extras A- starring Anatoly Solonitsin, Ivan Lapikov, Nikolai Grinko, Nikolai Sergeyev screenplay by Andrei Konchalovsky (as Andron Mikhalkov), Andrei Tarkovsky directed by Andrei Tarkovsky by Bryant Frazer Despite the fact that little is known about the man's life, Andrei Rublev is considered one of the greatest Russian painters of orthodox Christian icons. Only a single work has been attributed entirely to Rublev with certainty, but it's a doozy, subtly reconfiguring an earlier, more pedestrian icon drawn from the Book of Genesis into a visually sophisticated meditation on the Holy Trinity. Though this work is generally dated to 1411, Rublev's elevation to master status is a 20th-century phenomenon. After a 1918 restoration revealed Rublev's Trinity to be more brightly coloured and delicately imagined than previously thought--which some experts interpreted as a departure from Byzantine influences in the direction of a more specifically Russian sensibility--Rublev's reputation soared. The Russian Orthodox theologian Pavel Florensky famously put it this way: "There exists the icon of the Trinity by Saint Andrei Rublev; therefore, God exists." On a more secular note, Rublev was among the artists listed in Lenin's 1918 "On Monumental Propaganda" edict directing the preservation of works important to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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ZERO STARS/**** starring Steve Carell, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Rose Byrne written and directed by Jon Stewart by Walter Chaw Jon Stewart's Irresistible hates you, absolutely loathes you. It can't believe it has to talk to you and so it's smug and dismissive, and then at the end of it all, it offers up three different but equally repugnant endings that give the viewer a variety of shit sandwiches to choose from, though you do have to pick one. As a metaphor for what's going on in the world right now, it's on-the-nose. As a movie, it's an assault more objectionable than any Lars von Trier or Michael Haneke miserabilist exercise, because it clothes itself in an affable sheaf of menial, liberal equivocation--but underneath it's this boiling, nihilistic condemnation of every single one of you fucking idiots who let it get so bad. It brings to mind nothing so much as George Sanders's suicide note expressing boredom with the very notion of you to the very last. Everything is terrible. The experiment is over. We failed. There's no hope. And Irresistible is precisely the kind of asshole who offers a utopian social solution he clearly thinks is a hopeless fantasy... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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Lemme break it down: I've grown up with Abel Ferrara's films and they've grown up with me. His Driller Killer and Ms. 45 were on my exact wavelength when I first sought them out during illicit trips to the video store. I didn't see it until much later, but his directorial debut, the porn flick 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy, would've been my vibe back then, too. Watching it now, it's a prep course for his later work, having the same grindhouse appeal and, as it happens, the same ineffable sense of intimacy that still informs his incomparable sex scenes. Movies for adults in the United States used to be nasty like this sometimes, and no one is nastier than Mr. Ferrara when he sets his mind to it. But there was always more to his movies than the lizard brain informing their more prurient pleasures. The phallic dispatches, the hungry sex, the ugly rapes reveal themselves, in the end and to a one, as speaking to a certain self-destructiveness that did, indeed, reflect his own compulsions. Addiction is the throughline, and the burden of bad choices is what has always driven his characters. My favourite film of his,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2020 at Film Freak Central
With everything going on in the world right now, it's difficult to find the mental bandwidth to think and write about movies. Nevertheless, they're still coming out--on various platforms and streaming services and on Blu-ray and DVD--and I want to assure our readers and patrons that while our coverage has slowed, we have no plans to abandon the site, which turned 23 (!) in May. Partly in celebration of that and partly just to brighten your day, we recently made the first five entries in Walter Chaw's Patreon column "Life During Wartime" available to all. (See links below.) In each instalment of this wonderful feature, Walter introduces his kids to a new classic film and discusses it with them in depth; I've personally learned a lot so far. Walter also wrote about the Bruce Lee documentary that's making waves (no pun intended), Be Water, but because it was part of his Sundance coverage, I fear his review of that might have gotten lost in the shuffle. Lastly, the ActBlue Bail Funds divides donations between 11 charitable organizations providing financial assistance to low-income people, protestors, and bystanders expected to post high cash bails after being arrested at #BlackLivesMatter protests across the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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****/**** starring Willem Dafoe, Cristina Chiriac, Anna Ferrara, Maricla Amoriello written and directed by Abel Ferrara by Walter Chaw There's something about the late careers of musicians that has, in the middle of all this static Sturm und Drang, moved me in ways I don't know that anything's ever quite moved me before. The new Bryan Ferry, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Marianne Faithful... So much longing and wistfulness. What's that quote by who's that poet who said something along the lines of how the sum of pain, loss, and time is wisdom? I feel more mortal now than I've felt since I was a suicidal teen--and even then, I believed my tragic surcease of sorrow would feed a grand, romantic storyline. Now that the world has enacted its apocalypse, I don't believe my death would be much more than a bump, a tickle, the noise a bird makes when you hit it with your fender. You don't even slow down if you notice it, but you won't notice it. Even grief, I've found, for all its profundity, is only a caesura in a toneless cacophony. We rumble forward, heedless, encumbered, until the weight of it all crushes us... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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Please note that all framegrabs are from the 1080p version ****/**** Image B+ Sound A Extras A- starring Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Oliver Jackson-Cohen screenplay and screen story by Leigh Whannell directed by Leigh Whannell by Walter Chaw Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man is a masterpiece--an adaptation not so much of H.G. Wells's book or the James Whale film of it, but of Gavin De Becker's indispensable The Gift of Fear, a guide for how women can learn to trust their intuition, overcome their denial, and identify signs of men on the verge of becoming violent. Men murder the women they want to possess every day and often bring harm to others in the process. As Margaret Atwood infamously summarized, a man's greatest fear is that a woman will laugh at him and a woman's greatest fear is that a man will kill her, and this has shaped our behaviours as a society. Men, as it happens, tend to support other men who are brought to answer for their actions, while women who speak out are castigated, cast out, and blamed for their own victimization. Virtually the only thing the "me too" movement has brought about is false... Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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Please note that all framegrabs are from the 1080p version of Days of Thunder DAYS OF THUNDER **/**** Image A- Sound B+ Extras D+ starring Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Randy Quaid, Nicole Kidman screenplay by Robert Towne directed by Tony Scott TOP GUN **/**** Image B Sound A+ Extras A starring Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards screenplay by Jim Cash & Jack Epps, Jr. directed by Tony Scott WAR OF THE WORLDS ***/**** Image A+ Sound A+ starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Miranda Otto, Tim Robbins screenplay by Josh Friedman and David Koepp, based on the novel by H.G. Wells directed by Steven Spielberg by Bill Chambers Days of Thunder was not a crapshoot; the dice were loaded. Almost the entire creative team that made Top Gun a hit--the illustrious Robert Towne filled in for the screenwriting duo of Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., and none of the soundtrack artists were invited back--was reuniting to do for NASCAR what the earlier film had done for the U.S. Navy's Fighter Weapons School. Star Tom Cruise had become even more popular in the intervening years, earning an Oscar nomination for Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July.... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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****/**** Image A- Sound B+ Extras B- starring Max von Sydow, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom, Birgitta Pettersson screenplay by Ulla Isaksson directed by Ingmar Bergman by Bryant Frazer A pivotal film in Bergman's corpus, The Virgin Spring is also perhaps the most disreputable. Borrowing the basic frame of a story from the 13th-century ballad "Töre's Daughter at Vänge," and set, to gloomy effect, during Sweden's transition from paganism to Christianity, it chronicles the brutal rape and murder of a teenaged girl carrying candles to church, her father's equally violent vengeance against the culprits, and (critically, because this is Bergman) his subsequent anguish at the silence of an apparently cruel and uncaring God. Considering the film offers what feels like a concentrated dose of the director's pet themes, it's interesting that Bergman has no writing credit on the picture. Instead, he hired the Swedish novelist Ulla Isaksson for the adaptation. Isaksson developed a colourful cast of characters and some background to bolster the material included in the ballad, but her biggest alteration was moving the miraculous appearance of the spring that gives the picture its title to the very end of the story. Coming out just as Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho set... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker FFC rating: 8/10 by Barry Sonnenfeld by Bill Chambers Barry Sonnenfeld is a renowned cinematographer and a director with more than a few blockbusters on his resume (The Addams Family, the original Men in Black trilogy), but the Sonnenfeld who's front and centre in his autobiographical Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker is the raconteur who's honed his craft on talk shows with comic tales from his civilian life as the offspring of overbearing parents and husband of the beloved "Sweetie," many of which reach their final form here. Cinephiles may consequently find the book to be something of a disappointment compared to, say, fans of humorists like David Sedaris. While Sonnenfeld does touch on his experiences in filmmaking (including a stint in porn), he skips blithely over some milestones on his CV or remembers them for exceedingly idiosyncratic reasons that won't sate any conventional curiosity one might have about them. For example, Miller's Crossing, arguably the pinnacle of his three-movie collaboration with the Coen Brothers, is reduced to the production that climaxed with his wedding. On the other hand, there's value in Sonnenfeld's somewhat dumbfounded... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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Nineteen Eighty-Four ****/**** Image A+ Sound A Extras B starring John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton, Gregor Fisher written and directed by Michael Radford by Walter Chaw George Orwell's 1984 is a fabulously paranoid fantasy in which everything predicted has not only come to pass but proven mild in comparison. Orwell himself failed to foresee how Big Brother's intrusion into all aspects of our lives would be a privilege we happily facilitated and paid for at a premium through the acquisition of our manifold devices and subscriptions. Cameras and microphones are recording every aspect of our existence...and that's just the way we wanted it. Capitalism is the most pernicious form of authoritarianism. We are slaves to ease. 1984 is, for all intents and purposes, a plagiarism of Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, a novel written in 1923 and instantly suppressed in Zamyatin's native Russia for being ideologically undesirable. It wasn't published there until 1988 in the temporary spirit of glasnost, though copies of it had been in circulation abroad for decades. Orwell, reviewing We for TRIBUNE MAGAZINE in January of 1947, identified it as one of "the literary curiosities of this book-burning age." "This is a book to look out for when... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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Note: all framegrabs were sourced from the 4K UHD disc **½/**** Image A- Sound B Extras C+ starring Donald Sutherland, John Amos, Sonny Landham screenplay by Richard Smith and Jeb Stuart and Henry Rosenbaum directed by John Flynn by Bryant Frazer Lock Up came out in 1989, but for much of its running time it feels like it could have been made at least 15 years earlier. Shot mainly on location at a real state prison (with real prison inmates serving as extras) in Rahway, New Jersey, it isn't exactly gritty, but it's convincing enough. Director John Flynn knew what kind of movie he was trying to make--a straightforward vehicle for star Sylvester Stallone, who was restlessly seeking new roles that would help sustain the first post- Rambo and Rocky stage of his career. And despite his relative anonymity in Hollywood, Flynn was a good pick for the project, having a body of work that included taut cult classics like the 1970s pulp adaptation The Outfit (featuring Robert Duvall as Donald E. Westlake's favoured screen version of his iconic Parker character) and the revenge drama Rolling Thunder (with William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones as Vietnam vets tracking down a... Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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Please note that all framegrabs are from the 1080p version ***/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B starring Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Oscar Jaenada screenplay by Matt Cirulnick & Sylvester Stallone directed by Adrian Grünberg by Bill Chambers SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. Rambo: Last Blood, hereafter Last Blood, became irresistible to me the moment John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) decided to score his own climactic bloodbath with The Doors' "Five to One," flooding his homemade tunnels with it to taunt and ridicule the small army hunting him. A Kevin McAllister move, one might say. Lyrics-wise, "Five to One" is a little on the nose ("Five to one, baby/One in five/No one here gets out alive, now"), but it's still a deep cut from a band in many ways synonymous with the Vietnam War's acid-rock energy, making it a loaded choice indeed. This was probably the soundtrack to Rambo losing his innocence; what matters is that it could've been. There's a certain frisson, too, that comes with hearing a pop song in a Rambo movie for the first time, at least diegetically. It makes for a set-piece that is, in the context of le cinéma de Rambo, unusually exuberant, and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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Please note that all framegrabs are from the 1080p version **/**** Image A Sound A Extras C starring Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent screenplay by Stephen Gaghan and John Whittington, based on the novels by Hugh Lofting directed by Stephen Gaghan by Walter Chaw My memory of it is a little hazy now, but it's worried my mind in the decades since I first read it, "it" being a scene from Dan Simmons's Carrion Comfort where Holocaust prisoners are forced to be the chess pieces in a giant game, with the losing "pieces" summarily executed. Not ten minutes in, Steven Gaghan's Dolittle, the second reboot of the legendarily disastrous (but also Oscar-nominated) Doctor Dolittle, features a sequence where Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) and cowardly gorilla Chee Chee (voiced by Rami Malek) play a game of chess with mice as the pieces. One strikes another with a tiny sceptre. It's played for laughs, but I wasn't laughing; I have questions. One of them concerns young Tommy's accidental, near-mortal wounding of a squirrel (voiced by Craig Robinson) who suffers from PTSD in a vaguely terrifying flash-montage upon waking from surgery, and vows revenge. Another concerns how Dolittle, who's... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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**½/**** starring Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten written and directed by Eliza Hittman by Walter Chaw In Eliza Hittman's Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a young woman seeking an abortion finds one. There's not much controversy in my mind as to whether or not she should have it, since the film suggests, in a lovely, oblique way, that her pregnancy is the product of abuse--maybe probably definitely absolutely through an incestual relationship with her creepy stepfather (Ryan Eggold). Hittman doesn't say that this is so, but she doesn't say that it isn't so, either. From what we glean of the stepfather's meanness and cruelty to the family dog, and then from the way our hero, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), reacts to questions about the father of the MacGuffin, we, you know, put things together. Mostly, what we put together is that Never Rarely Sometimes Always is less interested in those details than it is in painting a portrait of how terrifying men are, which is utterly true and also not exceptionally revelatory, as revelations go. Never Rarely Sometimes Always falls somewhere between the spate of neorealist teen suicide/murder melodramas from the 1980s (Over the Edge, Ordinary People, River's... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2020 at Film Freak Central
The quarantine has slowed down our progress a bit here at the mothersite, but we'll be back next week with more reviews. In the meantime, Walter Chaw has started a column for our Patreon subscribers called "Life During Wartime," about watching and discussing films with his family. To all who have offered their support recently, financial and otherwise, we can't thank you enough. My best to our readership during this uniquely difficult time. Bill Chambers, Editor Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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***½/**** starring Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris, Molly McCann screenplay by Garret Shanley directed by Lorcan Finnegan by Walter Chaw Lorcan Finnegan's Vivarium cues what it's going to be about with a title that could, arguably, also describe movies: artificial, controlled environments constructed for the observation of collected specimens. As the film opens, nature footage of a cuckoo bird pushing baby birds out of their nest to take their place segues into grammar-school teacher Gemma (Imogen Poots) leading a classroom of kids acting out a windstorm. In the next scene, Gemma counsels one of her young charges as the child discovers the dead-bird babies on the ground beneath a tree. A cuckoo could be responsible, she says, and it's terrible, of course, but it's nature. If you were to stop watching Vivarium there, about five minutes in, you'd miss some fun stuff, but the whole film has already been summarized. The picture boils every impulse down to biological impetus, you see. But rather than making Vivarium simplistic, this philosophical determinism makes the behaviours of its subjects extraordinarily complex and interesting. Gemma is dating Tom (Jesse Eisenberg), and the two are looking at buying a house together en route to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG ***½/**** Image A- Sound A+ Extras A starring Ivor Novello, June (née June Tripp), Malcolm Keen, Marie Ault scenario by Eliot Stannard, from the novel by Mrs. Belloc Lowndes directed by Alfred Hitchcock DOWNHILL (1927) When Boys Leave Home ***/**** Image A Sound A Extras A starring Ivor Novello, Robin Irvine, Isabel Jeans, Ben Webster scenario by Eliot Stannard, based on the play by Constance Collier & David L'Estrange (née Ivor Novello) directed by Alfred Hitchcock by Walter Chaw Alfred Hitchcock's fifth time at the plate produced his third completed picture, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (hereafter The Lodger), based on a 1913 novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes that was itself based on the 1888 Jack the Ripper murders, which still would have been in the immediate cultural memory of 1927. When first screened, distributor C.M. Woolf proclaimed it incomprehensible, jeopardizing its release until London Film Society founding member Ivor Montagu was enlisted to clear up the mess. In truth, Montagu liked what he saw, advised the reshooting of the darkest scenes, and, with Hitchcock's approval and assistance, discarded a good number of title cards to, in effect, leave... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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****/**** Image A+ Sound A+ Extras A starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois, William Devane screenplay by Robert Altman and Brian McKay, based on the novel McCabe by Edmund Naughton directed by Robert Altman by Walter Chaw SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller is, even more than his Nashville, the quintessential American film. The whole of it is in a constant state of construction and reconstruction, a continuous and ever-doomed battle against entropy and that human desire to matter a little before it's all over too soon. The modern analogue for it is Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, as both films detail the sad lives of entrepreneurs staking a claim for themselves on the frontier at the beginning of America's potential. The only reward for ambition, unfortunately, is death. Death is the only reward for anything. John McCabe (Warren Beatty) is a swaggering loudmouth in a big fur coat who one day struts into the tiny town of Presbyterian Church, pop. 120 (the majority of those prospectors and illiterate scumbags), lays a cloth across a table in the disgusting saloon of Sheehan (Rene Auberjonois), and proceeds to take the rubes for everything they're... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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***/**** Image B+ Sound A- Extras B- starring Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Paul Walter Hauser written by Billy Ray, based on the article "American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell" by Marie Brenner directed by Clint Eastwood by Angelo Muredda You'd be hard-pressed to think of a more fateful intersection between director and biographical subject than Clint Eastwood's Richard Jewell, which crystallizes the venerable American filmmaker's aesthetic and thematic interests of late. The infamous minimalist and chair-scolder--hyped to godly proportions in some corners of Film Twitter for his cool efficiency, scorned as a conservative propagandist by others--has been charged since the film's AFI Fest debut last month with cranking out ill-timed "Trumpian talking points" about the FBI and smearing a journalist's good name after her death. While some of the callouts are fairer than others, the uproar has distracted from the quiet dignity and formal strangeness of the work, which deepens Eastwood's recent interest in unlikely American newsmakers with asterisks beside their names and their acts of heroism by grounding itself in the awkward humanity of an even less immediately palatable figure than the inarticulate, gelato-eating Euro travellers who saved lives in The 15:17 to Paris. Eastwood and... Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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****/**** Image B+ Sound A- Extras A starring Charlie Chaplin, Allan Garvia, Merna Kennedy, Harry Crocker written and directed by Charlie Chaplin by Bryant Frazer It started with the tightrope. That was Charlie Chaplin's original idea as he developed his feature-length comedy The Circus--his iconic character, the Tramp, forced into a high-wire act, defying death and injury on a rope stretched taut far above the ground. It was later, shortly before production started, that the monkeys came into the picture. Those mischievous animals, those gremlins, would crawl over his arms and body, wrap themselves around his face, and pull down his pants as the Tramp struggled to maintain his balance on the wire. From what we know of his off-screen life at the time, it's easy to imagine why Chaplin felt bedevilled. His second marriage, to Lita Grey, still a teenager, was fundamentally unhappy. He spent his time away from home with divorce on his mind, and it was around this point he learned that Lita was pregnant with his second child. He also kept an eye out for the detectives he was sure had been hired to investigate his affair with Hearst's wife, Marion Davies. Meanwhile, his partners at... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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BLACK CHRISTMAS **½/**** starring Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Cary Elwes written by Sophia Takal & April Wolfe directed by Sophia Takal THE GRUDGE ***/**** Image A Sound A Extras B starring Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Jacki Weaver screenplay by Nicolas Pesce, based on the film Ju-On: The Grudge, written and directed by Takashi Shimizu directed by Nicolas Pesce H.P. Lovecraft's Color Out of Space **½/**** starring Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Tommy Chong written by Richard Stanley and Scarlett Amaris, based on the short story "The Colour Out of Space" by H.P. Lovecraft directed by Richard Stanley by Walter Chaw The horror genre is one that's particularly suited for remakes. At their best, scary stories deal in archetypal images in pursuit of exorcising essential concerns. They're fairy tales, fables. They're warnings carrying lessons for the survivors. I think they're how the bulk of human culture was transmitted and instrumental in our species' survival, offering explanations for why sometimes people don't come home if they're caught out in the night or wander off the trail or split up from the safety of the pack. They talk about outsiders, alien threats, and other invaders infiltrating from without... Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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**/**** screenplay by Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley, Keith Bunin directed by Dan Scanlon by Walter Chaw Onward is notable not because it features Disney/Pixar's first LGBTQ character (a cop--Jesus, you guys--voiced by Lena Waithe), but because it's the family-friendly studio's first stoner comedy. Dan Scanlon's follow-up to his middling Monsters University is an unholy amalgam of Detroit Rock City and Weekend at Bernie's that finds two elf brothers, Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt), going on a quest to resurrect the top half of their dead dad's body for the one magical day they've conjured for him via an ancient spell and a "phoenix crystal," the double for which serves as the film's exhausted MacGuffin after they squander the first one. The setting is an industrialized world where there was once magic; as technology became easier than memorizing spells and perfecting belief, magic was left to lie fallow, just waiting for a winsome young elf with father and confidence issues to reintroduce it to the world. You can read this a few ways. The way I'm choosing to interpret "magic" is as a metaphor for the American progressive movement, which died at the end of the Sixties... Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2020 at Film Freak Central