Movie of the Day and Performance of the Day : THE BEAST

Rabbit Days (2016)

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a film that is an experience, that you do not know from the first frame, where the last frame will bring us. Blockbusters are by necessity a predictable commodity. They have to some extent give the audience what it is expecting. It has to inherently be predictable, so it can appeal to the largest possible audience, and bring the highest possible return.

There is nothing wrong with that, I love blockbusters as much as the next person. But there is something to be said for a film that does not live with our expectations, or perhaps even our world. Especially when it is done superbly well, when it is clear from the first frame you are, wherever the road takes you, in the hands of a visionary, a master filmmaker.

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That is the case with the LeBoeuf Brothers’, Ryan & Cody, THE BEAST. But any script hinges on a central performance, and Clarence Gilyard’s unhinged performance is nothing short of jaw dropping. At once so unhinged, and so good, and the other actors as various forms of straight men to him, also do a great job. Add in the atmosphere, and you are left with a nightmare landscape of a film, that eschewing sense, is brilliant.

The ending perhaps feels truncated, but perhaps is also just right. Depends on your patience for the surreal and absurd. But for fans of the films of Lynch and Bunuel, you will feel in THE BEAST… rewarded.

Grade: I loved it. Your Mileage may Vary. 🙂

Another home-run of a discovery courtesy of AMAZON PRIME. And hopefully we can expect a DVD or BLuray version, complete with Directors/Actors commentary. Streaming is great, but as a film fan, I love to own the films I love… in a less ephemeral and transient format than streaming.

Read the following after you view the movie. No real spoilers, I just feel going into this movie completely unprepared is the right way to go, to get the most impact out of it….Ok you’ve watched the movie! Great! now you can read the rest. 🙂

First, I am glad they changed the name of the movie, as the original one was too on the noise, and would have worked against the air of mystery they were building. This movie for me, has nothing to do with that original title (until possibly the very end), which made the appearance of carrots all the more bonkers and inexplicable and intriguing. I was picturing, something un-picturable as the menace throughout. And that worked to the movie’s benefit. BEAST therefore working much better as a title.

And regarding the lead, I knew he seemed/sounded familiar,  something about his voice, and his manner, but it wasn’t until after the movie that I placed him. Clarence Gilyard Jr, starred for years on WALKER TEXAS RANGER. He is almost unrecognizable, but  what really comes across is how fantastic of an actor he is here, and while always great on WALKER, you do get the feeling he was definitely underused on that show. His performance in THE BEAST shows an actor who should have been acting on the big screen for decades, rather than underused in a procedural. Though what we fans lost, the educational system gained with Gilyard being a lauded professor. And he has been keeping his hand in on the theater circuit.

Case in point, it is great to hear that he and other WALKER costar Sheree J. Wilson recently reunited to do a theatrical run of DRIVING MISS DAISY (what? these young-uns?!).  More on that here: https://www.thespectrum.com/story/entertainment/2018/04/03/tinseltown-talks-walkers-sheree-j-wilson-clarence-gilyard-jr-together-again/482336002/

Clarence Gilyard Jr as James Trivette and Sheree J.

Looking forward to more from these directors, and these actors.

And finally for more on THE BEAST, check out this podcast : https://www.piecingpod.com/2018/10/22/special-episode-the-beast-ryan-cody-leboeuf-interview/

Great Television Analyzed : Boris Karloff’s THRILLER (1960-1962)

THRILLER is a tv series hosted by the late, great Boris Karloff, that even for fans and students of cinema and television, is more rumored of than actually seen. So imagine my happy surprise to come home from a hard day of work and find the first season of this perennially hard to find show, available on the Roku Streaming Channel for free.

Very much an attempt to ride the popularity of Rod Serling’s TWILIGHT ZONE (1959-1964), THRILLER ran only two seasons, starting out as a crime/thriller series before drifting into pure horror. The show never truly finding its footing or audience, but is remembered fondly by fans of classic television.

After watching the first episode “Twisted Image” I can see why. WoW! As someone watching this episode for the first time, 59 years after it was first aired, I was absolutely riveted. Everything here, works, the cinematography, the direction, the performances, the writing, the undercurrent of sex, dread and desperation… I mean we have seen variations on this theme, in the decades since, and yet this episode  still manages to own every single minute of its 48 minute run-time.

I can only imagine how powerful this episode must have seem in 1960. To a generation just coming off of shows like LEAVE IT TO BEAVER it must have felt nearly X-rated. And yet 60 years removed from that relatively simpler America, the show somehow magically still has power, and is still oddly relevant to our world now. A world of desperate people, doing desperate things, in an attempt to find someone to hold them through the night.

Directed by the esteemed Arthur Hiller, from a teleplay by James Cavanagh, from a novel by William O’Farrell, this is as good a 48 minutes of television as you will find.

And a quick aside about Arthur Hiller, while his cinematic filmography is impressive (see some of his movies below) it is filled mostly with comedies.

It is his little seen early television work that is imbued with this seedy, nightmarish intensity.

Tobruk (1967)The Out of Towners (1970)Miracle of the White Stallions (1963)Man of La Mancha (1972)

Al Pacino, Dyan Cannon, Tuesday Weld, Bob Dishy, and Alan King in Author! Author! (1982)

Liam Nielsen, long before becoming known to a younger generation as a comedic lead, cut his teeth doing serious, often mirthless roles. And this episode of THRILLER is one such role.  He is great here, as is the rest of the cast, but the real draw for me is actress Natalie Trundy, her beauty and fragile madness is the spark, that burns the whole world down.

Just a phenomenal episode. I would buy the boxset of THRILLER on Dvd/BLU-RAY  just to own this episode. It is that good. I put it right up there with the first episode of the original ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. Now as I mentioned not every episode is a hit. Every great episode seems to be followed up with two mediocre ones, but the series is worth having for the great ones. Try it for free courtesy of Roku, and if as impressed as I, use the link below to get the box-set, while you can.

 

https://amzn.to/2IjIrsF

 

 

 

Streaming MOVIE OF THE DAY : THE BRIDE (2018)

THE BRIDE (2017)-This is the 2nd Russian film I’m seen by relatively new writer/director Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy, the first being QUEEN OF SPADES, and I have to say… this guy is the real deal. Showing a sense for storytelling, and pacing a scene, and building up a sense of earned dread and creepiness that few directors can equal.

I was and am a huge fan of QUEEN OF SPADES and THE BRIDE might even be better. It eschews (for the most part) the unlikeable, stupid characters, and moronic plots that make up most horror movies these days, instead offering simply baroque and hair raising film-making of the highest order.

That opening scene is how you start a movie. Look forward to more film from this filmaker. Grade: STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. Watch it for free courtesy of Amazon Prime, than buy a DVD/Blu-Ray to earn. It deserves to be the permanent part of any good DVD collection .

Marvel Studios BLACK PANTHER in 3D – The Verdict?

I just came from a sold out upscale theater showing of Ryan Coogler’s BLACK PANTHER for Marvel Studios.

I’m going to try to be brief. As someone who went into this having avoided all trailers, and spoilers, and special feature exposes (that in my experience is like pre-chewing your food before sitting down to eat, making it impossible for fan or reviewer to truly be surprised by a film) I was… blown away.

 

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In terms of look, performance, direction, pathos, and humor, and rock solid action, it is without argument one of the best of the EIGHTEEN Marvel Studio Films released to date. I saw it in 3D and it is worth seeing in 3D. You don’t get the things flying into the audience effect, but the sense of looking down, and into chasms and waterfalls, plays up to 3Ds strengths. So I recommend seeing it at least once in 3D. I say once because like the original AVENGERS film, this is a film that deserves to be seen more than once.

I plan to see it in 2D when I go back next time.

This BLACK PANTHER film, released during Black History month, in my humble opinion is in a three way tie for the #1 Marvel Movie of all time; tied with the original AVENGERS by Josh Whedon and CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER by the Russo Brothers. Those three movies share one shining exquisite truth; they are not just great comic-book movies, they are great films… FULL STOP.

Okay that should be all you need, go see the film now.

Okay still here, the following contains minor spoilers.

Black Panther Movie Poster

BLACK PANTHER is a great film from first frame to last. It is masterfully done; weaving effortlessly between drama, pomp, circumstance, humor, horror, tragedy, and heroism and hope. Chadwick Boseman is astonishing as the titular character, playing him with understated grace and elegance, that carries effortlessly the weight of the film. He is the rock upon which our tale is moored.

Writer/Director Ryan Coogler in three films has catapulted himself as one of the defining directors of our age, and BLACK PANTHER is that talent writ large. This is the tale of the death of kings, of fathers and sons, and things lost in the fire, this is about nothing less than the fate of the world, and about nothing more than the grief of boys for their fathers, a beautifully developed thread in all of Coogler’s films, but never done so well as here.

Coogler takes the admonishment of Hamlet ‘The common theme of life, is death of fathers’ and uses it like a lover and a lance, to both caress and break your heart. And he takes King Henry’s complaint in THE LION OF WINTER ‘I could have conquered Europe all of it, but I had women in my life.’ and here makes of it the saving grace of the protagonist, the film, and the world.

It is the women in this film who save the world, who save the men from their self extinguishing thirst for conquest and vengeance. And taking that line from LION OF WINTER, to also mean parental and familial influence, the difference between T’Challa and Killmonger then ultimately is in their relations to their fathers, even to the structure of their afterlives, one is defined by the inspiration of his father, and one by the lack of his father, and both of them have become completely extraordinary men in staggeringly different ways because of these relations.

It makes for a film of unexpected emotional intensity and depth. Coogler as a filmmaker has my number, as tears unbidden came to my eyes in places in this film. But I would argue he has everyone’s number, if you have the heart to feel, be you Irish or Korean or Ethiopian or American, Coogler will find those places that bind us all,… and squeeze. And then he’ll hit you with the action, then the humor, and sometime when you are laughing, he will squeeze again, and the tears will rise and you will know this is a filmmaker.

And it is wonderful when a director finds his muse, and an actor finds the director that gets him, brings out his best. Coogler and Michael B. Jordan are that combination.

They join legendary director/star pairings such as:

  • Ford and Wayne
  • Hawks and Wayne
  • Kurosawa and Mifune
  • Hitchcock  and Grant
  • Lee and Washington
  • Scorsese and Dinero
  • Scott and Washington
  • Woo and Yun-Fat
  • Ayer and Smith
  • Fuqua and Washington (It is not lost on me that Denzel Washington’s name appears with three different directors. It just shows the kind of fantastic actor he is, the longevity of his career, and that he can embody for many directors, the perfect actor).

Black Panther Movie Poster

Those pairings when they happen are the source of cinematic gold. And it happens in BLACK PANTHER with Coogler and Jordan, two of the respective best of their generation.

Simply a masterful film, with a stunning cast, and great performances. And Kudos to Kevin Feige who with 18 films under his belt, is not just producing films that transcend the source material, he has proved himself the most successful and influential film producer, in the history of the medium.Supplanting such names as Zanuck or Lewton.

It is a success richly earned.

That said, a lot of fans and reviewers care about the numbers, how much a movie makes. I do not. I could not care less if BLACK PANTHER made $1 or 1 Billion Dollars. In this day where studios own the films and the theaters; that is money that is being taken out of local economies. It is good the movie is successful in that we get more such movies from that director, that producer, those actors, but as far as making Disney richer, that does not concern me.

Now should we go back to the days of local and community owned theaters, then that matters, that we should support, because those dollars are staying in the community.

So I’m happy for the movie not because it does this much business, or that much business, I’m happy for the movie, because such visions raise us all, and the success allows such visionaries to keep telling stories.

Grade: An unqualified A+.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Black Panther (#18 of 23)

If you like this movie I recommend the following:

The following movies are too good, to trust in the ‘cloud’ or ‘streaming’ to always have them available, or always have them available in unchanged, unedited, or unaltered versions. The below movies deserve to be owned in physical form, in the age of digital.

Chadwick Boseman in Message from the King (2016)

Chadwick Boseman’s excellent A MESSAGE FROM THE KING
LION IN WINTER
http://amzn.to/2CtUltq
HAMLET
http://amzn.to/2C6aEk6
AVENGERS
http://amzn.to/2C5Lx0W
CAPTAIN AMERICA : WINTER SOLDIER
http://amzn.to/2C3M97v
CAPTAIN AMERICA : CIVIL WAR
http://amzn.to/2szGli8

Rating the Bigfoot Movies! Best and Worst!

BIGFOOT MOVIES TO SEEK OUT:

WILLOW CREEK – Suffers from annoying boyfriend syndrome, a failing too common to too many of these films with women being talked into dangerous situations, and worse being talked into remaining in the dangerous situations by boyfriends completely oblivious or making inane excuses for them remaining rather than rushing them to safety.

WILLOW CREEK for the majority is this annoying dynamic. So worth a watch if you are a Bigfoot movie fan/completest, but this due to how stupid the characters are written is far from satisfying. Grade: C-/D.

EXISTS is Big Foot movie done probably as well as it can be done. While you do have the obligatory idiot, you also have more well rounded and intriguing characters, and some sustained and exciting Bigfoot action. And a great and exciting if harrowing ending. Well worth owning on Blu-ray. Grade: B+

THE WOODSMAN- Is a horror takeoff on SURVIVOR MAN, as are many of these ‘Something in the woods’ films. Sporting only 2 actors, and only a brief glimpse of the rock thrower. Worth a  look, but relatively forgettable and an abrupt unsatisfying end. Always a bad sign when the poster is far more interesting than the actual movie.  Grade: C-/D-.

STOMPING GROUND – is up there with IT EXISTS with being a solid entertaining look of friends sharing their bonding time with something else. A great ending. B+.

LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK- This is the one that started the BigFoot hype and with its documentary  meets DELIVERANCE style, continues to have a compelling vibe. Grade: C-.

SOMETHING IN THE WOODS – low budget 2016 film is convincingly done and engrossing tale of a man trying to protect his family and farm from something… unrelenting. Very good film. Grade: B/B-.

THE SIGHTING – For those looking for a twist on the standard BigFoot lore, this film fits the bill. Quite liked it. B/B+.

BIGFOOT (1969) – Speaking of twists. This forgotten 1969 film features buxom beauties falling into the clutches of a Bigfoot who wants attention paid to something besides his foot, and the biker boyfriends who must save them. The type of outlandish, trippy film that only the waning days of the swinging 60s could provide. Grade:  C/C+. Worth a Look and several shakes of the head.

CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE (1976)

HUNTING GROUNDS (2017) – If you are sick of this off camera stuff most of these other films do, than this is the film for you. You will see the Bigfoot clearly and often, and doing things the other films would leave to your imagination. Where this one trips itself up is the human element. But unevenness aside, well worth a look. Grade: C/C+.

WILD MEN (2017) – Another Reality show goes hunting for BigFoot type movie. This one is quite good and fun. Grade: B.

 

-BIGFOOT THE LOST COAST TAPES rivals EXISTS as one of the best BIGFOOT movies. And it has one of the more unique and impressive endings. Strongly recommended. Grade: B+.

 

You can catch many of these films courtesy of AMAZON PRIME and/or HULU and the following are worthy of owning on DVD/Blu-Ray:

Exists [DVD + Digital]

Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes BD/Combo [Blu-ray]

 

BIGFOOT MOVIES TO AVOID:

FIELD FREAK

BLACK WATER SASQUATCH

NIGHT WALKER

BIGFOOT VS DB COOPER

LOST WOODS

1313 BIGFOOT ISLAND

BOGGY CREEK (2010)

DOGMAN

HOLLER CREEK CANYON

PREDATORY INSTINCT

BIGFOOT HORROR CAMP

BIGFOOT WARS

BIGFOOT VS ZOMBIES

SHORT FILMS OF THE DAY : The Short films of Alejandro Suarez Lozano

When I can find nothing of appreciable interest in the long form format I turn to short films. And there are real magnificent gems to be found there from David F. Sandberg’s LIGHTS OUT to Alec Peter’s brilliant PRELUDE TO AXENAR.

A new addition I’ve recently stumbled on, are the short films of Alejandro Suarez Lozano.

His THE FISHERMAN is a well paced, well performed and beautifully shot tale of a Fisherman haunted by the one that got away. With traces of THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA and MOBY DICK this visually adept tale of man vs nature also adds the fragile geopolitical overtones of the third world and the first world fighting for space in a 21st century poised to outgrow them both. The ending is both unexpected and perfect.

His HIDDEN SOLDIER follows a soldier on a mission behind enemy lines during World War II. Vividly told in haunted Blacks and Greys, this one pulls you along to an ending that is both audacious and chilling.

Both films are the calling card of a filmmaker to expect increasingly great films from.

The best way to see these two films? Use the link below and view them on the Director’s site and tell him… HT sent ya!

https://www.asuarezlozano.com/films