Classic Directorial Debuts of the last 100 YEARS!

Jack Nance in Eraserhead (1977)Keanu Reeves in John Wick (2014)The VVitch: A New-England Folktale (2015)Debbi Morgan and Lynn Whitfield in Eve's Bayou (1997)The Duellists (1977)Blood Simple. (1984)Citizen Kane (1941)Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis in Sweet Smell of Success (1957)Menace II Society (1993)Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970)Reservoir Dogs (1992)The Maltese Falcon (1941)A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)John Garfield in Force of Evil (1948)

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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

Roku Channel of the Day: TUBI TV and Director of The Day: Roman Polanski

One of the best free VOD channels, TUBI TV has a great selection of movies and TV shows and keeps the commercial interruptions to a minimum. Replaces CRACKLE as the best free Roku channel.

Today’s Recommended movies are:

 

Born to Raise Hell The first 10 minutes of this film do not fill me with confidence. The shaky cam direction, the string of cliches, the chaotic editing. But stick with it, because it becomes a fun vehicle for some great Steven Seagal one-liners and butt kicking. And by the end, the chaotic nature of the beginning is actually revealed as something pretty innovative. This movie is not going to win any awards for originality, but it is an enjoyable watch. And has a couple impressive fight scenes. B-.

 

The Tenant Director Roman Polanski remains a famous and infamous figure, breaking onto the directorial stage in 1962 with KNIFE IN THE WATER, he has crafted some of the definitive films of the disturbed, of the latter 20th century. Among them REPULSION , CUL DE SAC, ROSEMARY’S BABY and this film THE TENANT.

While not one of the films of his prolific or golden age period (from 1962 to 1968 where he was doing a film every two years, before being derailed by horror and madness, in the tragic loss of his wife), THE TENANT is one of Polanski’s oddest films, which is saying a lot, dealing as it does with one of the central themes of Polanski’s  golden age films, ie the fragility of sanity and the deterioration of the protagonist, preyed on by forces both within and without.

 

 

While THE TENANT is not a favorite of mine, the third act is too absurd for my tastes, it should be watched to see Polanski’s genius as an actor (his performance here is great, with wonderful bits of physical comedy thrown in), and his unwavering visual style as a director. 

And its very existance is testament to the indomitability of its director, a man whose life has been beset by enough tragedy and hardships to crush (if not end) most people, from escaping a concentration camp at the age of seven to being at the heart of one of the most infamous mass murders in American history, to being beseiged by various courts, Polanski has continued to not just endure, but to create at a high level, cinema that endures and contributes to our definition of art.

For more on Roman Polanski go see an excellent NY Times peice on him Here.

 

And when done sampling his work via VOD and Roku I recommend the following DVDs and Blurays:
Repulsion (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Macbeth [Blu-ray]

Rosemary’s Baby (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Chinatown [Blu-ray]

Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir (2011) [ Blu-Ray, Reg.A/B/C Import – Australia ]

Roman Polanski: A Retrospective

THE CINEMA OF STATUES : The Films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder


“He was a personable looking man. First your eye said he’s not young anymore, he’s not a boy anymore. Then your eye said : he’s not old. There was something of youth hovering over and about him, and yet refusing to land in any one particular place… In short the impression was agelessness. Not young, not old, not callous, not mature – but ageless. Thirty Six looking fifty six, or fifty six looking thirty six, but which it was you could not say.”

FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE by Cornell Woolrich

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Have you ever watched a film, and mere moments into it been so captured by its construction, its strangeness, and its audacity that it earns a spot in your pantheon, your metaphoric showcase of worthy things? I’m guessing the answer for some of us is yes. I say some, because the strange, by its very nature, will not be the cup of tea of everyone.

MARTHA based on a Cornell Woolrich story “FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE” was my first introduction to the world of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and what an introduction. I’ve been a huge devotee and fan of all things Cornell Woolrich since discovering his pulp fiction a few years ago. I own and have read a ton of Woolrich stories and novels. When I heard about this movie based (illegally it seems) on one of his stories, I had to try it.

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And MARTHA finally seen, I was blown away by the strange, nearly alien craft and audacity of that film, and that led me by fits and starts to today’s review of Fassbinder’s WORLD ON A WIRE.

I’ve watched movies all my life, I consider myself well informed when it comes to cinema. I’ve seen all the great genres, and most of the great directors. I can speak to you about German Expressionism, Film Noir, French New Wave, Italian Neo-realism, the Pan-African and Post-Colonialism movements. I can talk to you about blockbusters and straight to VOD masterpieces. And when you have seen as many films as I have, to get me through a movie these days… you have to either a/tell the familiar in a captivating way, or b/create something vibrant and unfamiliar.

Most movies and all Blockbusters are the former, they are variations on types of movies and a thematic structure that we have seen time and time again, since the dawn of cinema; what makes them successful is the ability to do the ‘rescuing the girl from the train track’ in a fresh and innovative way.

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Much rarer is the latter, films and filmmakers that fundamentally challenge and expand are definitions of the scope and pathways of cinema.

I’ve seen two of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films all the way through, and both of them have struck me that way. Now admittedly they are from phase 1 of the three loosely defined phases of his career. Phase 2 being his Melodramatic phase, Phase 3 being that melodrama morphed into his identity films, dealing with themes of national, sexual, and familial identities in collusion and in conflict. (for more on this and for an overview on the films of Fassbinder please see the excellent Film.com article by Daniel Walber here!)

Phase 1 is arguably his most experimental and innovative films, here you’ll find the genre infused stuff, tinged with film-noir, horror and scifi trappings, the genres that I enjoy. Pro-active genres. I find myself generally not the audience for his phase 2 or 3 films, I’m not a fan of melodrama or just statement films. But with most of these later films not yet tried, I’m open to being pleasantly surprised.

But Phase 1, his cinema of statues and stylization, static but wonderfully composed frames, filled with actors who are at times more statues than men, and when they are animated it is often in very jerky, stilted ways. His women, leading ladies, are variations on a theme, big eyed, statuesque but often emaciated to the point of boniness, strawberry blonds, odd beauty bordering on the antithesis of beauty, mannequins and masks, and a wonderful use of angles and reflections.

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In pieces the movies should not work, stilted, unnatural performances, what is generally considered signs of amateurish or bad acting. However in WORLD ON A WIRE (WELT AM DRAHT, 1973), that ugliness and unease, the uncomfortable pauses, the shots held too long, the awkward pacing, inappropriate and at times overbearing use of music, things we typically identify with bad films and bad filmmakers, in these two films of Fassbinder all these flaws are stylistic choices and become instead function, negating themselves and becoming calling cards of a fundamentally different definition of cinema.

WORLD ON A WIRE, which virtually nobody talks about, is this outrageous and ambitious and way long mini-series of a movie, equal parts science fiction, mystery, and avant-garde film, that has this incredibly intriguing and prophetic premise about a world in which they create not just an artificial intelligence, but an artificial world peopled with artificial intelligences.

WeltAmDraht_Poster

The intelligences are programed to be perfect representations of people, and have a based in time and motion relation to each other, and capable of sex and love and procreation. So an AI universe that is self propagating, and more predictive, as the world is designed to be on a 20 year curve, so the shopping habits and economic changes and housing changes and conflicts that occur in the artificial world today, will be predictive of what happens in our world in 20 years.

It’s a brilliant, mind blowing concept, that you’ll find in better science fiction stories, but not in movies; particularly not in movies of the period, the early 1970s. On top of which the AI universe is viewable and interact-able by means of downloading someone into one of the AI inhabitants of the AI world. What??? That is mind blowingly brilliant and audacious premise for a film, even today in 2016 in an age of avatars, much less for a film made nearly 50 years ago.

And all of that, is not even what the movie is mostly about: it’s a film-noir movie. With a scientist trying to get to the bottom of his coworker’s disappearance. And then there is all the Fassbinder weirdness going on this movie, that just adds yet another level to the movie.

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The doll like women who never seem to blink, random moments of strangeness, [a party scene, where people seem not to move, and the few who do, do the same movements over and over again. A scientist called into his bosses office for serious conversation which they have while not looking at each other and spinning in circles in their chair. a night club with mostly nude attractive Black Men and women dancing while the clothed patrons walk past feeling them up… it is just craziness that comes out of nowhere, but all of it leaves you gobsmaked and off-kilter and not knowing what is coming next.} And it’s not comedy, Fassbinder isn’t just taking the piss or going for laughs here, he is telling a straight story, but he is using a crooked path, fueled by dream logic, he wants the delivery not to be what you are expecting and in WORLD ON A WIRE he succeeds.

Fassbinder, very much the spiritual predecessor to later avant garde filmmakers such as David Lynch and Lars Von Trier, was a young maverick director who died way before his time at the age of 37, however in less than a score of years (before his untimely departure) he would make 44 films, 39 of those being feature films. It is a staggering body of work to have produced by the age of 37. How many of us will ever make one film, much less 44 of them. And to make such across the board unique films, love them or hate them, is a great testament to someone who obviously ate, drank and slept cinema.

600full-rainer-werner-fassbinder Image courtesy of film.com

I can see people not liking or dismissing Fassbinder’s 3+ hour Sci-Fi epic as just flawed. And it is flawed, like I said previously, Fassbinder likes the mistakes, the mistakes of time, mistakes of gender, mistakes of intention, mistakes of moment, and out of all these mistakes with WORLD ON A WIRE he makes, at least for me, something composed of the old, that feels endlessly new.

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Grade: B+. It is definitely not for everybody, but if you like directors who are creative with cinematography (not just 360 degree shots but 540 degree shots), adventuresome in storytelling, and loyal to their actors (Fassbinder works with the same actors repeatedly, including actors of color, such as El Hedi ben Salem, rarely done for the period, and still too little done today) then this is a film for you. Recommended.

The Fassbinder Collection Two – MARTHA

World on a Wire (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Speak to Me of Death: The Selected Short Fiction of Cornell Woolrich, Volume 1 (Collected Short Fiction of Cornell Woolrich)