Currently Watching : MONK and LA MANTE RELIGIEUSE

Two very different, yet thematically similar films are France’s THE MONK and LA MANTE RELIGIEUSE.

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Natalie Saracco’s 2014 film LA MANTE RELIGIEUSE (known by the trivial and clumsy English title of MANEATER) is a modern drama of a woman who burns with an inconsolable flame, and a man of faith, that challenges her toward more. A wonderful film, twisty and enthralling and sensual. Grade: B+.

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Director Dominik Moll’s 2007 film THE MONK, starring one of France’s most compelling actors, Vincent Cassell is about a man of faith, into whose life comes a woman who burns with an inconsolable flame. It’s a beautiful gothic, baroque painting distilled to film; a gorgeous, horrific, and surreal parable played out in the colors of flesh and blood, and to the moaning of the pleasured and the damned. Grade: B+.

There is a Flatiron Film Company DVD from 2013 that runs a 100 minutes and has no special features to speak of (at a minimum a DVD or Bluray should at least sport a director’s or cast commentary) so until there is a better DVD release, you can view this movie for free (as of this writing) on the Roku channel THRILLER THEATRE.

NetFlix Movie review : THE EXORCISM OF MOLLY HARTLEY

 

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THE EXORCISM OF MOLLY HARTLEY – There’s a very interesting opening to this film, and a wonderful texture that belies this film’s formulaic poster and unoriginal title.

This is a sumptuously filmed, and quite sexy film. Well performed, well directed by Steven R. Monroe, with a score that is reminiscent in places of John Carpenter or Daria Argento scored films. But particularly the look of this film compels… it is gorGEous.

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This is a film that is less horror and more a taut thriller and in some ways a muscular but dumb action movie aesthetic, crafted onto the bones of what should be just a formulaic possession film.

I like this film, even though the fourth act is something of a misfire, it is not doing anything exceptionally original, and in many ways it is very trite and yes dumb, (the patient gets to take a trip out of the asylum, gets to go back in with his vestments. Really? The demon voice, and pea soup, spitting, it is all this close to parody. I may be twisted but I found the scene with the scissors and the ear, hilarious. So there are definite tonal issues), however compelling visuals and  a quick moving story keep the film ahead of its flaws, and makes for an entertaining watch. 

So while not in the same league (or hemisphere) as the granddaddy of exorcism films… THE  EXORCIST, it’s head and shoulders above more plodding and dire Excorcism films, such as EXORCISMUS,

Grade: Recommended. B. Not worth a purchase, but worth a look if you catch it on VOD or as a rental. Currently showing on NetFlix.

 

 

Fanfare for a Death Scene (1964) and best Cinematographers!!

Today’s recommended movie FANFARE FOR A DEATH SCENE (1964)

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This is a forgotten little 1964 made for TV movie, that sports the phenomenal camera work of the great Conrad L. Hall. The opening sequence alone is reason enough to view this film.

You can view the film courtesy of Amazon Prime.

Click here for Fanfare For A Death Scene

When it comes to the great camera men of cinema, Conrad Hall, in terms of bravura visual styling and seminal impact, is right up there with the best of cinematographers.

The best of them being Karl Freund (the father of cinematography in many ways, creating much of the visual techniques and language of cinema in ground breaking films such as METROPOLIS and DRACULA) Karl Struss (SUNSHINE) and Freddie Young (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA), James Wong Howe (SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS), Vilmos Zsigmond (two great collaborations with Robert Altman, IMAGES and THE LONG GOODBYE), Geoffrey Unsworth (2001, SUPER MAN), Bradford Young (MOTHER OF GEORGE, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, PAWN SACRIFICE, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, SELMA), Guy Green (GREAT EXPECTATIONS), Lisa RInzler (MENACE II SOCIETY), Sergey Urusevskiy (I AM CUBA), John Alton (his wonderful collaborations with Anthony Mann, such as T-MEN, RAW DEAL), and Yoshio Miyajima (particularly with his collaborations with Masaki Kobayashi in films such as HARA KIRI and KWAIDAN).

For more on FANFARE FOR A DEATH SCENE there is a wonderful article on the production by Stephen Bowie here!

Come back next time for more VOD picks and reviews!

Netflix Daredevil Season 2 Television Review

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The first season of Netflix’s DAREDEVIL was with one or two missteps, a masterpiece… and now the long awaited 2nd season has broken onto Netflix. And the verdict after watching all 13 episodes… it’s good overall, great in sporadic parts, and uneven throughout most of it. It feels tired and maudlin in a way the first season never did.

And much of the weakness of the 2nd season is directly related to carrying over the missteps of Season 1. The death of Vondie Curtis Hall’s character of Ben Urich was a mistake, and the sometimes screeching, sanctimonius, annoying nature of the Karen Page charater, also was always poised to upset the ship.

And here those two blips combine to I think after the first 3 strong episodes, bog down the remaining 10 episodes. Every scene with the Karen Page character (doing her Nancy Drew with the Editor), just highlights how much better those scenes would have played with Hall’s Ben Urich character bringing gravitas to those moments.

And while the actress who plays Karen Page, is definitely striking, her character is written and played annoyingly, so giving her more screen time this season is analagous to nails on a chalkboard. Her voiceover to round out the last episode, I’m sure was meant to be this poignant summation of the season, but came off as so much trite, cliched fluff. A failure of writing and delivery.

On top of that example, the writing which was a standout of most of season 1, stumbles here in season 2. I thought episode 5 was a complete trainwreck, boring, navel gazing, let down by both the writing and directing. It tried to mirror the emotional intensity of the 5th episode of Season 1, but lacked a story and writing and performances capable of carrying the episode.

Add to that the whole Daredevil/ Elektra/ Black Sky plotline, was delivered in a bit of a muddled fashion, it all reeks of perhaps needing more rewrites. I who am familiar with these characters, found the season a bit unclear and unsatisfying at times.

Those negatives acknowledged, there was much to like about season 2, I thought the action scenes were excellent, the characters of Stick and the Punisher compelling, the performances of most of the leads stellar.

So overall, glad to have seen the 2nd  season, but I didn’t love it.

And here’s hoping season 3 brings the magical return of Ben Urich’s character, and less screen time for the Karen Page character and the Paper’s Editor (who I found equally uninteresting),

Overall Grade:  B-.

 

 

Currently Reading: S.H.I.E.L.D.: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION OMNIBUS

 

S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus

 

S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus (Marvel): Marvel is proud to present — in a single complete volume — one of comics’ most-innovative series! With international threats on the rise, Tony Stark and a council of global powers tapped Nick Fury to protect the US from Hydra, A.I.M., Baron Strucker, and the Yellow Claw. The greatest team in comics, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, dove into the world of covert ops, mixing Cold War drama with the mighty Marvel manner. They set the tone, but when Steranko took over, he rewrote the entire rulebook. Steranko turned S.H.I.E.L.D. into one of the most visually innovative comic series ever published and every early story is presented in oversized glory. You’ve been granted Priority A-1 access, so reserve your copy today! Collecting the Nick Fury stories from Strange Tales (1951) #135-168, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1968) #1-15, Fantastic Four (1961) #21, Tales of Suspense (1959) #78, Avengers (1963) #72, Marvel Spotlight (1971) #31 (which reveals an important Nick Fury secret!), and material from Not Brand Echh (1967) #3, 8, and 11. Features work by Lee, Kirby, Steranko, Roy Thomas, Denny O’Neil, Archie Goodwin, Jim Starlin, Howard Chaykin, John Severin, Herb Trimpe, Don Heck, Barry Windsor-Smith, Sal Buscema, Joe Sinnott, and more. 960-page oversize color hardcover. – Released in September 2015, in two versions, one with an Alex Ross cover and one with a Steranko cover.  I like Alex Ross, but his cover for this book is underwhelming, clearly the Steranko cover is the one to get.

And you’ll pay for it, as quantities on the Steranko version are climbing in price. But well worth the seeking out.

 

S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus

 

 

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

Movie to be on the Lookout for : THINGS OF THE AIMLESS WANDERER

THINGS OF THE AIMLESS WANDERER

 

 

“To be absolutely mesmerized by a film, I mean totally transfixed, is a rare happening in cinema, but should be the norm, right? Rwandan director Kivu Ruhorahoza’s Things Of The Aimless Wanderer is just such a film. Spectacular and ambitious in all its working parts, it catapults cutting-edge African cinema onto the world stage with the intensity of a new religion. “

Ben Umstead TWITCH

The second feature film by Director Kivu Ruhorahoz, sounds much more in my wheelhouse than the synopsis of his first film. While his first film, GREY MATTER, is a bit of a psuedo-documentary  dealing with the raw wounds of the recent  Rwandian genocide through a movie in a movie structure,  it  is understandably bleak; and as such, by its very nature… an ordeal.

And I, personally can not watch a movie about  a real life ordeal,  without it being an ordeal.  And while I understand it is a completely valid form of cinema, and a necessary one, it is just not a form of cinema that I gravitate toward. I want more out of my cinema, than the bleak.

By all reports THINGS OF THE AIMLESS WANDERER  has that wider perspective. A rashomon tinged treatise that looks with an elegaic and surreal eye, on sins of colonialism past and present.

So if being shown at a theater near you, give it a look.