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


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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)

Tarantino HATEFUL EIGHT 70mm Road Trip Review


Quentin Tarantino can be a bit of a provocateur, which I don’t think is a bad thing, but can be off-putting to some, but he is also a great filmmaker.

He is a visionary in the best sense of that word. And there is always a battle between the provocateur aspect to his nature and the filmmaker, and depending on the successfulness of that mixture, will in large part determine whether his film falls on the good or the great scale.

In the HATEFUL EIGHT, I think he gets that mixture right in a way that rockets it right up there, with his best films.

I saw this movie the day after seeing STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS, an impressively written and directed effort by any standards, and while I found it a very good film, HATEFUL EIGHT 70mm Road-Trip Edition felt a great film.

Now visually the STAR WARS film, seen at one of the few IMAX Laser 3D theaters, was the more impressive viewing experience.  The theater I saw the HATEFUL EIGHT in, THE AFI at SILVER SPRING, was a very good theater, and shown in 70 mm, however outside of the increased breadth of the picture I could not tell this was a 70mm film.

Part of this I want to chalk up to being too far from the screen, or the screen not large enough to really dominate the room, it was a big room, but ultimately a well designed movie theater should give you a great picture from any room in the theater, the back of the theater or the front.

I felt the Airbus IMAX Theater in Chantilly Virginia got this RIGHT, and not so much the theater I saw the HATEFUL EIGHT in. Again I don’t think the film projected bad, it looked great in fact, however as someone who has seen LAWRENCE OF ARABIA reissued in 70mm, that is the rich, flooded detail and sensory overload i was expecting. None of that was present here in the HATEFUL EIGHT.

aside from it being a wider picture, I could not tell it wasn’t just typical 35mm, stretched a bit.  I know Quentin and the Weinstein’s retrofitted some theaters to showcase the film in 70mm, unfortunately at the theater I was in they either didn’t test or care how the movie presented to those in the more distant seats.

Is it a 70mm experience from the worst seat in the house? If the answer is no, then you need to do something.



That criticism however is not on Tarantino, but rather the individual theater owners to insure they are providing the spectacle they are advertising.

I really enjoyed the HATEFUL EIGHT, but it’s 70mm nature, was unfortunately undetectable.  I would have loved to see this film at someplace like the Airbus to see if it’s 70mm nature came across. BEcause i wholeheartedly support tarantino’s push to make 70mm relevant in an age of digital.  I just think we need to do a little more quality control at the individual theaters to ensure viewers are getting that 70mm experience.

But enough about the film stock and visuals, what about the sound?

From Ennio Morricone’s first score for a western in decades, I was of course expecting something good, what we got was great. That score is magnificent, the work of a genius, undimmed by age.

I, in the theater, knew I wanted to purchase that score. That rarely happens to me.




The same can be said of Tarantino’s film in total. HATEFUL EIGHT is an experience, a sometimes uncomfortable, and ugly experience, (man do they say the N word a lot) but without doubt a captivating, and memorable experience. You want to be in this place, with these dire and dangerous people, these ‘HATEFUL EIGHT ‘, to see where the road leads them.

Being a Western, that most iconic and cemented of genres, you know if not when the road will end, that blood will be waiting there at that end.

And there is blood, in extraordinary quantities, at the end of THE HATEFUL EIGHT. But there is more, there is pathos, and regret, and humor, and insight.

Tarantino is not afraid to probe the unexamined questions and uncrossed divide of race and class in our past and our present, our peers and ourselves, but to always do it without losing the narrative purpose, without losing the ability to entertain, is a tricky tightrope to walk.

For a film to be both important and fun to watch is a rare beast, and one the Academy is reluctant to nominate, but HATEFUL EIGHT is such a beast.

I watched the closing credits come across with that wonderful final song, and I thought there at the end of the movie, what I thought during the movie… this is a masterpiece.
Grade: A-.




Movie of the Day : STAR WARS VII FORCE AWAKENS in IMAX Laser 3D!


After 2 years of hype the most eagerly anticipated film in years has arrived, STAR WARS VII THE FORCE AWAKENS, and I saw it at the Airbus IMAX in Chantilly, Virginia voted one of the 7 best theaters in the United States.

No less than the director JJ Abrams praised IMAX 3D Laser Projection as the preferred way to see this years in the making labor of love. He said of STAR WARS VII in a recent associated press interview:

ABRAMS: As someone who really hasn’t been the most vocal advocate of 3-D, the strangest thing happened to me on this. When I was watching the reels in 3-D, there were a number of shots — and I know this sounds insane — that I hadn’t understood in the three-dimensional space quite the way I did when I saw them in 3-D. I actually felt that there were things that were playing better in 3-D. I had never felt that before. And if people have access to a theater that has laser projection, it is shockingly better.

Having seen the film at the 86 foot wide Airbus IMAX, with their newly installed 3D Laser Projection system I have to say… It lived up to the hype.

The screen, the 3d projection system, blew me away. Initially it was so big and so overpowering, that it was daunting. It was so much visual imagery and information going on in every part of the picture, that I found my head going back and forth trying to take the scene in.

Because of how that IMAX room is built, there is not a bad seat in the house. The seats rather than going out away from the screen as most theaters, are closer to the screen and go up, giving the effect that you are almost in the screen, immersed in the screen rather than just watching it.

And adding 3D to the mix and the film is cinema cranked up to 11. That said, it takes a few minutes but suddenly you are grasping all the information your visual cortex is being sent, and there is no more playing ping pong. It becomes a completely immersive, and not at all distracting experience, as 3D can be. Sometimes when wearing those glasses the screen is too dark, not so here, the picture came across as if there were no glasses at all. No doubt this has to do with the far more substantial glasses you get at this IMAX. Not the simplistic RealD glasses.


All in all, the visuals were stellar. One of my most impressive and memorable screen viewings, right up there with seeing LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm and seeing Cameron’s AVATAR in IMAX. Now the 3D isn’t the spectacle AVATAR was, with things coming out of the screen at you, and while part of this is no doubt because STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS was not filmed in 3D or with 3D in mind, the sheer scale and majesty and clarity of projection via IMAX 3D Laser is a spectacle and wonder of its own. Rather than just looking at the screen, IMAX 3D Laser makes you feel as if you are in the frame. It’s a naturalistic and very cinematic effect, that transcends/eliminates the issues some people have with 3D. IMAX 3D Laser at the Airbus IMAX transcends gimmick to deliver an effortless viewing experience, and a rewarding cinematic one and comes highly recommended.

Now I’ve spent all this article discussing how STAR WARS VII is presented, but now a few words on the movie itself. My verdict? JJ Abrams had the unenviable task of living up to the expectations of fans of one of the most iconic film franchises in the world. To his credit he and his crew of writers, actors, etc, were in this humble writer’s opinion up to the task. The movie was a follow-up to a beloved franchise that (prequels aside) ended over thirty plus years ago, and much as he did for STAR TREK he was able to integrate the new and the old in a way that completely captured and paid homage to, what was best in what we’ve come to know as STAR WARS.

I love that the main principals from the original movies, were not only available to return, but were so brilliantly written into this latest chapter. It’s a smart script, that is also inventive, action packed, and satisfying, and leaves the future of Star Wars in good hands indeed.

While it falls short of being a great movie, the film is a solid entry in the Star Wars cannon, being only second to the great EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Grade B+.





THE TROOP- “The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old school horror at its best. Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it’s a perfect gift for a winter.” –Stephen King. Stephen King is asked to give a lot of blurbs, and he gives a lot of cover blurbs, not all of which I agree with. This quote… I agree with. Short, choppy chapters makes the book easy and compulsive reading. Strongly Recommended.The Troop

darkcompanions DARK COMPANIONS- A simply essential 2012 compilation of the best horror stories of one of the best writers of the horrific and strange… Ramsey Campbell. Not all the stories are homeruns, NAPIER COURT in particular is a disappointment, but the successes of this collection outweigh the false notes. Stories such as MACKINTOSH WILLY, DOWN THERE, HEADING HOME,PROXY,OUT OF COPYRIGHT, THE INVOCATION, THE PATTERN, THE COMPANION are well worth the price of admission.

murderatcapethreepointsMURDER AT CAPE THREE POINTS (A DARKO DAWSON Mystery)- Kwi Quartey’s Ghana based mystery is a welcome change from the Swedish and Norwegian Noir that’s arguably over saturated the American market.Murder at Cape Three Points (A Darko Dawson Mystery)

TRASHED – by Derf Backderf is a biting, quirky, slightly deranged and beautifully drawn graphic novel, about a slacker who stumbles into the job of trashman. Trashed

BLACK COOL ONE THOUSAND STREAMS OF BLACKNESS -a collection of disarming essays about the varied experiences and definitions of Blackness. Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness

beatthereaperBEAT THE REAPER – Josh Bazell’s debut novel from 2009 is one of the most brilliant and enjoyable things I read in 2015. Alternatitely funny, and action packed. Beat the Reaper: A Novel

HOW BEST TO AVOID DYING – Owen Egerton’s story collection is an assortment of odd, weird, and deeply strange tales of characters at the far edges of precarious places. Delightly disturbed stories. How Best To Avoid Dying: Stories

watsonandholmesWATSON AND HOLMES A STUDY IN BLACK – A graphic novel riff on Doyle’s Holmes and Watson by Karl Boilers, Brandon Perlow, Paul Mendoza, Rick Leonardi, and Larry Stroman. Very entertaining pastiche to the Holmes mythos. Watson and Holmes – A Study In Black

halfaninchHALF AN INCH OF WATER – 2015 saw the release of this long awaited follow-up short story collection by prolific and superlative writer Percival Everett. Half an Inch of Water: Stories

FOREIGN GODS- Nigerian born writer Okey Ndibe’s FOREIGN GODS, INC quickly found a place among my must owns of 2015. Foreign Gods, Inc.

Netflix Horror Movie of the Day for Halloween 2015! LET US PREY!


Let Us Prey

2014 NR 92m
Director: Brian O’Malley

Cast: Liam Cunningham, Pollyanna McIntosh

Well made, well photographed, with an infectious score and an insidious, and dire look at evil and more than evil. Reminds me a bit of the wonderful Jeff Goldblum thriller MR. FROST.


Grade: Worth Buying

This week’s best and worst Roku VOD Streaming Channels!


This week’s best and worst Roku VOD Streaming Channels!


The Best:

Netflix amazon_lead

The two pay channels of NETFLIX and AMAZON PRIME, without any surprise I think,  come highly recommended, and were I to guess, they probably make up most of Roku’s streaming traffic.

Netflix for its growing empire of original programming (including DAREDEVIL, HOUSE OF CARDS) and selection of hotter in demand movies is a must-have channel for anyone.

AMAZON PRIME for its wealth of movie content, and a good number of older shows that are not available on NETFLIX, comes in a close second in terms of must have streaming channels.

Those are the only paid streaming channels I have or recommend.

The rest are no-cost, ad-supported, channels. Some of these are worth your time, many of them are not.

The one’s that are hits this week are:




Why? Well, good selection of older films and eclectic shows, mostly solid quality(screen pixelates occasionally) and ad interruptions kept to a minimum. this week’s recommended movies and shows are PHANTOM PUNCH (a Sonny Liston bio-pic directed by Robert Townsend), THE ASSAULT, IN HELL, TUNNEL RATS, SHUFFLE, BIG BAD WOLF, WYVERN, DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW, FREE MEN, BADCITY, GODKILLER and  CHILLERS – A short lived horror series  hosted by Anthony Perkins



I tend not to watch regular TV, so this is a good channel for keeping abreast of the current pop culture and entertainment news. Some highlights are ESCAPE TO THESE BEAUTIFUL CARIBBEAN BEACHES THIS SUMMER, MODEL STARTS MOVEMENT TO ELIMINATE PLUS SIZE, 5 WAYS TO FINANCE YOUR HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS.




THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT, THE WASP WOMAN, THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS(short film, 15minutes), FUSE, a slew of Buster Keaton comedies, CARNIES,  THE MILLENNIUM BUG, EVEL KNIEVEL, LUCKY DAY (Fun 3 min Animated film), BLACK BOOK (1949),  LETTERS FROM THE BIG MAN, STAN (2009 Laurel and Hardy biopic), SICKO (A 6 minute short film that put a smile on my face. Enjoyable), POOR PRETTY EDDIE,  M.R. JAMES COLLECTION, CRAZY STREETS, ANTE, THE BET, HUNTING BUDDIES, THE GERBER SYNDROME, RIDDLE, BIGFOOT: THE LOST COAST TAPES, THE PURITANS (24 min Short Film), BLOOD MOON (18 min Short Film), LONDON VOODOO, DARK ARC








A couple LOST IN TRANSLATION episodes, about a dozen PAWN STARS episodes, 10 AMERICAN DAREDEVILS episodes, H2 Special Presentations, 3 HUMAN  WEAPON episodes


The Channels that are losers this week and will just waste your time (rather than providing you great content) are:



WATCH FREE FLIX- The sound of the too plentiful commercials is fine, but the sound of the actual content, the shows and movies, is turned down and corrupted. Pathetic and a waste of time. Especially disappointing considering this channel has some interesting content if you could hear it. Fix your sound issue or close your channel.

VANGUARD- Limited movie selections and has not been updated in months. Website appears to no longer exist.



MIDNIGHT PULP – Roku channel no longer being updated. The website shows additional content (not just the PULP ones) not available on the Roku channel. Watch THE SCARLET WORM and ZOMBIE A-HOLE then lose the channel.

ASIAN CRUSH –  not being updated and content that is readily available elsewhere

CRUNCHYROLL – With the exception of ATTACK ON TITAN, I’m not a fan on Anime. And that’s mostly what this channel has.

PARANORMAL REALITY TV – more interesting content can be found elsewhere.

FILM MOVEMENT – Small selection of indie, foreign films (that can be found elsewhere) and never updated


DORADO FILMS – Small selection of mostly obsure 70s d-grade euro films, however unfortunately has not been updated seemingly since it launched. Which is a shame because the website is quite striking, and gave the promise of a great streaming channel.


FILM RISE– This was going to make it on the recommended list for one movie, the brilliant SUDOESTE (SOUTHWEST), it is one of the few channels to have this beautiful film available. Unfortunately attempting to stream from this channel was a study in dissatisfaction. Spent more time buffering than playing the movie initially. And when it did play it was interrupted by an ad every 8 minutes, as opposed to the respectable 28 minutes an ad-supported streaming channel should allow you, before hitting you with another ad.  On top of that, with the exception of SOUTHWEST its content could be found on multiple other channels. FILMRISE failed to rise to the occasion.

THE MOVIE TRAILER CHANNEL – Do not make an ad the first thing I see, before even browsing content. Absolutely worthless.

INDIE CRUSH – A severe absence of content. Only about 30+ titles, and just about all of them are available at other, better stocked streaming channels. Not worth the time to add

Well I hope the above helps you find new channels to try and avoid the channels that can’t be bothered to provide updated, quality programming. Hopefully some channels that stumbled this week will improve next week.

You can add and remove channels here.