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.

That is the case with the LeBoeuf Brothers’, Ryan & Cody, THE BEAST. But any script hinges on a central performance, and Clarence Gilyard Jrs, 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.

This week’s absolutely must watch STREAMING MOVIE : FIVE FINGERS OF MARSEILLES

Five Fingers for Marseilles - poster

It had me.

It had me with the trailer.

At once elegiac and lyrical, this feature film debut by director Michael Matthews, writer Sean Drummond, and cinematographer Shaun Lee, is a revelation. Haunting and hauntingly beautiful, it transposes the myth of the western onto the looming shadow of Apartheid era South Africa, with staggering effectiveness. To tell a tale of childhood promises and adult realities, amidst a lawless land.

With a great cast of actors (Vuyo Dabula as protagonist Tau is particularly brilliant, but so is Hamilton Dhlamini as the almost preternatural Sepoko), some unknown and some familiar faces, and awe inspiring visuals and landscapes, this movie is both a surprise and a joy and is a GREAT Western, up their with the best of recent westerns.

UNFORGIVEN, TOMBSTONE, OPEN RANGE, BLACKTHORN, THE MISSING, HOMESMAN, BURROWERS, BONE TOMAHAWK  all heavy hitting, top notch westerns by master directors, and yet somehow first time director Michael Matthews makes those masterful films, all of which I LOVE, feel almost rote in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, FIVE FINGERS OF MARSEILLES is not better than TOMBSTONE, but its breadth gives it a unique quality.

This film is both a western and not a western, and its ability to transcend genre and exploit it, makes for a very fresh and freeing  viewing experience. I loved it. And can not wait for a Blueray edition of this film.

Watch it free courtesy of Amazon prime, and if as impressed as i am… buy the Bluray. Grade: A-.

 

Streaming films of the Day : SORRY TO BOTHER YOU and BORDER!

Ali Abbasi and Boots Riley.

LaKeith Stanfield in Sorry to Bother You (2018)

Gräns (2018)

These are names you should remember.

They are Writer/Directors to seek out.

You know for the most part when we go to one of these Blockbuster films in the theater, whether AVENGERS ENDGAME or the latest MISSION IMPOSSIBLE or JAMES BOND , we know what we are going to get. If not the particulars, we know the formula, the genre, the broad beats of hero and villain and threat to resolve.

With films like SORRY TO BOTHER YOU and BORDER if you go in blind, without trailer, or forewarning, or spoilers, as I did, and as I suggest you do, you are in for what film used to be, in the early days of film. You are in for something strange, and beautiful, and horrible, and more than a little bit unsettling; you are in for something rare, something new under the sun.

You are in for a ride, that is unfathomable and twisting, and both harrowing and transformative.

These are arguably not films that do well in the theatrical setting, for the simple fact they do not cater to expectations, they live in the unfamiliar places. And can arguably leave us… thoughtful and conflicted about what we see.

And audiences these days like to leave the theater, with easy assumptions reinforced, rather than challenged.

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU and BORDER are both films that do not play to the usual. They are living room films, they are home theaters films, they are personal films, and they are films that will stay with you long after you see them.

Both films feature amazing performances. Lakeith Stanfield of SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, and coming off a show stealing performance in ATLANTA is quickly becoming one of the best young Actors working. And Eva Melander, an actress unknown to me, is nothing short of award material in BORDER.

Both are must own films on DVD/Blu-Ray. In the age of streaming, these are the type of films you do not trust to the ephemeral nature of streaming. You can try before you buy by viewing both movies courtesy of HULU. and once you do, you’ll want to add these films to your collection.

I consider them both, cinematic gems, that will only grow with subsequent viewings.

Get your copies here:

 

https://amzn.to/2Yn5doc

 

https://amzn.to/2E692GB

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

 

 

 

Currently Watching : DEAD SQUAD TEMPLE OF THE UNDEAD

DEAD SQUAD: TEMPLE OF THE UNDEAD

25 minutes in and the jury is out on this one. I find it intriguing despite the annoying nature of most of the characters. The annoying, brain dead westerner character is one I can definitely do without. The film so far has not been great, a bit too campy and annoying, but I find myself interested in where the film is going. Interested in the shape of the doom they are getting closer to. And the Antagonist equally wears out his welcome.

However the practical effects and makeup are impressive, and how badass one of the characters is around the 40 minute mark keeps me watching when I was ready to write this one off.

I do not like Zombie/Ghoul films as a rule, but this one is different enough (especially the head monster) and truly deranged and yes campy enough, that you just have to be impressed by the absurd weirdness of it.

It becomes far more intriguing than I was initially thinking. Definitely not for everyone but for fans of Peter Jackson’s early horror films like BAD TASTE and DEAD ALIVE, despite my early doubts, Dominik Hauser’s DEAD SQUAD (his debut film) by the end, becomes an absolutely tremendous and fitting homage and evolution of those campy horror classics.

Try it yourself courtesy of Amazon Prime streaming. It is unfortunate movies like this are not getting a DVD/Blu-ray release with Director’s commentary. That’s how B films like this traditionally have endured. Preserved by collectors and fans. In the ephemeral world of streaming,controlled by cold dollars and cents, films like this can disappear without a whisper.