2016 looked to be a sad year for film, but then something happened around October. The new releases just kept getting better and better. It turned out to be one of my favorite film years in recent memory.
Christine, based on a true story, covers the final weeks of TV news reporter Christine Chubbuck’s life leading up to her live-on-television suicide in 1974. Rebecca Hall plays the titular character well, showing her professional and personal problems that may have led to that fateful decision.
Herzog’s documentary on connective technology feels capricious, only tangentially sticking to the timeline it tries to explore: the birth of the internet to the future of what it might become. The film varies scene to scene from flighty and amusing to unsettling and profound. It’s at times self-indulgent, at times brilliant, but all too much the former.
2016 is coming to a close and I have watched 21 films in my Uncharted Cinema Project. Nowhere near the 52 that I wanted to. But I have come to realize that is okay. There are lots of films out there and I was feeling too constrained to watch and review films I might not have been interested in.
I just watched another Winterbottom/Coogan film which I found a little too slight for my tastes. I think Winterbottom has proven he can make interesting films. But “interesting” doesn’t always mean “good”. I hope this one is both!
Masque of the Red Death manages to mix B-movie Hammer horror camp with gorgeous production design. Shot in widescreen and vivid colors by Nicholas Roeg, it’s period piece that belies it’s low budget.
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The film opens on Rosie Perez (the titular Perdita) lying on a luxurious white bed while a jaguar prowls over her, pulling the sheet down with it’s mouth to reveal her naked body.
Closely Watched Trains is unconcerned about story. Instead, it focuses on the small moments that make up the big picture. The humor found in everyday life. The people and what motivates them to perform deeds big and small.
Right off the bat I’m going to say that there has never been a more devastating war film than Come and See. It was produced to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Soviet victory against the Nazi’s in World War II. To call that a victory brings to mind images of smiles and cheers and flag-waving, but as this film makes perfectly clear, it was anything but that.
This film does not age well. It’s take on oriental mysticism is out-dated and the effects are obviously behind the times.
Normally, I’m always willing to give a film a pass on things like that, even going as far as to say I find them charming, but this one didn’t work for me.
This has a great setup. The film opens on death row. A well-spoken regal young man (Dennis Price) is in a cell writing his memoirs. It’s nearing the time of his execution for the crime of murder.
How did he get to this point? And why is he taking it so matter-of-factly? It was a long road that got him to that point, and the film starts from the beginning.
This film is a product of it’s time. A time when the Hayes code was on it’s way out and studios were churning out titillating cheapos to take advantage of audience’s new-found predilections.
It checks all the boxes: humor, sex, name-recognition, and to top it off, Goldfinger had come out the year before. I guess the studio didn’t think much else was needed.
Beyond the Black Rainbow opens with a vintage 70’s film strip. An advertisement for a cult-like wellness center, Arboria, that promises to deliver members true happiness.
Oh, how wrong they were. For the characters, and, unfortunately, for the viewer as well. This film is a slog. Its visual aesthetic is a claustrophobic second-rate Kubrick clone and its soundtrack is composed of the same brain-numbing repetitive sounds.
This film is anchored by the tension between two opposing genres. The first is a romance between has-been writer Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) and his neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame). The second is a murder of a young coat-check girl which may or may not have been committed by Dixon.
Well, I was right about one thing. Scotland, PA stinks of an independent film of the time period. But that isn’t a bad thing! This updated Shakespeare tale tells the story of MacBeth but sets it in a small-town restaurant in the 70’s.
Hidden is a high-concept horror film about a family in a fallout shelter hiding away from a mysterious danger on the surface.
I won’t give anything away because the script holds back information in order to keep the audience in the dark about what is going on. That part of the film works well. The cast is game and does their best to carry a sparse script.
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is lacking in any sense of escalation, which is ultimately it’s downfall. Stephen Tyrone Williams plays Dr. Hess, an expert on ancient African culture.
Early on in the film we hear about the a civilization that became addicted to blood and eventually self-destructed because there wasn’t enough fresh blood to go around.
The Warped Ones is a film full of jazz and anarchy. Akira and Masaru are two juvenile delinquents who, recently released from the detention center, go on a rampage through the city. Their attitude is starkly at odds with the rest of Japanese society, and shows how some of the youth might have felt at the time.
Ex-fest! It’s a great time to be a film fan living in the Philadelphia area. The Exhumed shows are worthwhile for anyone who is interested in experiencing unique film events and seeing movies you might never have seen otherwise (and definitely not in 35mm on the big screen!)
The opening shot of Eyes of Laura Mars is the POV of a murderer. It’s reminiscent of the opening shot of Halloween (released less than 3 months later), which makes sense because this one is also written by John Carpenter. But instead of revealing the murdered immediately, this time the mystery of who the murderer is takes up most of the film.