Sunday, October 27, 2013

24 Hours of Horror

It's fairly simple. Or, maybe not so much depending who you are. Here is the scenario: You are hired by a theater to program a 24 hours of horror film festival. What films would you choose and why? Be creative and have fun with it. Keep in mind the audience when scheduling it though. 

The idea was inspired from the AV Club's feature 24 Hours of Horror where they picked several genre directors (Joe Dante, Eli Roth and recently Edgar Wright) and asked them to program a 24 hour horror marathon. 

You can see an example of how they did it here:,2066/

Here is how I would do mine. 

Dir. Vincenzo Natali

What better way to kick off a 24 hour horror marathon than a movie about a bunch of people trapped in a cube? Well, at first it sounds dull. Cube isn't concerned about the how or why. It just is. Filmed on a small budget in Canada, Cube is a movie that invites you to sit back and become enthralled in its clever puzzle.

2 PM
Dir. William Lustig

The New York sleaze movies of the late 70's and early 80's are in a class entirely by themselves. Joe Spinell is absolutely terrifying as the crazed psychopath who hunts down people on the grimy streets of New York City. Oh, did I mention the effects were done by Tom Savini?

4 PM
Dir. Bill Paxton

A gothic horror film based around obsession and delusions. Frailty is about taking religion and following it down the rabbit hole to a place far removed from reality. The implications of the characters actions are as terrifying as any monster a writer can dream up.

6 PM
Dir. Tod Browning

After getting under the skin of the audience with Frailty, it's good to follow it up with Freaks. This is the kind of movie no studio would have the balls to make today. Released during the pre code era, this film ended up ending Tod Browning's career after the controversy of casting real life freaks for the film. But not before cementing its place among horror classics.

Don't Go In the House
Dir. Joseph Ellison

Since we are on the topic of controversial movies we should go deeper . This is one of the video nasties that was originally put on the list of British censors in the 80's. Beyond just being a film that makes the viewer uncomfortable with its graphic scenes, it functions as a seriously dark and psychological mindfuck.

The Monster Squad
Dir. Fred Dekker

Essentially The Goonies for horror fans, Monster Squad is a Universal monsters fan wet dream come true. In the 80's, the kids film had a sense of danger and peril. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Flight of the Navigator, the aforementioned Goonies, and several scenes from Lost Boys. Monster Squad was the film that got everything lined up and knocked it out of the park thanks to Fred Dekker's direction.  

An American Werewolf In London
Dir. John Landis

We are now at the midnight movie so it's good to throw in a classic. There's not much praise I can heap upon this one than there already is. It's hard to find anything wrong in the film. Endlessly quotable dialogue. Scenes that terrify you one minute and make you laugh your ass off the next. It's horror comedy done right. Also, Rick Baker's werewolf transformation is why practical FX will always trump CGI.

2 AM
Dir. Alexandre Bustillo

We've had back to back horror movies that gleefully dabble in comedy. Now it's time to go for the jugular. Inside's first act is packed to the gills with atmosphere and mood before releasing a relentless bloodbath. Once it starts it never lets up until the haunting final shot of the movie.

4 AM
Cemetery Man
Dir. Michael Soavi

This, in my opinion, was the last great Italian zombie film. People always lose their shit over The Evil Dead series. And for good reason. I mean c'mon it's Bruce Campbell. But I feel that it kind of maligns everything else
in this sub genre. Cemetery Man was the film that finally perfected the formula.

6 AM
Dir. Carl Theodore Dreyer

You can almost draw a straight line from David Lynch's Eraserhead to this movie as far as camera technique and surrealism goes. Watching this movie at this level of sleepiness is perfect.

8 AM
The Innocents
Dir. Jack Clayton
Adapted from Henry James' Turn of the Screw, The Innocents remain the pre eminent 'ghost story' film and one that countless haunted house movie have been borrowing from since. Atmosphere so thick you can cut it with a knife.

10 AM
The Beyond
Dir. Lucio Fulci

This is the way you send the audience out. Lucio Fulci wanted to make a haunted house film and at the time the market wasn't ready to invest in that type of subgenre. They wanted a zombie film. So the zombie footage you see here was thrown in for the hell of it. This only amplifies the dreamlike quality of the picture. More so than any other Fulci film. Fulci's film was intended as an homage to Antonin Artaud who inspired him with the philosophy of entertainment should not have a storyline but should be images assaulting the senses.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Top 25 shows

1. The Wire (2002-2008)
2. Lost (2004-2010)
3. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
4. The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
5. The Simpsons (1989- )
6. The Sopranos (1999- 2007)
7. The X- Files (1994- 2002)
8. Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
9. Seinfeld (1989- 1998)
10. Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988- 1999)
11. The Wonder Years (1988- 1993)
12. Six Feet Under (2001- 2005)
13. Spaced (1999- 2000)
14. Saturday Night Live
  -70's: Akyroyd, Radner, Belushi, Chase, Martin, Murray, Newman, Curtin, Morris
  -90's: Farley, Sandler, Rock, Spade, Myers, Carvey, Hartman, Jackson, Nealon
15. Tales From the Crypt (1989- 1996)
16. Tim & Eric Awesome Show (2007- 2010)
17. Hannibal (2013- )
18. Chappelle's Show (2003- 2006)
19. Louie (2010- )
20. Boardwalk Empire (2010- )
21. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2002- )
22. Arrested Development (2003- )
23. Freaks & Geeks (1998- 1999)
24. Mr. Show (1995- 1998)
25. Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1991- 2000)

Honorable Mention (I love ya too):
The Colbert Report, Monty Python's Flying Circus, The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories, The Adventures of Pete & Pete

Sunday, September 8, 2013

to do list

Shadows (1959, Cassavetes)
Faces (1968, Cassavetes)
A Woman Under the Influence (1974, Cassavetes)
The Killing of A Chinese Bookie (1976, Cassavetes)
Straight Time (1978, Grosbard)
Scarecrow (1973, Schatzberg)
Breathless (1983, James McBride)
Where Eagles Dare (1969, Hutton)
Mona Lisa (1986, Neil Jordan)
The Killers (1964, Siegel)
Pierrot Le Fou (1968, Godard)
The Asphalt Jungle (1950, Huston)
City on Fire (1989, Lam)
Pope of Greenwich Village (1984, Rosenberg)
Night Call Nurses (1972, Corman)
Jules and Jim (1962, Truffaut)
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968, Jewison)
Hi Mom! (1970, De Palma)
Sisters (1973, DePalma)
The Trip (1967, Corman)
Le Doulos (1962, Melville)
Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971, Schlesinger)
Bigger Than Life (1959, Ray)
The Long Goodbye (1973, Altman)
California Split (1974, Altman)
Magnificent Obsession (1954, Sirk)
Caged Heat (1974, Demme)
Green For Danger (1949, Gilliat)
Twisted Nerve (1968, Boulting)
The Passenger (1975, Antonioni)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988, Kaufman)
Running Scared (1986, Hyams)
The Naked Kiss (1955, Fuller)
White Dog (1982, Fuller)
True Stories (1986)
Roger & Me (1989, Moore)
King of the Hill (1993, Soderbergh)
Lone Star (1996, Sayles)
Carnal Knowledge (1971, Nichols)
Detour (1945, Ullmer)
The Earrings of Madame de... (1953, Ophuls)
Black Sunday (1976, Frankenheimer)
The Crossing Guard (1995, Penn)
Ms. 45 (1981, Ferrara)
At Close Range (1986, Foley)
Men Don't Leave (1990, Brickman)
Reds (1981, Beatty)
Targets (1968, Bogdonavich)
Foxy Brown (1974, Hill)
Switchblade Sisters (1975, Hill)
The Asphalt Jungle (1950, Huston)
Cross of Iron (1976, Peckinpah)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Double Bills Pt. 1

Quiet Towns with Nasty Secrets: Invasion of the Body Snatchers '78/ Dead & Buried
Robots In Disguise: Westworld/The Terminator
Divine Prophecies: God Told Me To/ Red State
Summer Rage: Do the Right Thing/ Falling Down
Eurocrime: Revolver/ The Hit
Chasing the High Score: The King of Kong/ The Wizard
Nature Gone Berserk: Long Weekend/ Food of the Gods
Back From 'Nam: The Executioner/ Rolling Thunder

Sunday, August 11, 2013

You're Next: A review

In a year that brought us V/H/S/2, The Conjuring and World War Z, You're Next finds its way into mix with a crossbow right to the heart of the home invasion thriller.

For years, the argument has always been "Why don't they make any good movies anymore?" The person receiving that question usually says something akin to: "Hollywood has no original ideas". So you decide to sit the year out. Hoping for a Dark Knight to come sweep you off your feet.  It doesn't. You're itching to go to the movies so you decide to see the next remake of a movie that you loved growing up. But don't worry, the ticket
sale to the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street will tell the studios that you want to continue to see this garbage. It's not like Hollywood doesn't have thousands of original scripts tucked away. They simply see that the audience doesn't want to try anything new. Horror above any other genre is apt to this exact mentality. How many Saws or Paranormal Activities do we need to tell them enough is enough?

Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett have come to answer these troubling dilemmas with a movie that successfully balances horror, dark comedy and crime thriller. Known for his piece in V/H/S/2 (Phase I Clinical Trials), Wingard, while not successful at pulling off the compact 15 minute horror story, unleashes the movie he was carrying around to film festivals like SXSW. His direction and editing here places you inside the house with this family not knowing what to expect next. A feat that really couldn't be pulled off without the collaboration of a genuine script.

Simon Barrett has put together a screenplay that has a unique twist on the home invasion thriller and gives us what so many other movies in the subgenre failed at- subverting our expectations.

Erin, played by Sharni Vinson, is our lead. An Australian pretty girl who’s dating one of the sons at their parent’s anniversary gathering. She’s the only smart one of the group, and the commentary arises from her surroundings. Most characters in horror films have no sense of self-preservation, particularly the leads. They are the innocent, attractive kind that somehow always outwit the killers and escape. Erin on the other hand is an immensely likeable heroine. Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator fame plays the part of the mother. A role that hopefully gives the horror veteran more work. Rounding out the cast are filmmakers themselves- Ti West and Joe Swanberg.

This is the type of movie horror fans have been waiting for. A low budget independent. What Cabin In the Woods did for the slasher film, You're Next does for the home invasion thriller. So when August 23 rolls around, don't hesitate to flop money down for a ticket. You won't regret it.

I cannot stress how much fun You're Next is. DISC REPEAT I cannot stress enough how much fun You're Next is. DISC REPEAT I cannot stress enough how much fun You're Next is. DISC REPEAT I cannot stress enough how much fun You're Next is. DISC REPEAT I cannot stress enough how much fun You're Next is. DISC REPEAT I cannot stress enough how much fun You're Next is. DISC REPEAT I cannot stress enough how much fun You're Next is. DISC REPEAT I cannot stress enough how much fun You're Next is. DISC REPEAT I cannot stress enough how much fun You're Next is. DISC REPEAT I cannot stress enough how much fun You're Next is. DISC REPEAT I cannot stress enough how much fun You're Next is. DISC REPEAT I cannot stress enough how much fun You're Next is.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Top 100 #80: Hoop Dreams

On the day Roger Ebert passed, I knew I had to pay tribute by watching one of the films that made him glad to be a film critic. There was his favorite film Citizen Kane. There was 2001 ". There was even Raging Bull. His favorite movie of the 80's. But the one that kept cropping up in my memory banks when recalling all those At the Movies segments was Hoop Dreams. The film championed by him and Gene Siskel.

I'm not an avid boxing fan, yet Raging Bull ranks as one of my favorite movies. Nor do I So it should come as no surprise that the sport of basketball is one I find no pleasure in. That is, looking at basketball as a competetive sport and a means to watch a team make its way to the top. Hoop Dreams, directed by Steve James, laid down the tracks of foresight into the humanistic elements of underclass kids hoping to achieve their dreams of playing in the NBA. The kids are Arthur Agee and William Gates.

These two fine men illustrate the power of desire and passion for the game. It is their one determination that carries them through the minimum wage streets of Chicago's Harlem district. In scenes that unfold in unpretentious ways, we see them in awe of their hero, Isiah Thomas. We are treated to one heartfelt scene in which we see Agee's mother pursue her own dream of becoming a nurse. These are real people. No scripts. No cue cards.

Hoop Dreams is also about the choices made in between those dreams and those harsh realities. Where a crucial free throw suddenly takes in huge importance for William Gates.

As it stands, Hoop Dreams is one of the most original, accurate, prescient, and least sentimental portraits of an African American family in the medium. I have no problem with Ebert calling it the best film of the 90's. It really strove for something more than so many other great films of that decade: a chance to to a peak into 3 hours of 2 kids with big dreams.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Top 100 #47: Network


HERB THACKERAY on the phone, staring up at HOWARD
BEALE on his wall monitor --

-- First, you have to get mad.
When you're mad enough --

Both THACKERAY'S SECRETARY's office and his own office
are filled with his STAFF.  The Assistant VP Station
Relations, a 32-year-old fellow named RAY PITOFSKY,
is at the SECRETARY's desk, also on the phone.  Another
ASSISTANT VP is standing behind him on the SECRETARY's
other phone --

(shouting to THACKERAY)
Whom are you talking to?

WCGG, Atlanta --

Are they yelling in Atlanta,

-- we'll figure out what to do
about the depression --

(on phone)
Are they yelling in Atlanta,


The GENERAL MANAGER of WCGG, Atlanta, a portly
58-year-old man, is standing by the open windows of his
office, staring out into the gathering dusk, holding
his phone.  The station is located in an Atlanta
suburb, but from far off across the foliage
surrounding the station, there can be heard a faint
RUMBLE.  On his office console, HOWARD BEALE is
saying --

-- and the inflation and the oil
crisis --

(into phone)
Herb, s0 help me, I think they're
yelling --


(at SECRETARY's desk,
on the phone)
They're yelling in Baton Rouge.

DIANA grabs the phone from him and listens to the
people of Baton Rouge yelling their anger in the
streets --

-- Things have got to change.
But you can't change them unless
you're mad.  You have to get mad.
Go to the window --

(gives phone back to
PITOFSKY; her eyes
glow with excitement)
The next time somebody asks you
to explain what ratings are,
you tell them:  that's ratings!
Son of a bitch, we struck the
mother lode!


MAX, MRS. SCHUMACHER, and their 17-year-old daughter,
CAROLINE, watching the Network News Show --

-- Stick your head out and yell.
I want you to yell:  "I'm mad
as hell and I'm not going to
take this any more!"

CAROLINE gets up from her chair and heads for the
living room window.

Where are you going?

I want to see if anybody's

Right now. Get up. Go to
your window --


CAROLINE opens the window and looks out on the
rain-swept streets of the upper East Side, the
bulking, anonymous apartment houses and the occasional
brownstones.  It is thunder dark; a distant clap of
THUNDER CRASHES somewhere off and LIGHTNING shatters
the dank darkness.  In the sudden HUSH following the
thunder, a thin voice down the block can be heard

I'm mad as hell and I'm not
going to take this any morel

-- open your window --

MAX joins his daughter at the window.  RAIN sprays
against his face --

108.  MAX'S P.O.V.

He sees occasional windows open, and, just across
from his apartment house, a MAN opens the front door
of a brownstone --

I'm mad as hell and I'm not
going to take this any more!

For those of you who have seen That Moment, the one hour documentary on Magnolia, then you will know that one of the movies he screened for the crew was Network. A film in which he touted as having the best script. Paddy Chayefsky comes from a theatre background. Thus he lends his style to These are 4 page dialogue scenes that allow the actor to interject every nuance of their craft into their character.

For my money, the premier female performance of that 70's was that of Faye Dunaway as Diane Christensen. When given a script, an actor's job is to devote him or herself to the role and eventually mine specific details for more depth. It's not so much as what Dunaway does do as what Lumet specifically tells her not to do with the character. She has no vulnerability. Nor is she explained haphazardly. It's a ballsy move in a film already cluttered with ballsy moves from every performer. Peter Finch's several brilliant lightning rod speeches, Ned Beatty's "Meddling with the primal forces of nature" monologue, Beatrice Straight's "demand for respect" speech to Holden, Duvall's acting that gleefully straddles the line between comedy and fierceness.

Her performance culminates in a dialogue scene between Holden & Dunaway in the third act.

Music up with a swell. Final commercial. "And here are a few scenes from next week's show."

These types of performances, along with Lumet's direction and Chayefsky's writing are responsible for creating one of the most relevant satires of America. 

For a look at the full script of Network, walk this way --->

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Top 100 #58: Unbreakable

“You know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world. To not know why you’re here…That’s… That’s just an awful feeling.” Elijah Price

The core idea that propagates the mythology of the superhero boils down to this- without evil, there can truly be no good. This is a founding principle on which most major stories are based. Since their inception, comic books have become the creative fuel that propelled the minds of . These storytellers, many of whom were immigrants that grew up in New York, decided to craft worlds whose only boundaries were the panels they were drawn in. Comic books would thrive throughout the 40s and 50s, giving us Superman, Batman, and several others. All who would sooner or later find themselves on the silver screen in adaptations ranging from superb (The Dark Knight) to downright headache inducing (The Green Hornet). Many people immediately point their finger to either Superman or the Dark Knight as the superior superhero film. Truth be told, we were given the superhero film we deserved. One that wasn't restricted to retelling a comic book story handed down to us by generations previous. It was fresh, invigorating, and above all else, a true look into what brought us to the dance in the first place.

M. Night Shyamalan originally envisioned the film as a three act story: origin story, discover superpowers, confrontation with nemesis. He then decided during the writing process that the origin story in this case was the most interesting story to tell and deserved to be expanded into the full length of the feature. Hard core comic book fans will tell this decision ruined the movie, and although Shyamalan usually makes bad choices when he decides to change something, this one I could appreciate. We don’t need to see guys in tights fighting unbelievable bad guys all the time. It is a retelling of the cliché hero origin story with every genre element stripped out. It is as clear as it can be, as pure as it can be and as realistic as a superhero film will ever be.

The biggest leap in terms of style from Sixth Sense to Unbreakable are of course the choices of switching the editor and cinematographer. Dylan Tichenor (coming off his work on Magnolia) and DP Eduardo Serra took to light the ideas the director tossed them and used them to create a dramatically paced narrative that unfolds as if we were pulled into the pages of a real life comic book. Boasted by what is hands down James Newton Howard's finest score, the collaboration on this film is one that found the production team firing on all cylinders. It is widely known that M. Night used a limited number of takes on the picture. 30 to be exact. In order to maintain a symbiotic relationship between the character and audience, he decided this stylistic choice would best suit the project.

Quentin said that Unbreakable is the story of Superman not knowing that he is Superman. Not only is this a fascinating concept, it also happens to be wrapped up in a film that saw M. Night hone his Spielberg meets Hitchcock style into something he still hasn't topped.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Those three words

Some movies have scenes so great that they supercede everything else in the movie. One of the main ingredients to make said scene great- dialogue. The 90's found us sitting in coffee shops listening to people talk about tipping and when we weren't busy eavesdropping on a conversation about someone being thrown out of a window on account of a foot massage we were strapped in our chair getting chewed out by a boss from hell that drove a Hyundai to work. Because that's who the fuck he is. The reject misfit of the pack was a short stocky comic book nerd by the name of Kevin Smith. His movie Clerks ended up turning heads at Sundance and of course would hit cult status. He would follow it up with the forgettable Mallrats. A movie that had some laughs but fell short in the race of wit.

Chasing Amy saw Smith already breaking away from the confines that bound him. The film ended up being a nailbomb in the face of trite romantic comedies. Woody Allen will always remain the benchmark for dialogue regarding relationships and the oh so many roads they take. But the 90's in a way gave us two great scenes of honest dialogue about relationships that didn't come off as sentimental hogwash. The first being a scene in The Fisher King involving Robin Williams reminding Amanda Plummer that he doesn't drink coffee. The second was this:

Smith wouldn't reach this level of dialogue again until 2011, when he unleashed Red State and sat us down in pews to listen to the sermon of Abin Cooper. A speech so well crafted it could belong to the Tarantino school of screenwriting.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

If I Were to Pick the Oscars

Best Picture: Cloud Atlas
Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson - The Master
Best Original Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Best Adapted Screenplay: Cloud Atlas by Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer
Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Juno Temple - Killer Joe
Best Documentary Feature: West of Memphis
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins, Skyfall
Best Editing: Darrin Navarro - Killer Joe
Best Music, Original Score: Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil - Cloud Atlas
Best Music, Original Song: ‘Skyfall’ by Adele

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cosmopolis & Side Effects

DeLillo's worldview is steeped in darkness. Just from the ideas and events he builds stories around. The fear of death in White Noise, the JFK assassination in Libra, the conflict of the Cold War in Underworld and 9/11 in Falling Man. Cosmopolis is no different. For 28 year old billionare Eric Packer, the world has become digitized and converted into luxury limo that roams around the street. The characters and situations are all larger than life. It it easy to see how his influence seeps into the work of Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palhaniuk. One could even draw a line from Patrick Bateman to Eric Packer. Where the former (Ellis) grapples with superficiality and decadence & the latter (Palhaniuk) dabble in extreme situations, DeLillo finds that middle ground between the two. Information plays a key role in the film and Eric Packer takes us aboard his limo to whisper into our ears his litany of thoughts.

Cronenberg said that to make a truly faithful adaptation, one must betray the source material. Adapting anything nowadays requires at least some betrayal. Kubrick gave us this in spades with The Shining. While I haven't read DeLillo's book, Cronenberg remains a keen eye on what to adapt. Which brings us into the first thing that popped into my mind when I heard about the project: why Cosmopolis? Why not White Noise? Well for one, Cronenberg's fascination with skin and texture abound through the film. And being the intellect he is, I can see a correlation between the darkness of DeLillo's worldview and his.

He's tackled King. He's tackled Burroughs. Now he tackles DeLillo.

To quote Adrian Belew of King Crimson, "the more I look at it, the more I like it."


Minimalism is the one trait that Soderbergh has over many of his peers. (See: Bubble.) Another trait: spontaneity. His 5 or less takes method makes way for spontaneous performances. In other words, if you act in a Soderbergh film, know your shit. Rooney Mara has certainly come up quickly after her role in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and proves she is not just a one trick pony. As if I ever needed proof that she can act, the woman sitting next to me in the theater whispered "She's scary" during one of her pivotal scenes. Mara inhabits the role of Emily and all her complexities and subtleties.

The script penned by Scott Z. Burns is intelligent and knows how to play the audience with just the right amount of information at a given time. Soderbergh said "All drama and all conflict is ultimately about betrayal. What's interesting to me is when you're able to find a story where you get to explore that unwritten, unspoken agreement that exists between the filmmaker and the audience. I like when you can betray them in a way that doesn't anger them but instead draws them into the story." Side Effects is the film I was waiting for Soderbergh to make. It just took him a while to produce it. It may be his last film, but he went out with style and grace.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Best of 2012

2016: Obama's America 
These kinds of docs, be it Fahrenheit 9/11 or 2016, are turn offs since they make no attempt to give the audience member truth. These docs only serve to excite the base it is trying to appeal to rather than win over anyone with compelling journalism. (D-)

You lost me Soderbergh. C-

Moonrise Kingdom 
He still is stuck in indie dry humor mode. Everything remains flat in this picture. Was the teenage couple cute? Yes. The overall mood of the film just seemed recycled.


The Dark Knight Rises 
Third installments to superhero (or any) franchises can prove tricky. It's an all or nothing card that is usually dealt. Spiderman 3, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3, Lethal Weapon 3, etc. Most of these films range from adequate to poor. Dark Knight Rises would belong to the former. Nolan really said all he needed to say in The Dark Knight and while we were left wanting more, it makes me question if the signal should have been turned on for the third time? Still, what we got was something that isn't . It stroked the Catwoman nostalgia card we have from Batman Returns while giving us a new face in the suit. DKR remains the dark horse of the trilogy. Not as good as Dark Knight and not really as good as Begins either

Men In Black III 
Better than the second. Not as good as the first. The third greatest trait is its ability to create a plot twist that harks back to the first. A trait which I applaud. Now if only it had a memorable villain. C+

Seven Psychopaths (B-)

With a better script, this movie could have been great. Unfortunately it kind of loses me around the middle. Which is a shame since so many great actors are in it. B-

A Daniel Day Lewis period piece is bound to get just about anyone's attention. Attach Spielberg to the directing position and add Tommy Lee Jones to it and you have a movie guaranteed to get me in the seat. Regardless of his previous lackluster efforts, Lincoln boasts great performances and signature Spielberg camerawork. It still is missing something though. A rewatch will be needed. Until then, B.

Burton's best since Big Fish. His love of Universal horror is on full fledge display here. B


Washington delivers his best performance in years and the opening plane crash proves Zemeckis still has it in him. B

Cabin In the Woods

One of the biggest surprises of the year. This is what horror needs more of. B+


10. Silver Linings Playbook

Russell hasn't really crafted anything of note since Three Kings. Thankfully, he found the cast that helped him change that situation. While the bulk of the cast are good performers, the MVP is Lawrence, whose chemistry with Bradley Cooper keeps the film walking a tightrope between the familiar and the unpredictable. B+

9. Prometheus (B+)

(see September archive review)

8. Argo

Affleck's scriptwriting is at its peak. He has yet to craft a masterpiece, but Argo shows he is more than capable. Every scene of tension is earned. A-

7. Django Unchained 
If any trait can be culled from the many that Tarantino possesses, it is that he knows how to write fully realized characters. Dr. King and Calvin Candie became two of the highlight characters of this veritable buffet of dialogue. It is a lot looser than previous Tarantino films as far as structure. Yet it coheres in a way that Basterds does. As a friend from Radio Isn't Dead put it, Tarantino is at the point where he makes film that are his own genre. Django Unchained isn't a comedy, western or action film. It is a Quentin Tarantino film. A-

6. Looper

Director Rian Johnson’s debut feature was the awesome Brick, a pulpy noir set in a modern day high school. It established him as someone to watch, and he makes good on his early promise here with Looper, a film that borrows from literally every other time travel science fiction film ever made and yet still manages to be fiercely original. A film that backed away from making diagrams with straws and instead made fully realized characters and story developments. A

5. Paradise Lost: Purgatory


4. Skyfall 

Like Batman & Robin was for the Batman franchise, Die Another Day became the black cloud that the franchise kinda needed. You can only go so far into sell-them-toys mode until you have Batty whipping out a credit card. Or in Bond's case, driving invisible cars and jumping onto Playstation- level CGI ice chunks.  Thus, a silver lining was created in 2006 with Casino Royale. The 'Batman Begins' of the series. Daniel Craig was a fresh splash of water in the face of a stale formula. A man only Martin Riggs would be capable to go toe to toe with. Yet the potential wasn't fully realized because we still didn't get the Bond film we deserved in terms of story. Well, it took two movies and we finally got what we wanted. Ian Fleming would be proud. A+

3. Killer Joe
Some counties away from the Firefly clan, lives a family intent on casting themselves in their own little personal hell.  As if Texas didn't have enough problems with Leatherface, Anton Chigurh and the Firefly family, they know have brought a new terror into the world- Joe Cooper. A+

2. The Master 

The Master defies easy interpretation, is at times frustrating to watch, but continues to remain endlessly fascinating months after viewing. It’s a story of a man searching for purpose in a world without meaning for him, and he finds a man who’s doing much the same, although with false intentions. These characters are so complex that we often reinvent them in our own heads as the film progresses; only when the story concludes do we realize that this has been a tragedy all along. I think this is one of the most sharp, assured character studies ever made. It is far and away PTA's most oblique picture. His Eyes Wide Shut. Phoenix is outstanding, remarkably so, reinventing himself, and Hoffman commands in an equally important role. This is a dense, deliberate, abstract film, but it’s also a great one. (A+)

1. Cloud Atlas 

This film’s vision is unprecedented, a 172-minute magnum opus to humanity about the emotions we all feel, utilizing six different storylines spanning hundreds of years; it’s sprawling, it’s dense, but above all it’s grounded in human emotion. I don't think a full on, let's stay true to the novel version could have been possible. (i.e. what Coens did with No Country) But the choices the creators did in adapting by folding minor characters and subplots into larger plots and more prescient characters, the story arcs are able to coalesce into something fun, action packed, dramatic and entertaining.


One of the defining characteristics of villians like Tommy DeVito and Frank Booth is just how funny they are. Gyp takes these characteristics in stride. Turning a 'funny ha-ha' scene to a scene that makes an viewer shift in their seat at the flip of a coin.


1. Swans- The Seer
2. Fiona Apple- The Idler Wheel
3. Godspeed You Black Emperor- Allelujah! Dont Bend! Ascend!
4. Killer Mike- R.A.P. Music
5. Scott Walker- Bisch Bosch
6. Ne Obliviscarios- Portal of I
7. Rush- Clockwork Angels

(in somewhat chronological order of reading)

The Stranger by Albert Camus
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
The Thin Red Line by James Jones
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Haunted by Chuck Palhaniuk
Choke by Chuck Palhaniuk
A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Conner
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
On Writing by Stephen King
The Stand by Stephen King
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
Boy's Life by Robert McCammon
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Serial Killers: The Methods and Madness of Murder by Peter Vronsky
The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller
Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) by Carol Travers & Eliot Aaronson
Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story by D.T. Max

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Top 100 #32: The Elephant Man

Whenever someone brings up Lynch, you are liable to hear 1 of three things brought up: Blue Velvet, Eraserhead and Twin Peaks. He knows how to scare, bewilder and transfix his audiences in a sublime awe that lingers in the memory well beyond the closing credits. What is not brought up so often is just how much of a heart the guy has for subjects such as this one.

Deformed people and what people label as freaks have been a morbid fascination to me for many years. This harkens back all the way to Tod Browning's Freaks. The subject of John Merrick is something of an obssession to me. That such an intellectual man could be burdened with such intense disfigurement and ridicule from society is heartbreaking in itself.

This was the first film of Lynch's I had seen. I didn't know who David Lynch was. Neither did I know what his second feature had in store for me. By the time Adagio For Strings started playing at the end, I was completely drained. It was a spiritually transformative and devastating experience. I seldom watch the film because, like Dear Zachary and Schindler's List, it is a film that transcends the medium itself. One that you have to be ready for to take on because you know the power it has over you. Thank you David Lynch for creating a film that having only seen it twice, has had a tremendous impact on me and the understanding of the human condition. But above all else, thank you John Merrick for bestowing upon us the world one of kindest, endearing spirits our frightened world has known.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Top 100 #91: Being There

91. Being There

A simple, timid man who comes off as ponderous and complex. Not only because of his metaphors, but the way he is dressed. Only Peter Sellers could have pulled off such a performance. It takes on an almost Coen-esque point of view in terms of a simple man falling into extroardinary circumstances by chance (no pun intended). Chauncy Gardener is a character of such peculiar engineering that he demanded a film and just the right actor to play him. Hal Ashby found that film and Peter Sellers found that character.