Review: Belladonna of Sadness (Japan 1973)

Wow, that was one hell of an acid trip of a movie. A remaster and re-release of an early animated film produced by Osamu Tezuka, this film is completely unique, the closest comparison being the more outré works of Ralph Bakshi like Heavy Traffic or Wizards, or the folkloric prologue to Watership Down. Continue reading

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Review: Joe (USA 1970)

Joe has a weird, outsized reputation that contrasts with its relative obscurity – it is a film more talked about than watched. And Joe is a truly odd duck, a Cannon-produced hippie-sploitation movie that points an accusing finger at the feckless drug-addicted youth (Susan Sarandon and her friends), the detached upper crust (Dennis Patrick, as her advertising exec father) and particularly the square working class, embodied by Peter Boyle as the titular Joe. Continue reading

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Review: Lost in Paris aka Paris pieds nus (France/Belgium 2016)

God, I love when a movie really knows how to use color.  Most films nowadays experiment with monochrome or tints, but Lost in Paris is full of old school technicolor, Jacques Demy-flavor colors – luminescent greens, candy reds, blues and yellows that jump right out of the screen.  And all in the service of a delightful little pop confection – the story of two goofballs falling in love, set against a magical realist Paris that constantly teeters on the edge of fetishization without crossing the line (the “Woody Allen Line”™) . Continue reading

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Review: Tatara Samurai (Japan 2017)

Tatara Samurai is a modern, big budgeted jidaigeki (period film) following a peasant blacksmith who attempts to reject his traditional role and small town life in order to become a samurai, set against the backdrop of Oda Nobunaga’s rise to power and the close of the Warring States period. The film is handsomely mounted and impeccably composed, but it lacks a spark to distinguish itself from similar tales and ultimately falls into the same staid trap as so many jidaigeki. Continue reading

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Review: The Neon Demon (France/Denmark/USA 2016)

Nicholas Winding Refn’s fable-like dissection of the feminine beauty standard is a truly odd duck. Visually gorgeous, and cold as ice, this story of a young model’s attempts to make it in Los Angeles often zags when you expect it to zig, and takes a sharp left turn into the allegorical in its final act. Continue reading

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Review: Twin Dragons aka Brother vs. Brother (Hong Kong 1992)

Twin Dragons is simultaneously very stupid and very fun.  The tale of two brothers, separated at birth and both played by Jackie Chan, is both a cross-cultural fish-out-of-water tale and a rollicking action flick.  It’s not one of the better Jackie Chan films and, in some respects, signposted some of his weaker efforts to come, but is still packed with breathtaking stunts and innovative fight scenes. Continue reading

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Review: Seoul Station aka 서울역 (South Korea 2016)

Seoul Station is an animated prequel to one of my favorite genre films of last year, the chaotic zombie thriller Train to Busan (reviewed here).  I say prequel, but as a practical matter, Seoul Station is less a prequel than another story set on the same chaotic night of the outbreak.  While the story is set in and around Seoul Station, none of the characters from the live action film are featured, and no explanation for the outbreak is offered.  More importantly, Seoul Station lacks Busan‘s high concept – setting the action on a moving train careening through the downfall of civilization.  Still, if you enjoyed Busan and like a good zombie thriller, Seoul Station will more than scratch that itch. Continue reading

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Review: Whiplash (USA 2014)

Whiplash is a perfect example of a mediocre narrative redeemed by an outstanding finale. J.K. Simmons is great – he has always been great since making his first splash on Oz – but this film doesn’t ask him to stretch beyond his customary abrasive, foul-mouthed persona. Continue reading

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Review: The Mermaid (China 2016)

It may have been a colossal moneymaker, but The Mermaid is pretty far from Stephen Chow’s finest. Still, this bizarre take on The Little Mermaid is damn funny, with all the slapdash CGI and manic hijinks that have come to define late period Chow. Continue reading

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Sir Roger Moore, RIP at 89

I don’t think anyone can argue that Roger Moore was the best Bond – Sean Connery was too indelible in the role and Daniel Craig has been giving him a run for his money (though he is too frequently let down by his scripts). And I don’t think anyone can argue he was in the best Bond films (Goldfinger, Casino Royale, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and From Russia with Love are just so damn good, despite the greatness of ). But when I was a kid, growing up in the ‘80s, Roger Moore was my Bond. Continue reading

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