Friday, February 23, 2018

Dante Lam’s Operation Red Sea

Like the Wolf Warrior franchise, Hong Kong action auteur Dante Lam’s latest Mainland production was largely funded by the PLA and supported with extensive in-kind donations of military hardware. At least in this case, we get their money’s worth. Apparently, the military granted Lam’s every over-the-top request and the results are all up there on the screen when Operation Red Sea opens today in New York.

Basically, Red Sea is a loose thematic sequel to Lam’s blockbuster, Operation Mekong. This time around, the military takes center stage and the ripped-from-the-headlines story is based on 2015 evacuation of Chinese nationals from Yemen. Refreshingly, there are no western bad guys. Instead, they are Middle Eastern terrorists and Somali pirates (in the prologue). Sure, there is flag-waving, but it is not nearly as distracting as in the Wolf Warrior films.

Given the evacuation plot, Red Sea bears some resemblance to Wolf Warrior 2, but the action scenes, also choreographed by Lam, far exceed anything in Wu Jing’s hit duology. To a large extent, the film is one long action sequence, as one rescue mission begets another and eventually morphs into an operation to recover stolen yellowcake from a mad mullah. If you think that sounds like a criticism, you are sorely mistaken. Lam pulls out all the stops, giving us infiltrations, drone warfare, house-to-house combat, sniper duels, tank battles, helicopter attacks, and hand-to-hand combat during the mother of all dust storms.

Arguably, it is halfway realistic too, since a number of Jiaolong commandos are killed in the line of duty. Frankly, Lam does not spend a lot of time on boring old character development. Jiang Luxia’s Tong Li probably stands out the most, simply because she is a woman (who has no trouble hanging with her male colleagues). Ironically, the most memorable performance comes from Hai Qing, as French-Chinese reporter Xia Nan. Eventually, we learn became so driven to expose terrorists because her husband and young son were murdered in the 7/7 London bombings, which is a nice character development touch.

Red Sea is just a pedal-to-the-medal action movie that constantly doubles, triples, and quadruples down on explosions, mayhem, and blood & guts. In terms of sheer spectacle, it is tough to beat. Alas, Lam pays the piper with a closing shot across the bow basically warning the world better stay out of the South China Sea, if we know what’s good for us, but up until then, it goes down pretty smooth. Highly recommended for action fans, Operation Red Sea opens today (2/23) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

Princess Cyd (2017)

Utterly wonderful film about a 16 year old girl who goes to stay with her aunt for a summer and ends up falling for a barista working at the local coffee shop.

This is a great romance that transcends the cliché of the genres this is a film that truly makes you care about the people at its center as people and not as one thing or another. Not only is the film not forcing a choice upon Cyd as to guys or girls Allowing her to be fluid, the film also doesn’t judge. There is no real big deal about who Cyd is interested in. It may sound like no big deal but in so many similar films the choice is everything, here it doesn’t matter so much as Cyd finds a place for her heart to call home. I was absolutely delighted.

I was also delighted that for most of the film everything seemed real. Yes it’s clear that director Stephen Cone is trying to manipulate things for some deeper meaning, but at the same time the kick ass cast subvert him and make this a film about the people at it’s core.

Highly recommended, this is one of those films that I cursed myself about after I saw it since I could have seen it so much earlier than Netflix.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Terence Stamp plays at the Metrograph this March

A 15-Film Retrospective of the Rich and Varied Career of the Iconic Actor
Includes Teorema, Poor Cow, The Limey, Far from the Madding Crowd, and more!
Beginning Friday March 23, Metrograph will present a 15-film retrospective of actor Terence Stamp. To say that Stamp was a handsome young man is as unnecessary as observing that the sky is blue—in his 1962 film debut, Billy Budd, he plays nothing less than Herman Melville’s paragon of male beauty. But Stamp, a working-class son of London, is one hell of a fine actor, too, a fact that 1960s lions like Pier Paolo Pasolini, William Wyler, Joseph Losey, Ken Loach and Federico Fellini took full advantage of. Past his ingenue years, the always-commanding Stamp has had a rich and varied career, from Superman II to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to the hard-boiled neo-noir of The Limey, which allowed him to dust off the cockney accent of his boyhood. “I just decided I was a character actor now,” he’s said of leaving the ‘60s behind, “and I can do anything.”
Billy Budd (Peter Ustinov/1962/123 mins/35mm)
A film debut for the ages, Billy Budd has the supernally gorgeous Stamp in the title role, a pure-of-spirit recruit on a circa 1797 British naval ship whose radiance draws the ire of master-of-arms John Claggart, one of the most menacing looming sociopaths ever played by Robert Ryan-which is saying something. Director Ustinov co-stars, while DP Robert Krasker gives us maritime splendor and below deck intrigue in widescreen black-and-white.

The Collector (William Wyler/1965/119 mins/DCP)
A late triumph for studio-era veteran Wyler, who turned down The Sound of Music (!) to instead make this skin-crawling study in obsession. Wyler’s film takes full advantage of the new license of the 1960s in depicting Stamp as a mentally-unbalanced lepidopterist and Samantha Eggar as the art student crush who becomes an unwilling human addition to his collection in this harrowing, psychologically acute adaptation from John Fowles’ novel.

Modesty Blaise (Joseph Losey/1966/119 mins/DCP)
Stamp is the Cockney cat-burglar partner to Monica Vitti’s titular spy seductress and jewel thief in Losey’s one-of-a-kind, eye-popping Pop art comedy/thriller, which pits our sleek twosome against camp criminal genius Dirk Bogarde, with Tina Aumont in on the action and outlandish ultramodern sets in DeLuxe Color- just in case there wasn’t already quite enough decorative decadence.

Far from the Madding Crowd (John Schlesinger/1967/168 mins/35mm)
The dashing, dandyish Sergeant Troy of Thomas Hardy’s canonical 1874 novel finds his perfect interpreter in Stamp, here vying with Peter Finch and Alan Bates for the attentions of headstrong (and very lucky) lass Julie Christie, fresh off her Oscar for director Schlesinger’s Darling. The backdrop of rolling, picturesque, unspoiled green English countryside would be beautiful shot by almost anybody, but when the cinematographer is Nicolas Roeg, the results are otherworldly.

Poor Cow (Ken Loach/1967/101 mins/DCP)

Young Cockney mother Carol White’s no-good husband is in the slammer, so she doesn’t think twice when Stamp’s dashing young burglar comes a-calling. Loach’s deeply empathetic slice of working-class life is invested with a raw vigor by vivacious camerawork which explores the grotty backstreets and pub locals that make up the character’s world. A prequel of sorts to Soderbergh’s The Limey, which lifts its flashback scenes from Loach’s film.

Teorema (Pier Paolo Pasolini/1968/98 mins/35mm)
Toby Dammit (Federico Fellini/1968/37 mins/35mm)

If it’s 1968 and one is making a movie about a mysterious, irresistible stranger who drops into the home of a Milanese industrialist and then proceeds to methodically seduce the patriarch and his entire family, there’s only one man for the job—and Pasolini made the obvious choice. Italian stars Massimo Girotti and Silvana Mangano are heads of the household, but it is the blue-eyed Christ-devil Stamp and his painted-on slacks that are in control here. Screening with Toby Dammit, Fellini’s very loose, endorphin rush adaptation of Poe’s “Never Bet the Devil Your Head” with Stamp as a supremely dissipated, translucently pale English actor own into Rome for an awards ceremony, assailed by leering faces and lurid images from the moment he sets foot on the tarmac.
Superman II (Richard Lester/1980/127 mins/35mm)
Playing General Zod in the 1978 Superman proved the unexpected beginning of a professional renaissance for Stamp, who reprised the role in this spectacular 1980 sequel, which finds Christopher Reeve’s Man of Steel relinquishing his powers to pursue a human romance with Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane, only to meet assault on all fronts led by Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor and Stamp’s Zod, a villainous performance for the ages. Print courtesy of the Tarantino Archives.

The Company of Wolves (Neil Jordan/1984/95 mins/35mm)
Jordan’s juicy Gothic fantasy is a fractured fairy tale sprung from the short stories of Angela Carter, visualizing the macabre, often erotic, and always astonishing dreams of a disturbed adolescent girl, whose fevered visions include the landscape of production designer Anton Furst’s magic forest, marvelous lycanthropic transformations done via old-school analog effects, and a certain uncredited actor in the role of the Devil himself.

The Hit (Stephen Frears/1984/98 mins/35mm)
The cream of English screen acting is on display in Frears’ auspicious, underseen feature debut, in which turncoat gangster Terence Stamp is ferreted out of hiding in his Spanish villa by two hitmen-old pro John Hurt and youthful hothead Tim Roth, taking their quarry on the road while police inspector Fernando Rey follows in hot pursuit, acquiring firebrand Laura del Sol, and a heavy load of problems, along the way.
Alien Nation (Graham Baker/1988/91 mins/35mm)
A neo-noir-inflected high-concept sci-fi cult cop movie done in high ‘80s style, Los Angeles-set Alien Nation imagines the difficulties facing a city striving to assimilate a population of 300,000 alien “Newcomers” after they crash land in the Mojave Desert. Veteran detective James Caan is unhappily teamed with alien partner Mandy Patinkin, but puts prejudice aside to go after a crime kingpin: Stamp, smashing in the leopard print pate of a Newcomer.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliott/1994/104 mins/35mm)
With a date to take the stage at a casino in faraway Alice Springs, Australia, a fabulous foursome leave Sydney to blaze a flaming trail across the outback together. Stamp’s transgender Bernadette joins drag queens Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) and Felicia (Guy Pearce), and their beat-up lavender tour bus, Priscilla. Along the way they stand up to intolerance with humor and goodwill, scale landmark Uluru in drag, and look for a little more much-deserved happiness. “I was less stunning than I’d hoped,” Stamp said of his first turn as a female lead.

Bowfinger (Frank Oz/1999/97 mins/35mm)
Steve Martin writes and stars as flim-flam man producer Bobby Bowfinger, planning to shoot his action masterpiece Chubby Rain with megastar Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) in the lead role. This is complicated by the fact that Ramsey refuses to star in the movie, which calls for hidden cameras and a sweet, nerdy “double,” Ji (Murphy, again). With Heather Graham as a ruthless wannabe actress, and the finest Cahiers du Cinema cameo in American movies of the 1990’s.

The Limey (Steven Soderbergh/1999/89 mins/35mm)
Career criminal Stamp lands in Los Angeles to ferret out his daughter’s murderers, and God help whoever stands in his way. With excerpts of Poor Cow, jigsaw puzzle editing gambits that recall John Boorman’sPoint Blank (1967), Peter Fonda as a Big Sur-based ex-hippie-ish heavy, and Stamp returning to his East London roots, The Limey has all the elements of a pure throwback, but manages at the same time to feel bracingly turn-of-the-millennium. An elegant and deadly object.

Pacino's Way March 14-30 and SALOME & WILDE SALOME at the Quad

The Quad announces the full lineup for New York's first Al Pacino retrospective, with over 30 titles—23 on 35mm—from early classics The Godfather, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon, to lesser-known entries like Bobby Deerfield, to experimental directorial efforts Chinese Coffee, Looking for Richard and beyond

Coinciding with the March 30 U.S. theatrical premiere engagements of Pacino's Wilde Salomé and its companion piece Salomé

In the early 1970s, Al Pacino soared into the stratosphere, becoming a certifiable superstar within the space of a few years. He galvanized film after film with a nervy urgency and thrilling line delivery that generations of moviegoers can quote from memory. His career on both sides of the camera has been marked by all-in commitment, restlessness, and risk-taking. Alternating theatre and film portrayals well into the 21st century, he has merged performance styles between mediums and to that end has made hybrid passion projects in which, as he suggests, “the more naturalistic, photogenic qualities of film complement the language-driven essence of classical theatre.” He is a force of nature—and a quintessential New York actor through and through. The Quad is proud to present the first extensive retrospective of his work to be held in the city, coinciding with the long-awaited U.S. theatrical premiere on March 30 of his documentary-drama Wilde Salomé (2011), and its companion piece Salomé (2013). We're thrilled to bring this master performer back to Greenwich Village, where he lived in his late teens and where he came of age as a young actor. As he puts it, “This is a homecoming for me.” Welcome home, Al!

With Al Pacino in person at select screenings

...and justice for all. Norman Jewison, 1979, U.S.,119m, 35mm
Any Given Sunday Oliver Stone, 1999, 162m, U.S., 35mm
Bobby Deerfield Sidney Pollack, 1977, U.S., 124m, 35mm
Carlito’s Way Brian De Palma, 1993, 144m, U.S., 35mm
Chinese Coffee Al Pacino, 2000, U.S., 99m, HDCam
City Hall Harold Becker, 1996, U.S., 111m, 35mm
Cruising William Friedkin, 1980, U.S., 102m, 35mm
The Devil’s Advocate Taylor Hackford, 1997, U.S./Germany, 144m, 35mm
Dick Tracy Warren Beatty, 1990, US, 105m, DCP
Dog Day Afternoon Sidney Lumet, 1975, U.S., 130m, 35mm
Donnie Brasco Mike Newell, 1997, U.S., 127m, 35mm
Frankie and Johnny Garry Marshall, 1991, U.S., 118m, 35mm
Glengarry Glen Ross James Foley, 1992, U.S., 100m, 35mm
The Godfather Francis Ford Coppola, 1972, U.S., 175m, 35mm
The Godfather, Part II Francis Ford Coppola, 1974, U.S., 200m, 35mm
Heat Michael Mann, 1995, U.S., 170m, DCP
The Humbling Barry Levinson, 2014, U.S./Italy, 112m, DCP
The Insider Michael Mann, 1999, U.S., 157, 35mm
Insomnia Christopher Nolan, 2002, U.S., 118m, 35mm
The Local Stigmatic David F. Wheeler, 1990, U.S., 56m, HDCam
Looking for Richard Al Pacino, 1996, U.S., 111m, 35mm
Manglehorn David Gordon Green, 2014, U.S., 97m, DCP
The Merchant of Venice Michael Radford, 2004, U.S./Italy/Luxembourg/UK, 131m, 35mm
The Panic in Needle Park Jerry Schatzberg, 1971, U.S., 110m, 35mm
Revolution Hugh Hudson, 1985, UK, 115m, DCP
Scarecrow Jerry Schatzberg, 1973, U.S., 112m, 35mm
Scarface Brian De Palma, 1983, U.S., 170m, 35mm
Scent of a Woman Martin Brest, 1992, U.S., 157m, 35mm
Sea of Love Harold Becker, 1989, U.S., 113m, 35mm
Serpico Sidney Lumet, 1973, U.S., 130m, 35mm
You Don't Know Jack Barry Levinson, 2010, U.S., 134m, DCP

Salomé & Wilde Salomé

Opening Fri March 30 — Exclusive New York egagement
Al Pacino, 2013/2011, U.S., 81m/95m, DCP
Banned from public performance in the UK for 40 years, Oscar Wilde’s wildly controversial 1891 one-act play Salomé has been a long-standing obsession for Al Pacino. After holding a reading in 2003, Pacino brought the play to the stage in 2006 (with a cast including then-newcomer Jessica Chastain in the title role and Pacino himself as King Herod) and shot for this electrifying film version. Wilde Salomé, in the tradition of Pacino’s Looking for Richard, goes behind the scenes and explores the actor/director’s ongoing fascination with the play and its author. Together, these two films—screening here in their first-ever NYC engagements—create a fascinating diptych and provide a window into the artistic mind and process of one of our greatest performers.

Philip K. Dick ’18: Sound from the Deep (short)

It is like At the Mountains of Madness for the era of climate change. H.P. Lovecraft is indeed the loving and sinister inspiration for this tale of primeval arctic horror, but it has an international flavor the scribe from Providence would have had a hard time relating to. The Arctic Ocean is a cold, dark place that was better shunned by mankind in Antti Laakso & Joonas Allonen’s short film, Sound from the Deep, which screens during the 2018 Philip K. Dick Film Festival.

Mikael Aalto is a Finnish grad student, who joined a joint Scandinavia-Russian petroleum prospecting vessel as a research fellow, under the tutelage of his mentor, Prof. Norberg. Their mission was to search for oil and natural gas deposits in the regions of the ocean recently opened to navigation due to polar melting. Unfortunately, they have nothing to show for their efforts until Aalto picks up a strange noise on his instruments. Norberg convinces the captain to take a detour to investigate, arguing it must be a large pocket of natural gas. However, Aalto and Sofia, the Russian sonar specialist, are not so sure.

At a tight and tense twenty-nine minutes, Sound might just be the purest and most effective Lovecraft homage yet. It is also massively impressive from a simple logistical perspective. Laakso and Allonen have a legit looking Arctic cutter that they put through some very stormy seas. They have scenes that are more cinematic than anything in The Perfect Storm. Yes, there is also something Elder God-ish, but they vary it slightly from strict Lovecraftian mythos.

Sound is so impeccably Lovecraftian, it starts with Aalto telling his cautionary story, mindful that his listener most likely assumes he is mad. Ojala Eero is perfect as the accursed survivor, cover the spectrum from an awkwardly cerebral rational positivist to the profoundly shaken doomsayer. Nastasia Trizna is also scary convincing portraying Sofia’s mental deterioration.

Thanks to Ville Muurinen’s sweeping cinematography, Sound is one of the rare short films that truly deserves to be seen on a big screen. The creature effects are also terrific. Anyone who appreciates ambitious genre filmmaking will be fired up by what Laakso & Allonen have to offer, but Lovecraft fans will absolutely flip for it. Very highly recommended, Sound from the Deep screens this Saturday (2/24) as part Block Four: International Sci-Fi Shorts 2, at this year’s Philip K. Dick Film Festival.

The Perfect Breakfast (2018) Peninsula Film Festival 2018

David Bornstein, the mad man behind the wonderfully twisted A KING'S BETRAYAL, is back with THE PERFECT BREAKFAST a film about one woman trying to make the perfect breakfast.

This is a very very funny film that is impossible to describe without ruining. An essentially one five minute set piece that gets funnier and funnier as it goes (and the more times you see it since you notice things). This is a finely crafted physical comedy that does a 180 in the end credits for an absolutely funny verbal gag.

I roared with laughter every time I saw the film.

Not to put too fine a point on it Bornstein is a comic genius. His shorts have been perfect little confections the likes of which we haven't seen since the Golden Age of Classic Comedy so I have to ask when  will someone give him the cash for a feature? I want to see what he'll do with 90 minutes.

THE PERFECT BREAKFAST is highly recommended.

THE PERFECT BREAKFAST recently played in the Peninsula Film Festival and has numerous other festival screening upcoming including Crossroads Film Festival and Sunderland Short Film Festival

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Inaugural Dr. Saul and Dorothy Kit Film Noir Festival: March 21-25

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of: Paris 1946 and American Film Noir

Wednesday–Sunday, March 21–25, 2018

Programmed by Rob King, Associate Professor, Film and Media Studies, Columbia University School of the Arts. Most films shown on 35mm. Click here or see below for full schedule.

The Lenfest Center for the Arts, Columbia University
615 West 129th Street, New York, NY 10027

Paris 1946. The war is over and American films are once again in Parisian theaters. The French immediately notice a shift in the sensibility of Hollywood’s crime films. They call it noir.

This festival—the first in a ten-year series exclusively devoted to the legacy of film noir—returns us to that pivotal moment in film history some seven decades ago. For its inaugural year, the Kit Noir Festival will present eight of the films that screened in France that season and inspired the label film noir. #kitnoir

Wednesday, March 21
7:30 pm: Keynote Lecture by James Naremore, University of Indiana, followed by a reception
Free with registration
The Lantern

Thursday, March 22
7:30 pm: The Maltese Falcon
Buy tickets
The Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room

Friday, March 23
7:30 pm: Double Indemnity
Buy tickets
The Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room

Saturday, March 24
12:00 pm: The Lodger
Buy tickets
The Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room

3:00 pm: Laura
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The Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room

5:00 pm: Notes on Film Noir in 2018: Paul Schrader in Conversation with Annette Insdorf
Free with registration
The Lantern

7:00 pm: Murder, My Sweet
Buy tickets
The Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room

Sunday, March 25
1:00 pm: The Suspect
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The Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room

3:30 pm: Phantom Lady, followed by a lecture by Thomas Elsaesser, Film & Media Studies**
Buy tickets
The Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room

7:00 pm: Scarlet Street
Buy tickets
The Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room

This festival is funded by a generous gift from alumnus Gordon Kit (Columbia College ’76), in honor of his parents.

Tickets: $12 General Admission / $10 Seniors (65 and older) / $8 Student*
Packages: $40 for four films / $75 for all eight films
Advance ticket sales available online only
Day-of screening ticket sales available on-site, pending availability
Festival on-site box office hours:
Thursday, March 22 starting at 5 pm
Friday, March 23 starting at 5 pm
Saturday, March 24 starting at 11 am
Sunday, March 25 starting at 12 pm

*FREE CU Student Rush for students with a current CUID: A Student Rush Line will form 30 minutes prior to each screening in the Lenfest lobby, and valid student CUID holders will be admitted beginning 10 minutes prior to each screening, pending availability. The number of available student rush seats will vary for each screening and are not guaranteed. To secure a guaranteed seat for any screening, discounted $8 student tickets are available in advance.

**Pending availability, free admission will be available for the March 25 lecture by Thomas Elsaesser following the screening of Phantom Lady. A line will form in the Lenfest Center lobby beginning at 4:45 pm.

Artists and programs subject to change without notice. Photography and recording devices prohibited. All sales final. No refunds. No exchanges.

For more information, contact

One of the very best films of 2017- LIYANA plays at NYICFF this weekend

I saw LIYANA at the LA Film Festival last June and I haven't stopped talking about it. It was one of the very best films I saw in 2017 . It is also one of the best films on storytelling I've ever run across. It is one of the absolute must sees at NYICFF this weekend.It ill play again on March 11 (For tickets go here)

To be honest I am not really sure what I think of Liyana- and that is a good thing because it means I can keep thinking about it. The film a mix of documentary and “animated story” is a one of a kind film and one of the most special cinematic experiences I’ve had all year. When the film was done I was trying to reach the PR people to see if the filmmakers had sent the film to certain other film festivals and GKids. I needed to know that the film was going to find it’s audience.

As I said at the start the film is a two part one. The documentary portion of the film follows a group of kids in Swaziland who come together to create a story with the help of Gcina Mhlophe . We watch as they go through their lives and create the story. The animated portion of the film story is the story the kids come up with. The story is about a young girl named Liyana who has to go off and rescue her two younger brothers who have been kidnapped and the grand adventure it becomes. It is a story based on their lives and they tell it with absolute perfection.

That the kids tell the story is what makes the film so magical, these kids are born storytellers. They act it out and do voices and explain what we need to know and they just sell it to the moon and back. I want these kids to create more stories and I want them to tell them. I want a whole series of films where we go from the kids telling the story to to seeing the story and back again. As it’s done here it just blows you away. Yea the animation is minimal, but the art is beyond glorious and coupled with the voices of the storytellers, you don't care. You're just being carried along

As I was watching the film all I could think was “am I really seeing this? Are these kids really that good?”

Hell yea.

I was blown away.

To be honest I had no idea what this film was. I was simply asked to review the film by the PR person who mentioned animation and I simply said yes. I had no idea that what I was going to be seeing a film that was going to make stare at the screen in wide eyed wonder.

Liyana is magic of the best kind

An absolute must see- one of the great finds of 2017 and probably one of the best films as well. Certainly it is one of the best films on the art of stories and storytelling I've ever run across.

November (2017) opens Friday

I saw this film last year in connection to the Tribeca Film Festival. With the film opening Friday I'm reposting the review.

After the first press screening for Tribeca my friends who attended it described it as both the best film at the festival and the worst- at the same time. Having seen the film myself I completely understand why they said that. A film of singular vision it has sequences that will make you sit wide eyed and slack jaw at the beauty and raw power of them, while at other times the film just boggles the mind making you wonder what they were thinking. Either way the film is a masterpiece and grand piece of cinematic art.

The film is set in a time when Christianity and pagan beliefs intermingle. The dead come home on All Saints Day for a meal, the Devil can your soul in exchange for magic, and people do turn into werewolves. Everyone steals from everyone else. As everyone tries to get by with as little effort as possible a girl named Liina falls hopelessly in love with a boy named Hans and pines for him so much she turns into a werewolf.

I’m only touching on the plot of the film. There is great deal going on the film but not a lot of it lays together in any sort of narrative arc. This is a film which has its mind more on the ideas it is playing with. Do we need a soul? What is the nature of being alive? Is the purpose of life to work? The thin narrative is used to string together a series of scenes that kind of explore these ideas and others.

Visually arresting the black and white photography will take your breath away. Squalor has never looked this good. This is a film where the images instantly transports you into another time and place. It’s a film that reminded me of the monochrome work of Andre Tarkovsky, Bela Tarr, Jim Jarmusch or Aleksei German. And not only visually narratively the film echoes some of the best work of these but other directors as well. Everything seems other worldly. The monochrome sheen creates pure a place that by passes our conscious mind and goes straight into the center where our dreams live.

Sequences play out as waking dreams the opening bit where one of the kratts steals a cow and flies it back to its master is one of the most amazing things you’ll see all year. Even though you’ll know how it was done you’ll still marvel at how real it plays. All the scenes with the kratts are some of the best in the film. The kratts are creatures made from farm tools that are given life by the devil in exchange by the devil (think something from a Jan Svankmajer or Quay Brothers film). They have to work or they will die- though giving them an impossible task can result in unfortunate results.

If you’ll notice I’m only speaking of the film in pieces and that is because in many ways the film does not hang together. As amazing as the film is in its parts, it never quite hangs together some sequences are just strange, others ramble on with no clear point and others don’t quite work. Things don’t always link up and we have to connect a good number of dots. The result moments where our spirits soar are occasionally followed by ones where we are moving through mayonnaise. It’s extremely frustrating and makes you want to scream at the screen.

And yet despite the films problems I would argue the film is must see.

The moments that work, the visuals and many of the thematic elements keep the film from completely crashing and burning. As several of my fellow writers told me when they saw the film a month ago said-this is among the best and the worst films you’ll see all year at the same time. This is a film that is truly a singular vision and the work of a completely and utterly mad director. Love it or hate it when you are done seeing NOVEMBER you will know you have seen a film.

If you want to see something special, if you want to see a film that is unlike anything else and which will make your mouth hang open in wonder even as it bumping around then you must see NOVEMBER which is one of the best films and one of the worst films you will ever see.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


DATE/TIME: Monday, April 2, 2018
LOCATION: Long Island Museum, Gillespie Rm.
1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook, New York, 11790
TICKET PRICES: $7.00 general admission, tickets@ door (No credit cards please!)

When she was a young lawyer, Kholoud Al-Faqih walked into the office of Palestine’s Chief Justice and announced she wanted to join the bench. He laughed at her. But just a few years later, Kholoud became the first woman judge to be appointed to the Middle East’s Shari’a (Islamic law) courts. THE JUDGE offers a unique portrait of Judge Kholoud—her brave journey as a lawyer, her tireless fight for justice for women, and her drop-in visits with clients, friends, and family. With unparalleled access to the courts, THE JUDGE presents an unfolding legal drama, providing rare insight into both Islamic law and gendered justice.

In the process, the film illuminates some of the universal conflicts in the domestic life of Palestine —custody of children, divorce, abuse—while offering an unvarnished look at life for women under Shari’a.

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson/ Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, the Port Jefferson documentary Series brings directors, producers or stars of each film into the theater for an up-close and personal question-and-answer session. Our guest speaker will be the director, Erika Cohn.

Running Time: 76 minutes; Year: 2017; Country: Palestine; Language: Arabic, subtitles in English

PORT JEFFERSON DOCUMENTARY SERIES ( is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
and the New York State Legislature and by the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs, Steve Bellone, County Executive

The Chamber (2016)

Small submarine is commandeered to help retrieve an object at the bottom of the ocean. It would be so easy except that  it is under waters controlled by North Korea. As the sub begins it's search things begin to go wrong beginning with its support ship being boarded. As the crew tries to figure out what to do further complications result in the sub slowly flooding.

Low budget thriller is more talk than action but don't let that put you off since THE CHAMBER is a tense little confection that is likely to keep you from ever going in a submarine. Propelled by excellent direction and a choice cast the film puts keeps you in the thick of things to the point you may want to get up out of your seat and go to the lobby just so you don't feel confined.

While not without its flaws the film still manages to grab you by the throat and keep you watching. Definitely worth a look when the film hits VOD and select theaters on Friday.

Mikhalkov’s Sunstroke

Ivan Bunin was the first Russian to win the Nobel Prize for literature, but that did not exactly thrill the Soviets, since he was living in Paris at the time as a “White émigré.” Among the White or Menshevik-affiliated exiles, Bunin was a rock star, but it was a small group. Nikita Mikhalkov reminds us why so few dissidents escaped the 1920s Red Terror in his fusion of Bunin’s nonfiction Cursed Days and the titular short story. Mikhalkov remains a problematic figure, but there is no question Sunstroke is one of his best films in years, which finally releases today on DVD.

It is 1920. A large contingent of surrendered White officers are being processed for their promised return to Russian society. In exchange for relinquishing their arms and accepting the Soviet state they have even been promised the opportunity to immigrate. It is all very depressing for an honorable officer like the unnamed lieutenant, but his heart was already broken a lifetime ago in 1907. As he endures the boredom and petty indignities of the makeshift POW camp, his mind drifts back to his brief, intoxicating affair with a mystery woman while they were both traveling on a Volga steamship.

Sadly, it would only last one mad night, but the memory still lingers. Even the day after, largely spent in the company of Egoriy, a plucky street urchin takes becomes bittersweet in retrospect. Indeed, the 1907 narrative is classic Bunin, somewhat reminiscent of Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Dog.” In contrast, the 1920 storyline is all Soviet, through and through. It also happens to be the more powerful strand. Although Mikhalkov eventually brings the twains together in a way that genuinely pays off, the 1907 narrative really could have been handled as one or two long flashbacks. In contrast, it is quite haunting to watch the loved-and-lost romantic lieutenant facing the utter end of his era, with dignity and sad resignation. (At least his comrade still has his loyal hunting dog Syabr).

Everyone should generally know how 1920 ended for Russia, but Mikhalkov still manages to surprise us. He is a talented filmmaker, but there is no question he is tainted by his friendship with Putin and his own unprecedented consolidation of power within the Russian film industry. We give him credit for calling for the release of Oleg Sentsov, which he really didn’t have to do, but by defending Russian aggression and imperialism in Ukraine, he has become what he condemns in the third act of Sunstroke and throughout the Burnt By the Sun trilogy.

Regardless, Mikhalkov’s stitching together of Bunin is truly epic in a tragically lyrical way that totally falls within his cinematic wheelhouse. He can balance the dark romanticism of his Dark Eyes with a historical indictment in the tradition of Wajda’s Katyn. Frankly, this film deserves more attention, but it is Mikhalkov’s own darned fault it has not enjoyed the festival love bestowed on his earlier films.

In addition to his bravura filmmaking techniques, Mikhalkov gets the benefit of some fine ensemble work. Milos Bikovic is terrific as Syabr’s owner, the aristocratic naval officer, Baron Nikolay Alexandrovich Gulbe-Levitsky, Vitaliy Kishchenko is wildly but believable unhinged as the defiant cavalry captain, and Kiril Boltaev is wryly sardonic as the Cossack Captain. However, nobody can withstand the furious power of Miriam Sekhorn as Rozaliia Zemliachka, a Communist revolutionary figure and architect of Soviet mass murder. She is just a chilling, show-stopping tour de force. Ironically, Martinsh Kalita and the Ukrainian-born Viktoriya Solovyova aren’t nearly as engaging as the star-crossed lovers.

Mikhalkov is still going big, which pays dividends in this case. This is a mixed bag film (that appears to have been judiciously trimmed for its US home release, with no obvious ill effects), but when it connects, it lands a haymaker. It takes a little work (and requires overlooking Mikhalkov’s politics), but it is worth it. Recommended for fans of Russian cinema and literature, Sunstroke releases today on DVD, from Distrib Films US/Icarus.


Because I can not get to all of the shorts collections at the New York International Children's Film Festival during the festival I did something I hate to do which is see the films before hand. Forgive me. I know seeing films at NYICFF proper is always the way to go because the vibe of being there adds so much to it, but  because my schedule simply couldn't line up- and because there was a change in in the schedule (and because I'm trying to do some interviews with filmmakers)  I simply couldn't see everything

Tickets and show times for all of the collections (and all the other films) can be found here

This is a charming collection of animal related shorts, all but one by the awesome Julia Ocker. I loved them all a great deal and hope that in the years to come the NYICFF programmers can maintain this as a permanent section like the other shorts 

Chaos at a fancy Penguin party

A sloth and ice cream

After an accident a Zebra has troubles with his stripes

A crocodile has problems eating a pretzel stick

Sasha decides to move to the zoo because she is unhappy at home- however each animal she tries to be like has a down side. This only film in the collection not by Julia Ocker and one of the very best.

The two halves of an earth worm ave trouble living together

There are six more shorts screening in the section which I couldn't screen but based on these, they should all be a blast.

Wonderful collection for the youngest viewers, is as always a sheer delight

A baby owl falls out its nest and then has to find it's way home- wonderful.

A young princess has trouble being royal. I'm not sure what it's all about but it turns out really cool.

The smallest man as trouble with chopsticks- the shortest film in the collection is the most trifling.

Amazing animation in the story of an older tram teaching his son. Mom and dad get the tissues ready.

Life in a zoo set to a jazz score

Henriyeti finds a lost sock and sings

There are a couple of additional films in the collection which I was unable to screen before hand but based on these (and the fact one is by the makers of REVOLTING RHYMES) makes me tink they are going to be just as wonderful

This collection of shorts for older kids has some of the most moving and thought provoking films at NYICFF this year. All of the films are about things other than just having a good time and we are all better for it.

President Obama talks about how one voice can change the world. A wonderful piece

At a bus stop, a peacemaker tries to keep things calm

A young woman talks of moving to America to study from Iran

Amazing animated film about packing bags. Rightly nominated for an Oscar.

A woman and a bear share an apartment. The end made me teary

THE FANCIES (Episodes 1& 2)
Cartoon Network shorts about weird creatures and an absolute delight

Grizzly Bear meets Polar Bear as the ice slowly disappears

Beautifully animated piece about a paper cut out person trying to find their place in the world. The animation on this is stunning.

For more information and tickets for any of these collections go here.

ACCIDENCE (2018) Berlin 2018

The opening image
Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson's short film ACCIDENCE is one of the most cinematic things you will see all year. A film made for the big screen, its a ten minute film you will want to see more than once since it there is simply too much to take in.

The film  begins on a balcony where something has happened. The railing is broken away. As a bandaged man sits the camera pulls back to reveal the side of an apartment building where various events are seen to transpire (and which all tie into what has happened- though you'll have to piece it out.

I have no idea what to say. The film is an absolute trip. I went in knowing nothing and came out wanting to watch the film a couple of more times just so I could try and see it all. I still haven't and I'm going to need to see it a few more times to do so.

This film was shot for wide screen since the camera keeps the side of the apartment building with all the balconies with all the action going on firmly in view. It only begins and ends with a relative close up of one balcony pulling out to show us it all in between.  Its a kind of big screen game of I Spy....

I am in awe of this film. Driven by a dreaming score the film does things that only great cinema do which is change how you think and how you see the world. Its fragmented puzzle is something that forces you consider what you are seeing and connect everything up. I'm still working on it despite seeing the film several times.

A truly great film and a must see when it winds it's way across the festival circuit.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Happy 8th Anniversary Unseen Films

Tomorrow Unseen Films turns 8.

Happy Birthday to us.

Frankly after 8 years of daily film reviews, interviews, essays and news posts I’m kind of surprised we are still here and still chugging along. The amount of work that goes into all of this should have killed us (well me) long ago- and considering some twists and turns it damn near almost has…

Actually I’m more amazed that we’ve exploded all over the place. In the last year our readership exploded to the point we now have hundreds of thousands of visits every month. Apparently you and a good number of other people like what we are doing. Thank you for coming along.

As I did last year I’m not going to speculate where we are going. I don’t have a clue. The long planned switch away to a dot com or in this case a dot net just happened by accident. And we lucked into all sorts of really cool things like interviewing some of our favorite filmmakers (Yoshiro Nakamura, Eric Tsang, Bill Pullman and Patrick Meaney), and being interviewed by publications from around the world. None of it was planned it all just happened.

As we slide into our ninth year the future is open. Anything is possible. Right now the only plan outside of continuing what we’ve been doing is to try and do some of our old theme weeks. Not so long ago, before the weight of new releases and film festival coverage over took us, every week had a theme. We’d do, for example, all comedies, a whole film series or films with a director or performer in common. We’ve gotten away from that- but upcoming I have weeks planned for several series in the future. And are discussing making a stab at the entire Godzilla series, the remaining 43 Bowery Boys films we haven’t reviewed and the Dr Gillespie series which continued the Dr Kildare series.

Actually I want to move back slightly and cover more older titles. Since the New Year I’ve been reconnecting with cinema past thanks to TCM and my huge backlog of titles from Sinister Cinema. Every night I’ve been reaching into the cases where I keep the Sinister DVDs and watching two, three and four before bed. I’ve got stuff planned into July at this point- actually I have things planned in one way or another into 2019 because of theme weeks. I need to remind everyone that there are thousands of titles off the radar that need to be point out- things like THE DEMON from Italy that we reviewed last week need to be seen and appreciated. The website is called Unseen Films and I can’t tell you how many films we’re going to be uncovering in the upcoming weeks and months that I'm guessing the vast majority of you have never heard of.

I know that my reconnecting with the older stuff has slightly reduced the number of newer films being covered. I apologize to the PR people and those who just want the newer stuff, but my sole New Year’s resolution was unless I could find a reason to see a film, if it doesn’t float my boat I’m not going to look at it. After 8 years of constant film watching I was burning out and in the period between December 2016 and December 2017 almost everything I watched was programmed for me by PR people or festival programmers. I can’t do it any more- I have to see what I want for a while which is why I am doing TCM and Sinister Cinema and what ever I pull out of the ten thousand or so DVDs I own. I need to find the passion that made me want to do Unseen at the start.

Trust me I’ve seen the next five months of reviews and god damn there is some great stuff coming.

And as I write this, as we head into our 9th year things are afoot. I have all sorts of irons in the fire- I’ve been busy trying to get all sorts of interviews lined up and I have tons of festival coverage up and coming. How everything will turn out I don’t know but we’ll find out together.

As I wind this piece down I need to first thank everyone who is part of the Unseen Films family. Not only is it the writers listed in the sidebar but it’s also a cadre of unlisted people like Ariela Rubin (a festival shock trooper), Lauren Humphries Brooks, Elizabeth Whittmore, Leslie Coffin all of whom help shape what happens at Unseen either by filing reports from the road or providing endless discussion over dinner and advice from afar.

I want to thank the friends of Unseen we’ve made over the year- All the writers we share the trenches with, all the filmmakers we regularly correspond with, all the people we kibbutz with on twitter and all of the wonderful people we meet at screenings and festivals. You are all great and you give me and the rest of the Unseen crew so much to chew on that we should just deputize the whole lot of you.

May our circle of friends and family continue to grow and grow- and just a reminder that all of you are always welcome at our table.

And lastly I’d like to thank everyone of you who reads our reports. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and see what is up. If it wasn’t for you we would have given this up years ago.

And now it's time to go off and see some films and file some reports.

Happy Birthday to us....

7 Guardians of the Tomb: Li Bingbing, Tomb Raider

China has a love-hate relationship with tomb spelunkers. The government rails against western looters and demands the restitution of national antiquities. On the other hand, some of China’s bestselling novel, film, and television franchises feature Lara Croft-Indiana Jones-style characters, including the Ghost Blows Out the Light and Daomu Biji books that have spawned competing film and television adaptations. At least this Chinese-Australian co-production develops its own “original” mythology. It is all very ridiculous, but it is still good clean fun to head into the ancient lair with producer Li Bingbing in Kimble Rendall’s 7 Guardians of the Tomb, which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

As an expert in poisonous venoms, Dr. Jia Lee could be quite useful on this outing, but she also has a personal stake. It is her adventurer brother Luke who is missing. He had been searching for a fabled emperor’s tomb that supposedly holds his alchemist’s secret rejuvenating elixir or some such thing. Apparently, his potion worked, he just got tired of his boss, or so we can glean from confusing costumed flashbacks.

Regardless, the expedition funded by cosmetics-pharma tycoon Mason Kitteridge, an old family friend of the Lees and Luke’s boss, is about to get chased underground by a Biblically-sized sandstorm. The good new is Luke’s GPS is still faintly transmitting. The bad news is millions of highly organized killer spiders stand between Dr. Jia’s ragtag group and her brother.

Guardians (the whole “7” business is obviously just a ploy to get it listed highly in VOD menus) aims to please during its economical eighty-three minute running time, offering up plenty of booby traps, ancient clues, and creepy-crawly arachnids. Li is a highly credible action lead—arguably more so than Kellan Lutz acting petulant as the boorish search-and-rescue expert, Jack Ridley. Stef Dawson, Jason Chong, and Shane Jacobson add some color and seasoning as the expedition’s communications specialist, archeologist, and blokey comic relief, respectively. However, the real MVP is Kelsey Grammer, who definitely came to play, which means he chews the scenery with a vengeance as arrogant old Kitteridge.

The tomb trappings are decent and the spider effects are good enough to freak out an arachnophobe. The backstory really makes no sense whatsoever and the rest of the story isn’t exactly rigorously logical either. It’s not Raiders of the Lost Ark (neither was the last Indiana Jones movie, for that matter), but it is enjoyable to see Li take the lead and Grammer do his villainous thing. Despite his extensive sitcom work, he really has a talent for playing bad guys. As a guilty pleasure, 7 Guardians of the Tomb is a perfect hangover VOD movie, so be advised when it opens this Friday (2/23) in LA at the Laemmle Music Hall and also releases through the On Demand platform.

White Fang plays at the New York International Children's Film Festival this weekend

JB saw WHITE FANG at Sundance earlier this year. Here is a repost of his review

Jack London’s bestselling animal adventure novel has been adapted as Japanese anime, a 1970s Italian franchise starring Franco Nero, a Disney live-action movie, a 1926 Hollywood silent featuring Strongheart the Dog, and a 1946 Soviet version Red Jack probably would have liked best. Clearly, the story’s popularity has never flagged, but the most visually accomplished take now happens to be a Francophone production (subsequently dubbed into English). The Yukon Territory is still a savage environment for London’s titular wolf-dog, but he will adapt and survive in Academy Award-winning animator Alexandre Espigares’ White Fang, which screens during this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

White Fang grew up under the watchful eye of his mother Kiche, a former sled dog gone wild. The winter has already been hard on the dogs, when an encounter with a lynx leaves Kiche badly injured. Nevertheless, White Fang will nurse her back to sufficient health for her to seek out and rejoin the pack dogs driven by Native trapper Grey Beaver. Although the other dogs resent White Fang’s strength and spirit, he will eventually claim his place as top dog. Unfortunately, he will also attract the unwanted attention of Beauty Smith, a nefarious dog-fighter intent on swindling him away from Grey Beaver.

Smith’s brutal training will mold White Fang into a ferocious fighter, but as we see in the in media res opening, the wolf-dog never develops a taste for fighting. Eventually, he will cross paths again with Weedon Scott, an honest lawman, with whom he had a brief encounter years ago, while he was still just a pup.

In a way, White Fang was like the Dog’s Purpose of 1906, following the wolf-dog as he changes hands and passes through metaphorical lives, except it features animal savagery in place of New Age spirituality. Espigares’ animated feature debut (he won the Oscar for his short, Mr. Hublot) is a manageable ninety minutes, but it feels pretty epic and remains relatively faithful to the source novel. However, the trio of screenwriters, Serge Frydman, Philippe Lioret, and Monique Monfrey water-down the abuse Grey Beaver metes out in the novel. While that might sound like a politically correct decision, it is wise to give younger viewers a respite from London’s harshness.

Espigares’ animation is indeed superb, merging a lush, painterly style with motion-capture technology. His wolves and dogs look scrupulously realistic, but exhibit distinctive personalities. The vibrant landscapes and vistas also evoke N.C. Wyeth’s great James Fenimore Cooper illustrations.

For the English dub, the voice of Paul Giamatti is perfectly cast as the scheming Smith. Nick Offerman and Rashida Jones are fine as Weedon and Maggie Scott, but probably the most distinctive vocal turn comes from Eddie Spears as Grey Beaver.

Espigares and his team have produced a White Fang that is lovely to look at, but is still quite tough minded. They have simplified London’s narrative to a minor extent (sorry One-Eye, maybe next film), but they definitely retained its essence. Enthusiastically recommended for adults and older kids, White Fang screens


When the episode ends we are at the half way pint in the series -and things appear to be going into over drive as we get a sense of who the killer is and realize they are very close to another potential killing....

I won't go into details but I will reveal a few tidbits- there is a nice moment between Mr Moore and Miss Howard, Kreizler begins to realize that he has to make a change or the investigation will be doomed, Moore and Kreizler take a trip to a prison to see an inmate in a sequence that one ups any visit to Hannibal Lecter and Roosevelt is forced to do something.

Its another excellent episode to the series...

...and one that as made something very clear - the series is better together without commercials and chained together. I say this  because I am watching the series ahead of you, as TNT sends me the episodes.  What this means is that  I saw the first two episode together, then the third episode alone and lastly the fourth and fifth episodes together. I found that I loved the first two episodes whic I reviewed together, liked the third, liked the fourth  as I watched and reviewed it but then found I loved it after I immediately watched the fifth episode and found tat the cinematic construction of the plotting smoothed everything out.

Yes you should be watching this series but if you can binge the series, preferably without commercials you are going to like it even more.

Say what you will about the individual episodes- as a series this series truly is gangbusters

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The New York International Children's Film Festival opens Friday

Henriyeti is excited NYICFF starts this week
I love this festival.

If you've been reading Unseen Films for any length of time you know I've been waxing poetic about the film literally from day one.  It is quite simply the best films from around the world in one place. I have been going to the festival from the first one and I will be going for as long as I am able.

Go buy tickets now.

How good is the festival- they are not only an Academy Award Qualifying one but the fantastic company G-Kids came out of it when the film lovers running the fest decided to share their finds with the world.

I don't know what else to say except pick some films and go. No you don't have to be a kid to go, you just have to love great films.

This year they have some great stuff planned. The people behind ERNEST AND CELESTINE return with THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES;  season 2 of A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS  is premiering at the festival. and they are having a ton of  filmmakers in attendance including BOOK OF LIFE  director Jorge Gutierrez who will be screening his short SON OF JAGUAR. There is a lot more so buy tickets and go see something. And do so sooner than later since screenings are selling out (all of the VR sections have sold out).

Joe Bendel saw and reviewed WHITE FANG at Sundance and highly recommends it. His original review can be found here however I will be rerunning it on Tuesday.

The festival is also running LIYANA a documentary about the healing power of story telling. I saw the film last year and I thought it was one of the best films of 2017. My review can be found here.

As is the norm I will be wading into the festival and seeing as much as I can. I will review everything that I see- but since I am going to the screenings don't wait for my review just buy tickets and go.

Because time is short and  it can be hard to get to everything I have already screened some short collections- reviews will be going up this week but to give you a jump here is quick word.

SHORTS FOR TOTS - great fun aimed at the littlest among us is still a lot of fun.

SHORTS 3 s aimed at older kids and there are some great films here. The films here are aimed at doing more than entertaining and each has a message from part of a speech from ex-President Obama about how one voice can change the world to a cut out person trying to find their place in the world. This is a solid collection.

ANIMAL JUBILEE is a huge amount of fun. Made up almost entirely of the work of Julia Ocker this is animals all having problems. The one non Ocker film is a joy about a little girl who leaves home to live at the zoo. The collection is so good I hope the festival makes it a regular.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY: MEXICO is one of the best collections I'ver seen at the fest. A wonderful selection of shorts it just is a great collection of great films. DO go see this- and get your tikets now because it is only screening twice.

Keep reading because reports and reviews will be coming.

Better yet check the schedule and buy tickets and go.

Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

I initially started the film after the Super Bowl and then realized it was too late to finish. I enjoyed what I saw but knew I would have to go back sometime later.

Having gone from start to finish I’m not sure what I think of the film. While it most certainly is a wonderful B level science fiction horror film on it’s own terms, on any other level I’m not sure.

The plot of the film has group of scientists heading up to a specially built space station in order to conduct an experiment to create limitless energy. After two years there is success followed by catastrophic failure as the earth disappears. Weird things begin happening and it becomes clear that the experiment has opened up doors to various dimensions and universes.

Early sequences where the crew try to get the experiment to work and deal with the fall out of it are really good. There is a wonderful sense of a group of people in danger. Things however begin to go weird once things begin to go wrong. To be certain the strangeness is really cool but it doesn’t always seem to hang together. It’s as if the filmmakers felt the need to keep uping the ante at every turn. That is all well and good but at the same time the logic fragments too much. Yes, the woman in the wall and the wandering hand are cool but there is too much to process and as Raymond Chandler’s rule of storytelling - essentially you can only ask the audience to believe one unexplained/impossible thing lest you lose them- is broken time and time again we drift off. With internal logic thrown to the wind we disconnect from the plot and begin to look elsewhere with the result that what seemed like a tightly plotted film is revealed as something less.

I know some people think this would have been better without the Cloverfield name, but let’s face it you could change all references and even the monster at the end and you would have the same problems- crappy plotting.

Worth a look for the parts that work but mostly this is a disappointment.