Thursday, November 30, 2023

Sane Men (2023) Dances With Films New York

Two sisters whose mother has a problem with finding good men, all her boyfriends tend to be abusive. When she hooks up with a recently released wife killer, the girls have to decide whether to prevent history repeating it self or not.

Good black comedy is two steps away from being a great film.  The first problem is the film is a bit too mannered. There is too much knowingness to the proceedings. There is nothing wrong with it but it didn't work for me (it might work for you). The other problem is that the film is much too short, things feel a tad rushed. Honestly there is a feature film here.

Over all this good.

Pianoforte (2023)

This is the story of the recent Chopin Piano Competition in Poland. It follows a swath of performers as they prepare to play and interact with each other.

This is a very good  look at a nice group of people competing for the gold. It's full of great music and it's certain to make you smile.

And right about now the people behind this film are trying not to swallow their tongues because I'm giving sort of general non-detailed remarks concerning the film. I'm sorry about that but as good as this film is and and as enjoyable as it is, it suffers from one serious problem - it's very by the numbers. While I completely understand how the film won hearts at Sundance and awards elsewhere, the fact is that the film is structured very much like every other music competition doc of the last few years (The first one that comes to mind is MAESTRA about female conductors). It's so much in the mold that I left to go to the men's room and when I came back I knew exactly what was going on.

Does the run of the mill nature make it a bad film? No, it doesn't, I smiled from ear to ear from start to finish, but at the same time it will also make you wish it had a few more twists to make it stand out from the crowd.

My reservations aside this is worth a look if the subject interests you.

It’s A Wonderful Knife Film (2023)


"It's A Wonderful Knife" is a holiday horror comedy set in the fictional town of Angel Falls. With a name like that, what could go wrong? Except everything. 

Winnie Carruthers (Jane Widdop) has her world turned upside down when everything she knew, everything she loved was taken from her. Her life just got a little more complicated. 

Angels are known for their spiritual presence. They're supposed to protect you, keep you out of harms way. This angel must have missed the memo because they've gone bad. 

There is universal question that everyone asks themselves from time to time. What would life be like if I was never born? Would everyone around me better off? This film answers that question. This story gives you a glimpse into what life would look like without one on our main characters and I’ll let you in on a little secret. It isn’t good. 

One of my favorite characters is Bernie Simon (Jess McLeod). Bernie is a nerdy, misunderstood character that is incorporated into the story in a meaningful, thought out way, and is given a genuine reason to be there. This is rather rare in cinema these days. More often than not, these characters are added strictly for comedic relief or to over exaggerate the actions of the typical “bully” character. 

Justin Long has made a name for himself within the Horror genre. I hadn’t seen a film of his that I didn't like. Until now. His portrayal of Mayor Henry Waters is very strange and rather uncomfortable to watch. I'm not sure if it was the Ross Gellar - like self tanner, the blinding white teeth, or the fake, over the top accent but it just didn’t work for me. His acting was very cartoon like. It felt like he was trying too hard and although I tried to overlook it, it was very distracting and seemed so out of sync with the rest of the story.  

Jane Widdop shines as the likeable Winnie Carruthers. You may be familiar with her work on the popular Showtime series "Yellowjackets". Without her stellar performance in this film I don't think I would have found it as enjoyable. She has the ability to express her emotions in a way that is realistic and relatable. I find myself having trouble connecting with characters in modern Horror cinema but she reeled me in. 

Katharine Isabelle is an actress I have been a fan of for years. I first discovered her when she played trouble teen turned werewolf in 2001's "Ginger Snaps". She may have a smaller role as Winnie's loveable aunt, Gale, but she makes every second count when she's on screen. She's a great addition to the story. 

Joel McHale is an incredibly talented actor. Best known for his role as Jeff Winger in the Dan Harmon Television series, Community, Joel plays David Carruthers. Winnie's father and a beloved member of Angel Falls. It's great to see him in a role so far removed from what he's best known as it really shows his abilities as an actor.

Overall, I enjoyed "It's A Wonderful Knife". Despite a few minor hiccups here and there it was an entertaining watch. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, I didn't. Holiday Horror films tend to get silly. Fast. It's so easy to get lost in the theme and forget about the plot. I'm happy to say that is not the case here. Writer Michael Kennedy (Freaky) knows how to create an enjoyable watching experience for his viewers, while Director Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls) has a knack for helping actors express their deepest fears in a believable way. 

"It's A Wonderful Knife" is available on Shudder on AMC+ and all movie rental platforms starting December 1, 2023. I highly suggest you tune in for a little holiday fright. 


Possible last DC film before the James Gunn remake of the universe concerns Jaime Reyes who bonds with a mystical scarab and becomes the Blue Beetle. As a result he is hunted by the widow of Ted Kord, an earlier Blue Beetle,. Kord's widow wants to use the power of the scarab in order to make a legion of super soldiers.

I know that this film got mixed reviews, but once things were set in motion I had a good time.Xolo Maridueña  is excellent at the Beetle, George Lopez is funny as his uncle and Susan Sarandon is fantastic villain.  This isn't to sell the rest of the cast since they are all great especially Adriana Barraza  as Nana who creates such a kick ass character whose back story we need to hear.

If the film has any problems it's that the film has some bits that are repetitive superhero nonsense (origin, it all reduced to guys in super suits). It's not fatal, after all the cast is that good, but it makes you wonder what this could have been had they been allowed to go free form and not start at the origin.

Regardless of my reservations, this is a fun film and worth a look.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

John Woo's action satire Silent Night (2023) is a dog

This is an almost dialogless film about a father trying to avenge his son's death on Christmas Eve on the Christmas Eve of the following year.  This is an over the top, overly melodramatic to a ridiculous degree look at what might happen if a regular guy went out for revenge.

Not to mince words, John Woo's latest is an action movie satire and it is really bad. It's bad from the first frames as Joel Kinnaman is seen running in close up slow motion in a blood soaked sweater after the gang bangers who shot his son- except its clear he is running in place because the background never changes position.

Sending up all his cliches in the worst possible way, Woo has SILENT NIGHT play out  like some lesser talent was trying to make a spoof of a John Woo film but fell on their face. Yes, the film is funny, but for all the wrong reasons. We laugh at the film not with it.

Even worse is the fact that most of it is horribly dull with nothing compelling happening after the opening shoot out  until the one hour mark. After that it's just over the top nonsense and riffs on Woo tropes. Actually after the opening it's a silly recovery, a flashback to the  kid's death and silly training for 50 minutes of screen time before a brief fight, then another dead quarter hour before the action starts for real.It's painful. 

What happened to Woo's sense of pacing? He made the 5 hour masterpiece RED CLIFF and the almost as long THE CROSSING, and they never felt as long as this hour and forty five minute stinker.

Joel Kinnaman is awful. His whole performance is just mugging for the camera. He is so bad that it could be one of the worst performances in action film history. This is the kind of performance that I've seen kill a career. I find it odd since he was so good in other action roles (Rick Flagg in Suicide Squad and Robocop). The  creme de la creme  of his badness are his frequent sequences where he is missing his dead son showing us a mushy doe eyed fake sadness. The performance had me going WTF out loud  repeatedly.

I'm at a loss as to what Woo was doing with this film. I've never seen him make this many bad choices. I understand why our hero never speaks, he was shot in the throat, but the fact we only hear two whispered lines from his wife and radio broadcasts makes little sense. Yes I know it's a conceit but it's a bad one. Also bad is Woo allowing his action director to make almost all the car related sequences play out similarly. 

This film is just a huge misfire. It's such a big one that I don't want to know why Woo made this for the John Wick producers, I just want to flush this film down the toilet and then move on to the next thing. 

To be honest if you come in an hour and three minutes into the film and just watch the last 45 minutes of action you are probably going to like it. Yea, the action sequences have some shitty bits in them, and the melodrama is silly, but it's weirdly compelling, in a crappy action movie sort of a way. (Honestly this film was made for streaming because the film has no dialog you  can actually scan through most of the first hour and not miss anything. If this film develops any positive reputation it's going to be with people who scan through it)

Avoid this film unless you must see John Woo's worst film.

Two from Jean Grémillon STRANGE MR VICTOR (1938) and LADY KILLER (1937)

 There were two recent restorations of thrillers from director Jean Gremillon and both are worth tracking down.

Legionnaire and noted ladies man Jean Gabin, meets and tries to woo a mysterious woman- but in not so typical fashion it all goes wrong.

French thrillers of the 30's and 40's always have an intensity that is tough to beat From the first frame you know we are in for a tough ride and things are never going to be okay. Such is the case here. We know it's all going to go wrong, she is above his station and there are the jealousies, we just have to wait and see how it all ends up in the grave yard.

This is one of the best films by Gremillion, an under seen director who was infinitely better at films like this then most in Hollywood. I suspect his unflinching style kept the studios from releasing his films, something that we in the English speaking world are lesser for.

Blackmailed into committing murder Victor thinks he's in the clear when someone else takes the rap and is sent away. Several years later the wronged man returns and things become complicated. 

Another Gremllion gem is one you need to see. A tense film about a bad deed blowing back on everyone, this is another film where you'll be squirming in your seat. We can see from a mile off how this is going to go and no matter what we do we, nor the people on screen can make it stop.

A perfect film for a dark and stormy night when you are going to poison friends.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Bottoms (2023)


In an effort to talk their way out of trouble two queer high school girls say they are starting a fight club for girls, however while it puts the girls of their dreams into their orbit it creates other complications. 

Emma Seligman, who gave us  the wonderful SHIVA BABY, returns with BOTTOMS the story of high school girls just trying to get laid and to graduation. It's a film that heralds Seligman as truly a filmmaker to watch since she between this and her first feature she's pretty much indicated she can do anything. 

Funny in all the right ways, Seligman never short changes her characters. Too many comedies these days make fun of the characters, that's not the case here. Sure they have false veneers, the better to survive the slings and arrows of the other students but, underneath it all, they all are really sweet people. Yes this can be formulaic at times but Seligman bends and twists things in ways Hollywood hasn't seen before. Sure we've had fight club, but not female fight club, nor have we had women who can kick this much ass outside of a Hong Kong martial arts film.

It is so sad that this film kind of got lost when it was in theaters because the film is a delight. It has everything that you could want in a high school comedy.

Highly recommended.

Monday, November 27, 2023

1946 : The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture(2022) opens Friday

With 1946 opening Friday here is my post from last years DOC NYC when it premiered 

1946 is one of the most important films of the decade. That’s not hyperbole, it’s a statement of fact. An examination of how the mistranslation of a phrase in 1946 set in everyone’s mind that homosexuality was a bad thing.

Framed by director Sharon "Rocky" Roggio‘s relationship with her dad, an evangelical minister,  the film begins as a question of whether a gay person can be a christian.  The film follows as Roggio discovers Kathy Baldock who was doing research on when the word homosexual entered the bible. Baldock was on a crusade to find out why her best friend wasn’t loved by god. What she found out was that the negative attitude toward being gay comes from the fact that the translators didn’t truly understand what several words meant so they fudged it.  The film shows how it happened and why and it puts the whole discussion in the context of two thousand years of translations and culture. If you have an open mind the film will rock your world.

As the film clearly points out, the mistranslation, and the inability to instantly correct the mistake (that’s a story) has resulted in decades of death and destruction as people took the mistake to mean they could destroy the mistakenly labeled abominations. I was crushed by the realization.  

I was also shocked at how Roggio doesn’t sugar coat her father’s refusal to look at the evidence that the translation is wrong. In his refusal to see the world as it is we see the vast majority of those who will not change their mind even when confronted with irrefutable evidence. (Hell, the film points out that there are forces dead set against the facts because it will change their world view)

But lest you think this is all negative, the truth is there are the moments of great joy and soul saving hope.  When we are introduced to the man who first spotted the mistake I began to cry.  The simple statement “Hi David” had me reaching for a tissue. I also sobbed at the conclusion of the film which was filed with so much hope and love – the film is ultimately a discussion of forgiveness and the ability to bridge view points. And it will leave you feeling good.

This film is magnificent and an absolute must see.

One the truly great films of 2022 or any other year.

Everyone WIll Burn (2022) opens Friday

A woman about to kill herself by jumping off a bridge is stopped by a strange little girl. Taking the little girl home with her they are stopped by the police who don’t like the woman’s answers and attempt to arrest her. The little girl causes one officer to kill the other before he bursts into flames. And suddenly and genuinely shocking clear we are not in Kansas anymore. We are in a small town in Spain where the outsiders are bullied  and pushed to the point of suicide. However things are about to change.

From the first frame this is not a film that does what we expect. Sure it looks kind of familiar but director David Hebrero bends things in ways we never expect.

This film is disturbing. It’s not just the violence but the cruelty of everyone. People are cruel to each other in ways that are shocking. We may live in a world where people are mean to each other, especially on social media.  Add to that the dark  supernatural forces at work and we are in a world that looks like our but is toxic to the touch.

I loved this movie. I watched the opening sequences and instantly that I had to let people know that they had to cover the film at Fantastic Fest or wherever the film plays.  

I should say that I don’t think you will be scared by the film, rather deeply disturbed. This film left me bothered  for hours after this ended. I even had to put something on when I went to bed just to distract me from thinking about it  as I drifted off to sleep.

You really should see this film.


Sunday, November 26, 2023


This is a brief note to say that the second New York Version of the always great DANCES WITH FILMS opens Thursday and we are better for it. I’ve been covering the fest for the better part of the last decade and I always come out of it with a few new favorite films.

Last year the fest started a version centered in New York and I was delighted. This year the festival starts on Thursday and runs through the weekend. We will be having a small amount of coverage which I am fitting in around a lot of other things.

I'm still working on watching films but the one gem I've seen so far is TALLYWACKER which is loosely based on the star Jeremy Dub's life in rock and roll. It is an unexpected delight. It will make you smile and be your next favorite film.

Because of the lots of other things I’m just going to leave it there other than to say that previous I covered:


So  click on those reviews to get a head start.

For tickets and more information go here.

Nightcap 11/26/23 - Notes to the end of the year

Before Marvel gets nuts, thats from the Marvels trailer

Just a couple of quick notes about the next five or six weeks.

First I will get the the SHARI AND LAMB CHOP red carpet report up. The piece is written, the problem is the photos I took I so big that even compressed the website is having problems.


Today's post (with NYAD and The KILLER) was written a few weeks back, before I was slammed with FYC screeners and screenings. It actually fits into what is going to be the majority of the next month, which is catch up reviews. I'm seeing so much right now that the reviews are going to run a while after I see them- except in the case of December releases where they will run timed to the release.

If you want to have an inkling as to what is coming then be sure to be following on Twitter and Blue Sky since I am posting as I watch there.


I am working on my first NYFCO ballot.  I expect almost none of my choices to advance on to be the final pick, but I'm staying true to myself and saying what I think is the best


Working on my year end lists and they are longer than usual. The Best of the Best list is almost all short films and genre titles.


I finally started to put some things together to try and do a podcast. I'm trying to see if I can get the trial meeting together to make it work. The problem is we are all all over the place.


I wasn't thinking about the Unseen Film Awards this year- hell I wasn't expecting to be actually reviewing new releases right now- however a couple of regular voters asked what form the awards would take  because they wanted to know if they had seen enough films.

I'm considering and will make a decision in the next day or so.


For now that's it.  

This week look for more catch up reviews, new releases, and coverage of the final festival for me of 2023, Dances With Films New York - which will have a curtain raiser go up shortly.

Brief 2023 Catch up reviews NYAD, YOU WERE MY FIRST BOYFRIEND and THE KILLER


Annette Benning and Jodie Foster are the reason to see NYAD, a not particularly good look at the endurance swimmer, that is part documentary and part narrative. 

While the two ladies shine as best friends, the script dies reducing Nyad to a whiner, who gets in over her head. While I was always a fan of Nyad's, this film made me like her less

A look back our time in high school.

Cringe worthy look at High School did little for me. Blame the fact that I didn't do high school like other people, I was socially anti-social.

I've heard people loved it but it did little for me.

Hit man tries to untangle that went wrong and blew back.

David Fincher's adaption of a comic is well made, low key and completely unremarkable. If it wasn't for Fincher this film would probably never get noticed. 

Saturday, November 25, 2023


I will not be reviewing KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON at this time other than to say I think it's terrible. (No, it really is - DiCaprio and DeNiro are awful). I'll do a review when I have the time to unpack the problems with the film properly.

SHAYDA didn't float my boat. The story of a single mom and her daughter in a shelter is good but it was a bit by the numbers.

ANGRY BLACK GIRL AND HER MONSTER is a very angry turn on Frankenstein. It's got it's own beautiful take on things and it's a film that needs a second viewing before I do anything more than say it's great and a must see for horror fans. It also makes Bomani J Story a filmmaker we must watch.

SHORTCOMINGS wasn't bad except that Ben is so awful I don't want to spend time with him. I knew the point was to try and make us go along with an awful person, but he's so bad I'm left to wonder how he has any friends. Outside of Ben it's great and Randall Park is a great director.

This raises the question of why are so many filmmakers trying to make us like unlikable people when if you fail, which most people do, we never want to see the film again.

STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING is an excellent documentary that just premiered on Netflix about how racist ideas have been shaping how African Americans were viewed from the beginning of America. It's an overwhelming film that requires a proper review which I am incapable of doing at this time. See it and be moved

Ozogoche (2023) IDFA 2023

Stunningly beautiful portrait of the people around lake Ozogoche as they wait for the return of the Cuvivíe, who every year return and commit suicide by diving into the lake. As one girl waits she plans her escape to the US, fed my the tales of her family already there.

This is a film you'll want to see on the big screen. It's a film with a a very real sense of place. It's a film that is of the Frederick Wiseman school of observational documentary so a big screen will make you really make you feel you are there. 

While the pacing maybe for some, for those who can click into it's speed of life, the film is recommended

Thoughts on OPPENHEIMER (2023)

I completely understand the love of Christopher Nolan's OPPENHEIMER. It is a quite good film, certainly one of Nolan's best. However the main reason I think the film is getting the love it has was the dual forks of t's weird connection to BARBIE (Barbenheimer) and the fact that it is one of the flashiest most over edited films of the year. I mean when was the last time that you saw a serious drama put together in such a way as to mirror a Marvel movie.


What I find over edited is not the structure of the film, the multiple time frames, jumping through Oppenheimer's life is absolutely fine. The problem is the film is constantly in motion. There seems to be constant camera motion. If there isn't motion then there is a steady stream of inserted images. Do they all need to be there? Not really. And while the motion and the images don't interfere with the story, after a while they become a distraction. An hour in I realized that I was watching Nolan's craft more than I was watching the film. How was he putting the sequences together was more important than the story. I would argue that several times through the film the craft  and the motion diminished the emotion  of sequences. I say this because once or twice I was moved to tears that were instantly cut off by the "oh cool edit".

The other huge problem with the film was the soundtrack. It never f-ing stops. I swear the music is literally wall to wall punching up every frame of the film whether it needs it or not. 

The sound track is so aggressive that one gentleman stopped me when I was returning to my seat from a quick bathroom break to ask me if it was supposed to  be like this, and after the film a couple sitting in front of me asked me about why the film was mixed like this, since the music frequently drowned out the dialog. I didn't know and speculated it might be the theater, however they said they go to that theater and this was the first time they ever had this problem.

And while the time jumping narrative structure isn't really a problem, I am slightly bothered by how some of it played out. What bothered me was that since I know Oppenheimer's story there were times when I could feel Nolan setting things up so that there would be a "gasp" from the audience in the later part of the film. Things were hidden for effect not for story telling necessity. 

But then Nolan's script is wildly uneven. As I said things are hidden for dramatic effect, but there is a bigger problem in that way too many characters are ghosts on screen. Many are there fleetingly. Coming off worst of all is Edward Teller, who love the man or hate him, seems to exist in the film only for exposition.  Other characters seem kind of fleshed out, and while they are important to the plot, aren't given enough to full register  as a character.

It's a shame since the cast is frequently stellar, with Robert Downey almost certain to win an Oscar, Matt Damon actually disappearing into a role for the first time in years and Cillian Murphy just being his usual wonderful self. Other actors seem to have been brought in because the script is so weak with characters that Nolan had to give us Kenneth Branagh, Tom Conti, Emily Blunt and others so we connect a character to a famous face.

Despite all my bitching, I genuinely like the film. It's the first of Nolan's films I've seen in theater BATMAN BEGINS where I didn't feel I wasted my money (or at least not the part that wasn't the extra cost for IMAX). It's also the first film since BEGINS that I actually want to see it again.

Is it the best film of 2023? Oh hell no. Technically it's an achievement worthy of awards, but as a film unto itself, it's quite good and worth a bucket of popcorn, but not much beyond that. Frankly had it not been over hyped, and  tied to BARBIE where it could win fanboy audiences because the filmmaking is the same as an MCU film but "important", it probably would have gotten lost.

THE HYPERBOREAN (2023) Blood In The Snow 2023

Whiskey maker invites his family to sample the spirits from a 170 year old ship.

Mixed horror film begins with a solid animated opening set in the past. It’s a great piece of writing that really sets the mood for a great horror film. The problem is that the rest of the film bogs down into a talky snooze fest.  Everyone talks about things instead of showing us. It’s as if the producer realized that they spent way too much money on the opening sequences and had to resort to limited set ups.

My interest waned quickly and I started not to focus on the film.

A miss

Friday, November 24, 2023

The documentary (and grossly under seen) NEXT GOAL WINS (2014) is Amazon and Vudu

AT long last the documentary NEXT GOAL WINS returns to streaming. Infinitely better and more moving than Taika Waititi's ill advised live action film, this doc will move you to tears. Trust me- this is one of the truly great films of the last decade-hell it's stayed with me when most other films disappeared. 

According to Eden the film is for rent or purchase on Amazon and Vudu- so you know what to do. Trust me this film will stay with you for the next ten years (and it will make you forget the live action version)

This is my review from Tribeca 2014 where it played, delighted it's audience and then quietly disappeared.

I was completely blindsided by The Next Goal Wins. My plan was simply to watch the film in the press library and be done with it, but then I realized that if I went to the press screening I could watch part of it in a gap between other “more important” films. I would then watch the end in the library. That was the plan. The reality of the situation was different- as Joe Bendel and the others in the theater all know, once you start Next Goal Wins you stay captivated until the end.

The film is the story of the American Samoan soccer team. Made up amateurs who work day jobs and play the game because they love to, the team was at the bottom of the FIFA ranking and were legendary for losing to Australia 32 to 0 in a World Cup qualifier. With the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup coming the team decide to improve their ranking and contact the American Soccer Federation for help. The Federation send out word that the team is looking for a coach and only one man replies Thomas Rongen a crusty guy from the Netherlands who coached teams on every level imaginable. What happens when Rongen comes to town is the film.

No, what happens when he comes to town is absolute magic. This is a wonderfully glorious film that will make you feel good and carry you along. This isn’t about winning it all, this is just about trying to be better, to simply be able to score a goal on the big stage, to be able to show up and not fall on your face.


That the film works as well as it does is simply because you like the people. These are a group of guys you’d want to hang out with. Over the course of the film they become friends and by the time they head out to play in the qualifying matches for the World Cup they are close friends and you are invested on a personal level with what happens.

As I stated above the plan was to watch about an hour of this film and then wander off and see something else. It was clear about a half an hour in that I wasn’t going anywhere any time soon and instead I was just going to stay to the end. I put my watch in my pocket, put my notebook away and hunkered down to see what happened to my newly found friends.

What happens will have you talking to the screen. Joe Bendel in his review has openly stated that he was talking to the screen, and if I am honest I have to admit that I was too- as were several other people. You shout and cry and groan because you care. And when it’s all done you want to do it again.

What a great film.

And sadly the film seems not to be getting noticed much. Yes, the film was the Saturday Drive in Tribeca, but how many of you realize that the film is now in theaters? It is, it’s playing a limited engagement at Cinema Village in NYC. How can a film this good be so unpublicized? The mind boggles.

Do yourself a favor and go see this film. No seriously you want to go see this. Trust me you do, it a wonderful film that will inspire you and make you feel good. One of the best films from Tribeca and one of the best surprises of the film year.

They Shot the Piano Player (2023) opens today

An animated documentary with an injection of  narrative THEY SHOT THE PIANO PLAYER is nominally the  story of Francisco Tenorio Jr., a Jazz pianist it is also the story of the Bossa Nova the politics of military take overs. Structured to follow the fictional magazine writer Jeff Harris (voiced by Jeff Goldblum) as he works on a book on the Bossa Nova before switching to the story of Tenorio Jr. who disappeared one night while running to get sandwiches, never to be heard from again. 

This is a good documentary from directors Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal who made the Oscar nominated CHICO AND RITA. It is vibrant and alive. Full of eye popping colors and endless music. It's a trip into another time and place, as well as warning about the dangerous of a repressive government.

To be honest as much as I like the film I find I think of it more as a narrative than a doc. It's not that it's animated, rather I think it's simply that the narrative structure over whelms the central mystery. Yes the film is telling a real life tale, but everything around it overwhelms the tale. The fiction of Harris' journey becomes the story not Tenorio. Additionally the story of the history of the Bossa Nova also pulls us, making us want to know more about that as well. I suspect had I known more about the music I wouldn't have felt to need more about it.

Reservations aside I really liked this film and want the soundtrack.


Billion Dollar Babies (2022)

With BILLION DOLLAR BABIES opening today here is my capsule review from 2022

BILLION DOLLAR BABIES- a look at Cabbage Patch Kids and how they changed the way we shop and desire things. Its good, but subject matter aside, it plays out too much like too many other similar docs. Its a film where you kept knowing what the next bit will be.

Chopping Mall (1986) Thanksgiving Turkey



A Jim Wynorski directed dog of a film it’s the film where I realized he is a crappy director because he more often than not is a good filmmaker who just doesn’t care about logic and reason in his plotting.

The plot of the film  has group of people staying in a Mall to party and being confronted by the new armed robot security which have become psychotic.

None of it makes any sense beginning with people partying in the Mall on a Friday night and not worrying about having to clean anything up until  Monday (no one shops on  Saturday and Sunday?) to the robots just starting to kill people because…of nothing.

While the cast is excellent, the script is stupid. It’s so awful that my brother and I seriously considered leaving the drive in Monsterama early because we hated it so much. (Actually several people I talked with before the screening questioned why it was being run because it was so bad and because it’s on constant rotation on several streaming services.

Utter trash

Mournful Mediums at Blood in the Snow 2023

A woman turns 40 and realizes that she is dead, though no one notices.

This is an interesting idea that kind of is too long for what it is.

3 friends go away to a remote house. They play a VHS tape and  find what’s happening on screen hits close to home. 

Even though you’ll probably guess how this plays out, you’re going to have a great trip with this wicked little film.

A woman about to be buried alive has to talk her way to safety…. And that’s not even a fraction of it.

Truly great short is going to keep you guessing where this is going. I don’t dare spoil this gem because so much happens in it’s brief running time that you’ll hunt me down and kill me for doing so. Seriously this film is more exciting then most feature films.

Track this film down- one of the best at Blood in The Snow.

A Sikh prisoner in solitary confinement turns toward his faith to escape.

Really good atypical film isn't wholly a horror film but something else. A one of a kind must see.

 Woman is visited by her dead lover right before their home is sold.

This is a good film that is more supernatural tale as opposed to anything horrific. 

This is a repost of the review from when the film ran at Fantasia earlier this year

Woman with extreme sensitivity to sound is sent to the world’s quiets room for a special treatment.

Mostly good  short thriller is hurt by a cliché character in the guise of the tech running the treatment. The use of the distracted tech signals way too early how this is going to go, which lessens an otherwise excellent film.

While I will quibble about the tech, you will still want to see this film for everything it does right. In particular you will want to see this film for it’s wonderful use of sound. It’s so good, especially when coupled with Bahia Watson’s award worthy performance, that you will come away from the film bruised and battered by what you hear. I had to sit in silence for a bit afterward just to reset my brain.


Thursday, November 23, 2023

MY ANIMAL (2023) Blood in the Snow 2023

One of the must see films at this year’s Blood in the Snow is the tale of a young outsider who is more than human. Heather is a outcast hockey goalie who falls for Jonny a moody figure skater. As the relationship deepens complications arise, not the least of which is the fact that Heather  changes....

I really liked this film a great deal. While it doesn't reinvent the  werewolf sub-genre, it does give us some compelling turns and good characters.  Some times that's enough.  Here it is enough. 

Monster (2023)

If you mention Hirokazu Kore-eda to most people they would have no idea who he is. Most film people I know are up and down with his films because he refuses to make one sort of film. Yes he makes dramas, but he'll twist things so that they aren't your typical three act structured story or so that where he's going isn't where you think. His films never follow the same pattern and as a result while he makes great films they are impossible to pigeon hole.

Such is the case with his latest MONSTER.  With a title certain to confuse anyone looking for a horror film, it is in fact something else entirely. The truth is even giving you a version of the suggested log line about the film being about a mother noticing changes in her son and investigating why they happened, isn't going to give you any idea where this is going or of the emotional range and depth of this film.

The film is a kind of puzzle box or a series of cinematic nesting dolls, though the dolls analogy isn't quite right. The film is an investigation of what happened in the life of young Minato. Over the course of the film we see the events from various points of view, the mother, the teacher, Minato's and one at other times people outside the events. We are given fragments of the story so that we can see things as only god would.

This film is a stunner. Beautifully acted and magnificently shot the film marries it all together with a moving score to create a film that has some of the most moving sequences in any film I've seen this year, This is a film  that had me staring at the screen when it was over, pondering it, and trying to decide if I wanted to go again right then or sit with the emotions that had welled up in me.

It is because Kore-eda makes me feel in every fiber of my body that he is one of my favorite directors. I truly don't need to know anything about any film he makes for me to be interested in it- just tell me he directed it and I'm in.

And with MONSTER I'm all in. It is a magnificent cinematic  through life of the sort we rarely get. 

Highly recommended. The film is out now and opens wide on December 15.

Clerks 3 (2022) Thanksgiving Turkey


CLERKS 3 is terrible.

Cinema at its most point and shoot, it is one of the laziest films I’ve ever seen. Actually it may be the laziest professional project I’ve ever seen. It looks like Kevin Smith simply got his friends together for a weekend and banged out a riff on CLERKS over a couple of afternoons.

The plot of the film has Randall having a heartattack and deciding that he is going to make a movie about being a clerk. We then watch as the various characters stand in front of a seeming green screen and talk to other people in front of a green screen. Occasionally there is a switch to a second camera set up of the same sequence.

What happened to filmmaker Kevin Smith who was going to change cinema with his low tech films full of witty lines and off centered looks at the world?

Where is the guy who made CLERKS, DOGMA, JERSEY GIRL, ZACH AND MIRI, RED STATE and (The scary half of) TUSK?

I have no problem with a guy wanting to make movies for his besties, hell look at Hong Sang-Soo, but Smith’s films over the last few years have been terrible by any standard. Not long after TUSK he decided to annoy the critics by making crappy films just to piss them off and then he disappeared into a bubble by making films for his legion of fans who will give him money to see whatever cinematic turd he craps out. Revisiting the same characters over and over again Smith isn’t really making movies but his own personal ATM cranking out a new film every time his bank account is running low. It’s the same thing over and over again. While Hong Sang Soo does the same thing at least he mixes it up and pretends it’s not the same thing. With CLERKS 3 Smith is at the end of the road with the film being a meta version of the first film. The only place left for him to go is to remake the remake.

What a waste of time.

Honestly I had no plans on seeing the film. I gave up on Smith with JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT but it showed up on cable and I stumbled on the film at the start and became utterly fascinated by how bad the filmmaking was. A professional made this film? Really? Watching it was like going to a cheezy circus where there was no thrills and only a big empty tent with a giant neon sign inside the said SUCKERS on it.

Even allowing that Smith is going no tech, this film is bad. Unforgivably so. I say that not because it’s just a bad film, but a bad film from a director who knows better. I can’t forgive a film this shitty, and lazy, from a filmmaker who has a clue.

What a truly unwatchable film.

My condolences to anyone who actually paid to see this.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Tales From the Rez (2023) and Cloud Striker (2023) Blood in the Snow


CLOUD STRIKER is the short playing with TALES FROM THE REZ

What happens when a First Nation father goes to reclaim his child from a Christian school.

I’ve ran across this short at another festival and it’s a really good tale of revenge.

Several episodes of horror set in the Native American community (hence the title).

This is closer to TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE as opposed to TWILIGHT ZONE or TALES FROM THE CRYPT. For me that’s a big selling point since while I love those other shows, DARKSIDE always felt warm and inviting in a scary sort of a way. There was never the mean spiritedness of some of the CRYPT stories or the intellectual pretentions of ZONE.

These are some great stories. They have great set ups that quietly hook us an d pull us in. The first story for example is set up by a guy in a chair sitting and talking to us before the story kicks in , the next thing we know we’re hip deep in the creepy stuff, with an great pay off….

And yes I am being intentionally not forth coming with details. I am doing so because to say anything is to risk spoilers and one of the joys for me was not having any clue about what the story was or how many. With compilations like this am frequently guilty of using the plots and number of stories to work out when the pay off is coming. With TALES FROM THE REZ I went in blind and just let it all was over me. That’s the way to do it.

My refusal to say anything aide, TALES FROM THE REZ is a joy. I had a grand time watching the tales. I want more.

The collection is highly recommended.

The Bubble (aka Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth) (1966) Thanksgiving Turkey

Arch  Obler, the creator of the radio show Lights Out and the man behind BWANA DEVIL The film that kicked off the 1950's 3D craze, wanted to promote a new 3D process so he came up with THE BUBBLE about a town locked in a giant bubble by aliens.

A plane is forced to land rear a small town because one of the passengers goes into labor. There they find the population acting like robots and eating weird food. They then struggle to find their way out.

Originally released at 112 minutes the film was trimmed a decade later and released at around 90 minutes in 1976. It was then trimmed even more for TV with the only two versions existing are the 90 minute reissue and 75 minute TV one. In all cases this film is simply too damn long. Playing like an extended episode of Lights Out THE BUBBLE just goes on and on with very little happening before we get to an ending that just sort of there. I saw the film flat which probably made things worse since there are the odd camera choices that only work if you see it in 3D.

While not bad as such it just kind of goes on and on and on. Watching the reissue version I found I was nodding off. I can not imagine what this film was like in a version that ran close to two hours especially if there was no 3D to distract you.

Of interest only for those who can see it in Spacevision 3D  (though the version put out by Rhino with red and blue glasses is supposed to be terrible)

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

DEEP SEA (2023) opens Friday

This is the greatest use of 3D I have ever seen.

This is one of the most amazing 3D films I have ever seen.

The 2D version looks amazing but the 3D version is something else entirely. This film is cinematic art of the highest order.

This is the story Shenxiu, who is traveling with her father and step mother on a cruise. She desperately wants to reconnect with he mother who never seems to want to take her phone calls. When she falls overboard during a story she ends up in a crazy undersea restaurant that is staffed by otters and serves the various people of the ocean. 

I am not going to lie to you, there is a point where the narrative stops making sense, the reason for it is explained at the end, but until that reveal the last portion of the film kind of feels fractured, even if it isn't.  While I was disappointed about the narrative, it's far from fatal, and besides it gives us an excuse for some more crazy visuals.

The visuals are the film. There is a level of detail here that is truly fightening. Even knowing that this was done  with computers it's still a frightening thought to realize all the things that had to be animated. I mean the camera is in constant motion so perspectives are never static. Plus director Xiaopeng Tian gives everything at every level in the frame weight. Nothing is half assed, its a real place. I was talking to the sales agent for the film and was told that there is so much in every image it will take more that seven or eight viewings to catch everything going on.

I was floored. I have never seen anything like this before. This is like being trapped in a living breathing painting. Think the visuals in WHAT DREAMS MAY COME but on steroids to some maximum degree.

It's not a lie when I say this is one of the greatest motion pictures I've ever seen. Yes it's not perfect but it is such a visceral and visual gut punch it moved me to tears at the sheer beauty of it all.

Highly recommended.

Funny Frights at Blood in the Snow 2023

Okay short about a young woman who is evicted from her apartment but slips into a solution. It’s good but the ending is kind of telegraphed.

During the building of a dam a glowing skull and bones are found- which possesses the workers. Two guys are sent to find out what happened at the work site. 

Chills are secondary in this horror comedy. Silly is the name of the game and  if you like that you'll love this film.

Michelle hooks up with Zack who has a little thing in a bottle.

Wicked and uncomfortable comedy mixes with gore about a thing in a bottle.  This film is going to be a blast with an audience.

A group of musician's discover the Devil's Note- which summons the devil.

Walking the fine line between humor and horror this is a wicked little tale about playing the wrong note and paying for it.

A woman explains how she gets by during a hosing crisis. 

This is both funny and extremely creepy, slowly turning from one to the other as the plot thickens... worth a look

Wonderful story about missionaries going to the wrong house.... a true delight