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Takashi Miike’s ‘Blade of the Immortal’ slices and dices, but it could use a trim

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Takashi Miike’s been one of the biggest shock jockeys of Japanese cinema for eons. Ichi the Killer (2001) was a high-splatter mark for lovers of extreme gore, and Miike’s output has been an extraordinary arterial gusher. Blade of the Immortal is billed as Miike’s hundredth film, and while one could quibble (glancing over his Wikipedia bio, I count somewhere in the mid-nineties), the fact is the guy’s made an astonishing number of films. And he’s only fifty-seven!

Blade of the Immortal finds Miike plying his grisly gonzo in the service of a long-running samurai manga. Is the legendary director finally in danger of becoming a hack, or does his blood-slicked blade cut through one more time?

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‘Mudbound’ is a fascinating, moving film

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Mudbound is a fascinating, moving film from director Dee Rees. Set in the deep south during the forties, this adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s 2008 bestseller is deeply affecting but not without its own contradictions, a sprawling literary epic that feels somehow too contained.

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Tarkovsky’s Trance: TIFF Retro Explores the Work of an Austere Master

Just seven. Seven features over twenty-four years. That’s the sum of Andrei Tarkovsky’s output. Each one is a starkly entrancing masterpiece, evidencing a unique metaphysical vision. They’re about as far from easy films as you can get. They’re rich, nuanced and spare, and hugely influential in an oblique way. Art house giants like Lars von Trier and Terrence Malick owe a tremendous debt to Tarkovsky, and the existential science fiction of films like Stalker and Solaris casts a long, looming shadow into the present day.

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God’s Own Country

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Francis Lee’s debut feature God’s Own Country finds its soul in the rugged English countryside, bleak and affecting. Getting raves on the indie circuit, it’s a stark romance about a young farmer discovering his sexuality. But is it Brokeback UK, or is there more to it?

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Birth of the Dragon: The Hero Nobody Wants or Needs


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He might’ve died forty-four years ago, but Bruce Lee still attracts controversy. Director George Nolfi found that out, with the release of his Lee sort-of biopic, Birth of the Dragon. Centering on the legendary 1964 fight between Lee and Suaolin master Wong Jack Man, the film bowed yesterday clouded by accusations of white-washing. Does Birth of the Dragon deserve to be kicked around? Find out after the jump!

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Happy TIFFmas! Toronto’s film fest reveals first 2017 picks

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It’s the silly season for Toronto filmgoers, the cine-season, TIFFmas to many devoted local movie buffs. Today the Toronto International Film Festival 2017 edition announced its first swath of upcoming films. These are Gala and Special Presentation flicks, and there’s bound to be a passel of Oscar-hunting contenders worth checking out. Catch the full list after the jump!

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Near Dark: The Original Hillbilly Vamps

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Long before the teen angst pangs of Twilight or the fever heat of True Blood, director Kathryn Bigelow had an inkling of what a southern-fried vampire romance could be. Near Dark delivered on her vision of hillbilly vamps, an eighties cult classic that’s hard to believe is coming up on its thirtieth anniversary. The cinephiles at TIFF have dug out an archival print, so this Friday, July 21st, Bigelow’s blood-sucking hicks will rise again.

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Panique: French Crime Classics

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Judex is an early progenitor for the likes of David Lynch and Eyes Wide Shut

If you like thrillers, genre-bending capers, femmes fatales and shady figures wrapped up in criminal exploits where no one comes out on top, chances are you’re a film noir fan through and through. Maybe you’ve seen Chinatown ten times, and you think you’ve got the plot of The Maltese Falcon figured out. Maybe you have. But a jaded noir aficionado could do a lot worse than to check out some of the gritty gems in TIFF’s upcoming program Panique: French Crime Classics. It’s one dark amuse-bouche after another, a feast of chilling misanthropy and malice for the summer. “Cinematic A/C, Gallic style,” quips James Quandt, Senior Programmer, and he’s not wrong. These flicks get in your bones.

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Hardest Boiled: The Many Noirs of Jean-Pierre Melville

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Alain Delon stars in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai (1967)

This summer, TIFF’s having a crime wave. French crime to be exact. They’re mounting two programmes, both bursting with criminal intent. I’ll take a look at the second bunch next week, a brilliant collection of flicks called Panique: French Crime Classics. Opening today is a different but related programme, Army of Shadows: The Films of Jean Pierre Melville. It’s a great ride, too, full of cool noirs and hard-boiled thrillers, from the best director named Melville that most definitely did not write Moby Dick.

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Marriage Under a Microscope Overshadows The World Of ‘The Commune’

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Man. I guess people were so depressed in the seventies they’d try just about anything. As we live through a fast-forward remix of the Watergate scandal, it’s interesting to take a look back at those strange, hungover times. The Commune is a Danish film set in the seventies, so a rather different milieu than Nixon’s America. But societal malaise was pervasive in Western culture at that time. From the talented but uneven director Thomas Vinterberg (The CelebrationThe Hunt), The Commune is a loosely autobiographical film of his own experiences growing up in that era. It’s a spare tale of a marriage pushed too far, veering into melodrama.

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