The Leopard Man

The Leopard Man was the last of brief—but fruitful, innovative, and highly influential—collaboration of producer/auteur, Val Lewton, and director Jacques Tourneur. It was preceded by the much more heralded Cat People and I Walk With a Zombie, and was, in fact, the only film of the trio to receive negative-to-lukewarm criticism. In retrospect, the film is more challenging and innovative than either of its predecessors; it has an eye that looks both backwards to Fritz Lang’s supreme psychological suspense/thriller noir about a serial killer, M, as well as ahead to the radical and inventive narratives of Alfred Hitchcock. If The Leopard Man lacks the perfection of M, and the cinematic refinement of Hitchcock, it’s still an undeniable diamond in the rough that contains a great deal to admire. Read more of this post

Clive Barker’s Hellraiser

A shirtless man is fondling a brass puzzle box whose idea of “No means no” involves spewing out flesh-piercing chains. The attic room he occupied fils with dangling hooks and spinning pillars adorned with flesh. The man, who we will soon learn goes by the name Frank Cotton, is reduced to a few gallons of blood soaking the woodwork, his face strewn about the room in chunks. Another man steps out of the dark. He is dressed in leather that stylishly draws attention to his various abdominal wounds. He is almost a silhoutte, but the light drifting down over the back of his hairless, ghost white flesh exposes a grid carved into his head, with a pin hammered into his skull at each intersecting line. He places the chunks of Frank’s mutilated face back together, in a jigsaw, and caresses the surface of the box. In a flash, all the chains and gore are gone, leaving the room as barren as if nobody was ever there.

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Lady Chatterley

All self-respecting critics and artists—not just those that do it professionally, but amateurs too—eventually become aware of the importance of context. Greatness and badness don’t exist in isolation, but in comparative contexts. Importance and influence frequently stand in as synonyms for greatness. Sometimes we have to mediate the difference between art we don’t like, but must respect on a social, historical, technical, or other contextual level, and, likewise, art we like that isn’t successful on any established standards. In considering all of that, it’s sometimes interesting to willfully forgo it and walk into works as blank slates with little-to-no knowledge of the various important contexts that surround. That sums up my approach to Pascale Ferran’s Lady Chatterley; it’s a three-and-a-half hour film adaptation of a novel I haven’t read (in any incarnation), and is, in itself, only one in a long line of such adaptations I haven’t seen. Read more of this post

Run Lola Run

I haven’t read any reviews for Run Lola Run, but I can almost presage the charges of “pseudo-intellectual” and “pop philosophy” and all the terms that follow works of art that dare shape themselves around such theoretical concepts in an attempt to dramatize them and transform them into something entertaining. Run Lola Run explicitly introduces the age-old debate regarding fatalism, determinism, free will and choice, chaos theory, and all of the ideas that surround the question of how life plays out in time. It does this with an inventive narrative structure that sets an event in motion and then follows it through until its conclusion three times, with each telling a slightly different story with different outcomes that seem to depend on the slightest of initial biases. Read more of this post

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

I agree with Roger Ebert when he said he would much prefer to like a film and write a glowing review than to hate a film and write a diatribe. I think too many people think that most critics take some kind of perverse pleasure out of censuring films and filmmakers, when the truth of the matter is that such invectives are, more than anything, a consolation prize for having to sit through such dreck. With that in mind, I don’t particularly delight in writing that Prince of Persia is a bad film. Well, bad is more vague than inept; Prince of Persia is an inept film that stands as an example of how bad mindless big-budgeted blockbusters can get. Read more of this post

The Chaser

Directed by Na Hong-jin

South Korea; 2008

125 min.

Starring Kin Yun-seok, Ha Jung-woo, and Seo Yeong-hye

In Short: Na Hong-jin’s debut film is yet another film continuing South Korea’s recent dominance of the crime thriller genre. With a ticking-clock narrative and very clearly defined characters, it is almost impossible to not be emotionally affected by this film in some way, shape or form. Not surprisingly, an American remake starring Leonardo DiCaprio is in the works.

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Still Walking

"Aren't you glad we finally got rid of those pesky parents."

Yui Natsukawa and Hiroshi Abe have a moment alone

Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda

Japan; 2008

114 min.

Starring Hiroshi Abe and Yui Natsukawa

In Short: Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Still Walking is a film that is very familiar, with themes and emotions that have been covered well by many previous films, perhaps most closely reminiscent of Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece Tokyo Story. One could say that it’s been done before, but that doesn’t stop Still Walking from being an enormously touching and well crafted film that ranks among the best of the past few years.

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