Thursday, December 31, 2015

John Carpenter, part XXIII: Xenogenesis


VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED

In which we undertake a reappraisal of one of John Carpenter's lesser-regarded works.

1995
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by David Himmelstein, Steven Siebert, and Larry Sulkis (based on the book The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham and the screenplay by Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla, and Ronald Kinnoch)
With Christopher Reeve (Dr. Alan Chaffee), Kirstie Alley (Dr. Susan Verner), Linda Kozlowski (Melanie Roberts), Michael Pare (Frank McGowan), Karen Kahn (Barbara Chaffee), Mark Hamill (Rev. George), Thomas Dekker (David McGowan), and Lindsey Haun (Mara Chaffee)

Spoiler alert: high

Monday, December 28, 2015

Have you been a good boy or girl this year, and would you be mad if I told you that it matters a lot less than you think?


THE PRINCE OF EGYPT

Happy holidays, Judeo-Christians!  This was supposed to go up Christmas Day, but you know how it is.  Well, if you're from the "Judeo" part of that association, you don't, and this one's more for you, anyhow.

1998
Directed by Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, and Simon Wells
Written by Philip LaZebnik and Nicholas Meyer
With Val Kilmer (Moses), Michelle Pfeiffer (Tziporrah), Sandra Bullock (Miriam), Jeff Goldblum (Aaron), Danny Glover (Jethro), Patrick Stewart (Pharaoh Seti I), Ralph Fiennes (Pharaoh Rameses II), and Val Kilmer (YHWH)

Spoiler alert: he lets his people go

It will obsess you, but believe me, it will be a mediocre obsession


CAROL

Todd Haynes returns to the 1950s.  I wish he hadn't.

2015
Directed by Todd Haynes
Written by Phyllis Nagy (based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith)
With Cate Blanchett (Carol Aird), Rooney Mara (Therese Belivet), Kyle Chandler (Harge Aird), and Sarah Paulson (Abby Gerhard)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Buckle that swash, part VII: Fairbanks' new groove


THE GAUCHO

After a break, somewhat justified by a hard-to-get-ahold-of DVD, we at last return to the ongoing adventures of Douglas Fairbanks.  Would that the film itself were especially good.

1927
Directed by F. Richard Jones
Written by Lotta Woods, Dr. Arthur Woods, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
With Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (The Gaucho), Lupe Velez (The Mountain Girl), Eve Southern (The Girl of the Shrine), Nigel de Brulier (The Padre), Gustav von Seyffertitz (Ruiz, the Usurper), Michael Vavitch (The Usurper's First Liutenant), Charles Stevens (The Gaucho's First Lieutenant), Albert MacQuarrie (The Victim of the Black Doom), and Mary Pickford (Saint Mary)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, December 20, 2015

You probably didn't recognize me because of the red arm


STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

If history's taught us anything, it's that it takes years for us to be able tell whether a new Star Wars movie is any good.  So, in this spirit of deep ambivalence, I offer a mostly negative review, then give it a positive score.

2015
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by Michael Arndt, Lawrence Kasdan, and J.J. Abrams
With Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Carrie Fisher (Gen. Leia Organa), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Domnhall Gleeson (Gen. Nux), and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren)

Spoiler alert: moderate, high, severe? you've seen it already anyway, so you be the judge

Thursday, December 17, 2015

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Star Wars comes out—so let's go ahead and get this done today


MACBETH

Hey, on the plus side, at least a house full of people didn't have to die to inspire this version.

2015
Directed by Justin Kurzel
Written by Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, and Todd Louiso (based on the play by William Shakespeare)
With Michael Fassbender (Macbeth), Marion Cotillard (Lady Macbeth), Paddy Considine (Banquo), David Thewliss (King Duncan), Jack Reynor (Prince Malcolm), and Sean Harris (Macduff)

Spoiler alert: get real

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kids these days—back then, we had to scrounge up and down the hellscape, just for a single tree star!


THE GOOD DINOSAUR

Note: I have used hedging language in the closing paragraph of this review because I have not seen either Cars film.  But whether The Good Dinosaur sucks worse is moot, given that it manages to suck on its own just fine.

2015
Directed by Peter Sohn
Written by Meg LaFauve, Bob Petersen, Erik Benson, Kelsey Mann, and Peter Sohn
With Raymond Achoa (Arlo), Jack Bright (Spot), Jeffrey Wright (Poppa), Frances Macdormand (Momma), Marcus Scribner (Buck), Maleah Nippy-Padilla (Libby), Anna Paquin (Ramsey), A.J. Buckley (Nash), and Sam Elliott (Butch), and Steve Zahn (Thunderclap)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, December 13, 2015

John Carpenter, part XXII: The man of Truth has learnt that Illusion is the only reality


IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS

The greatest cosmic horror on film is also the greatest achievement of its director's career.

1995
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Michael De Luca
With Sam Neill (John Trent), Julie Carmen (Linda Styles), Charlton Heston (Jackson Harglow), David Warner (Dr. Wrenn), and Jurgen Prochnow (Sutter Cane)

Spoiler alert: high

Monday, December 7, 2015

Party on, dudes


BILL & TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY

Station.

1991
Directed by Peter Hewitt
Written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon
With Keanu Reeves (Ted "Theodore" Logan/Evil Ted), Alex Winter (Bill S. Preston, Esq./Evil Bill/Granny S. Preston, Esq.), William Sadler (Death), Ed Gale/Arturo Gil/Tom Alland/Neil Ross (Station), Annette Azcuy (Princess Elizabeth), Sarah Trigger (Princess Joanna), J. Patrick McNamara (Mr. Preston), Hal Landon Jr. (Capt. Logan), Amy Stoch (Missy Logan), Pam Grier (Mrs. Wardroe), Jim Martin (Sir James Martin), George Carlin (Rufus), and Joss Ackland (De Nomolos)

Spoiler alert: high, though once again the Bill and Ted franchise really is a snake eating its own tail

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Be excellent to each other


BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE

A gloriously dumb comedy with heart to spare and smarter sci-fi underpinnings than it really ought to have, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure shall always remain one of the enduring classics of its era, even when the future the Stallyns promised us seems farther away than ever.

1989
Directed by Stephen Herek
Written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon
With Alex Winter (Bill S. Preston, Esq.), Keanu Reeves (Ted "Theodore" Logan), Terry Camelleri (Napoleon Bonaparte), Dan Shor (Billy the Kid), Tony Steedman (Socrates), Rod Loomis (Sigmund Freud), Al Leong (Genghis Khan), Jane Wiedlin (Jeanne d'Arc), Robert Barron (Abraham Lincoln), Clifford David (Beethoven), Hal Landon Jr. (Capt. Logan), J. Patrick McNamara (Mr. Preston), Amy Stoch (Missy Preston), and George Carlin (Rufus)

Spoiler alert: delightfully auto-spoiling, really, but "high"

Thursday, December 3, 2015

John Carpenter, part XXI: Do you like EC Comics? Well, I know someone who does


BODY BAGS

Hey, it's not like Tales From the Crypt was all that great, either.

1993
Directed by John Carpenter ("The Gas Station," "Hair"), Tobe Hooper ("The Eye"), and Larry Sulkis (something, apparently)
Written by Billy Brown and Dan Angel
With...
"The Gas Station": Alex Datcher (Anne) and Robert Carradine (Bill)
"Hair": Stacey Keach (Richard Coberts), Sheena Easton (Megan), and David Warner (Dr. Lock)
"The Eye": Mark Hamill (Brent Matthews), Twiggy (Cathy Matthews), and John Agar (Dr. Lang)
...along with your host, John Carpenter (The Coroner)

Spoiler alert: mild

John Carpenter, part XX: Give me back my molecules!


MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN

Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a film that only rarely rises above the simple playing-out of its premise—but, in doing just that, still offers a great deal to enjoy.

1992
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Robert Collector, Dana Olsen, and William Goldman (based on the novel by H.F. Saint)
With Chevy Chase (Nick Halloway), Daryl Hannah (Alice Monroe), Michael McKean (George Talbot), and Sam Neill (David Jenkins)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, November 26, 2015

John Carpenter, part XVII: We sleep


THEY LIVE

The beloved class warrior classic has so much to recommend itbut not everything.

1988
Written and directed by John Carpenter (based on the very short story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" by Ray Nelson)
With "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (Nada), Keith David (Frank), Meg Foster (Holly), Peter Jason (Gilbert), Raymond St. Jacques (The Street Preacher), and George "Buck" Flower (The Drifter)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

John Carpenter, part XVI: Party like it's the year one nine nine nine


PRINCE OF DARKNESS

If only all movies about the Devil could be made with this much obvious joy.

1987
Written and directed by John Carpenter
With Victor Wong (Prof. Birack), Donald Pleasence (Father Loomis), Jameson Parker (Brian), Dennis Dun (Walter), Lisa Blount (Catherine), Anne Marie Howard (Susan), Ann Yen (Lisa), Jesse Lawrence Ferguson (Calder), Dirk Blocker (Mullins), Ken Wright (Lomax), Robert Grasmere (Frank), Thom Bray (Etchison), Peter Jason (Dr. Paul Leahy), Joanna Merlin (The Bag Lady) Alice Cooper (The Street Schizo), and Susan Blanchard (Kelly, and latterly Satan, Son of the Anti-God)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, November 23, 2015

John Carpenter, part XV: I've got a very positive attitude about this


BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA

Whipsmart genre-benders don't come much more fun than this; nor, unfortunately, much more difficult to discuss.

1986
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein, W.D. Richter, and John Carpenter
With Dennis Dun (Wang Chi), Kurt Russell (Jack Burton), Kim Cattrall (Gracie Law), Victor Wong (Egg Shen), Donald Li (Eddie), Kate Burton (Margo), Suzee Pai (Miao Yin), Carter Wong (Thunder), Peter Kwong (Rain), James Pax (Lightning), and James Hong (David Lo Pan)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

John Carpenter, part XIV: Riding with death


BLACK MOON RISING

Offering supercars, Linda Hamilton in a starring role, and evil businessmen who must be thwarted with awesome violence, Black Moon Rising represents one damned fine slice of pure 80s cheese.

1986
Directed by Harley Cokeliss
Written by Desmond Nakano, William Gray, and John Carpenter
With Tommy Lee Jones (Sam Quint), Linda Hamilton (Nina), Richard Jaeckel (Earl Windom), Dan Shor (Billy Lyons), William Sanderson (Tyke Thayden), Lee Ving (Marvin Ringer), Bubba Smith (Johnson), and Robert Vaughn (Ed Ryland)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

John Carpenter, part XIII: It's a real executive production, all right


THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT

I'm sure if John freaking Carpenter couldn't make a workable movie out of it, then Stewart Rafill certainly can!  Right?

1984
Directed by Stewart Rafill
Written by Michael Janover, William Gray, Wallace C. Bennett, Don Jakoby, Stewart Rafill, and John Carpenter (super-uncredited) (sort-of based on the book The Philadelphia Experiment-Project Invisibility by Bill Moore and Charles Berlitz)
With Michael Pare (David Herdeg), Nancy Allen (Allison Hayes), Bobby Di Cicco (Jim Parker), and Eric Christmas (Dr. James Longstreet)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, November 14, 2015

John Carpenter, part XII: He'd like to come and meet us, but he's afraid he'd blow his load


STARMAN

Largely charming, this odd studio effort finds John Carpenter acquitting himself well—despite the necessity of operating pretty far outside of his comfort zone.

1984
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Bruce A. Evans, Raynold Gideon, Dean Riesner, Edward Zwick, Diane Thomas, and D.B. Cooper
With Karen Allen (Jenny Hayden), Jeff Bridges (The Starman), and Charles Martin Smith (Mark Evans)

Spoiler alert: mild

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

John Carpenter, part XI: God, I hate rock and roll


CHRISTINE

A great central metaphor and some of the most unique "gore" ever put in a movie combine to make Christine one of John Carpenter's best.

1983
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Bill Phillips (based on the novel by Stephen King)
With Keith Gordon (Arnie Cunningham), John Stockwell (Dennis Guilder), Alexandra Paul (Leigh Cabot), Robert Prosky (Will Darnell), Harry Dean Stanton (Det. Rudolph Jenkins), William Ostrander (Buddy Eperton), Malcolm Danare (Moochie), Steven Tash (Rich Trelawney), Stuart Charno (Don Vanderburg), Christine Belford (Regina Cunningham), Robert Darnell (Michael Cunningham), and Roberts Blossom (George LeBay)

Spoiler alert: high

Sunday, November 8, 2015

You're my butterfly, sugar, baby


THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY

The hard work of monogamy is highlighted in this bizarre, nightmarelike romance that I couldn't recommend more to people who like the gaudiest kind of shit.

2014 (doms)/2015 (subs)
Written and directed by Peter Strickland
With Sidse Babbett Knunsen (Cynthia) and Chiara D'Anna (Evelyn)

Spoiler alert: mild

Thursday, November 5, 2015

John Carpenter, part X: What the Samhain is going on in here?!


HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

Only in the 1980s.  Or, to be fair, on one of the sillier episodes of The X-Files.  But either way, I adore it.

1982
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
Written by Tommy Lee Wallace, Nigel Kneale, and John Carpenter
With Tom Atkins (Dr. Daniel Challis), Stacey Nelkin (Ellie Grimbridge), Al Berry (Harry Grimbridge), Dick Warlock (The Assassin), and Dan O'Herlihy (Conal Cochran)

Spoiler alert: oh, man, I've gotta go severe on this bad boy

John Carpenter, part IX: That damned thing that Earth wouldn't own is dripping, dripping in the Cosmos House tonight


THE THING

Perhaps the best practical effects in horror meet the most sustained paranoia in horror, and the result is an abiding nihilism that, somehow, is a hell of a lot of fun to watch.  We arrive now at John Carpenter's very first outright masterpiece.

1982
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Bill Lancaster (based on the story by John W. Campbell)
With Kurt Russell (McReady), Wilford Brimley (Dr. Blair), Keith David (Childs), T.K. Carter (Nauls), Richard Dysart (Dr. Copper), David Clennon (Palmer), Charles Hallahan (Norris), Peter Maloney (Bennings), Richard Masur (Clark), Donald Moffat (Cmdr. Bennings), Joel Polis (Fuchs), Thomas G. Waites (Windows), Norbert Weisser (The Norwegian), Larry Franco (The Norwegian Passenger), and Jed the Dog (The Thing)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, November 1, 2015

John Carpenter, part VIII: HE'S NOT HUMAN!


HALLOWEEN II

Turns out the most important stuff happened on November 1st.

1981
Directed by Rick Rosenthal ft. John Carpenter
Written by Debra Hill and John Carpenter
With Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Donald Pleasence (Dr. Samuel Loomis), Hunter von Leer (Officer Gary Hunt), Lance Guest (Jimmy), Charles Cyphers (Leigh Brackett), and Dick Warlock/Adam Gunn (Michael Myers)

Spoiler alert: largely inapplicable, but "severe," I suppose

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Census Bloodbath: Jennifer's body


KILLER PARTY

It's October again!  And that means it's time for Kinemalogue's annual crossover with Brennan Klein's Popcorn Culture, which is still just about the best blog you could ever read, while Brennan has in the intervening year gone from "horror media expert" to "horror media professional."  So, just like last year, from now till Halloween, I'll be pretending to know what Brennan knows and reviewing some rad 80s slashers, while Brennan will review some swell 50s science fiction!  Let the mayhem begin!

1986
Directed by William Fruet
Written by Barney Cohen
With Joanna Johnson (Jennifer), Sherry Willis-Burch (Vivia), Elaine Wilkes (Phoebe), and Paul Bartel (Prof. Archibald Zito)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Census Bloodbath: How diabolic

 
THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW

It's October again!  And that means it's time for Kinemalogue's annual crossover with Brennan Klein's Popcorn Culture, which is still just about the best blog you could ever read, while Brennan has in the intervening year gone from "horror media expert" to "horror media professional."  So, just like last year, from now till Halloween, I'll be pretending to know what Brennan knows and reviewing some rad 80s slashers, while Brennan will review some swell 50s science fiction!  Let the mayhem begin!

1983
Directed by Mark Rosman
Written by Bobby Fine and Mark Rosman
With Kathryn McNeil (Katherine), Eileen Davidson (Vicki), Janis Ward (Liz), Robin Meloy (Jeanie), Harley Jane Kozak (Diane), Jodi Draigie (Morgan), Ellen Dorsher (Stevie), Lois Kelso Hunt/Barbara Harris' voice (Mrs. Slater), and Christopher Lawrence (Dr. Beck)

Spoiler alert: high

Friday, October 30, 2015

John Carpenter, part VII: Follow the orange line to the processing area


ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK

The zeitgeisty classic that introduced the world to an iconic dickbag and crowned John Carpenter the king of the cult filmmakers.

1981
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Nick Castle and John Carpenter
With Kurt Russell (Snake Plissken), Donald Pleasence (The President), Harry Dean Stanton (Brain), Adrienne Barbeau (Maggie), Ernest Borgnine (The Cabbie), Lee Van Kleef (Police Comissioner Hauk), Tom Atkins (Security Chief Rehme), Charles Cyphers (The Secretary of State), Season Hubley (The Girl in Chock Full O' Nuts), Frank Doubleday (Romero), Isaac Hayes (The Duke of New York), and Jamie Lee Curtis (The Narrator)

Spoiler alert: mild

Thursday, October 29, 2015

John Carpenter, part VI: Everything you see and know is built on the bodies and bones of those who came before


THE FOG

After all the sex murder of Halloween, John Carpenter's next project was as far away from the new-style slasher genre as anything could have been while still featuring impalements and eye-gouging.  But if you asked me, it was the great director's first unambiguously great movie.

1980
Written and directed by John Carpenter
With Adrienne Barbeau (Stevie Wayne), Hal Holbrook (Father Malone), Tom Atkins (Nick Castle), Jamie Lee Curtis (Elizabeth Solley), Charles Cyphers (Dan O'Bannon), Janet Leigh (Kathy Williams), John Houseman (Mr. Machen), and Rob Bottin (Blake)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

John Carpenter, part V: We're caught in a trap, but I can't walk out—because I love you too much, baby


ELVIS

I know a lot more about Elvis than I did before I watched this movie, and I care either the same amount, or less.

1979
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Anthony Lawrence
With Kurt Russell (Elvis Presley), Shelley Winters (Gladys Presley), Season Hubley (Priscilla Presley), Ribert Gray (Red West), Charles Cyphers (Sam Phillips), and Pat Hingle (Col. Tom Parker)

Spoiler alert: negligible

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Census Bloodbath: Murder on the Boreal Express


TERROR TRAIN

It's October again!  And that means it's time for Kinemalogue's annual crossover with Brennan Klein's Popcorn Culture, which is still just about the best blog you could ever read, while Brennan has in the intervening year gone from "horror media expert" to "horror media professional."  So, just like last year, from now till Halloween, I'll be pretending to know what Brennan knows and reviewing some rad 80s slashers, while Brennan will review some swell 50s science fiction!  Let the mayhem begin!

1980
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
Written by T.Y. Drake and Daniel Grodnik
With Jamie Lee Curtis (Alana), Ben Johnson (Conductor Carne), Hart Bochner (Doc), Sandee Currie (Mitchy), Timothy Webber (Mo), Anthony Sherwood (Jackson), Howard Busgang (Ed), David Copperfield (The Magician), and Derek McKinnon (Kenny Hampson)

Spoiler alert: severe

Saturday, October 24, 2015

John Carpenter, part IV: The Shape of things to come


HALLOWEEN

One of the most influential pieces of popular culture ever made, Halloween is a how-to guide for its entire genre that, frankly, leaves me the slightest bit cold.

1978
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Debra Hill and John Carpenter
With Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Donald Pleasence (Dr. Samuel Loomis), Charles Cyphers (Sheriff Leigh Brackett), P.J. Soles (Lynda von der Klok), Nancy Loomis (Annie Brackett), John Michael Graham (Bob Simms), Brian Andrews (Tommy Doyle), Kyle Richards (Lindsey Wallace), and Nick Castle/Tony Moran/Will Sandin (Michael Myers)

Spoiler alert: essentially meaningless, but let's say "high"

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

John Carpenter, part III: When a stranger calls


SOMEONE'S WATCHING ME!

A thriller just tiny enough to fit inside one of those small cathode ray boxes we used to call "televisions."

1978
Written and directed by John Carpenter
With Lauren Hutton (Leigh Michaels), David Birney (Paul Winkless), Adrienne Barbeau (Sophie), and Charles Cyphers (Gary Hunt)

Spoiler alert: mild

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

In Mexico, sicario means boring—sorry! it's hitman, it means hitman


SICARIO

Denis Villeneuve returns with his best Hollywood effort yet—and if it sounds like I'm trying to damn it with faint praise, it's only because I am.

2015
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by Taylor Sheridan
With Emily Blunt (Kate Macer), Daniel Kaluuya (Reggie Wayne), Josh Brolin (Matt Graver), and Benicio Del Toro (Alejandro)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, October 19, 2015

John Carpenter, part II: SUPPOR YOUR LOC POLIC


ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13

Abstract art, a vague politicizing impulse, and lo-fi action all converge in John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13, and I mean that in a highly complimentary way.

1976
Written and directed by John Carpenter
With Austin Stoker (Lt. Ethan Bishop), Darwin Joston (Napoleon Wilson), Laurie Zimmer (Leigh), Tony Burton (Wells), Charles Cyphers (Officer Starker), Gilbert De Le Pena (the Chicano Warlord), Frank Doubleday (the White Warlord), James Johnson (the Black Warlord), and Al Nakuichi (the Oriental Warlord)

Spoiler alert: high

Saturday, October 17, 2015

By this point, you'd think they'd be notorious


CRIMSON PEAK

Immaculately-designed boilerplate done extraordinarily well, Crimson Peak is as wonderful a Halloween treat as you could ask for—just don't expect any tricks to come with it, too.

2015
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Matthew Robins and Guillermo del Toro
With Mia Wasikowska (Edith Cushing), Tom Hiddleston (Sir Thomas Sharpe, Baronet Allerdale), Jessica Chastain (Lady Lucille Sharpe), Charlie Hunnam (Dr. Alan McMichael), and Jim Beaver (Carter Cushing)

Spoiler alert: mild

Friday, October 16, 2015

This is not heaven, it's the world—and there's troubles in it


KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

A plea for tolerance that you think about more than you feel, and which you likely won't think about too hard, at that.  But you must admit, it is made with some truly awesome violence.

2005
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by William Monohan
With Orlando Bloom (Balian), Liam Neeson (Baron Godfrey of Ibelin), Ed Norton (King Baldwin IV), Eva Green (Sybilla), Jeremy Irons (Tiberias), Marton Csokas (Guy de Lusignan), Brendan Gleeson (Raynald de Chatillon), Alexander Siddig (Imad), and Ghassan Massoud (Salah ad-Din)

Spoiler alert: you may or may not be surprised to learn that the Crusader state of Jerusalem no longer exists

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I like these little calm moments before the storm


LEON

Would you believe that a Luc Besson movie has serious problems?  It's true!

1994
Written and directed by Luc Besson
With Jean Reno (Leon), Natalie Portman (Mathilda), and Gary Oldman (Stansfield)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, October 12, 2015

John Carpenter, part I: In space, no one can hear you... surf?


DARK STAR

Sure, there's something going on here, but there's a reason why most student films aren't released to general audiences.

1974
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Dan O'Bannon and John Carpenter
With Brian Narelle (Lt. Doolittle), Cal Kuniholm (Boiler), Dre Pahich (Talby), Dan O'Bannon (Pinback), Cookie Knapp (the Computer), Joe Saunders (Cmdr. Powell), and Adam Beckenbaugh (Bomb 20)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Buckle that swash, part VI: A variety of shades of brown—all in glorious Technicolor!


THE BLACK PIRATE

Very close to the ur-text of cinematic buccaneering and color photography alike, The Black Pirate is short, sweet—and even a little bit revolutionary.

1926
Directed by Albert Parker
Written by Jack Cunningham, Lotta Woods, Dr. Arthur Woods, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
With Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (The Black Pirate), Billie Dove ("Princess" Isobel), Donald Crisp (MacTavish), Charles Belcher (The Nobleman), Anders Randolf (The Pirate Captain), and Sam De Grasse (The Pirate Lieutenant)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Buckle that swash, part V: Daddy, what did you do in the war?


DON Q, SON OF ZORRO

An acceptable offering of Fairbanksian whimsy—right smack in the middle of his personal bell curve.

1925
Directed by Donald Crisp
Written by Jack Cunningham and Lotta Woods (based on the novel Don Q's Love Story by Kate and Hesketh Prichard)
With Douglas Fairbanks (Don Cesar de Vega, and his father, Don Diego de Vega/Zorro), Mary Astor (Dolores de Muro), Jack McDonald (General de Muro), Warner Oland (Archduke Paul), Col. Matsado (Albert MacQuarrie), Jean Hersholt (Don Fabrique), and Donald Crisp (Don Sebastian)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Buckle that swash, part IV: The rarest treasure


THE THIEF OF BAGDAD

One of the silent form's most flawless beauties, this dream voyage through Arabian nights must be counted as the masterpiece of not only one but two great filmmakers—and even three, if you go so far as to count its director.

1924
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Written by James T. O'Donohoe, Lotta Woods, George Sterling, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (based on The Thief of Bagdad, by Achmed Abdullah, in turn based on 1001 Nights, by Arabia)
With Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (The Thief), Snitz Edwards (His Evil Associate), Julanne Johnston (The Princess), The Mongol Slave (Anna May Wong), Charles Belcher (The Holy Man), Brandon Hurst (The Caliph), The Prince of the Indies (Noble Johnson), The Prince of Persia (Mathilde Comont), and The Prince of the Mongols (Sojin Kamiyama)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Buckle that swash, part III: Men in tights, eventually


ROBIN HOOD

I know that silent films don't need to be slow or boring, and yet, sometimes, they are.

1922
Directed by Allan Dwan
Written by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
With Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (The Earl of Huntingdon, afterwards Robin Hood), Wallace Beery (King Richard I the Lionheart), Sam De Grasse (Prince John), Paul Dickey (Sir Guy of Densborne), and Enid Bennett (Lady Marian Fitzwalter)

Spoiler alert: oh, get real

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Adventures of CrusoeBot 5000


THE MARTIAN

The Martian is STEM propaganda with an inhuman bent, but despite the weaknesses inherent in that description, it works.

2015
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Drew Goddard (based on the novel by Andy Weir)
With Matt Damon (Mark Watney), Jessica Chastain (Melissa Lewis), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Vincent Kapoor), Jeff Daniels (Terry Sanders), Kristen Wiig (Annie Montrose), Donald Glover (Rich Purnell), Mackenzie Davis (Mindy Park), Michael Pena (Rick Martinez), Kate Mara (Beth Johanssen), Sebastian Stan (Chris Beck), Aksel Hennie (Alex Vogel), and Benedict Wong (Bruce Ng)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cardboard Science: Descartes with the death ray eyes


THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK

The mind-body problem may be one of the biggest wastes of time in all philosophybut it's a pretty great origin for a soulless mechanical monster.  The Colossus of New York remains one of the 1950s' most memorable science fiction films.

1958
Directed by Eugene Lourie
Written by Thelma Schnee and Willis Goldbeck
With John Baragray (Dr. Henry Spensser), Otto Kruger (Dr. William Spensser), Ross Martin (Dr. Jeremy Spensser), Mala Powers (Anne Spensser), Charles Hebert (Billy Spensser), Robert Hutton (Dr. John Carrington), and Ed Wolff (The Colossus)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Buckle that swash, part II: More like F'artagnan


THE THREE MUSKETEERS

A descent into action-adventure sub-mediocrity, Douglas Fairbanks' second swashbuckler needed more than just indifferently-filmed swordfighting.

1921
Directed by Fred Niblo
Written by Edward Knoblock, Lotta Woods, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
With Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (D'artagnan), Marguerite de la Motte (Constance), Leon Bary (Athos), George Siegman (Porthos), Eugene Pallette (Aramis), Adolphe Menjou (King Louis XIII), Mary MacLaren (Queen Anne), Barbara La Marr (Milady de Winter), Lon Poff (Father Joseph), and Nigel de Brulier (Cardinal de Richelieu)

Spoiler alert: high

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cardboard Science: When everybody does the dinosaur, everybody should get the dinosaur's affirmative consent first


THE LAND UNKNOWN

Bad in ways it has no right to be, bad in ways that probably ought to have been predicted yet nonetheless come with all the cold, unexpected fury of a slap from a once-trusted parent, The Unknown World is hopefully the most unpleasant movie William Alland ever produced, whether inside the genre or out.  Yet maybe the worst thing about it is that it begins so well, then becomes so terrible, so quickly.

1957
Directed by Virgil Vogel
Written by Laszlo Gorog, William Robson, and Charles Palmer
With Jock Mahoney (Cmdr. Hal Roberts), Shirley Patterson (Maggie Smith), William Reynolds (Lt. Jack Carmen), Phil Harvey (Machinist's Mate Steve Miller), and Henry Brandon (Dr. Carl Hunter)

Spoiler alert: high

Monday, September 28, 2015

Buckle that swash, part I: He's crazy... like a fox!


THE MARK OF ZORRO

The action-adventure genre soars into life, midwifed by a really cut man in a silly mask, jumping and climbing all over every last damned thing he surveys.

1920
Directed by Fred Niblo
Written by Eugene Miller and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (based on "The Curse of Capistrano" by Johnston McCulley)
With Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (Don Diego Vega/Zorro), Margueritte De La Motte (Lolita Pulido), Tote Du Crow (Bernardo), Sydney De Grey (Don Alejandro Vega), Noah Beerey (Sgt. Pedro Gonzales), and Robert McKim (Capitan Juan Ramon)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yippee-ki-yay


SLOW WEST

It's awfully pretentious, like every modern Western must be, but at least Slow West isn't that slow, and it's fitfully beautiful, too, despite the many importune choices first-time feature director John Maclean makes while bringing his vision of the American West to a certain kind of life.

2015
Written and directed by John Maclean
With Michael Fassbender (Silas Selleck), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Jay Cavendish), and Caren Pistorius (Rose Ross)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

To protect the property and citizenry of the City of Chicago


THE UNTOUCHABLES

One of the quintessential examples of how the best thing a film can be about is itself, we have one of the 1980s' supreme action-thrillers, brought to your screen by the Master of the Macabre at his most eager-to-please.  Fully in line with the decade's troublesome politics as well as its embrace of the extremes of violence, The Untouchables is (honestly) all the better for it.

1987
Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by David Mamet (suggested by the book by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley)
With Kevin Costner (Eliot Ness), Sean Connery (Jim Malone), Charles Martin Smith (Oscar Wallace), Andy Garcia (George Stone), Billy Drago (Frank Nitti), and Robert De Niro (Al Capone)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Maybe it was always Doomed


FANTASTIC FOUR

Bad in a host of different, seemingly-incompatible ways, Fantastic Four was the fiasco of the summer of 2015, and for once everyone was right: this film is garbage.

2015
Directed by Josh Trank
Written by Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, and Josh Trank
With Miles Teller (Reed Richards), Kate Mara (Susan Storm), Michael B. Jordan (Johnny Storm), Jamie Bell (Benjamin Grimm), Reg E. Kathey (Dr. Franklin Storm), and Toby Kebbell (Dr. Victor Von Doom)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, September 14, 2015

A graveyard smash


THE MONSTER SQUAD

Amongst the finest kid's adventures of my childhood.  (That, sadly, I didn't get to see when I actually was a child, probably because it was too scary for my parents to reckon with, which is to say, "there's between one and two parts that are mildly startling"—yet they let me watch Temple?  Whatever, dude.)

1987
Directed by Fred Dekker
Written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker
With Andre Gower (Sean), Brent Chalem (Horace), Ryan Lambert (Rudy), Robby Kriger (Patrick), Michael Faustino (Eugene), Ashley Bank (Phoebe), Duncan Regehr (Count Dracula), Tom Noonan (Frankenstein's Monster), Jon Gries/Carl Thibault (The Desperate Man/The Wolfman), Michael MacKay (The Mummy), Tom Woodruff Jr. (The Gill-Man), Stephen Macht (Del), Stan Shaw (Det. Sapir), and Leonard Cimino (Scary German Guy)

Spoiler alert: moderate