Peace vs. War: Filmmaker Ôbayashi Nobuhiko’s ‘Labyrinth of Cinema’...

Japanese filmmaker Ôbayashi Nobuhiko is probably best known to North American audiences for House,...

Toil and Trouble: Our Halloween fright-flick sampler

We’re swimming in a tidal wave of horror movies right now. Entertainment-industry watchers evidently agree that horror—the perennial favorite genre of the young and eccentric—is now the magic formula to rescue empty theaters and harvest more eyeballs for streaming content as we—hopefully—enter the pandemic’s waning months. How to choose a fright flick? Be brave, trust the nose and take some chances. Here’s a quick list for our Halloween trial-by-ordeal.

Full Metal Junket

Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel combines bloody combat with sexual intrigue, smashingly Ridley Scott’s The...

Danger for Sale: A few things to look for...

Haynes’ latest film, 'The Velvet Underground', rates special handling because the Velvets were simultaneously more dangerous and more attractive than the rest. The new film is a hypnotic, kaleidoscopic, split-screen, rapid-montage, black-and-white documentary exercise in disorienting adulation, so thick with allusions that it would take a list to piece together the splintered impressions.

Sketches of Spain…And other eye-opening offerings from the East...

Legendary comic artist R. Crumb recalls that when he and Rodriguez started out, 'Comics were held in utter contempt by the educated upper class'—a fact that evidently spurred former outlaw biker and art-school student Rodriguez to épater les bourgeois. Says 'Maus' author, Art Spiegelman, 'The avant-garde was not following the commercial rules' with its lurid sex and violence. 'He [Rodriguez] always punched up,' declares writer Ishmael Reed. According to performer/columnist Susie Bright: 'Spain is a trickster and a classic satirical artist.' Cartoonist Ed Piskor credits Rodriguez with 'opening the doors to today’s graphic novels' with his classically trained drawings."

The Truth Hurts: Filmmaker Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s ‘Wife of a...

Publicity for 'Wife of a Spy' claims that Kurosawa’s multi-layered marital melodrama/war story—written by the director with Hamaguchi Ryûsuke and Nohara Tadashi—has a whiff of Alfred Hitchcock about it, perhaps with the devious, suspenseful romance of Notorious in mind. For us, Satoko and Yusaku’s tension-filled relationship owes just as much to the labyrinthine conspiracies and paranoia of director Fritz Lang.

Step Right Up: See ‘The Influencer’ and laugh your...

As a gumdrop of social commentary in a bright glossy wrapper, 'The Influencer' represents the hardening of the mainstream comedy of manners. Oh, those zany millennials, gleefully galloping across the deteriorating landscape in search of baubles, gimcracks and geegaws.

Remaindered: The literary and dramatic crimes of Michael Caine...

"The film’s publicity has the nerve to use one of the oldest taglines in existence, the one about how the characters’ lives are changed “in ways they didn’t expect.” Bullshite."

Low Hold: A wounded warrior in a broke-down palace

"The professional gambler and morally disabled ex-warrior who calls himself William Tell (Oscar Isaac, doing a very slow burn) lives the life of a sort of penitent monk in beat-out motel rooms and forlorn casinos. Without spoiling too much of the story, let’s just say that Tell is on the road to some form of redemption after taking part in one of contemporary history’s most heinous war crimes."

What’s so bad about socialism, asks ‘The Big Scary...

In the spirit of Michael Moore’s 2009 'Capitalism: A Love Story', director Yael Bridge’s energetic new documentary 'The Big Scary “S” Word' builds its argument for socialism—perhaps our society’s most widely misunderstood political/ philosophical system—on a case-by-case, ground-level basis, with plenty of help from the history books and such public figures as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, philosophy professor Cornel West and sociologist Adaner Usmani.

Boogey Nights: Two new movies about serial killer Ted...

The filmmakers’ comparatively subtle dramatization of such a bizarre true-crime story works in 'No Man of God’s' favor. Wood and Kirby contribute carefully measured performances, and the screenplay sticks to its studious criminology as we delve into the inner workings of a monstrous psychopath. We can’t say the same for 'Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman'.".

‘Come See My Shop!’: Homemade sociology and global economics...

"As McDonnell’s curious documentary 'Queen of the Beach' unspools, we initially suspect his interest in one particular Indian youngster—a lively nine-year-old girl named Shilpa Poojar, who speaks surprisingly good English—might be predatory, in spite of the signs posted all around warning potential 'paedophiles' that sexual abuse of children is strictly forbidden," writes Kelly Vance about this sometimes cringe-worthy documentary.

Mother Courage: Modern mythology in Chile with Pablo Larraín...

"'Ema'—as presented in the screenplay by Director Larraín, Guillermo Calderón and Alejandro Moreno—doesn’t operate like an ordinary, well-intentioned 'troubled youngster' story. No one seems to be in charge. Who’s the grownup in this family?" Asks Kelly Vance of this quizzical import.

Opera? Oops!: Mystifying musical ‘Annette’ stumbles over its own...

"Assuming an 'avant-garde' stance presumes the artists possess the talent and inspiration to present the material 'straight' in the first place. Such is not the case here. Anyone trying to take the laughably 'tragic' story of Henry, Ann and little Annette seriously would be defeated by it," writes Kelly Vance in his review of 'Annette'.
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