Friday, September 30, 2022
At a glance, the story of Ana Lily Amirpour’s Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is relatively straightforward. When Mona Lisa Lee (Jean Jong-seo, Burning) escapes a mental institution, she finds herself alone and struggling to survive on the streets of New Orleans. From those simple beginnings, however, things become much more complicated, dreamy, and strange. In part, at least, because Mona Lisa has unusual abilities, she can control other people and make them do things.
Thursday, September 29, 2022
In the opening scene of Walter Hill’s new western, Dead for a Dollar, bounty hunter Max Borlund (Christoph Waltz) visits outlaw Joe Cribbens (Willem Dafoe) as he’s about to get out of jail, where Borlund put him. This sets the stage for a tale of hard, violent men on an inevitable collision course. And at no subsequent point does the film live up to the potential of this first moment.
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
From the jump, A Wounded Fawn, the latest from director Travis Stevens (Girl on the Third Floor, Jakob’s Wife), flaunts its Italian influences, from the grainy, shot-on-16mm look, striking color palates, woman-in-peril motif, use of masks, prog-rock score, an owl creature lifted from Stage Fright, even the main car. Josh Ruben (Werewolves Within), balancing charm and menace, plays a serial killer who lures a potential victim, played by Sarah Lind (True Justice), to a remote cabin. Nothing good will come from that. For her anyway, it's a damn fine time for viewers.
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
A title like All Jacked Up and Full of Worms evokes certain images and anarchic feelings. But I’m here to say that Alex Phillips’ movie by that very accurate name involves all that the moniker promises and so, so much more. Sex, drugs, cannibal Juggalos, an erotic love hotel, sex dolls, disemboweling, and, of course, hallucinatory worms. Among much other lunacy. What else can one hope for from a single 72-minute motion picture?
Monday, September 26, 2022
Is there intelligent alien life out there? It’s a question that’s dogged humanity since we first looked up at the stars. And it’s also the central question in the life of Alexandra Baeza (Andrea Trepat), the protagonist and central character of Luis Tinoco’s sci-fi thriller The Antares Paradox. But the film also digs into the personal costs of the protagonist’s singular fixation as she struggles to make an impossible choice between fulfilling her lifelong dream and confronting a brutal familial loss.
Thursday, September 22, 2022
I’m not a surfer. It’s one of many, many things I’ve always wanted to try but have never actually got around to. (It doesn’t help I’m from a not-particularly-surfy place.) But on film, the sport shows as beautiful and serene; a perfect love letter to the majesty of nature. It’s also often harrowing and reminds us of the true power of that natural force. Bentley Dean’s new documentary, Facing Monsters, captures all this splendor, all this peril, as well as one man’s connection to the waves that runs as deep as any ocean.
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
There’s a lot going on in Section 8, a lot. Director Christen Sesma (Paydirt) and writer Chad Law (Daylight’s End, Close Range) and Josh Ridgway (Howlers) crafts a hodgepodge of DTV staple plotlines, splicing together revenge drama, sprawling conspiracy thriller, tactical action, and more genre fundamentals. To be honest, there’s probably not a ton of appeal beyond extant fans of this type of film, but for those of us already on the hook, this shit is like supercharged catnip. It's chaotic and herky-jerky at times, but delivers balls-out fistfights and shootouts, and takes enough wild swings that it’s ultimately pretty damn fun.
Thursday, September 15, 2022
Don’t talk to strangers. It’s a lesson we learn as kids and it’s one horror movies take great pains to teach us again and again and again. You think you’re going to make new friends, but no, only bad things will happen. Case in point, Danish writer/director Christian Tafdrup’s Speak No Evil, a suspenseful tale of palpable discomfort and eroding social niceties that winds up vicious, nasty, and really, really mean.
Tuesday, September 13, 2022
You have to love a good rock and roll vanity project. Usually in these situations, a single band or musician is the driving force, but in the case of The Retaliators, it’s financed by a record-label-turned-film-producers and serving largely as a vehicle for their roster of recording artists. The movie is, as one might expect, kind of a mess, but also kind of fun sometimes. But despite all the chaos and pitfalls and head-scratching moments, this is still pretty damn fun to watch and builds to an unhinged, gore-soaked climax that’s worth the wait.
Monday, September 12, 2022
D23, which his essentially Disney’s version of Comic-Con or similar pop culture brouhahas. It was a massive unveiling of news, trailers, casting, release dates, and all the related accouterments. As usual, it was a lot; some of it interesting, some of it less so. But we did get our first glimpses at a bunch of stuff that will dominate the bulk of the conversation for the next few years.