Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
My Dinner with Andre (1981)
Wally Shawn Before He Went Mainstream
Two old friends meet for dinner; as one tells anecdotes detailing his experiences, the other notices their differing worldviews.
This is very much an indie film -- lots of dialogue (and I do mean lots), overly intellectual discourse, and very limited settings (more or less a single table). I am almost surprised this came out in 1981, because it is very much along the lines of the sort of dialogue-heavy indie film we saw in the 1990s.
Most interestingly is Wallace Shawn. Maybe it is simply my age, but I was not aware of his existence before "The Princess Bride". And yet, here is he, a full-fledged writer and star of a film. An indie film, but a film just the same... and one honored by the Criterion Collection.
Ricki and the Flash (2015)
Rather Pointless, Padded with Music
A musician (Meryl Streep) who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family.
This film ended up on my to-see list simply because I wanted to pay tribute to Jonathan Demme. This is not one of his better films, and despite what the DVD cover says, this is not one of Streep's best films, either. Heck, it is not even Diablo Cody's best work. It is middling on all counts, an average plot fleshed out with musical numbers.
In more ways than one, this is sort of like Demme's "Rachel Getting Married". So, if you liked that, maybe you will like this. I may have enjoyed this one marginally more simply because it doesn't have Anne Hathaway. But both have damaged characters and a wedding as a central scene.
Moving Violations (1985)
One of the All-Time Great Comedies
The goofy students of a remedial drivers education class find themselves butting heads with their abusive police instructors.
I had never heard of this film until 2017 when it was brought to my attention by Rue Morgue magazine. This is rather odd, because Rue Morgue is completely horror-themed, and "Moving Violations" is not, but they wanted to call attention to the horror fan who was in the traffic school.
Overall, this is a comedy much funnier than others that are better known. John Murray is as good as his older brother, for example. And Jennifer Tilly is great, despite my not really knowing who she was until long after this film came out. How was I not aware of her so much sooner?
Empire of the Ants (1977)
Runs Too Long
Based very loosely on the short story "Empire of the Ants" by H. G. Wells, the film involves a group of prospective land buyers led by a land developer, pitted against giant, mutated ants.
This was one of Bert Gordon's final films, and from a technical standpoint it is among his best. The production value looks much higher than his earlier work, and the star power of the cast is evident. The ants, while still relying on a few cheap effects, are overall pretty effective -- though why must they be screeching the entire time? But really, what makes this only a "good" film rather than a "really good" film is the length. This is clearly a 60 or 70-minute film stretched out to 90 minutes, and that allows for the ultimate sin to creep in: boredom.
Missile to the Moon (1958)
Cheesy, But Still Sort of Fun
A spaceship blasts off from Earth with five aboard, but one of them is secretly a Moon man returning home. He dies by accident during the trip to Luna.
While this is incredibly cheesy, and not very scientifically accurate (at one point the rocket looks like cardboard), it is fun. The rock creatures are especially interesting. The spider is okay, although it does look a bit silly and this is the second or third time that same prop has appeared in a film.
I am curious what color the moon people are supposed to be. In the version I watched, they were sort of greenish blue. But in other versions, they are more naturally human-colored. And, of course, originally the film had no color at all. I suspect the true color is closer to human-tone, because otherwise how did Dirk (the moon man) pass as human?
A Master Builder (2013)
Definitely a Play on Film
A successful, ego-maniacal architect (Wallace Shawn) who has spent a lifetime bullying his wife, employees and mistresses wants to make peace as his life approaches its final act.
While this is a very good film, it must be stressed: this was originally a play, and it comes across very obviously as a play, even on film. The dialogue is dense, far more than your usual conversation. And the sets are minimal. Not sparse, but few... are there even six different rooms in the whole two hours? I feel like I have seen another version of this play done before (on film, not in person). But this probably is the defining version. Wallace Shawn is great, but really Lisa Joyce steals the show. In the few years this has been out, her career has moved along steadily, but she's not the big name she should be. Someone cast this woman in the right role!
Urufu gai: Moero ôkami-otoko (1975)
Japanese Action Werewolf
Sonny Chiba plays the only survivor of a clan of werewolves who relies on his feral, full-moon-activated superpowers to solve mysterious crimes. One night, a bizarre and bloody death in the Tokyo streets plunges him into a far-reaching conspiracy populated by crooked politicians, naked women, an invisible phantom tiger, and a shadowy organization known as the J-CIA.
Steve Kopian writes, "If you look up WTF in the dictionary, one of the top five definitions will be this film." He is not wrong. While this may not be one of he five most bizarre movies out there, it certainly makes every attempt. And if "weird" isn't your thing, there are also copious explosions and a great deal of gun play and squibs in the later scenes, evincing a definite Sam Peckinpah influence. So, there's that.
As author Bryan Senn points out, even though the title is "Wolf Guy", one of the strange things is that Chiba never actually becomes a wolf at all. He has his strength fluctuate based on the lunar cycle, and at its peak he can deflect bullets or even reverse the effects of being disemboweled. But at no point does he howl or even grow the slightest bit of hair.
If one person can be blamed for this bizarre mash-up, it must be writer Fumio Kônami (19332012). By this point in his career, he had already made a name for himself with "Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion" (1972) and "New Battles Without Honor and Humanity" (1974), both of which are available in the United States thank to Arrow Video. Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi's first impression upon being given the story was actually, "Is this worth making a movie out of?" Luckily someone said yes.
On top of all the awesome visuals, there is an unbelievably funky score that I need to have. As noted in other reviews, it would be great is Arrow (and others) would more frequently add a bonus music disc to their Blu releases. We need more love for the soundtracks, too.
For decades the film was presumed lost, and remains tragically little known. Thankfully, Arrow Video has brought it out of the depths and on to Blu-ray. They also give us new video interviews with actor Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba (14 minutes), director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (10 minutes), and producer Toru Yoshida (17 minutes).
An account of Orson Welles' 1938 radio drama broadcast that inadvertently started a mass panic.
I have always been suspicious that the American public was so stupid that it believed a radio play about Martians was somehow real, and was whipped into a frenzy. I generally believed that Orson Welles himself had more or less created the legend after the fact.
This may still be true, but at least some people did seem to panic, enough that the FCC got involved. Those interviewed here... I don't know if these are actual people, or actors reading lines from letters. Some of it is incredible, such as the comment that Americans ought to be sterilized or that a "radio dictator" should be appointed to prevent the radio from being used by the people.
Kenkei tai soshiki boryoku (1975)
Cops vs Thugs: Better Than the Title Implies
Acting boss Hirotani (Hiroki Matsukata) of the Ohara gang uses his friendship with corrupt cop Kuno (Bunta Sugawara) to usurp a staged land deal that rival yakuza gang Kawade had arranged through local politicians. Open warfare erupts between the two gangs.
By 1975, Kinji Fukasaku had made more than 30 films, most if not all of this daunting number in the Toei studio system. Returning to the screen after completing their "Battles Without Honor and Humanity" series together, Fukasaku joined forces once again with screenwriter Kazuo Kasahara, composer Toshiaki Tsushima and star Bunta Sugawara.
We have a story where the corruption is so deep, it almost seems normal. It has been suggested that the title, "Cops Versus Thugs", is meant to imply "Cops as Compared to Thugs" rather than "Cops Fighting Thugs". This would be a wise and apt distinction, as the cops are every bit as involved in the yakuza as the "thugs" in this story. Allegedly the story is loosely based on a true incident (though no one knows what incident this would be), and there is the question of whether this is pure fantasy or some sort of blunt social commentary.
Besides the film's wild violence (sort of the precursor to Takashi Miike), what really stands out is the funky 1970s score from Toshiaki Tsushima, who worked with Fukasaku on the "Honor and Humanity" films as well as many others. One of their earlier collaborations is "The Green Slime" (1968), a personal favorite that was wrongly harangued in the debut episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
This is "Fukasaku at the peak of his powers," writes Tom Mes, who really ought to know better than anyone. For me, the peak will always be Fukasaku's final film, "Battle Royale", perhaps simply because it was my first exposure to his work. But of his nearly countless contributions to cinema, "Cops vs Thugs" (despite this terrible English title despite the subtlety mentioned above) is one of his best, and a true joy for anyone who likes crime, action, and maybe just a pinch of sleaze.
Along with a high-definition transfer, Arrow Video brings us "Beyond the Film: Cops vs Thugs", a new 10-minute video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane and a new 12-minute visual essay on cops and criminals in Fukasaku's works by film scholar Tom Mes. Praised by many as one of the all-time greatest yakuza films, this is not to be missed.
A Mysterious Adventure
Elizabeth sends telegrams to her old boyfriend Ben in New York City and to her younger sister Leo in Rome to join her in Paris, where she is selling her dead father's estate. When Ben and Leo arrive, a mysterious adventure begins.
What is the "mysterious adventure"? No one knows for sure. The film is somewhat surreal, with a blend of French and English, and the occasional group of jazz musicians thrown in for no apparent reason other than to add something artsy to this art film.
Star Maria Schneider became famous for portraying Jeanne opposite Marlon Brando in Bernardo Bertolucci's "Last Tango in Paris" (1972); and the Girl in Michelangelo Antonioni's "The Passenger" (1975), opposite Jack Nicholson. So, depending on how you look at it, she was coming off some big successes, or on her way out. She is playing opposite Joe Dallesandro, who may be a major cult figure (given his connections to Warhol, the Rolling Stones and Lou Reed) but is not a household name.