Cinematic Feature Survey: 2016

by Robert Buchanan
  1. Favorites
  2. Exceeding
  3. Satisfactory
  4. Middling
  5. Abysmal

Favorites

À nos amours (1983)
Directed by Maurice Pialat
Written by Arlette Langmann, Maurice Pialat
Produced by Daniel Toscan du Plantier, Emmanuel Schlumberger, Micheline Pialat
Starring Sandrine Bonnaire, Maurice Pialat, Dominique Besnehard, Evelyne Ker, Cyr Boitard, Tsilka Theodorou, Christophe Odent, Pierre-Loup Rajot, Cyril Collard, Pierre Novion, Jacques Fieschi, Valérie Schlumberger
As a paradigm of pulchritude and conduit for the exhaust of her disintegrating Polish-Parisian clan's explosive acrimony, a subtle yet sluttish teen (Bonnaire) seeks in every man and boy she beds the imago of her charismatically choleric father (Pialat), a practiced furrier whose frustrations inhere and aspirations have been intrusted to his nympholeptic and emotively exhausted wife (Ker), and son (Besnehard) whose emergent auctorial talent is a source of both pride and concern. Still cherry-picking all the choicest haecceities of France's cinematic perfectionists and the nouvelle vague who ostracized them, Pialat cultivated for this masterwork the esprit of brilliantly naturalistic, frequently improvised portrayals, and ambiences of stirring verisimilitude in lingering shots that bare the essence of personality while communicating and evoking the quiet excitement anticipating defloration, warm mutuality of parental and filial affection, the afterglow of amative coitus, suggestive silences at least as expressive as speech, bodily contours of sensuous immanence, yearning for inamorati absent, stinging spurns, their attendant heartbreak, and love shipwrecked on shores of caprice, all predicated upon Langmann's autobiographical substratum, itself personalized repeatedly to befit the handsome novices dominating the cast. From her very first shot, Bonnaire's as mesmerizing as she's ever been since as much for her alluringly crude beauty as the instinctive and unpolished interpretation of her alternately estranged and enamored jilt, whose venturous individuality and lubricious whims leave in her wake a trail of misery -- yet even at her most dallyingly detestable, an evident regret unveils a vulnerability as profound as those of her scorned swains. Her father's imprudent yet inevitable abandonment of his nuclear household merely exacerbates and expedites its inhabitants' dissolution: squabbles between mother and daughter erupt to magnify into altercations for which the latter's beaten by her burdened brother in confused emulation of their extravagating patriarch. Worse, the most beautiful and ardent of her lovers (Boitard) finds himself scathingly shunned, the target of umbrage intended for the papa to whom his is the most striking semblance. His painterly background's patefied in Pialat's craftsmanship of lapidary precision enlivened but never misdirected by ad-lib inspiration; every scene's painstakingly composed yet executed with such degage grace that their implications and exactitude may be overlooked during an initial viewing, always concluding satisfactorily (often sans resolution) to an unhurried pace that seems to elapse with sudden rapidity. Never was his extemporary genius so masterfully manifest as in a late postprandial scene, where his unbidden dad suddenly confronts and subjects his cognate family and new in-laws to condign, understated analysis and censure in a sequence as remarkable for its filmmaker's unscripted sapience as for the spontaneous skill exhibited by the tyros in his charge, who respond in genuine astonishment without momentarily breaking character. Clearly, Pialat was as disinclined to append any tidy conclusion as to script rapprochement between his recriminative characters, if only to emphasize how the worst sinners among them are those most sympathetic, and that dysfunction and passion converge to people who can't perforce be assessed at a glance...or a lifetime's scrutiny.

Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World (2014)
Written and directed by Belinda Sallin
Produced by Marcel Hoehn
Starring Carmen Maria Giger, Tom Gabriel Fischer, H.R. Giger, Carmen Vega, Mia Bonzanigo, Müggi, Stanislav Grof, Sandra Beretta, Hans H. Kunz, Leslie Barany, Andreas J. Hirsch, Marco Witzig, Paul Tobler
A volume of photographs and footage visualize a conspectus concerning the career of this reverend painter, sculptor and interior designer, whose months ante mortem are also recorded at his triplex residence in Oerlikon and locales of engagement in Sallin's dual documentary, an engrossing eulogium for a figure whose unique corpus vivendi conjoined while challenging conventions of popular and high arts. Within a domicile grandly adorned with its inhabitant's art crept amid cluttered confines a plump and rasping Giger, for whom infirmity hadn't attenuated a vitality of imagination still evident in sketches, and whose anecdotes evidence inspiration informed by persisting night terrors, personal trauma and a determination to resolve and channel fear into graphic and plastic design. Accessorial accounts by his wife (Carmen Maria), mother-in-law and secretary (Vega), coadjutants (Fischer, Beretta, Witzig), agent (Barany) and ex-wife (Bonzanigo) affirm and enlarge on those by their distinguished dey, portraying a freehanded friend, discriminating hoarder and gentle eccentric whose talent and characteristic Swiss industry sluiced psychic pother as otherworldly imagery. Treating of vital cycles, feminine exaltation and a morbidly skeletal abstraction of the eternal, the seamless fusion of flesh and mechanism in Giger's emblematic phantasmagoria obfuscates and recontextualizes variance between structure and semblance, contraption and corpus, its sprawl and detail no less personal for its transcendent universality. None other in depiction, influence or memory casts so dark or abiding an umbra in Giger's universe as his novennial model, muse and ladylove Li Tobler, whose visage, adversities, personality and presence persist post mortem in enormities of canvas and sculpture lovingly crafted in bereavement coursing more abundantly than childhood anxieties or lurking unease into inhuman contours contorting her elegance as baroque grotesquerie imaged in memoriam. His career's outset propagating early paintings as prints via the patronage of poster publisher Kunz lead in ascent during the '70s to cult renown, culminating in the publication of the compilation Necronomicon, which in turn prompted Dan O'Bannon and Ridley Scott to boost by collaboration his commercial breakthrough as designer of Alien's chillingly extraterrestrial derelict and organisms; clips shot during this rise expose the artist's uncompromising punctiliousness, prolific productivity, jocular blasphemy and unexcelled dexterity as an eximious master of the airbrush. Decades later, a moribund Giger accompanied by his Carmens visits Bonzanigo at a formerly familial chalet in misty Flims she's renovated ulterior to his gift, attends an exhibition to unreserved ovation at the Ars Electronica Center in Linz hosted by curator Hirsch, and signs autographs at his museum in Gruyères for exceedingly dyed, pierced, tattooed and emotional fans. Sallin's lens is always proximate but never invasive in scrutiny of its subject's sanctum and lifestyle, where the odd and ordinary mingle: Beretta prepares pizza for her quondam employer, who with his wife entertains collaborators and acquaintances, peruses his mountains of books and views a telecast of Shadow of the Vampire as his Siamese cat Müggi seeks affectionate attention; meters away before backdrops and amid furnishings and sculptures of forbiddingly ghoulish and venereal ingenuity, Vega wrangles her son-in-law's finances while Fischer and Witzig organize with scrupulous care a superfluity of cumulative chattels spanning three houses, five decades and a lifetime wherein interior space was filled as indulgently by creation as oniomania. For devotees and the uninitiated alike, Sallin's overview and celebration of Giger in extremis is the only motion picture to exhibit him in his environment, a matchless document of an artist as fertile, strange, singular and accessible as Dalí or Moebius. In death, Giger's immortality is reified in his museum and galleries, themed cantinas and monuments, album covers, chairs, microphone stands, periapts, posters and calendars parading portent and eros from natal to terminal states -- the impossible, incessant invention of a brilliant and boundless mind.
Recommended for a double feature paired with (Soft Self-Portrait of) Salvador Dalí or Jodorowsky's Dune.

La Cérémonie (1995)
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Written by Ruth Rendell, Claude Chabrol, Caroline Eliacheff
Produced by Marin Karmitz, Christoph Holch, Ira von Gienanth
Starring Sandrine Bonnaire, Isabelle Huppert, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Virginie Ledoyen, Valentin Merlet
Over shared secrets, scuttlebutt and dudgeon, an industrious and taciturn housemaid (Bonnaire) and pertly obtrusive postmistress (Huppert) bond at the convergence of their scandalous lives shortly after the former's hired by a gallerist (Bisset) at her husband's (Cassel) Lucullan rural estate. Under the clerk's impertinent influence, her only friend's limited occupational relations deteriorate with a swell of recusancy until jaundice peaks to a bloody fever pitch. His distinctly Marxist merger of the Papin sisters' notorious murders and Rendell's popular novel A Judgement in Stone bespeaks Chabrol's inspiration via Sartre's politicized interpretation of the former, but this is no cheap or simple dogmatic allegory: notwithstanding their unintentional condescension, his wealthy victims are as bountiful as beautiful, erudite and evenhanded, while the unhinged yet animate antagonists of the underclass reject responsibility with contumelious abandon. Instead, Chabrol imputes detriment to division of class; despite all her employers' best intentions, Bonnaire's peripheral domestic is an isolate at a social margin, while Huppert's dominant intimate is as much a creation of neglect as of madness. Not since his derided, deliberately desipient Tiger series had Chabrol's style so plangently echoed Hitchcock's, and never ere so elegantly: players step to close-ups, conspiratorial zooms emphasize unabashed confessions and confrontations, interstitial shots are framed in residential and vehicular interiors, pans repeat subsequent to dissolves and overhead shots rotate in ascent. Sparing, subtle foreboding's manifest in verbal suggestions, creepy little surprises and the direful strings of a fine score penned by Chabrol's son and preferred composer, Matthieu. As fans and others familiar would expect, the leads are sublime for their elan; without a word, relinquishing her vanity and nearly uglified by gauntness and a heinous, proletarian haircut, the usually beautiful Bonnaire evinces heart-rending frustration with tearful contortion and gall by glares, a fitting foil for jabbering Huppert as an impenetrably unrepentant accomplice in a part that any lesser actress would likely overplay. Neither might a false note be heard from their co-stars -- Bisset's infallible even under the baton of hopeless hacks, but her painstaking presence and nuanced delivery couldn't feel more natural. At an age when he'd all but abandoned ideology, Chabrol concocted to almost universal acclaim a work of sneeringly sophisticated agitprop and blackest humor that may be enjoyed as an acute crime drama, but whose implications publicize the concerning conspicuity of servitude, humiliation ensuing crippling ignorance, and consequences of indigence. Worse, his perverse pair personify every sick or uncultivated little girl permitted to grow into a mundane monster.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Rope.

The Ninth Configuration (1980)
Written and directed by William Peter Blatty
Produced by William Peter Blatty, William Paul, Tom Shaw
Starring Stacy Keach, Scott Wilson, Ed Flanders, Jason Miller, Neville Brand, George DiCenzo, Steve Sandor, Joe Spinell, Moses Gunn, Richard Lynch, Robert Loggia, Tom Atkins, Tonsi
Only the toughest, gentlest agape could bear and prevail in spite of the rigors suffered by a decorated USMC Colonel and accomplished psychiatrist (Keach) assigned to analyze unhinged military personnel cloistered at a disused castle in a Pacific Northwestern forest -- the last installation of a network constituted to probe the mystery of psychoses shared by officers whose high IQs are their sole commonality. His charges encompass the multiple personalities of a captain (DiCenzo) compelled to assume vestments of nuns and pirates, two squabbling lieutenants (Miller, Spinell) planning Shakespearean plays cast with canines, and an atrabiliar astronaut (Wilson) whose mind snapped during the final countdown of his lunar mission's launch. With quiet gravity, Keach's unorthodox counselor attains advancement with his raving patients by confiding as much in them as in the sardonic chief medic (Flanders), stolid sergeant (Atkins) and furious, frayed major (Brand) under his command, but the arcana of his own pathology and identity threaten to unravel far more than his progress. His directorial debut adapts to the screen Blatty's eponymous rework of his novel Twinkle, Twinkle Killer Kane with copious quotas of spectacle and substance, humor and horror, lunacy and humanity to illustrate the Christian postulate of benignant sacrifice as a manifestation and evidence of God. During the first hour, Keach plays an especially sedate straight man to co-stars portraying the madmen in his care, each yattering inspired tangents and amusing non sequiturs whilst chaffing with one another and Flanders' ballasting, quipping colonel in scenes as arresting as hysterical. Blatty's brilliant syntheses of comedy and profundity urge his story along while occasioning bounteous unforgettable moments: eyeballed by a scowling Moses Gunn, Loggia's lieutenant sings and dances to Al Jolson's There's a Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder in blackface; Miller's beleaguered director manqué berates his star puli (Tonsi) while propounding a theory concerning The Bard's brooding Dane from which one of his analyst's most successful apercus issue; in a static shot recalling Blatty's early comedic projects (especially his collaborations with Blake Edwards), stationary Keach observes the passing, progressively wacky trumpery of his screwy segregates with silent aplomb during a propitiatory phase of their therapy, during which they're encouraged to reenact The Great Escape and stage a production of Macbeth starring a doggery. Most famed among this picture's iconography is the culmination of a wildly subversive oneiric scene wherein an astronaut plants the American flag on the lunar surface, then turns to apotheose the Crucifixion as Keach's narration controverts a fundamental theory of macroevolutionary origin. The directorial greenhorn's stylistic simplicity relegates in close-ups and wide, confrontational shots focus and rightful encumbrance to his players, and those allotted monologues in service of exposition and insight do them justice with a plausible, impassioned subtlety that never clashes with daffy antics always but a few minutes removed. In discourse as much as sequence, so much is expressed in shrewd subterfuge and allusion that the ingenuity of Blatty's dialogue and prefiguration can only be best appreciated during a second viewing. In contrast, one of the most powerful slow burns yet committed to film depicts a failed, formidable struggle by Keach's colonel to peaceably rescue an inebriated and despondent Wilson from a flamboyantly sadistic gang of bikers (Sandor, Lynch, et al.) as riveting as the flare of a fuse crawling to its dynamitic detonation. A veteran of Hollywood, Blatty's superior aesthetics and cognizance of his medium's secular terrain inhibited any ply for sanctimony; he knew full well that homilies and catecheses can't survive beyond the bounds of ecclesiastic milieus, and that evangelism in entertainment can only succeed in a mundane context. His message of divine redemption through mortal sacrifice obliged by a distinctively Christian love is packaged as rapid-fire badinage, slapstick comedy, compassionate drama, thrilling violence and a conclusive epiphany that even nullifidians can accept as an inspiring axiom: that individual rectitude matters in a fallen and ignoble world. Whether it signifies absolution, atonement or providence is a question of faith.


Exceeding

Boy Meets Girl (1984)
Written and directed by Leos Carax
Produced by Patricia Moraz, Alain Dahan
Starring Denis Lavant, Mireille Perrier, Carroll Brooks
By cunning and chance pro rata, a dejected draftee (Lavant) and suicidal model (Perrier) meet at a soiree hosted by an American socialite (Brooks) on the tenth anniversary of her husband's demise. Both are freshly jilted, but as he rebounds from heartbreak enamored anew, her fixation on her former paramour effects unrequited consequences to fatality. Contrasting luminous whites against pitch blacks and rich grays, Jean-Yves Escoffier's magnificent photography's at least as prominent as Carax's perennially preferent leading man in a foray minimally plotted but rife with representative articles and acts coupling people with their rancor, longing, morbidity and love. With devices plucked from silent pictures and the nouvelle vague's inceptive classics, he expresses as much with urban atmospheres in which his characters loiter as monologies voicing passions and vacillations in thought and spoken diffusion. In either capacity, his leads are terrific: puggish Lavant's expressivity engages in idle silence, or when volubly effusive to Perrier's brooding reception. For whoever isn't occupied by the human drama, every scene boasts an eyeful, such as a metaphoric moment when identical twins prepare photocopies, or a drifting shot scanning a synchronic sketch of Paris adumbrated by Lavant's dreamer on his apartment's wall, whereupon locations of personal significance are dated and annotated. Carax would recycle his amatorian themes and principals in his tremendous Mauvais Sang a couple years later, but wears his heart on the sleeve of Lavant's ethos in this woolly debut to its conclusive, tragic twist.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Mauvais Sang.

The Brood (1979)
Directed and written by David Cronenberg
Produced by Claude Héroux, Pierre David, Victor Solnicki
Starring Art Hindle, Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Cindy Hinds, Henry Beckman, Nuala Fitzgerald, Susan Hogan, Jan Hartog, Gary McKeehan, Michael Magee
Petrifying personifications by parturition connect the trenchant therapy of a disturbed segregate (Eggar) conducted by her innovative, imperious analyst (Reed) and the homicidal violence committed by xanthochroous dwarves against her parents and acquaintances, daughter (Hinds) and husband (Hindle). Inspired by his own onerous divorce and a custody battle of equal strain, Cronenberg's first international success may be his best metaphysical association of flesh following thought, a horror reliant less on scares than a creeping tension attending its arcanum and relations. Hindle and Hinds cannily incarnate a battered familial normalcy disrupted by freakish repercussions, while Reed's portentous presence and rich delivery counterplay subtly mounting hysterics expressing the trauma and fury Eggar's housewife purges as agamic abominations. A formal professionalism that's since befit his ulterior scenarios concerning inextricably interpenetrative psycho-corporeal conjunction, dysfunction, perversion and transgression was first adopted by and filmed finely through the fastidious eyes of Cronenberg and his decadal DP Mark Irwin in attractive, characteristically Canadian locations of Toronto and Mississauga. Beyond and beneath his overt discernment of matrimonial ruination, the directorial divorcé intimates that the perpetuity of parental abuse and ensuant dissolution of the nuclear unit are as insidious, often as ineluctable, as any congenital disease or disorder.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Ninth Configuration.

The Conformist (1970)
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Written by Alberto Moravia, Bernardo Bertolucci
Produced by Maurizio Lodi-Fè, Giovanni Bertolucci
Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Gastone Moschin, Dominique Sanda, José Quaglio, Enzo Tarascio, Pierre Clémenti

"We do not believe in programs, in plans, in saints or apostles; above all, we do not believe in happiness, in salvation, in the promised land."

--Benito Mussolini, Fascism

Memories of his preteen sexual crisis, father's insanity, mother's depravity, insinuation into the National Fascist Party, impious scorn, wile to ease his engagement to a lovely yet frivolous fiancee (Sandrelli), and obsession with the mistress (Sanda) who loathes him clarify in cutbacks the perversion of a bureaucrat (Trintignant) as he pursues with a brutish government agent (Moschin) his past professor (Tarascio), a subversive who he's commissioned to assassinate. Bertolucci's anachronic classic adapts Moravia's postwar novel with gripping dynamism, selectively consorting stylistic elements of interwar expressionism, his nation's neorealism, and the German, French, Japanese, American, etc. new waves with enthralling panache: in continual motion, each masterful scene tracks his subjects to stress signification, often turning panoramically or zooming out to disclosure. Succulent shots therein were dazzlingly photographed by Vittorio Storaro at the pinnacle of his powers to exhibit a cast nearly as attractive as their Roman, Parisian and rural locales, and Ferdinando Scarfiotti's production design is itself a meticulous model of period replication, for which sets assiduously appointed by Maria Paola Maino breathe the zeitgeist of Il Duce's era almost as pungently as footage shot at the E.U.R., and especially within the sprawling, austerely modern magnificence of the Palazzo dei Congressi. Purposive only to achieve normality in a country as essentially unnatural as its allies and enemies, and a party unabashedly brimming with erratics, Trintignant's orthomaniacal hardliner queerly reflects his society's hypocrisy while failing to mask his peculiarity. To ooze his suppressed conflict, fervor and homosexuality, the single most superbly saturnine leading man of his generation was ideally cast, a farouche foil to Sandrelli's charming yet vacuous vivacity, the gruff charisma with which Moschin cloaks his spy's vicious impenitence, and Sanda's quietly desperate despite. Ominously comic, elegantly emblematic, replete with innuendoes and consummately staged and performed, this recherché achievement lucidly instances how personal frailties are exploited to advance ideological tyranny without stupidly confusing these phenomena with an aesthetic refinement and thematic maturity unimaginable in a contemporary leftist drama. Further, Bertolucci's constriction of Moravia's diegetic perspective to that of his disingenuously unreliable protagonist cannily contrasts his intellectual profundity and emotional superficiality, as during a reunion where Tarascio's educator is confronted by his bygone student to challenge his interpretation of Plato's troglodytic allegory, when a helical dance initiated by Sandrelli's cheery inamorata daunts the anthropophobe, and in his every craven betrayal. For this umbratile man and his movement, mundanity's baffled by villainy and excellence alike.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Z or The Godfather, Part II, for which Coppola was inspired to cunningly imitate many of Bertolucci's techniques, and cast Moschin as a swaggering racketeer.

Immoral Tales (1973)
Directed by Walerian Borowczyk
Written by Walerian Borowczyk, André Pieyre de Mandiargues
Produced by Anatole Dauman
Starring Fabrice Luchini, Lise Danvers; Charlotte Alexandra; Sirpa Lane; Paloma Picasso, Pascale Christophe; Florence Bellamy, Jacopo Berinizi, Lorenzo Berinizi, Philippe Desboeuf
In converse chronology, an abundance of beauties inhabit the miasm of this sexy, sinful quintet: a domineering young boor (Luchini) in the '70s lures his pretty, teenage cousin (Danvers) to a beach where he forces her fellatio at high tide so that its climax concurs with his own; a busty, lusty, pious young woman (Alexandra) aroused by religiosity and libido over eighty years prior fetishizes in a sacristy ecclesiastic accoutrements before she's confined by her aunt for an unspecified infraction in a storeroom, where her devotion and nympholepsy commove onanistic abandon before an escape results in calamity; leaving her harpsichord to pursue into a forest an extravagating lamb loose from its tether, a noblewoman (Lane) of 1765 encounters a shaggy, enormously endowed monster of notoriety before yielding with her horror to an interspecific concupiscence; a village in 1610 is visited by the forbidding Countess Bathory (Picasso) and her retinue, who expropriate its population of damsels to supply her sanguinary ablution; fecund Lucrezia Borgia (Bellamy) visits the Vatican in 1498 to bawdily cavort and relish a threesome with her father, Pope Alexander VI (J. Berinizi) and his son and cardinal, Caesar (L. Berinizi) while a Dominican friar (Desboeuf) fulminates from the pulpit against the church's iniquity. Equally allusive and gratuitous in style and substance, Borowczyk's interpretation of Mandiargues' precursory short story and anecdotally historical degeneracy contrasts libertine rapture with violence and murder to emphasize the former's hedonic virtue. As captivating as the carnality are its intervallic caesurae: a slow pan to a lingering shot of floating, perching seagulls against the backdrop of a promontory signifies a post-coital detumescence; in her boudoir, sylphs surrounding the countess' bed pose provocatively in a tableau vivant foretokening forthcoming delirium and doom; shot with lubricious sedulity, every fine, fair figure strikes a discrete attitude of salacity. Rohmer's, Breillat's and Picasso's fans are likely to be amused by the presence of their respective recurrent star, first leading lady and enterprising daughter in an especially pert and photogenic cast, attractively lensed by four(!) DPs to impersonate the vital beauty of passion and its consummation. After initial screenings, the bestial third segment was deleted from posterior reels and reused by Borowczyk as the nucleus of his next feature, The Beast.

The Leopard (1963)
Directed by Luchino Visconti
Written by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Suso Cecchi D'Amico, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Enrico Medioli, Massimo Franciosa, Luchino Visconti
Produced by Goffredo Lombardo, Pietro Notarianni
Starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale, Romolo Valli, Paolo Stoppa, Lucilla Morlacchi, Rina Morelli, Serge Reggiani, Leslie French, Terence Hill, Pierre Clémenti, Giuliano Gemma, Evelyn Stewart, Ottavia Piccolo, Carlo Valenzano, Anna Maria Bottini, Lola Braccini, Howard Nelson Rubien

"To overlook forms a large part of the work of ruling."

--Baltasar Gracian

Risorgimento looms ineludible in the twilight of a Sicilian principality, whose aging dynast (Lancaster) wisely resigns to an eventual abdication that impels his efforts to secure his posterity's future by nurturing the democratic instruments of national unification and conciliating his moribund aristocracy with succeeding, ascendant arrivistes of the mercantile class. That former objective is accomplished via plebiscite, and the latter actuated by arranging the marriage of the prince's unscrupulously ambitious nephew (Delon), renowned for his heroism as one of Garibaldi's redshirts, and the ravishing daughter (Cardinale) of a wealthy, wily parvenu (Stoppa), whose bumbling bearing and tastelessness enshroud a rare guile. Readers of Tomasi's grand historical novel shouldn't expect from Visconti's lavish yet conscientiously clipped and condensed motion picture a version faithful to its source: the royal family's beloved, essentially emblematical dog Bendicò merely occupies its periphery; Delon's and Cardinale's amatory betrothed are recharacterized to satisfy a tidier plot, as is the regent's shunned daughter (Morlacchi); the book's devastating, final chapters depicting its monarch's transcendental quietus and the fate of his daughters are exquisite in print yet unfit for film, and rightly omitted; existential contrasts of mortality and eternity, conclusion and continuity poetically expatiated in the text are merely alluded here. Within sumptuous interiors replete with masterly portraiture, frescoed ceilings and gilt appointments, ornate relievos and statuary, and alfresco against the natural majesty of rocky Sicilian landscapes, Visconti's focus on the story's erotic and political aspects effects and constitutes the core of its drama, as when the philandering potentate's shrift father (Valli) reproaches his master for backstairs advoutry or verbalizes the Vatican's solicitudes, a potential love triangle leaves Morlacchi's virtuous princess spurned, and an organist (Reggiani) disenfranchised by the wrongful invalidation of his sole dissenting vote harangues the minor monarch who he reveres above all others. Played perfectly (albeit typically dubbed) by a choice cast attired in costumes fabricated by Piero Tosi with the same attention to the period's details as that endued to Mario Garbuglia's production design, each development unfolds at a pace as stately as its protagonist in slow pans and painterly static shots, its contemplations in stark silences as stirring as Nino Rota's soaring symphony, repurposed as a score as fit as any other of the production's elements, and breathing the 19th century's impassioned Romanticism. Lancaster's liege is a representative of royalty in extremis and homage to the author's great-grandfather, who fully fathoms the mold of his people, value of quiet compromise and necessity of sacrifice for survival. Lacking the entire substance, pathos and punch of the novel, this nonpareil of Italian formalism still stirs the spirit in its evocation of a nobility and order lost to accession.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Godfather.

Love in the Afternoon (1972)
Written and directed by Eric Rohmer
Produced by Pierre Cottrell, Barbet Schroeder
Starring Bernard Verley, Zouzou, Françoise Verley, Malvina Penne, Elisabeth Ferrier, Daniel Ceccaldi
His sixth and final Moral Tale conforms to the formula of Rohmer's series: an ethical protagonist adherent to a principle or persuasion encounters a lively lady whose allure entices him through a sinuous sequence of events to violate his code or conviction -- a temptation skirted by sly expedient. Actual spouses Bernard and Françoise reflect reality as a childed couple, he a cogitative attorney wed to her gravid undergraduate, for whom his adoration's not a whit diminished by the beauteous, quotidian spectacle of strange sylphs though wandering eyes. Enter a capricious barmaid and sometime model (Zouzou), a former acquaintance whose continual, conversational rendezvous comfort him while compounding a restlessness issuing from marital monotony. By purportedly incidental circumstances, she adopts the roles of his friend, dependant and repository to insinuate herself into his spare hours, but her libidinous objective connotes neither commitment nor any fleeting fling. Meditative narration and interaction of a grace to match that of his leisurely, fastidiously framed zooms and pans typify Rohmer's limpid restraint, here in address of suburban malaise and the struggle to reconcile integrity and libido. However, the redoubtable purveyor of personal realism departs amusingly from form during a reverie wherein a philter empowers Verley to seduce femmes (Haydée Politoff, Françoise Fabian and Marie-Christine Barrault, Aurora Cornu and Laurence de Monaghan) of three anteceding Moral Tales...save one...! From an era when casual advoutry was nigh pro forma, this affirmation of constancy posited that the most challenging amatorial thrill may be found in an embrace not of assignation, but waiting at home.

Like Father, Like Son (2013)
Written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Produced by Kaoru Matsuzaki, Hijiri Taguchi, Megumi Osawa, Tatsuro Hatanaka, Chihiro Kameyama, Tom Yoda, Chiaki Harada, Satomi Odake, Yasushi Ogawa
Starring Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Lily Franky, Yoko Maki, Keita Ninomiya, Shogen Hwang, Jun Kunimura, Yuri Nakamura, Kazuya Takahashi, Kirin Kiki, Jun Fubuki, Isao Natsuyagi
Any brief of another flower effloresced from Kore-eda's preoccupation with familial misadventures and their reverberations reads as that of timeworn, televised fayre via Lifetime: two irreconcilably unlike families headed respectively by a stuffy, operose architect (Fukuyama) and a jovial, lovably scruffy shopkeeper and electrician (Franky) are shaken to learn that two of their sons (Ninomiya, Hwang) were at birth covertly commuted by a nurse (Takahashi). Social convention dictates that the boys be restituted to their cognate nuclear units, but six years of parental intimacy stay all involved, and their woe is only aggravated by contradistinctions of class and constitution: Fukuyama's aloof, white-collar striver disdains the lenience, uxoriousness and relative impecuniousness of Franky's working-class handyman, who in turn contemns with his assertive wife (Maki) the corporate cog's fatherly inattention in pursuit of professional projects. For all their failings and recriminations fermented by reciprocal misapprehensions, none among them are unsympathetic; the overachiever's no more callous than his demurely adoring spouse (Ono), and oscillations and frivolity belie the depth of his counterpart's paternal perspicacity. Once preponderate in civilized cinema beyond Hollywood's orbit, Kore-eda's strain of sentimentality is rooted in realism, its poignance piercing far deeper for an economy of expression, nested in precisely composed perspective shots, slow zooms, drifting pans in rich high contrast. He unsoundly deprecates consanguinity as a mere priority of obsolescent tradition in a culture where it may be taken for granted in the luxury of social and ethnic cohesion, but in doing so postulates an equally vital insight: beneath the burdensome strata of lineage, expectations and ambition, the hearts of children and their parents need beat no slower, nor at all asynchronous for that weight.

Loulou (1980)
Directed by Maurice Pialat
Written by Arlette Langmann, Maurice Pialat
Produced by Yves Gasser, Klaus Hellwig, Yves Peyrot
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Gérard Depardieu, Guy Marchand, Humbert Balsan, Gérald Garnier, Frédérique Cerbonnet, Christian Boucher, Bernard Tronczak, Jacqueline Dufranne
To a scruffy, eleemosynary loafer (Depardieu) for whom a secretary's (Huppert) left her stodgily responsible employer (Marchand) of three secure years, she's as much the amatorious world as he's to her, but while true love's the bond begirting them, their temerariousness redounds to misery. Pialat's and Langmann's sweethearts are so incandescently alive, endowed with their own pique and adoration, and perfectly, plausibly played by Huppert and Depardieu, as reliant as their characters on charms of nice gestures. Not so penetrating as but more autobiographic than their chef-d'oeuvre À nos amours, this precursory picture finds Pialat and Langmann as astutely aware of relational oddity, philia presented as an unfortunate catalyst for associative anguish, and in its transition subject not to clean abruption so much as dretching decrement in rebound and tragic error.
Recommended for a double feature paired with À nos amours.

Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation (2012)
Written, produced and directed by Stefan Haupt
Starring Jordi Bonet i Armengol, Etsuro Sotoo, Jaume Torreguitart, Joan Rigol, Josep Maria Subirachs i Sitjar, Mark Burry, Joan Vila-Grau, Raimon Panikkar, Lluís Bonet, Jordi Savall, Luard Bonet, Josep Tallada, Joan Bassegoda, David Mackay, Mariona Bonet, Anna Huber

"Other architects compel admiration; Gaudí demands love as well."

--Anthony Burgess, The Gaudiness of Gaudí

Its towering, bedight immanity reflects the hugeness of its architect's heart and faith, enormously and unmistakably indelible upon its metropolitan skyline. Antoni Gaudí's minor basilica is the most idiomatic of churches, a synthesis of Art Nouveau and neo-Gothic, conciliation of the modern and eternal, byword of Barcelona, endeavor to objectify empyrean majesty on terra firma and monument to Catalan creativity, Catholic devotion and Christ's deathless divinity. Of his fanciful fourteen constructions in the Catalonian capital, its unequaled ambition alone beggars the baroque in curvilineal persistence and wanton intricacy. Produced during the 125th (nonconsecutive) year of its construction, Haupt's cinematic celebration of this incomplete, incomparable architectural and religious phenomenon renders its history in contemporary context with graceful slow pans, overhead and stabile shots before, above and interior interposed by a wealth of revealing interviews. Chief architect Bonet declares deference to Gaudí's intent, expounds on his conceptual adaptation of natural forms, reports numerous challenges surmounted and expected to realize his herculean enterprise, and guides viewers through its uniquely hyperboloidal nave; his brother Lluís, a priest who conducts Mass in the basilica's crypt, continues this tour to designate columns denoting and dedicated to the Apostles and Evangelists; Rigol, chairman of the Sagrada Familia's foundation, narrates its conception as a small expiatory temple instituted by bookseller Josep Maria Bocabella; theologian Panikkar relates Gaudí's humble origins and character, and avows that his greatest work is the ultimate symbol of the consubstantial Trinity; exhibited conducting La Capella de Catalunya's superb rendition of Bach's Mass in B minor, Savall likens sacred structure and composition to illustrate interpretive evolutions independent of their respective creators. Disposed at its furthest flanks, the Sagrada Familia's twain completed (of three projected) frontispieces are as antipodal thematically and stylistically as their public receptions: Christ's birth is signified by the Nativity facade facing a rising sun to its northeast, and his death by the Passion facade before each southwestern setting sun. That former frontal's grand exuberance was completed in 2000 after the creation and installation of its polychrome doors and symbolic statuary of Joseph, Mary and neonatal Jesus, musicians, singers, angels, flora and fauna intricately hewn over the course of fifteen years by sculptor Sotoo, a gifted and intimate epigone as dedicated to Gaudí's vision as to their shared Catholicism. His controversial obverse is the agnostic Subirachs, once a cosignatory to an infamous open letter published in La Vanguardia on 1965.9.1 that opposed the church's finalization, which he's since retracted. Individuated by a harshly orthogonal angularity fashionable in the late 20th century, his elegiac images of sublunary sin, lamenting figures, and the Savior's trials and Crucifixion is fearsome, austere and truly original, fulfilling Gaudí's intentions for a Passion portraying sacrificial severity with stark simplicity, and widely reprobated as a failure for its inconsonant deviation from Gaudí's idiom. Sotoo's veneration for Gaudí is patently dissimilar to the dispassionate respect that Subirachs voices in defense of his individuality. One Joan Vila-Grau, designer of the particolored, stained-glass panes so vivid within the basilica, proclaims a similar insistence, though his manner meshes better; these patterns are exactly cut and assembled for installation by Luard Bonet. Elsewhere, the project's executive architect and researcher Mark Burry presses software intended for aeronautical design into service to dimension parametric, digital models so to flexibly draft present and future developments, and emphasizes the need for collaborative, interdepartmental communication. Surely the least among these interviewees is one David Mackay, architect, urban planner and another cosigner of the aforementioned open letter, who without explication derogates the basilica's postwar construction as inauthentic and jejune; exuding a rare hypocrisy, he stupidly submits that this house of worship's purpose should be "more social" and "less religious" to fulfill contemporary, interfaith imperatives of "our culture" -- thickly oblivious to the discrete incompatibility of Catalonian and Spanish, much less British cultures. Another nadir from degenerate, atheist Albion, this peculiarly fatuous, Anglo-globalist perspective is as notable for nescience as inanity, and typical of the British refusal to fathom Catalonia since Orwell's denouncement of this masterwork. Howbeit, this ecclesiastical edifice has weathered worse, such as anarchists who conflagrated most of Gaudí's plans and models in the anti-clerical devastation of Spain's Civil War. Modeler Josep Tallada diligently inventories thousands of their surviving portions and fragments identified and otherwise, and Sotoo has since reconstructed numerous smashed statues. To finally consecrate this chef-d'oeuvre, Pope Benedict XVI visited Barcelona to the acclamation of godly throngs and Bonet's reverent greeting, the event to which Haupt's documentary culminates. Perhaps a sequel or appendix may be shot to document the basilica's completion sometime in the upcoming score, when the third and final Glory facade comprising a gigantic conical array imaging Christ's supernal triumph and the paths to heaven and hell will be erected, as will the remaining ten steeples to a total of eighteen typing the dozen Apostles, Evangelical quartet (to feature gargoyles crafted by Sotoo), Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ collinear above the crypt at the nave's and transept's intersection as the central tallest, whereupon the church's height of 170 meters will render it in stature unmatched...yet a meter shorter than nearby Montjuïc hill in obeisance to Jehovah's physitheistic peak. Until then, visitors and viewers alike are whelmed to witness its unfinished, richly representative grandeur. From each facade's threefold porticos importing Christian virtues to the pinnacles of their apostolic steeples, they possess a singularly, almost otherworldly power substantiated in stone. The Nativity's porticos are demarcated by massive columns bearing helical relief on testudine footstalls, and its Tree of Life rises mightily from its central portico of Charity. Polarily, slant sequoian columns support the Passion, wherein a morbidly osteal colonnade upholds its pyramidal pediment topped with a crown of thorns countering the Tree of Life. A columnar forest, the nonobjectively isobilateral nave's coffers admit sunlight as that dappled though boughs, and its multiplex contours jut pointed or swell convex, leading to the apse's soaring hyperboloidal vault of 75 meters, under which the chancel is lambently illumined. Vertices of lesser spires sprout Sotoo's sacramental sheaves of wheat and clusters of grapes. Ellipses and lobations and crochets and curlicues, blooming bosses, liturgical motifs, canonical iconography as phantasmagoria in constant curvature everywhere teem myriad. From Montserrat's prolate hills and botany stylized, it is the immaculate and the ethereal reified.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Teshigahara's Antonio Gaudí.

3 Women (1977)
Directed by Robert Altman
Written by Robert Altman, Patricia Resnick, Shelley Duvall
Produced by Robert Altman, Scott Bushnell, Robert Eggenweiler
Starring Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Janice Rule, Robert Fortier, Ruth Nelson, John Cromwell, Sierra Pecheur, Craig Richard Nelson
Each misfortune to befall a geriatric spa's awkward, arrogant attendant (Duvall), the girlish, guileless coworker (Spacek) who alone idealizes her, or a grim, sullenly expectant muralist (Rule) wed to a whilom stuntman (Nelson) permutes their personalities, sequent circumstances and resulting relations in this oneiric masterpiece, almost as dimly depicted as dreams from which it was conceived. For his distinguishing empowerment of leads with creative carte blanche, Altman's best movies succeed by the strength of their innovation and intuition, and worst fail for a want thereof. Duvall indued to her obtusely oblivious oddball and Spacek her apparently artless adulator nearly their every peculiarity, extemporarily creating their eccentrics in each transformational, scantly scripted stage -- an accomplishment as tremendous for its histrionic invention as the realization of roles that might've played as caricature. These personations and a peppered plentitude of cunning little thematic, often auguring metaphors illustrate the potential fluctuancy of ipseity, divides spanning philauty from reality, how social compartmentalism follows personal congenialities, and ostracization begets hubris and aggravates anomaly among gesellschaft and gemeinschaft alike in sun-baked Palm Springs, its very deserts denoting desolation. Engulfed by hydrous signification, this funny, flurrying ornament of New Hollywood's latitude is richer with each screening, and the last, best, most immersive and penetrating picture of Altman's winning streak.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Persona, Images or Mulholland Drive.


Satisfactory

Adore (2013)
Directed by Anne Fontaine
Written by Doris Lessing, Anne Fontaine, Christopher Hampton
Produced by Philippe Carcassonne, Michel Feller, Barbara Gibbs, Andrew Mason, Dominique Besnehard, Francis Boespflug, Sidonie Dumas, Troy Lum, Naomi Watts
Starring Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel, James Frecheville, Ben Mendelsohn, Jessica Tovey, Sophie Lowe, Gary Sweet
No customary taboo known to this critic would contribute to the obloquy of a widow (Watts) and divorcee (Wright), lifelong friends who covertly bed each others' sons (Samuel, Frecheville) by spleens of sheer concupiscence that flower to an adoration of abiding ardency. Her widely derided Anglophonic foray finds Fontaine handily adapting Lessing's short story with a tenderness necessary to buoy it well above depths of incidentally ithyphallic indulgence without hazarding surplus schmalz, a precarious balance braced by the art of its principals, a littoral home to which their characters are bound as much as to one another, and Christophe Beaucarne's photography, illuminating their natural beauty. That inevitably controversial premise is more provocative but hardly so arresting as the picture's suggested, secondary subjects: true friendship's felicity and fidelity, silent surges of incipient sex, furtive first kisses more fervent than all following and a quiet misery attending the ineludible cosmetic depredations of middle age, personified by Watts in starkly unbecoming close-ups for which she commendably sacrificed a volume of vanity to enact. Too often, Christopher Gordon's score confers cloyingness rendering scenes unsavory that might've been quietly profound, but otherwise this quasi-incestuous convergence of aberrant and amative lusts is for its erotic and consequential insights deserving of some reappraisal.

The Babadook (2014)
Written and directed by Jennifer Kent
Produced by Kristina Ceyton, Kristian Moliere, Pete Best, Julie Byrne, Jan Chapman, Jeff Harrison, Jonathan Page, Michael Tear
Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West
Chilling pop-up illustrations and threatening text in a supposedly juvenile storybook read by a working widow (Davis) to her strident son (Wiseman) herald a grotesque abomination's residential intrusion to terrorize both by minacity. Exhausted by her feverishly fractious offspring's shrill demands, frequent flaws and homemade weaponry, she ascribes to delusion the monster's visitation, but its pestiferous, unrelenting encroachment can't be ignored. Is the obscure bogeyman exciting to exploit or merely symptomatic of unresolved dolor and maternal rancor? Kent pulls neither punches nor cheap tricks in her fearsome first feature, adeptly meting sparing, stygian special effects with her leading powerhouses' performances. Not only a potently petrifying horror, her collocation and conglomeration of the mundane and macabre therein examines the anxieties of single motherhood, maddening insomniac prostration and the redemptive power of grievous catharsis and filial love. A precision of pace and frame expose artistry with style on loan from silent cinema and Williams Blatty and Friedkin, actualizing Kent's burdens and characters with a mature and practiced invention one might expect from a much older hand. Professionally produced on a moderate $2.5M raised through independent investment, donations via Kickstarter and sale of the movie's horrific, handmade book, it's yet another economic filmic foray well beyond what any Hollywood studio could generate with cash a hundredfold...and a hundredth of Kent's prowess or profundity.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Exorcist.

Behind the Yellow Line (1984)
Directed by Taylor Wong
Written by Kwok-Jim Lo, Lawrence Cheng, Gordon Chan, Hing-Ka Chan, Wai-Man Shek
Produced by Mona Fong, Run Run Shaw
Starring Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Anita Mui, Anthony Chan, Chen-Chung Tang, Kai-Keung Sze

"It is impossible to love and be wise."

--Anonymous

Love at first sight is destined if deferred, torrid yet turbulent when a zany zoologist (Cheung) collides with an audio engineer (Cheung) at Hong Kong's newly constructed subway; their courtship's thence as often delightful as disrupted by the bilateral intrusions of her debonaire former boyfriend (Tang), officious and clownishly conceited employer (Chan), and a pushy, pampered heiress (Mui). Respectively as pretty and preposterous as its treble leads and their flailingly goofy characters, this polished production's photography richly exhibits them as beautifully as the splendor of the crown colony's architectural modernity and coordinated, stylish set design. Dizzyingly brisk montages imaging the couple's pranks and pastimes, cavorting and consumerism scramble pari passu to snappy slapstick arising from idiocy and impulsivity, interlarded with an overt absurdity as typic of the Shaw Brothers' output as the aforestated technical finesse. This entire cast overplays amusingly, but the chemistry between its Cheungs foreshows future stardom and their reunion in Wong's Days of Being Wild, just as Mui's pert appeal sustains her first blossom of enduring eminence on screen and stage. As much a publicization of the neoteric MTR's gleaming, subterranean stretch as a vehicle for its stars, this postcard from the height of Hong Kong's occupation posits that fatalism's at best a pretext for romantic inevitabilities.

Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
Written and directed by Peter Strickland
Produced by Mary Burke, Keith Griffiths, Hans W. Geissendörfer, Nicky Earnshaw, Katherine Butler, Robin Gutch, Hugo Heppell, Michael Weber
Starring Toby Jones, Cosimo Fusco, Antonio Mancino, Fatma Mohamed, Salvatore LI Causi, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Chiara D'Anna, Eugenia Caruso, Guido Adorni, Jozef Cseres, Pál Tóth, Susanna Cappellaro
Culture clashes cark and rankle a meek audio engineer (Jones) accustomed to documentaries and juvenilia when he undertakes on mistaken presumption the post-production of a sordid Italian gothic horror in the early '70s. Frequent blackouts hardly harry him so much as the picture's pushy, prickly producer (Fusco) and lecherous, cynophilic director (Mancino), a macho mingle of Bava and Argento who designs to seduce the sensual actresses (Mohamed, Caruso, D'Anna) voicing their onscreen counterparts, dubbed Italianistically in toto. Not a frame of this project's disclosed beyond initiatory mock opening titles; Jones' appalled aspects and those of his subjects -- especially two aging, contorting thespians (Katalin Ladik and Jean-Michael van Schouwburg vocalizing a hissing witch and gibbering goblin, respectively) -- are canvases for the audience's imaginations when the fubby foreigner isn't grappling with his imperious superiors or a sultry, splenetic secretary (Sotiropoulou) simply to recoup the cost of his airfare. Jones and the silent, hulking pair of fraternal foley artists (Cseres, Tóth) for whom he substitutes stabs, snaps, dunks, chops, pounds and precipitates a small garden of fruits and vegetables to replicate gory splats and tears, osteal crepitation and a drowning noggin, as water squirted to saucepan sounding sizzled skin, a shaken cloth emulating the rustle of curtains during defenestration and boiling burbles contrast the halcyon purls and birdsongs of his usual innocuous fayre. His mother's missives provision Jones' aural expert respite from these rigors with idyllic evocation, but his professional prowess belies a personal impotence as the recordings degenerate for the lewd excesses of Mancino's pretentious auteur, inspiring dreams wherein the spatial and emotional disjunctures of his apartment, the studio and its movie's grue dissipate via cunning segues. It's stunningly shot, cut, recorded and performed with an nice eye for period detail and cacophonious sound design to prick the ear of any horror or giallo enthusiast, but Strickland's abstraction of this setting and his pinguid characters is as facile as caricature, betokening the idiosyncratically obtuse Anglo-Saxon ignorance of Mediterranean psychologies and gendered relations. Without a particular plot or denouement, this beautifully crafted, often mellisonant meditation is less a story than Strickland's surreal scrutiny of its figures and phenomena, which might suffice if his dramatis personae were substantial people rather than stereotypical objects of his protagonist's ruth and repugnance.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Conversation or Barton Fink.

Black Widow (1987)
Directed by Bob Rafelson
Written by Ronald Bass
Produced by Harold Schneider, Laurence Mark
Starring Debra Winger, Theresa Russell, Sami Frey, Nicol Williamson, Terry O'Quinn, James Hong, Diane Ladd, Lois Smith, Dennis Hopper, D.W. Moffett
Westward athwart these United States, a prominent publisher of New York, Texan toymaker (Hopper) and anthropologist tenured in Washington (Williamson) fall victims sequentially to a lean, industrious mariticide (Russell) who discreetly beguiles, weds and poisons her marks, the deaths of whom are misjudged to eventuate from Ondine's curse before she raids their copious coffers and adopts a new identity. Only an analyst (Winger) of matching adamance and assiduity in the Justice Department's employ identifies this lethal streak as her personal spoor after the penultimate murder; her prospicience, a plenty of cumulative circumstantial evidence and latitude furnished by her smitten section chief (O'Quinn) moves him to sanction her first field assignment in pursuit of the flighty perennial widow to Hawaii, but neither anticipated a love triangle to conceive with her latest target, a polished, pioneering hotelier (Frey) devising an inland resort on fresh pahoehoe as a proximally optimum outlook of Kilauea. Rafelson's second thriller after the torrid yet torpid remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice finds the veteran of New Hollywood in better form here as exponent of intrigues: his judicious balance of personal sensitivity and criminal craft optimizes Bass's knotty yet accessible plot as well as his dream troupe, and sustains tension of shifting grades without the discharge of a single gunshot. At contrast, Winger's histrionic determination complements Russell's evidently dispassionate frigidity satisfactorily, but for all the former's emphatic method realism, she's frequently upstaged by her icy co-star's occasional gusts and unspoken expressivity belying a measured monotone. Neither the impetus of Russell's insinuating murderess nor its underlying pathology are divulged, but her arcanum and sparing, vulnerable percolation by allusion are far more plausible and powerful than any gushing, artless exposure distinctive to so many contemporary femme fatales. In charismatic orbit about the leading ladies' oppugnant nucleus, aging Frey is enduringly, disarmingly sexy as the object of their mutual affection and opposed intention, unparalleled thespian Williamson underplays nimbly against type as the achingly kindliest of Russell's betrothed victims, untypically empathetic O'Quinn exudes an almost paternal solicitude, Ladd and Smith render respectively the most and least sympathetic of the deceaseds' survivors and Hong's seldom seen sleazier than as a meddlesome private investigator. Moreover, Rafelson's fine framing's fortified by the gorgeous photography of Conrad Hall, which reestablished the thitherto decadally inactive DP's eminence throughout the early aughts: colors pop brilliantly and minute details are discernible in every chic interior and sprawling establishing shot alfresco; none of the players are quite as beauteous as their environments! It's no masterwork: like Smith's and Ladd's appearances, Hopper's cameo is regrettably brief, and while Michael Small's lush score is impressively diversified and occasionally effective in concert with John Bloom's taut cuts, it's also conventionally overutilized where silence might've been a better attendant of Hall's striking visuals. Only modestly profitable, Rafelson's return to a feature's helm posterior to a sexennial hiatus verified his verve for the oversight of a challenging script and crack cast, and evidenced his conjoint, newfound knack for style -- a hallmark otherwise accredited to so many of his contemporaries.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)
Directed and written by Werner Herzog
Produced by Erik Nelson, Adrienne Ciuffo, Judith Thurman, Phil Fairclough, Amy Briamonte, Andrea Anderson, Alain Zenou, Nicolas Zunino, Dave Harding, Julian P. Hobbs, David McKillop, Molly Thompson, Mark Allan
Starring Werner Herzog, Jean Clottes, Julien Monney, Jean-Michel Geneste, Michel Philippe, Gilles Tosello, Carole Fritz, Dominique Baffier, Valerie Feruglio, Nicholas Conard, Maria Malina

"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures."

--Henry Ward Beecher

Thirty millennia after an incidental gallery of petrographs vividly describing mammoths, bears, horses, aurochs, lions, panthers, bison, rhinoceroses, hyenas and handprints were painted over the span of five on the irregular walls of a nearly hermetic cave in southern France, it was discovered by a trio of speleologists; a mere fifteen years succeeding that landmark find, central Europe's weariless moviemaker and his ternary skeleton crew entered the Chauvet Cave to document its extraordinary paleo-artistic legacy. These constrictive surroundings are adorned as much with magnificent stalactites and stalagmites as their pictorial hundreds, and the cave's value as a repository of many earliest extant effigies in human history, and an index of its age's zoology and the Cro-Magnon's culture has earned it a rare veneration and security. GoPro cameras and drones are efficiently utilized by Herzog to shoot, respectively, the cave's ambulatory interior and the nearby Pont d'Arc, a natural bridge arching Ardèche River, efficiently eliciting an impression of its stone-age milieu. Expounding the surprising sophistication of its troglodytic artists, who portrayed their subjects with a resonant depth, motion and power, archaeologists Geneste, Monney, Tosello, Fritz, Feruglio, Conard and Malina, paleontologist Philippe, and the cave's past chief of research (Clottes) and curator (Baffier) ably inform and contextualize by exposition and discourse with the director. Unfortunately, much of their metaphysical speculation and most of Herzog's usual existential reflections are as extraneous, even risible as Ernst Reijseger's fine yet overworked choral and chamber score, especially when it stridently sounds during what should've been a silent cesura after Werner's narration piques a fascination for the cave's seemingly enigmatic quiet. Commentary of this otherwise successful documentary too often presumes an improbable profundity in the conception of these graphic yet essentially observational images. As their simulacra evince, these were men who lived by action and instinct, not contemplation.

The Chosen Ones (2015)
Written and directed by David Pablos
Produced by Pablo Cruz, Birgit Kemner, Philippe Gompel, Marta Núñez Puerto, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Julian Levin, Arturo Sampson, Walter Von Borstel
Starring Nancy Talamantes, Óscar Torres, Leidi Gutiérrez, José Santillán Cabuto, Edward Coward, Alicia Quiñonez, Raquel Presa, Susana Perez, Gisela Madrigal, Jorge Calderon
In the flagitious footsteps of his thuggish father (Coward) and brother (Cabuto), a young man (Torres) too compassionate for his family's racket seduces a pretty local teen (Talamantes) to exploit her in their bagnio, never expecting to fall as hard for her as she's reciprocated. Both are brutalized for their noncompliance before the reluctant pimp strikes a deal with his father to free his dulcinea from the trull's trade by procuring a replacement: a simple sylph (Gutiérrez) as gentle and guileless as her predecessor. Pablos works a wonder introducing unknown players with scarcely a prior credit among them, all of whom underplay credibly within punctiliously framed perimeters. Every exact shot's as carefully composed to maximize gist and effect as its squalid interiors, handsome cast and beautiful coastal Tijuanan landscapes are gorgeously photographed by DP Carolina Costa. Not merely concerned with the turpitude of sexual slavery, the director's examination of organized criminality in a familial context produces its most intriguing insights by dint of contrast: between the kindly, reticent lover coerced to whoremastery and his cruel yet charismatic brother who counsels him on how to best score his marks, a companionable routine of barbecued dinners intended to lull the prospective prostitutes into a sense of domestic security juxtaposed with her dragooned enslavement shortly thence, the otherwise commonplace family who care for their bawds' numerous offspring, and the tragic variance of the harrowed couple's relationship before and after her subjection to a grueling daily grind of intercourse. In an especially poignant sequence, a static series of close-ups displaying Talamantes' shaken visage alternate with close medium shots of her unsightly clients to the thumping, vociferous clamor of their coital engagements, stressing the emotional and physical afflictions sustained by her unwilling fille de joie without the diversion of potentially titillating visuals. Not merely exposing how betrayal, prolonged acokoinonia and sexual trauma crushes love to dust, Pablos graphically relates how forced prostitution dretches worst anyone involved who clings to their humanity.

The Cracker Factory (1979)
Directed by Burt Brinckerhoff
Written by Joyce Burditt, Alan Shapiro
Produced by Richard Alan Shapiro, John A. Martinelli, Tony Converse, Roger Gimbel
Starring Natalie Wood, Perry King, Peter Haskell, Shelley Long, Vivian Blaine, Robert Perault, Juliet Mills, Marian Mercer, Shane Butterworth, David Comfort, Tonya Crowe, Art Evans, Donald Hotten, Sydney Lassick
Who better to play a loose, boozy housewife and mother thrice institutionalized than the functional genuine article? Neither Wood nor her character were strangers to rehab, and the waggish latter's third turn of treatment at a psychiatric facility six months after her last finds her contending with bibulous lapses, the unpalatably astute advice of her psychiatrist (King) and an affair that's become a comfortably irresponsible weekly reprieve from the mundane malaise of marriage and motherhood. Her camaraderie with a self-destructive, suicidal manic-depressive (Long), initiation into Alcoholics Anonymous and an averted domestic disaster right the wry outlook of a woman whose addiction and filial bitterness have beclouded what should be an idyllic life. Feistily fetching at forty, Wood snappily hits her marks even when the script doesn't, and while her role is too often positioned to coruscate against her psychiatrical, marital (Haskell) and fraternal (Perault) foils, she also renders indispensable ballast to scenes where she bonds with hammy Long and Blaine. Comedic moments -- esp. those involving the hospital's colorful chronics -- fall flat more often than not, but a few are genuinely amusing; alas, fubsily lovable Lassick was typecast here after his unforgettable frenzy in Cuckoo's Nest, but he's afforded as little screen time as activity. Hoary but wholesome, this televised adaptation of Burditt's bestseller of semi-autobiographical authenticity skewers papal piety and aimless avowtry alike by emphasizing the necessity of matrimonial and maternal obligations -- a refreshing antecedent of the careerist and stupidly sluttish significations predominate in its contemporary counterparts.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Smashed.

Creep (2014)
Directed by Patrick Brice
Produced by Jason Blum, Mark Duplass, Josh Braun, Christopher Donlon
Written by and starring Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Neither a minute nor budgetary dollar of this tense, terse microproduction was frittered by Brice, playing a videographer summoned by a Craigslist ad to a secluded mountain town to shoot what an affable aberrant (Duplass) with a penchant for surprises purports a postmortem memento for his unborn son in the wake of his coming, cancerous demise. Manipulating his commissioned pigeon with scares and blandishment, his actual intentions are less innocent, but no less fatal. Two guys with a digital video camera and a skeleton crew excogitated extempore a feature more funny and frightful than any horror picture churned out by Hollywood in the past quarter-century with good performances, old tricks and voyeuristic technique working simple hand-held and stationary shots with an uncommonly unnerving naturalism. Playfully personable as the unstable subject of Brice's first-person footage, Duplass' mercurial menace and vulnerability relies on his adroit timing, vulpine stare and faintly hinted homoerotic gestures played slickly against his director's terrorized foil. Prefiguration abounds during the first ten minutes, some of which may be missed by whoever blinks afore a second viewing. Intimately awful little movies like this are the best (if not only) answer to superior fare from Japan, Korea, Italy, etc. with which miserably mediocre major studios stateside can't compete.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014)
Written and directed by Mark Hartley
Produced by James Packer, Brett Ratner, Veronica Fury, Mark Hartley, Nate Bolotin, Todd Brown, Jeff Harrison, Hugh Marks
Starring Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus, Boaz Davidson, Alex Winter, Gary Goddard, Avi Lerner, Sybil Danning, Tobe Hooper, Catherine Mary Stewart, Alain Jakubowicz, John Thompson, Rusty Lemorande, Frank Yablans, Tom Luddy, Chuck Norris, Charles Matthau, Albert Pyun, James Bruner, Sam Firstenberg, Michael Winner, Richard Chamberlain, Daniel Loewenthal, Michael Dudikoff, Lucinda Dickey, Mark Goldblatt, Adolfo Quinones, Michael Chambers, Barbet Schroeder, Diane Franklin, Charles Bronson, Mark Rosenthal, Robin Sherwood, Marina Sirtis, John G. Avildsen, Dan Wolman, Michael Hartman, Elliott Gould, Bo Derek, Pieter Jan Brugge, Luigi Cozzi, Christopher Pearce, Stephen Tolkin, Dolph Lundgren, Quentin Falk, Franco Zeffirelli, Richard Kraft, Cynthia Hargrave, Sheldon Lettich, Michael Armstrong, Just Jaeckin, Roni Ya'ackov, Olivia d'Abo, Mark Helfrich, Molly Ringwald, Franco Nero, Yftach Katzur, Greydon Clark, Edward R. Pressman, Malcolm J. Christopher, Danny Dimbort, Itzik Kol, Harrison Ellenshaw, John Frankenheimer, David Paulsen, David Womark, Martine Beswick, Pete Walker, Lance Hool, Gary Nelson, Christopher C. Dewey, John Cassavetes, John Grover, David Engelbach, Roy Langsdon, William Stout, John Platt, Sheldon Renan, Allen DeBevoise, Al Ruban, Alan Roderick-Jones, Oliver Tobias, Laurene Landon, Gideon Porath, Jerry Schatzberg
A rapid embarrassment of footage from the Cannon catalog and scores of interviews form this arresting, alacritous account of the famously fearless, tasteless, brash, brainish cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, chronicling their chaotic character and career from penurious origins to a dizzying, schlocky summit of cinematic production to a downfall proceeding from routine overextension, arrearage and incompetence. An industriously crafted string of low-budget hits resulted in the domination of their native Israel's filmic industry and first few tacky international hits; their acquisition of exploitative B-studio Cannon as a North American beachhead capacitated an initial mass-production of racy horrors, glitzy pet projects and softcore pornography marketed as bodice rippers antedating a diverse glut of goofy genre pictures proposed to please both international and American audiences; from an aggressive, incessant generation of cartoonishly violent original flicks and sequels to theretofore respectable properties, outstanding profits were parlayed to purchase the British Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment, Dutch Tuschinski Theatres, American Commonwealth Theaters, and to unstintingly sponsor struggling, accomplished auteurs (Cassavetes, Zeffirelli, Godard, Altman, Frankenheimer, Konchalovsky) and cult figures of lesser repute (Schroeder, Schepsi, Schatzberg, Mailer, Harvey) whose preferred projects weren't likely to materialize without such largesse. Another generous investment by junk bond lord Michael Milken enabled Cannon's annual rate of feature production to exceed by magnitudes of three to nine times those of Hollywood's majors as the firm devoured theatrical chains before soaring debt and condign flops sank their largely chintzy yet pioneering substantive endeavor. Anecdotic narration by the performers (Winter, Danning, Stewart, Chamberlain, Dudikoff, Dickey, Quinones, Chambers, Franklin, Sirtis, Gould, Derek, Lundgren, d'Abo, Ringwald, Sherwood, Nero, Katzur, Beswick, Tobias, Landon), directors (Davidson, Goddard, Hooper, Lemorande, Pyun, Schroeder, Avildsen, Zeffirelli, Clark, Firstenberg, Wolman, Cozzi, Jaeckin, Walker, Nelson, Schatzberg) and journeymen (Jakubowicz, Bruner, Loewenthal, Goldblatt, Rosenthal, Tolkin, Kraft, Armstrong, Helfrich, Ellenshaw, Paulsen, Grover, Engelbach, Langsdon, Stout, Platt, Renan, Ruban, Roderick-Jones, Porath) once employed by the cousins Globus and their associated producers (Lerner, Thompson, Luddy, Hartman, Brugge, Pearce, Ya'ackov, Pressman, Christopher, Dimbort, Kol, Womark, Hool, Dewey, DeBevoise) characterizes them as exhaustively as their uncommon, effective emporeutic strategies, and frequently catastrophic approach to their medium. A perfect pair for purveyance of lowbrow fare, the adolescent aesthetics and dauntless drive of moviemaker Menahem meshed well with the financial knack of relatively reserved Yoram, a remarkably artful businessman unique for an M.O. whereby unproduced pictures were financed by sales to foreign distributors on the strength of promotional materials. Their ambitions far outstripped their art, and from miserly budgetary practices, atrocious quality control and silly sensibilities arose a half-dozen frustrated blockbusters (Lifeforce, Masters of the Universe, Superman IV) that might've proven as proportionally profitable as hits produced for far less, as Delta Force, Invasion U.S.A., Breakin', Missing in Action, the hysterically flamboyant sequels to Death Wish and Rocky, etc. For the sheer sweep of their collaborations, Hartley's history of the indefatigable Go-Go Boys is a treat for cinephiles of any palate; whatever one's taste, they're likely to spy someone whose work they appreciate. Still chafing from his own association with the overbearing Israelis, quondam MGM head Yablans derisively contrasts Golan-Globus with the Weinstein brothers, but in retrospect, history's likely to favor the former duo. Cannon boasts for its brief foray into art over twice as many great films by great filmmakers than Miramax, and their bloody, hokey, gawky appeals to both Israeli and American nationalism are far more enjoyable than the ostentatious, overproduced agitprop plied by the Weinsteins before Harvey's weakness for sexual harassment and the occasional rape doomed their own professional prospects. Despite their abounding artistic and commercial failures, Golan-Globus and their legacy denote the fullest potential of independent filmmaking, and most garish actualization of the American dream.

The Fish Child (2009)
Written and directed by Lucía Puenzo
Produced by José María Morales, Luis Puenzo, Charles Gillibert, Cristian Izzi, Marin Karmitz, Nathanaël Karmitz, Claire Dornoy, Miguel Morales, Fernando Sirianni
Starring Inés Efron, Mariela Vitale, Pep Munné, Diego Velázquez, Arnaldo André, Carlos Bardem, Julián Doregger
Murder's incidental to certain concurrences of jealousy, abhorrence and amor, as when a contentious judge (Munné) penning allegedly inculpatory memoirs is found greased after imbibing a poisoned potation by a primary suspect, his pretty Guarani maid and sometime fucktoy (Vitale), who (unbeknownst to her employer or investigating police in his wake) had connived to abscond from her situation with his teenage daughter (Efron), a flight instigated by their true love and underwritten by fencing their household's valuables. Perforce less pleasing than her precedent XXY, Puenzo's sophomore feature's produced and actualized with equal gracility, anomalously accessible for anachrony and unraveling elegantly to disbosom woeful enigmata adumbrated by folkloric hearsay while limning its lesbian lovers. Her cast underplay expressively, by countenance conveying more than with dialogue; without misstep, the leads emanate prickly passions hobbled by stealth and exploitation, and André's outstanding as a whilom pop singer, the domestic's estranged father haunted by his daughter's absence. Serviceable as both a love story and crime drama, Puenzo's adaptation of her novel attests an authorial and aesthetic superiority to her father Luis; she's sadly as unnoted (beyond the bourn of her native Argentina) as every female director more concerned with artistry than politics.

Forbidden Planet (1956)
Directed by Fred McLeod Wilcox
Written by Allen Adler, Irving Block, Cyril Hume
Produced by Nicholas Nayfack
Starring Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly, Robby the Robot, Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman, George Wallace
Absent this seminal space opera's influence, one can scarcely imagine subsequent Treks, Wars or Battlestars, much less exploits whilst Lost in Space, proximate to a Black Hole or during the 25th Century. Planetary colonization in the twenty-third century enjoys sporadic success; one such enterprise is investigated by the crew of a circinate military cruiser, who encounter on an otherwise desolate planet a haunted philologist (Pidgeon), his nubile, ingenuous daughter (Francis) and their compliant, multifunctional automaton (Robby), survivors of a scientific expedition unaccountably slain a score antecedent. A percontation pursued by the vessel's courageous captain (Nielsen) prompts Pidgeon's scientist to serve as a docent of monumental technology produced by an Atlantean species extinguished 2000 centuries prior, but can't explicate the unseen, butcherly force that massacred his colleagues when it reemerges. Visionary concepts amplify the ambit of The Tempest's themes and scenario as science fiction, while its adventuresome climate reflects an unmistakably American postwar optimism. Though definitely dated, the innovation invested in immersive production design by Arthur Lonergan, Cedric Gibbons, Mentor Huebner and co-author Irving Block, clever practical effects by Disney's Joshua Meador, et al., and Bob Trochim's animation image immensity sampled from a perished race's titanic technology and its horrifying reverberations, shot in sprawling CinemaScope. Less imperishable are the script's excess, expository dialogue, adolescent dalliances between Francis's ingenue and the officers she arouses, and comic relief from the crew's bibulous chef (Holliman), chintzy counterweights to its humane drama. Louis and Bebe Barron's shrieking, droning, whirring, whistling, warbling, blooping, bleeping, burbling "tonalities" constitute the first fully electronic soundtrack of a feature film, besides pioneering programmatic noise in lieu of music ambagious in application for ambience and sound effects. Kubrick's and Clarke's supreme achievement elevated the genre, but inspired few endeavors to effectuate such sublimity. By reworking Shakespeare's classic in vernacular as a medium of futurism, Wilcox, Adler, Block, Hume, Nayfack and their crew affected the imaginations of mundanes as middlebrow as the mountebanks (Roddenberry, Lucas, Nation, Larson, etc.) who succeeded them.
Recommended for a double feature paired with This Island Earth, The Black Hole or any tragic episode of Star Trek.

Hickey & Boggs (1972)
Directed by Robert Culp
Written by Walter Hill, Robert Culp
Produced by Fouad Said, Joel Reisner
Starring Bill Cosby, Robert Culp, Carmencristina Moreno, Rosalind Cash, Lester Fletcher, Louis Moreno, Bill Hickman, Matt Bennett, Gerald Peters, Robert Mandan, Michael Moriarty, Bernie Schwartz, Ron Henriquez, Vincent Gardenia, Ed Lauter, James Woods, Roger E. Mosley, Gilchrist Stuart
As its scanty box office receipts revealed, theatergoers energized by and accustomed to aggressive spectaculars courtesy of Peckinpah, D'Antoni, et al. hadn't a collective palate for Hill's auctorial debut, a costive, cheerless reunion of I Spy stars Cosby and Culp (meanly overseen by the latter) as luckless, partnered Angelean private dicks whose professional search for an elusive femme (Moreno) enmeshes them in dicey convolutions eventuating from her husband's (Moreno) canny abstraction of a small fortune in large bills heisted from a bank in Pittsburgh. Perseverance, rich tricks, intuitive acumen and magnum revolvers suffice to sustain them on a fraught, flexuous trail to $400K, but not to forestall the collateral damage proceeding from a few ugly retaliations. It's shot as well as played, nimbly plotted in Hill's usual manner and extending to viewers no more clues than to its prostrate protagonists. Familiar faces that weren't in '72 abound: on loan from D'Antoni, supreme stunt driver Hickman heads a vicious trio of hitmen; police detectives Gardenia, Lauter and Woods are three steps behind the desperate dyad; copiously coiffed, Moriarty grins winningly as a buoyant mob attorney. Modest by both current and contemporaneous criteria, Culp's sole cinematic feature is still worth a watch for its unostentatious craftsmanship and refreshingly unsentimental pathos.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Getaway.

I Believe in Unicorns (2014)
Written and directed by Leah Meyerhoff
Produced by Heather Rae, Vinay Singh, Katie Mustard, Josh Hetzler, Hannah Beth King, Frank Hall Green, Aly Migliori, Mark G. Mathis, Allison Anders, David Kupferberg, Castille Landon, Robin Leland
Starring Natalia Dyer, Peter Vack, Julia Garner, Toni Meyerhoff
Nary a sketching, fanciful, moody, morose, bauble-garnering teen won't relate to the troublous protagonist (Dyer) of Meyerhoff's semi-autobiographical drama, who's burdened daily by her care for an infirm mother (Meyerhoff), and seeks passion and flight from her onerous routine in a raucous skater and aspiring rock star (Vack) with whom she bonds forthwith. Their inevitable road trip from flat familiarity to nowhere in particular finds them initially enraptured with one another, but sours upon her realization that's he's violently unstable, she's too tender and neither possess a modicum of the maturity imperative to sustain any sort of relationship. Technically, Meyerhoff's first feature's beyond reproach: richly photographed by one Jarin Blaschke, cut carefully for cadence by Rebecca Laks and Michael Taylor, and attractively bedight throughout with glimmering filters cleverly applied, quixotic stop-motion animation allegorically imaging the unspoken whims, frustrations, perturbation and jubilee of Dyer's hypersensitive schoolgirl, and a production design littered with the cards, Christmas lights, figurines, doll parts, Polaroids, paintings, beads, stickers and sparklers, stuffed animals and chintz with which her imagination and interiors are so amply bedizened. Their directress exploits both Dyer's and Vack's mutual chemistry and basic yet potent faculties for unarticulated expression as adeptly as one may expect from a neophyte; they're plausible enough to overcome her occasionally stiff dialogue and narration, and the range and realism of Dyer's performance clearly indicate a player of considerable potential, yet whose reliance on skilled direction has since been evidenced by her distinctly less impressive turn as the weakest histrionic link in Stranger Things. Footage from Meyerhoff's 16mm homemade movies effectively preface the production in a fictive context, consolidated by the presence of her disabled mother in both, underplaying her role without really acting at all. Beneath trappings of gewgaws, representational phantasmagoria, and some beginner's missteps, her depiction of adolescence vividly kindles all its transcendent excitation, ceaseless dubiety, sudden angst punctuating every other hour's oasis, euphoria and agonies of first coitus, that joyous abandon attending infatuation and the crushing anguish in its wake, and more individually, the sad millstone of a maturing offspring's obligation to caretake for her incapacitated parent. More significantly, Meyerhoff never flinches from her recognition of adolescence as an ephemeron, and its fleeting innocence as a phase soluble upon contact with experience.

In Bloom (2013)
Directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili, Simon Gross
Written by Nana Ekvtimishvili
Produced by Simon Gross, Marc Wächter, Guillaume de Seille, Nana Ekvtimishvili, Rémi Roy, Bénédicte Thomas, Jana Sardlishvili, Tsiako Abesadze
Starring Lika Babluani, Mariam Bokeria, Ana Nijaradze, Zurab Gogaladze, Data Zakareishvili, Berta Khapava, Tamar Bukhnikashvili, Temiko Chichinadze, Maiko Ninua, Endi Dzidzava, Zaza Salia, Sandro Shanshiashvili, Marina Janashia
While civil conflict flares in nearby districts, a blight of post-Soviet anomy concurs with the lovely efflorescence of two Tbilisian teens (Babluani, Bokeria) who with their families endure domestic violence, flagitious gangs and widespread privation. For a snapshot of urban Georgian life in the early '90s, this can't be bettered for vividity or poignance, portraying with spare style and roundly excellent performances an otherwise sane society weirdly wonted to barbarisms. Babluani's glowering gamine sifts through her imprisoned father's movables as debris chipped in familial abruption, Bokeria's bilious beauty struggles with unceasing parental hassles while she's courted by toughs (Gogaladze, Zakareishvili), and both find solace and ballast only in one another. Jostling bread lines queued for preciously rationed loaves and personal controversies feed ceaseless scuttlebutt, but amid the city's crumbling infrastructure, rampant delinquency, civil war, and adolescent gangs who commit abduction as prologue to matrimony and murder to settle niggling grudges, traditions persist in meat and music, dance and wassail, confirming once again that culture, not politics, binds and sustains.

The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Directed by John Hough
Written by Richard Matheson
Produced by Albert Fennell, Norman T. Herman, James H. Nicholson, Susan Hart
Starring Roddy McDowall, Pamela Franklin, Clive Revill, Gayle Hunnicutt
By penning the screenplay based on his novel Hell House, Matheson mitigated his source's carnality and violence, but left nothing to wayward interpretation, and the subtle superiority of this well-worn premise's ingenious treatment proves that his work was best produced unadulterate. An elderly nabob (Roland Culver) seeking evidence of the afterlife has purchased a mansion of incomparable infamy, as well as the investigative services of a physician (Revill) renowned for his study and confutations of supernatural phenomena, and two mediums -- one (Franklin) attuned to ethereal manifestations, the other (McDowall) to those corporeal...and the sole sane survivor of a catastrophic probe conducted at the estate twenty years prevenient. Cliched accoutrements of gloomy mist, copious cobwebs and a black cat may evoke conventional expectations, but this residence is a clever cut above the average haunted house. Intricately composed and staged, Hough's dramatic direction's demonstrated with striking worm's-eye and overhead shots, startling zooms, creeping pans and close-ups flanked by confrontational profiles. Matheson doesn't subvert so much as expand this scenario's compass: Revill's scientific skeptic isn't a complete disbeliever, only discounting one paranormal phenomenon for his conviction of others, and at loggerheads with his wife (Hunnicutt) and the psychics of his party as they suffer remote quassation, thermic shifts, ectoplasmic projection, statuary shadows in motion, and faunal, minatory and nympholeptic possession. Within opulent interiors, this quartet's as outstanding as duly assembled, Revill a charismatically equanimous foil to Hunnicutt's and Franklin's inspired perversity and hysterics. Of course, McDowall modestly registers an intimated intensity during the first two acts, only setting his stage to hammily steal the show in the third with a vociferous tour de force. A droning, almost ambient score synthesized by Brian Hodgson and the dread Delia Derbyshire during the latter's stint as an Electrophon employee quietly resounds to emphasize a commoving miasma. Hough's and Matheson's aesthetic and diegetic sophistication breathed to what would otherwise be a routine horror flick a la Hammer or Amicus a far more artful dynamism, and even in the rare moment when it strays to schlock, it's plainly preoccupying. The answer to their mystery necessitates a synthesis of science and spiritualism, but each of the protagonists is intransigent in his or her hypotheses as their lodging's specter turns them against one another by exploiting their shortcomings. Who among them can survive to turn the tables?

Lost in La Mancha (2002)
Written and directed by Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe
Produced by Lucy Darwin, Andrew Curtis, Rosa Bosch
Narrated by Jeff Bridges
Starring Terry Gilliam, Philip A. Patterson, Nicola Pecorini, José Luis Escolar, Jean Rochefort, René Cleitman, Bernard Bouix, Johnny Depp, Tony Grisoni, Gabriella Pescucci, Benjamín Fernández
It was initially commissioned as a broadcast program documenting the oft-essayed (and as often snookered) production of Terry Gilliam's unrealized The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, and would surely have been televised during the theatrical run of that feature and included as the premiere featurette of its home video editions had it not been thwarted by a cluster of concurrent whammies. Cervantes' deathless proto-picaresque classic is less an ideal source for the fanciful auteur's cinematic vision than one of his key influences - without that seminal chef-d'oeuvre's axiom of madness as a couple to imaginative release and illusory means of penetrative insight, neither his works nor those of his intermediary antecessors would be at all recognizable, if existent. At an unprecedented European budget of $32M, this venture commenced seventeen years ago in Madrid, and was attended with a wary optimism by all involved: in interview, DP Pecorini, assistant director Patterson and line producer Escolar all accord for their admiration of Gilliam and accounts of his toilsome modus operandi, and even as outlandish costumes, statuary and man-sized puppets were fabricated during pre-production, Gilliam and his crew conceded the precarious condition of their pecuniary situation: despite the relative enormity of their budgetary largesse, these funds were nigh scanty to realize a spectacular of the magnitude reverberant in Gilliam's mind. Escolar and executive producer Bouix meanwhile grappled with no small strenuity to coincide the schedules of their ostensively contracted players, but the production's success hinged on Gilliam's sole selection for the role of the titular lofty lunatic. Spare at 71, debonaire and equestrian with a physiognomy conformable to Quixote's most popular representations (as by Doré), Rochefort was likely the most apposite actor and caballero of eminence available, his avidity after eighteen months' deliberation demonstrated by an education of conversational English in merely six. His jovial first meeting with Gilliam's followed by the arrival of Depp -- surely the most famous and biddable of all the director's recurring collaborators -- paired with Rochefort's iconic faux knight as an advertising executive unaccountably displaced in Cervantes' romantic realm and mistaken by the errant protagonist as Sancho Panza. A portentous pall seemed to adumbrate this production anterior to its shoot of a working week, afflicting Gilliam, his leads and crew with a palpable disconcertion before launching their shoot in the picturesque badlands of Bardenas Reales, a site splendidly substituted for La Mancha...which neighbors a notorious NATO gunnery range. By his vocal admission, Gilliam's chief stimulus is difficulty itself, but no sensible viewer or financier could impute to that bent the deafening stridence of overhead fighter jets, a sudden torrential downpour and resultant flooding, injury to appurtenances, and geochromatic alteration of the region's magnificent cabezos entirely discordant to that thitherto shot. A mortal blow to the film's fate was struck when Rochefort suffered a herniated disc that stifled his performance before incapacitating him entirely, after which a few final shoots sputtered before the flick was scuttled by Patterson's advice preceding his resignation and a subsequent collective consent to which producer René Cleitman acquiesced. Fulsome souvenirs survived this incarnation of Quixote: meticulously crafted costumes and scenery, perhaps ten minutes of usable film, test footage of Rochefort, Vanessa Paradis, et al. gorgeously shot by Pecorini, probatory shots recorded by Gilliam with his DV camcorder, storyboards that he illustrated in his unmistakable cartoonish idiom and his script co-written with continuous collaborator Grisoni, whose commentary bookends this document. To witness the collapse of a cooperative creative enterprise for which its cineaste and his crew strove so arduously to compass is disheartening, but Fulton's and Pepe's documentary preserves an experience common to those languishing in development hell yet often unfamiliar to the public. For twenty years, Welles struggled fruitlessly to complete his faithful adaptation of Quixote; of late, Gilliam finally fulfilled his second attempt twenty-six after his Twainian script was first drafted. If Cervantes' specter loomed ominously over these fiascos, it seems no match for the tenacity of this erstwhile Python.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Burden of Dreams or Jodorowsky's Dune.

Mad Ron's Prevues From Hell (1987)
Directed by Jim Monaco
Written by James F. Murray, Ron Roccia, Jim Monaco, Nick Pawlow
Produced by James F. Murray, Ron Roccia, Joe Amodei, Joe Amodei Jr., Michael C. Meister
Starring Nick Pawlow, Ron Roccia
Anteceding the widespread convenience of circulated digital video by over a decade, this sub-budgeted anthology of horror theatrical trailers and TV spots for fare screened in drive-ins and grindhouses was surely a bonanza to the genre's faithful in spite of its nonexistent production values. In a slight frame story, Satan summons a horde of shambling zombies to trespass upon and patronize Philadelphia's Lansdowne Theater as its loony projectionist (Roccia) screens for them a succession of nightmarish promos punctuated by the lowbrow comedy of a ventriloquist and his raunchy, zombified puppet. For whomever the latter doesn't appeal, this shiteo's 47 advertisements must evoke some interest.

Launching this series, this glimpse of double feature I Drink Your Blood/I Eat Your Skin tantalizes bloodily, though the latter pic isn't depicted.
Bryanston's spoiler-laden trailer for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is probably the most popular of this selection.
Fellows don't court ladies well when Deranged.
For its relative paucity of bloodshed, Three on a Meathook's aureate narration compensates.
One could argue that The Corpse Grinders was publicized with a preview cut more ineptly than any other.
For the benefit of those most timid or impressible in his prospective audiences, the purported producer of The Undertaker and his Pals voices a wholly concientious disclaimer to deter their attendance.
Shamelessly, Love Me Deadly's promo professes a thematic continuity from The Exorcist.
Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things that they've disinterred, or produce movies this atrocious if they haven't matured upon alleged adulthood.
According to this, The Maniacs are Loose in both this picture and its audience, which must be terribly distracting.
One can't imagine a more descriptive title than that of Cannibal Girls, a clamorously anthropophagous slasher helmed by Ivan Reitman before he knew how to direct.
All of the multitudinous clips advertising Torso are goofily narrated by someone's dad.
Never mind exposition -- this faux news telecast portrays the derangement inflicted by a double bill of The Blood Spattered Bride and I Dismember Mama.
The Ghastly Ones seem to be the worst imaginable hosts, but theirs is a fab drum solo.
I've often wondered if Herschel Gordon Lewis shot dreck like The Wizard of Gore to gauge the idiocy of his voluntary audiences; this surmisal's supported by promotional exhibition of his craftsmanship.
Of all the horrors that rode The Exorcist's coattails, in none was the source of Williams Blatty and Friedkin so palpably, peculiarly or punctually poached as in Beyond the Door.
Argento's classic Deep Red is one of a few good films here promoted with ample spoilers.
You can't expect Sisters to be sane or sober when portrayed by Margot Kidder.
Substituting shocking spectacle for coherence, this teaser for Devil's Nightmare likely coaxed a few bored teenagers to their local theaters.
Under a pseudonym, Alfredo Leone attempted to salvage Mario Bava's flop Lisa and The Devil by interjecting some priestly scenes cheaply emulative of The Exorcist to create The House of Exorcism, the most successful of that classic's many imitators -- co-starring Telly Savalas in brownface.
Joseph Cotten clearly didn't essay to resuscitate his career by starring in Lady Frankenstein, nor did Veronica Lake when she signed up to headline Flesh Feast.
Years before it was adapted to a successful TV series, Amicus co-produced an anthological Tales from the Crypt feature starring Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Roy Dotrice, Ian Hendry and Patrick Magee -- none of whom are effectively exploited here.
If the cast isn't aggressively middle-aged and tagline isn't worked like a punch press as in Vault of Horror, it just isn't an Amicus production.
Horror of the Zombies seems the most perfunctory horror movie concerning zombies.
In corporate and governmental jargon, Bloodeaters would be charactered proactive.
To promote and indemnify viewers of their Orgy of the Living Dead triple feature encompassing Revenge of the Living Dead, Curse of the Living Dead and Fangs of the Living Dead, the presentation's (typically unnamed) producers assure theatergoers that any among them who's crazed by their flicks will be entitled to commitment at a sanitarium. How sweet! One of their victims is presented to substantiate this guarantee.
The Diabolical Dr. Z disregards his Hippocratic oath in this alliterative ad.
In peradventure the most efficacious advertisement for an exploitative documentary, the outrageous hunting, martial, colonial and tribal turpitudes shot for Africa: Blood and Guts are showcased in a grisly, expertly edited enticement for whoever dares to witness the dark continent's degeneracy.
Apparently, the producers of Night of Bloody Horror presumed that a TV spot destitute of content would attract an audience.
Silent Night, Evil Night is Bob Clark's unsurpassed Black Christmas, retitled and furnished with a more compelling trailer by Warner Bros. for distribution in the U.S.
This TV spot for The Mutations emphasizes its abominations to the neglect of stars Donald Pleasence and Tom Baker.
The House that Screamed is a girls' school wherein the faculty enjoys flagitious liberty for abuse and murder, but seems more tolerable than John Irvin's tawdry Mine Ha-Ha adaptation.
Blood and Lace doesn't seem to contain much of either.
Two Thousand Maniacs! in hillbilly country slay northern tourists in another shoddy splatter fiasco by Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Like its reputation and precedence, this trailer accords to Night of the Living Dead unwarranted excitement.
If a TV spot hasn't time to reference extraterrestrial abduction and wonderworking androgynes in Larry Cohen's God Told Me To, that's just another reason to buy a ticket.
All that Horror on Snape Island deters all save the most British holidayers from vacationing there.
Thrill to the pooly choreographed combat and softcore sex of Wildcat Women in 3-D.
Ilsa: She Wolf Of The SS needs neither introduction nor recommendation.
Ivan Rassimov's the Man From Deep River, whose storied vacation in Thailand is the stuff of his grandchildren's cannibalistic nightmares.
If Last House on the Left were a tenth as engaging as the trailer that popularized a memorable, iterative tagline, it still wouldn't deserve its acclaim.
One couldn't hope to infer from its picturesque trailer the premise of Mario Bava's sanguinarily influential A Bay of Blood (here denominated Carnage), but as usual, Stelvio Cipriani's musical themes are obviously worth its price of admission.
The renowned, repeated tagline of Last House on the Left may have originated in promotional materials for Color Me Blood Red, yet another crummy gorefest committed by Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Zooms oscillate, narrators gibber and cue cards are always just offscreen for the Mad Doctor of Blood Island.
Silent Night, Bloody Night, horrid vacation, good double-bill paired with Black Christmas...
Masked, muscled Mickey Hargitay entertains visitors at the Bloody Pit of Horror with themed photo shoots, excruciation and a complimentary continental breakfast.
What else can one expect when lunatic doctors compulsively perform gooey, interspecific transplants but a Night of the Bloody Apes?

Miss Granny (2014)
Directed by Dong-hyuk Hwang
Written by Dong-ik Shin, Yoon-jeong Hong, Hee-seon Dong, Dong-hyuk Hwang
Produced by Jae-soon Chun, Heung-seok Han, Ji-yeong Lim, Ji-yong Hong, Jae-pil Lee, Ji-sung Park, Tae-sung Jeong
Starring Eun-kyung Shim, Moon-hee Na, In-hwan Park, Jin-young Jung, Jin-wook Lee, Dong-il Sung, Jung-min Hwang

"If youth be a defect, it is one that we outgrow only too soon."

--James Russell Lowell

Like all other truly civilized peoples, Koreans enjoy retrospection and aspiration equally, simultaneously whenever possible. Its dualistic satisfaction ensured the domestically remunerative and internationally resounding success of this comedy, wherein a sprightly, splenetic grandmother (Na) calloused from destitution is rejuvenated by the thaumaturgy of a magical photographer (Jang Gwang), and promptly, peppily pursues the vicenarian life she might've enjoyed when she was a pauperized single mother with a refreshed haircut and wardrobe as the passionate singer (Shim) of her grandson's (Jung) rock band. Shim's and Na's resemblance and replication of their widow's saucy, superannuated manner are indispensable to both this pic's profuse humor and sentiment, as is her inattention in transition from anile to youthful identities of the social liberty she enjoys in her latter years, or of her landlord's (Park) enduring affection when flirting with a handsome producer (Lee) who truly appreciates her monodic fervency in an era of rote K-pap. Seoul now produces plentifully a caliber of hilarity and hokum Hollywood hasn't since the early '90s, if only because its industry (powered by talent rather than rootless mediocrities and politicized pillocks) values true beauty and felicity, without regarding familial love, loyalty and sacrifice as mere abstractions existing only to further a plot. At its shameless soppiest, Granny's as moving as elsewhen funny, as irrepressibly frolic as its protagonist at either age. Remakes have since predictably followed as Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian and Filipino transpositions, all inherently superior to godforsaken Big.

Kenji Miyazawa's Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985)
Directed by Gisaburo Sugii
Written by Kenji Miyazawa, Hiroshi Masumura, Minoru Betsuyaku
Produced by Masato Hara, Atsumi Tashiro
Starring Mayumi Tanaka, Chika Sakamoto, Ayumi Ishijo, Kaori Nakahara, Shun Yashiro, Chikao Otsuka, Fujio Tokita, Takeshi Aono, Reiko Niimura, Junko Hori, Tetsuya Kaji
One among innumerable stops in the itinerary of a massive locomotive traversing the galaxy's span is situated near a village populated by bipedal, Italian, Esperantographic felines. Boarding there, a poor, pensive, unpopular adolescent (Tanaka), employed as a compositor and paperboy to support his family in his father's absence, and a wealthy classmate (Sakamoto) thwart the Milky Way to witness emblematical Northern and Southern (Christian) Crosses, Albireo's grimly towering stone observatory, a black hole, the tragic submergence of a passenger liner and Scorpio's fabularly sempiternal incandescence; further, they explore beyond a town resembling their own a Pliocene strand where ancient stones and walnuts are exhumed from its crystalline sands. Within their tenebrious car, these curious kittens encounter the train's conductor (Kaji) and blind, geriatric radio operator (Aono), and fellow passengers -- a catcher and peddler of weirdly ethereal birds (Otsuka), one pious, elderly Catholic (Kaori), and human siblings escorted by their tutor in the wake of their aforesaid shipwreck -- all of whom are bound to a shared destination. Sugii's deliberately deliberative animated adaptation of Miyazawa's classic juvenile novel abounds with transcendental allusions and celestial symbolism, and varies by anthropomorphism from its source, the humanist pathos of which is fully intact. Their beautifully painted and poignant noctivagation glorifies the fealty of true friendship and Christian faith (posited by a famously devout Buddhist!)...be it perhaps only sciomancy dreamt in a deathly prescience.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Galaxy Express 999.

Night School (1981)
Directed by Ken Hughes
Written by Ruth Avergon
Produced by Ruth Avergon, Larry Babb, Leon Williams, Marc Gregory Comjean, Bernard Kebadjian
Starring Rachel Ward, Leonard Mann, Drew Snyder, Joseph R. Sicari, Karen MacDonald, Bill McCann, Annette Miller, Nick Cairis
Their associations with a promiscuous professor of anthropology (Snyder) and his devious dean (Miller) link decapitated acquaintances and students sanguineously slain by a casqued motorcyclist armed with a kukri and familiarity with their respective schedules. This commonality and the aqueous deposition of the victims' heads are the only leads on which an incisive detective (Mann) and his paltry partner (Sicari) can rely as they investigate murders committed with unmistakable animus in observance of an initially inexplicable M.O. Gorgeous but stiff as a subsidiary and cohabitant of Snyder's instructor, Ward commenced her cinematic career where her director's ended, and her radiant screen presence barely offsets wooden delivery in contrast to her costars' charisma. Subtle suspense by misdirection was Hughes' specialty in comedies and crime dramas alike, and it's here as opulent as overlooked both by splatterhounds for whom this slasher was too moderate and cineastes seeking a serious psychological thriller. His careful composition's complemented by Mark Irwin's lambent photography, which blazons the beauty of Bostonian venues no less than the leading lady's. Screenwriter/producer Avergon's central theme -- requisite rituals transposed to civilization to rationalize madness -- is simplistically addressed, but that's just as well. Too many lightweight genre projects are incumbered with pontifical purport.
Recommended for a double feature paired with When a Stranger Calls.

El Niño (2014)
Directed by Daniel Monzón
Written by Jorge Guerricaechevarría, Daniel Monzón
Produced by Álvaro Augustin, Ghislain Barrois, Borja Pena, Edmon Roch, Javier Ugarte, Vérane Frédiani, Franck Ribière, Olivier Courson, Antonio P. Pérez, Harold van Lier, Jaime Ortiz de Artiñano, Jorge Tuca, Victoria Borrás, Jordi Gasull, Emma Lustres
Starring Luis Tosar, Jesús Castro, Bárbara Lennie, Eduard Fernández, Saed Chatiby, Jesús Carroza, Mariam Bachir, Sergi López, Juan Motilla, Moussa Maaskri, María García, Ian McShane
Fortunes and corpses accrue for routes plied and narcotics smuggled across the Strait of Gibraltar, repugned by Spain's coastal law enforcement. This opposition's represented by dogged detectives (Tosar, Lennie, Fernández) in a peninsular narcotics division straining to snag an unflappable speedboater (Castro), his skittish buddy (Carroza) and their wily contact (Chatiby), whose sister (Bachir) reluctantly renders abetment to find herself romanced by Castro's dashing daredevil. Best when portraying methods, tricks and technology of its police and perps in procedural scenes and montages, this expertly shot thriller emphasizes the socioeconomic chasm between Iberian and Arab societies merely ten miles distant to expand satisfactorily on illicit cabotage in southern Spain, here perpetrated by rival rings headed by a barbarous Moroccan drug lord (Maaskri) and shadowy Slavs whose English surrogate (McShane) is too slick for conventional surveillance. As much for its quality production as its topicality, superb stunts on land and sea coordinated by seasoned stuntman Jordi Casares, and solid portrayals by both fresh and familiar faces, it's well worth watching.

Rampage (1987)
Directed by William Friedkin
Written by William P. Wood, William Friedkin
Produced by David Salven, William Friedkin
Starring Michael Biehn, Alex McArthur, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Nicholas Campbell, John Harkins, Art LaFleur, Billy Greenbush, Grace Zabriskie, Royce D. Applegate, Roy London, Andy Romano, Donald Hotton
Four adults and a child fall to the mad appetites of a hematophagous murderer (McArthur), whose grisly atrocities prove judicially thorny when his prosecution's assigned to an assistant district attorney (Biehn) doubly averse to capital punishment since his daughter's demise. From a confirmation of legal insanity and permutations of temperament and opinion, this sober, unsettling thriller creepily ramifies to provoke moral and juridical questions submitted to both its fictional jury and audience's informal panel. Largely restrained by Friedkin's standards, his last quality feature showcases his typical tautly scrupulous style and proper ensemble at their very best: Biehn forcibly emanates as much tense indecision in silent close-ups as upright ire when grilling dubious expert witnesses (Harkins, London) on the stand; in gentle contrast, his grieving wife's tenderly rendered by Van Valkenburgh; goggling Zabriskie's surprisingly understated, typecast effectually as the defendant's oblivious mother; vacillating from insouciant iniquity to vulnerable hypochondriasis to maniacal violence, McArthur's feels more real than any of the dramatized representations of serial killers that glutted theaters in the '90s and aughts, be they misadapted from Thomas Harris's novels or contrived in their slipstream. Fortunately, this histrionic caliber compensates for both an unexplainable overuse of the main theme from Morricone's memorably moving, minatory score that diverts the viewer from and suffocates the still dramatic tension of several scenes, and some daft dialogue verifying that Friedkin's unfit as a sole screenwriter, such as an awkward equation between the NSDAP and McArthur's bloodletter propounded by Biehn's D.A. in court to comparatively exemplify the alleged sanity of both sanguine parties. Yeesh. Equally baffling is an unresolved, strangely foreshortened subplot involving the separation of Biehn's and Van Valkenburgh's couple. His faltering instincts spoiled this less than the veteran filmmaker's next ten flicks, but it's still reduced for its defects from a potentially exceptional fictionalization of an actual criminal case (that of outrageous "vampire killer" Richard Chase) to a mere curiosity. The bankruptcy of De Laurentiis' DEG dashed plans for this picture's North American distribution, and Friedkin recut its conclusion for a limited engagement courtesy of Miramax in '92. Mirroring Chase's fate, its original ending is more challenging for its refusal to interpret its tortured antagonist, and poignant for a suggestion that filial love might heal the most scathing trauma.

Ridicule (1996)
Directed by Patrice Leconte
Written by Rémi Waterhouse, Michel Fessler, Eric Vicaut
Produced by Frédéric Brillion, Philippe Carcassonne, Gilles Legrand
Starring Charles Berling, Jean Rochefort, Fanny Ardant, Judith Godrèche, Bernard Giraudeau, Bernard Dhéran, Carlo Brandt, Jacques Mathou, Urbain Cancelier, Albert Delpy, Bruno Zanardi, Marie Pillet, Jacques Roman, Philippe Magnan, Maurice Chevit, Jacques-François Zeller, Gérard Hardy, Marc Berman, Philippe du Janerand

"An aristocracy was [...] by definition a class of both obligation and privilege, the one validating the other."

--John Keegan, The Mask of Command

In the final days of his reign, Louis XVI (Cancelier) enjoys a monopoly ex officio for the dispensation of stingy subvention representing his kingdom's terminal dearth of noblesse oblige, so the only recourse for a provincial baron (Berling) who meditates to restore the health of his province's land and liegemen by draining its malarial swamps is a sojourn in Versailles, where he'll entreat his regent's largesse. A highwayman's assault and theft proves felicitous, leaving the compassionate lord to the treatment, lodging and counsel of a marquis and physician (Rochefort) who instructs his canny junior of conventions and decorums: the application of moderate maquillage, necessity of nonstop frivolity, chaff's optimum utterance, gaucherie to be avoided and joviality's effect in tasteful measure. Though his peerage accords admission, only by the young nobleman's plied talent for extemporized repartee may he petition the king after insinuating himself into the city's stratified society: a periwigged and lavaliered, decadent and viciously vituperative gentry wherein a duke's wily widow (Ardant), and a cunningly contemptuous abbot (Giraudeau) are to be met with craft by riposte. Waterhouse's, Fessler's, and Vicaut's screenplay cleverly depicts the late aristocracy as a pampered pack of jackals sneering behind their pro forma facade of phony pleasantries and protocol, whose social currencies of jeux d'esprit and florid vitriol elicit and declass statuses. Their lordly despite is contrasted with the gracious charity of Berling's baron, Rochefort's kindly marquis, and the abbot Charles Michel de l'Épée (Mathou), a selfless pioneer of education for the deaf. Greater nuance is indued to an engaged couple who respectively import their failing patriciate and succeeding Enlightenment: stodgy and jaded but not at all without a distant sympathy, an aged, wealthy widower (Dhéran) is opportunistically betrothed to the marquis' fetching and dexterous daughter (Godrèche), whose preoccupation with inceptive technologies is incarnated as her construction of and experimentation with a diving suit comparable to Freminet's. Every sensible director of a period picture balances recondite authenticity with some accessible modicum of modernity, and Leconte succeeds here by stagily interpreting this solid script by a top-flight cast who emphasize without exceeding expression. As consistently funny as fascinating, painstakingly costumed by Christian Gasc and lensed by Thierry Arbogast in sprawling Panavision against and within the extravagance of Villiers-le-Bâcle, Châteaux de Maisons-Laffitte et Vaux-le-Vicomte, and Versailles itself, this fable of a cruelly corrupt, historical elite established by lineage and preserved with sex, wit and wealth observes one of its moral members striving to access a royal fisc and rescue his vassals, who suffer for survival and servitude.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Valmont.

7th Floor (2013)
Directed by Patxi Amezcua
Written by Patxi Amezcua, Alejo Flah
Produced by Álvaro Augustin, Jordi Gasull, Axel Kuschevatzky, Andrés Longares, Matías Mosteirín, Edmon Roch, Hugo Sigman, Nico Matji, Blanca Formáriz, Julio Ariza, Jorge Tuca, Javier Ugarte, Pola Zito
Starring Ricardo Darín, Belén Rueda, Luis Ziembrowski, Osvaldo Santoro, Guillermo Arengo, Abel Dolz Doval, Charo Dolz Doval, Jorge D'Elía
Were Bayly more practical and unpoetic, he might've opined by adjunct that absence makes the heart grow fonder or fevered, certainly so when the children (Doval siblings) of a lawyer (Darín) due for a crucial hearing vanish on his apartment's stairwell in descent from its 7th floor to lobby, spurring a solicitous search. Its craftily curving plot and solid performances demonstrate how readily suspicion and transgression are incited by parental instinct in this routine yet intriguing thriller, which is slickly shot, excessively but effectually scored, and just substantial to subserve an evening's diversion.

Sleeping Beauty (2011)
Directed and written by Julia Leigh
Produced by Jessica Brentnall, Sasha Burrows, Jamie Hilton, Timothy White
Starring Emily Browning, Rachael Blake, Ewen Leslie, Peter Carroll, Chris Haywood, Lizzie Schebesta, Hugh Keays-Byrne
(This isn't to be confounded with Catherine Breillat's choice, coincident feminist interpretation of the eponymous fairy tale.)
Appropriately perfect proportions, poise and pulchritude are prerequisites met by a poor, pert, pretty, promiscuous and insipid student (Browning) who clears her financial obligations by positions as a research lab's adjutant, office's clerk, bistro's barista, and suggestively vestured silver service waitress serving wealthy, elderly attendees of sumptuous soirees. Both beauty and proven decorum in that last appointment encourage her stiffly seemly employer (Blake) to extend a more lucrative commission: while narcotically asleep, some among the foregoing patrons are permitted to have their way with her, barring bruising and penetration. With innuendo broad and small in graceful static shots and slow pans, Leigh's only directorial credit to date delineates the perniciousness idly attending affluence and atomization, the heavy pall so often shrouding twilight years and that smugly, ironically wearisome simulation by empty, aimless mundanes of normality, all incorporated by Browning's unreflective sylph, her sole, ailing friend (Leslie) and aged clients: wistful caresser (Carroll), abusive churl (Haywood), faltering admirer (Keays-Byrne). A lesser filmmaker might've squandered this premise to inveigh against the putative patriarchy that so vexes privileged and enfranchised third-wave demagogues, but Leigh's profound, personal burdens, luxely furnished and as exquisitely underplayed, are far too valuable.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Eyes Wide Shut.

Sweet Sixteen (2002)
Directed by Ken Loach
Written by Paul Laverty
Produced by Rebecca O'Brien, Michael André, Ulrich Felsberg, Gerardo Herrero, Luke Schiller, Peter Gallagher
Starring Martin Compston, Annmarie Fulton, William Ruane, Michelle Abercromby, Martin McCardie, Calum McAlees, Jon Morrison, Michelle Coulter, Gary McCormack, Tommy McKee, Robert Rennie, Junior Walker, Gary Maitland, Scott Dymond

"It's frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself."

--Simone de Beauvoir, Les Belles Images

Anticipating the release of his mother (Coulter) following the imprisonment she's endured on behalf of her boorish boyfriend (McCormack), a tough, enterprising adolescent (Compston) and his madcap buddy (Ruane) strive to procure her respectable accommodation removed from sordid council estates by hawking cheap cigarettes, then pilfered heroin via the delivery service of his friends' (Walker, Maitland, Dymond) pizzeria -- first independently, then under the aegis of a stern mobster (Morrison). Loach's idiomatic, kitchen sink realism trimly fits this funny, violent, ultimately piteous treatment of Scotland's urban underclass with a blunt objectivity and forceful performances in Glaswegian accents that may for the inconversant necessitate subtitles. He's still a paragon among social filmmakers for his consistently balanced depictions of societal dysfunction and its personal consequences, unifying character development with sociology rather than neglecting either (or worse, delivering dogmatic preachments behind the veneer of entertainment). Compston's bastardly, audacious drug dealer is undone not by the risky criminality he perpetrates to effectuate his modest ambitions, but for a filial love as blind as unrequited, and the disloyalty pernicious in an anomic culture that stymies its young aspirants.

The Vampire's Coffin (1958)
Directed by Fernando Méndez
Written by Raúl Zenteno, Ramón Obón
Produced by Abel Salazar
Starring Abel Salazar, Ariadna Welter, Germán Robles, Yerye Beirute, Alicia Montoya, Guillermo Orea
If any rubric's to be observed among those firm to forfend uniquely vampiric villainy, principal among them is to never disinter a vampire's staked, inhumed corpse. Nobody so advised a physician (Orea) who purloins the coffin of a titled bloodsucker (Robles) to study his carcass; in short order, the undead malefactor's mesmerized with an inherited gewgaw the greasy goon (Beirute) who abetted the doctor's theft and a lovely dancer (Welter) on whom he'd nuptial designs predating his sepulture. Can the doc's bumbling subaltern (Salazar) frustrate the deathless baron's machinations of murder and marriage? It's a mild, murky affair reinforced largely by Robles' noble bearing and physiognomy -- among his passable co-stars, his is a fit and formidable presence when he isn't invisible or transmogrified into a rubbery bat suspended from a string. Postwar filmic fixture Salazar's miscast but able in the heroic lead, and Welter (Linda Christian's little sister) is no blight to sight. For anyone seeking to pad their monster movie marathon by 80 minutes, this tenebrific trifle isn't too poor an option.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Drácula.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Written by Lionel Shriver, Lynne Ramsay, Rory Stewart Kinnear
Produced by Jennifer Fox, Luc Roeg, Robert Salerno, Philip Herd, Andrew Warren, Christopher Figg, Paula Jalfon, Lisa Lambert, Norman Merry, Andrew Orr, Lynne Ramsay, Christine Langan, Michael Robinson, Steven Soderbergh, Tilda Swinton, Robert Whitehouse, Suzanne Baron, Michael Corso, Molly Egan, Simon Greenall, Anthony Gudas, Leslie Thomas
Starring Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell, John C. Reilly, Ashley Gerasimovich, Rock Duer, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Alex Manette

"It is not attention that the child is seeking but love."

--Sigmund Freud

Nobody does, so the unbalanced son of a mundivagant author (Swinton) and her purblind husband (Reilly) grows from an unstill baby into an insolently incommunicative toddler (Duer), then a child (Newell) whose unchecked petulance finds expression in contumelious conduct and a refractory destructivity that hardens during inattentive and irrespondent years into the incisive opprobry and underhanded abuse by which he's characterized as a teenager (Miller), and an atrocity's augured. Her first visit stateside finds Scotland's preeminent directress exploring what everyone should yet so few will after every murderous spree, picking the kernel of Shriver's novel to condemn the excessive liberality and negligence typifying whatever presently passes for parenting, manifest maddeningly as pleasant lies, quiet reluctance from conflict, an absence of corporal punishment, acquiescence to pettishly puerile vagaries and unremitting disaffection, here initially attributed to postpartum depression that aggravates acrimony reciprocally. Swinton's anathema silently suffers public persecution as penance in the aftermath of her son's ultimate trespass, and meanders mnemonically in flashbacks dreamily, anachronically interconnected as Leone prescribed, which demonstrate her failures to love, to chasten, to relate, to communicate, while her oblivious husband refuses to acknowledge but one of his son's many misdeeds. Ramsay excels in the exhibition of commonplace frailties and their worst consequences, always guiding her leads to extremities without falsity. Her careerist's frigidity and parental ineptitude are registered keenly by Swinton, who's weirdly, unnecessarily, crinally and ocularly embrowned to adopt some maternal semblance to Duer, Newell and Miller, all of whom plausibly exude their malfeasant's cunning and antipathy. Always approaching his dramatic roles with an everyman's realism contrary to his famously clownish comedic characters, Reilly likewise creates without caricaturing his oafishly obtuse father. If only to preserve the primacy of their story's pathological burden, neither Shriver nor Ramsay stooped to contribute to the irrational, pan-Atlantic, leftist "conversation" concerning firearms; by assuming the archer's posture, their antagonist affirms the determining significance not of means but madness. Punctiliously cut by Herzog's preferred editor Joe Bini, and swollen with sanguine symbolism, Kevin exposes without homily how abominations are conceived behind suburban veneers.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Elliot Rodger's mortifying videos.


Middling

The Babysitter's Seduction (1996)
Directed by David Burton Morris
Written by Shirley Tallman, Nancy Hersage
Produced by Gideon Amir, Richard Maynard
Starring Keri Russell, Stephen Collins, Phylicia Rashad, Tobin Bell, John D'Aquino, Linda Kelsey, Arian Ash
Mutual attraction and the lure of luxuriant life incites a romantic complexion in the position of a pretty, teenage babysitter (Russell) hired by a wealthy widower (Collins) in the months after his wife's supposed suicide, but her first, full tastes of love and opulence are disturbed by the entrenchments of a police detective (Rashad) and the late spouse's lover (D'Aquino), whose suspicions of uxoricide inspire her own. Able direction, production design and leads fortify this conventional thriller for teevee, which amuses adequately before descending into diverting depravity in its third act and half-hour. Rashad's dully perfunctory performance may disappoint Cosby fans, and as a fellow inspector, Bell vocalizes a progressive rasp as ridiculous as the flick's ruinous end, but this is essential for Russell's remaining fans, and doubly creepy in light of Collins opprobrium; a few of his lines seem baited for the attribution of pedophilic double entendres! Recline with a box of plonk and enjoy, ladies.
Recommended for a double feature paired with A Wife's Nightmare.

Billionaire Boys Club (1987)
Directed by Marvin J. Chomsky
Written by Gy Waldron
Produced by Marvin J. Chomsky, Marcy Gross, Ann Weston, Donald March, Tim Myers
Starring Judd Nelson, Brian McNamara, Fredric Lehne, Raphael Sbarge, John Stockwell, Barry Tubb, Stan Shaw, James Sloyan, Dale Dye, Robert Krantz, John Dye, Jill Schoelen, Eric Larson, Allan Miller, Alan Fudge, Peter Jason, Robert Hallak, Ron Silver, Shirley Knight, James Karen
Testimony at his trial condemning entrepreneur Joe Hunt (Nelson) frames and rotates with cutbacks, professed primarily by his secondary (McNamara) and the brothers (Lehne, Sbarge) who with him formed the nucleus of the charismatic broker's investment firm and social club, which swelled by dint of their society to an approximate score (Stockwell, Tubb, Krantz, Larson, et al.) beguiled by blarney and promises of rich returns well before they realized that the business was a front for a Ponzi scheme, or that Hunt and his strapping security director (Shaw) murdered a notorious confidence man (Silver) as lucrative requital. A second death, proceeding from the fledgling syndicate's abduction of an Iranian opium smuggler in collusion with his son (Hallak) to coerce concession of his estate's conservatorship to their mutual profit, generates sufficient evidence to bring the principals to heel after it's cumulated and delivered by Hunt's renegade employees to local police, the FBI and SEC. Telecast mere months after the actual trial, the cheesily dusted miniseries from which this feature of three hours was crudely recut and catenated (and shorn of nearly twenty minutes) is an account of Hunt's felonies seemingly free of any defamatory or unbelievable liberties. In their quality, its performances vary jarringly for Chomsky's limited direction. McNamara's subtly superb as the former corporate mainstay granted immunity from prosecution, and Silver was born to play stingers as smoothly, sleazily shifty as his doomed diddler. Lehne and Sbarge look congruous, but the latter's sillily sprightly as the more gullible of the fraternal yuppies. Most of the engaging actors are concentrated at the picture's periphery, such as perennial toughie Jason playing the lead detective investigating the murders, Shaw imposingly channeling his inner Bernie Casey, Hunt's girlfriend's fleetingly enacted by Schoelen at her fetching best, and glowering Karen, accorded but twain scenes as Lehne's and Sbarge's father. Nearly everyone else is acceptably credible, but Nelson's delivery is as volatile as Hunt's reputed behavior. He's gogglingly great whenever boosting his underlings with pep talks peppered with advocacy of an amoral and pragmatic relativism, radiating both a personable pertness but also the ruthless vacuity peculiar to the sociopath. However, his portrayal of Hunt's despair and frustration are hilariously hammy, attesting Chomsky's slack management of a production expedited to exploit coetaneous events. Despite the affluent trappings of expensive cars, homes and apparel, budgetary limitations are occasionally obvious, as when a sartorial montage is presented in photographs that should've been footage. Waldron's script is structured optimally to compress events for comprehension, but extensive exposition in his flashbacks is largely as clunkily leaden as unnecessary, considering the service of judicial interrogation in this capacity. Similarly, some tracks of Jorge Calandrelli's score are crisply reminiscent of Faltermeyer's most memorable compositions, while others are as ludicrous as any noodlings uttered by a DX-7 for prime time. It's acceptably agreeable for the enduring fandoms of Nelson, Jason, Schoelen and Karen, or anyone who wants to observe just how criminally ambitious and incompetent bright, avaricious arrivistes and rich kids can be.
(A newly launched website whereby Hunt's friends and family endorse his exculpation publicizes an endeavor more likely to bear fruit than any hope that this movie's remake will recoup its budget.)

The Blue Room (2014)
Directed by Mathieu Amalric
Written by Georges Simenon, Mathieu Amalric, Stéphanie Cléau
Produced by Paulo Brancom, Rémi Burah, Olivier Père, John Simenon
Starring Mathieu Amalric, Stéphanie Cléau, Léa Drucker, Laurent Poitrenaux, Mona Jaffart, Véronique Alain, Serge Bozon, Blutch, Paul Kramer, Alain Fraitag
Intimate moments from a final, truncated tryst between an adoring pharmacist (Cléau) and vendor of agricultural machinery (Amalric) and the repercussions thereafter interchange with the former adulterer's interrogations by a detective (Bozon) following his arrest, judge (Poitrenaux) after his arraignment and psychiatrist (Blutch) in jail as he awaits trial on a charge of homicide. Amalric's a director as fine as the cast and crew at his command; shot skillfully by its star and impeccably rendered, this deliberate revelation raveling from hotel room to courtroom only insinuates Simenon's classic flair for intrigue by selective divulgence and erotic motivations, as fit for cinema as any murder mystery or judicial drama. Its flaccid modernization by Amalric and co-star Cléau sadly sustains scant fire beyond the salacious site's interior, dragging deadly thwart merely 76 minutes as though a few hours elapse in needless protraction. Worse, Grégoire Hetzel's soupy score seems composed for another movie, smothering what could've been scenes rich in amorous tension and subtle suspense with deafening surges of orchestral melodrama. Consequentially wantoned are a toward story, Christophe Beaucarne's scenic photography (lensed in the Academy ratio!) and players perfectly cast, as sensitive in every expression as the abstruse ambage of the author's multifaceted plot. Amalric compasses his medium and this material, but not how to preserve Simenon's singularly immingled allurement of eros and pathos.
Instead, watch Monsieur Hire or any among plenteous televised or theatrical adaptations of Commissaire Malgret's exploits.

Fish Tank (2009)
Directed and written by Andrea Arnold
Produced by Kees Kasander, Nick Laws, Lisette Kelder, Christine Langan, David M. Thompson, Paul Trijbits
Starring Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing, Rebecca Griffiths, Harry Treadaway, Sydney Mary Nash

"When poverty comes in at the doors, love leaps out at the windows."

--John Ray

How did Arnold's rather dull drama concerning the mundane, meandering misadventures of a testy teen (Jarvis) domiciled in a grimy estate with her equally nettlesome mother (Wareing) and sister (Griffiths) enjoy nearly universal commendation when far more piercing, prepossessing pictures produced globally that treat of life at the bottom are scarcely noticed abroad? The answer is as simple as politicized: like its stateside similitude, the rancid filmic culture of this western hemisphere's most flagrantly degenerate, hypocritical and misgoverned police state promotes by celebration or mere exposure trying women at their worst. Jarvis' reckless chavette clashes daily with everyone in her crummy neighborhood, and dopily aspires to a career as a hip-hop dancer; after she eventually entertains advances by her mother's seductively sexy boyfriend (Fassbender), she investigates his other life's suburban superfice -- a revelation in contradistinction to her own aimless mire. This grossly overrated, kitchen sink exploration is credible (if not compelling) as much for the unflatteringly well-founded depiction of its broken family's intemperance, bellicosity, hypersensitivity, alcoholism and parental dereliction as the facility of cast, crew and director alike, but it's ultimately as facile as its subjects. Such simplicity's best exemplified by the bathos of a late scene in which mother and daughter reconcile valedictorily by dancing together to noxious hip-hop, evidencing Arnold's nescience or deliberate disregard of the fact that those trashiest, most philistine elements in popular culture are promoted to fortify fetters shackling the impoverished to their subsidized squalor. Cinema's great observers of their respective underclasses -- Chaplin, Loach, Imamura, Leigh, Kobayashi, the Dardennes, et al.; contemporarily, Ramsay and Kore-eda -- all elicited from asperity, deprivation, ascendant ambition and failure some key apercus regarding penury and its effect on human nature. Her characters are amusing for their pugnacity and its consequential altercations, but Arnold can't dig deep in shallow ground.
Instead, watch Kes, The Insect Woman, Meantime, Rosetta, Sweet Sixteen...

Flowers in the Attic (1987)
Directed by Jeffrey Bloom
Written by V. C. Andrews, Jeffrey Bloom
Produced by Sy Levin, Thomas Fries
Starring Kristy Swanson, Jeb Stuart Adams, Victoria Tennant, Louise Fletcher, Ben Ryan Ganger, Lindsay Parker
Upon a contingence of fulsome units shifted, every melodramatic novel deserves a filmic treatment of equivalent bombast, and if this bowdlerized version (the latter of two* concurrently distributed by New World thirty years ago) isn't as sordid as Andrews' base bestseller of familial treachery, it nathless conveys her idiomatic instinct for captivating depravity. Four siblings (Swanson, Adams, Ganger, Parker) are ripped from their halcyon home upon their father's untimely quietus, and transplanted by their mother (Tennant) to the palatial manse of her estranged parents. Granny's a severe, abusive, pietistical battle-axe (Fletcher) who secludes them in a bipartite suite and vast, superjacent loft packed with personalty, where they languish until frustration and suspicion enkindle machinations for escape and an insatiable curiosity regarding Mom's progressive absences and eerie personal permutation. In defense of Levin and Fries, test audiences representing their production's target demographic of adolescent girls were repulsed by scenes depicting overt violence and incest excised to the eventual displeasure of Andrews' readers, who expected an accurate adaptation. Despite their conundrum, Bloom's competent yet commonplace direction and script preserving both the fascination and laughable contrivance of its source hardly eased his performers' duties. Snarling, clenched Fletcher's as riveting as shamelessly typecast, emanating piety and antipathy as the grandmotherly gorgon swiping scenes aplenty from Tennant, whose hammily eccentric elocution's as compulsive as cockamamie. Faring only slightly better, eminently photogenic Swanson and Adams bore millstones of declamatory dialogue, occasionally salient dubbing and the phoniest postiche imaginable. Christopher Young's score is suitably saccharine; its main theme and a few adjuvant motifs are memorable, but it can't compare to the classic, coeval music composed for *Hellraiser. For all its departures from Andrews' text, this flick replicates her style and its bathos, as polished and absorbing a work of sober kitsch as one could expect.

Gloria (2014)
Directed by Christian Keller
Written by Sabina Berman
Produced by Alan B. Curtiss, Matthias Ehrenberg, Christian Keller, Barrie M. Osborne, Braulio Arsüaga, Joan Christian Carmona, Rodrigo de Santiago, Manuel Espino, Mario Ganon, Carlos Garcia de Paredes, Eduardo Gómez Treviño, José Levy, León Levy, José Asse Marcos, Sergio Palacios, Guillermo Pino, John Winston Rainey, Emma Ramos, Osvaldo Ríos, Eduardo Sitton, ElÍas Sitton, Siahou Sitton, Antonio Soave, Salomón Sutton, Yeoshua Syrquin, Diego Szychowski, Luis Szychowski, Jorge Trad, Patricio Trad, Gerardo Vaqueiro Ussel, Álvaro Vaqueiro Ussel, Vita Vargas, Alex Zito, Mariana Félix, Luis Díaz, Max Appedole, Ricardo Kleinbaum, Charlotte Larsen, Anthony Picciuto
Starring Sofía Espinosa, Marco Pérez, Tatiana del Real, Karla Rodriguez, Estrella Solís, Ximena Romo, Alejandra Zaid, Alicia Jaziz, Ma. Fernanda Monroy, Andrea Bentley, Andrea Isamar, Marisa Rubio, Gutemberg Brito, Marcia Coutiño, Clarissa Malheiros, Miriam Calderón, Pepe Olivares, Arturo Vázquez
Nolens volens, anyone who's becharmed their nation is entitled to -- or incumbered with -- an unavoidable biopic. This glossy reenactment of the ascent, celebrity and scandal that established pop singer Gloria Trevi (Espinosa) as a household name in both her native Mexico and the Hispanosphere entire is the rare picture that might've moved more satisfaction for superficiality. Espinosa's vocal and visual likeness to Trevi is as felicific as her personation opposite Pérez, who plays with equal energy her abusive, autocratic, egregiously polyamorous producer and unexclusive lover Sergio Andrade, under whose auspice the playfully prurient popstar's career was formed, furthered, nearly foredone. No stranger to defamation, Trevi entertained understatement by repudiating this production as "aberrant." Berman's schmaltzy script nearly sinks its enterprise with an uncurbed maudlinism, subtext of feminist banality, one scurrilous fiction theorizing the songstress's maternity, and frequent narrative rotation from Trevi's exhilarating career during the '80s and '90s to her Brazilian incarceration in the early aughts, which ruins the flick's momentum and appeal. This isn't improved by Keller's rote direction, or an instance of propagandistic casting courtesy of Berman's stereotypically kosher kin populating those risibly plethoric productional credits. After nearly a decade of research comprehending extensive interviews with their subjects, Keller and Berman somehow couldn't catch that Trevi's substance and allure consists in the voice and verve by which she romped into Mexico's common heart, not her victimhood as an alleged accessary to Andrade's ephebophilic felonies. Their focus on the latter to the relative pretermission of the former wastes a capable cast and a fun, absorbing true story depicted a decade too late -- a disservice to Trevi, her fans and uninitiated viewers.

The Glove (1979)
Directed by Ross Hagen
Written by Ross Hagen, Hugh Smith, Julian Roffman
Produced by Julian Roffman, William B. Silberkleit
Starring John Saxon, Rosey Grier, Joanna Cassidy, Misty Bruce, Michael Pataki, Howard Honig, Jack Carter, Joan Blondell, Keenan Wynn
Lex talionis enforced by a beefy ex-convict and jazz guitarist (Grier) seems less tenable than venial when he endues a panoply of stolen riot gear to stalk and clobber prison guards with its barbarically powerful, discontinued gauntlet of a make to which they wrongly subjected him during his penal stint. His premium bounty attracts the interest of a bounty hunter and compulsive gambler (Saxon) desperate to discharge ample arrears, as child support so to maintain contact with his daughter (Bruce). Its fine and familiar leads cement this piffling crime drama: Saxon renders likable a deadbeat apprehending deadbeats, and his verbalization of a schmaltzy voice-over nearly sops its syrup; likewise, Grier confers to a character whose duplicity might seem otherwise ludicrous a believable righteousness. Cult B-actor Hagen handled these proceedings passably, but Robert Fitzgerald's execrable editing, a bathetic, brassy score by Robert Raglan as evocative of institutional televised fare as a cheesy rotation of successive dissolves, excursus that amount to naught (such as a quasi-romantic interlude with Cassidy's estate agent) and no few farcical fights specially (mis)directed by producer-screenwriter Roffman all accrue to conflux like bilge water though a flimsy hull. When Saxon isn't monologically dwelling on his pernicious habitude or his daughter's precious affection, he's engaging a bone-swinging, butcherly bond jumper or placating a contemptibly sleazy rival played a mile over the top by Pataki. Praiseworthy as a treatment of police brutality and bigotry that neither preaches to its audience nor presents its genuinely pitiable antagonist as a blameless magic negro, Hagen's pet project is withal too goofy to recommend or ignore.

The Hunted (2003)
Directed by William Friedkin
Written by David Griffiths, Peter Griffiths, Art Monterastelli
Produced by Richard Hawley, James Jacks, Ricardo Mestres, Art Monterastelli, Sean Daniel, David Griffiths, Peter Griffiths, Marcus Viscidi
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Connie Nielsen, Leslie Stefanson, John Finn, José Zúñiga, Mark Pellegrino, Ron Canada
To this thriller concerning the pursuit of an accomplished Army assassin (Del Toro) turned sylvan serial killer by the tracker and survivalist (Jones) who trained him, Friedkin brought only his name and mere competence. Although the supporting players are fine and Jones reliably credible, wolfish Del Toro's decidedly erratic despite congruous casting; his thousand-yard stare is impeccable, physicality intimidating and presence as prodigious as any onscreen, but he overacts oddly with excessive cephalic gestures -- an unaccountable failing for a performer and director known for nuance. Stunts supervised by Buddy Joe Hooker are consistently crack, and under the oversight of choreographers Rafael Kayanan and Thomas Kier, Jones, Del Toro and their stunt doubles cut knife fights as select for their credibility as their excitement. Regrettably, contemporarily common flaws nullify impact and realism: wretched CG of blood spatter, volant blades and Jones carried downstream through rapids are embarrassingly bogus; Del Toro's C.O. woodenly recites for his men and the audience worthless exposition of their historic circumstances and mission on a battlefield late in the Kosovo War; Del Toro farcically flouts his hunters whilst hunting them; during an abeyance in a prolonged, conclusive chase, the leads find time to forge knives from stone and steel; like that of every other major motion picture produced during the aughts, Caleb Deschanel's photography is immoderately blued by filters. Ugh! Uncertainties constitute this story's only fascinating facets...how much of the wayward killer's paranoia regarding a conspiracy to neutralize him is sound? Can his bygone, irrespondent instructor subdue him for a want of bloody experience? In his heyday, these equivocalities and the consequences of mentorship and martial purpose in an age bereft of institutional loyalties would've been explored by Hurricane Billy...here, he's only expected to set his shots.
Instead, watch First Blood or Deliverance.

Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno Live! (2015)
Directed by Jody Shapiro, Tommaso Rossellini
Written by Isabella Rossellini, Jean-Claude Carrier
Produced by Rick Gilbert, Molly O'Keefe, Sonya Klinger, Laura Michalchyshyn, Lindsay Webster, Kayo Washio
Starring Isabella Rossellini, Tommaso Rossellini, Claudio Campagna

"human wandering through the zoo
what do your cousins think of you?"

--Don Marquis, archy at the zoo

If any web serial befit expansion into a franchise, Rossellini's educational videos on faunal copulation and reproduction -- wherein the whilom model, actress and filmmaker represents rutters and recievers alike -- was singularly favorable for adaptation to a book, two televised series and a live tour ranging theatrical venues in thirty-five cities over two years. That ultimate presentation comprises a thaumatographic discourse presumably punctuated by videos produced with her idiomatic pseudo-bricolage abounding with paper, foam and spandex costumery, sets and props, but it's scarcely to be seen in this disappointing cablecast hour. Rossellini's disquisition is as instructive as amusing, though less so than the videos themselves, for which she perkily interprets stealthy spiders, sadomasochistic snails, licentious delphine bisexuality, parthenogenetic earthworms, aphids and appendicularly agamic starfish, the violent lust of toads and selectivity of cervine alpha males, vaginal convolutions with which ducks direct drakes' desired or unbid sperm, fatally aeroerotic bees, a female hamster who pares her parity by cannibalizing runts, and more. Equally intriguing are her third career's verbal and photographic history, zoological ruminations and trip to Argentina's Patagonian coast to observe with marine biologist Campagna the reproductive maneuvers of beta elephant seals. All of this should've culminated with a condensed recording of a live show, but that title's misrepresented: instead, the aforestated content's interspersed with dryly underwhelming studio reenactments that spoil pace and prepossession alike. When we read "live," we're entitled to expect as much.
Instead, watch Green Porno shorts.

It Felt Like Love (2013)
Written and directed by Eliza Hittman
Produced by Eliza Hittman, Shrihari Sathe, Laura Wagner, Tyler Brodie, Molly Gandour, Hunter Gray, Gill Holland
Starring Gina Piersanti, Giovanna Salimeni, Ronen Rubinstein, Richie Folio, Nugget, Kevin Anthony Ryan, Nick Rosen, Jesse Cordasco, Case Prime
Languishing in summer tedium and the shadow of her popularly promiscuous best friend (Salimeni), a pretty, pouty, terminally timorous teen (Piersanti) ravenous for amatory attention assumes orbit about a handsome, thuggish billiard hall's clerk (Rubinstein) in pursuit of his affection. She's as incoordinate in proximity to her crush as when flailing unsynchronized as a member of her friend's silly terpsichorean quartet, and painfully obvious when professing the erotic experiences of acquaintances as her own to her closest confidant, a prepubescent neighbor (Folio) neither convinced by nor impressed with her flagrant falsities. Notwithstanding a few instances of stiff delivery, Hittman's debut feature's satisfactorily played, cut and shot, but adequacy can't compensate for the climatic languor that suffuses her narrative, or the revolting condition of middle-class Brooklyn's vapid degeneracy, manifest as parental neglect, troglodytic male posturing and ubiquitous hip-hop. A littoral metaphor on loan from Truffault's estate hardly enlivens an affair merely (if capably) belaboring its tenderfoot's boredom and heartache, without exploring the full detriment of her deceased mother's absence. Hittman wrangles her photogenic cast with varying success, generating the best of many contemplative moments when they're muted. Still, Piersanti's promise and presence almost belie her age; she may someday prove a reliable leading lady under the auspices of a better filmmaker.

Jailbreakers (1994)
Directed by William Friedkin
Written by Debra Hill, Gigi Vorgan
Produced by Lou Arkoff, Debra Hill, Willie Kutner, Llewellyn Wells, Amy Grauman Danziger
Starring Shannen Doherty, Antonio Sabato Jr., Adrien Brody, Adrienne Barbeau, Vince Edwards, George Gerdes, Sean Whalen, Talbert Morton, Charles Napier
Just as every moon orbits a planet, so too may every bored alpha female gravitate to a charming rogue. A pretty cheerleader (Doherty) in one such instance falls far and fast for a thuggish hunk (Sabato) governing a gang of greasers in tidy postwar Fresno. Captivated by his rout of rival bikers and the prowess with which he gloms hamburgers, cars and jewelry just for her, she inflames until their brief crime spree's curtailed by his incarceration. His escape from prison enables them to reunite at and vamoose from her sweet sixteenth birthday party, but a reaffirmed adoration for her brainish beau is dampened by the murderous escalation of his criminality. His career here years into its doldrums, Friedkin shot this installment of the trite, tawdry, televised series Rebel Highway by rote; only a few wildly transgressive moments and tense handheld shots faintly echo his past ingenuity. Doherty and Sabato share considerable charisma and chemistry, but haven't much to do when they aren't smooching. Brody fares better (not too many years predating his stardom) as Sabato's leathered, lovably lanky lieutenant, as do Barbeau and Edwards, Doherty's typically concerned parents. Fair '50s detail was imparted to this production's set and costume design, and further fortified by a fleet of vintage automobiles. Regrettably, Hill's and Vorgan's skimpy script barely fulfills a brief 71 minutes, prompting the question of whether the former might've crafted an absorbing story with her ex-boyfriend. Only seven years prior, Friedkin was still dissecting criminal pathology; for this, he's as much an observer as his audience.
Instead, watch Bonnie and Clyde.

Kate & Leopold (2001)
Directed by James Mangold
Written by Steven Rogers, James Mangold
Produced by Cathy Konrad, Christopher Goode, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Kerry Orent, Meryl Poster
Starring Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Breckin Meyer, Bradley Whitford, Natasha Lyonne
Which is a less likely premise: that an expatriated English patrician (Jackman) residing in NYC during the nineteenth century might be displaced at the commencement of the twenty-first, or that he'd find true love with an ambitious market analyst (Ryan) whilst then? The success of this cute comedy might hinge entirely on suspension of disbelief were it geared for audiences more demanding than American women of middle age and class, whose identification with Ryan sufficed. Jackman's considerable charm and outstanding oratory as the aristocratic anachronism carry the entire picture admirably; his equestrian facility, plausible politesse and dulcet delivery of Rogers' palatable period parlance can't be faulted. Furthermore, a chemistry with Ryan's mostly to his credit; otherwise, she's insipidly iterating the same persona she'd belabored through the '90s, never so unappealing as when portraying a jaded, pragmatic careerist. Schreiber's notably less pesky than usual as her former boyfriend, an ungainly scientist whose discovery of periodic temporal portals capacitates an excursion into the 1870s, where his surveillance of the titled Renaissance man redounds to the latter's adventure. Mangold drizzled less syrup into this script than the surfeit dripping from his previous Girl, Interrupted, and with Rogers minimized the cliches common to Victorian figures out of time: never uncharacteristically purblind, their protagonist acclimates readily after a few mishaps to current conventions and technology while retaining his mannerly rectitude. His contempt for contemporary vice is pleasurably registered when balking at the consumption of putrid margarine advertised in commercials for which he's an optimally suave spokesman, or exposing the sciolism and lechery of Ryan's ignoble superior (Whitford). Paradoxically, Ryan's as conspicuously miscast as commercially indispensable; Jackman's chevalier might be credibly enamored with a lady of her post had she any grace, allurement or a haircut less hideous, but her modest attraction was insufficient even before depleted during a succession of anteceding romantic comedies. Despite her inadequacy, Rolfe Kent's mushy music, and the infernal idiocies of her clownish brother (Meyer) for whom the gallant serves as counselor and urbane straight man, a refreshing gentility and virtue demonstrated in his proprieties and prodigality ennobles slightly a hit that confirmed ladies are still partial to (largely bygone) Anglo-Saxon character...when handsomely incarnate for a couple of hours.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Time After Time.

Lying Eyes (1996)
Directed by Marina Sargenti
Written by Paul B. Margolis
Produced by Suzy Beugen, Charles Morales, Chuck McLain
Starring Cassidy Rae, Vincent Irizarry, Allison Smith, Ashlee Levitch, Jamie Rose, Sherry Hursey

Step #1: Scout the cheerleaders performing at a local high school's pep rallies to locate that special someone
Step #2: Meet her by rear-ending her Honda with your Mercedes; seize the moment with the trappings of your wealth and your inimitable urbanity
Step #3: Recompense her for those introductory damages and include a new CD player and some banal albums before you invite her to dinner
Step #4: Regale her at a swanky restaurant, oozing charm as your discuss her aspirations
Step #5: Invite her to your beach house, where you'll gift her lingerie and sate her sex
Step #6: See that she's wholly unaware of your duplicitous lifestyle and/or previous, parallel relationships
Sticky step six slips from the grasp of a handsome lawyer (Irizarry) in his early thirties who successfully courts a beddable high school senior (Rae) by adhering to steps #1-#5, but can't keep her philia when his obsessive attention and an aggrieved party's campaign of harassment negatives her zeal. Performers and photography share a parity of pulchritude in yet another gratifyingly glossy Hearst Entertainment Production for Lifetime, which amounts typically to less sense than satisfaction. Tuned to moisten hausfrauen, Irizarry's silly, soapy suavity is enhanced by dialogue as droll as the menacing messages received by Rae's everygirl, and while the story's stimulated by a nefarious reveal early in the third act, its sequent scheme raises numerous unanswered questions and culminates in a premeditated, attempted murder that's unresolved at a tidily vapid denouement not a minute later. At least half of the target demographic will be too soused on plonk or farctate with Häagen-Dazs to notice these loose ends before bedtime any more than they might distractively drifting close-ups or frequently daffy dubbing, both of which are fodder for the riffing classes.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Babysitter's Seduction.

Morituri (1965)
Directed by Bernhard Wicki
Written by Werner Jörg Lüddecke, Daniel Taradash
Produced by Aaron Rosenberg, Barney Rosenzweig
Starring Marlon Brando, Yul Brynner, Martin Benrath, Janet Margolin, Hans Christian Blech, Wally Cox, Max Haufler, Rainer Penkert, Trevor Howard
Most sabotage at sea scuttles a ship, but when a pacifistic, sybaritic German deserter (Brando) luxuriating in an Anglo-Indian exclave is conscripted on pain of delivery to the Gestapo by an unsympathetic British colonel (Howard), his assignment in the guise of an SS officer is to disable before its interception by enemy warships a German freighter's detonation charges to preserve its lading: 7,000 tons of rubber coveted by the Allies to counter their deficiency. Security of the cargo and his life is further threatened by the vigilance of this vessel's viciously ambitious first officer (Benrath) and captain (Brynner), whose blemished record and enmity for the SS conflict with his dutiful disposition. For its first forty minutes, this original scenario's worked well to some arresting suspense, but its first-rate cast and Wicki's deft direction can't overcome a pokey pace and cornball dialogue that sink its potential. It's required viewing for fans of Brando and Brynner; the former's faux German accent squares satisfactorily with those authentically voiced by castmates Benrath, Blech and Penkert, and the latter doesn't bother to affect one, but they're both for their appeal and unfailing virtuosity perfectly prepossessing. As a captured nurse's aide endangered as much by her ethnicity as sexual vulnerability, only Margolin visibly struggles with her clunky lines, but interprets her part's resignation and hysteria to a shattering sally, this movie's most memorable moment. Aside from Brando's smooth, skulking sabotage and clever cajolery, a ruse by which the craft's painted and rigged in mimicry of British and Swedish merchant ships to evade Allied detection is of interest, but Wally Cox's arrival from some other flick as a degenerate doctor and a photographic inconsistency by which beautifully dusky interiors clash with an unsightly paucity of contrast on deck constantly remind viewers that this production's strengths are consistently counterbalanced by its faults. Lüddecke's story is therefore fitting, for illustrating how war dehumanizes both its victims and perpetrators...in the most melodramatic manner.

The New Kids (1985)
Directed by Sean S. Cunningham
Written by Stephen Gyllenhaal, Brian Taggert
Produced by Sean S. Cunningham, Andrew Fogelson, Barbara De Fina
Starring Shannon Presby, Lori Loughlin, James Spader, John Philbin, David H. MacDonald, Eric Stoltz, Paige Price, Vince Grant, Theron Montgomery, Eddie Jones, Lucy Martin, Jean De Baer, Tom Atkins
They grow up so fast! Crazed by cocaine, malfeasant teens might graduate quicker from petty vandalism and harassment to kidnapping and attempted murder as from high school, as in this alternately fluffy and frightful thriller. Army brats (Presby, Loughlin) suffer the most taxing of their adolescent years when orphaned after their parents perish in an unspecified accident, lodged by a bumbling uncle (Jones) aspiring to revive his downscale amusement park, and both harried and harrowed by a redneck gang who locally dabble in dogfights and narcotic traffic after Loughlin's decent demoiselle rebuffs their unhinged honcho (Spader). Too tough to buckle, the titular transplants requite after taking their lumps, and the ensuant, escalating exchange of hostilities swells with violence of an intensity inversely proportionate to its plausibility, administrated adequately by genre journeyman Cunningham. It's much more attractive than agreeable, relying on its fit and photogenic leads, especially lovely Laughlin and specially stunning Spader, here spruce and bleached, playing what seems initially a particularly previsional cosplay of Milo Yiannopoulos. Gyllenhaal's trite dialogue and stale scenarios seem as apropos to a televised feature from the late '70s as Lalo Schifrin's untypically, oddly outmoded score. Worse, Atkins is squandered as the heroic, fatherly colonel dispatched not ten minutes into the picture, as is Stoltz as Loughlin's pissant love interest. Its routinely motivational montages submit: can our protagonists lick the iniquitous hicks, profitably repair the theme park, rescue the community center, find true love and punctually attend the school dance? Sure.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Tuff Turf.

Nightbreed (1990)
Directed and written by Clive Barker
Produced by Gabriella Martinelli, Joe Roth, David Barron, James G. Robinson, Mark Alan Miller, Michael G. Plumides Jr., David Robinson
Starring Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, David Cronenberg, Hugh Quarshie, Charles Haid, Doug Bradley, Catherine Chevalier, Kim and Nina Robertson, Hugh Ross, Malcolm Smith, Bob Sessions, Oliver Parker, Debora Weston, Nicholas Vince, Simon Bamford, Christine McCorkindale

The prophet perceives the whole world in terms of justice or injustice.

--Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets

His therapist (Cronenberg) was the last person to whom a welder (Sheffer) should've reported his dreams of larking, noctivagous freaks and monsters (Bradley, Chevalier, Ross, McCorkindale, et al.), for they're just as perturbingly real, and ready to initiate into their haven tucked away in the Canadian backcountry anyone whose bloodlust jibes with their own. For all its ace artisanship and conceptual inspiration, Barker's second feature (adapted from his novel Cabal) is defeated by its self-reverence and bathos, and far too silly to scare. Sheffer's barely fair as a perplexed, persecuted protagonist, his strapping screen presence compensating for want of aggression his role requires; diametrically, doxy Bobby's an aggravating ham opposite, especially when belting out a rankling rock song as frontwoman for a local band. Both leads are excelled by the villains: Cronenberg's outrageously pestilential psychiatrist steals his every scene, allied with a Procrustean, provincial police chief (Haid) whose sadistic officiousness is matched only by the destructive overplus of the arsenal allocated him and the deputized yahoos under his command. However, all of this picture's players are belittled by grotesque makeup with which scores of imaginative monstrosities are realized, and Steve Hardie's phenomenal production design, best manifest as the modern industrial swank of Cronenberg's offices, and a massive, subterraneous sepulture where the last remaining members of species eradicated by barbarities of homo sapiens reside under prophetic idolatry. Barker's depiction of Baphomet assumes a countercultural import, allusively assimilating its downtrodden anathemas to the Knights Templar in as heretical a tale as anything he's authored. His direction's increasingly refined, but hasn't the visceral punch of Hellraiser (or its first sequel helmed by Tony Randel), and it's undermined as much by comedy as overperformance, neither of which Barker plies proficiently. Composed and arranged similarly to his synchronous scores for Beetlejuice, Batman, Darkman, Edward Scissorhands, etc., Danny Elfman's playfully minacious music is fun but absurdly applied to nearly every running second, disrupting atmosphere and whelming attention. For this, misdirection, an initial theatrical cut of Barker's butchered vision (since redressed in two expanded versions), and too many abysmal commixed with creative ideas, its mythologic and idolomantic promise is largely thwarted...and despite its excitement, it isn't at all frightful.

The Odd Couple II (1998)
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by Neil Simon
Produced by Robert W. Cort, David Madden, Neil Simon, Elena Spiotta
Starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Mary Beth Peil, Jonathan Silverman, Lisa Waltz, Richard Riehle, Christine Baranski, Jean Smart
Thirty years elapsed between the filmic success of Simon's lovably insufferable squabblers and this reunion miscalculated to capitalize on the revived popularity of two much older, grumpier men. Lemmon's carping, persnickety hypochondriac and Matthau's insouciantly inept sloven bicker en route through picturesque rural California to the wedding of Felix's daughter (Peil) and Oscar's son (Silverman), sustaining afoot lost luggage, a detonated rental car, Mexican smugglers, an impendent corpse (Barnard Hughes), redneck hussies (Baranski, Smart) and one another, their recriminative irritation meliorated not a jot in their advanced years. Approximately one of Simon's every four cracks and gags is legitimately funny (a miserably promising ratio by contemporary standards), and his leading men optimize these with unerring comic timing and persisting chemistry. Alas, uncoordinated direction by Deutch -- who's never managed a decent film without John Hughes' patronage -- and Seth Flaum's horrendous editing often spoil whatever the stars salvage; after every other punch line, poorly composed shots either cut away abruptly or linger too long. Still worse, Alan Silvestri's twee, drippy score (possibly his very worst) loudly and repeatedly diverts from rather than complementing any onscreen humor. Silverman plays Oscar's son as a cloying candy-ass and inadvertent warning against the folly of flighty single motherhood, but the supporting cast is otherwise tolerable, notwithstanding Baranski in a creepily carnal context. It's all paltry and far too late for a priceless pair whose audience was expeditiously expiring by the late '90s, and ought've been exploited decades earlier: in lieu of the negligible telecast series, Lemmon and Matthau might have been reunited in a quartet of theatrical sequels circa '71-'86, scripted by the likes of Andrew Bergman and helmed by proven comedic directors such as Ramis or Hiller. Instead, this final outing by one of Old Hollywood's most gifted twosomes finds them struggling to modest yet meritorious achievement in their twilight years to excite a few laughs in a barely mediocre vehicle.

On My Way (2013)
Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot
Written by Emmanuelle Bercot, Jérôme Tonnerre
Produced by Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier, Christine De Jekel
Starring Catherine Deneuve, Némo Schiffman, Gérard Garouste, Camille, Claude Gensac, Paul Hamy, Mylène Demongeot, Hafsia Herzi, Séréphin Ngakoutou Beninga

One would be in less danger
From the wiles of the stranger
If one's own kin and kith
Were more fun to be with.

--Ogden Nash, Family Court

Her iconic visage and surname have adorned innumerable advertisements; upon fairly few as this dull drama's theatrical posters and billboards has it been so conspicuously, necessarily engrossed, for she's prime among its few assets. When her relationship with a unfaithful lover sours simultaneous to the seizure of her eatery for arrearage, Deneuve's restaurateur and whilom Miss Brittany is opportunely at liberty to attend a reunion of regional rivals for the title of Miss France (c.'69), and escort her bedevillingly bratty grandson (Schiffman) to the rural residence of his gruff, agnatic grandfather (Garouste) while her dyspeptic daughter (Camille) pursues an internship. Bercot slavishly observes the bromidic burden and stale scenario of archetypically post-feminine road movies, in most of which a protagonist abandons her responsibilities and their collateral cumbers to embrace personal, imperative intangibles as she "finds herself." If her perdurable leading lady's unshakable credibility and idiosyncratically perfect performance buoy this production to the surface of mediocrity, it's still weighted there by the cliches and contrivances of its directress's bourgeois quasi-progressivism: every independently enterprising bachelor (Hamy, a smarmy chapman of smuggled cigarettes) is a lascivious sleazebag, yet cantankerous politicians of the mainstream left (Garouste's socialist mayoral candidate) are catches; the sole black stranger (Beninga, as an affable security guard) is nobly empathetic; crabby careerists unfit for motherhood aren't portrayed as negligent in their life's most significant undertaking, and their equally, obnoxiously waspish children are to be deemed adorable. A few scenes suit their star's charm, as when she confabulates with an elderly farmer who laboriously rolls her a cigarette during the first act, participates in a united photoshoot with her peers in the second, and enjoys romance and rapprochement in the third, but these vignettes seem intervallically inharmonious with the peeving postmodernism of the whole. Withal, Bercot's nepotism bears mixed results: her partner and DP, Guillaume Schiffman, lenses vividly idyllic scenery alfresco contributing to the pastoral ambience and beauty complementing her scanty story, but their son's unendurable as the miffing stripling. Naturally, Deneuve and the cast's contemporary boomers outshine their junior co-stars. Despite Bercot's basic capability, her script co-written with Tonnerre is comprised of fluff exceeding substance, plodding at the velocity of a crippled snail. Rufus Wainwright's maudlin whine and typically twee tunes by Sufjan Stevens and The Divine Comedy render two crucial scenes and conclusive credits plainly exquisite. This is only, scarcely recommended for Deneuve's devotees; even when it flails, she shines.

Over the Top (1987)
Directed by Menahem Golan
Written by Gary Conway, David Engelbach, Stirling Silliphant, Sylvester Stallone
Produced by Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus, Tony Munafo, James D. Brubaker
Starring Sylvester Stallone, David Mendenhall, Robert Loggia, Rick Zumwalt, Susan Blakely, Terry Funk, Allan Graf, Chris McCarty, Bruce Way, Magic Schwarz
Produced at Cannon's antic acme, this is the Golan-Globus picture, helmed by Menahemself, replete with magnified testosterone and breathing their strangely selective immigrant's vision of The American Dream, here epitomized by daffily denominated Lincoln Hawk (Stallone), thewy trucker and semi-professional arm wrestler who bonds with his estranged and effeminate son (Mendenhall) en route from the prissily petulant cadet's military academy to a hospital where his ailing mother (Blakely) awaits over exercise, competitive confrontations and an abduction at the behest of the spoiled stripling's wealthy, peremptory grandfather (Loggia), whose possessive obsession generates more conflict than an approaching arm wrestling tournament in Vegas where our husky hero's slated to strive. Golan's goofy, glossy melodrama is idiomatically tacky but never for a moment humdrum, boasting Nevadan desert landscapes magnificently depicted by DP David Gurfinkel, a felicifically formulaic plot and superabundance of sweaty, screaming, hefty, hulking antagonists vying for the prize, as a bleached beefsteak (Schwarz), transitioning lycanthrope (Way) and Brobdingnagianly brawny consecutive champion (Zumwalt, playing himself) bloviating boasts and macho slogans to cow his competitors. Silliphant and Stallone evidently reveled in the composition of these, as well as the latter's own ludicrous ruminations and invective inimitably growled by Loggia in usual fine, nefarious form. Beneath all its muscle, sinew and syrup beats a heart of American triumphalism, which for all its oblivious absurdity feels almost enviable in an era when post-ironic snark is waning wearily as the best hallmark of our tired, effete ethos.
Recommended for a double feature paired with any of Cannon's Rocky sequels.

The Paper Chase (1973)
Directed by James Bridges
Written by John Jay Osborn Jr., James Bridges
Produced by Rodrick Paul, Robert C. Thompson, Philip L. Parslow
Starring Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Wagner, Graham Beckel, John Houseman, James Naughton, Regina Baff, Craig Richard Nelson, Edward Herrmann, Robert Lydiard
An indiscreet misbalance of lucubration, obsession with his mordant, maieutic, magisterial professor (Houseman) of contract law, and a chance romance with that instructor's daughter (Wagner) prepossesses a jejune student (Bottoms) of Minnesotan provenance during his first year at Harvard. His absurd ascription of familiarity to the patronizing, preeminent preceptor and inability to prosecute his student career with due diligence or recess privately corresponds to this overrated flick's faults: for an academic drama, it's too cute, too gushingly personal, and finally too footling to succeed on its own reputed terms. After befriending a well-heeled genius (Beckel), his inclusion in a sextet dedicated to joint study introduces Bottoms' freshman to classmates of unflappably assured (Herrmann), prickish (Nelson), tautly uptight (Lydiard) and desperately unfit (Naughton) tempers, and a reciprocal obligation for all in their attritionally tapering corps to pen and exchange summations of their favored courses. Most of these matriculants satisfy, and Houseman does his reputation justice in the role that recommenced the septuagenarian's onscreen career, but Bottoms (miscast after an exceptional early turn in The Last Picture Show) plays poorly an extrovert by overacting in a part that demands an individually felicitous eccentricity. In contradistinction to compelling scenes where Houseman's teacher drills his students via Socratic debate on the rudiments of contractual jurisprudence, the second act buckles under the accretionary, sequential weight of melodramatic misfortunes, after which the third descends into gross idiocy as Bottoms' and Beckel's buddies check into a hotel to cram for exams and annoying antics ensue, underlined by John Williams' rankling rotation of harpsichord (scholastic slog!) and bursts of distorted guitar (youthful spunk!). Bridges' craft is unobjectionable -- he optimizes shots richly realized by DP Gordon Willis, and his script capably condenses Osborn's novel -- but his pace is oppressively slow and for better and worse, his leads seem left to their own devices. This is at most a marginal matter for Houseman, whose flawless oratory and peremptory reserve shine unidimensionally, but somebody might've advised Bridges or Bottoms that the latter was either unprepared or unsuited for a persona so challenging.

Puppylove (2013)
Directed by Delphine Lehericey
Written by Delphine Lehericey, Martin Coiffier
Produced by Elena Tatti, Sébastien Delloye, David Grumbach, Sophie Sallin
Starring Solène Rigot, Audrey Bastien, Vincent Perez, Thomas Coumans, Vadim Goldberg, Théo Dardenne, Theo Gladsteen, Jan Hammenecker, Martin Nissen
Yet more flat froth seeping from the Continental cinematic shitheap depicts how the inhibition of a timid teen (Rigot) relaxes under the influence of her fractious, licentious neighbor (Bastien). Lehericey purveys cliches exclusively: demure defloration, private and prolonged masturbation, inebriate romps, skinny dipping, transient sex, Bastien's recusant revealed as a promising pianist, an exuberant, extemporaneous dance on a balcony and a few inane, impotent rebellions only stress a wearisome vacuity. Balding, barbate Perez is still sexier than either of the lovely leads as Rigot's single father, but even his eventual surrender to Bastien's enticement isn't particularly prurient. Before Lehericey's amateurish elaboration of adolescent banalities, promiscuity and ephebophilia never seemed so stodgy.
Instead, watch 36 fillette.

Sex in the Comix (2012)
Directed by Joëlle Oosterlinck
Produced by Gilles Berthaut, Loïc Bouchet, Thibaut Camurat
Starring Jennifer Caban, Robert Crumb, Ralf König, Aude Picault, Milo Manara, Zep, Bastien Vives, Bernard Joubert, Tim Pilcher, Suehiro Maruo, Aline Kominsky
Symmetric, feminine exemplars of Manara's neoclassical gracility, R. Crumb's Rabelaisian ribaldry rendered with thickly lurid strokes, interspecific prurience imaged in Maruo's metaphoric horrors, anecdotal candor in comedic cartoons by Zep, König's jocularly hirsute homoeroticism, elegantly aristocratic eros swelling to tender consummation in monographies courtesy of Picault, and Vives' shamelessly sportive indulgences are among the salacious styles summarized in this brief, overproduced yet informative introduction to sexuality portrayed in sequential art. Under her nom de plume Molly Crabapple, artist and author Caban's as creepily cute as chafing, but a capable narrator in spite of her more irksome affectations. Interviews with the aforementioned artists and lightly animated exhibitions of their imagery exposit both to newcomers as sufficiently as vignettes in which Caban, comics historian Joubert and some of their subjects recount historical phenomena such as interwar and wartime pornography, incipient queer and feminist works in independent postwar publications, Tom of Finland's gregariously ithyphallic hypermasculinity, violent raunch of the '70s fumettis, the peculiar censorship of hentai, Aurélia Aurita's sketched autobiographical exploits, and climacterics of French interdiction. Oosterlinck fulfills her initiatory objective in shy of an hour, but could've documented more within this topic's breadth had she shot less of her capering host. Their folly and vanity are nearly negatived by a profusion of interviewees' insights, none more significant than that this illustrated medium legally, affordably, optimally provokes and assuages the lubricous imaginations of its creators and audiences as no other can.

A Teacher (2013)
Written and directed by Hannah Fidell
Produced by Hannah Fidell, Kim Sherman, Michelle Millette, Annell Brodeur
Starring Lindsay Burdge, Will Brittain, Jennifer Prediger
A consequential opportunity to analyze the psychologic ties of instructive berth and amatorian condition isn't entirely compassed in this handsome budget production concerning a backstair affair between a high school's mousy, lovelorn preceptor (Burdge) and her swaggering senior student (Brittain). Her passion and paranoia mount pari passu as a love the educator's callow paramour hasn't the depth to reciprocate ordains her to unrequited misery...regrettably, directress Fidell hasn't much to convey beyond the relational incompatibility of adults and teenagers, even in the absence of satisfactory coeval suitors. Technically, nothing's to be faulted here: Fidell's direction is capable if customary, DP Andrew Droz Palermo lenses beautiful scenery and umbratile interiors in modish high contrast, Sofi Marshall's crisp editing braces the picture's steady pace and the cast is quite fine, especially in Burdge's solidly evocative radiation of carnal thrill, enamored elan, forlorn ache and that terrible sting of ruinous heartbreak. If Fidell's undertaking underwhelms for a deficit of ambition, it's still commendable for its refusal to stupidly conflate ephebophilia and pedophilia, instead prudently intimating that the former is less an iniquity than an especially injudicious indiscretion.

Tess (1979)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Thomas Hardy, Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski, John Brownjohn
Produced by Claude Berri, Timothy Burrill, Jean-Pierre Rassam, Pierre Grunstein
Starring Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth, Leigh Lawson, John Collin, Rosemary Martin, Carolyn Pickles, Sylvia Coleridge, Suzanna Hamilton, Caroline Embling, Fred Bryant, David Markham, Pascale de Boysson, Josine Comellas, Dicken Ashworth, Arielle Dombasle, John Bett, Tom Chadbon, Richard Pearson, Tony Church

Multiple-choice Tesst

  1. Polanski's most swank, syrupy, celebrated feature is dedicated "To Sharon." Who other than his famously slain wife might've been a more fitting dedicatee?
    1. Lead Nastassja Kinski (whose boundless conceit and opportunism the director assuaged while boffing her)
    2. Gloria Steinem
    3. Judge Laurence J. Rittenband (LOL)
    4. Any of the above
  2. At the conclusion of the first scene, a local parson (Church) pivotally apprises our peasant protagonist's alcoholic father (Collin) that the noble, Norman d'Urbervilles were direct ascendants of his lowly Durbeyfields. In how many instances is that datum reiterated during this story?
    1. 10,000
    2. 2
    3. 11
    4. Ugh! Too often
  3. Sweet, simple, saturnine Tess (Kinski) would prefer to moil her years away than exploit her beauty and luxuriate lifelong for high espousal. Ergo, she appeals to:
    1. Careerists
    2. Strivers
    3. Single mothers
    4. All of the above
  4. How does the viewer secern Alec's (Lawson) rape of Tess from mere seduction?
    1. Her momentary resistance
    2. Her sheer submission
    3. This scene's orchestral swells, transitioning abruptly from a minor to major key
    4. Her later acceptance of his largess
    5. Who knows?
  5. Those elements compensating for Brach's, Polanski's, and Brownjohn's prosy, often bathetic treatment of Hardy's dialogue include:
    1. An able cast obliged to navigate their plenitude of leaden lines
    2. Stunning, respectively foggy and effulgent photography courtesy of Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet
    3. Pierre Guffroy's production design, which further beautifies every embellished interior
    4. Polanski's painterly vision of landscapes, interiors and his most photogenic players, instanced by lavish long shots out of doors, or slow pans, as of a creamery's milk dripping from suspended bags
    5. One gushingly romantic (albeit often misapplied) score composed by Philippe Sarde
    6. All of the above
  6. At her most morose, Tess assumes the demeanor of:
    1. Any dour teen
    2. A petty ingrate
    3. A goth
    4. All of the above
  7. Rather than to hypocritically disclaim, then desert Tess on their wedding night sequent to her confession, Angel (Firth) might've instead:
    1. Reconsidered her worth after consummating their marital union with a hearty feast and fuck
    2. Compared their respective premarital indiscretions to objectively assess their relationship
    3. Divorced Tess and remarried another of two comely, receptive prospects (Dombasle, Hamilton)
    4. Any of the above
  8. Which course of action would've been preferable to Tess's madcap murder of the peremptory and prickish, yet fervid and freehanded Alec?
    1. To absquatulate with Angel without killing him
    2. To divorce Alec on the grounds of her bigamy without killing him
    3. To finally set aside her picayune moral pretensions and secretly live with both and maximize her romantic, sexual and financial benefit without killing him
    4. To contemplate the potential fate of her mother and siblings, who've been generously housed by her victim, so to avert his murder
    5. Anything besides murder
    6. Any of the above
  9. Polanski's is the ninth among how many adaptations of Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles?
    1. Nine
    2. Eleven
    3. Four
    4. Too many
  10. Notwithstanding the novel's and movie's commination of antiquated Victorian mores, a prolix blurb of the latter's theatrical poster enounces it, "As timely today as the day it was written." Why?
    1. Marketing
    2. Feminism
    3. Polanski sought to rehabilitate his tarnished image
    4. All of the above

Answers: 4, 3 or 4, 4, 5, 6, 4, 4, 6, 2 or 4, 4

They Look Like People (2015)
Written and directed by Perry Blackshear
Produced by Perry Blackshear, MacLeod Andrews, Evan Dumouchel, Kimberly Parker, Elena Greenlee
Starring MacLeod Andrews, Evan Dumouchel, Margaret Ying Drake
No suspense subsists for surety: the first and worst flaw of this oddity is the positive probability that its straying, schizophrenic protagonist (Andrews) is hallucinating every muscid buzz, transformative mutation and forewarning phone call auguring mankind's inevitable conflict with insidious, inhuman creatures. In NYC, he bonds while billeting with an old friend (Dumouchel), a lean cut of office veal struggling through bodybuilding and a forcible facade to overcome his scarcity of self-esteem and diffidence in the presence of a cute superordinate (Drake) on whom he's crushing. In his every capacity save one, freshman writer/cinematographer/director/editor/production and sound designer Blackshear impresses, as when swimmingly encapsulating his characters each with but a few momentary, prefatory shots, or contrasting conversational contexts with a discrepance occasioned by Andrews' dysphoric confusion. A few truly spooky scenes aside, this pic's more efficacious as a drama than a horror, demonstrating handily how beta males confound themselves by overbearing overcompensation and reflexive recoil from feminine flirtation, mental illness by paranoia perpetuates itself, and American urbanites are no longer at all urbane. Co-producers Andrews and Dumouchel excel as the troubled cohabitants in japery and intensely disquieting incidents to a moving and cathartic climax. Blackshear's insights regarding the frustrations unique to isolated young men are far more occupying than an unconvincing (albeit vividly depicted) conspiracy theory; mayhap the latter matter ought've been curtailed, if not excised.
Instead, watch Repulsion, Let's Scare Jessica to Death, Images, The Tenant...

Tuff Turf (1985)
Directed by Fritz Kiersch
Written by Greg Collins O'Neill, Murray Michaels, Jette Rinck
Produced by Donald P. Borchers, Pat Kehoe, Bob Manning
Starring James Spader, Kim Richards, Robert Downey Jr., Olivia Barash, Paul Mones, Panchito Gómez, Matt Clark, Claudette Nevins
Resettled from upscale Connecticut to Reseda, the mulish, coolly resourceful "teenage" son (Spader) of a newly necessitous nuclear family attends high school with other vicenarians, menaced by a street gang after scuttling a mugging and romancing the grouchy girlfriend (Richards) of their whiny, wacko honcho (Mones). Ministration from a classmate and drummer (Downey) he's befriended and numerous detours into other genres contribute as much to the improbability of this peerlessly preposterous crime drama as to its protagonist's amorous ambitions: when Spader isn't battered and bullied by his felonious opponents, he's euchring them at a gig of Downey's band (and impromptu dance-off), crashing a country club in Beverly Hills where he croons a bizarre ballad while his fresh friends filch food, patronizing a club where Richards' stunt double turns cartwheels to brassily tacky blue-eyed soul band Jack Mack and the Heart Attack, and receiving astute advice dispensed by Dad (Clark). Whew! Goofier than its indulgence and bulging compass suggest, rotating poses, acts and lines (dubbed and otherwise) of Spader's first vehicle suggest a certain aspirated afflatus, but its beautiful boy carries every antic exploit with aplomb, with Downey more pretty and personable than their female co-stars. Giggle all you please, but don't try to rationalize it: this is Los Angeles, not reality.

Twilight (1998)
Directed by Robert Benton
Written by Robert Benton, Richard Russo
Produced by Arlene Donovan, Scott Rudin, Scott Ferguson, David McGiffert, Michael Hausman
Starring Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, James Garner, Stockard Channing, Reese Witherspoon, Giancarlo Esposito, Liev Schreiber, Margo Martindale
Theaters teemed in the mid-'90s though the early aughts with ill-conceived flicks wherein the presence (if not the accomplishment) of aging headliners was expected to compensate for their underdeveloped screenplays: The Odd Couple II, True Crime, Space Cowboys, Secondhand Lions, etc. Newman prevailed as the lead of Benton's and Russo's senseless yet successful schmalz Nobody's Fool despite its hokum and cretinous contrivances, and while this second cooperation's far more tolerable, one can't overlook that not two but four great histrions were squandered by Hollywood's luckiest filmmaker, who coasted for three decades on the design of digestible treacle produced to placate Boomers, and the success of The Screenplay that launched New Hollywood. In the employ of a fading, moribund star (Hackman) and his equally eminent wife (Sarandon) as a gofer and bricoleur, Newman's spent, erstwhile P.I. is tasked by the former to deliver a parcel to a blackmailer (Martindale), and predictably lights upon a murder mystery conceived in public suspicion a score earlier more convoluted for its personal than circumstantial complications. Benton's and Russo's script's at constant odds with itself: artful allusion and slick discourse yield as often as they recur to unbearably halfwitted humor; clever references such as a police captain named Egan or Hollywood scuttlebutt recycled as diegesis seem neutralized by the unconditionally needless narration of a useless framing narrative; a fundamentally solid story composed not to boggle but to limn its characters with motivations divulged is encumbered with inane characterization and an imbecile excursus regarding hearsay of a missing penis. Even its worst lines are delivered with natural dash by three enduring leading men; the magnetism of Newman's indefatigable art hadn't slackened in his advanced years, especially in tense talk with Method Master Hackman as both invest to their roles and educe from their dialogue a depth of sensibility and interpersonal niceties that the screenwriting duo probably never anticipated. Saddled with a tired type of macho banter distinctive for its artificiality, Garner somehow retains his dignity with a particular poise, but his staid moments are as scant as smoothly rendered. Either misdirection or experience prompt from Sarandon too studiedly sultry a performance (one can imagine her rehearsing every line to bloodless consummation in a plush boudoir) in a part probably written to her strengths; even minor directors have tapped her allure, but either she or Benton forgot that exact diction's almost a detriment when one appears to be acting. Everyone else -- even Channing as a sympathetic detective -- is mildly miffing in the background, as Esposito optimizes his simpleminded sidekick, Witherspoon wastes everyone's time as a photogenic pivot, Martindale's dedicatedly obese as one of two petty extortionists and Schreiber's less pestilent than Jeremy Piven as the other. Adequately mirroring the movie, Elmer Bernstein's score eerily tickles the ear during passages sounded by his idiomatic ondium Martenot, but its pseudo-noir noodling is otherwise annoying. When Benton isn't stultifying himself or his supporting cast, he does helm some ingratiating conversation and gunplay, but anyone with so much at his disposal should've made a good movie. Nothing he penned is so stirring as a conclusive moment when Mean Gene views a clip of himself in Downhill Racer -- but not for his forthcoming demise. Only in apposition with the present does the past and all its glories seem so distant.

Vatel (2000)
Directed by Roland Joffé
Written by Jeanne Labrune, Tom Stoppard
Produced by Roland Joffé, Alain Goldman, Timothy Burrill, Catherine Morisse, Patrick Bordier
Starring Gérard Depardieu, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Julian Glover, Julian Sands, Timothy Spall, Murray Lachlan Young, Hywel Bennett, Richard Griffiths, Arielle Dombasle, Marine Delterme, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Jérôme Pradon, Féodor Atkine, Nathalie Cerda, Emilie Ohana

"An aristocracy and a despotism differ but in name."

--Edmund Burke, A Vindication of Natural Society

Among those extravaganzas conceived and organized at the behest of Prince Louis II de Bourbon-Condé (Glover) by his majordomo François Vatel (Depardieu) for a fete of three days in April of 1671 to the pleasure of a visitant King Louis XIV (Sands) and two-thousand attendees, most notable were: three regales comprehending plentitudes of savory and innovative delicacies; resplendently imaginative stages upon which renditions of Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie sung by the prince's wife, princess and chanteuse Claire-Clémence de Maillé-Brézé (Dombasle), and La Bourree, Colonna's Absalom, and Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks accompanied by coruscating pyrotechnics are performed; intricately icy statuary in transience; the master chef's suicide upon notification of his commission to serve the King in Versailles. Those famed feasts were likely of greater interest than this gorgeous yet turgid fictionalization, bloated for its stiltedly, excessively expositional dialogue treating of historic immediacies, improbably melodramatic royal intrigues, Joffé's ham-fisted avian metaphors and a romance as silly as superfluously stale that bickers between Vatel and one fictive Anne de Montausier (Thurman). One needn't agonize to ascertain what's exquisite and excruciating here. Prandial pageantry victualed by Depardieu's wonderworker are enough to satisfy even the most discriminating gastronomer, sets designed by Françoise Benoît-Fresco and Eric Viellerobe under the accomplished instruction of art directors Hervé Gallet Louise Marzaroli are ever more inventive, and Yvonne Sassinot de Nesle's costumes are as much an eyeful, despite the anachronistically luxuriant liberties she indulged for the fabrication of certain dresses. Under their director's limp baton, the cast yields mixed results...Depardieu and Glover acquit themselves adequately in spite of a prosaic script; typecast as a foppish fink after upstaging the leads of Rob Roy, Roth's entertainingly hammy as a knavishly conniving Antoine Nompar de Caumont; Thurman and Sands seem to vie for the worst performance of both this picture and all others of its millennial year. Though Sands is the more accomplished in his field of atrocious acting, and dretching enough for his ludicrously wooden delivery, Thurman prevails for her gawky postures and insufferably stiff diction. They're egregious, both far worse than Dombasle, who's fine as an appurtenant player in many of Rohmer's dramas, but struggles here to verbalize credibly in English. Similarly, the score may be Ennio Morricone's worst -- mincing, perfunctory pap that recommends how its audience should feel when viewing nearly every shot. Those most interesting scenes find Vatel plying a bricoleur's ingenuity to compensate for shortages when preparing culinary and staged spectacles for the idle, deviant, hedonistic, mischievous royals of the belligerent Sun King's court, as the despot contemplates le Grand Condé's fitness to lead his army against the brazen Dutch. Otherwise, the cliche conspiracies concocted by Labrune belie their refined trappings and sumptuous setting, Condé's ritzy, restored Château de Chantilly and the stupendous stateliness of its luxe library and grand gardens in transition from the jardin à la française. Thurman's pointless character overshadows the dynast's fascinating and fecund mistresses -- Louise de La Vallière (Ohana) is scarcely sighted, and Delterme's fetching yet fleeting as Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart. Monsieur Duke of Orléans Philippe I (Young, nigh as daffy as Sands) and his minions destructively disport and pursue pederasty as his regal elder brother strains to defecate behind a screen while colloguing with Condé, whose serfs and servants suffer indignities and an unfortunate death while their tormentors repast and relish their spreads and entertainments. Joffé's career was years into its decline when he consumed this picture's promise, and while his contrast of these nobles' abuse and debauchery with the helot's hardship is as justified as artlessly blatant, his disregard for the actual accomplishments of its hero and malefactors is unforgivably philistine. Here, the misattribution of crème Chantilly to Vatel's origination is perpetuated, his suicide provoked by an unlikely aversion to servitude; in reality, he was an exemplary maître d'hôtel of two Lucullan banquets who buckled under the pressure of the second and rashly took his life when he wrongly assumed that a consignment of fish wouldn't arrive in sufficient time for the preparation of seafood. A comedy of his exploits and demise would've been more engaging and dignified (if not palatable), but so too would an impartial biopic concerning any of the historical figures misrepresented and derogated herein. Miramax distributed this Anglo-French production stateside, released concurrently and thematically parallel to their popular, preposterous Chocolat: yet another overproduced, Anglophone, cinematic calumniation of French history depicting it as a struggle between racist, sexist, classist, unjust Gallic society and its beauteous, talented, tyrannized latitudinarians -- a class of pablum on which British and American hausfrauen and their fat daughters gorged themselves epulose, while Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed and abused dozens of actresses on two continents. Those are the cattle for which this provender's intended; sybarites and cineastes may enjoy the filigreed luxury of its production and art design, but beneath its surface, they'll find only a scurrilous soap opera swilled to surburban swine.
Instead, watch The Madness of King George.

John Carpenter's The Ward (2010)
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen
Produced by Peter Block, Doug Mankoff, Mike Marcus, Andrew Spaulding, Adam Betteridge, Rich Cowan, David Rogers, Mischa Jakupcak, Hans Ritter
Starring Amber Heard, Jared Harris, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, D.R. Anderson, Lyndsy Fonseca, Laura-Leigh Claire
Never mind its trademark titular credit, for any major studio's unimaginative hireling might've helmed this tepid thriller as professionally and perfunctorily as did Carpenter for hire at the conclusion of his cinematic career. Not an idiomatic flourish is to be savored through a dreary slog initiated by a young woman's (Heard) arson of a farmhouse and subsequent consignment to a psychiatric hospital where a rotting, roughhousing revenant menaces she and her fellow inpatients (Gummer, Panabaker, Fonseca, Claire). More interesting than the predictably prosy plot is an occupation of opposite extremes by the progeny of famed leads: the most frantic inmate, Gummer's as hammily horrid as hideous, while Harris exudes sangfroid skillfully as the facility's chief psychiatrist. With mixed success, otherwise photogenic players contend with their script's daffier dialogue and considerable cliches; Heard's as able as forgettable, and thusly fit for a picture notable only for its directorial berth and satisfactorily restrained period detail of attire and appointments. His fans may wince at momentarily successive dissolves or a cribbed conclusive shot, but the auteur can scarcely be blamed for the clumsy conventions of a project for which he invested minimal creative input before collecting John Carpenter's Final Paycheck.

A Wife's Nightmare (2014)
Directed by Vic Sarin
Written by Blake Corbet, Dan Trotta
Produced by Tina Pehme, Kim Roberts, John Bolton, Larry Gershman, Meyer Shwarzstein
Starring Jennifer Beals, Dylan Neal, Lola Tash, Spencer List, Tracey Hway, Katherine McNamara, Alex Ferris, Nicole Hombrebueno
You know, if you (Beals) were employed by a development firm and repairing to your presentational berth, lusk husband (Neal, faded rock star) and son (List, spineless epicene) following hospitalization to treat your nervous breakdown, and some gorgeous gamine (Tash) arrived to profess your shiftless spouse's paternity in flirtatious ascent as your household's cynosure just as your occupational project's files were mysteriously deleted, you'd wax snappish, guzzle medication and whine to a confidante (Hway) resembling James Remar, too. Well, you would. If only for Sarin's tolerable direction and photography, this conspiratorial melodrama's a notch better than most of Lifetime's antic agitprop, but it founders on an unsteady terrain pocked with yawning diegetic holes, risible dialogue and remarkable improbabilities. Boundlessly bounteous, Beals' working wife is burdened with a caddish househusband and alternately craven and violent son, but her imprudence is as inexplicable as her poise: who in their right mind would neglect to copy backups of indispensable professional data to external drives and a corporate server, or file for a second mortgage to finance their faineant partner's rock album in 2014?! Even Goldman Sachs wouldn't entertain debt of such frivolity, unless they did. Photogenic Tash holds her own as well as her senior co-stars, but isn't cumbered with the script's worst lines; those are reserved for teenlet List and his BFF Ferris, a daft, fifth-rate pseudo-Duckie whose every getup seems assembled to maximize his humiliation. As the faithless fink of sub-Mathesonian vice, Nash hasn't the charisma, edge or especially sex appeal to passably play a requisite Evil White Straight Man, and neither is his villain's artifice perverse enough to enjoy. Grossly overcut productions like these are almost inspiring: composed with modest art, any score of shots might prove compulsive as one, and its second's ASL is tiresome to anyone whose concentration exceeds that of a cokehead. Never mind that distaff hypergamy and its collateral infidelity now prevails as never before in modernity; Lifetime's audience can't be gruntled unless an inverse of reality's spoon-fed to sate their indignant pretensions. This is only worth watching for an amusive riff, and a rare picture of any moderate interest or entertainment in which Beals has starred.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Babysitter's Seduction.

Without Her Consent (1990)
Directed by Sandor Stern
Written by Ann Beckett
Produced by Frank Brill, Maureen Holmes, Don Goldman, Raymond Katz, Carla Singer
Starring Melissa Gilbert, Barry Tubb, Scott Valentine, Bebe Neuwirth, Crystal Bernard, Madison Mason, Robin Riker, Julie McCullough, Ashley Bank, William Allen Young, Richard Fancy
Heed of the following cautionary catalog might've prevented the miseries and inconveniences suffered by this televised flick's characters, especially a couple of guileless high school sweethearts from Idaho, a daycarer (Gilbert) preceding her mulleted moviemaker (Tubb) in transmigration to Los Angeles:

  1. Don't relocate to Los Angeles as every other ambitious rustic may; establish yourself in a safer, less populous city like Austin and exploit the opportunities of its hungrier local industry.
  2. Like the whole of L.A., Venice is crawling with creeps; since arrogant, unpalatably handsome white men constitute 100% of all rapists in Lifetime's broadcasts, don't accept a ride from an unfamiliar stage carpenter (Valentine) from adjacent Santa Monica who fits that profile.
  3. A rendezvous with the aforementioned, would-be lothario at his domicile to examine a furnishing he's presumably proffered is no wiser, even if the prior ride seemed harmless.
  4. If you've been violently raped after failing to conform to 2. and 3., visit the nearest police precinct and submit to an examination by a physician equipped with a rape kit; don't be dissuaded by women crazed by spousal abuse, shrieking at deskbound officers.
  5. Even if you don't follow 4., refrain from laving away inculpative seminal matter before a rape kit is administered; reason, not ablution, dispels unwarranted shame.
  6. If your rapist phones you frequently to harass you, learn how to disrupt his calls and deafen him by playing melodies on your touch-tone phone; Mary Had a Little Lamb and Computer World are suitable songs for such renditions.
  7. As soon as your boyfriend's arrived and settled, but before he applies for gainful employment, notify him of your violation and bid him to avenge it by larruping your assailant to incapacitation at first tactical opportunity; otherwise, he might resort to some imprudent shift, such as vehicular assault.
  8. If an antecedent victim visits you with an offer to join her criminal suit under the aegis of one Gloria Allred (adorable Neuwirth helmeted with a bobbed, Brobdingnagian wig approximating Allred's weird crinal volume), accept it; hers is the disposition of every grouchy aunt at a mitzvah's reception, but she's an unexcelled litigator whose lust for publicity's matched only by that for judicial victory.
  9. In the instance that 7. was disregarded, 8. is doubly dire, now that your boyfriend's been arraigned for vehicular assault; your stupid aversion to conflict only exacerbated your situation, Melissa.
  10. Support one another uncondtionally; hugs help!
  11. As the district attorney (Young) trying this case, suasion of the rapist's codgerly neighbor who witnessed the crime's aftermath to testify is your obligation, not that of the boyfriend under penalty of a restraining order. Do your job!
  12. No matter how loco you are, if you're a rapist on trial, any extenuative exposition of pathological rationalization will land you in prison, pervert!

As perhaps the best advertisement for Allred's career, an insatiable vortex of publicity presently targeting the President of the United States of America, it's also goofy enough for a quality casual riff with friends.
Instead, watch I Spit on Your Grave.


Abysmal

Battle Royale II: Requiem (2003)
Directed by Kenta & Kinji Fukasaku
Written by Kenta Fukasaku, Norio Kida
Produced by Kenta Fukasaku, Kimio Kataoka, Shigeyuki Endo, Hikaru Kawase, Masumi Okada
Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ai Maeda, Shugo Oshinari, Ayana Sakai, Haruka Suenaga, Yuma Ishigaki, Riki Takeuchi, Miyuki Kanbe, Masaya Kikawada, Yoko Maki, Maki Hamada, Yuki Ito, Michiho Matsumoto, Natsuki Kato, Aja, Seiichi Ebina, Ayumi Hanada, Mika Kikuchi, Takeru Shibaki, Gou Ryugawa, Chisato Miyao, Kenji Harada, Yuuko Morimoto, Ryoji Fujihira, Shoko Sato, Yasutake Yuboku, Aiko Moriuchi, Kayo Nayuki, Kouta Yamada, Musashi Kubota, Minami Kanazawa, Kazuki Yamamoto, Makoto Sakamoto, Asuka Ishii, Takeshi Kitano

"The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerilla wins if he does not lose."

--Henry Kissinger, The Vietnam Negotiations

Is any entertainment of every medium so apt to failure or destined for disappointment as the common sequel? Whether so or not, Fukasaku's satirically slaughterous classic deserved far better than his son's cornball chaos of diminished impact, political pretensions and execrable enactment. Two skyscrapers felled by terrorists prompt the Japanese government to temporize, so a class of twoscore and twain is conscripted from a school for delinquents to storm the offending cell's insular compound and assassinate its jefe (Fujiwara), one of the preceding pic's surviving twosome. Alas, Kinji Fukasaku expired after shooting a few scenes, and as Kenta lacks the clairvoyance, scrupulous eye and decades of experience evidenced in his father's best productions, this blatant mistake presents its audience with violence as prosaic and drama as overheated as that of any vehicle starring Steven Segal or Jean-Claude van Damme unintended for theatrical release. Every fifteen to twenty minutes, corny confrontations, maudlin monologues or needlessly expositive flashbacks punctuate the mingy plot to worsen a plodding pace, and combat wherein hammy hysterics abound is nearly as dreary as intervals during which the principals merely mope about. Unlike this forgettable fodder, more than half of the first flick's fatal, photogenic freshmen were memorably individual for their esprit, and this contradistinction's as attributable to poor performances as deficient characterization. Sullenly stoic Maeda plays the daughter of Takeshi Kitano's dead pedagogue without a trace of her junior sister's charm, Fujiwara's too cute to be believed as a hardened terrorist, and while the overt delivery twitched and snarled by clamant rebel Oshinari and glowering teacher Takeuchi are amusing while the students are geared, it's at best tiresome thenceforth. Kitano, Aki Maeda and Sonny Chiba are wasted in cameos, as is one clever idea: with the inducted yet raucous students numbered in yoked pairs, the lethality of their explosive collars is extended; detonations are avoided by obedience and constant progress, but now also the compliance, proximity and survival of either partner. Naturally, this escalated threat is literally defused rather than exploited early in the second act, after which mushy melodrama and trite, insurrectionary postures dominate an hour's longueur. Politically, this denunciation of American imperium is tenable, and identification of its protagonists with Al-Qaida daringly provocative for a major motion picture produced in the early aughts, but Fujiwara's preachments betray this particular anti-imperialist creed as no more sensible or sophisticated than a T-shirt printed with Che Guevara's portrait, worn by a pampered Ivy Leaguer endowed with a fulsome trust fund. Likewise, anti-American sentiment isn't terribly convincing in an overwrought, overscored movie replete with doleful schmalz, cheap CG and hideous chromatic filters; Fukasaku's flop rails against the United States' foreign policy, yet mimics so many of Hollywood's worst trends. The bracing pace, striking suspense, black hilarity, sociosexual insights, devastating tragedies and slick style of its predecessor is all but forgotten in this unmitigated clunker, perhaps the longest 134 minutes in cinematic history. Even if he'd stepped into his father's shoes without stumbling, Fukasaku couldn't overcome the verity that sinks his foray: adolescent war against adults is as stupid a concept as a planet where apes evolve from men.
Instead, watch Wedlock/Deadlock, Cyber City Oedo 808 or Battle Royale.

Can't Buy Me Love (1987)
Directed by Steve Rash
Written by Michael Swerdlick
Produced by Thom Mount, Mark Burg, Michael Swerdlick, Ron Beckman, Jere Henshaw
Starring Patrick Dempsey, Amanda Peterson, Courtney Gains, Seth Green, Tina Caspary, Darcy DeMoss, Sharon Farrell, Dennis Dugan, Devin DeVasquez
Both the remuneration and service tendered of an inadvisable transaction seem mutually inadequate when a nerd (Dempsey) as distasteful as graceless pays $1K for the sham society of a crabbed cheerleader (Peterson) to insinuate himself into a popular clique embodying neanderthaloid, tricenarian jocks and slutty, suspiciously overripe pom-pom girls. The results are as predictable as pedestrian: an ephemeral intimacy between geek and girlfriend purchased inspires her unlikely ardor before he deserts his dweebish friends for the fraternity of athletic apes. Guess the rest. Resembling a Penn brother vocalizing whines suggesting Woody Allen's, musteline Dempsey's rankly repellent as a dork distinctly destitute of character anteceding that commonplace, corrupting influence of peer pressure, and generates no sparks whatsoever with forgettable Peterson. As his mischievously inquisitive junior sibling, Green's the only effective entertainer here. Susceptibility of a degree demonstrated by this dud's permed herd of pseudo-adolescents may be a precondition to its enjoyment.
Instead, watch Revenge of the Nerds, The Breakfast Club or Heathers; to hear McCartney's single in a satisfactory cinematic context, try A Hard Day's Night.

Caught in the Web (2012)
Directed by Kaige Chen
Written by Kaige Chen, Danian Tang
Produced by Chen Hong, Huayi Cao, Ziwen Wang, Song Wei
Starring Yuanyuan Gao, Chen Yao, Mark Chao, Xueqi Wang, Hong Chen, Luodan Wang, Ran Chen, Yi Zhang, David Peck, Qing Huo, Ningyu Zhao
Obloquy's inescapable in a corrupt and insular society, as an aggrieved secretary (Gao) in Hangzhou learns after video of her cool discommodity toward an old man on an omnibus goes viral. Neither are her employer (Wang), the opportunistic journalist (Yao) who publicizes the video, her intern (Wang) who shot it, nor their respective friends, families or colleagues immune from the repercussions of this infamy. That terrific scenario and the cogent social commentary it examples are ruined by the involutions of numerous, often incredible underplots to pad yet another of Chen's disappointing features with approximately forty minutes. He's still skilled as an actor's director; his players' performances are uniformly fine, despite his ludicrous story and maddeningly excessive editing whereby shots are cut from one vocalized clause to the next, appealing with apparent success to young audiences of a mean attention span that's woefully meager. This isn't the Chen who crafted brilliant, beautiful period pictures in the vanguard of the Fifth Generation during the '80s and '90s, but he who's since shot rancid melodramas such as Killing Me Softly and The Promise, and filed with stupidly barratrous intent a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement against a frivolously comedic short lampooning the latter. Devoted fans may be pleased to observe his wife and co-producer Hong as the disgruntled spouse of longtime collaborator Xueqi Wang, both of whom enact a needlessly nugatory excursus with a dignified maturity exceeding the film's. Yao supplies this flick's most apropos representation as its sleazily unscrupulous program director, a role for which the perennially celebrated and unpleasant leading lady's uniquely suited. Chen's early work is echoed by a conclusion of elegiac elegance, which is sadly incongruous with the hour and fifty minutes precedent.

The Fine Art of Love (2005)
Directed by John Irvin
Written by Frank Wedekind, Alberto Lattuada, Ottavio Jemma, James Carrington, Sadie Jones
Produced by Ida Di Benedetto, Jan Balzer, André Djaoui, Patrick Irwin, Mario Cotone
Starring Jacqueline Bisset, Mary Nighy, Hannah Taylor Gordon, Silvia De Santis, Anna Maguire, Eva Grimaldi, Enrico Lo Verso, Urbano Barberini, Natalia Tena
From childhood, orphans sequestered at a gated Thuringian boarding school during the early 20th century are immersed in a taxing balletic regimen inflicted as much as conducted by its cruelly unsparing headmistress (Bisset) and terpsichorean instructor (Grimaldi) for the ultimate benefit of a princely patron (Barberini). Can a nascent, sapphic love between two of the school's star pupils (Nighy, Gordon) weather its crushing intramural tyranny to outlast the forbearance of anyone viewing this supremely mawkish melodrama? Not at all: Irvin navigates his overscripted, overscored, overheated Anglo-Italo-Czech production into a euripus of trite theatrics, menstrual hysterics and the most porcine concerted histrionics in recent memory. Only Bisset sustains any dignity by interpreting her wicked warder as something resembling a plausible person, but even her rarefied instincts can't mitigate that character's most risible tirrets. Otherwise, all of her co-stars are steadily, horrendously hammy, their overperformances exacerbated by bum dubbing fit for one of U.S. Manga Corps' OAVs in the worst Italian tradition, and dialogue that's stupidly stilted and supererogantly expositive by Wiseauan standards. Perhaps half of the players are miscast: swarthy Sicilian Lo Verso could scarcely look less German, and lumbering, potato-faced Nighy plays a putative beauty opposite stunningly adorable Gordon as her supposedly homely lass. From every dopey declamation to grating gust to adolescent observation to needless murder to the smallest dramatic gesture, Irvin wrests maximal bathos, which culminates in a cockamamie climax importing suicides, arson and rape contextualized to chastise that nefarious patriarchy. A few symbolic shots are as glaringly graceless as any other of this clinker's excesses, further certifying Irvin's artless misdirection behind the luxuriant veneer of Dante Ferretti's typically posh production design and Fabio Zamarion's fine photography. Not a subtle moment survives a suffocating score by Paul Grabowsky, creeping about every plaster corner and architrave to disambiguate potentially equivocal shots and instruct its audience with dissonant swells in minor keys. It's wretched from its first ostentation to conclusive shriek.
Instead, watch Innocence, Hadzihalilovic's superior, empyreally meditative adaptation of Wedekind's novel.

Fugitive at 17 (2012)
Directed by Jim Donovan
Written by David DeCrane, Douglas Howell
Produced by Curtis Crawford, Donald M. Osborne, Stefan Wodoslawsky, Tom Berry, Neil Bregman, Pierre David
Starring Marie Avgeropoulos, Christina Cox, Daniel Rindress-Kay, Casper Van Dien, Danny Blanco Hall, Rosemary Dunsmore, Frank Schorpion, Cindel Chartrand
While the cyprian victim (Chartrand) of a serial rapist (Van Dien) individualized by his press-on vinyl talons succumbs in a nightclub's nook to a beverage spiked with surplus soporific, he inexplicably wastes a choice opportunity to flee, instead assaulting and force-feeding more of his preferred drug to her BFF (Avgeropoulos), a 1337 H4X0R whose eyebrows on loan from Lauren Duca and aggressively unconditioned hair appear as abrasive as her temperament. A succession of unlikelihoods finds the hackress first committed to juvenile hall pending investigation, then freed in an assault on a Black Maria, posterior to which she grouchily stamps though the plot's plentiful holes across Ottawa pristinely tidy, predominantly white Philadelphia, abetted by her servile boyfriend manqué (Rindress-Kay) on a surreptitious mission to avenge her vacuous friend. As fodder for telecast via Lifetime comes, this crime drama's satisfyingly silly: Avgeropoulos ascribes augmented processing power to her homemade laptop's unspecified operating system (its clear casing denotes enhancement to girls who esteem themselves nerds for their Harry Potter fandom); a visit to her granny (Dunsmore) in a nursing home is conducted on the lam and under the guise of a slutty singing telegrammist; contributing nothing to the plot, a pursuant detective (Cox) struggles to manage her simpleminded son while blandly bickering with her chief and ex-husband (Schorpion). Calculatedly unrealistic demographic representation, wacky delivery and humbug are as flagrant here as in most televised Canadian dreck concocted for consumption by needlessly embittered Anglophone white women, but more amusing than its cyber-chicanery is the relationship between Avgeropoulos and Rindress-Kay, whose abject obedience ensures his relegation to sexless, circumscribed friendship. Highly recommended for spinsters, majors in women's studies and wiseass teenagers who've intent to riff a flick to an elder sister's irritation.
Instead, watch The Fugitive.

Gate 2: The Trespassers (1990)
Directed by Tibor Takács
Written by Michael Nankin
Produced by Andras Hamori, H. Gordon Woodside, Peter Bray, John Kemeny
Starring Louis Tripp, Pamela Segall, James Villemaire, Simon Reynolds, Neil Munro
Lightning hardly struck twice for Takács and Nankin, bankrolled with well over twice The Gate's budget to miscreate this charmless, plodding flop, which earned not a thirteenth of the preceding hit's passing yet profitable box office returns when finally released first to European, then American theaters a few years after its completion. Spurred by curiosity and discontent with his father (Munro), a widowed, stereotypically alcoholic aviator, the unsightly nerd (Tripp) from the first flick stupidly opens the transdimensional passage through which his suburb was terrorized a couple years anterior. As every disaster resulting is worsened by the follies of an interloping, shiftless punk (Villemaire) and his brainless buddy (Reynolds), the former's cute, inexplicable girlfriend gravitates to Tripp's geeky amateur magus. Some decent stop-motion and makeup effects imaging one of the many monstrous little minions who harried Stephen Dorff in the prior picture and some larger counterparts are squandered on a senseless script that enlarges trifold a plot fit for a half-hour with asinine antics and asides. Tripp was scarcely satisfactory when paired with Dorff, and hasn't the personality or proficiency to carry the lead of a sitcom episode, much less a feature. Still, he's tolerable compared to Villemaire and Reynolds, who enhance their churlish cretins with the most peeving possible performances. Only Segall exudes any amenity whatever (just enough to salvage her close-ups); given her love interests, hers seems almost a doughty effort. This movie's as much a waste of any viewer's time as it was its production's resources; avoid it scrupulously.

Lies He Told (1997)
Directed by Larry Elikann
Written by Jacqueline Feather, David Seidler, Ronald Parker
Produced by Clara George, Michael Jaffe, Howard Braunstein, Yvonne E. Chotzen
Starring Gary Cole, Karen Sillas, Teddi Siddall, Linda Goranson, Ron Lea, Nigel Bennett, George R. Robertson, Linda Sorensen

"He that resolves to deal with none but honest Men must leave off dealing."

--Thomas Fuller

If the twin cumbrances of alimony and child support were less oppressive, or the secure lure of insurance fraud not so tantalizing, an expert, energetic lieutenant (Cole) assigned to train personnel of the USAF's Combat Control Team might not stage his death and forsake his CCT, nuclear family and ideal surburban lifestyle when taken with an overripe cut of office veal (Sillas) at a Halloween party. Neither might he reave banks to support his budding household when a slump in the housing market dents a cash flow generated by his successive, successfully profitable renovations, nor furtively launder his plunder by gambling, but c'est la vie! That illuded, captious, curious second wife shrewdly investigates her hubby's past, so to confront him with the truth and insure that neither of them could possibly live happily ever after. As in his every dramatic role, Cole's as blandly palatable as Elikann's perfectly pedestrian direction, while Sillas (whose genial greatness rivals that of Bruce Campbell) is too abrasive, mannish and common to be believed as the objet de désir and devoted spouse of a dynamo whose endeavors for their sake might be conservatively characterized as extraordinary. Feather's, Seidler's and Parker's fictionalization of an actual deserter's exploits is cleverly plotted, but slips during its third act into emotive inanity of a fashion distinctive to Lifetime's offerings. Ultimately, the moral to be gleaned from this story endorses neither disclosure nor fidelity, but for men childed, prosperous and otherwise it's writ large on the canvas of feminine folly: in a dysfunctional society to which your survival may contribute, never marry.

LOL (Laughing Out Loud) (2008)
Directed by Lisa Azuelos
Written by Lisa Azuelos, Nans Delgado
Produced by Romain Le Grand, Eric Hubert
Starring Christa Théret, Sophie Marceau, Jérémy Kapone, Lou Lesage, Marion Chabassol, Émile Bertherat, Félix Moati, Louis Sommer, Adèle Choubard, Jade-Rose Parker, Warren Guetta, Jocelyn Quivrin, Alexandre Astier, Axel Kiener, Françoise Fabian, François-Xavier Bouvier, Patty Hannock

"Teenagers are people who express a burning desire to be different by dressing exactly alike."

--Anonymous

A title clumsily calculated by a thick GenXer to appeal to mindless millennials, yet explanatorily parenthesized for every brainless boomer's benefit -- doesn't that portend peachily? Less cynical than simple in her undertaking to create a lucrative Boum for the online generation, Azuelos' want of vision is reflected by her unimaginative, unlikable, unfunny characters: an ornery student (Théret), her parents (Marceau, Astier), friends (Lesage, Chabassol, Choubard), sweetheart (Kapone), pedagogues (Kiener, Bouvier, Hannock), et al., who blunder through a sequence of interpersonal cliches dotted with hoary pranks, cutesy montages, gaumless raillery, witless wordplay, schlocky pop music and senselessly styled hair. Performances by an estrogenic rock band comprised of Kapone, Moati and Guetta, and a class trip to a Britain populated by superannuated stereotypes fresh from the mid-'70s are particularly exquisite, especially when precious dreck committed by the likes of Bright Eyes or unendurable Jean-Philippe Verdin assails the audience's ears. Pinoteau's successes in the '80s are primarily accreditable to his intimate apprehension of youthful GenX's personal, cultural, scholastic and sexual mores. Casting Marceau as a wink to her contemporaries, Azuelos only proves herself a rank representative of her insistently underwhelming generation in its stagnant middle age, possessing only a shallow grasp of millennials that merely, correctly characterizes their charmless conformity within a carcass composed of contretemps lifted from better flicks, sporadically tolerable only during its dullest moments.
Instead, watch La Boum, La Boum 2, The Breakfast Club or Battle Royale.

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Written by Walter Tevis, Paul Mayersberg
Produced by Michael Deeley, Barry Spikings, John Peverall, Si Litvinoff
Starring David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark, Buck Henry, Bernie Casey, Jackson D. Kane, Rick Riccardo
Not too many motion pictures shot without explicitly pornographic intent are both as figuratively and literally masturbatory as Roeg's ponderous, oversexualized mistreatment of Tevis' tragic fable wherein a benign extraterrestrial (Bowie) arrives on earth to fetch an aqueous amplitude for the dying civilization of his desert homeworld, only to be undone by estrangement, alcoholism, governmental wiles and a preoccupancy with television. Mayersberg's every alteration opens yet another in a gaping plenitude of plot holes prominent by parabolic standards, each a cheap goad for a script eschewing nearly all of the novel's thematic depth in favor of exoterically exploitative schmaltz -- and this is extolled as a cinematic landmark of intellectual science fiction! Tevis' alcoholic apercus are pretermitted, as are the recherche burdens of an industrialist's struggle to sustain independence in a corporate culture, and the incapacity of love across an interspecific divide. Mayersberg and Roeg instead settled for trendy, hypocritical denunciation of commercial consumption while subjecting their audiences to pointlessly protracted prurience and tacky effects. The sophomoric result is an arrant adulteration reducing the reputedly brilliant, otherworldly protagonist to a simple and susceptible boor without faculties of sense or strategy. Interpreting the persecuted, frigidly disaffected alien as much an embodiment of his usual themes as any of his musical characters, Bowie's pluperfect in the lead, the pioneering androgyne curiously convincing as an offworlder, apocryphally addled by his famed addictions. Casey, Henry and especially Torn are always reliable character players; as the enterprising extraterrestrial's respective corporate antagonist, attorney, and technician/confidant, they cope well with Mayersberg's leaden dialogue and embarrassingly libidinous scenarios, their director observably, idiosyncratically unmindful of the talent at his disposal. Clark's believably unsophisticated as Bowie's provincial love interest, but too vexing and unsexy to be an adequate ladylove for a tellurian, much less a spaceman. Notwithstanding some amusing moments and the eclat of its protean rock star, this maladapted pap fittingly follows Roeg's dismally risible version of Lady Browning's Don't Look Now: another select story stripped of substance supplanted by its auteur's maladroit indulgences in ostentatious slow motion, to cult and critical acclaim. Would that more viewers read.
Instead, watch The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Perfect Sisters (2014)
Directed by Stanley M. Brooks
Written by Fabrizio Filippo, Adam Till
Produced by Juliette Hagopian, Fritzi Horstman, Damian Ganczewski, Cathy Rollo, Nate Rollo, Tony Rollo, Michael Rotenberg
Starring Abigail Breslin, Georgie Henley, Mira Sorvino, Jeffrey Ballard, Zoë Belkin, Jonathan Malen, James Russo, Rusty Schwimmer, Stephan James, Zak Santiago, Caleb and Braden Pederson
Certain crimes obviously oughtn't be romanticized, but such impropriety didn't inhibit Brooks -- a seasoned producer of lurid pablum -- from distorting a notorious matricide committed in Mississauga by twain siblings (whose insensibility proved nearly as scandalous as the murder itself) as nauseatingly sympathetic schmaltz. One needn't view this drivel to score well in the following quiz; in fact, you're better served to eschew it under any circumstances.

Insular, inseparable, self-obsessed daughters (Breslin, Henley) of an unregenerate boozehound (a bleakly haggard Sorvino) intolerably blabber bullshit, banter and braggadocio in the obnoxious parlance and bearing of:

  1. Dim, catty gay men
  2. Changelings who actually say "cyberspace"
  3. Adolescent millennials
  4. All of the above

Sorvino's lush is less nurse than souse, and too plastered to attend:

  1. Her nightly shifts
  2. Parent-teacher conferences
  3. This movie's hilariously miniscule premiere at the Toronto Ritz-Carlton
  4. All of the above

Henley's equally eDgY, g0tHiK boyfriend (Ballard) resembles:

  1. The by-blow of Pete Burns, Nate Silver and Ellen Page
  2. A deficient lacking testosterone
  3. Both

Their wealthy, obese aunt (Schwimmer) is clearly:

  1. Indifferent to diseases symptomatic of gluttony
  2. Implausibly Jewish
  3. Fyvush Finkel in drag
  4. All of the above

An overfed sissy (Malen) who's assumed beta orbit about Breslin must be:

  1. A ginger
  2. Jonah Hill after devouring Max Perlich to gain his power
  3. A fat boy
  4. A lousy snitch!
  5. The possessor of mankind's worst profile
  6. People's Sexiest Man Alive!
  7. All of the above (except perhaps F)

The object (James) of Breslin's pongy libido is:

  1. Apish
  2. A vacuous jock
  3. Racially selected to maximize a clumsily propagandistic import
  4. Almost able to pronounce "ask"
  5. All of the above

The latest reprobate (Russo) in their mother's adverted string of abusive boyfriends is:

  1. A bizarre anachronism
  2. Also a sponge
  3. Essentially any pugnacious pissant from one of Spillane's novels
  4. In no way representative of any obverse in reality
  5. Icky
  6. All of the above

After one instance of sexual harassment and two of domestic abuse committed by Russo's miscreant, Henley's goffik edgelord phones a social worker to report his crimes, but can't be bothered to mention them when interrogated because:

  1. She's an inarticulate clod
  2. Filippo and Till didn't know how to concoct this entirely fictional call
  3. An intercession by social services would foreshorten this story
  4. All of the above

Their (untypically uncredited) father can't subvent them because he's:

  1. Gutless
  2. A ginger
  3. Balding rapidly
  4. Hopelessly ineffectual
  5. All of the above

Their little brother (the Pederson twins) is:

  1. A cipher
  2. Heinously neglected
  3. An occasional punching bag
  4. All of the above

Whenever the girls are visited by their freaky, maternal imago (again, Sorvino), she's always:

  1. Aglow
  2. High
  3. Probably incorporating the effects of hallucinogens
  4. All of the above

Weary of their mother's bibulous irresponsibility, resultant unemployment and sleazy swains, the sisters resolve to:

  1. Report her to social services so that she can be consigned to rehab while they reside pro tem with their rotund aunt
  2. Escape
  3. Drug and geld one of her boyfriends as an object lesson
  4. Garner employment in their apparently ample spare time so to afford their own residence
  5. Kill her without any especial consideration of repercussions
  6. E (see above)

Whilst plotting and performing their mother's murder, they:

  1. Cautiously keep to themselves
  2. Behave normally
  3. Publicize their crime in advance to everyone in their school so to thoroughly implicate themselves

Breslin's blue crinal extension is:

  1. Hysterical
  2. Idiotic
  3. Trashy
  4. Typical
  5. All of the above

Garbed with an eyepatch in ill-fitting suits, a detective (Santiago) investigating their mother's death is:

  1. A satisfactory substitute for Poirot, Malgret or Columbo
  2. Some oddball who's successfully impersonated a police lieutenant for years
  3. A character from a yakuza drama

Convicted as minors, both girls served:

  1. A life sentence
  2. Twenty years
  3. Ten years
  4. Five years
  5. Less than two years

Sloppily shot, mindlessly overacted and glaringly disingenuous, Brooks' mawkish misrepresentation of two famously callous murderers as piteously tortured and confounded victims is almost as outrageous as their early release, and less indicative of white trash than his own stereotype.
Instead, watch Affliction.

Scorecard
16You're the winner!
13-15Well done.
9-12Nice try. Obviously, you don't watch much dreck of this grade.
5-8You couldn't predict the conclusion of a romance novel.
1-4You're a failure (but at least you weren't involved in the production of this turkey)!!

(Answers: D, D, C, D, G, E, F, D, E, D, D, E and F, C, E, C, E)

Practical Magic (1998)
Directed by Griffin Dunne
Written by Alice Hoffman, Robin Swicord, Akiva Goldsman, Adam Brooks
Produced by Denise Di Novi, Robin Swicord, Bruce Berman, Mary McLaglen
Starring Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Aidan Quinn, Goran Visnjic, Stockard Channing, Dianne Wiest, Evan Rachel Wood, Alexandra Artrip
If he learned anything at all from the filmmakers (Landis, Scorsese, Heckerling, Zieff, et al.) for whom he's performed or his famed father Dominick, it's how to gratify an audience; obviously less deft behind than before a camera, director Dunne aimed low at an easy target by adapting fluff penned for hausfrauen in the vomitous vein of the siblings Marshall to appease that very demographic. Descended from a line of witches ostracized in their insular Massachusetts town, and so beshrewed that every man with whom they share true love is iced by some mishap or other, sisters Bullock and Kidman cope fecklessly by converse means, the former eschewing sorcery to raise her daughters (Wood, Artrip) in dull domestic placidity as the latter wantons trashily in the southwest. Conventional abuse, a resulting manslaughter and demonic possession reunites them as predictably (and adorably!) as the crow flies. Scarcely bearable (albeit wildly overproduced) during its first hour, this chick flick shot by numbers shifts insufferably from a menstrual to menopausal milieu during a third act wherein an exorcism conducted to expel the wraith of her murderous beau (Visnjic) from Kidman's body assumes the inanity of a Tupperware party certain to spellbind suburban shrews and repulse all others possessing an IQ exceeding '98. Everyone present save Quinn overacts with sufficient sustained pressure to burst blood vessels, especially Kidman and Channing, the latter of whom apes an especially deviling Hepburn impression. Alan Silvestri's saccharine score (in the idiom of his music for The Odd Couple II) drips like drizzled treacle from this cloying Halloween fruitcake surfeited with exposition and explicit in its focus on male expendability for witless women bound for the spinsterhood this story inadvertently promotes, if not some other household malaise. Where's Witchfinder General Vincent Price when we need him?

Restless Virgins (2013)
Directed by Jason Lapeyre
Written by Abigail Jones, Marissa Miley, Andy Cochran
Produced by Harvey Kahn, Michael Roiff
Starring Vanessa Marano, Max Lloyd-Jones, Charlie Carver, Rami Kahlon, Jedidiah Goodacre, Christie Burke, Anup Sehdev, Zach Martin, Elise Gatien, Jesse Wheeler

"It is an infantile superstition of the human spirit that virginity would be thought a virtue and not the barrier that separates ignorance from knowledge."

--Voltaire

Passions gutter impotently at a cushy prep school between an irresolute, gutlessly vestal jock (Lloyd-Jones) in the school's athletic, preponderant clique and an insufferable aspiring journalist (Marano) whose powerless pique, commitment to social justice and unqualified disregard for privacy motivates her to reveal a tawdry yet consensual gangbang as an outrage characteristic of the reprehensibly stratified institution where she's been favorably matriculated. This tepid fictionalization of an actual minor scandal at Milton Academy (where the lecherous offenders' oral recipient was but 15) is as diverting for its distorted morality as its clueless characterization and desipient dialogue -- what heterosexual male refers to a train as a "daisy chain?!" Safely chaste and obeisant, Lloyd-Jones plays the boyfriend every nascent, delusional shrew imagines ideal, yet wouldn't condescend to admit by proxy under the most ingratiating conditions. Marano's obnoxious quidnunc is an outcast for thematic convenience, but as catty, successful and stunning as any popular student could hope to be, though her beauty's effectively countervailed by a voice evoking Gavin McInnes' burlesques of fatuous SJWs, which only worsens narration wherein every other declaration's introduced by a musty analogy. Despite the protagonists' laughable moral postures, some wisdom's peculiarly dispensed by unexpected characters: the brutal pragmatism of Carver's macho, abhorrently self-aggrandizing lacrosse honcho actually inspires sound counsel (albeit for ignoble motives), and one of Marano's fretful friends (Kahlon) couldn't be more accurate when equating the petty busybody with those hierarchal hates against whom she's waging a vendetta. Ultimately, Jones, Miley, Kahn and Roiff have exploited an incident to protest exploitation in its most innocuous forms, appealing not to the truly downtrodden or impoverished but those in the populace's 1% chafed that they can't partake of the privileges oligopsonized by those who represent the .00001%. As violence, illiberality and propaganda (here at its most dilute) in academic settings have indicated in recent years, that prevalent sect of the left obsessed with social justice is far more wanton, tyrannical and unsustainable than the accursed patriarchy that preceded them on campus.
Instead, watch Animal House.

Revelation (1999)
Directed by André van Heerden
Written by Paul and Peter Lalonde
Produced by Paul and Peter Lalonde, Colin Brunton
Starring Jeff Fahey, Tony Nappo, Leigh Lewis, David Roddis, Carol Alt, Nick Mancuso, Marium Carvell

"And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name."

--Revelation 14:9-14:11

Grossly eisegetic of the New Testament's climactic book even by Van Heerden's laughable standards, this second flick of his eschatological quadrilogy gawkily interprets scripture via a Boomer's conception of popular technology in the '90s during impending end times, when a global government headed by a professed messiah (Mancuso) has acceded to imperium, Christians are for their piousness persecuted, and nobody wears neckties. Months after his wife and daughter are suddenly assumed during playtime along with devout millions more during the Evangelicals' loudly prophesized Rapture, a counter-terrorism agent (Fahey) confronts Mephistophelian connivance via virtual reality after arresting a congregation accused of terrorism, and grapples with his own emergent faith while allied with an anchorwoman turned antinomian evangelist (Lewis) and a pinguid, pestilent, paraplegic programmer (Nappo). Their daffy dialogue contributes as much to the hamminess of the Lalonde brothers' cast as Van Heerden's direction; villainously typecast Mancuso overplays his antichrist with rare relish, as does Roddis as his snarling executive henchman, but Nappo's personification of an oleaginous stereotype is deeply, rather offensively obnoxious. No stranger to inane B-cinema, Fahey fares fairly during his first forty minutes, but can't overcome the immanent melodrama of his hardened nullifidian's redemption. As exegesis, propaganda pushing providence or an actioner, this is a bust: its cheesy score, sloppy script and flat, excessively tinted photography defy serious critique, but it's frolic and certain to please fans of Fahey and Mancuso, who know not to judge most of their work in sobriety. Overfed televangelist John Hagee and Jack and Rexella van Impe, his tireless colleagues of cablecast ubiquity, preach directly to the audience in videotaped cameos secured by their budgetary stakes. Like most Biblical literalists, the Lalondes' divination betrays a persecution complex to match those of black dissidents, white nationalists and every stalwart of social justice, but theirs is especially maddening for an occasional glimmer of insight. If they and theirs recognized the terrene evil residing in globalism for the bureaucratic tyranny it requires to subsist, disastrous economics it proposes to impose upon the world, its inhuman perspective of dissimilar nations as fungible chattels, and relentless promotion of corporate abuses rather than that purely prophetical condition whereby an extramundane Archenemy begets Armageddon, their schlock might actually enlighten burghers who ought to understand a force that seeks to comfortably vitiate and oppress humanity, rather than misinterpret what's far more artfully augured in the Good Book.
Instead, watch Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

Runaway Father (1991)
Directed by John Nicolella
Written by Richard Rashke, Stephanie Liss
Produced by Lee Levinson, Howard Rosenstein, Carroll Newman, Dennis Stuart Murphy, Donna Mills, Judith A. Polone
Starring Donna Mills, Jenny Lewis, J.C. Brandy, Amy Moore Davis, Jack Scalia, Chris Mulkey, Jane Daly, Nancy Lenehan, Chick Vennera
Weekly, extruded, semi-fictional hardship of single maternity #82,351: after siring three kids in as many matrimonial years and consummating one extramarital affair, an aeromaniacal pilot (Scalia) abandons his constant wife (Mills) and three daughters (Davis, Brandy, and Lewis, eventually) to pursue his dream of plying his present occupation. Every Republican's nightmare is realized when this forsaken mother of three and welfare recipient procures subsidiary subvention to attend a state university and earn a degree in something or other, so to substantiate every sane human's nightmare by obtaining a post as an office drone in the service of the IRS. Not too many years subsequent to the deadbeat's reported death, a second wife he's dropped (Lenehan) apprises her revived predecessor that he's alive and flightier than ever! With the abetment of a P.I. and potential love interest (Mulkey, somehow never a guest star on Knots Landing) met at a congressman's fundraiser and a Floridian attorney (Vennera) working pro bono, the tetchy trigamist is located and apprehended, but impecuniosity obliges her to act as her own prosecuting attorney...all the better to put him on trial herself!! Then she goes to law school! Charming stupidities abound in this soppy saga of weaponized desertion and prosecutorial vengeance, not the least of which include a lugubrious poem penned and read by Lewis bemoaning her absent pappy, his bizarre, momentary impression of Jimmy Durante whilst attempting to extrajudicially bribe her, and an obiter dictum phrased by a judge contiguous to a conclusive sentence, commending Mills' single mommy for her feistiness and fortitude. Chintzy costumery and set design comprise skimpy, shabby '60s period details as unconvincing as the motherly affection stiffly expressed by ice queen Mills, appearing nearly as fresh as forty in her "twenties." Those of Lewis' modest cult following won't object to her hammy cuteness, and Lisanne Falk portrays in a cameo one of Scalia's doltish lovers. It's moderately distasteful as Lifetime's features come, as much for its bureaucratic evangelism as the spousal and paternal dereliction of Scalia's narcist. Whatever actually occurred is purportedly recounted in Rashke's eponymous book.

Sister, Sister (1987)
Directed by Bill Condon
Written by Bill Condon, Ginny Cerrella, Joel Cohen
Produced by Walter Coblenz, Pegi Brotman, Yvonne Ramond, Ira Trattner, J. David Marks, Gabe Sumner
Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judith Ivey, Eric Stoltz, Benjamin Mouton, Dennis Lipscomb, Anne Pitoniak, Natalia Nogulich, Richard Minchenberg
Its international box office tally of $1.2B elevated Disney's semi-live action retread of Beauty and the Beast to unqualified success, and secured a permanence of position for perennial schmaltzmonger Bill Condon, who's never failed to concoct or adapt nauseous hokum. His debut antedates that latest success by thirty years, but isn't a touch less treacly, for this Southern Gothic murder mystery's attractive production design and three fine principals were wantoned away on its creator's institutional maudlinism. Lodging in Louisiana at the familial manse devised to its proprietress (Ivey), a congressional aide (Stoltz) finds himself mutually smitten with her touched sister (Leigh) and drawn into their sordid secrets by a goony handyman and valet (Mouton) in their employ. Condon sets his shots competently, but flagrantly mishandles players who're all congruously cast: Stoltz's stiff, often effeminate delivery undercuts what should be simmering vehemence; from one scene to the next, Leigh interchanges between charming vulnerability and the quavering blunders of first takes; native Louisianan and hammily proto-McConaughesque Mouton is abominable as the meddling bayou bricoleur, mumbling an unaccountably godawful deep southern accent and butchering French while overplaying his every sweaty shot. Ivey weathers well her director's ineptitude to create the pic's sole consistent performance, bracing no few scenes with the passion of her elder sister's solicitude. Forty minutes of solid plot are tediously temporized nigh to ninety not with compelling interaction but corny cutbacks, adolescent outbursts, and a categorically unconvincing red herring leading to a preposterously phantasmic climax. However, it's easy on the eyes: DP Stephen Katz lensed southern swamps and two plush plantations with a misty splendor almost as beauteous as its younger leads in erotic congress, Leigh especially breathtaking in the flower of her neoteny, notwithstanding a neglect of her exceptional endowment. Neither does it pain the ear, though Richard Einhorn's lovely score is overextended to blunt the effect of numerous shocks and throttle what might've been atmospheric moments. As always, Condon's confounded as much by his slavish conventionalism as his drab dialogue and simplistic characterization. Natheless, he deserves some credit for depicting less the backwoods baseness than the modest politesse of the reconstructed south, and although a yenta (Pitoniak), her equally hymish daughter (Nogulich) and nebbish son-in-law (Minchenberg) quartered at the mansion are at least as stereotypical as anyone else here, they're no more harshly than crudely charactered. If he treated of story so sensitively as he does people, Condon might craft a picture that isn't merely an emptily commercial success.

Stalked by My Doctor (2015)
Written and directed by Doug Campbell
Produced by Robert Ballo, Ken Sanders, Timothy O. Johnson, Marianne C. Wunch
Starring Eric Roberts, Brianna Joy Chomer, Deborah Zoe, Jon Briddell, Carson Boatman, Wyntergrace Williams, Caryn Richman
Look out, ladies: one creepy, crazy, craggy cardiologist (Roberts) is on the prowl for Mrs. Right, and liable to throw a psychotic, doll-mangling, trash-flinging tirret whenever rebuffed, as in response to one of his marital proposals at the prandial climax of a first date. Alas, L.A.'s dating market's dispossessed of its most eligible bedlamite when he runs afoul in his OR of a foxy young patient (Chomer) sequent to an automotive crash ensuing her doltish boyfriend's (Boatman) synchronic assays to drive and text. Who's to say that writer/director Campbell didn't craft this footling feature as much for casual riffers as for Lifetime's targeted proto-menopausal demographic, affording as usual the lovely, imperiled maiden upon whom they can project their conceptions, her solicitous mother (Zoe), whose suspicious disapproval serves as the link for their identification, and toxic, misogynistic, patriarchal oppression personified as both the lunatic physician whose progressively criminal stratagems (in teetotal neglect of his Hippocratic oath) propel the plot with no minor expedition, and his victim's faineant father (Briddell) and brainless beau, who enable him with damnable rationalization. Never mind its plenteous plot holes, or the stale and logically soluble propaganda as essential to this flick's story as to its genre; Roberts is a gnashing delight in the lead, as much for his smarmily nonchalant bedside manner as his slurring, raving ebullitions, looking for all the world like a neatly preened, grandmotherly vagrant. As the weary gender wars will soon yield to authentic identitarian conflicts, propagandistic fare demonizing (invariably demented) guileful men and potentially rival women to capitalize on the feminine hindbrain's instinctual triggers won't be available in incessancy to aficionados of televised schlock. Savor them while they last!
Recommended for a double feature paired with Talk to Her.

Terminal Invasion (2002)
Directed by Sean S. Cunningham
Written by Lewis Abernathy, John Jarrell, Robinson Young
Produced by Derek Rappaport, Geoff Garrett, Paul M. Leonard, Sean S. Cunningham, Chuck Simon
Starring Bruce Campbell, Chase Masterson, Kedar Brown, Sarah Lafleur, C. David Johnson, Andrew Tarbet, Chuck Byrn, Marcia Bennett, Jason Jones
Fans of The Chin may be floored to find him underplaying a laconic convict en route to death row when an automotive crash during a blizzard diverts him and his police escorts to an aviatic charter service's small airport, where its grumpy, grating pending passengers are attritively slain by brainish extraterrestrial impostors bereft of strategic forethought. Cunningham shot this endearingly stupid, suspenseless thriller with all the deftness of a film student, and its shoddy production design, dismal digital effects and exteriors, goofily morphing and zooming transitions, and overacted, doltish dialogue are as antically amusing as prototypic of most D-fare broadcast via the Sci-Fi Channel, where it made a splash by virtue of Campbell's cult distinction. His criminal's chemistry and romantic intimations with a justifiably peevish pilot (Masterson) are cute enough to compensate for unsavory inanities and pronounced illogic abounding in a script by Abernathy, Cunningham's authorial DeepStar Six collaborator. If nothing else, this preposterous pic may be unique for one histrionic singularity: in what else has Campbell starred as the only thespian who wasn't hamming?
Instead, watch The Thing From Another World or John Carpenter's The Thing.

Young & Beautiful (2013)
Written and directed by François Ozon
Produced by Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer
Starring Marine Vacth, Géraldine Pailhas, Frédéric Pierrot, Fantin Ravat, Johan Leysen, Charlotte Rampling, Nathalie Richard, Djedje Apali
If Ozon fancied he might in seasonal address of teenage prostitution anatomize its risk and lascivity with an atom of the art or pizzazz produced by Buñuel, Pasolini, Imamura, Fassbinder, Eustache, Breillat, et al., he's as deluded as facile...as his broody, anemic adolescent (Vacth), who after her disappointing devirgination with a cute, Teutonic teen on holiday moonlights as a call girl until a copulatory tragedy obliges vice officers to disclose this extracurricular occupation to her mother (Pailhas). From its coastal commencement through a largely artless third act during which elaboration of meretricious motivations and a series of tired contrivances are belabored, the pinchbeck Pialat slathers sentimentality into a regurgitation of shots poached from superior pics with the adipose cream of old tracks by Françoise Hardy as slushy as Philippe Rombi's score, inconsonantly picturesque photography courtesy of Pascal Marti, and scenes in which Rimbaud's Romance is recited, then expounded by Vacth's dull doxy and her classmates: a cheap insinuation that this flaccid, specious celebration of acokoinonia shares any such passion or perspicacity. Naught save some fatuous satisfaction in her own sexual power and a nearly uncharacteristic moment of grief may be observed in the sullen trull, tarted and trudging sulkily from one dismally anaphrodisiac congress to the next, and as Ozon can't fathom women with any greater acuity than heterosexuality (as attested by his 5x2), his deficit of insight regarding the intellectual or emotional limitations that elicit premature promiscuity results in a flick as empty as its protagonist. There's an especially inexcusable shortcoming, as numerous gay filmmakers from Cukor to Almodóvar to Araki have evinced an unfailing apprehension of straights and the fairer sex, but this critical darling approaches both as does Branagh the Bard's masterworks: with a manner as melodramatic as peculiarly puerile, paired to overproduction. Harshly attractive Vacth reflects this inscience; selected by a poor eye for distaff lure, she's surely the most unappealingly pretty principal in recent memory, photogenic yet oddly barren of presence. Rampling's in typically (if temporally) fine form as the wife of an elderly john in a conclusion that very nearly conveys some human signification, but like so much else, her poise is merely redolent of better roles. If this dyslogy seems overtly referential, one must consider how grossly Ozon courts comparison with truly great cineastes, and how abashingly far short he falls, regardless of the press's purchased praise.
Instead, watch The Insect Woman or Sleeping Beauty.

© 2017-2019 Robert Buchanan

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