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  • Sunny

    Sunny 2011

    ★★★★½ Added

    Forget about the "chick flick" vibe as reflected in the poster, title, and maybe any plot summary you've read of this film – or maybe don't forget about it but instead allow any preconceived notions about the themes and tone of your typical chick flick simply to melt away. Yes, the maudlin, cancer-patient set-up is not promising, but fortunately most of the runtime is devoted to extended flashbacks of a very winning group of young actresses... and mostly they're just…

  • Hindsight

    Hindsight 2011

    ★★½ Added

    I’m rounding my assessment up from a fail to a mere disappointment simply because, for my money, Song Kang-ho is one of the world's great stars and carries several scenes just by waiting a beat and then smiling. To a certain degree one can overlook the empty glossiness of production and equally shallow sentimentalism – those often come with the territory if one is expecting a multi-genre, popcorn-fueled blockbuster. In other words, I would have been very happy with another…

  • Dark Waters

    Dark Waters 1993

    ★★★★½ Added

    A gothic premise serves as a launching pad for vaguely Lovecraftian elements in Mariano Baino’s rarely screened but utterly hypnotic 1993 film. Highly literate and evocative, Dark Waters leverages the dream-like feel of much classic European horror to create a cinematic tone poem—but one that can suddenly turn downright nasty on you.

  • The Magic Hour

    The Magic Hour 2008

    ★★★★ Added

    While it’s a tad slow out of the starting gate, Koki Mitani’s farce made me laugh out loud more than I recall any other movie doing recently. Indeed, when it’s in its groove, The Magic Hour features acting, writing, and editing that all click together to produce long stretches of pure, giddy, entertainment. The plot is fairly straightforward and represents an inverted companion piece to Korea’s Rough Cut, in which a gangster enters the world of filmmaking. Here the gloriously…

  • Outbound

    Outbound 2010

    ★★★★ Added

    My 2011 New Directors/New Films review for Twitch:

    Pet peeve: when movies, especially thrillers or dark dramas, take pains to show us a television broadcasting vintage cartoons in the background of a shot. Is there a more overused and cutesy way of quoting media within media? First, if we are to believe these movies, Tex Avery and Fleischer Brothers chestnuts are always in heavy rotation, regardless of the century we're talking about. (Then again, in "Second World" nations perhaps they…

  • Rabies

    Rabies 2010

    ★★★★★ Added

    From my 2011 Tribeca review for Twitch:

    The Tribeca programming notes, which contend that Rabies (Kalevet) is "worthy of its mantle as Israel's first-ever horror film," aren't exactly as encouraging as they seem to feel they are. After all, do you really want the film you're seeing to be billed as the potential answer to a future trivia question? And how is a film "worthy" of being the first anything--either it is or isn't, right? Fortunately, Rabies represents more than…

  • Japan's Tragedy

    Japan's Tragedy 2012

    ★★★★½ Added

    (from my gushing, perhaps too-quick review on Twitch)

    Kobayashi Masahiro's film is that rare one that puts it all out there, daring you not to feel something. And to feel it profoundly. The opening two shots, each about ten minutes long, might seem to belie this: the camera’s not just static, but austerely static, pointing to an old school arthouse aesthetic that often signals self-consciousness and a “cinema studies”-style distancing from the topic at hand. The rest of Japan’s Tragedy…

  • Thermae Romae

    Thermae Romae 2012

    ★★★★ Added

    (from my review on Twitch)
    The fact that a sequel is underway to this adaptation of a mega-popular manga title helps one forgive the relative weakness of its ending: it coasts to a soft climax that feels more like a pause than the end punctuation that your heart has been waiting for. The good news is that the basic premise, not to mention the appealing leads and winning comedic touch of director Takeuchi Hideki, makes you want a sequel to…

  • Night of Death

    Night of Death 1980

    ★★★★ Added

    An interesting mix of a nutty Chabrol '70s movie (self-assured even its outlandishness), themes from Rosemary's Baby (beware of old people), and a downmarket exploitation film. It's the latter aspect, when combined with somewhat literary-flavored dialogue and even ideas, that account for the most amazing thing about this film: its unique, and uniquely weird, tone. Some may roll their eyes upon viewing this, wondering, "What was he going on about--what tone?" but those who've seen endless B-horror flicks of the…

  • Holocaust 2000

    Holocaust 2000 1977

    ★★★½ Added

    While obviously a response to THE OMEN (1975), this Italo-Brit co-production has so many sequences that effectively churn up and then sustain a feeling of unease that it’s without question worth watching in its own right, not simply as a historical curiosity. As in other occult thrillers and their contemporary secular equivalent, the FINAL DESTINATION flicks, there’s a repeated pattern of evil forces orchestrating “freak accidents” of victims, but seldom have I seen them pulled off in such eerie fashion:…

  • Chill

    Chill 2007

    ★★½ Added

    There’s a nifty idea here, one that various festivals have responded to in awarding a few prizes to this Lovecraft-inspired tale: take an archetypal Mad Scientist/Necromancer character and transplant him into urban streets populated by pimps, hookers, stalker cops, down-and-out types and other vaguely noirish characters. Indeed, the department in which CHILL is undeniably strongest is setting, creating a hidden yet believable dark side for the lonely storefronts one sees in desolate, industrial-looking neighborhoods where foot traffic is low. Where…

  • X-Cross

    X-Cross 2009

    ★★★★ Added

    X-CROSS is a kind of like a genre film festival all by itself, as if a brain-addled but talented fanboy commandeered the tour bus and ran it straight down the center of Popcornville, not stopping at any stop signs and ignoring all the clearly-marked boundaries. The movie is a sinuous, crackling combo of mystery, slasher film, quasi-Lovecraftian ode to those who worship the old gods, and even a martial arts smackdown, complete with a chainsaw and a huge pair of…