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  • Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro

    Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro

    ★★★★

    I’m genuinely shocked that I used to consider this Miyazaki’s most un-Miyazaki movie. It’s atypical for him, yes, but all of his usual visual and thematic obsessions - flying machines, fairytale storytelling, complex relationships between humanity and nature, et cetera - are still clear and present as part of a blueprint for his later career (on a related note, is it me, or are Cagliostro’s soldiers basically prototypes for Princess Mononoke’s ape army?). Not all of this holds up -…

  • Murder by Contract

    Murder by Contract

    ★★★★

    The closest we’ll ever come to an American Melville film, a sparing, existential character study of an emotionally distant hoodlum that wrings everything it can out of a few dingy sets and some stark black-and-white photography. Contains one of the most fascinatingly convoluted murder plots in noir history, too; what other killer’s plan includes an artificial brush fire?

  • Scoob!

    Scoob!

    How long have I been watching Scoob? Five weeks? Two days? Where am I? Help me to recollect.

  • From a Whisper to a Scream

    From a Whisper to a Scream

    ★★★½

    Goofy and uneven even by horror anthology standards, but sets itself apart thanks to some imaginative premises, murky Southern Gothic atmosphere, and a genuine willingness to go to some astonishingly dark places. Best segment is easily the second, a tightly plotted slow-burn voodoo mystery with a clever final twist and a scenery-shredding leading turn from Terry Kiser, though the fourth segment takes an entertaining turn into Tobe Hooper-ish social horror; weakest, meanwhile, is the first, a disjointed, unintentionally comical barrage of shock value imagery culminating in the least expected Larry Cohen homage in film history. Vincent Price, as always, is the GOAT.

  • Experiment in Terror

    Experiment in Terror

    ★★★★½

    For all of the obvious Blue Velvet/Twin Peaks similarities I could point out here, I’m reminded much more of Brian de Palma instead; like most of de Palma’s films, this takes the tropes of neo-noirs and Hitchcockian thrillers and pushes them into the most perverse and voyeuristic places possible, making you feel like even watching the film itself is an illicit act. Blake Edwards isn’t a bad director by any stripe, but I still didn’t know he had something like…

  • Fantasy Island

    Fantasy Island

    Definitely had the potential to be a fun, twisted Tales from the Crypt-ish anthology film somewhere down the line; shame we got this painfully low-effort “how do you do fellow kids” JPEG incarnate instead. Feels less like a conventional horror film than it does a hacky punchline regarding Hollywood’s obsession with recycling brand-name properties, right down to the MCU-aping sequel hook ending designed to hype up all three of the original Fantasy Island fans who actually watched this. I’m not as harsh on Blumhouse as others, but jeez, guys, you can do better than this.

  • Commando

    Commando

    ★★★★

    Essentially Terminator if it forgot to tell you Arnie was a robot. Pure macho bullshit of the most ridiculous caliber. Delightful.

  • Murder on the Orient Express

    Murder on the Orient Express

    ★★★★½

    Not quite as stylized or as consistently atmospheric as the Branagh version (though it has its moments), but succeeds on a level of complexity that its remake just can’t muster; Lumet, ever dedicated to making the best choices for his source material, films Christie’s climax as a heart-rending act of grief committed by people who understand the horrors of what they’re doing, while Branagh’s retelling of the same scene reads as more straightforwardly triumphant and righteous. Fine performances all around,…

  • Nosferatu the Vampyre

    Nosferatu the Vampyre

    ★★★★★

    Not sure which is more bone-chilling here: the idea of seeing the world you know slip away from you as eternal life takes its tragic toll, Herzog’s inky-black painterly imagery, or Dracula’s total inability to play the violin. Good to see a Stoker adaptation that actually gives the last voyage of the Demeter the weight and attention it deserves.

  • Bad Education

    Bad Education

    ★★★★

    Frequently feels like an American riff on Bong Joon Ho’s films right down to the elegantly composed tracking shots, morally and tonally complex storytelling, and semi-classical score courtesy of Jordan Peele regular Michael Abels. Not quite as boundary-breaking as Bong’s work, mind you, sticking much closer to the format of conventional “based on a true story” films, but its anger comes from the right place, which counts for a lot.

  • The Decline of Western Civilization

    The Decline of Western Civilization

    ★★★★★

    Not sure what leaves the biggest emotional impact on me here: the heartbreak of Spheeris juxtaposing Darby Crash’s thoughtful and poetic lyrics over his self-destructive, barely coherent stage performance, the laid-back, disarmingly goofy scenes of X shooting the shit as they flesh out early Wild Gift tracks, or that righteously furious final segment that lays the ugliest attitudes of the LA scene bare in a single performance. Not quite a perfect document (as the people I watched this with pointed…

  • Tammy and the T-Rex

    Tammy and the T-Rex

    Feels less like a conventional horror-comedy than it does like an Amblin-aping 80s kids’ movie that stumbled in drunk from an alternate reality where family films regularly feature buckets of gore, wall-to-wall cursing, and plenty of innuendo. Ungradeable in a good way.