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  • Coldfire

    Coldfire

    ★★

    When we first see Wings Hauser in his debut directorial effort, he’s calling a phone sex hotline at work. Later on his commanding officer reads incredulously from the precinct’s outgoing phone record the number 976-6969 and bills Hauser $43.06. Later still Hauser is seen wearing a newsie cap during a drug sting. In a purely tangential exchange, Hauser asks his coworker if she’s married. Though he is, unfortunately, not the star of Coldfire, Hauser affords himself the film’s final line: ”What about my ass? Who’s going to pat it?” He puts too much emphasis on the “it”.

  • Eyes of Laura Mars

    Eyes of Laura Mars

    ★★★

    A fascinating companion to Halloween, released the same year, though this is a pairing from which Carpenter himself would likely recoil. He gets a script credit here, but his early spec (titled simply Eyes) was apparently, in his words, "shat upon". As a functional mystery the film is indeed quite shitty, though it certainly sings in spots as a late-70s style piece and whacko melodrama.

    But Laura Mars is most fascinating as the purest window into Carpenter's affinity for Dario…

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  • Dead or Alive 2: Birds

    Dead or Alive 2: Birds

    ★★★★★

    Is this Miike's best film? It's certainly his most seamless weave of endearing character study, madcap yakuza fare, and poetic magical realism. Excessive in all imaginable ways, DOA2 is truly astonishing in its ability to balance moments of overwhelming kinetic violence with those of outright serenity. It helps that the plot mechanics here are just lucid enough, at least by Miike standards, though the film is not without its share of cartoon logic, particularly in the bananas final third. Still, it's hard to begrudge the prolific, unrestrained Miike for throwing in the kitchen sink when the results are this breathlessly awesome and sincerely touching.

  • Ms .45

    Ms .45

    ★★★★★

    Abel Ferrara's second "legitimate" (i.e. non-porno) feature does feel doubly, triply resonant in the current climate, even as it remains a pitch perfect pre-Giuliani NYC film, dipped to the toes in ambient fear, aimless violence, and delicious urban hubbub, right down to the incidental scene of a local haranguing an out-of-towner for his parking space. Ms .45 may be one of the perfect exploitation films, snotty, tough, sountracked with contagious zest, deeply fun--a pristine play of sound and image. Its…