The HandmaidenThe Handmaiden, the latest and most lascivious of offerings from Korean bad boy director/writer Chan-wook Park, gives whole new meaning to the phrase “guilty pleasure.” Many, if not most, will enjoy this wicked, naughty (oh, so naughty) tale of deceit, sexual politics, and betrayal, but be careful: too much enthusiasm for this luscious work may generate suspicion. Are you really so enamored of Park’s decision to transplant the story from the source material, the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, from Dickens’ London to 1930’s Korea? Are you a genuine fan of Asian film noir and relish a pitch black look at the human soul in its quest for money, power, and the upper hand? Or are you simply an educated pervert, engaging in blatant voyeurism, much like the gentlemen who listen to Lady Hideko’s readings of ribald tales at the invitation of her uncle? Read the rest of this entry »

dog-eat-dog-paul-schrader-nicolas-cage-willem-dafoe-6Paul Schrader has had the privilege of being associated with some of the most important and prestigious films in history. Dog Eat Dog is not one of them. That, in just the slightest of paraphrases, was the introduction Schrader provided to his movie in remarks before its screening at the 2016 London Film Festival. The film rolled shortly thereafter, proving him absolutely correct. Dog Eat Dog is simultaneously nothing special and somewhat fascinating, the latter due to the enormous amount of talent associated with the project, starting with Schrader, but extending to a cast that features Willem Dafoe and Nicholas Cage as well as the source material for the script, a novel penned by Edward Bunker, an ex-con who starred as Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs and wrote the screenplay for Runaway Train. Read the rest of this entry »

Trash FireTrash Fire boasts a laugh-out-loud opening scene and a punch-to-the gut closing scene. The problem is what comes in between.

Writer/director Richard Bates Jr. third feature film occupies a strange limbo. Trash Fire is not conventional enough to generate empathy for its characters as they attempt to secure a viable future by coming to terms with past trauma. Nor is the movie outrageous enough to rank as a black comedy despite some genuinely funny moments. And while it can be identified as horror/comedy, each moment is one or the other or something closer to family drama. Genres here play like oil and water with no intermingling. Read the rest of this entry »

another evilIt turns out that 2016 actually saw the release of two new Ghostbusters. The better known of the two was, of course, the all-female lead version that was met by controversy and misogyny from the time the first trailer dropper. The movie itself was amusing; the cameos from the original cast were terrific; and no tender fanboy egos were harmed in the making of the film.

The other Ghostbusters has flown under the radar since its premiere at SXSW in March. It could be because the word “Ghostbusters” does not appear in its title or any of its promotional material. The movie has none of the original cast or crew and makes no effort whatsoever to align itself with the 1984 comedy classic. But don’t be fooled by this. The little indie gem Another Evil is a spiritual sequel to the beloved Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd et al romp. Read the rest of this entry »

The Eyes of My MotherEvery year, we invariably hear of one or more movies that “redefine” or “reinvent” the horror genre. Most times, careful viewings of the films in question reveal a slick repackaging of familiar conventions. Often, the redefining is a twist on a twist; the reinvention is a reversal of expectations. Horror fans take these slight alterations in style in stride, noting the degree of success by the extent of the imitations they spawn. The new becomes the old within a relatively short period of time, and the genre is reset. Read the rest of this entry »

braqueursThe Crew (aka Braqueurs) is a phenomenon – an 80-minute, pure adrenaline, perfectly crafted exercise in action filmmaking. Writer/director Julien Leclercq has assembled a dragster built for speed and stripped of anything that would weigh the story down for even one beat. This movie is mandatory viewing for all would-be genre directors. Scratch that. The Crew should be studied in film schools or shown to anyone interested in a pure economy of storytelling. Of course, not every film should be be built according to these specifications, but given that too many movies are simply too damn long, Leclercq beautifully demonstrates the art of the possible. Read the rest of this entry »

The Greasy StranglerHow you feel about The Greasy Strangler coming out of the theater will be directly related to how you were feeling going into the theater. In other words, the more altered your perception of reality, the more likely you are to spend the 93 minutes giggling and gagging, while enjoying yourself immensely. The designated drivers among you will not be having the same experience. In the spirit of full disclosure, when seen at a 6:30 screening by a stone cold sober critic, The Greasy Strangler still provoked some laughter and absolutely no ill will. Read the rest of this entry »