Monday, April 30, 2007

Plot Keywords: Giant Spider / Based On Novel / Blood / Car Chase / Sacrifice / Satanism

The Devil Rides Out (1968)
directed by Terence Fisher
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

No doubt a coincidence that this find met my mailbox in precise conjunction with the satanic calendar it re-invigorates with a timely spell of hedonistic absurdity. The Devil Rides Out is not quite graceful, and a far stretch from racially sensitive, but no Hammer film that I’ve seen comes close for its atmosphere like fog in an oddly cold alleyway. If special effects as bad as these can’t sink it, you have to sleep spooked or not sleep at all.

Daniel Butler Birthday Edition

The Wind Will Carry Us (1999)
directed by Abbas Kiarostami
rating: 5 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

My weekend revelation (I who disliked Taste of Cherry), compassionate and gentle and so beautifully invested in a very distant physical space. Kiarostami’s technical originality is less a uniquely foreign sensibility than a uniquely cinematic one, and his film is an exercise in gratitude, learned at the expense of a likeable protagonist - but softly, like the wake of passing boats against a dock.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

One Life to Live

Battlestar Galactica - Season Two (2005-2006)
special effects by Zoic Studios
rating: 2 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

Thanks especially to Steve for clarifying the difference between drama and melodrama for me last week, because Battlestar Galactica would fit in nicely between The Young & the Restless and Days of Our Lives. The show's fans might argue that creator Ronald D. Moore is interested in more than just their expectations - is it space adventure? political metaphor? modern myth? - but rarely do such disparate intentions dwell so awkwardly in the same (unquestionably well-rendered, thanks Firefly) universe.

In other words, Sam, I feel like I'm watching the wrong incarnation of everyone's favorite fedora-tipping Blade Runner detective:

Monday, April 23, 2007


Hot Fuzz (2007)
directed by Edgar Wright
rating: 3 out of 5 cravats
seen on the screen at Studio on the Square

What is it about Studio on the Square that compels me to order popcorn in a higher eating to attendance ratio than any other mid-south screen? I've usually made myself sick before Bradford How even shuts his self-loathing trap! This time I regretted my decision to add butter the moment the woman working there began to apply it literally in layers, pausing between scoops of popcorn to procure the perfect parfait-themed distraction.

Anyway, Nate, how was the movie? I think that's a rhetorical question for "Hot Fuzz," because if - like me - you liked Shaun of the Dead, you might think "Hot Fuzz" got a little out of hand in the second half, but was otherwise funny and charming and, like the third bowl of porridge, maybe still porridge but otherwise just right.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Baby Pictures

Invaders from Mars (1953)
directed by William Cameron Menzies
rating: 3 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

I like that, after The Thief of Baghdad, I haven't heard of any of director Menzies' screen credits. Because the more I thought about Dave Kehr's hagiographic name-check in this week's New York Times, and the longer I stewed on "Invaders from Mars" (okay, twelve hours), the more it really felt like a movie from long ago (as opposed to just old sci-fi). The Night of the Hunter, another film about kids and nightmares, is as strange from a grown-up's eyes as it would be from a ten-year old's; "Invaders from Mars" isn't, but you can imagine.

I mean, after all, this is pretty wonderful:

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Tale of Two Kitties

The Long Goodbye (1973)
directed by Robert Altman
rating: 5 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from JL

It isn't so much that Gould gets out of the house in the middle of the night to buy a particular brand of cat food for the cat who won't leave him alone. Cats were worshiped as gods once and never forgot it, or so the story goes. In "The Long Goodbye," it's Marlowe who's royalty - the unflappable king on his Los Angeles Olympus - tolerant of mortal machinations until the very last, when he exacts his revenge like Zeus on high.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Only Spenders

The Wire - Season 4 (2006)
rating: 5 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from the vaults

Everyone grows up in The Wire this season. Or anyway, people change. The cynic's lesson is how hard it is to be better - that intentions become unrecognizable the more you muscle through. But The Wire is great because, at some point or another, it lets each character be his best - or as close as he gets to good - and it's those possibilities that make the worst bearable. Because there's lots of unbearable in The Wire - as rough and sad as fiction can be. The show's hard to watch sometimes, especially when it's kids. But that's the thing - they're great, great kids.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Your 24 Hour Host Since 1951

Kurt Russell
rating: 5 out of 5 cravats

Just look at that snapshot of Kurt joking around with a fork and a bottle of Bud Light and that jovial Stanley Cup. Or Elvis himself sweeping Patricia Clarkson off her feet (it's a movie still, who cares). It doesn't say a lot about the man's acting career that I'd happily be the third wheel at the hockey brunch, but how many movie stars seem so good-natured and sincere?

A libertarian who calls Rangeley, Maine, his hometown and sang with Warrant on 1991's "Voices That Care," Kurt did more than win me back with Death Proof. Kurt just stayed Kurt, and that's exactly who we want him to be. Here's to you, pal.

UPDATE: "Hanging out under the bridge." Incredible.

Fool Proof

Grindhouse (2007)
consisting of Planet Terror
directed by Robert Rodriguez
rating: 1 out of 5 cravats
& (without further ado) Death Proof
directed by Quentin Tarantino
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
seen on the screen at Malco Paradiso

Let's leave the first half at "Planet Terrible," give Edgar Wright the nod for best fake trailer, and move right into "Death Proof," which would have been an honest-to-goodness five if Quentin had rethought the "missing reel" joke before he went to press.

"Death Proof" is great - a drive-in movie plain as day, as in love with the maxim of women in movies (and movies for women) as my best over-worked defense of Eric Rohmer. Could anything be further from the tits and ass of "Planet Terror" than Abernathy and her girls, even with the same actresses between them?

And yes, Quentin's a creep like his barman is, but as a director he's true blue. Big Trouble in Little China might just as well have been yesterday, and "Death Proof" might as well be thirty years down the road. It's a classic.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Of Course He Did

Kill Bill - Volumes 1 & 2 (2003, 2004)
directed by Quentin Tarantino
rating: 5 out of 5 cravats
on DVD at JL's

It's like leather belts, blue jeans, and hay-colored hair weren't even words until Q & U made this movie.

Line in the Sand

Battlestar Galactica - Season 1 (2003, 2005)
directed by a few too many overzealous jump-zoom hacks
rating: 2 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

I'm tough on "Battlestar Galactica" because, as much as I sometimes hate to admit it, it's the sort of show that inherently plays to one of my most admirable weaknesses: loving sci-fi on TV. And when the opening credits rework the image of LBJ taking office inside Air Force One and accompany it with some gorgeous space war visuals, I'm already sold. But I don't necessarily stay sold, and I didn't this first mediocre season - which means that Steve Brady is now calling in a favor when the first disc of Season 2 shows up from Netflix tomorrow.