My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.
Crimes of the Future (2022)
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
It’s no surprise that it took David Cronenberg to give us the most original science fiction film in recent memory. This movie is a number of other things: 1. Cronenberg’s weirdest and most sexual film since Crash. 2. For those (like me) who missed the body horror focus of the filmmaker’s previous work during his “realistic” period of the last twenty years, you’ll be delighted that this film returns to the themes and style of Videodrome, Naked Lunch, and Existenz. 3. It’s my favorite film of the year so far.
The film moves along at a slow but steady pace as Cronenberg explores this incredible, bizarre future world he’s created. I loved every aspect of it, from the variety of characters to the organic furniture/equipment. This movie is only for those can appreciate indulging in the super weird and I fall into that category.
However, it’s not just a freak show. At the heart, there’s another great performance by Viggo Mortensen who continues to be one of the most daring actors in modern cinema. Here, we see a riff on his previous roles for Cronenberg with some interesting new layers and the final shot of him is powerful.
It’s hard for me to understand the mixed reaction to this film. For me, it’s a huge return for Cronenberg.
Watched at AMC Chapel Hills.
Alison’s Birthday (1981)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
This slow burn Australian folk horror film is definitely worth your time. Coming along during the era of the down under new wave, it has a spooky beginning involving a Ouija board and then settles into a long but riveting build up to a great finale.
The folk horror subgenre, still being highlighted by Shudder, has become a favorite of mine and this is one of my favorites so far. I am also a sucker for films that play on our paranoia and make us question if a character’s suspicions are real or just imagined. Like the brilliant The Invitation a few years ago, this film captures that feeling.
Watched on Shudder.
The Gladiator (1986)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Going through Abel Ferrara’s work chronologically, I’d heard this was an underseen gem and the word on the street was right. This TV movie is a solid entry in the director’s body of work and possibly one of his best attempts at mainstream moviemaking.
Coming off the uneven Fear City, Ferrara tells a straightforward vigilante story that never gets too sensational and actually provokes some thought about taking justice in your own hands. It’s all centered around a fantastic performance from Ken Wahl, a leading man whose career didn’t flourish as much as it should have. He provides a nuanced portrait of this vengeful hero that outweighs similar roles played by actors like Charles Bronson in its complexity.
It doesn’t feel as personal but again, this is entry in Ferrara’s filmography is definitely worth a look. Also, it’s curious that this is the fourth film he made in a row about a serial killer.
Watched on Tubi.
The Black Watch (1929)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Categorizing this early Ford as an “adventure film” is a stretch. The film really doesn’t have any sense of adventure until the last twenty minutes and even then it’s limited to a couple sequences. I would argue this is a melodrama/war picture set in an exotic location.
It also seems like the younger John Ford is more indulgent with his interests than he was later on. His preoccupation with ritual and tradition is on full display here and he spends the first section of the movie making the same point over and over again. It’s tedious at times and made me appreciate how the filmmaker evolved over time, becoming more minimal and effective with his paintbrush in later years.
Watched on Criterion Channel.