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Friday Five: 5 Nifty Noir Films from Before 1955

Do you want to watch some film noir?

I hope so, because I have five films to suggest. Films about dames gone wrong, poor doomed saps, murders, sex and modern knights errant. I suppose, to me, noir films are shadowy films about darkness seeping in and seeping out. If you like these films, you might want to look a little more into the filmographies of Jacques Tourneur, Ida Lupino, Edgar Ulmer, Nicholas Ray, and John Sturges.

Meanwhile, beware of spoilers. I tried to keep some secrets, but in the end, I'm a femme fatale. I've always got my own game going. 

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Out Of The Past / Build My Gallows High (1947) (Jacques Tourneur)

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Some people, most people even, think of Double Indemnity (1944) as the quintessential film noir, but my Double Indemnity is Out Of The Past. It stars Robert Mitchum as private detective Jeff Bailey. (90% of Mitchum's characters are named, “Jeff” no matter what IMDb says).

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Friday Five: 5 Weirdest Movies I've Seen Recently

World SF 4This week's guest is Kuzhali Manickavel. Kuzhali is the author of the excellent, brilliant and totally disconcerting collections Insects Are Just Like You And Me Except Some of Them Have Wings and Things We Found During the Autopsy.  Her short story, "Six Things We Found During The Autopsy", is also collected in the brand-new The Apex Book of World SF 4.

Without further ado...  

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And by ‘weird’ I mean I didn’t understand why I was watching them or I was watching them by accident. Also I didn’t always pay attention or watch the whole thing.

Welcome to New York

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Not gonna lie, for some reason I thought this was a Philip Seymour Hoffman movie about bees. But as this movie progressed and there was no Philip Seymour Hoffman and no bees and lots of Gérard Depardieu having the sexuals with lots of ladies (LOTS. Like, LOTS), I began to suspect that neither the bees nor Philip Seymour Hoffman were going to make an appearance except possibly to have sex with Gérard Depardieu which might have been interesting but maybe not also. As far as I could tell, the only instances that Sexual Time with Gérard Depardieu was not happening was when they all took a breather so Gerard D could be rapey and when Jacqueline Bisset and him were yelling at each other. In the end, I have to say that the Philip Seymour Hoffman movie about bees might not actually exist.

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Pygmalia: Pygmalion

This year I’m selecting twelve Pygmalion stories—or stories that contain echoes of the Pygmalion myth—and essaying on them. I already have a few in mind, but please feel free to suggest others in the comments or on Twitter @molly_the_tanz 

PygmalionIt’s Low Hanging Fruit month here at Pygmalia, hot on the heels of me totally flaking out of a July column, but don’t judge me too hard… I’d never seen Pymalion, and quite frankly I didn’t know it existed until April, as I was idly browsing the “English” section of my local video store. After noting the Criterion case, I rented it immediately. Um, by which I mean, I noted it starred Second Hottest Actor Of All Time Award-Winner Leslie Howard* as Professor Henry Higgins, I rented it immediately. What? I’m only human.

Pygmalion (1938)

I grew up on musicals, and as I first saw My Fair Lady during the pre-Internet age, I think I can be forgiven for not going down the Google-hole to discover that the dialogue and the staging were taken from the 1938, Bernard Shaw-scripted black and white film, Pygmalion. To be fair, I did run out and buy myself a copy of the play at a used bookstore, the same one I still have, and read it several times—but as to finding out about the Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller version, that took me until this year.

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Ant-Man (2015)

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So we went to see Ant-Man. And you know what? It’s a good film! You should go see it. Here's why: (There are a few eeensy spoilers below; forewarned is forearmed. Six-armed. You know. Ants.)

Following the bloated, gaseous corpse that was Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man is a breath of fresh air, a delightfully uncomplicated (relatively speaking) superhero origin story about a guy looking for redemption, and finding it in an unlikely place (namely, some old dude’s basement). Also, there's shrinking down to the size of a small bug, and being able to communicate with small bugs. There’s action, there’s adventure, there are some cool effects, there’s a death that’s at once hilarious and poignant, and there’s Paul Rudd, who I think many people of a certain age have squishy feelings about for reasons that boil down to ‘Josh from Clueless’.

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Films of High Adventure: The 13th Warrior (1999)

The Film: The 13th Warrior (1999)

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Dedicated to the Memory of Omar Sharif.

Responsibility Roundup: Directed by John “Die Hard is actually my adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream” McTiernan. Based on the novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton, who supposedly came on as director to reshoot some scenes after McTiernan’s initial cut bummed out test audiences. Scripted by William Wisher Jr. (Terminator 2, Judge Dredd) and Warren Lewis (remember Ridley Scott’s Yakuza movie Black Rain? With Michael Douglas? Don’t worry, nobody else does, either). Original soundtrack by Graeme Revell (The Crow, The Craft, the Riddick movies) and Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, before Michael Crichton insisted on trashing the entire thing and having it rescored by his Congo buddy Jerry Goldsmith (always a good sign, amirite?).

Hackting by Antonio Banderas (lots of stuff), Maria Bonnevie (lots of Swedish stuff), Suzanne Bertish (The Hunger, Eleni on Rome), Diane Venora (Heat, Wolfen), and a whole Crossfit box’s worth of beefcake, including Vladimir Kulich (that Vikings show, the voice of Ulfric Stormcloak in Skyrim), Dennis Storhøi (Two Lives), Clive Russell (Ripper Street, Brynden Tully on Game of Thrones), Richard Bremmer (Control), Tony Curran (LXG). Also a very embarrassed Omar Sharif (RIP) (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Top Secret), who hated the movie so much he took a leave of absence from acting afterward.

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The 7 Best Horror Movies Ever

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Open Culture pulled together a list of the 93 favourite films of legendary director Stanley Kubrick - based on interviews with Kubrick and his family and a search through old magazine articles. 

For the hell of it, I compared this list with the horror movies recommended by Stephen King in the appendix of Danse Macabre

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Stark Reviews: Dead Man (1995)

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Stark says: Don't let the sun burn a hole in your ass, William Blake.

Dead Man is Jim Jarmusch’s contribution to the Acid Western genre; something I’ll be fixing my beady eye on in future reviews. The Acid Western was a product of the sixties; by and large, it takes the best of the Spaghetti Westerns – the vistas, the journeys, the lone individual and the uneasy alliances – and mashes them up with existentialism, surrealism and, in the case of Dead Man, black comedy. Imagine if Leone made All the Pretty Horses in the style of Blazing Saddles, and you’d be… not that close, but oh well. 

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Pygmalia: Robocop (1987 & 2014)

This year I’m selecting twelve Pygmalion stories—or stories that contain echoes of the Pygmalion myth—and essaying on them. I already have a few in mind, but please feel free to suggest others in the comments or on Twitter @molly_the_tanz 

Robocop 1987It’s a two-movie column this month at Pygmalia! In a fit of madness I watched the 2014 Robocop remake and realized it could sort of be considered a Pygmalion story, which led me to re-watch the original Robocop, which is much better… even if it’s less of a Pygmalion story. Let’s see if I can straighten out my thoughts into something coherent below…

Robocop (1987) and Robocop (2014)

Robocop is the story of… uh, if you haven’t seen it, probably you still know it’s about “Robocop,” who is part robot, part cop. (Or “part robot, part man, all cop,” according to the poster). Anyways, how much of Murphy is man or robot cop is debatable—and debated—in the original and the remake. In both, the eponymous Robocop, Alex Murphy (the cop part of Robocop), is injured in the line of duty, terribly, and then is reconstructed into a really scary machine man—ostensibly to better protect the city streets of Detroit, but really, there’s more going on than that. 

In Robocop 1987, Robocop is the pawn of Bob Morton, AKA Agent Rosenfeld of later Twin Peaks semi-fame (he was also the voice of the villain in Mulan. The more you know!). Morton works for OCP, a shady tech firm who develops weapons for the Army, which has also been signed to privately revitalize the overworked and underfunded Detroit P.D. When the movie begins, it doesn’t seem like OCP has really put any actual money (or weapons) into the hands of cops; instead, they developed genuinely scary robot monsters called ED-209s in the hopes that they’ll clean up the streets better than the cops.

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