Month: October 2014

The Best Extreme Horror Movies

Horror’s a big category with lots of unique and worthwhile subsets like: vampires, romantic vampires, campy vampires, well-dressed vampires, teenage vampires, and possibly others too. Extreme Horror is one notable sub-genre and a relatively new phenomenon. It can be seen as the new millennium’s return to horror’s grisly roots after the largely sanitized post-modern efforts of the 90’s (like Scream and all its tongue-in-cheek copycats). With precursors like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Cannibal Holocaust, and the notorious Guinea Pig paving the way, the below twisted tales are standing on the shoulders of some rather fucked up giants. They all transcend the simple “torture porn” moniker and offer up some genuine meat to go with the all the gristle. If you’re looking for some of the darkest, mind-warping Extreme Horror movies then look no further: (more…)

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Listen Up Philip Review

Listen Up Philip (2014)

Dir: Alex Ross Perry

Jason Schwartzman’s title character in Listen Up Philip could easily be mistaken for a grown-up Max Fischer from Rushmore if you squint hard enough. To make the leap you’d first have to acknowledge that somewhere along the line Max’s enthusiasm and extracurricular achievements curdled into the arrogance and cold elitism of the titular character here. The connective tissue between those two roles is Schwartzman and his ineffable presence, both put to good to use in writer/director Alex Ross Perry’s literary-minded and caustically funny character study Listen Up Philip. (more…)

Nightcrawler (TIFF 2014 Review)

Nightcrawler (2014)

Dir: Dan Gilroy

A slimmed down Jake Gyllenhaal astounds as a guileful freelance crime journalist in the morbid and hilarious L.A. Noir Nightcrawler. Writer and first time director Dan Gilroy brings audiences into the underground world of “if it bleeds it leads” nightcrawlers – men and women who chase violent crime scenes in the hopes of scoring gory footage to auction off to local news stations. Ostensibly about this profession, the film is more a bleak analysis of the current U.S. job market laced with (more…)

Birdman Review

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

Dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Self-consciously clever and provocatively satirical, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is an ambitious, acid-tongued oddity. It skewers actors, Hollywood, comic-book movies, social media, and most everything else that’s populist and prevalent in our society. It fights pretension with pretension and it’s a movie that just may hate movies. Challenging but technically impressive, Birdman’s also laden with a murderer’s row of actors doing their level best and orbits around an amazing central performance from a re-ignited Michael Keaton at his unhinged peak. If nothing else, Birdman will convince audiences that Keaton may have been dealt a bum hand following his Batman heyday but (more…)

Fury Review

Fury (2014)

Dir: David Ayer

Brad Pitt returns to WWII-era Europe to finish the job he started in Inglourious Basterds and kill off the last of the Nazis in David Ayer’s tank pic Fury. Still gung-ho about obliging Nazi’s death wishes yet far more world weary, Pitt finds himself in a decidedly darker affair than Tarantino’s tale as Fury is mired in mud and inventively, revoltingly violent. Ayer leaves behind his usual setting of Los Angeles (Training Day, Harsh Times, End of Watch) to write and direct this grim tale of sacrifice and (more…)

The Tribe (TIFF 2014 Review)

The Tribe (2014)

Dir: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky

It’s been said that there’s only a finite numbers of stories and that everything made now is just a variation on what’s come before. That may well be true, but the magic is in the telling. Narratives boundaries can still be bent or broken and new experiences can be had. Exhibit A: the Ukrainian film The Tribe. Featuring mostly deaf actors playing deaf mute characters, The Tribe is told entirely through action – no dialogue, subtitles, voiceovers, or spoken language of any type ever appear. In case there was any doubt, (more…)

Revenge of the Green Dragons (TIFF 2014 Review)

Revenge of the Green Dragons (2014)

Dir: Andrew Lau, Andrew Loo

A stylized crime film with real world roots and a varied international cast, Revenge of the Green Dragons seeks to mythologize Chinese-American gangs of 1980’s New York with the same scope and craftsmanship that Martin Scorsese brought to his peak-period gangster films. Despite Scorsese serving as producer here and the presence of co-director Andrew Lau (who previously made Infernal Affairs, the fine Hong Kong pic upon which The Departed was based), Green Dragons falls shy of greatness and barely (more…)

This Is Where I Leave You Review

This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

Dir: Shawn Levy

“You can laugh or you can cry, there’s no correct response.” So says Jane Fonda’s Hillary Altman upon the passing of her husband in Shawn Levy’s overstuffed melodrama This Is Where I Leave You. Despite a capable and sprawling cast full of ringers from the TV world, this limp adaptation that details the real and shocking issues (mostly boilerplate infidelity and mild regret) that white upper-middle class folks are forced to deal with will likely inspire more shrugs than genuine emotion. Laughs and tears are (more…)

The Best Zombie Movies

Zombies have been a part of popular culture since the early 20th Century but were finally given their first big break with George A. Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. Currently experiencing an over decade-long revival with no end in sight, reanimated corpses are ubiquitous thanks to the continual stream of content like TV’s The Walking Dead (adapted from a comic) and the Brad Pitt-starring World War Z (which is somewhat adapted from a novel). Let’s take a look back at the signposts of the genre’s evolution with the best of the bunch:  (more…)

Whiplash (TIFF 2014 Review)

Whiplash (2014)

Dir: Damien Chazelle

J.K. Simmons’ wonderfully profane and shockingly abusive instructor Terrence Fletcher is an antagonist for the ages in Damien Chazelle’s rollicking sophomore feature Whiplash. A streamlined hybrid of a thriller and coming-of-age tale, Whiplash presents a bare-knuckle and bruised view of that most blood thirsty of all collegiate activities – playing in a jazz ensemble. Ostensibly about jazz drumming, the film probes the depths that devoted students must plumb in order to be (more…)