by Steve Dollar


When it was first released 25 years ago, Something Wild seemed very much a part of the zeitgeist. As "morning in America" drifted into the senile platitudes of Ronald Reagan's second term, and Top Gun and Back to the Future cleaned up at the box office, some filmmakers were reconsidering the national identity, in particular, the apple-pie verities of small towns in what might now be called Red States - aka, the Heartland.

Blog entry 05/13/2011 - 3:32pm

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ****

Philip Ridley is back to theatrical movie-making after nearly fifteen years. In Heartless, he's come up with something so strange and frightening, marvelous and moving, apocalyptic and chilling -- and perhaps undecipherable (but you probably won't mind) -- that all I can say is: See it. (I’ve just seen it for a second time, and, yes, it’s still undecipherable, though I may be getting closer.) The man who made the cult movie The Reflecting Skin (sadly not on DVD) and who wrote The Krays (also not on DVD) is an artist, and I don't think that it's so much that he won't compromise his vision, as it is that he can't. Just as well, too -- when one’s visions are this original.

Blog entry 04/18/2011 - 2:22pm

Reviewer: Steve Dollar
Rating (out of 5): ****

One of 2010's most notable releases, and a critic's favorite at Cannes (where it won the 2009 Jury Prize), Fish Tank is a must-see for anyone addicted to what might be called "visceral realism" in cinema. Those words are suggested by the late Argentine novelist Robert Bolano, writing in an utterly different context in The Savage Detectives, but they are usefully reappropriated as a coinage for director Andrea Arnold's aesthetic. You can read Ian Christie's thoughtful essay in the booklet that accompanies the new Criterion Collection DVD, which lays out Arnold's connections with the long tradition of British kitchen-sinkism (from The Lonliness of the Long-Distance Runner through Ken Loach and Mike Leigh).

Blog entry 03/01/2011 - 11:49am

Reviewer: Steve Dollar 
Rating (out of 5): *****

Today's news that Dogtooth (perfectly timed with the DVD release) has been nominated for an Academy Award in the best foreign film category is stunning. While it's gratifying to know that one of 2010's most outré critical favorites somehow slipped into what typically is the mushiest of Oscar competitions, it's even more fun to imagine the reactions of more middlebrow Academy voters to this perverse family drama. I expect a whole lot of “what...the...?” reactions.

The second feature from Greek director Giorgos Lanthimosis set in a studiously blank ex-urban home where three children - actually, fully grown college-age adults - spend their days competing in absurd challenges like: Who can inhale ether and not pass out the longest? For their dedication and achievement, the kids are rewarded with colorful stickers they can apply to the headboards of their beds. T


Blog entry 01/25/2011 - 11:57am

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of 5): ****½

Guillermo Del Toro has become one of the most interesting of the new auteurs. Over the course of just seven films in 18 years, he has established a definite, fluid, rich visual style and specific pet themes, not to mention a singular fascination and enthusiasm for a certain kind of genre film. He also manages the nearly impossible feat of juxtaposing personal comic book movies (Blade II, Hellboy) in Hollywood and more ambitious works of art (The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth) elsewhere.

I had seen his debut feature Cronos some time back, and I liked it, but it did not resonate with me, and I was glad for the chance to see it again now that I have become more familiar with Del Toro's work as a whole, now that the Criterion Collection has released it on a spectacular new DVD.

Blog entry 01/24/2011 - 4:14pm

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of 5): ***½

Alex Cox's Straight to Hell Returns, which showed in some theaters in 2010, is along the same lines as Apocalypse Now Redux, but on a different scale. It's the same as Straight to Hell (1987), but Cox did a little editing and added some more blood. When the movie opened in 1987, viewers may have expected something along the lines of Cox's previous original but more straightforward features, Repo Man (1984) and Sid and Nancy (1986). Instead they were treated with a deliberately weird, nonsensical modern-day Western; most people turned up their noses, or ignored it altogether.

Blog entry 01/17/2011 - 12:35pm

 By Simon Paul Augustine


8. Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969).

Long before South Park broke out of DIY cartoon obscurity to become a cultural force, and You Tube allowed every aspiring animator to crawl out of the woodwork, independent animation was represented by things like this two minute national treasure. It was a burst of irreverence and innovation way back in the days when to see this sort of piece you had to set up a Super 8 or 16mm projector in the den to entertain folks for a special occasion - yes, handle actual celluloid (other short films like Hardware Wars, a satire of Star Wars featuring toasters battling other kitchen appliances, fell roughly in this same category).   

Read on for the rest!


Blog entry 01/07/2011 - 12:04pm

Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ****½

I'm going to go even farther than my usual don't-spoil-the-movie commandment by saying damn little about the "plot" of Catfish, the one-of-a-kind documentary from first-time/full-length moviemakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost and starring Shulman's immensely photogenic and charismatic photographer brother Yaniv (also known as Nev).

I knew nothing about this movie when I attended a press preview, along with a full-house audience, a few weeks prior to the theatrical debut of the film. I suspected it might be a documentary, though I also wondered whether it might not be faux or mock. After a few minutes of watching, it certainly seemed real enough. And yet, in our prankish internet age, including this year's I'm Still Here, who knows? So I was prepared to go with it either way -- doc or narrative. But so quickly did I get wrapped up in this tale of a filmmaker and his friend who begin to follow the love life of the filmmaker's brother as it blossoms and evolves over the Internet that I soon did not care a whit whether the movie was real or fake. Either way, it was excellent -- and in my book that's what matters.

Blog entry 01/03/2011 - 3:40pm

Reviewer: Steve Dollar
Rating (out of 5): ****

One of the grimiest slabs of blood-soaked sleaze to emerge from the grindhouse era, Maniac is the menacing brain-child of one William “Bill” Lustig, a childhood devotee of the 42nd Street theater circuit who nourished himself on a decade of exploitation fare before he became what he beheld. And it was good.

Good enough for everybody's favorite French auteur, Olivier Assayas (Carlos), to select the film - along with Zodiac - for reappraisal during this spring's BAMfest at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. And certainly good enough for Lustig to re-release in Blu-Ray, through his own Blue Underground DVD label, which has been steadily updating its 200+ film archive with the new format. The releases typically include bonus features, and Maniac offers not only two commentary tracks (both with Lustig alongside some key players) but a second disc of interviews, trailers and documentary featurettes.

Blog entry 11/24/2010 - 12:55pm

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of 5): ***½

Radley Metzger is widely acknowledged as one of America's greatest erotic filmmakers, which basically means that he's more serious than Russ Meyer and his films more artful than most porn. Metzger is perhaps best known for Camille 2000 (1969), The Lickerish Quartet (1970), The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1975), and Score, which has been re-released on DVD in an uncensored version.

Adapted by Jerry Douglas from his own play, Score features four main characters, plus a fifth supporting character. It takes place over a weekend in a fictitious European city. A "swinging" couple, Elvira (Claire Wilbur) and Jack (Gerald Grant) have a running contest to see who can seduce more members of the same sex. They lure other couples over for dinner, and Elvira sleeps with the woman, while Jack sleeps with the man. Their latest victims are newly married Eddie (Casey Donovan) and Betsy (Lynn Lowry), who are already having troubles in bed.

Blog entry 11/09/2010 - 11:47am

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