Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Ratings (out of five): 

Intimidation: ****
The Warped Ones: ***½
I Hate But Love: ***½
Black Sun: ****½
Thirst for Love: ***½
SET:  ****

Koreyoshi Kurahara is most well-known for the 1983 ”sled dogs overcome cruel nature” piece Antarctica (Nankyoku Monogatari) which was Japan’s number one box office smash for over a decade. Diving into the five early Kurahara features featured in this set, however, it’s hard to imagine him being picked for such a Disneyesque enterprise.

The set begins simply enough with Intimidation (1960), a tamped-down caper that twists and turns right up to the last of its scant 65 minutes. Just as bank manager Mr. Takita (Nobuo Kaneko) is enjoying his ascension to the upper echelon of society, his past sins return to haunt him whilst compelling him to embezzle three million yen from his bank’s vault. Takita enlists his long-suffering “friend,” a pathetic underling named Nakaike (a heartbreaking, soulful Akira Nishimura), as a sort of fall guy. Naturally, nothing goes according to anyone’s plan and it’s only a matter of time before fate sinks its teeth into all involved.

Blog entry 08/30/2011 - 3:20pm

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

Dashiell Hammett's hard-boiled detective The Continental Op made his fiction debut in 1929, and the more famous Sam Spade followed in 1930. Raymond Chandler followed in 1939 with the debut of Philip Marlowe. Movie versions of these were made throughout the 1940s. In 1947, another hard-boiled detective hit the scene, in a book called I, the Jury, by Mickey Spillane. Private eye Mike Hammer wasn't like the others; he was tougher, greedier, more lowdown, maybe not as bright... in a word, he was more primal. He struck a chord with readers and the Hammer books outsold their predecessors in huge amounts.

Blog entry 06/20/2011 - 4:47pm

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

I often have a hard time defending my admiration for Brian De Palma. In this country he's often been considered a rip-off artist who pillages from Hitchcock, Kubrick, Antonioni and Michael Powell, as well as a misogynist and a violent creep. It gets especially difficult when discussing such admittedly obvious turkeys as The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) and last year's Mission to Mars. But in France he's considered an auteur, a visual stylist of the first degree (the influential magazine Cahiers du Cinema voted his film Carlito's Way the best film of the 1990s).

If one can get past the shaky plots of some of his films (Snake Eyes, for example), he proves he's a man wrestling with some serious demons on film, even more so than Hitchcock ever did. He's obsessed with voyeurism, sneaking peaks at stuff we're not supposed to see, and with the movies themselves a voyeuristic medium, he's a natural born filmmaker.

Blog entry 05/03/2011 - 3:21pm

Reviewer: Glenn Heath Jr.
Rating (out of 5): ***

As far as remakes go, A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop, Zhang Yimou's colorful and ultimately punishing period piece riff on Blood Simple, might be one of the strangest in recent memory. Jumping from the dark, beguiling, and smoky Texas landscape of the original to a textured, barren mountain region of China, Zhang situates an oddly static locale where his patented surrealist color scheme can intertwine with American genre conventions. Isolated by a sea of soot-covered mountain sides and an endless teal sky, the titular noodle shop feels like its own doomed city-state, with owner Wang (Ni Dahong) as the fascist dictator, his abused wife (Yan Ni) and the three workers a citizenry of angry imbeciles waiting for chance to free them of suffering. But we get the sense that even if these messy peons were granted individualism, they'd let it blow away in the harsh winds.

Blog entry 02/15/2011 - 4:15pm

Reviewer:Glenn Heath Jr.
Rating (out of 5):

“The Millennium Trilogy” adapts Stieg Larrson's uber-popular books series into a cinematic war of attrition, a languishing, trite, and plodding trilogy of films so laborious the thriller tropes that should be exciting quickly turn to narrative quicksand. Occasionally harrowing and always slimy, The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo offers promising first shots across the bow, introducing journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) as an extremely oddly-matched duo investigating a string of serial murders. The Girl Who Played With Fire loses the first film's chilly aesthetic for a more bland television look, digging narrative trenches and expanding the front to include Lisbeth's dangerous familial past. Finally, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest prolongs the crummy boob tube craftsmanship while merely repeating the convoluted patterns and devices hammered home in the first two entries. While so much is said and done throughout this bloated train of side tangents and red herrings, absolutely nothing substantive happens.

Blog entry 02/01/2011 - 4:29pm

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

This has been quite a summer for film noir on DVD. In addition to the Columbia Noir set that just arrived, now Warner Home Video releases a new eight-film box set, featuring at least three long-awaited and essential classics. First up is Anthony Mann's Desperate (1947), which is the first of three "B" noirs Mann released over the course of one year. It was followed by Railroaded! and then his groundbreaking T-Men, upon which he collaborated with the great cinematographer John Alton and reached new heights in the use of darkness and shadow. While Desperate isn't quite at the same level, it does have Mann's sense of coiled violence, just waiting to unload.

Blog entry 07/23/2010 - 2:47pm

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

Out of all the movies under-represented on DVD, film noir likely makes up a huge chunk of them. Thankfully, Warner Home Video and Sony Pictures have been digging deep in their vaults and releasing a series of box sets. Coming up later this month, Warner unleashes Volume 5 in their series, while Sony releases the second edition of Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics. As with Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics, Vol. 1 (2009), this new box kicks off with a Fritz Lang classic. Made on the heels of The Big Heat (1953) with the same cast, Human Desire (1954) never caught on in quite the same way, perhaps because its ending doesn't seem to carry the same kind of punch; it sort of winds down, rather than exploding.

Blog entry 07/12/2010 - 3:52pm

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

In his autobiography, filmmaker Samuel Fuller wrote that he did not speak a word for the first several years of his life, and then suddenly, at age 4 or 5, he blurted out the word "hammer!" The abruptness of this word, and its punchy imagery, practically defines Fuller's work.

He was a hard crime reporter as a teenager, and then a dogface soldier in World War II. He wrote books and stories and screenplays -- he called them all "yarns" -- filled with hammer-like dialogue and phrases and ideas. Due to the lurid subject matter and low budgets of his films, he rarely earned the respect and admiration he deserved (he never received a single Oscar nomination). Many of his films are still AWOL on DVD, but Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has taken a major step toward righting that wrong with The Samuel Fuller Collection, their extraordinary new seven-disc DVD box set.

Blog entry 10/29/2009 - 2:35pm

Blast of Silence David Pratt-Robson in the Auteurs' Notebook: "By the time of Blast of Silence, Walter Benjamin, if not Edgar Allan Poe himself, had long ago laid the connection between detective fiction and flâurs, and a new type of consciousness (emblematized specially by the modern phenomenon of movie-going), in which the crux of identity lies in nothing innate and little lasting, but in the act of perceiving, and, perceiving, in particular, the city: detective's work. Yet neorealism would seem to be a necessary condition for flâur movies, which, despite Night and the City's influence, may be why relatively few major noirs followed in Benjamin's tradition, devoted entirely to cutting through swaths of city spaces and social milieus, to exploring parties and restaurants and businesses around town in an ostensible search for clues, and to depicting a man as he finds or loses himself - perhaps the same thing - in urban phantasmagoria.... But, if long post-Poe, Allen Baron's Blast of Silence still did it all years ago."


Blog entry 04/15/2008 - 1:23pm

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