Kairo/Pulse (2001)

Kyoshi Kurosawa’s “Kairo” is a film dripping in terror that deliberately paces itself as a slow burning end of the world tale. Rather than an all out orgy of gore and carnage, “Pulse” eventually explodes in to something of a last gasp of humanity, and a civilization that ends in a whisper and somber whimper. “Kairo” is written as something of a two act structure where Kurosawa opts for a film that’s episode in the vein of “Pulp Fiction,” and then smashes together in the stunning climax. Much of what we see seems and feels random in many places, and events collide allowing for a cogent unfolding of events that doesn’t just make sense but feels so meticulously planned from square one. What makes “Kairo” so haunting even when the credits have drawn to a close is the way the director opts less for splatter and gore, and more for a requiem that depicts mankind as a stain and nothing more.

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Beauty And The Beast (2014) [Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital]

Christophe Gans offers up a richly realized and absolutely beautiful vision of “Beauty and the Beast” that embraces the dark side and fantasy of the original story. While yes, Belle begins to fall In love with the Beast, and is even enticed by him, it’s also thanks his aggression and insistence on influencing her Stockholm syndrome. Belle does eventually find the beauty of living with the beast, in that she’s able to roam his massive castle and is capable of finding secrets and fun corners within it. She even plays hide and seek with dog like creatures that find a fascination with Belle. Gans’ direction is superb and absolutely mesmerizing, I can not stress that enough. Many of his wide shots, and pans are magnificent and he knows how to make the beast both enigmatic and terrifying. There’s even a marvelous moment where the Beast is looking out on to an invading army from his perch, resembling Lon Chaney from “Phantom of the Opera.”

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Bloodlands (2017) [FrightFest Glasgow 2017]

An Albanian family with inner turmoil finds itself in the middle of a “blood feud” following a clan reputed to be connected to a mountain witch steals from their business.

Written and directed by Steven Kastrissios, Bloodlands’ story is based in the folklore and traditions of the Balkans with a blood feud creating most of the stress to the characters and conflicts. The film develops as a drama for most of its run time with a few bits and pieces rooted in the horror genre until the epilogue which falls directly and completely in the horror genre. His characters feel rooted in reality while going through hell and back. The family is not perfect, they have issues, they argues, they seem to only by together because they have to or because society says they should at times, which all leads to feeling like a lot of dysfunctional families out there and makes the characters feel real. The father is strong headed while the mother is a gossiper who gets a lot of crap for it. Their kids show interest in leaving their country or at least area which is something most teens/young adults go through. The film shows this family in a true light, with their issues, loving each other warts and all. This family is the root of the film and basically the root of the story in every way possible.

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Blackhearts (2017)

As Norway prepares for one of its epic black metal festivals, 3 bands prepare to go and play their set there for the first time.  The film follows closely Hector from Columbia (leader of the band Luciferian), Sina from the Middle East where playing black metal is a jailable offense, and Kaiadas and his band mates (band Naer Mataron) through their preparation for the festival and what pushes them to play this type of music.  The film also explores the history of black metal in Norway, including a visit to the Rockheim museum in Trondheim, interviews and moments with members of bands such as Keep of Kalessin, Mayhem, and a few others.  Through seeing the lives of these musicians, what they believe in, and what they want to accomplish, the viewer can get a good idea of what black metal is all about and also learn about its history.

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Ma Vie de Courgette (My Life as a Zucchini) (2017) (New York International Children’s Film Festival 2017)

Courgette (Zucchini) is a young boy who has had a tough life.  His father is gone and his bother drinks a lot of beer.  One day, something happens to his mother and he ends up placed in a group home.  Through learning to trust others with the other kids in the home, he also learns to love himself and others.

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The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge) (2016)

This is one of the very few animated productions where Studio Ghibli’s fantastic storytelling is given a hint of European flavor. While “The Red Turtle” is branded a Studio Ghibli production it garners much of the same elements from Ghibli’s library including a wide open world, a menacing series of creatures and the overtones of the symbioses of nature and humanity. It’s best to think of “The Red Turtle” as a fairy tale, as the movie relies on a lot of inexplicability to tell its thin narrative. The narrative being thin is by no means a criticism as “The Red Turtle” is a lot about raw events, and simplicity at its finest.

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My Life as a Zucchini (Ma vie de courgette) (2016)

I truly, truly hope that when “My Life as a Zucchini” comes to the states that people to come to see it. I want people to seek it out, I want people to take their families, and I want everyone to tell others about what is easily one of the best animated movies I’ve ever seen. “My Life as a Zucchini” is simple and it’s short, but its rich in human themes, and complex characters that you’ll fall in love with. Rest assured I fell in love with every single character, and understood even the antagonists. “My Life as a Zucchini” isn’t a film that shoehorns in a villain. It’s merely a slice of life about the pitfalls and emotional turmoil that comes with being an orphan in a very cruel, and often difficult world.

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