Dearest Sister (2016) [Stranger With My Face International Film Festival 2017]

A young woman leaves home to go work for her cousin the city as this one is gradually going blind.  As the cousin’s sight leaves her, she get a gift of being able to see and communicate with the dead.  Her newly arrived cousin has difficulty adapting and may not be going about things the best way.

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The Violent Shit: Five Film Collection (DVD)

You have to give it to Synapse films. With the decline of physical media, more studios are open to delivering movie buffs the classics, and the obscure titles. Let’s face it, until now, no other major label would have ever made the “Violent Shit” collection available for mass consumption. At the end of the day, this five movie collection of shot on video horror gore films from Germany are strictly a niche release, but they’re at least there for everyone to view. While the “Violent Shit” movies, in fact, complete shit, they are also important cinematic relics. Back in the eighties, when Germany enacted heavy censorship on all film releases, including horror movies, that were cut for mass consumption, a bunch of indie filmmakers got together and made their own gory, graphic, and obscenely splatterific horror movies.

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The Voice in the Head (2015)

Speaking as someone who has dealt with mental illness for my entire life, “The Voice in the Head” brought a tear to my eye. Cyrus Trafford’s short film is a riveting and gut wrenching look at mental illness and how small the disparities are between those with a mental illness and those that perceive themselves as sane. Most of all, “The Voice in the Head” is a unique look at how often we jump to conclusions toward those with a mental illness or with people that seem to indicate mental illness. Too often in society has mental illness been stigmatized and demonized, and there are still too many individuals with zero understanding of psychological illness and how it can destroy lives and those around them.

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Superargo and the Faceless Giants (1968)

I like the premise behind “Superargo,” and while he’s not the most competent superhero, I think in the serial world he could have thrived. The Spanish Italian superhero is a wrestler who once accidentally killed one of his opponents. Seeking redemption he spends his time as a superhero known as Superargo. Superargo is a man who has a ton of superpowers, none of which are ever too effective against his enemies in “The Faceless Giants.” He knows martial arts, and has the power to persuade people to do his bidding. He can also hover in mid-air as a means of meditation, can bend matter to his will, and is apparently bullet proof when it’s convenient to the narrative.

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Black Girl (La Noire de…) (1966): The Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

Director Ousmane Sembéne’s drama is less an art house film and more of an observational drama that explores how one woman’s idyllic views of French life traps her in to a life of indentured servitude. Actress M’Bissine Thérese Diop is great as Diouana, a young woman stuck in an African village who finds that her options there are limited. She’s not very capable of doing much but servant work and longs to see the world. When she gets a job with a wealthy couple, she’s taken to the French Riviera for the season and asked to live with them to work as their live in nanny. Diouana comes to France expecting luxury, shopping, amazing adventures, and exploration of the beaches.

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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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