Endless Film

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Krisha (2015, Trey Edward Shults)

Krisha is an eighty-minute film with a present action of maybe twelve hours. It’s about a family’s black sheep (Krisha Fairchild) coming to Thanksgiving after some time away. There’s no big exposition dump—it isn’t until the third act the film confirms the basic information the characters have all been dealing with—and for the first half or so, Krisha gets away with it. Right until the third act, when director, writer, and editor Shults brings on […]

Rocky IV (1985, Sylvester Stallone), the director’s cut

Sylvester Stallone’s director’s cut of Rocky IV arrives four sequels and thirty-five years after the film’s original release. Stallone says it’s for the thirty-fifth anniversary; Robert Doornick (who voiced Burt Young’s robot in the original cut and owns the copyright on the robot) says it’s because Stallone didn’t want to renew with him and had to cut out all the robot scenes. So, if “Rocky vs. Drago” replaces the original cut in streaming services… we’ll […]

The Limey (1999, Steven Soderbergh)

The Limey is all about the foreshadowing. It’s about flashbacks, flash-forwards, and flash asides, but the foreshadowing figures into all of those devices. It’s got a “twist” ending, which then informs previous scenes but not like figuring out Terence Stamp is a ghost or whatever. Instead, it’s knowing something about why he half-smiles—and only something, another thing about The Limey is it’s Stamp’s story. To the point of excluding the audience. There’s a lot we […]

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021, Destin Daniel Cretton)

The third act of Shang-Chi makes it real obvious what’s been wrong with the movie the whole time–it doesn’t matter if Simu Liu is onscreen. The third act has a bunch of different characters fighting a bunch of different bad guys, and Liu disappears for a few minutes to do the whole “how’s the hero going to get inspired from the edge of death” bit and… the movie doesn’t need him. Because even though Liu’s […]

Nightwatch (1997, Ole Bornedal)

Thanks to a weak performance from lead Ewan McGregor and an obviously altered ending, Nightwatch straddles being a reasonably perverse suspense thriller and a scalding commentary on middle-class white male masculinity. McGregor is a third-year law school student who takes a job at the morgue to help pay for he and girlfriend Patricia Arquette’s giant apartment. She’s from a wealthy family, but McGregor wants to pay his own way. The film takes place in L.A. […]

Halloween Kills (2021, David Gordon Green)

Halloween Kills is a fascinating sequel. It’s a terrible movie—though probably better than the previous one just because there’s so much less Jamie Lee Curtis, so you’re not watching her embarrass herself the entire time (though she’s got some really embarrassing moments). But given it’s the ninth Halloween sequel and the second remake of Halloween II… a lot is going on in what the filmmakers do and don’t do. And if you’ve suffered through the […]

The Amazing Mr. X (1948, Bernard Vorhaus)

Around the halfway mark, The Amazing Mr. X gets a whole lot more interesting without ever being able to get much better. The film starts as a supernatural thriller, with widow Lynn Bari convinced her dead husband is calling to her, pissed off she’s getting close to accepting suitor Richard Carlson’s marriage proposal. Bari’s little sister, Cathy O’Donnell, is pressing her into accepting, while Bari secretly finds Carlson super-annoying. We know she finds him annoying […]

Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958, Richard E. Cunha)

Frankenstein’s Daughter ought to be good camp. If the rest of the movie could keep up with Donald Murphy (as Doctor “Frank”), it’d be something to behold. Because Murphy gives it his all opening to close, seemingly more aware of the picture than the picture’s aware of itself. Though he’s never quite good—he’s better than anyone else, except maybe Wolfe Barzell as his assistant—but he’s captivating. Unfortunately, he’s captivating in the wrong movie. Because while […]

Strangers on a Train (1951, Alfred Hitchcock)

Strangers on a Train is many things, but it’s principally an action thriller. Director Hitchcock never quite ignores any of its other aspects; he’s just most enthusiastic about the action he and editor William H. Ziegler execute. For example, the third act is entirely action set pieces, one to another, with an occasional bit of light humor thrown in. The light comedy ought to be more complex because the stakes are high; Hitchcock pulls it […]

Escape from Mogadishu (2021, Ryoo Seung-wan)

Escape from Mogadishu is almost incalculably problematic. I can't do the math, and I'm sure there's a bunch I don't even see, but it's a doozy. It's a South Korean "inspired by a true story" about the Somali Civil War, specifically the South Korean diplomats and the North Korean diplomats working together to get out. It's done in the style of a Hollywood bureaucrats in danger thriller, which bakes in a gaggle of new problems. […]

Copycat (1995, Jon Amiel)

It’s easy to pick out the “best” thing in Copycat because it’s almost entirely atrocious. Christopher Young’s highly derivative score is lovely—it’s a mix between John Williams and then Aliens whenever Sigourney Weaver is in thriller danger. Thanks to the score, Copycat makes some interesting swings, like emotive, romantic music during the most inappropriate sequences. Again, outside aping Ripley moments, it never fits the content, but it is definitely lovely. Otherwise, the high point is […]

A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2012, Crispian Mills and Chris Hopewell)

It’s so easy to pick on A Fantastic Fear of Everything there’s basically no fun in it. The only thing worse than co-director Crispian Mills’s script is his and Chris Hopewell’s direction. For the first half of the movie, when Simon Pegg’s basically all by himself making a mocking impression of someone with paranoia, the direction is shockingly inept. It gets a little better in the second half once Pegg leaves his flat and ventures […]

Blow-Up (1966, Michelangelo Antonioni)

Blow-Up is a day in the life picture. It opens with protagonist David Hemmings on his way out of a flophouse; he’s not a tramp; he’s a wonder kid fashion photographer who’s been undercover all night to snap pics. The film reveals all those details gradually. It takes until about halfway through the picture to find out the photos are for a book he’s putting together with editor Peter Bowles. The book doesn’t seem to […]

The Phantom Carriage (1921, Victor Sjöström)

Victor Sjöström directs, stars, and adapts The Phantom Carriage. He gives himself a great showcase. Most of the film is a breathtaking character study of an abject bastard. The film throws reason after reason for Sjöström being an irredeemable, abject bastard, and none of them stick. He’s always ready to deliver more bastard. It’s his entire character. It’s not supposed to be his entire character, of course. But the film intentionally skips when he’s not […]

Ondine (2009, Neil Jordan)

Ondine is very committed to the bit. The film opens with Irish owner-operator fisherman Colin Farrell bringing a woman up in his nets. A beautiful woman. She seems very confused to be breathing air and doesn’t tell him very much about herself. Alicja Bachleda plays the woman. She refuses to go to a hospital, and instead, Farrell puts her up at his dead mother’s waterfront cottage. I kept wondering if there was electricity, but the […]

The Longest Day (1962, Ken Annakin)

The Longest Day picks up when the Normandy beach invasion starts. It happens maybe ninety minutes into the three-hour film. There are the overnight paratrooper drops, which have such dull action scenes it seems like the film will never improve, but then it turns out the large-scale battle choreography is exceptional and could potentially make up for the rest. It doesn’t, however, because Robert Mitchum turns out to be terrible once he gets more to […]

The Element of Crime (1984, Lars von Trier)

During The Element of Crime, it never seems like the mystery will be particularly compelling. The film and the detective’s investigation are compelling, but the mystery itself seems rather pat. A serial killer has been targeting young girls selling lotto tickets, earning the moniker the “Lotto Murderer,” and the police are stumped. So they bring in Michael Elphick to take over. Elphick has been living in Cairo for over a dozen years, exiled from Europe. […]

7 Women (1966, John Ford)

First, it’s actually 8 Women; Jane Chang doesn’t count because she’s not white. Though I suppose it could just be counting good Christian women, then Anne Bancroft doesn’t count. Women is a Western, just one set nearer to modernity and not in the American West. Instead, it’s about a mission in China on the border with Mongolia. By 1966, apparently Hollywood had decided it was no longer okay to do yellowface of Chinese people, but […]

Casino (1995, Martin Scorsese)

The best part of Casino isn’t my favorite part of Casino because the best part is James Woods bickering with Erika von Tagen. It’s mainly in the background, and it’s the only time anywhere in the film anyone shows any personality not expressly required for their scenes. Director (and co-screenwriter) Scorsese doesn’t believe in background action; if it’s not foreground, it doesn’t matter. The problem is von Tagen is a kid, and Sharon Stone’s her […]

Annette (2021, Leos Carax)

Right up until the end, it seems like Annette will maintain some level of success solely due to the audacity of the project. It’s a musical set in Hollywood, where an edge lord white male comedian (Adam Driver) marries a beloved singer (Marion Cotillard). Only he’s got a shelf life because he’s always trying to offend, and she doesn’t really want to play Hollywood mom. The movie’s terrible about delineating the present action, but basically, […]

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