Endless Film

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Carnival of Souls (1962, Herk Harvey)

Carnival of Souls is another film in the “way too literal ending” genre. After seventy-five minutes (of seventy-eight) recounting its protagonist’s bewildering, terrifying experiences, the finish is a big wink and shrug. Though there’s a seemingly unintentional casting gaffe to tie the disparate narratives together. Unfortunately, that low-budget coincidence doesn’t add anything to the ending. The film opens with lead Candace Hilligoss surviving a terrible car accident. She and her gal pals are drag racing […]

Persona (1966, Ingmar Bergman)

Persona begins with a series of unrelated, sometimes startling, sometimes disturbing images. It’s leader on the film reel, and it establishes the film’s narrative distance. We’re not just removed from the action; the action’s on display at multiple levels, including one involving a young boy, played by Jörgen Lindström, who provides bookends for the film. He’s star Liv Ullmann’s son, but he’s never identified as such. Instead, he’s just the one with the most vested […]

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948, Charles Barton)

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein makes a surprising number of Universal monster movie gaffes. Most obvious is director Barton’s fault—Dracula (a very fun Bela Lugosi) casts a reflection. After shooting the “vampire seduces lady” scene half in reflection, careful not to show Lugosi, the finish just has a visible Dracula in the mirror. So it goes from being a clever constraint to a bewildering fail. There’s also some questionable vampire logic—Lugosi’s victims crave blood but […]

The Brain from Planet Arous (1957, Nathan Juran)

Given its micro-budget and absurdity, The Brain from Planet Arous is often surprisingly okay. Director Juran was so embarrassed he took his name off the final product (using his middle name, Hertz, as his surname on the credits), and the movie does get goofy, but its biggest problem isn’t the budget in the end. Instead, it’s how Arous treats leading lady and de facto protagonist Joyce Meadows. She’s second-billed, but lead John Agar has been […]

Passing (2021, Rebecca Hall)

Passing is a genre-buster, which heavily contrasts the very strict mores the film’s subjects live within. The film is an occasional Southern Gothic (set in 1920s Harlem), occasional character study Hitchcock homage. Harlem Renaissance society lady Tessa Thompson has a peculiar day when shopping for her son’s birthday; the sometimes very shitty white folks just assume she’s white. So, on a whim, she goes to a hoity-toity hotel to get out of the heat. We […]

The Witch: Part 2. The Other One (2022, Park Hoon-jung)

The Witch: Part 2. The Other One starts with a flashback to the very late nineties or very early aughts—someone’s still got a cassette walkman, but MP3 players do exist. Now, The Other One is a sequel, but it’s a “start from scratch” sequel, so for a while, it seems like this story will be important. Not really. It brings Jo Min-su back in from the first movie, then establishes witches are always twins before […]

The Big Picture (1989, Christopher Guest)

At its best, which isn’t often, The Big Picture is a vaguely charming Hollywood satire about young director Kevin Bacon discovering making it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But also not. Because Picture skips over Bacon’s “making it” period, other than being a dick to best friend Michael McKean and driving a Porsche instead of a quirky AMC Gremlin. The AMC Gremlin has a lot of personality onscreen; unfortunately, the film never makes […]

The Last Days of Pompeii (1935, Ernest B. Schoedsack)

The Last Days of Pompeii opens with a disclaimer. Despite sharing a title, it is not based on Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1834 novel. That disclaimer should be read as a warning. The film runs ninety-six minutes. The last days of Pompeii are the third act; the first two acts… wait, no. The timeline doesn’t even work internally. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, but when lead Preston Foster doesn’t give his life trying to free Jesus from […]

Miss Meadows (2014, Karen Leigh Hopkins)

There are so many things wrong with Miss Meadows, it’s hard to know where to start. There are easy pickings, like Jeff Cardoni’s music. There are complicated pickings, like the film’s suburban mama bear fascist “everywhere you look there’s a pedophile no one will take care of, check that pizza shop basement” message. There’s the acting. Wow, is there the acting. But with the acting, much has to do with director Hopkins, her script, and […]

El Topo (1970, Alejandro Jodorowsky)

El Topo means “The Mole.” There’s some opening text explaining it, but it’s not until the film's second half where the title really makes sense. There are some earlier nods—the nameless protagonist (played by director Jodorowsky) starts the film telling his son to bury his childhood. Then later, Jodorowsky will magically find just what he needs by digging in the desert. At the beginning of the film, Jodorowsky rides around the desert with his naked […]

Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022, Simon Curtis)

Downton Abbey, the film franchise, has some singular traits (they’re not all problems); most of them related to it being an immediate sequel to a television show, but also the television show’s viewer demographics. Thanks to those demographics, A New Era can get away with a slightly disingenuous subtitle—it’s more of a “sure, maybe, come next to see if anything’s changed”—and lazy title design. When the end credits come up, they’ve got a title card […]

The Sixth Sense (1999, M. Night Shyamalan)

Setting aside the twists and reveals, The Sixth Sense is about three character relationships. There’s child psychologist Bruce Willis and troubled youth Haley Joel Osment, there’s Osment and mom Toni Collette, there’s Willis and wife Olivia Williams. The film opens with Willis and Williams celebrating him receiving an award for his work, which she thinks is more important than him, as he’s been neglecting her to do that work. They get past the unpleasantness to […]

Gattaca (1997, Andrew Niccol)

Gattaca is a science fiction triptych character study by way of film noir. And while the film’s a murder mystery, it only uses the film noir device—narration—for a non-mystery section of the film. The narration ends with the murder mystery, not coming back until the finale. It’s an absolutely fantastic structure from writer and director Niccol, who’ll then lean into the character study elements, sometimes employing noirish visuals but always slightly not. But Gattaca doesn’t […]

The Intruder (1962, Roger Corman)

The Intruder has third act problems of the deus ex machina nature, and they’re actually welcome. If the film figured out how to finish better, it’d be more challenging to talk about. It’s already an exceptionally unpleasant experience. William Shatner gets top-billing as the title character. He’s a slick, charming, clean-cut Northern (well, Western—he’s originally from California) white supremacist who heads to a Southern town to stir up trouble thanks to a recent integration ruling. […]

George Carlin’s American Dream (2022, Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio)

The first half of George Carlin’s American Dream is a history lesson. Big history and little history; it’s the history of comedy in the second half of the twentieth century; it’s the story of Carlin and his family. It’s the story of his career and how success changed his life; how some things got better, then new things got worse. It’s fascinating and humanizing. The second half is about directors Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio […]

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979, Robert Wise), the restored director’s edition

Star Trek: The Motion Picture: The Restored Director’s Edition occasionally feels like a fan project. Or at least a temp project. Like the new opening titles, set in gold. They look like they were done using an iPhone app. Then there are shots where they couldn’t find the original materials, so the picture suddenly looks terrible, like a hacky up-convert to 4K. There are plenty of spectacular restored shots, but when they’re bad, they’re really […]

Teen Wolf Too (1987, Christopher Leitch)

There are worse movies than Teen Wolf Too. There have to be worse movies than Teen Wolf Too. It’s a mantra you can use when watching Teen Wolf Too. Of course, given the era, there may be even a worse theatrically released movie from the same year (1987). But Teen Wolf Too is just the wrong combination of worthless and ponderous. The obvious worst aspect of Teen Wolf Too is lead Jason Bateman. His performance […]

Teen Wolf (1985, Rod Daniel)

Teen Wolf is a rather dire Wolf. The best things about the movie are James Hampton as the dad and the werewolf makeup, which seems entirely designed to allow for a stuntman to play Michael J. Fox when he’s decked out. Otherwise, it’s never better than middling and often much worse. Some of the problem is the script, though clearly not all of it, unless writers Jeph Loeb and Matthew Weisman introduced subplots to never […]

No Highway in the Sky (1951, Henry Koster)

No Highway in the Sky has a peculiar structure. It starts with Jack Hawkins; he’s just starting at a British aircraft manufacturer and, during his tour, meets scientist James Stewart, who’s hypothesized a catastrophic, inevitable failure for the latest, greatest plane. Stewart’s convinced the tails will rattle off the planes, which are made with a new kind of metal composite. No one has paid any attention to Stewart until this point because he’s absent-minded, but […]

Every Secret Thing (2014, Amy Berg)

There’s a lot to say about Every Secret Thing and nothing to say about it. And some things can only easily be phrased as complimentary insults, like Rob Hardy’s photography is valuable because the movie’s an object lesson in how not to photograph a film. Or how director Berg’s a great example of why a director needs to be able to work with their actors and know what’s good and what’s not. It would also […]


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