Crazy. Awkward. Stupid at times. Lots of “overacting.” Totally inappropriate by modern standards. At least two full-blown George C. Scott yelling rants. A very ‘70s sexual assault that is somehow also consensual. Oh, and it’s a comedy! In the end, a challenging, but quite amusing example of Anomalous Cinema. I also enjoyed seeing Diana Rigg (The Avengers, Theater of Blood, etc.) and Richard Dysart (who we all know best from The Thing).
After the death of Braveheart’s William Wallace, came Robert the Bruce. This film is based on the true story of the 14th century Scottish hero. It’s an entertaining but imperfect action / biopic. Any flaws are made up for with the battle sequence at the end. Outlaw King manages to touch on the good parts of historical war films like Mel Gibson made, without spoiling things with their Hollywood cheese. This was directed by the man behind the excellent Hell or High Water, which also starred Chris Pine. He does a damn good job in the lead role too.
Not available on Blu-ray.
In a bleak future, Judge Dredd is a brutal super-cop who teams up with a trainee to take on a drug gang. I learned a major lesson with this one. I was so staunchly against big budget Hollywood movies at the time that I didn’t even contemplate seeing it in the theater. Huge mistake. Not only is it absolutely amazing, it was in 3D. Not the static, pointless, 3D either. We’re talking the lovingly crafted kind. Now I pay much closer attention, and don’t automatically dismiss any movie in a genre of interest before doing my research.
I’m kind of depressed now. What were we talking about?
Oh yes… Dredd.
It’s one of the very best action movies made in the last 20 years. There was talk of making it into a TV series. Didn’t happen. There was also a petition to make a sequel. Nope. Well, at least we have Dredd. It’s a thing of pitch black beauty.
On January 30, 1972 British troops opened fire on a civil rights protest in Ireland. This is a well-made dramatization of the events. From what I have read, it is historically accurate, minus a few minor errors. Bloody Sunday is just as grim and violent as you would imagine, but important viewing for everyone.
Not available on Blu-ray.
I didn’t expect much when I first saw this film. I ended up very pleasantly surprised. It’s an excellent thriller that looks damn-near perfect. Nocturnal Animals is more centered in drama than violence, but it’s still very dark in all the best ways. Some critics even called it “cynical.” No wonder I liked it so much.
This is Akira Kurasawa’s samurai adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. I was a twelve year old Japanophile back when this came out, and begged my mom to take me. It was not at all what I expected. I was probably hoping for something closer to Revenge of the Ninja. However it left an impression on this future cinema nerd for sure. This is a deliberately paced, epic drama, with some impressive fight and battle sequences. The title translates to “chaos,” and there’s a lot of that too. Other than the fact that this is a nearly perfect work of filmmaking, there is one part that makes this absolute Anomalous Cinema. A pitch black post-battle sequence that is so morbidly beautiful that it absolutely blew my mind the last time I watched the film. The imagery, along with Tōru Takemitsu’s fantastic score, make for one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever experienced. I feel sorry for my mom, but it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as when she took me to see Full Metal Jacket. I’m positive she regretted that choice.
A trained assassin can take over any person, and use their body to do the killing. This beautifully lensed film starts with a bang and does not let up. Lead actress Andrea Riseborough is spot on, and Christopher Abbott (from the very good Catch 22 mini-series) is a perfect choice too. This film features innovative looking dark psychedelic interludes, which up the game on SpectreVision (who produced Mandy also starring Riseborough). Possessor also features pretty graphic sex, and very graphic violence with some excellent gore FX. There’s even a pseudo J&B bottle nod to Italian horror films of yesteryear. Jim Williams (Kill List, Sightseers) provided a top-notch dark ambient electronic score that sounded killer in headphones. Yes, yes… this was written and directed by David Cronenberg’s son, so there are nods to Videodrome and Existenz (which also starred Jennifer Jason Leigh), but they are handled in a really smart and next-level way. You will have no idea where the movie will end up, and it’s wonderful. Pitch black but wonderful.
This is one of my all-time favorite documentaries. Werner Herzog does an in-depth study of his relationship with Klaus Kinski, and the actor’s life beyond when they worked together. The man was insane, but also supremely talented. If you want to see what Kinski was capable of when he was actually enthusiastic about the project he was working on, check out Andrzej Żuławski’s L’important c’est d’aimer (currently streaming for free on Kanopy and Hoopla, also available to rent). Klaus was almost never enthusiastic, yet even in his many borderline-cameo appearances in low-budget cult films he stole the show. The man had some special kind of magic going on. At the end of My Best Fiend there’s an outtake with a butterfly that maybe the single best thing I’ve ever seen captured on celluloid. This is MUST SEE Anomalous Cinema.
Not available on domestic Blu-ray.
This is simply a very good, deliberately paced, revenge drama. The artwork might make you think Bad Day… is a violent shoot-em-up. No, but that’s really ok. The performances by Nigel O’Neill and Susan Lynch alone make it well worth a watch.
Larry Clark got his start by taking photos of fellow juvenile delinquents, which made up his fantastic book Tulsa. After years as an acclaimed art photographer, he directed the agonizing, but highly regarded film Kids, about the same topic, set in ‘90s New York City. Later he made Bully, which is based on a real life murder perpetrated by, you guessed it, juvenile delinquents. This is Clark’s best film by far. It pushes almost EVERY button, so sensitive folks should flat out avoid it. Bully is so shocking that I am honestly impressed that it has been made available on streaming services in our current “trigger warning” times. In spite of its controversial content, this film managed to receive a lot of critical acclaim at the time of its release. Unfortunately Larry Clark did not continue making films of the same quality. He’s following his obsessions with smaller movies, which I admire, but Bully shows all elements falling into place to make a near-perfect film.
RIP Brad Renfro. I wish we could have seen what movies you’d go on to make.
Not available on Blu-ray.