Twenty years ago this week, Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects opened in theaters, and everybody lost their minds. It ended up redefining the “twist” ending, becoming a kind of shorthand for a left-field, eleventh-hour plot development that reconfigures everything that’s come before. But it was neither the first nor last movie to do that ending, or do it well. …Read More
Movie podcasts are not hard to come by these days. Just about every film-centric website has its own weekly get-together, where the writers and guests hash out new releases and noteworthy anniversaries and the like; most of my favorite film writers have shows of their own, with a similar, discussion-and-review format. But from its inception just over a year ago, Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This has separated itself from the pack not only in terms of quality (though many of those shows are very good), but in terms of style.
The Hollywood remake machine shows no signs of stopping — if this weekend’s latest big-screen retelling is any indication. A 3D remake of the horror classic Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hooper and produced/co-written by Steven Spielberg, hit theaters. The film has garnered mixed reviews, but the movie’s presence recalls stories about the original Poltergeist, which has been dubbed cursed by fans and critics. Read on for the spooky real-life story behind the original film — and several other terror tales that were really haunted and …Read More
Berberian Sound Studio director Peter Strickland returns to cinemas this weekend with another film featuring a tormented protagonist — this time centered on “two classic nesting conflicts of intimacy — between the needs of the self and the needs of partners, and between the potential liberations and constrictions of erotic fantasy.” In The Duke of Burgundy, “Strickland brings to life the appeals of a sexual fantasy as well as its potentially attending traps of detachment,” Slant writes. Two women test the limits of their sexual relationship, set in Strickland’s dreamy world that references the Euro sexploitation films of the 1960s and ‘70s. It has all the makings of a great psychosexual drama. We explore similarly sculpted films, below.
In surveying some of the best foreign-language films of the year, it’s become clear that many have common themes. Some are about the primacy of family and crises in masculinity, while others center on rehabilitating the past and finding spiritual meaning in the secular world. But all of these films follow characters whose basic needs — familial and romantic stability, sexual fulfillment, and creative expression — question just how progressive modern society really is. Here are ten essential international films from the past …Read More
Sisters are reunited at a secluded estate in the woods in Mona Fastvold’s brooding, restrained study of family dysfunction in The Sleepwalker. “The unplanned sibling visit turns into a socially awkward weekend getaway. There’s table banter and after-dinner dancing (to instrumental Yo La Tengo) in the vast, lamp-lit parlor,” writes Jordan Hoffman for The Guardian. “These scenes glide along, evolving into near surrealism once our characters turn in for the night and succumb to the titular somnambulism.” Relying on emotional performances, the remote house serves as the movie’s primary location — a striking manifestation of the sisters’ “self-contained universe” — where the dark family history unravels. We look at other films that find their inspiration from single locations, reflecting the interior world of their characters.
This week, Roman Polanski’s scorching 1971 adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth makes its Blu-ray debut (thanks, once again, to the fine folks at the Criterion Collection). It’s a terrific movie; and noteworthy as being a Shakespeare adaptation that is mostly done “straight” — i.e., basically as written, rather than relocated to outer space or a high school or the mob underworld or anything crazy like that. In fact, it seems more difficult to just do the play, without all the bells and whistles. Here are a few savvy filmmakers who’ve pulled it off.
The film calendar is so awards-driven, so targeted specifically towards the fall festivals and (heavy sigh) Oscar season, that it’s easy to presume little of note hits theaters in the first half of the year; it’s for Liam Neeson action movies and flicks that got bumped from their holiday slots because they weren’t good enough (hey there, Jack Ryan reboot). But rounding up the best titles from the year’s first six months actually yields a more eclectic and unpredictable selection, with genre titles, documentaries, indies, and oddities making up a rich and varied half-year at the …Read More