Category Archives: Filmsmith Faves

Hobo with a Shotgun lives up to its name and then some

There’s been a spat of high-concept, low-brow send-ups to terrible exploitation films over the last several years (Drive Angry 3D, Black Dynamite) and we owe a debt of gratitude to Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, the masterminds behind Grindhouse, which started it all.  Rodriguez failed to live up to his faux-trailer for Machete in the actual feature-length format, but Hobo with a Shotgun (which was a faux-trailer shown with Grindhouse in Canada) lives up to the insanity of its initial trailer draft thanks in part to Rutger Hauer, inventive kills, and actors who know they’re in a depraved, cackling, over-the-top, fucked up movie. Continue reading

Super 8? More like, Super Gr8! (seriously though, it’s good)

Super 8 is likely the best movie of the summer. Continue reading

Serial killer superhero delightfully twisted in Super

In all likelihood, the 2000’s will be looked upon as the decade of the comic book movie, with plenty of vigilantes bouncing around in various forms of outlandish garb, dishing out justice from fists, claws, and expensive gadgets.  Of course, when these heroes take the screen, critics take them down, laying bare the genre’s love affair with violence as a problem-solving tool, as well as the recent trend of sexualized female killers (Sucker Punch). I don’t agree with many of these assessments (usually critics are picking on the wrong films), but Super is a superhero film critic’s rantings come to life; reveling in the usual tropes of the genre with a deliciously twisted bent, then showcasing their disturbing nature when placed within a context beyond comic panels or film frames – the real world. Continue reading

Filmsmith Faves: Ugetsu Monogatari

If you ask anyone what they know of Japanese cinema, they might mention Akria Kurosawa or his masterpiece, Seven Samurai. If you come across someone well-versed in the subject, they may bring up Yasujiro Ozu, whose catalog is filled with just as many great films as Kurosawa. You’re less likely to hear mention of Kenji Mizoguchi, a contemporary of Ozu’s who died a couple years after Kurosawa hit it big. About 70 percent of his films have been lost or destroyed, and what remains is scattered between historical epics, simple melodramas, and stories of strong women. Some are great, some aren’t, but his masterpiece Ugetsu is beyond that distinction. It may very well be the greatest Japanese film ever made. Continue reading

Night of the Hunter a visual treat

The Classic Hollywood System is typified by films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Casablanca, and The Wolf Man, where a kiss implied sex, the sound of a gunshot with dramatic music implied death, and Clark Gable’s famous line in Gone with the Wind was scandalous.  It’s the reason your grandparents complain about modern films being too dirty, thanks to the films they saw under the censorship of the  Hays Code (as opposed to milder censorship through the MPAA).  The code forbade nudity, exiled homosexuals, and put restrictions on the ways in which institutional authority could be depicted.  Which is what makes Night of the Hunter (1955), a tale in which parents and other adults in the community fail to protect two children from a widow-killing preacher, stand out as a haunting horror thriller. Continue reading

Hanna an instant action classic

Once upon a time in the snowy forests of Finland, there was a girl named Hanna who knew only her father, his training, and their simple cottage.  When she came of age, Hanna decided it was time for her to see the outside world.  Hanna sees Morocco, makes her first friend, and packs the morgue with baddie bodies. Continue reading

Rango an animated comedy western – for adults

As I entered screen number 13 for Rango, I noticed the plethora of chattering children.  And when the trailers flashed one animated film after another, vying for the audience’s adoration with cheap laughs and the presentation of cute characters of varying formations (bunnies, birds, and bears), people chuckled and “Awww-ed” right where the marketing teams wanted.  Then Rango started up and this 24-year-old man laughed his way through the picture while children sat in silence and parents thought, “What the f*ck did I bring my offspring to?” Continue reading

DVD Tuesday: Fernando di Leo Crime Collection

The history of cinema is deeply entrenched in the history of crime. Gangster films, heist films, film noir, and other sub genres have always offered movie-goers an abundance of style, and occasionally profundity of theme. This week sees the release of a collection of crime films from Fernando di Leo on DVD for the first time in the US. They are not the deepest of movies, they offer little moral or thematic context, but they have proved to be hugely influential. And together, they form one hell of a ride. Continue reading

Robert Rodriguez directs short film The Black Mamba

Director of Sin City Robert Rodriguez just made a short film for Nike featuring Kobe Bryant, along with cameos from previous Rodriguez collaborators – and it’s awesome. Continue reading

Mini-Nazis Provide Therapy in “Marwencol”

Fictions play a foundational role in our society.  We encounter many of these fictions as images that feel bigger than we are, juggernauts projected onto the world we inhabit: social constructions of monetary value or race, or images on television considered synonymous with reality. In Marwencol we see the process from the other end as we follow a man who chooses and controls his fictions, projecting his real-life traumas onto a 1/6 scale world as alternative therapy. Continue reading