Video Killed the Video Star: Short Movie Reviews

Blonde Venus: This is a severely odd movie. Dir. Josef von Sternberg. Cabaret star Marlene Dietrich is wooed, won, and whisked off to America by Herbert Marshall... but when she has to return to her nightclub job and Cary Grant starts tiptoeing around, all bets are off. Going in I only knew this as "the one where Dietrich sings in a gorilla suit" but maybe the most memorable part of it is the extended passage in which she tries to avoid losing custody of her child due to homelessness. The ending … [Read more...]

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“Vampire Brats”: I watch “What We Do in the Shadows”

at the Federalist:Before you accept the immortal kiss of the vampire, ask yourself one question: Do I want to be doing the dishes for the rest of eternity?“What We Do in the Shadows” is a charming mockumentary from writer-director team Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, exploring the unglamorous side of vampire life (or death) in New Zealand. It perfectly mimics reality-show conventions, like the self-narration with which the film opens: “So it’s six in the evening, which is when I … [Read more...]

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“The Walking Dread”: I Review “It Follows”

for AmCon: ...“It Follows” name-checks “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and The Idiot (which one character is reading on an adorable e-reader shaped like a makeup clamshell). But its grim little heart is simple. ”It Follows” wants to make you feel dread. This is an almost entirely successful chiller about the awful things we can’t escape. more--and be sure to click that "message movies" link for my favorite Val Lewton quote... … [Read more...]

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Quick and Cheap Reviews of Quick and Cheap Movies

Or, a quick fix of slick flicks.Devil's Pass: Found-footage Dyatlov Pass Incident investigation. Some fun Russian scenery; very nice twist at the end.Kill List: An aging contract killer goes in for One Last Job and things predictably go haywire. An unexpectedly emotional film; you can feel the regret and confusion of the characters, and their relationships are sharply-drawn. Also very twisty in the back half, with the final twist an especially nasty one. Much better than it had to be, … [Read more...]

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“Haunted Hollywood”: I watch “Maps to the Stars”

for AmSpec: Part of the reason David Cronenberg’s new Maps to the Stars is so engrossing is that it’s two kinds of movie at once. The surface is all brutal Hollywood satire, the child star who only eats red Skittles and the washed-up actress demanding that her assistant fetch her Xanax and Kozy Shack pudding. This stuff is breathtaking: the massage therapist who helps his scantily-clad clients work through child abuse (“I’m going to press on a personal history point now”), the hateful cheek-kis … [Read more...]

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The Hidden History of “Gremlins”: An Interview with Joe Dante

at Film Comment: ...On Gremlins, it did become a problem, though, when Steven [Spielberg] had to sign off on everything. We had to get him to make up his mind. For example, we had a lot of different designs for Gizmo, and Steven always found fault with whatever they were. We were getting to the point where we really had to lock this down, or we weren’t going to make our dates. So we came up with the idea of giving Gizmo the color of Steven’s cocker spaniel, so that he would be happier with the d … [Read more...]

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“This Town Is Dead at Night”: I watch that Iranian-Californian vampire flick

for AmCon: When I heard there was an Iranian-Californian vampire movie where a lady vampire skateboards through a deserted town under the streetlights and the palm trees, her chador blowing out behind her like Dracula’s cape, I thought, That’s awesome!But by the time we actually reached the skateboard scene in “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” all I could think was, That’s terrifying!“A Girl” is a totally effective piece of atmosphere: dreamlike, black and white, with a phenomenal sound … [Read more...]

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