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The Best and Worst of 2012

Best of 2012

by Steve Habrat

I’ll be honest with you, folks, this was a difficult list to do this year. There were a ton of really great movies released in 2012. While I haven’t even come close to seeing every film released, I did try to catch all the biggest movies that made their way to the local theater. I was hoping to have this list up last week but I have fallen behind due to coming down with the a nasty case of stomach flu. So, without further ado, here are my picks for the finest films of 2012, some honorable mentions, and the five biggest stinkers I sat through. Oh, and number 10 is a tie. Please don’t hurt me.

THE BEST: 

Frankenweenie

ParaNorman

10.) Frankenweenie/ParaNorman

This might be cheating but I’m sort of lumping these two together. Usually, Pixar’s animated offerings are snagging a spot on my top 10 but for the second year in a row, Pixar failed to live up to the quality of their previous films (Up, Toy Story 3, Wall-E).  Plus, maybe I’m a sucker for macabre stop motion animation. After two massive duds (Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows), Tim Burton finally returns to form with the black and white Frankenweenie, a touching story about a boy and his undead pooch. Maybe you have to be an animal lover and have a soft spot for the Universal Monsters, but I have a feeling that this film will gain a following in the years to come (hopefully by more than just the Hot Topic crowd). Then we have ParaNorman, the hilarious and relentlessly clever zombie romp from Laika about a misfit named Norman who can talk to the dead. It is really hard for me to pick one film over the other but if I honestly had to, I think I’d go with Burton’s big-hearted and downright adorable creature feature. I know what it is like to loose a pet that you love very much and Frankenweenie really nails that feeling. Don’t get me wrong though; both are extremely sweet movies that are infinitely better than Adam Sandler’s obnoxious Hotel Transylvania.

Killing Them Softly

9.) Killing Them Softly

Some dismissed Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly as too heavy handed and about as subtle as a sledge hammer to the teeth. Who cares?! Killing Them Softly is a chilling, apocalyptic, atmospheric, and darkly hilarious gangster film that sends the viewer away more than a little freaked out. Using the 2008 presidential election and the recession as the backdrop, Dominik’s film contains little to no hope and is a grim reminder that in America, we are all on our own. No politician is coming to save us and put us back on our feet. Featuring a powerhouse performance from Brad Pitt (No Oscar love?!) and some truly disturbing sequences (Ray Liotta receives a shockingly brutal beating in a rainstorm and Pitt blows a gangster away as Ketty Lester’s haunting ‘Love Letters’ echoes on the soundtrack), Killing Them Softly is a black-as-night gangster thriller that will stick with you for the rest of your life. I think John over at The Droid You’re Looking For can back me up with this one making the list.

Moonrise Kingdom

8.) Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s whimsical tale about young love in the last days of summer is his quirkiest and most heartwarming film yet. It is the type of film you would want to watch on a warm summer evening with someone you love. Credit should go to the two irresistible leads, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, the runaway tykes who have more of a grasp on true love than the warring, irresponsible adults who look after them. While Moonrise Kingdom belongs to the kids, the adults certainly do their best to match them. Bruce Willis is outstanding as a heartbroken cop hot on the trail of the runaways while Bill Murray and Frances McDormand steal every scene they are in as dysfunctional parents. And we can’t forget Edward Norton’s bumbling Scout Master Ward, who gets the film’s best line (Jiminy crickets, he flew the coop!). Brimming with innocence and adventure, Moonrise Kingdom may just be Anderson’s masterpiece.

Beasts of Southern Wild

7.) Beasts of Southern Wild

Talk about a film that could move mountains! Benh Zeitlin’s radiant fable about six-year-old Hushpuppy and her life in the Louisiana bayou called “the Bathtub” possess a grimy beauty that took the cinema world by storm earlier this year at Sundance. It went on to be the little film that could over the summer. While I was worried that Beasts of Southern Wild would become a victim of its own hype, the emotional beating the film dishes out and the stark reality of the environment left this viewer staggered. It also didn’t hurt that it contains a jaw dropping performance from the pint-sized Quvenzhané Wallis as the curious little Hushpuppy. You’ll beam as the film focuses on the complex relationship between Huspuppy and her unpredictable father, Wink, who is battling a mysterious illness, and admire the resilience of the individuals who call “the Bathtub” home. Optimistic and brave even in the face of devastation, loss, and heartbreak; Beasts of Southern Wild is a film that overflows with hope and courage. Seek this one out immediately.

Silver Linings Playbook

6.) Silver Linings Playbook

Let’s be honest for a moment, the romantic comedy has seen better days. Most of the romantic comedies that come out of Hollywood today seem sugarcoated and downright clichéd. Well along comes David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, a gritty, hilarious, and touching story about love lost and love found. Credit should go to Russell, who presents serious character meltdowns with a stinging sense of humor, inviting us to laugh at the extreme ways love makes us behave. The film also owes a lot to the performances from Jennifer Lawrence, Jacki Weaver, Robert DeNiro, Chris Tucker, and Bradley Cooper, an actor that I am usually not a big fan of. Bravo Silver Linings Playbook for making me a fan, at least until the next Hangover movie comes out. In addition to being a sweet love story, the film is also a delicately handled family drama that reminds us that no matter how tough life gets, we can get through it with a little help from our loved ones, even if they sometimes seem crazier than we do.

Lincoln

5.) Lincoln

For the few people out there who still argue that Steven Spielberg is a big budget action hack, I point you towards Lincoln, one of the finest and most accomplished films of Mr. Spielberg’s career. A warts-and-all look at the final months of the 16th president’s life and his push to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, Lincoln is an unflinchingly rich glimpse inside the world of politics that demands to be seen twice. Meanwhile, Daniel Day Lewis slips into the role of Abraham Lincoln and then completely disappears into his skin like you wouldn’t believe. It is the performance of the year that all but guarantees him the Best Actor Oscar. At over two hours, Spielberg consistently refuses to adhere to the normal biopic rules and smartly ignores Lincoln’s early years. Instead, he simply paints a portrait of a man with a heavy heart and in the process he managed to humanize a larger-than-life hero. 

Zero Dark Thirty

4.) Zero Dark Thirty

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal’s controversial look at the hunt for Osama bin Laden has been skewered by both political parties, one side claiming that it glorifies torture and the other screaming that it glorifies the Obama administration. How about you all shut up and take Bigelow’s film for what it is— a (mostly) honest if a bit fabricated-for-the-sake-of-story thriller that is essential viewing for all Americans. Zero Dark Thirty ultimately belongs Jessica Chastain’s tough-as-nails Maya, who oversees this seemingly never-ending firestorm with white-hot confidence. You’ll marvel at her no-nonsense approach to eliminating her target, the self-assured woman in a room full of skittish males who him and haw over how to attack our enemy. And I can’t forget the brilliant, white-knuckle final sequence, when the SEALs finally close in on that now famous compound in grainy night vision. While not nearly as tense as the almost flawless The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty is a brooding morality tale that is left on the table for debate.

The Dark Knight Rises

3.) The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s final installment in his Batman trilogy is just as epic as he promised and just about as bleak as comic book movies come. While I’m sure this is a controversial choice to have in my top 10 of the year, I argue that Nolan once again expertly uses Gotham City to mirror our troubled times. There are hints of the Occupy Wall Street movement here and explorations of the War on Terror there, but it is the sheer scope of the film that truly holds us. Many say it takes a back seat to 2008’s game changer The Dark Knight but I have to go with this snarling beast over the other. It isn’t without flaws and Nolan is juggling a lot of ideas here, but The Dark Knight Rises reminds us that summer blockbusters do not have to simply be candy colored fluff. It demands that the comic book movie genre be taken seriously as high art and it plays by its own rules. This is a fitting and towering climax for one of the best trilogies of recent memory.

Argo

2.) Argo

After delivering two impressive Boston set thrillers (Gone Baby Gone and The Town), Ben Affleck goes global with Argo, which deals with the Iran hostage crisis of 1979. Argo finds Affleck smoothly navigating through astonishing but true events while measuring out a pinch of nostalgia for film buffs everywhere (I loved the retro Warner Bros. logo at the beginning). Perfectly paced, funny and light when it needs to be, and nerve racking where it really counts, Argo is a film that is the true definition of a crowd pleaser. When you aren’t hanging on how well made the film is, be sure to take in the wonderful performances from Alan Arkin as a cranky movie producer, John Goodman as the wisecracking Hollywood makeup artist, and Affleck himself as CIA specialist Tony Mendez. It may all be a bit predictable but you just can’t turn away from this liberally charged plea for peaceful approaches to violent conflicts. A must see of the highest order.

Django Unchained

1.) Django Unchained

Dare I say that Django Unchained is Quentin Tarantino’s best film yet? Even better than Pulp Fiction? You better believe it is. Alive and gushing with the love of cinema and exploitation flicks of the 70s and 80s, Django Unchained is the most entertaining and satisfying movie of 2012. While many have complained over the unflinching use of the N-word and accused Tarantino of using slavery simply for escapist entertainment, I argue that he certainly doesn’t sugarcoat this dark chapter in American history (what we see here is pretty horrific if you ask me). At nearly three hours, this blaxploitation/spaghetti western epic is constantly witty, charismatic, and downright refreshing. It is bursting with some of the best performances of the year (Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson are all top notch) and it gets better every time you see it (I’m currently at two times and debating a third trip to the theater to see it). Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Django Unchained is Tarantino’s ultimate masterpiece, a blood-drenched valentine to the cinema of yesterday. I’m not kidding when I say that Tarantino had me smiling from beginning to end.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: 

The Avengers is an earth-shaking superhero mash-up that beams with jingoism.

Les Misérables is a bloated but soaring musical with knockout performances from Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman.

Skyfall is one of the most exciting and playful Bond films yet.

Looper is a refreshingly original science fiction drama.

Lawless is a chilly look at Prohibition.

The Cabin in the Woods gives the horror genre the jolt it has been searching for.

21 Jump Street is a raunchy and downright hilarious action comedy.

THE WORST: 

Silent House

5.) Silent House

Marketed as being one single shot and presented in real time, this cheeseball horror flick about a girl trapped in a house with what may or may not be a supernatural killer suffers from poor acting and a completely preposterous climax.

Rock of Ages

 4.) Rock of Ages 

This bland musical set to rocking 80s tunes is all glammed up with nowhere to go. Not even a superb Tom Cruise could wake the party up.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

3.) Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

The abrasive follow up to the god-awful Ghost Rider finally gives the fans what they want and shows them what it looks like when the demonic hero urinates.

That's My Boy

2.) That’s My Boy

Adam Sandler goes R-rated and manages to produce one of the most offensive and unfunny films you will ever see. Keep away from it at all costs.

Total Recall

1.) Total Recall

The remake no one was begging for, this poor excuse for a science fiction thriller is like watching someone else play the dumbest video game ever created. I may never forgive you for this, Colin Farrell. Not even the three-breasted alien prostitute could make it interesting.

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Beasts of Southern Wild (2012)

Beasts of Southern Wild (2012)

by Steve Habrat

Even if director Benh Zeitlin’s surreal fable Beasts of Southern Wild wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, it would still demand to be seen on the grounds that it was 2012’s little indie that could. Based on the stage play Juicy & Delicious by Lucy Alibar, Beasts of Southern Wild was a small arty offering that was the talk of the cinema world for months before its release and months after. After whipping up critics and audiences into a frenzy at numerous film festivals across the globe including Cannes and Sundance and nabbing various awards, Beasts of Southern Wild was picked up by Fox Searchlight and released into a summer thick with superhero blockbusters and science fiction explosions. Maintaining buzz all the way into awards season, I feared that Beasts of Southern Wild would fail to live up to the massive amount of praise that was being laid before this debut feature from Zeitlin but astonishingly, I found myself swelling with hope as the film tugged me into an emotional coming of age blur. And if you don’t find yourself drawn in to the grungy dream world of the Bathtub, you’ll surely find yourself beaming over the performance from pint-sized heroine Quvenzhané Wallis, a child so fierce and brave, that she can stop charging Aurochs dead in their tracks. In fact, even if you have absolutely no interest in the film’s premise, see it just to marvel at the promising young talent and understand why Wallis is the youngest Best Actress nominee at the tender age of 9. I know I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Beasts of Southern Wild takes us to the southern Louisiana bayou called the Bathtub, a rusting and decaying community that is cut off from the outside world by levee. Despite the constant threat of climate change, flooding, and being forced out of their makeshift homes, the residents of the Bathtub never miss an opportunity to pause for the day to celebrate the joys of life. Among the colorful residents that live in the Bathtub is Hushpuppy (Played by Wallis), a precocious and brave little girl who possesses a vivid imagination. Hushpuppy lives with her father, Wink (Played by Dwight Henry), a testy alcoholic who is also suffering from a mysterious illness that he tries to keep from poor Hushpuppy. One evening, a strong storm hits the Bathtub and floods the homes of the residents, which causes the authorities to step in and force them to evacuate their homes. To make things worse, Hushpuppy fears that the frozen prehistoric beasts called Aurochs are thawing out in the Arctic and are going to charge into the Bathtub, destroying everything in their path.

Zeitlin does everything in his power to make the viewer feel like they are living in the Bathtub right alongside these fiercely loyal folks. They are immensely proud of their tacked together shelters and they do not intend to leave their community (those who do leave before the big storm are heckled by Wink). To make the viewer feel like they are right there, Zeitlin allows his camera to bob around and explore every nook and cranny of this decaying wonderland of shelters that can barely keep the howling winds out at night. When the time comes for the residents to leave, we are feeling their pain even if we would kill for a shower. We almost become used to the sense of seclusion and isolation, liberation from an outside world that consists of a looming gray power plant in the distance. It is an intimidating structure that suggests man has completely overpowered nature. In the Bathtub, man lives hand and hand with nature as animals roam free and homes are dug into thick walls of brush and trees. When the authorities come in, they march through in polos and pressed slacks, yanking the residents of the Bathtub in every single direction and forcing them into sterile waiting rooms where victims of the storm sit quietly with long faces. It really pierces your heart and deflates your spirit.

Beasts of Southern Wild (2012)

Then we have the lack of big name and profession actors in front of the camera, which really allows these Bathtub residents to come to life. The standout is Wallis as 6-year-old Hushpuppy, our adorable narrator who bravely lives by her own code. She has a trailer all to her self, which she proceeds to set on fire. She is left for days alone and confused by Wink, who mysteriously returns to their home in a hospital gown. Poor Hushpuppy is basically raising herself, with only occasional guidance by the unpredictable madman Wink. He shows her a thing or two about catching fish as they drift through the streets of the Bathtub in a makeshift boat and drunkenly teaches her how to crack and gnaw at some crawfish at a candle-lit dinner. As their journey plays out, we really learn to love their complex relationship, one that lacks a compassionate mother, a woman that Wink says was so beautiful, she could make water boil. Meanwhile, Henry continues to impress as the outburst prone Wink, who enjoys sipping from a liquor bottle and blasting his shotgun at the storm outside. Zeitlin slowly reveals the mysterious of his illness and then shatters our hearts in the final few minutes and he shares a touching meal of hot sauce doused gator with the teary-eyed Hushpuppy. It is easily the best sequence of the film, one that will have you scrambling to rewind it just to take in the mesmerizing acting of Wallis and Henry.

Upon first viewing Beasts of Southern Wild, the stark reality of the Bathtub world and the emotionally draining acting threaten to overpower the weightier aspects of the film. You’ll get chills as the Aurochs charge towards the Bathtub, only stopping to feast on one another to regain their strength. You’ll swell with emotion as Hushpuppy embarks on a miniature journey to find her mother, who cooks gator in a seedy strip club and cracks eggs by spitting a beer bottle cap at the shell (just wait until you get a load of her). You’ll fight back tears as Wink finally reveals the severity of his illness to little Hushpuppy. You’ll be filled with warmth as Wink shows Hushpuppy how to crack a fish on the head to kill it. You’ll swoon at the overwhelming sense of hope that flares up in the final frames of the film, as it is revealed that the residents of the Bathtub are one giant family, sticking together, rebuilding, and proudly marching in the face of tremendous devastation. I am reluctant to reveal all the secrets of Beasts of Southern Wild to you, as part of the excitement is finding out what everyone is raving about and then putting it all together. It may require a few viewings and a little bit of patience at first, but I advise you to just loose yourself in this world and I guarantee that you will be swept away into this dreamy fable. You’ll be glad you did.

Grade: A-

Beasts of Southern Wild is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

The Master (2012)

by Craig Thomas

Let’s be clear. This is not a film about Scientology. Joaquin Phoenix does not play a troubled Second World War veteran who starts a long relationship with Scientology after a chance encounter with L. Ron Hubbard. And Philip Seymour Hoffman does not play L. Ron Hubbard. With that out of the way let me explain a bit about this film.

Joaquin Phoenix plays a troubled Second World War veteran (Freddie Quell) who, after a chance encounter with author and leader of the burgeoning religious cult The Cause, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who has all sorts of beliefs about past lives and trapped souls and curing leukemia through “anti-hypnosis” (which, as is pointed out, seems an awful lot like hypnosis). He is also a terrible writer, with an uncanny ability to “discover” truths about the very essence of existence.

And that makes it sound far more exciting than it actually is.

Seriously.

Almost nothing of note happens in the entire film. No-one changes, no-one grows or learns anything. It’s the story of two troubled men who are just as troubled at the end as at the beginning, which is not surprising as nothing really happens to either of them. One is protected from the world by moonshine, the other by a fawning, downtrodden following. But perhaps that is the point. If so, I struggle to understand why it took nearly two and a half hours to say so. Indeed, it takes a good half hour or so before Dodd even appears, all of which is spent watching Freddie Quell running around being troubled.

At this point I should point out that I am not Armond White. I do not believe that the collected works of Paul W. S. Anderson (including the entire Resident Evil series and two AvP films) have more to offer to the medium of film than Paul Thomas Anderson. In fact, I find the work of the former to be trash and found There Will Be Blood to be a fine film, in the best sense. I was looking forward to this.

So it brings me no pleasure to write such a scathing review. I went with two friends, both of whom also hated it. In fact, I was the most forgiving, which I suspect, was due to having been the only one of us to suffer through The Tree of Life in its entirety. So if you liked that, then you will probably love this.

Let’s try to find some positives.

First of all, it is well put together, with some nice sequences and tracking shots. It had a nice gloss and looked authentically like the 1950s (or at least, what I imagine the 1950s to have looked like). It has a couple of beautiful shots of the sea and there is a lovely setup in a prison sequence.

Then there was the acting. Joaquin Phoenix puts in a great physical performance playing a troubled veteran with a number of war wounds, both physical and psychological. However, for a significant portion of the film I could not see the character as much more than Phoenix acting (what is commonly known in the industry as Ben Affleck Syndrome), even if it was good acting. As the film progressed I became less conscious of this, which may have been little more than indifference caused by increasing levels of boredom watching him walk back and fore across a room for 15 minutes, touching the wall, then touching the window.

Stealing every scene he was in and by far the best thing about this film was the performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman as cult leader, Dodd. He was outstanding in every scene and certainly deserves an Oscar nomination, at least. Personally, I would put him in the Best Actor category, as opposed to Best Supporting Actor, though there might be some debate about that. I’d even go so far as to say a second statuette for the hugely talented actor would be well deserved. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Phoenix got a nomination as well, though I am not entirely convinced by his performance.

Another person who should definitely get a nod (this time in the Best Supporting Actress category), and who was by far the biggest (pleasant) surprise of the film was Amy Adams playing Dodd’s long-struggling, yet ideologically committed and articulate wife, Peggy. Having seen her in little more than films for children (Enchanted) and those with large amounts of black humour (Sunshine Cleaning) I was surprised to see her take on such a heavy role and even more so when she delivered a pitch-perfect performance. Though she has very much on the periphery, she has a number of key scenes in which she has an oppertunity to do something and in each she matches Hoffman. A win for her would not be undeserved.

Well, that’s quite enough of that.

There has been a lot of good things said about this film (as opposed specifically for the actors) and for the life of me I can’t see why. I attribute part of this to the cult that surrounds Paul Thomas Anderson, as it does with most famous and highly talented film-makers. People want to like it so talk it up. Another reason might be the similarities with Scientology (which it is definitely not about), but if anything this simply detracts from the film itself and adds to the mundane nature of the thing. If it’s anything else, I can’t see it. But perhaps that is the point, perhaps I just don’t “get it”. But I think I did, just as I’m pretty sure I “got” The Tree of Life.

I just didn’t like it.

I never walk out of films, and I didn’t walk out of this one, but the thought seriously crossed my mind, which was one of the first moments I realized I really didn’t like it, despite my best efforts to do so. I also found myself wishing that it was a documentary on Scientology, which would have been far more interesting.

In the end, this films fails to satisfy. It is not a exposé of Scientology (for legal reasons as much as anything else), nor is a particularly good film, though it was clearly made by a good film-maker. By the end I didn’t learn anything about anything, nor did I feel anything other than relief it was all over.

Yet technically, it was well made and some of the performances (particularly Hoffman and Adams) were terrific. I can only imagine how powerful their performances would have been, had this been a better (or even a good) film. As it is, I would struggle to recommend watching it for their performances alone because everything else is just so dull.

This is a hard film to rate, but in the end I think everything balances itself out, just about.

Grade: C

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

by Steve Habrat

Ever since I first laid eyes on the trailer for Panos Cosmatos’ science fiction head-trip Beyond the Black Rainbow, I was just dying to see it. Well, my friends, that day finally arrived and I have to tell you, if you consider yourself a fan of cult cinema and midnight movies, this is a film you have to see. It will be a dream come true. Heavily indebted to early David Cronenberg films, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch’s surreal horror, and blippy John Carpenter scores, Beyond of the Black Rainbow is a film that takes control of your senses and refuses to let them go. While you can’t even begin to pretend to know what the film is about, Beyond the Black Rainbow is something else to look at, a film that fills you with terror one minute and then guides you into ethereal tranquility the next, all in the matter of five minutes. Composed of haunted performances that look like holograms from Mars, a nerve frying analogue synth score, and quasi-futuristic visuals drenched in a neon glow, Cosmatos spews out a maddening and frightening nightmare that Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey may have if he dared to dream at all. I just warn those who are willing to approach the film, do so with an open mind and remember that none of this will truly add up in the end.

Set in an alternate 1983, there exists the Arboria Institute, a psychiatric complex that promises to fill its clients with pure happiness. This futuristic complex is run by Dr. Mercurio Arboria (Played by Scott Hylands), a guru-esque figure that appears in a promotional video at the start of the film. It is here at the Arboria Institute that the orphaned Elena (Played by Eva Allan) has been imprisoned and heavily sedated by the perverted Dr. Barry Niles (Played by Michael Rogers), who seems to get sick enjoyment out of tormenting the young girl. As Barry begins to loose his grip on his sanity, Elena, who seems to posses certain mental powers, decides to try to escape the confines of her neon prison. As she wanders the seemingly deserted hallways of Arboria, she stumbles across a bizarre, bloodthirsty mutant and wandering alien-like Sentionauts. Soon, the deranged Barry learns of Elena’s escape and he sets out after his prized patient, willing to do anything to get her back.

While many may be turned off by the agonizingly slow pace of Beyond the Black Rainbow, those who have found enjoyment in Canadian body horror auteur David Cronenberg’s early work (Rabid, The Brood, Videodrome, and even Scanners) will be hooked right from the beginning. There are hints of Kubrick everywhere, from the visual symmetry of the futuristic architecture of Arboria to the unnerving score that could be a mash up of John Carpenter’s score from The Fog and the famous jingle from A Clockwork Orange. Cosmatos transitions from scene to scene in slow fade-outs and fade-ins, at times seeming almost abstractly poetic and lyrical but always smacking us with splashes of bright red, orange, and white. There were moments where I felt the film was intentionally trying to alienate itself from me, which in turn drew me even more to it, almost like a moth to blinding light. At times I would be hit with a wave of severe boredom to be suddenly steamrolled by a wave of traumatic terror and panic, yet I always felt paranoid right from the beginning. I felt like I was being forced to sit patiently until something really awful happened and soon enough, it does. Trust me, you won’t be ready for it but yet the awful events that play out do nothing to give us closure, meaning, or simple elucidation. Before the film slips into slasher mode at the end, Cosmatos confirms my paranoid shakes at the beginning with the face of Ronald Reagan taking to the television to warn of looming nuclear attacks from the Soviet Union, adding a backdrop of apocalyptic doom to the throbbing digital chill.

While the visuals take center stage in Beyond the Black Rainbow, there has been quite a bit made over the performances from the leads. The performances are incredibly contemplative and muted, especially Eva Allan as Elena. While Elena is mostly seen and only heard once, she gives a remarkable performance that marinates in emotion right before our eyes. When she wanders the landscape outside the Arboria Institute, Elena is so fragile and lost, she almost resembles a fallen angel that is trying to find her way in an alien world. She is the soothing calm of Beyond the Black Rainbow while Rogers, who looks a bit like Christian Bale, is the creeping wickedness in a bad wig. He is absolutely terrifying as Barry, a character that I just wanted to be away from with at least a hundred miles between us. The end of the film has him wandering about in a trance-like state with a hellish dagger that looks like a fang snatched from the Devil himself. While we know he has a screw loose when we first see him, the screw completely falls out when he suffers a trippy flashback to 1966 and hangs with his mentor, Dr. Arboria. Hylands is marvelous as the doped up guru who is rotting away in front of a giant television screen that is filled with serene images. There is also Marilyn Norry as Rosemary Nyle, Barry’s wife who always seems to be trying to shake herself out of a prescription med coma and Rondel Reynoldson as Margo, an Arboria Institute employee who seems to be completely oblivious to what is going on in the halls of Arboria.

While the film never made a lick of sense, I still can’t seem to shake Beyond the Black Rainbow from my mind. The film feels so much like a dream that you almost question whether you have actually seen it or if it was something you imaged. Funny enough, Cosmatos has said that the film stemmed from his childhood, when he would wander a local video store and study the covers of horror films. He was never allowed to see these horror films but he would imagine what they were like when he would go home. I could only imagine the warped film he would make if he had seen them. I can promise you that Beyond the Black Rainbow will terrify you, especially if you watch it in the dead of night with the volume cranked up to the max. For me, Beyond the Black Rainbow just missed unhinged genius by the abrupt ending that seems almost like a sick joke (maybe it was meant to be a sick joke). I will honestly say that the ten minute black and white flashback sequence scared the living hell out of me and I watched this sucker in broad daylight. Another touch I really liked where the scratches that can be found on the Blu-ray picture. They may have not been intentional but they definitely add to the abstract retro terror, making the film seem like an undiscovered relic from 1983. While it may not be everyone’s mind trip, Beyond the Black Rainbow certain makes an impression on those who choose to experience it. If you find yourself in the target audience, I highly recommend it. Just be warned, you are in for one hell of a freak-out that you won’t soon forget.

Grade: A-

Beyond the Black Rainbow is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

The Proposition (2005)

by Steve Habrat

For many years, it has been said that the western is a dead genre. It may not be as popular as it once was, but every so often, the genre rides back from the sweaty cinema graveyard and sternly reminds us all that it is alive and well. Take John Hillcoat’s 2005 Australian western The Proposition, a clammy, existential stargazer of a picture that appeals to both aging fans of the genre and the wine-sipping art house crowd. There is an echo of Leone here and maybe a faint whistle of Peckinpah there but gently rolled into the center of The Proposition is an apocalyptic rumble that refuses to quit.  There are many layers to The Proposition, from a story about the complex relationship between a trio of outlaw brothers to the idea of taming the unruly Australian outback through violent force. Don’t be fooled by the film’s sensitive side as The Proposition can turn on you in an instant, almost like a whiskey-drenched outlaw who has just been disrespected in the local saloon.  Yet the real shock comes in the way the film warns us that in a place this wicked and gray, even the most innocent soul isn’t immune to the horrors that can blow in from the plains.

The Proposition takes us into the unforgiving Australian outback of the 1880s, where a savage gang led by the Burns brothers roams about causing mayhem. It is rumored that the Burns brothers gang is responsible for the horrific massacre of the prominent Hopkins family, who appear to have been beloved by the local community. After two of the Burns brothers, simpleton Mikey (Played by Richard Wilson) and clever Charlie (Played by Guy Pearce), are apprehended by lawman Captain Stanley (Played by Ray Winstone), Captain Stanley cons Charlie into riding into the outback and finding their eldest brother Arthur (Played by Danny Huston), who is said to be the deadliest of the Burns brothers gang. Captain Stanley warns Charlie that he has nine days to find and kill Arthur and if he doesn’t, Mikey will be executed. Charlie reluctantly accepts and rides out into territory that is savagely defended by Aboriginal tribes that kill any white man that dares set foot on their land without an army. With the clock ticking, Captain Stanley soon finds himself fending off protests from the community and his fragile wife, Martha (Played by Emily Watson), who was very close with the Hopkins family. As the protests turn violent and his job slowly slips out of his hands, Arthur learns of the plot to bring him down and he sets out to find Captain Stanley and innocent wife.

Set to a gulping bass line and whispery chants from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, The Proposition hints that a storm of fury is gathering on the horizon, just waiting for the right moment to rain down on the dusty town. The whispers in the score ask “when”, “why”, and “who” as all three of the brothers gaze up at the fiery sun and the twinkling stars. The build up to this storm doesn’t hesitate to linger on the beautiful Australian outback even though we know that this untouched land is slowly being gutted by senseless bloodshed.  Nick Cave’s screenplay may use a different location for this squinty showdown but he doesn’t mind drawing from the good old western tradition of waiting around for death to come riding into town on a rusted horse. The outlaws pass the time chatting about love and starring out at the landscape while the military men grunt about the sexual acts they would like to perform on Martha while the Captain is away. We do have to wonder who the real savages are in The Proposition and that question is easily answered as the film moves into its second act. The outlaws use violence to protect their freedom while the Aboriginal tribes are using violence to protect what is rightfully theirs. The military uses senseless slaughter and overkill to send a message, all while flies gather on their sweaty backs. Yet Cave and Hillcoat don’t ever squander an opportunity to show us how senseless all this violence really is. It is written in the reactions of those who pound a drum for it.

With the weighty script in place and an atmospheric score pondering about how this will end, Hillcoat and Cave give their actors plenty of room to really develop their characters. Pearce is a marvel as he silently rides through the rocky terrain, sipping from a bottle of liquor and touring the smoldering ruins of the Hopkins’ home, ruins that now lie empty as their spirits cry out in agony. He is eerily similar to Eastwood’s Man with No Name, but I’d dare you to find me a modern day gunslinger that doesn’t draw from that legendary cowboy. Huston is a slow burner of a baddie, a sadistic killer who only shows his true colors when he is prodded with a hot poker. You will fear for the fool who dares anger this slumbering beast. Winstone’s collapsing Captain Stanley is desperately trying to provide a safe place for both his wife and himself to call home. It is emotionally draining to see the dim light of hope die in his eyes as things go from bad to worse. Watson brings her fragile gaze to Martha, who only wishes to have a cozy Christmas with her loving husband. You can see the naïve gears in her head turn as she silently tries to comprehend the violence in these outlaws. When this delicate soul is smashed in the final moments of the film, it shatters into tiny pieces that will never be able to be put back together. David Wenham rides into town as Captain Stanley’s boss, Eden Fletcher, who dishes out one hundred lashes to poor Mikey, leaving him a sobbing, bloody heap. Also present is David Gulpillil as Jacko, an Aboriginal tracker who tries desperately to understand the viscous nature of the white man and John Hurt as Jellon Lamb, a sloshed old bounty hunter searching for Arthur.

The Proposition boils down to a bond between brothers, and what they will end up doing for one another. Despite their shocking actions, they stand by, loyal even as they hold a gun to each other’s head. When the bullets fly across the screen, The Proposition remains ever thoughtful of the situation in front of it. Yet any good western boils down to how affecting the story truly is and I must say that The Proposition is one that sticks to your ribs long after the last gunfighter falls to the ground and a defiled woman shrieks in horror. With an ending as black as night, The Proposition is certainly not a Hallmark western, one where the sheriff walks away triumphant and the outlaw is led away with cuffs around his wrists. Oh no, it is far from it but that doesn’t even begin to spoil the ending of the film. In fact, it seems clear to me that all that time the western has spent out in cinema’s forgotten graveyard has only toughened the genre up and caused it to be a bit more philosophical than it already was before it pulls the trigger.

Grade: A

The Proposition is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Badlands (1973)

by Steve Habrat

It is virtually impossible to shake Terrence Malick’s 1973 debut film Badlands from your head once you have seen it. This arty crime thriller that is based off of the real-life 1958 killing spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate watches the horrific actions of these two young murderers with a frustrating and nonjudgmental gaze throughout the hour and a half this senseless rampage lasts. This is a gaze that turns your insides to stone and freezes you in place while you watch Malick soften the blows of the chilly violence with whimsical music and achingly beautiful images of nature being nature. To say that one becomes almost as detached as these two misfit killers continue their journey is an understatement. You will fail to be moved when Martin Sheen’s captivating Kit blasts one of his victims without a glimmer of remorse as the body falls to the ground. Welcome to Badlands, one of the most extraordinary debuts from a director you are ever likely to see and one you are surely never going to forget. Complimented by a marvelous voice over teen dream confession from Kit’s galpal and accomplice Holly, Badlands becomes the road trip from Hell as bodies senselessly pile up even though our two young lovers know that this wind-in-the-hair freedom cannot and will not last.

One day while walking home from work, young garbage collector Kit Carruthers (Played by Martin Sheen) notices dreamy redheaded teen Holly Sargis (Played by Sissy Spacek) twirling a baton in her front yard. The two really hit it off but Holly is reluctant to really get close to Kit because she fears that her father (Played by Warren Oats) will not allow her to go out with a garbage collector. Soon, things begin to go sour at work for the rebellious Kit and he decides that he is going to run off with Holly. After Holly’s father refuses to let Holly leave, Kit murders him and then burns the house down. The two disappear into the woods and they attempt to make a life for themselves but they are soon discovered and chased off by a trio of bounty hunters. As Kit and Holly begin making their way towards the Montana badlands, they leave a trail of random murders in their wake. As their journey continues, police and bounty hunters slowly close in on the duo but Kit has no intentions of going down without a fight.

Malick’s Badlands is relentlessly surreal and oftentimes strangely dethatched, seemingly off in its own little world, much like the two misfit fugitives at the heart of the film. As they flee from their dead-end small town and wander into the strange and unforgiving landscape, Malick’s camera comes to life and gazes longingly at this barren, almost alien land that is acting as the stage from Kit to lash out at anyone standing in his way. Malick never demands that we come to one definitive conclusion about these kids and he even makes Kit strangely charismatic despite his trigger-happy tendencies. He almost clings to some foreign string of innocence as southern drawl threats pour from his mouth almost like syrup. This is the most disturbing part of Badlands, the fact that we never truly loathe the monsters causing all this senseless chaos. They seem to enjoy the thrill of it all even though the fully understand that they are bound for chains and shackles at some point. At one point, Kit tells his buddy Cato (Played by Ramon Bieri) that they may make a try for Mexico but just by the tone in his voice, you get the impression that he doesn’t half believe that they will make it.

Then we have Spacek’s Holly, who speaks to us in a child-like confession, dejected but never truly alarmed by what she has seen and done. While Kit thinly conceals his doubt that they will stay out of the law’s clutches, Holly doesn’t hide it in her confessions. She is a typical teenager, one who lacks one specific direction and is still trying to get to know herself. She speaks of moving on after her run with Kit is over and finding another boy to settle down with, almost like this is just a backyard game of cat and mouse that will end when her father calls her in for dinner. At one point she hints that she knows she is Kit’s puppet, telling a young girl that “Kit says ‘frog’ and I say how high” just before Kit guns the girl down. The two watch these murders with a sense of awe, impressed that they are capable of taking lives without a nervous blink or a shoulder twitch. Holly almost seems fascinated by it, even when her own father meets one of Kit’s bullets and lies bleeding out on the floor. She is angry for only a moment, slapping Kit as tears well up in her eyes but this is only brief and it is all the creepier for it. Later on, Holly watches a man slowly die in front of her and she almost studies it, pouring over the fading light in the man’s eyes before his last breath exits his lungs.

As Badlands inches out of small town America and into the flat plains, the film takes on a western vibe with hints of a fairy tale whispered by a naive angel. These fairy tale hints also come from the chiming score from George Tipton, which enters the scenes low and adds an aura of whimsicality to the looming terror. While Badlands certainly frightens us with its insistent grit realism, it soothes us over with the beauty in between the fits of violence. The magnetic terror is abundant in the performances from Spacek and Sheen, two young talents who give the performance of their careers. Sheen is the one who earns the gold star for his chatty killer who sees himself as an adrift rebel with a soft spot for Nat ‘King’ Cole. Oats is also brilliant as Holly’s stern father who dares to stand up to Sheen’s rebellious greaser. The cinematography is to die for and the 50’s set design is fussy but never particularly overwhelming. Overall, Malick’s accessible but emotionally complicated vision of an America loosing its grip on innocence stands as an American classic. It is essential viewing for those who have a deep love of cinema and a film that elbows its way onto the list of most impactful films you are likely ever to see.

Grade: A+

Badlands is available on DVD.

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006)

by Craig Thomas

Chan-wook Park is one of South Korea’s most prominent directors and one of the best working directors in the world today. Among his most vocal supporters is Quentin Tarantino, who pushed to award Oldboy the 2006 Palme d’Or (it instead went to Michael Moore for Fahrenheit 9/11, one would assume for political, rather than cinematic reasons). Whilst it would be easy to tag him as part of the “Extreme Asia” movement of extremely violent films, this would detract from his ability as a filmmaker. Yes, his films are often hard-hitting and violent, but they are also fantastic, beautifully shot and directed.

I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK is somewhat of a departure for Park, being a romantic comedy, though the theme of revenge runs throughout the film (in some ways making in the unofficial fourth part of his excellent “revenge trilogy” of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance) and there are one or two scenes not for the squeamish. Set in a mental institution, it tells the tale of Cha Young-goon, (played by Su-jeong Lim) a new patient who thinks she is a machine rather than a human being. Inside, she meets a host of quirky patients with problems of their own.

This is not a social-realist film dealing with mental illness. It is a highly stylized, colourful work that often makes being insane look quite fun. What it is, is a film about denial. Struggling to overcome the loss of her grandmother, she denies she is a human being. Cha Young-goon’s mother denies both her mother and daughter have serious mental health issues, the former who is left until her problems become too great to ignore whilst the latter is told to hide her problems, until they manifest in what is mistakenly thought to be a suicide attempt.

Like Park’s previous work, it is also about the futile, destructive nature of revenge. She spends the film plotting with all manner of electronic devices (wall lights, vending machines, etc) in order to kill the “men in white” who took away her beloved, insane grandmother, whilst licking batteries to charge enough power (because cyborgs don’t eat) to kill them all.

Like all of his films, it is visually stunning. Every shot, without exception, is beautiful and credit must be given to the long-time collaborator, cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung. This is one of the greatest strengths of Park’s films. They are clean and precise, without ever being sterile or bland and can make even the most brutal and disturbing scenes of violence (of which in the film, there is only one) beautiful, yet hard-hitting.

Some might be concerned that the comedy would not survive the subtitles, but they needn’t be. The script is laugh-out-loud funny and there are also a lot of visual gags and despite the somewhat unusual setting there are also tender and heart-warming moments throughout with the blossoming romance between her and the “soul-stealing” Park Il-sun (played by Rain) offering a somewhat optimistic tone about the redemptive nature of love.

That said, it is not perfect and the one scene of violence does seem to jar somewhat with the rest of the film. Nevertheless, it is a rewarding watch and an interesting take on an often (rightly) derided genre. It’s also a great way to experience the beauty of a Park film if you are not fond of extreme violence.

Grade: B+

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Yojimbo (1961)

by Steve Habrat

If you find yourself being the type of person that can’t force yourself to sit down and watch a foreign art house film, you should really make an effort to start with and see Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 film Yojimbo (The Bodyguard). Yes, there are subtitles in the film, so you will have to do a small bit of reading, but Yojimbo, which was the film that influenced Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone’s groundbreaking spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars, is such an entertaining film that you will find yourself forgetting that there are subtitles on the screen. Devoid of any off-putting pretension, Kurosawa puts more emphasis on limb-severing action and hearty comedy that will appeal to both average movie viewers and the art house crowd. A highly influential film, Yojimbo has been widely considered to be a true classic that finds its own influence in western cinema, creating a slightly surreal Japanese western that is ripe with dazzling black and white cinematography, packed camera shots, and some truly breathtaking showdowns that will leave you gasping.

Yojimbo follows a wandering, masterless samurai (Played by Toshiro Mifune) who happens upon a 19th century town that is caught in the middle of a war between two rival gangs. After dropping in to the local tavern, the elderly owner, Gonji (Played by Eijiro Tono), gives the samurai all the information about the rival crime bosses, Seibei (Played by Seizaburo Kawazu) and Ushitora (Played by Kyu Sazanka). Gonji warns the samurai that he should leave the town before one of the gangs confront and kill him but seeing an opportunity to make a hefty chunk of change and a way to clean up the town, the samurai decides to stick around and devise a way to trick the gangs in to destroying each other. After infiltrating one of the gangs by displaying how skilled he is with a samurai sword, he sets his plan in motion but certain members of both gangs begin to suspect that he is not simply interested in aligning himself with one specific gang.

For the individuals out there who are fond of cinematography, the resplendent whites and the charcoal blacks from cinematographers Kazuo Miyagawa and Takao Saito are an absolute must-see and perhaps my favorite aspect of Yojimbo. The film, which was made in 1961, has such a sharp, luminous picture that I absolutely couldn’t believe my eyes. For any film fan, the picture here will certainly have you dying to go out and pick up the Bu-ray for maximum picture quality. Complimenting this masterful cinematography is hack-and-slash action that sends a severed arm flying here and buckets of flowing blood there. The best “ewww” moment comes when a mangy dog trots through the streets up to the samurai carrying a severed hand in his dingy mouth. It comes as such a shock to the viewer that it becomes a combination of funny and appalling. The fight scenes in Yojimbo suddenly explode across the screen—a technique that catches the viewer off guard at first and then is suddenly over just as quickly as it began. This is a method that Leone would apply in his slow building gunfights that would begin and end in a loud crack in each and every one of his sweaty westerns.

While Yojimbo is impressive with its camerawork and white-knuckle action, Kurosawa doesn’t ever forget to keep you laughing and rallying behind our masterless samurai, who consistently toys with each gang. Yojimbo is a highly comical film, especially when the two gangs decide to go head to head in the deserted streets. Each gang has members who brag about how fearless they are and how feared they should be. When our hero approaches one gang, three young gang members approach him and boast how dangerous they are. Our hero chuckles in their faces and calls them cute, enraging them enough to have them draw their swords and lunge at the cool, calm, and collected hero. In a flurry of gore, the dangerous criminals are reduced to blubbering babies crying for their mothers. Yojimbo plays with this constantly, offering the audience hot-headed tough guys who are quickly revealed to be cowards who run off to their stern and commanding mothers (I think the women in Yojimbo are scarier than the men are!). It is a gag that constantly grabs a few belly laughs, especially the scene where the two gangs charge each other in the streets and then retreat back to their lines only to charge again and then flee. While all the charging and fleeing is going on, Mifune represents the audience, sitting back and howling at all the cowardice that has been revealed.

Mifune is an actor who is in complete control of each and every scene, playing the levelheaded hero who never seems to break a sweat, almost like all of this is second nature to him. Mifune’s samurai, who tells one gang leader that his name is Sanjuro Kuwabatake, is clearly the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s cigar chomping Man with No Name. Hell, at times, Sanjuro is seen chewing on what appears to be a cigar, further highlighting the impact. Another standout is Daisuke Kato as the vile Inokichi, Ushitora’s dim, overweight brother who adds a few more laughs to all the action scurrying about the town and speaking through bucked teeth. Tono’s Gonji is another lovable character as the elderly tavern owner who doesn’t want trouble and reluctantly aids Sanjuro in his quest to clean up the streets. Isuzu Yamada is a nasty piece of work as Orin, Seibei’s wife who hovers over her husband’s brothel and takes control when Seibei is too afraid to. Tatsuya Nakadai shows up as Unosuke, Ushitora’s youngest sibling who carries a pistol and nabs the film’s coolest battle with Sanjuro, who attacks the gunfighter with nothing but a sword and dagger.

While Yojimbo’s plot gets a little too thin at times, there is never a tedious moment to be found in Kurosawa’s western. There is something for everyone in Yojimbo, from the people who are looking for a love-reunited story all the way to those who just want to see a fearless hero cut his way through countless bad guys. Yojimbo has been caught in the shadow of Leone’s equally entertaining spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars but I think both films are equal in their eminence. As far as I’m concerned, both films are classics in their own right and their impact on cinema is quite clear. Overall, Yojimbo is a flawless action film that will keep the audience on its toes from beginning to end and one hell of a significant action hero. A must-see foreign classic with incredibly wide reach and appeal. How can you deny a film that contains the line “I’m not dying yet! There’s a bunch of guys I have to kill first!”

Grade: A+

Yojimbo is available of Blu-ray and DVD.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

by Corinne Rizzo

The death of an immediate family member can take time to recover from. Weeks, months, years can pass and still one might find themselves just below the lines of reality, almost waiting for the next fucked up thing to happen, but when you’ve got a brother like Francis, played by Owen Wilson in Wes Anderson’s fifth feature, who hides the fact that he’s attempted suicide and executes an elaborate trip to India via rail, all to become close to his two other brothers again, the mourning process expedites and the bullshit habits that have been sliding by since that death are no longer tolerated. As Francis says best, after getting his shoe stolen, “We’re in an emergency here,” and with that, The Darjeeling Limited thrusts these three brothers onto a path of healing that none of them would have taken alone.

The film opens with Adrien Brody’s character, Peter, chasing down a train that he’s about to miss, bypassing Bill Murray as the business man, who was simply casted for this one scene, and this is where the symbolism begins. Yes, all great movies have hidden and blatant attempts at sending a message, but The Darjeeling Limited is defined by these moments without getting cheesy or overworked. Here, Peter is a hair away from missing the opportunity of a lifetime, to recover from a personal tragedy and reconnect with his brothers, though it is apparent, just as it is apparent that he is about to miss the train, that Peter is the one that needs the most convincing. In fact, it’s possible that he wasn’t going to get on that train at all, considering we learn that he never told his wife Alice that we was going in the first place.

When Peter does make it onto the Darjeeling Limited, a character in herself, brightly colored in turquoise and golden yellow, he travels down the entirety of the train, the commuter portion, the economy travel portion, to the compartments of the upper class, where he finds his brother Jack asleep and his brother Francis missing.

The audience can immediately see Peter’s mood change once in the presence of Jack. They celebrate by smoking cigarettes and when Francis gets to the cabin, the phrase “Let’s get a drink and smoke a cigarette,” is used for the first time to signal a state of celebration. Almost as a marker to signify getting over a hump.

The use of painkillers and alcohol in this film are commonly attributed to the three brothers being addicted to these substances, though the use of these drugs is directly related to the family experience and nowhere in the film is anyone fiending or even talking about them other than the one scene where everyone is explaining what they have after a coincidental moment of everyone trying to relieve their own pain. Again, symbolism exists here, even for the most conservative audience member.

Peter is wearing his father’s sunglasses, which have a prescription in them, causing his head to constantly ache. Francis ran his motorcycle into the side of a hill, smashing his face in and Peter…well Peter has a lot of growing up to do. Not that Anti Film School condones the use of drugs, though the use of drugs in film can have an interesting outcome.  We are open to these things.  In film.

Peter, Jack, and Francis stop in what are considered the most spiritual places in India, all coordinated by Brendan, Francis’s only friend and assistant, and while in these spiritual places are overcome by consumerism attempting to track down power adapters, shoes and pretty much anything else money can buy, including a deadly poisonous snake (chosen by Peter), which eventually gets them confined to their compartment, and ultimately thrown off the train, upsetting the plan to find their mother, Sister Patricia Whitman, somewhere out on a mission.

The plan to find Patricia was also masterminded by Francis, and never unveiled to his brothers until just before they were thrown off the train.

The boys go through stages of wanting to kill each other, then stages of unrelenting affection and back again and The Darjeeling Limited is the story of their estrangement and their subsequent bonding, all of which couldn’t happen in a more beautiful setting.  The colors are extravagant and breath taking, the scenes are crisp, the wardrobes, when not stunning, provoke a sense of humor.

Inspired by the films of Satyajit Ray and peppered with the sounds of classic Indian films (and also The Kinks), Wes Anderson kills it in The Darjeeling Limited, bringing again his sense of adventure to the story of family dysfunction and unconditional love. His passion for story telling is apparent in this film more than any other by saturating the story of Francis, Peter and Jack with color, sound, and humor.

Grade: A +

 

Top Five Reasons to Watch The Darjeeling Limited:

1) Adrien Brody’s debut in Anderson films (let’s hope he sticks around).

2) All of Anderson’s films have a sense of antiquity that in this film is broken with the use of an iPod and dock.

3) The music!

4) Kumar Pallana

5) Check out that scene where Peter “goes to pray at a different thing”. What the hell is that kid watching him for and what is he holding?

Anti-Film School Recommends This Film…

DRIVE

Hey readers,

It has been a while since I posted one of these and I apologize for that. The newest film that I recommend you go out and pick up is Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, an intense, existential, and unforgettable thrill ride of a film and a film that sits near the top of my best films of 2011. It is a must-see for the silent-but-extremely deadly performance from Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks as a sinister gangster who has it out for Gosling’s Driver. Boasting a pristine picture, a pulsing electronic score, and house-rattling action scenes, Drive is a film that you have to add to your Blu-ray collection. You’ll thank me later. If you wish to read my review of Drive, you can find the review here.

-Steve