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by Valeriy Kolyadych

28 Mar 2016


Stop me if you’ve heard this pitch before: a sociopathic schemer with a tendency toward hedonistic behavior rises through the ranks of their job because of their moral bankruptcy. Yes, well, Kill Your Friends, showing at the 2016 Boston Underground Film Festival, is pretty much that. It’s another film in the Machiavellian, nihilistic, fourth-wall breaking canon established by American Psycho and recently imitated in films like Filth and the Netflix series House of Cards.

Are we witnessing the birth of a new subgenre? Perhaps. However, it’s more interesting to consider where this newfound interest is coming from. Rising wealth inequality? General dislike of the rich and powerful?

by Michael Barrett

28 Mar 2016


Ikiru (1952)

Every month brings a flood of carefully packaged movies from Criterion. Old, new, color, black and white, Hollywood, Asian, European, documentary, cult, and sometimes just bizarre, Criterion offers a phenomenal release rate of quality films, so what can I do, except give you some of my impressions as the cinematic deluge engulfs me. Here’s a sampling of ten recent Blu-rays from their ever expanding catalog.

 

1. Ikiru (1952)

What: Takashi Shimura plays an insignificant bureaucrat who, when told he’s dying of cancer, realizes he’s wasted his life. He pours his energy into one final act to leave a mark: clearing permits for a city park.

Why: Possibly Akira Kurosawa’s greatest film, and that’s saying something. Ironically, it was hailed as a masterpiece by US critics even though for years it was seen without the last act, where the man’s co-workers get drunk and lugubrious at his funeral. Some have felt that this radical change in form and tone lessens the film, but the ending turns a sentimental masterpiece into a bracing one.

The two parts comment on each other: one haunting and open, one messy and closed, both about our will vs. what’s beyond our control. This restored 4K digital transfer on Blu-ray preserves a previous DVD commentary and making-of, and there’s a 90-minute documentary on Kurosawa.

by Valeriy Kolyadych

24 Mar 2016


The Lure, which opened the 18th annual Boston Underground Film Festival, had two tasks in front of it. The first: set the tonal stage for what to expect from the exciting, non-conformist festival. The second: entertain, titillate, and innovate. Did it accomplish both? The answer is yes, and in dazzling fashion.

by Michael Barrett

22 Mar 2016


Now available on demand from Warner Archive is Cry of the Hunted, an intriguing B picture from MGM directed by Joseph H. Lewis, most famous for such tough and vigorous noirs as Gun Crazy  and The Big Combo. Not quite a noir, this film is a hybrid of several genres, and its unpredictability is one of its attractions as it moves from hard-edged urban settings to a more dreamlike, symbolic realm of personal psychological struggle in the swamps.

It starts as a prison story establishing Tunner (Barry Sullivan) as a progressive official in charge of the joint’s maximum security section. Goaded by his laidback boss (Robert Burton), Tunner tries to make a surly Cajun convict named Jory (Italian import Vittorio Gassman, all tight T-shirt and puppy eyes) fink on his companions in robbery. The tension between Tunner and Jory can only be expelled in hard-smacking fisticuffs in the cell, after which they collapse side by side, out of breath and smoking cigarettes because it was evidently good for both of them. So you don’t think we’re just reading that in, a smirking deputy (William Conrad) later asks if they’re “going together”.

by Valeriy Kolyadych

21 Mar 2016


Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

What do teenage vampires in Communist Poland and obscure Japanese psychedelic animated erotica have in common? The answer is simple: they’re the two films kicking off the annual Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF) that returns to the historic Brattle Theater on 23 March. With its return comes a new slate of odd, overlooked films for niche audiences to delight in, and fans of the festival in previous years will no doubt be sated with the offerings of the festival’s latest iteration.

The films featured this year span genres, challenge convention, and look very, very entertaining. With so many features (and very many shorts) programmed this year, I felt it would be worth taking a look at the films that should be on the cinephile-with-a-taste-for-the-obscure’s list of films to watch for.

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