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by Michael Barrett

13 Apr 2016


You know you’re in for something odd when the opening credits of Samuel Fuller’s detective story, produced for German TV in 1974, depict the actors and most of the crew posing in gaudy carnival costumes and mugging for the camera—and there’s the white-haired Fuller himself, dressed as a clown while iconically smoking a cigar.

For years, Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street has only been available, and rarely, in the 102-minute version given a brief theatrical run in the US. Now on Blu-ray is the UCLA Film & TV Archive’s digital restoration of a complete 123-minute director’s cut, with added whimsical self-consciousness and digressions to emphasize Fuller’s idea that the film is a genre parody and a game.

by Victor Stiff

31 Mar 2016


Daredevil

The Origin Story

Once considered cinematic junk food, comic book movies are no longer just bite-sized, easily digestible bits of entertainment. Not long ago, comic book movie franchises’ primary objectives were profitable box office runs, generating as many sequels as possible (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin), and selling ungodly amounts of licensed merchandise. In today’s blockbuster movie landscape, a film can meet box office expectations, spawn a sequel, and still qualify as a failure.

In 2016, studio mandates require that comic book movies hit multiple benchmarks in order to qualify as successful, and wrapping up a satisfying story in roughly 120-minutes is only one of them. Comic book movies must also act as advertisements for upcoming films, and establish deep mythologies that branch off into other movie franchises, video games, comic books, and TV series. Nowadays, producing comic book related entertainment is a complicated process, akin to juggling several knives while walking backward on a tightrope.

by Valeriy Kolyadych

29 Mar 2016


How does myth shape our understanding of the world? Such is the question hiding in the heart of Larry Fessenden’s Wendigo, a film that screened in gorgeously grainy 35mm on Thursday as part of the Boston Underground Film Festival. An artful examination of mythical storytelling, Wendigo succeeded both as a horror film and a character-driven indie drama about a young boy dealing with trauma.

A vacationing family consisting of father George (Jake Weber), mother Kim (Patricia Clarkson), and son Miles (Erik Per Sullivan) leave New York City for a weekend in the countryside. Before they even get to their rental, however, a car accident involving a deer and a group of abrasive hunters shakes up the family, especially young Miles. On arrival, bullet holes in the windows and the recurring presence of the exceptionally creepy Otis, one of the hunters, betray the fact that this idyllic escape may not be very idyllic after all.

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.

//Mixed media
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The Vast Loneliness of 'No Man's Sky'

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"You cannot escape yourself in No Man's Sky. There is little to do but analyze the self.

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