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by Michael Barrett

29 Jun 2015

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970, dir. Jaromil Jireš)

We know you’ll sympathize, dear reader, when we whine that Criterion is putting out too many damn fine Blu-rays to keep up with. Pity us, watching masterpiece after masterpiece and having to put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, or synaptic impulses into digital space, to explain our insights. It’s all too much.

Sometimes, we just have to give briefer takes on these releases, so here’s ten films to watch and why. Bottom line: All are worth your time.

by Michael Barrett

24 Jun 2015

Kings of the Sun (1963)

Kings of the Sun shows that in 1963, they were still making ‘em like they used to, to the consternation of some and the indifference of others. With novelty, this historical epic takes place in Central America before anyone called it that, and before Columbus and other johnny-come-latelies. Long before Europeans showed up, as the script by novelist Elliott Arnold and James R. Webb (How the West Was Won ) points out, the land was a hotbed of colonial conquest and resistance, immigration, and diplomacy.

George Chakiris plays Balam, the young leader of the Mayans. They’re attacked by invaders equally bird-hatted, but with metal swords more effective than the Mayans’ wooden ones. Are these Toltecs? Aztecs? Wikipedia kindly informs us of tribal conflict led by Hunac Ceel against Chichen Itza around the 13th Century, but it’s still confusing. In short: Balam calls it a day and leads his people over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to what might be Louisiana. Again, they didn’t know what to call it yet, but the place has swamps and a tribe led by Black Eagle (Yul Brynner).

by Dylan Fremont

23 Jun 2015

When you grow up watching movies, you might hope that one day, if you start making your own, you’ll get to remove all the unnecessary bits from your favourites and recombine what remains into a new whole, a movie with all the best scenes and most intense emotions.

by Michael Barrett

23 Jun 2015

In Magician, Orson Welles tells an anecdote about a waiter who asked him if he ever made anything after Citizen Kane. Whether that really happened or not, it captures a myth. Chuck Workman’s documentary sets the record straight in 90 fast-moving minutes of clips and talking heads, leaving us dazzled and tantalized with what we’ve seen before and what we’ve yet to see. For if Welles was faulted for not finishing enough movies in his lifetime, he’s surely the most prolific posthumous filmmaker.

Projects he left unfinished, such as It’s All True  and Don Quixote, still come out in various versions. Others, like Touch of Evil and Macbeth, surface in newly polished variations while once-forgotten items, like his TV version of King Lear (directed by Peter Brook) and his British series Around the World with Orson Welles, are exhumed from vaults into the digital day.

by Michael Barrett

16 Jun 2015

Having Wonderful Crime (1944, dir. Eddie Sutherland)

In theory, this double-feature of B comedy-mysteries use the same hero. In practice, they have nothing in common—not the actors, characterizations, nor even the studio. Yet here they are, together at last, on demand from Warner Archive.

Hailing from the deepest ‘40s, Having Wonderful Crime is bright and madcap enough to get wearisome fast. We’re given to understand that put-upon Chicago attorney John J. Malone (Pat O’Brien in constant slow burn) is forever beset by two loud, laughing, bubble-headed chums who are now freshly married, Jake (George Murphy, practically delirious) and Helene Justus (Carole Landis, dressed to kill). For reasons that have something to do with having wrapped up a murder case by leaving an unconscious man in Malone’s office, they all decide to skip town (we can’t figure it either) and wind up in a honeymoon hotel (“I’m broad-minded,” says Malone) with an odd foreign gal (Lenore Aubert) and a be-sworded magician (George Zucco), and everyone runs around instead of calling the cops.

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