16 Aug 2017

Taste of the 2010s Cinema

Some good-natured ghosts, mythological creatures, a couscous-eating astronaut, a mail-delivering gynoid and more characters are gathered on my latest list for Taste of Cinema. Read it here:

 Still shot from Painted Skin: Resurrection (Wuershan, 2012)

12 Aug 2017

Savage Dog gets unleashed on Cultured Vultures

And now for something completely, guilty pleasure-ish different. In the latest film starring the self-proclaimed king of direct-to-video sequels Scott Adkins (of Undisputed and modern American Ninja fame), the jungle of 1959 Indochina gets soaked in blood of vengeance. Armed with fists, Irish accent and later, some firearms, his former IRA boxer character Martin Tillman goes on an ass-kicking rampage that would make Chuck Norris proud, but secretly very jealous.

Read my review on Cultured Vultures.

8 Aug 2017

Taste of Modern Animation

Peek into the world of modern animation in my latest list for Taste of Cinema which includes various techniques and titles from different corners of the world. From the talking peanuts of Going Nuts to Klaus Kinski look-alike of The Island of Dr D, you will certainly find something to your liking.

Still shot from Blade of the Phantom Master (Joji Shimura, 2004)

5 Aug 2017

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers (Tim Rutili, 2010)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Sporting a disarming smile and a quaint attire, Angela Bettis delivers a charming, dignified performance as a kind-hearted 'psychic advisor', Zel, in the musician Tim Rutili's quirky directorial debut - a companion piece to his band Califone's conceptual album of the same name. 

Zel lives at the edge of the forest, in a cozy old house she inherited from her grandmother, along with the talents to read palms and tarot cards, as well as to cast and break spells. Her only family are a bunch of friendly ghosts who, simply put, spend their peaceful posthumous days in her modest home, but also come in pretty handy in divination and fortune-telling business.

However, when a 'heavenly' light appears in the woods, attracting them like moths to the flame, these 'Caspers' realize that they are unable to leave the place and the harmonious household starts to fall apart... in a maddening cacophony of sounds.

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is the most befitting title for Rutili's 'folksy' supernatural tale of letting go / breaking with the (superstitious) status quo. Following its own twisted logic, it initially appears as a slice of (after)life drama, taking a slightly - but only slightly - darker turn in its second half, while keeping its wry humorous tone and melancholic underpinning intact. In a peculiar way, it breaks the fourth wall via its mockumentary sequences that are almost certainly the work of a specter called Bunuel and serve to shed some light on the restless souls' past. So, we learn that one of them was in a parish rugby league and, ironically, got struck down by lightning, whereby his love interest in a bridal gown hung herself with her something blue.

Even though they are not fully fleshed out characters (in many cases, they are barely sketched), we feel comfortable around them, just like Zel do, and we easily and gladly get involved in their (sur)reality. The non-professionals who make up most of the cast have this je ne sais quoi about them, whether it's the silent and sad-eyed Molly Wade as the youngest spirit Nyla or Alan Scalpone as a former actor in paper slippers who 'sailed off the catwalk' after getting drunk. And let's not forget the 'Califoners' who appear as a sight-impaired band binding the narrative non-sequiturs with their live-on-set jam sessions and thus, establishing the offbeat 'spiritualistic' atmosphere of the film.

To further help you get into the right mood, Rutili inserts some sort of intertitles containing the old wives' beliefs that are likely footnoted in a chiromancer's textbook, like 'if your nose itches you will son be kissed by a fool' or 'a wish will come true if you make it while burning onions'. In addition, his set decorator Keith Kolecki fills the interiors with all the baubles and trinkets you'd expect to see in a clairvoyant's dwelling. The antique magick is captured in the experimental visuals - a combination of crispy clean imagery, dreamy superimpositions and grainy, Super 8-ish intrusions - and dispelled in the final shot that operates as a comment on the illusory nature of cinema.

3 Aug 2017

The Loner (Daniel Y-Li Grove, 2016)

 ☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Frequently drenched in iridescent neon lights – sultry pinks, venomous greens and foreboding yellows, The Loner (aka The Persian Connection) marks a sexy, stylish feature debut for Daniel Y-Li Grove and develops as a simple, yet effective neo-noir-ish B gangster flick with Iranian flavor (harkening back to Ayatollah Khomeini's era) and 'Refnesque' feeling, supported by the well-rounded performances from the co-writer star Reza Sixo Safai (of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night fame) and the lovely Helena Mattsson (lending some gravitas to her whore/mother/lover/pop-punk princess character), as well as by Steven Capitano Calitri's seductive cinematography and Photek's pulsing synth score (not to mention Julian Sands as a sleazy, wig-wearing crime lord).