Snake Eyes

August 20, 2016

directed by Brian De Palma, 1998


In the weeks leading up to Snake Eyes’ release in August of 1998, my dad and I had gone together to see Lethal Weapon 4, There’s Something About Mary and The Negotiator. Both action titles were forgettable fare, but were a big deal upon release. (Riggs and Murtaugh vs. Jet Li! Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey conversing via walkie-talkie!) Brian De Palma‘s Snake Eyes with dad was the next order of business. The theater was packed because adults frequented the multiplexes not so long ago. You’re all of 10 years old, Nicolas Cage’s recent output – The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off — has been terrific, and something seemed off with this new one. You remember leaving the theater not disappointed, but with little to discuss with dad on the ride home. Dad passed away in 2013, long after the Gary Sinise villain era and a few years before cinephiles would comb through De Palma’s entire body of work. Most memories of dad have long faded, willfully replaced with those of an unrecognizable, horrible person — when he’s referenced in the later years, “dad” is replaced strictly by his first name — but somehow, perhaps hilariously so, our date with Snake Eyes endures.

Read full review at The Film Stage


The Witch

February 29, 2016

directed by Robert Eggers, 2015


Robert Eggers’s debut film The Witch arrives prepackaged with the usual hype garnered by a Sundance homerun. Now a year removed from that successful premiere, however, assessments of The Witch have somewhat shifted into a less relevant realm concerning whether horror movies have to be really scary to be effective, or to leave a lasting impression. A portrait of paranoia circa 1630s New England—just five decades before the Salem witch trials—Eggers’s chilly tale of a Puritan family driven mad by satanic forces and familial discord mostly passes the sniff test as an example of frightening period horror. Complications arise only when the film starts treading water with a slow-burn witch-hunt narrative that plays as both frustratingly safe and yet at the same time still plenty appealing—due to the well-rounded cast and some added jolts of terror cropping up throughout.

Read full review at In Review Online


James White

December 18, 2015

directed by Josh Mond, 2015

James White

A stain of blood remains on a shower window after a night of debauchery, a son miles away from home tells his mother, “I love you” on the phone in a subtle register that suggests a history of tenderness and an immediate obligation of proximity between the two. The blood and the phone call can be read as mostly unrelated moments but they exist as remnants of lived-in experience rather than broad strokes, each aiding in our understanding of the protagonist’s stunted growth. Both moments also stand out as details that linger on in writer-director Josh Mond’s Sundance gem James White, a film which follows an aimless and fiery twentysomething (Christopher Abbot) working on getting his shit together as his mother deals with a serious illness. It’s a premise that veers dangerously close to eye-rolling at first glance, but Mond’s confident debut feature lends credence to the notion that proper observation and pathos can do much to transcend the face of familiarity.

Read full review at In Review Online


Almost Arthouse #32: Goosebumps (with Sydney Taylor)

October 20, 2015


On this episode of Almost Arthouse, host Ty Landis welcomes friend Sydney Taylor to the show to discuss the recent Goosebumps movie and some Colin Farrell dream scenarios. Please subscribe to the show on iTunes and leave us a rating as well.

Download the episode


Blu-ray Review: My Own Private Idaho

October 12, 2015

directed by Gus Van Sant, 1991

My Own Private Idaho

To watch My Own Private Idaho (1991) is to bask in the freedom and horror of the open road and its unpredictable rhythms and patterns. Molded by an imperfect, rough conceit, writer-director Gus Van Sant’s third directorial effort stands as an obvious precursor to what the director would later tackle thematically during the late 1990s and well into the aughts. Though films such as Gerry (2002), Elephant (2003) and Last Days (2005) signify an unofficial trilogy of death, My Own Private Idaho captures Van Sant working within the revisionist road movie genre and without the clinical control seen in his aforementioned efforts; instead, Van Sant’s treatise on youth and queer culture remains delicate and empathetic, clear substitutes and early placeholders for what would come to define Van Sant’s work as it continued to evolve.

Read full review at Movie Mezzanine


King of New York 25th Anniversary

September 23, 2015

directed by Abel Ferrara, 1990

King of New York

Released in the same year as Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Joel and Ethan Coen’s Miller’s Crossing, Abel Ferrara’s King of New York has shamefully slipped through the cracks when it comes to charting and discussing great early-1990s crime films. While comparing certain films in a given genre is often fun and interesting, Ferrara’s film resists such easy categorization because of its mean streak of violence, vibrant New York energy, and general disinterest in “cool” ’90s iconography. That the film has largely remained unnoticed by many among its genre contemporaries signals the unfair populist dismissal of Ferrara, a filmmaker who remains one of our most fearless American talents.

Read full essay at Movie Mezzanine


That Sugar Film

July 31, 2015

directed by Damon Gameau, 2014

That Sugar Film

The Australian doc That Sugar Film comes ten years after Morgan Spurlock’s novel Sundance hit Super Size Me, the sobering and darkly comedic expose on the fast food industry that took audiences by storm and spurred change in regards to how high profile companies like McDonald’s portioned some of their meal options; it also charted the effect of said company’s product on the body, an experiment that now feels cheap and dated in the hands of writer-director and test subject Damon Gameau, who not only copies Spurlock’s approach to test and trial, but finds little reason to keep us intrigued.

Read full review at Sound on Sight