Alice Sweet Alice

1976 | dir: Alfred Sole | 98 m

The stars were aligned for me to watch this movie: it was discussed in some detail on The Evolution of Horror podcast that I've been getting into, and released by Arrow recently on bluray: the timing was too good to pass up so I indulged in this murder mystery film.

Alice is a withdrawn 12-year-old who lives with her mother and her younger sister, Karen, who gets most of the attention from her mother, leaving Alice out of the spotlight. But when Karen is found brutally murdered in a church, suspicions start to turn toward Alice. But could a 12-year-old girl really be capable of such savagery?

Well, that about sets the stage properly for the film, doesn't it? But it doesn't prepare you for the true horror of this movie: the disgusting adults. It almost bears a disclaimer that the actress playing young Alice was nineteen at the time of filming, although that doesn't make things much easier to watch. You'll be uncomfortable as characters make incredibly bad comments about Alice's body, to a point wherein it seems the filmmakers are intent on giving you sympathy for the girl while at the same time having her serve as the primary suspect of the brutal murder of her sister and some other violent attacks on others. Things felt a bit off for me throughout the film, and I found it difficult to invest myself fully as the film explores themes of religion, innocence and guilt around a decidedly scary and distinctive looking murderer in a bright yellow raincoat. It most certainly holds more to appreciate, as I read other, smarter reviews of the film, but I would be hard-pressed to revisit the film again without a purpose.

Rating: 3.5 / 5  | IMDB | Letterboxd

The Dawn Wall

2017 | dir: Josh Lowell, Peter Mortimer | 101 m

A little while ago Cale coerced me into watching Free Solo; it had been on my watchlist/radar for a bit but sometimes you just need that little encouragement to take the plunge. It's not that i dislike documentaries, it's just that I *rarely* watch them. And the film did not disappoint; so when it came time to watch a movie with my parents and we were browsing Netflix, I had to jump on The Dawn Wall: the ingredients were similar to Free Solo and it looked to be well regarded. Dawn does not disappoint. The documentary follows Tommy Caldwell's incredible story in his journey to not just climb El Capitan, but to strike out a new route up what would have been considered an impossible obstacle. It's an interesting lifestory, harrowing to watch and incredibly fascinating. It also makes me quite happy to be content on the ground my entire life, yet respect those that strive for the ascent. This is a must watch for anyone with the slightest tingle of adventure in them.

Rating: 4 / 5 | IMDB | Letterboxd


2007 | dir: Lee Tamahori | 1h 6m

Did I see this movie once before, over a decade ago, or am I seeing it for the first time now? Was it that forgettable? Yet it's hardly forgettable as it seems like a bit of a meme-factory or at the very least, a production floor of Nic Cage gifs for quick internet consumption. The plot is straightforward enough that I question why Cage has to be so odd yet I recognize it's part of what he does. Everyone else (Julianne Moore and Jessica Biel) just kind of show up for the movie while Cage hams it up as a character who can see two minutes into the future, unless he's around Biel's character. The logistics aren't really explained: it seems to be a superpower in that he can play out the next two minutes in infinite ways before allowing time to progress as normal. While I could see an interesting story here about our hero who is struggling with reality (perhaps he sees the next two minutes and the present simultaneously), instead we have Cage testing out dozens of pickup lines to seduce a woman who seems adamant about rejecting his advances; but he finds a way through - which feels manipulative - I would have been happier if he just found a way to become this woman's friend for the sole reason of enhancing his abilities. We could have even had more greatness if maybe she had her own abilities that were also enhanced around Cage. Alas, the film plays things safe yet weird. It's not a terrible film but it's far from great.

1.5 / 5 | IMDB | Letterboxd

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

2019 | dir: Quentin Tarantino | 2h 41m

To be perfectly upfront: I don't necessarily get excited for Tarantino films, but I do make a point of seeing them in the theatre. I can appreciate his approach to cinema but I don't often find myself revisiting like I used to. Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs were Top Films of my youth and perhaps saturated my appetite for a long time to come. That being said, I love the attention to detail Tarantino puts into his films, and the originality of which he brings life to the big screen. I really enjoyed Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Where his previous - The Hateful Eight - was an exercise in tension, Hollywood is on the surface, a slower, lighter, more escapist film that (of course) dabs into the brutal violence he's known for. Being somewhat unaware of the general plot beforehand certainly lent itself to my enjoyment of the film, but I would have to say I was fully invested throughout the (lengthy) run-time. The acting is incredible and the characters were vibrant and full of depth. Maybe I don't give Tarantino enough credit; at the very least I need to revisit his filmography as I truly appreciate the content he puts out there.

Score: 4 / 5 | IMDB Letterboxd

A Bay of Blood

1971 | dir: Mario Bava | 1h 25m

Inspired by my latest project to follow along with a horror podcast focusing on the history of slasher films, I ended up watching A Bay of Blood on a Sunday evening with popcorn in hand and an eagerness to focus on a foreign film; with subtitles, I find the temptation to look at my phone significantly reduced and I swear the forced focus enhances my experience (akin to watching a film in the theatre, really). With a slew of Argento films under my belt by now, I was excited that I would be watching my first Mario Bava film, but I left a bit disappointed. This is a good movie, without a doubt, but the pacing feels inconsistent, and I honestly found things a bit confusing. When the slashing starts, it really rolls, but there are long periods of inactivity, with the climax of the film petering out with an extraordinary amount of exposition. I'm sure the foreign names don't help as I tried to make sense of the explanation on what just happened (that is, the conclusion to who killed the heiress) but was pretty happy the film didn't overstay its welcome.

Score: 2.5 / 5 | IMDB Letterboxd

The Dungeonmaster

1984 | dir: Various | 1h 13m

Also known as Ragewar, this film was truly unexpected: a magician/wizard/demon brings our hero to another realm where setups up seven challenges that must be passed in order to save the hero's girlfriend, all the while using his "technology" which he keeps referring to as a form of magic. He's not wrong, really. Our protagonist is dealing with a jealous girlfriend as he spends entirely way too much time with his artificial intelligence creation, but it's this AI that they must depend on to survive. As the credits begin, you notice there are no fewer than seven directors: this is because the film has seven challenges and each segment is directed by a different person and will vary wildly in quality. For an already short run time, these pieces don't have any time to develop, so they are often wrapped up quickly, confusingly and laughably. It's an enjoyable and fun watch with friends though.

Score: 1 / 5 | IMDB Letterboxd

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

1970 | dir: Dario Argento | 1h 36m

I'm always enthralled with these giallo entries, yet I'm not sure if that's because they are good films, or that the genre is still fresh to me. After delving into Arrow Video's catalog, I've really fallen in love with these whodunnit mystery thrillers and Plumage did not disappoint. Credited as one of the earliest of the giallo genre, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage follows an American author who witnesses an attempted murder while living in Rome and goes on to throw himself fully into the investigation of who the assailant is. I may write a more in-depth piece on this for the site as there are many interesting things to discuss, including where this film sits in its influence on future entries in the genre, and the little takeaways that keep me smiling (e.g. Argento's insistence on dubbing all dialog, and the police's nonchalant attitude to letting a civilian becoming so involved with an active investigation). 

Score: 3.5 / 5 | IMDB Letterboxd

Spider-Man: Far From Home

2019 | dir: Jon Watts | 129m

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is, by this point, a well-oiled machine that basically prints money on command. Spider-Man Far From Home, the second solo outing for Peter Parker and his alter-ego in the MCU, seemed destined to be a smash success, as most Marvel films are these days. And, of course, it is raking in a tonne of dough. There's no question it's a financial success for Marvel Studios and their evil overlords at Disney. It did what it was designed to do, and exactly nothing more.

I went in to Spider-Man: Far From Home as a fan of the MCU in general: a few terrible films, a few great films, a lot of solid films somewhere in between those two extremes, but always well-thought out and part of a larger plan. I remember walking out of Avengers: Infinity War and thinking that this is probably as close as I would get to experiencing a cinematic event that people watching The Empire Strikes Back for the first time in theatres must have shared. I'm impressed at the MCU's long-form storytelling, a sort of modern reinvention of the old serial films that people like George Lucas grew up on, and I'm on board, man. I'm picking up what they're putting down.

So of course following this classical rhetorical device of listing my franchise-appropriate geek bona fides, I will follow up with how disappointed I was with Spider-Man: Far From Home. It wasn't terrible; it wasn't great. It was a standard middle-of-the-road MCU film, but almost cynical in its mediocrity, as though tempting audiences to even try and let their heroes - both super and corporate - fail.

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In The Company of Men

1997 | Dir: Neil LaBute | 1h 37m

This movie is a tough sell on its own; the basic setup is this: two misogynistic friends decide to get revenge on the female gender by attempting to ruin an innocent woman's life. How could this possibly turn into a film you would watch? I'm pretty sure this came from a list of "most disturbing" films - and it is, although not in the classic way that comes to mind when you say "disturbing." The film throws itself in the deep end of political incorrectness, offensive language and behaviour, but somehow comes out to be an interesting film. There's a second layer at work here, one that you can feel throughout the runtime and comes to a satisfying payoff in the end.

Score: 4 / 5
IMDB Letterboxd