Films I Saw in August 2020

Films I Saw is a self explanatory monthly column dedicated to cataloging each and every film I saw within that month. Each film will be given a grade and a mini review.

Aug. 1— A Silent Voice: The Movie (2016)

Shouya starts bullying the new girl in class, Shouko, because she is deaf. But as the teasing continues, the rest of the class starts to turn on Shouya for his lack of compassion. When they leave elementary school, Shouko and Shouya do not speak to each other again until an older, wiser Shouya, tormented by his past behaviour, decides he must see Shouko once more. A film about forgiveness and regret, A Silent Voice asks the question, “can we ever truly be forgiven for past sins?” Is asking for forgiveness a selfish act and is being haunted by the ghost of the past punishment enough? The film tackles heavy topics but since It’s charming and humorous, it never feels dour. It’s also a bit too long but that’s anime for you.

Grade: B

Aug. 2—The Candy Snatchers (1973)

Attempting to succeed financially by exploiting current trends, niche genres, or lurid content, exploitation films are low-quality “B movies” that can take the form of any genre, as long as it’s smutty. It’s a genre that lives within every genre and is defined solely by it’s nastiness. The nastier and more button pushing the topic, the more notorious the film is. While not as controversial as the “best” of the genre (see: Cannibal Holocaust and Necromantik), The Candy Snatchers is still infamous among fans of this particular type of cinema.

Playing like a perverse and pitch black cousin to Ruthless People, the film is about three kidnappers who snatch up the teenage stepdaughter of a successful banker in the hopes that he’d pay out big to get her back, only to find that he wanted her dead anyways in order to collect on her inheritance. Although not as unpleasant as other exploitation films, it’s still loaded with enough rape, abuse and cynicism to turn off most viewers. But if those things are your bag and you’re in the mood to watch something that won’t make you feel good, The Candy Snatchers delivers.

Grade: C+

Aug. 3—Flight From Paradise (1990)

Living underground and communicating only through large TV screens, two teenagers decide to escape their “imprisonment” by heading to the plague ridden surface to finally meet one another. The perfect film for today, Flight from Paradise is all about social distancing. The entire world is forced to keep at a distance lest they become… something. They either die or become mutants, I don’t remember and frankly, I don’t care enough to find out. It’s Romeo and Juliet set in a horrible Mad Max-esque post apocalypse who’s biggest threat isn’t the lack of natural resources, it’s the lack of interest in the viewer. You will never see this movie and even if you do just to prove me wrong, you will never give a shit about what happens nor will you be entertained by a single second of its runtime.

Grade: F

Aug. 4—Miss Zombie (2013)

After receiving a zombie in the mail and not knowing what to do with her, an affluent family decides to put her to work outside. She scrubs the tiles for hours on end, toiling away every day, until she becomes more and more like a member of the family. The husband likes her, the son has grown attached, the gardener has taken an interest in her and the wife distrusts her. After an accident irrevocably changes the family forever, the zombie becomes even more indispensable and because this, the wife hates her even more. A downbeat tale as bleak as they come, Miss Zombie is the more depressing older sister to Roma. They’re both extremely similar in regards to their depictions of the help as well as both stylistically looking similar since they’re both shot in black in white. They’re almost the exact same movie except Roma is super long and this one has a poor zombie in the lead.

Grade: C+

Aug. 5—Talk to Her (2002)

I don’t know what Almodóvar was trying to say with this film. It clearly isn’t satire since it resonates with a lot of people and I don’t think he was going for high grade camp either. This seems like a legitimate attempt at a profound love story and that boggles my mind more than anything. How anyone could find anything even romantic about this is beyond me. The set up has all the makings of a great love story: two men strike up a friendship while their significant others lie in comas but the problem is, one of those guys isn’t even dating one of the chicks in a coma.

He’s an obsessive stalker who just so happened to work at the hospital she was admitted to. I’m guessing the film is asking the question, “what’s the difference between love and obsession?” but the answer is clearly consent. Because he rapes her and she gives birth while in a coma. This isn’t a love story, it’s a horror movie. Kill Bill told this exact same story more efficiently in ten minutes and it at least had the balls to end with the orderly getting murdered.

Grade: D

Aug. 6—Trouble in Mind (1985)

An Altman-esque rain slicked neo noir filled with shady men and the poor women who love them, Trouble in Mind is the closest the 80s ever got to Casablanca and thank God for that. The troubled lives of an alcoholic ex-con, a coffee shop owner (who just so happens to be his ex), and a young couple looking to make it rich, intertwine and smash into each other in the fictitious Rain City.

Like a boring version of Streets of Fire or a less stylistic Dick Tracy, the film has oodles of atmosphere but no substance. All the characters are deplorable and highly unlikable, the acting is substandard, the plot is contrived, the aesthetic is gaudy and the pace is glacial. About the only thing it did right was cast Divine in the role of Hilly Blue, a big shot mob boss. He’s having the time of his life, but to be fair, he is used to eating dog shit after all.

Grade: D

Aug. 7—Behind Convent Walls (1978)

The films of Walerian Borowczyk are the definition of pretentious. They’re smut masquerading as high art because Borowczyk doesn’t have the courage to be a pornographer. He clearly has skill seeing as the sex scenes in all of his films are well made and erotic but everything on either side of those scenes are dull and again, pretentious

This film is all about young nuns being naughty, which means that every fifteen minutes or so, one of them will sneak off to have sex with some dude or that they’ll masturbate with a handcrafted wooden dildo. On paper that sounds great but the execution is frustratingly boring. I don’t know if Borowczyk wanted to make a  classy X rated romp in order to prove that he could merge the two (that being the classy and the smutty) in an attempt to legitimize porn or if he just wanted to give the audience blue balls. Either way, the end product is bad.

Grade: D

Aug. 8—Come and See (1985)

TimeOut magazine once listed Come and See number 76 in their top 100 scariest films of all time list and at first glance, that would seem ridiculous until you realize everything about this film is pure horror. The main character witnesses and experiences nothing but scene after scene of horrific events. It’s a horror film as much as it is a war film and that’s why it’s a masterpiece. It doesn’t depict war as an adventure or soldiers as heroes vs villains. It depicts monsters doing unspeakable acts of violence. The title of the film refers to the book of revelations and the witnessing of the end of days brought on by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. It’s an invitation to witness the end of everything and every time the lead of the film looks into the camera the film wonders how much more will you be willing to accept. Come and See.

Grade: B+

Aug. 9—The Penalty (1920)

Méliès created film as we know it and Chaplin was the first movie star but Chaney’s contributions might be more significant. He was the first truly great actor of the silver screen. History will remember him as a pioneer of prosthetics and while that’s a hell of a legacy to leave behind, I think the fact that he sold those creations is more important. Anyone can slap on some make up and fake teeth and be a monster but it takes a true artist to sell that effect. Again, not to diminish his skills as a make up artist because they really are second to none but his commitment to the art of film extended past prosthetics. Which leads me to The Penalty.

A film where he doesn’t wear a single ounce of prosthetics but does wear a homemade device to hide his legs, which almost nearly crippled him. Chaney gives arguably his greatest performance as a gangster who wants revenge on the doctor who mistakenly amputated his legs years earlier. He’s devious, devilish and conniving, a true monster of cinema. He will always be remembered for his ghouls (and for good reason) but this performance, as well as a handful of others, proved that he could make monsters out of men without effects, he could so with just his acting.

Grade: B+

Aug. 10— The Hidden Fortress (1958)

Two gold seeking peasants team up with two fellow travelers, not knowing that they are the missing princess and her bodyguard who are incognito. Kurosawa’s most commercially successful film, The Hidden Fortress is the closest he ever got to making a blockbuster. Much like how Scorsese had to make The Color of Money after each of his films failed at the box office in the 80s or like how Carpenter had to make Christine because everyone was dumb and didn’t go see The Thing in theaters, Kurosawa backed himself into a corner and needed to buy his way out with a hit. So he decided to make what he referred to as “100% entertainment” and in doing so, not only made one of his most purely entertaining movies, it also inspired Star Wars and an entire generation of filmmakers because that. The movie everyone dismissed at the time became arguably the most important film in cinematic history. That’s how great Kurosawa was; even his “trash” generates treasures.

Grade: B

Aug. 11—If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

After her fiance is falsely imprisoned, a pregnant African-American woman sets out to clear his name and prove his innocence. While I think Moonlight is a better and more important film, this one landed with me harder. The main character’s plight as well as the struggles of his friends and family, resonated with me more. These are the types of films I want to see about black people living in America. Not the shit Tyler Perry makes or the message films that are only made to win Oscars and to make white people feel good about learning a lesson by the end *cough Green Book * cough*. I want movies that depict what it truly feels to be black in America. How hard it is, how scary it is and how important it is for shit to change. If Beale Street Could Talk is the type of film I want to see Hollywood make more of but they won’t because there’s no white people to slap on the poster. If only they cast Chris Evans as the lead, then it could’ve won all the Oscars. Missed opportunity, that.

Grade: B+

Aug. 12—The Sound of Music (1965)

One of the great cinematic monoliths I’ve never seen, The Sound of Music has been on my watchlist for about two decades now. I knew I had to see it but not a single thing about it was appealing to me. I’m not the biggest fan of musicals, I don’t particularly enjoy movies with 18 hour runtimes and I don’t care about nuns or singing families but goddamn it, this film won me over. The songs are fucking delightful, Julie Andrews is a treasure and much to my surprise, I was never bored. It is overly long but at no point did the film feel like it dragged. Twenty minutes could’ve easily been cut out but I honestly don’t know from where. It’s not that every scene is essential but that no scene feels superfluous. It’s a big ass piece of candy that might be too big or sweet for some but I found thoroughly enjoyable.

Grade: B+

Aug. 13—The Killing Fields (1984)

The real-life story of a friendship between two journalists, an American and a Cambodian, during the bloody Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in 1975, which led to the death of 2-3 million Cambodians during the next four years, until Pol Pot’s regime was toppled by the intervening Vietnamese in 1979. A film of many parts, each more impressive than the last. First, there’s the incredible debut performance by Dr. Haing S. Ngor, who is heartbreakingly good in this film. He’s the glue that holds this film together and his friendship with Sam Waterston is as beautiful as it is triumphant (how fucking perfect is that ending?)

Next there’s the film’s depiction of the war crimes/atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, which is appalling but important (a lot of The Dead Kennedys songs suddenly make sense after watching this) and lastly, there’s the supporting cast. John Malkovich and Julian Sands are both on fire as a couple of fellow reporters. There’s a scene around the middle of the film, where they desperately try to forge a fake passport for Ngor’s character and it’s one of the most tense sequences I’ve seen in a long time. They, along with Waterston and obviously Ngor, sell the desperation of the situation. If they fail, he will die. It’s a remarkable scene in the middle of an equally remarkable movie. Essential viewing.

Grade: B+

Aug. 14—Project Power (2020)

Since they’re such a hot commodity right now, with studios announcing a new movie and/or TV show on a near weekly basis, comic book movies have become an omnipresence in all of our lives. Superheroes have become almost impossible to avoid. Because the market is completely saturated, it takes something truly special to stand out from the crowd. And if it’s not based on an existing property, it had better be unique and/or original to not feel derivative.

Project Power is none of these things. Created solely with the intent to cash in on the comic book craze, Project Power is a soulless cash grab that doesn’t have an original bone in its body. A horrible amalgamation of X-Men, Push and Powers, the film has a ton of ideas but had no idea how to pull them all together. The premise is almost interesting, the powers are almost entertaining to watch and the characters are almost characters. The only positive about the film is Dominique Fishback’s performance. She’s going to be a star and the film doesn’t deserve a performance as good as hers.

Grade: D

Aug. 15— Gwendoline (1984)

As epic a soft core booby flick as there ever was, Gwendoline is to fantasy, what Barbarella was to sci-fi. It’s a pulpy adventure film filled with tons of t & a and cheese but also some of the worst performances ever committed to celluloid. Everyone in it is either trying way to hard or not trying enough, which reminds one of that Oscar debacle involving Franco and Hathaway as hosts.

But you’re not watching this for the performances or the characters or even the plot (Gwendoline, with the help of a curmudgeonly Captain and her sexy friend, are on the hunt for a very rare butterfly. Yes, seriously), you’re watching it for the tits and yes, there’s a lot of them. Tawny Kitaen is almost always shirtless, as is her friend and about fifty other women. But as amazing as all these titties are, the most impressive thing about the film is the set design. Whatever studio bankrolled this film actually threw decent money at it because the sets look pretty damn good. Not enough to balance out the boring second half or the horrible performances but, like the tits, it’s really trying.

Grade: D+

Aug. 16—No Blade of Grass (1990)

After a strange new virus kills specific strains of grasses such as wheat and rice, the world descends into famine and chaos. Thinking he’ll be safer at his brother’s farm, John, along with his family and friends, has to make his way from London to northern England, all while dealing with hordes of nasty gangs. Singularly unpleasant and extremely heavy handed (the future presented in this film is YOUR fault), No Blade of Grass tries to be a thrilling adventure film with a message but fails to hit anything even remotely close to a target.

It presents the audience with a number of horrible scenarios and then asks, what would you do? and how far would you go? but since the questions have obvious answers, it just comes off as a joke, a parody of much better films. It’s shoddy misery porn without a message and a horrible action film without any action or stakes.

Grade: F

Aug. 17—Body Bags (1991)

A horror anthology made up of three segments, two from John Carpenter and one by Tobe Hooper. The first one, about a serial killer terrorizing a gas station employee, is probably the best of the bunch. While it really doesn’t build up to anything and just kind of ends, there is some good tension in the beginning and the cameos (Sam Raimi! Wes Craven!) are at least fun.

The second one, about a hair transplant gone horribly wrong, is entertaining on a conceptual level and probably would’ve worked on the pages of a comic book but in live action, it just doesn’t connect. It’s far too silly to take seriously and that score is God awful. Keach is at least giving it his all but he can only do so much.

The third story, about a pitcher who, after a car accident, gets an eye transplant from a serial killer, with predicable results. Slightly better than the second one but not by much, this one is the closest to being great and is the only one that feels like it was made to be apart of a horror anthology. It’s a stand alone story that has a beginning, middle and end but outside of its concept and structure, it fails in every other way. It’s not scary, it’s not entertaining and the performances are all pretty bad.

The only thing good about this movie and the thing everyone remembers about it, is the wrap around involving Carpenter as an undead mortician. He’s having a blast, I just wish the rest of the film had that same kind of energy.

Grade: D

Aug. 18—Three Colors: Blue (1993)

Tormented with grief and haunted by regret, Julie (Juliette Binoche) has become a ghost of her former self after she survived a tragic car accident that claimed the life of her composer husband and young daughter. Completely withdrawn from the world, she now lives in isolation, locked away in a prison she created out of misery and pain. But after a chance encounter with an old friend, she slowly tries to bring people back into her life and eventually, decides to rejoin society and live life again. Films about deep sadness, especially grief, are hard to watch by design. They’re jagged pills that ain’t easy to swallow but sometimes contain rewards.

While I appreciate everything about this film on a technical level, the only thing I will remember about this film, the only thing that will stick with me forever, is Binoche’s performance. Like Theron in Monster or Berry in Monster’s Ball, her performance is the movie. Like a cracked porcelain doll or a mournful phantom trying desperately not to be noticed, her Julie is a broken woman but through that pain, you see the beautiful, strong woman she once was. She’s like maelstrom of emotions, just waiting to destroy everything and everyone around her but her strength never lets her pain turn to rage. It’s a phenomenal performance and is worth watching the movie just to see it.

Grade: C+

Aug. 19—First Love (2019)

First Love feels like three of the Coen Bros films stitched together and no, that’s not a compliment. There’s just too many subplots and characters for you to get invested in any of them or to even care. Since this is a Miike film, you at least know going in that the action will be on point and that the violence will be deliciously over the top and while there is a decent sized shoot out later in the movie, it definitely feels like a case of too little, too late. There’s boxers with brain tumors, yakuza hitmen, crooked cops, more cops, more yakuza, a vengeful girlfriend of a drug dealer and so many guns. It sounds fun on paper but once you realize that the entire convoluted set up is just a means to get a whole bunch of people, all with reasons to kill each other into a giant warehouse towards the end, you start to check out. It stops being a film with characters and more like a chessboard with pieces all slowly moving toward the center. And I mean I do mean slowly.

Grade: D

Aug. 20—The Last Waltz (1978)

Often regarded as the best concert film ever, The Last Waltz documents the last concert of the band The Band. Interweaving concert footage with back stage interviews, Scorsese is documenting as well as revealing. He’s capturing a historic moment that’s filled with amazing performances from rock stars and blues legends, including: Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Dr. John and many others. He’s also letting the band tell any story they want, which isn’t as important as that legendary lineup of musicians but it is to the band.

Sticking mostly to just short stories about their careers and their life on the road, the amusing anecdotes are nevertheless revealing and entertaining. I liked the stories for the most part, I just wish they were either cut out entirely or punched up a bit more. I also didn’t like the music. Like, at all. I didn’t hate any of the songs nor did they make me want to turn off the film but dad rock doesn’t really do anything for me. I recognize this film’s importance and I can see why people would love it but it just wasn’t for me.

Grade: C

Aug. 21—Dead Poets Society (1989)

A radical free thinking teacher shakes up the system and changes a group of students lives forever when they decide to recreate the club he was in when he was their age. Three guises as to what it was called. I don’t know what’s more impressive, the fact that this film almost gets me interested in poetry or that it doesn’t feel like a hallmark TV movie. The gut says poetry for obvious reasons (it stinks) but the head, which is almost always correct, goes with the latter.

It could’ve been so easy for this to have ended up as one of their movie-a-week specials or some Oscar bait trash due to the setting and subject matter but because of some key elements, it manages to expertly weave and navigate around the pitfalls that plague films of its ilk. For one thing, those other films don’t have a director as strong as Peter Weir nor do they have an actor as phenomenal as Robin Williams. Both director and actor do they’re damnedest to make this a believe world that you care about and that looks gorgeous (while also pulling on the all of the heartstrings) but it’s really the screenplay that should get all of the credit for its success.

Everyone in Hollywood wanted to make it for a reason: it is one of those perfectly constructed pieces of drama that hits all the right notes and will be guaranteed to make bank and do gangbusters come award season. It has everything critics like and everything audience members go to the cinema see. It’s a perfect piece of mainstream cinema and I mean that in the best possible way.

Grade: B+

Aug. 22—Junebug (2005)

The arrival of Amy Adams and the beginning of what would later be dubbed “the snubbing”. As of this write up, she has yet to receive an Oscar, which is a travesty as much as it is a mockery. She is far and away the best thing about this film and if it wasn’t for her performance, I doubt it would even be remembered today. The film is about an art dealer who, while trying to secure a deal with a crazy avant garde artist, is dealing with her husband’s eccentric family. While learning more about them, she learns more about her husband. Things she didn’t know. It’s all about the lives we present to others and the things we choose to hide.

The ones that are the happiest, are the ones who don’t hide anything from anyone. Adams is a straight shooter (almost to a fault), the artist is unashamedly bizarre and the father lives in his own little world. Nothing really amounts to much — there’s no Earth shattering revelations or huge confrontations — and the character drama really pays off. Things just happen and then it ends with the only takeaway you’ll have being, “when will the academy do right?”

Grade: C+

Aug. 23—Body Parts (1991)

Although Cronenberg is the name most associated with the sub-genre, body horror can and is more than just The Fly, Videodrome or Scanners. Anything involving the body changing or the betrayal of the flesh, constitutes a body horror film. Which means Frankenstein and all of its ilk are under that umbrella, as well as the notorious evil body part movie. Notorious because that premise usually lends itself to some pretty ridiculous movies. Some involve a hand getting a mind of its own, others include people getting horrible visions with their newfangled special eyes and in the case of Body Parts, an arm that once belonged to a serial killer slowly trying to possess its host.

There’s a bit more to it than that but therein lies the biggest problem with the movie. The best and most interesting ideas are all shoved into the last twenty or so minutes. The majority of the film involves Jeff Fahey trying to piece together the mystery of his limb and if the other recipients of these transplants are dealing with his same murderous impulses. Spoiler alert: they are. Where it goes, I won’t reveal but it is a unique premise that could’ve been really fun if they dedicated more time to it but once it’s introduced, the film is essentially over. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch but it could’ve been a much better one with a few  changes.

Grade: C

Aug. 24—Mom (1991)

A kind, elderly woman provides a nomad with room and board but It turns out that he is a ghoul in disguise who’s responsible for a string of recent killings. After he bites the elderly woman, she herself turns into a monster with a taste for human flesh. After discovering this fact, her son must now prevent her from eating anymore homeless while also dealing with the nomad who isn’t a fan of the interference. My Mother’s a Werewolf done dead seriously, Mom does some interesting things and has a pretty great dilemma at the center of it but is ultimately a swing and a miss. I wonder if it would be more or less well known if it was called Momster instead?

Grade: D

Aug. 25—Pulse (2001)

A strange door affixed with red electrical tape. A website filled with people doing odd things. A stain on the wall in the shape of a human body. A little boy peering around the corner of a library shelf. Instead of focusing on the the big moments like typical horror films, e.g. the jump scare or a showstopping finale, Pulse opts for a more subtle approach. When two groups of teenagers discover that the land of the dead is trying to inhabit the world of the living through technology, they desperately try and find a solution which leads them to the realization that the only way to beat it, is to outrun it and outlive it.

It cultivates dread through creepy images, ratcheting up the suspense slowly and deliberately. This isn’t a slow burn but rather a mood piece. It’s never building to something, instead it’s goal is to keep the viewer in a state of perpetual unease. It might feel a bit dated or quant in retrospect (it was made in a time when people legitimately believed the internet was a thing that could potentially get haunted. Now we know it’s just filled with toxic douche bags) but it’s brand of uncomfortable terror still resonates today.

Grade: B

Aug. 26—Brainscan (1991)

Brainscan might be the single most 90s horror film in existence. It’s all about an evil video game that tricks the player (played by Edward Furlong, in what might be his worst performance) into committing random acts of murder. Everything about it is extremely dated, from the obsolete technology to the trashin’ soundtrack to the horrible costumes. Even the villain feels very Jim Carrey-esque. Played by T. Ryder Smith, the Trickster is a cyber demon who delights in tormenting whichever poor soul decides to play his game. More mischievous than malevolent, he’s more a horrible distraction than outright monster. He’s the best thing about the film by a country mile. I would rank him among the most underrated horror baddies; I definitely would’ve seen another film starring this character. The kills are adequate and the premise is rather solid (it has pretty good twist I didn’t see coming) but it’s the Trickster you’ll remember most about it. That or the fact that Frank Langella is inexplicably in this. I’m guessing old man Langella wanted to build an annex on his house or a swimming pool or some shit.

Grade: C+

Aug. 27—Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (1973)

After receiving a letter from her absentee father, a young girl embarks on a terrifying journey to find him and the truth behind his disappearance. The director was once quoted as saying, “the film wasn’t successful because it was too arty for the exploitation crowd and too sleazy for the art crowd” and while I can see where he’s coming from, the biggest problem with the film in my opinion, is that it’s waaaaaaay too creepy for a kid’s film. While faithful to the tone of old Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen stories, this story just might not work on the big screen like those stories do on the page. It’s like Silent Hill and Valerie and Her Week of Wonders collided head on with Alice in Wonderland. There’s an innocent girl trapped in a strange town, with stranger inhabitants and the strangest monsters around. This is most definitely kinder trauma. If you saw this when you were a kid, you most likely never forgot it. Some of the images burned their way into your subconsciousness and most likely fucked you up. That’s the kind of power I wish every children’s film had.

Grade: B

Aug. 28—November (2017)

In a poor Estonian village, a group of peasants use magic and folk remedies to survive the winter, and a young woman tries to get a young man to love her. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film from Estonia before (I honestly don’t even know where the fuck that is) but if they’re all this crazy awesome, sign me up for all of their films. Every other country can stop producing shit as far as I’m concerned because ain’t nobody gonna top November. Not because it’s great (which it is) but because it’s so unique and unlike anything else. The film feels like Robert Eggers took the Brothers Grimm and Tarkovsky, threw em in a bag and made em knife fight each other to the death. It’s a dark fairy tale, a weird art-house film and a horrific supernatural fable all rolled into one.

It’s Romeo and Juliet with unexplained magic and inexplicable traditions, including putting shoes on your hands to trick the devil into thinking you’re two people and spilling blood onto a book belonging to a weirdo in the middle of the forest to get an additional soul to create a slave made out of hand tools and scrap metal to do your bidding. It’s a beautiful piece of abstract nonsense that’s filled with images you’ll never forget.

Grade: B+

Aug. 29—Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014)

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is the story of Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi), a peculiar young woman who convinces herself that the film Fargo, a work of fiction, is real and that the bag of money Buscemi’s character buries at the end is still there, waiting to be discovered. Her bizarre journey to Brainerd, Minnesota for “untold riches” makes for an entertaining watch. Kumiko is a quirky character and her determination, however misguided, is infectious.

Because she’s just so gosh darned likable, It’s hard not to root for her even though again, she’s using a fictitious movie as a treasure map to find non-existent loot but since this is loosely based on the tragic life of Takako Konishi, Kumiko’s every action takes on an extra layer of profound sadness. The character, as well as the film, has an undercurrent of devastating heartbreak raging just below the surface. At first glance, her adventure (that she takes with her adorable bunny) is the type of wacky normally reserved for low budget indie comedies but as the film goes on, it becomes increasingly apparent that this story won’t have a happy ending. Treading the fine line between truth and fiction and harsh truths and easy lies, Kumiko is more than just an homage to the Cohen brothers, it’s in some ways, better than their best work. It’s that good.

Grade: B

Aug. 30—Snowtown (2011)

Based on the notorious ‘Snowtown Murders’, Snowtown is about a 16-year-old who falls in with his mother’s new boyfriend and his crowd of self-appointed neighborhood watchmen, a relationship that eventually leads to torture and murder. Not including the extreme shit only die-hard gorehounds know about, this is easily one of the heaviest, repulsive, hard-to-look-at-the-screen films to come out in a long time. You have to go all the way back to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to find a film so unapologetically brutal and realistically heinous. The fact that this film is based on a true story, makes it all the more insane. The marketing department should’ve stolen the tagline of The Last House on the Left for this film: “To avoid fainting, keep repeating, it’s only a movie. Only a movie. Only a movie. Only a movie…”

Grade: B+

Aug. 31—Prospect (2018)

With a map to a large deposit of elusive gems hidden in the depths of a toxic forest on a remote alien moon in their possession, a teenage girl (Sophie Thatcher) and her father (Jay Duplass) must fend off all sorts of malevolent beings intent on stealing the map if they want to strike it rich or even make it off the moon alive. An extremely low budget but high concept sci-fi film, Prospect punches far above its weight. Originality and character isn’t one of the film’s strong suits (you’ve seen this story a hundred times before and the characters aren’t much more than stock caricatures) but what the film does do well, it does extremely well. The world building is first rate, the performances are good enough that you’ll forgive the cliched aspects of their characters and Pedro Pascal kills as the quasi sorta baddie. Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl somehow turned their 14 minute short into a minor sci-fi gem.

Grade: B

What did you watch last month?

Author: Sailor Monsoon

I stab.