Recently Beheld: September 29th - October 5th, 2014

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The Spierig Brothers return and take us by the hand through a topsy-turvy time-traveling tale with impressive performances by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook, the latter is especially a standout with a dual role. I dare not say more than that. However, the gimmicks grow in absurdity and after a dozen reveals you'll likely start guessing what's going to happen before the next dozen.

 

Heavy Metal (1981)

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This Canadian animated anthology quickly reached cult status and it's easy to see why. That said, it's hard to fathom that adult men cobbled this together when it feels ripped from the wet dreams of teenage boys. Some stories are stronger than others, even if a cookie-cutter buxom babe seems to be recurring throughout.

 

The Sacrament (2014)

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Ti West's latest film is an effective faux documentary with durable performances by AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg as filmmakers investigating a cult. Gene Jones plays the charismatic and scene-stealing leader known as Father. West proves yet again that he can spin horror in broad daylight. Full Review

 

My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn (2014)

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As much a necessary supplement to Only God Forgives as Eleanor Coppola's Hearts of Darkness is for Apocalypse Now. This loving and honest account of Nicolas Winding Refn's life before, during and after the making of a film is a must-see for aspiring filmmakers and their families.

 

Only God Forgives (2013)

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Nicolas Winding Refn re-teamed up with Ryan Gosling in this transfixing fairy tale set in the underbelly of Bangkok. With shades of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick it was regarded by few and understood by less. Full Review

 

Nosferatu (1922)

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The granddaddy of Dracula films was actually made without the book rights (hence the name change), but remains the pioneer for depicting cinema's most popular character. Max Schreck's portrayal is hauntingly austere and the project as a whole remains a gorgeous piece of silent filmmaking nearly 100 years later. Full Review

 

The World of Kanako (2014)

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The latest film by Tetsuya Nakashima has more in common with contemporary Korean thrillers than anything Japanese. This winding path to increased depravity follows a fractured father chasing the delusions of his missing daughter. It's a heavy concoction cut like confetti by the film editing, but achieves utter grandeur when all is said and done.

 

Gone Girl (2014)

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Leave it David Fincher to elevate the B-movie plot of a missing wife and her suspected husband to his cold and calculated level of excellence. The film is wholly engrossing, twisty and twisted. Ben Affleck is as solid as ever and Rosamund Pike takes her career to the next level. 

 

ABCs of Death 2 (2014)

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A stronger collection of 26 shorts than the first time through alphabet and quite bit easier to stomach (that could be good or bad deepening on what you want form the film). To be sure, madness still abounds. Love H, J, M, S, V, Y and Z. Sorry V/H/S, but this is now my new favorite horror anthology series on the block. Trailer Review

 

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

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What a pleasant surprise! Not only does it surpass the first film (a cult classic from the '70s depicting a real killer from the '50s), it heavily relies on the original film. It even plays a significant part in the film's plot as the modern day Texarkana is depicted as town stuck in time. A fun meta exercise in the slasher sub-genre with some genuine thrills and plenty of nasty kills.

 

Tokyo Tribe (2014)

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Shion Sono's adaptation of the Santa Inoue manga is an ambitious hip-hop opera sprawled out over a future Tokyo divided by gang territory. It consists of actors who do not rap and rappers who do not act. The events of one evening transpire in a spiraling, repetitive and nonsensical fashion. The potential awesomeness is outmatched by bad-taste and immature waste. As much as it pains me to admit this, I was a much bigger fan of the film before I saw it.


Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

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This terribly loose account of the making of Nosferatu observes John Malkovich as F.W. Murnau and Willem Dafoe as Max Schreck. Most amusing is the film decides Shreck must've been an actual vampire to have been so convincing and creepy in the role. Shadow of the Vampire is a dark comedy about filmmaking and the demands self-obsessed directors and actors put on one another.


Dracula (1931)

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Known and regarded for kicking off the Universal Studios classic monster series, Dracula set the pattern for the immaculate production design and imitated performances. Bela Lugosi is the single-most iconic actor to wear the Count's cape and it's easy to see why the film became a sensation.


In Summation:

What is the single most important aspect of a film? There's no good answer as any given element done poorly can make a production fall apart at the seams. Still, it seems a powerful lead performance can do wonders in and of itself. This week saw many iconic leading actors (including one depiction of another in the case of Shadow of the Vampire).