Author: Nathanael Hood

Killbillies is Shameful

Overview: The members of a modeling shoot get captured by a group of Slovenian hillbillies who want to use their brain juices to make moonshine. Artsploitation Films; 2016; Not Rated; 83 minutes. What’s in a Name?: So . . . Killbillies. That certainly is a title that begs to be remembered. Out of curiosity I checked to see what the original Slovenian title of Tomaz Gorkic’s new horror film was before it got dragged to this side of the Atlantic: Idila, which approximately translates to Idyll. I suppose that title was meant to be ironic since there is very little...

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American Pastoral Offers an Inchoate Adaptation

Overview: Based on Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, American Pastoral charts the downfall of all-american hero Swede Levov as his daughter Merry gets caught up in radical politics and terrorism during the 1960s. Lionsgate; 2016; Rated R; 108 minutes. Too Much to Chew: In adapting Philip Roth’s American Pastoral for his directorial debut, Ewan McGregor demonstrates either extreme foolishness, extreme arrogance, or complete ignorance of the complexities of the subject matter. Roth’s sprawling novel attempted nothing less than an autopsy of the American Dream following the tumultuous Sixties as illustrated by the destruction of Seymour “Swede” Levov, the favorite son of Newark’s Jewish...

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Shin Godzilla May Be the Best Godzilla Since the First

Overview: The King of Monsters returns in this thrilling update to the Godzilla franchise that doubles as a glimpse into the troubled yet resilient soul of twenty-first century Japan. Funimation Films; 2016; Not Rated; 120 minutes. The Fourth Time’s the Charm?: After the thunderous, unexpected success of Legendary Pictures’ 2014 Godzilla, it was only a matter of time until the Japanese followed suit. After all, Japan had always taken a smug pride in how the West had never quite gotten their national icon right—see the unceremonious curb-stomping of Roland Emmerich’s “Zilla” in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). But then unthinkable...

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The Ornithologist Is an Allegorical Failure

Overview: After getting stranded in the wilderness following a kayaking accident, an ornithologist named Fernando experiences a series of bizarre, mystical encounters that lead to his religious awakening. Seeking Distributor; 2016; Not Rated; 117 minutes. Sure, Why Not?: About thirty minutes into João Pedro Rodrigues’s The Ornithologist, I threw up my hands and stopped trying to make sense of what was going on. I decided that from there on out I would greet whatever happened with a resigned “sure, why not?” A duo of Chinese pilgrims seeking the shrine of Saint Anthony of Padua capture and hogtie the titular...

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Doomed!: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four

Overview: An exhaustive examination of the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding the conception, production, and sudden shelving of Oley Sassone’ low-budget cinematic adaptation of Marvel Comics’ The Fantastic Four. Uncork’d Entertainment; 2015; Not Rated; 85 minutes. Setting the Record Straight: The ultimate irony of Oley Sassone’s The Fantastic Four (1994) is that the older it gets, the more it holds up. The landscape of modern superhero films can be broken down into two camps. On one side are grimdark DC Comics adaptations obsessed with dully deconstructing the very concept of superheroes, all the while bravely ignoring fan outrage, critical hatred, and...

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The Vessel is an Achingly Beautiful Portrait of Religious Community

Overview: After a near death experience, a unwilling young man becomes venerated as a living saint by a community savaged ten years earlier by a tsunami which killed 46 children. Outsider Pictures; 2016; Rated PG-13; 86 minutes. Paralytic Grief and Miracles: The small seaside village in Julio Quintana’s The Vessel refuses to move on. Ten years after a tidal wave destroyed the elementary school, killing all of the community’s children, the women still wear black. An unspoken rule binds them together: whoever breaks ranks first and wears a different color will be labeled the worst mother of the bunch....

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Criterion Discovery: The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum

Background The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum (Spine #832) is one of the earliest triumphs of legendary Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi. It’s his fourth film in the main collection, his eighth overall: Ugetsu (Spine #309), Sansho the Bailiff (Spine #386), The Life of Oharu (Spine #664); Osaka Elegy, Sisters of the Gion, Women of the Night, Street of Shame (Eclipse Series 13: Kenji Mizoguchi’s Fallen Women). Story Set in Meiji era Japan, the film follows the doomed love between Kikunosuke Onoe (Shôtarô Hanayagi), the spoiled adopted son of a famous Tokyo Kabuki actor, and Otoku (Kakuko Mori), his father’s...

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