Author: Travis Losh

Murder of a Cat

Overview: A helpless momma’s boy runs into some trouble when his cat is murdered. Seine Pictures; Not Rated; 96 minutes. Insensitive: Murder of a Cat is a hapless mess from the onset. Shortly after we meet the main character, Clinton Moisey (Fran Kranz), the cat is murdered. The whole matter is conducted in a deeply insensitive manner.  While I’m deathly allergic to cats, and I’m not a particularly sensitive man (well, maybe a little), the way in which everything was handled served as a shock to even my sensibilities. With that said, this film commits thereafter to continue down a road of...

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Criterion Discovery: Revanche

Background Revanche is an Austrian film directed by Gotz Spielmann. It was originally released in 2008 and nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 81st Academy Awards. It was later released on Blu-Ray, apart of the Criterion Collection, on February 16th, 2010, as spine #502. This is the only Speilmann film on the collection (his short Foreign Land is in the supplements section of this release), and this is the first of his films to be released in the United States. Story Alex (Johannes Krisch) begins working at a brothel after getting out of prison.  He sparks a...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #14: Kill List

Kill List Director: Ben Wheatley Genre: Crime, Thriller, Horror Warp X/Rook Films Premise: Jay (Neil Maskell) is a hitman who hasn’t worked in over a year because of a botched job, and his marriage to Shel (Myanna Burning) is failing. When she confronts him about their financial problems (and his laziness), he takes on a life-altering assignment. Kill List is a smartly objective film that disregards the standard techniques used in most horror films. On the front it plays like a crime thriller, but sneaks into a realm of uncomfortablet. And, in that sense, Ben Wheatley knew exactly how to accomplish his objective by hiding his ambition behind Jay and Shel’s failing marriage. This marriage is absent from the screen but always driving the action after Jay takes the new complex job. The job moves as a shocking trip through moral standards riding atop that age-old question about the complexities involved in ridding the world or horrible people.  This gray area makes Jay realize the world is a sadistic mess. This is the first instance of foreshadowing and suggestion to this films greater, unmentionable idea.  This film is a slow burner graffitti’d with violent outbursts and backed with moral reasoning. When the actual horror elements kick in, Kill List becomes something far more than a murderfest. And, at the end of it all, this film offers one of the...

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Criterion Discovery: The Sword of Doom

Background The Sword of Doom is directed by Kihachi Okamato and originally released in 1966. It had a early Criterion DVD release (Spine #280), but is slated for a BluRay release on January 6th, 2015. Okamato has two other films in the collection: Kill! as Spine #213 and Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo, which is Vol. 20 in the Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman box set. Story Ryunosuke Tsukue is a talented swordsman with evil intent. Through his violent actions, vendettas are formed that never faze his nature, but lead him to battle for his soulless existence. The Film This is possibly...

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Fury

Overview: At the tail end of WW2, a sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) leads a seasoned tank crew on a push against the Nazi power. Columbia Pictures; Rated R; 134 min Bold: David Ayer (End of Watch) has proven himself to be an interesting director in his limited accomplishments.  Fury is the strongest bullet point on his young resume.  Fury takes nothing for granted.  It is gruesome but not exploitative. Quiet, but not without weight.  It is heavy, but not dramatic.   Every death is painful, jarring, but not lingered upon. Death and destruction appear in every muddy scene. The dialogue is fragmented...

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Screw It, I’m Talking About Fight Club, a 15th Anniversary Retrospective

When I first watched Fight Club my film knowledge was abysmal. But, I was, in that moment, convinced that I had just seen a contemporary masterpiece. It’s worth noting: I had no idea what that meant, nor will I attempt to act like I did. Fight Club was released fifteen years ago today. And I was nine. Yeah, nine. Most of what I think about the film now I have gathered from later viewings. I probably watched it 20 times in my teens because I thought it was so, so cool. That word stuck with me for years when...

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Criterion Discovery: Something Wild

Background Something Wild was released in 1986 and is directed by Jonathan Demme. It was released in The Criterion Collection on May 10th, 2011 as Spine #563. This is one of two films by Demme that are part of the collection. The other and more widely-appreciated  is The Silence of the Lambs, which swept the 5 main categories at The Academy Awards. Story Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels), a New York City businessman, decides to skip on his bill at the restaurant he frequents. When an off-the-wall woman takes notice, she runs out to confront him, offering him a ride...

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The Signal

Overview: A group of friends driving across the country decide to track down a hacker. Focus features; Rated PG – 13; 97 min Love: One thing is clear from the beginning: Director William Eubank is a director who loves the Sci-Fi genre.  As is the case in his first film Love (self-produced), The Signal showcases a stylized filming from an ex-cameraman/cinematographer who knows how to tell a story with a camera. Even the shortcomings are stylized (there is a slight overuse of slow motion in the film’s last 30 minutes). The film was written by Eubank, David Frigerio, and Eubank’s brother Carlyle,...

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Shaun of the Dead

In 2004, I was 14 years old and had idea of what my own interests were. My family never took trips to the theater, and I didn’t have the means to go on my own, but shortly after Christmas, somehow, my brother convinced our dad to bring home a DVD. That’s the first time I remember watching Shaun of the Dead and the first time I connected with a film on a substantial level. I distinctly remember after the film had ended, it was as if someone had finally laid the foundation for my personality. I watched the film on repeat for the next few months. Like any teenager, I still wrestled with other facets of my identity, but one quality-of-self was a fixture from then on:  I loved film. And since Shaun of the Dead was the first film to teach me that I had that sort of passion within, it’s not just my favorite movie, but one of my favorite parts of myself. While layered and intelligent, Shaun of the Dead is not a film that demands heavy analysis or the application of advanced film theory (though I’m sure one could manage if one were so inclined). It’s the perfect film for a teenager to carry into adulthood without having to step away from that attachment.  There’s enough to enjoy here in straightforward homage and patiently crafted...

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Criterion Discovery: Tokyo Drifter

Background Tokyo Drifter is a gangster film that originally released in 1966, and is directed Seijun Suzuki. Suzuki has numerous films in The Criterion Collection including a favorite of mine, Branded to Kill. Tokyo Drifter was released on Blu-Ray on December 13th, 2011, as spine #39. Story Tetsuya Hondo, a former member of the yakuza, becomes a “drifter” (an enforcer on the run) when his boss is forced to sign over a piece of property and their partner is killed. The Film This film opens with a black-and-white scene in which the film’s protagonist takes a beating from rival...

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Dolphin Tale 2

Overview: Winter, the dolphin, begins to have problems when her surrogate mother dies. 2014. Alcon Entertainment; Rated PG; 107 minutes Heart: I could not wait to get back to write this review, banking on a bunch of dumb jokes I had been thinking up. Then, during the last three minutes of  Dolphin Tale 2, my heart sank. Director Charles Martin Smith (Dolphin Tale, Air Bud), decided to include actual footage of children visiting the aquarium. Had he not, this movie wouldn’t be worth anything. Those last few moments stand alone; they are what life is about. But I can’t help but think that this was a manipulative move to tug on viewers’ heartstrings in an otherwise not-so-great movie…and it worked. A Lack of Heart: The actual movie opened and finished a corny mess. It fed off one liners delivered by actors who seemed to care about little more than the paycheck a sequel brings.  Morgan Freeman (Dr. Cameron McCarthy) was the butt of it all. He appeared on screen at the most inopportune moment to drop every cliched, quick hitting joke you can imagine, just in time for Nathan Gamble (Sawyer) to deliver a perplexed look. But the biggest debacle is Harry Connick Jr. (Dr. Clay Haskett) who decided to do the complete opposite of acting. He was supposed to play the voice of reason, the father figure teaching life lessons, but he ended up little more than...

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Criterion Discovery: The Game

Background The Game is one of two David Fincher films in the Criterion Collection (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). The Game was originally released in 1997, as Fincher was coming off of the debacle that was Alien 3 and the thrilling Se7en. September 21, 2012 marked the Blu-Ray/DVD release for The Game (Spine #627), which was previously released on Laserdisc (Spine #365). Story A wealthy investment banker, Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) receives a gift from his brother Conrad Van Orton (Sean Penn). The gift: A coupon to a game that, if he agrees to play, could change...

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The Zero Theorem

Overview: Some guy is trying to find out the reason we exist. Voltage Pictures; Rated R; 107 min Oh: Let’s talk about Terry Gilliam’s career for one sentence (just to get it out of the way): This guy’s films are smug. The Zero Theorem is a trippy movie, even if all its ideas are borrowed and formulaic. Here are all of the films I thought of throughout the entirety of this one: The Matrix, Holy Motors, A Clockwork Orange, any number of old-school Sci-Fi classics and B-films. Embracing your influences,  even when your influences include your own movies,  is...

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If I Stay

Overview: Two talented artists fall in love. Then tragedy makes things awkward for the viewer. MGM; PG 13; 106 min Lingo: Back when I was a teen (seven sad years ago), I was always keenly aware of the pandering within the construction of movies aimed at adolescent audiences. Teenagers instinctively know when adults are trying to pathetically talk like teenagers, even if the words are actually coming from the mouths of portrayed teenagers on a screen.  I suppose that has to be a small degree of pre-accepted failure for any filmmaker looking to direct a film at teen audiences.  But...

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Locke (DVD/Blu-Ray Review)

Overview:  A man makes a decision that changes the rest of his life. A24; 2014; Rated R; 85 min. Decisions: Locke is a simple, straightforward film that asks us to do a few basic things: Reflect on our own individual loneliness, recall our past, and question our moral integrity. This request is negotiated between the audience and the film’s lone on-screen actor, Tom Hardy. Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a hardworking family man. Locke is soft-spoken, stern, and works hard to always do the right thing, a commitment that is tested when he discovers himself in a very compromising situation sprung...

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