Oct 292016
 
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): Sorry, Freddy—I Slept Just Fine After This One

“It’s a new and improved slasher flick! Now with dreams!” The way some people laud the jejune gorefest A Nightmare on Elm Street, they might as well be admen enthusing about the new features on their company’s latest stove model.

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Oct 242016
 
The Shining (1980): Palatable Kubrick, but Not the Director's Brightest Light

Were The Shining not helmed by one of the most critically acclaimed directors of the past 100 years, people would probably remember it as a creditable B-horror-movie effort. Steven Spielberg or Sam Raimi would be proud to be responsible for such gorgeously filmed nonsense. But Stanley Kubrick—the genre-defining director of such classics as 2001, Barry Lyndon, and Dr. Strangelove—should not have been.

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Sep 272016
 
The Cultural Abyss That Is La Dolce Vita (1960)

Rarely, if ever, have I been so perplexed by a film’s critical accolades as I am by those bestowed upon Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. In step with the central protagonist’s self-indulgent quest for amorous fulfillment, Fellini slogs through a seemingly interminable sequence of disjointed episodes, drily recycling hackneyed interpretations of love, God, and death that never gel into a coherent story—let alone come close to deserving the film’s hallowed “work-of-art” reputation.

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Jun 072016
 
The Mind's Quest for the Meaning of Identity in Persona (1966)

Like his previous films Winter Light and The Silence, Ingmar Bergman’s haunting—if sometimes pretentiously abstruse—film Persona superficially appears to reject the idea that God has a hand in human affairs. At this point in his career, the great Swedish director seems to be inclining instead toward an atheistic worldview in which his characters attempt to make sense of the harshness of reality, including death, mental illness, and the presence of evil. But Persona, a story of identity crisis from the perspectives of two women whose paths in life are temporarily intertwined, is much more than an exercise in such nihilistic futility.

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Apr 122016
 
Hardcore Henry (2016) Puts You in the Game

The title of Hardcore Henry is likely to mislead and disappoint smut junkies. Very little porno content here, fleeting glimpses of a Russian brothel aside. Oh well, you can’t please everyone. The movie may have been born in Russia, but it seems tailor-made for America, where violence is happy to enter the fray when sex stops selling. Yes, fans of adrenaline-pumping shoot-em’-ups are sure to find this bullet-ejaculating orgasm of a film more stimulating than even a good ol’ pump-and-thrust picture ever could be. So intense is the action that even a ceaseless carper about gratuitous thrills like yours truly found himself liking it far more than he should.

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