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    114 : Noah, dir. Darren Aronofsky (2014)
It seems as though director Darren Arnonofsky, once indie darling reborn spectacle churner, followed suit with his subject material by making a film that really feels like two films walking side by side. Equal parts action drama and visual wizardry, 2014 continues its biblical motif with the director’s first large scale epic, Noah. Aronofsky, known for claustrophobic and nightmarish portraits of humans at wits end (Pi, Black Swan), deals with the Biblical flood scenario in which, Noah, presented here as the world’s first naturalist, is given the task to organize a mass exodus of animals to a great wooden ship that shall protect all god’s creatures from some serious rain served up Genesis style. This portrayal appears much more dark and brutal than the collective conga line of animalia and rainbows viewers may recall from Sunday School, instead favoring the humorless Russel Crowe as Christanity’s Dr Doolittle. 
The strange stylistic dualities within Noah are constant reminders of the auteur’s prior victories, but ultimately feel dulled down by the embarrassingly liberal use of CGI. In a disturbing trend, numerous once gestural provocateurs of independent cinema fall victim to the studio muzzle once they jump to Hollywood. As their voice dulls over the load roar of battle sequences, not even long time composer compadre Clint Mansell can combat the silliness of Nick Nolte as a lumbering, stone-age transformer. There are quick bits of beauty that reminded me why I wanted to see this movie in the first place, including a memorable stop-motion take on the creation story and a plethora of minimalist landscapes, but these hints at artistry are almost always shattered by lengthy, hand-fed retellings of what the viewer should “understand” from the film 
Bottom Line
Noah will not covert anyone the the faith of Aronofsky, pious followers will wonder why studios didn’t let him unleash more hellish old testament horror and audiences going in cold will be left wondering why there’s all this “weird” stuff in their bible soup. An impressively ambitious attempt, but this is certainly a misfire from a director that shines in confined character studies, not massive cgi prophecies
5/10   

    114 : Noah, dir. Darren Aronofsky (2014)

    It seems as though director Darren Arnonofsky, once indie darling reborn spectacle churner, followed suit with his subject material by making a film that really feels like two films walking side by side. Equal parts action drama and visual wizardry, 2014 continues its biblical motif with the director’s first large scale epic, Noah. Aronofsky, known for claustrophobic and nightmarish portraits of humans at wits end (Pi, Black Swan), deals with the Biblical flood scenario in which, Noah, presented here as the world’s first naturalist, is given the task to organize a mass exodus of animals to a great wooden ship that shall protect all god’s creatures from some serious rain served up Genesis style. This portrayal appears much more dark and brutal than the collective conga line of animalia and rainbows viewers may recall from Sunday School, instead favoring the humorless Russel Crowe as Christanity’s Dr Doolittle. 

    The strange stylistic dualities within Noah are constant reminders of the auteur’s prior victories, but ultimately feel dulled down by the embarrassingly liberal use of CGI. In a disturbing trend, numerous once gestural provocateurs of independent cinema fall victim to the studio muzzle once they jump to Hollywood. As their voice dulls over the load roar of battle sequences, not even long time composer compadre Clint Mansell can combat the silliness of Nick Nolte as a lumbering, stone-age transformer. There are quick bits of beauty that reminded me why I wanted to see this movie in the first place, including a memorable stop-motion take on the creation story and a plethora of minimalist landscapes, but these hints at artistry are almost always shattered by lengthy, hand-fed retellings of what the viewer should “understand” from the film 

    Bottom Line

    Noah will not covert anyone the the faith of Aronofsky, pious followers will wonder why studios didn’t let him unleash more hellish old testament horror and audiences going in cold will be left wondering why there’s all this “weird” stuff in their bible soup. An impressively ambitious attempt, but this is certainly a misfire from a director that shines in confined character studies, not massive cgi prophecies

    5/10   

     
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    113 : Gloria, dir. Sebastián Lelio (2014)
Vivacious fifty-something, Gloria, takes great pleasure in visiting dance clubs, singing proudly within the confines of her automobile and inducing herself with copious amounts of liquid encouragement, but beyond her veil of a fun-loving, rebound period of the divorcee’s later life, Chile’s official  entry for the Best Foreign Film category certifiably destroys the existing tropes for how we portray love in the later half of life
Director Sebastián Lelio never allows his title character to have the popular “awakening of the spirit” moment that many 50+ rom coms fall victim to, but through extraordinarily interesting and cringe-inducing character flaws do we the audience discover the pains and heartaches of falling in love with Gloria, instead of anticipating a hand-holding boat trip into the sunset. This film never falls to sentiment, instead favoring the quick wit and sardonic smirks of a woman who has seen it all before. The dialogue is confrontational, direct, while both Gloria and Rodolfo, a similarly aged and divorced man begin a spontaneous and youthful foray into each others lives.
Never once did I feel as though the film’s amazing sense of humor alienated my twenty-something sensibility, nor was I let down by the film’s touching and expressive exhibitions of sexuality. The film also successfully avoids any instances where the characters feel dusty or wounded, rather choosing to poke fun at the deterioration of an experience body 
I think, ultimately, I love this film for everything that it is not, as the love after lust depiction couldn’t have had been more unappealing to me previous to Gloria. There’s something immensely satisfying about being proven wrong through cinema as this film allows the old-age love story to elevate itself past warm-hearted soulmate garble to an inspiring attempt at unequivocally loving oneself 
9/10 

    113 : Gloria, dir. Sebastián Lelio (2014)

    Vivacious fifty-something, Gloria, takes great pleasure in visiting dance clubs, singing proudly within the confines of her automobile and inducing herself with copious amounts of liquid encouragement, but beyond her veil of a fun-loving, rebound period of the divorcee’s later life, Chile’s official  entry for the Best Foreign Film category certifiably destroys the existing tropes for how we portray love in the later half of life

    Director Sebastián Lelio never allows his title character to have the popular “awakening of the spirit” moment that many 50+ rom coms fall victim to, but through extraordinarily interesting and cringe-inducing character flaws do we the audience discover the pains and heartaches of falling in love with Gloria, instead of anticipating a hand-holding boat trip into the sunset. This film never falls to sentiment, instead favoring the quick wit and sardonic smirks of a woman who has seen it all before. The dialogue is confrontational, direct, while both Gloria and Rodolfo, a similarly aged and divorced man begin a spontaneous and youthful foray into each others lives.

    Never once did I feel as though the film’s amazing sense of humor alienated my twenty-something sensibility, nor was I let down by the film’s touching and expressive exhibitions of sexuality. The film also successfully avoids any instances where the characters feel dusty or wounded, rather choosing to poke fun at the deterioration of an experience body 

    I think, ultimately, I love this film for everything that it is not, as the love after lust depiction couldn’t have had been more unappealing to me previous to Gloria. There’s something immensely satisfying about being proven wrong through cinema as this film allows the old-age love story to elevate itself past warm-hearted soulmate garble to an inspiring attempt at unequivocally loving oneself 

    9/10 

     
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    112 : Jug Face, dir. Chad Crawford Kinkle (2013)
A refreshing tease towards a return to literary horror atmosphere, Slamdance Screenwriting Competition winner Chad Crawford Kinkle casts a hopeful, but ultimately flawed portrayal of backwoods beast worship. 
Draped along the lush woodlands of Nashville, Tennessee, Jug Face introduces a nameless, religious sect that relies solely on as entity known only as “The Pit” for its mysterious healing powers. The ominous pit of bubbling blood runs red with a score of human sacrifices becomes a central location for martyrdom within the community. Not much backstory is provided as to how the pit came to be nor any in depth story describing its horrific implications, but maybe I’m just a sucker for supernatural folklore. 
The insatiable hunger of the pool is only satisfied after Dawai, a caring but feeble-minded shaman of sorts, casts a jug head resembling someone from the community. This character was very troubling for me, as he is constantly ostracized for his intellectual shortcomings, but the sole vessel for religious communion. The chosen follower brought to the sight of the curdling entity for judgement, resulting in copious amounts of ceremonious bloodshed. 
Lead protagonist Ada, played by the fairly unknown Lauren Ashley Carter (The Woman, 2011), does her best to defy the beckoning of the creature when she realizes her jug head is prime for firing. The film’s biggest flaw is its inability to juggle the laundry list of conflicts that are constantly relating back to Carter’s character. She is a woman plagued with an unwanted arranged, a godforsaken child and her growing disdain for the rural freakshow she resides within throughout the film.
While it lacks any “monster fx magic” of any kind, I appreciate the very minimal use of cgi throughout this flick. Childish, easy implementation of cheap cgi effects has become the worst trend the halls of horror has endured as of late, triumphing even over the shaky camera or POV horror. I was also immediately impressed with a horror premise that allowed it’s characters to, not only fully acknowledge the presence of evil, but abide by it’s request. This fearful community/ monster worship tale reminded me mostly of M Night Shyamalan’s pseudo creature feature, The Village (2004), a film i’ll fiercely defend any day of the year. Even indie horror starlet, Larry Fessenden (The Battery, You’re Next), plays a supremely wonderful version of the backwoods Pa character as Sustin, Ada’s stern father and town executioner. 
Ultimately, this is yet another example of independent horror that probably would have been best served as a short, rather than a feature. Despite has a really strong premise and supremely spooky atmosphere, Chad Crawford Kinkle’s Jug Face comes off more as a shock fest with little incentive to stick it out. Oh, and the ending, let’s just say they didn’t go for any knee-jerk surprises, none, whatsoever, nothing. Still, I left largely unsatisfied, but curiously seeing an entire bloody pit full of potential for Kinkle’s future horror projects
5.5/10

    112 : Jug Face, dir. Chad Crawford Kinkle (2013)

    A refreshing tease towards a return to literary horror atmosphere, Slamdance Screenwriting Competition winner Chad Crawford Kinkle casts a hopeful, but ultimately flawed portrayal of backwoods beast worship.

    Draped along the lush woodlands of Nashville, Tennessee, Jug Face introduces a nameless, religious sect that relies solely on as entity known only as “The Pit” for its mysterious healing powers. The ominous pit of bubbling blood runs red with a score of human sacrifices becomes a central location for martyrdom within the community. Not much backstory is provided as to how the pit came to be nor any in depth story describing its horrific implications, but maybe I’m just a sucker for supernatural folklore.

    The insatiable hunger of the pool is only satisfied after Dawai, a caring but feeble-minded shaman of sorts, casts a jug head resembling someone from the community. This character was very troubling for me, as he is constantly ostracized for his intellectual shortcomings, but the sole vessel for religious communion. The chosen follower brought to the sight of the curdling entity for judgement, resulting in copious amounts of ceremonious bloodshed.

    Lead protagonist Ada, played by the fairly unknown Lauren Ashley Carter (The Woman, 2011), does her best to defy the beckoning of the creature when she realizes her jug head is prime for firing. The film’s biggest flaw is its inability to juggle the laundry list of conflicts that are constantly relating back to Carter’s character. She is a woman plagued with an unwanted arranged, a godforsaken child and her growing disdain for the rural freakshow she resides within throughout the film.

    While it lacks any “monster fx magic” of any kind, I appreciate the very minimal use of cgi throughout this flick. Childish, easy implementation of cheap cgi effects has become the worst trend the halls of horror has endured as of late, triumphing even over the shaky camera or POV horror. I was also immediately impressed with a horror premise that allowed it’s characters to, not only fully acknowledge the presence of evil, but abide by it’s request. This fearful community/ monster worship tale reminded me mostly of M Night Shyamalan’s pseudo creature feature, The Village (2004), a film i’ll fiercely defend any day of the year. Even indie horror starlet, Larry Fessenden (The Battery, You’re Next), plays a supremely wonderful version of the backwoods Pa character as Sustin, Ada’s stern father and town executioner. 

    Ultimately, this is yet another example of independent horror that probably would have been best served as a short, rather than a feature. Despite has a really strong premise and supremely spooky atmosphere, Chad Crawford Kinkle’s Jug Face comes off more as a shock fest with little incentive to stick it out. Oh, and the ending, let’s just say they didn’t go for any knee-jerk surprises, none, whatsoever, nothing. Still, I left largely unsatisfied, but curiously seeing an entire bloody pit full of potential for Kinkle’s future horror projects

    5.5/10

     
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    111 : The Burmese Harp, dir. Kon Ichikawa (1956)
Sometimes just “settling” for a film seems like more of a privilege than previously anticipated. while exploring the progressive, early cinema of Japanese cinemaster  Kon Ichikawa, I originally intended to watch his spoiled youth gone mad movie Punishment Room (1956). Much to my surprise, this had been the first film I have ever encountered that not only did not have english subtitles available online, but no less, in existence at all. this realization that I psychically would be unable to see this film was unsettling to say the least.
Despite the disturbing nature of Ichikawa’s elusive Punishment Room (1956), my search for his next logical depiction became painfully obvious as I had skipped out on his Vatican approved cinematic work, The Burmese Harp (1956) for much too long, I saddled up for this inspiring and heartfelt anti-war film from the Japanese point of view. 
What I loved most about The Burmese Harp (1956) was the drastic change in atmosphere and composition between the universe of war and the realms of peace and solitude. A harp-wielding fighter turned burmese monk, Private Mizushima sheds the violent company of his brothers in arms by disguising himself as a pious monk. originally intending to use the moniker of the peaceful holy man to escape enemy entrapment, his journey on foot is plagued by the sight of fallen and voiceless, Japanese soldiers. Overcame by sadness and a new sense of duty to place the fallen soldiers to rest, he decides to stay within the confines of Burma as a monk and do his best to send the souls of the nameless fighters to their final resting places. 
Not since Johnny Got His Gun (1971) had I been so moved by an anti-war depiction, but The Burmese Harp channels the impermanence of the human spirit with the power of music to lift spirits and unite people despite cultural or ideological differences. A character the Japanese soldiers lovingly refers to as “Old Woman” embodies this very spirit of fairness and equality as she specializes in trading goods that become crucial to the company’s survival. This includes sending a well trained parrot to fetch the mysterious Mizushima as his memory lingers around the camp in forms of familiar harp tunes. 
Although, The Burmese Harp (1956) may appears to be a pretty standard 50s Japanese cinematic work, this association alone is one of my most prized. An era that is chock full of amazing cinematic journeys The Burmese Harp (1956) fails to become an easy excuse for picking sides or propaganda. A film about some humane despite it’s violent backdrop of waring countries elevates this film towards the ranks of even the best of Italian Neorealist depictions 
9/10

    111 : The Burmese Harp, dir. Kon Ichikawa (1956)

    Sometimes just “settling” for a film seems like more of a privilege than previously anticipated. while exploring the progressive, early cinema of Japanese cinemaster  Kon Ichikawa, I originally intended to watch his spoiled youth gone mad movie Punishment Room (1956). Much to my surprise, this had been the first film I have ever encountered that not only did not have english subtitles available online, but no less, in existence at all. this realization that I psychically would be unable to see this film was unsettling to say the least.

    Despite the disturbing nature of Ichikawa’s elusive Punishment Room (1956), my search for his next logical depiction became painfully obvious as I had skipped out on his Vatican approved cinematic work, The Burmese Harp (1956) for much too long, I saddled up for this inspiring and heartfelt anti-war film from the Japanese point of view. 

    What I loved most about The Burmese Harp (1956) was the drastic change in atmosphere and composition between the universe of war and the realms of peace and solitude. A harp-wielding fighter turned burmese monk, Private Mizushima sheds the violent company of his brothers in arms by disguising himself as a pious monk. originally intending to use the moniker of the peaceful holy man to escape enemy entrapment, his journey on foot is plagued by the sight of fallen and voiceless, Japanese soldiers. Overcame by sadness and a new sense of duty to place the fallen soldiers to rest, he decides to stay within the confines of Burma as a monk and do his best to send the souls of the nameless fighters to their final resting places. 

    Not since Johnny Got His Gun (1971) had I been so moved by an anti-war depiction, but The Burmese Harp channels the impermanence of the human spirit with the power of music to lift spirits and unite people despite cultural or ideological differences. A character the Japanese soldiers lovingly refers to as “Old Woman” embodies this very spirit of fairness and equality as she specializes in trading goods that become crucial to the company’s survival. This includes sending a well trained parrot to fetch the mysterious Mizushima as his memory lingers around the camp in forms of familiar harp tunes. 

    Although, The Burmese Harp (1956) may appears to be a pretty standard 50s Japanese cinematic work, this association alone is one of my most prized. An era that is chock full of amazing cinematic journeys The Burmese Harp (1956) fails to become an easy excuse for picking sides or propaganda. A film about some humane despite it’s violent backdrop of waring countries elevates this film towards the ranks of even the best of Italian Neorealist depictions 

    9/10

     
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    110 : Out of the Furnace, dir. Scott Cooper (2013)
Although this is the first Scott Cooper film I have seen, by the trailer of his debut film Crazy Heart (2009), Cooper certainly his obsessed with capturing the dirty, nitty gritty essence of the American condition. His second feature, Out of the Furnace, tells the desperate tale of Russell Baze, a steel mill worker played by Christian Bale, and his troubled brother Rodney Jr., an Iraq war veteran by Casey Affleck, as they attempt to escape their economically depressed setting in the wake of their father’s failing health. 
Upon Rodney Jr’s return from a sixth tour in Afghanistan, Russell tries to help the war-torn sibling as he is witness to a number of emotional spells after their father’s passing. After failing to heed his brother’s request to join him at the Mill, Rodney pursues the animalistic occupation of an underground fighting league. This works well with the public consciousness of the often rocky transition many veterans face once home. Affleck describes in grizzly detail the carnage his tour overseas had given him, using this as leverage to undermined Bale’s honest offers for employment.
 Out of the Furnace can seem overwhelming at times, as it seemingly juggles every single theme of disparity from imprisonment, drug addiction, gang savagery, post traumatic stress disorder to the loss of family, friends and lovers. The main backbone of this film relies on an asphyxiating removal of options from a desperate and broken lower class. In a painfully obvious, but engaging premise, the two brothers represent each of the two options of the film. Russell: to remain hopeful despite life’s challenges, or Rodney: spontaneous and engulfed in rage. Bale remains true his philosophy of hard work and honest living, while Affleck resides in a constant state of desperation and facial bruising. 
The venomous brute Harlan DeGroat, played to a frightening tee by Woody Harrelson, is an impressive depiction of depravity at its most menacing. We can theorize that this character is the dead end on the path in which Rodney is traveling. An out-of-towner with incestuous implications, DeGroat lumbers above the warehouse, where his criminally inclined fighting circuit finds a setting. Eager to earn some easy cash, Carl Jr’s enlists to take a fall during one of Degroat’s matches. 
Placed polar opposite of DeGroat, Forest Whitaker as Sheriff Wesley Barnes insists Russell remain on his moralistic endeavor as the search for his lost brother endures another day. In addition to his less-than-stellar effort while searching for Russell’s brother, Sheriff Wesley develops a relationship with Lena Warren, Russell’s girlfriend prior to his incarceration. This immense weight of frustration and dissatisfaction allows Russell to transfigure into a medley of both the moral sheriff and the chaotic DeGroat, concluding in an ending that is sadly blatant and predictable.
Bottom Line:
Despite the clear trajectory displayed throughout Out of the Furnace, strong performances from an all-star team cast and breathtaking photography elevate this infectious, wrangler-jean-wearing revenge story to above expectation. Director Scott Cooper narrowly escapes mediocrity in favor of a tension test in the Rust Belt. At face value, the laundry list of jarring difficulties endured by the film’s protagonist can come off as a clumsy bum-rush of justification, but ultimately this is the most excited i’ve been about Bale since The Fighter. 
7.5/10

    110 : Out of the Furnace, dir. Scott Cooper (2013)

    Although this is the first Scott Cooper film I have seen, by the trailer of his debut film Crazy Heart (2009), Cooper certainly his obsessed with capturing the dirty, nitty gritty essence of the American condition. His second feature, Out of the Furnace, tells the desperate tale of Russell Baze, a steel mill worker played by Christian Bale, and his troubled brother Rodney Jr., an Iraq war veteran by Casey Affleck, as they attempt to escape their economically depressed setting in the wake of their father’s failing health. 

    Upon Rodney Jr’s return from a sixth tour in Afghanistan, Russell tries to help the war-torn sibling as he is witness to a number of emotional spells after their father’s passing. After failing to heed his brother’s request to join him at the Mill, Rodney pursues the animalistic occupation of an underground fighting league. This works well with the public consciousness of the often rocky transition many veterans face once home. Affleck describes in grizzly detail the carnage his tour overseas had given him, using this as leverage to undermined Bale’s honest offers for employment.

     Out of the Furnace can seem overwhelming at times, as it seemingly juggles every single theme of disparity from imprisonment, drug addiction, gang savagery, post traumatic stress disorder to the loss of family, friends and lovers. The main backbone of this film relies on an asphyxiating removal of options from a desperate and broken lower class. In a painfully obvious, but engaging premise, the two brothers represent each of the two options of the film. Russell: to remain hopeful despite life’s challenges, or Rodney: spontaneous and engulfed in rage. Bale remains true his philosophy of hard work and honest living, while Affleck resides in a constant state of desperation and facial bruising. 

    The venomous brute Harlan DeGroat, played to a frightening tee by Woody Harrelson, is an impressive depiction of depravity at its most menacing. We can theorize that this character is the dead end on the path in which Rodney is traveling. An out-of-towner with incestuous implications, DeGroat lumbers above the warehouse, where his criminally inclined fighting circuit finds a setting. Eager to earn some easy cash, Carl Jr’s enlists to take a fall during one of Degroat’s matches. 

    Placed polar opposite of DeGroat, Forest Whitaker as Sheriff Wesley Barnes insists Russell remain on his moralistic endeavor as the search for his lost brother endures another day. In addition to his less-than-stellar effort while searching for Russell’s brother, Sheriff Wesley develops a relationship with Lena Warren, Russell’s girlfriend prior to his incarceration. This immense weight of frustration and dissatisfaction allows Russell to transfigure into a medley of both the moral sheriff and the chaotic DeGroat, concluding in an ending that is sadly blatant and predictable.

    Bottom Line:

    Despite the clear trajectory displayed throughout Out of the Furnace, strong performances from an all-star team cast and breathtaking photography elevate this infectious, wrangler-jean-wearing revenge story to above expectation. Director Scott Cooper narrowly escapes mediocrity in favor of a tension test in the Rust Belt. At face value, the laundry list of jarring difficulties endured by the film’s protagonist can come off as a clumsy bum-rush of justification, but ultimately this is the most excited i’ve been about Bale since The Fighter. 

    7.5/10

     
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    109 : The Lodger, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1927)
British Film Auteur Alfred Hitchcock is most notably recognized for his immense diversity of scenarios, however is unmistakable mark can always found within everything he has ever touched. The early silent features of Alfred Hitchcock have been something that I have yet to acknowledge, aside from the brilliant, half-credit talkie Blackmail!, two years The Lodger's senior.
This 1927 depiction of a Jack-the-Ripper esque murderer running amuck in London makes for an archetypical, ”who-dun-it?” that appears to be as plain as day, but in pure Hitchcockian tradition, the mysterious reveal is quite a satisfying conclusion. Although this film is, as with most other silent films, slightly inhibited by its reliance on the large theatrical room setting, many of Hitchcock’s shot are deliberately modern and exciting as anything to observe.  
The version I just finished, a free copy available on Youtube, featured a bizarre score that included two songs of contemporary, new age rhythm and blues. Alternative scores/narration can be hit or miss, unlike William Burroughs retelling of Haxan : Witchcraft Through the Ages or French electronic duo Air’s incredible addition to a previously lack-luster A Trip To The Moon soundtrack. Not sure the reasoning behind the seemingly random tonality changes in the score for The Lodger, but this is a small criticism for a largely enjoyable experience.
The art department ha a field day with shadows wrapping figures in dizzying, geometrical cocoons. This calls upon the great masters of silent horror, F W Murnau and Robert Wiene. The German Expressionists of the late 1910’s and 1920’s really made it a point to draw influence from harsh, jagged lines and the exaggerated corridors of the tormented mind. This influence comes out in Hitchcock’s careful lens, as well as an apparent interest in Soviet Montage. This is certainly true when our quiet and meek Lodger scans his new room for the very first time. the audience acknowledges the tenant’s head movement as he scans the walls, then, as if we are transported into the mind of the traveler, the camera faces a wall adorned with paintings, scanning from right to left. We trust the camera to tell us this is the very thing that our lead is viewing as well.
The players involved were above average, exhibiting laughable melodrama only sparingly as to preserve the cold tone of a town frozen with fear and draped in thick fog. The Lodger is not as overtly horrifying as many other noteworthy silent horror epics, but this story pertains to themes of the dangers of jealously, rage and mob mentality, thus favoring the horrors of the human mind instead of the supernatural
8.5/10

    109 : The Lodger, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1927)

    British Film Auteur Alfred Hitchcock is most notably recognized for his immense diversity of scenarios, however is unmistakable mark can always found within everything he has ever touched. The early silent features of Alfred Hitchcock have been something that I have yet to acknowledge, aside from the brilliant, half-credit talkie Blackmail!, two years The Lodger's senior.

    This 1927 depiction of a Jack-the-Ripper esque murderer running amuck in London makes for an archetypical, ”who-dun-it?” that appears to be as plain as day, but in pure Hitchcockian tradition, the mysterious reveal is quite a satisfying conclusion. Although this film is, as with most other silent films, slightly inhibited by its reliance on the large theatrical room setting, many of Hitchcock’s shot are deliberately modern and exciting as anything to observe.  

    The version I just finished, a free copy available on Youtube, featured a bizarre score that included two songs of contemporary, new age rhythm and blues. Alternative scores/narration can be hit or miss, unlike William Burroughs retelling of Haxan : Witchcraft Through the Ages or French electronic duo Air’s incredible addition to a previously lack-luster A Trip To The Moon soundtrack. Not sure the reasoning behind the seemingly random tonality changes in the score for The Lodger, but this is a small criticism for a largely enjoyable experience.

    The art department ha a field day with shadows wrapping figures in dizzying, geometrical cocoons. This calls upon the great masters of silent horror, F W Murnau and Robert Wiene. The German Expressionists of the late 1910’s and 1920’s really made it a point to draw influence from harsh, jagged lines and the exaggerated corridors of the tormented mind. This influence comes out in Hitchcock’s careful lens, as well as an apparent interest in Soviet Montage. This is certainly true when our quiet and meek Lodger scans his new room for the very first time. the audience acknowledges the tenant’s head movement as he scans the walls, then, as if we are transported into the mind of the traveler, the camera faces a wall adorned with paintings, scanning from right to left. We trust the camera to tell us this is the very thing that our lead is viewing as well.

    The players involved were above average, exhibiting laughable melodrama only sparingly as to preserve the cold tone of a town frozen with fear and draped in thick fog. The Lodger is not as overtly horrifying as many other noteworthy silent horror epics, but this story pertains to themes of the dangers of jealously, rage and mob mentality, thus favoring the horrors of the human mind instead of the supernatural

    8.5/10

     
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    108 : The Counselor, dir. Ridley Scott (2013)
director Ridley Scott is not the most consistent filmmaker, instead he is more akin to the likes of a horror or genre director that delivers explosive, genre-defining masterworks early in his career and then kind of floats by while paying the bills. His previous effort, Prometheus never surprised me, but felt satisfying for a famished, sci-fi fan. It’s difficult to utter: “where is Blade Runner”, “why isn’t this as moving as Alien”, because you know it was certainly a part of Scott’s past, but I guess some things are just meant to stay in there
The Counsoler depicts a dizzying tale of a wealthy lawyer, Michael Fassbender, as he succumbs to illogical amounts greed and plunges into the grizzly realm of drug trafficking. Alongside the nameless “Counsoler” is a wild-haired Javier Bardem, as the mild-minded playboy Reiner. Both Fassbender and Bardem are quite watchable throughout the movie, especially when sharing a drink and spouting slick stories about erotic escapades. The roots of Reiner and the Counsoler’s friendship is never revealed to the audience explicitly and it honestly comes as a surprise as Fassbender’s character eagerly becomes engaged to the pious and soft spoken Laura, Penélope Cruz. These three characters are far removed from the viciousness that the run red throughout the greater and later half of the film. This aloof mentality exacerbates any attempt of answering the “why” in this film as I kept echoing to myself, Why would The Counsoler risk his fortune, his Bentley, his prize fiancé to just grab an unfortunate wealth. Stupidity seems like the most logical explanation in this film, but it is an terribly large and exhausting pill to swallow.
Later in the film, The Counsoler meets a middle man by the name of Westray. Portrayed by Brad Pitt, Westray seems as though he would be able to communicate with Fassbender easiest, but his attitude and spacey proverbs prevent the audience from having any faith in him whatsoever. He always appears distant and immensely uninterested in the business of doing business. However, Pitt does bring up an interesting detail pertaining to “keeping up appearances”, as he relays the realities behind mexican cartels and their innate fearlessness from a culture that no longer respects death.  He laughs while sharing a Heineken with The Counsoler, telling gruesome ghost stories of decapitations and snuff films.
Scott’s is an incredibly likable film, as The Counsoler exhibits a very unusual ability to depict some very brutal scenes quite artfully with sharp editing and a color palette that will leave cinephiles drooling. Equipped with star-studded cast, I felt safe knowing that each of the leads have had healthy dose of independent film aesthetics and mind-sets. However, It is odd that I, for some bizarre reason, thought this was going to be a cruise-control reprieve from the mundane thrillers that litter cinemas every summer.
But ultimately, the uncharacteristically wordy and constant excited state of Cormac McCarthy’s penning talents leave the viewer flying off towards twenty directions at once. For one, there are far too many characters to keep track of, too many chains of command, middle men, buyers, sellers, innocent bystanders, psychotic black widows and wealthy, international businessmen to take in at once. The film takes place is six different places, with variations of colors, languages and culture implications that the majority of the main cast does everything in their power to remove themselves from. The film does have a tremendous knack for drawing the viewer in with intensity and a especially memorable score, but just as easily, leaves us stranded and wanting more than the film wanted to offer. As I mentioned previously, the film is incredibly claustrophobic in the lines per minute department and ever line feels forced, insecure and hellbent on philosophically revealing every move in the film. The overwhelming presence of the obvious makes the audience feel as ignorant as the lead protagonist. Unfortunately, this is another film that has fell victim to overstocking of the cast, flaunting its own materialistic warts and casting an ugly motif pseudo-intellectual fortune cookie phrases in place of a script.
5/10 

    108 : The Counselor, dir. Ridley Scott (2013)

    director Ridley Scott is not the most consistent filmmaker, instead he is more akin to the likes of a horror or genre director that delivers explosive, genre-defining masterworks early in his career and then kind of floats by while paying the bills. His previous effort, Prometheus never surprised me, but felt satisfying for a famished, sci-fi fan. It’s difficult to utter: “where is Blade Runner”, “why isn’t this as moving as Alien”, because you know it was certainly a part of Scott’s past, but I guess some things are just meant to stay in there

    The Counsoler depicts a dizzying tale of a wealthy lawyer, Michael Fassbender, as he succumbs to illogical amounts greed and plunges into the grizzly realm of drug trafficking. Alongside the nameless “Counsoler” is a wild-haired Javier Bardem, as the mild-minded playboy Reiner. Both Fassbender and Bardem are quite watchable throughout the movie, especially when sharing a drink and spouting slick stories about erotic escapades. The roots of Reiner and the Counsoler’s friendship is never revealed to the audience explicitly and it honestly comes as a surprise as Fassbender’s character eagerly becomes engaged to the pious and soft spoken Laura, Penélope Cruz. These three characters are far removed from the viciousness that the run red throughout the greater and later half of the film. This aloof mentality exacerbates any attempt of answering the “why” in this film as I kept echoing to myself, Why would The Counsoler risk his fortune, his Bentley, his prize fiancé to just grab an unfortunate wealth. Stupidity seems like the most logical explanation in this film, but it is an terribly large and exhausting pill to swallow.

    Later in the film, The Counsoler meets a middle man by the name of Westray. Portrayed by Brad Pitt, Westray seems as though he would be able to communicate with Fassbender easiest, but his attitude and spacey proverbs prevent the audience from having any faith in him whatsoever. He always appears distant and immensely uninterested in the business of doing business. However, Pitt does bring up an interesting detail pertaining to “keeping up appearances”, as he relays the realities behind mexican cartels and their innate fearlessness from a culture that no longer respects death.  He laughs while sharing a Heineken with The Counsoler, telling gruesome ghost stories of decapitations and snuff films.

    Scott’s is an incredibly likable film, as The Counsoler exhibits a very unusual ability to depict some very brutal scenes quite artfully with sharp editing and a color palette that will leave cinephiles drooling. Equipped with star-studded cast, I felt safe knowing that each of the leads have had healthy dose of independent film aesthetics and mind-sets. However, It is odd that I, for some bizarre reason, thought this was going to be a cruise-control reprieve from the mundane thrillers that litter cinemas every summer.

    But ultimately, the uncharacteristically wordy and constant excited state of Cormac McCarthy’s penning talents leave the viewer flying off towards twenty directions at once. For one, there are far too many characters to keep track of, too many chains of command, middle men, buyers, sellers, innocent bystanders, psychotic black widows and wealthy, international businessmen to take in at once. The film takes place is six different places, with variations of colors, languages and culture implications that the majority of the main cast does everything in their power to remove themselves from. The film does have a tremendous knack for drawing the viewer in with intensity and a especially memorable score, but just as easily, leaves us stranded and wanting more than the film wanted to offer. As I mentioned previously, the film is incredibly claustrophobic in the lines per minute department and ever line feels forced, insecure and hellbent on philosophically revealing every move in the film. The overwhelming presence of the obvious makes the audience feel as ignorant as the lead protagonist. Unfortunately, this is another film that has fell victim to overstocking of the cast, flaunting its own materialistic warts and casting an ugly motif pseudo-intellectual fortune cookie phrases in place of a script.

    5/10 

     
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    107: Fruitvale Station, dir. Ryan Coogler (2013)
In an astounding freshman effort, director Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station demolishes expectations and sets a new standard for biographic cinema. His stark retelling of California native, Oscar Grant places the young man at the feet of racial profiling, as he faces the trials and tribulations of being a young, unemployed, African American father in the land of opportunity. 
Based upon the true incident involving the twenty-two year old Grant and a trigger-happy, Bay Area Rapid Transit Policeman in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009, director Ryan Coogler makes the masterful decision to illustrate the day before his death, instead of playing the guilt card far too soon. The audience is able to observe Grant’s turmoil while still on this earth, something a story like this may lack when delivered by a news anchor. The filmmaker has the rare opportunity to redeem the lost, to breathe life back into an individual and to animate their experience without any preconceived notions. 
Throughout the duration of Fruitvale Station, Coogler’s camera follows lead protagonist Oscar through a day’s time as he is dealt an awful hand after losing his job. He works hard to present himself like everything is going fine, often lying to his loved ones and friends in the process. A hard-hitting flashback places Oscar behind bars as he endures an emotional meeting with his mother. During this meeting, his mother witnesses the darker side of her son following a fellow inmates antagonizing behavior. If this film does one thing perfect, it is the careful chemistry of balance between the adult everyone expects Oscar to be and the childish ways he is attempting to leave behind. Both of these personalities sneak through the dialogue depending on who surrounds Oscar at the time. 
The vast majority of the film is shot in a somewhat jarring manner, shifting  from hip to shoulder without a moments pause, as if the lens were imitating the fast-paced frenzy of the young adult experience. We see this especially well in the scene where Oscar and his friends pile on a crowded train, where the camera mimics the anxious air of anticipating the beginning of a new year. The music pulsates through an ecstatic railcar as its occupants dance and chat loudly like the halls of a high school. Despite the sweet suckle of this youthful vitality, some of the film’s most memorable shots occur in silence and unwavering stillness. An early morning breakfast standing in the kitchen or a mother trudging down a hospital corridor effortlessly eliminate any short-cuts of flashiness or immaturity behind the lens.
After exiting the theater, a friend of mine and I began discussing the predicament of film criticism’s limitations. Explicitly pertaining to the ability to tell whether a movie is speaking for a certain race or demography honestly. After a long-winded debate, we both agreed if film becomes exclusively experiential for certain races, creeds, religions, genders, etc., than film theory will cease to exist. Motion pictures should, as the best ones do, transcend the limitations of target audiences and triumph over the social limitations of making a “black movie” or a “latino movie”, etc. This film is a tour de emotion that really ran the entire theater dry. The small touch of documentary footage really drives the biographic element of this film and truly makes it a must see
8.5/10

    107: Fruitvale Station, dir. Ryan Coogler (2013)

    In an astounding freshman effort, director Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station demolishes expectations and sets a new standard for biographic cinema. His stark retelling of California native, Oscar Grant places the young man at the feet of racial profiling, as he faces the trials and tribulations of being a young, unemployed, African American father in the land of opportunity. 

    Based upon the true incident involving the twenty-two year old Grant and a trigger-happy, Bay Area Rapid Transit Policeman in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009, director Ryan Coogler makes the masterful decision to illustrate the day before his death, instead of playing the guilt card far too soon. The audience is able to observe Grant’s turmoil while still on this earth, something a story like this may lack when delivered by a news anchor. The filmmaker has the rare opportunity to redeem the lost, to breathe life back into an individual and to animate their experience without any preconceived notions. 

    Throughout the duration of Fruitvale Station, Coogler’s camera follows lead protagonist Oscar through a day’s time as he is dealt an awful hand after losing his job. He works hard to present himself like everything is going fine, often lying to his loved ones and friends in the process. A hard-hitting flashback places Oscar behind bars as he endures an emotional meeting with his mother. During this meeting, his mother witnesses the darker side of her son following a fellow inmates antagonizing behavior. If this film does one thing perfect, it is the careful chemistry of balance between the adult everyone expects Oscar to be and the childish ways he is attempting to leave behind. Both of these personalities sneak through the dialogue depending on who surrounds Oscar at the time. 

    The vast majority of the film is shot in a somewhat jarring manner, shifting  from hip to shoulder without a moments pause, as if the lens were imitating the fast-paced frenzy of the young adult experience. We see this especially well in the scene where Oscar and his friends pile on a crowded train, where the camera mimics the anxious air of anticipating the beginning of a new year. The music pulsates through an ecstatic railcar as its occupants dance and chat loudly like the halls of a high school. Despite the sweet suckle of this youthful vitality, some of the film’s most memorable shots occur in silence and unwavering stillness. An early morning breakfast standing in the kitchen or a mother trudging down a hospital corridor effortlessly eliminate any short-cuts of flashiness or immaturity behind the lens.

    After exiting the theater, a friend of mine and I began discussing the predicament of film criticism’s limitations. Explicitly pertaining to the ability to tell whether a movie is speaking for a certain race or demography honestly. After a long-winded debate, we both agreed if film becomes exclusively experiential for certain races, creeds, religions, genders, etc., than film theory will cease to exist. Motion pictures should, as the best ones do, transcend the limitations of target audiences and triumph over the social limitations of making a “black movie” or a “latino movie”, etc. This film is a tour de emotion that really ran the entire theater dry. The small touch of documentary footage really drives the biographic element of this film and truly makes it a must see

    8.5/10

     
  9. image: Download

    106: Blue Jasmine, dir. Woody Allen (2013)
Aged auteur Woody Allen may be one of the few original “cinephiles class” of filmmakers left producing work, but his anxiety overdose Blue Jasmine effortlesslyproves his artistry still yields strong characters and impenetrable writing
loosely based upon the framework of  Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire, Blue Jasmine tells a similar story of economic fallout, insanity and dependency. Cate Blanchett, in an equally disturbing and electrifying performance as Jasmine, finds herself in financial ruin after her husband, played by Alec Baldwin, is captured by the FBI pertaining to his acquisition of his enormous wealth. Frazzled  crazed and delirious, Jasmine stumbles into the homely arms of her sister Ginger, played by actress Sally Hawkings. She meets great animosity from the low income community that jasmine finds herself engulfed in, especially the dull brute Chili. Forced to cope with a dramatic class metamorphosis, Jasmine struggles to rebuild her lifestyle within the image of her lavish past
Cate Blanchett’s performance as the psychotic, gold digging blonde fully eviscerates any previous expectation I had for a mentally deranged character portrayal. she weaves in and out a forced, fidgety smile that Jasmine wears to convince everyone else she’s doing just fine. this slow boil towards an immanent incineration of Jasmine’s frail persona ultimately provides one of the most shockingly uncharacteristic and wildly satisfying endings Allen has ever depicted
Throughout the entirety of the film, Allen juxtaposes jasmine’s prior life of haughty cackling and her best attempts to become ignorant to the adulterous activities of her husband Hal. Lying, cheating and stealing all plague the characters of this film at tremendous speeds, although none are as crucially demolished as Jasmine 
 Riding off of my fond memories of seeing his Midnight in Paris, I am fully convinced this latest era of Allen’s repertoire is so much more concise and refined that watching films like Blue Jasmine seem like a surreal theatrical experience. This is a wonderful example of how an age-old story, “love isn’t easy, but worth it, etc” proves to still entrance audiences when handle with the care Allen can always provide. It’s as if the winner of the lottery donated all money earned to charities that you personally believe in, it’s nice to see a filmmaker that truly believes in his audience to choose quality films
9/10

    106: Blue Jasmine, dir. Woody Allen (2013)

    Aged auteur Woody Allen may be one of the few original “cinephiles class” of filmmakers left producing work, but his anxiety overdose Blue Jasmine effortlesslyproves his artistry still yields strong characters and impenetrable writing

    loosely based upon the framework of  Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire, Blue Jasmine tells a similar story of economic fallout, insanity and dependency. Cate Blanchett, in an equally disturbing and electrifying performance as Jasmine, finds herself in financial ruin after her husband, played by Alec Baldwin, is captured by the FBI pertaining to his acquisition of his enormous wealth. Frazzled  crazed and delirious, Jasmine stumbles into the homely arms of her sister Ginger, played by actress Sally Hawkings. She meets great animosity from the low income community that jasmine finds herself engulfed in, especially the dull brute Chili. Forced to cope with a dramatic class metamorphosis, Jasmine struggles to rebuild her lifestyle within the image of her lavish past

    Cate Blanchett’s performance as the psychotic, gold digging blonde fully eviscerates any previous expectation I had for a mentally deranged character portrayal. she weaves in and out a forced, fidgety smile that Jasmine wears to convince everyone else she’s doing just fine. this slow boil towards an immanent incineration of Jasmine’s frail persona ultimately provides one of the most shockingly uncharacteristic and wildly satisfying endings Allen has ever depicted

    Throughout the entirety of the film, Allen juxtaposes jasmine’s prior life of haughty cackling and her best attempts to become ignorant to the adulterous activities of her husband Hal. Lying, cheating and stealing all plague the characters of this film at tremendous speeds, although none are as crucially demolished as Jasmine 

     Riding off of my fond memories of seeing his Midnight in Paris, I am fully convinced this latest era of Allen’s repertoire is so much more concise and refined that watching films like Blue Jasmine seem like a surreal theatrical experience. This is a wonderful example of how an age-old story, “love isn’t easy, but worth it, etc” proves to still entrance audiences when handle with the care Allen can always provide. It’s as if the winner of the lottery donated all money earned to charities that you personally believe in, it’s nice to see a filmmaker that truly believes in his audience to choose quality films

    9/10

     
  10. image: Download

    105: Riddick, dir. David Twohy (2013)
story time
a friend and I were discussing the place of genre films among the ranks of what well-rounded cinephiles may consider “masterworks”. genre filmmaking can be defined loosely as any movie that appeals to a particular audience for reasons pertaining mostly to their entertainment value, even “charm”. going into part three of Vin Diesel’s Riddick triliogy, I was beyond excited to see a said genre film with a dystopian backdrop, familiar characters, badassery and aesthetics that I knew and loved from both Pitch Black and Chronicles. But, are you ever so wrong as a spectator it fucking hurts?
"movie" time
besides the microsoft powerpoint font they used for their joke excuse for opening titles, Riddick starts off beautifully, casting a slow, painful and primal shadow upon our ultra beef boy Riddick. The film works really well to establish Riddick’s character as an animalistic killer that prefers to hunt nocturnally and first and foremost, has a single goal. To pass a sulfuric mud bath to a path to greener pastures seems to be a great opening for a story to unfold as he methodically prepares to defeat the horrid serpent preventing Diesel from his exit. Riddick deals with wounds of a prior altercation while battling hordes of one of three different creatures that graces the screen, two of which remain nameless. he even tames a feral super dog to chum along with, but once he achieves this goal, the film shifts between too many characters, rapid changes in points of narrative and becomes reminiscent  of the arid, shit colored motif that drips off the screen for the remaining duration of Riddick’s lengthy two hour syfy original snorefest 
upon leaving the hellish wasteland of this lovely excretion valley, he is met with a deserted bounty hunter’s bunker and decides to fuel up on space food found while scavenging. figuring his current shipless future is fucked beyond all repair, he sends a bounty scan of sorts via some green lazer place in the bunker. this alerts a single ship to land and scout the area in pursuit of Riddick’s expensive price tag. screaming at lightspeed, this is where everything in the film goes to shit
there’s really no central theme to the rest of the movie, nor a coherent goal of any value, people die, betrayals are made just as quickly and lackadaisically as truces, his dog dies, rain water aliens that all look the same and now only come from rain unlike previously in the movie and its just infuriating so i’ll spare you
i started this review with a inquiry as to where genre filmmaking rests on the cinematic litmus scale, but i’m almost certain Riddick needs to be stamped out as soon as possible. after the movie, i began thinking of some of the reasons why some blantantly abysmal film i hold very near and dear to my heart, because are film not to satisfy the viewer by means of entertainment. certainly an audience does not have to be plagued by philosophical, mental calastenisics to feel the cinematic experience. but Riddick, despite showing some early promise drops both its melon-sized balls on each foot like four hundred times. some of the dialogue was so ridiculous i’m really quite baffled as to how the film’s editor hasn’t jumped into a lion’s pit at the local zoo
a damn shame
2/10
 

    105: Riddick, dir. David Twohy (2013)

    story time

    a friend and I were discussing the place of genre films among the ranks of what well-rounded cinephiles may consider “masterworks”. genre filmmaking can be defined loosely as any movie that appeals to a particular audience for reasons pertaining mostly to their entertainment value, even “charm”. going into part three of Vin Diesel’s Riddick triliogy, I was beyond excited to see a said genre film with a dystopian backdrop, familiar characters, badassery and aesthetics that I knew and loved from both Pitch Black and Chronicles. But, are you ever so wrong as a spectator it fucking hurts?

    "movie" time

    besides the microsoft powerpoint font they used for their joke excuse for opening titles, Riddick starts off beautifully, casting a slow, painful and primal shadow upon our ultra beef boy Riddick. The film works really well to establish Riddick’s character as an animalistic killer that prefers to hunt nocturnally and first and foremost, has a single goal. To pass a sulfuric mud bath to a path to greener pastures seems to be a great opening for a story to unfold as he methodically prepares to defeat the horrid serpent preventing Diesel from his exit. Riddick deals with wounds of a prior altercation while battling hordes of one of three different creatures that graces the screen, two of which remain nameless. he even tames a feral super dog to chum along with, but once he achieves this goal, the film shifts between too many characters, rapid changes in points of narrative and becomes reminiscent  of the arid, shit colored motif that drips off the screen for the remaining duration of Riddick’s lengthy two hour syfy original snorefest 

    upon leaving the hellish wasteland of this lovely excretion valley, he is met with a deserted bounty hunter’s bunker and decides to fuel up on space food found while scavenging. figuring his current shipless future is fucked beyond all repair, he sends a bounty scan of sorts via some green lazer place in the bunker. this alerts a single ship to land and scout the area in pursuit of Riddick’s expensive price tag. screaming at lightspeed, this is where everything in the film goes to shit

    there’s really no central theme to the rest of the movie, nor a coherent goal of any value, people die, betrayals are made just as quickly and lackadaisically as truces, his dog dies, rain water aliens that all look the same and now only come from rain unlike previously in the movie and its just infuriating so i’ll spare you

    i started this review with a inquiry as to where genre filmmaking rests on the cinematic litmus scale, but i’m almost certain Riddick needs to be stamped out as soon as possible. after the movie, i began thinking of some of the reasons why some blantantly abysmal film i hold very near and dear to my heart, because are film not to satisfy the viewer by means of entertainment. certainly an audience does not have to be plagued by philosophical, mental calastenisics to feel the cinematic experience. but Riddick, despite showing some early promise drops both its melon-sized balls on each foot like four hundred times. some of the dialogue was so ridiculous i’m really quite baffled as to how the film’s editor hasn’t jumped into a lion’s pit at the local zoo

    a damn shame

    2/10