Blu-Ray Review: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Director: Nicolas Gessner
Screenplay: Laird Koenig
Based on a novel by: Laird Koenig
Starring: Jodie Foster, Scott Jacoby, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith, Mort Shuman
Country: France, Canada
Running Time: 92 min
Year: 1976
BBFC Certificate: 15


Jodie Foster had quite a year in 1976. Only thirteen when the year came around, she’d already enjoyed a successful career with dozens of TV credits and a couple of films under her belt. 1976 marked the beginning of her transition from child actor in family shows and Disney movies to a truly accomplished actress though. Within one year she starred in the cult classic (at least in more recent years) Bugsy Malone, family favourite Freaky Friday and, most notably, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, in which she played a pre-adolescent prostitute. With these films she cemented her place in cinema history in one fell swoop. There was another film released that year though that is less talked about, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (plus Echoes of a Summer, but I know little about that). It won awards for best horror film and best actress for Foster at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, so within genre circles it was well regarded, but it certainly doesn’t share the reputation of the three other 1976 titles I mentioned earlier. Signal One Entertainment felt the need to address the balance a little though and gave the film a decent Blu-Ray release in the UK a couple of years ago. I recently got my hands on a copy and here are my thoughts on it

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane sees Foster play Rynn, a thirteen year old girl living on her own in a small town, but hiding the fact to her rather nosey neighbours. She tells them her father is a poet that is always working upstairs and doesn’t want to be disturbed. One neighbour, Frank Hallet (Martin Sheen), is a sleazy man, known by the townsfolk for having a taste for young girls and he sees Rynn’s isolation as an opportunity. Frank’s mother (Alexis Smith), who owns the property Rynn rents, is also suspicious of the situation and continues to snoop around, until she is accidentally killed after discovering a dark secret in the house. Rynn hides her body, but local teenager Mario (Scott Jacoby) bumps into her and can see something isn’t right. As the two develop a strong bond, Rynn decides to let him in on her secret and the two do their best to keep on top of things.

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Blu-Ray Review: Panic in the Streets

Director: Elia Kazan
Screenplay: Richard Murphy, Daniel Fuchs, John Lee Mahin (uncredited), Philip Yordan (uncredited)
Based on a story by: Edna Anhalt, Edward Anhalt
Starring: Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas, Barbara Bel Geddes, Jack Palance, Zero Mostel
Country: USA
Running Time: 96 min
Year: 1950
BBFC Certificate: PG


I‘ve long been a bit of a hypochondriac/germophobe. If anyone’s ill in my circle of family or friends I’m always terrified of catching something and try everything in my power to avoid contact or obsessively clean my hands any time I get close to them. As such, I’ve always found films about disease particularly disturbing. So a film like Elia Kazan’s Panic in the Streets plays into my fear as the best thrillers do.

The film opens with a group of unsavoury characters playing cards in a New Orleans bar. One of them looks rather unwell and wants to leave, but the others, including tough guy Blackie (Jack Palance) and his nervous accomplice Raymond Fitch (Zero Mostel), think he’s putting it on to avoid paying what he owes. They chase him down when he does leave and end up killing the man and dumping him in the docks.

The authorities find the body the next morning and perform an autopsy. It seems pretty clear the man died of a gunshot wound, but the doctor discovers he actually had pneumonic plague. This is a highly infectious and fatal disease, so Lt. Commander Clint Reed (Richard Widmark), a doctor with the U.S. Public Health Service, is called in to handle the situation. He believes that the murderer is key to containing the situation as he was obviously in contact with the dead man and must have got his blood on him as he carried the body to the docks. So Reed figures he and the police have got 48 hours to figure out who the killer is before the plague spreads out of their control. Reed also believes the outbreak should be kept from public knowledge as they don’t want the murder to leave New Orleans in a panic. This controversial decision has some repercussions down the line though as Reed and the lead police officer on the case, Capt. Tom Warren (Paul Douglas) begin to crack the case.

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Cinecast Episode 497 – On Skis

Scheduling lately has been rough as summer winds down and school is starting and film festivals and then of course hurricanes. But we managed to pull something together with the help of our friend Darren Aronofsky and his mother! The aforementioned hurricanes actually help to facilitate a trip through TIFF that otherwise wasn’t going to happen; so there’re lots of titles there to get through from Bruckner to Zahler. Andrew has been playing catch-up on some bullshit titles of the last year or so as well as going back to earlier Fincher as refresher. Lastly, Twin Peaks Season 3 The Return has wrapped up and Kurt has a number of things to discuss about that little slice of mayhem. Lots to dig into this week folks, and we’re starting with the book of Genesis. So stick this in your ear and settle in.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

We’re now available on Google Play!

 

 
 

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Friday One Sheet: Wonder Wheel

Woody Allen’s latest takes place in New York’s Coney Island amusement park in the 1950s. And this key art delivers a nostalgic glow on the eponymous ferris wheel in the title. It also foregrounds a stern but relaxed (?) and nearly unrecognizable Kate Winslet writing in a journal on the worlds smallest day-bed. The warm glow of her hair is at odds with the severity of her expression. Thus lending the tension, will this film be swimming in rosy nostalgia, or be a darker, deeper consideration of New York’s most frivolous, and often dangerous districts.

Blu-Ray Review: Certain Women – Criterion Collection

Director: Kelly Reichardt
Screenplay: Kelly Reichardt
Based on short stories by: Maile Meloy
Starring: Lily Gladstone, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Jared Harris, James Le Gros
Country: USA
Running Time: 107 min
Year: 2016
BBFC Certificate: 12


Kelly Reichardt enjoys much acclaim for her films among mainstream critics, but she can be an acquired taste among bloggers and general audiences. You only have to compare the quotes and ratings from critics reviewing her work to her IMDb or Amazon star ratings to see there’s a bit of a gulf between intellectual appreciation and public opinion. Being what I’d consider part of the ‘slow cinema’ movement (which isn’t clearly defined, but includes similar films that are low on plot and action), her work isn’t particularly exciting or as attention-grabbing as more digestible auteurs making films in the 21st Century. Knowing this, I don’t rush to watch Reichardt’s films as I worry I’ll be in for a tedious slog, not helped by some less than enthusiastic opinions of her films I’ve heard expressed by a couple of friends. I did see Meek’s Cutoff a couple of years ago though and was very impressed, so my apprehension has dampened somewhat since then and strong reviews lead me to accept an offer of reviewing her latest film, Certain Women. Whilst I’m happy to watch the film now though, I’m still rather apprehensive about critiquing it. I consider myself quite a ‘nuts and bolts’ reviewer, who likes to list clear elements of the film that work or don’t work rather than waffle on about what a filmmaker is trying to ‘say’. So I find slow, quiet, thoughtful films like this difficult to analyse in my usual fashion. I’ll give it my best shot though.

Certain Women takes several short stories by Maile Meloy and uses them to create three only very loosely connected narratives, which are presented one by one through the bulk of the film, before revisiting them all briefly in the finale. The first story features Laura Dern as Laura, a lawyer troubled by a client (Jared Harris) that won’t accept the fact he doesn’t have a case. He seems to have a fondness for Laura too and won’t leave her alone, asking for her help when he cracks and takes someone hostage at gunpoint.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Wonderful Worlds Of Ray Harryhausen, Volume One: 1955-1960

Indicator continue their Blu-Ray re-releases of the great Ray Harryhausen’s work with this volume containing three of the films he made between 1955 and 1960. It includes glorious HD prints of It Came From Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth and The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, curiously skipping Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (which has previously been made available on DVD in a set with the first two titles). In my earlier review of the Sinbad Trilogy, I professed my love for Harryhausen’s stop motion creations and how they played a key part in my cinematic upbringing, so I was thrilled to be offered another set of his films to review, particularly since I’d only seen one of them previously (It Came From Beneath the Sea). My thoughts on the three films are below:

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Review: Mother!

Director: Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream, Pi, The Fountain, Noah, Black Swan)
Writer: Darren Aronofsky
Producers: Scott Franklin, Ari Handel
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 121 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd

 


If you love your very on-the-nose religious allegories aggressively shoved down your throat for an excruciating two hours, then Mother! is the movie for you! Darren Aronofsky’s latest is a big ol’ parable that’s pretty impossible to miss since instead of wrapping its deeper ideas inside of anything resembling a plot of its own he instead throws it right there on the surface with giant sign posts indicating every little thing that anyone needs for even the most basic viewer to “get it”. Of course it’s also just the kind of obnoxiously “ambitious”, “auteur-driven”, “provocative” feature that will ignite a heavily divisive response with its lovers insisting that the detractors somehow “didn’t get it” even though there’s literally nothing else to it. That’s a big part of the problem. Aronofsky just drowns this beast in his giant allegory (which, yes, could also be an interpretation of the creative process, but isn’t that essentially the same thing? And really there’s too much religion here for it not to be that more than anything), leaving no room for anything else.

Certainly not for even the slightest modicum of character development or dimension, as a talented cast led by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem is criminally underserved by a script that treats their characters as props rather than actual people with inner lives who the audience are supposed to care for. And yet as the deliriously, infuriatingly chaotic final act rages on there’s this odd pull that the movie suddenly wants us to have an investment in these people, but it did absolutely zero groundwork to get us to that point. Ultimately it did zero work to establish practically anything. It’s well and good to work an allegory like this into something, but you have to actually have something there in the first place to work it into and Aronofsky missed the boat on that one. Even more than that he missed the concept of having it all actually mean anything on a grander scheme. Sure, it’s all about religion, but for what purpose? Why does this movie exist? Beats me.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Red Turtle

Director: Michael Dudok de Wit
Screenplay: Michael Dudok de Wit, Pascale Ferran
Starring: Emmanuel Garijo, Tom Hudson, Baptiste Goy
Country: France, Belgium, Japan
Running Time: 80 min
Year: 2016
BBFC Certificate: 12


I‘m an absolute sucker for animated films, so watch and enjoy a great deal of them. My favourite director has long been Hayao Miyazaki and the work he does, as well as that of Studio Ghibli, the production company he co-founded, is always classed as ‘must see’ in my household as I consider their output some of the best of the format. Michael Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle is only partly produced by Studio Ghibli, but its strong reviews have kept it firmly at the top of my ‘to watch’ list ever since I became aware of it. I frustratingly missed a couple of opportunities to see it on the big screen, but finally my chance came to watch the film when I was offered a screener to review, so I cranked up my projector and settled down, trying but failing to dampen my expectations in case of disappointment.

The Red Turtle opens with a nameless man struggling to keep hold of a capsized boat during a terrible storm, before later waking up on a desert island, the shattered remnants of his boat largely washed away. He survives as best he can and soon attempts to leave the island, stringing bamboo trunks together to form a small raft. This gets smashed by an unknown force under the water, so he swims back to shore and later tries again. His second raft gets destroyed again by a similar unseen underwater attacker. Then, on his third attempt, he catches his assailant in the act. It’s a large red turtle, who follows the man back to the island. In his anger and frustration, the man takes a large piece of wood and beats the turtle, then flips it on its back to die in the baking sunlight. After a while, the man realises what he’s done though and tries to nurse the animal back to life. Instead what happens takes the film in a fantastical direction, as the turtle turns into a woman. She can’t speak and still has some turtle-like characteristics, but the man falls in love with her and the pair decide to stay put, prompting the film to shift forward in time a couple of years to reveal they now have a young son. We then follow their lives as a family and watch the development of the boy into a man, who sets his sights beyond the island.

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Harry Dean Stanton: 1926 – 2017

Possibly the greatest character actor of the past 40 years, the cantankerous stalwart for the smoking, drinking working fellow, Harry Dean Stanton passed on at the venerable age of 91. The actor has approximately 200 film and television credits dating all the way back to the 1950s, so obviously you might fit into one or more of several camps of HDS. There is the dopey working class performances in Red Dawn, and Alien (Rieeeght). There is the creepy, creepy villain rolls in TV’s Big Love series, Seven Psychopaths, and Wild At Heart. The existential drifter, in Paris Texas, and his last major film to come out, 2017’s Lucky. The mentor and father figure, in Pretty in Pink, Repo Man. As a seedy sidekick in Escape From New York and Cockfighter. Or the witness to events in The Straight Story, The Green Mile, The Avengers, Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me, and The Last Temptation of Christ. Or mood-setting troubadour strumming his six string in Cool Hand Luke, Access All Areas and recently in Twin Peaks: The Return.

His lanky frame and ‘I don’t give a fuck’ posture, which was meticulously achieved with committed performances in even the tiniest of parts, made him one of the recognizable faces in film, and he will deeply missed. Of course, Stanton worked right up to the moment of his death and can be seen acting alongside one of his regular collaborators, David Lynch (he is in the bulk of Lynch’s filmography), in John Carroll Lynch’s Lucky as well as in Michael Oblowitz’s Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner picture, Frank & Ava.

Variety has more.

Friday One Sheet: The Shape of Charcoal

Fresh off its big Golden Lion win at Venice, its hot-ticket premiere at TIFF, and Opening Film slot announcement at the upcoming at Sitges, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water gets this handsome charcoal-sketch poster that is a variant of sorts from the water-colour teaser design. Clearly articulating the ‘Creature From The Black Lagoon’-as-a-love-story angle of the film and wearing its festival laurels in the corner, this one will be an eye catcher when it is hung (hopefully on paper, not on a screen) in multiplex lobbies in December. Me, I will be standing in the rush line in Toronto (hey, I’ve been here all week!) at TIFF hoping to see if the film lives up to its praise, or I will be waiting until December like the rest of you.

Trailer: The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is certainly an auteur at this point in the game. I went to his private collection of memorabilia and childhood influences exhibit last year at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (aptly titled “At Home with Monsters”) and you could see the very distinct flavor of both his inspirations as well as his output.

All that said, this has a little more of “the feels” to it. Almost like Jean-Pierre Jeunet had a hand in production. In fact, if this trailer is anything to go by, it feels a little safe to me. A misunderstood or “different” person/creature is able to find themselves with another who is “different.” Meanwhile the evil scientists do evil stuff. I feel like I’ve seen this story a million times. I mean shit, Doug Jones as the guy in the water tank? Really?

Still, it’s del Toro and slew of great actors (Hawkins, Shannon, Stuhlbarg, Spencer, Jenkins, et. al), so this is still very definitely on the must see list later this year. Have a look below; am I way off base here?