Easily one of the cinematic highlights of the year, Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson’s animated drama Anomalisa was one of the big sales at this years Toronto International Film Festival, and for good reason. The first trailer for the film arrives, and the focus is on ‘big question’ profundity, with a hint of intimacy. The humour of the film is not showcased here, but this is likely due to how little nuance and context you can pack into a short trailer. If you, like me, are deeply affected by the dulcet vocal tones of David Thewlis, then this is a small slice of heaven, as is the film.
Director: King Hu Screenplay: King Hu Starring: Lingfeng Shangguan, Chun Shih, Ying Bai Country: Taiwan Running Time: 111 min Year: 1967 BBFC Certificate: 12
Releases like this are like manna from heaven to me. I’m an ardent follower of the Masters of Cinema series as my reviews will attest, as well as classic cinema in general. However, I’m also a huge martial arts movie fan, so when a film crosses the usually distinct boundaries between esteemed classic and action movie, I jump for joy. Needless to say, I snapped up the opportunity to review King Hu’s wuxia classic Dragon Inn (a.k.a. Dragon Gate Inn) as soon as it was offered.
King Hu was responsible for a handful of the most influential and revered martial arts films of all time. After the hugely popular Come Drink With Me, made for the famous Shaw Brothers studios, he helped set up a new studio in Taiwan called Union Film Company. His first film under this banner was Dragon Inn and this was followed up a couple of years later with A Touch of Zen. These three titles helped define martial arts movies in the East for decades to come. Hu’s influence can still clearly be seen in modern examples of the genre, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero and House of Flying Daggers, so it was no surprise to me to discover that 1967’s Dragon Inn still holds up very well today.
Dragon Inn opens with some narration explaining that the tyrannical first eunuch of the Emperor of China has framed and condemned the Minister of Defence (an opponent to his rule) to death and sent his family into exile. Fearing a vengeful attack, the eunuch sends his secret police to assassinate the banished family members on their way out of the country. The ambush is to take place at the titular Dragon Inn, which lies close to the border. However, as they wait, a couple more parties join them at the inn and the waters get ever more murky, leading to much treachery and numerous fight scenes.
Director: John Frankenheimer Screenplay: Lewis John Carlino Based on a novel by: David Ely Starring: Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, John Randolph Country: USA Running Time: 106 min Year: 1966 BBFC Certificate: 15
In my review of The Train earlier this year, I talked of my appreciation of John Frankenheimer and belief that he doesn’t quite get the respect he deserves. Back in the early 60’s he could do no wrong though. He had a run of four critical and commercial successes with Birdman of Alcatraz,The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May and The Train. This was followed up by the spiritual successor to the middle two titles, Seconds, creating an unofficial ‘paranoia trilogy’. A dark, unusual and quite challenging film, it wasn’t nearly as successful as Frankenheimer’s previous work, which may explain why its follow up was the more spectacular crowd-pleaser (and his first film in colour), Grand Prix. Over time, Seconds has been better appreciated though and Eureka have deemed it worthy of addition to their superlative Masters of Cinema series. I got hold of a copy to see how it stands up today.
Seconds finds the middle aged banker Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) unhappy with his life. A mysterious phone call from his supposedly dead friend Charlie (Murray Hamilton) offers a chance for improvement though. Charlie leads Arthur towards a shady organisation who promise their customers a fresh start by faking their deaths and setting them up with a new and sought-after lifestyle, with a new face to go with it (achieved through extreme plastic surgery). Although unsure of the procedure at first, Arthur is talked (or pretty much bullied) into it. He becomes Antiochus Wilson, a West Coast artist with the face of Rock Hudson. At first this new identity seems idyllic, bringing romance in the form of the free spirited Nora Marcus (Salome Jens) who helps loosen up the uptight former banker. However, as time goes on, Arthur/Antiochus finds that all is not as it seems and he learns to appreciate the true value of life so wants to re-assume his original identity. The question is, will the organisation allow it?
. The bookends were terrific surprises as I didn’t even know they existed a week ago: Next Of Kin, Just Before Dawn, Deathdream and Don’t Deliver Us From Evil.
Next Of Kin (1982 – Tony Williams)
Psychological horror? Ghost story? Giallo? Slow burn thriller? Why yes, yes it is. This little known Australian flick about a woman who returns to run the family rest home after her mother passes away not only covers a variety of stylistic and thematic horror approaches, it does so wonderfully well through an extremely well-orchestrated story. Containing some lovely & creative shots, a fantastic score by Klaus Schulze (did my day ever brighten up when I saw his name in the credits) and some deft changes of pace, this is easily one of my best horror finds in a very long time.
After last weeks one-two punch of original looking posters, we hit a bit of dry spell. But here the folks behind the Point Break remake are not shy in taking a page from the Fast & Furious Franchise. Or is it the Mission Impossible Franchise? Either way, this is advertising at its most direct and simple:
“Wanna see two guys wielding machine guns jump out of a skyscraper on motorcycles on a fine sunny day?”
We’ve got a lot to get to this week! Almost too much. First up is Danny Boyle’s version of Steve Jobs. Despite not seeing any other iterations of his story, I think it’s safe to say we’d call this the best one. It’s been/will be a banner year for westerns in 2015 and though there are some minor quibbles with Bone Tomahawk, Andrew and Kurt mostly had fun hanging out with it – one of us more than the other. For October scares, we take a trip into the snowy Haunted House of Ted Geoghegan’s We Are Still Here. Then it is off to Africa (or is it Netflix?) with Cary Fukunaga, where Idris Alba stars in the gorgeous but brutal Beasts of No Nation. For the Watchlist, Andrew does Flyway and Kurt talks David Mamet and Oliver Stone. Whew!
As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!
If you go back into the archives and find our interview from last year with this guy, you’ll see why it’s probably the best interview Matt Gamble and I have ever done. So when he was back with a second attempt at getting an award (and succeeding!), we were pretty excited to hang out with him again. Of course I’m talking about the director of the most excellent, Second Honeymoon, Kristjan Knigge.
This time, Kristjan brings in tow the lead actor of the film, Sytse Faber, to talk about the experiences in making independent cinema and what it’s like to be at Flyway once again. Apparently great enough to start filming a new picture right here in Pepin, WI this week!
We look forward to speaking with you again next year sir. Have a listen!
Hanging out another year with the big cheese himself, Rick Vacius. Matt Gamble and I talk with Rick about the importance of alcohol consumption, the glory of The Eagles on LPs and occasionally a film festival that’s being run and growing each year. Flyway is the place to be in October folks, and it’s all because of this man.
With the World Series starting today, lets consider Baseball, the sport that has time and time again translated the best up on the big screen. It is still very much America’s sport, and the sport that seems to bring out the best in the country. And editor Lindsay Ragone has put this delightful narrative together that examines the flavour and the atmosphere, the goofy and the sentimental, the best and the worst (but mostly the best) the sport offered to the cinema.
As a canadian, non-sports fan, it still gets me all warm inside seeing John Candy do his thing on screen.