A failed recording artist turned minor cult leader ties up Nicolas Cage and kills his wife – bad move. Nic John Wicks the enemy, but with less professional skill and more sheer bloody rage. The cult calls in their supernatural enforcers, the Black Skulls biker gang, but Cage’s Rage is too strong to be stopped. The movie’s story seems like a thin excuse to unleash an intense Cage performance and psychotronic visual effects on the viewer, and this viewer ain’t complaining. Seems like I noticed references to Friday the 13th, Rob Zombie, Evil Dead, Hellraiser – there must be more.

High schooler Nicole Muñoz gets very emotional when her mom (Laurie Holden of Silent Hill and The Mist) moves them both an hour away into the country after the dad’s pre-movie death, so Nicole finds a book of spells and summons a demon to destroy her mom. Kinda seems like she’s doing this as a goth coping mechanism and never expected an actual demon to actually murder anyone, but in a horror movie, you get what you summon. Obviously, the mom turns out to be kinda nice, and her daughter regrets her hellraising and tries to undo the spell.

Her friends (Hellions star Chloe Rose and Degrassi veteran Eric Osborne) come visit but are no match for a demon, and I think they get scared away and not murdered, but can’t recall for sure. The author of the demon book takes her seriously and tries to help, at least. “Pyewacket can take many forms, so don’t trust your lying eyes,” she is told, but still sets one of her moms on fire after finding her other mom dead in the woods, never suspecting that she’s murdering the wrong mom.

Mostly wanted to watch this so I’d stop getting it confused with Human Flow, but also it has an interesting description, a killer poster, and four-star reviews from some Respected Critics. Maybe re-reading the writeups before watching would’ve helped, since I didn’t enjoy this at all. Smeared handheld shaky cam indifferently follows people around, then follows someone else – three aimless boys with shitty jobs (at least one has been fired) in three different countries. No lighting either, and I’m wondering why this is even a movie, then something amazing finally happens an hour in, when the camera follows a kid peeing and unexpectedly goes inside an anthill, providing a smooth transition to a new segment along with a memorable visual metaphor.

Won a top prize at Locarno (same section as The Challenge, Destruction Babies, Donald Cried). On letterboxd, Autumn responded to the “fascinating visual scheme,” which I looked for but did not detect, Felipe calls “the image texture a true aesthetic weapon,” which I don’t guess I’m a fan of. Vadim raves about the movie’s originality in Filmmaker, Cinema Scope voted it a film of the year, and after reading Leo Goldsmith’s article, I can finally wrap my stupid head around the reasons for everyone’s formal interest. Glenn Kenny in the Times has a more mixed reaction:

A scene of teenage boys engaging in tentative sex play with one another for a webcam show is presented with sufficient flatness of affect to make a viewer suspect that Mr. Williams is also interested in blurring the lines between verisimilitude and tedium. Just when you think you’ve got the movie pegged, it pulls a daring switch of perspective. While the thrill of that little coup is short-lived, it suggests that Mr. Williams may come up with something more substantial with his next feature.

Maybe the grungiest, most lo-fi, handheld Oshima movie I’ve seen, with some apparently documentary segments. Also maybe more sexual violence than usual. Some nice closeups on hands, like in other thief movies. Whole movie looks dubbed, with some cool troubadour songs (not as funky as the ones in Izo).

Longhaired anarchist book thief Hilltop Birdman (Tadanori Yokoo, a minor role in Mishima) is nabbed by employee Umeko (Rie Yokoyama of Wakamatsu’s Ecstacy of the Angels), to the delightful indifference of her boss, who tries to give the thief more free books. But it’s the late 1960’s and if anyone’s gonna embrace the revolution in the air, it’s Oshima. The movie goes off on tangents about sex and psychology, turns from black-and-white to color, plays with poetry and literature and theater, and makes cool images and tries to freak out the normies. “I do feel something like rage toward nothing in particular.”

It’s all crying out for some explanatory blu-ray features – for instance, it’s been a minute since I watched Death By Hanging, so I didn’t realize that movie’s primary male cast appears in a roundtable discussion as themselves – but I tend to love Oshima films even when I’m confused by them.

A few days after Rashomon, we took a whole class to the Alamo for this one, all of our first times seeing it. A version of Macbeth that is plenty enjoyable on its own, through its great atmosphere and unique variations on the story, and even more so after reading about some of the design elements and historical context.

From Stephen Prince’s Criterion essay:

Noh shows up everywhere in Throne of Blood, making the project a real fusion of cinema and theater… Noh elements include the music (that assertive flute, for example), the bare sets, and especially the stylized performances by Mifune and Isuzu Yamada … Actors in Noh use masks, and while Kurosawa doesn’t do anything so blatantly artificial here, he does have Mifune and Yamada model facial expressions that resemble popular Noh masks (a strategy he extended in Yamada’s makeup) … Kurosawa strips all the psychology out of Macbeth and gives us a film whose characters are Noh types and where emotions — the province of character in the drama of the West — are formally embodied in landscape and weather. The bleached skies, the fog, the barren plains, and characters going adrift against and within these spaces — this is where the emotion of the film resides … Kurosawa wants us to grasp the lesson, to see the folly of human behavior, rather than to identify or empathize with the characters.

Toshiro Mifune’s ninth Kurosawa film, with Isuzu Yamada (landlady of The Lower Depths) as his Lady, and Minoru Chiaki (the priest in Rashomon, also Hidden Fortress and The Face of Another) as his friend-turned-rival. The three witches are replaced by a single spinning-wheel ghost, with a neat single take when the spirit house vanishes while the warriors (and camera) are distracted.

I love the performances even more than the multiple-perspective conceit, how Mifune goes from devil-may-care trickster thief to pathetic coward, the wife from tormented crying victim to cold duel instigator. Three points of view including the dead husband’s through a medium, then a fourth version from a witness woodcutter, then he’s also revealed to be a liar/thief, having stolen a valuable dagger from the crime scene, and all this causes the local priest to despair until his faith is restored by the woodcutter adopting a baby that was apparently abandoned at the temple while they were telling crime stories. The priest’s bit is overdone, rest of the movie is perfect. Watched on the big screen at Alamo with my Katy.

Won top prize at Venice against Diary of a Country Priest, Renoir’s The River, Ace in the Hole, Born Yesterday, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, and won different oscars in two consecutive years, since their rules used to be even stupider than they are now. This was Toshiro Mifune’s fifth Kurosawa film, and his breakout role to the Western world. The wife Machiko Kyô starred in Gate of Hell, the dead husband Masayuki Mori in Ugetsu, and the medium Noriko Honma in each of Kurosawa’s final three films.

This was fun. Bad guy Sean Harris is back from part five, Henry Cavill is a traitorous team member, Rebecca Ferguson is a badass, Vanessa Kirby (TV’s The Crown) an arms dealer, Angela Bassett the new boss when Alec Baldwin gets killed. Ends with some more impressive-looking helicopter stunts than in part one, a clifftop battle, and nuclear weapons set to destroy a significant chunk of the world’s population beginning with Ethan’s wife Michelle Monaghan.

Normal college student Rachel (Constance Wu of TV’s Fresh Off the Boat) is invited to a friend’s wedding by her wonderful, loving boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding of that Anna Kendrick movie this year that looked pretty good), who turns out to be mega-rich, so Nick’s family looks down on her, and Rachel has to spend the trip placating rich people and deciding whether it’s worth it. Rachel happens to have a friend in Singapore, our comic relief Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight). The wedding is between Chris Pang (Crouching Tiger 2) and Sonoya Mizuno (Kyoko in Ex Machina). Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger 1) plays Nick’s mom whom Rachel has to convince of her worthiness, and Jing Lusi (of Milla Jovovich actioner Survivor) is Nick’s ex who wants to torpedo Rachel.

Based on a hit novel, Jon Chu previously made three Justin Bieber movies and Jem and the Holograms. Singapore looks just wonderful – we should visit and spend all our money there.

A sexy 1970’s Euro-vampire movie. Newlyweds Valerie (Danielle Ouimet, of a few Canadian sex movies and devil movies) and Stefan (John Karlen, kind of a brutish, squished Mark Hamill type, of Dark Shadows) arrive at a hotel where a countess (Delphine Seyrig, between Donkey Skin and Discreet Charm) and her companion Ilona (Andrea Rau, of German sex comedies) are also staying. The newlyweds hear there have been murders in Bruges, so they take a day trip there and back, then a cop arrives at the hotel (final role of Belgian 1930’s and 40’s actor Georges Jamin), and at this point I’m pretty sure everyone in the movie is a vampire – they all wear scarves and act suspiciously.

“You’re being foolish… I won’t let you leave until you explain” – different characters say the same lines, and it’s either a deep commentary on identity, or lazy writing. The camera lingers on bodies and gets draped in colored filters (Kumel also made an Orson Welles occult mystery the same year). Stefan tries to get playful (while nude) with Ilona, but I didn’t realize vampires hate showers, and she falls onto a razor. Delphine takes Valerie as her new travel companion, but they immediately go for a drive into the dawning sun and get burnt up. The whole thing’s got some fashion and visual style at least, and it’s agreeably colorful and odd.

Ilona:

Delphine and Valerie: