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fairbrother’s Film Reviews

About me: Aro resident and incorrigible video nerd.

199 Films have been rated or reviewed by fairbrother.

ApocalyptoApocalypto (2006)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) I'll leave appraisal of its cultural depiction to more educated voices. As evocation of Jungle Life Long Ago, it's uniquely atmospheric; as a grisly fight–and–flight thrill–ride, it's vividly intense, but does jump the shark bad in its climactic minute
DVD $20 $15
Portrait of a Lady on FirePortrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) 'Painterly' by nature as well as by name. The performances and formal precision are quietly captivating and, cumulatively, very moving. Just gorgeous.
DVD $29.95
Nightingale, TheNightingale, The (2019)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Heed the censor's warning: this one hurts. But rightly so. The two leads make a great duo, their fraught relationship is complex and poignant. If the final act drags (at least 2 false climaxes too many), overall it remains a searing vision.
DVD $24.95
MirrorMirror (Zerkalo) (1974)
5 stars (Exceptional) A Soviet Art Film may sound like death to some but, believe, this one's a hands–down masterpiece. Opaque, fragmented, hallucinatory; you may not be able to explain it, but you'll be utterly hypnotised, and its images will never let you go.
Mad Max: Fury RoadMad Max: Fury Road (2015)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) A gloriously berserk thrill–ride. At 2 hours, the non–stop action does finally get a bit monotonous. But fair's fair: for eye–popping vision and breath–taking mayhem, this runs turbo–charged rings around any comparable pop–spectacle.
Blu-Ray $30 $22.50
SuspiriaSuspiria (2018)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) Formally stunning and proudly pretentious, in that good way which can make cult classics, but over–length finally exposes the limits of conceit and material alike. The first death scene's a sadistic doozy; hated the climax, loved the coda.
DVD $24.95 | Blu-Ray $29.95
True Detective - Season 1 (TV Series)True Detective - Season 1 (TV Series) (2014)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) The mystery itself is generic cliche (with loads of sexist baggage), but the characters and mood really get under the skin, and keep us riveted. Evocative cinematography and music choices augment the two excellent lead performances.
DVD $30 $22.50
KluteKlute (1971)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) As stylish and intelligent a thriller as one could hope for, not least for the way "whodunit?" fades into the background, leaving us to consider the bigger mystery of Fonda's character. An astonishing performance; a fascinating film.
Body DoubleBody Double (1984)
2 stars (Good Try) De Palma sends up himself; it's bad but amusing. A knowingly outrageous murder scene is the highlight, and the score is ace, but the plot and leading man are both risibly dopy. For mid–80s kitsch, and pure male gazery, it's a must.
DVD $14.95 | Blu-Ray $19.95
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseSpider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) I have little love for comics or superhero flicks – but even this cynical snob concedes that Into the Spider–verse (slight over–length notwithstanding) is a zippy, witty, exciting hoot. Time for Marvel to abandon live–action altogether?
DVD $19.95 | Blu-Ray $24.95, $29.95, $29.95
Most Violent Year, AMost Violent Year, A (2014)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Criminally under–seen. Too low–key for those wanting an outright thriller, perhaps, but a must if you prefer suspense built on credible characters and the incremental raising of stakes. Palpable atmosphere, superb performances.
Sex, Lies and VideotapeSex, Lies and Videotape (1989)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) A witty diamond of a script, superbly acted, and realised with a very cool sense of style – the coy restraint of which is perhaps, in retrospect, the sexiest thing about the film. Sundance would never be the same again afterwards.
CandymanCandyman (1992)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Works as a literal urban spook flick or as a metaphorical riff on white privilege (and the great American taboo of miscegenation). There maybe imperfections but overall it's a classy, thoughtful, and truly frightening genre gem.
DVD $14.95 | Blu-Ray $19.95
Visit, TheVisit, The (2015)
3 stars (Good Enough) A found footage thriller that, otherwise, avoids gimmickry. The suspense is subtle but well–sustained, leavened with humour, and built around two kids you can root for. Slight but enjoyable, a good "gateway horror" for young viewers.
DVD $34.95 | Blu-Ray $39.95
AuditionAudition (1999)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) A wicked dissection of male romantic illusions. Deliberate pacing pays dividends as the story gradually enters feverish nightmare territory. Try to go in blind: love it or hate it, this one's unforgettable, worthy of a 'modern horror classic' rep.
A Dark SongA Dark Song (2017)
3 stars (Good Enough) Oram's performance outshines Walker's, and it could stand to be 15 minutes shorter. On the plus side, it mostly avoids the obvious (the third act turn is a doozy), favouring dread and mystery over easy shocks. Flawed but interesting.
DVD $34.95
Once Upon a Time in AmericaOnce Upon a Time in America (1984)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Often overlooked when considering the modern gangster genre – a shame. The four–hour cut is a masterful, if devoutly old–fashioned (and sexist), epic: baroque, melodramatic, and deeply engaging once you surrender.
DVD $10, $25 $18.75
LolitaLolita (1962)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) The second half loses steam, Nabokov's script preserving a smidge too much of his novel's narrative sprawl. A too–mature Lo, though well–played by Lyon, is another flaw. But the first half is terrific, a very funny, thematically provocative tragicomedy.
DVD $15 $11.25, $25 $18.75
Only God ForgivesOnly God Forgives (2013)
1 star (Turkey) Refn's cinematography and soundtrack work atmospheric wonders, again, but the story is just sophomoric sadism draped in would–be spiritual angst. Sick, hollow, and pretentious: there's no soul here to forgive.
DVD $14.95 | Blu-Ray $19.95
GoodfellasGoodfellas (1990)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) A jukebox musical as tabloid–Americana, a pitch–black comedy of unhinged machismo, and the last word in mob movie drama. The content feels utterly real even as the style consistently dazzles us. Bet you can't just watch it once.
DVD $15 $11.25
Fly, TheFly, The (1986)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) It's a rare film that can make the viewer both cry and dry–heave: The Fly is such a film, a nightmarish hybrid of disease–weepie and sci–fi splatter. The offbeat leads are excellent in tricky roles, and the practical FX are amazing.
DVD $14.95 | Blu-Ray $19.95
Before the Devil Knows You're DeadBefore the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Not a cheery flick, but a gripping one. If it tends toward melodrama as it goes on, it does so with a maturity and emotional impact uncommon in similar (modern) pulp–noir thrillers. The headline cast are all in top–form.
SleepwalkersSleepwalkers (1992)
3 stars (Good Enough) Krige's good in a bad role, Amick's an appealing heroine, and the monster–mayhem is delivered with solid, knowing B–movie professionalism. Haunting theme music, too. At the sillier end of the King–spectrum, for sure, but enjoyably so.
DVD $14.95 | Blu-Ray $19.95 $12.95
Sympathy for Mr. VengeanceSympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) There's wrenching violence here, for sure, but it's the pervasive pessimism that really stings: this is as much a tragedy (or nihilistic farce) as a neo–noir thriller. Hard–boiled AF and, for consistency of vision, I say it beats Old Boy.
DVD $29.95 $15
It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia (TV Series)It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia (TV Series) (2005)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Keep moving if you need to like the characters you're watching: the whole joke here is that these people are, truly and consistently, The Worst. Loud, crass and, oftentimes, shockingly funny. In small doses, it's an obnoxious treat.
King of the Hill (TV Series)King of the Hill (TV Series) (1997-2006)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) And they say Americans can't do drollery. The sly mockery here is dead–on but affectionate, revelling in the characters' flaws and limitations while affirming their common decency. At it's best, it's poignant, perceptive, and hilarious.
DVD $29.95, $29.95, $29.95, $49.95
Serious Man, ASerious Man, A (2009)
4 stars (Very Good) A profoundly black comedy about nothing less than what God wants from us (if he exists). Too opaque for general tastes (it took me two viewings to "get it"), but the nuanced precision of writing, acting, and filmic craft is masterful.
Hell or High WaterHell or High Water (2016)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Exceptionally satisfying crime drama that delivers the requisite thrills with grit, wit, thematic depth, and emotional resonance. Bridges and Foster give especially fine performances. An unassuming bullseye.
DVD $29.95 | Blu-Ray $34.95
Wind RiverWind River (2017)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) The script is bow–taut and arrow–sharp, the acting understated but forthright. As a hybrid western/thriller, it's compelling, satisfying genre entertainment; as an expose of systemic injustice, it's clear–eyed and stirring.
DVD $34.95 | Blu-Ray $39.95
HereditaryHereditary (2018)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) It's a genuinely scary occult tale but Hereditary's true power lies in its wrenching vision of that horror most horror films dare not touch: grief. Collette is astonishing – to say the rest of the cast hold their own is no small praise.
DVD $39.95 $24.95 | Blu-Ray $44.95 $29.95
Peep Show (TV Series)Peep Show (TV Series) (2003-2015)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Despicably cynical, shamefully relatable, and utterly hilarious. You'll feel bad for laughing so hard.
SignsSigns (2002)
3 stars (Good Enough) Gibson's presence maybe divisive, but Signs is so genuinely scary it feels like a new suspense classic... until the final five minutes, which collapse into such clumsy, insulting nonsense you wanna slap the screen. D'oh!
DVD $20 $15
DriveDrive (2011)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) Refn's emphatic stylization channels Michael Mann, Walter Hill, and Brian De Palma: if Tarantino told stories with pictures instead of dialogue, they might be like this. The result's a formal wet–dream, but so doggedly "cool" it starts to ring hollow.
DVD $14.95
ExtractExtract (2009)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Televisual rather than cinematic, yes, but if you catch its droll wavelength it's very funny, sharply–acted (even Ben Affleck kills!), and (for a US sex comedy) refreshingly dry. Like Judge's other films, it gets funnier with repeat views.
Fight ClubFight Club (1999)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) The taunting nihilism is brash but true to its subject: dangerously misguided machismo. The fierce cynicism and manic social angst are perhaps even more pertinent 20 years later. A flawed but phenomenal horror–comedy.
DVD $20 $15
A Quiet PlaceA Quiet Place (2018)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) An A–grade B–movie. Digital monsters notwithstanding, it's effectively old–fashioned, delivering suspense and chills with a cinematic confidence worthy of prime Spielberg. Well–acted, also, and not a second too long.
DVD $34.95 | Blu-Ray $39.95, $39.95
AliensAliens (1986)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Like the original Alien, only hijacked by a Vietnam war flick. Cameron's nerve and verve pay off, fantastically: first half, all nervy build–up, second half, all thrills and spills. The pre–digital FX rock. A modern classic, surely?
Indiana Jones and the Temple of DoomIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
3 stars (Good Enough) A folly so bonkers it suggests even Spielberg had a mid–80s Coke Period. The constant shrieking grates and today's PC brigade will rightly have a fit – but, credit where its due, the OTT thrills and spills are terrific fun.
DVD $19.95
Ground We Won, TheGround We Won, The (2015)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) I have zero passion for rugby. The Ground We Won is not about rugby, but what it means to those who play. As such it's a portrait of the human need for community and purpose – and it's quite wonderful.
DVD $20 $15, $24.95
A.I. Artificial IntelligenceA.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)Aro Favourite
3 stars (Good Enough) First act: pure Kubrick, coolly cerebral. Second act: pure Spielberg, flashy and increasingly sentimental. Third act: an awkward compromise between the two. A mixed bag, then, but interesting and ambitious.
DVD $25 $18.75
BraindeadBraindead (Dead Alive) (1992)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) An aptly titled, sweet–hearted, emphatically gross, and unbearably funny zombie cartoon strip. The climactic splatterfest, maybe the goriest ever filmed, is astonishing. Ian Watkin's Uncle Les is a beaut of a Kiwi bastard throwback.
Master, TheMaster, The (2012)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Way too opaque for general tastes, with a final half–hour that just trails off. But Phoenix's palpable intensity, and images of enigmatic portent (gloriously shot, augmented by fine music), haunted me long afterward. See it and wonder.
DVD $20 $15
RawRaw (Grave) (2016)
4 stars (Very Good) A queasy, darkly comic story of transgressive maturation: Cronenbergia in the Euro–realist handheld style. It doesn't entirely add up but committed acting and a handful of stunning scenes ("bikini wax" is all I'll say) leave quite an impression.
DVD $34.95 | Blu-Ray $34.95
45 Years45 Years (2015)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Fine evidence that some of cinema's richest drama can be found in quiet moments, unspoken words, and implication rather than incidents. Superbly written and acted, it's emotional heft sneaked up on me, and left me haunted.
DVD $29.95 $24.95
White of the EyeWhite of the Eye (1987)Recommended
2 stars (Good Try) Shows (sick) early promise as an arty slasher, but Cammell's camerawork and editing tell us he wants to make something more. Alas, the resultant melodrama's patchy, and climaxes in laughable camp. More like "Roll of the eye".
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) There's a faint whiff of self–conscious, writerly indulgence, especially in some of the more arch "irony" and cutesy Tarantinoesque dialogue. But entertaining, provocative, and well–acted? You bethca.
Florida Project, TheFlorida Project, The (2017)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) My favorite American film of 2017. Wrought with a docu–realism that's tender but unsentimental, funny but never flippant, and politically conscious without preaching. A bittersweet and beautifully acted ode to life below the poverty–line.
WetlandsWetlands (2013)
3 stars (Good Enough) The narrative's too thin to sustain feature–length, but the best moments are so TMI filthy as to be refreshing, even oddly charming. Juri's mix of oblivious vulnerability and spunky, precocious charisma carries it a long way.
DVD $29.95
OleannaOleanna (1994)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) Demonstrates that, for all his gifts as a writer, Mamet's a poor director of actors and camera alike. Still: the play itself is extraordinary (he saw #metoo coming decades ago) so, if you can't be bothered reading it, this adaptation's worthwhile.
Baby DriverBaby Driver (2017)Recommended
2 stars (Good Try) The gimmicky premise delivers some fun set–pieces, but trips over itself making Baby "nice": if he'd been a bastard (or at least a better actor) this mightn't feel so gratingly twee. Hamm and Foxx do well in blah wiseguy roles, Spacey's on autopilot.
DVD $24.95 | Blu-Ray $29.95
Saving Private RyanSaving Private Ryan (1998)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) If Spielberg can't quite shake his naive sentimentality, the pulverizing intensity and virtuosity of his combat scenes is undeniable. Morally and thematically reductive, then, but an emotional–visceral knockout all the same.
DVD $24.95
HiddenHidden (Cache) (2005)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Demands patience, and multiple viewings, but rewards them with a wealth of prickly "hidden" themes: privilege, denial, terrorism, media, the fluidity of truth... deliberately frustrating, and fascinating for it, it's stone–cold brilliant.
DVD $29.95
DetroitDetroit (2017)
3 stars (Good Enough) A woke horror film by white artists, with all the good and bad that implies. Authoritarians will write it off as liberal pandering, while the rest of us already get the message loud and clear, so who's it's really for? Potent all the same.
DVD $34.95, $39.95
WaruWaru (2017)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) The acting is variable, and one chapter is all too on–the–nose, but overall this is a remarkable achievement made with love and bravery. It hit me deeper and haunted me longer than anything else I saw in 2017. Don't miss it.
DVD $24.95
Mother!Mother! (mother!) (2017)Aro Favourite
3 stars (Good Enough) Someone's been watching too much Lars von Trier! Exhausting and risibly pretentious, with a crap ending, but so admirably wild (and uncommercial) it demands to be seen and debated. Pfeiffer takes the acting prize.
DVD $34.95 | Blu-Ray $39.95, $49.95
Thin Red Line, TheThin Red Line, The (1998)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) The poetic, philosophical flip–side to Saving Private Ryan's pandering hero–myths: for all its action, the emphasis is on spiritual conflict, a bold gambit for a big studio picture. A mixed bag but truly unique and beautifully crafted.
DVD $20 $15
ComplianceCompliance (2012)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Hardly much fun but excellent acting means the queasy tension hooks us properly. The fact that the story's unbelievable is why the film deserves to exist: it's based on not one but, chillingly, several documented true cases.
DVD $29.95 $14.95
UnaUna (2016)Recommended
2 stars (Good Try) Strong material. Strong leads. Frustrating direction: the play's built–in claustrophobia is diminished by over–filming and over–editing, presumably meant to make it "more cinematic", but ironically forestalling full engagement.
DVD $29.95 $15
Seven PsychopathsSeven Psychopaths (2012)
3 stars (Good Enough) If the whole is little more than a shaggy–dog joke, pitching "quirky" self–awareness with hard–to–take violence, its tough to deny that there are some inspired bits too – laughs–wise and shocks–wise – plus several wicked performances.
OJ: Made in America (TV Series)OJ: Made in America (TV Series) (2016)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Aroview is on–the–money. This fulfills its "true crime" duties in spades and with a very even hand but, more impressive, uses that framework to dissect complex facets of American culture in a lucid, revealing manner. Unmissable.
DVD $29.95
JFKJFK (1991)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Made with a rhetorical passion that's near–sanctimonious, JFK is never subtle. But if some "facts" are dubious, and the form manipulative, it amounts to powerful impressionism: a compelling epic of '60s upheaval and All–American Paranoia.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, TheTexas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The (1986)
3 stars (Good Enough) Hooper refuses to give his mid–Reagan–era audience the sequel they expected, instead giving them the the coked–up, cartoon horror movie they deserved: very sick, knowingly excessive, often hilarious. Dennis Hopper's even nuttier here than in Blue Velvet.
Reservoir DogsReservoir Dogs (1992)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) A sort of Glengarry Glen Ross ala John Woo, this maybe immature, but it packs a bigger wallop than anything else Tarantino's made since: tense, shocking, hilarious. Terrific performances all round (indelible soundtrack, too).
DVD $20 $15
Jackie BrownJackie Brown (1998)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Tarantino's most grownup, underrated film: his sparkling hipster–jive is still here, but the violence is toned down, allowing real feeling to creep in among the banter (for once). Too long, for sure, but the cast make a meal of every scene.
DVD $20 $15
Cheap ThrillsCheap Thrills (2013)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) How much is your dignity worth? Or a friendship? Or your pinky finger...? A premise like this could easily go awry but sharp writing, solid acting, and resourceful direction keep this one on track: scary, funny, and appallingly relevant.
DVD $12 $6, $29.95
Meet the FeeblesMeet the Feebles (1990)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) More inspired homemade schlock from PJ & Co. A cheerfully dumb, disgusting comedy with kitschy–catchy songs, buckets of body fluids, and inter–species relationships ranging from adorable to abominable... The PC brigade have been warned!
Goodnight MommyGoodnight Mommy (Ich seh ich seh) (2014)
2 stars (Good Try) You can see exactly where it's headed right from the first shot – so the "mystery and suspense" are mostly frustrating and, once it becomes outright horror, it's so cold it numbs instead of chilling. Worth it if you have the taste for Artsploitation.
DVD $34.95 | Blu-Ray $34.95
PatersonPaterson (2016)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Jarmusch still has the knack for saying everything with almost nothing: there's no conventional drama or comedy and yet the film feels spellbindingly perfect. A little miracle that, like a fine poem, treads softly but leaves indelible tracks.
DVD $29.95 | Blu-Ray $34.95
ScreamScream (1996)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Simultaneously a sincere (and scary) slasher–thriller and a clever (funny) send–up of the same. If the balance wobbles toward the end it's still thoroughly entertaining, ranking with Pulp Fiction as a key film of the '90s "self–aware" pop cinema.
Raising CainRaising Cain (1992)
4 stars (Very Good) A thriller that's really a comedy for thriller–lovers: realism is banished so De Palma can concentrate solely on winding us up for the next twist, or sick joke, or jolt–scare (you were warned). Lithgow's a consistent hoot in multiple roles.
La La LandLa La Land (2016)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Stone and Gosling's vulnerably goofy charms are a wonderful fit for the "classic" musical conceit. It sags a bit in the middle, and only a couple of songs really stand out, but at its best the synergy of colour, motion, and emotion is irresistible.
DVD $25 $18.75, $39.95 | Blu-Ray $44.95
SplitSplit (2016)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) Don't take it too seriously and this is suspenseful, entertaining schlock, right up to the last–minute shark–jumping. Brian De Palma's "Raising Cain" offers a scarier (and funnier) take on similar material for anyone who fancies seconds.
DVD $39.95 | Blu-Ray $44.95
Zero Dark ThirtyZero Dark Thirty (2012)Recommended
2 stars (Good Try) Its understandable that this story may need be emotionally cold – but dramatically flat, too? The unblinking espousal of CIA–approved Gospel also nags. For all the talent involved (props to Chastain and DP Greig Fraser esp), a letdown.
DVD $14.95 | Blu-Ray $19.95
Your Sister's SisterYour Sister's Sister (2011)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) A small film by design, but it achieves what it sets out to do brilliantly: it creates characters so credibly flawed that we can't help laughing, cringing, and caring. The leads are wonderful, Duplass especially, and the final shot is just about perfect.
DVD $29.95 $14.95 | Blu-Ray $34.95 $19.95
KeaneKeane (2004)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Spare on plot and style but rich in psychological intrigue and nagging unease. Especially impressive if you appreciate the creative risks involved in acting or film–making: Lewis ably carries the film, Kerrigan dares to never look away or explain.
EraserheadEraserhead (1977)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Lynch's "dream of dark and troubling things" cannot be explained, only experienced, so be ready to go with its subconscious–trawling flow: the trance–inducing rhythm, eerie soundtrack, and striking images weave a singular spell.
Bad TasteBad Taste (1987)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Gross–out comedy at its cartoonish zenith, yes. But critical objection evaporates in the face of it's boundless enthusiasm and D.I.Y ambition: they're so palpable you can't help chuckling and cheering. See it to believe it, but do eat first.
Night of the Living DeadNight of the Living Dead (1968)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Uses its own limitations (low budget, minimal resources, unknown cast) to maximize its impact as, one by one, all the rules that make horror stories "safe" are systematically broken. Snicker while you can; you'll be shivering by the end. Classic.
Carnival of SoulsCarnival of Souls (1962)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) A cheap B–quickie, for sure, but it tingles with such simple, eerie resonance you'll think you dreamed it. A must for any cult aficionado, who'll immediately spot the huge influence this has had over decades of subsequent genre flicks.
HalloweenHalloween (1978)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Laugh while you can at the B–grade script and acting, because the masterful camerawork, taut editing, and eerie music will eventually have you in a firm suspense–stranglehold despite yourself. One of the quintessential popcorn fright–flicks.
Honeymoon Killers, TheHoneymoon Killers, The (1970)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Artless acting and a shoestring budget only enhance the nightmare authenticity of this gloriously lurid noir. Spiked with dark humor but driven by morbid desperation, it's the flipside to Bonnie & Clyde's sexed–up, studio–glossed myth–making.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime WalkBilly Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016)
3 stars (Good Enough) If the women get short–shrift and the drama's on–the–nose at times – surprising from Ang Lee – this still resonates with an earnest, poignant compassion, and a welcome sideways look at the USA's compulsive hero–worship. Flawed but worthwhile.
DVD $34.95 | Blu-Ray $39.95
Captain PhillipsCaptain Phillips (2013)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Hanks and Abdi make a great match. After an hour–plus of nail–biting suspense, the story loses a bit of steam, but it does ramp back up for a climactic reel with unexpected emotional kick. PS: "A Hijacking" maybe better (see below!).
JawsJaws (1975)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Terror has seldom ever been so much fun. An inspired work of popcorn genius whose craft only gets more impressive with age. Ranks with Psycho as one of the great movie thrillers – essential viewing for any film fan.
DVD $19.95 | Blu-Ray $29.95
Inside Llewyn DavisInside Llewyn Davis (2013)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) A winning film about – gulp – failure. Great cast, evocative wintry cinematography, and indelible songs. The famously sharp Coen humor is here, but so is an aching, haunting sadness unprecedented in their work. Bittersweet perfection.
Raising ArizonaRaising Arizona (1985)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) The opening montage alone – ten head–spinning minutes of deadpan irony at a frantic, cartoonish pace – ranks among the best American cinema of the 1980's. Very funny and gloriously one–of–a–kind.
GravityGravity (2013)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) The dialogue and attempts at thematic depth are risible. But catch this on a big screen with surround sound and it's a stunning piece of cinema: the camerawork, sound, and editing truly immerse us in zero–G cosmic peril. Breath–taking.
Old BoyOld Boy (Oldboy) (2004)Aro Favourite
3 stars (Good Enough) Worth seeing for it's dazzlingly berserk first half: as frantic, funny, and exciting as anyone might tell you. But the rest rings ever hollower: a comic–book thriller with style and audacity but, for all its mad plot twists, no essential story.
Gone GirlGone Girl (2014)Aro Favourite
2 stars (Good Try) The plot would've made for good black comedy but never convinces as serious drama. Fine score and camerawork, but frantic editing rushes the story without reducing a swollen run–time. Pike, Coon, and Dickens are all strong – Affleck's just Affleck.
Boondock Saints, TheBoondock Saints, The (1999)
1 star (Turkey) The cinematic equivalent of a drunk, scrap–ready frat–boy mouthing off at women, or 'hipsters', or anyone else who'd question his place at the center of the universe. Dafoe and Connolly deserve career hazard–pay for this. Agonizing.
Witch, TheWitch, The (2015)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Damn spooky and, for those so inclined, rife with potential subtext. Though the visuals alone make this "folk tale" persuasive (sets, lighting, and framing all very evocative), it's the actors that make it unnervingly real. Imperfect but very impressiv
DVD $34.95 | Blu-Ray $39.95
Green RoomGreen Room (2015)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Well–acted and artfully made with a ruthless sense of purpose: riveting, wrenching, knife–edge terror. Way too dark and violent for some tastes but, for jaded movie thrill–seekers, it's a wringer you'll be glad you put yourself through.
Boys, TheBoys, The (1998)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) A small film that packs a massive punch. Every aspect – the script, the acting, the camerawork, editing, and music – conspires to weave an atmosphere of claustrophobic dread so thick you could choke on it. Chilling and unforgettable.
Straw DogsStraw Dogs (1971)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Blokes, eh? Few films view inter–male aggression, and inner–male anxiety, with such queasy clarity as this potent provocation. It's reactionary, of course, but that's sort of the point. A tense, haunting masterwork of exploitation–poetry.
L.A. ConfidentialL.A. Confidential (1997)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Complex, atmospheric, thrilling pulp fiction with brains, muscle, and a heavy human heart. One of the 20th century's last great studio pictures: scripted, acted, and directed to sordid/sophisticated perfection.
Hateful Eight, TheHateful Eight, The (2015)
4 stars (Very Good) Even talkier than usual for being setbound, this precocious black comedy is still QT's best–realised film in decades. Fun seeing this cast play the thin–but–rich script as Guignol pantomime, plus it's gloriously shot and scored, too.
Revenant, TheRevenant, The (2015)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) The sort of Serious epic that Hollywood oft–promises but seldom delivers. If not quite as profound as it thinks, it is a thrilling spectacle, at once mythic and palpably real. DiCaprio's damn good; Hardy's villain maybe better.
DVD $20 $15
Dressed to KillDressed to Kill (1980)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) If his material's risible, De Palma's scary, funny, dreamy set–pieces are still virtuoso cinema. Few have ever had the cheek to so shamelessly rip off Hitchcock – fewer still have ever made it work this well. Sleazy genius.
Lobster, TheLobster, The (2015)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Not for all tastes – like any true delicacy. A strange, coal–black comedy worthy of Bunuel, this deadpan look at a very cruel world shocks and resonates in most unexpected ways. The cast are pitch–perfect too.
Blue RuinBlue Ruin (2013)
4 stars (Very Good) If it seems slow and murky to start, rest assured its a strategy that pays off: the atmosphere of black comic tension builds, grips tight, and finally edges into tragedy. An admirably lean and original thriller.
Assassin, TheAssassin, The (2015)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Emphatically not an action movie but a slow, meditative mood piece, and as visually rich an evocation of another world as you'll ever see. If you prefer images over incidents, or The Moment over momentum, it's a gem.
DVD $14.95 | Blu-Ray $19.95
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Season 1 (TV Series)Curb Your Enthusiasm - Season 1 (TV Series) (1999)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Ever notice how it's life's most absurd trivia that conspires to humiliate us the worst? Larry has. Jewish humour at it's most excrutiating – I, for one, laughed like a drain.
DVD $20 $15
SpectreSpectre (2015)
3 stars (Good Enough) On the down side, its overlong, with a pronounced Hollywoodism that begs for mockery. But the action's pleasurably preposterous, Seydoux makes a good fist of the Girl Role, and every shot's gorgeous. An entertaining entry (moreso than Skyfall anyway).
DVD $34.95 | Blu-Ray $39.95
End of the Tour, TheEnd of the Tour, The (2015)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) A superbly light touch for serious themes, and enthralling chemistry between the two leads, mean this film hooks you without you even realising it. Wise, witty, sad and true. Loved it.
DVD $20 $15
Crimson PeakCrimson Peak (2015)Recommended
2 stars (Good Try) You can't miss what Del Toro's aiming for here, and its hard to begrudge him for it, but his tale's so in thrall to "classic" gothic–thriller tropes it feels more redundant than scary. Still: beautifully designed, and filmed, with very appealing lead
DVD $39.95 | Blu-Ray $44.95
Ant-ManAnt-Man (2015)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) Underlines how risibly self–serious most superhero movies are – by delivering at least one intentional laugh for every unintended one. The plot is pure formula but the cast, and some cool action, make for acceptable fun.
DVD $24.95 | Blu-Ray $29.95
Duke of Burgundy, TheDuke of Burgundy, The (2014)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) The dirty raincoat–brigade need not apply because this is cinema of the mind rather than the flesh: weird, witty, stylish, and teasing (in both senses of the word). The leading ladies both nail their tricky roles.
DVD $29.95
SicarioSicario (2015)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) Underwhelming in narrative terms but, as a formal sensory experience, Sicario's impressive: the excellent music, camerawork, and editing here conjure that air of grinding menace which eludes many similar thrillers.
Wire, The - Season 1 (TV Series)Wire, The - Season 1 (TV Series) (2002)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) With uncommon smarts and street–cred, this is grippingly authentic crime fiction and clear–eyed social comment: less a cop show than an epic portrait of Urban America at the end of the 20th century. As deep and rewarding as TV drama gets.
DVD $30 $22.50
Show Me a Hero (TV Mini-Series)Show Me a Hero (TV Mini-Series) (2015)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Like The Wire, it requires patience, but rewards it. The writing is stylised, not with flourishes but with punchy, journalistic focus that has the crackle of authenticity. A compelling social drama with another ace turn from Oscar Isaac.
Love & MercyLove & Mercy (Love and Mercy) (2014)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Thoughtful writing, enhanced with expressive editing and sound, makes it succeed where many Hollywood music–biopic fail: as human drama. Dano and Cusack are excellent but Banks and Giamatti deserve kudos too.
DVD $14.95 | Blu-Ray $19.95
Blow OutBlow Out (1981)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Dream–logic trumps realism to accommodate De Palma's melodramatic style and baroque set pieces. Fair call. Memorable villain (Lithgow), awesomely perverse ending. A must if you've ever said "whoa, cool shot!" during a movie.
Martian, TheMartian, The (2015)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Refreshing to see a big–studio space adventure that hinges on logical problem–solving and has a sense of humour. They finally jump the shark, of course, but its hard not to root for (the very engaging) Damon anyway. Scott's best film in years.
DVD $15 $11.25, $25 $18.75
HarveyHarvey (1950)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) The gender politics and 'psychiatry' are hilariously dated – lucky, then, that the essential story is still so darn funny and very, very charming. Giggles and warm fuzzies guaranteed.
PersonaPersona (1966)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) The only film to ever hypnotise me completely from the fade–up. Its images, performances, and mysteries have yet to let me go. Stunning? And then some.
DVD $40 $30
WhiplashWhiplash (2014)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Contrived, maybe, but utterly riveting. Teller's good, Simmons is great, and the editing's near–perfect. The finale is breath–taking – and, despite what some critics assert, actually questions the characters' dodgy attitudes rather than endorsing them.
Red Rock WestRed Rock West (1993)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Subtly plays its rural–noir atmosphere and (frankly ludicrous) plot twists as dark farce – without diminishing the suspense. It's a tonal high–wire act that succeeds thanks to confident direction and spot–on performances. Very entertaining.
Django UnchainedDjango Unchained (2012)Recommended
2 stars (Good Try) Waltz and Jackson are great but Foxx's Django is a monotonous void where we need a hero. As with Basterds, Quentin's daring is admirable, but becomes too flip to make us care. Inspired flashes aside, it's a protracted ride through uneven terrain.
DVD $29.95 | Blu-Ray $29.95
Mission: Impossible - Rogue NationMission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)
3 stars (Good Enough) Utter nonsense, of course, but who wants realism from this franchise? Its slickly formulaic escapism with location–hopping, gadget–porn, and risible faux spy–speak to punctuate the OTT action scenes (as thrilling/hilarious here as ever).
DVD $39.95 | Blu-Ray $44.95
ChristmasChristmas (2003)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Hell is a bach full of whanau. Technically crude but formally precise, with a strong non–pro cast, this portrait of festive misery is scarily resonant – and bold enough to play palpable despair as black deadpan comedy. An under–rated work of Kiwi cinema.
DVD $30
MacbethMacbeth (2015)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) The Scottish play breathes (gasps?) afresh under Kurzel's assured direction. An evocative score and beautifully downbeat cinematography work wonders but it's Fassbender and Cotillard's committed intensity that cuts deepest. Grim, gruelling, and grippin
TangerineTangerine (2015)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Raw and raucous, in style and content alike, but never cheap: for all its implicit topicality, the film treats Street People as Real People, not ciphers for social comment. Funny, with infectious performances, and one of 2015's best final scenes.
Funny GamesFunny Games (1997)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Funny? Ha ha. Here academic detachment, with the odd stunning fourth–wall break, underlines our complicity in on–screen cruelty: we don't HAVE to watch, and yet... Pretentious, maybe, but distinctly bold and unsettling.
Miller's CrossingMiller's Crossing (1990)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) A top cast relish cock–eyed archetype roles; the plot is tight and knotty as a noose; plus every line of dialogue has enough old–fashioned snap, crackle, and pop for three movies. A rarefied movie pleasure.
DVD $20 $15
Grand PianoGrand Piano (2013)
4 stars (Very Good) Once you adjust to its particular (mock–Italian) flavour of popcorn, and so long as you don't take it too seriously, this is a really fun, and rather suspenseful, little thriller. Genre–fans, dig in.
DVD $29.95 | Blu-Ray $10, $29.95
Counselor, TheCounselor, The (2013)
2 stars (Good Try) What probably seemed rich on the page feels pompously heavy–handed on the screen, like a Pinter/Mamet wannabe with designer–violence and "meaningful" misogyny in place of cruel wit. A frustrating misfire but, as these things go, a notable one.
Blu-Ray $44.95
SawSaw (2004)Recommended
2 stars (Good Try) Though initially gripping, the plot\'s ludicrous knots are ultimately grating. Shame the script wasn\'t a draft sharper because the low budget is very well–used. Performances range from decent (Whannell, Bell) to hammy (Elwes) to embarrassing (Glover)
DVD $14.95 | Blu-Ray $19.95
AmourAmour (2012)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) The two leads inhabit the material without a breath of overstatement. The director observes with a sensitivity that rejects sentiment and keeps key ambiguities intact to encourage debate. Profoundly moving, plainly brilliant.
DVD $20 $15
Cloudy with a Chance of MeatballsCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Smart–silly and screamingly funny: in fact, I haven\'t seen a more consistently hilarious comedy since. It also happens to be gorgeously animated, wildly imaginative, and lightning–paced. Terrific fun.
DVD $14.95
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, TheGirl with the Dragon Tattoo, The (2009)Aro Favourite
2 stars (Good Try) A perversely satisfying rape–revenge subplot turns out to be a mere detour in an otherwise rote mystery. Intriguing points of difference here quickly feel superficial: a film made with the Hollywood remake already in mind. The actors do well, considering.
DVD $15 $11.25
Attack the BlockAttack the Block (2011)Aro Favourite
1 star (Turkey) The camera–work and editing may excite those stupefied by too much video–gaming; for me, it was numbingly chaotic. Ditto the soundtrack. Meanwhile the urban yoof characters are all despicable morons. Grating rather than thrilling, trendy instead of hip.
DVD $14.95 | Blu-Ray $19.95
Wait Until DarkWait Until Dark (1967)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Bear with the stagier sequences because this one delivers the goods: a plot that methodically tightens to a strangle–hold, and delivers one of the scariest climaxes going. Hepburn and Arkin are a heroine/villain match made in thriller–heaven.
Wolf CreekWolf Creek (2005)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) Admirably builds dreadful anticipation before paying out one of the most harrowing sequences in memory. But it then undercuts itself with some sad cliches (victims make senseless decisions, villain makes cartoonish jokes). Potent but flawed.
High TensionHigh Tension (Haute tension, Switchblade Romance) (2003)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) Full–throttle shocker with (just) enough manipulative panache to justify its unapologetic brutality. White–knuckle thrills are guaranteed but, frustratingly, it sells itself short with a groan–worthy last–minute \'surprise\'.
Skin I Live In, TheSkin I Live In, The (2011)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Freely upends expectations, landing genuine shocks of the narrative, emotional, and visceral sort. Witty and compassionate, even at its most horrific and thrilling, tis indeed a rare–duck of a horror–thriller.
DVD $20 $10
Innkeepers, TheInnkeepers, The (2011)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) West wisely lets his likable characters set the pace, ushering us slowly but surely into some hair–raising chills. Smartly self–aware without ever being smug or taking itself too seriously, this is an A–grade B–movie.
DVD $34.95 | Blu-Ray $34.95
MartyrsMartyrs (2008)
2 stars (Good Try) Even jaded viewers may find the brutality here excessive, and only the most open–minded viewer will buy the metaphysical ending which (though genuinely surprising) clashes with the preceding story. A bold curio in the \"art–house hard–core\" subgenre.
Ides of March, TheIdes of March, The (2011)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) Classy–slick, with entertaining performances and some smart Sorkinesque dialogue, but lacking the edge and urgency of the classic political thrillers it emulates. If not memorable, at least enjoyable: nice try, Guv.
DVD $15 $11.25 | Blu-Ray $20 $15
MelancholiaMelancholia (2011)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) If not quite full redemption for its director, at least an improvement on his misfired Antichrist; it may take its time proving such, but its impossible not to be sucked in (and moved) by the third act. Dunst won the prizes but Gainsbourg is just as good.
DVD $30 $22.50
Young AdultYoung Adult (2011)Recommended
2 stars (Good Try) Theron is good and Oswalt very good, but you keep waiting for a surprise that never comes. In this sense its Juno all over again, this time by way of The Graduate: the twee, willful quirkiness maybe gone, but its \"hard edge\" feels half–hearted.
DVD $15 $7.50, $39.95 | Blu-Ray $44.95
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with MeTwin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Arguably Lynch\'s darkest, strangest film (no, really): a portrait of corrupted innocence where narrative takes a backseat to raw emotion and surreal impressionism. The effect is powerfully bleak and – in its sad, scary way – hauntingly beautiful.
Red StateRed State (2011)
4 stars (Very Good) The structural mess and cluttered idea–pallet make it both disjointed and thrillingly unpredictable, shifting genres as it takes on new targets. A blunt, brutally effective nightmare–comedy which, if nothing else, leaves you with much to argue about.
DVD $39.95
SnowtownSnowtown (2011)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Finely acted, with scrupulously measured writing and direction. It creates such believably hopeless characters that it feels like a horror film well before any conventional horror is depicted on–screen. Powerfully disturbing.
DVD $34.95 $19.95
Ne Change RienNe Change Rien (2009)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) The static camera here creates an immersive intimacy rare in musical docos. For those with patience, and an interest in the craft of performance, this is a hypnotic, even dream–like experience.
Untouchables, TheUntouchables, The (1987)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Pure movie–cheese, but what cheese: David Mamet\'s dialogue is a treat to the ear, the cast are clearly having fun, and De Palma brings heady style to every shot. Rousing Morricone score, slick production design, and a classic climactic shoot–out.
DVD $20 $15 | Blu-Ray $19.95
Help, TheHelp, The (2011)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) Another short–sighted Message Movie from Hollywood... disengage from the PC pandering (and accompanying self–importance) and enjoy it for what it is: a slick, well–meaning, nicely–acted entertainment you can safely watch with mum.
DVD $14.95
Inglourious BasterdsInglourious Basterds (Inglorious Bastards) (2009)Recommended
2 stars (Good Try) A terrific prologue (and seemingly surefire conceit) leads nowhere – and slowly, at that. Waltz and Laurent are fun but the rest of the characters fall flat. Ambitious but smug and self–important.
DVD $15, $24.95 | Blu-Ray $39.95
Another YearAnother Year (2010)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) A film as funny, sad, and deceptively simple as everyday life itself. Leslie Manville is astonishing. Leigh\'s finest since Secrets and Lies and, for my money, the best movie of 2010.
Mad Max II - The Road WarriorMad Max II - The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2) (1981)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) This movie kicks all kinds of ass: a post–apocalyptic western rich in atmosphere, weird characters, and climaxing with one of the best car chase/smash set pieces ever filmed (in your face, CGI). Strap in, hang on.
DVD $10 $7.50
Human TrafficHuman Traffic (1999)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Immature, self–indulgent, and over–stylised... but appropriately so, capturing the spirit of a particular youth culture with the affection and understanding of someone who lived it (and has, as a result, grown up just enough to now know better). Party on.
I Love You Phillip MorrisI Love You Phillip Morris (2009)
3 stars (Good Enough) Carrey playing \"super–gay\" may sound like a cheap joke... but he has such fun with the role, it\'s hard not to go with him; McGregor is adorable as the titular sweetheart. Flawed, but funny and entertaining enough to warrant a look.
DVD $20 $15
Killer Inside Me, TheKiller Inside Me, The (2010)
2 stars (Good Try) Has the right ingredients for a down and dirty pulp–noir, and there are things to admire... yet the deliberate genre subversions and emotional provocations ultimately prove too ambitious – not to mention smug and off–putting – for its own good.
DVD $20 $10
Police, AdjectivePolice, Adjective (2009)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Chases unfold at snails pace; in place of fistfights are semantic arguments; where we expect heroics, we get a reprimand... The deliberate pace and observational remove may bore some but, if you can dig the formal irony, this is an unexpected delight.
JunebugJunebug (2005)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Familial disharmony (and the social gulf between City and Country mindsets) are rendered here with an uncommon balance of gentleness and dead–on authenticity. A smart, bittersweet little movie that gets richer with each viewing.
DVD $24.95 $14.95
GaslandGasland (2010)
3 stars (Good Enough) Distinguished from similar eco–docos by a refreshingly earnest investigative style (dir. Fox only began filming to document his own inquiries)... and footage of FLAMING TAP–WATER, an image more persuasive than a dozen Al Gore powerpoint shows.
DVD $34.95 $19.95
Get LowGet Low (2010)
3 stars (Good Enough) The low–key humour, gentle pace, and wistful mood may make Get Low a hard movie to sell; but between the distinguished leads, the vivid period–atmosphere, and an intriguing story, it is by no means hard to enjoy.
Easy AEasy A (2010)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) Smarter and funnier than your average teen comedy; entertaining cast, snappy dialogue, and a plot that (despite the inevitable \"safe and clean\" wrap–up) springs more than a few minor provocations along the way.
Last Exorcism, TheLast Exorcism, The (2010)
3 stars (Good Enough) Decent horror has some nifty chills and wisely tempers the doco–gone–awry conceit with a welcome dose of dark humour. Won\'t reinvent the genre, but will probably satisfy fans underwhelmed by similar flicks (see Close Relatives below).
DVD $29.95 | Blu-Ray $34.95
Glengarry Glen RossGlengarry Glen Ross (1992)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Mamet\'s bleak, bitterly funny tale of life at the bottom of the capitalist paradigm only gets better with repeat viewings. The entire cast are in WOW–mode, but Lemmon emerges the unforgettable stand–out as an all–time classic chump.
SpliceSplice (2009)
2 stars (Good Try) The Frankenstein story cries out for cloning–era treatment... All the ideas are here, but there\'s a whiff of cheese throughout, and the film can\'t decide whether its sincere or tongue–in–cheek; as a result its never truly scary or thought–provoking.
DVD $10 $7.50, $19.95 $14.95
Wisconsin Death TripWisconsin Death Trip (1999)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) An American Gothic oddity; subject matter ranging from the absurd to the abominable is exquistely filmed for mood rather than narrative, and it plays, and lingers, like a dream (or a history class co–taught by Nick Cave and Garrison Keillor... seriously).
Gridlock'dGridlock'd (1996)
4 stars (Very Good) Strong leads and humane script give it freshness amongst the drug–streetlife genre: unexpectedly poignant and funny (the duo's "stabbing" scene is hilarious), it may not fully satisfy... but it does linger with you long after.
Little Shop of HorrorsLittle Shop of Horrors (1986)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) It shouldn't work... but Oz finds a perfect kitsch–harmony to hold the story's humour and heart (and minimal "horror") together. Great fun. Moranis and Greene are terrific; the "Skid Row" number one of my all–time favourite musical sequences.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, TheTexas Chainsaw Massacre, The (2003)
2 stars (Good Try) A bit more effective than successive Hollywood horror–remakes, but still essentially redundant: flashy rather than stylish, unpleasant rather than unnerving. A spectacular wet T–shirt scene for Biel fans... anyone else should hire the original instead.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, TheTexas Chainsaw Massacre, The (1974)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) There are few films which more aptly define the term "horror movie": gritty atmosphere permeates both the comic–humour and escalating hysteria throughout. A lo–fi marvel, a cinematic icon, and still a nerve–shredding rollercoaster ride.
DVD $15 $7.50, $20 $15, $19.95, $40 $30
Shutter IslandShutter Island (2010)
3 stars (Good Enough) Wilfully berserk in style (mashing pulp and gothic cliches with flambouyant indulgence), yet sadly pedestrian in content. Highly–polished and not without entertainment value, but too long and predictable to truly thrill.
DVD $10 $5, $39.95 | Blu-Ray $44.95
Dave Chappelle's Block PartyDave Chappelle's Block Party (2005)
4 stars (Very Good) Irresistible fun. Dave is in good, loose form all the way; the music is, to quote the 'Kast, spottieottiedopalicious (um, "very good"); the energy they generate amongst the crowd is positively infectuous. A feel–good flick without the pap.
DVD $15 $11.25
Lost, TheLost, The (2005)
4 stars (Very Good) Left me cold and shaking. Sivertson (chanelling Lynch) conjures mood and tension with dreamy sound and image, yet his characters remain rooted in dirty, banal "reality." That the ending is a foregone conclusion is precisely what makes it so disturbing.
You the LivingYou the Living (2007)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) A friend described it as a minimalist "musical", a notion which only makes it that much funnier, and stranger. Andersson's compassion for his subjects' predicament (life) delightfully offsets his Kubrickian formal rigour. Weirdly wonderful.
TrustTrust (1990)
5 stars (Exceptional) I didn't like it at first. But once you get Hartley's tone, there's a wealth of humour, compassion, and wisdom to be savoured. "Off–beat" or "quirky" are too glib to encompass Trust's subtle depths, but they describe it's surface–charms to a tee.
DVD $29.95
Breaking the WavesBreaking the Waves (1996)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Emily Watson makes Bess utterly real, she's fantastic. Von Trier's film has the chewy thickness of a novel (not least of all in length), but his camera creates urgent immediacy and intimacy all the way. Heartbreaking, and brilliant.
DVD $20 $10
Dancer in the DarkDancer in the Dark (2000)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Bjork's heartfelt performance (and bafflingly magical music) are the perfect foil to von Trier's formal irreverence and dogged sadomasochism. It's insane, even incredible. But it amazed and moved me more profoundly than anything I'd seen before.
Idiots, TheIdiots, The (1998)Aro Favourite
3 stars (Good Enough) A fascinating experiment – and a fascinating concept – yield some remarkable moments of gallows comedy, high–tension, and shocking tenderness. Not especially satifsfying overall, but impossible to dismiss (or comprehend without seeing for oneself).
DVD $20 $15
ScarfaceScarface (1983)Aro Favourite
3 stars (Good Enough) The first half, following Tony's ruthless rise from homeless refugee to drug overlord, is stylish, scary, amoral pulp fiction. The second half takes an awful long time to spell out the obvious, wearing out our interest in the miserable characters.
DVD $20 $10, $20 $15
SuspiriaSuspiria (1977)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Manic editing, too–rich colour, dizzy camera–work, incredible sets, and (I reckon) the most terrifying score ever recorded for a film. Argento makes cinema of madness itself – crap script and acting, but such a scary, stylish trip, it demands recognition.
Before SunsetBefore Sunset (2004)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Not only improves on the original (impressive enough in itself), but provides a reflective contrast which actually enriches BOTH films! Hawke and Delpy are wonderful (they co–wrote, too). And it has one of the finest fade–outs I've ever seen. Sublime.
DVD $20 $15
Before SunriseBefore Sunrise (1995)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Boy meets Girl, stripped to it's essence: they walk and talk and fall in love. By virtue of sharp writing, unobtrusive direction, and pitch–perfect performances, it makes for a captivating, refreshing, unshakable film that leaves you glowing.
Starship TroopersStarship Troopers (1997)
4 stars (Very Good) If the Nazis ran our world in the future, this would be their propaganda piece de resistence. It's a sick joke, I know, but it gives this tale of Ken & Barbie Killing Bugs a horribly funny, knowing edge to the shamelessness on display. Best CGI ever, too
DVD $20 $15
OnibabaOnibaba (the Hole) (1964)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Conjures a mesmerising atmosphere: of time, place, and (most remarkably) eroticism tinged with dread. Spooky stuff, indeed.
Lone StarLone Star (1996)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Covering enormous ground at a leisurely pace, Lone Star is that rare treat: a film which, although effortlessly cinematic, manages the depth, scope, and chewy richness of a good novel. Sayles' writing (and casting) has seldom been better.
Food, Inc.Food, Inc. (2008)Recommended
3 stars (Good Enough) Admirably well–intended, if a bit too "light" to take as seriously as, say, Fast Food Nation or Our Daily Bread (both well–worth seeing). Still interesting most of the way, with some alaraming facts and – best of all – tips about what we can do to help.
ShiftyShifty (2008)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Though conventional, even in it's lo–fi "grittiness", Shifty has us invest in the characters (to the point I was yelling at them on–screen), and as such, had me hanging on the plot with baited breath. A worthy addition to the street–thriller genre.
Get Him to the GreekGet Him to the Greek (2010)
2 stars (Good Try) Can't believe I'm saying this, but: if only they had the Farrelly Brothers' panache... Brand's character is such a douchebag you hope he overdoses. Mocking pop–culture feels awfully rich when you're so clearly, ecstatically, in it's vacuous thrall.
PersepolisPersepolis (2007)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) Though speficially Iranian (and specifically female), Satrapi's story expresses universal human–truths with such simple observation that it will resonate with anyone. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it left me floored; I couldn't have loved it more.
NetworkNetwork (1976)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) The kind of classic that, once seen, redefines your notion of a classic. Paddy Chayefsky's script is rightly regarded as one of the finest ever written – articulate, witty, observant, outrageous. Bleakly funny and more vital now than ever.
Sherlock HolmesSherlock Holmes (2009)Recommended
1 star (Turkey) To be fair, I didn't see the ending. So, who knows? It may, in the last act, have miraculously stopped being an insultingly dumb, obnoxiously smug, gratingly "stylised" feature–length commercial... But prob'ly not. I taste bile just thinking about it.
DVD $10 $5
InceptionInception (2010)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) An eye–popping, jaw–dropping spectacle founded on genuinely intriguing ideas. Ultra–slick production, slam–bang action, and a most curious ensemble. Comparisons with The Matrix are valid, but Inception has it beat hands–down on story and character.
Blu-Ray $25 $18.75
Innocents, TheInnocents, The (1961)Aro Favourite
5 stars (Exceptional) As good a ghost (?) story as I've ever seen. Beautifully scored and photographed, elegantly menacing. It made my hair stand on end... and then, afterward, the implications sink in and it's haunting in an entirely other sense.
DVD $39.95
Modern TimesModern Times (1936)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Side–splittingly funny. For all it's '30s trappings, Modern Times is shockingly modern, arguably even MORE relevant in today's corporatised digital–era: it fizzes with wonder, excitement, imagination, and pathos. Brilliant beyond words.
MementoMemento (2000)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Watch it once to grasp the narrative puzzle. Watch it twice to appreciate it as (an extremely troubling) meditation on the idea of life without context, and the role memory plays in shaping identity. Watch it a third time just 'cause it's damn cool.
DVD $25 $18.75
Horseman, TheHorseman, The (2008)
2 stars (Good Try) Structured around one torture–scene after another, this is horribly gripping for a bit... but soon gets tedious and grating. "Pulling punches" isn't only done in the name of Good Taste, pal – sometimes it's in the name of Good Story–telling, too.
Van Diemen's LandVan Diemen's Land (2009)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Richly atmospheric and wide–open to social or political reading, this grim and grisly tale ends (against all expectations) with a moment of sublime transcendence. Every shot, every cut, every sound, every gesture feels right. Amazing.
In The LoopIn The Loop (2009)Aro Favourite
4 stars (Very Good) Politicians are self–absorbed hype–puppets incapable of appreciating the true gravity of their position – a joke as old as politics itself. But In the Loop tells it with a soul–mate's understanding of profanity and sarcasm; a marvel of verbal brutality.
DVD $25 $18.75
I'm Not Harry JensonI'm Not Harry Jenson (2009)
3 stars (Good Enough) Like alotta thrillers, it goes haywire–silly toward the end – but til then, I was hooked. Solid cast and atmospheric locations help keep the familiar pulp material fresh and intriguing. I'll be curious to see what writer–director Robertson does next.
HumpdayHumpday (2009)Recommended
4 stars (Very Good) Scarily authentic characters and conversations (guys, this Lynn Shelton has us totally figured out) will no doubt put some people off – for those of us who dig that sorta thing, Humpday is a treat. Sophisticated, funny, oddly poignant.
DVD $14.95
AntichristAntichrist (2009)
3 stars (Good Enough) If you're curious, see it: you'll have to, in order to believe it. Plays like the "artiest" art–horror ever, veering from morbid fascination to unintentional hilarity to shameless show–offiness. Hysterical, messy, maddening – Gold help me, I did enjoy
DVD $30 $22.50
Wild ThingsWild Things (1998)
4 stars (Very Good) Soft–core sex, amusing casting, and twist upon twist upon twist (they keep coming, even through the closing credits!) ignite this tongue–in–cheek pulp thriller. Shamelessly – and irresistibly – trashy entertainment.
Burn After Reading Burn After Reading (2008)Recommended
5 stars (Exceptional) Doesn't have No Country's serious gravity – but it's just as savvy a piece of film–making, and the entire cast (right down to Richard Jenkins and JK Simmons) are pricelessly funny. Biggest crack–up I can remember having in ages.
DVD $19.95
Wolfman, TheWolfman, The (2010)
1 star (Turkey) The art department deserve their props (no pun intended), but otherwise this is humourless, heavy–handed, and not the least bit scary. When even Benecio Del Toro and Hugo Weaving can't ignite a scene between them, you know you're in trouble.
DVD $39.95 | Blu-Ray $44.95

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