• Four Roads

    Four Roads

    ★★★★

    This is an eight-minute short film from Italian director Alice Rohrwacher posted on MUBI. I don't usually write reviews on short films. I watch them. I log them on Letterboxd. Boom. But I felt the need to write one on this. The film was shot in April 2020 during the early months of the pandemic. Alice took an old camera, an old film and a zoom lens and went around filming her neighbors, socially distanced, in the Italian countryside where…

  • A Life at Stake

    A Life at Stake

    ★★★

    An unemployed architect is roped in by a beautiful femme fatale into a seemingly on the up and up real estate business proposition but ends up seducing him into an adulterous affair. Watching this B-noir film, it honestly feels like it was cobbled together from parts of better classic film noirs. It made me think, "Hmmm. Maybe I should watch that or that or that." A young (and I must say, pretty hot) Angela Lansbury plays the femme fatale role…

  • The Last Movie

    The Last Movie

    ★★★★½

    After a stunt gone wrong during a western movie shoot, a movie stunt coordinator decides to retire in the Peruvian village in which they shot the film. This is Dennis Hopper's somewhat lesser known directorial follow-up to Easy Rider. I have to say, this may not have had the cultural impact that previous film had but this film is, in a lot of ways, superior. This film is a real wild ride with its meta layers of complexity. Sometimes it…

  • Oxygen

    Oxygen

    ★★★½

    A woman wakes up in high-tech cryogenic chamber controlled by an A.I. and with no memory of who she is or even how she got there and finds out her oxygen is running out. As someone who has a little bit of claustrophobia, this was quite an effective thriller. As the film progresses, as the mystery of her predicament unfolds and the twists and turns happen, which I will not spoil here, the film may become a bit ludicrous for…

  • Night on Earth

    Night on Earth

    ★★★★★

    This is an anthology consisting of five vignettes about cab drivers and their passengers in different cities in around the same night. This is from writer-director Jim Jarmusch. Now, when it comes to film anthologies, more often than not, it's a hit and miss. Some segments will be better than others, even when they're written and directed by the same person. This is not the case this time. Every one of the segments is a great film on its own.…

  • Edge of the City

    Edge of the City

    ★★★★

    A man, AWOL from the military and escaping the law, get a job as a longshoreman. He befriends a black foreman then gets into a conflict with the other foreman, the white, corrupt, racist bully. As I was watching this, it really reminds me of On the Waterfront. It follows a lot of same beats and sometimes even the score sounds almost similar but with one key difference: This is more about interracial friendship more than anything. John Cassavetes and…

  • Tongues Untied

    Tongues Untied

    ★★★★½

    This is an experimental documentary of sorts (I personally like to call it an essay film) about the lives of gay black men and their experience of being discriminated against and not fully fitting in in both the black heterosexual world and the white gay world. Made in the late 1980's, this is a very thoughtful and deeper look into a sub-culture I actually have a very limited knowledge of. The film is under an hour long but manages to…

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

    ★★½

    This is the very first (that I know of, at least) cinematic adaptation of Jules Verne's classic novel about Captain Nemo and his adventures in his submarine. As I was watching this, a lot of questions ran through my mind: How in the world are they gonna do this film using 1916 technology? Why are we spending an inordinate amount of time on land? Did they make this section on an island up in order to get to feature length?…

  • A Taxing Woman

    A Taxing Woman

    ★★★★

    A woman gets promoted and becomes a star tax auditor. She becomes the nightmare of tax evaders and money launderers everywhere. Being as math-phobic as I am, I was pleasantly surprised that a film about an accountant and taxes turned out to be a lot of fun. It is a genuinely funny comedy and an unpredictable twisty kind of, almost like a heist movie, certainly a caper film. I expected nothing less from Juzo Itami, who made running a ramen…

  • State of Siege

    State of Siege

    ★★★★

    Loosely based on a true story, an undercover American operative is kidnapped by a group of far-left urban guerrillas and is interrogated and we see the brutal consequences of the conflict between the oppressive government of Uruguay and the leftist Tupamaro guerrillas. When I review films, I always try my best to avoid comparing films to other films. Films should stand on their own, damn it. But in this case, it's hard not to compare it to Z. They're both…

  • Buena Vista Social Club

    Buena Vista Social Club

    ★★★½

    This is a documentary which follows musician Ry Cooder as he brings together an ensemble of Cuban musicians to revive and invigorate Cuban music during the pre-revolutionary, pre-Castro days. This film was made in the late 1990's when Americans visiting and much less filming in Cuba was a bit taboo. Cuba has opened up a bit since then so that angle of it feels dated. But what about the music part of it? Well, the music is great. There's no…

  • The Lower Depths

    The Lower Depths

    ★★★★

    Based on the Maxim Gorky play, this film follows the lives of a group of tenants as well as their landlord who live in the slums, or the "lower depths", so to speak. This play was previously adapted and immortalized in film by Jean Renoir. While that film has its strengths, this adaptation, directed by another master Akira Kurosawa, gives the play's themes a harder, nastier edge while still retaining the dark humor. I think setting it in post-war Japan…