“The Domicile” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

The Domicile (2017), from writer-director Jared Cohn, is a terrific paranormal suspense yarn. Produced through Traplight Pictures, the lean and efficient eighty-two-minute affair is situated around fictional playwright Russell Brody (in a mesmerizing and emotionally layered portrayal from Steve Richard Harris). After the sudden demise of his pregnant wife, Estella (in a stellar turn from Katherine Flannery), in the deftly executed and atmospheric opening of the feature, Cohn’s tale moves forward one year. Dealing with the troubled Samantha (in a phenomenal enactment from Amanda Ruth Ritchie), who spends the bulk of her time on-screen confined to her upstairs bedroom in Brody’s home, our central figure focuses his grief and devastation towards trying to replicate the success of his last play. Frustrated and desperate to escape via his literary pursuits, he uncovers alcohol helps fuel the quality of his storytelling. In a twist that heightens the wonderful alignment to both Stephen King’s brilliant 1977 novel, The Shining, and Stanley Kubrick’s same said film from 1980, this action aids in Brody’s distorted grasp on reality. Seeking advice from his collaborator on the project, David Stanley (in a riveting portrayal from Demetrius Stear), Brody attempts to rekindle his relationship with Lucy (in a magnificent representation from Sara Malukal Lane). She is a romantic entanglement from Brody’s past. It is than that the spectral form of Estella decides to make itself known through provocation and violence.

Cohn has crafted a wonderfully intriguing plot. It is one erected in the classic, slow-burn design of such genre efforts as Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) and Peter Medak’s The Changeling (1980). There are even touches of William Friedkin’s groundbreaking adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s 1971 best-seller, The Exorcist (1973). This is most noticeable in the harrowing moments involving Samantha which are spied primarily in the first act. Yet, the material doesn’t go the conventionally accepted route and use these aforesaid comparisons for fan service. It is engraved as an unspoken statement of the impeccably fashioned nature of Cohn’s meticulously paced script. This is also true of his mesmerizing guidance of the venture. These elements can also be witnessed in the deftly executed atmosphere of dread Cohn conjures throughout the entirety of this enigmatic exercise. The masterful manner with which Cohn toys with the idea of Brody’s obsessions pushing him towards madness give the undergoing a stirring, mind-bending component. Though a familiar trope in photoplays of this ilk, it victoriously transports viewers inside the increasingly unsure psyche of Cohn’s lead. The tried and true scares utilized within the exertion also endure as effective because of these previously addressed reasons. Recorded in Pasadena, California, the gorgeously honed essence of Cohn’s cinematic construction is complete with a satisfying, smirk-inducing finale. There is also an equally dazzling concluding credits bit.

From a technical standpoint, the movie also delivers. For example, Josh Maas’ dark and brooding cinematography is as impressive as it was in Cohn’s recent Locked Up (2017). The theme music by Ryan D. Wood and supplementary sonic compositions from Chase Kuker enhance the spellbinding, mood-draped pulse of the narrative immensely. Likewise, Chris Kaiser’s editing is sharp and seamless. The make-up, camera, lighting and sound squad contributions are spectacular. Simultaneously, the small roles are just as proficient as the stars of the endeavor. The potent depictions from Angela Nicolas as Bonnie, Cara Mitsuko as Grace and Todd Carroll as Julian augment this factor luminously. David Palmieri as Officer Thompson and Julian Bane as Officer White are just as good.

As is true of many other accounts of this genus, Cohn’s ethereal thriller is, at its heart, a character study. Luckily, this is also one of the strongest attributes of the chronicle. Brody’s transformation in personality throughout the presentation is gradual and believable. Simultaneously, Cohn is unafraid to paint him as a flawed individual. Such gives Brody added dimension and depth. It also makes him evermore relatable. When combined with the sly, quiet commentary on the struggles of being creative Cohn administers into the labor, which will assuredly appeal to artistic-minded spectators everywhere, Cohn’s latest works just as well as a psychological drama as it does an outing in fear. The result of these high-caliber qualities is an exceptional example of modern day horror. This cerebral, subtle and ambitious tour de force is among the best excursions of its type I have glimpsed all year.

The Domicile will be released on DVD August 22nd, 2017 through MTI Home Video. It will be available at Redbox and Family Video.

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“The Mason Brothers” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: **** out of *****.

The one-hundred and fourteen-minute debut feature from thirty-year-old writer-director Keith Sutliff, The Mason Brothers (2017), is a handsomely fashioned, if all too familiar, revenge tale. Deriving inspiration from Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987) and Quentin Tarantino’s oft-mimicked Reservoir Dogs (1992), the KS Pictures production has all the tough talk and sudden bouts of violence expected from a crime story of this ilk. In this arena, Sutliff’s endeavor soars. The opus also triumphs in its Tarantino-like ability to entertain via dialogue. A great example of this would be in the many cases throughout the exertion where Sutliff’s fictional personas describe the failed scheme that takes place immediately before the commencement of the piece. Where lesser filmmakers would punctuate such arrangements with actual flashbacks to the event out of fear of losing audience intrigue, Sutliff forces spectators to participate by imagining the episode themselves. Such occurs via the verbal illustrations painted by our central figures in their frequent discussions among one another. The backstories of our leads and related expository instances are similarly addressed to equally potent consequence in this manner.

In turn, Sutliff creates a slick, classically designed caper. It is one which is as gripping when the fists fly as it is in its quieter episodes. Yet, this otherwise engaging movie, despite its penchant for narrative, never feels as if it fleshes out its characters in any satisfactory way. Yet, this works masterfully to make those we follow on-screen enigmatic. The same can be said for the relatively routine arc of events. Correspondingly, this celluloid vehicle offers no true surprises. Still, it succeeds far more frequently than it falters.

Sutliff chronicles Ren (in an intense, commanding performance from Sutliff), Jesse (in an exceptional depiction from Brandon Sean Pearson) and Orion Mason (in a brilliant, consistently compelling representation from Michael Ryan Whelan). They are a group of close brothers and expert robbers. When their botched plan to steal $10,000,000 via a Los Angeles bank results in the death of one of the members of this outlaw clique, it becomes evident that this fatal event was anything but an accident. This soon becomes believed to be a set-up. Seeking payback, Ren, the eldest and head of the team, hires a bounty hunter, Jerry (in a captivating enactment from Tim Park). His assignment is to uncover who was involved in this tragic incident. But, these fervently sought-after answers come with unwanted results. Soon one felonious mind is battling with another. This is as a rival neighborhood gang is declared to be the guilty party.

Co-producer Sutliff augments this intriguing plot with a script that is confidently paced. Though it concludes on a predictable note, the undertaking remains an all-around solid venture. This is largely a courtesy of the plethora of brutal, deftly executed action scenes Sutliff incorporates throughout the runtime. There is also an unwavering, no-nonsense atmosphere found in the labor. Such is a signpost of Sutliff’s taut, claustrophobic and ever-stylish guidance of the project. When combined with the dark, mood-setting cinematography from Errol Webber Jr. and Federico Vaona’s immersive music, the effort continues to astonish. Complete with a magnificent portrayal from Carlotta Montanari as Allena, splendid visual effects from John Myers and sharp editing from Gio Arias, the affair endures as a consistently dazzling genre outing. I highly recommend seeking it out.

The Mason Brothers will be released on Video on Demand in the United States of America, Germany/ Austria, Japan and in the United Kingdom on August 2nd, 2017 through Adler & Associates.

(R). Contains graphic language and violence.

 

“Land of Mine” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

A nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards, writer-director Martin Zandvliet’s Land of Mine (2015) is a tense, intimate and naturally gripping post-World War II tale. Inspired by true events, this Nordisk Film distribution release, concerns a team of 14 young men, all of whom are German Prisoners of War, that are trained to personally defuse the 2,000,000 landmines said to be left over from the recently ended combat. Set in Denmark during May of 1945, the bulk of the action in Zandvliet’s 101-minute feature focuses on the attempts of the group to clear a beach of its 45,000 hidden explosives. This is while being overseen by a Danish Army member, Sgt. Carl Rasmussen (in a spellbinding depiction from Roland Moller), who initially seems unconcerned with the general well-being of the squad.

The story alone is fascinating. Yet, Zandvliet’s screenplay makes this nightmarish chronicle evermore intriguing with its near-perfect pace. It is meticulously-moving and cerebral; exactly what the material demands. Moreover, Zandvliet also orchestrates a terrific balance of character development and nail-biting instances. The latter of which are all beautifully executed. Correspondingly, the believable dialogue and interactions by our on-screen personas further heightens the credibility the effort radiantly reflects. This triumphant attribute is a courtesy of Zandvliet’s top-notch authorship and guidance of the project. The same can be said of the powerhouse performances found within the presentation. Louis Hoffmann as Sebastian Schumann and Joel Basman as Helmut Morbach are especially good in their respective turns. Even though Rasmussen’s transformative attitude towards his crew is too sudden, it does little to detract from these high-functioning qualities.

Originally titled Under sandet (Under the Sand), this spellbinding endeavor is also illuminated by Camilla Hjelm’s masterful, 1960’s inspired cinematography. Sune Martin’s music is both haunting and marvelously emotive. Simultaneously, the persistent underlying dramatic and narrative intensity heightens the urgency at hand. It makes the feature evermore rousing and immensely watchable. Though not always satisfactorily detailed in its exposition, the picture is nonetheless memorable and masterful. The theme of youth risking life and limb in the name of violent confrontation, as well as the impactful finale, only drive these remarkable and unsettling traits home with stalwart force. The result is a bold, mesmerizing and singular cinematic experience; a must-see work.

(R). Contains adult language, adult themes and violence.

A Brief Word on Recent Releases: “Nerve”, “Revenge of the Lost” and “20th Century Women”

By Andrew Buckner

Nerve

Rating: *1/2 out of *****.

Though incorporating sporadic moments of intrigue, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s Nerve (2016) is but another generic, superficial and over-stylized teens and technology thriller. The plot concerns a high school senior, Vee (in a likable enactment from Emma Roberts), who becomes caught up in an increasingly dangerous online game. The risks of this financially beneficial amusement, which consists of a variety of outrageous dares, are controlled by an anonymous group of participants. They are called The Watchers.

Throughout the ninety-six-minute runtime, Joost and Schulman build no true suspense. Likewise, the script by Jessica Scharzer fails to break out of the routine arc and one-note characterizations of so many similar genre entries. Shot in New York, this forgettable affair does boast eye-popping cinematography and is carefully paced. Still, it isn’t enough to overcome its detracting elements. Based on a novel of the same name, published in 2012, by Jeanne Ryan.

(PG-13). Contains adult language, violence and brief nudity.

Revenge of the Lost

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Co-writer, director and star Erik Franklin’s dinosaur flick, Revenge of the Lost (2017), is a roaring good time. It is also a full-bodied, engaging and breakneck-paced B-movie from the first frame to the last. The eighty-nine-minute tale, which suffers from a by-the-numbers story arc, focuses in on a sudden outbreak of prehistoric creatures in modern times. Our central figures, all of whom are satisfactorily developed archetypes, are a band of survivors who attempt to make their way to a government base for safety.

Though unimpressive special effects and a predictable finale hinders matters, it does little to dissuade the spirit of delight which hangs over the proceedings. Franklin’s guidance of the project and screenplay (co-penned by producer Daniel Husser) are sturdy. Regardless, the impressive variety of extinct giants that fill the screen, as well as the constant sense of excitement and impending doom Franklin instills, helps the effort triumph immeasurably over these previously-stated shortcomings.

(Unrated). Contains adult language and violence.

20th Century Women

Rating: ***** out of *****.

Brilliantly written and directed by Mike Mills, 20th Century Women (2016), is life-mirroring cinema at its finest. Set in Southern California in the 1970’s, this one-hundred and nineteen-minute gem concerns the influence Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) derives from his mother, Dorothea (Annette Bening). Such an impact also extends to the two young ladies who live in the same home. They are Annie (Greta Gerwig) and Jamie’s childhood friend, Julie (Elle Fanning).

This humorous, poignant and intimate masterpiece showcases gorgeous cinematography by Sean Porter. The same can be said of the music from Roger Neill. Stirring and impassioned, the heart to the rousing success of the feature is the powerhouse performances all-around. The result is undoubtedly one of 2016’s best films.

(R). Contains adult language and themes.

*All three of these motion pictures are now available on Amazon Prime.

“The Confessions” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Co-writer and director Roberto Ando’s The Confessions (2016), originally titled Le confessioni, is as riveting in its philosophical discourse as it is in its unique whodunit. Throughout the development of the masterfully paced one-hundred and three-minute runtime of the film, Ando weaves a naturally gripping tale. It concerns an enigmatic Italian monk, Roberto Salus (in a spellbinding depiction from Toni Servillo that dazzles in its underlying power and restraint), who accepts an invitation by the director of The International Monetary Fund, Daniel Roche (in a phenomenal turn from Daniel Auteuil). Such a summons leads Salus to a meeting conducted by The Group of Eight (G8), a civic-minded committee made up of governmental contacts from around the globe, at a luxury hotel on the German coast. That night, Roche asks Salus if he could discreetly engage in the title action. The next morning, Roche is discovered lifeless.

Ando brilliantly keeps an ever-accruing sense of mystery and maturity pulsating throughout the proceedings. Such is made evermore alluring when mixed with the complex political, detective and metaphysical components of the production. This is as much a courtesy of Ando’s smart, Hitchcockian direction as it is the same said screenplay he co-authored with Angelo Pasquini. Though much of the plot unfolds via character interaction, primarily intimate speeches among one another, the cerebral suspense rarely wavers. This is because Ando gives us just enough subtly placed notions, questions of personal motivations and uncertainties to keep audiences stirred for the duration of the fiction. Though the answer to whom is responsible for Roche’s demise is obvious, the various paradoxical layers Ando issues on the trail to this conclusion more than make up for this shortcoming. Ando’s ability to avoid genre trappings in so doing is also refreshing.

Alongside lavish cinematography from Maurizio Calvesi and mesmerizing music from Nicola Piovani, this Uncork’d Entertainment distribution release is among the year’s best cinematic undertakings. The performances are rich and proficient all-around. For example, Connie Nielsen is terrific as Claire Seth. Moritz Bleibtreu is exemplary as Mark Klein. Likewise, Clelio Benevento’s editing is seamless. Maria Rita Barbera’s costume design is magnificent.

With these high-caliber attributes in mind, Ando’s effort astounds from all angles. This is even if the picture is unsure as to what it wants to be on occasion. Correspondingly, it is also hindered by being a bit one-dimensional in painting Salus as saintly. Still, the exertion is graced by an untainted atmosphere of maturity and elegance. In turn, this multi-lingual follow-up to Ando’s witty satire, Long Live Freedom (2013), remains superbly crafted and nonetheless breathtaking.

(Unrated).

Now showing in select theaters.

“Toni Erdmann” – (Capsule Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Though sluggish and lingering on occasion, Toni Erdmann (2016), a Best Foreign Language Film nominee at the 89th Academy Awards, is a pleasant and leisurely, quietly charming journey for most of its massive 162-minute runtime. The performances are solid, natural and believable. This is especially accurate when considering Sandra Huller’s lead depiction of the hardworking Ines Conradi. Peter Simonischeck is just as impressive as Conradi’s practical joker of a father, Winifred. Coincidentally, he is responsible for setting the amusing, yet threadbare, plot in motion. This is when he creates the title alter ego in an endeavor to push his way into his daughter’s business life.

Throughout the course of the narrative, there are enough similarly authentic moments of offbeat laughter, engaging character development and subtle drama to keep the project afloat. Additionally, Maren Ade’s sharp and sophisticated writing and direction, as well as Patrick Orth’s ruggedly immersive cinematography, highlight the previously stated life-mirroring qualities of the project well. Still, this can’t mask the fact that there simply isn’t enough story to merit the extended length. The result is a flawed, but ultimately rewarding and mature, cinematic venture.

(R). Contains adult language, graphic nudity, sexuality and drug use.

Released theatrically in the United States on December 25th, 2016.

Available now to rent or buy at Amazon.

“Alien: Reign of Man” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Much in line with Ridley Scott’s vastly underappreciated Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017), writer-director Justin Price’s Alien: Reign of Man (2017) is cerebral, ambitious science-fiction. Though bound by the iconic series Scott started with Alien (1979) in name only, there is a sharp focus on characterization, origin and exposition prevalent in Price and Scott’s aforesaid efforts. Such sharpens the many quiet moments of awe, planetary exploration and seamlessly woven elements of fear utilized in these endeavors. There is also a gradual and fluent pace to these presentations. Such makes each respective venture much more than a collection of routine space scares. A remarkable eye for masterfully designed shuttle interiors as well as a beautifully constructed atmosphere of impending dread also uplifts these exertions.

Yet, Price’s feature is distinctly its own endeavor. Chronicling a group of interstellar travelers who are tasked with triggering a mechanism which will bring Earth back to a time before its decline, the account is naturally intriguing. The marvelous, claustrophobic direction and pleasantly inquisitive scripting from Price make this low-budget narrative evermore engaging. This stellar handling of the material extends to the backstory of our lead, Zan (in a solid turn from co-producer Khu). Such bits are potently glimpsed in dream-like flashbacks throughout the endeavor. The inclusion of this element augments the sense of urgency and intimacy coursing through the proceedings. It also makes the wonderfully understated finale dramatically tense and satisfying. Correspondingly, this is a terrific bookend to a picture that grips audiences with its personal touch, elegiac essence, scope and inventiveness immediately. The commencing credits sequence is where this latter-addressed quality is especially evident.

This lean, effective and efficient eighty-five-minute affair, distributed through Uncork’d Entertainment, has a heavy reliance on effects. Luckily, they are largely impressive. Still, the animation of the multi-eyed entities spied in the creative cover art is questionable. Given that the viewing of these creatures is primarily reserved for a few quick moments during the opening and concluding acts, this isn’t as much of a problem as it could be.

Though the delivery of the otherwise fascinating dialogue is underwhelming at times, Price’s labor still sports solid performances all-around. Torrei Hart as Viceroy, Deanna Grace Congo as Constance and Cameron White as Reed provide solid proof of such a statement with their robust enactments. This is even if Price doesn’t focus on what drives them from a human level as much as he does with Zan. Further helping matters is the rousing, highly cinematic music from Julian Beeston.

In turn, Price has assembled a superior B-movie. Some of the motions of the film’s arc of events are routine in hindsight. Regardless, the photoplay is so well-made, thoughtful and broodingly tense that such criticisms barely register. It is also a lot of fun. Because of this. Price’s latest triumphs from both a technical and chronicle-oriented standpoint. Price’s work may not be as groundbreaking as Scott’s similar in moniker franchise. Regardless, it is a small wonder unto itself; a successful on-screen persona-minded action-thriller that pulsates with real heart.

Alien: Reign of Man will be available on Video on Demand on August 1st, 2017. It will be released on DVD November 14th, 2017.

A Word of Dreams Presents: The 101 Greatest Films of the 21st Century (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

101. Persepolis (2007)
Directors: Vincent Paronnoud, Marjane Satrapi.
Genre: Animation, Biography, Drama.

100. The Hurt Locker (2008)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow.
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller.

99. Spotlight (2015)
Director: Tom McCarthy.
Genre: Crime, Drama, History.

98. Babel (2006)
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
Genre: Drama.

97. Cameraperson (2016)
Director: Kirsten Johnson.
Genre: Documentary.

96. The Counterfeiters (2007)
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky.
Genre: Crime, Drama, War.

95. Gasland (2010)
Director: Josh Fox.
Genre: Documentary.

94. The Lives of Others (2006)
Directors: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Genre: Drama, Thriller.

93. The Best of Youth (2003)
Director: Marco Tullio Giordana.
Genre: Drama.

92. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
Director: Andrew Jarecki.
Genre: Documentary.

91. Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Director: Kenneth Lonergan.
Genre: Drama.

90. The Master (2012)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson.
Genre: Drama.

89. A Prophet (2009)
Director: Jacques Audiard.
Genre: Crime, Drama.

88. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Director: Wes Anderson.
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama.

87. The Secret in their Eyes (2009)
Director: Juan Jose Campenella.
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance.

86. Film Socialisme (2010)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard.
Genre: Drama.

85. Flags of our Fathers (2006)
Director: Clint Eastwood.
Genre: Drama, History, War.

84. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
Director: Clint Eastwood.
Genre: Drama, History, War.

83. The Dreamers (2003)
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci.
Genre: Drama, Romance.

82. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
Director: Raoul Peck.
Genre: Documentary.

81. Stories We Tell (2013)
Director: Sarah Polley.
Genre: Documentary.

80. Love (2015)
Director: Gaspar Noe.
Genre: Drama, Romance.

79. Apocalypto (2006)
Director: Mel Gibson.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama.

78. Irreversible (2002)
Director: Gaspar Noe.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery.

77. Notes on a Scandal (2006)
Director: Richard Eyre.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance.

76. Mystic River (2003)
Director: Clint Eastwood.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery.

75. La Vie en Rose (2007)
Director: Olivier Dahan.
Genre: Biography, Drama, Musical.

74. Milk (2008)
Director: Gus Van Sant.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History.

73. The Departed (2006)
Director: Martin Scorsese.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller.

72. Lion (2016)
Director: Garth Davis.
Genre: Biography, Drama.

71. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Director: Ang Lee.
Genre: Drama, Romance.

70. Zodiac (2007)
Director: David Fincher.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller.

69. Inland Empire (2006)
Director: David Lynch
Genre: Mystery, Thriller.

68. Django Unchained (2012)
Director: Quentin Tarantino.
Genre: Drama, Western.

67. Goodnight Mommy (2014)
Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz.
Genre: Horror, Thriller.

66. Amores Perros (2001)
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
Genre: Drama, Thriller.

65. The Piano Teacher (2001)
Director: Michael Haneke.
Genre: Drama, Romance.

64. Room (2015)
Director: Lenny Abrahamson.
Genre: Drama.

63. Tanna (2015)
Directors: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean.
Genre: Drama, Romance.

62. Bad Education (2004)
Director: Pedro Almodovar.
Genre: Crime, Drama.

61. Elle (2016)
Director: Paul Verhoeven.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller.

60. Monster (2003)
Director: Patty Jenkins.
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama.

59. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Director: Clint Eastwood.
Genre: Drama, Sports.

58. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Director: Guillermo del Torro.
Genre: Fantasy, War.

57. The Black Swan (2010)
Director: Darren Aronofsky.
Genre: Drama, Thriller.

56. Anomalisa (2015)
Directors: Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman.
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama.

55. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
Director: Mark Herman.
Genre: Drama, War.

54. Doubt (2008)
Director: John Patrick Shanley.
Genre: Mystery.

53. Lilith’s Awakening (2016)
Director: Monica Demes.
Genre: Horror, Thriller.

52. Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Director: Tom Ford.
Genre: Drama, Thriller.

51. Amelie (2001)
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Genre: Comedy, Romance.

50. Enter the Void (2009)
Director: Gaspar Noe.
Genre: Drama, Fantasy.

49. A Separation (2011)
Director: Asghar Farhadi.
Genre: Drama, Mystery.

48. Kinsey (2004)
Director: Bill Condon.
Genre: Biography, Drama.

47. North Country (2005)
Director: Niki Caro.
Genre: Drama.

46. Revolutionary Road (2008)
Director: Sam Mendes.
Genre: Drama, Romance.

45. A Man Called Ove (2015)
Director: Hannes Holm.
Genre: Comedy, Drama.

43. The Salesman (2016)
Director: Asghar Farhadi.
Genre: Drama, Thriller.

42. Lincoln (2012)
Director: Steven Spielberg.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History.

41. Shame (2011)
Director: Steve McQueen.
Genre: Drama.

40. Her (2013)
Director: Spike Jonze.
Genre: Drama, Romance, Science-Fiction.

39. Capote (2005)
Director: Bennett Miller.
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama.

38. Prisoners (2013)
Director: Dennis Villeneuve.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller.

37. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
Director: Julian Schnabel.
Genre: Biography, Drama.

36. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Director: Terry George.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History.

35. Munich (2005)
Director: Steven Spielberg.
Genre: Crime, Drama, History.

34. Fruitvale Station (2013)
Director: Ryan Coogler.
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance.

33. Ex Machina (2014)
Director: Alex Garland.
Genre: Science-Fiction.

32. Ida (2013)
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski.
Genre: Drama.

31. Under the Skin (2013)
Director: Jonathan Glazer.
Genre: Science-Fiction.

30. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Director: George Miller.
Genre: Action, Science-Fiction.

29. The Revenant (2015)
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
Genre: Adventure, Thriller.

28. Gangs of New York (2002)
Director: Martin Scorsese.
Genre: Crime, Drama.

27. Boyhood (2014)
Director: Richard Linklater.
Genre: Drama.

26. Fences (2016)
Director: Denzel Washington.
Genre: Drama.

25. A Serious Man (2009)
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen.
Genre: Comedy, Drama.

24. Antichrist (2009)
Director: Lars von Trier.
Genre: Horror.

23. Nymphomaniac Vol. 1-2 (2013)
Director: Lars von Trier.
Genre: Drama.

22. Away from Her (2006)
Director: Sarah Polley.
Genre: Drama.

21. The King’s Speech (2010)
Director: Tom Hooper.
Genre: Biography, Drama.

20. The Aviator (2004)
Director: Martin Scorsese.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History.

19. The Pianist (2002)
Director: Roman Polanski.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History.

18. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Director: Martin Scorsese.
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama.

17. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Director: Mel Gibson.
Genre: Action, Drama, War.

16. Amour (2012)
Director: Michael Haneke.
Genre: Drama, Romance.

15. The White Ribbon (2009)
Director: Michael Haneke.
Genre: Drama, Mystery.

14. The Great Beauty (2013)
Director: Paolo Sorrentino.
Genre: Drama.

13. The Artist (2011)
Director: Michel Hazanavicius.
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance.

12. Moonlight (2016)
Director: Barry Jenkins.
Genre: Drama.

11. Silence (2016)
Director: Martin Scorsese.
Genre: Adventure, Drama, History.

10. Life Itself (2014)
Director: Steve James.
Genre: Biography, Documentary.

9. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche.
Genre: Drama, Romance.

8. Selma (2014)
Director: Ava DuVernay.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History.

7. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen.
Genre: Drama, Musical.

6. Downfall (2004)
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History.

5. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Director: Steve McQueen.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History.

4. There Will Be Blood (2007)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson.
Genre: Drama, History.

3. Nightcrawler (2014)
Director: Dan Gilroy.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller.

2. No Country for Old Men (2007)
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen.
Genre: Action, Thriller.

1.The Tree of life (2011)
Director: Terrence Malick.
Genre: Drama.

Runners-Up (in alphabetical order):

A Life Not to Follow (2015)
Director: Christopher Di Nunzio.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller.

Atonement (2007)
Director: Joe Wright.
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance.

The Babadook (2014)
Director: Jennifer Kent.
Genre: Horror.

Blood! Sugar! Sid! Ace! (2012)
Director: Mike Messier.
Genre: Comedy, Drama.

Casino Royale (2006)
Director: Sam Mendes.
Genre: Action, Adventure.

Chi-Raq (2015)
Director: Spike Lee.
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama.

The Cove (2009)
Director: Louie Psihoyos.
Genre: Documentary.

David Lynch: The Art Life (2016)
Directors: Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, Olivia Neergaard-Holm.
Genre: Drama, Documentary.

Elephant (2003)
Director: Gus Van Sant.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller.

The Handmaiden (2016)
Director: Park Chan-wook.
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance.

House of Pleasures (2011)
Director: Bertrand Bonello.
Genre: Drama.

House of Sand and Fog (2003)
Director: Vadim Perelman.
Genre: Drama.

Little Children (2006)
Director: Todd Field.
Genre: Drama, Romance.

Long Night in a Dead City (2017)
Director: Richard Griffin.
Genre: Mystery.

Match Point (2005)
Director: Woody Allen.
Genre: Drama, Romance, Sports.

Mulholland Drive (2001)
Director: David Lynch.
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller.

Nightmare Code (2014)
Director: Mark Netter.
Genre: Horror, Science-Fiction, Thriller.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Director: Mel Gibson.
Genre: Drama.

Tangerine (2015)
Director: Sean Baker.
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama.

Trespassing Bergman (2013)
Directors: Jane Magnusson, Hynek Pallas.
Genre: Documentary.

Trinity (2016)
Director: Skip Shea.
Genre: Drama, Horror.

20th Century Women (2016)
Director: Mike Mills.
Genre: Comedy, Drama.

A Brief Word on New Releases: “All Eyez on Me”, “The Belko Experiment”, “Darkness Rising”, “Dead Awake”, “Personal Shopper” and “Pool Party Massacre”

By Andrew Buckner

All Eyez On Me

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

All Eyez On Me (2017) is a near perfect biopic. This massive achievement is courtesy of debut actor Demetrius Shipp Jr. He is largely convincing as the iconic and controversial rapper, poet, political activist and actor Tupac Shakur. Danai Gurira is just as triumphant as Shakur’s revolutionary-minded mother, Afeni.

Though liberties have been taken with Shakur’s naturally riveting life story, the effort still stands as one of the best pictures of the year. Correspondingly, director Benny Boom’s structure and guidance of the venture is uniquely exhilarating. Likewise, Boom captures the many sides of his complex central figure masterfully. The outcome of these high-caliber traits is a film of unflinching engagement and power. It is one further punctuated by Shakur’s own brilliant and timeless music.

Released in theaters on June 16th, 2017.

Runtime: 139 minutes.

(R). Contains violence, adult language, adult themes, scenes of sexuality and nudity.

The Belko Experiment

Rating: *** out of *****.

Director Greg McLean’s The Belko Experiment (2016) has enough moments of wit, gore, laughter, intensity and intrigue to pose as serviceable entertainment. Still, this is exactly what you’d expect from a cinematic presentation with the Saw (2004) in the workplace set-up that this movie demonstrates. Additionally, the central figures, story arc and central themes are just as commonplace. Though the last act is grim and action-packed, it all leads to a rote finale. Even with its efficient 89-minute runtime and quick pace added into the equation, this is a mixed bag at best.

(R). Contains graphic violence and adult language.

Darkness Rising

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Darkness Rising (2017), from IFC Midnight, is lean, fast-paced and chock full of time-tested haunted house scares. Austin Reading’s direction is atmospheric. Additionally, the portrayals and special effects are deft. The result is familiar, especially when considering the personas on-screen and general plot, B-movie fun.

Released in select theaters and Video on Demand on June 30th, 2017.

Runtime: 81 minutes.

(Unrated). Contains violence, terror, adult themes and adult language.

Dead Awake

Rating: **1/2 out of *****.

Dead Awake (2016) turns the naturally unsettling topic of sleep paralysis into horror cliché. Phillip Guzman’s direction is taut and proficient. Moreover, the performers do the best they can with their one-dimensional characters. Still, the poor effects, routine scripting from Jeffrey Reddick and pained attempts to align the production to The Ring (2002) hinder the project. The result is forgettable; a missed opportunity all-around.

Runtime: 99 minutes.

(Unrated). Contains violence and adult language.

Released on May 12th, 2017 in select theaters and on Video on Demand.

Personal Shopper

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Writer-director Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper (2017) is one of the most cerebral, satisfying and uniquely riveting ghost stories I’ve seen in years. Assayas’ latest endeavor is a layered, deftly constructed masterpiece. The 105-minute affair unravels its multi-genre tale gradually, seamlessly and with meticulous care and craftsmanship. Simultaneously a drama, thriller and mystery, the picture is also noteworthy for Kristen Stewart’s ingeniously haunting portrayal of our heroine, Maureen Cartwright. Utilizing successfully spine-tingling bits early on and ending with an equally remarkable episode of emotion and intrigue, this tale of a woman seeking to contact her deceased twin brother is as Hitchcockian as it is highly unpredictable.

(R). Contains scenes of terror, sexuality, adult language, mild violence and adult content.

Available now at Amazon.

Pool Party Massacre

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Writer-director and co-star Drew Marvick’s Pool Party Massacre (2017) is pure fun; a delightfully tongue-in-cheek 1980’s style slasher opus that orchestrates both laughter and gore galore. The straight-forward plot, which concerns a murderous individual slaughtering a gathering of opulent young women one by one, is a terrific pulpit for an independent feature of this ilk. In the tradition of the best entries in this sub-genre, the kills are imaginative and high in number. Furthermore, the depictions, as well as the opening credits sequence, capture the tone of the piece brilliantly. The result is as much a consistently engaging midnight movie as it is a display of Marvick’s talent behind the lens.

Runtime: 81 minutes.

(Unrated). Contains graphic violence, adult language, nudity and scenes of sexuality.

Available now at Amazon.