“King Cohen” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

King Cohen (2017), from writer-director Steve Mitchell, is a lively, charming and effortlessly entertaining tribute to the life and work of cinematic giant Larry Cohen. Yet, one of the most successful attributes of the 107-minute feature is that is filled with the ambition, charm and optimistic spirit of its focal point. This characteristic is made evermore intimate and invigorating by Cohen’s own nostalgic recollections. Early in the production they arrive as Cohen recalls his being a young cinephile and literary prodigy. More specifically, one who sold his first story to the dramatic anthology series Kraft Television Theater (1947-1958) in 1958. This was at the age of 17. As the endeavor goes on, these vividly narrated memories extend to the behind-the-scenes events and the often-impromptu creative sparks which helped fashion his early television and later movie work.

Cohen’s various relationships with his cast and crew members further flesh out the project. The sequences where Cohen and actor Fred Williamson, who appeared in a variety of Cohen’s efforts, disagree on the details of certain related situations they were both involved in are when the jovial charm of the documentary is most evident. But there is another layer of appeal to the arrangement. It is just as infectious. This is when modern moving picture masterminds such as J.J. Abrams, Joe Dante, John Landis and Martin Scorsese discuss their thoughts and personal connections to Cohen’s material. Such a sensation of motivation is further expounded upon in arrangements such as a delightful one found in the second half of the exercise. This is where fans of Cohen’s brilliant dark comedy, The Stuff (1985), speak of why the science-fiction/horror tour de force remains memorable and relevant to the culture of today. These bits add to the underlying perspective of awe, inspiration, love and endearing respect for Cohen and his contributions to the photographic art form which help make King Cohen such a resonant and deeply personal masterpiece. This is true from the engrossing commencement to its uniquely uplifting conclusion.

The segments which discuss the making of and audience reaction to the action film Black Caeser (1973) are also particularly intriguing. This interest continued during the discussion of how Cohen’s approach to the medium changed during the fabrication of Hell Up in Harlem (1973). When the eventual, though slow-going, success of Cohen’s classic monstrous baby on the loose opus, It’s Alive (1974), and terrifying tackle of theological issues, God Told Me To (1976), filled the screen I was equally riveted. The musings on the invention of Cohen’s timeless take on the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl, Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) and involvement with Bette Davis during the recording of Wicked Stepmother (1989) were equally captivating.

Mitchell’s composition earns even more acclaim for meticulously covering nearly every one of his ventures. Moreover, the affair contains terrific music from composer Joe Kraemer. It also conveys same said cinematography by David C.P. Chan. Such elements heighten the striking quality of the piece. Correspondingly, Mitchell’s pacing and style is perfectly fitting for the tone and theme of the undertaking. The sound and editing are sharp. Also, the incorporation of stills and clips from Cohen’s constructions make Mitchell’s latest more well-rounded and complete.

In turn, Mitchell offers audiences one of the best big screen entries of its type you will see all year. King Cohen is pure celluloid joy. Those of us who grew up both admiring and obsessed with Cohen’s tales owe it to themselves to see this as soon as possible. You can do so when Mitchell’s marvelous labor is released in select theaters on July 27th, 2018 through Dark Star Pictures.

(Unrated).

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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 Word of Dreams Recommends: “The Lost City of the Monkey God”, “Silence” and “Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary”

By Andrew Buckner

The following is a new feature on my site. It is called “A Word of Dreams Recommends”. The function of this section is to shed light on high-quality, recently released works that I believe audiences will enjoy as much as I do. Unlike the full-length reviews which are otherwise found here, this column will issue my thoughts on the books, films or musical releases I am endorsing in just a few brief sentences. My initial entry in this arena covers Douglas Preston’s latest book, The Lost City of the Monkey God, director Martin Scorsese’s Silence and the documentary Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary.

THE LOST CITY OF THE MONKEY GOD

****1/2 out of *****.

So vividly written that you can simultaneously hear and feel the jungles of Mosquita coming to life around you, The Lost City of the Monkey God (2017) by Douglas Preston fascinates as both a non-fiction adventure and as a historical mystery. The 328 page volume, distributed through Grand Central Publishing and unveiled on January 3rd, chronicles Preston joining a team of explorers in Honduras. This is in hopes of unveiling the remains of Ciudad Blanca (“The White City”): a place often believed to be a myth. As he did with The Monster of Florence (2014), Preston entertainingly delivers a meticulously researched tome. It is one that is in-depth and thoughtful as it is intent on providing a three-dimensional portrait of the past, present and future. This is in respect to both his subject and those directly linked to such a theme.

SILENCE

***** out of *****.

Martin Scorsese’s Silence (2016) is exactly what a great film should be: a beautiful, challenging and emotive journey; an unforgettable and unflinching experience on celluloid. Scorsese stays true to the envy-inducing traits that has made him such a cinematic force over the past 50 plus years. In turn, he has given us an equal balance of visceral art, distinct vision, character insight and understanding. In adapting Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel of the same name, which chronicles two Christian missionaries who go to Japan in the 17th century to find their long missing advisor and encounter a country which outlaws their belief system, Scorsese’s stylish and wholly cinematic guidance of the project often draws a remarkable and unmistakable alignment to the timeless films of Akira Kurosawa. Rodrigo Prieto’s Oscar-nominated cinematography as well as Andrew Garfield’s performance as our central figure, Rodrigues, are both sweeping and impassioned. Liam Neeson, as Ferreira, and Adam Driver, as Garupe, are also superb. Additionally, the screenplay from Jay Cocks is assuredly cerebral. To grand effect, it never loses focus of the plight of its leads. It is, just as you’d expect from Scorsese, an absolute masterpiece. Never once in its one-hundred and sixty-one-minute runtime does it falter. True cinephiles owe it to themselves to see this immediately on the biggest screen imaginable. This is, by all means, a real movie for real movie lovers.

UNEARTHED & UNTOLD: THE PATH TO PET SEMATARY

****1/2 out of *****.

Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary (2016) is an endlessly absorbing, brilliantly made and comprehensive documentary. It concerns the crafting of Mary Lambert’s film version of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary (1989) as well as the early inspiration for the novel of the same name (1983). The interviews with cast and crew in this ninety-seven-minute production are riveting. So are the various behind the scenes photographs and related materials John Campopiano and Justin White, whose direction is skillful and deft, issue throughout. The result is an ingenious, confidently paced and easy to enjoy slice of non-fiction. It is one which appealed immensely to both the cinephile as well as the King fanatic in me. If either, or both, of these terms describe you, I highly recommend giving this Terror Films distribution release a look.