Film Review: The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Release Date: May 14th, 2019 (Cannes)
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Music by: SQÜRL
Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits

Animal Kingdom, Film i Väst, Kill the Head, Focus Features, 104 Minutes

Review:

“That girl is half Mexican. I know because I love Mexicans.” – Officer Ronnie Peterson

Jim Jarmusch is really hit or miss for me.

Overall, I’d say this was a miss but it did keep my interest because one thing I usually like about Jarmsuch’s films are the characters and their conversations. However, while that is good and engaging the first time around, it doesn’t necessarily make a film worth revisiting.

The Dead Don’t Die is pretty much what one would expect from a Jarmusch film about zombies.

It’s weird, it’s quirky and there’s not much else there. In fact, the only real glue that holds this flimsy house of cards together is the cast and their interactions.

While Jarmusch can be labeled as weird, this film seems to embrace its weirdness a little too much. In this film, shit is weird just to be weird.

For instance, you have Tilda Swinton’s character who is a female Scottish samurai that you later find out is an alien when a UFO randomly appears to take her home in the middle of a zombie fight. Why? What’s the point? Why was she there? Jarmusch doesn’t care, so why should we?

You also have a moment at the end where the characters break the fourth wall for no reason other than creating a nonsensical plot twist in an effort to maximize on the weird. It actually broke the film for me and made it irreparable where, up to that point, I kind of accepted it in spite of its goofy faults.

Additionally, characters are introduced, relationships are established and not a whole lot comes out of any of it. There isn’t a satisfactory payoff and you’re just left scratching your head for a lot of it. I mean, you want to like characters and you kind of do but none of it matters because we’re all fucked and no one really has a plan, including the cops.

Is this supposed to be a critique on authority or society? I mean, haven’t we gotten that with just about every zombie movie ever made? From Jarmusch, a guy that has made some solid, critically acclaimed films, I guess I expected more than this. For the zombie subgenre of horror, I definitely wanted more than this, as zombies have been done to death, pun intended, and just being weird shouldn’t fly and shouldn’t get you a free pass.

I also feel like this awkward style of comedy dialogue is well past its expiration date.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Jim Jarmusch films, as well as other zombie comedies.

Film Review: The Phantom Carriage (1921)

Also known as: Körkarlen (original Swedish title), The Phantom Chariot, The Stroke of Midnight, Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness (alternate English titles)
Release Date: January 1st, 1921 (Sweden)
Directed by: Victor Sjöström
Written by: Victor Sjöström
Based on: Körkarlen by Selma Lagerlöf
Music by: Mattie Bye (1998 restoration)
Cast: Victor Sjöström, Hilda Borgström, Tore Svennberg

AB Svensk Filmindustri, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t fret over those poor souls now, Sister Edit. You’ve done enough for them.” – Maria

I love silent era horror films, especially German Expressionist films. While this isn’t German, the Swedes created something that feels right at home alongside films like NosferatuThe Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Golem.

Körkarlen or The Phantom Carriage, as it’s called in English, has a real cinematic magic to it. It also isn’t quite horror, even though it features the embodiment of Death. Mostly, it is just dark and creepy. It’s also enchanting and mesmerizing.

What works most for this film is the atmosphere. It’s gloomy but it’s comforting in a strange way. The special effects are really good for the time and they hold up quite well for a picture as old as this.

I love the look of Death and his carriage and the symbolism that is littered throughout the film in regards to mortality and life.

The story is similar to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol but without it being a Christmas story. It follows a man, as he travels through his past with Death at his side.

If you like silent era horror pictures, then you’ll probably love this. It’s a dark fairytale that wraps you up in its magic and doesn’t let go until the 104 minute carriage ride is over.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: a lot of the German Expressionist horror of the time and I actually watched this back to back with 1932’s Vampyr, which flowed nicely with it.

Documentary Review: Kon-Tiki (1950)

Also known as: A Aventura de Kon-Tiki (Brazil), Kon-Tiki 1950 (Swedish re-issue festival title)
Release Date: January 13th, 1950 (Sweden)
Directed by: Thor Heyerdahl
Written by: Thor Heyerdahl
Music by: Sune Waldimir
Cast: Thor Heyerdahl, Herman Watzinger, Erik Hesselberg, Knut Haugland, Torstein Raaby, Bengt Danielsson, Ben Grauer (voice), Gerte Wald (uncredited)

Artfilm, Janson Media, Sol Lesser Productions, 77 Minutes, 58 Minutes (TV edit)

Review:

For those who don’t know the story of the Kon-Tiki expedition, you are sorely missing out. Back in 1947, a brave Norwegian, Thor Heyerdahl, rounded up a team to construct a primitive style raft with local materials in Ecuador and Peru for the purpose of setting sail towards Polynesia to show that such a task was possible in order to prove that it’s also possible that the Pacific islands were populated by people who migrated from South America.

Heyerdahl also kept things as primitive as possible, as far as the method of travel. They did bring some military rations for food and had a radio, in case of emergency and to make contact with the outside world in an effort to check-in on their progress.

If you love nature documentaries or seeing real men do some really manly shit, than this is something you’ll probably enjoy. It’s really exciting, informative and kind of magical. It makes you wish that you were there, even though it was hard and strenuous. But these guys really tested their mettle and spirit but got through it okay.

Also, if you’re into history, science or just love things pertaining to South Pacific culture, this really delves into all of that.

There is a great scene with curious whales, another regarding the dangers of having freshly caught sharks on the boat, as well as the big climax where they have to work their way over a massive and dangerous, razor sharp coral reef in an effort to finally hit land.

I loved this documentary and it’s made me want to go back and watch the 2012 motion picture based on this expedition. Mainly, because I want to test its accuracy after having seen this documentary and just because this is such a great and incredible story.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The 2012 motion picture Kon-Tiki and the other Thor Heyerdahl seafaring documentary The Ra Expeditions.

Film Review: Tord and Tord (2010)

Also known as: Tord och Tord (original Swedish title)
Release Date: January 29th, 2010 (Göteborg Film Festival)
Directed by: Niki Lindroth von Bahr
Written by: Niki Lindroth von Bahr
Cast: Thomas Tidholm

11 Minutes

Review:

After watching Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s The Burden, I wanted to go back in time a bit and check out her short film from 2010, which is done in a similar style.

This follows a character named Tord who mistakenly walks into the apartment next door to discover someone moving in. This character is also named Tord.

Tord and Tord develop a friendship and as it evolves, they develop their own code and unique way of conversing. As time goes on and the new Tord makes the codes more complex, the original Tord feels more distant, as things have become far less personal and intimate in their conversations. He just wants to talk to the new Tord like a real person but old Tord just sends more complex coded messages. Maybe, in some ways, this reflects the dynamic of many social media friendships.

This film, like The Burden, is short and sweet and has a quality that is very genuine and endearing in a lot of ways.

I absolutely adore Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s style. Her films are both cute and dark… or they at least have some dark undertones that rise to the top.

Unlike The Burden, though, this one doesn’t leave you with much hope in the end. It’s pretty sad, actually.

I think this is an easy film to relate to, as the old Tord is a bit heartbroken by his friendship withering away and becoming awkward. I think most people, if not all, have experienced this at some point in their life.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Niki Lindroth von Bahr The Burden.

Film Review: The Burden (2017)

Also known as: Min börda (original Swedish title)
Release Date: January 27th, 2017 (Göteborg Film Festival)
Directed by: Niki Lindroth von Bahr
Written by: Niki Lindroth von Bahr
Music by: Hans Appelqvist
Cast: Sven Björklund, Carl Englén, Mattias Fransson, Olof Wretling

Film i Väst, 15 Minutes

Review:

I discovered a few of these short films by Niki Lindroth von Bahr on FilmStruck, which is a fantastic streaming service if you love classic film and want to watch every Criterion Collection release known to man. Okay, they don’t have all the Criterion stuff but they have a massive library and are the only service streaming them.

The Burden is a short musical comedy. The songs and dialogue are in Swedish, which makes it an even cooler experience. It is subtitled, so you don’t have to worry about that.

It’s fifteen minutes long but it flew by like it was five. It is sweet and heartwarming even if the subject matter seemed a bit sad and apocalyptic. It’s a film that sort of taps into certain insecurities but knows how to cope with it and leaves you with some hope.

The animation is nothing short of amazing and the style is beautiful.

It’s hard to really describe the film and it certainly won’t resonate with a lot of people but it actually made me laugh out loud a few times. It’s fresh, original and the songs are charming.

This is definitely the best short film I have seen from 2017.

Plus, the song is stuck in my head but not in a terrible way, in a fantastic and appreciative way.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Niki Lindroth von Bahr Tord and Tord.

Film Review: The Seventh Seal (1957)

Also known as: Det sjunde inseglet (original Swedish title)
Release Date: February 16th, 1957 (Sweden)
Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Written by: Ingmar Bergman
Based on:  Trämålning by Ingmar Bergman
Music by: Erik Nordgren
Cast: Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe, Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Inga Landgré, Åke Fridell

AB Svensk Filmindustri, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Nothing escapes you!” – Antonius Block, “Nothing escapes me. No one escapes me.” – Death

Ingmar Bergman is considered one of the greatest filmmakers that ever lived. The Seventh Seal is considered his magnum opus by many. It has been referenced, parodied and ripped off by hundreds of films after it. The movies it has influenced have gone on to influence others. It’s reach is so deep and so broad that it will probably always have some sort of imprint on the film industry forever. It is an iconic body of work, regardless at how one views it. It is also an extremely high point, if not the highest, in the long history of Swedish filmmaking. The fact that I haven’t seen it in its entirety until now, could actually be criminal.

My entire life, I have been a huge film aficionado. So I’ve sort of always known about this picture and I’ve seen it’s effect on other bodies of work. I’ve seen this movie featured in documentaries and I’ve seen clips of it for so long that I felt like I had already seen it in a roundabout way. Even though I’m very familiar with the key elements of this puzzle, I’ve never had all the pieces put together in the proper way.

The Seventh Seal is about a soldier who is confronted by Death. He convinces Death to play him in a chess match. The soldier figures that as long as he’s locked in the match, he has more time on Earth. He is disenchanted and depressed over the fact that he’s wasted his life even though he realizes that he’s not that different from most men. He tries to bide his time all while searching for meaning and something greater. Eventually, time runs out and he has to face his mortality.

The film takes place during Medieval times but it’s not necessarily an accurate portrayal of that era. It’s more of a reflection of what was behind the inspiration of the story for Bergman, as he had stated that the idea of Death playing a game of chess came from a church painting from the 1480s. Additionally, the feeling of “doom and gloom” from the era was instrumental in helping set the tone of this film’s narrative. The film showcases the effects of plague and the witch hunts: things that were really very dark blights on human existence in that era. Really, what better time and place is there to set this film?

While I don’t consider this to be the masterpiece than many others do, it’s a very compelling film and it is easy to reflect on your own life, even in modern times, and compare it to the concerns that the knight has about his own existence and place in the universe.

Bergman certainly had an eye for composition and was a true artist in the medium of motion pictures. This really is art at its core. It is also a very human story as we will all one day be in the soldier’s shoes in one way or another.

The Seventh Seal is a very good motion picture that went beyond just influencing a generation, it influenced an entire art form well beyond what anyone could have imagined at the time. Films like this are extremely rare.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other pictures by Ingmar Bergman.

Film Review: The Outlaw and His Wife (1918)

Also known as: Berg-Ejvind och hans hustru (original Swedish title), You and I (US alternate title)
Release Date: January 1st, 1918 (Sweden)
Directed by: Victor Sjöström
Written by: Victor Sjöström, Sam Ask, Jóhann Sigurjónsson
Cast: Victor Sjöström, Edith Erastoff

Svenska Biografteatern AB, 136 Minutes (original), 110 Minutes (2013 restored version)

Review:

“Love makes one man good, another evil…” – Title Card

This is the oldest film available on FilmStruck’s streaming service, so I wanted to check it out.

This is a biopic produced in Sweden about the Icelandic outlaw Fjalla-Eyvindur, also known as Eyvindur of the Mountains or Eyvind of the Hills. In the film, we meet Kari and his wife to be, Halla. Some people suspect he is the outlaw Eyvind. A bailiff, jealous of Halla’s attraction to Kari, sets his sights on the criminal. Things escalate and Eyvind and Halla abandon their farm and retreat to the cold highlands. They have a child and are eventually accompanied by their friend, Arnes. Arnes, however, confesses his love to Halla but she doesn’t feel the same way, as she still loves Eyvind. Men arrive to finally confront Eyvind but fearing capture, Halla throws her baby off of a cliff. The outlaw and his wife escape into the harsh winter weather but find themselves in a cabin with no food. Halla eventually freezes to death in the snow and when Eyvind finds her, he holds her until he dies frozen by her side.

It’s a pretty depressing story but it does display the pure love that these two have for one another. Ultimately, despite his crooked past, Eyvind just wants to live in peace with his family.

For the time it was released, The Outlaw and His Wife was a massive epic. It featured nature and the wilderness in a way that had never been captured on film. The film truly is a landmark in cinematic history and it did wow audiences with its visuals. It is hard to deny its greatness within the context of what it is, when it was made and how it changed things in the evolution of motion pictures.

It’s not a super exciting movie, though. At least not by modern standards and I am a guy that does like old silent pictures. It’s not boring, by any means, but it is a pretty drawn out film with some slow moments.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Castle Freak (1995)

Also known as: Stuart Gordon’s Castle Freak
Release Date: November 14th, 1995
Directed by: Stuart Gordon
Written by: Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon
Based on: The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft
Music by: Richard Band
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Jessica Dollarhide, Jonathan Fuller

Full Moon Entertainment, 95 Minutes

Review:

“I didn’t kill her, I fucked her, Okay?” – John Reilly

Anything that brings the Re-Animator team back together, usually ends with pretty good results. This is the one and only time that it didn’t. I loved the three Re-Animator films and From Beyond but this was pretty friggin’ awful.

Even the acting of Jeffrey Combs, who I usually love in everything, was just off the mark and a bit over the top. Barbara Crampton was fairly decent but not as good as she was in those other films. Jessica Dollarhide, who was only in this movie and had a few TV credits, was actually the high point on the acting side.

The plot, like the other films featuring this director and his cast, was taken from an H.P. Lovecraft story. The film is missing that insane otherworldly feel of the other films though. This is also missing the comedy. Essentially, what we have here is a serious attempt at creating a horror film from a crew that were maestros of really dark comedy movies. It just didn’t work on any level.

The score was exceptionally bad, which was surprising since the man behind the music, Richard Band, worked with this troupe before with fantastic results.

I’m not sure what was wrong with this movie. It was the one time that these people didn’t create magic. It is just so out of tune with their other work that it’s baffling. Maybe it has to do with Full Moon putting out the film, as they’ve made mostly schlock for decades.

Castle Freak unlike this group’s other films, is completely forgettable.

The makeup was decent though.

Rating: 4.25/10

Film Review: Häxan (1922)

Also known as: Heksen (Danish), The Witches, Witchcraft Through the Ages (English)
Release Date: September 18th, 1922 (Sweden)
Directed by: Benjamin Christensen
Written by: Benjamin Christensen
Music by: Matti Bye (2006 restored version), Launy Grøndahl, Daniel Humair (1968 version), Ludwig van Beethoven (1922 score), Barði Jóhannsson (2006 score), Emil Reesen (1941 version), Art Zoyd (1997 version)
Cast: Benjamin Christensen, Clara Pontoppidan, Oscar Stribolt, Astrid Holm, Maren Pedersen
Narrated by: William S. Burroughs (1968 English version)

Svensk Filmindustri, Skandias Filmbyrå , 104 Minutes (Swedish Film Institute print), 74 Minutes (1968 version)

Review:

“Poor little hysterical witch! In the middle ages you were in conflict with the church. Now it is with the law.” – Title Card

Häxan is a film I saw some clips of, as a kid, and was immediately mesmerized by. I didn’t see the full version of the film until the high quality 2006 remaster came out on DVD. Most recently, I checked out the shorter 1968 English language version with the narration by William S. Burroughs.

Both versions of the film are generally the same, except that the English language version has spoken dialogue and a shorter running time due to the exclusion of some of the title cards. The 2006 remaster is superior though, if you want to see the most authentic version of the film. Plus, the music in the 1968 version is bizarre and actually distracts from the tone.

Comparing this to what was out in 1922 really puts into perspective how terrifying this film must have been. The scariest thing at the time was Nosferatu and even though it effectively builds suspense and dread, Häxan throws demons and evil in your face at just about every turn. In fact, the Satanic ceremonies in this film are still better constructed than those in almost every other film throughout history. The amount of demons in this picture is astounding and just about every evil character has its own unique look.

Häxan is really in your face though, so maybe its approach was initially shocking and audiences got somewhat desensitized as the film ran on. Regardless, the costumes, sets and overall visual composition of the film is superb and unlike anything I’ve seen from this era or really, anything after this era. There are some good devil worshiping films with ceremonies and the appearance of a “devil” but this is like a nonstop Satanic orgy playing out on screen.

In a lot of ways, the film is like an over the top PSA to deter people from getting involved with witchcraft. It is to Satan what Reefer Madness was to marijuana use. Granted, this is a much better film in every way. But I imagine that the film probably had an effect opposite of what was probably intended. It plays as the most effective and coolest “Come join Satan!” propaganda that could ever be created.

Apart from the costumes themselves, the makeup and special effects were impressive and uncanny for 1922. The scene with the witches flying over the town is especially breathtaking.

While this isn’t remembered at quite the same level as Nosferatu or The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, it deserves to be in the same conversations film aficionados and historians have had about horror pictures from that era.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: Kung Fury (2015)

Release Date: May 22nd, 2015 (Cannes)
Directed by: David Sandberg
Written by: David Sandberg
Music by: Mitch Murder, Lost Years
Cast: David Sandberg, Jorma Taccone, Leopold Nilsson, Eleni Young, Helene Ahlson, Andreas Cahling, Per-Henrik Arvidius, Steven Chew, Magnus Betnér, Björn Gustafsson, David Hasselhoff

Lampray, Laser Unicorns, Moving Sweden, 31 Minutes

kung_furyReview:

Kung Fury is a pretty interesting film and the result of an awesome Kickstarter campaign.

It is hard to explain what exactly this is but essentially, it is a hyper-stylisitic and ultraviolent homage to 1980s martial arts films and over-the-top police action flicks. It has fighting, video games, dinosaurs, time travel, Nazis, urban punk gangs, Lambos, hacking, robots, Norse gods, talking cars, big guns and the Nintendo Power Glove. It also features a title track sung by David Hasselhoff.

The film is a short 31 minutes but every second of those 31 minutes is action-packed and like a shot of heroin in the arm for fans of gratuitous 80s action insanity and a thirst for true nostalgia.

Is it well-acted? No. But that’s kind of the point. What was well-acted that this film is an homage to? It is just pure 100 percent motherfucking bad ass motherfucker shit!

This film needs to be 31 minutes because anything more would just be overload. I felt as if my brain was going to explode when the credits rolled and the majestic voice of David Hasselhoff bellowed out the lyrics to his magical song True Survivor.

This film also leaves it open for a sequel. Too much may be overkill but I do eagerly anticipate the next chapter, assuming it is coming.

But for now, THE HOFF!!!

Rating: 7/10

And the full movie!