Category Archives: Film

“GLORY”— A Missing Watch, A Good Deed

“Glory” (“Slava”) 

A Missing Watch; A Good Deed

Amos Lassen

Co-directors  Kristina Grozeva’s and Petar Valchanov’s “Glory” starts with a simple premise, but becomes a look at a bureaucracy rife with cynicism, and a government that is glad to eat its most idealistic citizens. 

 When Tsanko Petrov (Stefan Denolyubov), a stuttering railroad linesman discovers millions of dollars on some rural train tracks, he turns the entire amount over to the police.  The authorities are grateful and reward him with a televised ceremony and a new wristwatch.  When the fancy new watch stops working, Julia Staikova (Margita Gosheva), the public relations head of the corrupt Ministry of Transport, can’t seem to find Petrov’s old watch and it was a family heirloom.  Then Tsanko’s humble reality collides with a bureaucracy determined to use his “heroism” to distract the public from an emerging scandal as he desperately struggles to recover both his old watch and his dignity.

The camera follows Tsanko as he walks past men siphoning gas from a railcar and when he pauses to tighten a few lug nuts, he comes upon banknotes. Though Tsanko only pockets two bills before reporting the windfall to the authorities, the results of his actions become a broad indictment of class divisions and political and media corruption. Aside from his pet rabbits, Tsanko’s primary connection in life seems to be his watch, an analog timepiece made by the Russian company Slava, (“glory” in English). Tsanko loses the watch after the Ministry of Transport decides to use his act of nobility (of turning over the money) in order to cover over stories about the agency’s entrenched corruption: The ministry awards Tsanko a cheap digital replacement as a reward and then misplaces his family keepsake, an obvious symbol of his sense of order, tradition, and honesty (he resets the Slava before leaving for work every morning). His lost watch puts a heavy burden on Julia, the ministry’s head of public relations, who works hard to orchestrate Tsanko’s hero status while at the same time, she buries stories of corruption in her department.

Julia is a commanding, complicated antagonist and she and her devious co-workers mock Tsanko’s persona and his stutter. Once Tsanko’s frustration over his lost watch threatens to take down the Ministry of Transport, their behavior becomes even more ruthless and unnervingly efficient. “Glory” generates its suspense from the inevitability of an outcome that simultaneously jostles corrupt but powerful institutions and makes unwitting monsters of those who try to combat it. We get a damning portrait of contemporary Bulgarian society fragmented by class and the rural-urban divide, where corruption is a given and even muckrakers ignore the human element. The film quietly builds to a feeling of disaster, aided by excellent performances.

The importance of time is a key element in the film, as multiple clocks — biological as well as temporal — are everywhere from the opening moment, when a voice announces the time down to the second. As Tsanko makes sure that his watch is accurate, he listens with half an ear to the TV and a report on government corruption and it is these that are the main themes of “Glory”.

Directors Grozeva and Valchanov carefully balance the themes, weaving in just enough detail to show distinct psychological profiles. Tsanko’s reticent demeanor and quiet poise and Julia’s projection of dismissive superiority, convey two sides of Bulgaria: one representing its roots, and the other its corrupt government. The film is filled with small details; lines delivered once have payoffs later. This is an intelligent, biting and quietly powerful film that blends realism with sociopolitical commentary. The tension builds gradually as we feel Tsanko’s pain and anger throughout his desperate struggle to retrieve his wristwatch. Then that anger comes to the surface in a way that’s organic and believable while leading to climax that is shocking, bold, disturbing and haunting.

“1864”— Two Brothers and a War

“1864”

Two Brothers and a War

Amos Lassen

When Prussia and Austria declare war on Denmark, two brothers are called to serve in the bloodiest battle in Denmark’s history. This is a new television series that has been called “a triumph for Nordic Noir, for television as a whole, and for viewers who owe it to themselves to watch this drama.” It is an 8-part drama about the time when Germany and Prussia teamed up to declare war on Denmark, and it’s effect on two brothers – Peter (Jens Sætter-Lassen) and Laust Jensen (Jakob Oftebro) – who sign up to take part in what became the bloodiest battle in Denmark’s history.

The series is narrated by Inge (Marie Tourell Søderberg), the lover to both Peter and Laust as she looks back on her life in her memoirs which are read in the present day by Claudia (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina), a schoolgirl sent by Social Services to care for partially-sighted old man in a wheelchair Severin (Waage Sandø). We, at first, do not know why the memoirs in his house but all shall be revealed in due course.

The story begins in South Funen, Denmark, 1851, when the Danish defeated both the Prussians and also the insurgents from Slesvig. As a boy, Peter Jensen is given a book about flowers – written in Swedish – for his birthday. Parallels are made in the present day to soldiers going off to war, and the series moves regularly between present and the past.

Actress Johanne Louise Heiberg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) is helping Councillor Monrad (Nicolas Bro) to overcome his fear of speaking to a crowd, with him enlisting her help.

This is a Danish drama of love in the time of war that reaches across eras to connect individual lives, confront a nation’s trauma, and examine the events of an epic war that formed the self-image of Denmark. Director Ole Bornedal read the letters of the soldiers to create a factual fairy tale. This was originally shot as a feature film and is now available as eight episodes. Bornedal has brought together the top acting talent of the current golden era of Denmark’s film and television for this project.

“A FISH CALLED WANDA”— A Very Funny Movie

“A Fish Called Wanda”

A Very Funny Movie

Amos Lassen

“A Fish Called Wanda” is the funniest movie I have seen in a long time and I believe that is because it is so meanspirited. Hollywood can make comedies about mean people (usually portrayed as the heroes), but only the British able to use the sins of vanity, greed and lust for comedic purposes. “A Fish Called Wanda” is sort of a mid-Atlantic production, with teamwork between its two American stars (Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline) and its British stars (John Cleese and Michael Palin). This is essentially a late-1950s-style British comedy in which the Americans do and say all of the things that would be appalling to the British characters.

Charles Crichton directed and co-wrote it with Cleese. Crichton understands why it is usually funnier to not say something, and let the audience know what is not being said. The characters have venal, selfish, shameful traits and he uses these to embarrass them. The movie involves an odd, ill-matched team of jewel thieves whose leader is Tom Georgeson, a weasel of a person who gets locked up in prison after a heist and with him is along with the secret of the jewels. On the outside, Palin, Kline and Curtis plot with and against each other with a great deal depending on Curtis’ attempts to seduce several key defense secrets out of Cleese.

There is one funny moment after another and some scenes are classic farce. Timing is everything and these actors have it down pat. I rarely laugh aloud but I did so here all through the film. Cleese’s screenplay has had audiences on both sides of the Atlantic laughing and the actors are all terrific. and no wonder. Kevin Kline was never better than in his Oscar-winning portrayal of Otto, the philosophy-quoting psychopath. Michael Palin is brilliant as stuttering fish-lover Ken. Jamie Lee Curtis is excellent as a triple-crossing seductress Wanda. And then Cleese, himself, as the pompous defense barrister Archie Leach is amazing. Just the name Archie Leach should bring some laughs. The supporting cast is also excellent all around.

The jokes come fast and we love the stereotyped portrayal of English self-importance and snobbery. All of these elements come together to give us one of the finest comedies ever. You just have to picture

Kevin Kline eating live goldfish, Michael Palin driving a steamroller and John Cleese naked. “A Fish Called Wanda” was nominated for three Academy Awards and Kline won as outstanding supporting actor as the psychopathic Otto. The film has stood the test of time and is as funny now as when it first came out in 1988.

Bonus materials include:

  • Brand-new 4K restoration from the original negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original English mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Commentary by writer and star John Cleese
  • Brand-new appreciation by Vic Pratt of the BFI National Archive
  • Brand-new interviews with composer John Du Prez, production designer Roger Murray-Leach, executive producer Steve Abbott and makeup supervisor Paul Engelen
  • John Cleese’s Final Farewell Performance, a 1988 documentary on the making of A Fish Called Wanda featuring interviews with actors Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin, Kevin Kline and director Charles Crichton
  • Something Fishy, a 15th anniversary retrospective documentary featuring interviews with Cleese, Curtis, Kline and Palin, executive producer Steve Abbott and director of photography Alan Hume
  • Fish You Were Here, a documentary on the film’s locations hosted by Robert Powell
  • 24 deleted/alternative scenes with introductions by Cleese
  • A Message from John Cleese, a tongue-in-cheek introduction recorded for the film’s original release
  • Gallery
  • Trivia track
  • Theatrical trailer

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring writing on the film by Sophie Monks Kaufman

“ATTACK FORCE Z”— A Secret Mission

“Attack Force Z”

A Secret Mission

Amos Lassen

Director Tim Burstall’s 1981 film “Attack Force Z” is the story of a group of Australian commandos launch a secret mission against Japanese forces in World War II. The script was based on a real-life commando rescue raid, Project Opossum, where a team of commandos rescued the local sultan on the Japanese-held island of Ternate near . The film features Mel Gibson and Sam Neill at the early stages of their careers.

ATTACK FORCE Z, Sam Neill, Mel Gibson, 1982

On January 10, 1945, a group of commandos, led by Australian Capt. Paul Kelly (Mel Gibson), go by sub to the coast of China, where they’re to rescue the occupants of a plane that’s recently been shot down. The plane crashed on a remote island currently that was controlled by the Japanese Imperial Army and on board was an emissary who could end the war, but getting him out won’t be easy. With Dutch Lt. Jan Veitch (John Philip Law) acting as interpreter, Capt. Kelly and his men: Sgt. Danny Costello (Sam Neill), Sub Lt. Ted King (John Waters), and Seaman Sparrer Bird (Chris Haywood), manage to make their way to shore under cover of darkness with the hope of winning the trust of the Chinese villagers, who may prove useful in determining the whereabouts of the downed plane.

They luckily meet Lin Chan-Yang (Koo Chuan Hsuing), the leader of a local resistance who despises the Japanese (they had been responsible for the death of his wife). Leaving his younger children in the care of daughter Chien Hua (Sylvia Chang), Lin Chan-Yang agrees to guide Captain Kelly and the others to the wreckage. Following a skirmish with Japanese forces, Lt. Veitch is separated from the group and makes his way back to Lin’s house, where he strikes up a relationship with Chien Hau. But now that the Japanese know they’re on the island, it may be impossible for the commandos to complete their mission. In fact, there’s a good chance none of them will make it out alive.

We see several well-choreographed battle scenes, the best of which is the movie’s final act. There really is nothing special here but when taken as a whole, the movie is entertaining.

Bonus Material includes:

  • Brand new 4K scan and restoration from the film’s inter-positive
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original uncompressed dual channel mono audio
  • ‘The Two-Men Debriefed’ (SD, 25 mins) featurette with executive producer John McCallum and actors John Waters and Chris Haywood
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Photo Gallery

“THE MAN FROM EARTH”— A Tale from the Past

“The Man from Earth”

A Tale from the Past

Amos Lassen

An impromptu goodbye party for Professor John Oldman becomes a mysterious interrogation after the he shares with his colleagues that he has had a longer and stranger past than they can imagine.

“The Man from Earth” is an intriguing cerebral psychological sci-fi yarn intensely which was written by noted sci-fi writer Jerome Bixby. The film plays nice mind games with its shocking premise of a modern-day man of science being an ageless man from the Stone Age. Director Richard Schenkman filmed the movie as if a TV show. There are no sci-fi special effects that we expect in a sci-fi film. There is also an intrusive musical score that often overwhelmed the dialogue. Yet, the amazing narrative easily overcomes these shortcomings.

Professor John Oldman (David Lee Smith) is a respected science professor who summons a group of close school associates on a chilly day to his country cabin to say goodbye and tell them that he is just moving on after being with them for the past 10 years. Naturally they are curious about his reasons for doing so and he decides to tell them the truth, something he’s never done before. He knows his story is so outrageous that it will surely startle and may frighten them. John asks them to believe he lived in the Cro-Magnon era and has stayed alive without dying or aging for some 14,000 years. He states that he moves on every ten years because he doesn’t want people to get suspicious when they notice he doesn’t seem to age.

Naturally, the men of science begin to doubt his sanity. They talk about such things as historical events, famous artists he ran into from other centuries  and how he survived the black plague. When the talk turns to religion, he reveals he was Jesus but a worldlier one from the Bible, who never died on the cross because he learned from Buddha how to quiet the pain through meditation.

This tale is much more than the group can take. The college psychiatrist (Richard Riehle) threatens to have him committed unless he relents. The motorcyclist, book writer and archaeologist (William Katt) is livid. The mild-mannered anthropologist (Tony Todd) is stunned and just wants the truth. The biologist (John Billingsley) is offended he’s being taking for a fool and the devoted Christian (Ellen Crawford) feels hurt that John has debunked the King James version of the New Testament and she demands an apology. The only ones who are not angry are the archaeologist’s college student girlfriend (Alexis Thorpe) teacher and John’s sweet college office girl girlfriend (Annika Peterson).

 

This is a believe it or not tale that is sincere, provocative, engaging and has a great script and the right person playing the mystical lead. We all love to think about the question of “what if…?” and here it comes in the form of what if a Cro-Magnon man from the Upper Paleolithic era was still around today, having witnessed the growth of humanity from its very origins to its place in the world 140 centuries later? We get a new look at many of the assumptions and beliefs we have today based on our current understanding of science, history and religion. These disciplines that are turned on their heads when Oldman unexpectedly tells his colleagues that he has decided to leave his post and move on.

 

After learning why, his fellow faculty members are intrigued by the intellectual challenge the idea presents and going along with the idea out of curiosity to see where it leads so they push Oldman further into revealing what he has experienced over the millennia. Oldman certainly knows his facts as well as the anecdotal stories he provides that can neither be proved nor disproved. This is essentially is where the film succeeds— in the intellectual exercise of imagining the world as a very different place from the one we know, and thereby causing us to question whether we even really know and understand the world we live in today.

What we see is that beliefs we take for granted and accept as truths may not necessarily be so. We only know as much as our modern society has grown to accept, and that even the most intelligent people on earth don’t like having their beliefs challenged, and don’t necessarily want to know the truth. “The Man From Earth” challenges not only religion and creationism, but also history and Darwinism, warning us never to rest on easy assumptions and comfortable ideas that support our preconceived beliefs, but to remain open-minded and tolerant.

For this new special edition release, the producers have prepared an all-new HD master that improves upon the previously released versions on Blu-ray and DVD.

Both the Blu-ray and DVD will include the following special features:

  • Combo pack with will include both the High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation (1.78:1) of the main feature
  • Original 2.0 Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray) and Dolby Digital 5.1 mix
  • Brand new feature-length retrospective documentary “The Man From Earth: Legacy” (HD, 88 mins) chronicling the history and the phenomenon of the film with all-new interviews with the director, producers and the cast
  • Audio Commentary with Producer / Director Richard Schenkman and Actor John Billingsley
  • Audio Commentary with Executive Producer Emerson Bixby and Author / Sci-Fi Scholar Gary Westfahl
  • “From Script To Screen” (2007 featurette) [2:15, SD]
  • “Star Trek: Jerome Bixby’s Sci-Fi Legacy” (2007 featurette) [3:28, SD]
  • “On The Set” (2007 featurette) [4:00, SD]
  • “The Story of the Story” (2007 featurette) [2:13, SD]
  • Original Theatrical Trailer [SD]
  • The Man From Earth: Holocene Teaser Trailer [HD]
  • The “mini-short” film “Contagion” (2016) [:30, HD] from the producers and director of The Man From Earth (Richard Schenkman and Eric D. Wilkinson) starring William Katt.
  • Before / After comparison of the brand new HD digital restoration of the feature film
  • Photo Gallery  

“CHILDREN OF THE CORN”— A Cult of Children

“Children of the Corn”

A Cult of Children

Amos Lassen

We have had many cult films in the horror genre over the years but if there is one film that got the idea of cults correct it was 1984’s “Children of the Corn”. The film uses the cult as both subject matter and a cultural value. This is a strange film with a unique atmosphere and dated special effects yet there is a sense of nostalgia when “Children of the Corn” begins.

The opening provides some of the creepiest moments in the film. Director Fritz Kiersch gives us night of fear that few (including himself) have been able to match. We are in the small town of Gatlin, a place surrounded by farmland and little else. We watch as a group of adults sit in a coffee shop and all seems fine. But then, we see Isaac (John Franklin) fills the screen and suddenly children launch an attack on their elders with butcher knives and scythes. They proceed to chop up the coffee shop patrons and blood is everywhere.

Three years pass and Burt Stanton (Peter Horton) and Vicky (Linda Hamilton) are on their way through the American countryside with the intention of starting a new life for themselves. However, their plans are cut short when they hit a boy on the road. We see that he was already dying; his throat had been slit. This takes them into Gatlin, where the streets are deserted and adults are nowhere to be found. They soon discover Isaac’s religious regime – a cult that worships “He who walks behind the rows”, and who treat the corn fields as their playground and any outsider will be killed, or offered as a sacrifice.

Horror fans will enjoy the film for what it offers – a creepy premise, a few decent kills. It succeeds more than it fails, and is probably better than many of the slasher pictures made during its era. Despite the ending, Children of the Corn remains a cult classic.

Though not entertaining in the traditional sense, the film defies the cliché central to film making that children are innocent until corrupted by experience, education, sexual activity, or any of the other things that Puritanical values hold in contempt. Here the titular Children open up an idyllic scene of small town Americana, where people ready themselves for a day of clean, honest work in a coffeehouse, and are quickly and efficiently butchered by the village teenagers. The adults are knifed, axed or given a hefty dose of lye in the coffee. The scene is appalling in every sense with children bringing on death.

Adults tend to forget what kids can be like – they are every bit as capable of brutality as any adult, limited only by their income and the reach of their arms. Does this mean that children are evil by default, and require intelligent and reasonable parents to prevent them from becoming murderers? It is something to think about.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 91

Bonus Materials include:

  • Brand new 2K restoration from the original negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original Mono and 5.1 Audio Options
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new audio commentary with John Sullivan of childrenofthecornmovie.com and horror journalist Justin Beahm
  • Audio commentary with director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains
  • Harvesting Horror: The Making of Children of the Corn – retrospective piece featuring interviews with director Fritz Kiersch and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains
  • It Was the Eighties! – an interview with actress Linda Hamilton
  • Return to Gatlin – brand new featurette revisiting the film’s original Iowa shooting locations
  • Stephen King on a Shoestring – an interview with producer Donald Borchers
  • Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights and Sounds of Children of the Corn – an interview with production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias
  • Feeling Blue – an interview with the actor who played “The Blue Man” in the fabled excised sequence
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
  • FIRST PRESSING: Collectors booklet featuring new writing in the film.

“DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING”— Hunting a Killer

“Don’t Torture A Duckling”

Hunting a Killer

Amos Lassen

Lucio Fulci’s “Don’t Torture a Duckling” takes place in a rural Italian village where young boys turn up dead and the authorities are stumped as to who the murderer is. A reporter goes on the hunt for the killer but more kids are murdered while the search for the murderer continues. A sexually liberated young woman from Milan, a local witch, and the village idiot all fall under suspicion until the killer is uncovered. Fulci looks at the superstition and ignorance of the villagers as being as dangerous and destructive as the murderer himself. There is vehement anti-Catholic sentiment here and this made the film controversial at the time of its release (1972).

When the sleepy rural village of Accendura is rocked by a series of murders of young boys, the superstitious locals are quick to find blame. The suspects include the local “witch”, Maciara (Florinda Bolkan). With the bodies piling up and the community in a state of panic and thirsty for bloody vengeance, two outsiders, city journalist Andrea (Tomas Milian) and spoiled rich girl Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet) team up to solve the case. However, before the mystery is solved, more blood is spilled and not all of it belonging is from innocent people.

Using many of the conventions of giallo films, (strange characters with shady motivation, violent murders), Fulci turned the genre upside down, getting away from the urban stalker motif that was popular at the time. A number of suspects include from crazy peeping toms to secretive witches, all the way back to a beautiful young woman who is a little to close for comfort with some of the victims. As the police stumble about looking for clues, our pair finally discover the shocking truth of the killer and his motivations and there was plenty of mayhem along the way.

The film works so well because of the quick pace, excellent cinematography and excellent performances. The characters are typical of the giallo cinema and violence is on full show here with the death of one of the main suspects leaving a longtime impression on the viewer.

For it’s first half, “Duckling” is an excellent but fairly standard giallo but once the sub-plot of Martiara kicks in, it really takes off and becomes incredibly moving. Martiara is actually convinced that she has killed all of the children herself with witchcraft and this is a claim that leads to tragedy when a gang of superstitious vigilantes corner her in a graveyard and take their revenge by clubbing and whipping her to death with chains. The violence is uncompromisingly depicted in all its repulsiveness. Fulci’s pessimistic worldview is expressed eloquently in this scene.

 Bonus Materials include:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
  • English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
  • The Blood of Innocents, a new video discussion with Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film
  • very (Wo)man Their Own Hell, a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger
  • Interviews with co-writer/director Lucio Fulci, actor Florinda Bolkan, cinematographer Sergio D’Offizi, assistant editor Bruno Micheli and assistant makeup artist Maurizio Trani
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Timothy Pittides

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and Howard Hughes

“THE GHOUL”— A New Kind of Thriller

“The Ghoul”

A  New Kind of Thriller

Amos Lassen

“The Ghoul” is the debut feature of actor-turned-director Gareth Tunley. Chris (Tom Meeten) is a homicide detective who has been called to London to investigate a strange double murder. Both victims have multiple gunshots to the face and chest. On a hunch, and with the help of an old colleague and former girlfriend, Kathleen (Alice Lowe), Chris goes undercover as a patient to investigate the suspect’s psychotherapist, Alexander Morland, who has a taste for the occult.

Chris is a man who appears to be slightly out of the loop of everyday policing but has a keen eye for obscure cases. After tracking down the only connection he can connect, property manager of the house, they discover that his flat is full of suspicious details including names, diagrams and evidence of drug use.

The movie is all about Chris’ well-being and possible loss of mind and we start to question his entire role. Psychotherapist Helen Fisher (Niamh Cusack) does not realize is that Chris is an undercover police detective merely feigning mental illness to access the files on another of her patients, Michael Coulson (Rufus Jones). Chris is helped by his investigative partner Jim and psychological profiler Kathleen as he tries to identify the killer but first he must find the elusive Coulson, a ‘ghoul’ – someone unhealthily obsessed with crime scenes.

Or perhaps, Chris is a chronic depressive who merely daydreams about being a detective on a case, and who regularly visits psychotherapist Fisher to talk about his unhappiness and alienation. Kathleen is an old friend from university in Manchester whose obliviousness to Chris’s love for her is at the root of his problems. Jim is his best friend – and Kathleen’s long-term boyfriend. And Coulson is another patient of Fisher’s, whose particular condition makes a toxic mix with Chris’s.

We have two ways to understand this film. From early on it is clear – and meant to be clear – which is the master narrative and which is the other, “the decision to present and interweave both through Chris’s perspective ensures that fantasy continues to contaminate the most grounded of sequences, and vice versa.”

When Fisher becomes ill, she entrusts her patient Chris (and Coulson) to the care of her semi-retired colleague and mentor Alexander Morland (Geoff McGivern), a jovial and unconventional therapist who takes a ‘whatever works’ approach to his sessions (including metaphors of magic), Morland is the one who articulates, however obliquely, the film’s structure.

The premise is that at the crime scene, a pair of bodies had continued to move after being fatally shot in the head. Despite the title, “The Ghoul” is not a horror movie — rather, it’s scary in the manner of David Lynch films, with the chills coming from a nightmarish repurposing of the mundane or suburban. I cannot say anymore about the plot without ruining the viewing experience so I will stop here. The special features include:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

Original uncompressed 5.1 audio

Optional English subtitles for the hard-of-hearing

Filmmakers’ commentary

Interviews with the cast and crew

The Baron, a 2013 short film by Gareth Tunley, starring Tom Meeten and Steve Oram (Aaaaaaaah!, Sightseers)

Trailer

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring writing on the film by Adam Scovell, author of Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange.

“TOMORROW NEVER AFTER”— Back in Time

“Tomorrow Never After”

Back in Time

Amos Lassen

Shaina (Ela Thier) is a historian from the year 2592 who ends up back in 2015 after accidentally traveling back in time. She wanders the streets of Manhattan and is friendly with everyone—even with Milton, (Nabil Vinas), a man who tries to mug her. The only way that she can communicate with the future is through a card that she refers to as her implement. Apparently, it can serve many functions including withdrawing money from an ATM which she happily gives to Milton. She unexpectedly develops a friendship with Milton whose girlfriend, Imani (Ebbe Bassey), doesn’t quite like her. With the help of Milton’s roommate, Rudy (Matthew Murumba), Shaina tries to locate physicists who can repair her implement so that she go back to the future.

I am not a science fiction fan at all but this movie pulled me in immediately. It is fresh and inventive and while we do not learn a great deal about Shaina, we do learn that there is no more famine, depression or other ailments and that compassion has replaced hostility between people. As a historian, Shaina had read a lot about 2015 and seen some of its gadgets. The first part of the film focuses on how her very different thoughts and behavior clash with the society of 2015. Ela Thier as Shaina has terrific comedic timing and panache.

However, to uptight 21st-century people, she is very tactile, embraces strangers, holds hands, c and constantly strokes arms and shoulders. She doesn’t understand that her first encounter is a mugging and she hugs her assailant, Milton, as soon as he approaches her, and happily accompanies him to an ATM, where she uses her “implement”, a futuristic iPhone, to withdraw money for him. He ends up alternately assisting Shaina and attempting to steal her device. Meanwhile, Shaina receives clues about physicists who could repair her device and allow her to return home.

All of this might be profoundly silly if it weren’t built around Thier’s dignity and gentle humor. Writer-director-editor Ela Thier instead gives us a suggestion of vision of a world where people live in communal peace. Shania greets 2015 with openhearted wonder and dismay. She approaches every stranger with a hug and an earnest entreaty for help but the only person who engages with Shaina is a mugger and she’s more than happy to assist him with his need for cash, money being obsolete where she comes from and this gives her an anthropological thrill of seeing these antiquities in action while Milton gets the financial thrill of seeing her “implement,” a shape-shifting, multifunctional device, extract money from an ATM.

In her quest to get back to the future, Shaina relies on the kindness of strangers, and is amazed and saddened to see how neighbors, co-workers and even lovers are strangers to one another. She doesn’t understand why people aren’t closer and “touchy feely”. Shaina’s way of life might not look like utopia for those of us who need our space, but there are rich tradeoffs in the world that Thier has imagined. There is no need for national borders, personal property or money, people take care of one another, enjoy health and well being and an average lifespan of 160 years.

“Tomorrow Ever After,” has the hopeful message that somehow, the world just might end up a better place.

“NOCTURAMA”— A Tense Thriller

“Nocturama”

A Tense Thriller

Amos Lassen

Bertrand Bonello’s “Nocturama” open with nearly a dozen Parisian youths, without a clear sense of destination, boarding and exiting a series of trains. The scenes set in a shopping mall later that night lend significance, to this as when Yacine (Hamza Meziani), who’s been wearing a Nike shirt and sneakers all day, comes to a mannequin wearing the identical outfit. What we soon realize is that we are seeing a society so consumed by the digital that young people are unable to separate “likes” from radical politics.

The film then goes back in time to show the characters’ plans to commit a series of bombings and shootings across Paris. David (Finnegan Oldfield) is the mastermind for this and he along with pal Greg (Vincent Rottiers) and girlfriend Sarah (Laure Valentinelli), conceive of the plot as a response to a general discontent with France’s current state of affairs. They seem partially educated about revolutions and their suppression (we see and hear Greg casually explain to Sarah over coffee the significance of Pinochet’s regime in Chile, as well as the tools used during a silent coup in Greece). From the perspective of these clearly bourgeois minds (that have had not experienced violence in their lives), the prospect of a behind-the-scenes uprising is very attractive.

In his dorm room, David scrolls through pages detailing the Parisian overthrow of Charles X in 1830 and reports his findings to Sarah as she sits on the bed, only half-listening to him as she does some unrelated internet surfing of her own. We see that technology and public space’s construction around such technology affords the luxury of feeling proximate to political action without actual, empirical knowledge of it and this is the central irony of this film. The use of mediated communication in almost every scene, gives us a clear sense of how technology keeps getting closer and closer to replacing human consciousness.

In the mall, Bonello executes a series of carefully orchestrated sequences that progressively tease out the ways in which pop culture latches onto the minds of unsuspecting youths. Omar (Rabah Nait Oufella), having recently executed the remaining mall security staff, is amazed by the building’s sound system and he lip syncs a song that is being played on it. His mimicking gestures are evidence of how feeling and sincerity are made interchangeable with fantasy when music becomes a cornerstone of cultural knowledge.

The real strength of “Nocturama” is in its acknowledgement that no single line of thought or critique can ever explain the range of complexities inherent to a given historical scenario. While the film’s teenage characters prove incapable of envisioning their actions beyond the present moment, Bonello never looks at morality or moralism. A group of police officers, in heavy armor and with high-caliber weaponry, remain hidden by shields throughout a final series of events that makes clear the vulgar rationale inherent to forms of law enforcement in which criminals and terrorists, even if they’re teenagers, deserve no more than to be slaughtered.

The possibility of a sense of self, or political mobilization of one’s own body, we see, has been co-opted by the implicit idea of postmodern culture: feel good, or feel nothing. The anonymity and youth works perfectly to do what it’s set out to do. As the young people rush around taking trains hither and yon in the disquieting, opening sequences, we sense their energy. We know that they are planning something but until it happens we have no idea of what it is. When it’s over, things tend to go wrong. But the question is how. Each one must transcend the tradition in his own way. We see the strange, subtle, drawn-out disintegration, staged in a large, old, extremely posh Paris department store where the young terrorists mysteriously assemble, and hide, and wait all night.

Bonello focuses on the way that the group circumvents added hurdles of technological surveillance while still remaining connected through phones. Instead of sending texts that might trigger red flags on automatic monitors, for example, the youth take and send photos of meeting locations, creating collages meaningless to those who don’t know what they signify. But the bombings themselves are clearly symbolic, targeting the Ministry of the Interior, the Paris business district, and a bronze statue of Joan of Arc, the latter of which melts in an eerie reenactment of the martyr’s execution.

After the suspenseful setup of the attack, the radicals hide out in the abandoned La Samaritaine department store, where luxury boutiques still reside. With the action is confined to the mall for the remainder of the running time, the satire comes with the characters burning off energy by window shopping through the store.

The implication is that today’s youth cannot take themselves apart from the capitalist system they claim they hate. The climax comes with the police tracking down the bombers and conducting a shoot-first-ask-questions later raid. In this brutal response of authority, Bonello gives a mirror image of the young radicals’ own actions.