billhsu has written 107 reviews for films rated ★★★½ .

  • Anything for Jackson

    Anything for Jackson

    ★★★½

    Horror movies with humorous touches usually don't work for me. But this is great fun and nicely done. Excellent performances from Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings as the sometimes scary, sometimes dotty old couple, and Josh Cruddas as the socially inept occultist who still lived with mom. The decontextualized family dynamics and homilies are hilarious (well, I thought they were), and the occult rituals are messy and over-the-top. The ending is satisfying.

  • Smithereens

    Smithereens

    ★★★½

    I don't know what took me so long to see this. Thanks to BeBraveMorvern for another fine vintage item. This scratches many of my '80s NY itches: the downtown cast, 3 Teens Kill 4 on the Peppermint Lounge marquee, my favorite Richard Hell song on the soundtrack, all the shots of crumbling NYC. There are many smart, funny moments in the script, and deft camerawork in confined spaces.

    And if Brad Rijn is following me around like a lost puppy, you bet I'll hold his gun.

  • The Fabric of You

    The Fabric of You

    ★★★½

    I have reservations about the story, but the animation and the ending especially are beautifully done.

    Available at vimeo.com/542610281

  • Punk the Capital: Building a Sound Movement

    Punk the Capital: Building a Sound Movement

    ★★★½

    This was great fun. And for the most part, there were reasonable captions identifying speakers (and their affiliations) and bands.

  • Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters

    Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters

    ★★★½

    It's fascinating to watch Crewdson's process, though I'm not sure his commentary on his own work is particularly illuminating.

  • Tell Me Lies

    Tell Me Lies

    ★★★½

    Not all of this dates well of course (the political conversations could probably be trimmed somewhat). But there are many thoughtful moments, and some clever scenes, including the very '60s swinging London musical numbers. (I didn't know there were gay bars in Saigon during the war. No, the tour guides today don't tell you this.)

    Recently available at worldscinema.org; that copy is watchable but the quality could be better. The soundtrack could also use some cleaning up. The runtime is somewhat shorter than the 118 minutes promised here.

  • Hotel

    Hotel

    ★★★½

    Another tense, cryptic item from Rock Hyrax's feed. The main character Irene is often the only character in the frame, despite all the hubbub around her, emphasizing her isolation, She wanders through uncomfortable social situations, has truncated exchanges, and walks into darkness. A subdued and abstract electronic score adds to the suspense and non-resolution.

  • Cold Meridian

    Cold Meridian

    ★★★½

    I never thought it might be fascinating to watch a woman getting shampooed. But then I'd never seen that filmed by Peter Strickland.

  • X-Communication

    X-Communication

    ★★★½

    I usually associate director Marc Huestis with vapid feel-good gay fodder. But apparently he used to make interesting shorts, and collaborated with industrial bands.

    Here:
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bGdIPr1LE0&t=377s

  • The Man Who Sold His Skin

    The Man Who Sold His Skin

    ★★★½

    There are quite a few problematic details. But this poses interesting questions in thoughtful ways.

  • Bluebeard

    Bluebeard

    ★★★½

    This was an enjoyable thriller, with many sly touches of black humor and over-the-top coincidences, especially in the first hour. The final entrapment sequence was overly extended, but had me starting to doubt my reading right up to the final scenes. Now I wonder what I've said under anesthesia.

    [Thanks to Geoffrey Broomer for the tip.]

  • The Tangle

    The Tangle

    ★★★½

    I've been waiting for this to become available; spotted the poster and the trailer at Another Hole In The Head 2019, but couldn't make the screening. This is definitely worth the wait. (Why is distribution for adventurous indie genre films so sketchy? Precarious (letterboxd.com/billhsu/film/precarious-2020/) was my favorite for AHITH 2020, and still not on any of the common streaming platforms ARGH.)

    The Tangle is a science fiction noir, with lots of visual nods to noir interiors and lighting. The concept…