• Seeds

    Seeds

    ★★

    I don’t find exploitation films as inherently aesthetically repellant as I once did, but I’ve yet to find one that doesn’t grow painfully monotonous after about 20 minutes. This one is intermittently visually interesting and the acting is surprisingly good, but that’s all that really kept my attention.

  • No Time to Die

    No Time to Die

    ★★★½

    Might topple Casino Royale as my favorite Bond film. It’s consistently engaging, taking a page out of Mission: Impossible’s book and devoting less time to the convoluted plotting—though not ditching it entirely—and focusing more on the characters and entertaining set pieces. It’s burdened with the narrative baggage of other, worse Bond films, but Fukunaga brings all the threads together in a satisfying (if not totally neat) way, even introducing a new villain without dragging the film down with more laborious…

  • The Howling

    The Howling

    ★★½

    Some cool, gnarly special effects, but not much else worked for me. After a pretty effective and tense opening, the second act grinds the momentum to a halt, and things get very silly from there.

  • They Live

    They Live

    ★★★½

    The last of Carpenter's '80s output I hadn't caught up with, and it ranks up there with Christine as one of his best. Still not head over heels, but it mostly works as intended: fun, energetic, and surprisingly packs a thematic punch in the third act. Keith David is always excellent, but Rowdy Roddy Piper shockingly steals the show.

  • Run

    Run

    ★★★

    Did not care for Chaganty's direction of Searching, but Run is a major step up in terms of execution. The plot is painfully predictable, but the breakneck pacing more than compensates. Like a satisfying airport novel—momentarily thrilling, but disposable.

  • Hill of Freedom

    Hill of Freedom

    ★★★

    Might have been a mistake making Right Now, Wrong Then my introduction to Hong, because, without that film's brilliant structural conceit, I've found it difficult to acclimate to his modest stories and filmmaking style. This one is charming and sweet, but I'm determined to check out several others from him, hoping for another gem.

  • The Day of the Beast

    The Day of the Beast

    ★★★½

    A fast-paced black comedy about a priest determined to commit as many crimes as he can as part of a convoluted, desperate attempt to save the world on Christmas Eve. A gleefully deranged and eccentric journey through Madrid, and a welcomed addition to the Christmas Canon (or the first entry in the Antichristmas Canon).

  • Lux Æterna

    Lux Æterna

    ★★★½

    It's slight for Noé, but I love his playful, chaotic energy, and movies about stressful/cursed film sets (Inland Empire, Irma Vep) are like crack to me.

  • Ken Park

    Ken Park

    ★★★★

    I'm ashamed that I skipped this based on its reputation for controversy and hollow provocation, because, as with a lot of my favorite films (The Brown Bunny leaps to mind especially), it's a complete mischaracterization which dismisses the film's emotional honesty, tenderness, and sense of compassion for the characters. A heartbreaking, raw portrait of disaffected youth.

  • VHS 94

    VHS 94

    ★½

    During the first proper segment, I thought to myself "well, the first one is never great, this is probably just the worst of them." It turned out to be the best one by far. The two closing entries are particularly atrocious, amateurish, and overlong; it's like watching film students put together a highlight reel of them playing with squibs for an hour. Shockingly, this isn't even as bad as V/H/S: Viral, but any hope I had for the series returning to the heights of V/H/S/2 are now completely dashed.

  • Prince of Darkness

    Prince of Darkness

    ★★★

    Of course I would watch this right after praising Carpenter for his "lean pacing." When it does finally take off, it rips, but it takes an hour to get there.

  • Big Trouble in Little China

    Big Trouble in Little China

    ★★★

    This seems to serve as the template for the kind of "fun" '80s action/adventure movies with over-the-top action and non-stop quips that I really dislike, though Russell's actually charismatic and cool enough to sell the one-liners that would normally make me groan. It's more or less what I'd expected, but in going through some of the Carpenter films I hadn't seen, I've grown to really appreciate his lean pacing—with this one emulating Raiders of the Lost Ark's "trim all the fat" blockbuster sensibilities.