Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

The worst thing that ever happened to Peter Jackson was getting ahold of big budgets. When that happened, the gifted, snot-nosed indie director of the brilliant gore comedy Braindead (Dead Alive to us Yanks) and the unnerving psychological thriller Heavenly Creatures all but instantly forgot every damned thing that he ever knew about fleet storytelling. […]

The impetus behind the Red Riding trilogy was an intriguing one: take author David Peace’s epic quartet of novels concerning institutional corruption in Yorkshire from the years 1974 to 1983, set against the backdrop of real-life crime; arbitrarily ignore the novel that takes place in 1977; divide directing duties for the three remaining films among […]

There is a story told in the New York area about a man by the name of Cropsey. In some versions of the tale, he was a perfecetly sane man until a terrible accident left him crippled, while in others he was always a maniac; sometimes he has a knife and sometimes a hook in […]

After the befuddlement and irritation that greeted The Portrait of a Lady and Holy Smoke, 2003 saw Jane Campion receiving her worst reviews yet for In the Cut, a serial killer thriller adapted from the 1995 novel by Susanna Moore, who co-wrote the screenplay with Campion. The plot was too contrived and confused, we were […]

And now we come to an important moment indeed in the development of Michael Mann’s directorial personality: his first experiment with film vocabulary. In this latter part of his career, he’s become famous – infamous, in some circles – for being an arch-stylist, which is a simpler way of saying that he likes to bend […]

A review by request for reader Laurence C. from Canada. Admittedly, I’m stretching the definition of “classic” in this case beyond the beyond; even beyond the definition of “classic trash” that I’m indulging myself in for a few weeks. We’re talking about a film that came out in the summer of 2007, when this blog […]

After directing three of the finest American films of the decade and one extraordinarily close near-miss, Clint Eastwood was probably due for a stumble. And that’s really all that I think Changeling is, a stumble, and not even a bad one: there’s quite a lot to love about Eastwood’s treatment of the grim true story […]

I am certain that I saw Untraceable. I have the ticket stub right here, so I know I paid for it, and I can recall a couple of scenes that weren’t in the trailer. But the film itself just shot right through my brain without leaving more than a ghost in my memory. And that […]

As everybody knows, America is obsessed with killers. I shall prove this with the following two lists: -John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy -William B. Saxbe, Ramsey Clark, Richard Thornburgh, Edward Levi What do the four names in each set have in common? If you said “the first four are serial killers, […]

The Silence of the Lambs, released exactly sixteen years ago today, is almost certainly the finest American film about serial killers, because it’s not “about” serial killers. It’s about Clarice Starling, FBI trainee, and how she stared evil in the face in order to stop another evil. It’s somewhere between a fable and a character […]