Archive for December, 2016

Nova Seed – Nick DiLiberto – 2016

Posted in 2010's with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2016 by bookofdread

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What is Nova Seed? Nova seed is the most spectacular film of the year. It is a mind-melting cornucopia of psychedelic animation not seen since the early eighties. Films like Rock and Rule and Heavy Metal are obvious forebears, but there are nods to nearly everything from the era such as Masters Of The Universe, Thundercats, and GI Joe The Movie.

But unlike those commercials for soundtrack albums and action figures, Nick DiLiberto’s opus grande is built from the ground up out of his imagination, melding video games and cartoons from his cerebral cortex into a sight never seen before.

Gone is the slick mass produced animation that can only be harnessed by a firm of artists. DiLiberto drew every single frame of the picture and the passion shows. Camera angles whiz around characters mid free-fall, the artist not content to show his viewers anything less than the most cinematic approach.

The story concerns a half Lion man who escapes from a fascist regime who may be the only hope in stopping an evil necromancer from destroying the Earth with the help of a powerful weapon/(individual) called The Nova Seed.

The film hurtles along like one long chase sequence, leaving little time for character asides or monologues. However, characters are frequently talking and characterization is often provided in the stellar voice work of, you guessed it, DiLiberto.

The villain, Doctor Mindskull is one for the ages. Part Skeletor, part Cobra Commander and part Mok, Mindskull is the ultimate reprobate, a mad scientist whose plan involves becoming a giant trash beast and wrecking shop.

Our hero, the Lion man NAC, (Nick?) is the strong silent type, but his animation is so heroic and charming, you can’t help but love the guy. Also, he’s putting his neck on the line for a world that wants him dead so he’s got that Snake Plissken element to him if Snake never talked and was a big Lion Man.

The action is non-stop. The aerial battles are clearly love letters to Miyazaki and produce a thrill that could only be improved with 3D. The big Kaiju action at the end is Toho inspired sequence that will leave any monsterphile giddy.

The soundtrack is an incredible confection of eighties sounding synth composed by some guy named Nick DiLiberto. It’s brilliant in it’s own right and makes the film a fever dream of adrenaline.

Here’s the best thing about Nova Seed. Because DiLiberto wrote, directed, voiced, and scored the thing, and because it’s animated, it’s about as close to falling into a single imagination as I have ever seen. There are no studio notes, nothing to fix. There are all rough edges and idiosyncrasies. It’s that special film that makes it from mind to screen as purely as possibly. We need more like it.

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R’XMAS – Abel Ferrara – 2001

Posted in 00's with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2016 by bookofdread

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Christmastime is a peculiar context for a kidnapping story, but in the hands of New York provocateur Abel Ferrara it’s not really that big a surprise. No stranger to the juxtaposition of religious atmosphere and illicit dealings, (Ms. 45, Mary, The Funeral), Ferrara uses these settings as a way to humanize his criminals. In a Ferrara picture someone is always looking for salvation.

Real life thug Lillo Brancato Jr. plays a drug-dealing husband who lives with his family in a Penthouse. He’s a bit dim witted, but clearly knows his game. Drea DeMateo plays his wife, clearly the brains and balls in the family business. They have a daughter and seem to live with two older ladies, maybe her mother and aunt. This Dominican family is very like any family at Christmas time, dancing, eating laughing.

The film begins at a kid’s school performance of A Christmas Carol. A little boy in a Lincoln beard plays Scrooge and walks by the homeless giving them money. I think we can read this as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Husband, (as he is referred to in the credits), got into the drug game most likely because he didn’t speak much English and he wanted to help his family back home. We hear his wife frequently refer to the money they send back to the Dominican Republic.

He films the play with a camcorder, as human a figure as you could ask for, we see him with his family, he seems normal until he tries to bribe a toy store employee with a wad of cash to get a doll for his daughter.

Come to find out, he’s a big time cocaine dealer. He visits a separate apartment where he meets associates who give him his cut of money. Another associate meets him, and leaves his cash with him over Christmas, because he thinks he’s being followed. This gentleman is the Ghost Of Christmas Present. He represents the paranoia and the walls closing in. If husband doesn’t quit the game, something bad is going to happen.

Something bad happens. The husband is kidnapped. Wife meets with Ice-T to discuss release. He demands all the money she has and she even finds the hidden money in the separate apartment and gives it to him. He demands that if he releases her husband that she do everything in her power to get him to quit selling drugs. She agrees. This guy is the Ghost Of Christmas Future. He’s showing her what will happen if they stay on this path.

But then comes the Abel Ferarra twist. Husband and wife discuss quitting the business. Finding a new way to earn. But she says she doesn’t want to take their daughter out of private school, and he says he wont live with her mother. Then, on TV she sees the man, arrested as part of a sting on corrupt NYD officers.

Finally, we see them at a fancy party. Some associates call the husband away to the alley. In the trunk of a car we see Ice-T with a bloody plastic bag around his head. The Ghost of Christmas future is dead.
What is Ferarra saying here? Who are the most identifiable or moral characters? The crooked cop? The immigrant drug-dealers? I’m supposed to be glad the lying cop is dead, but his argument about selling drugs to kids is also sound. Ferarra provides no easy answers. There is a card at the end about Rudolph Giuliani being elected Mayor and that the story would be continued, but I’m not sure it ever was. Clocking in at a brief 83 minutes the film feels a little light/incomplete, but still a unique effort.

Despite the normalcy the family strives for, it seems that Ferrara’s New York won’t be affording them it anytime soon. At least they all end up together, and that’s as close to a Merry X-Mas in this film as you are going to get.

Top films of 2015

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 21, 2016 by bookofdread

Top 20 films of 2015

20. Curtain – Hernri Jarron-Maccrae

I loved this little demon tale. Like an early Clive Barker story, Curtain executes deft world building then drops the characters in the drain.

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19. Maps To The Stars – David Cronenberg

Cronenberg’s first film shot in Hollywood is also his cruelest. Julianne Moore was never better.

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18. Baskin – Can Evrenol

Like a Lucio Fulci film directed by Clive Barker, this pitch black Verhovian satire will leave you seething at the bloodshed and licking your lips for more.

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17. Embers – Claire Carre

A heady sci-fi trip in which people have lost their long term memory leaves us with some of the most heart wrenching cinema of the year.

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16. Follow – Owen Egerton

To anyone who has ever had a love one threaten to leave you behind, Follow is a literate psychologically sound thriller that backs up your psycho exes most horrible promises.

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15. High Rise – Ben Wheatley

Hillarious and dark, years ago this spot would have belonged to Cronenberg, but Wheatley has become our preeminent satirist. Loads of psychedelic fun.

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14. Bone Tomahawk – Craig S. Zahler

Kurt Russell leads a stellar cast in this rare western horror. More like this please.

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13. Ant-Man – Peyton Reed

Marvel keeps the stakes small and the laughs big. Micro photography shows us the inside of a dirty bathtub like never before.

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12. Crimson Peak – Guillermo Del Toro

GDT makes a cautionary tale about beautiful liars aimed at tween hearts. As beautiful a Hammer film as anyone could wish to make, Crimson Peak is another gorgeous Del Toro experience.

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11. Furious 7 – James Wan

James Wan’s Road Warrior.

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10. Beasts Of No Nation – Cary Fukanaga

A tour de force by Idris Elba cements this beast of a film.

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9. T. I. M. – Rolf Van Eijk

The most Spielbergian film on this list and this list actually features a film by Spielberg. T.I.M. is maybe the best boy and his robot film ever.

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8. Bridge Of Spies – Steven Spielberg

Spielberg shows the USA the moral high ground we should maintain as a nation.

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7. Love – Gaspar Noe

The Maggot Brain scene alone is mind blowing. Nearly the sexiest film I’ve ever seen.

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6. Tikkun – Avishai Sivan

Indescribable. Like an Israeli Lynch film, Tikkun will leave you changed on the other side. A film about holding on loosely to your faith without letting go.

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5. Tangerine – Sean Baker

I never had more fun hanging out with characters this year. Special credit to James Ransone who is becoming the best unknown in the biz.

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4. Sicario – Denis Villenueve

As scary as this film is, the real thing is worse.

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3. The Witch – Robert Eggars

Best horror film of the decade.

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2. Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller

Miller shows he is one of the greatest filmmakers alive with a work that advances everything from gender roles to the filmic language.

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1. The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino

Tarantino explores Americas bloody embarrassing history in this Agatha Christie by way of John Carpenter western.

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