Feist, Sandel, Singer, Stoller, West

In the Valley of Violence (Ti West, 2016). As an enthusiastic fan of Ti West’s early excursions into affectionately knowing spins on the horror genre, I had high hopes for his stab at the Western, the most venerable of Hollywood genres. In the Valley of Violence is serviceable, but it lacks the spark of vitality required to give it a true reason for being. Part of the problem is the hoariness of the premise, which West never manages to transcend with either reinvention of panache. A wandering, wounded soul (Ethan Hawke) seeks revenge in a dusty town presided over by a Marshal … Continue reading Feist, Sandel, Singer, Stoller, West

Donahue, Hitchcock, Lang, Scorsese and Tedeschi, West

The Sacrament (Ti West, 2014). Following a couple elegant, artful horror features, West finally goes where all modern directors with a propensity to scare must. The Sacrament is a “found footage” that relies on the conceit of a couple Vice News reporters who tag along when a fashion photographer acquaintance goes looking for his sister, who has become a resident with a cult-like commune that has recently relocated to a remote area in South America. The plot draws heavily on the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, right down to the notorious beverage of choice when it comes time to draw the experiment … Continue reading Donahue, Hitchcock, Lang, Scorsese and Tedeschi, West

Spectrum Check

I was all over the place at Spectrum Culture this week. First of all, I had a piece in the music section, reviewing something that was definitely outside of my usual range. The super-secret DVD backstory of this review is that I wrote it while flat in my back while suffering with an ailment that really needs not be elaborated upon. You should appreciate my discretion, believe me. I also reviewed the new film from director Ti West, which I actually made a point of requesting months in advance. For one thing, I have a marital obligation to get horror … Continue reading Spectrum Check

Brooks, Haskin, Ritt, West, Zinnemann

From the Earth to the Moon (Byron Haskin, 1958). In some respects, this is a bit of sci-fi fancifulness typical of the era when imagining trips to the moon was a common cinematic endeavor. The film is distinguished by the fact that it doesn’t imagine a bold future, instead reaching back to the distant past for its interplanetary adventure. It adapts an 18th century Jules Verne novel, sticking with the era of its publication. This means American entrepreneurs enriched by profits generated during the Civil War pulling together an unlikely launch into space. The action is turgid and the characterization … Continue reading Brooks, Haskin, Ritt, West, Zinnemann

Gilbert, Psihoyos, Tarantino, Tyrnauer, West

Valentino: The Last Emperor (Matt Tyrnauer, 2009). This documentary tags along with the legendary designer as he prepares for a gala anniversary celebration, one that is rumored, correctly, as a precursor to retirement. Tyrnauer is given broad access to Valentino as he works, and the camera catches interactions that hint at his brilliance and volatility. The glimpse of the fashion industry at its most grand comes across as either rapturously glamorous or decadently wasteful, depending on the point of view that you tote into the viewing with you. I suppose predispositions will equally shape reactions to the understanding portrayal of … Continue reading Gilbert, Psihoyos, Tarantino, Tyrnauer, West