Golly, what a busy month! In addition to the seven reviews below, I contributed three reviews to Cinema Axis’s coverage of Toronto’s Blood in the Snow horror-film fest (Black Mountain SideEjectaQueen of Blood); they’ve not been published yet, so I can’t link to them this month, but capsule reviews are below. Plus my guest appearance on Nick Jobe and Steve Honeywell’s FaceCast. I expect December will be a somewhat lighter month.

This month’s content

New or recent releases

Podcast guest appearances

FaceCast: “Episode 2.2: Sugar Magnolia” — I discuss Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Three Kings with Nick and Steve. The theme for the episode is “movies starring someone who is better known as a director, but who didn’t direct the movie.” (Respectively, that would have been François Truffaut and Spike Jonze.)

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Other movies I watched this month include…

A scene from THREE KINGS

Three Kings (David O. Russell, 1999)

Russell’s satirical take on Gulf War Episode I: amusing and often funny, reasonably insightful. Very good performances from the lead cast, particularly Mark Wahlberg, who was still Marky Mark back then. (Actually, he’ll always be Marky Mark to me.) There’s a bit of an emotional distance that kept me from fully engaging with it, though, and I was very much unimpressed by the film’s final act and its crowd-pleasing rah-rah Hollywood feel-goodness.

I guess the alternative would have been for the refugees to have been mowed down where they stood, though. I’m not sure that would have been a better ending, although it probably would have been more “realistic,” whatever that means. Incidentally, one of those refugees was Alia “Maeby Fünke” Shawkat.

My rating: Pro.

A scene from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KING

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)

If there are two types of people in the world–Star Wars people and Star Trek people–I’m a Close Encounters of the Third Kind person. With its flashing lights and ominous scenery, Richard Dreyfuss unhinged and one of John Williams’s less intrusive scores, this is everything a science-fiction popcorn film should be. Yes, it tends to meander–a lot–and there’s a lot of mean-spiritedness behind the portrayal of Teri Garr’s character, but at the end of it all this is still one of my all-time favorites.

My rating: Pro.

A scene from BLACK MOUNTAIN SIDE

Black Mountain Side (Nick Szostakiwskyj, 2014)

On the surface, this looks like nothing more than an homage to the Carpenter remake of The Thing. Take a deeper look, though, and you’ll find something more deeply unsettling than Carpenter’s nihilism: one of the most effective portrayals of the Lovecraftian ethos yet committed to film. And I don’t mean “throwing the Necronomicon in for shits and grins.” This is a film about man facing the cosmic and cracking like a day-old egg, because that’s what minds do when exposed to the truth. I will be shocked if this doesn’t end up making my year-end list.

My rating: Pro.

A scene from EJECTA

Ejecta (Chad Archibald & Matt Weile, 2014)

Pretty much every action-horror/alien-abduction cliché rolled into one. Like an X-Files episode might have been if it aired on HBO and had a Game of Thrones budget. And was one of the bad ones. The only good thing about it is Julian Richings in the lead role, but even he can’t save this turkey.

My rating: Con.

A scene from QUEEN OF BLOOD

Queen of Blood (Chris Alexander, 2014)

Spectral willowy blonde vampire stalks the American Frontier while Nivek Ogre goes around killing people and being generally Nivek Ogre. Is completely silent and has no important dialogue, and does not have enough story for its eighty-minute length. Not really my thing, but on the upside, it was apparently heavily influenced by Jean Rollin (I do see traces of The Living Dead Girl), which means it’s gorgeous even when it looks like it was shot on an iPhone.

My rating: Mixed.

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Coming in December: On the docket for next month: Sonno ProfondoAnimosityNurseThe Strange Colour of Your Body’s TearsThe Sacrament, maybe even The Babadook!

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