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    A Blast

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on September 8th, 2017

    A Blast just might be one of the ‘smartest’ movies I have ever seen. Unfortunately, I am not the smartest person to watch it. Heavily soaked in allegories about Greece’s recent financial crisis, the film begs to be understood, but if you do not have any background knowledge about the crisis, you are lost from the start. The film feels it was made specifically for Greek viewers, as all of the allegorical elements feel poignant and intentional, but not knowing anything about contemporary Greek society leaves you with the feeling of “this means something; I just don’t know what it is.”
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    I Am the Blues

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on August 24th, 2017

    The blues has had a tremendous impact on our contemporary popular culture, as it is largely the foundation of what we have come to understand as “pop music.” Without the blues, cultural phenomena such as Rock N’ Roll, Beatlemania, the British Invasion, heavy metal, hip-hop, gangsta rap, grunge, and contemporary pop would have evolved much differently. Even as I look over that list, I can’t make an argument for any one of those cultural shifts to be as impactful or as lasting as the blues. Perhaps I am a little biased as a rock enthusiast and musician, but every good guitar player knows that most of their stylistic flair can be traced right back to the Deep South.
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    Bender

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on August 10th, 2017

    In the early 1870’s the residents of Labette County, Kansas, lived alongside a family of serial killers. Known later as “The Bloody Benders,” their modus operandi was to lure travelers into their grocery store, invite them to stay for dinner, crush their skull with a hammer, and slit their throat to ensure death. Afterward, they would bury the remains somewhere on their property. Just as soon as they had been discovered, they vanished without a trace, making it difficult to ascertain if all the details we know are factual or fictional. However, stories like these are the perfect playground for filmmakers, as they are able to take as many creative liberties as they would like, and in the end, they need only say its “inspired by true events.” That being said, Bender is one of many adaptations of these events, but it looks to be one of the only films that explicitly deals with the actual Bender family and their specific victims.
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    Psychoanalysis

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on August 3rd, 2017

    Having studied and enjoyed the works of Freud, Lacan, Kristeva, and other great psychoanalytical thinkers in school, the term “psychoanalysis” carries a significant weight for me. That being said, I had quite a few expectations when picking up this film. Expectations that were not met. Now to be fair, etymologically, “psychoanalysis” means ‘mental (psyche) loosening/break apart (analysis),’ and that is most certainly delivered. However, I believe that the only relationship that this film has to the writings and theories of psychoanalysis is that literal definition of the title. Otherwise, it is a tremendous mystery to me as to how this film received its name.
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    La Vie de Jean-Marie

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on July 26th, 2017

    La Vie de Jean-Marie (The Life of Jean-Marie) is a documentary that pitches itself as an “excellent example of cinema verité,” leaving it exposed to the tremendous legacy that specific film movement left upon cinema history. For those that don’t know, “cinema verité,” or “truth cinema,” is a style of documentary invented by French filmmaker Jean Rouch around the late 1950’s. The idea behind this style of cinema is “reveal the truth” through the use of the camera and the spontaneity of the film’s subjects. La Vie de Jean-Marie does indeed wear the shoes of cinema verité quite well; however, it does so in an exhausting fashion.
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    Game Changers

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on July 19th, 2017

    Over the last eight years or so, the abstract concept of nostalgia has become a commodity. Film, television, and videogames have been adjusting their aesthetic to incorporate stylistic visuals that are intended to draw in what seems to be a relatively specific demographic: “80’s kids.” Whether it be Stranger Things, Kung Fury, or Turbo Kid, these films have succeeded (and failed) to create a new style out of this “nostalgia aesthetic.” However, being a child of the 90’s, I have noticed that these “nostalgia aesthetics” have shifted toward my decade.
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    Life of Significant Soil

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on June 25th, 2017

    The concept of eternal recurrence was (arguably) brought to the mainstream in 1993 with the release of Groundhog Day (1993). Certain films such as Run Lola Run (1998) and even an episode from The X-Files, “Monday” (1999), have managed to capture the strange, yet sad, philosophical nature behind repeating a single day. Since then, many variations of the concept began to meld with time travel, adding more distractions from the concept itself, only borrowing the basic premise: Just as space and time are infinite, so are our collective existences (in theory). Life of Significant Soil is closer in relation to the former films mentioned; however, it allows the raw emotion of experiencing a traumatic event to helm the ship.
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    The Wedding Party

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on June 14th, 2017

    Weddings: outside of the picture-perfect day that is typically presented in television and movies, most of us understand the untold anxiety placed upon a bride and groom when families and friends amalgamate. Granted, some films depict this phenomenon accurately, but never solely focused on said anxieties properly. The Wedding Party is an independent feature written and directed by Thane Economou, and it showcases these anxieties up front and films them brilliantly, as the entire film is shot in one continuous take.
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    It Comes At Night

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on June 9th, 2017

    A large majority of horror fans would agree that when sitting down to screen a horror film, they are not accustomed to being challenged intellectually. Sure, horror films might have a message that you can theorize about, but you can just as easily turn off your brain and watch the carnage mindlessly. That is not the case with It Comes at Night:  it demands your full attention from the start and then intensifies like a white-hot light. Cut from the same cloth as The Babadook and It Follows, It Comes at Night is a film that confronts you with very real anxieties that permeate our modern-day societies.
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    Voodoo Black Exorcist

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on June 5th, 2017

    Voodoo Black Exorcist (Vudú sangriento), is a bizarre choice to distribute once more in high definition. Some of the imagery in the film is most certainly impressive; however, it doesn’t quite make up for the poor dubbing, editing, and nonsensical story. The film is about ninety minutes long, and realistically, it only demanded my attention for about ten of those minutes before I sank into boredom. Perhaps my greatest disappointment was that it wasn’t really a movie I could have fun with: it was not laughably bad. So where I would normally put some effort into poking fun, I ended up remaining abnormally critical of this old horror film.
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    Apocalypse Child

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on May 4th, 2017

    It is always interesting to see how the history of cinema weaves its way back into the art form, especially when it is incorporated into the narrative itself. For example E. Elias Merhige’s  Shadow of the Vampire (2000) constructs its narrative around a fictional filming of F.W. Murnau’s  Nosferatu (1922). Recently, Gary Oldman announced his interest in writing and directing Flying Horse, a biopic of Eadward Muybridge, one of the founding fathers of moving images as we know them. Cinema is the only art I am aware of that artists take strides to be self-reflexive for the sake of appreciation of the medium. Apocalypse Child (2015) toys with self-reflexivity, but in a very unique way: It portrays cinema as a quasi-mythical presence through alluding to Francis Ford Coppola’s hellish stretch of filming Apocalypse Now (1979) in the Philippines.
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    The Vampire Bat

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on April 30th, 2017

    The early 1930’s was an excellent time for production of horror films. 1931 saw the classic productions of Frankenstein and Dracula, and 1932 The Mummy and White Zombie. These are all what I would call genre-defining films: they have refined the formulaic plots (mad scientist, supernatural threat) that came before them, but did so while incorporating the famous images we see today. Think about it; 80 years later and we still see Frankenstein’s monster with a flattened head and bolts, or Dracula with the jet-black widow’s peak and cape. As iconic as these films have become, there are countless productions that have flown under the radar of popularity. Frank R. Strayer’s The Vampire Bat is one such film that is worthy of more attention.
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    Drunk History: Season Four

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on April 11th, 2017

    Drunk History is a good example of a good idea that lost steam very quickly. I remember when initial idea was aired as a web series produced by Funny or Die in 2007, and it was a rather brilliant idea. The show was not picked up by a major network for six years; then in the summer of 2013, it made its premiere on Comedy Central. Granted, I remember being excited about this premiere. However, about midway through that first season, I realized how too much of a great idea can be a bad thing. The format just became tiresome and dull after a few episodes. Now, four years later, the show has returned for four entire seasons, but it definitely feels it has run its course.
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    Split

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on March 30th, 2017

    Let me preface this review by clarifying that this is not M. Night Shyamalan’s 2016 thriller about a dangerous man with different personalities. Instead, this review addresses Deborah Kampmeier’s Split (2016). It is an unfortunate circumstance for films to share the same name when released in the same year, especially if one of the directors has a considerable amount of fame under his belt. Thankfully, Kampmeier’s film came through the Upcoming Discs hub; otherwise, I might never have heard about it through my traditional consumption. Split is most certainly worth the watch, but the imagery is uncomfortably intense for the majority of the film. To the average film consumer, I offer a fair warning to stay away. However, Split delivers image after image of disturbing symbolism, nearing the caliber of Alejandro Jodorowski.
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    Resistance

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on March 12th, 2017

    Resistance was first released in the UK in 2011, and it saw its first DVD release two years ago in Finland. Now in 2017, the US is finally getting DVD distribution. However, like most distribution marketing strategies, the cover, DVD home screen, and advertised star power are an inaccurate depiction of what the film actually offers. While the film has many strengths, all the imagery that you get prior to actually watching the film (the cover and home screen), prepare you for what you think is going to be an interesting WWII-themed thriller with possible action sequences. Instead, Resistance is an interesting, yet severely slow-paced character study that doesn’t necessarily follow its own plot description.
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    Slasher.com

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on March 9th, 2017

    Contemporary horror films are in a really strange position. Gone are the days of the formulaic slasher flick or creature feature. Today we have filmmakers who only seem interested in breaking genre conventions in order to try something new and be deemed “relevant.” As  a result, we are treated to an intellectually-driven horror renaissance with films such as It Follows or The Babadook, or we must sit through the onslaught of torture-porn-infused sequels to 70’s and 80’s classics such as Evil Dead (2013), I Spit on Your Grave (2010), or The Last House on the Left (2009). If the filmmaker is trying to break genre conventions, it is important to note that they do not always succeed, as is the case with Slasher.com.
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    The Black Dragon’s Revenge

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on February 14th, 2017

    Exploitation film has reached a point where there are just too many subgenres to count, or to care about for that matter. This film combines three of the subgenres into one incoherent amalgamation of boredom: Blaxploitation, Kung Fu flicks, and “Brucesploitation.” While the two former concepts should be familiar outside of the realm of cinephilia, Brucesploitation may be a little more difficult to grasp. Basically, after the death of Bruce Lee, filmmakers began to capitalize on Lee’s image posthumously, by using barely passable lookalikes such as Bruce Le or Bruce Li as lead martial artists.
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    Wax Mask

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on February 8th, 2017

    If you have any love for Italian horror films, then you know the names Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci are the ones that cause the most excitement. Both directors have made a name for themselves in horror cinema, each providing their own authorship within their own interests. Much like debate concerning The Beatles or The Stones, cinephiles typically side with one over the other. Yes, Argento has conjured dreamlike, character-driven horror that has haunted our minds over the decades (Suspiria, Phenomena), but the late Lucio Fulci has a seemingly innate ability to create landscapes of terror that consistently push the envelope of realistic gore (Zombi, The Beyond). While I do tend to favor Fulci, I am well aware of both of their contributions and influence to horror cinema as a whole. Even though they have notable differences, The Wax Mask offers a collaboration between the two greats prior to Fulci’s death in 1996.
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    Danny Says

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on February 1st, 2017

    The 1960s were very important to the counterculture movement in the United States, most notably the artists of New York City. Whether it be future rock stars such as Iggy Pop and The Stooges and The Doors, or the enigmatic Phenom Andy Warhol, New York was at the crux of a lot of influential ideologies that have inspired us in the succeeding decades. However, there is only so much you can read about when it comes to discovering the cultural history of New York. That’s what makes documentaries like Brendan Toller’s Danny Says so fascinating: Sure, you know the history, but can you glean what the experience would be like? Danny Says takes you on a journey beyond the facts and delves into the personal experiences of one of the most significant music journalists New York has seen.
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    The Babymooners

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on January 24th, 2017

    If asked about my favorite genre of film, romantic comedies would not be close to the top of the list. However, I have seen enough rom-coms that I wouldn’t mind watching a second time. The Babymooners would be a film that I’d give a second watch, simply because of its charming energy. Most of this charm can be attributed to Shaina Feinberg and Chris Manley, who co-wrote and directed the film. Through explicitly stating in the synopsis that the film is “clearly influenced by old Woody Allen films,” the filmmaking duo alert audiences to exactly what they should be expecting, and they are not far off. So if you are a fan of Woody Allen, rejoice, as that is not an empty promise.
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    The Orphan Killer

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on January 16th, 2017

    When a movie makes a bold claim such as being “a tour de force murder flick that defies classification,” it is inviting a hefty amount of preconceived criticisms prior to anyone actually viewing the film. It’s like titling a horror film This Will Scare You. Naturally, your first thought would be something along the lines of “Yeah, whatever, movie.” Needless to say, that want to criticize burns within you until you watch it. Then, with all the satisfaction in the world, you get to say “No, that wasn’t scary at all.” In the end, you are stuck with a movie that wasn’t what it promised to be, but realistically, you knew that would be the case anyway. It is a cheap marketing ploy that entices you to watch for all the wrong reasons.
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    Road To The Well

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on January 2nd, 2017

    Road to the Well is about what you would expect from an independent thriller: atmospheric and character-driven, sporting a slow pace. While the pacing was indeed slow, it was most certainly deliberate and aided in the storytelling. I can’t necessarily say that I would watch the film again, but I can say I understand why it has won awards while on the festival circuit, especially given the fact that it is writer/director Jon Cvack’s first feature length film. It is a good movie. It satisfies. And even though good movies have their faults, Road to the Well succeeds in balancing its failures with tremendous amounts of successful feats.
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    Little Men

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on December 15th, 2016

    All too often do indie films fall under the category of “character study”. It’s almost as if that the entire “independent” genre has divided itself into these dramas focusing on painfully slow character development or budgetless, empty husks of action films riddled with terrible CGI. I have seen independent films that held my attention with captivating writing, but they seem to be few and far between. Little Men is no exception to the trend: it did have some interesting character development, but the story had great opportunities for intense conflict that just never followed through.
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    C.H.U.D II: Bud The Chud

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on December 14th, 2016

    The first time I saw C.H.U.D., I was deathly afraid I was going to be watching yet another zombie movie. C.H.U.D. is an acronym for ‘Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers,’ so with only that description, my assumption wasn’t unreasonable. For the readers who have actually seen C.H.U.D., you probably know that I was pleasantly surprised: it was actually a very fun monster movie. Yes, they were humanoid, but they were rather creepy, with bright glowing eyes and scaly skin. C.H.U.D II apparently forgot how amazing the original creatures were, because they are absent from the entire film (even though they are proudly displayed on the front cover of the Blu-ray case). Instead, we are treated to a zombie film with glam metal transition music and only the worst brand of tongue-in-cheek silliness.
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    “31 Nights Of Terror” Girl in Woods

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on October 28th, 2016

    Girl in Woods is a very conflicting film. The writing and direction were wonderful, as well as the setting: I have previously written about my fondness of independent horror films set in the woods (see my review of The Interior). However, the film’s post-production and the acting were not up to par with the maturity set forth by the intricate story and overall tone of the film. The film succeeds in establishing an atmosphere of fear and mania through cleverly fragmenting the narrative through cryptic flashbacks, but it fails to impress with visuals, simply because of poor quality.
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