"Somewhere between the pallid pinups of the Twilight movies and the Southern-fried sex addicts of HBO's trashy True Blood lurk the real vampires," writes Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York, "cagier and more twisted than this high-profile moment would have you believe. In their best incarnations, these romantic, violent creatures do more than wait for college theses to be written about them; they embody cinema itself, a pleasure best consumed in the dark with others. BAM's Bela Lugosi's Dead, Vampires Live Forever, a smartly chosen, nearly two-month-long survey (one that might have benefited from some midnight shows), properly restores the exotic mystery of these toothy terrors."
The series opens tonight, runs through September 30 and "begins with a couple of eccentric Dracula adaptations that play around with Dracula's identity as an invading menace," notes Simon Abrams in the L Magazine. Watching FW Murnau's Nosferatu, for example, "One has to grapple with the incongruity of Dracula's paradoxical identity as an ugly charmer.... Horror of Dracula, the canonical Hammer Horror take on Stoker's story, and George Melford's Drácula, a 1931 Spanish-language production shot on the same sets used earlier that year for Tod Browning's famous Bela Lugosi vehicle, both go the opposite route: Horror's Christopher Lee makes no attempt to conceal his British accent and Melford's Drac, Carlos Villar, speaks fluent Spanish, rendering the Count's foreignness only skin-deep. He already has succeeded in sounding like one of the natives, making it that much more difficult to pick him out as the ultimate sex freak."
Update, 8/5: In his overview for Artforum, Michael Joshua Rowin argues that "the vampire was avant-garde from the get-go, and in comparison to, say, the zombie or the slasher, the creature has been relatively immune to the long-term stultifying effects of mainstream formula."
Dennis Hopper: Misfits and Outsiders is a tribute opening today at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco and running through the weekend. It "strictly hits popular highlights," notes Dennis Harvey in the Bay Guardian: "The Dennis Hopper retrospective I'd really like to see might, admittedly, roll tumbleweeds down the Castro's aisles. But it would do the man's crazier side, and craziest decade, justice. For during the 1970s, Hopper was basically a Hollywood outcast, roaming the globe in shambolic distress, choosing odd projects to bedevil. Every last one is interesting, eccentric, or simply unknowable. His directorial career imploded in 1971 with endlessly delayed Easy Rider 'follow-up' The Last Movie, possibly still the most experimental feature ever released by a major studio (an appalled MGM). Hopper then fell into French obscurities like 1972's Crush Proof (costarring Pierre Clémenti... and Bo Diddley) and 1978's Flesh Color (Veruschka and Bianca Jagger!) Good luck finding those." At least The Last Movie will be screening in Venice.
"Seemingly inflicted with the same identity fissures experienced by its mafia-victim heroine, Marco Amenta's debut, The Sicilian Girl, is uncomfortably ensconced in the very old-school crime-family tropes its social message intends to undermine," writes Joseph Jon Lanthier in Slant.
"The facts are more gripping than the filmmaking in Marco Amenta's routine docudrama about tenacious teen informer Rita Atria," writes Nicolas Rapold in the Voice. "The 17-year-old Sicilian spitfire made jaws drop in 1991 by testifying against a homegrown capo — a reliable way of commissioning your own murder.... The movie bides time between highlights: spotlit lash-outs ('True justice would be to crush the bastards' hearts'), tabloid memories (Rita staring down the defendants in their prison cages). Yet, to his credit, Amenta does not flinch from the conclusion to Rita's adolescent (though courageous) tantrum."
More from Jeanette Catsoulis (New York Times), David Fear (Time Out New York), Michelle Orange (Movieline) and James van Maanen. At New York's Film Forum through August 17.
IFC Films has brought Johnnie To's Vengeance to the States, but they're
not putting it in a few theaters [see comments below] — but not on DVD. Instead, it premieres today nationwide as an on-demand selection on television via various cable companies. Mike Hale in the NYT: "Serious moviegoers may still see on-demand channels as a dumping ground for films that were in theaters six months ago or weren't good enough to be in theaters at all. But as more and more 'small,' serious films fight for screen time, a few distributors are starting to see on-demand television as a first option — which means that the quality of on-demand offerings is beginning to rise."
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