Posts by Justin LaLIberty

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review

Byron Haskin’s 1953 film adaptation of The War of the Worlds has become as synonymous with its literary source as Orson Welles’ famed radio play that incited mass hysteria in 1938. As the first screen adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel, it paved the way for Steven Spielberg’s well-received 2005 iteration, a slew of direct-to-video and TV adaptations, and films like Mars Attacks! which explicitly reference it. Approaching Haskin’s film in 2020 was an interesting exercise — I hadn’t seen it in over twenty years — and one made all the better with Criterion’s brand new disc release. Almost everyone knows
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What I Learned In Attempting to Create a Comprehensive List of American Films By Black Filmmakers

I’m a white male that grew up in a state that was 98% white according to a 1990 census, that state being New Hampshire. I had very few minorities in my school classes through high school and even the college I attended, Keene State College, had only a 4% minority enrollment in 2010 when I graduated. Not only have I been afforded white privilege throughout my life, I wasn’t even exposed to anything else for the majority of that time – outside of various trips to NYC, Boston and other cities in the US, it was not until I moved
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Abel Ferrara’s TOMMASO Review

Abel Ferrara’s collaborations with Willem Dafoe all have an apocalyptic air to them; from the explicit apocalypse of 4:44 Last Day on Earth, to the death of Pier Paolo Pasolini (played by Dafoe) in Pasolini and, most abstractly, the nearing-the-millennium cyberpunk ode to technology and personal connection—and their approaching demise — in New Rose Hotel. This all considered, it’s a small wonder that the semi-autobiographical Tommaso feels as life affirming as it does, exchanging our current world of empty city streets and a life suddenly put on hold for bustling, pre-COVID, life in Rome — which isn’t to say it’s
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Black Directed Genre Films Available for Streaming

As a white person, I’ve been spending the past week trying to listen as much as possible and amplify the voices that urgently need to be heard. As a cinephile, I’m trying to share films that I’ve been exposed to that are created by Black filmmakers yet haven’t had the exposure they have deserved since their releases – the unfortunate, though hardly surprising, result of a film industry as rooted in racism as every other business in our country. Make no mistake, watching and sharing films is hardly the answer here, but they both offer a needed respite as well
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THE OTHER LAMB Review

Ever since the great pandemic of 2020 started taking shape in the US, I have been fetishizing the idea of escaping into the woods. This is far from a realistic, practical, or even safe thing for me to do under the current circumstances, but watching Małgorzata Szumowska’s religious cult horror/drama, I found myself making the journey for ninety-seven minutes without leaving my living room. The Other Lamb takes a page from several other cult pictures – Martha Marcy May Marlene is perhaps the most obvious jump-off point – and then brings it to nature, earning comparisons with Jennifer Kent’s brutal wilderness-set revenge
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FAIL-SAFE Criterion Collection blu-ray Review

By the time Sidney Lumet’s taut nuclear war drama Fail-Safe was released in US theaters in October of 1964, the world had already been treated to Stanley Kubrick’s wry comedy about the very same topic, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Both films were made by New York born filmmakers, then in their thirties, with acclaimed bodies of work already amassed (with Lumet coming off of The Pawnbroker and Kubrick off of Lolita). And despite the similarities of their creators, the films couldn’t be more different even if their ultimate messages are aligned.
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The Dardennes’ YOUNG AHMED Review

Awards darling Parasite may have walked away with the Palme D’or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival but the Best Director award didn’t go to festival fave Bong Joon-Ho, it was awarded to long time Cannes favorites – and multiple award winners, including two Palme D’ors – the Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc. And not without controversy. Not unlike Fatih Akin’s recent, also Palme D’or nominated, In the Fade which profiled real-world extremism in a humanist light, Young Ahmed sees the Dardennes’ handling the subject matter of homegrown Islamic terrorism through the use of brainwashed children. On its own, this
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Yves Boisset’s DOG DAY blu-ray Review

One of the final films that Lee Marvin acted in before his death in 1987, Yves Boisset’s Dog Day (aka Canicule) is a dark humor-tinged crime film that has more in common with low budget genre cinema of the 1970s than anything that was being released alongside it at the time. Based on the novel by Jean Herman and directed by French crime mainstay Boisset, neither of whom made much of a splash in the states. Yet, Dog Day feels far more American than European, and with this recent blu-ray from Kino, is ready to be discovered by an American
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José Ramón Larraz’s EDGE OF THE AXE blu-ray Review

Back in the spring of 2019, Arrow released Blood Hunger: The Films of José Larraz to unfortunately little fanfare. It was a cause for celebration to me and, seemingly, merely a handful of others. Larraz is far from a household name, even in the more niche horror and genre circles, but seeing Arrow bestow such a nicely designed box set on the filmmaker made me think that 2019 would mark the year that Larraz earned the credit he has deserved for so long, yet continuously evaded. But even nearly a year later, the limited edition box is still available new
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Burt Reynolds’ and Elmore Leonard’s STICK Blu-ray Review

By the time Stick hit cinema screens in 1985, Elmore Leonard was far from the household name he had become in the mid 1990s. Up until that point, most of the screen adaptations of his work had been in the western genre thanks to films like Hombre and The Tall T in the 1960s. But as the 70s came, Leonard wrote an original screenplay for the Charles Bronson action film Mr. Majestyk and supplied the source novel for the failed Robert Mitchum thriller The Ambassador, which would serve as the first adaptation of 52 Pick-Up (and would get a much
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