Category Archives: Director Spotlight

Director Spotlight: Panic Room

Panic Room, the 2002 film by David Finch, is a prime example of a close-quarters thriller. Now I am biased in favor of this type of movie—limited set and location, small cast, tight focus—to begin with; Sleuth, from 1972 and again in 2007, is another excellent example. It forces the filmmakers to focus more than usual on their craft, storytelling, acting, etc., and less on spectacle. Read the rest of this entry


Director Spotlight: Fight Club

“I am Jack’s smirking revenge”


The second film in our David Fincher spotlight is…you do not talk about Fight Club.  Which will make this rather difficult, so I’m going to break that rule at the risk of incurring the wrath of Tyler Durden.   Read the rest of this entry

Director Spotlight: Alien 3

“You’ve been in my life so long, I don’t know anything else.”

This month’s Director’s Spotlight takes a look at David Fincher. We are starting this off with a movie that has been overlooked by a lot of people, myself included, Alien 3. I am going to be talking about some things from Alien 3 that are definitely spoilers for people who haven’t seen it. This movie tends to get a lot of flack for being the third in the franchise and for what it did to certain characters from the blockbuster hit sequel Aliens. You have been warned.

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Director Spotlight: Red State

I’ve been a fan of Kevin Smith since Clerks. I saw that movie in my early 20s on VHS and I can remember laughing from start to finish. I have memorized most of the dialogue of Clerks, Mallrats, Jay & Silent Bob Strikes Back and Clerks 2 because I’ve seen them so many times. I followed Smith’s career through his successes and failures. Before I really understood how a director made movies, I followed his movies because they were honest, and even in their grossest moments, from the heart. When you watch a Kevin Smith movie you can see that he has poured his heart into almost every scene. With the exception of Jersey Girl, I have seen every Kevin Smith movie released in the theaters. His recent misadventures with Southwest Airlines, the media and Bruce Willis’ ego (Copout) might have brought more attention to his antics away from the director’s chair, but they haven’t diminished his talents as a filmmaker.

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Director Spotlight: Clerks 2

I’m disgusted and I’m repulsed and I… I can’t look away – Becky

Full disclosure time; the original Clerks is one of my most memorable movie experiences.  I was working in a video store when I came across it, and it  made my experiences in retail, somehow, bearable.  So when I heard that Kevin Smith was making a sequel, I knew I had to see it.  And since it got him a standing ovation at the Cannes film festival, I had high expectations.  Clerks 2 blew them all away.

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Director Spotlight: Jersey Girl

Isn’t that cute? It’s 8 o’clock and you both get a bottle.

Kevin Smith…what can I say about the man?!  In the 90’s, Smith hit Hollywood by storm with his “Askewniverse” series of films that I adore.  My first film that I saw of his was 1995’s Mallrats.  I was floored with his tongue-in-cheek humour which promptly has me viewing 92’s Clerks and one of my favorites 1997’s Chasing Amy.  Smith’s style of filming was an indie hit.  It wasn’t till 2004’s Jersey Girl that he kind of hit a wall when he so-called tried going more Hollywood by breaking his indie style and going a new direction.  With that said, that’s the film I’m going to discuss here.

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Director Spotlight: Chasing Amy

See that man right there? He the Devil, understand? Never take your eye off the man.

The first film in our Kevin Smith spotlight is Chasing Amy, one of Smith’s most lauded and well received films.  The movie tells the story of Holden McNeil, played by Ben Affleck and Alyssa Jones, played by Joey Lauren Adams, and the romance that could never be, but somehow was. Alyssa is a lesbian, so right off the bat you can see the complication.  Interestingly enough, the complications don’t stop there as the revelations keep coming.     Read the rest of this entry

Director Spotlight: Kevin Smith

How does one man get so funny?  Hard work mutha*&^%$, that’s how.  With almost twenty years in the industry, Smith has been one of the more polarizing directors to come on the scene in a long time.  With Red State hitting DVD and Blu-Ray this month,we will be featuring Kevin Smith as our director spotlight for October.  So, come share a moment with us, and follow along with the spotlight:

Week 1: Chasing Amy

Week 2: Jersey Girl

Week 3: Clerks 2

Week 4: Red State

Director Spotlight: The Great Yokai War

It’s strange to think that Takashi Miike, the same Takashi Miike who directed Ichi the Killer, made The Great Yokai War,  this semi-family friendly film.  It’s the equivalent of Robert Rodriguez doing Planet Terror and then Shorts.  Or even Machete and the next Spy Kids movie. While I always encourage directors to explore the many facets of film making (or at least would if they ever listened to me), it always astounds me to see directors working on opposite sides of the spectrum, successfully. Read the rest of this entry

Director Spotlight: Sukiyaki Western Django

The proud do not endure, like a passing dream on a night in spring; the mighty fall at last, to be no more than dust before the wind.

Sukiyaki Western Django is the tale of a mysterious gunman (Hideoki Ito) who rides into a nearly deserted town which has found itself controlled by two rival gangs. After a flashy display of skill, and some attempts from the two clans to persuade him to join them, the Gunman is persuaded by Ruriko, one of the few residents who remain, to help the townspeople fight back against the rival groups.

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Director Spotlight: Audition

“Kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri…!”

Before I begin, let me just say that much of the enjoyment (if “enjoyment” is the right word when talking about this movie) of watching Audition comes from surprise, from the movie’s many shifts and turns and turnaround-agains. If you’ve never seen the movie but plan to, I say just go ahead and watch it. You were going to anyway. I claim no responsibility. If, however, you’re reading this because you simply want to know if the movie is worth your time, I will say yes, it is, but with the very strong proviso that this movie is…shall we say…not for everyone.

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Director Spotlight: 13 Assassins

13 Assassins is director Takashi Miike’s latest movie from Japan. It’s quite a refreshing movie from him. Miike (Audition, Ichi The Killer) is known for bizarre Japanese movies filled with buckets of gore and blood-spraying stumps. Not this time. I was pleasantly surprised by what has to be, for me at least, the best movie I’ve seen in 2011.

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Director Spotlight: Crows Zero

Welcome to Suzuran High School, the “School Of Crows”. It’s the toughest school in Japan. It’s a high school where junior gangsters beat each other up for bragging rights every day. The different classes and grades all have their factions, personalities and leaders. All hate each other and are constantly at each other’s throats. Today is the first day of school. The new kid in town has a lot to prove. His name is Genji. He’s a first year freshman. Genji is fresh meat for the gangs already at Suzuran. His father was a Yakuza gangster who never made it to the top of Suzuran. Genji’s not his father, though. Genji makes it his mission to take over the school and make it at Suzuran as “the king of the hill”.

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Director Spotlight Revisited: Midnight in Paris

The very first Director Spotlight we did on this website was Woody Allen, starting with Annie Hall and ending with Vicky Cristina Barcelona.  Annie Hall got me on a path of reverence for the neurotic comic genius that is Allen.  Since Annie Hall, my first real introduction to his work, I have watched a number of his films, each with a different lens, each with a different outcome.  Now, today, I have the pleasure of discussing his latest comic opus, Midnight in Paris. Read the rest of this entry

Lebowski 3-2-1

As part of our spotlight, and trip to Lebowski Fest, Joe, Rene, and myself have collaborated on a 3-2-1 list which covers our: 3 favorite quotes, 2 favorite scenes, and 1 favorite character.   Check out our lists, listen to our Lebowski Fest episode, and then watch for our first ever video podcast of our time at Lebowski Fest.   Read the rest of this entry

Lebowski Week

In honor of our visit to Lebowski Fest in Columbus, Ohio, we are dedicating the final week of our Coen Brothers Spotlight to the Dude and friends.  The week starts with this week’s episode, which is our coverage of Lebowski Fest, then a midweek Lebowski themed 3-2-1 posting, and a special video episode to round out the week.

So if you like the Dude’s style, or even the occasional acid flashback, check out our homage to all things Lebowski.  And say what you like about the tenets of Devil’s Advocacy, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

Follow the links below to our Lebowski Fest episode, recorded at the event in Columbus, Ohio:

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Director Spotlight: The Ladykillers

Despite the misconception there are really three Coens.  There’s the “playing it straight” Coens, the “quirky” Coens, and the “so freakishly bizarre that a word has not yet been invented to attribute to that style of film making” Coens.  I tend towards the latter, but the two former are just as good.  The Ladykillers, a remake of the 1955 comedy of the same name, is one of those rare treasures that manages to incorporate elements of all three, making for a well rounded flick.

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Director Spotlight: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

“For that you traded your ever lasting soul?……Well, I wasn’t using it.”

Continuing our look at the movies of The Coen Brothers this month, this week we’re looking at 2000’s O, Brother Where Art Thou. I am a big fan of The Coen Brothers and I had never seen this movie. I am not too sure why I had never gotten around to seeing this until now. I think it might be because in my head I thought of this as a different movie. To me it was always a musical and I really can’t stand movie musicals. I think the only musical I actually like is Spinal Tap.

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Director Spotlight: Raising Arizona

“It ain’t Ozzie and Harriet” – H.I. McDunnough

Raising Arizona is the strangest kidnapping movie I’ve ever seen, and the funniest.

H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) is a failure of a criminal.  After multiple arrests following a string of failed convenience store robberies, he proposes to one of the corrections officers in the prison, and upon his next release marries her and settles down.  Having married, H.I’s wife Edwina (Holly Hunter) has decided that the next natural step is to have a child.

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Director Spotlight: Miller’s Crossing

Miller’s Crossing is the third film directed by the Coens, and tells the story of warring gangsters in 1920’s America, with Gabriel Byrne’s Tom Reagan as the main protagonist of the piece, right hand man of Leo (Albert Finney), an irish gangster who runs the unnamed town in which the film is set. Tom is caught in the middle of a brewing gang war between Leo and Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito), who wants Leo to hand over Bernie Bernbaum (Jon Turturro), a two-bit swindler cutting in on his gambling action. Leo is protecting Bernbaum, who is the brother of Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), who he is in love with, and he has promised her that he would look out for Bernie. Seeing the danger of protecting Bernbaum, Tom tries to convince his boss to give up Bernie before an all-out bloodbath breaks out.

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Director Spotlight: Switch

Do you know how many poor animals they had to kill to make that coat?

Know how many animals I had to f**k to get this coat?


Finishing our Blake Edwards spotlight, I got to watch 1991’s Switch.  I do recall watching this when I was younger and enjoying it.  Nothing changed in that aspect.  Switch in my opinion can be considered a timeless comedy classic.

Edwards dons both the director’s and writer’s hat for this film.  From what I’ve read of Victor Victoria, he took a similar concept but a different approach to come up with this story.  Basic concept here, a male chauvinist gets murdered by his angry ex-girlfriends and gets reincarnated as a woman.

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Director Spotlight: Victor/Victoria

“A woman, pretending to be a man, pretending to be a woman?”

Toddy (Robert Preston) and Victoria (Julie Andrews) are two down-and-out performers in 1930s Paris. After a chance meeting and an amusing case of mistaken identity, Toddy gets a brainstorm that he’s sure will have them rolling in money and becoming the toasts of Paris: convincing the world that Victoria is in fact Victor Grazinski, a fictitious Polish count who also happens to be the world’s greatest female impersonator. If that weren’t complicated enough, enter King Marchand (James Garner), powerful Chicago gangster/nightclub impresario who falls head-over-heels for Victor/Victoria, as Victoria herself, against all rational thought, falls for him right back.

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Director Spotlight: S.O.B.

“I could sue you for calling me that. A shyster is a disreputable lawyer. I’m a quack.”

Blake Edwards was someone who most movie audiences now probably don’t remember. But, they have probably heard of his movies or have seen at least one of them. He was a filmmaker who’s most famous for creating The Pink Panther movies with Peter Sellers and for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I really didn’t know what to expect or what was going on when I started watching this movie. When I first started watching this, I had no clue what I was watching. I thought, “Why is the chick from A Sound Of Music dressed in a bad homeless costume? And, why is she singing such an awful song.” Turns out that’s all part of the story of S.O.B. A very smart and stinging look at Hollywood in the 1970’s.

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Director Spotlight: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Blake Edwards’ first big film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is a romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard.  Receiving high critical acclaim, a number of Oscar nominations and wins, Edwards bursts on to the scene with a roar and whimper (the movie has some rather touching moments).  The story, based on a novella written by Truman Capote, revolves around socialite Holly Golightly and novelist Paul Varjak.  At first the focus is on the formation of their friendship and moves gradually into romantic territories. Read the rest of this entry

January Director Spotlight: Blake Edwards

On December 15th Blake Edwards, the director of 10, Micki + Maude, and Skin Deep, passed away.  While he is probably remembered most for his work on the Pink Panther films, he had a number of gems that we plan to spotlight this month. We’ll start the month with the Audrey Hepburn classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s, then we move to Victor/Victoria, followed by S.O.B and Switch.

Follow along each week and see what we thought and see if you agree or disagree.

Director Spotlight: Big Trouble in Little China (Bonus Review)

John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China (1985) is the 4th film that he used Kurt Russell as a lead and the last in the 3 films that two made together in the 1980’s as director and lead.  The film also stars Kim Cattral, Denis Dun, James Hong, and Victor Wong.  This is Carpenter’s take on the martial arts genre. Read the rest of this entry

Director Spotlight: Escape From New York (Bonus Review)

John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981), starring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Ernest Borgnine and Harry Dean Stanton, is a film that takes place in the future, 1997(well… the future if you were around in 1981), where Manhattan island is the maximum security prison for the United States.  The movie starts with a narration that explains the world we are dealing with.  Below is an excerpt from the beginning of the film:

Narrator: A fifty-foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline across the Harlem river, and down along the Brooklyn shoreline.  It completely surrounds Manhattan Island . All bridges and waterways are mined. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped around the island. There are no guards inside the prison, only prisoners and the worlds they have made. The rules are simple.  Once you go in, you don’t come out. Read the rest of this entry

Director Spotlight: Vampires

The best thing about October for a DA, is reviewing Halloween-type movies. October is my favorite month because I can watch all the halloween movies I love. And for those who don’t know me, I love vampires. I’ve seen hundreds of vampire movies, even the bad ones. To many vampire enthusiasts, vampires represent eternal life, and in some movies, an often lonely eternal life. More recently, we have seen Vampires become more sexual with franchises such as Twilight and True Blood. So, for the final week of October, I thought John Carpenter’s Vampires would be appropriate.  Vampires shows the more savage life of vampires and vampire hunters. In Vampires, we notice that vampires have black blood, which is different than other vampire movies.  Read the rest of this entry

Director Spotlight: In The Mouth of Madness

“God’s not supposed to be a hack horror writer!”

When I think of horror films, I usually think of something of slasher killers or at least a figure you can focus on as the big bad of the feature. 1995’s In the Mouth of Madness succeeds without being that typical type of horror film. Directed by John Carpenter, Carpenter himself describes this film as a different horror picture because it doesn’t follow the usual horror plot.  As my colleague Rene, Mr. Horror, pointed out to me, this is one of  Carpenter’s more underrated films.

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Director Spotlight: John Carpenter’s The Thing

”I don’t know what the hell’s in there. It’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

John Carpenter’s The Thing is a classic horror movie from 1982 and one of my all time favorite horror movies. It’s definitely on my top ten best movies of all time list and I am pretty sure it’s on quite a lot of people’s “best of” lists. It’s one of the movies that helped a generation of movie fans discover horror films and John Carpenter. The movie was ahead of it’s time in terms of special effects and storytelling. It’s Carpenter doing what he does best, horror. This time, it’s horror with a bit of science fiction in the mix. I think it’s his best movie. It’s better than Halloween and Escape From New York.

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