CRITERION COLLECTION REVIEWS – VOL. 3 (Cronos, The Killer, Topsy-Turvy)



Cronos (1993/dir. Guillermo Del Toro/Mexico) – Guillermo Del Toro’s sentimental vampire film is the kind of debut feature that perfectly encapsulates the strengths and weaknesses of the filmmaker. Del Toro excels with imaginative visual images and likable characters but his downfall is often striking a good balance between serious and campy elements of his pictures. He also has problems with pacing. Cronos might be awkward at times, but it’s consistently compelling thanks tot he strong relationship between the protagonist and his granddaughter. The film also marks the beginning of Ron Perelman’s long-standing relationship with Del Tore. Here, Perelman plays a delightfully sinister villain. In a fantastic interview on the Criterion DVD, Perelman reveals he was the only English-speaker on set and that Guillermo Del Toro tried to solve every problem with food. Available for streaming on HuluPlus. Grade: B


The Killer (1989/dir. John Woo/Hong Kong) – Before the incredible Cage-gasm that was Face/Off, John Woo directed this ultra-violent, ultra-cheesy and relentlessly entertaining shoot-em-up about a double-crossed assassin (the delightful Chow Yun-Fat) teaming up with a down-on-his-luck police man (Danny Lee) to fuck up some Triad boss. They should have titled this The Over-Killer, because each victim gets shot a minimum of ten times with handguns that magically hold a hundred bullets per clip. It’s anything but believable, but plenty of aggressively unsubtle Catholic imagery, poor green screen shots, the same awful longue song played a million times and random freeze frames that punctuate the friendship of the two leads make this upbeat bullet buffet absolutely unforgettable. OUT OF PRINT. Grade: B+ 

TOPSY-TURVY, Timothy Spall, 1999. ©October Films

TOPSY-TURVY, Timothy Spall, 1999. ©October Films

Topsy-Turvy (1999/dir. Mike Leigh/UK) – Arthur Sullivan (Allen Cordurner) hates the musicals he and librettist W.S. Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) write. Sullivan sees them as “ridiculous topsy-turvydom” having no weight or substance to them. He dreams of writing a grand opera and threatens to break his contract with the theater company producing his and Gilbert’s work. Sullivan’s threat and awful reviews force Gilbert to come up with The Mikado, an opera about Japanese culture (essentially a yellow-face Minstrel show) that still remains popular today. Gorgeous costume and set decoration, along with fantastic looking musical numbers make this one of Mike Leigh’s most technically impressive films. However, there are several pacing problems and musical numbers go on far too long. Jim Broadbent and Allen Cordurner are excellent in their roles, but the real stand-out is Leigh favorite Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Harry Potter) as on the theater’s most popular actors. Grade: B+ 

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