Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Troy McClure's pre-ordered blu-ray


THE SHAPE OF WATER

A sweet and atypical melodrama, standing astride a very thrilling thriller, that still doesn't mix all its elements as well as it clearly must think it does.

2017
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Vanessa Taylor and Guillermo del Toro
With Sally Hawkins (Elisa Esposito), Octavia Spencer (Zelda Fuller), Richard Jenkins (Giles), Michael Stuhlbarg (Dr. Robert Hoffstetler), Doug Jones (the Amphibian Man), and Michael Shannon (Col. Richard Strickland)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Darren Aronofsky, part VII: Wet dreams


NOAH

Upon returning to Noah after three years, I find the opposite of what I thought it was.  Now I know: it's one of the most philosophically-engaged religious films ever made.  That doesn't mean it's one of the best, but it is one of the better ones made lately.

2014
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Dr. Ari Handel and Darren Aronofsky
With Russell Crowe (Noah), Jennifer Connelly (Naameh), Douglas Booth (Shem), Logan Lerman (Ham), Leo McHugh Carroll (Japheth), Emma Watson (Ila), Frank Langella (Og), Nick Nolte (Samyaza), Anthony Hopkins (Methuselah), and Ray Winstone (Tubal-cain)

Spoiler alert: high, I guess, but also N/A

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Rey from nowhere


STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

Even with this many self-imposed handicaps, it's still the best Star Wars movie the franchise's new cycle has so far produced.

2017
Written and directed by Rian Johnson
With Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Gen. Leia Organa), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Domnhall Gleeson (Gen. Nux), and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren)

Spoiler alert: severe

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Darren Aronofsky, part VI: Nobody's ever asked a ballerina for a footjob, I can tell you that; certainly, not more than once


BLACK SWAN

Moving from one medium of the performing arts to another, Aronofsky arrives with an even harder-core portrait of the artist than the last, and that one was about a suicidal wrestler.

2010
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Andres Heinz, Mark Heyman, John MacLaughlin
With Natalie Portman ft. Sarah Lane (Nina Sayers), Barbara Hershey (Erica Sayers), Vincent Cassel (Thomas Leroy), Winona Ryder (Beth MacIntyre), and Mila Kunis (Lily)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Darren Aronofsky, part V: I ain't as pretty as I used to be


THE WRESTLER

The Wrestler may be close to a one-man show, but Mickey Rourke puts on a damn good one in what turns out to be the Aronofsky movie with the lightest touch of them all.

2008
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Robert Siegel
With Mickey Rourke (Randy "The Ram" Robinson), Marisa Tomei (Cassidy), and Evan Rachel Wood (Stephanie)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Darren Aronofsky, part IV: Death is the road to awe


THE FOUNTAIN

This is what actual art looks like, and hardly anybody even recognized it at the time.  Honestly, it figures.

2006
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Dr. Ari Handel and Darren Aronofsky
With Hugh Jackman (Dr. Tommy Creo/Tomas/Tom), Rachel Weisz (Izzi Creo/Queen Isabella I of Castille and Leon), Mark Margolis (Fray Avila), and Ellen Burstyn (Dr. Lillian Guzetti)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Darren Aronofsky, part III: Hoodoo horseshit


BELOW

You'd think it would be way easier to set a horror movie on a submarine than the results of Below seem to indicate.

2002
Directed by David Twohy
Written by Lucas Sussman, Darren Aronofsky, and David Twohy
With Matthew Davis (Ens. Douglas Odell), Olivia Williams (Claire Page), Zach Galifianakis (Wally), Jason Flemyng (Stumbo), Scott Foley (Lt. (j.g.) Stephen Coors), Holt McCallany (Lt. Paul Loomis), and Bruce Greenwood (Lt. Brice)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Darren Aronofsky, part II: Winners don't use drugs


REQUIEM FOR A DREAM

Because drugs are bad.  But the movie's still great.

2000
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Hubert Selby, Jr. and Darren Aronofsky (based on the novel by Selby)
With Ellen Burstyn (Sara Goldfarb), Marlon Wayans (Tyrone Love), Jennifer Connelly (Marion Silver), Jared Leto (Harry Goldfarb), Keith David ("Big Tim"), and Christopher MacDonald (Tappy Tibbons)

Spoiler alert: mild

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Darren Aronofsky, part I: Irrational constant


π

Darren Aronfsky smashes his way onto the scene with one thunderously energetic debut, pondering the "nature of genius" in an almost-offensively schematic way, but really only using that as a blind to get to the heart of the human endeavorand the way that the thing that makes us the masters of our world can become, without us even realizing it, the thing that drives us mad.

1998
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Sean Gullette, Eric Watson, and Darren Aronofsky
With Sean Gullette (Maximillian Cohen), Mark Margolis (Sol Robeson), Samia Shoaib (Devi), Pamela Hart (Marcy Dawson), Ben Shenkman (Lenny Meyer), and Stephen Pearlman (Rebbe Cohen)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Just a little housekeeping appendix

Existing to provide a home for the filmmaker's retrospectives I did before switching to my current, superior format, as well as for any less-than-complete "selected works" collections I've done.

DAVID FINCHER (ranked)
10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (1/10)
9.  Alien 3 (5/10)
8.  Panic Room (5/10)
7.  The Game (5/10)
6.  The Social Network (9/10)
5.  Zodiac (10/10)
4.  Fight Club  (10/10)
3.  Seven (10/10)
2.  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (10/10)
1.  Gone Girl (10/10) (spoiler review)

Bonus:
Gone Girl (non-spoiler review)

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN (ranked)
10.  Batman Begins (5/10)
9.  Following (6/10)
8.  The Dark Knight Rises (6/10)
7.  Interstellar (6/10)
6.  The Dark Knight (8/10)
5.  Memento (8/10)
4.  Inception (9/10)
3.  Insomnia (10/10)
2.  Dunkirk (10/10)
1.  The Prestige (10/10)

WILLIAM ALLAND (selected works)
It Came From Outer Space (8/10)
The Creature From the Black Lagoon (8/10)
Revenge of the Creature (3/10)
This Island Earth (5/10)
The Creature Walks Among Us (5.01/10)
Tarantula (7/10)
The Deadly Mantis (4/10)
The Land Unknown (3/10)
The Space Children (4/10)
The Colossus of New York (7/10)

JACK ARNOLD (selected works)
It Came From Outer Space (8/10)
The Glass Web (8/10)
The Creature From the Black Lagoon (8/10)
Revenge of the Creature (3/10)
This Island Earth (5/10)
Tarantula (7/10)
The Monolith Monsters (7/10)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (10/10)
The Space Children (4/10)
Monster On the Campus (7/10)
No Name on the Bullet (9/10)

DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS (selected works)
The Mark of Zorro (7/10)
The Three Musketeers (4/10)
Robin Hood (4/10)
The Thief of Bagdad (10/10)
Don Q, Son of Zorro (6/10)
The Black Pirate (9/10)
The Gaucho (5/10)

MASAKI KOBAYASHI (selected works)
"My Sons' Youth" (6/10)
Sincere Heart (7/10)
Samurai Rebellion (9/10)

GEORGE PAL (selected works)
Destination Moon (7/10)
When Worlds Collide (6/10)
The War of the Worlds (6/10)
The Naked Jungle (7/10)
Conquest of Space (4/10)
The Time Machine (8/10)

RIDLEY SCOTT (selected works)
Alien (9/10)
Blade Runner (10/10)
Legend (8/10)
Kingdom of Heaven (8/10)
Prometheus (7/10)
The Counselor (9/10)
The Martian (7/10)
Alien: Covenant (5/10)
Blade Runner 2049 (10/10)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Masaki Kobayashi: Don't take my wife... please!


SAMURAI REBELLION
Joi-uchi: Hairyozuma shimatsu

Maybe not every samurai movie is about how lousy samurai society actually was, but most of the good ones are.  Rebellion is one of the best.  As you'd expect, frankly, given the man who made it.

1967
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi
Written by Shinobu Hashimoto (based on the novel Hairyozuma shimatsu by Yashuhiko Takaguchi)
With Tohsiro Mifune (Isaburo Sasahara), Yoko Tsukasa (Ichi Sasahara), Go Kato (Yogoro Sasahara), Michiko Otsuka (Suga Sasahara), Tatsuo Matsumura (Lord Masakata Matsudaira), Shigeru Koyama (Geki Takahashi), and Tatsuya Nakadai (Tatewaki Asano)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Friday, December 1, 2017

Land of the forgotten


THE BOOK OF LIFE

Despite suffering badly under the weight of the usual sins of 21st century animation, The Book of Life shines even so.  And it's definitely the best cartoon about Dia de Muertos they've made so far, Pixar.

2014
Directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez
Written by Doug Langdale and Jorge R. Gutierrez
With Diego Garcia (Manolo Sanchez), Zoe Saldana (Maria Posada), Famed Latino Actor Channing Tatum (Jaoquin Mondragon), Hector Elizondo (Carlos Sanchez), Ice Cube (The Candlemaker), Kate del Castillo (La Muerte), and Ron Perlman (Xibalba)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Miguel and the six strings


COCO

Have Pixar's days of greatness passed?  Perhaps, perhaps not, but Coco doesn't push anything forward.  It doesn't even push anything sideways.  That leaves one direction to go, and that's the one it takes.

2017
Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
Written by Jason Katz, Matthew Aldrich, Lee Unkrich, and Adrian Molina
With Anthony Gonzalez (Miguel), Gael Garcia Bernal (Hector), Alanna Ubach (Imelda), Renee Victor (Elena), and Benjamin Bratt (Ernesto de la Cruz)

Spoiler alert: mild

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Joe Dante, part XVII: Joe Dante


Well, that took longer than I expected.  I can't say that I have an excuse.  But here, a solid fourteen months later, we stand at the end, and we at last have the answer to the question we asked at the beginning, "Whatever happened to old Joe Dante?"

What's struck me as we've wound down our director's career (and forgive me if I repeat myself a little here) is the symmetry of his work: in broad strokes, you can say that Dante came from nothing, and went back to nothing, but in between, man, did we have a good time.

I'll admit, this is perhaps overly pessimistic: it's not over yet.  For one thing, the man's teamed up again with that erstwhile self-styled "master of horror" Mick Garris, which worked out so well previously (when the show was actually called Masters of Horror) that I wondered why I was even bothering with any of Dante's TV crap at all.  But you never know—their new anthology film, due next year and called Nightmare Cinema, may well be the Twilight Zone: The Movie of its time.  Who can say before we see it?  That might put Dante's eternal return a little out of order, but that would be okay by me.  Of course, that's not all Dante still has up his sleeves: there is, in "pre-production," his biopic of Roger Corman, The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes, and something called Labirintus, about a bunch of guys getting lost in a maze underneath a former Soviet research facility and if it were just about anybody else attached to the project, I'd have lost consciousness already.  But Dante's made a movie about toy army men that was pretty damn good—Dante's a man who made a sequel to freaking Space Jam that was actually pretty great, and a movie about a hole, called The Hole, that was even better—so, if it ever does see the light of day, I promise, I'll be there.

And yet in the reality we live in now, we've seen our beloved filmmaker fall pretty hard.  I was talking about symmetry—Dante started his career as a near-nobody, editing together a montage of nonsense called Movie Orgy, and, at this point in his regression, I'm half-surprised Dante hasn't started putting together clip shows again.  What's that?  Trailers From Hell, you say?  Oh—right.

But that's not our concern here; our concern is with Dante's feature output.  Dante made his bones, you know, with a little picture called Gremlins, which he built on the back of his friendship with Steven Spielberg; and, from there, we can say his golden age began.  It's a lot harder to say when it ended: was it with his very next film, Explorers, Dante's fuck-you to transcendent sci-fi, a film of both surprising, subtle power and sincerity, and one of only two Dante joints I'd even consider calling a masterpiece—albeit also something of a mild box office bomb?  (Turned out the kids didn't like it when you made E.T. again, but this time shrill and weird and satirical.)  Or was the end Innerspace, whereupon Dante's dumb jokey predilections got him into trouble and saw him go to war with the sensawunda that formed the basis of the material?  Or was it The 'Burbs, one of the Reagan Era's sterling satires, with an ending altogether too-hard-to-parse?  Or was it Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Dante's fuck-you to sequels—and, honestly, Dante's fuck-you to Gremlins itself—that he apparently made just to see how gloriously Dante a movie could get, without his backers pulling his funding in light of the obvious fact that it was never, ever going to provide a return on their investment?

This has all been a rhetorical exercise: as far as our man's commercial golden age goes, that pretty much ended the very day Gremlins itself left theaters.  But Gremlins—while I don't have nearly the time for it that most folks of my generation do—was the kind of oddball megahit you can base a whole idiosyncratic career on, and between that and the occasional modest moneymaker, Dante kept his steam into the 21st century.  Dante's golden age never really ended, even after the studios finally kicked him to the curb in the wake of the too-huge-to-ignore bellyflop of Looney Tunes: Back in Action.  Indeed, unlike a whole host of other filmmakers to rise out of the cesspool of the 70s (Carpenter, De Palma, Coppola, Zemeckis—some say even Spielberg himself), this director just kept making his little classics and semi-classics, right up until almost the present day, even when his budgets diminished in the face of an audience that had diminished in turn and it started to take herculean efforts to get any movie out at all.

It was only with Dante's penultimate film, Burying the Ex, recapitulating in some ways his very first, Hollywood Boulevard—representing, then, his return to the sexist claptrap of a bygone age, but made in 2014, so it feels patently offensive and not even close to accidental—that the director truly stumbled back into the garbage pile of his origins, the blighted Cormanica of Boulevard and Piranha.  (I fear I will never understand people's fondness for Piranha.  It's crap, guys.)  Then again, perhaps this cycle repeats: Twilight Zone led to Gremlins, Gremlins led to greater things; can Nightmare Cinema lead Dante's way again?  I guess we'll see, although, as with all 70s filmmakers, we have to be realistic.  So let's admit it: Dante won't be around forever.  I've never liked memorials.  Let's give the great their proper due, while they're still here to enjoy it.  And three cheers for Dick Miller while we're at it.  That's guy's a treasure.

Dante did find his footing eventually with Corman on his last try; while the evidence of Boulevard and Ex suggests that it's been absolutely for the best that almost all of his movies have not been about women, Dante, with his then-partner Alan Arkush, did find one woman worth telling a great story about.  And Rock 'n' Roll High School is a sweet, wonderful affair, chock full of bitchin' Ramones tunes and the most completely-adorable punk attitude you'll find in any film of its era, maybe any era.  It proved what wasn't obvious from Boulevard, but would become obvious as the decades rolled over: Dante's thing was comedy.  Sometimes—often—that comedy was dark and spiky, and tinged with horror.  Sometimes it was just one pie in the face after another.  But he was good at both.  He was good at the kid's adventure, too: I'm sure it'll always be me alone saying it, but Explorers is the grandest of that lot, a perfect adventure combined with a perfect takedown of what the word "adventure" even means.  It doesn't get better than that.  Even so, nostalgia for childhood would return again and again to Dante's filmography, as would the nostalgia for the sci-fi schlock that Dante himself loved as a kid, and both would serve him well: Matinee is not Dante's most critically-beloved film for no reason.  Meanwhile, The Hole is, in its small but essential way, maybe the most approachable movie about domestic violence ever made, about and for kids, but never once condescending to them.  Well, before we get too into the weeds—too late, I know—let's just say one more thing: Gremlins 2 is funny as hell, ain't it?  Often hilarious, sometimes mean, always cynical, and never, ever grim, Joe Dante may not make anybody's list of the all-time masters.  But I don't think he'd want to be on your snobby, stupid list, anyway.  He is, and he shall always be, a filmmaker worth celebrating.  He won't be forgotten as long as the art endures.

So let's take a gander at a list we can sink our teeth into—and I really can't tell you just how happy it makes my blackened contrarian heart to have made a Joe Dante retrospective wherein Gremlins only scarcely makes it into the top ten.  You fucking nerds.

14a. THE SCREWFLY SOLUTION*** (2/10)
14. HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD* (2/10)
13. BURYING THE EX (2/10)
12a. HOMECOMING*** (4/10)
12. PIRANHA (5/10)
11a. AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON** (6/10)
11. THE HOWLING (7/10)
10. GREMLINS (7/10)
9. INNERSPACE (7/10)
8. SMALL SOLDIERS (7/10)
7. MATINEE (8/10)
6. LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION (8/10)
5a: TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE** (8/10)
5. THE HOLE (8/10)
4. THE 'BURBS (9/10)
3. ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL* (9/10)
2. GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (9/10)
1. EXPLORERS (10/10)

General notes:
I am well aware that this list does not capture any of Dante's three TV movies—Runaway Daughters, The Second Civil War, and Warlord: Battle For the Galaxy—or his marginal participation as the director of the "Wraparound" segment in the Trapped Ashes anthology.  But here's the thing: they either weren't on YouTube, or I don't care, or both.  That said, I am also aware that this retrospective skipped over The Phantom, the final form of which Dante had very little to do with beyond his "executive producer" credit; however, in this case, I actually do feel bad about it, because I've never seen the legendarily silly thing, and Dante and Jeffrey Boam's script was apparently used with precious little alteration without anybody noticing it was supposed to be a comedy.  Sadly, I was not able to obtain a copy of The Phantom over the whole year-plus course of this retrospective.  Nevertheless I hold onto hope that one day, we'll be able to circle back.

Other notes:
Entries marked with one asterisk (*) indicate the movies that Dante made in his co-directorial relationship with Allan Arkush, including, especially, his uncredited co-directorial effort on Rock 'n' Roll High School.
Entries marked with two asterisks (**) indicate the anthology films which Dante directed one or more segments of.
Entries marked with three asterisks (***) indicate TV episodes Dante directed.

Time Junk


HOW TO BUILD A TIME MACHINE

There are a million microbudget documentaries out there, for reasons I can't come close to understanding, but I still can't help but imagine that How to Build a Time Machine is one of the better ones.

2016 (weird film festivals for nonfiction films)/2017 (Hulu)
Written and directed by Jay Cheel

Spoiler alert: mild

Friday, November 24, 2017

Joe Dante, part XVI: She's back, she's dead, and she thinks we're still dating


BURYING THE EX

I hope Dante gets The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes made one of these days, because it would be a real shame for any great director's final feature film to be Burying the Ex.

2014 (them)/2015 (us)
Directed by Joe Dante
Written by Alan Trezza
With Anton Yelchin (Max), Alexandra Daddario (Olivia), Oliver Cooper (Travis), and Ashley Greene (Evelyn)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Because nothing spells "quality" like "Kickstarter"


THE VOID

A nothing of a horror movie that happens to feature some technically-proficient practical effects, which apparently means we have to love it.  Well, I don't.  You can do whatever you want.

2017
Written and directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski
With Aaron Poole (Daniel Carter), Kathleen Munroe (Allison Fraser), Ellen Wong (Kim), Stephanie Belding (Beverly), Grace Munro (Maggie), James Millington (Ben), Daniel Fathers (The Dad), Mik Byskov (The Son), Evan Stern (James), and Kenneth Walsh (Dr. Richard Powell)

Spoiler alert: mild

Monday, November 13, 2017

I drink your milkshake


SYRIANA

If it is not the best film about America in the Mideast, then maybe it's just because I haven't seen enough of that sourpussed breed to make the claim.  However, I will say this with unalloyed confidence: it's got the best poster, by far.

2005
Written and directed by Stephen Gaghan (based on the book See No Evil by Robert Baer)
With George Clooney (Bob Barnes), Alexander Siddig (Prince Nasir Al-Subaai), Matt Damon (Bryan Woodman), Amanda Peet (Julie Woodman), William Hurt (Stan), Mark Strong (Mussawi), Akbar Kusha (Prince Meshal Al-Subaai), Jeffrey Wright (Bennett Holiday), Tim Blake Nelson (Danny Dalton), Chris Cooper (Jimmy Pope), and Christopher Plummer (Dean Whiting)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Ice and snow


THOR: RAGNAROK

It falls into almost all of the usual Marvel movie traps—and then thrives within them anyway.

2017
Directed by Taika Waititi
Written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost
With Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner), Tessa Thompson (the Valkyrie), Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Stephen Strange), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Tadanobu Asano (Hogun), Ray Stevenson (Volstagg), Zachary Levi (Fandral), Taika Waititi (Korg), Rachel House (Topaz), Jeff Goldblum (the Grandmaster), Clancy Brown (Surtur), Karl Urban (Skurge), and Cate Blanchett (Hela)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Census Bloodbath: Do you even lift, bro?


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

1981
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Written by Timothy Bond, Peter Jobin, John Saxton, and John S. Beaird
With Melissa Sue Anderson (Ginny Wainright), Glenn Ford (Dr. David Faraday), Lawrence Dane (Hal Wainwright), Sharon Acker (Estelle Wainwright), Jack Blum (Alfred), Matt Craven (Steve), Lenore Zann (Maggie), David Eisner (Rudi), Michel-Rene Labelle (Etienne), Richard Rebiere (Greg), Lesleh Donaldson (Bernadette), Lisa Langlois (Amelia), and Tracey E. Bregman (Ann)

Spoiler alert: moderate-to-highish

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Census Bloodbath: A devil in a blue dress


HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II

1987
Directed by Bruce Pittman
Written by Ron Oliver
With Wendy Lyon (Vicki Carpenter), Justin Louis (Craig Nordham), Beth Gondek (Jess Browning), Beverly Hendry (Monica Waters), Brock Simpson (Josh), Terri Hawkes (Kelly Hennelotter), Richard Monette (Father Buddy Cooper), Michael Ironside (Principal Bill "Billy" Nordham), and Lisa Schrage (Mary Lou Maloney)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, October 30, 2017

Census Bloodbath: The drill is his penis


THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE

1982
Directed by Amy Holden Jones
Written by Rita Mae Brown
With Michelle Michaels (Trish), Debra Deliso (Kim), Andree Honore (Jackie), Gina Smika (Diane), Robin Still (Val), Jennifer Meyers (Courtney), Brinke Stevens (Linda), Joseph Alan Johnson (Neil), David Millbern (Jeff), Jim Boyce (John), Rigg Kennedy (Mr. Contant), Pamela Roylance (Coach Rachel), and Michael Villella (Russ Thorn)

Spoiler alert: high

Monday, October 23, 2017

Obama's weather machine


GEOSTORM

On the plus side, once we finish cooking our green planet into a nice shade of brown, there won't be anybody left to make movies like Geostorm.

2017
Directed by Dean Devlin
Written by Paul Guyot and Dean Devlin
With Gerard Butler (Jake Lawson), Jim Sturgess (Max Lawson), Abbie Cornish (Agent Sarah Wilson), Ed Harris (Sec. State Leonard Dekkom), Andy Garcia (President Andrew Palma), Alexandra Maria Lara (Cmdr. Ute Fassbinder), Zazie Beetz (Dana), and Talitha Bateman (Hannah Lawson)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Joe Dante, part XV: It knows what scares you


THE HOLE

A return to a form we were only modestly sure Joe Dante ever had in the first place.

2009 (the few)/2012 (the many)
Directed by Joe Dante
Written by Mark L. Smith
With Chris Massoglia (Dane Thompson), Nathan Gamble (Lucas Thompson), Haley Bennett (Julie Campbell), Teri Polo (Susan Thompson), and Bruce Dern (Creepy Carl)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Winter is coming—oh shit, wait... it's here


LEGEND

Practically two movie reviews in one!  Great.  (Luckily, each movie is almost great.)

1985 (them)/1986 (us)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by William Hjortsberg
With Tom Cruise (Jack), Mia Sara (Lili), David Bennent and the voice of Alice Playten (Honeythorn Gump), Annabelle Lanyon (Oona), Bill Barty (Screwball), Cork Hubbert (Brown Tom), Kiran Shah (Blunder), Peter O'Farrell (Pox), Alice Playten again (Blix), Robert Picardo (Meg Mucklebones), and Tim Curry (Darkness)

Spoiler alert: mild

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cells (interlinked)


BLADE RUNNER 2049

I am so Soviet happy.

2017
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by Hampton Francher and Michael Green
With Ryan Gosling (K), Ana de Armas (Joi), Harrison Ford (Deckard), Mackenzie Davis (Mariette), Robin Wright (Lt. Joshi), Sylvia Hoeks (Luv), and Jared Leto (Niander Wallace)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, October 5, 2017

But then again, who does?


BLADE RUNNER

The great sci-fi allegory about God and man, or at least—since there are an awful lot of them—one of the greats.

1982
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples (based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick)
With Harrison Ford (Deckard), Sean Young (Rachael), Edward James Olmos (Gaff), William Sanderson (J.F. Sebastian), Joanna Cassidy (Zhora), Brion James (Leon), Daryl Hannah (Pris), and Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty)

Spoiler alert: I want more life, fucker

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On mass-murder considered as one of the fine arts, part II


DEATH NOTE

Part Two of a review of my very favorite TV cartoon.  (Part One can be found here.)

2006-2007
Directed by Tetsuro Araki
Written by Toshiki Inoue et al (based on the comic by Tsuhumi Obha and Takeshi Obata)
With Kappei Yamaguchi/Alessandro Juliani (L), Noriko Hikada/Cathy Weseluck (Near), Nozomo Sasaki/David Robert (Mello), Naoya Uchida/Chris Britton (Soichiro Yagami), Ryo Naito/Vincent Tong (Touta Matsuda), Kimiko Saito/Colleen Wheeler (Rem), Shido Nakamura/Brian Drummond (Ryuk), Issei Futamata/Andrew Kavadas (Kyosuke Higuchi), Masaya Mazukaze/Kirby Morrow (Teru Mikami), Musumi Okamura/Heather Doerksen (Kiyomi Takada), Aya Hirano/Shannon Chan-Kent (Misa Amane), and Mamoru Miyano/Brad Swaile (Light Yagami)

Spoiler alert: severe (no, seriously)
Content warning: unsupportably long even as a two-part piece, but as a hyperindulgent birthday present to myself, that is also several weeks late, could it even get any more "me"?

On mass-murder considered as one of the fine arts, part I


DEATH NOTE

Like it needs an introduction?  Part One of a review of my very favorite TV cartoon.  (Part Two can be found here.)

2006-2007
Directed by Tetsuro Araki
Written by Toshiki Inoue et al (based on the comic by Tsuhumi Obha and Takeshi Obata)
With Kappei Yamaguchi/Alessandro Juliani (L), Noriko Hikada/Cathy Weseluck (Near), Nozomo Sasaki/David Robert (Mello), Naoya Uchida/Chris Britton (Soichiro Yagami), Ryo Naito/Vincent Tong (Touta Matsuda), Kimiko Saito/Colleen Wheeler (Rem), Shido Nakamura/Brian Drummond (Ryuk), Issei Futamata/Andrew Kavadas (Kyosuke Higuchi), Masaya Mazukaze/Kirby Morrow (Teru Mikami), Musumi Okamura/Heather Doerksen (Kiyomi Takada), Aya Hirano/Shannon Chan-Kent (Misa Amane), and Mamoru Miyano/Brad Swaile (Light Yagami)

Spoiler alert: severe (no, seriously)
Content warning: unsupportably long even as a two-part piece, but as a hyperindulgent birthday present to myself, that is also several weeks late, could it even get any more "me"?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Pool by pool, they form a river


THE SWIMMER

Less obscure than it used to be, this cult classic curio deserves every look it gets.

1966/1968
Directed by Frank Perry and Sydney Pollack
Written by Eleanor Perry (based on the short story by John Cheever)
With Burt Lancaster (Ned Merrill), Janet Landgard (Julie Hooper), Michael Kearney (Kevin Gilmartin), and Janice Rule (Shirley Abbott)

Spoiler alert: mild

Monday, September 18, 2017

Joe Dante, part XIV: How about that? Turns out voter fraud was real!


HOMECOMING (Masters of Horror, season 1, episode 6)
2005
Directed by Joe Dante
Written by Sam Hamm (based on the short story "Death and Suffrage" by Dale Bailey)
With Jon Tenney (David Murch), Thea Gill (Jane Cleaver), and Robert Picardo (Kurt Rand)

THE SCREWFLY SOLUTION (Masters of Horror, season 2, episode 7)
2006
Directed by Joe Dante
Written by Sam Hamm (based on the short story by Alice Sheldon)
Written Kerry Norton (Anne Alstein), Jason Priestley (Alan Alstein), Elliot Gould (Barney), and Brenna O'Brien (Amy Alstein)

Spoiler alert for both: moderate

Sunday, September 10, 2017

We'll all float on all right


IT

It's a collage of random scary crap (for a liberal value of "scary," to boot) that coheres, at length, into a reasonably awesome kid's adventure in the grand old style of all the kid's adventures to which it wants to be compared: that is, kind of toothless, honestly, but still faintly meaningful and a fair amount of fun.

2017
Directed by Andy Muschietti
Written by Chase Palmer, Gary Dauberman, and Cary Fukunaga (based on the novel by Stephen King)
With Jaeden Lieberher (Bill Denbrough), Sophia Lillis (Bev Marsh), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben Hanscom), Finn Wolfhard (Richie Tozier), Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie Kaspbrak), Wyatt Olef (Stan Uris), Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon), Nicholas Hamilton (Henry Bowers), and Bill Skarsgard (Pennywise)

Spoiler alert: moderate (or, if you've literally never heard of this property before, severe)

Monday, September 4, 2017

Who's gonna steal a subway train?


THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE

Likely more purely entertaining than any documentary about the modern history of New York, and more edifying than many, Joseph Sargent's near-masterpiece captures the city as it was (or, at least, as we imagine it was) and offers it up inside the kind of fun, thrill-heavy package that would still work whether there was anything else interesting about it or not.

1974
Directed by Joseph Sargent
Written by Peter Stone (based on the novel by Morton Freedgood)
With Walter Matthau (Lt. Zachary Garber), Jerry Stiller (Lt. Rico Patrone), Martin Balsam (Mr. Green), Earl Hindman (Mr. Gray), Hector Elizondo (Mr. Grey), and Robert Shaw (Mr. Blue)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The human who watches this movie can neither go to Heaven nor Hell


DEATH NOTE

Talk about your inaccurate translations...

2017
Directed by Adam Wingard
Written by Charlie Parlapanides, Vlas Parlapanides, and Jeremy Slater
With Nat Wolff (Light Turner), Willem Dafoe/Jason Liles (Ryuk), Margaret Qualley (Mia Sutton), Shea Whigham (James Turner), and Lakeith Stanfield (L)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Great ape


KONG: SKULL ISLAND

Who'd have guessed that the best movie of 2017 so far was the one about bouncing goofy visual gags off the side of a giant monster?  Actually, I had an inkling.

2017
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, and John Gatins
With Terry Notary and Toby Kebbell (Kong), John C. Reilly (Lt. Hank Marlow), Corey Hawkins (Houston Brooks), Jing Tian (San Lin), Tom Hiddleston (Capt. James Conrad), Brie Larson (Mason Weaver), John Ortiz (Victor Nieves), Jason Mitchell (WO Glenn Mills), Toby Kebbell (again) (Maj. Jack Chapman), Shea Whigham (Capt. Earl Cole), John Goodman (Bill Randa), and Samuel L. Jackson (Col. Preston Packard)

Spoiler alert: mild

Monday, August 14, 2017

Life in space is impossible


LIFE

Pleasantly grim and agreeably boilerplate, the worst thing you can say about Life is that it doesn't live up to its influences, but then, not too much does.

2017
Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
With Olga Dihovichnaya (Ekaterina Golovkina), Rebecca Ferguson (Dr. Miranda North), Jake Gyllenhaal (Dr. David Jordan), Ariyon Bakare (Dr. Hugh Derry), Hiroyuki Sanada (Sho Murakami), and Ryan Reynolds (Rory Adams)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The tree of knowledge


A GHOST STORY

At times, I know, it's almost a parody of an art film, but it's hard to name too many movies that earn their asininity the way A Ghost Story earns its.  It gets to where it needs to go, and a high-concept, low-affect meditation upon the awful, beautiful futility of life was, in the end, the most direct way it could have taken.

2017
Written and directed by David Lowery
With David Pink and Casey Affleck (The Ghost), Rooney Mara (The Woman), and Will Oldman (The Prognosticator)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The neon demon


ATOMIC BLONDE

Flawed but unforgettable, Atomic Blonde is certainly something to see (and, albeit only intermittently, something to hear, too).

2017
Directed by David Leitch
Written by Kurt Johnstad
With Charlize Theron (Lorraine Broughton), James McAvoy (David Percival), Toby Jones (Eric Gray), John Goodman (Emmett Kurzfeld), James Faulker ('C'), Sofia Boutella (Delphine Lasalle), Roland Moller (Aleksander Bremovych), and Johannes Haukur Johanneson (Yuri Bakhtin)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Friday, July 28, 2017

On the beach


DUNKIRK

I waver between "this is a strikingly ambiguous take on the heroism of a nation" and "look at the awesome airplanes!", but, luckily, Dunkirk is a marvel no matter how you slice it.

2017
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan
With Fionne Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Karney, Barry Keoghan, Cillian Murphy, Jack Lowden, and Tom Hardy

Spoiler alert: mild

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I am for an art that has explosions, and car chases, and maybe a little skin


MANIFESTO

A little airless, but not arid, Manifesto is a strange and fascinating trinket, centering itself upon a feature-length consideration of art's history of outright comical hubris.

2017
Written and directed by Julian Rosenfeldt
With Cate Blanchett

Spoiler alert: N/A

Sunday, July 23, 2017

And the sixth element, it turns out, is poop


VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

The Death of Story continues, but Valerian offers more than story.  It gives us a heaping helping of gorgeously wonderful (and gloriously stupid) visuals, too.  You can call it good, if you want to; but it's sort of beyond that type of categorization.

2017
Written and directed by Luc Besson
With Dane DeHaan (Valerian), Cara Delevingne (Laureline), Sasha Luss (Princess Liho-Minaa), Rihanna (Bubble), Ethan Hawke (Jolly the Pimp), John Goodman (Igon Siruss), and Clive Owen (Commander Arun Filitt)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The young avenger


SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

A Spider-Man movie, that isn't a Spider-Man movie, but is?  (Review summary best read in the voice of would-be Spider-Man Donald Glover, for whom we shall shed a small tear, and always wish the best.)

2017
Directed by Jon Watts
Written by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, and Jon Watts
With Tom Holland (Peter Parker), Jacob Batalon (Ned), Jennifer Connelly (Karen), Marisa Tomei (May Parker), Laura Harrier (Liz Allan), Zendaya (Michelle), Tony Revolori (Flash Thompson), Donald Glover (Aaron Davis), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark), and Michael Keaton (Adrian Toomes)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Alien Week, part VIII: The dark star


ALIEN: COVENANT

About seven weeks too late, we reach the conclusion of our journey—and, in keeping with the anticlimactic nature of our retrospective, we find it lacking not just everything that made Alien great, but even most of the things that made its immediate predecessor Prometheus good, too.

2017
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Jack Peglen, Michael Green, John Logan, and Dante Harper
With Michael Fassbender (David and Walter), Katherine Waterston (Daniels), Billy Crudup (Oram), Danny McBride (Tennessee), James Franco (Capt. Branson), and Guy Pearce (Peter Weyland)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Simon and Carfunkel


BABY DRIVER

Edgar Wright returns to do what he does best these days: squander a premise.

2017
Written and directed by Edgar Wright
With Ansel Elgort (Baby), Lily James (Debora), Jon Hamm (Buddy), Eiza Gonzalez (Darling), Jamie Foxx (Bats), and Kevin Spacey (Doc)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Alien Week, part VII: The space odyssey


PROMETHEUS

Fitfully great, and with far more potential than it ever quite pays off upon, Prometheus is ironic in that it's an Alien film that itself suffers from an unwanted xenomorphic impregnation.

2012
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof
With Michael Fassbender (David), Noomi Rapace (Dr. Elizabeth Shaw), Logan Marshall-Green (Dr. Charlie Holloway), Charlize Theron (Meredith Vickers), Idris Elba (Capt. Janek), and Guy Pearce (Peter Weyland)

Spoiler alert: high

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tommy the Mummy Slayer


THE MUMMY

It's mostly a waste of a perfectly good all-powerful resurrected corpse, but it does have a few nice compensations.

2017
Directed by Alex Kurtzman
Written by (deep breath) Jon Spaihts, Jenny Lumet, Dylan Kussman, Christopher McQuarrie, David Koepp, and Alex Kurtzman
With Tom Cruise (Nick Morton), Annabelle Wallis (Jenny Halsey), Jake Johnson (Chris Vail), Russell Crowe (Dr. Henry Jekyll), and Sofia Boutella (Ahmanet)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average


WONDER WOMAN

Wonder Woman, and all sorts of women, deserved better.

2017
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Written by Allan Heinberg, Jason Fuchs, and Zack Snyder
With Gal Gadot (Princess Diana of Themyscira), Chris Pine (Steve Trevor), Connie Nielsen (Queen Hippolyta), Robin Wright (Princess Antiope), David Thewliss (Sir Patrick Morgan), Danny Huston (Gen. d. Inf. Erich von Ludendorff), and Elena Anaya (Dr. "Poison" Maru)

Spoiler alert: high

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Alien Week, part VI: The war of the worlds


ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM

Oh, right: this is the one that really pissed everyone off.  As well it should have, for Requiem isn't just the nadir of this franchise; it's perilously close to being the nadir of 21st century filmmaking, period.  Truly, it is inept in ways you've never seen before, will never see again, and—not to put too fine a point on it—it's inept in ways you don't even see at all.  What a calamity this film is.

2007
Directed by Colin Strause and Greg Strause
Written by Shane Salerno
With Johnny Lewis (Ricky), Steven Pasquale (Dallas), Kristen Hager (Jesse), Reiko Aylesworth (Kelly), Ian Whyte ("Wolf"), and Tom Woodruff, Jr. (the Predalien)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Alien Week, part V: The chariots of the gods


ALIEN VS. PREDATOR

AVP isn't exactly great, but is absolutely some brand of "good enough," and it's entirely impossible for me to understand how this is the one that wound up pissing everybody off.

2004
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, and Paul W.S. Anderson
With Sanaa Lathan (Alexa Woods), Lance Henriksen (Charles Bishop Weyland), Ian Whyte ("Scar"), and Tom Woodruff, Jr. ("Grid")

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, May 29, 2017

Alien Week, part IV: The blob


ALIEN: RESURRECTION

I reviewed a movie written by Joss Whedon without using the word "quip" once.  Worship me!

1997
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Written by Joss Whedon
With Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Ripley), Winona Ryder (Call), Michael Wincott (Elgyn), Ron Perlman (Johner), Gary Dourdan (Christie), Kim Flowers (Hillard), Dominique Pinon (Vriess), J.E. Freeman (Dr. Wren), Dan Hedaya (Gen. Perez), and Brad Dourif (Dr. Gediman)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Alien Week, part III: The planet of the vampires


ALIEN³

Well, I strongly doubt it's gotten any less tedious.

1992
Directed by David Fincher
Written by David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson, and Vincent Ward
With Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Ripley), Charles Dance (Dr. Jonathan Clemens), and Charles S. Dutton (Dillon)

Spoiler alert: mild
Note: this is a slightly reworked review from my David Fincher retrospective, written two years back, which may explain why it's shorter (and no doubt better) than anything I manage to produce now; but the point, of course, is that if you thought I was going to actually watch this movie again, then the real joke, my friend, is on you