Monday, December 31, 2018

Love you wife


THE ABYSS

Now, the box office doesn't bear this out, and reasonable minds can differ, but if you were to ask me, James Cameron's career through the 80s and its holdover years in the 90s was one of unstoppable ascent, each picture being better than his last.  But even if his fourth film didn't stay his best film (though it gives his fifth, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which did remain his best, a very serious run for its money), then, for the sheer difficulty of its achievement, The Abyss remains Cameron's most impressive work—and his most personal.

1989 (theatrical release)/1992 (the proper, finished film, as people watch it today)
Written and directed by James Cameron

Spoiler alert: severe

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Hearts in Atlantis


AQUAMAN

The DCEU comes roaring back to life with superheroes the way they were meant to be, and this time I think we can actually all agree on that.

2018
Directed by James Wan
Written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall, Geoff Johns, and James Wan

Spoiler alert: moderate

It's shite being Scottish


MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS

In case Wikipedia goes down, there's still Mary Queen of Scots.

2018
Directed by Josie Rourke
Written by Beau Willimon (based on the book Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy)

Spoiler alert: a Stuart and their head are often soon separated

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Does whatever a multiverse can


SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

Basically a piece of experimental animation they spent 90 million dollars on, believe the hype—Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is amazing, spectacular, and every other adjective you may have heard about it.

2018
Directed by Bob Perschietti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman
Written by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, December 17, 2018

I'm saying she was "the Mistress of the Robes," yeah? "Keeper of the Privy Purse," "Groom of the Stole," "Lady of the Bedchamber"... if you know what I mean


THE FAVOURITE

Our reminder that it is not only power that corrupts, but lack of power, too, The Favourite wallows in the sickness of humankind.  But (importantly) always in an amusing way.

2018
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
With Olivia Colman (Anne Stuart, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland), Rachel Weisz (Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough), Emma Stone (Abigail Hill), James Smith (Sidney Godolphin, Earl of Godolphin), and Nicholas Hoult (Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, December 10, 2018

Sure, but the CGI on the kid is amazing


MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE

Even with the anti-hype machine in full swing, I held fast to my faith in Andy Serkis' Mowgli as the better of the two Jungle Books we were going to get this decade.  Unfortunately, I can't say my faith was wholly justified, even if Mowgli does offer a fair amount to enjoy.

2018
Directed by Andy Serkis
Written by Callie Kloves (based on stories by Joseph Rudyard Kipling)
With Rohan Chand (Mowgli), Christian Bale (Bagheera), Andy Serkis (Baloo), Peter Mullan (Akela), Naomie Harris (Nisha), Louis Ashborne Serkis (Bhoot), Cate Blanchett (Kaa), Freida Pinto (Messua), Matthew Rhys (John Lockwood), Tom Hollander (Tabaqui), and Benedict Kumberbatch (Shere Khan)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Working for the weekend


WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S

One of the 80s' best-remembered comedies is not always considered one of its best, period, but damned if Weekend at Bernie's doesn't have one of that decade's better hooks, no matter what else is or isn't good about it.

1989
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Written by Robert Klane
With Jonathan Silverman (Richard Parker), Andrew McCarthy (Larry Wilson), Catherine Mary Stewart (Gwen Saunders), and Terry Kiser (Bernard Lomax)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Just a worthless bum, alone on a pile of bricks


RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET

So the single worst movie of the year so far was the Disney cartoon?  Man, I had no great expectations, but I did not expect that.

2018
Directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston
Written by Jim Reardon, Pamela Reardon, Josie Trinidad, Rich Moore, and Phil Johnston
With John C. Reilly (Wreck-It Ralph), Sarah Silverman (Vannelope von Schweetz), Gal Gadot (Shank), Taraji P. Henson (Yesss), plus plenty of others, but let's not

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Because you're dangerous


CREED II

Released with the best sense of timing that just about any film's ever had, what would've already been (let's not say "just") a great and satisfying sequel in any other time and place becomes, in the November of 2018, something close enough to perfection to count.

2018
Directed by Steven Caple Jr.
Written by Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone
With Michael B. Jordan (Adonis "Donnie" Johnson), Sylvester Stallone (Robert "Rocky" Balboa), Tessa Thompson (Bianca), Phylicia Rashad (Mary Anne Creed), Wood Harris (Tony "Little Duke" Evers), Florian Munteanu (Viktor Drago), Dolph Lundgren (Ivan Drago), and Brigitte Nielsen (Ludmilla Drago)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The meanness of the used-ta-been


THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

The Coens are back with another oddball project, an anthology that, in some ways, is more coherent than a lot of their monolithic narratives; and it's a damn fine thing, too, although that doesn't stop parts of it from being somewhat less than worth your time.

2018
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Love and death


A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH
aka The Stairway to Heaven

Surely one of the best movies whose content was ever dictated by a government, A Matter of Life and Death is practically the perfect wartime romantic melodrama... except, I guess, for those parts where the content was dictated by a government.

1946
Written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
With David Niven (Squadron Leader Peter Carter), Kim Hunter (June), Roger Livesey (Dr. Frank Reeves), Robert Coote (Flying Officer Bob Trubshawe), Kathleen Byron (An Angel), Joan Maude (The Chief Recorder), Abraham Sofaer (The Judge), Marius Goring (Conductor 71), and Raymond Massey (Abraham Farlan)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, November 24, 2018

No country for old women... or young women... or women generally


WIDOWS

Overborne and overdetermined, Widows is a movie that never does anything terribly, and several things well enough, and maybe even a few things great.  But it is a tremendously mixed bag..

2018
Directed by Steve McQueen
Written by Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen (based on the TV series by Lynda La Plante)
With Viola Davis (Veronica Rawlings), Elizabeth Debicki (Alice Gunner), Michelle Rodriguez (Linda Perelli), Cynthia Erivo (Belle), Carrie Coon (Amanda Nunn), Colin Farrell (Jack Mulligan), Bryan Tyree Henry (Jamal Manning), Daniel Kaluyya (Jatemme Manning), and Liam Neeson (Harry Rawlings)

Spoiler alert: close enough to high to count

Monday, November 19, 2018

Does the letter of authenticity come with a letter of authenticity?


CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

As we move through this second-most Academy-centric of months, we arrive upon Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a better class of would-be Oscarbait True Story: one with a strong hook (crime) and a strong aesthetic (brown), but which only uses those things as a starting point to get to what it's really after, namely one of 2018's better character studies, as offered by way of one of 2018's strongest (if not wholly surprising) lead performances.

2018
Directed by Marielle Heller
Written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty (based on the book by Lee Israel)
With Melissa McCarthy (Lee Israel), Richard E. Grant (Jack Hock), Dolly Wells (Anna), and Jane Curtin (Marjorie)

Spoiler alert: moderate (technically N/A, but it's not that well-known a story)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sure, convince them they're straight! I know I really enjoyed dating a lesbian for six months in my first year of college, you fucking dolts


BOY ERASED

It's that time of year again!  'Tis the season of middlebrow movies made for decent middle-class liberals who want to feel superior to (choose one) [Nazis/slavers/Christian fundamentalists], as well as, to some extent, their victims.  Oho!  I see you've picked [Christian fundamentalists]!  Excellent choice!  Here's a dour film that tells you that gay conversion therapy is bad, and, sometimes but not that often, even how and why!  (Still, for what it is, it's a qualified success, so let's not be as mean as we could be.)

2018
Written and directed by Joel Edgerton (based on the book by Garrard Conley)
With Lucas Hedges (Jared Eamons) Nicole Kiman (Nancy Eamons), Russell Crowe (Marshall Eamons), and Joel Edgerton (Victor Sykes)

Spoiler alert: N/A

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Mother, may I?


SUSPIRIA

Stuffed, maybe overstuffed, with ideas and symbols and bids at meaning, the most important thing is that Suspiria does terrible things to you, but you realize you really like it.

2018
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Written by David Kajganich
With Dakota Johnson (Susie Bannion), Elena Fokina (Olga), Mia Goth (Sara), Chloe Grace Moretz (Patricia), Jessica Harper (Anke), Tilda Swinton (Madame Blance, Dr. Klemperer, et al), and Malgorzata Bela (Mrs. Bannion)

Spoiler alert: mild—well, severe for Suspiria '77, but come on now

Monday, November 12, 2018

They're not sending their best


BLOWN AWAY

A bomb-based thriller that's too wacky for its own good, yet, perhaps, not quite wacky enough, Blown Away splits the difference between sobriety and absurdity somewhat awkwardly, if never quite so awkwardly that the good parts (which is to say, the cool parts) wind up lost.

1994
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Written Jay Roach, John Rice, and Joe Batteer
With Jeff Bridges (Lt. Jimmy Dove), Suzy Amis (Kate), Lloyd Bridges (Max O'Bannon), Forest Whitaker (Officer Anthony Franklin), and Tommy Lee Jones (Ryan Gaerity)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Predator Week, part II: Oh, it's the urban jungle, I get it


PREDATOR 2

Predator 2 never quite justifies its existence, but it mostly earns your attention, and that will have to do.

1990
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Written by Jim Thomas and John Thomas
With Danny Glover (Lt. Mike Harrigan), Ruben Blades (Danny Archuleta), Maria Conchita Alonso (Leona Cantrell), Bill Paxton (Jerry Lambert), Gary Busey (Peter Keyes), Kevin Peter Hall (a Predator, why is he credited as "the Predator"? the Predator is dead)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Disney's Challengers, part II: A bug's life


MR. BUG GOES TO TOWN
(aka Hoppity Goes To Town aka Bugville)

Consider the mystery of why hardly anybody ever mentions the Fleischer Studios' pair of feature-length cartoons to be solved.

1942
Directed by Dave Fleischer and Shamus Culhane
With Stan Freed (Hoppity), Pauline Loth (Honey Bumble), Jack Mercer (Mr. Bumble and Swat), Margie Hines (Mrs. Ladybug and Buzz), Pinto Colvig (Mr. Creeper), Carl Meyer (Smack), and Tedd Pierce (C. Bagley Beetle)

Spoiler alert: mild

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Census Bloodbath: Overshoot the extreme, max the envelope, and so on


DEATH SPA

Yesterday was Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, yesterday was Halloween, here's our crossover!  As if he needs any introduction, our friend Brennan Klein of Popcorn Culture, as well as many other places these days, shall be taking on the task of reviewing three wholesome, edifying 1950s sci-fi films of the kind we so often do around here, while I review three slasher films straight from the pit of moral decay called the 1980s.

1989
Directed by Michael Fischa
Written by James Bartruff and Mitch Paradise
With William Bumiller (Michael), Brenda Bakke (Laura), Ken Foree (Marvin), Alexa Hamilton (Priscilla), Rosalind Cash (Sgt. Stone), Francis X. McCarthy (Lt. Fletcher), Merrick Butrick (David), and Shari Shattuck (Catherine)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Census Bloodbath: Everything louder than everything else


SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II

No more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, no more days to Halloween, here's our crossover!  As if he needs any introduction, our friend Brennan Klein of Popcorn Culture, as well as many other places these days, shall be taking on the task of reviewing three wholesome, edifying 1950s sci-fi films of the kind we so often do around here, while I review three slasher films straight from the pit of moral decay called the 1980s.

1987
Written and directed by Deborah Brock
With Crystal Bernard (Courtney), Kimberly McArthur (Amy), Juliette Cummins (Sheila), Heidi Kozak (Sally), Patrick Lowe (Matt), Scott Westmoreland (Jeff), Joel Hoffman (T.J.),and Atanas Ilitch (The Driller Killer)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, October 29, 2018

Census Bloodbath: Thank you for your service?


THE PROWLER

Three more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, three more days to Halloween, here's our crossover!  As if he needs any introduction, our friend Brennan Klein of Popcorn Culture, as well as many other places these days, shall be taking on the task of reviewing three wholesome, edifying 1950s sci-fi films of the kind we so often do around here, while I review three slasher films straight from the pit of moral decay called the 1980s.

1981
Directed by Joseph Zito
Written by Neal Barbera and Glenn Leopold
With Vicky Lawson (Pam MacDonald), Christopher Goutman (Deputy Mark London), Lisa Dunsheath (Sherry), David Sederholm (Carl), Cindy Weintraub (Lisa), Donna Davis (Ms. Allison), Lawrence Tierney (Maj. Chatham),and Farley Granger (Sheriff George Fraser)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Season of the bitch


HALLOWEEN

Another worthy entry in what's still the best slasher show, even if Halloween '18 bites off so much more than it can chew.

2018
Directed by David Gordon Green
Written by Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley, and David Gordon Green
With Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Andi Matichak (Allyson Nelson), Judy Greer (Karen Nelson nee Strode), and James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle (Michael Myers)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, October 22, 2018

Well, I'd love to chat some more... but let's kill each other instead


THE NIGHT COMES FOR US

Does it count as breaking the Netflix Curse if all they did was distribute it?  Either way, The Night Comes For Us is high-test martial arts in the best Indonesian style, and one whole shitload of it, too (which is good, because it doesn't have a damned thing else to fall back on).

2018
Written and directed by Timo Tjahjanto
With Joe Taslim (Ito), Julie Estelle (The Operator), Abimanya Aryastya (Fatih), Zack Lee (White Boy Bobby), Dimas Anggara (Wisnu), Asha Kenyeri Bermudez (Reina), Revaldo (Yohan), Dian Sastrowardoyo (Alma), Hannah Al Rashid (Elena), and Iko Uwais (Arian)

Spoiler alert: mild

Walt Disney, part VI: "Because we never kill anything," said his mother simply


BAMBI

"The worst insult ever offered in any form to American sportsmen," said Raymond Brown, editor of Outdoor Life, in 1942, and that sounds like accurate enough praise to me, though it doesn't even sum up half of everything that's masterful about the final effort of Walt Disney's Golden Age.

1942
Directed by David Hand

Spoiler alert: she dies

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The seasons pass, but the monsters stay


SUMMER OF 84

It holds nothing back, and for that Summer of 84 needs to be celebrated, rather than merely consigned to the increasingly-large pile of the 2010s' 1980s movies that aren't as good as the 1980s' 1980s movies.

2018
Directed by Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell
Written by Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith
With Graham Verchere (Davey Armstrong), Caleb Emery (Dale "Woody" Woodworth), Judah Lewis (Tommy "Eats" Eaton), Corey Gruter-Andrew (Curtis Farraday), Terry Skovbye (Nikki Kaszuba), and Rich Sommer (Wayne Mackey)

Spoiler alert: I think moderate, but arguably verging on high

Have you thought about, I don't know, actually learning how to farm?


APOSTLE

Another week.  Another film by a good director released on Netflix.  Another dud.

2018
Written and directed by Gareth Evans
With Dan Stevens ("Thomas Richardson"), Lucy Boynton (Andrea), Bill Milner (Jeremy), Kristine Froseth (Ffion), Paul Higgins (Frank), Mark Lewis Jones (Quinn), and Michael Sheen (Prophet Malcolm)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, October 15, 2018

It's so [checks notes] bad


TURBO KID

It's shocking enough that Turbo Kid simply isn't obnoxious in its pandering (though pander it does, for 95 straight minutes), but, somehow, it's actually good.

2015
Written and directed by Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell
With Munro Chambers (The Kid), Laurence Leboeuf (Apple), Aaron Jeffery (Frederic), Edwin Wright (Skeletron), and Michael Ironside (Zeus)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Hello, stupid robot


NEXT GEN

The new cartoon from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation looks pretty good—especially considering that it was made on software you can download for free—but unfortunately all it offers is an entire movie made out of Genuine People Personalities.

2018
Directed by Kevin R. Adams and Joe Ksander
Written by Wang Nima, Ryan K. Smith, Kevin R. Adams and Joe Ksander
With Charlyne Yi (Mai), John Krasinski (Project 77), Michael Pena (Momo), Constance Wu (Molly), David Cross (Dr. Tanner Rice and the Q-Bots) (what a terrible band name) and Jason Sudeikis (Justin Pin and Ares)

Spoiler alert: mild

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Jovian warrior sent forth from the eye of the storm


MANDY

Something raw and powerful, they don't often come as uncompromising as Mandy, which means that it's both something to be grateful for, and something to expect you'll have a whole lot of problems with.

2018
Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Written by Aaron Stuart-Ahn and Panos Cosmatos
With Nicolas Cage (Red), Andrea Riseborough (Mandy), Bill Duke (Caruthers), and Linus Roache (Jeremiah Sand)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Walt Disney, part V: How would you like being left out alone, in a cold, cruel, heartless world?


DUMBO

It's sentiment, cheaply, but Walt passes the savings on to you.

1941
Directed by Ben Sharpsteen
With Edward Brophy (Timothy Q. Mouse), Verna Felton (Mrs. Jumbo and the Elephant Matriarch), Cliff Edwards (Jim Crow) (yeesh), and Herman Bing (the Ringmaster)

Spoiler alert: an elephant flies

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Predator Week, part I: The most dangerous game


PREDATOR

Quite possibly the 1980s' finest combination of brains and brawn, you'd think Predator would be rated even higher than it already is.

1987
Directed by John McTiernan
Written by Jim Thomas, John Thomas, and David Peoples
With Arnold Schwarzenegger (Dutch), Carl Weathers (Dillon), Bill Duke (Mack), Richard Chaves (Poncho), Sonny Landham (Billy), Jesse Ventura (Cooper), Shane Black (Hawkins), Elpidia Carillo (Anna), and Kevin Peter Hall (the Predator)

Spoiler alert: we're all going to die

Monday, September 24, 2018

Walt Disney, part IV: The happiest place on Earth


THE RELUCTANT DRAGON

An odd little prepackaged voyage through Walt's then-new studio in Burbank, The Reluctant Dragon doesn't accomplish much, though I certainly don't begrudge its existence.  At least, not as a bonus feature on the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad blu-ray.  As a theatrical feature film, on the other hand...

1941
Directed by Alfred Werker and Hamilton Luske
With Robert Benchley (Robert Benchley), Nana Bryant (Mrs. Benchley), Frances Gifford (Doris), Buddy Pepper (Humphrey), Clarence Nash (Clarence Nash and Donald Duck), Florence Gill (Florence Gill and Clara Cluck), various other Disney employees and, for some reason, Alan Ladd (various Disney employees), and Walt Disney (Walt Disney), plus Billy Lee (the Boy in "The Reluctant Dragon"), Claud Allister (Sir Giles in "The Reluctant Dragon"), and Barnett Parker (the Dragon in "The Reluctant Dragon")

Spoiler alert: moderate, and not really applicable

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Walt Disney, part III: Serious Symphony


FANTASIA

One of the most ambitious cinematic endeavors of all time, Fantasia is the masterpiece of Disney's Golden Age, and perhaps the greatest and most successful experiment in animation attempted by anyone in any age.

1940
"Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor" and "The Nutcracker Suite" directed by Samuel Armstrong; "The Sorceror's Apprentice" directed by James Algar; "Rite of Spring" directed by Bill Roberts and Paul Satterfield; "Meet the Soundtrack" directed by David Hand and Ben Sharpsteen; "The Pastoral Symphony" directed by Jim Handley and Hamilton Luske; "Dance of the Hours" directed by Norman Ferguson and Thornton Hee; "Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria" directed by Wilfred Jackson
With Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor, and Walt Disney

Spoiler alert: inapplicable

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Walt Disney, part II: There are no strings on me


PINOCCHIO

As a lavishly-mounted exercise in how, through magic and hard work, something unliving becomes alive, you could call Pinocchio the very essence of animation.  You could, that is, if you liked it a lot more than I do.

1940
Directed by Bill Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske
With Dickie Jones (Pinocchio), Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket), Christian Rub (Gepetto), Frankie Dorro (Lampwick), Walter Catlett ("Honest" John Worthington Foulfellow), Mel Blanc (Gideon the Cat's hiccups), Charles Judels (Stromboli), and Evelyn Venable (the Blue Fairy)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Disney's Challengers, part I: Going up against the giant


GULLIVER'S TRAVELS

Gulliver's Travels was the second feature-length animated film ever, and this quickly-fading novelty is the only sensible reason it made any money at all in 1939—because the most useful thing it ever does otherwise is provide a handy 86 minute explanation of why feature animation effectively stayed a Disney monopoly for half a century afterwards.

1939
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Written by Dan Gordon, Cal Howard, Tedd Pierce, Edmond Seward and Isadore Sparber (based on Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World.  In Four Parts.  By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, Then a Captain of Several Ships by Jonathan Swift)
With Sam Parker (Lemuel Gulliver), Pinto Corvig (Gabby), Jack Mercer (King Little III), Tedd Pierce (King Bombo), Jessica Dragonette and Livonia Warren (Princess Glory), and Lanny Ross and Cal Howard (Prince David)

Spoiler alert: hell, it only gets one fourth of the way through

Monday, September 3, 2018

Father of the year


SEARCHING

It may be a gimmick in search of a more resonant story, but Searching is a perfectly solid episode of SVU with an even-more-solid central performance from John Cho's face.

2018
Directed by Aneesh Chaganty
Written by Sev Ohanian and Aneesh Chagnaty
With John Cho (David Kim), Michelle La (Margot Kim), Joseph Lee (Peter Kim), Sara Sohn (Pamela Nam Kim), and Debra Messing (Det. Rosemary Vick)

Spoiler alert: mild

Cardboard Science: Calculate your chances... negative... negative... negative...


ROBOT MONSTER

Somewhere between must-see surrealist psychothriller and complete Z-movie trash, I don't suppose there's any compelling reason why Robot Monster can't be both.

1953
Directed by Phil Tucker
Written by Wyott Ordung
With Gregory Moffett (Johnny), Claudia Barrett (Alice), George Nader (Roy), John Mylong (The Professor), Selena Royle (Mother), Pamela Paulson (Carla), and George Barrows/John Brown (Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 and Great Guidance)

Spoiler alert: high; and likewise high for Invaders From Mars (1953)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Walt Disney, part I: Disney's folly


SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS

Let's begin at the beginning, shall we?

1937
Directed by David Hand, et al
Written by America (based on Europe)
With Adriana Caselotti (Snow White), Harry Stockwell (the charming Prince), Roy Atwell (Doc), Pinto Colvig (Sleepy and Grumpy), Otis Harlan (Happy), Scotty Mattraw (Bashful), Billy Gilbert (Sneezy), Eddie Collins (Dopey), Moroni Olsen (The Magic Mirror), Stuart Buchanan (The Hunstman), and Lucille La Verne (The Evil Queen)

Spoiler alert: love's first kiss

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Teenage caveman


ALPHA

It bears some aspects of a shaggy dog story, but Alpha's prehistoric panorama is worth meandering in.

2018
Directed by Albert Hughes
Written by Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt and Albert Hughes
With Kodi Smit-McPhee (Keda), Johannes Hakur Johannesson (Tau), and Chuck (Alpha)

Spoiler alert: mild

Thursday, August 16, 2018

...He doesn't even know how to fold a map


THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER

Better than you could possibly have expected from a sequel to The Rescuers, Down Under was and remains the most unsung—ha ha—masterpiece of the Disney Renaissance, and one of the most uniquely great films the studio ever made.

1990
Directed by Hendel Butoy and Michael Gabriel
Written by Jim Cox, Karey Kirkpatrick, Byron Simpson, and Joe Ranft
With Eva Gabor (Bianca), Bob Newhart (Bernard), Tristan Rogers (Jake), John Candy (Wilbur), Adam Ryen (Cody), Frank Welker (Marahute and Joanna), and George C. Scott (McLeach)

Spoiler alert: high

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Who will rescue me?


THE RESCUERS

It's kind of weird to look back and see this as a reversal of Disney's fortunes during some of their darker days, even a modest one, but I suppose it kept the lights on.  Still, I wish I could say something nicer about The Rescuers than that.

1977
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lousbery, and Art Stevens
Written by... good Lord, that's a lot of people credited to a 77 minute film (based on the book by Margery Sharp)
With Eva Gabor (Bianca), Bob Newhart (Bernard), Michelle Stacy (Penny), Jim Jordan (Orville), Joe Flynn (Snoops), and Geraldine Page (Medusa)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, August 12, 2018

I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords


PHASE IV

A steady, meticulous dive into all-out evolutionary struggle, Saul Bass's Phase IV is in the running for best "evil bug" movie of all time, which sounds like a low bar, and is, but I do truly mean it in the most complimentary way I could.

1974
Directed by Saul Bass
Written by Mayo Simon
With Michael Murphy (James Lesko), Lynne Frederick (Kendra Eldridge), and Nigel Davenport (Dr. Ernest Hubbs)

Spoiler alert: moderate

All power to all the people


BLACKKKLANSMAN

BlacKkKlansman may be responsible for the most feelings I've had in a theater this year, yet none of them conflicted.  Thank you, Spike Lee.

2018
Directed by Spike Lee
Written by Kevin Wilmott, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Spike Lee (based on Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth)
With John David Washington (Det. Ron Stallworth), Adam Driver (Det. Flip Zimmerman), Laura Harrier (Patrice Dumas), Ken Garito (Sgt. Trapp), Michael Buscemi (Jimmy Creek), Corey Hawkins (Kwame "Stokely Carmichael" Ture), Harry Belafonte (Jerome Turner), Alec Baldwin (Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard), Jasper Paakkonen (Felix Kendrickson), Ryan Eggold (Walter Breachway), Paul Walter Hauser (Ivanhoe), and Topher Grace (Grand Wizard David Duke)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Cardboard Science: Stay off the moors!


THE MAN FROM PLANET X

To a historian, the word "important" means something different, but even by that standard, this movie, that influenced practically nobody, and is remembered now only by the likes of Joe Dante and me, still isn't anywhere close.  Not even when the calendar says it ought to be.

1951
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Written by Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen
Robert Clarke (John Lawrence), Margaret Field (Enid Eliot), Raymond Bond (Prof. Eliot), William Schallert (Dr. Mears), and an unknown subject (the Man From Planet X)

Spoiler alert: high

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Chapter VIII: In which Christopher Robin liberates a concentration camp


CHRISTOPHER ROBIN

Say, doesn't "a grown man reunites with his imaginary friends" sound at least as much like a horror movie as it does a cute comedy?  Why, yes.  Yes, it does.

2018
Directed by Marc Forster
Written by Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder
With Ewan McGregor (Christopher Robin), Jim Cummings (Pooh and Tigger), Nick Mohammed (Piglet), Brad Garrett (Eeyore), Peter Capaldi (Rabbit), Sophie Okenedo (Kanga), Sara Sheen (Roo), Toby Jones (Owl), Haley Atwell (Evelyn Robin), and Bronte Carmichael (Madeline Robin)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, July 29, 2018

I'm jumping out a window!


MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE—FALLOUT

Parts of it are every bit as world-class as everyone's saying, but Fallout is, in the end, only a good M:I movie.  That means it's great by regular movie standards, and it does amazing things the series has never done before (which itself is in the best tradition of its best forebears); but it's also a Mission: Impossible that sometimes almost drops down to "boring," and that's a sin this franchise has never committed.

Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie
With Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt), Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa Faust), Simon Pegg (Benji Dunn), Ving Rhames (Luther Stickell), Alec Baldwin (Sec. Alan Hunley), Angela Bassett (Director Erica Sloane), Henry Cavill (August Walker), Vanessa Kirby (White Widow), and Sean Harris (Solomon Lane)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Cardboard Science: 20,000 leagues under the skin


FANTASTIC VOYAGE

Slow (and surprisingly dumb for a movie as pompous as this one often is), it nevertheless absolutely lives up to that title, even fifty years after the fact.

1966
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Written by Otto Klement, Jerome Bixby, and Harry Kleiner
With Stephen Boyd (Grant), Arthur Kennedy (Dr. Peter Duval), Raquel Welch (Cora Peterson), William Redfield (Capt. Bill Owens), Edmond O'Brien (Gen. Carter), Arthur O'Donnell (Col. Reid), and Donald Pleasence (Dr. Michaels)

Spoiler alert: high

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Cardboard Science: My friend, can your heart stand the shocking facts about neocons from outer space?


THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL

Remember, if we use nuclear weapons, condescending aliens will come and kill us with weapons even worse than nuclear weapons.  I think you might've had to be there, but The Day the Earth Stood Still remains a fine allegory, and a pretty good movie, though it has a little trouble hiding its flabby middle.

1951
Directed by Robert Wise
Written by Edmund H. North (based on the short story "Farewell to the Master" by Harry Bates)
With Michael Rennie (Klaatu), Patricia Neal (Helen Benson), Billy Gray (Bobby Benson), Sam Jaffe (Prof. Jacob Barnhardt), Hugh Marlowe (Tom Stevens), and Lock Martin ft. a fiberglass statue (Gort)

Spoiler alert: severe

Monday, July 16, 2018

I'll never be your beast of burden


SORRY TO BOTHER YOU

Sorry exists in a world where satire has been dead for years, and it wants to revive it anyway.  It succeeds just about as well as I guess any movie possibly could.

2018
Written and directed by Boots Riley
With Lakeith Stanfield/David Cross (Cassius Green), Tessa Thompson (Detroit), Jermaine Fowler (Salvador), Steven Yuen (Squeeze), Danny Glover (Langston), Omari Hardwick/Patton Oswalt (Mr. ____), and Armie Hammer (Steve Lift)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Finity war


ANT-MAN AND THE WASP

Ant-Man returns with all the charm and humor and spectacle of his first outing, and pays off on the promise inherent in his second film's title, but Ant-Man and the Wasp reveals too much of these movies' fundamental hollowness for anybody's good.

2018
Directed by Peyton Reed
Written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrarri, and Paul Rudd
With Paul Rudd (Scott Lang), Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne), Michael Douglas (Hank Pym), Michael Pena (Luis), Tip "T.I." Harris (Dave), David Dasmalchian (Kurt), Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet van Dyne), Abby Ryder Forston (Cassie Lang), Judy Greer (Maggie), Bobby Canavale (Jim), Randall Park (Agent Jimmy Woo), Walton Goggins (Sonny Burch), Laurence Fishburne (Bill Foster), and Hannah John-Kamen (Ava)

Spoiler alert: high