Sunday, November 10, 2019

Don't be stupid, be a smarty


JOJO RABBIT

For all your Nazi dramedy-with-a-heart needs, assuming you needed that for some reason.  Personally, I liked it, though there's a point at which this movie clearly doesn't know what it's doing anymore.

2019
Written and directed by Taika Waititi (based on the novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, November 7, 2019

It's in your nature to destroy yourselves


TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

It's not quite the triumph one might have cautiously hoped for when they heard that both Cameron and Hamilton were coming back, but at least Terminator: Dark Fate still understands what the series was about in the first place.

2019
Directed by Tim Miller
Written by David Foyer, Justin Rhodes, Billy Ray, Charles H. Eglee, Josh Friedman, and James Cameron

Spoiler alert: moderate, though I suppose the movie itself would have it as "high"

Monday, November 4, 2019

An old man and the sea


THE LIGHTHOUSE

Psychohorror with a vintage twist, The Lighthouse transfixes effortlessly—which is a sign of how artful it is, since no movie this hypnotic and controlled was likely to have been "effortless" at all.

2019
Written and directed by Robert Eggers

Spoiler alert: moderate

Not presented in Smellovision


PARASITE
Aka Gisaengchung

Ultimately a little deflating, Parasite is such a controlled work of production design and split-second caper timing—not to mention anti-capitalist fury—that it's worth forgiving some modest third act problems in favor of everything that's great about it.

2019
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Written by Han Jin-won and Bong Joon-ho

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Census Bloodbath: They love blood. They love action. Not this talky, depressing, philosophical bullshit.


STAGEFRIGHT
(aka Deliria, aka Blood Bird, aka, for unknown reasons, Aquarius and/or Stagefright: Aquarius)

The SWITCHEROOOOO!  It's October, and that means it's time for Brennan Klein, of Popcorn Culture and Alternate Ending and Scream 101 and, above all, our hearts, to take on my usual and oft-shirked task of reviewing the Cardboard Science sci-fi schlock of a bygone era, while I get to luxuriate in the blood and guts of 80s slashers with his Census Bloodbath series, which he has been pursuing with diligent and perhaps disturbing obsession, lo these many years.

1987 (Italy)/1989 (USA)
Directed by Michele Soavi
Written by Luigi Montefiori and Sheila Goldberg

Spoiler alert: moderate verging on high

Monday, October 28, 2019

King Week: The judgment of dog

In which Halloween-related marathoning has resulted in reviews of several spooky movies from the mind of the world's favorite horror author, Stephen King.

CUJO

1983
Directed by Lewis Teague
Written by Don Carlos Dunaway and Barbara Turner (based on the novel by Stephen King)

Spoiler alert: high

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Census Bloodbath: Norm!


PSYCHO III

The SWITCHEROOOOO!  It's October, and that means it's time for Brennan Klein, of Popcorn Culture and Alternate Ending and Scream 101 and, above all, our hearts, to take on my usual and oft-shirked task of reviewing the Cardboard Science sci-fi schlock of a bygone era, while I get to luxuriate in the blood and guts of 80s slashers with his Census Bloodbath series, which he has been pursuing with diligent and perhaps disturbing obsession, lo these many years.

1986
Directed by Anthony Perkins
Written by Charles Edward Pogue

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Census Bloodbath: In the dark it is easy to pretend


PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC'S REVENGE

The SWITCHEROOOOO!  It's October, and that means it's time for Brennan Klein, of Popcorn Culture and Alternate Ending and Scream 101 and, above all, our hearts, to take on my usual and oft-shirked task of reviewing the Cardboard Science sci-fi schlock of a bygone era, while I get to luxuriate in the blood and guts of 80s slashers with his Census Bloodbath series, which he has been pursuing with diligent and perhaps disturbing obsession, lo these many years.

1989
Directed by Richard Friedman
Written by Scott J. Schneid, Tony Michelman, and Robert King

Spoiler alert: moderate

King Week: The ground is sour


In which Halloween-related marathoning has resulted in reviews of several spooky movies from the mind of the world's favorite horror author, Stephen King.

PET SEMATARY

1989
Directed by Mary Lambert
Written by Stephen King (based on his novel)

2019
Directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmeyer
Written by Jeff Buhler (based on the novel, etc.)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

King Week: Stephen's cat


In which Halloween-related marathoning has resulted in reviews of several spooky movies from the mind of the world's favorite horror author, Stephen King.

CAT'S EYE

1985
Directed by Lewis Teague
Written by Stephen King (based in part on King's short stories from Night Shift)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, October 21, 2019

King Week: Who made who?


In which Halloween-related marathoning has resulted in reviews of several spooky movies from the mind of the world's favorite horror author, Stephen King.

MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE

1986
Written and directed by Stephen King (based on the short story "Trucks" by, you guessed it, Stephen King)

Spoiler alert: moderate

King Week: Death to President Bartlet!


In which Halloween-related marathoning has resulted in reviews of several spooky movies from the mind of the world's favorite horror author, Stephen King.

THE DEAD ZONE

1983
Directed by David Cronenberg
Written by Jeffrey Boam (based on the novel by Stephen King)

Spoiler alert: moderate (why, I don't even mention the baby, even though it's the coolest part) 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

#WalrusMaybe?


TUSK

One of the best and worst horror-comedies of the 2010s in a single 101 minute package.  Koo koo kachoo.

2014
Written and directed by Kevin Smith

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Fresher prince


GEMINI MAN

Damn, it's nice when a cinematic experiment works out.  Maybe more people should have actually partaken in it, but that's how it goes.

2019
Directed by Ang Lee
Written by David Benioff, Billy Ray, and Darren Lemke

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, October 14, 2019

Walt Disney, part XXI: Fur is dead


ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS

Even if you're not thrilled about all the changes the movie represents, it's still pretty hard not to like what the movie is.  (Though not impossible, and, boy, does it have some unexamined problems with its drama.)

1961
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, Hamilton Luske, and Clyde Geronimi
Written by Bill Peet (based on the novel by Dodie Smith)

Spoiler alert: I mean, what do you think? she flays the puppies and looks good doing it?

Friday, October 11, 2019

Cardboard Science: Suffer the children


VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED

If perhaps not the perfect version of itself, you just can't discount the cold savagery of the version we got.

1960
Directed by Wolf Rilla
Written by Sterling Silliphant, Ronald Kinnoch, and Wolf Rilla (based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Walt Disney, part XX: All that beautiful detail in the trees, the bark, and all that, that's all well and good, but who the hell's going to look at that?


SLEEPING BEAUTY

As a work of visual artistry, Sleeping Beauty would be a staggering achievement for any era of Disney animation.  That it came out of the Silver Age is almost a surprise; that it also ended it, a great and sorrowful shame.

1959
Directed by Wilfred Jackson, Eric Larson, and Clyde Geronimi

Spoiler alert: true love's kiss, dude

Why so serious?


JOKER

I feel like if Todd Phillips were actually the next Martin Scorsese, we'd have known it by now.

2019
Directed by Todd Phillips
Written by Scott Silver and Todd Phillips

Spoiler alert: moderate (maybe technically high, but you know how this one's gonna end, and in pretty fine detail, by, like, the twenty minute mark)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Walt Disney, part XIX: The dog days are over


LADY AND THE TRAMP

Maybe I'm just not a dog person, you know?

1955
Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Do you want to build a snowman?


ABOMINABLE

Terrific visuals and rock-solid emotional underpinnings overcome the weaknesses of a wonky story structure and some seriously terrible kid's komedy.

2019
Written and directed by Jill Culton

Spoiler alert: mild

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

And I've heard it might not even be gluten free


SOYLENT GREEN

Soylent Green is a masterpiece, and I kind of wish it wasn't.

1973
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Written by Stanley R. Greenberg (based on the novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison)

Spoiler alert: get real

Friday, September 20, 2019

Ad nauseam


AD ASTRA

Here's James Gray's masterclass on how to ruin a movie that was perfectly above-average until he got to it in post.

2019
Directed by James Gray
Written by Ethan Gross and James Gray

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Walt Disney, part XVIII: That's right! It's a measure of length!


20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA

So let's see what happens when you take the travelogue, the anti-imperial themes, and the breathless enthusiasm for made-up science out of Jules Verne's anti-imperialist science-fiction travelogue.  Is it still good?  Surprisingly, very slightly yes, but not much.

1954
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Written by Earl Felton (based on the novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, September 16, 2019

Drone shot


DOMINO

It really hasn't been De Palma's best century.

2019
Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by Petter Skavlan

Spoiler alert: moderate

It follows


IT: CHAPTER TWO

Second verse, same as the first.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

2019
Directed by Andy Muschietti
Written by Gary Dauberman (based on the novel It by Stephen King)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Walt Disney, part XVII: A boy's best friend is his mother


PETER PAN

Essentially everything that could be wrong with a mid-century Disney film rolled into a single package, to die might actually have been a bigger adventure than it is (though given that is only 75 minutes, I quite manfully gutted it out).

1953
Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske

Spoiler alert: he never grows up

Friday, August 30, 2019

Walt Disney, part XVI: Who cares for you? You're nothing but a pack of cards


ALICE IN WONDERLAND

Initially wearisome, but ultimately a fair bit of fun, Alice In Wonderland is still minor Walt Disney—as the man himself agreed.

1951
Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske

Spoiler alert: wake up, Alice

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Frady cat


THE PARALLAX VIEW

The only conspiracy thriller so opaque you need to invent a conspiracy theory just to explain it to yourself.

1974
Directed by Alan J. Pakula
Written by David Giler, Lorenzo Semple Jr., and (allegedly) Robert Towne (based on the novel by Loren Singer)

Spoiler alert: high

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Elementary, my dear Pikachu


DETECTIVE PIKACHU

A decent-enough frivolity to waste 104 minutes with, and apparently I had more fun with it than I thought.

2019
Directed by Rob Letterman
Written by holy cow, that's a lot of people to write a Pokémon movie

Spoiler alert: Slightly higher than moderate

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

You know I can't let you leave without tapping that ass one more time


DEATH PROOF

The car chase movie to beat them all, and that's only the beginning of its appeal.

2007
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino

Spoiler alert: since there's no use talking about it without talking about it, high

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Walt Disney, part XV: I said, "if"

CINDERELLA

Disney, already clawing its way out of its early grave, came roaring back to life in one of their two closest bids at "masterpiece" in a whole half-century's worth of trying.

1950
Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, and Wilfred Jackson

Spoiler alert: she still has the other shoe

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Neighbors


ONCE UPON A TIME... IN HOLLYWOOD

I never thought I'd be checking my watch during a Tarantino film, but here we are.

2019
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino

Spoiler alert: high

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Walt Disney, part XIV: You can't reason with a headless man


THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD

Half a masterpiece is still something to celebrate, and Disney closed the 1940s out stronger than it had been in years.

1949
Directed by Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, and James Algar

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, July 22, 2019

Walt Disney, part XIII: Trees, underwear, and America


MELODY TIME

Great: another half-good, half-crap Disney package film.  Oh, Melody Time.  Whatever shall we do with you?

1948
Directed by Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson, and William Morgan

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The karate kid


THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE

A dark and weird comedy with a point—but probably the most consistently funny thing we'll get this year, so happily it's that kind of "dark and weird comedy with a point"—The Art of Self-Defense has a lot on its mind, but lays it out with stark clarity, surprising precision, and strong laughs.

2019
Written and directed by Riley Stearns

Spoiler alert: moderate

Walt Disney, part XII: What was the name of this movie again?


FUN AND FANCY FREE

Breezy and likeable, Fun and Fancy Free is exactly what we needed as we move through the dark days of Disney during the late 1940s.

1947
Directed by Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Hamilton Luske, and William Morgan

Spoiler alert: moderate

Friday, July 19, 2019

Walt Disney, part X: Ain't no rule says a whale can't sing at the Met


MAKE MINE MUSIC

Though blessed with at least one genuine high point, and even a few good bits after that, for the most part this anthology isn't even up-and-down, it's mostly one single flat, boring line, spread across some of the most disposable animation in the whole Disney canon.

1946
Directed by Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, and Joshua Meador

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, July 15, 2019

Walt Disney, part IX: I mean, has anyone ever been to Baía?


THE THREE CABALLEROS

The package film era of Disney at its most playful, of course that must be very playful indeed.  Tastes may vary on whether that makes The Three Caballeros actually good or not, but, heck, it's certainly something to see.

1944 Mexico/1945 USA
Directed by Norman Ferguson

Spoiler alert: inapplicable in the extreme

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Apex predator all day


CRAWL

A fun, disciplined trifle, Crawl knows what you want and gives it to you reasonably good and fairly hard.

2019
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Written by Shawn Rasmussen and Michael Rasmussen

Spoiler alert: moderate

Friday, July 12, 2019

Europe after the rain (turns out to be mildly damp)


SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME

Man, do even I have superhero fatigue now?

2019
Directed by Jon Watts
Written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers

Spoiler alert: high

Sunday, July 7, 2019

This story has never ended


MIND GAME

Still Yuasa's masterpiece, after all these years.

2004 (Japan)/2018 (seriously?) (USA)
Written and directed by Masaaki Yuasa (based on the comic by Robin Nishi)

Spoiler alert: kind of N/A, really, but I guess let's say moderately highish

Summer dreams ripped at the seams, but oh—those summer nights


MIDSOMMAR

While never managing to become "more," and prompting the question, "why do you need it to be 'more' anyway, Ari?", Midsommar is a hell of a good horror film in The Wicker Man vein, and that's still fresh enough that it doesn't matter too much what else is wrong with it.

2019
Written and directed by Ari Aster

Spoiler alert: moderate, though I just mentioned it's a Wicker Man rip-off, so, you know... there's that

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The little mermaid


LU OVER THE WALL

"Oh, boy, it's one of these animes, huh?" is exactly what I said, but as it happens, it is, and it's pretty great anyway.

2017 Japan/2018 USA
Directed by Masaaki Yuasa
Written by Reiko Yoshida and Masaaki Yuasa

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

That rose-colored campus life


THE NIGHT IS SHORT, WALK ON GIRL

A movie of seemingly boundless energy and possibility, Night doesn't always live up to its own potential—nor always put its money where its mouth is, and there's a good twenty minutes in the middle where it's not doing either one—but that doesn't mean it's not one of the most essential animated films of the last year, or even the last decade.

2017 Japan/2018 USA
Directed by Masaaki Yuasa
Written by Makoto Ueda (based on the novel by Tomihiko Morimi)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Toymetheus unbound


TOY STORY 4

It's a disappointment, of course.  It's a Toy Story that isn't a masterpiece.  It isn't even great.  But as far as Pixar in the Tens has gone, you know, it is probably above average—and that'll do.

2019
Directed by Josh Cooley
Written by many, so very many, but I'm happy leaving it at "screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Stephanie Folsom"

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, June 17, 2019

I never understood the frequency, uh-uh


UNDER THE SILVER LAKE

Almost compelling, almost good.  If only its strangeness weren't lifeless and off-putting, Under the Silver Lake might've been something.

2019
Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell

Spoiler alert: maybe very slightly more than moderate, but a movie that doesn't resolve itself like this one can hardly be spoiled at a particularly high level

Sunday, June 16, 2019

This boy's too young to be singing the blues


ROCKETMAN

It absolutely surpasses Egerton and John's last collaboration, but then, "being better than Kingsman: The Golden Circle" isn't much of an accomplishment.  So, happily, let's say that Rocketman is still good—even if, unlike the subject of its story, it whiffs it hard on the actual greatness.

2019
Directed by Dexter Fletcher
Written by Lee Hall 

Spoiler alert: he's still standing

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

In other Godzilla news, this weird crap


GODZILLA: CITY ON THE EDGE OF BATTLE and
GODZILLA: THE PLANET EATER

Possibly the wrongest Godzilla has ever been, at the very least Gen Urobuchi's trilogy has proven itself admirably crazy—and outright insanity in pursuit of heavy-handed allegory is no vice. I think that's how the saying goes, right?

2018 and 2019, respectively
Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita
Written by Gen Urobuchi

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Nerrrrrrrrrrds


BOOKSMART

An extraordinary two-hander (that occasionally fails to be an ensemble), Booksmart is the kind of fun, likeable comedy they ought to make more of, at least if they want me to bother going to theaters to see a comedy in the first place.

2019
Directed by Olivia Wilde
Written by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman

Spoiler alert: mild

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Let them fight?


GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS

Absurdly good monsters keep getting interfered with by mostly-mediocre humans, but damned if "absurdly good monsters" ain't good enough.

2019
Directed by Michael Dougherty
Written by Zach Shields and Michael Dougherty

Spoiler alert: not that this movie can in any way be meaningfully spoiled, but "moderate," for the sticklers