Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Scream Is A Frighteningly Sharp-Witted Take On Slasher Movies

Scream was to slasher movies what Deadpool was to superhero movies. That may sound like the headline to some ill-fated Hot Take that ends up getting dragged all over Twitter, but it seems to make total sense to me, the guy who absolutely nailed the ending of His Girl Friday. Both Scream and Deadpool were attempting to tweak the noses of their respective subgenres, but neither were explicitly deconstructions of those subgenres thanks to how frequently they still indulged in well-known tropes of that subgenre, albeit in a self-aware manner. Thankfully, there's more than just a snarky self-aware streak in Scream, which has held up quite well in the more than two decades since its initial release.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil Is A Mostly Successful Deconstruction of Horror Movie Stereotypes

Hillbillies are one of the prime stock stereotypes for villains in American horror cinema right up there with any sort of fictional entities like witches or ghosts and other real-life creations like creepy-looking dolls. Of course, unlike dolls or werewolves, people with physical appearances, mannerisms and voices that get referred to as hillbillies actually do exist and such a long-standing stereotype has certainly helped perpetuate the idea that everyone who would fit under the moniker of a hillbilly, in reality, is made in one exact mold. The 2011 horror comedy Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, which was written and directed by Eli Craig, looks to combat those long-standing stereotypes by doing a conventional horror movie from the perspective of the hillbilly characters the audience would normally think of as the adversaries.

The Old Man & The Gun Is The Newest Exceptional Directorial Effort From David Lowery

This is the third straight year that director David Lowery has delivered a new film and they're all quite different creatures. 2016 saw him enter the world of family movie filmmaking with the excellent Pete's Dragon, in 2017 he did an avant-garde exploration of life & death with A Ghost Story and now in 2018 he's delivered The Old Man & The Gun, which covers some common thematic ground with A Ghost Story. Specifically, both are wistful tales of how our own lives can impact others even after we're gone, though his newest directorial effort covers this material in a more light-hearted dialogue-heavy manner compared to the stripped-down nature of A Ghost Story.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Tony Todd Excels As The Nefarious Mythical Foe of Candyman

We all know about Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, Chucky, Michael Myers, all those horror movie icons who hunt down people in gruesome ways and just can't seem to be killed no matter what you do. But what about Candyman? This figure, portrayed by Tony Todd in his three movies, likely never got as famous as some of his horror movie villain counterparts simply because he wasn't as ubiquitous, whereas Jason got endless sequels throughout the 1980's and 1990's and Chucky is still headlining direct-to-video follow-ups, Candyman only starred in three movies, the last of which was released in 1999. Whatever the reason, the original Candyman is a good enough horror movie to make me wish Candyman was a more well-known figure in the world of horror cinema. Maybe that new remake Jordan Peele may or may not be producing will help boost his profile?

Halloween Slaughters The Box Office Again While Gerard Butler's Submarine Movie Sinks

Before the holiday season box office officially gets underway, October 2018 closed out on a quiet note as Halloween still ruled the box office this weekend. This David Gordon Green directorial effort dropped 58% to gross another $32 million for a $126.6 million in ten days. Looks like this one's on track for a domestic total between $160-170 million, which is just a fantastic total for this $10 million budgeted title.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Beirut Is Mostly An Unremarkable Thriller

Jon Hamm's career choices in the last few years has made it clear he intends to become a full-time film actor now that Mad Men has come to a close. The movies he's starred in in either the last few seasons of Mad Men or right after that show ended have primarily been box office misfires thus far, though Baby Driver, in which he played a key supporting role, proved that Hamm appearing in a box office smash was not an impossible scenario. One of his most recent forays into cinematic leading man status was this Spring's period piece thriller Beirut, which came and went in its theatrical release with little fanfare (it's now streaming on Amazon Prime).

Poltergeist Finds The Terror In Everyday Suburbia

Roger Ebert was not feeling the good vibrations when he penned a mixed review of the Tim Burton directed turkey Planet of the Apes back in 2001. In this review, he mentioned at one point that, years down the line, it would still be the original Planet of the Apes from the 1960's that people would be watching instead of this more recent remake and a similar sentiment can be expressed for the original Poltergeist movie and its own remake. Back over Memorial Day weekend 2015, MGM released a high-profile remake of that horror movie classic that starred noteworthy actors like eventual Oscar winner Sam Rockwell and was even outfitted in 3D, but it's been totally forgotten about in the three years since its release, it's like it never even existed.

Friday, October 26, 2018

R.I.P. FilmStruck (November 2016-November 2018)

Because 2018 has to continue to be the garbage fire year to end all garbage fire years, this morning brought a piece of completely out-of-nowhere awful news declaring that streaming service FilmStruck, which is dedicated to providing easy access to classic cinema from all genres from every country on the planet, is coming to an end. As reported by Variety, the Warner Bros. Digital Service-owned service FilmStruck will come to an end on November 29, 2018, as part of Warner Bros. new parent company AT&T initiative to cut back on the amount of streaming services they carry as well as FilmStruck being, according to an official statement from Warner Bros. Digital Service, "...a largely niche service.". 

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Sisters Brothers!

The rootin'-tootin' titular siblings of The Sisters Brothers are two men who have developed a reputation for being handy with a gun and getting whatever assignment you give them finished, albeit finished in an unconventional manner. These two men are Eli Sisters (John C. Reilly) and Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix), with the former member of the duo looking to find a way out of this life of being a gun-for-hire for bloodthirsty rich folks while Charlie Sisters see's no other life for himself and his brother than the one they're engaging in right now. Meanwhile, a pivotal subplot involves another duo, this time consisting of Southern dandy John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) and chemist Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), with Morris teaming up with Warm for a potentially lucrative prospecting gig after he was initially hired to hold Warm hostage for the Sisters Brothers.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Colette Is A Real Page-Turner (Because It's About An Author, Don't You See)

My favorite approach with historical dramas is ones that work around the clock to emphasize the relatable humanity of its lead characters. They may exist in a wholly different time period, but people are still people no matter whether it's 1718 or 2018 so it's nice when these kinds of period piece dramas make an effort to depict their characters as not sacrosanct caricatures of the past but rather flesh and blood people like you and me. Colette takes this approach to tell the true story of Gabrielle Colette (Kiera Knightley), a woman who broke all kinds of boundaries in European society as well as late 19th-century society in general without many even noticing.

Hausu Is As Immensely Entertaining As It Is Endearingly Strange

One of the most puzzling criticisms you can offer up a movie is that it was "too strange". Not that the strangeness didn't work for you or that the strangeness was poorly executed but that the mere fact that a movie was strange was just off-putting. I saw this a lot when Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle In Time came out earlier this year and was greeted by numerous reviewers in a negative fashion for being "too weird". What's wrong with being weird or strange? I've already seen about 115 movies that have come out in 2018 and let me tell you, having the gall to embrace strangeness is a Godsend in a movie, it helps your story stand out from the pack. Maybe the strangeness won't work in execution, but I'll always tip my hat to a movie that opts to swing for the fences on weirdness rather than sit in the sidelines of normalcy.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Halloween Is Both A Derivative Slasher Movie And A Fascinating Psychological Drama

Call Michael Myers the Backstreet Boys, because he's back (ALRIGHT!). Yes, the slasher movie icon who served as the centerpiece of one of the numerous revolutionary horror films back in the 1970's is back in Halloween after nearly a decade of absence from movie theater screens. All the other sequels and the two Rob Zombie reboots have been disregarded to create a David Gordon Green directed follow-up solely to the original John Carpenter directed movie, one that picks up forty years after that fateful night that he came home that left Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) permanently psychologically scarred to the point that she now resides in an isolated house that's fortified to the brim to keep anyone, especially Michael Myers, out.

Tickets For Halloween Sell As Well As A Silver Shamrock Mask Over Massive October Weekend

Halloween did not end up claiming the box office record for biggest October opening weekend that Venom snatched up two weeks ago with its own $80 million haul. That's about the only real complaint anyone could have with the bow of the newest film from the director of The Sitter, which was a gargantuan success opening to $77.5 million. That's by far the biggest opening weekend for a Blumhouse Productions release and it's already the eighth biggest movie ever for the studio. To boot, it's the second-biggest opening weekend ever for a horror movie, only behind last year's It (remember how Paranormal Activity 3's $52.5 million opening weekend was the biggest opening weekend for a horror movie for so long?) It's already the fifth biggest movie ever for Jamie Lee Curtis and sometime this week Halloween will surpass Pineapple Express to become the biggest movie ever for director David Gordon Green. As if all that weren't enough, it's handily the biggest opening weekend ever for a Miramax movie and has already become the biggest Halloween movie of all-time in terms of domestic gross.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Exorcist Set The Standard For Exorcism Horror Movies For Decades To Come For A Reason

In the last two years, horror films like Get Out, A Quiet Place and especially It have begun to receive the kind of gargantuan box office usually reserved, in the modern era, for massively expensive action blockbusters. It's an impressive achievement but it's far from the first time horror films have managed to secure towering levels of box office glory. In fact, back in 1973, The Exorcist experienced a domestic box office gross that stands at an outstanding $943.3 million when adjusted for inflation and has amassed well over $1 billion in 2018 dollars when factoring in two separate theatrical re-releases. The ninth biggest film of all-time at the domestic box office when adjusted for inflation petrified audiences all around the world back in the day and established exorcisms as a go-to source for scares in horror movies for decades to come.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

First Man Explores Uncharted Emotionally Powerful Territory Within A Famous Historical Event


We've all seen Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. Whether you've seen it in photographic form or in videos or in parodies of the man, we're all keenly aware of Neil Armstrong being the first human being to walk on the moon. It's a momentous moment in the history of humanity whose grand importance seems to be as deserving of a movie as any historical event but as many historical dramas have been grappled with in the past, how do you wring drama out of real-life events that everybody and their grandmother knows everything about? For First Man (Damien Chazelle's fourth directorial effort and his third winner in a row as a filmmaker), the solution is to explore both the extensive training leading up to the historic moon landing and the psychological condition of Neil Armstrong himself.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Gemini Is Visually Engrossing But Less So On A Narrative Level

Gemini is one of those movies that's really darn good right up until it isn't. Let that not detract from its best qualities and it has quite a few, it's first two-thirds, maybe even first three-fourths, are a slickly produced homage to classic noir movies that has writer/director Aaron Katz putting his own modern spin on this well-worn staple of cinematic storytelling. Gemini is good at drumming up mystery and intrigue that it's a pity it can't stick the landing and manage to deliver a resolution that feels like a satisfying pay-off to all the build-up. But before we get to the finale, let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start, or so I'm told!) and see what kind of story Gemini intends to tell.

The Future May Be Uncertain But At Least One Can Be Certain That Private Life Is Exquisite

The way Private Life depicts the day-to-day life of a married couple feels so quietly revolutionary to me in a number of ways. Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard (Paul Giamatti) have a number of issues to work through but they're mundane issues, the film doesn't drum up conflict by way of having one of them cheat on the other or have one of them go off and spend a whole bunch of money without discussing it with their partner. Private Life is far more interested in exploring the fascinating day-to-day struggles that crop up between the two and how they navigate them as they struggle to have a child and limiting the scope of the film to such a realistically intimate degree turns out to be one of Private Life's most brilliant decisions.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

A Simple Favor Is A Delightfully Unhinged Comedic Thriller

A Simple Favor is the latest in a long line of movies to be woefully mismarketed. Conventional trailers and commercials for the latest Paul Feig directorial effort try to portray the feature as being in the vein of recent financially lucrative Fall thrillers like The Girl On The Train and Gone Girl, but A Simple Favor is far different than those two movies. Instead of being a straightforward dramatic thriller, A Simple Favor is instead a movie that is to loopy thrillers what Rampage was to big monster movies, a big-budget star-studded homage to that just revels in all kinds of trashy twists and "Gotcha!" shock moments. Also like Rampage, A Simple Favor is super fun to watch.

Venom Gobbles Up The Top Spot At The Box Office Again As First Man Has Underwhelming Launch And Goosebumps 2 Haunts Up OK Debut

This is not how anyone predicted this weekends box office would go. Going into this weekend, conventional wisdom said that Venom would have a sharp 60+% drop that opened up the possibility of A Star Is Born having a shot at taking the box office crown. Turns out Venom has slithered his tongue into America's heart as his movie grossed another $35.7 million this weekend, a 56% drop from last weekend which is actually on par with the second-weekend drops of most Marvel Cinematic Universe titles. Having grossed $142.8 million after ten days of release, Venom is now assured to cross $200 million domestically, which would make it only the fifteenth Sony/Columbia release to do that. Venom 2: The Legend of Carnage's Gold should get announced for an October 2020 release any day now.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Bad Times At The El Royale Is A Mostly Good Time

After six years of waiting since his directorial debut project The Cabin in the Woods turned out to be such a phenomenal blast, writer/director Drew Goddard finally returns behind the camera with Bad Times at the El Royale. Interestingly, despite having a larger cast and a bigger budget to work with, Goddard (who also wrote the scripts for Cloverfield and The Martian) goes smaller-in-scale than he did on Cabin in the Woods. No threats of zombie rednecks or possible worldwide consequences for the actions of our lead characters here, instead, Goddard does a Rashomon-esque take on a quasi-Hateful Eight set-up wherein we follow the differing perspectives of a group of strangers staying in one location over the course of a solitary night.

Friday, October 12, 2018

William Shakespeare And Akira Kurosawa Fuse Together Beautifully In Throne of Blood

In the centuries that they've existed and cast such a large shadow over worldwide pop culture, William Shakespeare's works have been adapted through basically every manner conceivable, so it's no wonder that one the Bard's most iconic plays, Macbeth, got adapted into Throne of Blood, a feature film directed and partially written by similarly iconic filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa's style of filmmaking is just as distinctive as Shakespeare's prose. Merging the two of them together by way of taking the outline of Macbeth and contorting it into a tale set in feudal Japan makes good use of both men's talents, especially Kurosawa's, and results in a mixture as tantalizing as putting peanut butter and M&M's together!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sherlock Jr. Shines As A Demonstration Of Buster Keaton's Impressive Comedic Stuntwork

Watching Sherlock Jr., perhaps the most famous of Buster Keaton's numerous silent film comedies, solidified for me that I'm more of a Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd guy when it comes to my silent movie comedies. No offense meant to Keaton though, few actors in any era could measure up to the likes of Chaplin and Lloyd and he's still got plenty of talent of his own that makes him a noteworthy individual in his own right. Such talent is on full display in Sherlock Jr., which, in the span of just over 40 minutes, allows one to see numerous instances of the kind of impressive stuntwork that informed so much of his comedy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

To All The Boys I've Loved Before Is A Charmer Of A Film And A Great Showcase For Lana Condor

2018 will be known as many things in the future, most of them bad (especially in the realm of American politics), but on a happier note, maybe 2018 will also go down as the year Netflix's original movies division finally took off? After three years of trying to getting people's attention with pricey star-studded duds, turns out all it took for Netflix to capture the masses was to create films that aren't getting made in large quantities by major American studios, like romantic-comedies (Set It Up) or in the case of To All The Boys I've Loved Before, High School dramedies. Pity the theatrical studios aren't making more of these since not only is Netflix making a killing appealing to these underserved audiences but they're also making charming movies like To All The Boys I've Loved Before.

In Laman's Terms: Ten Years of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Shockingly, a major Star Wars anniversary occurred one week ago and it generated minimal to no fanfare, to the point that I didn't realize it even happened until over the weekend. I'm, of course, talking about the tenth anniversary of the airing of the first episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Back on October 3, 2008, this show kicked off its run that would end up lasting for six seasons before it became a casualty of the Disney/Lucasfilm merger (though the show will be returning with at least one new season next year). Though it began life with a widely mocked theatrical movie (which debuted two months prior to the shows first episode) that seemed to cement the franchise's status as just another way to drain money from the Star Wars brand, over the span of 121 episodes the TV show actually managed to become something that could stand as a testament to all the storytelling potential that lies in the various corners of the Star Wars universe.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Bradley Cooper And Especially Lady Gaga Soar In An Emotionally Powerful New Take On A Star Is Born

Living out here in a suburban town in Texas, I'm isolated from any and all big film festivals as well as all the major movies that premiere there so, naturally, that means I've been removed from all the hype surrounding A Star Is Born ever since it premiered a little over a month ago to rave reviews. I've been hearing non-stop about just how good this movie is, and yet, when I finally got to see this new motion picture over the past weekend, I was shocked to discover that not only did it exceed the massive amount of hype it had generated but just how surprising it's best qualities were. Even though it had been screened so many times before its proper domestic release date, there were still plenty of tricks up A Star Is Born's sleeve for us Texas yokels removed from the festival circuit!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Audiences Let The Devil In As Venom Blows Away October Box Office Records Like Turds In The Wind And A Star Is Born Has Sensational Bow

I was wrong. I was so very wrong. I was convinced that a Venom movie couldn't do well at the box office, that audiences just weren't gonna show up, but it turns out this character can indeed sustain his own feature at the domestic box office, can he ever! With a whopping $80 million opening weekend, Venom scored the biggest October opening weekend of all-time, easily shattering the $55 million bow of Gravity in the process. That's also the seventh biggest opening weekend ever for Sony/Columbia and marks only the seventh movie ever for the studio to open to over $80 million (six of those seven features are based on Marvel Comics characters) and, on top of all that, it's the seventh biggest opening weekend of 2018.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Smallfoot Is A Solid Animated Musical Whose Best Traits Are Also Its Most Unique Ones

Smallfoot is a new animated family movie hailing from director Karey Kirkpatrick (director of the underappreciated Over the Hedge and the widely forgotten 2009 Eddie Murphy vehicle Imagine That) whose best qualities are the ways it tries to be unique and whose weaker aspects come from when it tries too hard to adhere to what it believes conventional American animated family fare has to be. The majority of our lead characters in Smallfoot are Yeti's who reside in a village located on the very top of a mountain. In this village, we find our lead character, Migo (Channing Tatum), who loves his simple life which is primarily spent preparing to take over the duties of his father, Dorgle (Danny DeVito), and adhering to ancient rules written on stones that nobody is supposed to question.

Friday, October 5, 2018

It's No Wonder People Keep Remaking A Movie As Emotionally Resonant As The 1937 Version Of A Star Is Born

It's common to see people complain that all Hollywood does anymore are remakes and sequels and while there's certainly plenty of modern films heavily lacking in originality, it's worth noting that Hollywood's been fixated on remakes and sequels since the very dawn of cinema. Case in point: the newest version of A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa, the third remake of the classic 1937 feature of the same name, with the first of these remakes being released all the way back in 1954! But before all those, there was the aforementioned original starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, a film that proved to be a big success back in its initial release (hence why it's become such a staple for being remade).

Don't Get Too Close To Venom, It's Where Eddie Brock's Demons Hide...And Also It's A Dismal & Awkward Movie

Good God, the Venom movie is an outstandingly clumsy exercise in cinematic storytelling. This whole film is so awkward to watch it leaves one feeling uncomfortable, it's like watching someone repeatedly try to do a somersault but constantly failing at it in the most spectacular of ways. At least it establishes right from the get-go that this is gonna be a subpar production, Venom does not waste time in letting you know it's a flat-out disaster. The first twenty minutes are dedicated to establishing the character of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and who he is as a person. Hardy's wack-a-doodle performance constantly shifts Brock's personality from scene-to-scene, so don't expect to get to know this character very well in this section of the movie or any other part of it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Surviving The Undead Inhabiting Zombieland Proves To Be A Recipe For Great Comedy

The two writers behind Zombieland are Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, a pair of individuals who are most well-known today for writing both of the Deadpool movies. Watching Zombieland through the lens of it being a precursor to the pair's work on Deadpool, one begins to notice some similarities between the two projects. Most notably, both are extremely violent works containing a large amount of dark humor that inhabit well-trodden grounds of genre fiction (superhero movies and zombie movies) with lead characters who have varying degrees of self-awareness of the circumstances they're stuck in and provide narration to the audience on circumstances that are playing out on-screen. Like the two Deadpool movies, Zombieland is also funny, even moreso, in fact, than the pair of Deadpool movies Reese and Wernick would pen in the years to come.

The Big Sleep Is Yet Another Excellent Humphery Bogart Noir Feature

I felt an immense sense of relief to learn, after watching The Big Sleep for the first time, that the plot is considered by many to be a tad hard to make out. I thought I had missed something while watching the film, maybe a crucial line that clarified the whole story, but it turns out that even some of those responsible for the feature would be the first to admit that certain plot points (like who was behind the murder of a driver) don't get resolved. But this is one of those times where something like a convoluted plot that might be a debilitating problem in another movie actually works in the favor of The Big Sleep as it helps make the larger conspiracy that detective Phillip Marlowe (Humphery Bogart) has found himself inadvertently caught up in feel wide-spanning and makes it seem like the odds are truly up against Marlowe.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Thoroughly Dismal Motion Picture Gotti Is A Poorly Put-Together Crime Drama

You'd think after Gotti became such a widespread laughingstock (and then briefly a point of much-needed conversation on how online user-generated movie rating systems like the Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score can be manipulated) this past summer that it's only inevitable for Gotti to end up being at least marginally better than its reputation if only because of lowered expectations. Instead, Gotti is one of the worst movies of 2018 so far and an abysmal addition to John Travolta's forty-plus years worth of acting credits that isn't exactly devoid of all-time turkeys before this (Old Dogs, anyone?). It wants so badly to be a Martin Scorsese crime movie take on the life of John Gotti but it ends up being a knock-off of an Asylum knock-off of a Martin Scorsese crime movie take on the life of John Gotti instead!