Thursday, January 31, 2019

Peter Jackson and Company Do A Remarkable Job Restoring World War I Footage In They Shall Not Grow Old

I've been saying for a while now that it would be a dream come true to have director Peter Jackson's first post-Hobbit directorial gig be a motion picture in the vein of his earliest grindhouse works, most notably Meet the Feebles, something demented, warped and low-budget. Wouldn't it be great to see that side of Jackson again after so many years of only seeing him use his filmmaking skills on big-budget productions? Well, it turns out his actual first directorial effort after those Hobbit movies is something far removed from the likes of Meet the Feebles but that's not at all a bad thing. On the contrary, They Shall Not Grow Old feels like a return to form for Jackson as he uses groundbreaking VFX in the service of human beings and not the other way around for the first time in ages.

We Didn't Start The Fyre, That's All Billy McFarland's Doing

The Fyre Festival is a constant creator of turmoil, even when the saga behind this music festival sham is chronicled in documentary form, there must be chaos in the form of competing documentaries and valid concerns about the creative integrity of Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened A.K.A. the one Fyre documentary that's on Netflix. Said creative integrity pertains to how crucial behind-the-scenes individuals involved with this documentary are also those who had a stake in the company involved in the Fyre Festival, which could make this documentary more of a PR move rather than a glimpse into what informed the madness of this music festival gone haywire.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

In Laman's Terms: Eight Box Office Duds That Got Super Bowl Commercials

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

With Super Bowl XXX, Super Bowl advertising changed forever. That's when 20th Century Fox dropped an ad for the then-upcoming action blockbuster Independence Day that sent peoples excitement for the film to new heights. Ever since then, movies have constantly tried to replicate the success of Independence Day by making a Super Bowl TV spot a cornerstone of their marketing campaign. There have been many blockbusters that have gotten a lot of mileage out a Super Bowl commercial but not every film that advertises during the Super Bowl can be a gargantuan blockbuster. In fact, plenty of box office duds have advertised during the Super Bowl and I've decided to look at eight such films here today.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Best Parts of Mary Queen of Scots Make It Stand Out From Typical Period Piece Costume Dramas

In 16th century Europe, Mary (Saroise Ronan) took up the throne of Scotland, a move that put her as the next in line to inherit the throne of her cousin, Elizabeth (Margot Robbie), the queen of England. Mary's status as a ruler generates plenty of controversies, whether it comes from Elizabeth and her confidantes not wanting her to ascend to the position of Queen of England or it's enraged male members of Scotland society who don't like that a woman is holding a seat of such massive power. Mary's tenure as a leader is full of rebellion and destruction of the norms, but it's also a constant fight for her to be seen as a rightful queen by subjects far and wide and it's a fight that she's more than willing to fight for years on end.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Some Thoughts On The Bonkers Spoilers of Serenity (What A Twist!)


Serenity Provides Tons of Entertainment, But None of It Is Intentional

Oh my God.


What madness hath thou wrought.

Philadelphia's Lead Performances Stand Above Its Weakest Tendencies

The arc of representation for LGBTQA+ characters in high-profile American cinema is not one that shows constant increases in representation as the years go on, but rather an interesting spike in the 1990's followed by the 21st century sending the idea of queer characters getting to be regular participants in major American films crashing to the ground. A number of 1990's films like The Birdcage made one think things were turning around for the better but unfortunately, queer representation was limited to the arthouse sector in the 2000s save for Brokeback Mountain and (kind of) Bruno. It's only recently that major American studios have started to make a small sampling of non-arthouse fare with queer protagonists again, films like Love, Simon or the upcoming Kristen Stewart/Mackenzie Davis rom-com Happiest Season

The January 2019 Domestic Box Office Closes Out With Glass Ruling Again And Two Wide Release Newcomers Flopping

Well, the last weekend of January 2019 was an underwhelming one that was topped by Glass, which saw a 52% drop from last weekend for a second-weekend gross of $19 million. That's a much bigger second-drop than the 36% dip of Split, but given how frontloaded Glass was last weekend, as well as the potentially divisive nature of its story, this is a better than expected hold, being noticeably better than the 67% plunge of The Village. After ten days of release, Glass now has a $73.5 million domestic haul. Even though it, like most releases, will take a hit next weekend thanks to Super Bowl Sunday, it does looks like this one will get past $100 million domestically, which will make it the first movie starring Bruce Willis to clear $100 million domestically since 2007's Live Free or Die Hard. It'll also be the sixth directorial effort from M. Night Shyamalan to cross $100 million domestically.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Skate Kitchen Goes In Some Well-Realized Unexpected Directions


On the surface, Skate Kitchen's premise about a teenager struggling with their own personal family woes finding some kind of solace in a group of skateboarder friends sounds like a good number of other American indie movies, particularly Jonah Hill's 2018 directorial debut Mid90's. But on closer inspection even just on a surface level, there's a number of details here, namely the focus on a group of female skateboarders, that make Skate Kitchen a horse of a different color. While actually watching the movie, any potentially similar movies vanish from one's mind as Skate Kitchen manages to carve out its own identity and secure a level of quality (one that is higher than Mid90's in my book, for the record) that allow it to stand out on its own. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

An Inspirational Historical Figure Gets A Cookie-Cutter But Agreeable Documentary With RBG

RBG is a biographical documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and that's pretty much the short and simple of what it is. The feature, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, isn't something that has any shocking revelations about Ginsburg or what fueled her political career, it's all focused on the basic events of her life that one can find in any biographical book. Such life events are presented in a relatively standard way for a political documentary, there's not too much here in the editing or choices of visual accompaniments that stands out as particularly creative or innovative. That being said, the film's ace up its sleeve is that the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a truly inspiring one that you can't help but be invested in. The documentary about her may be run-of-the-mill in some respects but Ginsburg's real-life accomplishments certainly aren't.

I Laughed, I Cried, Terms of Endearment Moved Me Bob

Isn't it such a glorious experience when a movie that's garnered all kinds of hype manages to still take you by surprise with just how good it is? Terms of Endearment, the directorial debut of James L. Brooks, has generated no shortage of praise since its initial theatrical release in 1983, including winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, it's clear a beloved feature even if it isn't quite as widely talked about in modern cinematic conversations as other classic Best Picture winners. Maybe the fact that it isn't so rampantly discussed in the present day world is why Terms of Endearment took me by surprise or perhaps the fact that I was more restrained in my praise of fellow beloved James L. Brooks movie from 1980's Broadcast News is why I was so surprised that I fell head over heels for Terms of Endearment.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

In Laman's Terms: Sometimes, There Aren't Two Sides To An Issue

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

EDITED TO ADD: Just before this article was published, I learned that a Louisville, Kentucky PR firm called RunSwitch PR has been instrumental in mounting a comeback narrative for these Covington Catholic school students. 

On January 19, 2019, a group of Covington Catholic School students, adorned in Make America Great Again hats and attending an anti-abortion March For Life ceremony, harassed 88-year-old Vietnam Veteran Nathan Phillips with racist chants and behavior while teenager Nick Sandmann stared down Phillips. Yes, there was a rival group (also filled with cruel people) also at the event causing trouble between themselves and the Covington Catholic School students and yes, Phillips approached the students first in an attempt to de-escalate what was already a tumultuous situation. None of that changes the fact that these students bellowed "BUILD A WALL!!" at a peaceful individual simply because of the color of his skin, a racist practice consistent with actions like blackface that are considered alright at their school.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Shirkers Is A Fascinating Exploration of A Cinematic Passion Project That Never Was

I've mentioned before how Netflix really did just crush it in terms of the quality of their original movie output in the last three months of 2018 and easily rising towards the top of that stellar crop of movies (which really is quite the feat!) is the documentary Shirkers. Directed by Sandi Tan, the feature is named after a motion picture she made with her friends and a film teacher mentor, Georges Cardona, in Singapore in the early 1990s. She poured her heart and soul into this film, all of her passion for cinema drove her to complete something that hadn't really been seen before in the film industry of her home country of Singapore.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Glass Is An Ambitious Follow-Up To Unbreakable And Split, For Better And For Worse

Just like most items that get sold on TV infomercials, Glass offers viewers the chance to get two things for the price of one. In this case, you get both an Unbreakable sequel and a Split sequel in one movie! This means M. Night Shyamalan's long in development follow-up to his 2000 motion picture Unbreakable has finally come to fruition, an exciting proposition for many including myself given that I consider Unbreakable to be Shyamalan's best work as a filmmaker. Glass does not reach the heights of either the excellent Unbreakable or the pretty good Split, but it does work as a solid film on its own merits, though it is one that can't help but feel messy in some key respects that keep it from being truly superheroic.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sidney Poiter Excels in the Impressively-Realized Mystery Thriller In the Heat of the Night

There's plenty to unpack in the 1967 Best Picture Oscar winner In the Heat of the Night, including the fact that this is just an all-around excellent motion picture but something that stood out to me was how a number of crucial aspects in regards to how the feature treats the topic of American racial tensions between black and white citizens stand out as being completely different, in a good way, from how many modern high-profile American films treat the same subject. For one thing, In the Heat of the Night is set in what was then the modern-day world, it doesn't try to set its story in the past as a way of portraying racism as only a thing that happened in yesteryear America.

Glass Has OK But Not Superheroic Opening Weekend As Dragon Ball Super: Broly Scores A Staggeringly Impressive Opening Weekend

All box office figures discussed here are for the three-day weekend. 

After nineteen years of waiting, the world finally got an Unbreakable sequel in the form of Glass. Combining the worlds of Unbreakable and Split into one film, the newest M. Night Shyamalan feature was generating massive amounts of pre-release hype that had many (myself included) thinking this one had the potential to overperform mightily. However, it turned out Glass fell slightly below pre-release expectations, grossing $40.58 million, up only $500,000 from the $40 million opening of Split two years ago despite the added presence of Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson from Unbreakable.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Lucrecia Martel's Newest Film Zama Has Craftsmanship To Spare

Lucrecia Martel has been a formative figure in the modern era of Argentinan cinema and her first feature film in a decade, Zama, handily continued her steady run of critically acclaimed motion pictures. For this new project of hers, Martel has decided to create a cinematic deconstruction of colonizer figures, the kind of people who are declared great explorers in the modern era for simply stumbling on an already inhabited terrain and slaughtering its inhabitants. Like stories that involve Nazi's getting beat up or stories revolving around pug puppies being happy & carefree, stories, like the one seen in Zama, about deconstructing such figures as flawed human beings is always welcome to see in cinema.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Could Goku, World War I Soldiers And Chainsaw-Wielding Nicolas Cage Be Crucial To The Future of Cinema?

Prior to this week, I had no clue that the 20th Dragon Ball motion picture, Dragon Ball Super: Broly, even existed, let alone was making its domestic bow in movie theaters everywhere just yesterday, but that's just what happened when Dragon Ball Super: Broly bowed in 1,250 locations on January 16th,  2019. Though playing on one or two showtimes per theater, the feature managed to handily become the biggest movie in America on Wednesday with a massive $7 million opening day sum, enough to already make it the tenth highest-grossing Anime feature at the domestic box office. The movies domestic distributor, Funimation, will be keeping the title in theaters through this weekend with more frequent showtimes to accommodate just how popular the newest Goku adventure is.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

In Laman's Terms: Ten Years of Paul Blart: Mall Cop

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

Nobody farts in Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

A peculiar observation? Perhaps. But it's also a trait that makes it immediately stand out from other Happy Madison comedies (most of them starring Adam Sandler) like Jack & Jill, Grown Ups and the like. Farts are the bread & butter of these yukfests, so you'd think the first Happy Madison vehicle solely headlined by Kevin James would be packed to the gills with flatulence. Why, the main character's last name even rhymes with farts for God's sake! But in a twist so shocking it might as well have come out of an M. Night Shyamalan movie, not a single soul passes gas in the 2009 Steve Carr directorial effort Paul Blart: Mall Cop, nor are there any other traces of bathroom humor, making one wonder if this really is a Happy Madison production from the 2000s.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Ben Is Back Has Good Performances But Derivative Screenwriting


On a seemingly routine Christmas Eve, Holly Burns (Julia Roberts) returns home to discover that her son, Ben (Lucas Hedges), has come home. Ben, the titular lead of Ben is Back,  has been away at a rehab center trying to get clean from his drug habit and now he's returned out of the blue into Holly's life. Holly is at first overjoyed just to see her son back in her life but Ben's siblings and Holly's husband, Neal (Courtney B. Vance), don't like this situation and want Ben to return to the rehab center. Holly proceeds to make her son a deal: he can stay with the family for the next 24 hours but she'll watch him like a hawk, he is to never leave her sight. A task already immensely difficult only increases in how arduous it is as the 24 hours march on and some figures from Ben's past re-emerge to threaten Ben and his family.

The Upside Is On The Upswing At The Domestic Box Office As It Beats Out Aquaman And Two Other Newcomers

Well well well, looks like we have the first sleeper hit of 2019. The Upside soared above pre-release box office expectations for a $19.5 million opening weekend, the second-biggest opening weekend ever for STX Films and the tenth Kevin Hart vehicle to gross over $19 million on opening weekend. This is also the first movie not from one of the seven major American studios to top the domestic box office since Lee Daniels' The Butler in August 2013 (that feature hailed from The Weinstein Company). Also worth noting that the two of the three biggest opening weekends for comedies since Daddy's Home in November 2017 belong to Kevin Hart vehicles. Between this and Christmas 2018's solid performer Second Act, STX has had back-to-back hits with the kind of mid-budget inspirational comedies that the major studios don't make very much anymore. It'll be interesting to see if their future slate involves more films in this vein while I'm also curious if Lantern Entertainment (which acquired The Upside when they bought all of the Weinstein Company assets) is emboldened to become more of a major production company after this lucrative opening weekend.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Minding the Gap Is Must-See Top-Notch Documentary Filmmaking

When director Bing Liu set out to make Minding the Gap, his primary goal seemed to be to look at the abusive childhoods that he and his two best friends had endured and how that abusive behavior had impacted their modern-day lives. It's hard to imagine that director Bing Liu ever thought, in the process of filming the everyday lives of his childhood pals, hed end up with something that has such precise build-up and tragic pay-off's that it feels like it could belong in a traditional narrative feature. In the confines of a film, these turn of events would be held back by the fact that they are, after all, fictional, just performers reading a script, whereas Minding the Gap is capturing reality itself, complete with raw revelations about the complicated lives of Bing's best friends.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Disastrous Life Itself Is Complex In Structure But Deadly Dull In The Details

Perhaps you've heard of the movie Life Itself. Maybe you saw the advertising for its September 2018 theatrical release or maybe you've only been exposed to it via ads on the Amazon Prime section of the Amazon website or there's a good chance your only exposure to Life Itself has been by hearing a loved one trying to recount its labyrinthine plot. There are many ways to be exposed to Life Itself but merely hearing about it or seeing a poster for it is nothing compared to actually watching the movie. This is a tragic trainwreck of a feature film, one that sees a murderer's row of actors get put to use on a film whose thematic substance is about as thin as roadkill on a Texas highway. 

Ralph Breaks The Internet Is An Episodic But Frequently Fun Voyage Into The World Wide Web

As Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) notes early on in Ralph Breaks The Internet, the internet is a vast place. This sprawling domain is rife with possibilities for comedy and it's easy to imagine that writing up potential internet-based plot points or gags for Ralph Breaks The Internet would be an incredibly fun exercise. Unfortunately, the excess of potential in its central concept seems to have thrown Ralph Breaks The Internet off-kilter to a degree in terms of storytelling. Frequently, the films feels like a collection of stand-alone short films chronicling the exploits of the Wreck-It Ralph protagonists exploring the wide world of the internet rather than a cohesive feature-length movie.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Escape Room Delivers Some Competent Thrills

Six strangers have all been given an invite to try out a new escape room. If they can manage to get out, they'll get $10,000. The eclectic group of individuals includes timid college student Zoey Davis (Taylor Russell), arrogant rich guy Jason Walker (Jay Ellis), stockroom worker Ben Miller (Logan Miller), veteran Amanda Harper (Deborah Ann Woll), chipper Mike Nolan (Tylor Labine) and escape room expert Danny Khan (Nik Dodani). Though Danny's gone through numerous escape rooms in the past, he's never seen anything like the one he and the other five characters must endure. The challenges here are frighteningly real and the consequences of not following all the clues properly are deadly.

Early Man Falls Short of Past Aardman Feature Films

Aardman Animation (the outfit behind Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run) have been trying to make a caveman comedy for well over a decade now. Back when they had a deal to produce films with DreamWorks Animation, one of their proposed projects was a feature called Crood Awakening that John Cleese had written the script for. Once Aardman left DreamWorks, the latter studio turned the film into The Croods while Aardman finally got around to delivering a caveman project (albeit without the involvement of John Cleese) with Early Man, which was released in the first few weeks of 2018 to underwhelming box office results.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

It Looks Like The Next Star Trek Movie Has Been Put Into Port

Yesterday, Deadline broke the news that Jessica Jones director S.J. Clarkson would be directing the debut episode of a still-untitled Game of Thrones spin-off, a project she could undertake because a schedule had opened up in her schedule due to a prior directing commitment being shelved. That prior directing commitment? The next installment of the Star Trek film series. Clarkson had been set last Spring to make her feature film directorial debut by helming a sequel to 2016's Star Trek Beyond, but the project ran into a roadblock last August when pay disputes between Paramount Pictures and stars Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth led to the two actors walking away from the project, putting its very existence in jeopardy.

In Laman's Terms: How Did The Seven Major Movies Studios Fare At The 2018 Domestic Box Office?

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

There are seven big American movie studios (soon, we shall be back to six once 20th Century Fox gets absorbed by Disney in the coming weeks) and they all released a whole slew of movies in 2018. Today, I shall use my box office savvy mind to look at their yearly grosses from 2018 and see which ones were on a financial roll and which ones are looking to the future to improve their fortune!

Let us begin with a studio I'm sure you're all shocked is once again on top of this (small) world....

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Regina Hall Shines In Support the Girls, A Charming & Heartfelt Ode To The Underappreciated

If you read Barack Obama's list concerning his 15 favorite movies of 2018, you might have understandably wondered what Support the Girls was. Considering it got only the briefest of theatrical releases back in August, it's likely the film flew under many people's radars, though the endorsement of a former President of the United States should boost its profile nicely. Though I'm nowhere near as influential as Mr. Obama, allow me to reaffirm that Support the Girls is indeed something special and should be getting even more attention. This newest film from writer/director Andrew Bujalski is a humorous and heartfelt feature about people just trying to help other people and make it through another day.

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Favourite Is A Wickedly Fun Take On Traditional Period Pieces Dramas

I am really starting to dig this trend of costume period piece movies like Phantom Thread, Colette and now The Favourite that have their period-era characters talk and act like modern warts-and-all human beings. Though they didn't pioneer this trend (why, the Comedy Central TV show Another Period has been doing this for quite some time now), it is a nice departure from the norm in cinema where the default mode of doing these films is to depict historical time periods in a sacrosanct manner that has people acting as proper as possible. That's not quite the approach taken by The Favourite, which has more in common with a Marx Brothers comedy or even, in terms of ribald dialogue, a period-era version of a raunchy Seth Rogen comedy than it does with your average Stephen Frears film.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Disobedience Upends Expectations In Welcome Ways

Ronit Krushka (Rachel Weisz) has been left out of the loop as to the goings-on of the London-based Orthodox Jewish congregation that raised her, which means she's taken completely by surprise when she receives word that her father, a rabbi, has passed away. She now returns home to say goodbye to her now deceased father, which means she must now deal with a congregation that is immensely distrustful of her given how she's not one to just kowtow to tradition. She also must face David Kuperman (Alessandro Nivola), who is now married to Esti (Rachel McAdams), a lady who harbors some personal romantic feelings for Ronit that our protagonist gladly reciprocates.

Aquaman Tops The Box Office For Third Weekend In A Row As Escape Room Scores Solid Bow And Assortment of Holdovers Hold Strong

The 2019 domestic box office kicked off in fine form this weekend as the sole new wide release opened above expectations while the holdovers in the marketplace had remarkably strong holds. One of those holdovers demonstrating some box office sea legs was Aquaman, which dropped 41% this frame to add $30.7 million to its massive domestic haul that now stands at $259.7 million.  This will become the 25th superhero movie to crack $300 million domestically in no time and also seems to be on track to handily surpass $1 billion.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

If Beale Street Could Talk Is Masterful Emotionally Resonant Filmmaking That Should Not Be Missed

Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne) was only 19. Fonny Hunt was only 22. They were deeply in love in New York City in 1974 and are all set to start a life together, but then tragedy struck in the form of Fonny being arrested for a crime he did not commit. Shortly after he's arrested, Tish learns that she's pregnant with his child, a revelation that she shares with Fonny in one of the opening scenes of the new Barry Jenkins directorial effort If Beale Street Could Talk. From there, the rest of the story, which is based on a 1974 James Baldwin novel of the same name, chronicles Tish and her families attempts to try and free Fonny from his prison sentence as well as numerous flashbacks showing pivotal moments in Tish and Fonny's romance.

Getting To The Hart Of Why Kevin Hart Still Shouldn't Host The Oscars

In December 2018, Kevin Hart was picked as the host for the impending 91st Academy Awards. Shortly thereafter, a number of tweets from around 2009 to 2011 resurfaced of the comic making jokes that were basically just hateful comments about gay people (including one where he threatened physical violence against his son if he ever exhibited "gay" behavior like playing with dolls). In response to these tweets resurfacing, Hart made a social media post saying that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (which is in charge of the Academy Awards) had told him he could still host if just apologized for the posts, but that he was refusing to do so in the name of making sure not to give into "the haters". A few hours later, Hart was fired from the hosting gig, a turn of events that was accompanied by him finally apologizing for his social media posts.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Madeline's Madeline Is An Impressively Realized Surrealist Exercise That Hews Closely To Immersive Theater

In a Performances In Historical Context class I took last Fall, we learned about a form of theater storytelling known as Immersive Theater. Emerging in the 21st century, this format of theater broke away from traditional norms of stage performance to rely heavily on audience participation, allowing for the creation of a one-on-one experience between audience members and performers, while such shows also tend to incorporate social elements into the proceedings and take advantage of whatever environment the performance takes place in. Theater groups like Punchdrunk and Third Rail are probably the most famous examples of this format of theater storytelling that ensures that no two performances of any given show will be quite the same.

Year of the Month: Was The Original X-Men Really A Game-Changer For Superhero Movies?

This essay was written for The-Solute's monthly Year of the Month column, with January 2019 being dedicated to pop culture from 2000. 

At the dawn of the 21st century, movies based on Marvel Comics were not a recurring fixture of American cinema. Though now it's like saying that the sky was once colored green, it was true at the very start of 2000, with Marvel Comics having about as many box office hits based on one of their properties (the 1997 sleeper hit Blade) as Image Comics. That all changed in July 2000 when the very first live-action X-Men movie made its way to the silver screen courtesy of 20th Century Fox and director Bryan Singer. The feature managed to gross $157.2 million domestically, a sum that put it ahead of all superhero movies sans the first three post-1988 live-action Batman movies. In an era where Batman & Robin seemingly killed off the comic book movie, and the likes of Spawn and Steel weren't making the case for the subgenre's revival, X-Men proved not only did comic book movies still have life left in them but that movies based on Marvel Comics characters could make big bucks.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Merging Leatherface With Garth Brooks Music Works Way Better Than You Expected

As a lifelong fan of country music (don't @ me) and a lifelong devotee to movies, I'd be lying if I said it had never crossed my mind to merge the two of them through the process of parody songs that the likes of Weird Al Yankovic have mastered so well. Tragically, I cannot sing and have no experience writing songs, so my dreams of merging Kenny Chesney tunes with Akira Kurosawa movies shall always remain just that, a dream. But luckily, The Merkins have taken this idea and made Friends With No Faces, a Texas Chainsaw Massacre themed parody of the Garth Brooks song Friends In Low Places. The result is something far more hysterical than I could ever hope to make.

A Realistic Portrait of Two Brothers Is the Best Part of The Creative Thriller The Endless

With director Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's The Endless, I finally got to experience what it's like to be a non-Marvel geek and watch a newly introduced superhero like Black Panther show up in a movie like Captain America: Civil War. The Endless also has characters from another motion picture, specifically, the lead characters from Benson and Moorhead's 2012 film Resolution show up in towards the end of The Endless. Despite not having seen Resolution, the two characters presence here, like Black Panther in Civil War, was totally organic, I never would have guessed they were from a separate movie altogether if the interwebs didn't inform me that they originated in Resolution.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Vox Lux Hits Equally Ambitious High And Sour Notes

Vox Lux makes it clear early on that it's aiming to get people chattering like teeth in the Arctic wintertime. Making one of the opening scenes of your movie an on-screen depiction of a school shooting is the kind of thing that'll certainly generate conversation but is there more going on with Vox Lux than just surface-level references to hot-button political issues and intentionally discomforting imagery? There actually is but it's buried underneath some weirdly executed narration and lackluster directing. The ambition clearly present even in these flawed oddball traits is admirable but said traits also have a tendency to be a distraction rather than an enhancement to highest notes Vox Lux manages to nail.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Dogtooth Is Weird, Warped And Well-Made. In Other Words, It's A Yorgos Lanthimos Movie.

Though he had directed two feature-length motion pictures before it, Dogtooth was the movie that really put Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos on the map thanks to its widespread acclaim and a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. The same kind of rampant dark humor, understated line deliveries and grim tone that permeates the man's later directorial efforts like The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer are around in Dogtooth in abundance. In fact, Dogtooth feels very much like a precursor to The Killing of a Sacred Deer, not just in how it focuses on a family unit but also in how it feels like Lanthimos constantly dancing on the razor's edge of just how far he can push his actors and viewers with all the warped scenarios he puts them through.