Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Hobbs & Shaw Hits the Accelerator When It Comes to Absurd Mayhem

Right now, I'm reading Film History: An Introduction (Third Edition) by Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell for the first time and it's a fantastic read, it's been so much fun to discover new terminology related to the oldest eras of cinema and learn factoids related to the earliest days of the major movie studios. Plus, the writing style of Thompson and Bordwell is extremely adept at explaining new concepts or ideas (like dadaism, for example) to readers who might be unfamiliar with them. My only real grievance with the book is that it doesn't contain any chapters dedicated to Hobbs & Shaw, a Fast & Furious spin-off movie that might just represent the peak of cinema as an artform. The Lumiere Brothers would have wept succulent tears of joy if they could have lived to see this David Leitch directorial effort.

In Laman's Terms: Dwayne Johnson Solidified His Leading Man Status With Family Films

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!

Nowadays, a Dwayne Johnson movie is a reliable bet to deliver some pleasing box office numbers. Oh sure, his modern-day movie star career has had its fair share of misses like Skyscraper and Baywatch. But more often than not, when you place Dwayne Johnson in a lighthearted PG-13 action movie, you get box office hits like San Andreas, Rampage and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. But it wasn't always this way, there was a period where it looked like Johnson was struggling to achieve box office clout. Such a period came directly after his first leading man gig, The Scorpion King, which managed to become a box office hit with a $165 million worldwide haul.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift Revved This Franchise Up

In hindsight, one particularly fascinating part about the Fast & Furious series is how, unlike most mega-blockbuster franchises, its initial films weren't all that great. The Fast and the Furious, the very first title in the saga, becoming a sleeper box office hit way above anyone's expectations showed that it clearly struck a chord with viewers. To boot, the importance of the original feature being one of the few American movies at the dawn of the 21st-century to star people of color cannot be underestimated, particularly when exploring how and why this series managed to resonate so storngly with audiences in the first place. But much like the DC Extended Universe or the Star Trek and Harry Potter movies, Fast & Furious didn't really hit its stride until its sequels came along.

Grab Your Pals And Watch The Emotionally Raw Girlfriends

Back in a 1980 interview, Stanley Kubrick remarked that a recent American film he adored was the Claudia Weill 1978 feature Girlfriends. Particularly interesting in his praise of the project was him noting bewilderment over it not doing well at the box office (as Kubrick can attest with his own works like 2001: A Space Odyssey, good films sometimes just can't translate quality to strong box office), how well-made the feature was and that it had a thoughtful quality that reminded him of European cinema. Heed the words of Stanley Kubrick dear reader, Girlfriends is very much worthy of the praise this iconic filmmaker heaped upon it.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Guest Is In Touch With The Past And Its Own Distinct Identity

In this prequel to Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast, David Collins (Dan Stevens) randomly shows up on the doorstep of the Peterson family one day and tells them he knew their deceased son, Caleb. Apparently, David and Caleb worked in the same Army unit, as evidenced by them being in a photo together that lies on top of the Peterson's fireplace. With his twang-infused accent and an emphasis on ending each sentence with "sir" and "ma'am", David Collins is a good o'l Southern boy in every way shape and form and the family, save for Caleb's sister Anna (Maika Monroe), begins to adore David Collins, particularly bullied High Schooler Luke (Brendan Meyer), and they allow him to stay in their home for a prolonged period of time.

2 Fast 2 Furious Delivers An Average Sequel With A Perfect Title

2 Fast 2 Furious. Just say that title aloud, savor each word in it. 2 Fast 2 Furious. What a perfect sequel title. The actual movie belonging to that title is nowhere near as gloriously perfect in every way, but it's not every summer blockbuster sequel that can say it delivered such a wonderful title. As that title indicates, this is the second entry in the expansive Fast & Furious saga and the lone title in the series that doesn't feature Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto character. Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), having been forced by Miami law enforcement to help take down a local criminal kingpin, is sharing leading man duties with Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson).

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sublime Performances And Writing Make Sabrina An Absolute Delight

Eight years before Sabrina the Teenage Witch debuted in a 1962 issue of Archie's Madhouse, the most famous Sabrina in pop culture had to be the titular lead character of Sabrina. This feature film was quite the impressive assemblage of classic Hollywood talent, with the fact that it was Audrey Hepburn's first starring vehicle after Roman Holiday put her on the map alone being a mighty noteworthy feat. But then you pair her up with legendary leading man Humphery Bogart under the direction of Billy Wilder, a pro at delivering top-shelf witty romantic comedies and it's no surprise to see that Sabrina is such a delightful feature.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Teen Spirit Is a Mechanically Made Musician Movie

Over in the Isle of Wrights, there lives a teenage girl named Violet Valenski (Elle Fanning), who carries dreams of being a singer while going to school and working shifts at a local tavern despite her mother, Marla (Agnieszka Grochowska), sternly disapproving of her music ambitions. A local singing competition called Teen Spirit (hey, that's the name of the show!) gives Violet the chance to chase her music dreams. Teaming up with a Croatian former opera singer by the name of Vlad (Zlatko Buric) as her mentor, Violet decides to go forth and pursue her dreams. Challenges lie in wait as she struggles to balance respecting the people who have already helped her and embracing the people who could help her career go even farther. Will she ever get the best of both worlds?

Friday, July 26, 2019

Everyday People Search For Escape In River of Grass

Cozy (Lisa Donaldson) is living an unfulfilling life. It's not necessarily a bad life, taking care of her kids in a suburban Florida neighborhood, doing her yoga and taking care of the house, but it is a life that leaves her constantly wanting more. Acting on those urges to expand her horizons, she decides to make an impromptu trip to a local bar where she meets up with Lee (Larry Fessenden). The two of them drink, chat and then go to a backyard pool that Lee's friend owns. While clowning around with Lee's gun, the duo hear a figure moving in the dark and startled Cozy fires off the weapon. Mistakenly thinking they killed somebody (the bullet didn't hit anybody), Cozy and Lee proceed to go on the lam, leaving nary even a note behind for their loved ones to explain what's happened to them.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Is A Surface-Level Though Enjoyable Trip To 1969

Whether it's in characters discussing the definition of a TV pilot or sadistic movie stuntmen, Quentin Tarantino has always made his love for all things cinematic a prominent part of nearly all of his directorial efforts. Keeping that in mind, it's shocking that it's taken him this long into his career as a filmmaker to make a movie entirely set in Hollywood. Well folks, the time has finally come with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which see Tarantino doing his fourth-consecutive period piece in chronicling the exploits of a trio of characters across Hollywood in 1969, a pivotal year for Tinseltown if there ever was one.

In Laman's Terms: Can Fall 2019s Adult Dramas Bring The Box Office Heat?

Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman in Harriet
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 the Toronto International Film Festival announcing its first line-up of movies this week, it looks like it's just about time to turn our attention to award season, the final four months of a given year where most adult-skewing dramas make their debut in order to score as much awards attention as possible. The fact that such releases typically come out closer to the end of the year somewhat explains why we haven't had a ton of non-tentpoles making big bucks at the domestic box office, though a bigger reason is that we've had five blockbusters based on Disney properties each released in over 4,450 locations over a span of 13 weeks, thus ensuring that it's near impossible to that anything else, blockbuster or otherwise, can get enough exposure or screens to make an impression.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Night of the Hunter Is A Top-Shelf Visually Gorgeous Thriller

God, I love how vast cinema is. There's just so many movies out there that it's impossible to know everything that's ever existed which leaves one open to the delightful experience of discovering something wholly new. Just like last year when I had my mind blown upon discovering Ranier Wener Fassbinder, I was shocked yesterday to discover people raving about a film leaving the Criterion Channel on July 31st known as The Night of the Hunter. With time running out to stream it on this streaming platform, I decided to watch it this morning and once again, that wonderful experience of discovering something special transpired.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Fantastic Planet's Animation Evokes Reality While Also Eschewing It

Speaking of animation that doesn't adhere to realism, let's talk about the iconic 1973 French/Czech feature Fantastic Planet. Hailing from director Rene Laloux, Fantastic Planet is a science-fiction tale and like many entries in this genre, Fantastic Planet uses a cosmic setting to create images, creatures and settings with such outlandish qualities that they could only exist in the farthest reaches of outer space. It's no wonder Laloux's trailblazing creation opts to be primarily a visual affair with social commentary sprinkled in instead of hewing to a more traditional three-act story structure. The very concept of a structure of any kind for the narrative would run counter to a visual scheme that's all about the strange and abstract.

The Hitch-Hiker Puts You In The Driver's Seat...of Terror!

Ida Lupino's seminal 1953 feature The Hitch-Hiker has been referred to as a Desert Noir by many film scholars, an apt description given how it shifts the tone and style of a traditional film noir from its conventional city setting to a more isolated desert area. But for my money, The Hitch-Hiker was also evocative of those torture horror films that were all the rage in American cinema in the mid-2000s, the likes of Saw and Hostel that were all about the grotesque horror experienced by normal people at the hands of sadistic individuals. The Hitch-Hiker, thanks to Haye's Code era restrictions, can't even begin to be as gruesome as your average Eli Roth movie but its emphasis on the misery of its two lead protagonists evoked those grisly modern films to me anyway.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Climax's Barrage of Chaos Eventually Becomes Pretty Tiresome

Gaspar Noe is a French filmmaker known for pushing the boundaries in his filmmaking and pushing the buttons of people who watch his films. It was amusing to see other people more versed in his filmography than me refer to Climax as easily his most accessible film considering just what a demented concoction Climax is. It was amusing to think of how this played at my local Cinemark for about a week, a movie theater whose crowd tends to prefer Pure Flix movies over A24 movies. I'd imagine there were walk-outs a-plenty, heck, Climax is so disturbing that employees at the theater likely had a bet to see if anyone would stick around for an entire screening!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Hotel Transylvania 3 Is the Best Monster Vacation Yet Thanks to Its Zany Comedy

The first two Hotel Transylvania movies have come off as contradictory features, a tug-of-war between the artistic ambitions of director Genndy Tartakovsky, an animation legend most well-known for his work on The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory and Samurai Jack, and the obligations of conventional 21st-century animated family movie filmmaking. In both of these films, one can clearly see Tatakovsky trying to push computer-animation in a more zany direction akin to the kind of wacky animation seen in the Flash hand-drawn animation he used on his earlier projects. While their computer-animation had flashes of being something special, their generic celebrity voice-over casts, contemporary music needle drops and rote gags felt like something you could find in any number of other animated films.

The Lion King Will Leave You Feline Nothing

So, quick recap for those who aren't familiar with the original Lion King: Simba (voiced by JD McCrary as a child and Donald Glover as an adult) is the son of Mufasa (James Earl Jones), the king of the Pride Lands. Simba is immensely excited to assume the throne, but his nefarious Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has other dastardly plans in mind. He plans to usurp the throne by killing Mufasa and Simba, a plan that leaves Mufasa dead and Simba feeling so guilty that he runs away from his home. Out on his own, Simba ignores his past and lives a care-free life but he'll soon discover that you can't outrun your responsibilities.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Richard Linklater Delivers An Intriguing Trip With A Scanner Darkly

Richard Linklater's primary focus as a filmmaker has been making quiet meditations on how mundane moments of life shape us as people in the long-term. This wistful kind of storytelling has served him extremely well in delivering such outstanding features as Boyhood or any of the three Before movies. But over the course of his career Linklater has stepped out of that comfort zone to deliver delightful family comedies (School of Rock), remarkable Coen Brothers-esque dark comedies (Bernie) and even acclaimed period piece romantic dramas (Me and Orson Welles). But perhaps his biggest stretch outside of Boyhood-type projects is A Scanner Darkly, an animated adaptation of Phillip K. Dick's novel of the same name.

The Box Shows The Best And Worst Traits of Richard Kelly's Filmmaking

It's been a whole decade since Richard Kelly directed anything. Can you believe it? The director of Donnie Darko has been attached to a number of projects over the years, but he hasn't helmed anything new in a decade. Truth be told, I'd say it's only a matter of time before we see more from Kelly in the future considering his creative spirit and that he doesn't have any scandals tarnishing his reputation. Perhaps that's just the hopeful optimist in me talking though since I tend to find Kelly's trio of movies utterly fascinating. Yes, that even includes his weakest directorial effort, The Box, which offers plenty to dissect even if it doesn't either come together as a cohesive whole or deliver a Southland Tales-esque all-timer head trip of a mess. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Born in Flames Proves To Be All Too Relevant In 2019

CW: Discussions of sexual assault 

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter talking with a number of individuals about the 30th anniversary of Do the Right Thing, editor Barry Alexander Brown noted how, in the summer of 2014, he and Spike Lee had cut together a short film that cut between footage of Eric Garner being killed by police officers and footage from Do The Right Thing showing Radio Raheem also being killed by cops. Watching how reality had echoed a movie released 25 years prior, Brown noted "It's like this shit is still happening". Born in Flames, a 1983 directorial effort from Lizzie Borden, is similarly a film from the 1980s that only feels all the more relevant in the modern-day world as a tale of women of color trying to make sure their voices are heard in a society that will do anything to crush them.

Do The Crocodile Rock With The Delightful Crawl

Thank God, there are no human villains in Crawl. Unlike either of the Jurassic World movies, Crawl recognizes the lizard critters at the center of its story is enough to generate tension in a movie, there's no need to bend the plot over backwards so human enemies can also be incorporated into the proceedings. That's just one of many examples of how Crawl keeps things simple to delightful effect. Director Alexandre Aja, working from a script by Michael & Shawn Rasmussen, fuses together the underwater human-gobbling beasts element of his 2010 feature Piranha 3D with his 2007 feature P2's decision to confine its story to just one location to create something that's just so much fun to watch.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Performances and Atmosphere Are Everybody Knows' Strong Suits

Well, it's time for a wedding! Break out the doves, the rice and the fancy outfits! All the extended members of Laura's (Penelope Cruz) family have come out for this special day, including her ex-lover Paco (Javier Bardem). Laura is prepared to just sit, watch and enjoy this wedding, but during the festivities, her teenage daughter is kidnapped! Now everything is in disarray as the family tries to figure out who did this and how they can solve it. Paco leaps at the chance to help in any way he can but Laura's family doesn't trust him. Secrets have been brewing in this family for a long time and now they're about to come to the surface. It's time for a wedding alright, but it's also time for revelations a-plenty.

Stuber Hits Too Many Speed Bumps

Who doesn't need some extra dollars these days? For his part, Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) tries to earn some extra cash by being an Uber driver, a job that puts him contact with a whole lot of eccentric people that tend to give him low-star ratings for nonsensical reasons. If he gets lower than a 4-star rating, he gets kicked off the service, so Stu is determined to make every ride he can the best ride ever. This includes the ride he gives Victor (Dave Bautista), a cop hot on the trail of a drug-dealing gangster, Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais), that he has a personal score to settle with. Due to Victor having some vision problems stemming from Lasik surgery, he coerces Stu to help him out on this violent mission that this pacifist Uber driver is certainly not prepared for.

In Laman's Terms: Jesse Eisenberg And His Gift For Bringing Thematic Weight To The Nerds

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!

Hollywood loves itself a nerd, but usually in very stereotypical (and very white male) terms, especially the ones established in the 1980s that saw pocket protectors and Rick Moranis become the go-to visual signifiers for goofball nerds. But while legendary screen performer Moranis and a number of these other depictions of nerds in pop culture could be fun, they did tend to be more surface-level stereotypes. It's easy to see actor Jesse Eisenberg being somebody who could have been pigeonholed into the nerd movie archetype. After all, Hollywood has a very narrow idea of who can be a conventional Hollywood leading man (beefy, white, extremely masculine, etc.) and if you don't fall into that category, you tend to fall into an archetype like "the nerd".

Monday, July 15, 2019

Hepburn and Grant's Cinematic Partnership Kicked off in Style With Sylvia Scarlett

Sometimes, box office duds come up short at the box office simply because they're outright terrible cinema. It's hard to imagine any scenario where Battlefield: Earth or The Adventures of Pluto Nash would resonate with the public deeply enough to make big box office bucks. But more often than not, good movies are the ones that end up perishing at the box office while the likes of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen rack up over $400 million domestically. Thankfully, good movies that come up short financially can end up garnering a better reputation over time. Take Sylvia Scarlett for instance, a 1935 comedy that ended up flopping at the box office despite being an immensely important movie historically since it was the first time director George Cukor, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant all worked together (Cukor and Hepburn had previously collaborated sans Grant on Little Women).

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Kid Who Would Be King Is A Fantastical Delight

Leaping lizards, somebody finally made a modern-day fantasy movie that isn't a realistic reimagining or oppressively gloomy! Hooray for The Kid Who Would Be King for just doing a straightforward fantasy movie and never feeling insecure about its fantasy trappings. In this movie, people fight undead skeletons, use magic and wield swords without feeling the need to constantly wink at the camera. Instead, the newest effort from writer/director Joe Cornish (frequent Edgar Wright collaborator and the guy behind Attack the Block) is just concentrated on telling a good story in a fun manner. Consider me more than onboard for that!

A Handy Guide to All The Upcoming Streaming Services

An image from the musical number "I Wanna Be Like You", a song title that perfectly sums up every media companies attitude towards Netflix
Now that Netflix streaming has changed how we all consume entertainment, everybody is getting in on the streaming game. We all know Amazon and Hulu also have their own streaming platform but there's also CBS All-Access, IFC Unlimited, Shudder and so many more. It's a lucrative market that many high-profile companies will be attempting to enter in the next year. But it's not a foolproof one, just ask Yahoo! Screen or YouTube Premium. With so many new players entering the world of streaming, it's inevitable that somebody is gonna come up short.

Below, I've compiled the major upcoming streaming services, who owns them, what kind of content they'll host and what possible problems they'll have to face. Let's begin with one of the most high-profile of these new entries into the streaming game...

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Chiwetel Ejiofor Makes A Promising Foray Into Directing With The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

It's easy to see a cookie-cutter version of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, a feature-film adaptation of the true story of William Kamkwamba. It'd be a film told from the perspective of a white American named Bill Johnson (played by Jai Courtney, in his big Oscar glory turn), who comes to the African village of Wimbe thinking black people are inferior. But when he befriends a young inventor named William Kamkwamba who has an unlikely but bold plan to help save his village, well, o'l Bill Johnson is about to learn a heartwarming lesson that people of color are actually human beings. It'd be a cringe-inducing exercise that would nonetheless earn loads of money and the Academy Awards would line up all the Oscars for it all while actually ignoring movies made and about people of color.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Art of Self-Defense Humorously Confronts Toxic Masculinity

Casey Davies (Jesse Eisenberg) is a mild-mannered individual, no two ways about it and that personality is apparent in his day-to-day life consisting of a routine accounting job, taking care of his wiener-dog and absorbing every aspect of French culture he can. One night, Davies is attacked by a group of motorcycle-riding fiends who leave him brutally injured. Afterward, the perpetually terrified Davies looks for ways to defend himself, at first opting for a handgun before discovering a karate class run by Sensei (Alessandro Nivola, channeling Liev Schrieber in his terrific performance). Through learning this form of fighting in this dojo, Davies feels like he can finally take control of his life...and then things get prickly.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Her Smell Marvelously Delves Into the Lows and Humanity of a Rockstar

We've seen plenty of movies about period era rockstars before, but I truly cannot recall one as intimate as Her Smell, the newest directorial effort from Alex Ross Perry. My first foray into his directorial works goes for small-scale character interactions where most films of this ilk opt for a conventional rags-to-riches story packed with cheeky references to famous songs. Split into five different periods of the life of 1990s singer Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) that are comprised primarily of conversations between characters (save for one that shifts the setting to Becky's home), this more personal approach to telling her story allow the viewer to truly gets to know what a whirlwind of chaos this performer is as well as understand the more vulnerable human side of Becky Something.

Blue Ruin Is Astonishingly Absorbing

At the start of the 2010s, crowdfunding through websites like Kickstarter really broke through as a way to get films financed without relying on the money of corporations that could creatively stifle the production. The ideal use of this financing source would be to get off-kilter original indie movies like Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin made, though the biggest of the films benefiting from crowdsourcing were extensions of already-existing franchises like Veronica Mars: The Movie and Super Troopers 2. As the decade comes to a close, it feels like the bloom is off the crowdsourcing rose thanks to a whole bunch of controversial Kickstarter campaigns that have diluted the reputation of the idea of crowdsourcing a movie. At least we'll always have Blue Ruin!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

In Laman's Terms: Why Use Animation For Just Realism?

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!

We're about nine days out from that new Lion King remake (which is not live-action, for the love of God, it is an animated movie) hitting theaters everywhere and boy do I have mixed feelings about the project based on its marketing. I'm heading into the film with an open mind and hope that it can surprise me just like The Jungle Book and Pete's Dragon did, but much of what the trailers and commercials have shown off so far don't get me all excited. Right now, The Lion King is being marketed to look basically like the original animated film but now it's done in an animation style placing an emphasis on a much more muted color palette and far more realistic animation.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

There Are Few Upsides To Watching The Upside

Technically, The Upside is a remake of a 2012 French movie entitled The Intouchables that, for a while there, became the biggest foreign-language movie of all-time at the worldwide box office. Given how successful it was, an American remake of that French feature was basically inevitable. Remakes have a negative stink about them, but like any genre, they can be good when executed properly. Just look at that seemingly pointless Child's Play remake that ended up being a delight. But in executing this remake of The Intouchables, given the title The Upside, director Neil Burger has delivered essentially a cornball TV movie from the 1980s that somehow managed to show up in 2019 movie theaters. 

Swing Time Dances Well But Has Two Left Feet Otherwise

John "Lucky" Garnett (Fred Astaire) is a dancer with an affinity (read: addiction) to gambling and its that affinity that ends up seeing him entirely forgot about his marriage to Margaret (Betty Furness). Eventually, John remembers that he was supposed to walk Margaret down the aisle and, in a distraught fashion, races to Margaret and her Dad to apologize. Margaret's father gives John a deal: if he can make $25,000 in the next few months, John can regain Margaret's hand in marriage. In order to get all that cash, John hightails it to New York City with his pal Pop (Victor Moore), where he accidentally stumbles into a dancing gig alongside Penny (Ginger Rogers).

Monday, July 8, 2019

Under the Silver Lake Is The Poor Man's Inherent Vice

Under the Silver Lake is a movie all about hidden messages, but none of those messages are as hiden as the movie itself, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last May before a prospective June 2018 release. But then the film reviewed mixed marks at the festival and its distributor, A24, delayed it to December 7, 2018. That day came and went without a trace of Under the Silver Lake. What happened? Was Under the Silver Lake doomed to just sit on a shelf somewhere? Then the film got a brief (read: three day long) theatrical run in April 2019 before dropping unceremoniously on Amazon Streaming last week. It's been a long journey for Under the Silver Lake and for some, this highly unusual motion picture will have been more than worth the wait. For me, it turned out to be a movie that would have been underwhelming even if I had been waiting just five minutes for it to arrive.

Ari Aster Delivers Another Slow-Burn Horror Winner With Midsommar

Much like how Jordan Peele made quite a different beast with Us compared to his directorial debut Get Out, director Ari Aster has similarly taken great pains to ensure that his second directorial effort, Midsommar, is different from his initial directorial debut, last years Hereditary. Whereas that 2018 Toni Collette horror film was a grim contemplation of the cycle of abuse that oozed dread in every frame, Midsommar is a more loosey-goosey laidback horror comedy set in Sweden that utilizes the broad plot outline and character types of The Wizard of Oz. Aster's penchant for not just resting on his laurels is already admirable and it only helps matters that, when just taken as its own horror movie, Midsommar is a chilling and unique feature.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Torch Song Trilogy Hits Countless High Notes

The 1990s saw an unprecedented resurgence for American Queer cinema in both indie and mainstream circles thanks to the New Queer Cinema movement of the 1990s and high-profile major studio releases with LGBTQA+ lead characters like Philadelphia and The Birdcage. In retrospect, a number of queer films released in the latter half of the 1980s used more forward-thinking storytelling and polished filmmaking to serve as harbingers of the increased profile LGBTQA+ American cinema would have in the following decade. One key example of these harbingers was Torch Song Trilogy, a film adaptation of a trio of Harvey Fierstein plays directed by Paul Bogart and starring Fierstein himself in the role of Arnold Beckoff.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Introspection Is The Best Feature of Some of My Best Friends Are...

The Stonewall Riots of 1969 were a gamechanger for the LGBTQA+ community in America. Thanks to the actions of people like Marsha P. Johnson, the eternal suffering of members of this community had become visible in a profound way. People had always turned a blind eye to this community but now these marginalized members of American society were making it clear they would make their voices heard. Some of My Best Friends Are... was released two years after the Stonewall Riots and though it only received a moderate theatrical release and remains relatively obscure even to this day, its very existence was another sign of how the queer perspective was making itself heard in an unprecedented manner.

What A Twist!: Spider-Man Far From Home Spoiler Discussion (SPOILERS)

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Thank God Fritz Lang's Excellent The Big Heat Managed To Somehow Get Past Hayes Code Censors

Film noirs were one of the rare relatively high-profile Hollywood genres that could get away with a certain amount of moral ambiguity in the Hayes Code era of filmmaking, though even a number of film noirs had to concede to Hayes Code restrictions in the name of "protecting the sanctity of the family". Watching The Big Heat, it's a wonder this film made it past the Hayes Code censors, especially since The Big Heat takes a gigantic agitated sledgehammer to the institutions of law & order that the Hayes Code was so keen on upholding. The Big Heat is an utter nightmare for anyone devoted to what the Hayes Code stood for but it's a dream come true for everybody else just looking for some good cinema to enjoy.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Feel Free To Do The Monster Mash, Just Don't Watch The Movie MASH

TV shows based on movies usually end up being mere footnotes in the history of the films they spawned from. The Ferris Bueller's Day Off TV show spin-off, that Minority Report TV show (God, I forgot that even happened until I started writing this review), the Napoleon Dynamite TV show, all relics of far more popular features. But there are exceptions to this rule and TV shows based on movies are no exception. Mr. Belvedere and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for instance, are both more well-known in the modern era for their TV offshoots rather than the movies they originated from and it's likely that the same can be said for the TV show inspired by Robert Altman's 1970 film MASH.

Spider-Man: Far From Home Is The Good Version of EuroTrip


In Laman's Terms: Theatrical Cinema Is Not Dead, It's Surely Alive

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!

The 2019 domestic box office has gotten a whole lot of people in the American film industry down in a funk and why wouldn't it? Granted, 2019 isn't the worst year ever, in fact, looking at its current $5.619 billion yearly gross, the only prior year of domestic box office that was doing better at the same point was 2018. However, a string of box office failures have left studio executives and box office analysts shaken, as films ranging from Alita: Battle Angel to Godzilla: King of the Monsters to The Secret Life of Pets 2 have all come far under expectations. Even Disney isn't impervious from this, as their Dumbo remake managed to be a box office bomb with only a $114.4 million domestic haul.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Watermelon Woman Looks at the Complexities of the Past in a Fascinating Manner

Headlines were made this summer when it was revealed that Rocketman would be the first major Hollywood production to feature an on-screen sex scene between two men. It was astonishing to imagine that high-profile American cinema had been produced for over a century and never, not even once, had such a scene transpired, but so is the sad state of LGBTQA+ representation in American cinema. Heck, it's not just films from major American movie studios that suffer from this problem, the indie American cinema took ages for proper representation even when it comes to individuals behind the camera. Just look at how it took until 1996s The Watermelon Woman for American cinema, indie or otherwise, to see its first film directed by a black Lesbian, in this case acclaimed director Cheryl Dunye.

Toy Story 4 Manages To Be A Worthy Epilogue To The Toy Story 4 Saga

I have been beating the drum on the fact that Toy Story 4 shouldn't exist ever since the project got announced all the way back in November 2014. Toy Story 3 just wrapped up the saga of Woody, Buzz and company so well, was there any need for a fourth one? Having now seen Toy Story 4, I can't say this new entry in the saga is an essential beat, but it does work well as an epilogue to Toy Story 3's conclusion as well as a satisfying movie on its own standalone terms. Plus, instead of just serving up a bunch of nostalgic callbacks to prior films, it primary focuses turns out to be on exploring larger ideas about how to define one's self-worth as a person, a theme covered by most summertime animated kids movies.

Dog Day Afternoon Upends Your Expectations At Every Turn To Immensely Riveting Success

Dog Day Afternoon as a whole is just so darn good, but man, that opening sequence is especially a work of art. This opening sequence concerns Sonny (Al Pacino), Sal (John Cazale) and Stevie (Gary Springer) bursting into a New York City bank armed with guns preparing to pull off a robbery. It's a sight that sends the bank tellers and bank manager scrambling as chaos descends on their bank...but then things begin to go wrong. Sonny's timing is just a little bit off as he races through the bank, Stevie immediately wants out of the whole gig and there's nowhere near as much money as expected in the bank. In the span of one scene, Dog Day Afternoon goes from nail-biter crime thriller to dark comedy about human error. It's a masterful transition, especially since director Sydney Lumet can lend each of these different styles an authentic sensibility that totally makes you believe, for instance, that Sonny and company are about to pull off a bank robbery.