Promising Young Woman is mad. Damn mad. And it damn well should be. The feature screenwriting and directorial debut of Emerald Fennell (Killing Eve) is a consciously, thoughtfully thorny and confrontational revenge story, driven boldly by its star performance from Carey Mulligan. It tensely and intently examines the #MeToo era with a bold disregard for what anyone might think or say. Filled with simmering rage, and a film that’s often eager to examine the layers of hypocrisies through which a “boys will be boys” culture has been formed in institutions over the course of generations, this cinematic takedown is a vibrant effort to dispel “nice guys” and dismantle a society that often sides with men while disrupting women’s futures in the process.
Colman Domingo stars alongside Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which hits Netflix on December 18 after its limited theatrical release. In addition to his acting work in films like If Beale Street Could Talk, Assassination Nation, Zola, and the upcoming Candyman, Domingo brings a wealth of experience as a writer, director, producer and actor on the stage, making him an obvious choice for Ma Rainey, which is based on the August Wilson play. I talked about the film with Domingo over Zoom, as well as his acting influences, his camaraderie with the late Chadwick Boseman, and what film lovers might get out of George C. Wolfe’s latest directorial effort.
Monday, the latest film from director Argyris Papadimitropoulos (Suntan), is a splashy and sensationalized effort, one that’ll possibly turn some folks off its intentional, unabashed abrasiveness. The response to the film’s debut appears to be divided, and understandably so. Seemingly by design, Papadimitropoulos’ latest film is a claustrophobic and unsettled viewing experience, and it matches the restless, unbridled feelings of our lovestruck, then lovelorn characters. If you don’t care for these characters, essentially, then you’re gonna have a hard time falling for this movie. Especially since the filmmakers seemingly don’t care if you like them or not. They’re not the most endearing duo, but they’re certainly amusing to watch in their debauchery. Well, at least, until they aren’t. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself already.
If you told me there was a movie being made about Ma Rainey, the legendary blues singer who inspired the likes of Bessie Smith and Langston Hughes, I’d sit back and buckle in for a jazz-filled good time. If you told me the movie was based off a play written by August Wilson of Fences fame, I would immediately unbuckle myself to go and grab a pair of tissues.
The films of David Fincher tend to obsess over the genius of severely tragic and damaged characters. So it’s no surprise that Mank, a period biopic now on Netflix about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, has been on Fincher’s cinematic to-do list for many years. His father, Jack Fincher, wrote the screenplay decades ago, but he passed before ever having a chance to see the film brought to the big screen. Now, arguably still at the peak of his filmmaking career, David Fincher returns to deliver this biting treatise on the making of Citizen Kane, without ever really exploring the classic film’s most fascinating details.
It’ll take some time before we really come to terms with the depths of COVID-19’s devastation. It’s hard to grapple with the severity of a disaster when you’re still caught in the eye of the storm. We haven’t seen the last of this deadly and debilitating disease, and it’s hard to know when we ever will. A year ago, you hardly heard a single soul utter the word “coronavirus.” Now, it’s hard to have a conversation where it’s not mentioned in the first few seconds. We’re in a new normal for the time being, and we shouldn’t take it lightly. Because at least for the United States, the worst is yet to come, unfortunately.
Fables are the fabric through which we weave our hopes, our morals from past failures, and our burning idealism into the consciousness of future generations. In the grand tradition of passing down stories and sharing grand memories to young and impressionable minds, Cartoon Saloon and Mélusine productions’ Wolfwalkers, the new animated movie from directors Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea) and Ross Stewart, is a lovely and winningly sincere 2D tale of friendship, acceptance, and the rapid dangers of societal mistrust.
The success of 2011’s Bridesmaids proved female comedies featuring the kind of bawdy, scattalogical humor typically seen in male-led comedies could lead to box office gold. In its wake came a wave of Bechdel-test-passing, R-rated comedies of varying degrees of success, including the smash hit Girls Trip in 2017. Chick Fight feels like the product of Bridesmaids-effect. The women of Chick Fight don’t give a damn about being “ladylike.” They’re badasses! They’re sexual like Melissa McCarthy in that plane scene! The romance is a side plot! But the movie lacks what set Bridesmaids and Girls Trip apart: authenticity.
I’m not exactly sure how to sell you on Frederick Wiseman’s City Hall. This sweeping, sprawling, four-and-a-half-hour documentary is a massive, city-wide examination of the inner workings of Boston’s government and public services. It’s an elaborate, expansive look at what makes a city the way it is, how its citizens and political leaders work hard to keep everything running, and the seemingly endless hurdles that poor and marginalized individuals often need to go through in order to make their voices heard. It’s a bulky, burgeoning enterprise of a documentary that’s as interested in watching town hall officials speak to the masses as it is watching the local garbagemen take out the trash on their regular circuits.
There comes a point in many people’s lives when they realize they’re not going to live up to their past potential. Whatever bright promise they once showed grows dim in the recesses of time, and the gradual steps toward the mediocrity and bitter acceptance of a middling adulthood come heavily. This is not autobiographical; I had little-to-no potential growing up, and I’m certainly not living up to it now! But it’s the tortured and tormented existence of Abe Applebaum, the former child protigee-turned-sad-sack protagonist of writer-director Evan Morgan’s dark noir dramedy The Kid Detective, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month before making its unexpected theatrical release (at least, for me) this weekend.
Babysitter’s Guide, directed by Rachel Talalay (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare), is based on a three-part book of the same name, written and adapted for the screen by Joe Ballarini. The movie takes place in Rhode Island where teen Kelly is a math whiz and social pariah, dubbed “Monster Girl” by her peers who still mock her for claiming to be have been attacked by a monster at age five. On Halloween night, Kelly learns monsters are, in fact, very real when Jacob, the boy she is babysitting, is kidnapped by the boogeyman himself. Kelly is joined by an underground society of monster-hunting babysitters to rescue Jacob and stop the boogeyman from releasing his army of nightmares on the world.
By now, you’re likely familiar with Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swedish environmental activist who’s drummed up heaps of international press over her ongoing efforts to bring serious awareness to the increasing dangers of climate change, global warming, and the depletion of our global resources. It’s a problem impacting all of us, young and old. In fact, it’s the youth in particular who will need to live with the consequences of their elders if we don’t do something to prevent the aching calls of distress from our dying planet. It’s been noted several times by now that we’re currently at the brink of irreversible damage, and if something isn’t done imminently, we’ll suffer greatly from the extreme consequences of our inaction.
Matt Crowley’s play The Boys in the Band shocked mainstream audiences when it opened Off Broadway in 1968. It tells the story of seven gay men at a birthday party in a New York City apartment, which was groundbreaking at the time in how it pioneered representation of gay life. Now, the story is being brought to life once again in a new movie from Netflix and a team of producers that includes Ryan Murphy — as part of his $300 million deal with the streaming service.
The Babysitter: Killer Queen, directed by McG and starring pretty much the exact same cast as the first film, was released exclusively on Netflix earlier this month and is described by the service as a “teen comedy horror…sequel.” Thanks to the sequel’s release, the original went from a cult-favorite film to the first in a cult-favorite franchise. Much like the majority of its cast and crew, The Babysitter: Killer Queen is more of the same kind of material we got from the first movie. Yet, for whatever reason, I enjoyed this one a lot more.
Apples, the feature directorial debut of Christos Nikou, isn’t a horror film, though it does grapple with something that’s terrifying to think about. In the midst of a nationwide pandemic, where people instantly and inexplicably suffer from acute cases of severe amnesia, Number 14842, a.k.a. Aris (Aris Servetalis), is the latest patient who winds up in the Disturbed Memory Department, a mental rehabilitation center for people who cannot remember their identities, their past, their loved ones, or where they live.
I want to believe that most movies are made with good intentions. I have a hard time believing that a group of people would spend a year (or more) of their time working on something for shallow or potentially even cynical reasons. Yes, we live in a very cynical world, as Jerry Maguire once said. I understand that people are not always driven by pure desires and good deeds. But when it comes to art, especially art that is meant to be as emotionally engrossing as Good Joe Bell, the newest film from director Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men), I would believe — or, at least, hope — that the motivations behind this project were noble and good, as its dutiful title would suggest. Nevertheless, movies don’t give out prizes for good intentions.
Enola Holmes is based on the YA book series The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer. It tells the story of Enola Holmes, the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, the former of whom is already famous by the time our story starts in 1884. After her father dies and her brothers leave home, Enola is left with her beloved but eccentric mother, Eudoria, at the family’s country estate. Then, on the morning of Enola’s sixteenth birthday, Eudoria disappears. Enola must follow her trail of clues and set out on an adventure to find her. The plot thickens when she meets Viscount Tewksbury, a runaway Marquess pursued by a mysterious assassin in a bowler hat. The game is afoot.
Directed and written by Sean Durkin in his latest film since 2011, The Nest tells the story of Rory O’Hara, portrayed by Jude Law, who after a seemingly successful life of entrepreneurism in the States, moves back to London in the late 1980s so he can work for his old company. Along with his loving wife Allison (Carrie Coon) and their children Samantha and Ben (Oona Roche and Charlie Shotwell), the family moves into a luxurious, countryside house, and as this summary might hint, things begin to take a “twisted turn” once they arrive.
In theory, there’s something quite lovely about David Oyelowo’s directorial debut, The Water Man. It’s a celebration of the power of storytelling and the ways in which we can use our imaginations to understand the intricacies of our realities. The execution is completely earnest and sometimes charming, particularly with a strong lead performance from newcomer Lonnie Chavis. The storybook quality, while not especially novel, certainly makes it an accessible film for young audiences, even when it deals with heavy subject matter. Despite its warm presentation, likable sincerity, and all its good intentions, there’s also a cold irony to how familiar and rudimentary it can be in its narrative structure.
Viggo Mortensen makes his screenwriting and directorial debut with Falling, a heavy (and sometimes heavy-handed) family drama in which Mortensen also stars as John, a mild-mannered pilot who takes a week off from work in order to spend time with his critical, outspoken, set-in-his-ways father (Lance Henriksen), a brittle senior who is never afraid to yell, demean, and belittle anyone and everyone around him. John and his family, including his husband (Terry Chen), his adopted daughter (Gabby Velis), and his sister (Laura Linney), all try their best to put up with the old man’s endless torments. After all, it’s not looking good for his future. He’s a relic of the past who haunts his family — even as he’s still among the living (if only for so long). His disgruntled children do everything they can to keep their decades-spanning feelings of anguish, remorse, and frustration toward their father to themselves, but Mortensen’s moody movie is unafraid to turn up the dial until it’s almost unbearable for anyone (them or us) to want to spend even a minute longer in this man’s narrow-minded company.
Enemies of the State, from director Sonia Kennebeck (National Bird), doesn’t need to do too much to make audiences feel an unnerving sense of dread over the dangers of government surveillance in our current technological era. We, the people, are growing ever more aware of the uncovered truths in an age of Wikileaks and other online methods of taking off masks and discovering previously undisclosed secrets. But ironically enough, in an age where information can often be at the click of the button, what is actually true and what is being constructed by our government can become foggy in an age of post-truth and “fake news.” Are we sometimes too quick to assume what is true and what is fabricated? Are government figures merely looking out for their own interests, or do they have more specific agendas? At a time where we know more about the activities of the U.S. government than ever, we might have even more questions than ever regarding their activities and what they seek to find in American homes.
Director Antonio Campos wastes no time setting the tone of The Devil All the Time, his adaptation of the 2011 novel by Donald Ray Pollack. Within the first few minutes, Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård), an American soldier in the South Pacific during World War II, finds the fly-ridden body of a marine crucified on a cross. The scene is the first of many bloody acts in the bleak film, and the theme of violence and sacrifice is explored even further throughout its 139 minutes.
‘The Way I See It’ Tells a New Story about the Obama White House—From the Perspective of its Photographer
No matter their political persuasion, most people can probably agree that there is a stark difference between the Obama presidency and the current one. Because this is an election year, we’ve been inundated with a seemingly endless stream of new documentaries reminding us of this fact and expanding upon various calls to action leaning one way or the other on who should run the country for the next four years. Perhaps the most unconventional of these recent docs is The Way I See It from director Dawn Porter, which showcases archived stills taken by President Obama’s White House photographer, Pete Souza, who also worked for the Reagan administration.
When I started Holler, the first feature film written and directed by Nicole Riegel and based on her short film of the same name, I had this ringing feeling. Its sense of place, warm authenticity, and bittersweet emotional core were all burning bright just as this homey small-town indie began. Aided by a bristling, genuine lead performance from Jessica Barden (The Lobster, The End of the F****** World), I was already feeling energized and enthusiastic about the wondrous possibility that I might be watching one of the finest debuts of this year’s highly unorthodox Toronto International Film Festival.
When it comes to psychological horror, there is one unwritten but common and maybe even obvious imperative: you have to mess with your audience’s mind. The true horror doesn’t come from a man in a papier-mâché Halloween mask or a creepy-crawly creature from the fifth dimension like you’ll see in other scary movies. It comes from mystery, the feeling that you never have any idea what is actually going on in the film you’re watching, as well as the sense of dread that confusion might entail. So I guess you could say Rent-A-Pal is a pretty good psychological horror — one certainly deserving the genre label.
If you search the name “Ellis Haizlip” in your preferred search engine of choice today, you won’t get a lot of results. There is no Wikipedia page, and his IMDB spotlight is slim, to say the least. Most of what you’ll get are stories and reviews about Mr. Soul, the documentary detailing the life and career of Haizlip and his time as the producer and host of “Soul!” from 1968 to 1973. A documentary, I might add, that most people wouldn’t even know to search the name of because much like the person it’s analyzing, it wasn’t massively advertised. Still, Mr. Soul is just as important to American life and TV as the man himself was.
In any other year, it wouldn’t be a question of whether or not you should see writer/director Christopher Nolan’s latest visual extravaganza on the big screen. It would just be a matter of how quickly you should go.
As a business model, Disney’s years-long effort to re-capitalize its most iconic animated films of yesteryear into big-budget, live-action (or live-action-esque in the case of last year’s The Lion King) reimaginings has been nothing short of a financial masterstroke, not too far below the juggernaut success of their Marvel and Star Wars acquisitions just a decade ago. In some ways, Mulan represents both the highs and lows of Disney’s trip down memory lane, from family favorites like The Jungle Book to more critically shrugged replicants like Beauty and the Beast. Either way, Mulan is sure to leave some audiences clamoring for more, while others might end up feeling somewhat cheated by what could’ve been.
She’s a litigator who spends her days in court defending the little man pro bono and her nights alone with nothing but Chinese takeout for comfort. He’s handsome, wealthy, and charming but totally incapable of falling in love — or so it seems. It’s the perfect setup. By the time the title card appears, accompanied by Tiffany’s 80s pop anthem “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Netflix’s Love, Guaranteed has laid out all the standard rules for the romantic comedy. The next 90 minutes won’t do much to challenge those rules, but it’s a fun 90 minutes nonetheless.
On August 28, 2020, the world stood still. As I sat in a diner, patiently awaiting my “breakfast for dinner,” I did what every person nowadays does when there’s nothing else to do: I checked my phone. The first thing I saw when I opened Twitter and looked at my timeline was the most shocking and heartbreaking news I never knew I wasn’t prepared to hear. Chadwick Boseman, star of Black Panther, was dead at 43. Boseman passed away peacefully, surrounded by his wife and family, according to the statement made on his official Twitter account. I sat there in shock and disbelief, hoping and praying that this might be some sort of joke. That maybe his account had been hacked, or I was stuck in some sort of lucid dream. It didn’t take long for the swarms of tweets and replies full of the same amount of disbelief to come in, as well as the responses from those who knew him or wished to know him more. Then I realized it was real.
I’ll never claim to be a great source of knowledge when it comes to the works of Charles Dickens. My familiarity with his words derive through other sources, mainly various adaptations of varying faithfulness or stylistic-to-bombastic re-imaginings of his material that may or may not honor the “spirit” of his original scribbles. Therefore, I cannot tell you whether or not The Personal History of David Copperfield is a fitting adaptation, nor if it properly honors Dickens’ long-standing legacy and cultural relevance. But here’s what I can tell you.
The new Netflix documentary Rising Phoenix, directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, reflects on the history and impact of the Paralympic Games while telling the stories of several of its elite athletes. The first lines of the documentary draw a parallel between Marvel’s Avengers and Paralympians. Like comic book superheroes, each of the featured competitors has an origin story; a tale of facing obstacles, beating the odds, and unlocking great strength. As an introductory voiceover puts it, “The Olympics are where heroes are created. The Paralympics are where heroes come.”
Thanks to Disney’s Star Girl, I already know a movie like this — in which some poor young woman shows up from another town and sweeps a completely featureless guy off his feet — can still be made in 2020, but Chemical Hearts somehow takes this worn idea to another level.
Tesla stars Ethan Hawke as the titular inventor who navigates life in the 1800s, one of America’s most “brainstormy” times. Around him are a handful of equally inventive and enigmatic characters, such as Anne Morgan, portrayed by Eve Hewson, and George Westinghouse, portrayed by Jim Gaffigan. And of course, you can’t have a Tesla movie without his famous frenemy and rival in the electricity circuit, Thomas Edison; a role that is perfectly performed by Kyle MacLachlan in small doses. Edison isn’t in the film a whole lot, but he manages to steal the show in a manner accurate to how his real-life inspiration repeatedly stole Tesla’s thunder.
It wasn’t too long ago that young adult coming-of-age movies started to multiply in number upon the box office success of The Fault in Our Stars, which injected the usual teen drama formula with a high-stakes catch. What if you fell in love with someone who has terminal cancer?
This film trend has slowed down somewhat, with the exception of sappy imitators like last year’s Five Feet Apart, and now Words on Bathroom Walls, which rests its central premise on a new question for the genre: what if you fell in love with someone who has schizophrenia?
Personally, I believe the horror genre doesn’t get nearly enough credit these days. I’ve struggled to figure out just why that is. Perhaps it’s because of the over-saturation of the genre, the fact that there are quite literally hundreds of films to choose from, many of them admittedly not exactly something to write home about. Maybe it’s because even when horror was at its peak, when the big monsters like Dracula or Jason Voorhees spooked audiences during the Halloween season, horror was advertised as something of a niche genre; meant only for those who could truly appreciate the shock, schlock, and gore of a scary movie. Or maybe it’s because no on-screen jump scare could ever compare to the horrors of reality that many of us have to live through on a daily basis. Either way, the horror genre is pretty underappreciated and often times overlooked when awards season comes around.
When it was announced that Jon Stewart would return with his sophomore feature film, since titled Irresistible, it made sense that folks assumed it would be the scathing satire that would criticize and bring damnation to the hotheaded personalities who take rotating chairs in the Big House. But Stewart’s new movie, his first directorial effort since 2014’s overlooked Rosewater, may not be what some folks expect. Indeed, this is not a takedown of the narcissistic, hypocritical right. Stewart isn’t here to put some right-leaning personalities into their place.
If anything, curating a list of 2020’s finest films feels more necessary and useful than ever. While many film lovers have used their time sheltering at home to catch up on classic cinema (as we all should), I’ve spent the last several months trying to see at least 4 or 5 new movies a week via screeners and the aforementioned avenues. Now that we’ve reached the halfway point of this bizarre, unpredictable year, I want to share the 25 films that have left the deepest impact on me, whether they be a festival indie from last year just now getting a bigger release, a more mainstream feature from the first block of the year, or somewhere in between, I hope there’s at least one positive recommendation in this list for everyone.
I saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on opening night, and I doubt I could’ve been less excited for it. So much venom had been spewed at the Star Wars brand by this point, so even mentioning the name of certain chapters came at the risk of actually losing friendships. What’s more, its release signaled the start of what all of my work supervisors assured me would be the most hectic few weeks in our theater’s short history — now, of course, I would practically kill for those days — and my sense of dread was simply too powerful to ignore.
Eight complete strangers sectioned off into four curiously matched pairs awaken in various rooms of an unfamiliar suburban house. None of them can recall how they may have gotten there, nor is there any apparent method of exit. For the foreseeable future, they’re trapped, and none of them are alone. So describes the events of The Doors Between Us, a micro-indie film produced in Lakewood, Colorado, which held its one-night-only premiere on a single, exciting evening back in December.
Harmony is a utopia. But at what cost? The denizens of Trolls: World Tour, a sequel to the well-received DreamWorks Animation film from 2016, begin this self-examination in segregated exile. What is the world of Trolls if not a watermark of our own “United” States? Because these are trolls are a lot of things, but united is certainly not one of them.
The time has come yet again for you, our most loyal and dedicated of listeners, to do the hardest part of our job for us by deciding which film to delve into on the next Extra Milestone! February yielded a fascinating and varied selection, and it was hard enough to narrow it down to a measly seven. But now is the time to select the ultimate winner. You may choose from the following:
Vote For Our Next Extra Milestone: His Girl Friday, The Shop Around the Corner, Tremors, Before Sunrise (And More!)
Here on Cinemaholics, we don’t just stop with current realms of cinema. Once a month, we take a trip back in time to look at a film that has gone the extra mile to remain relevant all these years later. But selecting that film isn’t always easy! Welcome to this month’s Extra Milestone Poll, in which YOU get to decide what we break down on our next episode.
The Skywalker Saga as we know it has been over for the better part of a month now, so Jon and I decided that it would be a fun idea to go over the 42-year-old (and counting!) history of the Star Wars Galaxy. The two of us spent nearly three hours presenting our carefully constructed individual rankings of the films (ALL of them), making plenty of stops along the way to justify our varied positions.
2019 was filled with era-defining blockbusters, emotionally compact dramas, and just about every other type of exciting feature in between. Many of these films were true gems, but others might’ve gotten a little lost in the shuffle of weekly big screen releases and an onslaught of new content championed by burgeoning streaming services. Despite all the chaos, 29 of our contributors were able to pinpoint their absolute favorite releases of the year.
With The Rise of Skywalker, we now have a definitive conclusion to the latest official trilogy from the official kingmakers at Disney, who set out to construct a brand new direction for a boundless franchise. As a capper to this corner of stories, The Rise of Skywalker is an incredible finale, no question. But like its central opposing forces, it’s filled with all the bad and only most of the good there is to be found in blockbuster cinema’s most beloved — and scrutinized — canon.
If you’ve been following Cinemaholics closely over the last year, you’ll know I’ve been an outspoken proponent of Kelvin Harrison Jr. as one of the best actors of the year, first due to his landmark performance in Luce from this past summer (which is still on my Top 10 movies of the year list), and now in Waves, a slow burn A24 indie that has a real chance at scoring some Oscar nominations.
Director Trey Edward Shults has a clear interest in the tools needed for families to survive whatever dangers may come their way. His sophomore film from 2017, It Comes at Night—also an A24 film—explored a heightened metaphor for the terrors parents inflict upon their children just as easily as they themselves fear it, and in Waves, Shults presents a far more grounded, but equally as harrowing tale about the fragility of success in modern America.
A biopic about American historical figure Harriet Tubman has been long overdue. You can’t go through American history without reading or hearing her name and yet filmmakers have steered away from her story until now. Finally, Kasi Lemmons brings the legendary abolitionist’s life to the big screen in her biopic Harriet, and while her story is one every American should know, the way the film tells it is not without fault.
Gregory Allen Howard has been working on bringing the story of Harriet Tubman to the screen for over 20 years. Despite Hollywood’s dismissal of his script, Howard continued to persist in getting his film made and he finally found a partner in director-writer Kasi Lemmons. We talked to the legendary screenwriter about what it took to get the story of such a historical figure to the new biopic Harriet.
Since his first appearance in 1940, the Joker as a comic book villain (and later TV/Film/Video Game villain) has been an ever-evolving enigma, much like his darkly heroic counterpart. So it makes perfect sense for the films to continuously reinvent a character like the Joker, who serves a litany of important functions as an antagonistic presence.
It’s no secret Hollywood loves Hollywood (see: La La Land’s 14 Oscar nominations). A biopic about a beloved star of the Hollywood Golden Age? Singing? My first thought upon viewing the Judy trailer was Oscar. Fodder. But Renée Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland ultimately transcended my cynicism.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the infamous Manson Murders — a tragic chain of senseless killings irreparably changing the world forever, and once broadly referred to by Don McLean as one of “the days the music died.” As is true with just about any point in time of this historical caliber, these events have been dramatized in various ways via the cinematic medium. With three films on the subject being distributed this year alone, I decided the time was right to witness and rank each and every one of them that I could get my hands on.
Cruelty is currency, and salvation is nothing more than a branch thrown into a ravaging, rapid river. This is the world Jennifer Kent throws her audience, unwillingly, into for her sophomore feature, The Nightingale. A divisive and often outright dread-inducing picture, Kent’s film rides through the Tasmanian wilderness with a steadfast purpose, to confront and kill the colonizing demons that haunt her main characters by body and land. To an extent, the vindictiveness of Kent’s picture thrives in the lush greenery of Tasmania. But the bonds that hold her characters together break under pressure.
The time has come yet again for a new release to be completely steamrolled at the box office by an installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and shamefully so, if you ask me. The unfortunate and doomed film comes this time in the form of A24’s Midsommar, a folk mystery/thriller from Hereditary director Ari Aster, which just so happens to be one of the best movies of the year.
This past weekend saw the release of Danny Boyle’s Yesterday, a high-concept dram-com with a hint of romance in which an unprecedented global anomaly erases The Beatles (among other cultural bullet points) from history. The Fab Four are allowed to live on, however, in the baffled memory of struggling musician Jack (Himesh Patel), the only one with any understanding of what’s happened.
If you’re a fan of the Annabelle and Conjuring movies, then we have a special treat for you this week. I recently spoke with Gary Dauberman, writer and director of the new horror film Anabelle Comes Home, which hits theaters later this week. Dauberman was also the screenwriter for the first Annabelle in 2014, along with Annabelle: Creation and The Nun. He co-wrote It from 2017 and is the executive producer and co-writer for Swamp Thing, a new DC Comics series on streaming.
The seventh film in the Conjuring series and the third to focus on the now-famous Annabelle doll comes to us from first-time director Gary Dauberman, who previously wrote the first two Annabelle films and co-wrote The Nun, as well as the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s It.
When it came to selecting the Movie of the Week, there was no clearer choice than George A. Romero’s inimitable classic Night of the Living Dead, especially with the recent release of Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die, which was heavily inspired by the 1968 film. Night of the Living Dead wasn’t the first film to feature the undead, but it is widely considered to be the definitive introduction for mainstream audiences. The mythology it established all those years ago continues to be the standard for almost every other zombie movie, TV show, or other medium in the genre to come out since.
It’s been two weeks since the release of Michael Dougherty’s long-awaited sequel Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which hit theaters to a mixed critical reaction and moderate financial success. It hasn’t received the widespread enthusiasm Legendary and Warner Bros. were likely hoping for, but the film does contribute to the now 65-year old legacy of the world’s favorite giant monster in more ways than one.
The Toy Story movies have always been filled with lots of toys, and rightfully so. But every film so far has mostly played around with the character of Woody the cowboy doll. His story has progressed both positively and negatively to some extent over the years, from his fear of being replaced in the first […]
‘Dark Phoenix’ Review – The X-Men Franchise Ends As It Did The First Time, By Flaming Out Spectacularly.
19 years of X-Men films have led to one very awkward moment. A patchwork of sagas ranging from transcendent to bottom-dweller couldn’t have a picked a flatter vehicle for punctuating a complex legacy now in the hands of Disney upon the Disney-Fox merger. And to make matters more confused, we still have another one of these ancillary films, New Mutants, delayed to next spring for an unrelated and likely inconsequential misadventure. For now, Dark Phoenix effectively closes the book on a story that already has two, maybe three endings as it is.
‘Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am’ Review – The Living Literary Icon Gets A Meditative Documentary Of Her Own
Where there once stood the pillar of the white, male gaze in literature, Toni Morrison exchanged her chisel for a sledgehammer and there, knocked it down. The author, editor, and icon has amassed a following worthy of her extraordinary verve. A towering figure in the world of fiction, Morrison’s titles include The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, and Beloved, among many others. She is a Nobel Peace Prize winner in literature and, will have you know, she makes the best carrot cake you will ever have.
Over the past 65 years, there have been 35 films featuring Godzilla (or 38 if you’re being technical), a super-powered reptilian giant and titan of the ancient world, born against his will from the complicit ashes of mankind’s mistakes. He’s a rightful god among monsters and humans alike, and such is the case in this latest outing of the world’s favorite monster, in which there might be some serious competition for the title of “King.”
Sifting through Netflix’s endless rolodex of content can be daunting. What should you watch? What are the streaming overlords recommending? Is there a category curated specifically for one’s own tastes? Mind-boggling algorithms aside, there are sometimes those movies that just pop up out of nowhere (fine, not out of nowhere exactly, I just went through the algorithm process). But these are the movies that always seem to simply say, “maybe.” Maybe this is the one. And this time, that “maybe” is literal in Always Be My Maybe, which is now streaming on Netflix and stars Ali Wong and Randall Park.
What we know of Ophelia has only been communicated by men. Shakespeare wrote her, Hamlet showed her disdain, and our high school English teachers misjudged her actions for hysteria. She is a tragic character worth revisiting, and worth further examination. Her story, though thought to be mostly miserable, has earned a more hopeful iteration. It’s […]
Every teen generation tends to get defined by the media they consume and how they consume it. Sure, not everyone can relate with the exact feeling a single song from the 70s can invoke when played in a film like Dazed and Confused, or perhaps what an early 2000s pop culture reference might inform in Superbad. But in Booksmart, the tradition of expanding relatability beyond the constraints and memories of a given era continues in this lovingly ambitious feature debut from actor-turned-filmmaker Olivia Wilde.
In my view, 2014’s John Wick is the ultimate Redbox movie. On the surface, it looks like your typical, generic B-movie action thriller. It features a recognizable actor who was out of the limelight at the time, and to some, past his prime. In this case, that actor was Keanu Reeves, and this revenge tale looked like any other generic action romp, the likes of which you typically find crowded in those recognizable movie machines outside of Wal-Mart.
I can still recall…The Last Summer.
John Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien, author of such high fantasy novels as The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, was recently the subject of Dome Karukoski’s Tolkien, a new biopic about the prolific author produced by Fox Searchlight Pictures and released through Disney last weekend.
In Pokémon Detective Pikachu, the rules of Pokémon and perhaps video game movies in general are turned on their head to seemingly serve a single purpose: give the people what they want. But what do audiences really want in a new Pokémon movie? A stylish film noir? A diversely casted Zootopia narrative? Dozens of CG monsters to adore and collect? The Ryan Reynolds brand of comedy under a PG rating? Or perhaps simply a reminder that when many of you were young, Pokémon (in some fashion) was a big deal to you, and now it can be a big deal to your kids.
Filmmakers generally build their stories around proven formulas. Either intentionally or not, most movies you see at your local theater follow a predictable series of set ups and payoffs. Sometimes this can be grating, and other times, it’s part of the charm. In one’s mundane day-to-day living, a familiar, run-of-the-mill story can be dull, meandering, or frustrating. You’ve almost certainly heard someone ask, “Why won’t Hollywood make something new?” But in other cases, a film that’s light, good-natured, and winningly by-the-books can invoke a welcome sigh of relief.
For reasons that may be obvious, critically analyzing a film intended for children can be a difficult task. There’s a prevailing notion that kids, due to their general lack of experience, have very low standards and will eat up whatever colorful media they’re given. There may certainly be some truth to that sentiment, given that children and adults consume art very differently, but one of our responsibilities as critics is to thoroughly clarify how disparate age groups might react to a film, especially one made for kids to enjoy.
Pristinely lined upon walls in America’s capital are the imposing, glorifying portraits of the fathers of our nation. Men who may have written moving words, but did so using the backs of women, people of color, and disenfranchised groups as the desk to write upon. It’s a tiring cycle; to be told the people have power only as far as the ballot box, and only if they can even get there. But in Netflix’s new documentary Knock Down the House, director Rachel Lears follows four women and their personal, political battles against a broken system.
Avengers: Endgame marks the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. At least…until Spider-Man: Far From Home comes out in a few months. Regardless, there are 22 films in this sprawling quilt of franchises, and not all of them are made equal. In this bonus episode of Cinemaholics, I spend a grueling two hours with Sam Noland collaborating and debating a definitive ranking we can both put our names on.
The set up and payoff structure of the Marvel films beginning with Iron Man in 2008 may never be fully realized. These stories will continue on for as long as audiences continue to be fans of the material, so any definitive ending for a saga of episodic films requires a conclusion to at least one prominent idea, not necessarily an entire world of characters and their respective potential as branched franchises. This is why Avengers: Endgame is a film deftly committed to playing out the first and last revelation of such a film series. Tony Stark is Iron Man. And the Avengers are the Earth’s mightiest heroes. Everything else in Endgame is secondary, including its villain.
Actor Raymond Cruz is often best known for his television work, particularly on TNT’s The Closer and his memorable reoccurring turn in Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul. For more than thirty years, however, Cruz has appeared on screens both big and small, providing memorable and distinctive turns in a variety of projects. His latest role in the New Line horror film The Curse of La Llorona, however, is one of his biggest to date. Premiering in theaters and IMAX screens around the world starting tonight, his role in The Conjuring spin-off film is literally and physically among his most gigantic to date, particularly if you see him on the 72-foot screen.
‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Review – The Latest ‘Conjuring’ Feature is Only Superficially Supernatural
The Curse of La Llorona is the sixth film in the ongoing Conjuring series. Released through Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema, the film is helmed by first-time director Michael Chaves (the director of next year’s The Conjuring 3), written by Mikki Daughtry & Tobias Iaconis, and stars Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, and Patricia Velásquez. The story is based on the Mexican folklore of La Llorona, also known as The Weeping Woman, and follows Anna (Cardellini), a widowed mother of two in 1970s Los Angeles, who must protect her children from the supernatural entity in question (Marisol Ramirez).
Merriam-Webster Dictionary should be on the lookout. Paying attention to the latest changes in the English language, the millennial vernacular has birthed some questionable terms in its wake: “Extra,” “Slay,” and the ever-practical “Lit” have found their way into the jargon of many young folks. But above all other terms, there is one that shames them all. Adulting. Defined: “to behave like an adult, to do the things that adults regularly have to do,” as per Merriam-Webster. This is the very word encompassing the Netflix nexus of Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s neon-lit directorial debut, Someone Great.
Slut in a Good Way is directed by French-Canadian actress Sophie Lorain and stars Marguerite Bouchard, Romane Denis, and Rose Adam as Charlotte, Mégane, and Aube respectively, a trio of teenage girls who are hired to work part-time at a toy store during the winter holidays. Over the course of the season, they each engage in various romantic and sexual exploits with their coworkers and are suddenly forced to reckon with the frustrations and uncertainties that arise when it comes to adult relationships.
‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ Review – Terry Gilliam’s Delayed, Surreal Fantasy Finally Becomes A Reality
For many film fans, Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has taken on a bit of a mythic quality since its inception. Either fittingly or ironically, this long-in-the-works passion project centered (in part) around the literary icon is one that has often alluded the Brazil director. For the past 30 years, Gilliam has tried — with only fleeting success — to bring this mischievous fable to the big screen. Despite every intention and aspiration to make it a reality, Don Quixote yet remained a fantasy.
It’s been some time since I’ve been completely and utterly transfixed by a film. It happened quite often back when I started to really dive into cinema; it was only 2015, but it seems like a thousand years ago, and I remember everything I watched seeming so unique and tantalizing at the time. Naturally, the frequency of this sensation started to die out as my knowledge grew, and it slowly began to take a lot more for a movie to truly knock my socks off.
The escapist horror of Stephen King is known and perhaps beloved for its eery “other” worlds and frightscapes mirroring our own reality, yet are not quite the same. Something is always off in the very best of King’s written stories and media adaptations, and in the same way, Pet Sematary (a remake of the schlocky 1989 horror hit) contains just about everything recognizable in a memorable, unshakeable King horror, but something here inevitably strikes as a bit twisted and wrong.
Robin Bissell has produced, though not frequently, films of varying quality over the years, primarily under director Gary Ross. If you’ve watched Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games, or Free State of Jones, for instance, then you’ve had a chance to spot his name in the credits. And now, after two decades of bringing films to the big screen, Bissell has jumped into the director’s chair with his own screenplay for The Best of Enemies, a lukewarm debut for the veteran producer under the STX Films brand.
There’s a moment in Unicorn Store when frustrated Kit (Brie Larson) is coaxed to sit down at the kitchen table for a chat with her mom, Gladys (Joan Cusack). During their mother-daughter heart to heart, Gladys tells Kit, “The most grown-up thing you can do is fail at something you love.” This is the gamble Brie Larson takes on as director and star of the latest Netflix original film. Unicorn Store is not a failure by any means, but it’s also quite far from brilliance.
If there’s one adjective I typically abhor when it comes to describing films, it’s “cute.” Cute, to my disgruntled ears, comes off as cheap, lazy, and non-descriptive. It’s a broad word that doesn’t really get to the meat of one’s feelings beyond the surface level. It’s a deflection term, often used to describe the exterior of a film while avoiding anything specific, intellectual, or meaningful. It’s an inoffensive word, certainly; there’s really no sense in getting mad about its overuse beyond my (admittedly) overbearingly high literary standards. But I still find it ceaselessly grating. What exactly does it mean to be “cute” anyway? It looks nice? A squeaky-clean disposition? Positive vibes? Good morals? It’s a placeholder word when others fail you.
Originating from the German Expressionist movement of the early 20th century, film noir is a corner of cinema often reduced to a shallow microcosm of its time period. It’s a genre that has been worked in ever since the 1930s, but the most common association with noir is made to the stylish, studio-mandated crime dramas of the 1940s. Production-code-overseen stories of bitter detectives, steely romantic interests, and Tommy Gun-toting gangsters punctuating every sentence with “See?” are typically conjured up when thinking of the prototypical noir story, but there’s a distinct tonal influence hovering over these films, setting them apart from other thrillers. This is the compelling narrative underpinning the Criterion Channel’s choice for our 8th Movie of the Week.
Shazam! is probably the last film a lot of superhero movie fans expected from the expanded cinematic universe of DC stories, which have recently taken a turn for the colorful and fantastical with Aquaman, as well as the dynamic and righteous Wonder Woman. Unlike those entries into the ever-growing mythology of live-action gods and heroes, this new film from oft-horror director David F. Sandberg is a heartfelt family comedy with an authentically “teen” edge, boasting far more angst to chew on than its closest rival, Spider-Man: Homecoming.
In the light of day, the American prairie is an open and endless field of grass. Landscapes of the Old West stretch on for miles, and the golden plains evoke a warm, welcoming feeling. But at night, the howling wind creeps in through the windows. Candles flicker and the once open country becomes a claustrophobic nightmare, where nature speaks and shrieks. This is the visage first-time director Emma Tammi captures in The Wind, a psychological western-horror hybrid with haunting elements that work separately, but never coalesce into something truly frightening.
There are many times in life — perhaps especially, as a critic — when you have to admit that you were wrong. “To err is human,” Alexander Pope once said, and I believe that to be true. For me, when I first saw Get Out in theaters in 2017, I recognized it as a strong and […]
In 2001, the four members of the 1980s rock band Mötley Crüe chronicled their drug and sex laden escapades in a tell-all book entitled The Dirt. It was far more about sex and drugs than it was rock ‘n’ roll; detailing stories of trashed hotel rooms, struggles with addiction, and personal pitfalls over the sake of living the rockstar life doled out in absolute chaos. The film incarnation is, unfortunately, much of the same. Netflix’s adaptation of the tumultuous, vile story of Mötley Crüe never finds the right tone and ultimately hits all the wrong notes.
It’s been half a century since the significant culminating events of the Space Race, and the film landscape is making good on celebrating this milestone. 2018 saw several high-profile releases for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, plus there was the debut of First Man, Damien Chazelle’s fantastic Neil Armstrong biopic. And even more recently, there was the 2019 IMAX release of Apollo 11, Todd Douglas Miller’s fascinating documentary. Not to be outdone, the Criterion Collection recently offered the acclaimed documentary For All Mankind to early subscribers of their approaching streaming service.
Captive State has a lot going for it: a talented cast and crew, a solid visual and narrative aesthetic, and an interesting premise rife with potential to explore the faith we bestow upon our leaders. It deeply saddens me, then, to report that the film misses nearly every opportunity to create something meaningful, original, or memorable. It fails to deliver on any of the promises it makes from the outset and winds up feeling like a wholly unrewarding chore to watch.
The Criterion Collection is often revered (rightfully so) for bringing well-deserved attention to the more obscure, lesser-known corners of cinema history. They have highlighted great films that — whether due to poor accessibility or popularity — have been largely forgotten, and those interested enough to take advantage of the opportunity are typically better off as a result. Their sixth movie of the week, available exclusively to charter subscribers of The Criterion Channel, is a prime example of their knack for worthwhile curation and restoration, and it also serves as an exciting sneak peek into a title not yet released on physical media.
‘Five Feet Apart’ Review – Haley Lu Richardson Should Move Far, Far Away From This Weepy, Teen Romance
Though it is not based on a young adult novel, despite what my brain might tell me (Side note: it’s all the more confusing because they made a novelization and released it at the end of 2018), Five Feet Apart is centered around Stella Grant (Richardson), a bright, motivated teenager who cannot live her fullest life due to the limitations of her cystic fibrosis (CF) diagnosis.
For every fan of cinema, there’s one film that changes everything. It reworks your system. Gives you a new lease on life. Or, perhaps in less dramatic terms, it reroutes your perception of film in general. These rare movies give you a totally new understanding of the art form and can show you what this wondrous medium can do. They provide unforgettable epiphanies and serve as luxurious early showcases for how authentic, inviting, delicate, invigorating, and downright humane cinema can truly be.
At one point in The Kid, a new western directed by Vincent D’Onofrio, someone utters the tremendously bold statement, “It only matters the story they tell when you’re gone.” With all due respect to real-life outlaw “Billy the Kid,” you probably deserve the story this film decides to tell about you.
For their fifth Movie of the Week, the Criterion Channel has decided to highlight Charles Burnett’s career with his third feature film, To Sleep with Anger, released on October 12, 1990. The familial drama tells the story of Harry (Danny Glover), a mysterious drifter from the Deep South who takes up a temporary residence in the home of an old acquaintance named Gideon (Paul Butler) and his wife Suzie (Mary Alice), as well as their extended family.
Keeping your emotions in check means maintaining a semblance of control. Don’t be hysterical, don’t lose your cool, don’t show your feelings or risk being called weak. This is what the titular Captain Marvel (played by Brie Larson) is struggling with when we first meet her training on the planet Hala, far from the Earth we know in more ways than one.
For their fourth Movie of the Week, Criterion Channel has wisely decided to highlight Andrei Tarkovsky, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Any one of Tarkovsky’s seven feature-length films released between 1962 and 1986 would make for an excellent showcase of his talent, but it’s only natural that the final choice would be what is perhaps his most talked about film: Stalker. Released in Russia during the spring of 1979 (and a few years later in the U.S.), the film has become a favorite among cinephiles, as well as an undoubtable influence on sci-fi and arthouse fans alike.
Directed by Joe Penna and released by Bleecker Street, Arctic tells the story of a man (Mads Mikkelsen) stranded in the North Pole following a plane crash, where living off of a meager diet of snow and small fish, frivolously broadcasting a poor radio signal, and endlessly awaiting rescue are the only ways to pass the […]
When it comes to trilogies, it’s common for the third (and typically final) installment to be the weakest of the bunch. There are exceptions, of course, like Toy Story 3, for instance. Many Lord of the Rings fans would consider The Return of the King to be the franchise’s finest hours. It certainly has the Oscars […]
Paige and her brother Zak (Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden) want nothing more than to be professional wrestlers, to be whisked away from their small town in England and into the throes of Wrestlemania in America. They were born into a wrestling family, sure enough, and their dysfunctional, WWE-enthused parents (Nick Frost and Lena Heady) […]
Following the tragic termination of Filmstruck, the thoughtfully curated and programmed streaming service, Criterion triumphantly assured distraught fans that they would be independently forming a service of their own. They have a built-in audience by now, and the notion of a service specifically aimed at hardcore cinephiles is thrilling (and necessary) to critics, scholars, film […]
Isn’t It Romantic makes a clear, uncompromising proposition to an audience that should be game. It’s a romantic comedy about romantic comedies, centered around a non-traditionally “Hollywood attractive” leading actress who hates romantic comedies but nevertheless finds herself “trapped” in one. Put more simply, it’s a Rebel Wilson laugh machine that relies on your love […]
‘Happy Death Day 2U’ Review – A Time Loop Sequel That’s Just As Fun And Rewarding the Second Time Around
If there’s any sequel that warranted the right to repeat itself, it’s Happy Death Day 2U. Writer/director Christopher Landon’s promising continuation of his surprisingly spry time loop PG-13 horror-comedy smash Happy Death Day is given a liberating golden pass to ultimately remix its original and essentially remake his hit film — if he wished. Hell, I wouldn’t even […]
You can have the most cynical, braindead, waste of space movie hitting the big screen, and yet it may still win your heart. Why? Because “effort” is always the undervalued advantage hiding behind loud, dumb movies. And the opposite is also true. A film that should work on paper—great cast, writing, visual styles, etc.—can crash […]