Tag Archives: movie review

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO and ANTLERS on the horror elevator

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Edgar Wright seems like he was born to make horror movie. In a sense, he already has, depending on your analysis of the horror-to-comedy-to-squishy-drama ratios in Shaun of the Dead (or your tolerance for the millennial antics of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; it’s my favorite Wright movie so far, but seems to be one of his more divisive works). Even in his non-zombie pictures, there are dark corners: The elaborate gore of Hot Fuzz, protruding into a spoof of a genre that doesn’t generally go that far (think of Timothy Dalton, spired through the jaw), or the ominous alien invasion (and existential dread) of The World’s End. Wright’s comedies are uncommonly perceptive about the psychology at the contemporary, and often very male, intersection between repression, dorkiness, and despair—without skimping on the geek-show flourishes that genre fans tend to love.

Last Night in Soho is not about men—at least not in its most literal sense. It’s the first Wright movie to assume a female point-of-view, then doubles and blurs that POV with dream logic. At first it’s about Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), a withdrawn young woman who speaks in a slurry whisper, attending fashion college in London while daydreaming of the ‘60s culture and fashions she worships from decades later. With her obsessively rose-colored vision of past cultural peaks, she could fit right in on the couches of Wright’s nerd-layabout TV series Spaced, though she’d be the best-dressed character by a mile. Irritated by her snarky roommate Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen), Eloise vacates the dorms in favor of a flat upstairs from owner Ms. Collins (the late Diana Rigg). Living on her own for the first time, she plays her retro records loud and soaks in the flashing neon outside her window. But at night, she goes further, dreaming herself all the way back to the 1960s. In her realer-than-real dreams, she’s not exactly jumping into the body of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer who apparently once lived in Eloise’s flat; she’s more like a shadow, sometimes watching Sandie from a mirror-close vantage point, her empathy (or is it envy?) so intense that she sometimes feels as if she’s sharing Sandie’s experiences.
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NYFF59 Part 1: The Worst People

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

I’ve been trying and failing to wrap my head around Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Grade: C) and the enthusiastic reaction it’s received at New York Film Festival press screening sand elsewhere, wondering if I might have been more receptive had the content warnings before the movie not characterized it as a comedy. I admire its bizarre juxtapositions: It opens with graphic and unsimulated sex, in order to depict a leaked sex tape with maximum verisimilitude; it then follows Emi (Katia Pascariu), one of the tape’s participants, on a harried bunch of errands as she prepares for a hearing at the school where she teaches, the camera drifting through the COVID-affected spaces around her, eavesdropping on various phone calls; next, there’s an extended break for a wry illustrated glossary of various social and political terms; finally, an extended set piece in the form of the hearing itself, where a group of largely ridiculous parents air their grievances over Emi’s accidentally exposed private life.
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DEAR EVAN HANSEN has broken all contracts

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

The new stage-to-film musical Dear Evan Hansen tosses out established, unspoken contracts left, right, and center. It nixes the contract between stage production and audience, dictating that the energy of live theater overrides desire for literal realism in casting, sets, and developing relationships. It violates the contract between film musical and audience, where we accept the artifice of characters breaking into song and/or dance, so long as those songs or performances sweep us out of the dull constraints of the real world with emotion or spectacle. Perhaps most famously, it breaks, breaks, and re-breaks our collective agreement that it is permissible for actors well into their twenties to pretend to be teenagers on screen, so that we may enjoy the fruits of cruel 16-hour-a-day shooting schedules and more finely honed acting instincts.

On this point, I wondered—as I think others have—whether in a way, Dear Evan Hansen might be extraordinarily effective. Most teenage-misfit stories produced by major Hollywood studios feature misfits who have, at best, slightly obscured their supernatural-yet-conventional attractiveness with costuming, or “overcome” any perceived deficiencies in catalog-model attractiveness with boundless charisma. I haven’t seen the stage version of Evan Hansen played by Ben Platt, but his cinematic incarnation is genuinely, thoroughly, irretrievably off-putting, and also played by Ben Platt.

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Acting, My Dear Boy: THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE and BLUE BAYOU

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

In The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a new sort-of biopic about the spouse of disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker, Jessica Chastain gives us the visible-acting works. She does stuff to her voice, taking on a pinched midwestern sing-song, and does stuff to her face, using both her expressiveness and a ton of makeup—the latter used first to emulate the ritual face-slathering undertaken by her subject, and then to replicate the shifting contours of her actual face. It’s an approach that I’ve sensed may be going out of style—at least among some viewers, who are more attuned than ever to the shifty politics of “transforming” actors into shapes, sizes, and bodies (plus, in the not-especially-distant past, races and genders!) that don’t much resemble their own. It’s called acting, sure, but questions nag at these monuments to dedication and, yes, actorly ego: Must the same small pool of beautiful people be tasked with portraying the full range of humanity?
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REMINISCENCE shows why Hugh Jackman can’t go back to Wolverine again

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Ryan Reynolds is at it again: A new round of press for his new movie Free Guy has meant another parallel round of Reynolds goofing on his former co-star of X-Men Origins: Wolverine—not least because Jackman does quick vocal cameo in the mostly video-game-set comedy. As it happens, Jackman also has a new movie out this month, so his press rounds for Reminiscence have included him discussing how much Reynolds wants to do a Deadpool/Wolverine team-up, and how Jackman doesn’t think that’s in the cards.

Reynolds and Jackman did, of course, team up briefly during that Wolverine prequel that introduced the wisecracking mercenary Wade Wilson, played by Reynolds (as well as the mutated and muted version that re-appears at that film’s misbegotten climax). Since then, Reynolds has resurrected Deadpool as an extremely popular and self-referential R-rated superhero, while Jackman has gone on to make two Wolverine movies that were actually good-to-great. Seems like everything worked out for both of them, but in the spirit of nothing being left alone, it makes sense enough that Reynolds would like a reunion that hitches Deadpool’s insouciant wisecrackery to Wolverine’s gruff irritability. It would probably be a fun and funny variation on the X-Men series that fans would enjoy.

It would also place the sensibilities of two major stars directly at odds. And not necessarily in the usual, familiar buddy-comedy way.
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THE GREEN KNIGHT is a gnarly dorm-room poster I don’t know how to review

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Usually, I delight at the opportunity to write about a new movie in a simple new-release-review format, preferably at one of the outlets that care to indulge me in that regard, but sometimes on this website, where I don’t have to pitch my pre-constructed take on a particular film or filmmaker keyed to the zeitgeist, or a more specific demographic than “people who want to read a review of a new movie that they might watch at some point.” Those kinds of essays can be fun to write and turn out wonderfully; sometimes they are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Faced with the opportunity to write what I wanted about The Green Knight, however, I longed for the sense of purpose one can assign the fitting of a square peg into a round hole. For whatever reason, thinking about what to say about The Green Knight has felt like throwing a series of square pegs into the Grand Canyon.

This is not to say that The Green Knight is a film of vast, inimitable, impossible beauty (though it is beautiful). This is also not to say that I at all disliked David Lowery’s take on an Arthurian legend (maybe call it an Arthurish B-side?). For the most part, I liked it quite a lot; am I allowed to just come out and say that in a movie review? There are some parts in the first half-hour where too many characters have too many hushed conversations inside too many dim castles, and I briefly grew drowsy. But even this was weirdly effective, as so much of the rest of the movie plays like an actual dream, during which I was quite lucid, and delighted by the movie’s visual boldness and glorious unpredictability. (Perhaps now is a good time to admit that I was not familiar with this particular oft-told tale.)
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THE SUICIDE SQUAD is a gory, beautiful reboot of the same old thing

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Here’s one sign among many of how the world of movie franchising has expanded over the past 20 years. It’s not as if there weren’t 20th century sequels—hundreds of ‘em!—but there was a time where the idea of a follow-up to a movie called Suicide Squad, especially one that inspired such mixed reactions, would be a cheap premise for a joke about Hollywood’s bankruptcy. Whaddaya call it, Suicide Squad 2: Still Not Dead? Suicide Squad: This Time We Mean It? Now the central idea behind Suicide Squad, wherein bad guys are forced onto impossible missions with low probability of survival, feels ready-made for sequels. If an actor gets too fussy, kill ‘em off. If the whole thing goes sideways, start over with a new squad. And if people love it, well, no one in comic book movies really stays dead, anyway.

People did not love 2016’s Suicide Squad. It was a mess, taped together by a great concept, the star power of Will Smith, and the allure of the popular DC Comics character Harley Quinn, making her live-action debut. It was then slathered in gluey, trailer-ready pop songs—only this time, the trailer figured out the playlist first and the movie was forced to follow suit. It still made a tonna dough, as Harley Quinn might say, and a sequel was being developed around the same time that James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies over at DC’s rivals Marvel, found himself with some free time. Parent company Disney had recently been tricked into firing him for some untoward old tweets and DC, apparently being the place for reformed villains, scooped him up quickly enough to get the Squad rolling again. (Gunn was since rehired by Disney and Guardians 3 is in the works again.)
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M. Night Shyamalan gets OLD but everyone stays the same age

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

I was very aware of my heartbeat during Old, a new movie from M. Night Shyamalan, adapted from a graphic novel. A little of this awareness could be attributed to the movie’s free-floating tension, which is not so much punctuated by Shyamalan’s particularly dad-like strain of humor as it is inextricably woven together with it. Most of it could be attributed to the arrythmia that flares up once in a while, usually when I’m seated in a certain position. Our bodies are capable of so much resilience, not least in the field of disguising their essential fragility. Old understands this. It’s about a group of people trapped on a beach where, they eventually realize, their aging is rapidly accelerated. A lifespan of eightysomething years gets compressed into a day and a half, maybe two. This creates an unnerving paradox: The passage of time rapidly heals surface wounds, even substantial ones, into scars. The bodies simply don’t have time to bleed out. Time presses onward. And then, hours later, the bodies fail anyway.

Old is a horror movie, but not always how you’d expect. This is par for the course for Shyamalan, who has worked consistently in genre films since The Sixth Sense became an unexpected smash 22 years ago. That movie cast such a melancholy, spooky, affecting spell that it took a little time for some to catch on to Shyamalan’s deceptively weird rhythms, especially in his characters’ manner of speaking: Stilted phrasings, shoehorned exposition, dad jokes—like a George Lucas character somehow filtered through a hushed therapy session. In Shyamalan’s wilderness years, these clunky qualities proceeded to the foreground of Lady in the Water or The Last Airbender. In his more recent films, they haven’t receded, but Old may be a case of steering into the skid and coming out intact. As it turns out, his peculiar writing style fits near-perfectly for preteen kids, still finding their way with words. The younger characters approach strangers and ask for their names and occupations, at once a wholly believable quirk and a sneaky way of slipping in some of Shyamalan’s beloved expositional directness. As with The Visit, the kids feel like they’re speaking his language, fluently.

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The Boss Baby: Family Business blows up the DreamWorks Family Business

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

A few weeks ago, a consensus was more or less reached that the animated feature Luca represents “minor Pixar.” Even committed fans of the film might find it hard to argue otherwise: Here is a short, sweet, little romp with a handful of major characters; conflict that never reaches life-and-death stakes; and bouncier, cartoonier animation than usual. Even the usual climactic Pixar-brand chase primarily involves a few kids riding bikes up and down a hill. Compare this to last year’s “minor Pixar” Onward, which may not have been anyone’s favorite, but featured a richly imagined world merging fantasy imagery with more mundane modern conveniences (and inconveniences), and a quest’s worth of side characters and environments. Or, to make Luca look like a tone poem, compare it to The Boss Baby: Family Business, the new feature from DreamWorks Animation.

By another set of definitions, it would be easy to call Boss Baby 2 minor. First of all, it comes from DreamWorks, which apart from a brief surge of Shrek fever in the early 2000s has played enthusiastic second fiddle to the Pixar winning streak. Second, it’s a sequel, and not to one of the signature later-era DreamWorks series like How To Train Your Dragon or Trolls—just 2017’s The Boss Baby, a mishmash of a hit family comedy whose primary feature was its unwillingness to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Family Business seems to exist primarily because it’s a sequel. While Pixar has (deservedly) taken heat for making too many follow-ups, DreamWorks really depends on franchising to keep its pipeline going; only three of its last ten movies weren’t part of some multiplatform franchise or another.

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Zack Snyder’s JUSTICE LEAGUE: A Big Slice of Hero Cake

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

I thought about structuring my review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the much-anticipated four-hour reclamation-through-supersizing of a misbegotten DCEU non-blockbuster, like a normal piece of film criticism. This would mean crafting a catchy lead, smooth transitions, drilling down into some finer details, and summing it all up to make a broader point about the film, the filmmaker, the genre, whatever. But this version of Justice League stubbornly resists traditional structure; it’s literally one of the longest feature films I’ve ever seen, and not even in service of telling a radically different story from the bastardized version that came out in 2017. Instead, it tells that story again, and at vastly greater length, and with no particular rhythm, discernible construction, or traditional momentum. It’s divided into six parts and an epilogue, and apart from the epilogue (which takes place some days or weeks after the events of the climax), there doesn’t seem to be a particular organizing principle. It’s not sorted by timeline, character, or any thematic unity I could detect (and detecting subtleties are rarely among the challenges this filmmaker poses). The parts are titled seemingly at random, perhaps so Zack Snyder, the architect of this monument to his half-baked ideas, can decide what they mean later. It turns out that Snyder’s ideal movie is an assembly cut with finished special effects.
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