Tag Archives: movie reviews

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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Women of Action: MONSTER HUNTER and SHADOW IN THE CLOUD

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 recent movie Shadow in the Cloud sounds like it could be one of those occasional January miracles: an efficient, unpretentious genre mish-mash executed with no-fuss brawn and style. It’s about Maude Garrett (Chloe Grace Moretz), a WWII flight officer who hitches a last-minute ride on a bomber, where she is beset by sexism, then Japanese fighter planes, then gremlins. Shadow is so theoretically January-tastic that it dropped on the very first of the year, a rare release date made more feasible by the global pandemic, which has sent the film to first-run VOD as well as a few theaters simultaneously.

The hybrid release model is unusually appropriate for this movie; for its entire 83 minutes (or rather, for the 75 minutes it actually runs minus credits), it straddles the line between unusually ambitious, well-made trash and the chintzy direct-to-video garbage of old. The movie even provides its own convenient delineation: there’s the sizable chunk of the story confined to Maude’s cramped stay in the plane’s ball turret, communicating with her mostly-offscreen co-stars via radio, versus the mayhem-heavier sequences where she exits the ball turret to fight off those human-sized beasties. The filmmakers seem torn over whether its low-budget ridiculousness should be elegantly elided, or powered through with smash-and-grab energy.
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Liam Neeson Cosplays Late-Late-Period Clint Eastwood in THE MARKSMAN

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.

There is no shortage of Clint Eastwood. He may not star in movies as regularly anymore, but his late-late-period career has featured so many roles that seemed like de facto retirement ceremonies that Gran Torino, Trouble with the Curve, and The Mule feel closer together than they are, spread out over the course of a decade. He has at least one more starring role to go; his movie Cry Macho is due out by the end of 2021. By then, he will be 91. The Mule, his last not-quite-last movie made $100 million in the United States. He is easily the most popular eighty-and-ninetysomething actor and director in Hollywood history.

Yet at some point, very likely in the next five to ten years, Clint Eastwood will no longer make movies. (This is not a prediction of his death, mind. If it’s easy to picture any movie star making it to 110, it’s Clint.) He will leave behind the perception that a certain segment of the moviegoing public really enjoys seeing middle-to-advanced-aged men put younger bad guys in their place. 2009’s Taken, starring Liam Neeson, is generally considered to have kicked off the modern strain of old-man-vengeance thrillers, but Eastwood was there a few weeks earlier with 2008’s Grand Torino, just as big a hit with an even older protagonist. (Neeson was a spry 57 when Taken came out, compared with Eastwood’s 79 at the same time.)
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NYFF57: The Past Lives in FIRST COW and PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

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.

Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, both of which just played the 57th New York Film Festival, are not exactly set contemporaneously, but they’re not too far apart, at least from our contemporary vantage. Portrait unfolds over a few days toward the end of the 18th century, while First Cow is relatively early in the 19th, around 1820. They’re also set thousands of miles apart, First Cow remote (the Oregon territory) and Portrait, in some ways, remoter (the coast of France, in and around a well-appointed but seemingly isolated house). And superficially, they don’t have much in common beyond that remoteness, and an accompanying ender segregation. First Cow features only a few women, while Portrait of a Lady on Fire has almost no men.

A man, mostly unseen, nonetheless looms over the story of Portrait, told as a flashback from Marianne (Noémie Merlant), a painter and art teacher, prompted by a student’s question. Years earlier, Marianne is sent to paint Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), so that the resulting picture may be sent to a potential husband, to seal the deal on an official marriage proposal (the painting will convey mostly Héloïse’s physical presence, and she is a terribly attractive woman). It feels like a formality, but it’s one that Héloïse will not sit for; upon her arrival, Marianne learns that she’s accepted a stealth assignment. She will pose as a companion for Héloïse, observe her, and paint her portrait in secret. The movie gets right into Marianne’s point of view, and her painter’s eye for detail; you can see her observing Héloïse’s hands, her earlobes, the back of her neck. Eventually also her face; Adèle Haenel is given a “you were expecting someone else?” face-reveal introduction.
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Tribeca 2019, Part 1: Into the Woods

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.

There are certain types of indie movies I’ve seen a lot in seven years or so of Tribeca Film Festival coverage: the gritty coming-of-age movie, the would-be scrappy rom-com (more on that in a future dispatch!), the slow-burn thriller. But it was still a little surprising that at Tribeca 2019, I saw no fewer than three movies in a row that featured following shots of its characters traipsing through woodsy environs. The movies had very little to do with each other. Sometimes it’s just one of those things.
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PET SEMATARY wants to punish Jason Clarke, and everyone else, for being such a fuck-up

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.

With Pet Sematary, Jason Clarke has truly arrived. Not as a Hollywood leading man; he’s already played John Connor (in a Terminator if not The Terminator), the main guy in a Planet of the Apes sequel, and a bunch of prominent roles in prestige-y pictures like Mudbound, The Great Gatsby, and Chappaquiddick. In 2019, Clarke has arguably already blown past the traditional leading-man phase of his career, and gone into Patrick Wilson territory, which I would define as operating in a perpetual state of former leading man.

This is not the same as a perpetual Baxter/Ralph Bellamy type, like Bill Pullman in 1993, or James Marsden in the early 2000s, playing the nice, handsome, normal guy who often loses the girl to someone cooler, handsomer, and less normal. Those characters are hardly ever actually leading roles, their reduced screen presence tipping the audience off about who the real star is. But Jason Clarke is the main character in Pet Sematary, just as sure as Patrick Wilson is the male lead of Insidious, Little Children, Watchmen, and Young Adult among others. He’s not playing the same guy in all of these movies, but there’s definitely a vibe (reinforced by his work on the indelible Girls episode “One Man’s Trash”): the handsome guy who’s in some supposed position of power, authority, or contentment, but operating with some kind of faded glory, lack of gumption, or dark secret. He is, whether pleasantly (Young Adult) or destructively (Insidious), the golden boy gone slightly to seed. He’s often a husband and/or a father, and he’s usually trying, if not necessarily his best. Often, he’s just a little too passive or outmatched by someone. He gets in over his head. It’s not his fault, except it kind of is.
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Shazam! is another superhero movie that’s not like all the other superhero movies that aren’t like other superhero movies

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.

Shazam!, based on the DC Comics hero originally called Captain Marvel and originally not published by DC Comics, stars Zachary Levi, who once appeared in a Thor movie for Marvel Studios. Levi plays the hero; the bad guy is played by Mark Strong, who also played a supporting role (and unrealized future bad guy) in Green Lantern, based on the DC Comics hero, but unconnected to the current DC Comics movies. Shazam! also co-stars Djimon Hounsou, who also has a supporting role in Captain Marvel, currently in theaters, a separate character from Shazam, the former Captain Marvel, and based in part on the Marvel Comics hero originally called Ms. Marvel.

Shazam! is about a teenager learning to wield his superpowers responsibly, like Marvel’s Spider-Man; it’s also concerns the effects of those superpowers on family dynamics—sort of like The Incredibles, a Disney film which is not based on a comic book, but owes a lot to the Fantastic Four, whose movie rights were recently welcomed back into the Disney fold when Disney completed its purchase of 20th Century Fox’s film division. The end credits of Shazam! feature charmingly scrawled drawings of the main character’s superheroic antics, followed by a post-credits scene goofing on another superhero, both elements that recall Deadpool, an offshoot of the X-Men series, which was also recently absorbed back into Disney via Fox. Disney, of course, owns Marvel, and Captain Marvel, but not Shazam!, which belongs to Warner Bros., which owns DC, which bought the character from Fawcett, the company that originally published stories about Shazam, back when he was called Captain Marvel.
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Widows cooks like a heist picture and sprawls like an epic drama

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 Saturday Night Live-based comedy MacGruber, Will Forte’s would-be action her assembles a kickass team of he-men during a stirring montage, packs them into a truck for a mission, and accidentally blows them all to hell. That’s not exactly what happens at the opening of Steve McQueen’s Widows, and probably drawing the comparison is a little bit insulting. But hear me out: McQueen dispatches an entire B-movie’s worth of tough guys with similar (if non-comic) efficiency, and precision-cut style. He toggles between a man and wife nuzzling in bed together and a brutal robbery turned car chase turned armed showdown. Back and forth it goes, quiet and loud, until the crew (including Liam Neeson and Jon Bernthal) is consumed in an explosion and, in the final pre-title image, the pillow next to Veronica (Viola Davis) lingers, empty. Her husband Harry (Neeson) isn’t coming back.
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Labor Day Surprise: Destination Wedding and The Little Stranger do their genres proud

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.

It’s received wisdom that people don’t go to the movies en masse over Labor Day weekend, especially not the way they flock to theaters over Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Maybe it’s true that back-to-school concerns eclipse interest in going out to movie theaters (although looming classroom time doesn’t seem like it has much effect on any other weekend), but it’s more true that studios and distributors lean right in to the notion that no one wants to see anything but last month’s leftovers, sometimes opting not to properly release movies even when they have movies to release. This year sees the release of two modest but satisfying genre-based pleasures that their respective studios aren’t just keeping audiences from seeing (through limited releases); they’re also keeping them from hearing much about them through press embargos that don’t lift until the movies are practically in theaters.
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