House of Horror: A Review of “mother!”

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Esteemed director Darren Aronofsky’s (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream) latest, mother!, is a certifiably polarizing film. It features a cast of beautiful, seat-filling stars (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem among them), but what transpires on-screen is anything but their regular fare — and this is a movie that probably won’t be filling seats for much longer. In fact, the rare ‘F’ Cinemascore the film received this past weekend is something I’m almost certain Aronofsky was shooting for (how he convinced anyone to fund this I surely will never understand). Despite what the mass audience may think of it, I’m actually here to convince you to see this movie; my hope being that maybe you’ll love and respect it just as I do.

mother! forgoes an easily digestible first act. Instead, Aronofsky slowly hints to the bigger picture he has ingeniously planned, all before the film explodes into a raucous second half and unforgettable finale. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play an unnamed couple referred to in the credits simply as “Mother” and “Him,” respectively. Together they live in a beautiful house secluded from the rest of the world. He’s a renowned poet in search of the right inspiration, while she works on crafting and finishing the perfect home.

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The Losers’ Club is a Winner: A Review of “IT”

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Every 27 years, IT comes back. Not only in the wildly popular fiction’s universe, but in our timeline as well. Many grew up with the 1990 TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s acclaimed novel leaving a lasting effect, myself included. Now, 27 years later, and just like the characters in the film itself, a new generation will experience their own form of horror. This new version, courtesy of Mama director Andy Muschietti, isn’t without some glaring faults, but is largely able to sidestep these issues due to its fantastic cast of young actors, a strong script that’s both horrifying and humorous, and a profoundly unsettling take on an iconic villain.

IT opens in grand, terrifying fashion in adapting one of the story’s most iconic scenes. In the small town of Derry, children are going missing at inexplicably high rates, including middle schooler Bill Denbrough’s (Jaeden Lieberher) younger brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott). On a rainy October day in 1988, a bedridden Bill helps Georgie to construct a paper boat and sends him out alone to play, unaware that this would be the last time he would see his brother alive.

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Murder on the Mountaintop: A Review of “Wind River”

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Taylor Sheridan likely isn’t a name you know, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that you should. Following-up on screenplay credits for the critically acclaimed crime dramas Sicario and Hell or High Water, Sheridan makes his excellent directorial debut adapting another of his own stories, Wind River. His first film isn’t without faults, especially in its somewhat plodding pace, but through superb acting and character development as well as a glorious final act, Wind River effectively transcends genre tropes and delivers an affecting murder-mystery that is worth seeing.

Wind River opens on a severely underdressed teenage girl hurriedly trudging through the frigid, snow-covered terrain in the mountains of Wyoming. Hours later, her frozen corpse is discovered by US Fish and Wildlife Serviceman Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner). She was Natalie Hanson (Kelsey Chow), a Native American girl who grew up and lived near the area she was found, in the Wind River Indian Reservation. Elizabeth Olsen co-stars across Renner as Jane Banner, an FBI agent called to the scene who, immediately upon examination, rules the death a homicide.

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French Feminism Fright: A Review of “Raw”

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When you’ve seen as many horror films as I have, and have been a fan of the macabre genre since a young child, then you can find yourself often hard-pressed in discovering new films that actually affect you; films that dare you to watch even when the happenings on screen force you to look away in disgust and terror. Raw, from French writer-director Julia Ducournau, is one of these films. Raw is the hardest horror film I’ve watched in years, leaving in its wake a bad, bad taste in my mouth (and certainly its main character’s mouth as well), but one very much worth enduring.

Raw centers around Justine (Garance Mallinier), a bright teenager starting her freshman year at a prestigious French veterinary school. She’s following in the footsteps of her parents, who originally met at the school, as well as her older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), who simultaneously attends the school. Justine stands out among her new peers because she, alongside her entire family, practices vegetarianism, and she’s been strictly taught her entire life to absolutely never consume meat.

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Strike Three, Mr. Nolan: A Review of “Dunkirk”

More than anything, what I felt walking out of Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s latest epic, was a strong sense of disappointment; almost assuredly the most I’ve felt for any film this year. And I’m as surprised as anyone that I felt this way about it. From the awe-inspiring trailers to the near-perfect critical acclaim, I thought I was guaranteed to love this. I was sure that Dunkirk would be what made me fall in love with Nolan’s work again, following Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises, both of which I think are OK at best (and, to be honest, I don’t think Interstellar is much good at all). But instead, and rather unfortunately, Dunkirk continues the sad trend of middling work from one of the greatest directors alive. It makes me wonder if I’ll ever love a work of Nolan’s again, like I do his superb early films Memento, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight.

Dunkirk is set in a time of war, getting its namesake from a major battle that occurred early during World War II. It was heavily marketed as a straight war movie, but it’s really unlike any past examples — and I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Actually, Dunkirk’s genre may be more akin to horror than that of which we typically think of as a war movie. We have characters who are at all times in danger, with no hope of defeating an unrelenting villain surrounding them. Their only hope being to possibly escape and survive the tragic event.

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Was He Slow?: A Review of “Baby Driver”

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The summer’s most fun and excitingly fresh film has officially arrived with Edgar Wright’s wholly exceptional Baby Driver. Led by a catchy and calculated soundtrack, the film presents exhilarating car-chase scenes with an ensemble of precisely handled characters behind-the-wheel, gaining traction from its impressively meticulous opener through to its explosive climax. Baby Driver is perhaps Wright’s greatest achievement yet — and with a track record as stellar as his, that’s saying a lot.

Following his remarkable comedic genre mashups with films like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, in Baby Driver, Wright strips back the pulpy silliness his work is famous for. Instead, here he exhibits a sense of realism and seriousness he’s not yet shown off, but still finds enough space in the script to place well-timed and often hilarious jokes as well, striking a near-perfect balance of dramatic moments and comedic ones.

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Family Still Comes First: A Review of “The Fate of the Furious”

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Over the past several weeks, I embarked on a cinematic journey through the Fast and Furious franchise, watching them in order, each for the very first time. It’s not a perfect series by any means, but I fell deeply in love, especially as the series progressed and switched from being prominently about street racing to being big-budget action capers, becoming all the more ridiculous and over-the-top in all the best ways. Despite what you might expect from an eighth entry in a franchise, with The Fate of the Furious, Vin Diesel and his family of street-racers-turned-government-agents still manage to up the ante and deliver one of the absolute best movies in the series.

F8 picks up with an opening scene that calls back to the good ol’ days of Fast & Furious (circa 2001-2006), complete with trash talking, street racing and a tropical pop hit setting the scene. Dom (Vin Diesel) has settled down in Havana with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), but it isn’t long before he’s dragged back into the increasingly explosive life he’s lived for the past 16 years. What sets this entry apart from its seven predecessors, is that this time Dom’s playing for the wrong team, and betraying the family he loves. Gasp!

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