Wednesday, July 22, 2015

It Follows Movie Review

It’s long been a sort of tradition in the slasher sub-genre of horror films that those who choose to have sex are doomed to succumb to a horrific death. It was enough of a trope that Wes Craven’s post-modern slasher film Scream listed it as a surefire way for any of its characters to seal their fate. It’s no coincidence then, that It Follows, written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, uses sex as the precise mechanism by which its characters attract the attention of the slow-moving, but undeterred creature that wants to take their lives.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Inside Out Movie Review

Pixar’s latest execution of brilliance is Inside Out. It’s getting more than its fair share of praise and accolades, most of which is justified. Is it their best film since Up, as many have deemed it? Probably, but then we’re really only talking about a stretch of two films in that time, both of which were very good even if they aren’t up to the excellent standard Pixar is renowned for. This feat of genuine creativity and acrobatic storytelling concerns the machinations (both literal and figurative) of Riley, who winds up being a secondary character in the story of her own mind. She is subordinate to, and to some extent controlled by the anthropomorphic representations of emotions in her head.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

American Sniper Movie Review

A Navy SEAL sniper sits on the roof of a building in Iraq. In the street below is an American military convoy. His job is to shepherd those soldiers to safety by keeping a lookout for potential threats. In the city war zone that has been evacuated, any military-age male must be regarded as a threat. First he scopes a man talking on a cell phone. The man steps inside, not knowing how close he came to losing his life. Next a woman and a boy, not more than eleven or twelve years old, arrive on the street. She hands the boy a rocket-propelled grenade. The voice on the other end of the soldier’s com can’t confirm visually. The call is entirely his. Men who engage in war are fair targets. What do you do about a child who is about to kill your comrades?

Everything I Saw in the First Half of 2015

In the first six months of 2015 I managed to watch 82 feature films, but only
79 different ones because three were repeated within the six month period.
I saw eighteen of those features in the cinema, but since February 10 I've
seen only five in the cinema.
Including the three repeats within the six month period, twenty-two of the
features films I watched were films I'd seen before.
I also watched twenty-five short films, seventeen of which I saw in the
cinema, most of those as part of the Oscar-nominated short films programs.
There were also nineteen TV episodes.

As for the writing part of all this, I posted only 32 new reviews in that time,
which is way down from last year. I do, however, have seventeen written for
larger projects coming in the future.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Four Brothers Movie Review

Maybe it’s my love of westerns that made me fall so hard for John Singleton’s Four Brothers, his 2005 Detroit-set revenge film and his best work since Boyz N the Hood. I didn’t realize it then, or even the second time I watched it, that it’s essentially a modern urban western. The lawlessness of the open land and small towns has been replaced by the gutted and run down Motor City. Instead of some evil landowner there’s a crime boss (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor early in his Hollywood career and long before his star turn in 12 Years a Slave). Replacing the heroic gunslinger is a criminal and his three brothers, in town for their mother Evelyn’s (Fionnula Flanagan) funeral and to exact revenge for her murder in what appears to be a convenience store robbery. Many of the western tropes are there. There are gunfights. There are shots establishing the landscape, in this cast derelict buildings and snow-swept (as opposed to wind) open spaces of frozen lakes.

Fat City Movie Review

From the annals of long since forgotten films comes Fat City from 1972. Every calendar year is overloaded with movie releases that, even if modestly successful at the time, are destined to recede into memory as the years pass. The status of classic or cult classic is reserved fro only a handful of films each year. You need only go back eighteen years to find a Best Picture nominee called The Full Monty, for example. It was a small British film that found great success in the United States. But how many people think of it now? How highly regarded is it by those who do recall it? Now consider that film’s status with another twenty-five years of age. So The Full Monty is no Fat City, of course, if for no other reason than the latter was directed by John Huston, a Hollywood legend. But even his fame never elevated the film above the level of New Wave Hollywood footnote.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Cult Classic Movie Review: Horror of Dracula

In honor of the late Christopher Lee, whose June 7 death was reported yesterday, I took a first look at the first of his series of iconic career-defining roles as Dracula. Lee is best known to modern audiences as the wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies or as the Sith Lord Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones. But in the 50s and 60s, he starred in many of Hammer Films’ British horror films.

His first turn as the vampire was in Dracula, which was re-titled Horror of Dracula in the United States to avoid confusion with the Tod Browning-directed version from 1931 starring Bela Lugosi. The Hammer Films series was the second big iteration of attempts to bring Bram Stoker’s novel to the screen. Universal had made the Lugosi film and a few follow-ups, but Lee became a new generation’s face of Count Dracula for several years. Since the late 70s pop culture has been inundated with vampire stories ranging from the grotesqueries of John Carpenter and Stephen King to the comedy of Once Bitten starring Jim Carrey and then finally landing at teenage soap opera thanks to Stephanie Meyer by way of Anne Rice.