Friday, June 14, 2019

Ma (2019)

This has to be the most absurd shit I’ve seen in a while, even counting the John Waters film I saw last week (Desperate Living). Not that this is as full of genitalia and body mutilation and gross out stuff as that movie was – though there is some – but just the choices this movie makes are so goddamned weird.

Director: Tate Taylor
Starring: Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers

SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE COMING UP.

This is an Octavia Spencer vehicle where she plays a small-town veterinarian who apparently loves hanging out with children so much that it drove her insane. I thought at some points, this could be genuinely profound, a revealing character study, maybe about small town living or what trauma does to you. But instead it just turned into a bunch of nonsense.

I guess it starts with a new girl in town character, Maggie, as she and her mom move back to some lame podunk Midwestern town. Her mom wears a skimpy outfit at a casino while Maggie makes friends with a bunch of hoodlums who do insane and groundbreaking things like hang out at gas stations and try to get adults to buy them booze. Watch out! These kids are ON THE EDGE!

They make friends with Spencer’s character Sue Anne, or ‘Ma,’ who invites them over to hang out and drink and smoke pot in her basement in the woods. Being dumb kids, I can see it. Though the part where Spencer’s character makes this one jock kid strip totally naked at gunpoint should’ve probably been more of a giveaway. But kids are so damn desensitized to everything now.

I guess there are a few decent scenes setting up the characters, and at first, Spencer’s character is legit kind of creepy as she goes through her sort of revenge game against these kids, who are the children of some assholes who wronged her in high school. Apparently once a long time ago, those kids tricked her into giving a blowjob in a janitor’s closet to some nerdy kid when she thought she was with the popular guy. 

That’s the only thing they show us as to why she turned out so fucked up. I hate to sound insensitive here. But the movie just makes such a bad case about her psyche and how she turned out crazy that it’s making me look like some kind of alt right incel douche here. Like goddammit. It’s not played for sympathy so much as just this cheap thing. There’s not a point where the movie reflects on why what happened to her was bad or what effects that would actually have. It’s just “blowjob closet rape scene = you turn into a crazy horror movie stalker 30 years later.” Somehow, I don’t think the American Psychological Journal is calling you back.

Ma also has a daughter of her own, Genie, who she makes believe is sick and keeps home from school a lot. Like that closet rape scene, this is another actually serious thing that the movie barely treats as such. It's child abuse. But it’s kind of glazed over and never given much any point in the story. But who needs that boring real life shit when we have a bunch of scenes of Octavia Spencer partying with hick teenagers???

The main character, Maggie, dates this one guy for a while, and a few kinda nice scenes happen, maybe almost approaching character development even. Though even that goes nowhere and amounts to nothing, much like the lives of the people living in the small town in the movie. Meanwhile, Spencer’s Ma character texts people a lot, too much even. OooOOOOOoooh! Scary? I dunno. I’ve had this happen in real life from weirdos I’d known online for a few months. Didn’t make me want to see a horror movie about it.

The problem with the movie going forward is that I doubt the writers remember what it was like to be a teenager. Maggie and her mom have this overblown fight about her going to Ma’s house to hang out, and it barely makes sense. Even though Maggie herself has been worried about going there for most of the movie, now she’s super mad about it and hurling insults at her mother! It’s a pretty brutal argument for this movie’s standards, and I’m pretty sure Maggie hasn’t even been this mad at the actual villains in the movie.

Maggie goes back over to Ma’s house to save her boyfriend, and they all get trapped down there as Ma predictably goes insane. Only, even the torture methods are off. Like she paints this black kid’s face white, sews a girl’s lips together and burns another kid just one time with an iron. That’s all she does to them. Then she wants a “picture” with them to replicate her own high school years, and at that point I was just like “oh, I get it now, this is really fucking stupid.”

Then, to make things even more bizarre, when Maggie has to go stab Ma in the back to save Genie, she shouts “I’m not my mother!” I guess because her mom had to move back to her hometown and take a shitty waitressing job? Was that the message this whole Godforsaken time?

This whole thing was just a mess, and the more I thought about it the worse it seemed. I liked Spencer’s acting and even the kids were good. But the story and script just made no real sense. Every “serious” plot thread was seemingly cast aside in favor of scenes of the characters drinking and partying. In fact, pretty sure that was the whole motive here, to have an excuse to drink and party and somehow get paid for it. In which case this movie is actually ingenious and I was wrong about all of this.

Image copyright of its original owners; I don't own it.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Dark Spirits (2008)

Dark Spirits is a movie about a chick whose sister dies from some mysterious supernatural force and she has to figure out why it’s haunting her, too. The problem is that by the end, the audience still has no real clue. This was part of a box set of DVD movies from Walmart my friend found in his apartment, so you know it’ll be amazing!

Director: Huck Keppler
Starring: Milena Minichova

Co-written with Nathan.

The movie starts essentially like the 2003 classic The Room – which is to say, exactly like a porno, with bad lighting and camerawork, and two people having sex, except unfortunately here mostly with their clothes on. There’s really no difference other than that, though. The main girl Eva calls her sister later, who is a totally random woman who the movie wants us to believe is super close with her. The reason is to tell her sister that she had a dream of her walking into some desolate country house, like a bargain bin Texas Chainsaw, and getting grabbed by a ghost! You know – normal sister stuff!

Her sister is understandably skeptical – like, she probably heard this stuff every week while the main chick was in college and friends with that weird gypsy girl who had all the tea leaves and tarot cards and she's kinda done with it after all these years.

Then, the next morning, her boyfriend walks up extremely slowly to let her know her sister is dead – boy, was that fast. She takes it about like anyone would, with some crying and sitting at a table and whatnot – your usual bland depictions of sorrow. The Store Brand Box depictions of sorrow, really. There’s nothing at all in terms of who she is as a character. All she does the entire movie, really, is sit around an impressively bland apartment and write in a notebook. Thrilling stuff! Her apartment is so un-adorned and bland that I suspect she might be a serial murderer using it as a patsy for unsuspecting victims. Unfortunately the movie does not seize on this potential plot goldmine.

But don’t worry – there are plenty of weird scenes of her interacting with her boyfriend talking about different dimensions. And talking with some girl and a random homeless man about the concept of death or something. It’s seriously like they just took pages from a Philosophy 101 textbook and threw it hodge-podge into a screenplay. It has nothing really to do with the story.

So what IS the story? Well, I guess she keeps seeing ghosts and some mildly weird stuff happens to her. A few scares in the dark. But it’s not too bad, considering all the stuff that happens to people in better horror movies. This is kind of like the white privilege of horror movies. I think maybe the worst part is when she gets chased through the park by the homeless guy. But the next day, no kidding, he apologizes to her. What a good turnout! I wish more movie conflicts ended that way!

That stuff is positively rosy compared to how she is with her boyfriend, though – watch as these two barely actually touch each other and act mostly like two awkward people who were asked to act like they’re in a relationship. Amazing! It’s like I’m inside of a high school prom. Real interactive content.

Also, some detective shows up a few times, with the actor clearly stoned on camera. Why can’t he solve this crime? What are they paying him? I have some legitimate questions. His story essentially goes nowhere and, near the end of the movie, he gets killed by a ghost. Or maybe it’s not a ghost – it’s not really all that clear.

The main girl comes home and she sees her own dead body on the floor of the apartment. Wow! She should’ve cleaned that up! Then, I guess, she dies too, and is able to meet her dead sister in the ghost world. Given that these two characters acted stiff and cold toward each other already as if they barely knew each other, my guess is it’ll be exactly like they’re used to. I wonder what wacky ghost adventures they’ll go on. Hopefully it’ll be more interesting than this movie.

This was mostly harmless. I actually do like seeing low budget stuff like this and watching how people try to construct something scary – at least, it’s not some calculated corporate garbage. There is that. But it’s just not very good. It’s too slow and lacks any kind of compelling characters. It was kind of fun to see where it went, but the payoff was lacking. See it if you’ve got a bottomless appetite for this kind of fun schlock.

Image copyright of its original owners; we don't own it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Pokemon Detective Pikachu (2019)

Like a lot of people my age, my childhood was full of the colorful abominations called Pokemon. I played those games fucking constantly growing up, dabbled in the card games, watched a lot of the real old TV show. Hell, I’ve got old VHS tapes of the shit in my parents’ house. This movie’s trailer made it look like a kind of love letter to the kids like me who liked this stuff in the late 90s. But in reality it’s a pile of dog shit with a Pokemon card on top.

SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE WITHIN.

Director: Rob Letterman
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton

Co-written with Tony.

I guess the story begins with this insurance salesman, Tim, is out with a buddy trying to hunt a Cubone when he learns his father dies – but really, the movie just wants us to forget that a grown man has to run for his life from a two-foot rat in a bone mask. How hard could it possibly be to capture that thing?

But yeah, his dad dies and he has to go to this city where Pokemon and humans live in harmony and don’t do any of the battling you’d expect out of this franchise. So it’s Pokemon with nothing cool about it, essentially. Riveting! We find this out through some truly wretched exposition – it’s just shown on a train TV screen ad, conveniently for the beginning of the movie. I dunno about you, but whenever shit like this shows up on Hulu or Spotify, I tune out. It wouldn't be an effective method to convey backstory.

In the city, we get some painfully stock scenes flashing back to Tim’s childhood where he lost his mom. I know it’s supposed to be sad, but this and every other emotional moment in the film seems like it was taken from a giant corporate warehouse with CLICHE SCENES & PLOTS written on the side.

Fortunately the titular talking Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds, shows up soon after that. Sure, ‘Ryan Reynolds plays a talking Pikachu’ sounds like something you and your friends came up with in 15 minutes while you were high off your asses. But it does provide for some funny moments. There’s some half-decent absurdist comedy to watching him run around and seeing the other Pokemon doing goofy shit. Unfortunately, that isn't enough for a full hour and forty-minute movie.

The problem is that everything aside from the weirdness and humor of the Pokemon is utterly phoned in. There’s a budding romance between Tim and Kathryn Newton’s junior reporter character Lucy. It’s every bit as lame and awkward as you’d expect; retro in the sense that we quit doing these types of hack storylines in the 90s because they were bad. Oh, he makes some awkward Freudian slips and Pikachu ribs him about it? Stop the presses! The fantastic Bill Nighy is wasted as the rich guy businessman who turns out to be a villain later. Awesome twist if you’ve never seen a movie in your life.

Everything is by the book and the story is a practically just a bunch of cliches patched together with rubber bands and cheap glue. There are some emotional scenes that don’t pack any punch because every line and every story beat is predictable and hollow. Like, really, are they going to let Pikachu die in this Detective Pikachu movie by being hit with a rock? Are they going to keep Pikachu and Tim apart when, right after being saved from dying, Pikachu arbitrarily decides to go on his own to stop anyone else from being hurt? I mean, wow, I was really surprised when everything turned out OK after those incredibly stale cliché tropes you guys trotted out like fat out of shape race-horses.

One of the worst parts is how they do exposition and revelations of story elements like how Pikachu lost his memory or what happened to Tim’s dad. Basically Nighy’s character invented this virtual reality camera thing that can show what happened in the past “from all angles,” effectively giving the characters an extremely hacky way to see what happened – conveniently it’s able to show everything perfectly in a neat way that explains stuff! I’d say this is spoon-feeding you exposition, but really it’s like tying you down Guantanamo-style and shoving a feeding tube forcefully into your nostrils and flushing the exposition in that way.

The climax is truly horrible, with Bill Nighy putting his brain into Mewtwo’s body. I guess his character, who is in a wheelchair, wants to merge with Pokemon to “heal” everyone in the world or some stupid shit like that. I’ve seen this ‘disabled villain wants to cure the world in an evil way’ trope before and usually done better. But as a disabled person, it’s not realistic – we’d probably just kill people like any other type of villain. We’re not that noble.

Nighy as Mewtwo spends the finale spouting out lines that somehow top even the previous cliches in the movie, which I find an amazing feat. All the good humor from earlier is long gone, and the movie bafflingly delivers this totally straight-faced, no irony at all. If actors could be punished for crimes by being forced to do horrible scenes in movies, this one would be the punishment for a triple homicide.

Maybe I’m being too harsh – there are a few OK jokes and it’s nice to see some Pokemon on screen, I guess, though it’s been ages since I was super into this stuff. Maybe some will like it better. It’d probably be a blast if I was drunk or high, watching the first act or two anyway. But overall there are way better kids’ movies you could see. Just make sure you cover your kids’ eyes at the part where Pikachu commits genocide against a bunch of Digimon. That shit was horrific to watch.

Image copyright of its original owners, I don't own any of it.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Us (2019)

SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE CONTAINED HEAVILY WITHIN THIS REVIEW.

Jordan Peele is now a first-rate horror director, it seems. Get Out was a great start, but I was curious where he could go from there. Fortunately, the answer seems to be into even more wild, pointed social commentary with his sophomore feature Us.

Director: Jordan Peele
Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke

This is a movie so dense you’ll probably walk out of it wanting to see it again. There is a real breadth of ideas to be unpacked here, and the movie – aside from a few exposition scenes – doesn’t waste its time waiting for you to catch up, weaving its commentary into cat-and-mouse horror tribute and some slasher gore. Basically the premise is that this family is on vacation and runs into exact doppelgangers of themselves in the night - and from there everything just spirals.

It’s a wandering, free-form exploration of the political and social divides in America. There’s something to be said for a few wry winks about Trump/MAGA types – the doubles of everyone that pop up from the subterranean are wearing red, and the fact that they target rich liberal-types in Santa Fe is something I noticed for sure, for maximum dichotomy between them.

But the larger message is about poverty and classism. Lupita Nyong’o’s character Adelaide’s double, Red, talks with some real spite in her about how everything good Adelaide has has been duplicated in a worse way: “And the girl ate, her food was given to her warm and tasty. But when the shadow was hungry, she had to eat rabbit raw and bloody. On Christmas, the girl received wonderful toys; soft and cushy. But the shadow's toys were so sharp and cold they sliced through her fingers when she tried to play with them.”

And then, when asked who they are, an even more direct line: “We’re Americans.” Later she also has a line about how “we’re humans, too.” Individually these lines are pretty evident in meaning, but the thing about social commentary is that it’s more about consistency of messaging and how the message is woven into each scene, and the story overall. It’s all about the haves and the have-nots. The rage of the under-class, burbling up to the surface like a volcano. All that’s wrapped up in a fiery and exciting romp through a beach town. Gorgeous images of the shore and of a classic American amusement park serve both to make this look great as well as to amplify the message – this is an American problem.

We’re at a fairly precarious, difficult time in our history right now, as anybody who lives here probably knows. Peele feeds off that like a vampire and creates a film that’s chaotic and off-kilter as the political climate here. Nobody understands each other in America right now. Suitably, the red-suited doppelgangers can only scream and howl – they’re unintelligible to those from the above-ground world. Violence becomes the only language common to them.

And I think what’s striking to me is that there’s really no resolution to it. Peele doesn’t pose a solution for the divide or the chaos. He just shows it as it is, this glorious miasma of violence and resentment. The red-suited doubles win in the end, unifying themselves in a literal hand-linked chain across the land, which is a pretty glaring commentary of its own. They were able to unify and come up to the surface.

At the end it’s also revealed that Adelaide is actually the real ‘Red,’ having switched places with the above-ground version as children when they met in a hall of mirrors. Both of them lived the others’ lives and now the fake Adelaide does whatever she has to to keep her status – every woman for herself. It becomes less of a monster movie, upon knowing this, and more of a struggle between two human beings. “We’re people too,” the real Adelaide, who’s spent her life underground as Red, says with biting venom and bile through every word. And maybe knowing that, then it’s a bit of an oversight for someone like me to have ever thought the other red-clad doubles were true monsters at all in the first place. Even the slasher-style murders start to make more sense. They’re fucking angry as hell.

A good twist is one that you can watch the whole movie again after knowing and the rest of the movie retroactively makes sense in a different way. This twist adds to the layers of the film and makes it more than just another monster flick. The fake Adelaide’s fear is for her own self-preservation. That’s as human as you can get.

It’s a weird-ass movie to be sure. Vague and metaphorical and not all of the in-universe world-building is explicitly explained. Why were there these shadow-doubles living in caves underground at all? We only get a few lines explaining that stuff and it’s not really a thorough explanation. I kinda like the vagueness, not gonna lie. I wouldn’t have wanted a bunch of long drawn out backstory scenes for the mechanical functions of this world – that would’ve just dragged it down and the exposition we got from Red, in character, made sense for how she sees things, adds context to the movie, and that was enough for me.

Horror, like any fantasy, is about feeling rather than mechanics. What we’re seeing on screen in Us has more resonance and meaning than a lot of movies in this genre try for. I think this is an evocative, mesmeric and hard-hitting piece of film. I haven’t been this fascinated by a movie in a while now. I’m sure there will be even more things to notice about this on future viewings. If you like classic horror and/or social commentary, Us is fucking profound and insanely engaging in its labyrinthine mirror-hall of layers.

PS: Here are some good pieces I’ve read about Us so far, which offer some views I didn’t know about or didn’t catch – I’m sure there are shitloads more, too.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Dragged Across Concrete (2019)

S. Craig Zahler, a metal musician and now film director, has been making a name for himself with a series of gruesome movies even for horror fans’ standards: first, Bone Tomahawk was full of a lot of disemboweling and cannibal madness, and his last one Brawl in Cell Block 99 was full of enough brutal face-stompings and bone-breakings to fill up even the most devout gore-hound. Now we have Dragged Across Concrete, which based on the title I figured would be the most violent schlock-fest yet.

And it is pretty violent, yeah. But it also veers into something even more uncomfortable: mild conservative “anti-PC” racism.

Director: S. Craig Zahler
Starring: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter

I mean, it isn’t like they go full on MAGA hat or anything, but having Mel Gibson in a starring role was almost like a wink to the audience as to what this was gonna be like. Him and co-star Vince Vaughn, after their characters get suspended from the force for stepping on a Hispanic drug dealer’s head and neck on video, have a few lines early on about how PC everything is and it made me wonder what the hell this movie was playing at. Oh and another subplot has Gibson’s daughter getting orange juice thrown on her by a black kid while coming home from school, which prompts his wife to opine about how “she never thought she was racist before moving to this neighborhood.”

It’s all pretty perplexing at first – like, are we being asked to sympathize with that world view? Keep in mind that the actual plot has nothing to do with this. It’s like he just added it in for no reason really. It barely comes up again, but the stink of this stuff is striking as you go through the film. I think he was trying to show that yeah, these people exist and there’s not much you can do about it. They have pretty shitty, regressive-ish attitudes and yet they’re still out there working jobs and trying to figure their problems out like the rest of us.

It turns out, surprisingly, that the kind of people who espouse these pretty racist views aren’t dining on baby flesh every night. And not all of ‘em are wearing Klan uniforms or want some white ethnostate – some of ‘em are just mildly shitty. Most, in fact, are more like this than some extremity.

Zahler didn’t have to put any of these things in the movie – they’re ancillary and barely take up 10 minutes of screentime in this 2.5 hour movie. But at the same time, I’d much rather not have only movies that show people I like. That’s not a good path for anybody, that kind of sameness of intent.

If anything I think Zahler is just caught up in a whirlwind not of his own making. He’s just making movies he likes, but the culture around him has changed so rapidly and there are all kinds of voices right now that are genuinely inquiring as to why things are the way they are. And maybe there’s a sort of willful blindness in making a movie like this and just shrugging and going ‘well, it’s what I want to do, it doesn’t need to be political’ like he’s basically done several times. Unfortunately everything’s become political and the world is a goddamn dumpster fire because of it. I enjoy the guy’s movies. But I can see where detractors are coming from there.

But Zahler is nothing if not a storyteller, and we also have other plot threads coming together – another guy, Henry John, played by Tory Kittles, who’s getting back into crime to help his family. Jennifer Carpenter of Dexter fame is back in another Zahler movie, playing a new mother who gets caught up in the mayhem. Gibson and Vaughn’s cop characters get into this plot to steal a bunch of gold from even worse criminals, who Kittles’ Henry John is affiliated with. And Carpenter is kidnapped by the bad guys – people have also harped on this aspect of Zahler’s films, as it’s pretty antiquated damsel in distress type shit, but what can I say? He’s a metal musician and a fan of vintage gore and action movies. Not exactly the guy we should be looking to to lead us into the future.

What ensues is a lot of shootouts, some blood and guts. But also a typically well-paced narrative as Zahler has become known for. He takes his time with these scenes, relishing in showing you their conversations and their stakeouts in the car and their family lives – it’s all just build-up and table-setting but it’s compelling due to its rawness and the extent to which he takes it. It would be less so if he skimmed through it like other movies do.

He takes the audience seriously and delivers a full experience by not just jumping into action or sex or anything. By taking the leisurely and detailed route in setting up his story, the violence and action that comes later has more impact. Most Hollywood movies would just take five minutes to show a spouse character saying “please don’t die” and then jump into the action. Not this one.

The whole thing, like Zahler’s previous movies, comes off as a satisfying full meal. At 2.5 hours you won’t feel like you’ve been skimped on. It’s a three course movie and feels complete. I can’t always say the same thing about, say, a Marvel movie, which feels more like a big cheesy pretzel that will give you gas later.

Images copyright of their original owners, I don't own any of them.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Prodigy (2019)

The Prodigy seems to posit that sometimes, parents are right to be afraid of their own children. But this is a pretty typical ‘bad seed’ type of movie like The Omen or Orphan or however many other ones. It’s so well-branded at this point it might as well be a corporate logo – Scary Kid, complete with creepy things said in a low voice, odd deadpan faces and spooky lighting! Get one at your local WalMart today!

Director: Nicholas McCarthy
Starring: Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott

We start off with a serial killer dying when the police find one of his victims, a woman whose hand he cut off for some reason. Then at the exact same moment, Taylor Schilling’s character Sarah’s baby is born! Gee, I can’t imagine they’re showing us this for any hacky reason related to reincarnation or possession of any kind. Must just be a weird coincidence! I’m sure they filmed lots of other things that didn’t make it in, like just filming totally mundane random things for the hell of it! That’s how movies work.

The kid, Miles, grows up, and to my surprise the movie actually took its time here, establishing a family dynamic and only slowly introducing the creepier elements. I guess the story is that while the boy is gifted almost from birth, he also begins exhibiting some weird tendencies like when he begins speaking Hungarian in his sleep and it turns out to be some stuff like “you whore, I’ll cut out your eyes,” and you know, as far as an eight-year-old’s conversational skills, this isn’t that bad. Most eight-year-olds are way less interesting to talk to.

I think the craziest time to me is when he beats up a little kid with a wrench at school, and somehow is not kicked out after that – you never see the other kid again, but Miles is still there. But then again, what’s a little aggravated battery when you’re a kid? It’s just part of growing up.

So Sarah just goes to this weird doctor who tells her that reincarnation is real and her son is probably fighting off an evil spirit in his brain that could take him over completely! Imagine going to what you thought was a legit doctor and hearing that. He goes into insane detail about this. It’s like if you went to a totally normal doctor’s office with a bad cough and the guy turned to you and said unironically “you’re turning into a werewolf.”

But because this is some real brainless idiotic shit, the guy is totally right! He was on the money! He should probably try gambling because he’d be good at it most likely.

I think one of my favorite parts is when it’s revealed that the kid has rigged a baby monitor to spy on what his parents are saying, attaching it secretly to a picture downstairs. Are we sure this is a serious movie? Seems more like some kind of wacky sitcom. What will this boy genius do next? Maybe rig a school PA to play some hip trendy music so all the cool kids will like him?

Sarah's husband Edward flies off the handle randomly, losing his temper as if this were a fundamental aspect of his character and he were a fully three-dimensional character. But really it just seems random, and like a way to get him out of the movie for a while. He also gets into a car crash as well later – man, the script really tossed this guy aside like an old girlfriend it got tired of. The movie knew what to do with him about as much as a kid staying at his weird bachelor uncle’s house for a weekend.

Oh, and when she takes him to see that doctor dude, Miles blackmails the doctor into telling Sarah there’s no possession after all – he set up this whole plan to frame the doctor by taking his drugs, taking pubic hair off the toilet to put in his mouth (!!) to simulate the doctor putting his dick in his mouth, it’s fucking crazy. The doctor, though, he should probably quit – would you want anyone that easily outsmarted to be in charge of your mind? He’d probably get distracted and turn you into a vegetable.

I guess they figure out that to get the killer out of Miles, they have to complete the task he was there to do, which is murdering the killer’s final victim who escaped years ago. Sarah actually buys a gun and it looks like she’s gonna do it herself, which is completely batshit, like really just an out-there plot.

But if you’re afraid the movie might actually try something different and daring, nope! She wimps out and instead Miles, possessed by the killer, brutally murders the woman. Hooray for exactly the most predictable thing you could possibly do! But at least we got to see something completely, pointlessly cruel on top of that! That makes it all OK. Or maybe it makes it a total piece of shit. I can never tell.

Then Sarah chases Miles out into a field and tries to shoot him. Miles says he’s totally evil now and is only the killer, with Sarah’s actual son now completely gone. But of course, some random farmer guy shows up exactly at the right time, conveniently not hearing anything the kid said, and shoots Sarah before she can kill Miles. Of course! It’s not a lazy plot twist at all! Sometimes people just materialize out of nowhere right when the villain needs them to!

Then of course you get the lame-ass ending where Miles is at some new foster family’s place and he sees the killer in the mirror, signifying that HE IS ACTUALLY THE KILLER. Oh, wait, we already knew that. What a great ending, just reiterating what we already knew from the first act of the movie like it's a surprise!

Fuck The Prodigy, man. This is some seriously lame, dated, half-assed nonsense. Every decision made is cliché and the movie is afraid to take risks. The characters exist only as arbitrary hollow chess pieces to move around. The plot shies away from anything exciting and there’s no point to any of it. What was the message here? Serial killers are bad? Yeah, real Einstein-level shit, guys. At least Taylor Schilling is great – hope she gets a better movie next time.

Image copyright of its original owner, I don't own it.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Year 2018 In Movies

Well, I deliberated how to do it this year, as every movie I was going to list as one of the worst of the year ended up being reviewed here already - so what was the point in just listing them all again? Instead, I decided to go ahead and list a bunch of my favorite ones in no order, because who really needs any more formality than that? There were a lot of cool movies last year.

I eschewed any superhero ones and tried to steer clear of the Oscar ones, because my blog really is like the dark side of any mainstream movie coverage most of the time. I think fans of stuff that is a little more off the beaten path will find a lot to enjoy here. Dig in. Consume some art. Have fun.

Sorry to Bother You


A fucking radical punch to the face. This was so vibrant, exciting and progressive. Director Boots Riley has such a fresh, unique style, and the story is a sardonic, dark and twisted and yet funny spin on how thoroughly fucked the working class is. I’ve never really seen anything like it, and fast dialogue and witty performances only buoy the whole thing. This is the kind of thing that will inspire you to go enact some change in real life. It’s a protest movie and I love the shit out of it.

The Favourite


Acerbic, cold and cutting; The Favourite is a dynamite film that tackles the question of power, of who holds it over who and what it means. Really, the film seems to think it’s more of an arbitrary thing, a farce we perpetuate ourselves, making ourselves miserable in the service of ‘power,’ whatever the hell that really means. Emma Watson is inimitable and the directing is quick and punchy, making this a movie I couldn’t turn away from.

Widows


A dense heavy-weight of a crime action flick. With killer script-writing by Gillian Flynn, this takes a somewhat stock premise and turns it into this labyrinthine, hard-hitting odyssey. The characters face real world issues and themes like sexism, racism, police brutality and income inequality are brushed over with Flynn’s masterful touch. Plus the action is awesome and director Steve McQueen knows how to make this one captivating as hell.

Hereditary


One of the best new horror movies. This is such a gut-punch, and so harrowing in every way. Every shot seems crafted to hurt you. The story blends a traditional ghost tale with real familial breaking-down and disintegration, turning grief into a weapon, used in a way I haven’t really seen before – it’s a more complex film than it initially lets on. Alex Wolff and Toni Collette are undeniable here, no matter how high their therapy bills might’ve been since this finished filming.

Annihilation


This one was a real trip, a visual feast for the senses as four women go into a bizarre parallel universe and things just ramp up in strangeness the closer they get to this mysterious lighthouse. Director Alex Garland’s previous film Ex Machina was more of a literary thing, with more social commentary – this is the exact opposite, a sci fi by way of fantastical adventure. It’s too tinged with darkness to be escapist, but the magnetic, transfixing visuals and sense of a journey are addictive here.

Isle of Dogs


This one was just fun. Wes Anderson has been an inconsistent director for me, but this, with its snappy visual humor and enjoyable characters – played by a really impressive cast – hit the spot. Its social commentary is a bit simple but it gets the job done. I watched and loved this for the sheer stylistic goofiness and ingenuity. It was an addictive little thing.

Eighth Grade


Bo Burnham’s film director debut is a personal, raw little tale, very human, and I found it a great watch. It’s funny in a subtle way, and a little bit tender, a little bit sad. Lead actor Elsie Day is a real fine and imbues this with a sense of honesty that you don’t get out of bigger-budget films all the time.

Mandy


Director Panos Cosmatos might not come out with movies very often, but it’s worth the wait if we get stuff that’s this awesome. Mandy is just a sledgehammer of a movie that takes its time to build character and then just starts tearing everything the fuck apart. Nic Cage gives the performance of his career and Cosmatos’ dedication to sheer blazing psychedelic weirdness in his destructive action makes this a vortex you won’t know how to or want to escape.

Hellfest


Super fun, vibrant horror flick that impressed me way more than I thought it would. Might not be anything terribly substantial but this was a serious blast of adrenaline and the best slasher I’ve seen in years. The setting is cool and macabre and there’s an actual sense of suspense and danger for these characters – you don’t want them to die. It’s 80s B-level schlock given the A-level film treatment and made with care.

Hold the Dark


Director Jeremy Saulnier has been building up his cred for years with movies like Blue Ruin and Green Room, both these raw, gritty action flicks with no pretense. Hold the Dark is his best yet. This is just a force of nature, and the perilous setting and inescapable action make it a legitimate experience. It’s primal and even kind of beautiful in a weird way. His dedication to making movies with no Hollywood bullshit at all is commendable.

Thoroughbreds


A sick puppy of a film, centering around a demented relationship between two adolescent girls and the fucked up things they do. I found this to be a wicked little romp, and those into fucked up entertainment will enjoy this.

Calibre


A killer, tightly-wound corker of a horror flick about two guys who get more than they bargained for going hunting in a small town. It never lets up and the story is the focus here. The tension is palpable and the whole thing will leave you with a churning sick feel in your gut. You know by now if you’re the type who’ll enjoy this one.

Death of Stalin


Like The Favourite, this is a movie that examines and then pisses on the idea of power in politics. It’s a dry-witted film and just skewers the ridiculousness of the whole idea of these ‘Leader’ types of authoritarian governments. I found it a unique film, worth seeing for sure, especially if you’re a history buff.

Leave No Trace


Director Debra Granik put out a great movie called Winter’s Bone years ago and is now back with another sparse, intimate drama set out in nature. This one’s about a father and daughter out in the wilds living off the land – and yet contrasting with the whims of modern society encroaching upon them. It has something to say about that, on how it’s become so hard just to live on the land that has always been here. And maybe a little bit about mental illness. I found it affecting.


...And I'll throw in a few disappointments for the hell of it:

Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado
The first movie was one of my favorites of the last few years – dark, gritty, morally ambiguous and made with an exquisite and artful eye by Denis Villenueve. This one feels more like a generic action movie, and not even a particularly good one. Without the same level of intrigue in the story and with the two leads acting like stock garden variety anti-heroes out of a syndicated network TV show, this comes off stunted and dull. The streak of mild racism in this one doesn’t help, either.

Deadpool 2
I didn’t like the first one that much, and this is more of the same. Some funny moments, sure – but that’s just what the movie is supposed to do, not a reason for praise. Overall this was full of two or three lame jokes for every decent one and yet again the story was fairly standard and dull. I’m not sure why these sorts of movies think you have to do a cliché storyline in order to make fun of cliché in film. And it’s not as edgy or interesting as it wants you to think.

And props to The Happytown Murders for being the first movie I can think of to rival Shyamalan's The Visit for worst movie of the decade! A truly horrendous spectacle of crap!

Let's now wash ourselves clean of last year's movies and instead go forth like babes anew, ready for a whole new year of entertainment.