October 28, 2022

Coming-of-Age Family Drama “Armageddon Time” Thrives on its Beautiful Simplicity (Review)

This seems like the perfect time to revive my point about living in a golden age of creativity in film. We’re getting original horror hits like Barbarian and Smile, seasoned directors like Martin McDonagh are producing incredible stories like The Banshees of Inisherin, and I’m genuinely excited about most upcoming Marvel movies than I have been for a while. It would seem that it’s also an era for directorial reflection, as several accomplished filmmakers are dead set on revisiting their childhoods through a fictional lens. Spielberg is doing it with The Fabelmans (out next month) and now James Gray is doing it with Armageddon Time.

Set in the early 1980s,
Armageddon Time is about young Jewish-American Paul Graff (a stand-in for Gray), whose life is changing faster than he would prefer. After he and his African-American friend Johnny are caught smoking pot, Paul is sent to his brother’s private school, where he’s confronted with the brutal realities of everyday prejudice. Young actors Banks Repeta and Jaylin Webb, who play Paul and Johnny respectively, are nothing short of incredible. Gray writes the central adolescent characters with care, compassion and an unexpected maturity, staying true to the precocious nature that one would expect from a likable young protagonist while keeping everything very realistic. Yes, this is how children talk, and it’s about time someone finally gets it.

October 24, 2022

The Chaotic DC Universe is Epitomized in “Black Adam” (Review)

Eight years ago, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, former wrester and prospective Hollywood star, was officially cast as comic book antihero Black Adam. A host of production difficulties and failed comic book universes later, and his dream has finally been realized: the Rock now has another larger-than-life persona to dominate the big screen.

With the future of the so-called “DC Extended Universe” still unclear, it seems that we’re settling into a trend of relatively self-contained solo films. Black Adam is the latest of these, but its place in a hazy universe doesn’t stop it from introducing a near-indescribable amount of lore.

October 15, 2022

“Halloween Ends” the Franchise, One Way or Another (Review)

By all rights, it shouldn’t be difficult making more movies about a masked serial killer murdering debaucherous individuals in progressively intense ways, but at a certain point, why stick with the formula? At this point, it’s tired and worn out, and could do with an upgrade.

Slasher films in general aren’t necessarily known for their creativity, which is why
Halloween Ends is one of the most interesting horror movies that has come out this year. I don’t use that descriptor because of what the movie contains, but primarily the ideas it presents, and the methods it uses to subvert all the tropes it possibly can. I also use “interesting” because it’s a word that can go either way, positively or negatively. My feelings are complicated on this one.

October 12, 2022

Todd Field Returns with Spectacular Drama “TÁR” (Review)

2022 is the year of triumphant returns for your favorite directors. Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg, Martin McDonagh, Sarah Polley, Noah Baumbach, James Cameron, Damien Chazelle and more have new features debuting within the next two and a half months, with many of them releasing their first movies in years.

Image courtesy of Focus Features

None of them have writer/director Todd Field beat. This past weekend, he unleashed ferocious psychological drama
TÁR, his first film in sixteen years (since 2006’s Little Children) upon the world — and what a return to the filmmaking landscape this is.

October 8, 2022

Stellar Spacecom “Avenue 5” Returns in Spectacular Fashion (Review)

At the very start of the pandemic, many of us turned to television and film for both the entertainment value and a reprieve from potential boredom. Luckily, Hollywood is always in constant operation, and there was a whole mess of content filmed before the shutdown that was just waiting to be released. But what about the films and series released at the very start of COVID-19’s rampage upon the world? Does anyone remember Bad Boys for Life, Dolittle or Birds of Prey, regardless of quality?

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

Television was even worse off. The season finale of
Avenue 5, a space-set comedy series created by master of satire Armando Iannucci (The Thick of It, The Death of Stalin), aired on March 15, 2020, just three days after worldwide cancellations and closures led to an unprecedented global lockdown. “Fell under the radar” doesn’t even begin to cover it, especially when everyone’s minds were everywhere else (remember, this was about a week before everyone became absolutely obsessed with Tiger King).

This is all to say that, after several delays, the second season of Avenue 5 is upon us and (just like in 2020) nobody is talking about it. It picks up almost directly after its predecessor, which followed the crew and passengers of the titular interplanetary cruise ship that gets knocked slightly off-course by an artificial gravity mishap — the only problem is, that minuscule shift added three years to the travel back to home planet Earth. Season Two covers the aftermath, in which five extra years of travel time were accidentally added by an impulsive waste jettison.

October 5, 2022

Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise” is a Disoriented Meditation on Existential Dread (Review)

I love it when novels are considered “unfilmable.” That term alone carries a certain challenge, daring filmmakers to accept the creative provocation and to put their own interpretation out into the world. The unadapted Vonneguts and Tolkiens are still begging to be brought to the screen, but there’s an endless amount of prose out there, and only a comparatively small percentage of dedicated filmmakers who are willing to put in the work to bring an infamous novel to the silver screen.

Image courtesy of Netflix

In an anomaly for his typical family-focused fare, writer/director Noah Baumbach (
Frances Ha, Marriage Story) has taken up the torch in adapting Don DeLillo’s existential novel White Noise, first published in 1985, which has since made its way onto many a high school reading list and confounded generations of grade school students. It’s a daring undertaking, but one that Baumbach and his 27-year career are fully capable of.

October 3, 2022

Soulless King Adaptation “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” is Not a Call Worth Taking (Review)

There are things we learn to expect from certain genres of film. Science-fiction will put a futuristic twist on modern technology; fantasy will transport us to faraway worlds; and comedies will be funny (or at the very least, absurd). Not to mention that the one constant for horror movies is that they should be scary.

Image courtesy of Netflix

But what does being “scary” mean? Does it mean slow-paced scene after scene, featuring increasingly bizarre imagery and occurrences that are mean to jar and unsettle the audience, before being punctuated by a loud noise and the appearance of a brand-new factor that is supposed to scare the living daylights out of you?

No, wait, sorry, that’s the baseline for modern horror. Most modern horror, that is — we’ll make exceptions for the Get Outs and Midsommars of the bunch that endeavor to try new things — but there will always be the outliers that choose to stick to the status quo. And then, just slightly below that, are the films which take no risks whatsoever, to the extent that the “scare factor” has been all but eliminated.

October 2, 2022

“Chucky” Breathes New Life into Horror Television (Season 1 Review)

Note: This review was originally published on SiftPop in December 2021. Also, read my review of the Chucky series premiere here.

Add Child’s Play to the list of franchises that still manage to be fresh, original and fun over thirty years after their inception. And while we’re at it, add Brad Dourif to the list of voice actors I will never get tired of; as much as I like Mark Hamill, Chucky should be played by no one else but Dourif.

Directly following the events of 2017’s Cult of Chucky, the new eight-episode series picks up in Hackensack, New Jersey, an unassuming town known in this world as the birthplace of Charles Lee Ray…also known as Chucky, everyone’s favorite killer doll. The first half of the season features an all-new cast, which is a refreshing change of pace for the series, which has mostly had Chucky as its lead character in recent entries.

October 1, 2022

Class Satire Reaches New Heights with “Triangle of Sadness” (Review)

The lives of the rich and famous is a concept that we can’t help but fantasize about. The alluring nature of a lifestyle we have never (nor likely will never) experience is a subject we love exploring and glamorizing in entertainment, which often romanticizes the status of some truly unhappy people. If you want quasi-realism and some truly brutal takedowns, watch Succession.

But for every fantasy, there must be a grounded reality. There must be a cynical look into the lifestyle that many idolize and strive for, and these days it seems like there’s a new one every year. There’s a certain irony to a movie or show about how terrible the über rich can be, that is usually made by (and/or starring) certain members of the said one percent. This year’s ironic presentation is
Triangle of Sadness, already heavily lauded before it even made its way to the United States.