October 18, 2023

“The Boy and the Heron” is a Return to Form for Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli (Review)

Legendary animation director Hayao Miyazaki has “retired” several times, most recently in 2013 after his historical masterpiece The Wind Rises hit theaters worldwide. Even though he supposedly reversed his decision after working on a short film in 2018 for the Ghibli Museum, it’s worth mentioning that many of those reversals happened after his son Goro Miyazaki made films for Studio Ghibli that are not as well-received as his father’s are. Goro’s Earwig and the Witch, the first 3D animated Ghibli feature, was harshly panned by critics and audiences alike, and thus, Hayao must come out of retirement once again to make another masterpiece.

Image courtesy of GKIDS

That masterpiece is
The Boy and the Heron, Miyazaki’s first film in ten years and inspired by his experience reading the 20th-century novel How Do You Live?, which factors into the film’s story. I was lucky enough to see The Boy and the Heron at this year’s New York Film Festival, which marked its United States premiere, and as a Ghibli fan, I couldn’t have been more excited.

October 15, 2023

Flanagan’s “Fall of the House of Usher” is a Taut, Harmoniously Demented Horror Tale (Review)

I can’t believe I even considered doubting Mike Flanagan. He’s been my favorite horror director for years, mastering the genre both in film and on television, surpassing my expectations in following up The Shining with 2019’s Doctor Sleep and revolutionizing single-location cringe-inducing body horror with Gerald’s Game.

His new endeavor, The Fall of the House of Usher, is a miniseries of eight stellar episodes that chart the steadily building saga of a dynasty stained by blood, betrayal, and fear, combining the stories of Edgar Allan Poe into a wonderfully genre-mashed horror tale. Based on the opening, I wasn’t initially sold on the series, but it very quickly won me over, rapidly becoming my favorite limited series of the year.

Image courtesy of Netflix

Fall of the House of Usher doesn’t just adapt Edgar Allan Poe’s titular short story; it incorporates a multitude of his works, spanning stories, poems, and novels, wrapping them up into one grand story to conclude Flanagan’s five-year deal with Netflix that has produced critically-acclaimed hit series like The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass. I recognized some and learned about others from post-series research, and it only gave me more respect for Flanagan’s skill. There are scenes where characters simply quote Poe’s poems, and they never feel out of place; in a gothic world of unnatural happenings, they’re right at home.

October 1, 2023

“Strange Way of Life” Couldn’t Convert Me to Into an Almódovar Fan (Review)

Pedro Almódovar did not direct Brokeback Mountain, and although he nearly did, his new short film Strange Way of Life proves he has the chops to make a great western.

Strange Way of Life, Almódovar’s second short-form English-language venture, stars Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal as ex-lovers who live a desert apart and have not seen each other for nearly 25 years. Hawke’s character Jake is the sheriff of a small town, and Pascal’s character Silva runs a nearby ranch with his son. A recent murder complicates their reunion, and their relationship takes a drastic turn with the potential to become a permanent roadblock.

We never saw Almódovar’s Brokeback Mountain…until now. Strange Way of Life was touted as his “answer” to the award-winning 2005 drama, and while it shares many similarities, it feels restrained. Its 30-minute runtime holds it back from being the western epic that it wants to be, which is frustrating because I want to like it. I even want to love it.