Wildling Review

Wildling is Fritz Böhm’s first feature film, and it’s such an assured debut, darkly mystical and elegant. This nighttime fairy tale tells the story of Anna (Bel Powley), a young woman who’s spent much of her life locked in a room like Rapunzel, with only “Daddy” (Lord of the RingsBrad Dourif, in an equally untrustworthy role) as company.

Daddy treats Anna with tenderness, warning her against “the wildling” that stalks the woods surrounding their remote fairy tale tower. He seems loving and protective – but he’s also keeping Anna in seclusion. We watch her grow from toddlerhood to young womanhood in the confines of the same tiny room – and all the while we keep seeing Daddy inject a mysterious substance into Anna’s tummy. These opening scenes are disorienting, diving right into the narrative instead of offering any tidy context, immediately eliciting intrigue and perplexity from the audience. The context comes later, as Wildling’s story grows clearer but never less strange. Read More »

first light review

As this generation’s filmmakers attempt to create their own superhero origin stories without going through Marvel or DC, Jason Stone’s First Light succeeds by blending Chronicle with YA romance. Hard sci-fi elements that limit themselves to rural country suburbs before breaking out like a conspiracy containment gone wrong. As illuminations flicker and cosmic mysteries unravel, a relationship between boy and girl remains thematically intrinsic – powers exist, but effects needn’t overshadow story. Not to suggest a boring watch by any means – it’s just nice to see the unknown be mixed with tender crafts.

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brothers' nest review

There’s no such thing as the perfect crime and this is doubly true in the movies. The Australian thriller Brothers’ Nest is built around a seemingly perfect criminal plot that turns out to be spectacularly imperfect once a rogue element or two enter the equation. You’ve seen this set-up before and you’ve seen it before because it works. We like to watch perfect structures tumble. It’s why we slow down at car accidents. And the duration of Brothers’ Nest is spent watching the car slide toward catatastrophe in ultra-slow motion. We await the final impact. We know it’s going to be painful. And then it is.

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Barry Jenkins Best Picture Speech

It usually feels like a miracle when an Oscar winner gives a short and sweet acceptance speech. Hell, long Oscar acceptance speeches have become such a staple that 2018 Academy Awards host Jimmy Kimmel even created a whole new category for shortest acceptance speech. (Congratulations Mark Bridges.)

But there was one speech that we wish we could have heard more of: Barry Jenkins Best Picture speech that the director would have given after Moonlight‘s astonishing win at the 2017 Oscars. But we all know what happened that year. A fumbled envelope, an award incorrectly given to La La Land, the celebrity reaction picture of the century. Unfortunately, that insane mistake would end up overshadowing Moonlight‘s very important win, and a speech that would have had us all weeping. But now, you can finally hear the speech that Barry Jenkins meant to give.

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prospect review

Prospect exists in a huge universe, one whose scope boggles the mind and imagination. And we are treated to only the smallest, most tantalizing glimpse. A taste. What a taste it is.

Here is an indie science fiction film so aware of its unavoidable budgetary limitations that it builds them into its own mystique. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but casually evocative descriptions of a dozen unique planets and unseen societies is worth $100 million. The scale of Prospect lies unseen in the margins, placing this tiny tale of survival smack dab in the middle of a galaxy that the film dares us to imagine. There’s something special about that. Something powerful. And it certainly helps that Prospect is led by characters who immediately invest us in what’s going on. We want to follow them, to learn more about them, because perhaps they’ll guide us to the worlds they keep talking about.

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never goin' back review

Cinematic comedy has a long history of men being idiots. Of men making mistakes. Of men getting in over their heads. Of men being deadbeat losers who make a series of increasingly poor decisions and whose lives spiral into chaotic, raunchy anarchy. Of men, despite giving us every reason to disregard them, ultimately winning our affection.

What Never Goin’ Back does is take a long hard look at a familiar comedic template and ask, “But what if ladies?” And then it does it better than just about everyone else.

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ready player one box office

“This is not a film that we made. This is, I promise you, a movie” director Steven Spielberg said to the audience at the surprise premiere screening of Ready Player One at the SXSW Film Festival. He continued on, mentioning how this “movie” needs to be seen on a big screen. Spielberg made it clear: Ready Player One is a pop culture experience. Pair that statement with the cult ’80s poster recreations and other nostalgia-centered marketing, and you see that the team behind this production also views the movie as such.

And while it is indeed an experience, it is not always a positive one. But it’s mostly a good one.

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Ghost Stories Review

Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s remarkably ambiguous Ghost Stories is unconventional, structurally bonkers and bloody-freakin’-brilliant. As an adaptation of their widely-popular West End theater fixture, both men translate stage cues to fainthearted filmmaking in ways that never feel stuffy or overproduced (something like Miss Julie). Tear-away backgrounds that connect wholly different locations are just as astounding cinematic tricks as they’d be in person if only to ensure this daring blend of dread and inquisition be that much more an unsolvable puzzle. How do you get away with crafting a successfully sublime “Whothunkit” about the unknown? I don’t know – ask Ghost Stories. Read More »

Upgrade Review

Leigh Whannell’s latest film Upgrade is one of the most strikingly invigorated sci-fi watches I’ve been awestruck by in quite some time. I’m talking *hard* sci-fi, with callbacks to anything from eXistenZ to The Matrix to Minority Report. Whannell customizes an “efficient” future not so far from our own, where self-driving Loop Dash vehicles chauffeur around bioengineered super-beings and pizzas aren’t ordered, they’re printed. It’s the kind of SmartHouse, techno-takeover world that Apple users dream of, blackened and revenge-ified by Whannell’s oddly apt Her meets Weekend At Bernie’s scramble – with way more splattered blood and guts. Read More »

barry review

On Saturday Night Live, Bill Hader made his name as a ham. And a good one. As the show’s resident master of impressions (maybe the best the long-running series has ever seen), he was a key supporting player, the goofball who could conjure up an iconic figure with seemingly little effort, the wacky spice injected into any ordinary situation to get you giggling. Hader was always at his best when he was being silly.

So perhaps the most surprising thing about Hader’s new HBO series, Barry, is that he’s not silly at all. In fact, he’s downright withdrawn, playing a character so internalized, anxious and downbeat that the mere act of interacting with other human beings looks like a trial. The second most surprising thing about the show is that Hader’s Barry is an icy killer, a hitman who is ruthless and efficient and damn good at his job.

But what’s least surprising about all of of this is that Hader is terrific. He always is. We all knew he could be funny. What we didn’t know is that he could play the stone-faced straight man to a wacky universe of characters. It’s a thrilling, generous performance, one that lets the supporting cast shine at every opportunity.

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