Ghost Killers vs Bloody Mary Review

Ghost Killers Vs Bloody Mary is a very stupid movie, and I don’t mean that as a judgement of its quality. It is stupid in the way that Dumb & Dumber is stupid: it’s about stupid characters doing stupid things, and it generates some stupid fun along the way.

The heroes of Ghost Killers Vs Bloody Mary are no Ghostbusters. They’re the Ghoulbusters, a knowingly IP-breaching squad of paranormal investigators, known mostly for their YouTube channel of middling repute. Their nominal leader is played by one of Brazil’s top comedians, which should be a lesson not to write off performers English-speaking audiences haven’t heard of. Behind on rent and low on morale, the Ghoulbusters’ days are spent fending off angry commenters and thinking up new ways of faking ghosts. 

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Why Don't You Just Die Review

Earning points for its title before it even started, Russian director Kirill Sokolov’s debut Why Don’t You Just Die? won the audience award at this year’s Cinepocalypse Film Festival in Chicago. For genre fans, it’s easy to see why: the film is a screaming crowd-pleaser, fast-paced and extremely bloody, full of cinematic and narrative tricks. If ever there was a film determined to keep its audience’s attention, it’s this one.

Like the films it clearly takes after, Why Don’t You Just Die? starts small, then spirals outward. Without a hint of buildup, young antihero Matvei shows up at a detective’s apartment, bearing only a hammer and an instruction to kill. His target Andrei, however, senses something’s up, and their tense initial greeting rapidly becomes a no-holds-barred deathmatch, with any object in the apartment up for grabs as a weapon. Matvei is beaten and imprisoned, then escapes, then the conflict continues.

That’s all within the first twenty minutes or so.

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Mope Review

The Steve Driver story is one of the strangest true-crime tales of the past couple decades. Taking place in the world of low-rent fetish porn, it concerns a wannabe porn actor who, after trying and failing to make a name for himself, became increasingly unhinged, murdering his best friend with a sword before killing himself by falling off a cliff, surrounded by police. The story is so packed with bizarre details, and it’s the kind of thing that could only be either a true story or a fiction from a seriously deranged mind.

It’s fitting, then, that Lucas Heyne’s Mope – a dramatisation of Steve Driver’s story – is both one of the funniest movies of the year, and a movie that will make you absolutely fucking despise yourself and all humanity. Not many films have started this funny and uplifting, while ending this bleak and depressing.

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The Last to See Them Review

For much of Sara Summa’s debut feature The Last To See Them, I questioned why I was watching it. Why should I care about these characters and their trivial day-to-day activities? Why should I sit here watching nothing happen for an hour and a quarter? This is dull.

Then I realised that that’s the point, and suddenly I loved the film.

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Us behind-the-scenes

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Jordan Peele’s Us explains itself too much and that’s a big problem.)

Note: Us hits Blu-ray and DVD today, but this article assumes you have already seen it. Spoilers ahead.

Mysteries are hard to write. A good mystery needs a compelling opening hook and a satisfying or shocking conclusion, but more importantly, it needs to parcel out the right amount of connecting information, at the right pace. Can the audience follow the story? Do they get ahead of the characters, or solve the clues right alongside them? Do they get confused? Is that intentional or unintentional?

Jordan Peele’s Us is horror first and social commentary second, but it contains more than a little mystery. Opening with young Adelaide discovering a “mirror” version of herself, it continues to puzzle the audience with the years-later appearance of Adelaide’s complete mirror family. Mirror Adelaide, labeled Red in the credits, calls these people the Tethered, and her exact origins and motivations are revealed over the rest of the film. Twists abound.

Us’ script is structured in a way that seems designed specifically for today’s age of YouTube explainer videos, “Things You Missed” articles, and Reddit fan-theory boards. And yet, even understanding that the film demands active, participatory thought from its audience, the film’s story is missing clarity. But Us’ issue isn’t that it doesn’t explain itself enough.

Rather, Us explains itself too much.

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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: people say they want original and fresh movies and, well, they seem to be lying.)

How many times have you heard people complain about Hollywood not having any new ideas? In my case, it’s “a lot.” You hear it especially in the context of blockbusters, where everything’s the third or fourth or ninth entry in a long-running franchise. But what this complaint misses is that original blockbusters (or attempted blockbusters) do get released, on a fairly regular basis. They’re typically not significantly worse than many franchise films, but they’re different. They’re unfamiliar. And more often than not, they crash and burn at the box office.

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The Case For Tyrion and Varys

(Welcome to Debate of Thrones, where a panel of Citadel-trained experts explain why someone deserves, or doesn’t deserve, to sit on the Iron Throne. In this edition: forget kings and queens – bring on the Imp and the Spider!)

It’s time to do away with the very concept of the autocratic monarch, and embrace a co-leadership arrangement. An arrangement more about the good of the many than the power of the few. We needn’t shift to full democracy – to suggest as much would be both political suicide and actual suicide – but for once, it’d be nice to have leaders who serve the Realm, rather than their egos. That’s why the dynamic duo of Tyrion Lannister and Lord Varys is what we need in the Red Keep.

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Welcome to Marwen and Marwencol

Adapting true stories into feature films is a tricky task. It’s even more difficult when audiences have already seen the actual subject – in documentaries, for example. More difficult again is the process of adapting a story that does not conform to conventional story structure. Robert Zemeckis’ Welcome to Marwen, which arrives on Blu-ray and DVD today, is a prime example: a film with admirable intent and concept, but devastatingly clumsy execution that does a disservice to its subject material.

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The Case for a Stunts and Choreography Oscar

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: it’s time for the Academy to create a Stunts and Choreography award.)

It’s Oscar season, which means all the annual traditions and reheated previously-hot takes are in full effect. The Academy as an institution has many faults, and it’s worth criticising them even as it attempts to improve (with mixed success).

One of the most popular criticisms, amongst popular and genre audiences in particular, is the ongoing absence of an Academy Award for stunts. The need for a stunt Oscar has been expounded upon at length elsewhere, but it doesn’t take much to see that stunt teams put an enormous amount of work into entertaining us. They literally risk their lives, at times, and many of cinema’s greatest films wouldn’t be what they are without those highly-skilled craftspeople.

The Academy, though, is seemingly unwilling to dedicate a statue to stunts, but I’ve got another idea. I assume, given the Academy’s desire to award individuals rather than teams, that any hypothetical stunt Oscar would go to the winning films’ stunt coordinator(s) – and there’s another, related craft whose own coordinators have long needed recognition. Here’s a proposal that might be a little bit more palatable for the Academy:

Why not institute an Oscar for Best Dance & Stunt Choreography?

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A Star is Born Suicide

Content warning: this article contains forthright descriptions of suicide and suicidal thoughts. It also contains spoilers for A Star is Born.

I was hospitalised recently, due to a risk of committing suicide.

I’d been fighting depression and anxiety for years, but things truly got bad this past year. I’d recently uprooted to a different country, and uncertainty, isolation, and self-loathing had become major issues. As things got worse, I thought more and more about death, then about me specifically dying, and ultimately about suicide. Eventually I believed there was no future in which my death would be caused by anything other than my own hand.

It was with these thoughts lurking my brain that I went to see A Star is Born. Having not seen any previous version, I only knew the rudimentary basics of the story, so I went in knowing only that it was highly-regarded and a likely awards-season contender. I had no idea the film would conclude with Bradley Cooper’s character committing suicide – and didn’t think for a moment that it would ignite a chain reaction in my mind. Without getting into too much detail about the specific incident that sent me there, a little while later I was in an emergency psychiatric ward, being asked if I was carrying any sharp objects on my person.

A Star is Born is cited in my medical records.

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