“The book was better.”

Even without context, those four words almost work as a manifest truth, one I have immortalized on a lapel pin and engraved on my heart. The book, by virtue of its being a story’s inception point, the very first version of a narrative where nothing’s cut for time and no grand ideas are scuttled for budget, is almost always better than any of its adaptations. And when the SyFy network first announced they’d be adapting Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy, the show felt destined to become one more example of this truism. How could SyFy, with its mediocre budget and (at the time) critically undistinguished reputation, do justice to Grossman’s dark, fantastical treatise on suffering and selfhood?

The answer: with panache.

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House With a Clock in Its Walls Eli Roth

Kid horror has to be one of the most thankless subgenres in film. Very few horror films aimed toward children succeed at the box office, and they’re rarely distinguished by critical regard or earn the initial respect of MPAA-obsessed genre fans, often having to build a cult audience over the course of years or even decades.

So it’s something of a noble endeavor for a filmmaker to embrace the kid horror label in the absence of popularity, critical acceptance and financial gain. It feels like a labor of love, an act of true inspiration, even if high-maintenance horror fans call it selling out.

Eli Roth – whose previous outings like Hostel and Green Inferno have earned extremely vigorous R-ratings – is taking on that tricky endeavor with his latest, the Amblin Entertainment adaptation of John Bellairs‘ The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Why do it?

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Sharp Objects Finale

With its eighth and final episode, Sharp Objects concludes this gorgeous, complicated story about feminine trauma, rage and love. Despite their nearly equitable screentime, the men in this story never really mattered, did they? In the end, it was never Alan, or Richard, or Vickery, or John Keene who were the answer to the questions Sharp Objects asked. No, this is a women’s tragedy, one that began with the unseen Joya and ends with Amma, a generations-long calamity about the ways that we hurt each other – or the ways that we hurt ourselves to keep others safe. Read More »

sharp objects falling review

In the penultimate episode of HBO’s Sharp Objects, it feels like we’ve learned everything we need to learn about Wind Gap’s murders and Camille Preaker’s tragic history. The show has telegraphed Adora’s toxic relationship with the girls in her life, and reminded us every week that we shouldn’t count out any of Wind Gap’s vicious women when making our lists of Ann and Natalie’s potential killers. But we still have an episode to go, and confrontations still need to be made. “She did it again, and I need to take care of it,” Camille sobs to Curry at the end of “Falling” – because Camille always was the only person who could stand up to Adora Crellin.

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Sharp Objects Cherry Review

This week’s Sharp Objects is all about the ways that we take our pain out on ourselves instead of others. Camille turns all of her anguish, grief, rage and guilt inwards, while the women in her life – Adora, Amma, even Jackie – use it as a weapon on those that surround them.

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Sharp Objects Closer Review

“Closer,” last night’s episode of Sharp Objects, dropped a shoe that we’ve been waiting to see fall since Camille first arrived in Wind Gap, Missouri. Her article about the dead girls of Wind Gap has been published, and while her angelic editor (he calls her ”cubby” – can you think of anyone less suited to a nickname like ”cubby” than Camille Preaker?) is thrilled at the hits they’re getting, the reception in Wind Gap is a little less than warm. And, in keeping with Camille’s tradition of bad timing, her no-punches-pulled exposé goes live on the worst day possible.

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sharp objects ripe review

We’re at the halfway point of HBO’s eight-episode miniseries Sharp Objects, and if we’re just listing out plot points, it doesn’t really feel like four episodes’ worth of stuff has actually happened. But the story reveals of Sharp Objects are so fundamentally tied to the character reveals, and the more we get to learn about Camille – who’s sent her article off to her editor and yet remains in Wind Gap, listening and observing, gathering data that doesn’t mean much to us as of yet but seems to mean a lot to her – the more we learn about the brutal little town that made her.

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sharp objects fix review

In “Fix,” last night’s episode of Sharp Objects, we’re introduced to the softer side of Camille. Amy Adams has until now played Camille as a prickly, self-destructive tempest who mostly drinks, seethes and observes. But this week we’re treated to flashbacks of Camille’s more recent history, and we start to understand her tragedy: that, despite her best efforts, she’s doomed to fail in the role of big sister again and again.

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Sharp Objects Dirt Review

The second episode of HBO’s Sharp Objects – titled “Dirt,” and it’s now clear that each episode will be named after a different word we see carved into Camille’s skin – brought us much further into the mystery of Wind Gap, Missouri. After a gorgeous but inscrutable first episode, “Dirt” answers as many questions as it asks. Creator Marti Noxon and director Jean-Marc Vallée are building a world that’s as much about substance as it is style, meeting elegant, impressionistic editing with a tidy pace and plenty of plot momentum.

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Sharp Objects Vanish Review

Last night, HBO aired “Vanish,” the first episode in an 8-hour miniseries based on Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects. Flynn’s an executive producer of the series, along with show creator Marti Noxon and Blumhouse Production’s Jason Blum. The three creatives make something of a powerful triumvirate, especially when paired with episode director Jean-Marc Vallée, who’s responsible for every episode of last summer’s huge HBO hit Big Little Lies. With these bona fides, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Sharp Objects’ first episode is so deeply, immediately compelling, but it will still come as a relief to die-hard fans of Flynn’s book who feared the author’s fierce, unflinching voice might not translate to the small screen.

In short: it does.

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