First Cow Review

(This review originally ran during our coverage of the New York Film Festival last year. First Cow is now available on VOD.)

Her films might not blare “it’s the economy, stupid,” but make no bones about it – Kelly Reichardt’s cinema frequently obsesses over how the mechanics of commercial arrangements affect interpersonal relationships. Though micro in scale, her films are macro in mindset. Her latest look at the subject, First Cow, goes all the way back to the fledgling days of American capitalism. The film finds an effective and ultimately touching contrast between the friendships born of enterprising businessmen and the ruthlessness of competing with entrenched elites.

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(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The MovieStarship Troopers

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: 10 years after making his first blistering satire of American culture disguised as a silly action movie with RoboCop, director Paul Verhoeven topped himself. His big screen take on Robert Heinlein’s militaristic science fiction novel Starship Troopers is less of an adaptation and more of an evisceration, a shiny, big-budget middle finger to fascism disguised as a vapid blockbuster. Would you like to know more?

Why It’s Essential Viewing: I was too young too fully wrap my head around Starship Troopers when it first came out in 1997. As a youngster, it was clearly a big, bombastic action movie filled with violence and epic battles and dizzying visual effects. Watching armies of soldiers battle armies of giant bugs was a blast. But it was also lunkheaded, stupid, filled with wooden actors playing stock characters. It was all nonsense: lightweight fluff that was enjoyable enough as cinematic junk food. But Paul Verhoeven had proven himself ahead of the curve with RoboCop and he proved it again here, because Starship Troopers is the most damning, angry, brutal satire of authoritarianism ever made by a major studio. And it’s been smuggled inside of a different movie altogether. Would you like to know more?

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Movie: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: A London author (Lily James from Cinderella and Baby Driver) receives a letter from a quiet, hunky, mysterious man (Michiel Huisman, AKA Daario Naharis from Game of Thrones) who lives on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. He’s a part of a literary society with a fascinating origin story, and the writer eventually travels there to meet the group in person, only to realize their story is even more complex than she could have foreseen. Naturally, the writer and the hunk with the tragic backstory fall in love.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: Director Mike Newell helmed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but he’s probably best known for his romantic films: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mona Lisa Smile, Pushing Tin, and Love in the Time of Cholera. (He also directed the atrocious 2010 Disney movie Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, but nobody’s perfect.) This movie puts him fully back in romance mode, and while writers Don Roos and Tom Bezucha do a lot of heavy lifting with the script, which can veer from swooning romance to, um, some Nazi stuff, Newell is responsible for making watching the film feel like the movie equivalent of curling up at a seaside cottage to read your favorite novel. With its sweeping countrysides, stunning vistas, and sublime lighting, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is among the most beautifully shot of Netflix’s original movies. Read More »

Hot Rod

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Hot Rod

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) is a self-proclaimed stuntman who spends his days trying to live up to the legacy of his father, who he believes used to test stunts for Evel Knievel before the famous daredevil made the jumps himself. But he also hopes to prove his manhood to his step-father Frank (Ian McShane) by beating the hell out of him in a fight. Unfortunately, a wrench gets thrown in his plans when Frank becomes deathly ill, leaving Rod with only one option: raise $50,000 to pay for life-saving surgery, all so he can finally defeat Frank.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: Hot Rod was the first movie to come from the crew known as The Lonely Island on Saturday Night Live. After becoming famous for their SNL Digital Shorts, Akiva Shaffer, Jorma Taccone, and Andy Samberg made the jump to the big screen with an original comedy. With a script from writer Pam Brady (South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Team America: World Police), Hot Rod has the feel of a 1980s extreme sports movie mixed with the absurd comedy that people came to love about SNL Digital Shorts, and it does so with a stellar ensemble cast of comedy heavy hitters. Read More »

streaming horror autopsy of jane doe

(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror. In this edition: the most memorable scare from The Autopsy of Jane Doe takes advantage of fear conditioning through sound to maximize the terror.)

Simplicity tends to be an asset in horror. A less-is-more type of approach to the narrative lets the horror do the heavy lifting, and it often becomes much more effective as a result. The Autopsy of Jane Doe serves as a great example. A chamber piece oozing with atmosphere and limited answers makes for one of the more terrifying entries in modern horror. The straightforwardness of the setting and narrative lets the characters and scares to take center stage, creating a haunting tale of familial obligation, grief, and trauma-induced rage. Director André Øvredal transforms this intimate tale into something remarkable in how he patiently and insidiously conditions the viewer to unwittingly develop a triggering fear response to a sound that would be benign in any other situation.

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relic trailer

Some say that time heals all wounds, but thats a lie. Time doesnt heal; it reshapes. As the years pass, wounds morph into new perspectives and sometimes alter into vague memories or forgetfulness altogether. However, that metamorphosis does not necessarily engender a mending. The degree of pain may fluctuate, but some wounds simply do not heal if the wound is severe enough. Japanese-Australian writer/director Natalie Erika James explores the transformational toll that time and generational trauma has on the physical, mental, and emotional body among three related women with her debut feature, the horror film Relic.

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robin hood prince of thieves quarantine

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: It’s Robin Hood – for the ’90s! The legendary outlaw gets an origin story full of grit and nasty details – Robin Hood literally rubs horse shit on himself at one point – but also understands how to have fun. That’s more than can be said for the many attempts to reboot Robin Hood since this film came out.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves feels like a relic from a long-ago time. There have been two big attempts to reboot the character – one directed by Ridley Scott in 2010, and a recent entry in 2018 that had Robin firing arrows in slow-motion while jumping off rooftops. Both of those films were a bust – Scott’s was dreadfully dour while the 2018 film was trying way too hard to emulate The Dark KnightPrince of Thieves has none of those problems. Sure, it attempts to be gritty at times, and it’s far darker than the classic 1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood. But this movie also understands that no one wants to watch an overly-serious Robin Hood movie. They want action, and adventure, and romance, and questionable accents! And they get all that, and more.

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greyhound premiere

Tom Hanks’ obsession with quiet, persistent heroism first became truly evident with Apollo 13. That 1995 film is a thrilling piece of real-life drama, in which there are no real villains and heroism is embodied by good, honorable men doing good, honorable work, both in outer space and on the ground. There’s not a lot of flash or flamboyance in the film, nor in subsequent history-driven miniseries and films either starring or overseen by Hanks, from Band of Brothers to Saving Private Ryan. But the height of quiet, unassuming heroism is best typified by the events depicted in Greyhound. This new war drama aspires to be peak Dad Movie, yet winds up like a History Channel movie with a big-name lead.

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the god of high school review

The God of High School is the second Crunchyroll original anime to adapt a Korean webtoon, center its premise around a competition to win the reward of getting one’s wish granted, and feature the word “God” in its title. But unlike the otherworldly Tower of GodThe God of High School is a much more recognizable twist on the action anime, marrying a mythic Dragon Ball-style story with your classic shounen tournament structure, and featuring some of the most fluid and crisp battle sequences you’ve ever seen.

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(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The SeriesChopped

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: There are three rounds. Mandatory mystery ingredients for each course. If your dish doesn’t cut it, you will be chopped.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: Until recently, food competition shows had a reputation for being cutthroat television, edited for maximum drama and intensity. They weren’t about the food as much as they were about the spectacle that could unfold in the pressure cooker environment like a professional kitchen — and occasionally a fun test for how many exotic ingredients you know. But more genial cooking shows have become all the rage recently, with the influx of nicecore shows like The Great British Baking Show or Nailed It! However, even those shows are less about the food and more about the bright personalities of its contestants or judges. But the Food Network’s insanely addicting Chopped offers the perfect median. A competition show that pits four chefs against each other over three courses, each of which are required to be made with a basket of mystery ingredients, Chopped sounds like it could represent the worst of cooking reality shows. But a panel of strict judges who never fall for the contestant sob story, and a competition that gives loving attention to the dishes and cooking technique, makes Chopped the rare cooking competition show that values the food first and foremost.

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