Bobby Miller’s Critters Attack! honors its meager franchise traditions, and your interpretation of that statement depends on your level of adoration of low-budget puppeteering. My reaction to the Crites’ latest feeding frenzy is similar to my reaction to Phantasm: Ravager: it has minuscule funding, blatant attempts at nostalgia recreation, and purposeful “so bad it’s good” vibes which prove you cannot force cult acclaim.
Then again, as with Ravager, 2019’s fuzzball fury will give Critters guardians precisely what they adore. New fanbase breeds won’t start championing this Gremlins knockoff, but don’t be surprised when familiarized audiences leave satisfied. Read More »
Aside from their exorbitant wealth, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk also share a passion for space travel. They’ve faced much criticism for spending billions of dollars on their space ventures, and one could argue that they’re indulging in childish wish fulfillment that ignores the very real problems on this planet. That’s not to disregard the importance of astro-research, nor the appeal of space travel, but sentimentalizing the journey into space feels more escapist than romantic.
Shelagh McLeod’s debut feature Astronaut puts some of that romance back in the stars, but mostly makes a safe landing after an uneventful ride. Richard Dreyfuss plays Angus, a 79-year-old retired civil engineer and recent widower who has dreamt all his life of going into space. Struggling to stay financially afloat ever since his wife, who had dementia, was conned into buying a donkey sanctuary, Angus sells his house. His daughter and grandson want him to move in with them for fear of him getting lonely or falling ill, but his son-in-law would rather put him in a retirement home. Not much of this conflict is shown, because a few minutes into the film, he’s being driven up to his new home at Sundown Valley (if there ever was a euphemism for death…). Read More »
For comparison’s sake, the DreadOut movie is like a stealth Fatal Frame adaptation given how Indonesia’s survival horror video game, which gives the film its title, is often likened to Japan’s popular ghosts-on-camera platformer. Kimo Stamboel, half of the infamous filmmaking “Mo Brothers” duo, proves that not all video game adaptations are buggy disasters.
In particular, DreadOut stands proud with Resident Evil and Silent Hill as adaptations programmed right (horror movies are just better, y’all). Stamboel draws not only from his Macabre brother Timo Tjahjanto, referencing the gore in May The Devil Take You, but this film possesses Sam Raimi vibes à la Evil Dead and Army Of Darkness. (Not to downplay how much DreadOut lends itself to video game and viral media culture.)
Oh, and best of all? The movie is a freaky and frantic blast of immersive horror. Read More »
If one were to compile a list of alienated housewives in film, it would be long enough to clog the kitchen sink. There’s something inherently cinematic about a pretty white woman picking furniture from a catalogue with a cigarette in one hand and a dead look in her eyes. But when a film lingers only at the surface of alienation, it becomes as tiresome as the patriarchal devices that the film is trying to subvert. Influenced no doubt by Todd Haynes’ masterpiece Safe and engaging with Margaret Atwood’s first novel The Edible Woman, Swallow leaves a disappointing aftertaste.
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When waiting in line to see the second most-viewed film in Korean history, expectations are high. Fortunately, Extreme Job did not disappoint. Well, mostly. Silly and inventive, Lee Byeong-heon’s police comedy keeps the gags coming, until a tiring last half hour.
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Ringu director Hideo Nakata returns from whence he came with Sadako, another J-Horror offshoot inspired by Kôji Suzuki’s malevolent novels. Audiences more familiar with Gore Verbinski’s The Ring remake should understand this foreign import favors storytelling over paralyzing scares – or, at least attempts to highlight scripted intrigue. That’s not to say previous Ringu-adjacent titles care only about jumps, but Sadako barely musters enough fear to meet Shudder’s Sadako vs. Kayako crossover. Which, if you’ve seen the heavyweight rumble, isn’t a particularly high bar to vault over.
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Mismatched odd couples don’t always a great comedy make, but Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani certainly make the case for it in the modest action-comedy vehicle Stuber. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie can’t keep up with their screwy, sweet buddy-comedy chemistry and ends up almost petering out thanks to a lazy script that could have used a little more time at the mechanic.
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A congregation of hungry gators are on the hunt in Crawl, Alexandre Aja‘s gory B-movie that doesn’t quite want to admit it’s a B-movie. Moving at a brisk pace, and trimmed of almost all fat, Crawl manages to make a big splash, generating plenty of disaster-movie-meets-monster-movie chills. Yet Crawl is a film with an identity crisis. It’s not quite trashy enough to be an amusing B-movie, and one can’t help but think that Aja is taking all of this killer alligator stuff way too seriously. That’s not to say there isn’t fun to be had.
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Criticism is not consumer reporting, despite what some may tell you. If it was, this review of The Lion King would be exceptionally short. I’d simply point you to Amazon, where you can purchase a digital copy of the 1994 animated film of the same name for roughly the same amount of money as a movie-theater ticket, a drink and some candy would get you for watching a new version of the same story. But criticism isn’t consumer reporting; it’s an attempt to analyze what does and doesn’t work in any given work of art. To discuss Jon Favreau’s remake of this blend of naturalism and Shakespearean drama, and to briefly highlight how grossly misunderstood and misguided the film is, is no simple task.
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(This review originally ran during our coverage of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The Farewell hits theaters on July 12, 2019.)
In 2018, rapper and actress Awkwafina broke out in a big way, delivering memorable turns in Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. Those two particular performances were indeed enjoyable and fun, but they also bordered on schtick – the actress was very much playing characters; individuals that felt cooked up primarily in the minds of screenwriters. In Lulu Wang‘s lovely, melancholy The Farewell, Awkwafina breaks out in a much bigger way with her first major role, creating a wholly realistic character, and revealing a talent for dramatic acting that you may not have realized she possessed. It’s an incredible performance.
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