Astronaut review

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 »

DreadOut review

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 »

Sadako Review

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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the farewell review

(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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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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The Peanut Butter Falcon is a movie about a young man with Down syndrome (Zack Gottsagen) who escapes his residential nursing home to follow his dreams of becoming a professional wrestler. As our own Jacob Hall astutely pointed out earlier this year, that might sound like the premise for a movie you might find in 30 Rock, but if the first trailer is any indicator, this actually looks like an uplifting, wonderful indie gem that will steal your heart. Watch The Peanut Butter Falcon trailer below. Read More »

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Anton Yelchin Documentary Trailer

Three years ago, we were shocked to learn about the sudden and tragic death of Anton Yelchin, star of such films as Star Trek, Fright Night, Like Crazy, Green Room, Charlie Bartlett and more. At 27 years old, the actor was the victim of a freak accident that caused him to be found pinned between his Jeep Grand Cherokee and a brick pillar outside his house in Studio City, California.

Now fans can learn more about Anton Yelchin than they ever did before thanks to the new documentary Love Antosha, which tells the actor’s life story by way of archival footage, behind the scenes photos, and intimate details provided courtesy of the actor’s parents, Irina and Viktor Yelchin. Watch the trailer below. Read More »