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 »

Sabrina is talking to someone on the phone in the first scene of Jezebel. She’s hard at work as a phone sex operator, moaning in her husky voice to really sell her performance. What makes the scene jarring is realizing her younger sister Tiffany is wide awake nearby, hearing everything.

Thus begins a film that explores financial independence and sex work from the lens of a young Black woman to great effect.

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Mike Ahern and Edna Loughman’s Extra Ordinary comes together as the tonal lovechild of Jared Hess and Taika Waititi, playfully mocking horror beats instead of unleashing them. It’s more a cutesy rom-com with expelled ectoplasm goo than completionist horror dive into Drag Me To Hell territory, but when subdued haunting gags land, laughs project with ease. Expect dry Irish wit, flamboyant musicians selling their souls for another hit record, and home appliances that wave at you. Quite a motley assembly of descriptors, yet together, they make for one uniquely lighthearted horror comedy that’s a cut above ordinary.

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While on the phone with her coach, Winter Olympics athlete Penelope (Alexi Pappas) rambles about her training and her hopes for the competition. “I hope that I really feel like an olympian when I’m done,” she says with nervous energy.

That’s the theme of Olympic Dreams in a nutshell: feeling like an olympian means going for the gold, by any means necessary. In both Penelope and Ezra’s (Nick Kroll) case, it’s their friendship that makes them evaluate what the gold/goal is for them – and how far are they willing to get it. Directed by Jeremy Teicher, the film’s exploration of limited time well-spent makes for an unsure, but real, love story.

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SXSW final day recap

(Welcome to The SXSW Diaries, where we will be chronicling every single movie we see at the Austin-based film festival.)

Welcome to SXSW 2019 days eight and nine. In this final edition: The Curse of La Llorona is the worst Conjuring movie yet and Pet Sematary is one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever made.

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pet sematary review

The best Stephen King adaptations do not adhere rigidly to the author’s text but rather remain true to the general spirit of the work. Think The Shining. Think Misery. Think even the 2017 adaptation of It. These works bear a strong resemblance to the words King used, but also forge their own identities, and tell their own stories – while maintaining the atmosphere King created. Pet Sematary, the latest King adaptation, fits in perfectly with these titles. Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer take the terror that King forged, and mold it into something fresh, and exciting, and downright horrifying. Pet Sematary is one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever.

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Adopt a Highway review

Actor Logan Marshall-Green’s directorial debut Adopt A Highway feels tailor-made for Austin’s South by Southwest Film Festival. It has nothing to do with horror, mind you, despite Blumhouse’s production banner. What could double as an acoustic country ballad whispers a nomad folk tale about one simple task: getting by. Indie bloodlines run through Marshall-Green’s jailhouse poetry without overly romanticized narratives, more appropriately about passing moments than revelations. It’s about muttered dialogue, directionless trajectories, and a most relatable assessment of life not going as expected.

In other words, humanity as we know it. Read More »

(Welcome to The SXSW Diaries, where we will be chronicling every single movie we see at the Austin-based film festival.)

Welcome to SXSW 2019 days six and seven. In this edition: Sword of Trust is more of the same from Lynn Shelton (f0r better or worse), Stuber gets amazing mileage out of Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista, and Mr. Jimmy approaches a weird story from the wrong angle.

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Body at Brighton Rock review

With the opening credits of Body at Brighton Rock, writer/director Roxanne Benjamin tells us exactly what kind of movie we’re getting into. A bright yellow, jagged bubble-cursive firmly recalls R.L Stine’s Fear Street series, or any Christopher Pike book published from 1985 to 1999, as fresh-faced park ranger Wendy (Karina Fontes) sprints to work, listening to Oingo Boingo on her headphones.

Wendy’s a bit older than YA and Body at Brighton Rock isn’t set in the ‘80s, but there’s a very Pike/Stine mood here that Benjamin sustains with a sure hand and plenty of style. Wendy’s the kind of heroine that will annoy audiences, because Hollywood perpetuates this stubborn myth that all of our leading ladies have to be hyper-competent and unfailingly tough. Wendy’s always tardy, a little clumsy, a little goofy, and her best work friends (Emily Althaus and Brodie Reed) refer to her as “an indoor kid,” though she happens to work at a decidedly outdoor job. When she volunteers to survey a trail normally reserved for the more experienced of her co-workers, no one thinks she can do it. Read More »

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villains review

Dan Berk and Robert Olsen’s Villains isn’t their first genre rodeo, and it shows. Their feature debut Body ignited their affair with home invasion horror, Stake Land II sucked some serious sequel blood, and their script for Don’t Kill It burst with howlin’ mad body-possession beats. So what makes Villains their most gratifyingly unstable and deliciously dark midnighter yet? Simplicity in casting: Bill Skarsgård and Maika Monroe. Maybe that’s my specific answer, but I’d watch these two imitate Bunny and Clive (bargain bin versions) until the proverbial cows come home.

Granted, there’s far more to the morally blurry Villains worth pondering than two charismatic and devious burgeoning criminals, but try not falling head-over-heels with Berk and Olsen’s daydreaming amateur fugitives. Read More »