Archive for the ‘Film Reviews’ Category

Spooktober 2017: The Return

Posted 28 Oct 2017 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews

By Ezra Stead 

As always, I am not finished almost exclusively watching horror movies for the year, nor will I be once Halloween night has come and gone; this will likely continue throughout November. However, in the interest of providing this list with some sort of seasonal relevance, now is the time to tell you about a handful of the movies I’ve watched so far in this, the best of all possible seasons. As it happens, this year I ended up watching a high percentage of iconic franchise entries, so, forsaking some other great ones I discovered that don’t fit into this category (Pretty Poison and The Blackcoat’s Daughter in particular are a couple of real gems), let’s take a look at some noteworthy sequels, in the order in which I viewed them.

CULT OF CHUCKY—I don’t think any horror franchise in movie history has reinvented itself so drastically as this one. The success of the original Child’s Play (1988) led to two more of the same, basically, before series mastermind Don Mancini took it into full meta-comedy mode with Bride of Chucky in 1998, following that up with the unfairly maligned Seed of Chucky in 2004. Curse of Chucky came along in 2013 to bring the series back to real horror, with fewer nudges and winks, and with this latest entry, Mancini has struck the perfect balance, and made the best Chucky movie since Bride, at least. It’s rare for the seventh entry in a franchise to be this good.
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It – Floats Much More Than It Sinks

Posted 11 Sep 2017 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

It, USA, 2017

Directed by Andy Muschietti

The 1990 TV movie adaptation of Stephen King’s wildly ambitious 1986 novel It has always had a place in the hearts of folks my age (we’re apparently known as “Xennials” now) much like that reserved for The Goonies. This love for both movies exists in us for the same reason: simple nostalgia. Unless you first saw both of them at a young, impressionable age, it might be too late now. For anyone remembering the It miniseries as genuinely scary, watch it again; it’s far more unintentionally funny. With the advances in special effects technology over the past 27 years, though, and without the restrictions imposed by television network standards, the new theatrical take on King’s novel fills the void quite nicely for those who want to be genuinely frightened by a movie about a bunch of misfit preteens facing down a murderous clown-monster.  Read More

Brigsby Bear – Make Something Cool With Your Friends!

Posted 26 Aug 2017 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

Brigsby Bear, USA, 2017

Directed by Dave McCary

Though Dogtooth certainly has its dark sense of humor, one wouldn’t expect a movie about an abducted child raised in an isolated, hermetically sealed world based on lies to be a comedy. This type of premise has yielded great results as emotionally devastating drama, as in the rightfully acclaimed Room, or intense psychological suspense, as in the by-and-large underrated 10 Cloverfield Lane (not about a child abduction, but dealing with similar ideas in terms of the nature of the protagonist’s captivity). Despite these and some other obvious comparison points, though, veteran Saturday Night Live director Dave McCary’s feature debut, Brigsby Bear, is a wonderfully original, sincere, and idiosyncratic movie that manages to not only earn cruelty-free laughs from an inherently unsettling subject, but also to make a larger point about the very nature of art and entertainment, without being annoyingly meta about it.  Read More

Dunkirk – War Is (Boring As) Hell

Posted 21 Aug 2017 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead 

Dunkirk, UK/France/Netherland/USA, 2017

Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan

There are two points I should address by way of prefacing this review. One is the fact that I have spent the better part of the past year being underwhelmed by this movie. Ever since the first teaser trailers began to surface, I’ve been thinking things like, “Well, I’m sure I’ll see it,” and, “It’ll undoubtedly be good, but…” No matter how I tried, I just couldn’t work up any real enthusiasm for it. It’s not that I’m not a Christopher Nolan fan, it’s just that this one didn’t appear to have any magicians, dream detectives, or… Batmans in it, so it was already at a disadvantage when it came to subject matter.

I say this just to make it understood that my feelings about Dunkirk are not disappointment. The movie absolutely delivers what the trailers promised, it’s just that, for this reviewer, that was nothing particularly compelling. If you saw those trailers and were immediately excited to see the movie as soon as possible, well… obviously, you’ve seen the movie by now, and I’m sure you loved it. There is nothing for you in the remainder of this review but frustration and rage. Fair warning.  Read More

The Little Hours – Quirky Isn’t Necessarily Funny

Posted 14 Jul 2017 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead 

The Little Hours, Canada / USA, 2017

Written and Directed by Jeff Baena

Comedy and horror are the two most difficult genres to successfully pull off, because what makes us laugh—just like what scares us—is highly subjective. Even nearly universally acclaimed works in either genre will inevitably have their detractors, as some [backwards-thinking idiots] might not think last year’s The VVitch is scary, while other [no-fun jerks] might not find Anchorman funny, for example. I myself have been informed by numerous people that they find the sketch show Portlandia “hilarious,” though, having personally witnessed the entire first season, I don’t see how this can possibly be true.

Based on the reactions of the admittedly small crowd with me at a recent screening of The Little Hours, this is apparently a pretty funny movie, though I honestly felt like most of the laughter I heard was somewhat forced, as if the other moviegoers were just going through the expected motions when they could tell a joke had just been attempted onscreen, flat as it might have fallen. Maybe it was the only way they could feel as if they’d gotten their money’s worth; I don’t know. I never laughed once, and it pains me to say that because there are a number of gifted comedic talents involved.  Read More

The Sandlot – What Was The Greatest Summer Of Your Life?

Posted 06 Jul 2017 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Member Movie Reviews, Movies I Got

By Mike Shaeffer 

The Sandlot, USA, 1993

Directed by David Mickey Evans

Filmed in Utah, the 1993 coming-of-age film The Sandlot wonderfully captures the summer of 1962 through the eyes of nine middle-school boys, and—in what was certainly a case of life imitating art—this cast of unknowns would later admit that the summer they spent filming this cinematic gem was, indeed, their favorite summer. Just like Simon Birch—another film involving an ill-fated baseball—this story opens with the voice of an adult narrator recalling one of the more memorable chapters from his youth. A good sports drama involves conflict, and the main pickle in this adventure stems from a stepfather’s prized baseball being knocked over the fence of the neighborhood sandlot that plays host to a summer-long baseball game. Normally, a 95-cent baseball would just be replaced, but this ball was autographed by the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth, and the neighboring yard is patrolled by a drooling monster of a dog known to the boys as “The Beast.”  Read More

Baby’s Day Out – A Scathing Indictment Of A Pre-Apocalyptic Society

Posted 19 Jun 2017 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

Baby’s Day Out, USA, 1994

Directed by Patrick Read Johnson

As anyone who’s read my in-depth review of Beethoven knows, family movies from the 1990s are often covert founts of darkness and despair, sometimes to the point that it’s nigh impossible to see them any other way. Another great example of this curious phenomenon is 1994’s Baby’s Day Out, which depicts a world on the brink of total destruction just underneath its deceptively cheerful surface. This is a world that no longer values anything but material possessions, social status, and unbridled hatred. If allowed to go on the way it is, this society will surely collapse on itself, as childcare, familial connections, and basic human decency are utterly neglected. Baby’s Day Out is the tale of the one super-genius infant who just might be able to save a world full of nihilistic idiots from itself.  Read More