I can’t say Happy Death Day is particularly frightening, nor is it particularly funny. The plot twist is pretty contrived, it gets frustratingly repetitive and there are moments that just don’t make sense even within its own fantasy universe. So why did I enjoy this so much? This is a case in which so many of the moving parts are messy and dysfunctional but they inexplicably come together as a cohesive whole. It’s like being on one of those giant carnival slides over and over again, or watching a fidget spinner. Continue reading
You’ve probably already watched The Shining and Night of the Living Dead every Halloween for the past 10 years. If you’re looking for some new recommendations for this year, look no further.
So light some candles, crack open a pumpkin beer and gather some pals for a spooky movie night.
In no particular order: Continue reading
mother! and It are in a battle for the top prize of “most talked about horror film with a one word title to come out in the past few weeks” – and while both have their merits and are well-deserved trending topics, the fear of a shape-shifting killer clown does not hold a candle to being forced to host a party for hundreds of strangers who won’t leave. Continue reading
I can’t support the notion that the supernatural entity known as It takes on the form of a clown because clowns are enticing to children. No child has unironically enjoyed the presence of a clown since the vaudevillian days of the 1930s. People have been afraid of clowns for years, even before Tim Curry decided to put on a red nose. If you were one of those people who saw Stephen King’s It (1990) as a kid and cite it as the source of your childhood nightmares, I highly recommend watching it again, now, as an adult. Upon second viewing, you might come to realize that not only is it not very frightening, but it’s also rather dated and not particularly good. In this era of remake after remake after remake, this is a rare example of an early 90s relic that was due for an upgrade. And that’s because the story and the concept is actually compelling- the 1990 version just didn’t do much apart from traumatize some now-twenty somethings and give Tim Curry ample scenery to chew on. And this project has been in the works since 2009- Cary Fukunaga, the original director, dropped out due to “creative differences”, the script was rewritten, most of the actors were re-cast a week before filming…after all of that chaos it’s hard to believe they were able to pull the project together without making it too much of a messy combination of Fukunaga’s vision and Muschietti’s. But they did it, and they did it well. And maybe the delay in production was a blessing in disguise because it has been exactly 27 years since the release of the original miniseries- accurately matching the timeline of It’s resurgence from the depths of the sewers to consume the flesh of the innocent. So that’s nice. Continue reading
A loose parody of 14th century novel The Decameron, The Little Hours (dir. Jeff
Baena) features Dave Franco as a runaway who, pretending to be a deaf-mute, starts
hooking up with nuns at a convent. The concept, on paper, could be a dramatic
period piece, but it’s a lighthearted 90-minute comedy. Basically the entire cast is a
comedy powerhouse- Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Fred
Armisen, and John C. Reilly. Clearly, some effort was made to cast people with excellent
comic timing. Continue reading
As evidenced by his work with SNL and sketch group Good Neighbor, Kyle Mooney has been building a career out of playing a similar type of character over and over again, but I think he does it with enough genuine empathy and admiration that I can’t complain. Mooney excels at cringe comedy, and he does this especially well in Brigsby Bear (dir. Dave McCary), in which he portrays a young man who essentially has never seen or heard of anything. Continue reading
David Hasselhoff has now somehow appeared in two separate movies as himself as the main character’s spirit guardian and compared to The Spongebob Squarepants Movie this cameo was pretty lackluster. When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson rides on David Hasselhoff’s back like a jet ski, then we’ll talk. Continue reading
Casting JonBenet (Dir. Kitty Green), the highly anticipated meta-documentary released as a Netflix-exclusive film about the 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was met with mixed reactions- mostly because the idea of making a film about the actual brutal murder of an actual child didn’t sit well with many people. 1996 wasn’t that long ago. Is it exploitative? Probably. But by that logic, every film about or based on a real-life tragedy is exploitative. I am willing to defend this film’s existence despite its tendency to insert some black humor, as it doesn’t set out to minimize the seriousness of the crime. Unlike other crime documentaries, it is less focused on solving the mystery at hand and more focused on reactions to what we know about the murder and the inevitable biases that come with it. Continue reading
While I have never subscribed to the notion that the narrative of a film is always more important than its visuals, My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea lacks in depth both narratively and visually. But when I say it lacks in depth visually, I thoroughly mean it as a compliment- everything is very flat and two-dimensional because it’s meant to look like a graphic novel, which is what writer/director Dash Shaw is best known for. The animation style is colorful and trippy- it’s also choppy and unpolished but that is what works in its favor. As this film is centered on a group of teenagers and is narrated by its 16-year-old main character, it makes sense that it looks like something sketched by a teen.
The concept of a sudden epic disaster being inflicted upon a high school in which the heroes are mostly social outcasts literally sounds like something a 16-year-old would daydream about in class as he draws the popular kids drowning in the margins of his notebook paper. There is literally a scene in which one of the popular girls begs to be rescued by the nerdy main characters by offering to invite them to her next party, before slipping into shark-infested waters. For misanthropic teens, this is unapologetic wish fulfillment. But Dash Shaw seems to be aware of this because he named the pretentious main character after himself. Dash (Jason Schwartzman) is a kid who exists in real life and you probably hung out with him in high school. Everything is pointless, the nerds and the artists are the only people who really understand the world, don’t be a sheep, etc. Not following the crowd and staying true to yourself isn’t a lesson without merit but Dash is mean and petty. And this is pointed out to him early on in the film- that he thinks people don’t like him because of his acne but it’s really because of his personality. He does eventually learn his lesson but the moral is still lacking because it is so clearly written to be flattering and easily palatable to 15-year-old nerds. Not only is he the only one with the bright idea to not stay on the bottom floor when the building is literally sinking, but he was the only one who knew the disaster was coming. Of course he warned them and nobody listened until it was too late.
The very simple messages of this story aren’t particularly new – ‘remember who your true friends are’, ‘don’t sacrifice your individuality to fit in’, ‘high school doesn’t matter in the grand scheme when you’re literally faced with a life-or-death situation’ etc. But there’s also something in here that is very specific to millennials. There is a throwaway line or two about the recession and the increasingly narrow job market, which is interesting within the context of an apocalyptic disaster- that young people are under constant pressure by adults to be successful but are simultaneously trying to survive in a drastically changing world that those same adults are responsible for (ex. Baby Boomers voted for Trump and tanked the economy). In this case, it was the adult with the most authority (the principal), who knew but chose to ignore the fact that the building was at risk of collapsing. This movie could apply to the young-adult anxiety felt by any generation, but feels particularly apt in representing the current one. But I might just be reading too much into a film that will inevitably gain a cult following of young stoners.
“Sex Survey Results, the Pipe Strip and the Return of Lasagna Cat”
Jon Arbuckle, Zero
Despite his status as a cultural icon for the past forty years, Garfield hasn’t contributed much to the artistic world at large- save for some “I hate Mondays” coffee mugs and the memes your aunt shares on Facebook. And while this orange cat has never truly gone away, he isn’t often discussed. Garfield has existed as background noise for the past several decades as a three-panel comic strip, the occasional cartoon, and a handful of kids’ movies that nobody saw. Everybody knows who Garfield is but few have dedicated as much time analyzing his oeuvre as Fatal Farm’s Zach Johnson and Jeffrey Max. Continue reading