A mysterious cult stationed at a secluded island. A "lost soul" of a man searching for his kidnapped sister. The ancient entity known only as "The Goddess" who is seemingly able to speak through the cult's chosen mouthpiece. These are the main pieces of the puzzle at work in Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans latest horror endeavor, Apostle. Most known for his action chops, Evans delivers the bloody, brilliant goods in his newest film, a horror, period piece that turns the screws of tension one, small click at a time. It does take a good, long while before the craziness at the heart of Apostle kicks in, but it is more than worth it. The last hour of the film presents all the macabre, cult insanity you would expect from the man who directed The Raid and its epic sequel. However, the first hour of Apostle is borderline grueling.
Michael Myers is back, and, this time, he isn't returning alone. 40 years after her original introductory role of Laurie Strode (and 16 years after the Strode character was “killed off”), Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the role that made her the original final girl, this time to exact some much needed revenge. But Halloween, directed by indie legend David Gordon Green, and co-written by Green with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride), is keen on shaking things up in the horror series for the sake of the film's deeper message. That's something many of the throwaway sequels to the John Carpenter original were missing. While the 2018 Halloween sequel is a gloriously shot slasher flick with all that entails, it's also a deep dive into trauma, victimhood, and survivors finally taking a stand against their attackers.
Space. The final frontier. This is the story of the starship Aniara. If you know me, you know I'm a huge sci-fi geek. Especially when it comes to space travel, and anything involving space and planets and spaceships. I discovered a film at the Toronto Film Festival this year titled Aniara, a Swedish sci-fi film adapted from Harry Martinson's epic poem of the same name. This astounding sci-fi film is set in the near future and is about a big spaceship taking colonists from Earth to Mars, usually a three week journey for batches of lazy humans. But it gets irreversibly knocked off course, causing the passengers to descend into madness once they begin to accept their fate: drifting into the void of space. This film is AMAZINGLY good, perhaps the best indie sci-fi I've seen since Arrival, perfectly executed and invigorating in its rigorous sci-fi storytelling.
This documentary is currently the one film that has made me tear up the most this year so far. The Biggest Little Farm is a tiny little documentary that is not so tiny in reality. The film profiles the first seven years of a traditional farm that a couple decided to start in Southern California, called Apricot Lane Farms. I had no idea what I was getting into with this film, but from the first few minutes I knew I would love it. And it just kept getting more and more amazing. The film opens with the line "it all started because of a promise we made to a dog." Not just any dog, but a dog they saved and adopted, with the most stunning eyes. They promised Todd they would never leave him, but after the neighbors complained about his barking, they had to move. So they decided to move out, quit their jobs, and attempt to grow and maintain a biodynamic farm.
Lord Almighty, Barry Jenkins is a master. If Beale Street Could Talk is the third film written & directed by filmmaker Barry Jenkins (following Medicine for Melancholy and Moonlight previously), this time he's loosely adapting James Baldwin's 1974 novel of the same name. This film is pure bliss. It is love, it's the feeling and emotions and actions of love turned into celluloid and projected in front of our very eyes for us to fall in love with in turn. It's a gorgeous film, visually and emotionally, and I didn't want it to end. That's the best thing about it - it's a slice of life taking us back to the 70s, but giving us a love story so rich and so real, that you want to keep following them wherever they may go. Much like Linklater's Before series, the love on display here is something we can all be inspired by - no matter your race or sexuality or upbringing.
There's a line in 1987's original Predator movie that sums up the machismo and bravado of '80s action cinema. Blain, played by professional wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura, is a member of an elite military rescue team on a mission to save hostages in guerrilla-held territory. In the aftermath of a jungle-leveling firefight, a fellow soldier informs Blain, "You're hit. You're bleeding, man." With a plug of chewing tobacco in his jaw, the gruff, cocksure commando ripostes, "I ain't got time to bleed." Written by brothers Jim and John Thomas and directed by John McTiernan (of Die Hard), Predator grossed $98 million in its initial release, cementing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s box office bona fides and turning its eponymous antagonist, an extraterrestrial trophy hunter designed by special make-up effects creator Stan Winston, into a sci-fi icon.
There's a quote in this film that sums up everything about how mind-blowing this feat is. "People who know a little bit about climbing, they're like, 'oh he's totally safe.' And then people who really know exactly what he's doing, are freaked out." Free Solo is the exhilarating new documentary film made by Jimmy Chin & E. Chai Vasarhelyi, the same team that made the mountain climbing doc Meru a few years ago. This time they profile an American climber named Alex Honnold, who was the first person ever to free solo climb El Capitan. Meaning he did not use any ropes or any safety gear, he just went up the rock face entirely on his own. If he made any mistake while climbing, he would be dead. But he didn't make any mistakes, he pulled it off. Iit's beyond incredible, a legendary feat in climbing history, which they capture on camera in this doc.
"It takes courage to change people's hearts." Now this is a wonderful film. So wonderful. Green Book is a comedic drama from Peter Farrelly, one half of the comedy directing duo the Farrelly Brothers, making his solo debut. This lovable road trip film is about a friendship between two individuals from "opposite sides of the track", as they say. Based on the trailer, I had a good feeling this might be something special, and it's as memorable as it looks from that footage. Green Book is a bit more mainstream than most films that play at festivals, but it's still an outstanding film that's full of heart, good humor, and honesty. I really loved this film, so much. It left me in such a good mood, and I've been thinking about it non-stop since the screening.
Xavier Dolan is back! The Quebecois filmmaker premiered his latest film, titled The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, at the Toronto Film Festival and it's one of the most exceptional features of his career. Nearly perfect from start to finish. Starring Kit Harington as a closeted gay actor named John F. Donovan, the film is a story about authenticity and self-love, and how hard it is to achieve this. But with a little bit of hope, and friendship, and inspiration, and honesty, it's possible. Dolan seems to dig very deep this time to give us an extremely personal story, inspired by his own sexuality, experiences growing up, and a letter he wrote to Leonardo DiCaprio when he was a kid. It's his best work in years and already one of my favorite Dolan films (my top is still Mommy). I'm already looking forward to revisiting it, and getting more into the story, hoping it has a different impact on me the next time I see it - as is always the case with Dolan's films.
The opening shots of Widows set a precedent for how intense the film will be. Intimate shots of Viola Davis' character Veronica kissing her husband quickly cut to gunfire and car chase shots as a group of criminals tries to escape. It's extremely intense, and a slap-in-the-face wake up everyone who sits down to watch this outstanding film. Widows is the latest film made by acclaimed Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen (of Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave) and it's his first "big" film made at a Hollywood studio. Thankfully, McQueen doesn't seem to be phased, maintaining his edge and focus without losing control and being forced to make something a bit more watered down and accessible. This heist thriller is as much about Chicago as it is about the widows of a handful of criminal men, who work together to pull off a heist to clear their debt.
In a world of movies about popstars and how inspiring it is to make your dreams of fame and glory come true, Vox Lux gives us the exact opposite. The second feature film made by actor Brady Corbet (of The Childhood of a Leader), Vox Lux tells the story of a young girl who quickly becomes a mega-famous popstar after an odd beginning: she survives a horrible school shooting and sings with her sister at the memorial ceremony. The song goes viral, she gets discovered by a shady manager, the rest is history. I didn't realize that Brady Corbet was such a genius, but my goodness this film is something else. It's extremely smart and provocative and true and shameless in its expression of this truth. It's so brutally honest and so accurate in what it says about society, that it's going to seriously piss people off. Either they just don't get it, or don't understand it, or they don't like seeing this much searing truth presented this way. But I think it's brilliant.
It fills me with so much energy and excitement and enthusiasm when I watch an incredible film. Sometimes you can tell from the first few minutes that a film is going to be amazing. There's just something about the filmmaking and opening scenes that shows how massively talented and in control the filmmaker is, and as the rest of the film plays out, it only gets better and better. Jennifer Kent's new film The Nightingale is phenomenal, one of the best films of the year. I don't even think the word "masterpiece" can do it justice, it's such a riveting, enlivening, extraordinary cinematic creation that it's worthy of more rigorous lingo and more thorough praise. I loved every last second of it — and I mean LOVED it — and the film features two of my favorite performances of the year. It's also an important, affecting film that addresses racism and sexism head on, showing that we haven't changed much in 200 years but we can - and will - through compassion.