ENJOY THE MOVIES
The concept of strange love and finding the one person in the world meant for only you is a strong one when it comes to cinematic storytelling. These films are often tough to recommend outright, the weirder nature of some of the entries in this category being a little too outside the box for most mainstream moviegoers. For the cinephile, however, the results of these films are often magical. So, too, is the case with the Swedish film, Border (aka Gräns), a film that tells a story that is, you guessed it, full of strange, creative wonder and eye-opening reveals about our world. Co-written and directed by Ali Abbasi, Border is a film that not everyone will be able to wrap their expectations around, but one that comes with undeniable results for those who do.
It's another year of horror movies, all ranging in subgenre and tone, and you know what that means. Bring on the zombies. Granted, the zombie subgenre has been running rampant for about 15 years straight now, the tropes and setups becoming increasingly banal as time goes by. There's a reason filmmakers continually go back to the zombie well. They keep coming up with new and innovative ways of handling the sub-genre. Take One Cut of the Dead, for instance. On the surface, it seems like another, stale attempt at breaking new ground with old equipment, but this film has something else hidden up its sleeve. One Cut of the Dead ends up being a sweet, funny, little magic trick of a movie that once again reinvents a been-there premise.
We've long-since moved past the belief that all remakes, horror remakes in particular, are inherently bad. From John Carpenter's The Thing to David Cronenberg's The Fly and even as recently as Fede Alvarez's take on The Evil Dead, the horror remake is wide open in terms of quality and sense of purpose. Even so, the thought of a filmmaker bringing a new vision to a classic tale of horror is met with trepidation regardless of the quality of that filmmaker's previous work. Now we have Luca Guadagnino taking on Dario Argento and his classic tale of a witch's coven at a dance academy, Suspiria. In a nutshell, Guadagnino's take on the story is transcendent, taking all the best elements of Argento's classic, reworking them for improvement, and even fleshing out the things that didn't work in the 1977 film. It is sure to leave you breathless.
The horrors of war have rarely found their way into big-budget horror, even though it seems a natural fit to set genre pictures during the most horrendous moments in human history. These have often been relegated to lower-budget efforts often with unsuccessful results. Those days may be close to over, as Overlord, the latest from J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot production label, blasts its way onto screens. Set during the moments just before D-Day, the film offers an intense and explosive men-on-a-mission tale but with the added bonus of supernatural horrors. One side of the film's genre coin works much better than the other, but Overlord is through-and-through a thrilling action movie that should satiate action fans as well as horror fans alike.
A little Reservoir Dogs, a touch of Fail Safe, and a heaping dose of 2nd Amendment commentary at its core, writer/director Henry Dunham for his feature debut delivers a tightly constructed and incredibly intense thriller in The Standoff at Sparrow Creek. Packed with sharp dialogue, intriguing characters through and through, and masterful performances from a slate of very talented, character actors, the film builds mystery as well as any, modern whodunit on its surface-level. Underneath, though, Dunham's The Standoff at Sparrow Creek brings with it a mountain of ideas, most of them fervently politically-charged and more than appropriate in the 2018 climate of gun rights debates and continual, mass shootings.
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.
We are well into the 2018 summer movie season, and it's a good time to step away from the extraordinary heroes, superhuman villains, and dangerous technology that generally make up the blockbuster fare seeing release. Instead we'll be discussing Upgrade, a film about, well, an extraordinary hero, some superhuman villains, and dangerous technology but on a shoestring budget by comparison with the gigantic franchises inundating multiplexes. As if the cost of a film has no bearing on quality (spoiler: it never does), Upgrade is an absolute blast of an action/sci-fi picture, an uproariously entertaining experience that delivers break-neck excitement and morbid humor with a heaping dose of caution. In a nutshell, it's the perfect, and a welcome, experience for fans of blockbuster films who are looking for something outside the franchise box.
In many ways 2018 is both the best and worst period of time to be a fan of the Star Wars franchise. On one hand, with Disney and the Kathleen Kennedy-led Lucasfilm in charge of the slate of new films, there are more stories set in the tumultuous galaxy being told than ever before. On the flipside, the notion of burnout with all these Star Wars films can be felt to say nothing of the turbulent manner in which many fans find themselves. There is more conflict among the fan-base than there ever was under George Lucas' control, the catalyst of which stems from Lucasfilm's concept of going back and forth between stories set in the main Skywalker saga, and extra standalone stories set elsewhere in the time and place of the Star Wars galaxy.
18 movies, 10 years, 10 Academy Award nominations, 6 Infinity Stones, and one mad Titan. Those are just some of the numbers the Marvel Cinematic Universe (aka the "MCU") is working with going into its 19th and latest film, Avengers: Infinity War, directed by Anthony & Joe Russo. All roads have certainly been leading to this, the culmination of the ever-expanding MCU and the adventures of the countless superheroes found therein. But Infinity War is unlike any of those adventures in which all of our favorite comic book characters have found themselves involved before. With Marvel Studios seemingly having perfected the superhero formula, it seems now is the perfect time to shake things up, and the MCU doesn't disappoint. Infinity War not only leaves the entire MCU shaken, it works to leave fans of this universe shaken, as well.
There's been something of a horror-sance (a horror renaissance) at work so far in 2018. Never mind the fact that a horror film (The Shape of Water) won Best Picture at the Oscars, and another horror film (Get Out) was a very strong candidate for the trophy. The genre output so far in 2018 has been stellar with filmmakers delivering effective chills and believable characters through quality storytelling. In a nutshell, it's a good time to be a fan of horror cinema, and the good time continues with A Quiet Place. It has everything fans of the genre would want: likeable and well-written characters; decent pacing throughout; and, most importantly, an absolutely terrifying premise with equally scary moments. A Quiet Place is a monster movie that plays the sub-genre to a T, and shows once again there is still some art to be had in the horror genre.
Board games and charades take a deadly yet funny turn in dark comedy Game Night. This kind of social gathering has become more and more popular in recent years and seems ripe with potential for a cinematic setup. Enter the directing duo of John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein, who take the premise up a notch with real-life kidnappings, real-life gangsters, and real-life dangers which all fall on the heads of the suburban characters involved. It's an obvious take for a Hollywood comedy, but the team behind Game Night utilizes the ensemble cast to the best of its abilities and never allows the twists or the humor to fall flat. Game Night ends up being a riotous time at the movies that may perhaps serve as a better evening