Co-written and directed by actor Bradley Cooper, 2018's A Star is Born is the third remake of William A. Wellman's 1937 film, which earned seven Academy Award nominations at the time. George Cukor's 1954 adaptation, starring Judy Garland and James Mason, was nominated for six. And the 1976 version, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, earned four. Between the three films, only two Oscars were won: Best Writing (Original Story) in 1938 and Best Original Song in 1977. As producer, director, screenwriter, and star, Cooper is following in Streisand’s footsteps and, if history is any indication, his directorial debut will earn several award nominations, and deservedly so. Not only is Cooper's A Star is Born the premiere of a filmmaker with a unique voice but it solidifies Lady Gaga as the preeminent entertainer of the day.
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.
India is a place unlike any other. Many films have taken us there before, and many films have shown us how venturing into India can change someone's life. Maya is yet another new film that takes us to India, telling another story about a life being changed. Maya is the latest feature from French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve, and it's a more low-key, lighter film than her past work. It still has some weight to it, and it still has her typical effortless freshness and intimacy, but it lacks more substance beyond the basic romance story we witness first-hand. It's good, just not great, which actually falls in line with the film itself. The film feels a lot like a moment of respite, an escape from the chaos and intensity and brutality of our dangerous modern society, to a breezy, slow-paced, meditative trip to Goa and other cities, reigniting the eternal flame of love.
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.