Let’s Talk About: Last Night in Soho

Back in 2017, I confessed I was caught off-guard by Baby Driver’s startling deviation from the silliness, irreverence, and absurdity that had until that point defined Edgar Wright’s career. Though the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy was hardly bereft of dramatic depth (with Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End in particular conveying some surprisingly profound themes regarding maturity and responsibility, not to mention the pathetic outcome of failing to cross the threshold between boyhood and manhood), at the end of the day it was still firmly rooted in comedy territory. With Baby Driver, Wright shifted gears (heh) and delivered a fun but comparatively grounded action flick, downplaying his signature humour and rapid-fire dialogue in favour of something more stylish and altogether cinematic. In short, Edgar Wright had finally moved out of Simon Pegg’s apartment and grown up (it happens to the best of us). I eventually came around to appreciating and even admiring Baby Driver, and though I was undeniably saddened that Wright’s days of pitting a hapless Scott Pilgrim against a bonkers world were officially behind him, I found myself looking forward to what he’d come up with next.

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Let’s Talk About: Dune

Remember the Lord of the Rings films? (Try to think back – they were an obscure series of fantasy movies from the early 2000s featuring a bunch of elves and talking trees and the odd magic ring or two, all made by the same guy who directed Braindead). I was but a lad of eleven(ses) when The Fellowship of the Ring premiered, and I still vividly remember the wonder that enraptured me as I witnessed Middle Earth in all its grandeur come to life before my eyes. Images of Nazgûl astride black steeds and Uruk-hai swarming Amon Hen and Saruman trololoing atop Orthanc are burned into my memory to this day and are apt to give me goosebumps. Oh, that I could recapture what it was like to experience the tranquility of the Shire, the beauty of Rivendell, the gloom of Moria, the magic of Lothlórien for the first time! While I love the entirety of Lord of the Rings, Fellowship has a special place in my heart for introducing me to Tolkien’s world (I eventually read the books while waiting in anguish for Return of the King to grace theaters). Lord of the Rings was my first epic, a monumental technical and narrative achievement that set the lofty platinum standard for what could even be considered ‘epic’ (years later, an acquaintance decreed that 2008’s Get Smart was also ‘epic,’ which I took as a sign that some people just aren’t as bright as me).    

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Let’s Talk About: Halloween Kills

Part of the challenge of writing and posting critical assessments of contemporary films and assigning them arbitrary numerical ratings is that oftentimes you find yourself looking back on the critiques of yesteryear and asking yourself what the hell you were thinking when you praised/criticized a particular release. Tastes change, develop, and mature over time, and very often the movies that most resonated with you back in the day don’t have the same appeal or impact when you revisit them years later (and vice versa). For instance, when I recently looked back on some of my write-ups from just two years ago, I was surprised at how dismissive I was of Joker, slapping it with a paltry 4/10 and writing it off as pretentious. That same year I named The Irishman my number one pick in my annual Top Ten, which is wild because I’ve seen it exactly once, as opposed to the five times I’ve seen Jojo Rabbit. I also apparently thought so little of 2018’s Halloween soft reboot/sequel that I didn’t even bother with a Let’s Talk About, giving it a halfhearted 6/10 and comparing it unfavourably to John Carpenter’s 1978 original.

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Let’s Talk About: The Many Saints of Newark

Not to be overly critical right off the bat, but I haven’t felt this unhappy leaving a theater since Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (another unnecessary origin tale with a studio-applied subtitle denoting its parent franchise, presumably so casual moviegoers know which brand is spoon-feeding them).

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Let’s Talk About Space Jam 2: A New Legacy

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Let’s Talk About: Pig

“I want my piiiiiig.”

Every once in a blue moon a film comes along that defies all my personal preferences for gratuitous violence, interweaving character arcs, and conceptual absurdity, gently takes me aside, and calmly invites me to think about something other than space aliens for a little while.  

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Let’s Talk About: The Suicide Squad

It’s been a while since my last post, hasn’t it? Almost like there’s been nothing worth watching or writing about for the past eighteen months (and to think I considered the modern cinematic landscape a barren wasteland prior to the COVID-19 crisis). Before TSS, the last movie I saw in theaters was Onward back in March of 2020, which was about as captivating as a bunch of thirteen-year-olds playing D&D for the first time and not really digging it because they’re all foreign exchange students who came straight off a red-eye flight to participate in a chess tournament. Not that I’ve been idle for the past year-and-a-half, mind – in all, life has been rather eventful beyond my self-styled role as your friendly neighborhood film snob. I wrote and sold a book (pending publication in early 2022 through Stray Books, so strap yourselves in for some shameless plugging in coming entries), I quit smoking and revoked the permanent resident card from the alcoholic monkey who’d been lodging on my back, I developed tendonitis (adieu, animations…), and I instigated a failed coup against my provincial government for enforcing an unconstitutional mask mandate and conspiring to sterilize the populace through the emission of mind-controlling microchips from 5G towers (whether or not I’m sane enough to stand trial has yet to be determined…)

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2020 Top… One List: Featuring ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ and True Confessions of a Personal Nature

Long ago, in the mythical, sepia-toned era of hope, liberty, and prosperity that was 2019, I watched a grand total of 38 new films. That was 38 newly-released films from the beginning of January to the end of December, 38 separate contributions to the operating costs of both my local Theatrical Symposium for Degenerate Fancies and reputable Cineplexes in neighboring towns, 38 fresh notches on my cinematic utility belt. As far as the film industry was concerned, it was a pretty packed year, and that’s factoring my intentional avoidance of most mainstream tentpole releases (I’m pickier than the average wannabe film critic and therefore only subject myself to films that appeal to me, so no, I didn’t see f***ing Captain Marvel). Even with nearly forty citations on my annual cinematic rap sheet, I still had a hell of a time populating 2019’s Top Ten, because the vast majority of movies I watch simply don’t resonate with me (really, I should just pen an annual Top Four List for all the films I actually end up remembering by the time I turn over my ‘Seasons of Ryan Reynolds’ wall calendar).  

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Remembering: Being John Malkovich (and Reflections on the COVID Crisis)

Surely I don’t need to justify the lack of new Snooty Film Critiques this year – 2020 to date has been more turbulent and less predictable than a season of Game of Thrones (that’s pre-Season 6 Game of Thrones, mind… before the dark times… before the plot armor and anachronistic Starbucks cups). Seriously, if everything headlining CNN these days played out on HBO, critics would dismiss the narrative twists and turns as unrealistic to the point of absurdity – the initial arc centering on the Coronavirus pandemic was sidelined by the sadistic murder of George Floyd and the descent of major US cities into anarchy; the threat of the killer hornets was introduced as a potentially major plot point in episode 3 and then swiftly abandoned (though it may yet be revisited in the inevitable Christmas Special); and now Kanye West has announced his bid for the presidency, because ratings have dipped and the desperate writers needed a flashy guest star to bolster their viewership.  

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2019 Top Ten List

My feelings towards 2019 as a year-in-film are mixed, because it felt like two radically different years fused together in the middle whose individual parts ultimately coalesced about as well as bone marrow and cheddar cheese. January until about June was one of the most disheartening seasons I can recall, and that was despite a conscious effort to avoid movies I knew I’d hate such as Godzilla: King of the Kong and X-Men XXII: Dark Phoenix Revisited. I must have angered the Indie Film Gods at some point, because there were key movies in the early portions of 2019 that I had pegged for a slot on the ol’ Top Ten that proved woefully disappointing. In fact, until about July I had been getting ready to give up on films altogether and devote myself to more worthy pursuits, such as reading, exercising, and dating—oh God, help me…

July, however, triggered a dynamic shift in the quality of films available to me, with some surprisingly great films trickling into my hometown’s Theatrical Symposium for Degenerate Fancies (likely by accident) and slowly but surely filling up my Top Ten.

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