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).Continue reading Let’s Talk About: Dune
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.Continue reading Let’s Talk About: Halloween Kills
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).Continue reading Let’s Talk About: The Many Saints of Newark
“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.Continue reading Let’s Talk About: Pig
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…)Continue reading Let’s Talk About: The Suicide Squad
The Irishman (or, I Heard You Paint Houses) is one of those eleventh-hour releases that manifests itself to weary cinematic sojourners like a chilled, glistening bottle of Aquafina on the final stretch of the barren, hostile, morale-shattering wasteland you’ve been trudging through since January. Not only does it revitalize you so that you can finally complete your arduous journey, it imbues you with enough energy and hope to begin a new one come 2020. Suffice to say, the only question I had for The Irishman once the curtain fell was, “Where the hell have you been all year?”
2019 is certainly proving to be the year for emerging Indie horror directors’ follow-up films, isn’t it? Jordan Peele followed up his universally-acclaimed quasi-horror-comedy Get Out with the much more sci-fi-leaning Twilight Zone tribute Us (which I adored); David Robert Mitchell followed up his eerie sex-themed after-school-special It Follows with the polarizing neo-noir Under the Silver Lake (which curiously went to Cannes unedited); and Ari Aster followed up his demonic family portrait Hereditary with the psychedelic, bloodletting Eurotrip Midsommar (which should never under any circumstances be viewed with grandma). Now, Robert Eggers has followed up his highly-effective period horror The Witch with a fresh article-noun arrangement called The Lighthouse, a psychological horror that is already being hailed as a masterpiece by those who have acknowledged its existence.
Alas, the proprietor of my hometown’s Theatrical Symposium for Degenerate Fancies was not one such person, having deemed the Zombieland sequel that no one asked for the preferable feature to screen. Incidentally, our Symposium bears many striking similarities to Eggers’ nightmarish lighthouse – it’s filthy, it’s drafty, it’s beset by cantankerous seagulls, and its employees are presumably forbidden access to the proprietor’s inner sanctum that is the projection room under pain of an axe murdering.
A few years back a series of single-sentence plot summaries surfaced on the Internet that recontextualized the premises of famous films, often with the result of casting the protagonist in an ironically negative light. For instance, The Wizard of Oz was reframed as a crime thriller about a teenage girl who, upon being transported to a fantastical land, promptly murders and loots the body of a community leader before teaming up with a trio of locals on a quest to kill again. Finding Nemo was reinterpreted as the horrific nightmare of a man whose wife is brutally murdered by a serial killer before his physically-disabled son is kidnapped, compelling him to embark on a rescue mission with the aid of a chronically-amnesiac transient. In a true thematic reversal, The Dark Knight was recapitulated as the story of a deranged billionaire who copes with his crippling PTSD by dressing up like a giant rodent and victimizing an extremely troubled, mentally ill man in a clown costume.
These twisted plot rewrites are, of course, meant to give us a hearty chuckle as well as prompt some reflection on the underlying messages and themes conveyed in our favourite films, not to mention showcase how imperative context and perspective are.
“Do you like playing games?” asks patriarchal board game magnate Tony Le Domas to his new daughter-in-law Grace in the stately family music room following the ceremony. “It depends on the game,” the bewildered bride replies, still begowned in her wedding dress and eager to ingratiate herself to her strange new in-laws, who are the sort of hyper-aristocratic, tradition-obsessed, monied WASPs who make a point to advise outsiders that they prefer the term ‘dominion’ over ‘dynasty.’ The game in question, it turns out, is determined by a mysterious puzzle box that was presented to family founder Victor Le Domas during the Civil War by an enigmatic benefactor named Justin Le Bail, who is casually implied to be Satan. Anyone marrying into House Le Domas must, by order of tradition, participate in the game chosen by the box, which might be as innocuous as checkers, as archaic as old maid, or as deadly as hide-and-seek. Grace, who was unaware of this little household custom before her nuptials, regrettably draws hide-and-seek.