All posts by Alex Brannan

Lucky (2021) Movie Review

May (Brea Grant), the protagonist of Lucky, suffers the condescending disinterest of the police, reductionist head-shrinking of social workers, and emotional manipulation and gaslighting of her partner (Dhruv Uday Singh). Oh, and she also gets attacked by a masked man every night of her life.

Lucky, written by Grant and directed by Natasha Kermani, is a lean (perhaps too lean) horror satire that imagines society’s patriarchy, microaggressions, and trauma as a surreal nightmare cycling again and again with no end in sight. As far as “social horror” goes, it’s a pretty perfect premise.

The film starts as a fresh twist on an old favorite. May and her husband Ted are attacked in their home by an intruder in the middle of the night. Only, Ted is shockingly nonplussed by the situation. In fact, Continue reading Lucky (2021) Movie Review

Tom & Jerry (2021) Movie Review

It took no longer than one minute watching Tom & Jerry for me to realize that this animation-live action hybrid reboot of the classic cartoon wasn’t going to go well. Once I saw a trio of animated pigeons lip-syncing to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It” as they fly over the New York City skyline, I just knew. I could sense that the team behind this film—namely director Tim Story and screenwriter Kevin Costello—didn’t have a firm grasp on what would translate this older intellectual property into something entertaining to a new generation of youngsters.

The problem isn’t necessarily the hackneyed technique of adding a cool hip-hop soundtrack to a property not known for such sounds. It isn’t even really the conceit of bringing cartoon characters “into the big city,” a premise which has been used in such big screen duds as The Smurfs (2011). The real issue I have Continue reading Tom & Jerry (2021) Movie Review

I Care a Lot (2021) Movie Review

The initial premise of J Blakeson’s I Care a Lot reads similar to Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Jordan Belfort exploited the ignored, undervalued currency in penny stocks and hit it rich. Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) exploits the ignored, undervalued currency in elderly care and hits it rich.

Gamifying the system of old folks’ homes, Grayson convinces the legal system to give her soul legal care of elderly patients suffering from “dementia” (read: some “mental confusion,” as quoted by a corrupt physician). She has an agreement with a care facility to dump off her wards. Meanwhile, she flips their homes and sells their belongings. She lines the wall of her office with headshots of her victims, dotting them with color-coded stickers—a point system. It’s a game.

Until it isn’t.

I Care a Lot takes a turn early on, one which morphs this Wolf of Wall Street meets Unsane plot into something unexpected. And who am I to spoil the fun. Let’s just say Continue reading I Care a Lot (2021) Movie Review

Freaky (2020) Movie Review

Writer-director Christopher Landon has a long history working with Blumhouse, first with the Paranormal Activity sequels then with the duo of Happy Death Day horror-comedies. The latter—Happy Death Day 2U in particular—present an intriguing twist on familiar generic ground which I enjoyed quite a bit. It would only make sense, then, that his latest,¬†Freaky, a body-swap horror farce, would tickle my fancy just the same. That was my first thought.

Then, I recalled that Landon also co-wrote and directed¬†Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, a similarly self-aware horror comedy that I found Continue reading Freaky (2020) Movie Review

Psycho Goreman (2021) Movie Review

It isn’t often when a movie with the singular perfect title comes along; just the best movie title of all time. Studios might as well not title new movies from here on out. They just will not be as good. The ghost of Orsen Welles wishes that he would have thought of the name Psycho Goreman when he shot Citizen Kane. Citizen Psycho Goreman might have actually won the Oscar for Best Picture.

But I digress. Steven Kostanski’s Psycho Goreman is not quite the movie that its name suggests. Yes, there is a Psycho Goreman (PG, for short), and he does Continue reading Psycho Goreman (2021) Movie Review

The Little Things (2021) Movie Review

The Little Things, which is currently available to HBO Max subscribers on Warners’ streaming service, takes place in 1990. It was also first written in the 1990s (registered with the WGA in 1993, apparently). And this comes as no surprise, given its bold adherence to the tropes of the procedural crime genre that ballooned in the 1990s after the massive success of The Silence of the Lambs.

Se7en is the film The Little Things is being compared to the most vocally (writer-director John Lee Hancock is quick to point out Continue reading The Little Things (2021) Movie Review

The Reckoning (2020) Movie Review

Neil Marshall’s The Descent holds special weight in my mind. I can recall being extraordinarily tense throughout watching that film, cementing it in my head as a distinctly effective horror film. That film is an intensely close-quarters survival thriller turned creature feature that has its cult fanbase, of which I guess I am a part. But after watching The Reckoning, I question whether it was simply a claustrophobia I did not know I had that made that film so effective.
 
 
The Reckoning, Marshall’s follow-up to the similar dud Hellboy, is a substantial disappointment. The premise of the film holds promise: during the time of the Great Plague, a woman is accused of dealing with the devil while trying to save her homestead following the untimely death of her husband. Setting a witch trial narrative on the backdrop of the Plague is intriguing. The Witch by way of Contagion, perhaps? Not quite.
Continue reading The Reckoning (2020) Movie Review

2020 Movie Review Catch-up #3 — Sound of Metal, Collective, Another Round

We continue our catch-up series with a trio of 2020 films worth watching: Sound of Metal, Collective, and Another Round.

Sound of Metal

Simply put, Sound of Metal is one of my favorite movies of the year. It blind-sided me a bit, given that Continue reading 2020 Movie Review Catch-up #3 — Sound of Metal, Collective, Another Round

The 20 Best Movies of 2020

We find ourselves at the end of 2020, and…well, let’s not dwell on it.

I may not have set foot in a movie theater since March, but that didn’t stop quality cinema from finding its way in front of my eyeballs. I can (and will) list at least 20 films from 2020 worth watching. As with any year, there are films I’ve missed based on lack of availability and/or time, so I cannot call this list exhaustive. Still, this should give a good idea of my favorite films of the year. And this includes some honorable mentions: The Wolf House, The Nest, Da 5 Bloods, Wolfwalkers, Ema, Palm Springs, Swallow, Blow the Man Down, Promising Young Woman.

20. Bad Education

Cory Finley’s Bad Education didn’t leave as strong of an impression on me as his debut Thoroughbreds, but it nevertheless stands out as Continue reading The 20 Best Movies of 2020

The 15 Worst Movies of 2020

2020 is a difficult year to write superlatives about. Especially coming on the heels of a few bountiful years of media consumption, doing a list series for the cinema of 2020 is something I considered skipping entirely. Previous best of the year lists have witnessed a wealth of films which I greatly enjoyed (20 in 2019, 25 in 2018, and 50 in 2017). I may be able to string together a list of 20 this year, but it just feels as though I am missing some great films, some of which that aren’t even on my radar. There are always blind spots on these lists, but my access to films this year is far more limited than in previous years. But I will give it a shot, based on the 150 or so movies I’ve seen.

On the flip side, I’ve seen plenty of below average films this year. Those are inescapable. In the days of Armageddon, the media industries will continue churning out subpar claptrap filmed close enough to in focus to be considered a movie. I generally like to Continue reading The 15 Worst Movies of 2020