Category Archives: All Movie Reviews

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) Movie Review

In Lake Tahoe, 1969, four guests arrive at the El Royale, a motel that sits at the borderline between Nevada and California. A painted line divides the parking lot and the motel interior in half. “You can choose to stay in the great state of California,” desk clerk Miles (Lewis Pullman) explains, with a practiced sweep of his arm. “Or you can choose to stay in the great state of Nevada.”

Miles seems to be the sole employee in the establishment. He does the housekeeping. He tends the bar. He doles out the keys. And he watches who management tells him to watch.

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The El Royale hasn’t seen much business since the place lost its gambling license the year prior, according to the all-talk vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm) waiting for service at the counter. But on this particular night Continue reading Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) Movie Review

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Mandy (2018) Movie Review

Should I start with “Cheddar Goblin”? Or does that warrant its own article?

Mandy is the second film from writer-director Panos Cosmatos, his follow up to the 2010 film Beyond the Black Rainbow. It is a hazy dream of a film—a dream or a nightmare, depending on your perspective. At times, it spins inside an LSD vision alongside its drug-addled characters. Other times, it is a ’70s-inspired exploitation splatter flick. On both accounts, Cosmatos imbues the rural forest landscape with a fantasy quality. Even as fantastical elements are granted real-world explanations, the characters feel as if they are trapped in a psychedelic snowglobe of cosmic mayhem.

It’s pretty badass.

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The eponymous Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) lives with her partner Red (Nicolas Cage), a grizzled lumberjack with a penchant for terrible jokes, in a cottage deep within the forests near the Shadow Mountains. She sketches drawings, reads fantasy novels, and is fascinated by astronomy. Together, the couple lounges through their nights watching B-movies.

Their isolated existence, though, is shattered by a Continue reading Mandy (2018) Movie Review

Venom (2018) Movie Review

Venom is a notable part of Marvel’s Spider-Man universe, acting as both a part of the web-swinger’s rogue’s gallery and an occasional anti-hero. Comprised of an alien “symbiote” that needs a host to achieve a full physical form, Venom initially bonded with Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) before finding Parker’s enemy Eddie Brock.

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Ruben Fleischer’s 2018 Venom has plenty of alien symbiotes bonding with hosts. It has an Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), the rueful journalist hungry to bring down the corrupt Life Foundation. But beyond that, it is Continue reading Venom (2018) Movie Review

A Star is Born (2018) Movie Review

About 10 minutes into A Star is Born—that is to say, the 2018 Bradley Cooper-directed A Star is Born—country rock superstar Jackson Maine (Cooper) explains to his love-at-first-sight (and soon to be muse) date Ally (Lady Gaga) something very important. Drunk, but conjuring up a moment of lucidity, he points around at the patrons of the bar. “Everyone in this bar is talented at one thing or another,” he says. But Ally. Ally has something to say. And that means something. That’s bigger than just being talented.

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With this line, Cooper both encapsulates the entire film and reveals its biggest flaw. A Star is Born is certainly talented at one thing or another. But I don’t know if Continue reading A Star is Born (2018) Movie Review

Blaze (2018) Movie Review

Ethan Hawke’s debut as director comes in the form of a biopic of country-blues musician Blaze Foley. According to Rolling Stone, Michael David Fuller aka “Depty Dog” aka Blaze Foley was a “quintessential American artist before such a thing existed.” He didn’t want to be a star, because stars burn out shining for themselves. No, he was going to be a legend.

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That’s how Ben Dickey explains it, embodying Blaze in the back of a pickup to his muse Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat). Cool as a cucumber, as if Continue reading Blaze (2018) Movie Review

Hell Fest (2018) Movie Review

“This guy keeps following me around. It’s so creepy.” This is, more or less, the opening line of Hell Fest, delivered in voiceover over the opening credits. With this first line, the entire plot of Hell Fest is described. This guy, in a mask, keeps following around the group of people that we are asked to suffer through for 90 minutes. And it is, purportedly, creepy.

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Hell Fest is Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse by way of The Houses October Built (note: neither films alluded to are very good). Using a horror-themed amusement park as its setting, people are harassed by Continue reading Hell Fest (2018) Movie Review

Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018) Movie Review

Michael Moore is more of a provocateur than a documentarian. He wants to spur conversation and cares more about that than outlining a fact-driven narrative. He likes being flashy, even if it means being fallacious. He likes being a figurehead of radical liberal reform.

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This doesn’t mean that he’s a radical. He isn’t a hack. He isn’t a showman, per se. He clearly has a passion for everything he sets his eyes on—with Fahrenheit 11/9 this passion comes in the form of intense frustration. I’ll admit, I agree with some of his political agenda as outlined in this film. And yet, Fahrenheit 11/9 is Continue reading Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018) Movie Review