Category Archives: Leave it

Movies I wish I had skipped. This could be for any number of reasons: the film was made sloppily, the narrative didn’t engage me, or I simply could not connect with the film in any way for whatever reason.

Review: Strawberry Mansion — Fantasia Festival 2021

James Preble (Kentucker Audley, who also co-directs) is a tax worker, but what he audits is out of the ordinary. In the near future of Strawberry Mansion, the state audits people’s dreams, taxing the objects which manifest within the sleeping unconscious. Preble finds himself working a job on a remote estate owned by an elderly artist, Bella Isadora (Penny Fuller).

Bella, an eccentric hobbyist of all things creative, has left her dreams on the outdated medium of VHS tapes, something which will take Preble many hours to sift through. With over 2,000 tapes lying around the large house, he spends multiple days Continue reading Review: Strawberry Mansion — Fantasia Festival 2021

Me You Madness (2021) Movie Review

You could call Me You Madness a “female-driven American Psycho.” In fact, the movie would likely be smugly pleased if you made such a comparison. It would happily do you one better. As the over-bearing, ludicrous voiceover from the film’s central figure, Catherine Black (Louis Linton, who also directs, produces, and co-writes), attests, this is a high concept film which is familiar yet oh so unique. That’s right, the film itself tells you how special and great it is going to be. Right off the bat. (It will later explicitly refer to the screenwriters as geniuses, just because they understand how to implement a comedic callback).

Black is a self-described beautiful genius. She runs a massively successful hedge fund. She is a stock market guru. She literally gets off on watching stock market numbers move in her favor. She lives in the lap of luxury in an isolated Malibu estate. Her IQ is 173. And she is a serial killer.

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When Tyler, a thief and con man (Ed Westwick), answers her call for a “roommate,” the game is afoot. After giving Tyler a grand tour, Black drugs him, sleeps with him, butters him up in the morning, and then Continue reading Me You Madness (2021) Movie Review

Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021) Movie Review

Fear Street Part Three: 1666 marks the conclusion of Leigh Janiak’s trilogy of horror pastiche films, which have been releasing weekly on Netflix. The trilogy’s release strategy has perhaps received as much attention as the films. Netflix adopts the weekly programming schedule that it actively helped to dissemble with its OTT service which gave rise to the binge-watching model. It’s not so much an innovation as a throwback, just like the movies themselves.

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Part One: 1994 was a broad throwback to the slasher, specifically taking cards from the self-aware era popularized by Scream. Part Two: 1978 was a pure Continue reading Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021) Movie Review

Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) Movie Review

During the first scene of Space Jam: A New Legacy, I wondered if NBA superstar LeBron James would be boring to hang out with. He’s so hyper-focused on basketball and his legacy, I don’t know what I would talk to him about. All those playoff injuries? What weapons Bron needs to win another championship in L.A.? The stock market? I don’t know.

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Soon after having this thought, I realized I had fallen right into LeBron’s carefully-placed trap. This was exactly what he wanted me to think, as Continue reading Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) Movie Review

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021) Movie Review

Fear Street: 1978, the second in a trilogy of horror pastiches for Netflix, is a Friday the 13th riff. Following the events of the first film in 1994, the survivors seek the aid of the survivor of a similar incident, C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs). The connective tissue between 1978 and 1994: the legacy of an accused witch by the name of Sarah Fier.

Flashback to a late-’70s summer camp, where Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink) is being pursued through the woods. She is caught and strung up by her pursuers, bullies who accuse her of embodying the spirit of Fier and causing havoc in the camp. In truth, someone else at the camp is interested in the history of the alleged witch, someone who believes Fier will bring death to the campers that very night.

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Leigh Janiak directs the Fear Street trilogy, and she does a good job Continue reading Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021) Movie Review

The Tomorrow War (2021) Movie Review

Chris McKay’s The Tomorrow War feels like a remnant of the ’90s, a stray fragment of sci-fi blockbuster flotsam that somehow landed on post-COVID streaming in 2021. Independence Day. Aliens. All the usual suspects of ’80s-’90s alien warfare action exist in the bones of this money-splattered-on-the-screen popcorn flick. And some Edge of Tomorrow (itself a far more successful throwback) thrown in. And maybe some Starship Troopers if you squint a little, minus the raw, biting satire that makes that film so special.

McKay—who has made a career directing, editing, and doing VFX on animated projects in The LEGO Movie franchise and on Adult Swim shows Robot Chicken and Morel Orel—makes his studio live action debut with The Tomorrow War. Undoubtedly, it is the biggest budget project in his list of jobs. It is also the most programmatic, generically vanilla project in the bunch.

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In The Tomorrow War, a December soccer match is interrupted by military personnel, beamed into midfield, who inform the television audience of a war. A war which has not yet started. Within a year of this announcement, leaders around the world agree to Continue reading The Tomorrow War (2021) Movie Review

Unhinged (2020) Movie Review

Unhinged was one of the first films to release theatrically in the United States following the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic. And it seemed like it was generally well-liked by those who saw it at the time. This is not all that surprising within the context. It is a highly-visual, modestly-budgeted spectacle film. Those missing the theaters enough to brave the virus to see something (anything) on a big screen would understandably enjoy the pulse-pounding wild ride that is Unhinged; and, at the same time, they may be willing to overlook the cartoonish nature of its plot.

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By cartoonish, I don’t mean to say childish. No, the bad-faith mayhem of Derrick Borte’s film is Continue reading Unhinged (2020) Movie Review

Smiley Face Killers (2020) Movie Review

Director Tim Hunter is perhaps best known for the crime drama River’s Edge starring Keanu Reeves. He has since directed the occasional feature, but most of his work is done on television programs. Fittingly, his Smiley Face Killers has the appearance of a teen drama show (like Riverdale or Scream: The TV Series, two shows Hunter has worked on).

I don’t say this disparagingly; it is simply an apparent feature. The young actors are lit and shot like they are models in an advertisement. Soft focus accentuates them in the frame. Soft, high key lighting highlights their features. At one point, a major character strips down and takes a shower, and the camera lingers on Continue reading Smiley Face Killers (2020) Movie Review

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) Movie Review

One of the first lines of dialogue in Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong foreshadows the titular inevitable showdown: “There can’t be two alpha Titans.” Naturally, the collision of Kong and Godzilla will entail absolute destruction. Two unstoppable forces aimed at one another. Kong is trapped under a biodome in the heart of Skull Island, an artificial habitat nested inside his natural habitat where he is monitored by Monarch. And he wants out. Godzilla, meanwhile, walks out of the ocean in Florida to attack the headquarters of Apex Cybernetics.

The Bond Villain-adjacent CEO of Apex (Demian Bichir) and the company’s head of engineering (Shun Oguri) approach disgraced professor Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) about a plan to stop Godzilla which involves Lind’s theory that these mythic Titans hail from the center of our (hollow) Earth. This plan leads them to a researcher in Monarch’s Kong habitat (Rebecca Hall). Lind proposes that they use Kong to lead them inside the hollow Earth through an entrance in Antarctica, where they can harness a power source worthy of taking down the giant lizard.

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If this all sounds too convoluted for the first act setup to a movie with the name Godzilla vs. Kong—setup which is crammed into 20 minutes of screentime—then Continue reading Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) Movie Review

Monster Hunter (2020) Movie Review

The cold open to Paul W.S. Anderson’s Monster Hunter involves a not-quite-good-looking CGI desert landscape which is sculpted by a pirate ship (that rides on the seas of sand) and a semi-visually-defined monster roughly the same size as that ship. Following this scene (not so much an establishment of this fantasy world as a shotgun blast propelling us backwards into it), we find ourselves in a recognizable setting. A military squadron saddles up their humvee and sets course, speaking in generalized hoo-rah jargon in a scene which establishes basic character types. One of them is a jokester. One of them is the hard-as-nails commanding officer. One of them looks longingly at a picture of his family back home.

The movie is called Monster Hunter. No one ever said it was going to be subtle.

Suddenly (inexplicably, one might say), the squadron is caught up in a storm which lands them in a barren desert landscape (like the one from the previous scene. Hm…). It does not take long before they are chased by a large horned beast (a monster, if you will). They put up a good fight, but the creature quickly Continue reading Monster Hunter (2020) Movie Review