Category Archives: Like It

Movies I liked but likely won’t watch again. Something was off that I wish had been done differently.

Review: Labyrinth of Cinema — Fantasia Festival 2020

Labyrinth of Cinema is screening as part of the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival program.

Labyrinth of Cinema is truly a unique cinematic experience. But simply saying that does not even begin to get at the heart of what makes the film so special. Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s final film—the director passed away earlier this year—it is a film which pays homage to cinema itself, exploring the power the cinematic medium has to enact change on both an individual and community level. It is a three-hour epic, dubbed during the opening titles as “a movie to explore cinematic literature.” And it is idiosyncratic to a degree where it is difficult to describe in a way that compliments the film. Not that the film is unworthy of compliment.

Ôbayashi, in his attempt to champion the power of cinema, breaks Continue reading Review: Labyrinth of Cinema — Fantasia Festival 2020

Review: Lapsis — Fantasia Festival 2020

Lapsis is screening as part of the 2020 Fantasia Festival program.

The science fiction world of Lapsis is much like our current reality. The major alteration comes in the form of “Quantum” technology, and, as with any technological innovation, some are hesitant to adapt. Such is the case with Ray (Dean Imperial), who finally folds to the pressures for the sake of his ill brother. He purchases a “Quantic 7” computer and takes a job working for a Quantum cabling company, CBLR. Quantum tech is fueled by cables which are manually laid and attached to magnetic cubes.

Ray is given the materials needed to cable through somewhat illicit means, and the previous owner was Continue reading Review: Lapsis — Fantasia Festival 2020

Review: Crazy Samurai Musashi — Fantasia Festival 2020

Crazy Samurai Musashi takes about five minutes to establish its exceedingly simple premise: the Yoshioka clan must dispatch their entire army if they hope to vanquish the man they set out to kill, Miyamoto Musashi (Tak Sakaguchi). Then, the film commits to a 77-minute single take action sequence, in which Musashi does away with hundreds of swordsmen.

You can see plenty of seams in the staging of this long sequence which point to Continue reading Review: Crazy Samurai Musashi — Fantasia Festival 2020

Review: Feels Good Man — Fantasia Festival 2020

Matt Furie is a soft-spoken cartoonist living in San Francisco with his wife and daughter. Mild mannered to a fault, Furie immediately smacks of a conflict-adverse, peace-keeping man. He almost certainly had no idea what 4Chan, the online collection of volatile chat boards, was. Then, the site’s users co-opted his most famous cartoon image: Pepe the Frog.

Arthur Jones’ Feels Good Man traces the evolution of Pepe the Frog, a character Furie used in his comic strip “Boy’s Club” that was transformed into an incredibly popular Continue reading Review: Feels Good Man — Fantasia Festival 2020

She Dies Tomorrow (2020) Movie Review

In Amy Seimetz’s moody genre piece She Dies Tomorrow—her first feature as a director since 2012’s Sun Don’t Shine—death is coming for people. Not necessarily in a Final Destination determinism sort of way, but in an existentialist death-comes-for-us-all sort of way. Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) is seen wallowing in the wake of what appears to be a volatile breakup with a lover. She has fallen off the wagon, cracking open a bottle of wine as she curls up on the floor in despair.

When her friend Jane (Jane Adams) comes to check on her, it becomes clear that there is more to this depressive episode than merely a breakup. Amy insists that she will die tomorrow, that she knows she will die tomorrow.

While Jane is initially skeptical, it is not long before she understands the plight that Amy is suffering through — a plight which manifests itself to the audience in a Continue reading She Dies Tomorrow (2020) Movie Review

The Old Guard (2020) Movie Review

The Old Guard begins in a relatively familiar place. An elite, covert mercenary group gets hired by an independent party to complete a run-of-the-mill job, only to find that they’ve been set up. It is the standard fare for the genre. To be fair, of course, the opening shot of the film is the leader of this crew, known as Andy (Charlize Theron), apparently lying dead on the ground, her body littered with bullet holes, so it isn’t all generically familiar.

Stills courtesy of Netflix

It turns out that this team of mercenaries has been around longer than Continue reading The Old Guard (2020) Movie Review

Mr. Jones (2020) Movie Review

In Mr. Jones, the eponymous Gareth Jones (James Norton) is a Welsh freelance journalist who travels to the Soviet Union in 1933 to interview Joseph Stalin. But the film begins outside of this man’s story, instead landscaping a pastoral farm—animals milling about, fields of grain waving with the wind. Jones, in his journalistic pursuit, stumbles upon a nefarious truth behind Stalin’s Five Year Plan—the Holodomor, in which Ukraine’s grain was exported in vast quantities that caused mass, genocidal starvation in the region.

Director Agnieszka Holland directs some great sequences in Mr. Jones—this opening sequence; a woozy, heroin-fueled party; a quiet, haunting interlude on a train. Still, stretches of the film are rather staid. The first act relies on undercurrents of tension stemming from Continue reading Mr. Jones (2020) Movie Review

The King of Staten Island (2020) Movie Review

Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) is a 24-year-old resident of Staten Island who lives at home with his mother (Marisa Tomei); is still not over his deceased father; suffers from ADD, depression, and Crohns disease; spends his days smoking weed, although it no longer gets him high; and finds it difficult to come to terms with his mother’s new boyfriend (Bill Burr), while also being emotionally incapable of holding a meaningful romantic relationship of his own. His highest aspiration in life is to open a tattoo parlor/restaurant.

The King of Staten Island finds its focus in the Continue reading The King of Staten Island (2020) Movie Review

Tommaso (2020) Movie Review

Willem Dafoe’s title character in Tommaso is conspicuously similar to the film’s writer-director Abel Ferrara. Tommaso is an American of around Ferrara’s age living in Rome with Nikki (Cristina Chiriac), a wife half his age, and their young daughter (played by Ferrara’s real-life wife and young daughter). He is a writer-director trying to crack the code of his next movie, which sounds like a heavily meditative, self-reflexive piece (not unlike Tommaso itself reads).

Dafoe, no stranger to Ferrara after multiple collaborations over the years, is primed to fill this role. In an early scene at an AA meeting, Dafoe monologues expertly about Continue reading Tommaso (2020) Movie Review

Shirley (2020) Movie Review

Josephine Decker’s 2017 film Madeline’s Madeline was fairly electrifying. Armed with a powerhouse performance from Helena Howard, the film resonates with such a unique energy that it is hard to shake. Decker’s latest, an adaptation of a novel about horror author Shirley Jackson, is more subdued in comparison to Madeline’s Madeline. But its energy is similarly unshakeable.

Shirley is initially framed as a biopic, if not a somewhat offbeat one. We enter into the life of Continue reading Shirley (2020) Movie Review