Category Archives: Like It

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

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021) Movie Review

I hadn’t stepped foot in a movie theater in 425 days. It is perhaps the longest consecutive stretch of time I’ve gone without seeing a movie in a theater since I’ve been able to walk. And, all things considered, I made good use of those 425 days. I researched, drafted, and completed a master’s thesis (on horror movies that are nothing like Spiral: From The Book of Saw, but the Saw franchise certainly has an important place in the history I was looking at). I am on the verge of earning my master’s degree; and the time commitment probably would have kept my theater-going to a minimum even if the world was not facing a crisis.

None of this is particularly relevant to my review of Spiral: From The Book of Saw, save for the fact that this was the film that broke my 425-day streak. And I thought it fitting to return to theaters with the type of movie that really keeps me invested in film art: pure horror genre schlock.

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Spiral: From the Book of Saw may be the oddest horror sequel title ever thought up (who wrote the book of Saw? Is it available at my local library? Is it like an Anarchist Cookbook type deal, where it teaches you how to concoct sadistic death traps just like John Kramer used to? So many questions that have no answer). It is entirely possible that Continue reading Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021) Movie Review

Mortal Kombat (2021) Movie Review

I have no relationship to the Mortal Kombat IP. If I’ve ever played the video games, I don’t remember (I was more of a Tekken 3 and Soul Caliber II kid, and even after putting about 100 hours into those I was never very good at fighting games). I haven’t seen Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 film, either. Really, my knowledge begins and ends with the techno song which opens that film and “Fatality!”

Understandably, then, I found myself fairly lost within five minutes of this film beginning. A prologue set in 17th century Japan launches us into a fight sequence between Continue reading Mortal Kombat (2021) Movie Review

Willy’s Wonderland (2021) Movie Review

The premise of Willy’s Wonderland resembles the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s. Everyone knows it. They probably knew it when they made the movie. Call it a ripoff if you’d like. I can’t really say, myself, as I’ve never played the games (from what I understand, the enjoyment derives mostly from jump scares, which just ain’t my bag). But there is something to the idea that Willy’s Wonderland is a video game movie of sorts. For one thing, the unnamed protagonist played by Nicolas Cage doesn’t speak—a feature of many a video game.

Cage’s character, a silent stranger who rolls into the rural town of Hayesville, Nevada (the town is so untouched by the modern world that it does not have an iota of internet access), finds himself with his tires blown out on the side of the highway. Towed back to town, he doesn’t have the money to afford repairs. Luckily, Continue reading Willy’s Wonderland (2021) Movie Review

Bad Trip (2021) Movie Review

Eric Andre and Kitao Sakurai’s Bad Trip, a loosely-narrativized prank film, was a casualty of theaters closing in 2020. Now, what was originally planned for theatrical release has landed on the front page of Netflix. It is a common fate for films nowadays. But, perhaps unexpectedly, this mid-budget comedy is one of those lost 2020 films which would probably have played best in a crowded theater environment. So…you could call it the Tenet of comedy.

The film strings together a thin plot involving Chris (Andre) who, after being starstruck by the re-entry of his high school crush Maria (Michaela Conlin) into his life, brings his friend Bud (Lil Rel Howery) on a roadtrip to New York City to win her heart. Meanwhile, Bud’s sister (Tiffany Haddish), who recently escaped from prison, hunts Bud and Chris down for stealing her car. However, the real selling points of the movie are Continue reading Bad Trip (2021) Movie Review

Zach Snyder’s Justice League (2021) Movie Review

There is so much baggage, backstory, self-mythologizing, and overly amplified discourse surrounding the fated “Snyder Cut” of DC’s Justice League that I don’t care to touch with a 10-foot pole. So let’s just suffice it to say that I never believed the hype of the Snyder cut, and that if you are amped for the four-hour-long version of the DC team-up movie, then you are probably going to get everything you want from this HBO Max release.

2017’s Justice League is credited to Zach Snyder, who had to step away from the project early in post-production due to a family tragedy. Joss Whedon stepped in to complete the project, which led to Continue reading Zach Snyder’s Justice League (2021) Movie Review

Wrong Turn (2021) Movie Review

Mike P. Nelson’s Wrong Turn, a hard reboot of the 2003 horror film of the same name (which in turn spawned numerous direct-to-video sequels), is (at least initially) so knowingly a “teen scream” slasher that it borders on parody.

A group of late-twenty-somethings hiking the Appalachian Trail find themselves lost somewhere in Virginia and set upon by something lurking in the woods. Almost instantly, the film starts teetering on the “city/country axis” like it’s a gymnast on a balance beam. The rural Virginia folk turn their noses at these “yuppie” millennial travelers, with one confronting them about how they likely never worked a day in their lives (actually, our protagonist has a double master’s degree in art history and dance, so she is a gainfully employed barista).

When our clan of hikers find themselves stranded, one of the first things that strikes fear into their hearts is the inexplicable disappearance of their cell phones. Without this precious tool (“No phone, no GPS!”), they are all but helpless to defend themselves against the crude makeshift traps set for them among the trees. When they come across the people who are terrorizing them, the travelers Continue reading Wrong Turn (2021) Movie Review

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

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

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

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