Before the release of this new Guardians of the Galaxy installment, I felt like Marvel had zombified me. Since the studio’s massive saga-ender Avengers: Endgame, I have continued going to the theater to see each new entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. None of these films have moved me in any sort of way. I simply show up, sit numb in the dirty theater seat, and then leave the film without any strong emotions whatsoever. Even Spider-Man: No Way Home, a film many enjoyed, left me strikingly cold. I simply no longer care about this multi-franchise empire.
However, something about James Gunn’s take on the Guardians works on me in a different way. Where Marvel’s phase four (are we on four? five?) felt like a series of films introducing or re-introducing characters without a meaningful sense of Continue reading Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) Movie Review →
Sandwiched between the releases of two massive Summer blockbusters, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 and Fast X, were a meager selection of smaller films. There’s the hypnosis crime thriller from Robert Rodriguez starring Ben Affleck. There’s the sequel to the quiet, soft hit Book Club. There’s also Sony’s shabby looking live-action anime adaptation Knights of the Zodiac.
Then, there’s BlackBerry. If any of these small and mid-budget movies are worth your time, it is BlackBerry. A tech entrepreneur biopic in the style of a classical tragedy, Matt Johnson’s film charts the rise and fall of Research in Motion (RIM), the startup that developed the BlackBerry. In particular, it zooms in on Continue reading BlackBerry (2023) Movie Review →
My relationship with the John Wick films has been a turbulent one. My review for John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum revised my review of John Wick: Chapter Two. In re-watching the films in preparation for this new, epic-length chapter, I found my fondness for the first film waning. There is enjoyment to be had in all three films, and the stunt work in the first film was arguably a wake-up call to the rest of Hollywood to step up their action movie product.
But I have also found myself increasingly exhausted by the prolonged action sequences, flurries of bullets, and metric ton of broken glass. I had to question, then, what my response to an almost three-hour long fourth film in this franchise might be. My expectations were in flux. Parabellum is Continue reading John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) Movie Review →
This is installment six in our “Psychotronic Cinema” series. (What is psychotronic cinema?).
There exists a veritable subgenre of horror-thrillers (truly, there are dozens and dozens of these things) where the premise involves some form of gamified scenario centering around torturous or otherwise deadly scenarios. The trend blew up following the massive success of the Saw franchise (a franchise also responsible for popularizing the torture porn film), but it did not begin here. It also saw a recent unlikely revival with the surprise success of Squid Game in 2021.
Series 7: The Contenders is something like a working class, non-science fiction Running Man. Or a non-science fiction The Hunger Games, years before those books were published. It is murder codified into Continue reading Series 7: The Contenders (2001) is an Underseen Gem — Psychotronic Cinema →
Cocaine Bear is the type of movie that “works well in the room,” so to speak. The pitch to Universal on this probably went over like gangbusters. It’s a fun premise with an undeniably eye-catching title, and a film that could be marketed to a college crowd during a slow box office weekend. It is a movie about a bear that does cocaine and wreaks havoc on a forest full of people. That’s not the most difficult movie to find an audience for. And judging solely on one theater in a small market during the film’s Thursday night preview screening, it looks like it did in fact reach that audience.
I saw two movies on this Thursday. One was Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania in its second weekend; the other was Cocaine Bear. Ant-Man, a huge release with a massive budget that is part of one of the most profitable franchises of all time, was attended by me and two others. Cocaine Bear, meanwhile, was Continue reading Cocaine Bear (2023) Movie Review →
This is the fourth installment in our “Psychotronic Cinema” series. (What is psychotronic cinema?)
More than anything else, I am reviewing Koyaanisqatsi because it delights me that it (and the second in the trilogy, Powaqqatsi) are in The Psychotronic Video Guide. It is such an odd addition, and it makes me wonder what about it is, in fact, “psychotronic.” The film is not generically of a piece with other psychotronic film (although, as I’ve mentioned before this term encompasses quite a breadth of genres), and its non-narrative documentary style hews it closer to the arthouse than to the late-night cable time slot.
Perhaps its music and rhythmic sense of movement lends itself to a certain, let’s say, chilled out demographic.
Michael Weldon (originator of the term “psychotronic”) writes that the style and score of Koyaanisqatsi was influential culturally, especially in television commercials. This could point us to a tension that presents as psychotronic. If psychotronia’s guiding principle is Continue reading Koyaanisqatsi (1982) is a Psychotronic Film — Review →
I have never known what to do with M. Night Shyamalan’s career. You can’t fault the guy for trying to do unique things with the thriller genre. But there are recurring aspects of his filmmaking which have bothered me, and these problems came to a head with the one-two punch of Glass and Old. The writing, acting, and tone in those movies irk me.
On the other hand, Shyamalan has surprised me pleasantly on multiple occasions. Split is really well-shot and holds the tension. The Visit has a few memorable moments. Going back to the first act of his career, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable both hold up well, I think. And Praying with Anger is Continue reading Knock at the Cabin (2023) Movie Review →
This is the second installment in our “Psychotronic Cinema” series. (What is psychotronic cinema?)
The Collingswood Story has received something of a new lease on life with the continuing trend of “Screenlife” movies. Films which take place entirely on digital screen spaces find their origin point in 2002 with Collingswood. Though not Screenlife in the “pure” sense of taking place entirely on a screen (it’s maybe at 95%), Collingswood makes use of emergent technology in a relatively novel way – blocky early-2000s desktop aesthetic and all. A pandemic-era film like Host owes a great deal to this film, whose video chat technology amplifies a mood of isolation and loneliness.
Separate the film from its novelty, though, and Collingswood does not Continue reading The Collingswood Story (2002) is the First Screenlife Movie →
While I do find myself saying it quite often, I think “third act problems” is a strange statement. In most cases, a third act problem probably originates as a first or second act problem, as in, something needs to be resolved in the third act for the film to work and that does not happen. The third act reveals the problem, but it was an underlying structural problem that carries over across acts.
I make this distinction to say that Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool has major third act problems, but that these problems pertain to the film’s overall structure.
Cronenberg’s Possessor was my favorite horror movie of 2020. It is the type of film that does not give clarity to every angle of its story, but the overall Continue reading Infinity Pool (2023) Movie Review →
After taking a break from covering the Academy Award nominees for Best Live Action Short Film, I am returning to the fold to shed some light on these under-seen gems (they are gems more often than not, at least). The nominees this year cover a broad geographical range, with films from Ireland, Iran by way of Luxemborg, Norway, Italy, and Denmark. For now, let’s focus on the first two and take a look at An Irish Goodbye and The Red Suitcase.
An Irish Goodbye
Lorcan (James Martin) and Turlough (Seamus O’Hara), two brothers who don’t get along, reunite following the death of Continue reading 2023 Oscars Best Live Action Short Film Reviews: The Red Suitcase, An Irish Goodbye →