Category Archives: Drama

Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more

No Sudden Move (2021) Movie Review

Somewhere in my preteen years, when I was taking in film so voraciously that I may have grown allergic to the sun, I stumbled upon Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. I was hooked. It was probably my favorite movie for years, until some other hyper-masculine auteur thing took its spot. And, while it makes me feel like a dorm-room film nerd to admit it, I still love Reservoir Dogs (I can at least say I never had a Pulp Fiction poster hung up in my dorm room).

Reservoir Dogs belongs to a specific type of modern crime film. These films have a sizable ensemble cast, flashy dialogue, a winding narrative chock full of backstabbing and secrets, and the outcome generally goes badly for every character involved. Stakes matter, because the script is not beholden to the safety of the principal cast of characters. Death is treated as superfluous, a mere hazard of the profession. Cynicism reigns as supreme as in the bleakest of film noir, yet the generic elements of the film hew closer to baseline exploitation cinema.

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Nothing in this equation sounds bad to me. On the contrary, I am drawn to it. Which isn’t to say Continue reading No Sudden Move (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

The Little Things (2021) Movie Review

The Little Things, which is currently available to HBO Max subscribers on Warners’ streaming service, takes place in 1990. It was also first written in the 1990s (registered with the WGA in 1993, apparently). And this comes as no surprise, given its bold adherence to the tropes of the procedural crime genre that ballooned in the 1990s after the massive success of The Silence of the Lambs.

Se7en is the film The Little Things is being compared to the most vocally (writer-director John Lee Hancock is quick to point out Continue reading The Little Things (2021) Movie Review

The Reckoning (2020) Movie Review

Neil Marshall’s The Descent holds special weight in my mind. I can recall being extraordinarily tense throughout watching that film, cementing it in my head as a distinctly effective horror film. That film is an intensely close-quarters survival thriller turned creature feature that has its cult fanbase, of which I guess I am a part. But after watching The Reckoning, I question whether it was simply a claustrophobia I did not know I had that made that film so effective.
 
 
The Reckoning, Marshall’s follow-up to the similar dud Hellboy, is a substantial disappointment. The premise of the film holds promise: during the time of the Great Plague, a woman is accused of dealing with the devil while trying to save her homestead following the untimely death of her husband. Setting a witch trial narrative on the backdrop of the Plague is intriguing. The Witch by way of Contagion, perhaps? Not quite.
Continue reading The Reckoning (2020) Movie Review

2020 Movie Review Catch-up #3 — Sound of Metal, Collective, Another Round

We continue our catch-up series with a trio of 2020 films worth watching: Sound of Metal, Collective, and Another Round.

Sound of Metal

Simply put, Sound of Metal is one of my favorite movies of the year. It blind-sided me a bit, given that Continue reading 2020 Movie Review Catch-up #3 — Sound of Metal, Collective, Another Round

2020 Movie Review Catch-up #2 – On the Rocks, Lovers Rock

In my rapid fire end-of-year move catch-up, I have been watching films which run the gamut on the quality spectrum. I want to share some brief thoughts on two more of these films.

On the Rocks

Sofia Coppola’s latest, On the Rocks, is missing something. There is a kernel of emotional oomph, a smidgen of tension, missing from this film. As a result, the film becomes this Continue reading 2020 Movie Review Catch-up #2 – On the Rocks, Lovers Rock

2020 Movie Review Catch-up #1 — Mank, Greyhound, Ava

I’ve been away. To be fair, movies have been away (for the most part), too. So perhaps I was taking advantage of the situation. I’m not going to movie theaters. In fact, this may be the longest continuous stretch of me not going to theaters…ever. Since I could walk, at least. Not going to theaters meant not seeing new movies meant not having content to review on the site, and thus…I had time to step away.

I’ve still been working, and writing, like mad. Writing a master’s thesis doesn’t sound all that bad until you realize that you have that and five or six other things on your plate. Then six months go by and you find you’ve only written about 50 pages. And no movie reviews…

I haven’t posted since Continue reading 2020 Movie Review Catch-up #1 — Mank, Greyhound, Ava

Fantasia Festival 2020 Movie Reviews — The Oak Room, PVT Chat, Hunted

The virtual Fantasia Festival 2020 is in the full swing of things, with on-demand and live premiere titles becoming available to Canadian audiences. Here are reviews of three films playing the fest, The Oak Room, PVT Chat, and Hunted.

 

The Oak Room

Cody Calahan’s The Oak Room looks pretty good—opening with slow-moving wide-angle shots of a barroom. The camera establishes mood, producing a Continue reading Fantasia Festival 2020 Movie Reviews — The Oak Room, PVT Chat, Hunted

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