Last year, CineFiles covered the Fantasia International Film Festival for the first time. Due to everything occurring in the world in 2020, the festival went virtual, allowing someone without the means or adequate free time to attend an in-person festival in Montreal (i.e., myself) a chance to experience a cavalcade of fresh, original genre film content.
That festival screened some great films. Arthur Jones’ documentary Feels Good Man, which shined a light into the cavernous darkness of the internet. Special Actors, Shinichiro Ueda’s follow up to the inventive horror comedy One Cut of the Dead, itself an inventive and fun film with a knotty plot. And Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s swan song, Labyrinth of Cinema, a life-affirming and melancholic exploration of life, history, and the cinema (I believe its U.S. release date technically makes it a 2021 film for the purposes of my best of the year list, so stay tuned…).
2021’s Fantasia Festival begins on August 5, and we will be covering it again from the comfort of our own homes. This year’s festival will be a hybrid, so there are selections which can be watched on demand through the festival’s website. You can see Continue reading Fantasia Festival 2021 Lineup Preview→
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, the directorial debut of Junta Yamaguchi, is a quirky, lean sci-fi comedy about characters in a cafe who discover a two-minute-long time loop which occurs through a computer monitor. Filmed to emulate a single take, we see the characters experience the same events from two different perspectives as they discover that they can communicate with themselves from two minutes into the future (or, later on, four or six or eight minutes down the line).
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.
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 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.
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.
Adam Robitel’s Escape Room was dumped. It was shoveled off to January, the month where genre movies go to die. The first month of the year has become somewhat notorious for having poor new movie releases. To be fair to the studios, it is an awkward area of the release calendar. There is not as much foot traffic in the theaters as there is during the summer months or the November-December holiday weekends. At the same time, January is a time when prestige movies are starting to do the rounds for awards season consideration. It just isn’t a month for blockbusters.
So studios dump their genre films there—the genre films they don’t have too much faith in, it appears. Sony released Escape Room on the first weekend of January 2019. And it did a shocking amount of business. 16 weeks later, the film had accumulated over $57 million domestic. Given the film ends on a Continue reading Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021) Movie Review→
Following over a decade of releasing the most block-busting of franchise blockbusters, Marvel Studios blew up its world. Thanos, the arch-nemesis to Marvel’s foremost team the Avengers, which the studio had been setting up for years, eliminated half of the known universe with a snap. In the next film, the Marvel universe righted itself once again, re-establishing the diegetic status quo, save for a few notable casualties — among them, Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).
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.
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.
R.L. Stine’s young adult book series Fear Street was the “grown up” Goosebumps. Books about teens for teens, which allowed for slightly more suggestive horror content. If Goosebumps was a G, Fear Street was a hard-PG. Leigh Janiak’s Fear Street: 1994, the first in a trilogy of adaptations for Netflix, is firmly R-rated.
I was a Goosebumps obsessive as a kid. I wanted to join the Goosebumps fan club (a real thing), in which I would receive a book every month and updates on all new things Goosebumps. Alas, the club was defunct by the time I signed up—it probably had been for years, considering Stine concluded writing the original series of books when I was three. Fear Street, on the other hand, completely Continue reading Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021) Movie Review→