Category Archives: Long Reviews (>400 Words)

Monster Hunter (2020) Movie Review

The cold open to Paul W.S. Anderson’s Monster Hunter involves a not-quite-good-looking CGI desert landscape which is sculpted by a pirate ship (that rides on the seas of sand) and a semi-visually-defined monster roughly the same size as that ship. Following this scene (not so much an establishment of this fantasy world as a shotgun blast propelling us backwards into it), we find ourselves in a recognizable setting. A military squadron saddles up their humvee and sets course, speaking in generalized hoo-rah jargon in a scene which establishes basic character types. One of them is a jokester. One of them is the hard-as-nails commanding officer. One of them looks longingly at a picture of his family back home.

The movie is called Monster Hunter. No one ever said it was going to be subtle.

Suddenly (inexplicably, one might say), the squadron is caught up in a storm which lands them in a barren desert landscape (like the one from the previous scene. Hm…). It does not take long before they are chased by a large horned beast (a monster, if you will). They put up a good fight, but the creature quickly Continue reading Monster Hunter (2020) 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

Tom & Jerry (2021) Movie Review

It took no longer than one minute watching Tom & Jerry for me to realize that this animation-live action hybrid reboot of the classic cartoon wasn’t going to go well. Once I saw a trio of animated pigeons lip-syncing to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It” as they fly over the New York City skyline, I just knew. I could sense that the team behind this film—namely director Tim Story and screenwriter Kevin Costello—didn’t have a firm grasp on what would translate this older intellectual property into something entertaining to a new generation of youngsters.

The problem isn’t necessarily the hackneyed technique of adding a cool hip-hop soundtrack to a property not known for such sounds. It isn’t even really the conceit of bringing cartoon characters “into the big city,” a premise which has been used in such big screen duds as The Smurfs (2011). The real issue I have Continue reading Tom & Jerry (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

Freaky (2020) Movie Review

Writer-director Christopher Landon has a long history working with Blumhouse, first with the Paranormal Activity sequels then with the duo of Happy Death Day horror-comedies. The latter—Happy Death Day 2U in particular—present an intriguing twist on familiar generic ground which I enjoyed quite a bit. It would only make sense, then, that his latest,¬†Freaky, a body-swap horror farce, would tickle my fancy just the same. That was my first thought.

Then, I recalled that Landon also co-wrote and directed¬†Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, a similarly self-aware horror comedy that I found Continue reading Freaky (2020) 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

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