Outlaw King (2018) Movie Review

David Mackenzie’s Outlaw King, dictating a semi-historical retelling of the leg of the Scottish War for Independence led by Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine), presents itself as a modern update of Braveheart. Picking up the thread where William Wallace’s uprising ends (we see a limb of Wallace’s quartered body hanging as an instigator for Robert the Bruce’s rebellion), Mackenzie commits to a similar level of visceral bloodshed that Gibson did in his 1995 film.

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Opening with an impressively-staged, swirling long take, we meet the composed yet quarrelsome Bruce, who immediately falls into a duel with the Prince of Wales (Billy Howle) after Continue reading Outlaw King (2018) Movie Review

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First Man (2018) Movie Review

Damien Chazelle’s follow up to the highly successful and almost Best Picture winner La La Land is a biopic about the first man who walked on the moon, Neil Armstrong (played here by Ryan Gosling). Sounds like a conventional route to go down after directing two films that broke the contemporary Hollywood mold. But leave it to Chazelle to take a unique approach to the conventional.

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Armstrong is a pensive man. On the surface, emotionally slight. Rarely speaking more than he needs to, he relies more on Continue reading First Man (2018) Movie Review

Halloween (2018) Movie Review

The Halloween property is one of the longest-running slasher franchises in American history. That’s what happens when your film sits on the forefront of a nascent subgenre, ultimately becoming the prototype for what will flood the horror market in the subsequent two decades. The creation of John Carpenter and Debra Hill has seen a 40-year career of continuity-shifting sequels and reboots.

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Predominantly, and subjectively, the Halloween franchise has more duds than successes. Following the restrained, moody eeriness of Halloween, the series slipped into sequels that Continue reading Halloween (2018) Movie Review

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) Movie Review

In Lake Tahoe, 1969, four guests arrive at the El Royale, a motel that sits at the borderline between Nevada and California. A painted line divides the parking lot and the motel interior in half. “You can choose to stay in the great state of California,” desk clerk Miles (Lewis Pullman) explains, with a practiced sweep of his arm. “Or you can choose to stay in the great state of Nevada.”

Miles seems to be the sole employee in the establishment. He does the housekeeping. He tends the bar. He doles out the keys. And he watches who management tells him to watch.

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The El Royale hasn’t seen much business since the place lost its gambling license the year prior, according to the all-talk vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm) waiting for service at the counter. But on this particular night Continue reading Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) Movie Review

Mandy (2018) Movie Review

Should I start with “Cheddar Goblin”? Or does that warrant its own article?

Mandy is the second film from writer-director Panos Cosmatos, his follow up to the 2010 film Beyond the Black Rainbow. It is a hazy dream of a film—a dream or a nightmare, depending on your perspective. At times, it spins inside an LSD vision alongside its drug-addled characters. Other times, it is a ’70s-inspired exploitation splatter flick. On both accounts, Cosmatos imbues the rural forest landscape with a fantasy quality. Even as fantastical elements are granted real-world explanations, the characters feel as if they are trapped in a psychedelic snowglobe of cosmic mayhem.

It’s pretty badass.

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The eponymous Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) lives with her partner Red (Nicolas Cage), a grizzled lumberjack with a penchant for terrible jokes, in a cottage deep within the forests near the Shadow Mountains. She sketches drawings, reads fantasy novels, and is fascinated by astronomy. Together, the couple lounges through their nights watching B-movies.

Their isolated existence, though, is shattered by a Continue reading Mandy (2018) Movie Review

Venom (2018) Movie Review

Venom is a notable part of Marvel’s Spider-Man universe, acting as both a part of the web-swinger’s rogue’s gallery and an occasional anti-hero. Comprised of an alien “symbiote” that needs a host to achieve a full physical form, Venom initially bonded with Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) before finding Parker’s enemy Eddie Brock.

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Ruben Fleischer’s 2018 Venom has plenty of alien symbiotes bonding with hosts. It has an Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), the rueful journalist hungry to bring down the corrupt Life Foundation. But beyond that, it is Continue reading Venom (2018) Movie Review

A Star is Born (2018) Movie Review

About 10 minutes into A Star is Born—that is to say, the 2018 Bradley Cooper-directed A Star is Born—country rock superstar Jackson Maine (Cooper) explains to his love-at-first-sight (and soon to be muse) date Ally (Lady Gaga) something very important. Drunk, but conjuring up a moment of lucidity, he points around at the patrons of the bar. “Everyone in this bar is talented at one thing or another,” he says. But Ally. Ally has something to say. And that means something. That’s bigger than just being talented.

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With this line, Cooper both encapsulates the entire film and reveals its biggest flaw. A Star is Born is certainly talented at one thing or another. But I don’t know if Continue reading A Star is Born (2018) Movie Review

One man. Millions of movies.