You can’t watch a Coen brothers film just once. For some reason, in spite of this firm belief, I insist on reviewing their films after one viewing. Knee-jerk responses to films made by two brothers who are meticulous in everything they do. Never a smart idea.
On June 6, 1944, the dawn of D-Day, a plane of American soldiers are crossing over enemy lines with a crucial assignment: take down a German bunker sited under a church tower so the military fly boys can give cover to the boats landing on the beaches. As we learn this mission, sitting in the rattling confines of the flyer where characters’ voices are muffled under the constant thrum of the war around them, the plane is shot out of the air. The few survivors must pick up the pieces of the fractured mission and carry on, knowing that failure to set explosives on the tower could mean the failure of the entire D-Day operation.
Oh, and there are Nazi zombies, as well.
Overlord, the new film from Julius Avery and produced by J.J. Abrams, takes the concept of insidious WWII Mengele-inspired experimentation and broadens it to horror genre extremes. B-movie horror extremes, in particular.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.