Review: THE HUNT Is A Gory Satire Of Our Polarized World

This movie ain’t subtle. But for all its lack of subtlety, The Hunt actually takes a little time to reveal its true intention, and a huge part of what makes the movie so fun is its almost constant misdirection. Which makes it, frankly, incredibly hard to talk about.

So what can I say about The Hunt that might preserve for you the sense of consistent surprise and delight I experienced in the film’s first half? I can say that this is a lean, propulsive movie; The Hunt begins deep in the good stuff, with a private plane full of liberal elites transporting a bunch of unconscious ‘deplorables’ to an unknown location to hunt them for sport. When one of the deplorables wakes up too early, while the plane is still high in the sky, the ensuing fight – which is ugly, funny and profoundly violent (the deplorable takes a stiletto to his eye; when the stiletto is pulled out his eye and the cord attached to it comes slithering out of his face hole) – sums up what you’re about to get for the next 90 minutes.

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1917: It’s A Small World War After All

You get into the seat of your moving car and a lap bar lowers, even though this ride won’t be so bumpy. The mechanisms grind into life and with a mild jolt you begin gliding down the moving belt. The car turns and pivots to reveal scenes rendered with exquisite Imagineered detail – a trench full of beautifully placed corpses, an empty German bunker with an animatronic rat and a friendly sense of dread, a destroyed French village that is immaculately constructed and lit with a breath-taking series of flares. Right at the end it surprises you by turning into a log flume ride, but honestly by the time the car returns to the loading area you’re a little bit exhausted and have taken to heart the message that the animatronic figures of soldiers and civilians would occasionally turn towards you and intone: War IS hell.

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The Grotesque Miracle Of CATS

That Sharknado is a hit and Cats is a flop is a true indicator of how misaligned our cultural priorities are. The fake bad movie is big business, while the real bad movie – the earnestly bad movie – has become a punchline. Cats deserves more.

(Before we go any farther, yes, I am aware success is measured quite differently for a SyFy Original versus big budget Oscar bait. I really just need you guys to roll with my rhetoric a little bit this year.)

The legend of Cats preceded it, and all of my friends saw the movie and returned almost hyperventilating with laughter. Ironic Cats stuff started with the release of the first trailer but exploded after the first screening. More people seem to be tweeting and memeing about Cats than are seeing it, though, and so Cats has become something that people want to talk about and laugh about but not necessarily see. 

I have seen it and I will tell you this: I am glad I did. And while it is a terrible, awful, miserable movie it is, in many ways, preferable to some of the perfectly fine big budget movies I saw this year. I will take the sheer insanity of Cats over the inanity of a Hobbs and Shaw, for instance. Hell, I’m more likely to see Cats in theaters again before I see Rise of Skywalker in theaters again. 

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STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Taught Me To Love The Prequels

This review is fairly spoiler-free.

In the beginning there was the word, and the word was Starkiller. From this humble start came dozens of iterations, concepts, ideas and drafts until what finally emerged, like a triumphant amphibian climbing from the primordial ooze, was Star Wars, later known as A New Hope

All beginnings have ends, of course, and 42 years later the ending of that new hope – or one particular aspect of it, anyway – has arrived. I’m tempted to continue the Biblical allusions here and talk about how at the end, as in the end of the Bible, there is a Beast, “having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.” Maybe once upon a time I could get have gotten worked up into that John the Revelator mode, but that time is past. I’ve lived through the Prequels and the wars over The Last Jedi; I’ve seen the eradication of swaths of the Extended Universe and I’ve witnessed the birth of a really coherent and exciting transmedia canon. I’ve seen worse, and I’ve seen better, and in the end The Rise of Skywalker is more a disappointment than a blasphemy. And who can worry about blasphemies in Star Wars post-midichlorians anyway?

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A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: What Would Fred Rogers Do?

Many of you reading this grew up with Fred Rogers as a presence in your home. That wasn’t the way it was for me; Mr. Rogers always struck me as creepy, as the guy at the end of the block who gives out Werther’s Originals on Halloween and who always wants to hire young boys in the neighborhood to do errands for him. Something about that tidy haircut, the red sweater, changing his shoes when he came into the house… all of it set off alarm bells for me. 

But what really set off the alarm bells was his emotional openness. Raised by a single mother who didn’t have the capacity to express love or acceptance, I found Fred Rogers’ default state to be mind blowingly threatening. Grow up in a desert and you’ll have one of two reactions to the ocean – you’ll either fall in love with it because it was what you were always missing or its depths will terrify you.

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KNIVES OUT: The Kindest Murder Mystery Ever

The first few paragraphs of this are spoiler free, but major spoilers do arrive.

Who knew murder could be so fun? More importantly, who knew murder could be so nice? Rian Johnson’s whodunnit, Knives Out, may be the singularly nicest and most kind murder mystery anyone has ever made, an Agatha Christie-style sleuthfest with kindness and love as its guiding principle. 

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THE MANDALORIAN Review

Never forget that George Lucas was ripping off a lot of stuff when he made Star Wars. This is vital, and it’s a part of Star Wars’ DNA. It is also, I believe, why the first episode of The Mandalorian works so damn well. 

See, modern Star Wars seems to be interested in aping old Star Wars as opposed to taking a page from the Lucas playbook and ripping off other movies. Star Wars, to borrow a phrase, is a place, and that means you can take other films and genres and easily drop them into a Star Wars milieu, which is exactly what The Mandalorian does. In this case it’s a Spaghetti/revisionist era Western plopped right into a world of blasters and Gonk droids, and it’s the chemical reaction between Star Wars and the genre that creates the beautiful fizz that makes the episode so damned enjoyable. 

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TERMINATOR: DARK FATE Is A Dreadful Deathblow To The Franchise

This review contains spoilers for the opening scene of the movie, which some people might prefer to experience fresh.

This movie made me feel old. Not because the leads of The Terminator have aged into their golden years; this is right and natural and makes me feel good. No, I watched Terminator: Dark Fate and felt old because I’ve been through this ridiculousness again and again and again and again – it’s yet another movie that is trying to cash in on the success and popularity of the first two Terminator films and yet doesn’t seem to have a functional idea of what made those movies work. The movie makes me feel old the same way watching yet another generation think they’re the ones who are going to make polyamory work makes me feel old – I’ve been around, I’ve seen this, I know it doesn’t end well.

Like the three previous failed attempts at restarting the Terminator franchise, Terminator: Dark Fate has no idea what made The Terminator and T2: Judgment Day work. None at all. Like the previous three attempts – yes, there are twice as many efforts to restart this franchise as there are actually good entries in the franchise – this movie thinks that what we like are the robots, or maybe the time travel, and it definitely thinks what we like are big, metal-crashing set pieces. What it doesn’t understand is that The Terminator and T2 work not because of the scifi trappings or the action beats but because of everything in between them – the characters and the emotional story. This is why those two films are eternal, and why you’re possibly trying to remember what the previous three Terminator movies even were, or whether you saw them. 

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Why JOKER May Be The Defining Movie Of 2019

This contains spoilers for Joker.

They told us there would be death. It started with the first trailer, with people saying they weren’t interested in a movie that explained away a white man’s violence by showing him as a victim, and it continued with critics and journalists saying the film would be a beacon to violent incels, that it would spark shootings, that theaters would be dangerous places. The feedback loop of modern internet society was such that the fears of violence mashed up with knee-jerk trolling to create a liminal space where it was so unclear what was real and what was a joke that the FBI and US military issued advisories.

But nobody died. There have been some fights, but I’ll tell you as someone who has worked in movie theaters/movie theater adjacent jobs that this is not out of the ordinary. It’s just the movie itself that makes these fisticuffs newsworthy; I’ve seen people get into it at animated films. 

Instead of people dying, Joker has been a huge success. It’s the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time and it is approaching $1 billion in worldwide box office. It made more in its opening weekend than Justice League, a PG-13 straight down the middle movie, did in its opening weekend. It’s not just a hit, it’s a phenomenon, drawing people to a staircase in the Bronx down which Joker triumphantly dances in the film. 

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The Anti-Cinema Of GEMINI MAN’s High Frame Rate

Cinema is not immersive. Cinema is voyeuristic, not participatory, and that’s part of what defines it. We are looking in through a window at a story, but we are not in the story, we’re not in the room, we don’t feel the heat of the explosion. We can imagine these things – great filmmakers will invoke sensations in us, will make us imagine smells or textures – but we don’t experience them. 

Cinema happens at a remove, and that remove is what allows us to be even more immersed in the storytelling than if it was actually immersive. The gap between what we experience and what we imagine is where magic happens, it’s what makes the moviegoing experience so special. It’s the same kind of magic you get reading a book; there are small places where your mind gets to create connections and those are the alchemical spots, the places where the lead of 24 still images a second is transformed into the gold of a truly moving, life-changing artistic experience.

It’s more real than reality.

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