The critics’ real job is to act as an interpreter, to give the reader a lens through which to approach the art. This is the highest calling of the critic, not to recommend what’s worth your money this weekend or to lob snark at trash. A critic bridges the gap between the filmmaker and the audience.
Madeline’s Madeline stymies the interpreter in me. Not because there is nothing to interpret – the film is dense with meaning and metaphor and bursting with exciting craft in service of emotion and story – but rather because there’s so little gap. Madeline’s Madeline is the most directly connective movie I have seen in years, a film that is intimate in the ways it is about intimacy. With its often blurry and shaky close-up camerawork, with the astonishing sound mix that eradicates the lines between lead character Madeline’s inner and outer worlds, with its immediate and heartbreaking lead performance by newcomer Helena Howard, Madeline’s Madeline is a film that is in direct communion with your emotions, often bypassing logic and sense to get there.
Continue reading “MADELINE’S MADELINE: Dizzying Brilliance”
Here’s the great yin and yang of our time: DC’s movies are terrible, while their TV shows tend to be rather delightful. Marvel makes the best movies, but their TV shows lean towards the very bad. Weirdly the only place where this dichotomy is broken is when it comes to animated DC movies – they are actually really great, better than the live action DC movies and stake out their own weird space in the superhero universe.
Lego Batman was a blast, and I think was one of the better Batman movies ever made. It really got to the heart of the character, while also poking a lot of fun at the character. And now Teen Titans Go! To The Movies has arrived and is a better DC Universe movie than any of the live action DC Universe movies, and it accomplishes that while being wildly irreverent and disrespectful… but in a truly loving way.
Continue reading “TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES: Disrespecting DC, And It Works”
What makes you you? What are the things that create the person you are? Are you created by the sum of your genes? Is there a genetic destiny that exists beyond our control, that will send you down a path no matter the circumstance?
Or are you created by your circumstances? Does the environment in which you were raised have a greater impact? The question, when boiled down, is the familiar head-to-head battle: nature vs. nurture.
A trio of triplets offer a unique look at this question, as each of them was adopted out at six months, and they spent the first 19 years of their lives not knowing they had a sibling, let alone two who were identical at the DNA level. In 1980 two of these three met through strange coincidence; when they appeared in the newspapers their third brother had the shock of seeing himself – twice! – on the front page. Then they were three, and there was an automatic bond. These three identical strangers took to each other, filling gaps in one another they didn’t even realize had been there. You might think that discovering there are two other yous in the world would make you feel less unique, less special, crowded in. But for these three it seemed to be the moment that set them free, that allowed them to be who they should have always been. They soon discovered remarkable similarities about their lives – they were all wrestlers! They all smoked Marlboros! They all liked older women! – and basked in the glow of pre-internet viral fame.
Continue reading “THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS: Nature, Nurture, Neither, Both”
Did Mr. Rogers fail?
This question hangs heavy over Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a movie that is thankfully less of the hagiography I expected and more an examination of one man’s attempt to make a difference. But did he? I’m not just pulling that out of thin air – very early in the movie one of his friends asks that very same question.
Continue reading “WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR: Did Mr. Rogers Fail?”
The First Purge is a searingly angry film, a scifi movie whose subtextual messaging is so barely subtextual that the film plays less like an alternate future than a prescient look at the day after tomorrow. The film is a howl of rage not at an imaginary Purge but at the slow and deliberate genocide being visited upon black and brown families in our country today, right now, a genocide carried out by cops and ICE and broken social service systems that not only devalue black and brown suffering, but possibly sees it as a perk.
If that’s a big statement to make about the fourth Purge movie, the fourth Purge movie is a big statement. As the blazingly political fourth film in a series, The First Purge is filled with the DNA of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, a movie that modeled its ape uprising scenes on footage of the Watts Riots. As a die-hard Apes fan this is not a comparison I make lightly; I don’t think The First Purge is as good as Conquest (screenwriter James DeMonaco is definitely no Paul Dehn), but it’s a descendant of that movie, and like Conquest I think The First Purge will play stunningly to future audiences who won’t quite be able to believe a movie this nakedly political and angry was also an exploitation quickie.
Continue reading “THE FIRST PURGE: A Searing Howl Of Exploitation Anger”
This review contains spoilers
Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom is so dumb it would have voted for Trump. It’s a movie so dumb that its own premise doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it only gets worse from there. The script, by noted bad filmmakers Derek Connelly and Colin Trevorrow, pulls back from the wanton cruelty of the last film but still is entirely incapable of showing the slightest amount of heart. The Jurassic World films are simply sociopathic.
Director JA Bayona at least brings visual chops to the film, unlike Jurassic World, which was flat and boring to look at. Bayona seems to have studied Spielberg frame by frame, and many of the film’s best sequences – the end of the first act island escape, for instance – has the look of vintage Spielberg. But it doesn’t have the feel; Bayona is utterly unable to evoke the actual emotion and joy that Spielberg gets into every frame of his adventure films. Bayona’s Spielberg stuff is a simulacra, a golem of Spielberg that walks and talks but has no soul. Continue reading “JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM Review – Same Shit, Different Dinosaur”
This contains full spoilers for Hereditary.
Stephen King famously dislikes Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining. As I watched Hereditary I thought a lot about King’s problems with the portrayal of Jack Torrance in that movie: “When we first see Jack Nicholson, he’s in the office of Mr. Ullman, the manager of the hotel, and you know, then, he’s crazy as a shit house rat. All he does is get crazier.”
There’s something similar happening with Toni Collette’s Annie in Hereditary. By the end of the movie she’s a raging crazy person in boots and a nightgown, but it’s not that much of a distance from where she starts out at the beginning of the film. Now, I know that’s part of the point – much of what writer/director Ari Aster is doing in this movie is talking about the transmission of generational trauma – but what this means functionally is that Collette, and the movie around her, very quickly get to 11 on their amplifiers. This is a movie that gets broad very fast, and as a result I spent a lot of time not quite sure if I should be laughing as much as I was.
Continue reading “HEREDITARY Is The Camp Classic Of 2018”
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a trifle. Solo is a puff pastry of a movie. Solo is a lark. But none of those things are inherently bad, and in fact they’re kind of refreshing. In the main Star Wars saga we get movies about the big, dramatic moments in galactic history. In Rogue One we got a movie about a small but vital moment in galactic history. In Solo we get a fun heist with some enjoyable double crossing and reversals that has plenty of connections to the larger Star Wars universe but that is more interested in exploring small parts of relationships rather than big pieces of canon.
It definitely feels like a prequel, but not to Star Wars; Solo ends in a way that seems to be setting up a major storyline for some future media (a sequel? A cartoon? A series of comics? Masters of Teras Kasi 2?), and it expands out the criminal underworld of Star Wars enough to offer space for all sorts of other spin-offs. There is always a small universe problem plaguing the Star Wars films – everybody talks about the same six planets, after all – but I actually think Solo carves out enough new space (and illuminates existing space in enough interesting ways) to give the Star Wars universe a little extra breathing room.
Continue reading “SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY Review”
This contains complete spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War, and begins spoiling right from the first sentence.
There will likely be more from me about this movie in the days ahead, but I think that the structure and the form of the film make it hard to write about properly before the sequel is released.
This is your last chance to turn around.
Continue reading “AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR Heavy Spoiler Review”
I’m a middle aged straight cis white guy, so Love, Simon isn’t my story. But at the same time I found Love, Simon to be a story I could identify with deeply, personally and immediately, because Love, Simon is a truly human story with truly human concerns. For me this movie rebuts the silliness of retrograde white male issues with onscreen representation skewing away from us – if the movie is good and you’re open-hearted, even the most specifically identity-based story can speak to everyone in some way.
Continue reading “LOVE, SIMON Review”