If you have finished watching the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and are looking for other movies like it, here is a list of options to consider.
The latest chapter in Sony's Spider-Man Universe makes Morbius look like a masterpiece.
In an age where the Marvel Cinematic Universe has categorically lost its luster, it's tempting to imagine how green the grass is on the other side of the hill. To imagine that someone, somewhere, is doing inventive work with some of America's most pervasive modern myths -- without the heaving strain of an interconnected narrative, a cast of over-it actors, or visual effects teams stretched beyond their breaking point. You won't find it, however, in the strangely-dubbed "Sony's Spider-Man Universe" -- that casually connected series of antihero films (the Venoms, Morbius) that attempts to cobble together its own Sinister Six from the contractual scraps Disney left Sony after its acquisition of Marvel Studios. And Madame Web, the latest grasp at superhero relevancy in a dying comic book movie landscape, is easily its messiest, most forgettable shrug in that direction.
It's astonishing to think that Sony could put out a worse product than 2022's Morbius -- a misfire of a mad-scientist picture that at least contained a few interesting images and the perverse sight of Matt Smith gnashing his pointy vampire teeth through a chopped-up villain performance -- but boy, Madame Web manages it. It's a passive whisper of a film, one that barely registers its own existence. The only reason someone would even deign to make it is because they're contractually obligated to maintain a specific character's intellectual property, not to mention a heaping stake of product placement from Pepsi. Continue Reading →
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
Despite a challenging premise and an overlong runtime, the Hunger Games prequel makes the most of the hand it’s been dealt.
The character of Coriolanus Snow is an odd choice for a Hunger Games hero. In the original books and films, as played by screen giant Donald Sutherland, Snow was a cold-hearted, cruel dictator clearly meant to echo real world fascist leaders. Here, in the prequel story The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (say that five times fast), Coriolanus (Tom Blyth) is just a sensitive, emotional teen dreamboat whose main goal is to provide for his family in the wake of the violent revolution that tore apart Panem, the country formerly known as the United States of America.
It’s difficult to understand why author Suzanne Collins, who wrote the novel Songbirds is based on, made the decision to try to humanize a violent authoritarian when a core theme of the original Hunger Games books and movies was lashing back at systemic oppression. Nonetheless, director Francis Lawrence (Catching Fire, I Am Legend) and his enthusiastic cast of talented performers make the best of the rather thematically confused story arc they’ve been given, turning in one of the most exciting, emotionally arresting entries in the franchise. Continue Reading →
Landscape with Invisible Hand
Cory Finley is obsessed with money. His characters have nice things or want them. They live in beautiful houses or enviously plot to get them. Even in the year 2036, with aliens living on (or, more precisely, about two miles above) planet Earth, people still fret over money and try to make scads of it. That’s the state of things in his latest, Landscape with Invisible Hand. It’s a title with the same bespoke aestheticism as the stuffed ocelots and oversized chess pieces his characters own. It feels seemingly designed to scare off less curious viewers. While the film has an awful lot of plot, the undergirding is the same. As in his 2017 debut Thoroughbreds, his follow-up Bad Education, and even his episodes of the abysmal miniseries WeCrashed, the drama comes from the idea of what money does to the soul. Continue Reading →
Altered States (1980) isn't so much a movie as it is a cinematic boxing match between two singular and diametrically opposed talents, duking it out to see whose approach will triumph in the end. Both combatants are unrepentant sluggers through and through, determined not just to win but to knock the other right out of the metaphorical ring. Oddly enough, it's the viewer who ends up feeling concussed. Even 40 years after its release, it boggles the mind that something like Altered States could have ever been produced in the first place, much less as an expensive A-level project for a major studio. Continue Reading →