If you have finished watching the film Strange Days (1995) and are looking for other movies like it, here is a list of options to consider.
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 →
With her first film, Promising Young Woman, writer-director Emerald Fennell took a storyline that was essentially a cloddish-but-glossy retread of such female-driven revenge sagas as Ms .45 and I Spit on Your Grave, infused it with insights regarding gender issues that would barely have passed muster in a 100-level college class and somehow rode it to inexplicable praise and an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Continue Reading →
The low-budget confines of Blumhouse movies mean that any idea can become a movie, including bold original visions like Whiplash or Get Out. Unfortunately, it also means a lot of subpar stuff can easily get the green light. The latest example is the new Amazon/Blumhouse collaboration, Totally Killer. Hailing from director Nahnatchka Khan, Totally Killer dares to ask a question no reasonable soul was pondering. “What if Happy Death Day and Hot Tub Time Machine had a tedious baby?” Buckle up, horror devotees. Here comes yet another dose of 1980s nostalgia and some frighteningly lousy editing. Continue Reading →
Thinking about getting into the Saw franchise 10 movies in? Here’s what you need to know.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the work being covered here wouldn't exist.
With an inevitability that is oddly comforting in such a scary and uncertain time, a new Saw movie is coming out at the end of this week. As you could assume by the “X,” Saw X is the tenth film in a franchise that, just based on its lack of continuity alone, could conceivably continue for the next three decades or so. If you’re thinking about now, after all this time, finally getting into the Saw franchise, here are a few tips to aid you in your journey towards redemption by way of giant bear traps clamping down on one’s skull. Continue Reading →
If Sorcerer’s sole highlight was Roy Scheider's descent into hallucinatory madness amidst an almost lunar rock field, it would still be a special movie. Scheider is Jackie Scanlon, an American getaway driver turned washed-up exile in the isolated Columbian village of Porvenir. He’s the last survivor of a desperate mission to transport increasingly unstable dynamite to a burning oil well. The blaze is so bad that only controlled explosions to burn off its fuel stand a chance of extinguishing it. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, including Jackie’s kibashed truck giving out a long walk from the well. Haunted by—or just plain hallucinating—the laughter of his dead co-driver, he stumbles forward. Surrounded by the surreal with nothing but a rickety crate between him and the hair-trigger death, it’s all he can do besides die. Continue Reading →
My mother was not much of a movie fan. They just never interested her that much, but when it became obvious that I was obsessed with them by the time I reached preschool age, she did nothing to discourage me. Every once in a while she'd let me know that the feature on the The 3:30 Movie (my primary outlet for watching films in those pre-cable, pre-VCR days) was something that I had to watch. Oddly, her instincts often proved to be correct and I was exposed at a very early (perhaps inappropriately so age to such films as The Producers, Duel and the Joan Rivers-penned TV movie The Girl Most Likely To. . ., all of which would be long-standing favorites of mine. Continue Reading →
Cade: The Tortured Crossing
Say what you will about independent film auteur Neil Breen: he has a vision. All of his movies have a common theme, in which a man with superhuman abilities (played by Neil Breen) directs those abilities toward vanquishing evil corporate and government entities. Many people die in the process, but in Breen’s vision it’s all in the name of world peace. What he’s trying to say isn’t all that hard to figure out: he thinks the world would be better off without corrupt CEOs and pass-the-buck lawmakers (and hey, I don’t disagree). Continue Reading →
In Celine Sciamma’s Petite Maman, we see a young girl meet another in the woods. Soon we learn the latter girl happens to be a literal younger manifestation of the former’s mother. In Charlotte Le Bon’s debut film, Falcon Lake, a pre-pubescent boy falls in love for the first time with the daughter of a family friend in a campsite supposedly haunted by a ghost. Continue Reading →
I love mysteries and crime stories. And it's been a treat these past few years to have so many good detective stories on television (Under the Banner of Heaven, for instance) and in cinemas (Rian Johnson's Benoit Blanc mysteries, the quite charming Confess, Fletch). Would that I could count Neil Jordan's Marlowe among them. I cannot. It's a bad movie, and bad in a very frustrating fashion—no one's phoning it in, but nothing connects outside of a few stray moments save for David Holmes' no-disclaimers excellent score. Continue Reading →
Something in the Dirt
Remember when conspiracy theories used to be fun? Well, maybe “fun” isn’t the right word, but entertaining? Once, they were limited to harmless weirdos who would gladly give a presentation on chemtrails or how many different assassins were actually at Dealey Plaza when JFK passed by, but could also at least maintain some veneer of normalcy. Then the internet made it easier for people to spend most (instead of just some) of their time discussing their favorite conspiracies, without anyone telling them that they were getting obsessed, or that what they were saying sounded insane. And then, of course, QAnon turned conspiracy theories into a kind of religion, one in which its followers were willing to kill to prove their belief. It stopped being entertaining a long time ago, and now, like a lot of things about the world in its current state, it’s just bleak and terrifying. Continue Reading →
On the Line
There are 102.8 miles of track to Chicago’s elevated transit system. For its riders, The 'L' opens up so many possibilities that we often forget it's a closed circuit. The Loop, which circles downtown, is self-contained—but ride any train to the end of the line and you'll soon find yourself going backward. Continue Reading →
Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard
It takes almost an hour for Patrick Hughes’ The Hitman’s Wife's Bodyguard to take a break. At around the 52-minute mark, the film goes without dialogue, gunshots/explosions, or a car chase. But this short-lived, relatively still moment lasts less than a minute. Like a person terrified of an awkward silence who just keeps talking and talking to fill the void, Hughes does not let the movie ever take a second to breathe. Continue Reading →
There’s something both modern and curiously quaint about Fried Barry. It’s very slick and glossy looking (while also still dark and grimy at the same time), but its dedication to pushing the envelope with graphic sex and violence feels like a product of the 90s, when indie filmmakers were all trying to become the next Tarantino. Fried Barry tries for a lot of things--science fiction, comedy, body horror, etc.--while also assaulting the viewer’s senses with a throbbing electro soundtrack and frenetic imagery. The primary reason it works (mostly) is its star, who adds some unexpected humanity to a thoroughly loathsome character. Continue Reading →