Outside of Janicza Bravo’s Twitter thread turned feature film Zola, viral social engagements have rarely yielded great art. Nonetheless, Buzzfeed Studios wades into the fray with the horror film Dear David. Based on a series of Twitter threads from their former comic artist Adam Ellis, the story chronicles Ellis’s experiences with a possible supernatural presence in his New York apartment. That may seem like a fresh idea, but the film traffics in standard scary movie tropes, a stunted look, and an overreliance on the concept. Continue Reading →
Director Alberto Vazquez has said his latest work of animated annihilation, Unicorn Wars, is inspired by three tentpole texts: Apocalypse Now, Bambi, and the Bible. We rarely see a film that’s such a clear summation of its sources. Vazquez has taken these familiar stories and ran them through an organ grinder made of rainbow-colored steel. Continue Reading →
We love movies about con artists, because they’re always glamorous, with attractive, elegantly dressed people slickly seducing their marks. It’s far sexier and intriguing than the sad reality of con artistry, which mostly seems to involve catfishing lonely people on dating sites, or swindling them out of cash on behalf of a made-up charity. No one likes to think about how easy it is to be fooled by someone who’s simply a good liar, it makes more sense that these things happen as part of an elaborate scheme created by a network of seasoned professionals alternately working together and stabbing each other in the back. Apple TV+’s Sharper scratches that particular itch, and looks good doing it, but ultimately feels a bit hollow, and has twists that are far more transparent than they should be. Continue Reading →
Knock at the Cabin
In the strange 21st-century rise of conspiracy theories and cult-like behavior, the most frightening aspect of it is that some people really are true believers. Certainly, there are those who are just trolling, claiming to believe in insane things like Democrats eating Christian babies just to get a rise out of people. But what about those who are serious, who aren’t even textbook “crazy,” just normal people who at some point began to truly believe in chemtrails, or that everything that happens in the world is secretly orchestrated by an underground race of lizard people, or that the end times are here? What if they don’t want to believe these things, but they can’t help it? How do you reason with that? Continue Reading →
What would you do to know your parents? Not just as parents, but as people—even long after their deaths? How would you make the most of a horrendous moral quagmire you had no choice in getting dragged into—and what would you do when that quagmire, for all its familiarity, finally became too much to bear? On a broader level, what makes us human—and what remains when we're gone? Director/writer Yeon Sang-ho asks and answers these questions in his out-now-on-Netflix science fiction film JUNG_E. It's a solid, thoughtful film that shines thanks to its leading trio and Sang-ho's skill at depicting and delving into the uncanny. Continue Reading →
What a stupid title for a movie. It’s only one letter short from the straight-to-DVD Cars spinoff, Planes. At least that made sense, though, since small children who are really into airplanes were its key demo. Continue Reading →
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
As Puss in Boots: The Last Wish begins, it’s evident that this movie is aiming for a different vibe compared to not only the first Puss in Boots but the greater Shrek series as a whole. A visual aesthetic that evokes hand-drawn animation and rapid-fire editing summons memories of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse or fellow 2022 DreamWorks Animation project The Bad Guys rather than Shrek the Third. Even the handful of pop culture references are more specific and idiosyncratic—Nicolas Cage’s take on The Wicker Man, for instance—than the very broad references the original Shrek movies became famous for. Continue Reading →
It’s Christmas time, and a man at the breaking point finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time. But he isn’t retired cop John McClane this time. Instead, it’s Saint Nick with a sledgehammer he’d like to swing into your bowl full of jelly. The premise of Violent Night is simple (Die Hard but with Santa), and the filmmakers mostly pull off the kill-fest thanks to some game performers and one inspired sequence. Continue Reading →
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
One thing you can say about Christmas and the Guardians of the Galaxy is that both tend to go a bit over the top. One’s affection for either depends greatly on how you feel about a good thing taken to excess. For this critic, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special hits that delicious “too much, but I can’t help but like it” sweet spot like seconds on the pecan pie. Continue Reading →
It’s rare to watch a film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol that turns you into a Scrooge by the end of it. Apple TV+ pulls it off with their modern, social media-age take on the holiday standard with a bloated musical comedy that features zero memorable musical numbers or laugh-out-loud moments. Continue Reading →
We’re officially in the third decade of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson being a movie star. The former WWE legend made his cinema debut in the forgettable sequel to The Mummy, where he’s introduced as the dreaded Scorpion King, one of the most infamous early CGI debacles. Special effects have since improved, along with Johnson’s abilities as an actor and charismatic leading man. However, it feels like now we’ve come full circle with DC’s Black Adam. Continue Reading →
Good Night Oppy
Ryan White’s Good Night Oppy is a documentary about one of the technological marvels of our time, but it's less interested in science than its subject matter would suggest. It throws several elements into its mix—archival footage, contemporary talking-head interviews, voiceover narration from a big star (Angela Bassett in this case), and long sections of CGI recreations of moments not caught on camera. But instead of using them to edify viewers about the genuinely amazing accomplishments being achieved (the kind that might encourage younger viewers to get interested in science), White seems more inclined to deploy them in a manner meant to suggest a (mostly) live-action version of a Pixar film. Continue Reading →
Eva Husson directs Odessa Young to a stupendous performance of a young woman's birth as a writer in a story about the lingering impact of love.
An adaptation of Graham Swift's 2016 novella of the same name, Mothering Sunday begins as a story about wartime loss and forbidden love. Directed by Eva Husson from a script penned by Alice Birch, it mostly takes place over one spring day in 1924 England, just five years after the end of the first World War. It's Mother's Day and the orphaned Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young), who works as a maid in the Nivens (Olivia Colman and Colin Firth) household, is given a day off. Since she doesn't have a mother to celebrate the holiday with, Jane decides to spend the day with the only person in her life, her secret lover Paul Sheringham (Josh O'Connor).
The couple makes plans to meet at Paul's house. But on this very special day, Jane doesn't have to sneak in from the backdoor like usual. Paul's parents are not home—they're lunching with the Nivens and the Hobdays, whose daughter Emma (Emma D'Arcy) will marry Paul in about two weeks. As the three families gather at the lunch table near a beautiful river, Jane and Paul seize the opportunity to express their love for each other. They're aware that this afternoon will most likely be the last time they get to be in each other's company, so they make the most of it. Continue Reading →
Director Alexandre Aja built his career finding as many ways as possible to explore tension and suspense. His tone shifts from project to project, from the gruesome violence of The Hills Have Eyes to the goofiness of Piranha 3D. His most recent success, Crawl, was lauded as a true successor to Jaws—just swap the boat for a creepy house and the shark for a pack of gators. But always at the core of his work is Aja’s interest in finding new ways to thrill his audiences, and Oxygen is no different. Continue Reading →
The Night Clerk
Michael Cristofer's first movie since 2001 is a low-key thriller that respects its characters, even if its setup isn't too original.
As a general rule, people love to watch what other people do, especially if the person they’re watching isn’t aware of it. It gives us endless fascination to see how someone else acts when they think that they’re alone. But while knowing someone’s secrets can be fun, knowledge can also be a burden. Michael Cristofer returns to the director’s chair after an almost 20-year absence to explore what happens when you see something you shouldn’t in his drama, The Night Clerk.
Bart Bromley (Tye Sheridan) likes to watch people not for unsavory reasons, but instead to learn from them. He has Asperger’s Syndrome and, to better understand human interactions, watches the guests of the hotel where he works via hidden cameras that he’s set up in the guestrooms. One night, Bart’s cameras record a woman getting murdered, causing Bart to rush to the hotel to save her. Since Bart was off at the time his appearance at his workplace rouses the suspicion of Detective Johnny Espada (John Leguizamo). While the case is being investigated, Bart is transferred to another location. There he meets and quickly becomes infatuated with guest Andrea (Ana de Armas) and as the duo bond, Bart starts to feel a little less lonely, but Andrea has secrets of her own.
Despite featuring a murder and a protagonist who records people without their consent, this is a story about loneliness and connection. Most of the plot centers on the relationship between Bart and Andrea with the crime elements being relegated to Johnny’s subplot until the climax. This isn’t a bad angle to take, but it may be a turn off for audiences who are expecting a taut thriller. Continue Reading →