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 →
Meg 2: The Trench
Ever since James Cameron boldly wrote “S” after ALIEN on a chalkboard and then changed it to a dollar sign, the quickest way to sequel-ize your killer extraterrestrial/reptile/mammal/whatever has been to add more of it. You scored a hit with people fighting one giant mosquito? Great, here’s a sequel with six of them. Continue Reading →
The Last Voyage of the Demeter
The Last Voyage of the Demeter feels like a movie from a different era. To a point, it is—writer Bragi Schut first drafted his adaptation of the 'Log of the "Demeter"' sequence in Bram Stoker's Dracula in the early 2000s. It's a capital letters Hollywood Creature Feature—a grimmer straight horror cousin to 2004's action/horror hybrid Van Helsing. At its best, it's an admirably gnarly monster flick—bolstered by sturdy craft from director André Øvredal and consistently good performances from a game ensemble. At its worst, it loses confidence and resorts to bumbling attempts to guide its audience by the hand—most notably in its prologue and epilogue. Continue Reading →
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Despite their hue, not all TMNT films deserved to be greenlit.
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in 1984. Now almost 40 years later, what started as a comic book has inspired seven movies, five television series, and countless amounts of merchandise. This week the four ninja tortoises return in a new animated incarnation, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. Considering I’ve been a fan of the Turtles since six years old, this seems like the perfect time to put an official rating on four decades of movies. Some are gnarly, some tubular, and there’s always a whole lot of cowabunga.
Writers Note: This list doesn’t include the recent Netflix installment Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, a TV-movie crossover Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or the live recording of the 1990 Coming Out of Their Shells stage show. That one you can catch on YouTube, although I don’t know why you would. Continue Reading →
As horror movies fans, we (and I’m very much including myself here) talk a good game about wanting to see something new and different in the genre, but there are plenty of old reliable tropes that still work with us. Zombies, kaiju, masked killers, all of those have a better than good chance of drawing in audiences, without trying too hard to bring a fresh new angle to anything. We also love child in peril and creepy kid movies, and Samuel Bodin’s Cobweb manages to incorporate both, to mixed results. Continue Reading →
Totally Fucked Up
It’s been interesting to follow the reception of teen movies from the 1980s and 1990s has changed in the decades since. Some, like Clueless and The Breakfast Club have endured as classics. Others are better left forgotten. Of these, many are victims of a sameness of perspective. In other words, many of them are built on cis, straight, and usually white protagonists, and have little to offer people from different demographics. Continue Reading →
Pulsating at the heart of Twixt are pains all too familiar to legendary writer-director Francis Ford Coppola. Third-string horror novelist Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer), the “bargain-basement Stephen King,” arrives for a book signing in the town of Swann Valley, where, unappreciated and unable to overcome a case of writer’s block, he’s forced to confront his insignificance, his sullied legacy, and the feeling that he has nothing valuable left to say or give. Continue Reading →
Defending Your Life
Welcome to the Criterion Corner, where we break down some of the month’s new releases from the Criterion Collection.
#1070: Secrets & Lies (1996), dir. Mike Leigh
Secrets & Lies - Criterion
One would be hard-pressed to find a more keenly-observed chronicler of everyday life than England's own Mike Leigh. While some of his films dabble in the historic and histrionic (Topsy-Turvy, Mr. Turner, Peterloo come to mind), it's in his modern-day profiles of the workaday Briton -- Life Is Sweet, Naked, Career Girls -- where his quiet, observational eye holds the most purchase. 1996's Secrets & Lies might well be the purest distillation of Leigh's kitchen-sink dramas; he touches on social issues of class and race, but only slightly, with none of the preachiness Ken Loach is occasionally guilty of. And in so doing, speaks volumes about those very issues while keeping its focus on its individual characters and how they navigate those spaces.
Secrets & Lies is about two worlds colliding: one belongs to Hortense Cumberbatch (Marianne Jean-Baptiste, masterful in her quiet calm), a successful middle-class optometrist who takes an interest in tracking down her biological mother after her adoptive one dies. The culprit, we learn, is Cynthia (a Cannes-winning performance from Brenda Blethyn), a brittle, middle-aged factory worker falling apart at the seams at her advancing years and her fractious relationships with her daughter and brother (a steady Timothy Spall). Hortense is Black; Cynthia is white -- dynamics that cause first confusion, then strife in these family dynamics, as Cynthia eventually brings Hortense into the explosive relationships around her. Continue Reading →