Author: David Shreve

Now Available on Amazon Prime: Silence, the Problem of Pain, & the Challenge of Cinema as Religious Text

Originally published on January 16, 2017. Silence is now available for streaming for Amazon Prime subscribers. Overview: Upon hearing that their mentor has apostatized, two 17th Century Jesuit priests venture into Japan, where Christianity is outlawed, to find him. Based on the novel by Shūsaku Endō. Paramount Pictures; 2016; Rated R; 161 minutes. What’s In The Frame?: Martin Scorsese famously said, “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out,” a sentence that might be as useful as any working definition that has been offered for the art form as it hits its toddler stage. But the...

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The Saving Power of Nostalgia, Nerdism, and Stranger Things

*Originally published on July 20th, 2016. We first meet the boys playing Dungeons & Dragons in a basement. Later, we see a poster for John Carpenter’s The Thing tacked to a wall in a bedroom upstairs in the same house. A flashback sequence shows Will (Noah Schnapp) bonding with his older brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) over the music of The Clash, and we catch a poster for Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead hanging on Jonathan’s bedroom wall. When their circumstances are imposed upon with undeniable supernatural influence, the group of social outcasts return to their D&D texts for guidance and understanding....

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New on Hulu: Phoenix Forgotten Almost Makes for a Memorable Experience

Originally published on April 24, 2017. Phoenix Forgotten is available on Hulu’s streaming service. Overview: Twenty years after strange lights appeared over Phoenix, Arizona, a young filmmaker seeks the truth behind the disappearance of her brother who went missing while investigating the sightings. Cinelou Films; 2017; PG-13; 87 minutes. Worth Remembering: I frequently see people using the terms “found footage” and “mockumentary” interchangeably, which is an error I’m never in a hurry to correct, given that anyone who hasn’t learned the difference by now likely has little interest in the horror/sci-fi genres where the two different forms are most...

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The Blair Witch Project Is So Perfect, It Can Only Happen Once

Originally published on September 12, 2016. They say that part of the problem with addiction to the harder, more dangerous drugs is that no high feels better than the first one. The Blair Witch Project got me. I have told the story a million times, the way one does with first loves. I watched it on opening night in a small town in my home state of West Virginia, thirty minutes from my house in the woods. Where I lived, there was no internet access (there wouldn’t be for a little while). My family had only had cable just...

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Candyman Is A Rare Great Horror That Explains Why Great Horror is Rare

If the character Candyman never made an appearance in the first film that carries his name, Candyman would still be an overwhelming and fully functioning horror film. If the movie had excluded its villain and focused instead on Helen Lyle’s (Virginia Madsen) obsessive research and the Babadookian spiral of her sanity, pointing her fixation at a folklore concept without having the urban legend represented in corporeal form, we would still have an unsettling psychological horror film about obsession and class divide. Or, if the narrative lens had turned a few degrees to document Anne Marie McCoy’s (Vanessa Williams) perspective...

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New on Amazon Prime: The Lost City of Z Discovers the Lost Vision of David Lean

Originally published on April 13, 2017. The Lost City of Z is now available on Amazon Prime instant streaming. Overview: In the early 20th Century, a determined explorer makes three separate journeys into the Amazon in hopes of finding a lost civilization. Bleecker Street/Amazon Studios; 2016; PG-13; 140 minutes. This Time, It’s True: I never liked that old dismissal, “They don’t make movies like that any more.” The sentence is almost always cheap and empty, and frequently a testament only to its speaker’s nostalgic hindsightedness. Most of the things that were great about movies then, no matter where in...

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Stronger Is One Big Phantasmagoria

Overview: A victim of the Boston Marathon bombing’s photographed image becomes a source of hope for his city and country while his personal life becomes increasingly fraught with anguish from his trauma. Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions; 2017; 119 Minutes. Phantasmagoria: Since he passed away earlier this month, I’ve been thinking a lot about something legendary actor Harry Dean Stanton told The Observer in an interview in 2013: “In the end, you end up accepting everything in your life—suffering, horror, love, loss, hate—all of it. It’s all a movie anyway.” Life, he explained, was “one big phantasmagoria.” Strange, then, that the first...

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Dying is a Team Sport and Pet Sematary is the Scariest Stephen King Adaptation

Pennywise should never lose, let alone die. I know that’s not the essay you signed on to read, but it’s where we need to start. And we need to start there because Stephen King is something of a coward. This isn’t an insult. Really, it’s nothing King hasn’t insinuated or explicitly stated in jest himself. If anything, it’s diagnostic toward his exceptionalism as a writer; it’s unlikely that his success could be matched by a writer with less fear. A less terrified author might not reach as far in test of his or her own vulnerability, nor would said...

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American Assassin is Poorly Timed and Under Developed

Overview: After his girlfriend dies in a terrorist attack, a self-sanctioned renegade is taken into a secret training program and quickly assigned to a dangerous mission regarding stolen nuclear materials; Lionsgate Films; 2017; 111 Minutes. Honor: The book upon which Michael Cuesta’s new film American Assassin is based, Vince Flynn’s novel of the same name, was written in 2008. Production on Cuesta’s film started in early 2016. There would have been no way for Cuesta and Lionsgate to predict the world into which they would be releasing their movie, an obvious attempt to spark a new action series. But...

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The Masks In Front of the Man: Tom Hardy Turns 40

Tom Hardy doesn’t really have one of those faces. Well, maybe he does now, as today, on the actor, model, and sex symbol’s 40th birthday, we’ve seen him in dozens of leading or second bill roles, ranging from iconic characters like Bane and Max Rockatansky to indie dramas like The Drop and Locke to obligatory romantic comedies (he doesn’t get a pass on This Means War). But in the beginning, he didn’t really have one of those faces. It’s hard to say when it shifted, but there was a point not long ago when Hardy, for whom one could...

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Logan Lucky, Patti Cake$, And The Apolitical Politics of Desperate Poverty

Since I watched Logan Lucky a few weeks back, I’ve been thinking about this joke I used to tell. Channing Tatum and I went to the same college. Before his screen stardom, Tatum was awarded a football scholarship to Glenville State, which is just over a hundred miles north of Boone County, WV, a few years before I spent my freshman year on the same campus. Like many state universities, West Virginia colleges are primarily attended by students born and raised in the state. There’s a certain reputation carried by the kids of Boone County, WV. When I transferred...

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Seven: The Violence of a Cinematic Hellscape

Originally published September 22, 2015. There are less than 20 gunshots fired in David Fincher’s 1995 film Seven, each exchanged between David Mills and John Doe. If you don’t count Detective Somerset’s late face slap, there is only one wounding act of violence committed onscreen. It’s an oft-shared description offered by cinephiles and aspiring screenwriters and critics: Seven is, in the most basic sense, a non-violent film, even as watching it feels like a very violent viewing experience. For most of its run-time, Seven, which this week celebrates its 20th anniversary, is a noir- serial killer thriller built around...

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