Life Stays The Cours...

Overview: On a recovery mission, a crew discovers life from Mars and quickly understands its potential and the gravity of the situation at horrifying length. Columbia Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 103 minutes Initiating Sequence: Welcome aboard the International Space Station. Everyone you know is...

Power Rangers Is Slo...

Overview: A group of wayward teens comes together to become the mighty morphing Power Rangers. 2017; PG-13; Lionsgate; 124 minutes. Full Disclosure: I missed the boat on Power Rangers when I was growing up. I was the right age to become enthralled by its goofy wonders. References made their...

Uncertain Plumbs For...

Overview: A documentary about Uncertain, Texas, a tiny town on the border between Texas and Louisiana where an invasive weed is threatening the way of life. The film follows three men trying to make it in—or out—of Uncertain. Lucid; 2015; Not Rated; 82 minutes. Boggy: As Uncertain begins,...

Dig Two Graves Hits ...

Overview: After her brother dies in a tragic accident, Jacqueline (Jake) Mather considers a Faustian deal to get him back. Area 23a; 2014; Not Rated; 85 minutes. That’s Just Like, Your Opinion, Man: Somebody needs to check on Ted Levine. I think he’s slowly transforming into Jeff...

Iron Fist Pulls Punches But Maintains Form Mar22

Iron Fist Pulls Punches But Maintains Form

Overview: After being orphaned as a child and raised in a mystical Kung Fu monastery, Danny Rand returns home after fifteen years to reclaim his name. But the ancient organization of assassins and world-shapers known as the Hand have their own plans for Danny and the Iron Fist he harnesses. 2015; ABC Studios/Marvel Television; TV-MA; 13 episodes. False Start: Because it has become central to the conversation surrounding Iron Fist, and because it is impossible to talk about the show without first addressing these concerns, the fact of the matter is this: Marvel missed an opportunity to portray Danny Rand as Asian-American and cast an actor...

The Alliance Française French Film Festival 2017: Moka Mar21

The Alliance Françai...

The Alliance Française French Film Festival is running in Melbourne from 8 March – 30 March, and our writer in Australia will be covering a selection of the movies being shown. AFFFF is the biggest festival of French films outside of France, and you can see the program and book tickets...

Beauty and the Beast Is A Nostalgic Misfire Mar20

Beauty and the Beast Is A Nostalgic Misfire

Overview: To save her father, a young woman agrees to live with a prince who was cursed with a beastly appearance, and the two begin to fall for each other. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; 2017; Rated PG; 129 minutes. A Tale As Old As Time: For many moviegoers who still hold fond memories of watching the 1991 animated feature–which introduced the set of iconic musical numbers penned by returning lead composer Alan Menken for the first time–Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is indeed a tale as old as time. As yet another adaptation of the well-worn French fantasy fable by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont–which was itself penned way...

Brimstone Delivers O...

Overview: Hounded by an evil preacher, mute midwife Liz struggles to keep her family safe in the wilds of the Old West. Momentum Pictures; 2016; Not Rated; 148 minutes. A Word of Warning: Martin Koolhoven’s Brimstone is one of the bleakest films I’ve seen in some time. In tone, content, and...

The Alliance Françai...

The Alliance Française French Film Festival is running in Melbourne from 8th March – 30 March and our writer in Australia will be covering a selection of the movies being shown. AFFFF is the biggest festival of French films outside of France and you can see the program and book tickets...

The Last Laugh Flirt...

Overview: Documentarian Ferne Pearlstein interviews numerous comedians, historians, and genocide survivors to answer two simple questions. One: Is it right to make jokes about the Holocaust, even as a coping mechanism? Two: If the answer is yes, who gets to make them? Journeyman Pictures;...

Ghost in the Shell Is A Watershed Moment In Anime History Mar14

Ghost in the Shell I...

Overview: In a futuristic, cyberpunk world where humanity has become interconnected through the net, a team of public-security officers seek an elusive hacker known as the Puppetmaster who can hack into people’s brains, erase their memories, and control them. Anchor Bay Entertainment; 1995;...

Kong: Skull Island Fills You With Dread…For ...

Overview: A group made up of scientists, soldiers, and a photographer travel to an unmapped island, where they encounter all manner of monsters. Warner Bros. Pictures; 2017; Rated PG-13; 118 minutes. Starting From the End: I’m one of those cantankerous elitists who doesn’t like post-credits scenes. They are almost always just commercials for future franchise installments. I have never watched a movie that would become one of my favorites and wanted to think about another movie any time soon after. Great movies make you want to spend time with them, thinking and rewatching. And all movies should want to be great movies. Otherwise, they’re...

My Scientology Movie...

Overview: Filmmaker Louis Theroux sets out to make an objective documentary about Scientology, but when stonewalled by the church, he enlists the help of a former Scientologist and leaves conventional storytelling behind. BBC Films; 2015; Not Rated; 99 minutes. “When the going gets...

Fist Fight Hits Below the Belt Mar08

Fist Fight Hits Belo...

Overview: After an incident involving rebellious students, two high school teachers go head-to-head for an old-fashioned fist fight in the parking lot. Warner Bros.; 2017; Rated: R; 91 minutes. The Angry Black Man: Fist Fight is a ham-fisted attempt to provide commentary on an underfunded...

Devil in the Dark Is An Emotionally Charged Fizzle Mar07

Devil in the Dark Is...

Overview: Two brothers aim to reconnect on a hunting trip, but encounter more than prey in the forest. Momentum Pictures; 2017, Not Rated; 82 minutes. Don’t Look Now: Tim Brown’s Devil in the Dark starts with a bang, an eerie dark forest, a frantic father and a lost child. Young Adam...

The Institute Is An Absurd Mess Mar06

The Institute Is An ...

Overview: Isabel, a well-to-do young Victorian woman chooses to go to Rosewood Institute, a mental health convalescence facility, at the urging of her brother in order to recover following the death of their parents. There, she meets Doctor Cairn, whose “methods” draw her into a bizarre world...

Logan is a Poignant Rumination On Mortality Mar04

Logan is a Poignant Rumination On Mortality

Overview: In a future where mutants have become near extinct, a world-weary, battle-damaged Logan must make his way alongside Charles Xavier to deliver a young mutant girl to North Dakota’s fabled mutant safe-haven, Eden. 20th Century Fox; 2017; Rated R; 137 minutes. I See A Darkness: “Maybe we’re God’s mistake,” a haggard Logan tells an equally haggard Charles Xavier, as both men come to terms to with their failing powers and grief over the fact that most of their kind have died, be remembered as novelty acts at best. For seventeen years, we’ve watched X-Men films proclaim that mutants were the future, children of the atom who were...

Want to Understand 2017 America? Watch Oklahoma City This Weekend Mar03

Want to Understand 2017 America? Watch Oklahoma Ci...

Overview: Two violent events mobilized the American far-right in the early 90s and inspired a former solider named Timothy McVeigh to carry out one of the deadliest acts of homegrown terrorism in the nation’s history. PBS; 2017; Not Rated ; 113 minutes. How We Got There: This documentary-length episode of PBS’s long-running series American Experience painstakingly recounts the events that led to the explosive growth of the white separatist movement in the early- to mid-1990s and connects them directly to the deadly bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Though most have long intuitively understood the basics of the...

Lavender Squanders Its Potential & Leans On Clichés Mar03

Lavender Squanders Its Potential & Leans On C...

Overview: When a photographer suffers memory loss after a car accident, she must use her photographs and the people around her to recover memories both recent and distant, uncovering secrets about her past that may have been better left forgotten. Samuel Goldwyn Films; 2017; Not Rated; 92 minutes. Final Girl: Lavender, directed and co-written by Ed Gass-Donnelly, and co-written by Colin Frizzell, is a psychological thriller with a strong visual character that loses its cohesion thematically, and falters most grievously in its characterization. Jane (Abbie Cornish), is a photographer with an affinity for photographing abandoned homes. She is...

“This is the Zodiac Speaking”: Fincher’s Fil...

The story of what came to be known as the Zodiac murders began on December 20, 1968, though no one knew at the time how significant that particular shooting was to become. There’s no agreed upon date when the murders ended because the Zodiac—a moniker the killer gave himself—has never been identified. His shadow stretches until it just reaches into 1970, though attacks beyond 1969 have never been substantiated. For a period of just a bit more than a year, the Bay Area was paralyzed by the randomness and viciousness of these crimes. And that viral fear was spreading. Down in Los Angeles, the Tate and LaBianca murders committed by the Manson...

Drifter Manages to Take All The Fun Out of Post-Apocalyptic Cannibals Mar01

Drifter Manages to T...

Overview: Two brothers find themselves trapped in a decrepit town populated by cannibals. XLrator Media; 2016; Not Yet Rated; 86 minutes.  How Thoughtful: I suppose I should thank Chris von Hoffmann. Recapping the plot is always the most tedious, uninvolved, and boring part of film criticism....

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore Is A Lynchian Maze Feb27

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore I...

Overview: After her house is broken into and robbed, a desperate woman enlists the help of her neighbor to seek retribution in an unfeeling world. Netflix; Not Rated; 2017; 93 minutes. “Everyone Is An Asshole”: Macon Blair surprised audiences with his startling turn in Blue Ruin just four years ago. Last year he turned heads yet again in a supporting role in Green Room. While working in close collaboration with writer and director Jeremy Saulnier on both films – in addition to their self-funded debut Murder Party from 2007 – Blair has managed to carve out a small corner of mainstream popularity and acclaim for himself in the...

Get Out Gets Into the Frightening Reality of the Black Experience Feb25

Get Out Gets Into the Frightening Reality of the B...

Synopsis: A black man goes to visit his white girlfriend’s family for a weekend getaway, but they offer more than he bargained for. Universal Pictures; Rated R; 103 minutes. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: The set-up, the racial minority reluctantly going to meet the family of his/her white significant other, is one that we’ve become accustomed to across media, particularly in film. Played for romance, laughs, and drama, the racial tension created amongst interracial couples has become one of American storytelling’s great stage acts. But none of these racially-loaded meet and greets have been downright horrific. Sure, there have been some...

The Girl With All the Gifts is a Lukewarm Crowd Pleaser Feb24

The Girl With All the Gifts is a Lukewarm Crowd Pl...

Overview: A group of soldiers and scientists transport a girl through a zombie-like wasteland in an effort to save humanity. Saban Films; 2017; R; 111 minutes. Here We Go Again: It’s hard not to let the general malaise about zombies affect a viewing of The Girl With All The Gifts. It’s a subject that’s so tired, people are not just tired of it, they’re tired of talking about how tiring it is. But it wasn’t always this way. The zombie concept has been around since the 8th century (1932 on the silver screen). Most of the influence essentially comes from a bastardization of Haitian Voodoo, witch doctors with a mysterious powder that left...

Deserted Wanders Into Nothingness Feb24

Deserted Wanders Int...

Overview: Just out of prison, Jae and her brother head to a music festival in the desert along with a crew of strangers only to find themselves stranded together and at the end of their rope. Winterstone Pictures; 2016; Not Rated; 92 minutes. The Set Up: Stories about surviving the elements...

XX is an Unbalanced Nightmare Feb24

XX is an Unbalanced ...

Anthologies are tricky. How do you cram a full story of content into 15-20 minute segments without sacrificing quality? How do you end them well without leaving too much on the plate? XX is the first all female-directed, female-starred horror anthology that tackles these – and many more...

The Great Wall Is A Complex Structure Feb21

The Great Wall Is A Complex Structure

Overview: Two mercenaries stumble upon the Great Wall of China and discover a secret military order tasked with fending off a horde of monsters that attack every sixty years. Universal Pictures; 2017; PG-13; 104 minutes. Two Westerners Walk Up To A Wall: “What God made these things?” Tovar (Pedro Pascal) asks William (Matt Damon) after they experience the first of many brutal attacks upon the Great Wall by the Taoteis, a horde of creatures which rises from the earth every sixty years or so. “None that we know,” William shoots back. It’s a brief exchange to highlight the characters’ otherness and...

Tampopo is a Food Lover’s Paradise Feb17

Tampopo is a Food Lover’s Paradise

Overview: A trucker and his wild connections dedicate their time to helping a woman create the perfect bowl of ramen. Toho; 1985; Not Rated; 114 minutes. Open Wide: Hailed as a ramen western, Jûzô Itami’s Tampopo charmed North American viewers with its veritable smorgasbord of genres and its lighthearted charm after Roger Ebert praised it in 1987. Recently The Criterion Collection and Janus Films put out a restored print so the film could be enjoyed once again in theatres after several decades. Tampopo tells the story of, well, Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto) a young widow who struggles to create the quality of food she knows she has within...

A Cure For Wellness Pursues Radically Influenced Filmmaking Feb16

A Cure For Wellness ...

Overview: A young corporate executive grows suspicious of the Swiss Alps treatment facility to which he has been sent to retrieve his company’s CEO. 20th Century Fox; 2017; Rated R; 146 Minutes. A Composition: The minute that Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) steps onto the grounds of the strange...

Wayne’s World 25th Anniversary: It DoesnR...

You can quote the hell out of Wayne’s World. The movie is a catchphrase factory. In its every scene, the script co-authored by the movie’s star Mike Myers, who made his big screen debut in the now-iconic comedy, presents at least one famous snippet of dialogue. Wayne’s World introduced or popularized quite the collection of quotes within the pop culture lexicon—some that are still in currency (“We’re not worthy!” and “That’s what she said…”), others that have lost their value (“Ass sphincter says what?” and “Ex-squeeze me? Baking powder?”), and still others that feel as if maybe they missed  widespread circulation the first time through...

Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special Funny, Weird, and Sexy Feb14

Michael Bolton’...

Overview: A sexy Valentine’s Day special hosted by Michael Bolton. Netflix; 2017; 54 mins Cool: At the height of his fame in the 1990s, Michael Bolton was the epitome of uncool: a long haired romance novel-looking lothario singing love songs that made your mum’s heart melt....

The Lego Batman Movie Offers Both Celebration & Satire Feb10

The Lego Batman Movie Offers Both Celebration ...

Overview: When the Joker unleashes a dastardly new plot to destroy Gotham City, the emotionally ill-equipped Batman must learn the value of his relationships with his allies, villains, and the city he’s sworn to protect. Warner Bros.; 2017; Rated PG; 104 minutes. The Brick Knight: In his 78-year history, we’ve seen nearly every variety of tone and take imaginable for the caped-crusader. He’s been a medieval knight, a Cold War revolutionary, a vampire, an alien, a Western hero, and a grounded vigilante, and he’s survived through all of it. Yes, he’s even been George Clooney, and he survived that, too. The elasticity of Batman is largely what...

Fifty Shades Darker Has A Few Bright Spots Feb10

Fifty Shades Darker Has A Few Bright Spots

Overview: Anastasia and Christian are up to their old tricks, but this time . . . they’ve got company. Based on the novel by E.L. James. Universal Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 118 minutes. How Many Shades of Grey Are There Really?: When the credits rolled on 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey, there was a sense that the movie salvaged something in its closing. That film, based upon the first entry in the cash grab erotic trilogy from E.L. James, was never going to overcome its wooden dialogue and its clumsy narrative feet, but it did stick the landing in terms of structuring its character development, the elevator doors of its conclusion...

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a High Art Action Film of Mythic Proportion Feb08

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a High Art Action Film of ...

Overview: When a former ally forces John Wick to make good on an old debt, he finds himself caught in a whirlwind of repercussions with a bounty on his head. Summit Entertainment; 2017; Rated R; 122 minutes. Working Again: Before we even get to the opening credits and title card for John Wick: Chapter 2, the film quickly dispenses with the plot that any standard action sequel would go for by wrapping up the threads from John Wick. Reclaiming the car that was stolen from him in the first film and dealing with the threat of Viggo’s brother Abram (Peter Stormare), Wick destroys any notion that we’re about to see Chapter 2 play out on the same...

T2 Trainspotting Comes Close To Greatness Feb07

T2 Trainspotting Comes Close To Greatness

Overview: Twenty years after abandoning his friends, Mark (Ewan McGregor) returns home to Edinburgh to make amends. Meanwhile, Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) plot their revenge on him for the money he stole. TriStar Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 117 minutes. Choose Your Future: The question of how to make a great sequel, especially over two decades later, is one that is often asked but rarely answered satisfactorily. With legacy sequels, you have a wide range of uses of nostalgia. There’s Harrison Ford’s, “Chewie, we’re home,” that made people cry simply watching a trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and on the other...

Weekly Clickables: James Baldwin & Films About American Immigration Feb06

Weekly Clickables: James Baldwin & Films Abou...

In this week’s Weekly Clickables, we have a review, a few lists, and some fan art. Plenty to soothe your post-Super Bowl blues (or to entertain you in a regular way). First, a review of the new James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro, which by almost all accounts is life-changing, and which I was supposed to see and review on Friday until they canceled all showings at the theater near me. Not that I’m bitter or upset in any way. This review at least gives a taste of what seeing the film might actually be like, courtesy of The Guardian. Next, the The AV Club provides a list of films capturing the experience of immigrating...

Rings Is Terrifyingly Boring Feb06

Rings Is Terrifyingly Boring

Overview: When her boyfriend goes missing at college, a young woman finds out he’s discovered a cursed video tape that kills everyone who views it. Paramount Pictures; 2017; Rated PG-13; 102 minutes. Before the Franchise Dies: It doesn’t matter if you have seen The Ring, Gore Verbinski’s 2002 masterpiece American remake of the Japanese classic, or the forgotten 2005 sequel The Ring Two. Rings, the third installment in the series, tells you everything you need to know to keep up really quickly. In its first cold opening (and there are multiple ones), in which a passenger on a plane meets his fabled seventh-day fate in a...

Chapter & Verse Is Indulgent Viewing Feb03

Chapter & Verse...

Overview: A recently paroled ex-gang member struggles to re-acclimate himself into society after serving eight years in prison. Paladin; 2015; Not Rated; 97 minutes. Tough Crowd, Tough Crowd…: One of the film critics I find myself returning to over and over again for inspiration is the...

Heed its Warning and Beware The Slenderman

Overview: An internet bogeyman inspires two Wisconsin girls to attempt murder in an effort to earn his approval, as recounted in this documentary that takes a closer look at the case and surrounding phenomenon. HBO; Not Rated; 2016; 114 minutes. “Some kids are just big believers”: Beware the Slenderman, premiering on HBO this week, is a long-awaited look at the story behind the vicious near-fatal stabbing of a young Wisconsin girl by two of her friends in 2014. The story gained national attention not just for the outlier aspect of its perpetrators—two 12-year old girls—but because of their declared motivation: To appease someone known...

20th Century Women & The Distance Between American Generations Jan30

20th Century Women & The Distance Between Ame...

Overview: In 1979 Santa Barbara, single mother Dorothea struggles to raise her son Jaime and seeks the help of two young women. A24; 2016; Rated R; 118 minutes. Mama Can’t Buy You Love: Director and writer Mike Mills, recently nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, has more than proven his mastery of incorporating personal yet universal themes in his work. Mike Mills’ most recent feature, Beginners (2010) was simple yet profound, heartbreaking yet hopeful, and creatively crafted. 20th Century Women certainly feels larger, and while in some ways it is a more adventurous endeavor, it is no less personal and no less...

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter Is Exactly What You’d Expect Jan30

Resident Evil: The F...

Overview: Alice must race back to The Hive to stop Umbrella and The Red Queen once and for all. Screen Gems; 2017; Rated R; 106 minutes. Evil Comes Home: If you’re into the Resident Evil film series, at this point nothing should stop you from watching Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. If...

Smokin’ Aces: 10 Years of Dead Reckoning, Sl...

To call Smokin’ Aces sleazy is an understatement. It’s a shotgun blast of nihilism with the bullets made out of compact flesh from a rusty meat-grinder. Once the trigger is pulled, the shrapnel propels itself into a block of cheese that will not be satisfactory to everyone’s tastes. But Joe Carnahan isn’t interested in taste here. The focus is on watching a menagerie of degenerates and people in way over their heads get lost in the shuffle of what we can refer to as a “gaggle-fuck” of bad decisions and worse combatants. It also stars an assortment of fantastic character actors doing some of the weirdest work in their careers. The...

A Patch of Fog Backtracks Into Predictability Jan26

A Patch of Fog Backt...

Overview: After he’s caught shoplifting by an obsessive security guard, a famous writer finds himself pulled into a maniacal and possibly deadly forced friendship. XLrator Media; 2015; Not Rated; 92 minutes. Caught in the Act: Almost 25 years ago, Sandy Duffy released his first and only book....

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is a Satisfying Relaunch Jan24

xXx: The Return of X...

Overview: The death of an ally brings Xander Cage out of self-imposed exile to stop a series of terrorist satellite attacks. Paramount Pictures; 2017; Rated PG-13; 107 mins. Fast & Furious: xXx: The Return of Xander Cage reintroduces the audience to Vin Diesel, as Xander Cage over a...

Kuro Challenges the Way We Think of Storytelling Jan23

Kuro Challenges the ...

Overview: While caring for her paraplegic lover Millou, Romi recounts for him the story of a time they spent in Japan, caring for a man named Mr. Ono. 2017; Not Rated; 84 minutes. Space: There’s a lot of in-between space inside of Kuro, the new film from directors Joji Koyama and Tujiko...

The Founder is Almost Golden Jan23

The Founder is Almost Golden

Overview: Ray Kroc turns a single hamburger stand into one of the most successful business models ever—often at the expense of those along the way who help him. The Weinstein Company; 2016; Rated PG-13; 115 minutes. American Dreams: Rarely do the trailers before a film factor into its review, but it was impossible to miss something interesting that was happening in the 15 minutes before The Founder began. If film is a kind of projection of our collective psyche, right now we’re awfully anxious. And the studios seem to sense our fear. The previews I caught were about, in turn: Stalin’s 1932 takeover of Ukraine and the famine that followed;...

The Twist Is We’ve Always Needed More Movies Like Split Jan21

The Twist Is We’ve Always Needed More Movies...

Overview: Three teenage girls are held captive by a man suffering from Disassociative Personality Disorder which manifests as 23 different personalities. Universal Pictures; 2017; Rated PG-13; 117 Minutes. In the Grand Scheme Of Things: It’s almost impossible to review an M. Night Shyamalan film in a vacuum, separate from the rest of his career. Historically, when it comes to constructional precision, Shyamalan has always been something of a revolutionary, a sort of Kanye West-ian artist who pours finely measured elemental arrangement into a pop-culture cookie sheet. His best work (Unbreakable, Signs, and The Visit) is kind of like cinema’s...

Elle Offers Captivating Condescension Jan17

Elle Offers Captivat...

Overview: An affluent French businesswoman is violently assaulted in her own home and subsequently mounts her own private revenge against her unknown attacker. Sony Pictures Classics; 2016; Rated R; 130 minutes. Violence & Condescension: Isabelle Huppert is an undeniable screen performer...

Patriots Day is a Jingoistic Power Fantasy Jan17

Patriots Day is a Ji...

Overview: Police and armed forces begin a manhunt for the people responsible for the Boston marathon bombings. Lionsgate; 2016; Rated R; 133 minutes. Started at the Relatively Decent: Peter Berg’s directorial form has never been an issue. Shot composition is broad, never atmospheric but lays...

Silence, the Problem of Pain, & the Challenge of Cinema as Religious Text Jan16

Silence, the Problem of Pain, & the Challenge...

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 sentiment is also useful in its implied reductive comparison. What is and is not in the frame, that which does and does not happen, what we see...