Friday, March 9, 2018

The Open House (2018)

Today's movie is The Open House, a film that seems to pose the question 'how can we take out everything that people would like in a horror movie and still have a movie?' You may not want to stay for long, but come and see the open house tour of... the movie The Open House. I also accept it if you hated that joke and never come back.


Directors: Matt Angel, Suzanne Coote
Starring: Dylan Mynnette, Piercey Dalton

Co-written with Tony, Nathan and Michelle.

I guess this thing is a Netflix original that they put up for anyone to see – which honestly makes me wonder who at Netflix was mad that day and why he felt the need to take it out on us.

This thing is just puzzling because, for much of its duration, it's kinda hard to tell even what it's supposed to be about. Is it a supernatural ghost story? A serial killer slasher? There are really no clues. Hearing that without seeing it, I'd hope there was just enough ambiguity and subtlety to keep you guessing. In reality, it's more like they lost the script during production and just winged it for most of the time while an underpaid intern was dispatched to go find the script. Clearly he never did...

The basic plot of the movie is that this kid Logan, played by 13 Reasons Why's Dylan Mynnette, is at the gas station with his father when a car hits and kills the father within the first five minutes. Wait, stop – we barely had a chance to be annoyed at the shallow writing of that character! At a funeral later, the mom's sister comes over and barely wastes a second on condolences before offering them to come stay in the empty mountain house she's trying to sell. Wow. How saintly of her to come down from her gold palace in the mountains to spend time with these fucking peasants. I just love how sudden it is – she barely says two words before going into that pitch. Like she only came there just to offer them that and not actually to grieve for her brother-in-law, and it was just convenient that the funeral was going on and gave her an excuse.

So I guess they're off to the mountain house now... I guess the reasoning was that it would help them heal or whatever, but they never attempt to talk about the father or anything, and never look like they're even trying to deal with their grief. Logan just grouses a lot about how he's missing school. GEE, I'm SORRY you're missing out on the mundane school classes to come stay at a COOL MOUNTAIN HOUSE, Prince Persnickety! What a travesty! Somehow I doubt this kid was ever gonna be a fucking surgeon or the President anyway. I doubt he's missing much.

Perhaps the greatest character in this movie or in any movie is Martha, the sweet old lady who speaks solely in cryptic, ominous horror movie quotes with a smile on her face while the characters just look at her dumbfounded. It's seriously the best thing ever. Her first appearance has her recognizing Logan and his mom without ever seeing them before. It takes a few more lines of dialogue for them to figure out that, apparently, the aunt sent along a picture and their names ahead of time so Martha would know them. That's not weird at all... and that's how real people talk, right? In awkward cryptic dialogs that are stretched out for no reason?

Then Martha starts talking about her dead husband and says every day she feels the eternal void of darkness – you know, just regular gas station chat for a Wednesday night!

THEN she closes the conversation by saying how they're “never really alone” out there and the silence “can get loud” out there, which is either pleasant talk from a neighbor or the words whispered by a serial killer right before your car goes off the road and then you're knifed in the woods a few minutes later. I mean, I can barely tell the difference now.

Most of the movie after this is just this numb slog through absolutely nothing. They mope around in the house and don't really do any kind of healing or character development or even anything remotely interesting. They have a whole secluded mountain house that's nicer than anything I ever stayed in. And they use it for, what, just sitting there staring at the walls? That makes me so angry. What small minded boring clod actually thought the best things he could do with his movie was have Logan prowling around in the basement playing with the power switches for most of the movie? Oh, he also jogs a bit – my bad, wouldn't want to misrepresent the insane levels of drama here. But those things are really the bulk of the film. I think the director probably finds waiting in line at the DMV to be titillating. He watches the DVD menus of movies and that's entertaining enough for him. I mean who needs any actual scares in a fucking horror movie?

Oh, but don't let me deprive you of the bizarre dialogue between those scenes. Like the one dude at the store who for some reason feels the need to say this line talking about how the mom is pretty, which I'll just copy and paste whole: “I just mean the mountain folk can get a little, uh... scruffy at times. And I am not talking about the men.”

Thanks for that tidbit, dude! You truly are a bastion of poetic thought. A real Keats for this generation. What would we ever do without your witty, quaint observations on modern small-town life, your flippant yet honest quips that reveal as much about you as they do the audience?

Then we get Logan's treatise on the idea of an “open house” in general: “I mean, you give your keys to someone you hardly know, they stand in one room and welcome in a bunch of complete strangers, and those people just roam around the house. And the realtor doesn't check the house when it's done, right? They just... turn the lights off and go?”

Wow! What a revelatory insight! Are you going to walk us through airplane food next? I mean, while you're working on that Tight Five.

Then we get a big fight between Logan and his mom that seemingly erupts out of nowhere after over an hour of screentime with no other such developments. She says the dad had been irresponsible with money and left them nothing when he died. He says he hates her and wishes SHE had died. Wonderful! My favorite part is how this never comes up again! Yup – it was never brought up before, and this is the last time we hear about any of it. Character development by masters, clearly. Why didn't Vince Gilligan sign these writers up to help with Better Call Saul?

The climax seemingly comes out of nowhere – while the open house is going on, apparently someone broke in or something. The cops weren't called by the realtors, because they're the real estate company that doesn't care about their properties! Instead, the mom has to call them – only, typical of small town cops, they don't really do anything.

Later on, the killer just sneaks in and starts fucking with them. I guess 'killer' isn't really the right word. He knocks Logan out when Logan finds a dead body outside, and then pours gasoline or water or something all over him... and then just leaves him outside. Then he finds the mom and lies in her bed for several minutes without her noticing. She even gets up and goes to the bathroom, comes back and looks at a picture of her dead husband... and doesn't notice the guy! Wow! That can't even really be HIS fault anymore after a point. Not to victim blame – but he's not so much an intruder as a very weird roommate at this point. He was probably feeling dejected that she didn't notice him faster.

Then again maybe she just has a rare disease where she can't feel anything and the world in general is just numb – I like to call it 'the feeling of watching this fucking movie.'

Anyway, he ties her up and breaks her fingers! He doesn't kill her or anything... just breaks her fingers. You know, I'm starting to think this guy has no plan and is just an especially aggressive prankster. Lame.

Then Logan goes down to the basement and stabs who he THINKS is the killer, but it turns out, whoops, it's his own mom he just stabbed by accident! Silly Logan. Just one of those common mistakes for clumsy people! Also it's a complete dog-shit, run into the ground cliché and I think anyone doing this in a movie should be BANNED FOR LIFE FROM MAKING MOVIES. Or, you know, just made fun of for being cliché. Do what you feel is appropriate.

Logan then runs around in the woods for a while aimlessly. Martha shows back up for one more hurrah and the final good moment of the film, where she just stares blankly ahead and smiles like she thinks she's at a tropical island resort, which, honestly, this character probably does really think. Oh if only...

Then the morning comes and the killer finds Logan and unceremoniously strangles and kills him. Why did he wait that long? Logan could've easily found some cops or another person and alerted the authorities – it was only by the sheer grace and immensity of his idiocy that he didn't. Either way, what an underwhelming and shitty garbage-ass final kill!

This movie is an amazing cobble of ridiculous and bizarre choices. It's so ludicrous in its slow pace and lack of anything happening, and the silly dialogue on top of all of that makes me actually kinda like it. This is basically cut from the same cloth as The Room or Troll 2. And by God did we need another like that! Hats off to The Open House!

Image copyright of its original owners, we don't own it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

The basic formula for Cloverfield movies now seems to be to take some totally unrelated idea and just add a monster in, and bam, instant franchise! Both 10 Cloverfield Lane from 2016 and now this, The Cloverfield Paradox, have been exactly that, taking unrelated scripts and turning them into sequels to the 2007 monster movie that was a hit for about a minute back then. I remember liking that one pretty well as a kid. These new ones, eh, they're good for a laugh. 10 Cloverfield Lane was a movie that posited that while giant monsters might be scary, they're no match for an out-of-breath and aging John Goodman, who is the real threat here by a country mile. And now let's talk about The Cloverfield Paradox.

Director: Julius Onah
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Elizabeth Debicki

Co-written with Tony, Michelle, Will and Jonathan.

This thing was released on Super Bowl Sunday, and judging by its quality, it was finished about an hour before its release and nobody ever bothered to watch it to check what they were releasing. This shit is like a school project slapped together the morning of, no effort or planning at all.

I guess you can't say the first 30 minutes is uneventful – there's so much stuff happening that it's actively confusing to watch. It's a lot of shouting and running around and solving random little problems only for other ones to immediately pop up, all while annoyingly peppy film scores play in the background. There's no real characters introduced so much as just sped by you like mass-introductions at a crowded party, and everything is so fast that you can barely follow it.

Somewhere in this mess, a story does seem to emerge – apparently, this scientist named Ava and her husband, a doctor, are having problems because their children died in a house fire. I guess Ava sees going up to this space station to work on a solution for energy as good martial therapy, and who am I to judge? Sounds like you guys have a handle on this for sure!

Other characters include rich and deep writing like 'sneaky looking German engineer,' 'loud annoying Russian guy' and 'Brazilian religious guy who has no dialogue except talking about praying.' Wow, I sure am glad we've evolved past thinly veiled racism in the future.

The movie just kind of... keeps throwing shit at you, I guess; not content with just sticking to one bad sci fi cliché and instead trying all of them, like an indecisive shopper at a JCPenney's trying on everything. They find some random woman buried in the wall – damn, I hate when you forget about those. Apparently she's someone from a whole other dimension who worked on that version of the ship. I dunno. It's confusing and not explained well. Yay science fiction!

And then the Russian guy, who has been the worst and most annoying character in the whole movie, starts losing it and then vomits a bunch of worms everywhere – like, a comical amount of worms. Not the normal amount of worms people usually vomit at all. He dies, which is a mercy because we don't have to listen to him bitching anymore. I guess they have to clean up all the worms, but they don't show this part out of brevity. Good choice, movie.

There's other weird shit that happens... like a wall of the ship that, for whatever reason, eats this guy Mundy's arm – why? There's really no explanation! There's also no blood – it's a clean cut and ends up looking like a cartoon.

What's even weirder is that the arm comes back as a living, sentient being and writes to them that they need to cut open the Russian guy to find this part of the ship they need – I guess the Russian guy had eaten it when he was hungry. I dunno. Like, why would these people listen to some disembodied arm with no questions? Are they that starved for ideas? This shit might as well be a game – who are we going to cut open next to see if there's anything inside? It's like 'open up the box and see what mystery prize you got!'

Then we have the only Chinese woman on the ship – nobody speaks Chinese to her except for the German guy, so honestly it seems like nobody else can even communicate with her at all. That seems like a weird set-up really. She gets trapped in some kind of chamber where water starts flooding in... because this movie is random enough to seem like it actually has a plan. Honestly, the fact that the Russian and Chinese characters were killed off seems vaguely political to me. This movie has an agenda!

All of this weird stuff that happens on the ship seems to be totally without explanation except 'they went to a different dimension!' And after this, it pretty much stops happening, sooooo... good on the movie for having so much of a point, I guess...

I guess a lot of the rest of the plot revolves around the main lady, Ava, finding out that her kids are still alive in this dimension. Apparently in the original timeline, she turned on this light thing in their house and it set the house on fire, killing her kids. Here, they're still alive – and I was so hoping for a Rick and Morty-style plot where she goes and kills the alternate version of herself and then takes over in a new life. For a while, it actually looks like that's what she wants to do – but nope. Biggest disappointment in the movie.

Instead we just get more dumb shit happening – more screaming and shouting as random stuff goes wrong on the ship as an excuse for the movie to keep going. They for some reason send the one-armed guy up there to fix it, because if I trust anyone to fix a delicate situation, it's a man who just lost an arm less than an hour ago. He seems like the best choice! If you're curious, what he does results in the ship blowing up and losing half of the entire goddamn thing. Awesome plan, guys.

Then the ship is about to self destruct AGAIN – honestly, you'd think they would be used to these things by now. This guy Kiel, who has barely been a character the whole movie, decides to sacrifice himself to fix it... they tell him there is DEFINITELY a way to do it remotely and he doesn't have to die, but this motherfucker has to play the martyr. Or maybe he just really hates everyone else on the ship. Or maybe he realized what this movie was doing to his career.

Then, because this movie is just a series of random catastrophes with no rhyme or reason, the blonde parallel-universe chick, Mina, flips her Evil Switch ™ and goes nuts, shooting everyone on board in some attempt to stop them from taking the energy source back to their own dimension. I guess just asking nicely is out of the question. She kills Random Brazilian Religious Guy and then shoots the German engineer a few times, only he somehow survives - I guess he just took more vitamins that day. They end up killing her by jettisoning her out of the ship and into space – disappointingly never using that severed sentient arm to do anything about the problem...

Finally we get the end – they return to Earth only to be surprised by a huge, giant-ass monster popping up through the clouds, apparently brought on by the stuff they were fucking around with up in space. Those idiots! How will this monster EVER stand-out when we already have Godzilla and Pacific Rim in today's world? It'll be a total social outcast and reject. Fuck.

This movie is ridiculous and terrible. Everything was total nonsense and the whole thing felt like it was put together in a rush just to get it out quick... the story was incoherent and the tone was all over the place, with some funny parts and some “dramatic” attempts shoved haphazardly with no real sense of direction. It just all sucks. But at the same time, it was funny as hell and we had fun mocking the fuck out of it, so it wasn't a total loss!

And it only barely ties into Cloverfield, really... these movies are just random scripts turned into a “franchise” by inserting monsters into the last acts (or last scene as in this one). You could do that with anything. Tune in for my next Cloverfield movie, which is just The Big Sick except I threw in a giant monster destroying the city at the end. It'll be a scream.

Image copyright of its original owners; we don't own it.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Forest (2016)

A while ago, YouTube star and professional fuckhead Logan Paul got some flack for taking a web-video in the infamous Aokigahara forest in Japan, which is known as a spot where people go to kill themselves. People reacted strongly and he got ads pulled and he got temporarily banned from YouTube – though in the time it's taken us to do this review, he's now unfortunately back on YouTube and doing whatever he wants again, which proves to me that there is no God.

But did you know that's NOT the only time the suicide forest has been used distastefully in shitty media? Here's a review of the awful horror movie called The Forest.

Director: Jason Zada
Starring: Natalie Dormer, Eoin Macken

Co-written with Michelle.

This is just another rock-bottom, dumb-ass horror movie full of cliches. The message is something like 'be afraid of foreign countries.' After all, America is the only normal place. Everywhere else is just a breeding ground for superstitions and myths that turn out to be true. Stay home and turn on your TV and lock the door! Renew that Amazon subscription!

I guess this is about some woman, Sara, played by Game of Thrones and Hunger Games actor Natalie Dormer, who wants to go all the way to Japan to search for her missing sister. Her reasoning is, apparently, that her sister MIGHT HAVE gone into the suicide forest! Why does she think this? Pure speculation. Like yeah, I'm sure whatever you think happened IS what really happened! Because why have any surprises? That's for wimps and weenies.

So she does go, and along the way, as it goes, runs into some extremely weak-ass jump scares – seriously, they're so soft it's like the movie didn't want to wake up mom and dad napping in the other room but still wanted to have a loud screamy jump scare.

Honestly, she wastes a lot of time when she gets there, just sitting in a bar and looking at the forest but not going in. It doesn't seem like she's really all that interested in finding her sister. I guess she goes to some school her sister worked at, where a girl faints and thinks she IS her sister, and nobody tells the girl she's a twin until later – it's just more fun that way, if you can scare a kid. All of this shit just seems like a waste of time. Didn't she know beforehand that she wanted to look at the fucking forest? Why are we wasting time with all of this other nonsense?

Huh? What's that? Oh, it's just been explained to me that the movie is trite hack work and is padding out the runtime so as not to be a short film. Okay. Carry on, then.

She meets a few other silly characters, like a stereotypical elderly Japanese woman who works near the forest and just... shows her some fucking dead suicide bodies for no reason. How nice of her! The hospitality here is just through the roof! Oh, and don't forget that despite everyone speaking perfect English, to throw in “Konnichiwa” every chance you get just as the bare minimum to remind you we're in Japan. But if that wasn't enough to convince you, there's also some Japanese “mysticism” speeches about screaming spirits and other stuff that sounds cool if you're racist against Asian people and think this is all they talk about.

I guess the REAL “meat” of the movie, if you can call this rotting roadkill “meat,” begins when she runs into this random dude at a bar who starts telling her he'd met her sister and can lead her into the suicide forest. Uh, if this is slang in Japan for “I want to sleep with you,” then I guess this dude is being honest. Either that or he's a horrible opportunistic piece of garbage who somehow got REALLY lucky this one time.

They team up with another random dude to go in. Who are these guys with all this free time? They apparently have no obligations or family or anything. I personally would have asked some questions – they spend ALL FUCKING DAY with her in the woods, at the drop of a hat, with no real preparations. I think these guys are probably fucking lazy bums who have no jobs and contribute nothing to society.

They find a random tent in the woods after walking all day (which Sara is SURE is her sister's! And it is!), and then the one random Japanese guy with them wants to turn back and come back tomorrow. Well then how would you ever get anything done??? It took you all goddamn day to get HERE. Are you just trying to waste time? There are better ways to get your cardio in, you know.

After this, I'll be honest, the movie just kind of turns into mush. We get the truly ridiculous story of how her sister apparently thought the forest was “romantic,” and how one time years ago she didn't answer the phone, and so I guess that's enough to deduce that she killed herself. There's also some story about how they once saw their parents die, and because the sister didn't look away, THAT made her adventurous and want to go do weird stuff all the time. Brilliant! Someone call Freud and tell him he's a hack and he's done! We have a new paradigm of modern psychology and it is The Forest! Oh my God!

There's a lot of screaming and running around in the dark, as the movie is so poorly lit it's near impossible to tell what's happening a lot of the time. She ends up killing herself in a hallucination, and the movie predictably ends with some cops seeing her ghost at the end – ooooOOOOooooh, spooky! I mean, if you're a kid in a shitty haunted house. Who has been sheltered your whole life and never allowed to watch anything besides kids programming.

This is horrible. There's absolutely nothing we liked about it – in fact, it makes what Logan Paul did look like carefully considered, culturally sensitive art-school stuff. I hate this movie and you shouldn't watch it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Post (2017)

The Post is a well made movie – I don't think anyone's disputing that. Steven Spielberg is a veteran and he obviously had shit to say here... from the commentary on the current Trump administration, in the way the movie talks about Nixon in the 70s, and in the feminist leanings as it has Meryl Streep buck the patriarchal system that condescends to her. These things are timely in the context of today's news, while also being a part of the straight historical tale Spielberg is telling.

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks

But I just wish it was more exciting as a film. This is about as ramrod-stiff as a movie can be, and while it tells the events of the infamous Pentagon Papers in a well-directed way that moves the story along, I just couldn't really bring myself to be truly excited. I'm a journalist myself, so I enjoyed the rah-rah nature and the fuck-you to the establishment trying to suppress the First Amendment. All of that was kinda cool, albeit predictable.

The whole thing just ends up feeling so rote. You might as well just make a conveyor belt with every Oscar-baiting trope in existence. Despite its professional sheen and the talented actors, you get everything I always see in these historical biopics and true-life type films... there are enough dramatic 'fuck you' speeches in this, and enough Eureka moments and shocked faces when something Big and Important happens, that I pretty much knew when it was about to happen next. Every dialogue has to be some monologue that's important and has all this real world meaning and gravitas. I just think it gets a bit boring after a while. Yeah I enjoy seeing them the first time, maybe the second time – but does every bit of dialogue have to be something you wrote while fantasizing about an Oscar for Best Script? If people talked like this in real life, we'd never enjoy conversations again. We'd be rolling our eyes so much that people would think we were imitating The Exorcist.

It just seems like a common trap these movies fall into. I also saw Trumbo the other day, which was similarly stiff in a way – though bolstered by an incredible Bryan Cranston performance. But in the same way, all the dialogue and scenes started to feel very rote and by the book. It's a cheap shot to say that we know things will work out in the end for these courageous rebels in these films, because then why make any movie if you're not going to round out a story well? It wouldn't be as good if they failed in Trumbo and every writer got blacklisted forever. Or if, in The Post, they altered history and Nixon crushed the First Amendment under his boot. That would be weird. Though maybe it would at least be funny if nothing else, to go in expecting the usual happy, historically accurate ending, and then get a twist like that – I'd find that oddly humorous anyway.

I guess all I'm saying is that these movies just all feel the same. They all follow a formula – a historic tale woven into a simplified Rebels Take On The Empire type of story, with a seemingly choreographed amount of Big Speeches and dramatic, hushed silences playing out over two hours before we get a scene of everyone hugging and cheering when it all works out. It's like Mad Libs with big budget Hollywood scripts.

I'm not saying these movies are bad – they're OK at best. They are the vanilla ice cream of movies. Safe and dependable and not really all that challenging. And I give The Post credit for trying to tie in some current themes to a historic context, which made it a bit more flavorful at parts. But it wasn't enough. I just didn't find it that exciting. Recommended if you want something to watch with your grandma's book club I guess?

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Best Movies of 2017

I honestly had a hard time narrowing down what I wanted to put on this list this year. There were so many good movies that it was tough to choose - in the end I went with 13 movies as opposed to 10. And even beyond that, it was tough to really order the fucking things. I think the majority of films on this list are about equally good, and the numbers are mostly a formality. The top three are definitely in the right order, though.

We got some of just about everything this year, and I was happy to have seen pretty much all of these in a theater. Like every year, these are the films that made me remember why I enjoy going to the movies so much.


13. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Marvelous, sweeping, grandiose sci-fi epic. This is the best Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back, with compelling character development and drama and explosive, fast paced action making for a generally rich, engaging cinema experience like these movies should be.

12. It

Easily my favorite Stephen King adaptation yet. This is a vibrant and evocative film that brings the book to life – with its childish curiosity as well as the creeping horror underneath, It (2017) captures what King was doing perfectly. I can't wait for the second part.

11. The Bad Batch

A unique film from up-and-coming director Ana Lily Amirpour, this film engages in both wanton violence and gore as well as majestic, romantic scenes, and comes out an extremely interesting, colorful viewing experience.

10. The Disaster Artist

James Franco's adaptation of this book about the making of 'bad cinema classic' The Room is several things all at once – a love-letter to the film's bizarro legacy, a mulling on art and success and just a funny fucking movie. Brilliant stuff, especially since I didn't think they'd be able to make a good movie out of the source material.

9. The Shape Of Water

Finally, a Guillermo del Toro movie to match the brilliance of Pan's Labyrinth from over a decade ago. This is just a well-rounded, kick ass movie, with romance and drama and supernatural intrigue all over it. It's a simple story done up with an attention to detail that makes it a full, rich cinematic experience.

8. The Florida Project

A heavy film but an important one, this depicts poverty right on the edge of my home-town Orlando and the famous Disney World. Raw and visceral, this film doesn't pull its punches and delivers a memorable and haunting experience. We all need to do better at helping people and shouldn't need a movie like this to show us that.

7. Lady Bird

Another wonderful comedy this year – Lady Bird is a coming of age story about a teenage girl in a small town, and while you've seen films like this before, they're rarely so well-written or incisive as Lady Bird. This is a film that bursts from the seams with wit and personality and good humor.

6. Baby Driver

Edgar Wright is a great director and Baby Driver – his first totally original script done all on his own – is a marvelous spectacle. Fun action, great acting and inventive, kick-ass music and sound editing make this a treat for every sense you have.

5. The Big Sick

Just a wonderfully written and directed film about the real life of comedian Kumail Nanjiani and how he married his wife – involving his Pakistani heritage and a mysterious illness on her part. There was really nothing wrong with this and it worked because it's funny, personable, warm and very human.

4. Get Out

For those who say there are no original ideas left anymore, I'd offer up Get Out as a counterpoint. Part horror, part comedy and part social commentary, Get Out is tricky to define, but not everything has to have just one genre. It's a powerful film about the black experience and director Jordan Peele is one to watch.

3. I Don't Feel at Home In This World Anymore

A wonderful film that tackles feelings of alienation and unlikely friendship with a very human, down to Earth angle and great character writing. Plus a bizarre crime story. This was a delight from beginning to end and I can't stop watching it.

2. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Masterfully complex, this is Martin McDonagh's best film yet. It masterfully weaves issues of justice into an off-beat comedy with a lot of shocking parts. This movie subverts every expectation you have and comes out beautifully, surprisingly human for it.

1. Colossal

My favorite movie this year was an oddball tale so strange I can barely describe it to people who ask. It's about a girl who can conjure up a giant Kaiju-like monster in Seoul, South Korea. But it's also about power, about corruption and about perspective and how men and women navigate power dynamics. It's compelling stuff, and I notice new things every time I see it. It's a singular, unique tale and had a very specific story and goal in mind. I find it endlessly fascinating. Movie of the year for me.

There were also some other movies I wanted to include here, but figured 13 was a nice and neat enough number and didn't want to mess that up, Here's some runners-up:


A killer action flick and a superhero film that digs into the gorier, less marketable side of the genre. A simple story but a powerful and memorable film.

Wonder Woman
With how bad the other DC movies have been lately, this was a breath of fresh air. Really well-written, well-directed and well-acted.

A powerful, classic-Hollywood-style epic about race in the 1940s. This had some slightly Hollywoodish moments as it built to the climax, but the real meat of this movie is the sheer day to day minutiae of the weighted relations of white and black people back then. If this doesn't make you angry, you're not paying attention. A sweeping and powerful film.

Gerald's Game
The best Mike Flanagan film since Absentia, this adaptation of a challenging Stephen King novel succeeds on how suspenseful and atmospheric it is. It's a hypnotic and daring horror movie and one of the best of the year for the genre.

Images copyright of their original owners; we own none of them.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Disappointments and Worst Movies of 2017

Well, it's that time of year again - when we pass the Godlike judgment on the movies of last year, as if random bloggers' opinions somehow mean everything. But really, none of this truly means anything - it's just the opinions I had all year, and hopefully you'll glean some cathartic entertainment out of this list, if nothing else.

First up is disappointments. There were just a couple of movies this year that I wanted to be good but they didn't live up to what I'd hoped.


Thor: Ragnarok

This wasn't bad, and when it focused on the lead characters bantering and riffing off one another, it was quite fun – director Taika Waititi is good at that sort of thing. But it also had a super generic villain and serious side of the plot. This shit was like someone thought we'd never heard of Hamlet or something. Sorry – I need more than that.

Blade Runner 2049

I really wanted to love this, as Denis Villenueve is my favorite modern director and I've only recently fully “gotten” the original Blade Runner. But this was a lot of gorgeous visuals in service to a boring story that didn't really expand upon anything the original did – 30 years and all we got was a slightly scrambled rehash of themes from that movie. A dull performance by Ryan Gosling doesn't help.

And now the worst of the year - holy shit, there are way more than usual. What a year. Let's not waste any time and just get into this right now!


9. A Cure for Wellness

A truly ridiculous movie that, in spite of its exciting scenes, is entertaining mostly for how dumb it is and how unbelievable every choice the characters make. It goes on too long and just gets worse as it does so. You'll be tearing out your hair at why the main characters don't just leave this insane asylum – because, of course, there wouldn't be a movie otherwise. The ending twist was probably the worst, but the whole thing is a ghoulish slice of over-done cheese.

8. Mother!

I felt odd about putting this very artsy film from director Darren Aronofsky on a list with some of the rest of this – unlike some of these, this had a clear ambition and was trying to accomplish things. But for me this just didn't work. It treated its characters as chess pieces in service to an allegory, and there just wasn't any real humanity in this, no true complexity. After its two hour runtime was done I felt like I had just been preached to rather than entertained.

7. The Bye Bye Man

A basically objectively awful horror film, hitting every box of cliché and bad writing you'd expect. Like a mutant spawn of every piece of trash I ever reviewed. So bad it's almost funny but is then just bad again.

6. Split

People praised this M. Night Shyamalan vehicle for not being as bad as some other Shyamalan travesties in recent years, but rest assured I am here to tell you he's still a complete fucking hack.

5. Free Fire

Like last year's Hardcore Henry, this was a completely vapid and soul-sucking movie that asked the question 'what if we removed all plot from an action movie and just gave you the shooting scenes?' The answer is that you get an unwatchable movie.

4. Downsizing

I reviewed this a few weeks ago, so go check that out – but this was an infuriatingly pretentious, directionless mess, and director Alexander Payne seems to have completely stepped out of his comfort zone... too far, even. To the point where he's risking being eaten by wolves out there. He should come back to his comfort zone.

3. Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales

This was a completely soulless Product™ of a movie, and every choice just seemed to be made to pander to the dumbest levels of the audience. There was nothing about this that was funny or exciting in any way. Johnny Depp is superbly annoying.

2. Justice League

Another movie that exists purely as soulless corporate Product™. Basically Zack Snyder playing with action figures again. An enervated, generic plot and bad characters make this a true slog to get through, and even the action gets boring. Pretty much every single thing about this was mediocre and all of them combined make the movie horrible.

1. Alien Covenant

This just sucks hard. A superbly dumb plot that manages to both rip off the original and be stupid in its own way, which is pretty amazing... this is the worst movie of the year simply because it had nothing redeeming about it, and every single choice made contributed to its horrendous, hacky quality. This is just the pits and I hate it. So it is the worst of this year for me.

Well, that's the 'worst' out of the way - and now we can move on to the best movies of the year, as it's usually better to end on a good note, after all...

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Right from the title, this is suspect. That's a seriously unwieldy, awkward title – not sure there'll be any T-shirts of that one. And there also won't be any T-shirts because nobody would ever want to touch such an appalling film. We Need To Talk About Kevin is a miserable film and I am here to tell you why.

Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller

I guess this is one of those 'evil kid' movies that was for some reason popular through the years – like the Omen, the Good Son, and so on. Only this time he gets to grow up and we see that it's 100% what you'd expect, a violent sociopath that makes American Psycho look like a well adjusted individual. Who needs surprises in a movie anyway, right?

The movie is done in a jumbled fashion where scenes are shown out of order, for no real discernible reason. I guess they wanted to create some kind of tension or mystery, but the effect this creates is just a simulation of walking into a meeting halfway through and missing all context. For like the first 20 minutes, I was just scratching my head – it was too difficult to tell what the actual story was. There are a few scenes of Tilda Swinton's main character Eva being bombarded with red paint on her house and screamed threats that she's a murderer, a few scenes of her and John C. Reilly as the husband playing with small children and some others of Eva in some other country doing activist work. None of it is put together well. It's like if a small child holding a jigsaw puzzle sneezed and dropped all the pieces everywhere, and then we just made that into a movie to placate him.

I guess eventually we start to see the real story – Eva's son Kevin is, shock and awe, a weird, bad kid! He does wacky shit like mess up Eva's paintings and cry all the time when she's holding him. Wow. What a truly horrible thing and you deserve sympathy more than other people. Though there's at least one scene where she's holding him as a baby and says, with real malice, that she was happy before Kevin was born and now just wants to cry all the time I guess. Gee, real surprise he didn't turn out well... we never return to this again, but honestly, I'd love to see a smarter movie actually tackle bad parenting like that. Too bad this one isn't it.

The movie isn't a fan of brevity or getting to the point, as we cycle through endless vague time-hopping scenes, like a drunk Dr. Who episode, switching from a miserable and enervated looking Eva trying to keep afoot when everyone hates her, to Eva with her family and kids in the past. There are a lot of just boring as fuck scenes of Eva in some office building that finally hires her. And there's one set at Halloween when an army of awful children pound on the windows screaming for candy – Jesus. Where do kids act like this? I want to know so I can recommend we quarantine that hellish place for all of time.

When it isn't showing those pointless scenes, you get downright awful and miserable scenes of Eva trying to relate to her hopelessly sociopathic son. I love the one scene where she's telling him he can decorate his own room to show his personality, and he goes “what personality?” The kid's delivery is just so hammy and the line itself is such dogshit that I'm tempted to say the kid could've done better if he wrote his own dialogue.

There's also a scene where Eva is teaching him to count and, to prove he can, counts from one to 50 in a very obnoxious manner, and then shits his pants. I guess the pants-shitting was meant to rebel against his mother. Truly this kid is the next incarnate of punk rock. Then he farts as he's walking away and she throws him against a wall, breaking his arm. More of those amazing parenting skills! I'm amazed this woman could ever create a child who wasn't well adjusted!

Honestly, I get it – the kid is “just evil.” It isn't the mother's fault because this is a stupid movie that doesn't care about actually saying anything. This is just agonizing, dull scene after agonizing, dull scene of the kid tormenting her and, after she breaks his arm, basically blackmailing her. There's a scene where he makes her go home instead of getting something she needs at the store because of that. Wow, what a riveting scene if you're 89 years old and in a coma. A real nail-biter.

It isn't any better when they grow up and there's a second kid born – if anything, it gets worse when Kevin is a teenager because now he is as pretentious as your average dude-bro atheist philosophy “expert,” only also a psycho fuck. There's a scene where he jerks off in front of his mom, if you were wondering if there was. I know you were. And there's one where he gives her computer a virus. All of these scenes are as bad as any bad movies you ever saw. There's no redeeming value.

I especially love the scene where Eva takes Kevin out for a day for them to just talk, because it's everything bad about the movie – there's one part where they're at some outside eatery and Eva totally randomly says she hates fat people because they're just fat due to eating too much and are unhealthy for that reason. It's totally out of nowhere. Like a scriptwriter just had a bunch of hateful shit he wanted to get off his chest.

Then, at another restaurant later, Kevin shows off those college atheist philosophy reading skills again and pompously “predicts” what his mother is going to do – scold him for fucking girls and then cry because she drank too much wine. It's a carnival of dog shit writing, just terrible garbage spewing everywhere like a malfunctioning sewer. But then, that IS the movie.

Perhaps the crowning moment of awful parenting goes to John C. Reilly as the dad. After an entire movie where he has done nothing except scoff at Eva and say she's dumb for thinking Kevin is bad, he gives Kevin a fucking bow and arrow for Christmas. I can see liking his son – but for Reilly to see that dead-eyed piece of shit he fathered no doubt under the influence of alcohol, and give him a fucking weapon – that's insane to me and the biggest plothole in the film. This kid was never even close to sympathetic, even when Eva broke his arm earlier. He's been shown to be a one-dimensional evil psycho from the beginning. There's no nuance here and it's just crazy that his dad is so blind to this.

It's no surprise that the whole thing ends in a school shooting? He takes a bow and arrow to school like the only angry fucker in America to not have money to buy a gun. He isn't even the real deal – how many of these guys get their sole weapon from their fathers? I think this kid is weak as hell.

I'm making a lot of jokes here, but hey, the movie isn't taking this issue even remotely seriously. What's the message here? A bad kid will turn out bad if you parent him in a terrible way, I guess, and even that's a stretch to say there's any message at all. There's no real exploration of why he turned out that way or what we can do about it – all the movie wants to do is show shocking things for no reason. So fuck that.

Image copyright of its original owner, I don't own it.