Hello, everyone! I’m currently failing to keep up with my goal of writing a weekly blog post, but after about two weeks of deep meditation, introspection, and communication with the shamans, I think I’m ready to review Incredibles 2. I love the original Incredibles and I harbored extremely high hopes for its decades-in-the-making sequel. As can be expected, the movie did not satisfy those expectations, nor should I have hoped it would. When you have a film as witty, poignant, beautiful, and gratifying as The Incredibles, any film that does less is going to feel like a let-down. That’s not to say that Incredibles 2 is not a good film, and perhaps, if it existed in a vacuum, it might be considered an excellent animated movie. Unfortunately, it was created as a sequel to one of the best Pixar films of all time, and even one of the best animated films of all time. It was doomed by its heritage and by our expectations.
Hello, everyone! I finally got to see Hereditary, a movie I’ve been eagerly awaiting since critics dubbed it the scariest movie of the year. Listen to me, children. Never go into a horror movie with expectations. Those will be your downfall. I went into the screening of Hereditary expecting to have my jaded bones jump out of their skin and to experience two hours of impeccable craftsmanship. While not exactly satisfied, my expectations were subverted, even perverted, into a movie that seemed to constantly contradict itself. It was wholly original, but also derivative, masterfully frightening in parts, yet tame in others. It was an intense family drama with an amateur grasp on characterization and how real people interact. As director Ari Aster’s debut film, Hereditary exhibited subtlety, sophistication, and boldness, but also revealed a lack of restraint. Hereditary showcases a lot of skill on Aster’s part, but it’s also kind of a mess. In our new era of horror where slow-burn, character-driven pieces like The Babadook and The Witch reign supreme, a film like Hereditary checks all the boxes, but can’t think outside of them.
Hello, everyone! I was thinking about page-to-screen adaptations the other day to try to figure out the secret sauce that makes a film succeed instead of crash and burn. Since I started reading books as a wee lass, the adage has always been “the book is better.” After having my expectations tarnished by adaptations of my favorite books (Harry Potter, Enders Game, The Crimson Petal and the White, etc.) I didn’t trust movies to be able to capture what made those books special, and most importantly, what made those books special to me. As I’ve gotten older and read more books and watched more movies, I’ve realized that I had a narrow view of film adaptations, because for every botched film adaptation (R.I.P The Snowman, you deserved better), you have a masterpiece like The Godfather, To Kill a Mockingbird, or The Shining, films which not only did their originals justice, but also elevated them into media art. The kicker is, some of these masterpiece films started as mediocre books, while the worst adaptations originated from brilliant novels. Making a successful adaptation is not about the quality of the original work, nor does it rely on producing a carbon-copy of the story. To produce a worthy page-to-screen adaptation, you have to be willing to view the original story as an empty canvas and be brave enough to paint over it with your own vision. That sort of bravery depends on only one thing: the director.
Hello, everyone! I’ve returned from my hiatus destroying the Iran deal and cancelling the North Korean Summit to tell you guys some important news: A Wrinkle In Time wasn’t that bad. Mired in flaws, including cheesy character design, an over bloated, “Disney-fied” second act, and the very essence of Charles Wallace, Wrinkle still managed to forgo Disney’s formula for chemically engineered joy in favor of a sincere message about family love and the power of self-esteem. In a market where shiny cynicism sells, this type of sentimentality can be enough to sink a children’s movie, but Wrinkle’s confidence in its candid message elevates it beyond other Disney live-action adaptations. Even with the stench of Disney’s greed on every frame, I could tell the movie was really trying its best. For quality, I give the movie a frowny face. But for effort? Gold star.
Hello, everyone! A month ago I started watching a show on Hulu called Parenthood, a “dramedy” that follows the Braverman clan as they navigate the ups and downs of family life in suburban America. Parenthood is probably one of the smuggest television shows I’ve ever watched, where each of the parents is incredibly insufferable and the kids are nightmares, but I still find myself tuning in episode after episode, if only to hope that Max Braverman, the most poorly-written autistic kid to grace television, might get punched in the face. This post isn’t about my qualms with the show, however, it’s about Adam Braverman, one of the show’s main characters and the perfect example of the “over-protective man.”
The “over protective man,” or OPM as I will call him in the rest of the post, is pervasive in American pop-culture and in American life. He’s the dad who takes “hilarious” pictures with his daughter’s homecoming date warning him to keep his hands to himself, or makes his tween daughter wear a shirt emblazoned with a picture of himself to keep any potential suitors away. He’s Scarface‘s Tony Montana dragging his sister Gina out of a bathroom because she kissed a man he didn’t like. And he’s Parenthood’s Adam Braverman in his every interaction with his daughter Haddie, or pretty much any woman he deems himself worthy of controlling.
The OPM is common enough to warrant its own page on TV Tropes, but I’m going to limit this post to discussing the characters Tony Montana and Adam Braverman, mainly because I find it equally hilarious and distressing that the trope is so embedded in American culture that it pops up in the characters of an über-violent gangster and a mild-mannered white-collar dad. These two characters wouldn’t be able to have even a civil conversation over coffee, but they’re on the same page when it comes to controlling the women around them. The most disturbing aspect? Tony Montana was written in 1983 and Adam Braverman’s character started in 2010. If pop-culture’s portrayal of protective men has changed that little in the past 27 years, then equality between men and women has suffered an equal setback.
Hello, everyone! Let me preface this review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi by saying that I’m a casual viewer of the franchise. It’d be a stretch to even say that I’m a fan, since the only time I’ve watched a Star Wars film is at someone else’s behest or for a family outing. I view the films with pleasant indifference. The series is fun, and its contribution to pop culture is staggering, so if a friend suggests that we see The Force Awakens or Rogue One, I’m game and I don’t regret it. I didn’t plan on seeing The Last Jedi and I would have skipped it altogether if it wasn’t playing for $5 at my local college theater. I expected an easy night with an exciting, sentimental, and yes, formulaic film. But what I got was an in-cohesive, nostalgia-drenched mess that was so trite and boring that my boyfriend and I left the theater with twenty minutes left until the end.
How did a Star Wars film, especially one directed by Rian Johnson (the fantastic Looper), fail so badly at being a quality film? It all comes down to the dilution of character in service of promoting nostalgia and sticking to a formula that long ago wore out its welcome.
Hello, everyone! I recently watched William Oldroyd’s bloody drama Lady Macbeth. I expected a beautiful period piece with murder and mayhem, and what I got was just that and an intoxicating glimpse into a teenage girl’s psyche. I haven’t been this terrified of a teenage girl’s intentions since I watched Ellen Page in Hard Candy. And in fact, Lady‘s Katherine and Hard’s Hayley aren’t so different. They both enjoy having control over men, using their sexuality like a weapon, and lying through their teeth. Coincidentally, both characters might verge on being psychopaths. And in a cinematic world full of Patrick Batemans and Hannibal Lecters, they’re a much needed breath of fresh air.
Horror movies have a habit of reflecting society’s darkest fears. Invasion of the Body Snatchers had its heroes fighting a futile battle against communists in the guise of soulless aliens, while films like The Strangers and Funny Games explore the average American’s helplessness against a new generation of adolescents whose apathy can cross the line into sociopathic violence. When considering which horror movies best exemplify America’s greatest fear from the 2010s to the present, I could point to films such as Unfriended, The Den, Friend Request, Dark Summer, and #Horror, which all paint the dangers of social media as this generation’s biggest epidemic. And while these films point to a grave societal problem, I think I’ve found a film that encapsulates modern America’s deepest fear: the American healthcare system. The film responsible is Would You Rather, a mediocre horror movie that seems oblivious to its true source of scares. Sometimes the best societal commentary is accidental.
Hello, everyone! I watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread twice last week. The first viewing left be impressed but emotionally unmoved, the second viewing left me more impressed, but still unmoved. But I was at last able to grasp the themes from the film that eluded me on first viewing, so I must say, if you watch Phantom Thread once, you’re going to need to watch it again, since it’s a quiet, ethereal, and somewhat vague film that deserves to be appreciated. If you like films with the pacing and beauty of a slow waltz, you’ll probably love this film. If you’re expecting a movie about the intricacies of the world of 1950s haute couture, prepare to be disappointed. Phantom Thread isn’t a film about fashion, but a film about artistry and control. As a backdrop, however, you could do worse than a 2 hour movie filled with the stunning Vicky Krieps swanning around in ball gowns.
Hello, everyone! Praise be, I’m getting back into the swing of things with semi-weekly blog posts. That means I have my shit together, guys. What a day to be me. Anyway, today I’m reviewing the new Netflix original horror movie Before I Wake, directed by Mike Flanagan (Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil) and starring Jacob Tremblay (child star and precocious devil) and Kate Bosworth (moonlights as a mannequin). The film started off semi-promisingly, then slowly unravelled into a sappy, gooey mess with a stack of unanswered questions. From the director of Hush, my favorite home invasion movie, and Ouija, which had a gruesome, unsettling ending, I expected a lot more than Before I Wake‘s tepid scares and cheesy resolution.