Sunday, June 17, 2018

Review: Hereditary


So...  How to begin a review for this movie?  I personally loved it, but I know that many will walk out of this movie hating it.  Much like recent horror films from A24 (The Witch, Under the Skin), it approaches horror in a more cerebral way than most audiences are used to, but the movie gets to you in such a way than even those that don't go for this type of horror will leave the movie unsettled.  It slowly picks at you, slowly but methodically building towards an fairly brutal ending.

Without giving too much away, the film follows Annie (Toni Collette), her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), and her two children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro) in the aftermath of Annie's mother's death.  It is revealed very quickly that Annie did not have a good relationship with her mother prior to her death, and that strange things went on in the house.

The performances across the board are amazing.  A24 has announced it intends to campaign for an Oscar nomination for Toni Collette, and it would be a deserving nomination.  The way she plays Annie's slow unraveling is a marvel - easily amongst the greatest horror movie performances ever (though if anyone saw 2015's Krampus, they knew Collette was a natural for the genre).

Alex Wolff is also fairly compelling as Peter.  The performance is a bit of a revelation, and he almost manages to steal the movie out from under Collette.  Shapiro and Byrne are given less to do, but the enrich the other two performances fairly well.

One of the smarter directorial decisions was the use of miniatures (Annie is an artist who excels in them) to frame many of the scenes and, in some cases, throw the audience off-kilter by starting with what looks like a miniature before revealing that is in fact the set.

Now, the horror here is more cerebral, as noted earlier, and this is where the movie will prove to be divisive.  There are no real jump scares in this film - it is more focused on the slow burn effect - but several of the scenes stick with you throughout the movie, making you question each scene and its meaning.

The script, from Ari Aster, interweaves memory, hallucination, dreams, and real life fairly seamlessly - effectively using mental illness as a subtext for the horror.

I highly recommend this movie, 9.5 out of 10.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review: Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers:  Infinity War

So, part 1 of the big Marvel Universe Cinematic Event has finished, and damn does it give you a sucker punch.  No one is safe, the stakes have never been higher, and the ever-present threat of Thanos keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the experience.

Credit to the entire team for this movie, it is beautiful to look at, even when going to worlds that are not 'pretty,' there is enormous amounts of care and detail put into each location, and it really makes it feel like a cinematic universe rather than a movie franchise.

Performances across the board are great, and special mention must be given to Josh Brolin as Thanos, join the very short list of good Marvel villains (the others being Loki, Killmonger, and Zemo) - and part of makes him work so well is that he thinks he is the hero.  There is a tendency to make the villains Evil rather than characters with legitimate motivations - though they have used the revenge angle many times - so having this understated performance for a genocidal alien was a change of pace that the movies desperately needed.

There are quite a few cameos scattered throughout the film (one in particular surprised the Hell out of me) and no part of the story feels rushed - just urgent.  No scene is wasted, and it's the rare 2+ hour movie that I wish was longer.

Not much more to go into - not without going into spoilers - but I am very anxious to see the next part of this movie.

8.5 out of 10

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Movie Review: A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place

Well, apparently we need all of the comedians to start directing horror films.  First we had Jordan Peele and Get Out (my favorite film from 2017), and now John Krasinski comes out with A Quiet Place, a great creature feature that sets itself apart with a premise that demands near-silence from all of the characters in the movie.

Set sometime in either 2020 or 2021, we are slightly over a year into some sort of not-quite-apocalypse that has forced the world to go silent, as monsters now roam the Earth killing anything that makes a sound.  The movie focuses on a family living in a farmhouse on the outskirts of a town, and how they have adjusted to a world where any noise can get them killed.

Krasinski (starring, writing, and directing this movie) does an incredible job with his world building, down to minor details like having the family use leaves for plates to avoid any sort of scraping sound.  You can tell enormous amounts of thought were put into how any tiny bit of noise can pull in the monsters and how to change their behavior to compensate for this fact.  Felt game pieces for Monopoly, sandy paths, and even some ingenious planning for the arrival of a baby all come together to create a tangible world that these characters are living in.

The performances are across-the-board great.  Krasinski and Emily Blunt both do amazing things with their facial expressions in various scenes.  Blunt, in particular, does an amazing job of portraying someone who is almost always tense but still going about their everyday life - a tightrope act of a performance.  Millicent Simmonds portrays the deaf daughter, and does a spectacular job throughout - displaying a guilt that never truly leaves her that creates tension with Krasinski.  Noah Jupe, the son that finishes out the quartet also does a good job.

The movies does so many things right.  Casting someone who is actually deaf (Simmonds) warmed me to the movie right out the gate.  They explain just enough about the creatures to give them threat, but not so much that they lose their mystery.  The world is obviously larger than what the family experiences, but they aren't privy to information that a random family in the outskirts of the world wouldn't have access to.  And at 95 minutes in length, the movie doesn't overstay its welcome.

While one has typically had to go to the recent wave of Parable Horror movies (The Witch, It Follows, Get Out, The Babadook, to name a few) to get a solid, well-made horror flick, Krasinski manages to breathe fresh life into mainstream horror films with this film.

I'd pay to go to a sequel.  8.5 out of 10

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

2018 Movie List

The Movies:
Avengers:  Infinity War
Black Panther
Jurassic World:  Fallen Kingdom
Deadpool 2
A Quiet Place
Tomb Raider
The Cloverfield Paradox

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Maleficent, Evolved vs. Fireworks on the Bridge

Your Champion
Maleficent, Evolved (Sleeping Beauty)


Your Challenger
Fireworks on the Bridge (Silver Bullet)

The Case for Maleficent, Evolved (2):
Well... That escalated quickly.

The Case for Fireworks on the Bridge:
Everyone talks about how dangerous fireworks are, but they never talk about the good things they do, like repelling werewolves.

Which do you pick?
Maleficent, Evolved
Fireworks on the Bridge
survey maker

Have a scene you'd like to submit?  Send an email to with the name of your submission and The Case for the scene!

Final Score:

Want to see the Current Kings of the Mountain?  Go here!

Review: IT


We love our Stephen King here, so it is only natural that we run out to see this adaptation of one of our favorite of the Stephen King books (the less said about the other one, the better).

And director Andy Muschietti does a fairly good job.  The movie is far from perfect - and could have benefited from some judicious cutting of subplots - but we do get a fairly creepy, fast-paced movie about a killer entity that takes the form of a clown.

The movie follows the Losers Club, a misfit group of preteens who bond over the summer as they are threatened by the malevolent Pennywise.  Now, this is the crux of challenge of this movie:  You need not just a few, but 7 (arguably 10) good, strong child actors, plus an older actor who can carry the scares as the villain.

Now, while all of the child actors are strong, they might have effectively hidden the shortcomings of some by condensing the story's focus down to 3 of the children:  Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor).  Now, for those familiar with the book, this is something short of a travesty - as King does creates several great characters out of the children - but it is somewhat necessitated given that even chopping the book in half, you have something like 600 pages to squeeze into a two hour movie.

However, they give enough other business to the other actors (Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Olef as Richie, Mike, Eddie, and Stan respectively) that it reads more as a missed opportunity than a true crime against the novel.

Of the child actors, special mention must go to Sophia Lillis as Beverly - easily my pick for best in show amongst the children - and Finn Wolfhard as Richie.  To me, both really captured the characters from the book, although the screenplay lets down the former by damseling her in the later part of the movie.

So, the elephant in the room is Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the Clown.  Let me get this out the way:  Tim Curry will forever own this role.  Nothing anyone will ever do will take it away from him, so a comparison is unfair to any actor playing the part.  Having said that, Skarsgard does an excellent job in the role, playing Pennywise with a weird, off-putting vocalization that on its own manages to create a tension of just what Pennywise is about to do.

The CGI works very well for the most part, with only one scene where it 'shows' - but Muschietti makes the smart decision to have that play into the scare.

Part of what makes the novel great is how King builds the city of Derry itself into an extension of the malevolence of Pennywise, and to make the movie work, some of that has to transfer to the screen.  Muschietti manages to build some great setpieces that help create this mood (the house on Neibolt is right out of the book), and the way he films some of the parents (Eddie's mother in particular) create the meanness necessary for Derry to work.

The biggest critique I would give would be the treatment of Beverly from book to screen.  While they do make her one of the leaders of the group and arguably the bravest of the children, this is undermined by a late-movie MacGuffin to get the group back together at her expense.

The movie could have also improved by either cutting out the bullies entirely (so little time is spent on them that they feel like an afterthought), or by tightening several of the 'adult' scenes that seem to meander when the point has already been made.

But these are minor quibbles from an unexpectedly strong film.  9 out of 10.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Battle of Movie Moments

Battle of Movie Moments is on hold until a new online polling place is found.