Serenity

serenity_

All Wet

“There’s some weird stuff going on right now,” drawls Matthew McConaughey in Serenity.  He doesn’t know the half of it.  McConaughey plays Baker Dill, a fisherman on the picturesque, ambiguously-located Plymouth Island.  Baker spends his days taking lazy tourists for chartered fishing trips while obsessing over a particular tuna that has evaded him multiple times.  His first mate Duke (the always-charismatic Djimon Hounsou) worries about Baker’s deteriorating mental state, as well as the pair’s dwindling funds. Continue reading

The Prodigy

the-prodigy

That Boy Ain’t Right

Let’s face it: some kids are just creepy.  If they weren’t, the bad-seed trope wouldn’t be such a workhorse of a horror premise, still bearing fruit eons after its inception.  The fear of our own offspring turning against us is disturbing on a primal, universal level, unconfined to any one culture or time period.  Speaking more generally, the perversion of innocence has always been an upsetting prospect, and what could possibly be more innocent than a child?  Truth be told, there’s not much left to do with the creepy-kid genre, but while The Prodigy doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it delivers an uncommonly solid execution of the formula. Continue reading

Velvet Buzzsaw

velvet buzzsaw

This Just Won’t Cut It

Velvet Buzzsaw is a movie I wanted to like – to love, even.  The last time Dan Gilroy and Jake Gyllenhaal teamed up we got 2014’s excellent Nightcrawler, and given the gonzo premise of their new collaboration, I thought I was in for a good time.  But the Netflix movie curse spares few; even up-and-coming directors and A-list actors cannot escape its grasp.  The streaming service’s marketing would have you believe Velvet Buzzsaw is first and foremost a horror film, but the truth is the horror is an afterthought.  So is everything else in the movie. Continue reading

Glass

glass

The Cracks Begin to Show

In a way, the timing of Glass couldn’t be better.  When M. Night Shyamalan made his superhero subversion Unbreakable in 2000, he couldn’t possibly have predicted the current dominion superhero movies have over the film industry.  With the advent of Glass, he’s had eighteen years of new cultural DNA to analyze for the long-gestating conclusion of his trilogy.  Sadly, Glass ends up being the worst movie of the three. Continue reading

The House That Jack Built

the house that jack built

Killer Pad

Among his other virtues, Lars Von Trier has always been something of a troll.  His movies often act as playful middle fingers to his harshest critics, gleefully confirming their accusations with a devil-may-care attitude.  The approach has a rebellious appeal, but it’s also overshadowed some of Von Trier’s lesser works, which have made the mistake of putting shock value above quality.  The House That Jack Built sees Von Trier’s devilish style at its best; it shamelessly aims to offend, but backs up its intentions with original, exciting filmmaking. Continue reading

Destroyer

destroyer

Nicole Un-dimed

“[Actor] as you’ve never seen him/her before” is a movie marketing cliché I’ve grown to hate, but damn if Destroyer doesn’t earn it.  As burnout LAPD detective Erin Bell, Nicole Kidman looks, in a word, rough.  The beautiful actress is borderline unrecognizable here, sporting the face of an “after” picture in an anti-meth PSA.  Erin’s hair is brittle, her teeth are gray, and her blue eyes – her one intact feature – are sunken.  Her clothes hang off what appears to be a scarecrow-thin body.  It’s an amazing makeup job, is what I’m getting at, and one that never distracts from the core of the movie. Continue reading

Aquaman

aquaman

I Come from a Land Down Under

There’s a shot early on in Aquaman that sums up the movie better than any review could.  Preparing for battle, an underwater cavalry unit enters formation, each soldier mounted astride a bus-sized great white shark.  One of the massive beasts, restrained by its rider, thrashes its head and roars.  It’s a moment that perfectly encapsulates the movie’s attitude: you’re either on board for all of this lunacy or none of it.  For me, the decision was easy. Continue reading