I honestly had no idea what to expect from Burning, up until the credits started to roll. Although there are moments that the movie seems to resemble others, or starts to conform to genre conventions, this may all be red herrings and MacGuffins to the overall film experience. And I truly believe that the experience director Chang-dong Lee intended audiences to have is one of questions, not answers. It is fitting that the inciting incident of the film’s narrative involves the house-sitting of a cat that never shows itself. Many who have debated the meaning of the movie have argued the possibility that the cat doesn’t exist at all. I believe that the point is that the cat both exists and doesn’t exist, because the film itself feels like a cinematic representation of Schrödinger’s cat.
There is a quote on the back of the Rampant Blu-ray comparing the film to “Game of Thrones meets 28 Days Later,” and while I know this was meant as a marketing selling point, it did more harm than good to have these preconceived notions in my head. For one thing, “Game of Thrones” already has zombies, so the addition of 28 Days Later to the comparison is redundant at best. Also, nearly every element that is can be compared to “Game of Thrones,” including swordplay, politics, and zombie-like attacks forcing the living to band together, has been done better by the HBO series. While the quote on the back of the Blu-ray may inspire additional rentals and purchases, it is also likely to lead to more disappointing viewing experiences.
There is no question that Mary Queen of Scots is a good movie, well made in every technical aspect. The 4K Ultra HD edition highlights this fact, particularly in terms of the design elements. It is a good looking film, with a timely story (to the point that it occasionally feel on-the-nose) acted out by a handful of capable actors (albeit, many of which are made unrecognizable underneath too much stagy make-up), and yet there are also enough annoyances (as pointed out in these interruptions to the sentence) to prevent me from fully appreciating the quality. Mary Queen of Scots also has the misfortune of inevitable comparisons to The Favorite, a film which satirizes the very ideas that this film treats with melodramatic seriousness.
Wreck it Ralph was a unique concept, but I wasn’t all that impressed with the film itself. While it had a colorful design and a helpful message for younger audience members, it didn’t have enough originality or cleverness to keep my mind occupied for the entire running time. Not only is Ralph Breaks the Internet a better film in nearly every regard other than the title, but I actually found myself appreciating it more with additional analysis. In short, Ralph Breaks the Internet may be filled with shameless Disney self-promotion and is clearly another cash-grabbing sequel, but it also happens to be a pretty great film.
What do you do when you make a film that ends with a cliffhanger, but absolutely nobody has any interest in seeing the resolution in a sequel because of how awful the original was? If you are the producers of Iceman, the 2014 martial arts action film starring Donnie Yen, you push forward with a sloppy sequel that makes the first look like a masterpiece in comparison. Even if you can get past the ridiculously bad CGI effects used throughout the film, the characters are silly and 2-dimensional, built for action scenes and dumb comedic relief rather than any true character development. Between Iceman and The Monkey King, 2014 was an awful year for Donnie Yen, and Iceman: The Time Traveler somehow surpasses both of those films as his worst.
The origins of the horror genre can be traced back to
, and the most successful of
early American horror films often imitated them. The success of American horror
relied on the imitation of German filmmaking, so it is disheartening to watch Heilstätten, a film which simply feels
like a cheap German imitation of The
Blair Witch Project. Derivative in every aspect of filmmaking and
narrative, Heilstätten has a few
sincere scares but offers absolutely nothing new to the genre. Even in terms of
the sub-genre of found-footage horror, it lacks any originality beyond a clever
third-act twist. Germany
Biopics have become as expected during award season as superhero movies during the summer (or any other time of the year, at this point), and Bohemian Rhapsody fits the bill perfectly. Not only does it have the usual narrative trappings of a musical biopic and a performance that carries the film, the last twenty-minutes of the film are basically just a recreation of Queen’s most iconic concert. It is also ironic that so much dedication was spent on accurately recreating this concert when basic life events are incorrect in the screenplay. Although this was most certainly done for dramatic effect, the very same people who would be most likely to appreciate the accuracy of the Live Aid section might also be annoyed by the changes made to Freddie Murcury’s life story.
Before Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, there was Diane Kurys’ Peppermint Soda, a French coming-of-age film in the tradition of The 400 Blows. Like many of the best coming-of-age films, it is largely autobiographical and therefore extremely personal, and yet there is also something extremely universal about the narrative. Despite being specific to the era that Kurys grew up in (the film takes place during the early 1960s) and made in the late ‘70s, there is something that will always be timeless about growing up.
CJ 4DPLEX is a technology company that is probably best known for their 4D technology, which started in South Korea but has expanded across the globe with increasing momentum over the last decade. Although 4DX is certainly impressive enough, ScreenX is an even more recent innovation in the efforts toward a more immersive cinematic experience. I have heard ScreenX described as IMAX, but with the image being wider instead of taller, though this doesn’t quite do the experience justice. While IMAX may give you more to look at, ScreenX is more about utilizing peripheral vision in order to feel as though you are inside the film. I think a more apt description would be to compare it to 3D, without the need for glasses or the use of cheap gimmicks.
Maybe I’m the real Grinch, because I was instantly annoyed by the news that Illumination Entertainment had decided to adapt the classic holiday cartoon into a feature-length animated film. The material had already been stretched out before, for Ron Howard’s live-action version, which I was also an adamant critic of. Only the news of Benedict Cumberbatch providing the voice gave me hope that the film might have a deep English accent to remind me of Boris Karloff’s iconic narration. From the moment I heard Cumberbatch’s annoying American accent for the Grinch, I knew I was destined to hate the film. Equally disappointing was Pharrell Williams as the narrator, who sounds like a dad reading a book to his kids with the purpose of getting them to fall asleep.
Some films demand a second viewing, because they are extremely complex or because they are simply that good. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is neither of these. It is a film that demanded a second viewing, because it is that forgettable. Despite having seen it in theaters mere months ago, I found myself struggling to remember even basic plot elements. The one thing I had a distinct recollection of, even before repeat viewings, was the drastic changes to the narrative from the original Swedish films. This is likely because this is based on the fourth book in the series, which was not written by creator Stieg Larsson. Also, as per usual,
and boxed in what was once an innovative franchise. Even more pointless than
the first American installment, and lacking the distinct visual flair of David
Fincher, The Girl in the Spider’s Web
simply turns the dark series into a generic espionage action film. Hollywood
Seemingly coming out of nowhere for most audience members, The Wife has quickly become the frontrunner for one of the Academy Award’s biggest accolades, despite the fact that it was in and out of theaters before award season had even truly began. While there is only so much attention that needs to be given to award nominations, it is telling that Glenn Close has won several major awards for her performance, despite being in a nearly unknown film. While at least part of that seems to be the tendency to reward a career of performances rather than just the one nominated for, there is no denying that Close’s performance carries the film.
Having another film with a score filled with jazz music is not reason enough to consider Damien Chazelle to be an auteur, but the themes of First Man connect to the filmmaker’s last two works, despite each existing in a genre of their own. First Man is a biopic, through-and-through, but one that doesn’t fall into the usual narrative trappings. On top of that, First Man contains further evidence of Chazelle’s worthiness as an Academy Award-winning director, from the spectacular camera work to the effectively nuanced performances he gets from the capable cast. Every year, there is at least one film that is shamelessly ignored during award season. This year we have several (in order to make room for the films that made a lot of money), but I would put First Man at the top of the list for under-appreciated films.
There is something definitive about giving the latest Halloween sequel the exact same title as the original 1978 masterpiece. The expectations become even greater with the knowledge that it is not a remake, but actually a continuation of that first film. The hype leading up to this film’s release led me to believe it would be something original, when the reality is a lot closer to any of the early sequels in the 1980s. In a lot of ways, the kindest thing I can say about Halloween (2018) is that watching it felt somewhat like discovering an unseen sequel from the franchise’s past. Even with a female-empowered action climax, I was disappointed by the film’s lack of creativity and innovation.
I’m certain if there are fans of the novel by John Bellairs, they will appreciate the nuances transferred over from that work. But for everyone else, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is likely to resemble numerous other fantasy family films from recent past. Because of the film’s use of magic, comparisons to Harry Potter are inevitable, despite being based on a work that came long before that British behemoth of a franchise ever existed. While this film adaptation of that classic children’s book is certainly watchable, assuming the audience member is old enough to handle the frightening elements, the most original aspect of the production is the choice of director. And he is likely the reason that younger audience members must be wary of the content.
I complain about
Hollywood blockbusters often. As a lifelong
fan of genre filmmaking, a film critic and professor, I typically end up seeing
everything that major American studios have to offer, and my experience is
nearly always the same. Desensitized by constant emersion in the big-screen
spectacle and bored by formulaic structure of the narrative, it feels as though
I spend a sad amount of time unengaged while sitting in the increasingly
comfortable chairs of my local multiplex. The movie industry has become just
that; an industry, churning out a product with consistency that seems to be the
death of creativity and innovation. For years, I have complained, and I thought
that the only solution was for the films to get better. But after watching my
first film in 4DX, my entire perspective has been changed. And not just about Hollywood blockbusters. The truth is, after experiencing
the latest advances in public film exhibition provided by CJ Group, including
their 4DX and ScreenX technology, I now see a new direction for the future of
the art form as a whole.
There are no surprises with Night School, especially if you have seen the trailer or any of Kevin Hart’s sub-par comedic releases over the past five years. It is a generic and harmless comedy, the equivalent of watching a bad sitcom with no real plot structure and a bloated run-time. After a long day in the reality of the world, there are worse things than shutting your brain off and watching a stupid comedy. I’m just pretty sure that if my brain were off enough to enjoy this film, I would probably be dead. But those who typically enjoy the high-pitched short jokes of Kevin Hart will likely find this adequate entertainment.
- Actors: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagalle
- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Writer: Steven Zaillian
- Producers: Steven Spielberg, Gerald R. Molen, Branko Lustig
- Disc Format: 4K, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
- Language: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
- Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
- Region: Region A/1
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Rated: R
- Studio: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
- Release Date: December 18, 2018
- Run Time: 196 minutes
There’s a quote that I like to refer to when discussing the purpose of watching movies, which is something I am inclined to do in order to justify the amount of time spent in front of a screen. There is debate over its origins (I first heard it said by David Foster Wallace) and the quote discusses art in general, claiming the function, “is to comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable.” More and more, it feels like a majority of the films made in
are simply intended to
comfort, to entertain and amuse without too many challenged, intellectually or
emotionally. We are so accustomed to popcorn entertainment in this country that
it is easy to forget how powerful a film can be when the intention is
discomfort instead. Schindler’s List
is exactly this type of film; a masterpiece that is painful to endure. This is
a film everyone should see at least once in their life, and there is now one
more way to view it, with the release of the 25th Anniversary 4K
Ultra HD Edition. America
- Directors: Don Jr. Hardy, Dana Nachman
- Disc Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
- Language: English
- Subtitles: English, Spanish
- Region: Region 1
- Rated: Not Rated
- Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
- DVD Release Date: December 4, 2018
- Run Time: 81 minutes
Don’t get me wrong; I like dogs, but I was concerned that the cuteness of a handful of puppies was all that Pick of the Litter might provide as appeal. Oh boy, was I wrong. Following the journey of five puppies on the road to becoming guide dogs for the blind, the film provides an empathetic and educational glimpse into the two-year process. And there are cute puppies.