Prior to Morgue, I had never seen a horror film from Paraguay, and this added a level of significance even before watching the film. Unfortunately, however great the impact may have been on transnational cinema (the relationships between nations within the film industry), it had very little impact on me as a viewer and long-time fan of the horror genre. The storylines and the characters connecting them feel disjointed throughout, and even a seemingly fool-proof set-up ends up wasted potential that is traded in for cheap editing tricks and jump scares.
I think my biggest mistake in the expectations I had from Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles comes from the knowledge that director Laura Gabbert previously directed City of Gold, a documentary I love. While City of Gold was about a man, however, Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles is about history and an event celebrating it. In premise alone, there is more of an emotional disconnect between the material, and it doesn’t help that a movie about sumptuous culinary artistry ends with discussion of Marie Antoinette’s death.
Eoin Macken is an actor’s director. This is clear from the way he talks about the process, from casting to the collaboration of improvisation on set, and perhaps it should come as no surprise. Macken is himself an actor, and has worked with some great filmmakers throughout his career so far. This gives him a perspective that is invaluable, an understanding of each side of the process. Pair that with a dream cast, and you have the boldly original coming-of-age film, Here Are the Young Men. Part juvenile delinquency drama and part psychological thriller, it is a film that leaves an impression. Sitting down to talk with Macken about the filmmaking process and his directorial style, I found an undeniably passionate artist inside of an actor blessed with natural charm.
Saturday, April 17
6PM PT | 9PM ET
Bob Odenkirk /
Press play at 6:00pm PT on Saturday, April 17 and follow the hashtag #NobodyTime to view real-time conversation on the film. If you want to join in, tag your Tweet with #NobodyTime
Where to start with this one… At first glance, I expected Cosmoball to be a bit more family-oriented, and to have a lot more to do with the title game. While there are elements of a family film, and scenes of the sport, this film is more interested in a larger sci-fi narrative that has closer resemblance to a superhero narrative. You may come to Cosmoball expecting Ready Player One or Alita, but you will end up with something closer to Green Lantern.
Simple survival stories can be extremely effective in cinematic form, but it is all about execution. The suspense and intensity of the sequences of survival are the essence of the narrative, and there isn’t much to fall back on if that doesn’t work. Horizon Line contains all of the expected twists and turns of a survival story, but I couldn’t have been less involved. Every moment felt rote and obvious, and I was just waiting for the next predictable moment to arrive.
Nostalgia has been a big moneymaker for Hollywood in recent decades, pillaging the successes of the past for reboot and repurposing. Although never explicitly said, it is quite clear that Freaky is a mash-up of two unrelated film classics from the past: Freaky Friday and Friday the 13th. Beyond the shared word in the title of each film, there is nothing connecting a family body-swap to a bloody slasher, and it often feels as though the filmmakers stopped trying to do anything else clever after coming up with the unique premise. What we get is a perfunctory horror comedy with a lazy script and none of the references to the two films which inspired it that might have given the entire outing more nuance. At the very least, it would have been nice to see some stylistic references, but this is filmed in the blandest way possible.
Film noir narratives rarely relied on sympathetic female protagonists, typically resigning them to either an innocent supporting character or a devious femme fatale. While there is a femme fatale in the 1952 noir, Sudden Fear, the main character is unusual enough just being a woman, but also has the added distinction of ending in a place of moral superiority. Star Joan Crawford had previously bent this male-driven movement of post-war cinema by blending the woman’s picture (now referred to as melodrama) and the film noir with the 1945 classic, Mildred Pierce.
Prior to the release of Ne Zha, I had little experience with Chinese animation, more familiar with the more commonly distributed Japanese and French variety. Ne Zha was distinctly Chinese in the adaption of a classic folk legend, but it was also widely distributed with broad appeal. It also follows the recently popular trend of Hollywood, creating a shared cinematic universe for a series of animated films, with the second being Jiang Ziya.
Prior to the pandemic, there were a few rising trends in the themes of American horror films. Along with the rise in occult and witchcraft narratives, we saw an increased anxiety over society’s dependence on technology and social media. Some of these films involve the supernatural, as seems to be the case in the Unfriended franchise, or an addition to the previously mentioned witchcraft subgenre, like Friend Request. Even the supernatural serial killer doll Chucky was reinvented as a smart device with disabled safety features. The terror comes from social media, apps (Countdown), or in the case of Come Play, the devices themselves.
The news that indi filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have just been hired as directors for a new Marvel show on Disney Plus shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has seen Synchronic, particularly after having followed the progression of their career prior to their latest low budget science fiction thriller. There are distinct differences in their latest film, most notably being the casting of name actors and an unambiguous sci-fi premise. This is easily their most accessible film, and at times it feels like a calling card to Hollywood to prove that it is possible to make Christopher Nolan films with a fraction of the budget and half the plot holes.
Campiness used to be a kind way to justify the enjoyment of poor filmmaking, but now it is an intentional stylistic choice. Max Cloud is so over-the-top that one hopes it to be an example of the latter, but the intention of the campiness does not equate to quality or enjoyment of it. And it does not equate to originality, which this film has little of. The budget is obviously low, but it doesn’t take a lot of money for halfway decent humor.
You might think that a film about an apocalypse which forces all of humanity underground would be relatable during the current pandemic, but Love and Monsters has themes that ultimately feel tone deaf. Fortunately, this is not the type of film that demands deep analysis. Even if the message of getting out in the world and taking some risks doesn’t perfectly align with the current climate, we can all use this type of escapist entertainment. Derivative and predictable as it may be, Love and Monsters is an easy view during a time when everything seems more difficult than it should be.