Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A lonely man who lives on the fringes of society seeks to atone for his sins by helping someone else. This is Paul Schrader’s bailiwick, and with Taxi Driver, First Reformed and other screenplays he’s written throughout his career, he’s created a genre of films all to himself. (His body of work could be called a “franchise”, a commercial connotation that I’m sure he would find darkly humorous.)
Continue reading “The Card Counter (Quick Take)”
Trying something new here. This is a short, two-paragraph review. A longer analysis will follow.
Continue reading “Malignant (Quick Take)”
After the creative and dramatic pothole that was Black Widow, Marvel returns to form with Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings. Simun Liu stars as Shawn, a slacker (by choice) who spends his days as a valet with (platonic) best friend and fellow karaoke enthusiast Katy (Awkwafina). The past Shawn ran away from tracks him down, resulting in a bus ride that would have made even Sandra Bullock nervous. From there, Shawn reunites with the sister he abandoned, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), and the father he ran away from, Wenwu (Tony Leung). After spending years hiding from his past, Shawn is forced to accept who he is, as well as confront his father, who’s plans may put the entire world in danger.
Like most Marvel origin stories, Shang-Chi follows the template, down to the obligatory training sequences that confirm what we already know. Fortunately, Shang-Chi colors outside the lines in ways that make this MCU entry exciting and engaging. Most importantly, the movie takes its time and gives scenes (and the audience) a chance to breathe, letting us become immersed in its world before the fireworks arrive in the end. The acting is exceptional all around, and supporting turns by Michelle Yeoh (as Shawn’s aunt) and Ben Kingsley (as misfit actor Trevor Slattery) add texture and humanity to the proceedings. Shang-Chi leaves the funny business to Awkwafina, who’s career ascent has been nothing short of remarkable. The special effects here are truly special, creating a sense of wonder instead of merely underpinning action sequences. Highly recommended.
Continue reading “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”
Candyman ignores the inferior sequels that preceded it and instead acts as a direct sequel to the 1992 movie of the same name. As in the original, Candyman features a hook-wielding ghost who is brought to life by saying his name five times in a mirror. Director Nia DaCosta and producer Jordan Peele have upgraded the Candyman legend deftly for modern times, contextualizing his gruesome origin story as the starting point of decades of systemic racism and violence. And instead of having the requisite white woman be the audience surrogate, two African American men take center stage. The first is a young artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) seeking inspiration from the notorious history of the now-gentrified Cabrini-Green projects. The second is a middle-aged man (Colman Domingo) who never left, still seething from an unjust killing he witnessed as a child. The end result is riveting, scary, insightful and moving. The (white) victims are written a bit thinly, but turnabout is fair play, as they say. Candyman is a horror movie by definition, but it has much more up its sleeve than shocks and gore. Mind that ending–it’s not the triumph it appears to be. Highly recommended.
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The premise of The Night House, that suicide irreparably damages the lives of the survivors, is a compelling one for a horror movie. For Rebecca Hall’s Beth, her husband’s death understandably leaves her an emotional wreck, unable to control her anger at work and her despair at home. The night brings no solace, with Beth possibly being haunted by her husband’s ghost. After an engaging first act, the movie shifts our attention to the mystery of Beth’s husband’s death and the secrets he kept from her. Was he having an affair, or affairs? Why was he reading books about the occult? What do all those strange architecture diagrams mean? One twist gives way to another, and then another, until the movie lays on a heavy dose of the supernatural in a strained attempt at tying everything up. The final reveal is logical, but nagging questions remain unanswered. Hall delivers a compelling and convincing portrayal throughout, possibly a career highlight. David Bruckner’s naturalistic direction gives the movie a disarmingly creepy vibe, at least until the final confrontation. Recommended.
Continue reading “The Night House”