‘Pete’s Dragon’ Review: Wonder over Nostagia

Pete’s Dragon (2016) is a magical live-action Disney adventure that harkens back to family films of decades past. It is a children’s film that treats its audience with respect, and is very mature in its exploration of magic and wonder.  Recently I had the pleasure of attending the premiere at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood, courtesy of The View and Fantasy Movie League. The experience was delightful, and I have many thoughts about the film itself. I am going to keep this post mostly [spoiler-free], keeping the conversation to my thoughts about characters, pacing, and tone. (more…)

‘Swiss Army Man’ Spoiler Review: A Corpse Multi-Tool for Your Survival Needs

Swiss Army Man was perhaps the most polarizing film of Sundance.  There are stories of how people walked out of its premiere screening, and it’s easy to see why.  Depending on expectations, this film could be a kinetic masterpiece or an extended fart joke.  Personally, I think the film is the former.  This movie is completely insane, and I believe that “The Daniels” (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) are the next Neveldine and Taylor, but with a stronger eye for the cinematic.  My opinion is that this movie is best if you go into it completely fresh, but unfortunately the trailer gives away a number of surprises.  If you haven’t seen anything, I recommend stopping here and just seeing the film; however, I’ll do my best to keep spoilers to what’s in the trailer for the first portion of this review. (more…)

‘Wiener-Dog’ Spoilers: Life Sucks and Then You Die

Wiener-Dog tells several stories featuring people who find their life inspired or changed by one particular dachshund, who seems to be spreading a certain kind of comfort and joy.”  This is the description given to Wiener-Dog when it played Sundance, and while technically true, anyone familiar with Todd Solondz’s work will suspect something a bit more cynical is afoot.  The film does not disappoint, presenting a pitch-black dark comedy comprised of four disparate tales about the human condition loosely connected by one displaced dachshund.  This movie is not for everyone.  It’s cynical and mean-spirited, and it features animal abuse, which can be particularly hard to stomach. However, I found the movie hilarious and want to talk about each of the four sections, including the ending. [Spoilers] ahead. (more…)

‘The Witch:’ A Puritan Morality Tale

Unlike most films of its genre, ‘The Witch’ gets its scares from being quietly unsettling rather than relying on jump scares and surprises for its audience.  The movie is marketed as a horror film, and rightly so; many of the images and situations are deeply disturbing.  Surprisingly though, the film is also one of the most realistic period pieces I’ve seen in years.  I’ll be diving into later plot details of ‘The Witch,’ so [spoilers] ahead. (more…)

Top 10 Movies of 2015

We’re two months into 2016, and I finally feel that I’ve seen enough 2015 films to put together a top 10 list (just in time for the Oscars).  More than ever, last year had a ton of variety in its excellent films, and the lists that I have seen do not have a strong overlap with one another.  I’ve watched 62 new releases from 2015 (by far a personal record), and yet there are still several high-profile films that I’ve missed and thus couldn’t include.  Without further ado, here is my list:

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‘Deadpool’ Review: The Suit isn’t Green or Animated

I was able to catch an early screening of Deadpool, and am pleased to say that it is definitely the Deadpool movie that fans have been clamoring for since X-Men Origins: Wolverine totally tanked the character.  I’ve never been a huge fan of the character, but I found the movie darkly funny throughout, and on par with similar entries like Kick-Ass or Kingsman: The Secret Service.  Here are some mostly spoiler-free (as if spoilers matter here) thoughts. (more…)

Best of Sundance 2016

The most rewarding experience of Sundance is seeing what the next year of movies will look like.  Of the 120 feature films that were selected to screen at Sundance, I was able to catch 18 in a five day frenzy.  Almost all of them were really good, and several I would consider fantastic.  Here are some of the most exciting future releases of 2016: (more…)

Experiencing the Sundance Film Festival

2016 was my first year attending the Sundance Film Festival, and the experience was everything I had imagined and more. In four and a half days, I watched 18 feature films, 8 shorts, and a half-dozen virtual reality exhibits. That’s an average of four films a day, seeing as many as six in a single day.

One of the coolest things about the festival is that all the while, I was talking with other cinephiles about which movies to see, and frantically trying to obtain tickets to those films. Many attendees work in the industry, many are locals, and some are press covering the event.  I consider myself extremely lucky; I was able to get in to almost every movie I attempted (you can read about my favorites here).  I learned a lot while attending the festival, and would like to share some of the highlights of the experience. (more…)

The Best Movie Stuff of 2015

2015 has come to a close, and every film critic and blogger has already put together their “end of year” lists. Alas, I still don’t have access to a few of my most anticipated releases as of this writing (The Revenant and Anomalisa in particular), so I can’t make my full “top films” list yet (edit: I have now. It’s right here). However, I feel comfortable putting together a “top stuff” list.  Here are some of my favorite film elements of the year. (more…)

‘Buzzard’: Dissecting the Ending

“Buzzard” follows Marty Jackitansky, a misanthrope and small-time scam artist, as he cheats any system he can while avoiding being caught in the act.  The director, Joel Potrykus, makes no attempt to take a moral position on Marty’s scams, instead letting the movie serve as a study of Jackitansky’s character and the minor horrors he inflicts.

The film shares a number of similarities with “Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter,” a 2015 release about a Japanese woman who pursues the insurance money lost at the end of Fargo.  Both feature outcasts who don’t fit in with their peers.  Both are extremely bored and disinterested with their lives, and are willing to give everything up and sacrifice their comfort in exchange for freedom.  And both feature strange, surreal endings that really punctuate their themes.

“Buzzard’s” ending in particular really reshapes how the audience remembers the entirety of the film, and leaves a lot to be interpreted and explained.  Needless to say, [spoilers] ahead for “Buzzard.”
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