Take one of the most famous musicals of all time, the 1931 Rodgers and Hammerstein Oklahoma!. It’s nearly a century old, and is dated in its takes on gender, sexual dynamics, and traditional American values from the time. It has some darkness lurking in its story, but it’s always buried under the surface, opting for unbridled optimism instead. It’s fun, it’s a crowd-pleaser, it’s a classic.
Say you want to deconstruct and satirize Oklahoma!. Why not make a new musical (Wyoming!), a commentary on some of the messed up norms that are accepted in the name of a fun, surface-level musical?
Now imagine that instead of making this new satire, you simply change the tone of the original Oklahoma! musical to bring all of its darkness right to the forefront. That’s exactly what the Oklahoma! 2019 revival does; the lyrics and script are all identical to the original, and yet the sharp edge is front and center rather than buried beneath glitz and glam.
Lucky is a new horror film on Shudder that comes out of SXSW 2020, and is a movie that I came away extremely impressed with. Honestly the film only grows in my esteem the more I think about it, and there’s a lot of substance in its brisk 83 minute runtime. I’ll give my initial [spoiler-free] thoughts before digging into the details of the ending.
A quick plot synopsis: May Ryer (played by Brea Grant, writer of the film) lives with her husband Ted in what seems to be a loving (if somewhat chilly) long-term relationship. One night, May awakens to a masked intruder breaking into her house. When she wakes up her husband, he informs her that “that’s the man that comes every night and tries to kill us.” Together they fight him off and “kill” him, only for the man to disappear, Michael Myers-style. I’ll leave the synopsis at that, suffice it to say that the questions and danger only begin there.
This weekend, like a lot of people, I finished the first (only?) season of Marvel’s WandaVision TV show. I didn’t expect to have strong opinions about the show – I’m someone who normally watches all of the MCU films as they come out, but doesn’t really give them a ton of thought afterwards. Sure, this show has a really interesting premise and style, but it will probably be more of the same… right? Well the show really surprised me and grabbed my interest, and I have a lot of thoughts about its finale. [Spoilers] are ahead.
Captain Fantastic is a heart-warming film that forces the viewer to consider the faults of modern society and the benefits to living an alternative lifestyle. Written and directed by Matt Ross, the film was a hit at Sundance this year, and rightly so. While it is frequently damning to American culture, it also has a lot to say about the value of compromise, discourse, and self-reflection. Most impressively, it is a movie that revels in the existence of the morally gray, a trait that is rare for a two-hour long feature film. Captain Fantastic really impressed me, and it’s a film that is best discussed from start to finish, so full [spoilers] ahead.
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 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…)
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…)
“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.” (more…)
I’m a fan of Terminator films. The first two movies are classics, and I didn’t hate Rise of the Machines. The franchise is ripe for another entry, and with James Cameron endorsing the new film, I figured it was worth checking out. How bad could it be?
Famous last words. I was really, really disappointed with Terminator: Genisys. Here are my biggest takeaways from the film. I’m tagging this post as [spoilers], I guess, though honestly if you’ve seen the trailer and any mediocre action movie in the past 15 years, the movie doesn’t offer many surprises.
At what point has Artificial Intelligence become advanced enough to be considered life? Is it once it passes for human? Once it has emotions, wants and needs? Once it’s self-aware?
This is one of several core questions behind Alex Garland’s directorial debut, Ex Machina. The film is a surprisingly intimate sci-fi drama in which Domhnall Gleeson plays Caleb, a computer programmer at a Google stand-in. Caleb is invited to the isolated estate of tech-billionaire-genius Nathan (Oscar Isaac) under the pretense of having won a week-long retreat. Once there, he discovers that the true purpose behind the invitation is far more interesting. In addition to boozing it up with his boss, Caleb is tasked with evaluating an advanced A.I. of Nathan’s creation, Ava (Alicia Vikander). In a series of sessions, he must test her humanity in an updated version of the Turing test. The film is extremely tightly written. Its relatively modest budget is used to the fullest extent, and like any good sci-fi film, Ex Machina uses the sci-fi genre to generate discussion on modern concerns. [Spoilers] from here on.