REVIEWS

Review: David Gordon Green's 'Halloween' Deals in Tricks, Treats, and Trauma

Halloween Review

After watching John Carpenter’s 1976 action-thriller Assault on Precinct 13 at the Milan Film Festival, film producers Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad put up the $300,000 budget for the young up-and-coming filmmaker to write, direct, and score a movie about a psychopath who stalks babysitters. Carpenter and his then-girlfriend Debra Hill began drafting a script for The Babysitter Murders, which was later renamed to Halloween after Yablans suggested setting the movie on Halloween night. And the rest is history. The 1978 independent film grossed $70 million at the worldwide box office and became the blueprint for every slasher flick since. Now, 40 years later, David Gordon Green (of George Washington, All the Real Girls) looks to capture some of the macabre magic of Carpenter's classic with his own Halloween — a direct sequel that ignores the seven sequels before it and resurrects the iconic characters of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers.

 Posted October 18 in Horror, Review | Comments

Sitges Review: Julius Avery's WWII Movie 'Overlord' is Loud & Intense

Overlord Review

Play this movie as loud as you can. Turn the volume all the way up, strap in, and prepare for an extremely intense cinematic experience. I am a sucker for World War II movies, pretty much any/all of them, so I will happily admit I probably enjoyed this a bit more than most will, unless you're also a fan of WWII movies. With that said, it's an awesome movie anyway. Overlord is a WWII horror movie from Australian director Julius Avery, making his first big studio movie after Son of a Gun in 2014. This time he collaborated with Bad Robot and producer J.J. Abrams to deliver an intense, extra loud, uber violent, enrapturing WWII action movie spiced up with some gnarly horror. It hits real hard, right from the start, but never drags. You have to go see this movie in theaters - the big screen, big sound experience really, really makes a difference.

 Posted October 18 in Review, Sitges | Comments

Sitges Review: Krzykowski's 'The Man Who Killed Hitler & Then Bigfoot'

The Man Who Killed Hitler & Then The Bigfoot Review

Not all heroes live a heroic life. Not all heroes get a big parade and go on talk shows and end up in history books. The Man Who Killed Hitler & Then The Bigfoot is one of most undefinable films of this year, no question. It's part drama, it's part action film, it's part horror, but at it's core it's really a character study about a lonely man at the end of his life looking back on everything. Sam Elliott plays Calvin Barr, indeed the very man who killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot. He spends his days drinking at a bar and relaxing with his adorable yellow lab dog, because no one knows that he killed Hitler. It was covered up by Germany and America, because there was more at stake. As he states in the film, he just killed a man that day, that's all. And he has had to spend his life dealing with the substantial feelings, as they slowly chip away at his psyche.

 Posted October 15 in Review, Sitges | Comments

Fantastic Fest Review: Ali Abbasi's Strange & Beautiful Fantasy 'Border'

Border Review

The concept of strange love and finding the one person in the world meant for only you is a strong one when it comes to cinematic storytelling. These films are often tough to recommend outright, the weirder nature of some of the entries in this category being a little too outside the box for most mainstream moviegoers. For the cinephile, however, the results of these films are often magical. So, too, is the case with the Swedish film, Border (aka Gräns), a film that tells a story that is, you guessed it, full of strange, creative wonder and eye-opening reveals about our world. Co-written and directed by Ali Abbasi, Border is a film that not everyone will be able to wrap their expectations around, but one that comes with undeniable results for those who do.

Review: Goddard's 'Bad Times at the El Royale' is Nothin' But a Good Time

Bad Times at the El Royale Review

American producer, screenwriter, and filmmaker Drew Goddard began his career as a writer on the hit television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, and Lost. He made his foray into film by writing the 2008 found-footage creature feature, Cloverfield. It wasn't until his directorial debut with 2012's The Cabin in the Woods, however, that Goddard's talent for creating strong characters and deconstructing genre conventions fully manifested. Now, after most recently producing Netflix's Daredevil series and writing the screenplay for Ridley Scott's 2015 space film, The Martian, for which he earned Oscar and WGA nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Goddard is back in the director's chair for Bad Times at the El Royale, a spirited, subversive thriller steeped in '60s nostalgia (and paranoia) with an incredible cast and a killer soundtrack.

 Posted October 11 in Review | Comments

Sitges Review: 'The Spy Gone North' is a Gripping Korean Spy Thriller

The Spy Gone North Review

Not all spy movies are like every other spy movie. And not all spies are the same. The Spy Gone North is an impressive, riveting spy thriller from Korea, made by filmmaker Yoon Jong-bin (of The Unforgiven, Beastie Boys, Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time, Kundo: Age of the Rampant). This first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in their Midnight category earlier this summer, but I just caught up with the film at the Sitges Film Festival. The more I think about, the more I love this film. It's such a slick, superb spy film that draws you into the story and keeps you intrigued with anticipation, on the edge of your seat the entire time. And there isn't much action, which works well for this fascinating story, yet it's thoroughly compelling from start to finish. This film really stands out above so many others - in the way of spy films and thrillers.

 Posted October 10 in Review, Sitges | Comments

Review: Bradley Cooper's 'A Star is Born' is Soulful Artistic Expression

A Star is Born Review

Co-written and directed by actor Bradley Cooper, 2018's A Star is Born is the third remake of William A. Wellman's 1937 film, which earned seven Academy Award nominations at the time. George Cukor's 1954 adaptation, starring Judy Garland and James Mason, was nominated for six. And the 1976 version, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, earned four. Between the three films, only two Oscars were won: Best Writing (Original Story) in 1938 and Best Original Song in 1977. As producer, director, screenwriter, and star, Cooper is following in Streisand’s footsteps and, if history is any indication, his directorial debut will earn several award nominations, and deservedly so. Not only is Cooper's A Star is Born the premiere of a filmmaker with a unique voice but it solidifies Lady Gaga as the preeminent entertainer of the day.

 Posted October 5 in Review | Comments

Fantastic Fest Review: Shinichiro Ueda's Zombie Comedy 'One Cut of the Dead'

One Cut of the Dead Review

It's another year of horror movies, all ranging in subgenre and tone, and you know what that means. Bring on the zombies. Granted, the zombie subgenre has been running rampant for about 15 years straight now, the tropes and setups becoming increasingly banal as time goes by. There's a reason filmmakers continually go back to the zombie well. They keep coming up with new and innovative ways of handling the sub-genre. Take One Cut of the Dead, for instance. On the surface, it seems like another, stale attempt at breaking new ground with old equipment, but this film has something else hidden up its sleeve. One Cut of the Dead ends up being a sweet, funny, little magic trick of a movie that once again reinvents a been-there premise.

Fantastic Fest Review: Luca Guadagnino's Intoxicating New 'Suspiria'

Suspiria Review

We've long-since moved past the belief that all remakes, horror remakes in particular, are inherently bad. From John Carpenter's The Thing to David Cronenberg's The Fly and even as recently as Fede Alvarez's take on The Evil Dead, the horror remake is wide open in terms of quality and sense of purpose. Even so, the thought of a filmmaker bringing a new vision to a classic tale of horror is met with trepidation regardless of the quality of that filmmaker's previous work. Now we have Luca Guadagnino taking on Dario Argento and his classic tale of a witch's coven at a dance academy, Suspiria. In a nutshell, Guadagnino's take on the story is transcendent, taking all the best elements of Argento's classic, reworking them for improvement, and even fleshing out the things that didn't work in the 1977 film. It is sure to leave you breathless.

Fantastic Fest Review: Julius Avery's WWII Horror Thriller 'Overlord'

Overlord Review

The horrors of war have rarely found their way into big-budget horror, even though it seems a natural fit to set genre pictures during the most horrendous moments in human history. These have often been relegated to lower-budget efforts often with unsuccessful results. Those days may be close to over, as Overlord, the latest from J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot production label, blasts its way onto screens. Set during the moments just before D-Day, the film offers an intense and explosive men-on-a-mission tale but with the added bonus of supernatural horrors. One side of the film's genre coin works much better than the other, but Overlord is through-and-through a thrilling action movie that should satiate action fans as well as horror fans alike.

Fantastic Fest Review: Henry Dunham's 'The Standoff at Sparrow Creek'

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek Review

A little Reservoir Dogs, a touch of Fail Safe, and a heaping dose of 2nd Amendment commentary at its core, writer/director Henry Dunham for his feature debut delivers a tightly constructed and incredibly intense thriller in The Standoff at Sparrow Creek. Packed with sharp dialogue, intriguing characters through and through, and masterful performances from a slate of very talented, character actors, the film builds mystery as well as any, modern whodunit on its surface-level. Underneath, though, Dunham's The Standoff at Sparrow Creek brings with it a mountain of ideas, most of them fervently politically-charged and more than appropriate in the 2018 climate of gun rights debates and continual, mass shootings.

TIFF 2018: Mia Hansen-Løve's 'Maya' is Low-Key Charming Romance

Maya Review

India is a place unlike any other. Many films have taken us there before, and many films have shown us how venturing into India can change someone's life. Maya is yet another new film that takes us to India, telling another story about a life being changed. Maya is the latest feature from French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve, and it's a more low-key, lighter film than her past work. It still has some weight to it, and it still has her typical effortless freshness and intimacy, but it lacks more substance beyond the basic romance story we witness first-hand. It's good, just not great, which actually falls in line with the film itself. The film feels a lot like a moment of respite, an escape from the chaos and intensity and brutality of our dangerous modern society, to a breezy, slow-paced, meditative trip to Goa and other cities, reigniting the eternal flame of love.

 Posted September 23 in Review, TIFF 18 | Comments

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