March 1, 2018

annihilation-plant-evolution-elementsWell trodden territory in some ways, and yet also utterly unique in it’s derivations for a (US, at least) theatrical release, Alex Garland’s Annihilation is the kind of messy, intriguing, and at times utterly enthralling science fiction that drives me to consider it beyond the walls of the multiplex even as I’m sure much of it doesn’t hold up.  A (very loose, from what I’ve been told) adaptation of the first of the Southern Reach trilogy of novels by Jeff VanderMeer, the film sees Natalie Portman as an ex-army biologist thrust into a top secret base in Florida after her presumed dead special forces husband returns home after a year absence before promptly spewing blood all over the back of an ambulance.  The base is observing a phenomenon called “The Shimmer”, based on the fact that it, well, shimmers the color spectrum.  She volunteers to join a team that’s potentially on a suicide mission to venture into The Shimmer to better understand it’s peculiar affect on everything around it, especially as the “everything around it” is expanding rapidly.  Things go Stalker pretty quickly, with ample time for brief bouts of the sci-fi horror Garland has ventured in previously in his screenplays for Sunshine and 28 Days Later Read the rest of this entry »

True Detective and Hannibal

February 17, 2014

This contains SPOILERS for everything up to episode 5 of True Detective.  It is also written from the ignorance of not having seen the final three episodes left.  So hello posterity, I hope you’re having a good and hearty laugh.

True Detective 1.02 (2)

If it’s true that in the new age of “sophisticated” television drama, the best ones teach you how to watch it, then HBO’s True Detective is an absolute befuddling mess.  The first season of a planned anthology show (i.e. each season will be self-contained with different characters/actors/directors) is a gorgeously hypnotic investigation of a genre that’s so peculiar in its mannerisms, intelligence, and plotting that half way through, I quite frankly have no idea where it’s going to go or, more importantly, what it’s trying to do.  This could be seen as a fault, of course, but the HBO brand – not to mention the star power and directorial talent involved – has ensured a degree of kindness when it comes to giving the benefit of the doubt.  It is certainly odd, however, that the show premiered within a year from the debut of another serial killer investigation show, also strangely featuring naked female corpses with antlers.  NBC’s Hannibal is quite easily the best network drama on air, and though that’s a pretty low hurdle to jump, it shouldn’t take away from Bryan Fullers twisted, nightmarish achievement.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Conjuring

July 24, 2013


I rarely find horror movies scary, and though that’s a really terrible way of opening a review of a horror film, it’s relevant to what follows.  When I find one scary, it is usually down to the ideas that are expressed (and, obviously, in the way they are expressed).  As someone who does not believe in the Christian God, the notion of a purely Christianity-centric “demons vs. God” scenario carries absolutely no weight with my subconscious.  As such, I can appreciate The Exorcist but can’t really connect with the many who deem it to be terrifying.  Outside of that granddaddy of horror, the only exorcism-based film I didn’t find completely tedious was Requiem, a German film from 2006 that is a lot more of an investigation into a person’s psychological condition than a straight-up crosses-to-flesh horror.  So with the massive caveat that I didn’t find The Conjuring scary, I did find it very enjoyable due solely to the craftsmanship on display.  It is something of an old-school haunted house film incredibly well executed. Read the rest of this entry »

The Cabin in the Woods

April 18, 2012

Advisory:  The Cabin in the Woods is best seen with as little foreknowledge as possible.  Not to say that there’s a huge twist, as quite a bit is revealed fairly early on, but a lot of its pleasure comes in watching where it goes.  Suffice it to say that I enjoyed it quite a lot, and you should see it if horror films are anywhere near your wheelhouse, and quite frankly, even if they’re not.

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Junkfish: Piranha 3D

August 23, 2010

After all the hype, the derision, the debate, the increasing sales, the pitiful cash-ins, and the recent fall-off in interest (if box office is anything to go by, anyway), 3D finally comes into its own with Piranha 3D.  James Cameron and other somewhat credible directors might see it as the future of film-making, and there is every chance that someone will come along and do something interesting with it, but at this moment, through the blood-soaked vessel that is Piranha 3D, it reveals its strength to be in pure, unmitigated schlock.  It’s a gimmick, nothing more, and should only be used (if, indeed, at all) in the service of puerile, tongue-in-cheek affairs.  And this film is so tongue-in-cheek it explodes violently through the skin, not unlike the titular aquatic beasts. Read the rest of this entry »

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

December 1, 2009

Oh boy. I really don’t know where to begin.  The Twilight series of books and now accompanying films are a genuine global phenomenon, and it is almost enough to make me give up on the world altogether.  Okay, that’s unfair, as there are plenty of cultural touch points that are just as bad and befuddling in their popularity (Dan Brown, Transformers, and The Hills come to mind).  Still, there’s something insidious about the enterprise that just feels worse in some way.  The writing in the books (of what little I have read, anyway) is appalling, and I can’t help but feel that an entire generation is getting dumber for reading them.  At least with Dan Brown and Nicholas Sparks it’s a more adult demographic, meaning that an awful lot of people are already lost.  As Stephanie Meyer’s series is directed at tweens and teens,  I worry that it might stunt their growth.  Only time will tell, and that’s literature anyway, which isn’t my area in the first place.  Based on the two films so far, however, I wonder if they’re not just feeding a generation of emotional idiots, but actually creating them. Read the rest of this entry »

Drag Me To Hell

June 11, 2009


It feels like it’s been so long since I’ve had a truly fun time at the cinema during the summer season that I had forgotten what the loud, brash escapism of the season is really for.  I’ve liked plenty of the big, goofy blockbusters that get churned out, though admittedly I’ve loathed more and more as the years go by.  Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell isn’t a big-budget event like his Spider-man films that dominated their respective years.  This is a summer picture down solely to the release date, and yet it captures perfectly the essence of what the other should be about:  fun.  Perhaps the films I’ve been seeing have been so poor that my expectations have dropped lower than I thought, but this film felt to me like one of the best popcorn flicks of the last several summers.  The fact that the budget was comparatively miniscule serves to make an even larger mockery of the bloated behemoths that compete for that hallowed place at the top of the year-end box office chart.  This is proper filmmaking, and it is a truly invigorating sight to behold. Read the rest of this entry »