Review: Hereditary

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A recent article in The New York Times talks about a renaissance in horror films–never have their been so many character driven, adult-oriented horror films. Get Out, The Quiet Place, and now Hereditary are all getting adults into the theaters for horror, which was once the province of teenagers.

I’ve read more than one article by someone who states that Hereditary is the scariest movie they’ve ever seen. I can’t go that far (I think I still have to go with The Exorcist) but it is one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen, and two days later it’s still sticking with me. The ending, which everyone will be talking about (go see it before it’s spoiled) is borderline silly, but director Ari Aster turns what could have caused giggles into gasps.

As with these recent sophisticated horror films, Hereditary has grander themes. You could call it Ordinary People with ghosts. A well-to-do family that lives somewhere in the mountains consists of mother Toni Collette, father Gabriel Byrne, older brother Alex Wolff, and little sister Milly Shapiro. Collette’s mother has just died, and she has mixed feelings. They were estranged until mom moved into her daughter’s house with dementia. At the funeral, Collette reads a eulogy that talks of her mother’s “private rituals and private friends.” And how.

I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a gruesome accident that further unstrings Collette, She runs into someone at a grief group that shows her how to conduct seances. Pawing around in her mother’s things she finds books on spiritualism and the occult. One page that’s focused on is about King Paimon, one the kings of Hell. I think he’ll become quite popular this summer.

The first half of Hereditary is somewhat slow, but not boring. Collette is an artist who makes miniatures, much like dollhouses. A sly edit in the opening credits suggests that the family lives in a dollhouse, which is open to all sorts of interpretations. The film also does not sentimentalize family attachments. Collette awakes from a dream where she tells Wolff that she never wanted him, and tried to have a miscarriage. Shapiro is an odd child that makes things out of cast-off objects. She finds a dead bird and calmly cuts its head off with scissors. That’s only one of many decapitations, be warned.

Hereditary got a D+ from CinemaScore, which may mean it’s too much for average audiences. But for those who pay attention and understand cinema, Hereditary should rank among the best horror films ever made. Collette deserves an Oscar nomination, and Alex Wolff is terrific. Shapiro is a very unusual looking child–I’m sure Aster probably saw a lot of children for the role and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw her.

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AGEBOC X – Week Eight

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Deadline is Friday, June 15th at 11:59 am (EST)

    1. What will The Incredibles 2 earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    2. What will Tag earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    3. What will Superfly earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)

Current Rankings:
James: +40
Jackrabbit Slim: +36
Rob: +24
Juan: +16
Marco: +16
Nick: +4
Joe: +4

Opening in Las Vegas, June 9, 2018

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The big opening this weekend is Ocean’s 8 (61), the distaff version of the Steven Soderbergh heist movies. I must admit I didn’t think this film would do well, but it opened to 41 million, proving that with the right circumstances, a female driven action film can succeed. I don’t have much interest in it, though, and will wait for home video.

The real sleeper this week may be Hereditary (87), which is getting great reviews and, after Get Out’s success last year, may be in the running for best ten lists and Oscars. I may see this tomorrow, but I usually like to watch horror films at home alone, it’s scarier that way.

Hotel Artemis (57) looks intriguing, but is not getting great reviews. Starring Jodie Foster (playing an old lady–where did the years go?) as a nurse tending to a hospital for criminals. I’ll see this on DVD.

In limited release is First Reformed (87), with Ethan Hawke as a minister at a small church. Directed by the venerable screenwriter Paul Schrader, who has a checkered career as a director. I’d like to see this if time permits.

 

AGEBOC X – Week Seven

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Deadline is Friday, June 8th at 11:59 am (EST)

    1. What will Ocean’s Eight earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    2. What will Hotel Artemis earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    3. What will Hereditary earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)

Current Rankings:
James: +34
Jackrabbit Slim: +28
Rob: +20
Juan: +16
Marco: +14
Nick: +4
Joe: +4

Movies Opening June 1, 2018

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Action Point: Johnny Knoxville comedy based on a fictionalized version of New Jersey’s infamous Action Park. Paramount seems to have barely marketed this film, which is somewhat surprising since Knoxville’s last picture for the studio (Bad Grandpa) did 102m domestic on a 15m budget back in 2013. Still, the entire Jackass brand seems pretty antiquated in the age of YouTube and social media and maybe it’s time to put it to rest. Not screened for critics.

Adrift: Shailene Woodley is earning good notices for her work in this ocean survival drama from Director Baltasar Kormakur (Everest). Based on a true story. RT: 67%, Metacritic: 56%

Upgrade: Sci-fi comedy from the creator of Insidious and Saw, Leigh Whannell. Looks like a lot of fun, but perfectly suited for a Netflix viewing in a few months. RT: 86% Metacritic: 64%

AGEBOC X – Week Six

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Deadline is Friday, June 1st at 11:59 am (EST)

    1. What will Action Point earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    2. What will Adrift earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    3. What will Upgrade earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)

Current Rankings:
James: +30
Jackrabbit Slim: +24
Juan: +16
Marco: +12
Rob: +10
Nick: +4
Joe: +4

Review: Solo

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Much to my disappointment, Solo is not the story of American soccer goalie Hope Solo, but instead another Star Wars spin-off. I was going to type stand-alone, but at the end of the film it’s clear that they intend a sequel (given the soft box office, we’ll see).

And much to my surprise, I enjoyed Solo, which shows us the early days of Star Wars character Han Solo, now played by Alden Ehrenreich, who manages to capture Harrison Ford’s smirk and cocky attitude. A lot of the movie is sop to Star Wars fanatics–how did he get his name, how did me meet Chewbacca, how did he get the Millennium Falcon, etc., but at the base is a solid adventure movie, one that reaches back to the serials that inspired George Lucas in the first place.

Han lives on Correlia, a planet that is full of dark alleys. He and his girlfriend (Emilia Clarke) salvage for the local crime boss (a large caterpillar called Lady Proxima). He longs to get away and be a pilot. He manages to escape, but Clarke does not.

Three years later he’s in the Imperial Navy and runs across a band of crooks, led by Woody Harrelson. Reluctantly they take him and Chewbacca on (I won’t spoil how they meet) and spend most of the move trying to get a shipment of coaxium, or hyperspace fuel. Harrelson works for a creepy guy with scars played by Paul Bettany, and there’s a lot of twists, as you can’t be sure who is gaming who.

“Trust no one,” Harrelson says to Han, and if that line is familiar, it’s the basis for the film. Director Ron Howard, who took over late in the game, directs with an obvious touch–he’s no auteur–but at least he doesn’t get in his own way. Some of the action scenes are too murky–I’m thinking of one where Han guides the Falcon through a maelstrom and they are almost consumed by a giant octopus, but for the most part the film is engaging, if not a little too long.

Most of all, Solo is fun. There are some pirates that dress like Oakland Raider fans, a wisecracking, four-armed pilot, the immensely talented Donald Glover as a young Landro Calrissian, and most of all a new robot, L3, who has the voice of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and is always in a bad mood. In a wonderful sequence, she tells Clarke that Lando is in love with her, but she doesn’t feel the same way about her.

There’s also a cameo by a character long thought dead. I imagine it will be spoiled before too long.

I also think Harrelson is the glue that holds the film together. He’s really a terrific actor, something I wouldn’t have thought while he was playing dumb Woody Boyd on Cheers. Lately he’s done great dramatic work, in Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but he’s also latched on to several franchises, such as The Hunger Games, The Planet of the Apes, and now Star Wars. A role in a Marvel film surely awaits him. Clarke, for her part (she looks pretty fetching), is now in two of the pillars of nerddom: Game of Thrones and Star Wars. Her future signing at comic book conventions is secure for the rest of her life.

Opening in Las Vegas, May 25, 2018

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The 800-pound gorilla in the room this weekend is Solo (63), directed by Ron Howard. It’s a Star Wars prequel, the adventures of a young Han Solo. It’s getting okay reviews, despite Howard’s participation. His output since A Beautiful Mind is suspect. Does anyone else confuse Alden Ehrenreich and Ansel Elgort?

The only other film debuting here this weekend is a documentary about the pontiff: Pope Francis, A Man of His Word (63). Francis is the nonbeliever’s favorite pope, but I doubt I’ll ever seen this. Ninety or so minutes about a pope, no matter how forward thinking, is too much for me.

AGEBOC X – Week Five

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Welcome back to AGEBOC! WEEK THREE.

Deadline is Thursday May 25th at 11:59 pm (EST)

  1. What will Solo earn this weekend? (NOTE: FRIDAY-MONDAY)
  2. (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)

  3. What will Solo earn from Thursday preview/Midnight shows?
  4. (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest.

    Current rankings:
    James: +22
    Jackrabbit Slim: +18
    Juan: +16
    Marco: +12
    Rob: +10
    Nick: +4
    Joe: +4

Review: Deadpool 2

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“You’re dark. Are you sure you aren’t part of the DC universe?” Deadpool asks Cable, the villain in this installation of what should be a long-running franchise. This meta stuff is what fuels most of Deadpool 2, it’s kind of as if the writers just did their own Mad Magazine parody.

Ryan Reynolds returns as the foul-mouthed, quipping anti-hero (the level of profanity approaches David Mamet level). Since we last saw him, he’s been acting as a mercenary. In the grand tradition of Marvel’s Uncle Ben, he lets a criminal escape, which comes back to haunt him. He tries to kill himself, but since he can’t die he’s taken in by the X-Men, who make him a trainee (again, the only X-Men available are Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. In a funny shot the other X-Men are seen hiding).

Then the main plot kicks in, which is borrowed gleefully from the Terminator films (Deadpool even calls Cable John Conner at one point). A teenage mutant who can shoot fire with his hands will grow up to be a mass murderer, and Cable has come from the future to kill him. Deadpool, showing heretofore unknown paternal instincts, wants to save him.

The plot is secondary in Deadpool 2–it’s all about the gags. Some of them are very funny, as when Deadpool calls Cable Thanos (they are both played by Josh Brolin) or when Cable tells Deadpool he’s not a hero, he’s a clown dressed as a sex toy. In the mid-credit scene, Deadpool will shoot Ryan Reynolds before he can make the lamented Green Lantern film. A surprise cameo will show a famous actor playing a character called The Vanisher.

But all of this stuff doesn’t add up to anything significant. There’s a lot of yuks, but we really don’t care about the characters. When Deadpool has a long death scene (he says he hopes the Academy is watching) we know he’s not going to die–Deadpool 3 is certainly already in the works. How can you worry about a character who can’t die? The only really interesting character is Domino, a chick who is extremely lucky. She calls it a superpower, though Deadpool doesn’t. She’s played by Zazie Beetz, expect to see her in the next film.

I enjoyed Deadpool 2, but compared to other Marvel films it’s a sugary snack. Those can be refreshing, but you don’t want to make a diet of them.

Opening in Las Vegas, May 19, 2018

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The big opening this weekend is Deadpool 2 (66). The film is critic-proof, but some are pointing out that it is more of the same from the first film, and the meta-stuff is getting tedious. Of course I’ll see it.

Counter-programming this weekend, Book Club (53) is for the ladies. Four women read Fifty Shades of Grey, hilarity ensues. I suppose we should be grateful that this demographic is being considered, even if it is a mediocre movie.

For the kids there’s Show Dogs (35), and even though Alan Cumming stars I won’t get anywhere near this. One reviewer probably puts it best: “Show Dogs is really bad, even for a talking-dog movie.”

In limited release is Disobedience (74), a drama about the love that dare not speak its name, at least in an Orthodox Jewish community. Offers the tantalizing prospect of a love scenes between Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. Directed by Sebastien Leilo, who just won an Oscar for directing A Fantastic Woman.

Random thread for May 2018

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Margot Kidder passes away at age 69.

Obviously best remembered for her Lois Lane role but was in some interesting films before then and had charisma to burn and didn’t quite have the film/TV career her talented suggested she could’ve.

She gave an entertaining interview to the AV Club website a few years back; obviously not a fan of the original The Amityville Horror!

 

Opening in Las Vegas, May 11, 2018

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Not much this weekend, as the Avengers will again rule the weekend. Next week Deadpool will take over. But until then:

I think Melissa McCarthy is very talented. But her movies seem to be all of a kind–slapstick comedies that don’t appeal to me at all. I haven’t seen any of them, and I’m not going to start with Life of the Party (45), which seems like a female version of the Rodney Dangerfield film, Back to School (which was terrific).

The only other major release this weekend is Breaking In (42), starring Gabrielle Union as a women trying to rescue her children. Directed by James McTeigue, who made the underrated V for Vendetta. Pass.

Opening here in Vegas in limited released (one theater) is RBG (72), about Supreme Court Justice and folk hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The movie is getting fairly good reviews, but they point out that the movie is not exactly even-handed, and leans toward hagiography, so this one is not for the Fox News crowd. I’d like to see it.