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      • 5/5 (2 votes)
      • Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim
        5/5 (2 votes)
        Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim

        Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. Let me say that again because it’s little a hard to believe. Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. The first time I saw the promo of this film, I said to myself it’s going to be...

      • 5/5 (1 votes)
      • Interstellar
        5/5 (1 votes)

        Nolan’s "Interstellar," about astronauts traveling to the other end of the galaxy to find a new home to
        replace humanity’s despoiled home-world, is frantically busy and earsplittingly
        loud. It uses booming music to jack...

      • San Andreas
        5/5 (1 votes)
        San Andreas

        In a match between a supremely catastrophic California
        earthquake and the former wrestling star turned movie action hero Dwayne
        Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock, aptly enough here I guess, although he’s not thusly
        credited), who are you going to bet...

        • Entertainer

          The Little Things

          By Entertainer
          Movies like “The Little Things” feel like a vanishing breed. In the wake of the success of “The Silence of the Lambs,” there seemed to be a dark, brooding thriller adaptation every week with titles like “Kiss the...
          • Entertainer

            Outlines: A Queer Reading of Some Silhouettes

            By Entertainer
            The women behind the murderesses of the Cook County Jail are both strikingly nondescript and yet embody an easily recognizable archetype. Almost costumes of femininity, exaggerated like a drag queen, a siren-like light illuminating them from behind,...
            • Entertainer


              By Entertainer
              The claustrophobic prison movie “Caged” begins with its most original and upsetting scene: wrongfully convicted prisoner Harlow Reid (Edi Gathegi) calls and fails to get through to his lawyer right before he’s forced into solitary...
              • Entertainer

                Wrong Turn

                By Entertainer
                Every now and then there’s a horror movie that proves reboots aren’t an inherently craven concept. (I happen to think that the recent “Child’s Play” and “The Grudge” movies fit that description.)...
                • Entertainer

                  Resident Alien Blends Humor, Heart into Effective Escapism

                  By Entertainer
                  At its best, SyFy’s “Resident Alien” reminded me of the folksy charm of “Northern Exposure,” one of my favorite dramedies of all time. The writing isn’t quite of that caliber—it too often goes for easy...
                  • Entertainer


                    The women behind the murderesses of the Cook County Jail are both strikingly nondescript and yet embody an easily recognizable archetype. Almost costumes of femininity, exaggerated like a drag queen, a siren-like light illuminating them from behind, outlining the bars behind which they stand and pose, these ladies’ aesthetics of gender are heightened despite the fact that they have no name, no face, and beyond the blackness of the outline, no identity. During the “Cell Block Tango,” they are there to intensify the sensuality of the primary women in the number, whose dysfunctional and abusive relationships are performed and rewritten as vaudeville dance and striptease. Their heels are ludicrously large, and there’s an implication of nudity, clearly suggesting that these light fixtures in the background of this musical number in Rob Marshall's “Chicago” are movie musical versions of window prostitution, articulating an uneasy relationship that the film itself has with its women; that its women, and their lives, occupy a complex and fraught relationship in a broader society, as they do outside of the film. And we queers, especially queer men, love a complicated, “difficult” woman. We are hungry for them, to consume them. Maybe, in these paradoxically flat yet fluid images, we can identify with them too. These outlines offer space in the darkness to play with our own identities.

                    That friction is amplified by a queerness within the film, and otherness in the characters, a sidestepping of traditional and heteronormative values and instinctual trust in socially dominant ideas of production and reproduction, or sex and the continuation of family lines: Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) and Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), as do the other women of the “Cell Block Tango,” do away with their spouses and partners, intent on self-fulfillment no longer based on marriage or making a family. And both, not so much different sides of the same coin so much as pairs, or dyads, in visual and aesthetic approaches to the same goal (fame, spectacle, performance), become instantly recognizable within the world of the film. Their image and persona become what we are buying and selling, in our seats and out in the world. This seems to be particularly of interest in a queer cinematic history in that their persona, the language of why they are famous in the first place, is an avoidance of heterosexual dynamics that are created from social pressure and expectation. But as compelling as Roxie’s blonde kewpie pie looks are (certainly director Rob Marshall’s own adaptation of blonde starlet looks, not so far off from Fay Wray), turning to Zeta-Jones’ Velma finds fertile ground for queer identification. No, dis-identification. 


                    And what are we looking at when we just look at these silhouettes? Not the person, certainly; an idea, a construction that’s also natural, a shadow that somehow shimmers with substance. You can reach out to a silhouette and only grab what’s most elemental, like a trick of the light that continues to seduce. When queerness is introduced to shadows, a space that queer people themselves have found a home in, they find power in what José Esteban Muñoz calls “disidentifcation,” meaning “to read oneself and one’s own life narrative in a moment, object, or subject that is not culturally coded to ‘connect.’” We dare to question them, but shadows are unanswerable, and queer people will fill in those blanks to find parts of themselves. With certain performers, like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Marlene Dietrich, and Liza Minnelli, their shadows melt into something more illusory and complex; they become a triad of duplicity that has become its own visual grammar within gay and queer culture. 

                    Velma’s severe bob, as precise and sharp as her dancing, nods to Louise Brooks’ Earth-shattering naughtiness—a siren ringing the alarm bell for timeless sexual power, transcending the era of film in which she left a scalding burn—and Zeta-Jones’ embrace of the costume creates its own self-aware wink. At the beginning of “And All That Jazz,” the platform raises her, the blue light and white flame of the spotlight creating shadows around her body, outlining not only Velma the performer (now alone, her sister gone), but Velma the nightclub act in dialogue with Brooks. She wears a flapper dress to establish her own theatrical and performative presence (as well as independence), and that murder becomes an added element to the persona of Velma Kelly as public figure, so do the parallels between her silhouette as itself an extension of her persona and its relationship to Brooks in a film like “Pandora’s Box,” another story (with Sapphic flavors) of a woman subverting and transgressing her role, the bob adding androgyny and ambiguity that is especially accentuated when reduced to its most elemental features and flattened in silhouette. In short, the bob in silhouette makes Velma’s (and Louise’s) gender walk a fine line between what we understand as male and female, aesthetically. And yet, in the aftermath of “Chicago”’s original release, Zeta-Jones as Velma has become iconic, on its own terms as well as itself paying homage to an older performance. (And it’s clear also given that “Chicago” is both an adaptation and a remix of Fosse.)


                    Silhouettes become a trick and illusion, perhaps outlining the way gender is imitated and yet impermanent as a form of public (and personal) performance. Gender might be fundamentally misleading, and the performances we practice to ensure its stability, that our understanding and grasp of gender does not change, are the most deceitful trick of all. How else would Marlene Dietrich—a halo of smoke around her top hat, with Josef von Sternberg striking a key light so that the light and the dark both harden the borders of her cheekbones and jawline and yet ironically mystify her gender and her identity—be the most immaculate of tricksters? In von Sternberg's “Morocco,” as Amy Jolly (another club singer), she smirks with a cigarette whose length is a tease. Who she is as an image and myth of an actor, how we know her, is undermined by the lights and by the silhouette, making the physical body (as it is supposed to tell “the truth” about itself, including her gender) less stable by its cleanest, most uncomplicated form, the lies that the body telling less elaborate yet bigger in scale. Dietrich’s legacy is hinged upon a lack of clarity, a smokiness that begs for illusion and its artifice to be sustained, even in its instability.  

                    But while Dietrich relies on that instability as the foundation of her persona, the failure of that balancing act becomes a language of iconography on its own terms, becoming fundamental to a queer cultural vocabulary. That very failure, and perhaps lack of self-awareness, is key to another form of relating to characters for queer people (men especially), with a comfort in failure in fiction and failure in a real world. That appears to be the case with Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) in Bob Fosse’s “Cabaret,” who, despite a decade or so after “the events'' of “Chicago,” also adopts a similar personal aesthetic as Velma’s. But Sally’s search for stardom is consistently interrupted by her own follies and mistakes herself as some kind of greatest roadblock. The joke of Bob Fosse's “Cabaret” is an irony, the sensibility itself often connected to queer aesthetics, and an meta joke of Minnelli’s own actual talent in opposition to Sally’s supposed skills, and then Minnelli’s star family tree. That she’s talented and is unable to escape the rise of fascism, which has been permissible so long as it doesn’t affect her, is its own kind of tragedy. 


                    When we see the side of her face up close in profile during “Maybe This Time,” the light’s diffuse, she wants this (some confident relationship) as much as she wants “this,” the audience’s gaze and attention, that she’s captured by performing both kinds of wanting. She holds us on a string, the in-movie audience and the real world one, a funhouse mirror of desire and persona, that, when flattened by profile and silhouette (which is referenced in the title number at the end of the film, as we see her looking deep into the blazing spotlight), who are we to know if she’s actually famous? She’s not famous and she’s famous at once, she’s Liza Minnelli with the intricate Hollywood backstory and she’s Sally Bowles, a nobody who craves that (self-)mythology.

                    The image of Liza as Sally Bowles, even in silhouette or outline, bending around a chair, bowler hat perched like a peekaboo joke on her head, in “Mein Herr,” or in faux-flapper garb in “Money, Money,” joins with Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly and Dietrich as Amy Jolly as silhouettes that are magic tricks, both by the characters they’re playing and the gay and queer audiences engaging with them, entranced by their lies and deception. That very instability of identity is the base on which drag is built, both as exaggeration and excess as well as subtle reduction. That these films take place within an environment or context where fame and celebrity do exist suggests a dizzying infinity mirror or Russian doll of identity and celebrity, a self-reflexivity that the image of their image has become an artifact of iconography, an awareness of the artifice becoming viral commodity. The point is, these people, these women, these performers as silhouettes, aren’t there; nothing about them is fixed in place or permanent, especially not how we interact with their gender or their identity, except their spell. They’re the smoke unfurling from a cigarette. If you grab it, it’s gone. 

                    Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/features/outlines-a-queer-reading-of-silhouettes
                    By: Kyle Turner
                    Posted: January 26, 2021, 2:30 pm

                    • Entertainer
                      Entertainer published a blog post Caged


                      The claustrophobic prison movie “Caged” begins with its most original and upsetting scene: wrongfully convicted prisoner Harlow Reid (Edi Gathegi) calls and fails to get through to his lawyer right before he’s forced into solitary confinement. The camera pushes in on Harlow slowly as he, standing between two sets of guard doors, learns that his lawyers have just dropped his case. An anxious secretary (Jessa Zarubica) informs him that his assets have been seized, so his appeal for a new trial must be re-submitted with a public defender. Unfortunately, Harlow doesn’t have access to any of his belongings while he’s in solitary, not even a sharpened pencil, so filing an appeal will take some doing.

                      The emotional weight of this scene is devastating because there’s literally nowhere for Harlow to go except his cell. “Why do you keep apologizing to me?” he asks Zarubica’s voice, not realizing what writer/director Aaron Fjellman’s restricting camerawork and blocking have already shown us: nobody outside of Harlow’s cell is coming for him.

                      “Caged” is pulpier, and therefore thinner than its opening scene, especially given how generic Harlow’s ghosts often are. Still, his story is often disturbing in spite of Fjellman and co-writer James ‘Doc’ Mason’s over-reliance on cheesy flashbacks and canned confrontations with Officer Sacks (Melora Hardin), a vicious prison guard. “Caged” is as promising as it is because Fjellman and Mason are mostly committed to making us feel as disoriented and desperate as Harlow.

                      The film's focus on Harlow’s subjective experiences is a risk that doesn’t always pay off, especially during the movie’s concluding half hour, but for the most part, “Caged” is thankfully more focused on his hellish living conditions than his personal problems. Watching Harlow struggle to write his appeal—or get a full portion of food, or collect his belongings—is far more compelling than slogging through flashbacks to his final moments with his uncaring wife Amber (Angela Sarafyan), who died in a mysterious yacht-related incident following an argument about her rich parents and a recent affair (she cheated on him, of course).

                      “Caged” ironically only turns more impersonal once Harlow’s story becomes less about how prison degrades him, and more about what he discovers about himself once he’s almost completely dehumanized. Harlow’s a typical prison movie underdog in that he’s more compelling as a problem-solving cypher than he is as a two-dimensional effigy, defined mostly by the voices in his head—“They don't know what you're capable of, but I do,” he tells his reflection—and his weak backstory.

                      It’s not surprising, then, that there’s not much to Gathegi’s character once he starts thinking about his imprisonment as a reflection of his personal identity. Harlow's faith, masculinity, and race are all briefly considered, but never long enough to flesh out insinuating dialogue, like when a prisoner in an adjacent cell growls at Harlow: “Hey, black man: you believe in God?”

                      Thankfully, Sacks’ contempt for Harlow is believable enough to make “Caged” seem tense enough throughout. Hardin digs into her over-ripe lines with unseemly relish, which is only appropriate since she has to say stuff like, “I can't wait to see you swinging from your bedsheet. For me, that's justice done.” Fjellmann’s also makes Hardin’s face seem genuinely monstrous using distorting camera lenses and filters, and Gathegi keeps his scenes emotionally grounded, except for when Harlow starts to yell at his reflection in an unconvincing tough guy voice (“'If you keep letting her treat you like a b***h, I'm gonna have to take care of her myself!”).

                      I was also impressed by a handful of incidental details that open up “Caged” and make it (a little) more than a monotonous series of conflicts between Harlow and Sacks. Like how pious Warden Perez (Tony Amendola) is often more threatening because he seems to genuinely believe that “the road to rehabilitation starts with” confessing to a crime that he didn’t commit. Or when Officer Ganser (Robert R. Shafer), Sacks’ fellow guard, completely ignores Harlow, and he, with apparent sincerity, re-assures Sacks that he’ll “be right back,” as if she needs back-up.

                      “Caged” is most effective when it’s focused on Harlow’s paranoiac certainty that nobody on the outside of his cell cares for, or even really sees what he’s going through. There’s a few too many melodramatic clichés thrown in at the last minute—yikes, those yacht flashbacks—but Harlow’s plight is as disturbing as it is because of the reflexively cruel nature of his punishment. Watching Harlow struggle with the simultaneously impersonal and obviously prejudiced nature of his imprisonment is often enough to make “Caged” seem like more than the sum of its parts.

                      On VOD today, January 26th. 

                      Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/caged-movie-review-2021
                      By: Simon Abrams
                      Posted: January 26, 2021, 2:30 pm

                      • Entertainer
                        Entertainer published a blog post The Little Things


                        Movies like “The Little Things” feel like a vanishing breed. In the wake of the success of “The Silence of the Lambs,” there seemed to be a dark, brooding thriller adaptation every week with titles like “Kiss the Girls” and “The Bone Collector,” and it felt like half of them starred Denzel Washington. In recent years, this genre has largely become the product of television, as shows like “True Detective” and “Mindhunter” have taken on stories of men haunted by the crimes they investigate. That’s part of what makes “The Little Things” feel dated, although the way it recalls better films with similar themes, particularly David Fincher’s “Seven,” does it no favors too. It’s a movie that's constantly on the verge of developing into something as intense and haunting as writer/director John Lee Hancock wants it to be, but it never achieves its goals, especially in its final half-hour. Some of the major stuff here works, including a performance from Washington that’s better than the movie around it (yet again), some striking L.A. cinematography, and an effective score, but one could say that it’s the little things that hold it back. A few big things too.

                        Joe Deacon (Washington) is a disgraced former L.A. cop who now works in Bakersfield, living alone on the edge of society. Our story unfolds in 1990 for little reason other than proximity to The Night Stalker case, which still hangs in the air when a new serial killer emerges in the City of Angels (and "The Little Things" was reportedly initially written a quarter-century ago, which could explain why it feels so much like the potboilers of that era). It’s revealed that ‘Deke’ lost his marriage, had a heart attack, and had to leave town because of a particularly brutal case that he couldn't solve. He’s haunted and unwanted by his former colleagues, including Captain Carl Farris (Terry Kinney) and Detective Sal Rizoli (Chris Bauer), but Deke gets sucked back into that which nearly destroyed him when he ends up helping his replacement, Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) with the serial killer case that’s terrifying the city. It’s not long before they discover that a loner named Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) is their likely suspect, and “The Little Things” becomes a cat and mouse game between the two detectives and the creepiest guy in L.A., a disturbing character who appears to get off on playing games with the cops.

                        The first third of “The Little Things” has an effective procedural quality as Baxter feels out whether or not the legendary Joe Deacon can help him solve the case of his life. Of course, there’s an inherent new school vs. old school component to the storytelling that recalls “Seven” as well as providing a vision of Baxter’s future in the emotionally devastated Deacon. The older cop is quite literally haunted by the victims, seeing them in the middle of the night in his dingy hotel room. The idea that a cop can get so invested in a case that it destroys them gives Washington a lot to work with but it’s ultimately shallow here because of how little we get to know the victims—they're just ghosts and nothing more. Other than the underutilized Natalie Morales as an officer and Michael Hyatt as a coroner, women are largely just victims or spouses in the background in this story.

                        The midsection of “The Little Things” gets by on the immediacy of Washington’s performance. As Leto over-acts around him, Washington grounds everything he does, making an interrogation scene and even a bit wherein Sparma taunts him on a road more effective than they would have been in a lesser actor’s hands. Washington has an incredible skill when it comes to being in the moment. We believe he’s listening, reacting, and responding in a way that doesn’t sound like rehearsed lines or blocked behavior. The opposite is true of Leto, who seems incapable lately of doing anything that doesn’t seem exaggerated, and leans into all of his worst tendencies here. Malek falls somewhere in the middle, feeling too broadly eccentric at first, but he either improved as the film went along or I just got used to his mannerisms. Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Washington is in a more grounded movie than his co-stars. He’s trying to do “Zodiac” while they’re doing “Along Came a Spider.”

                        Hancock's film later unravels when its lack of urgency isn't replaced by tension. The new guy starts to succumb to the same obsession that destroyed the old one, like clockwork, and then the movie twists a few times in ways that truly defy logic, and lead to a dissatisfying ending. It feels like Hancock is trying to tell a very “True Detective” story—one about how a case can pull the people investigating it apart from the inside in a way that breaks them forever—but he can’t figure out how to shape that into an intriguing mystery simultaneously. By the time it’s over, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s added up to, well, nothing. 

                        "The Little Things" is in theaters on January 29, 2021, and also available on HBO Max that day for 31 days.

                        Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-little-things-movie-review-2021
                        By: Brian Tallerico
                        Posted: January 26, 2021, 6:12 pm

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                        At its best, SyFy’s “Resident Alien” reminded me of the folksy charm of “Northern Exposure,” one of my favorite dramedies of all time. The writing isn’t quite of that caliber—it too often goes for easy character beats instead of nuanced storytelling—but this is a consistently likable show at a time when people could use something comfortable and easy. And there’s enough talent and potential in it that it could still develop into something even richer and deeper. It works from a premise that allows a bit of everything from sci-fi to murder mystery to fish-out-of-water comedy, and seems primed to be a needed hit for SyFy, a throwback to other basic cable dramedies that served as comfort food for millions.

                        “Resident Alien” is based on the comic book of the same name by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, published by Dark Horse Comics starting in 2012 (and still running). Alan Tudyk plays an alien visitor who crash lands in a small Colorado mountain town on a mission and ends up forced to take the place of a reclusive doctor on the edge of town, calling himself Harry Vanderspeigle. When the town's actual doctor ends up murdered, Harry is brought down from the hills and learns how to behave like a human while also investigating the crime with the assistance of the dead doctor’s nurse named Asta (Sara Tomko) and the town Sheriff (Corey Reynolds).

                        At first, it feels like “Resident Alien” might be a mystery-of-the-week show in which an awkward alien disguised as a man played by Alan Tudyk has to solve crimes and let me just say that I would totally watch that show every week. Somewhat surprisingly, the first few episodes don’t really dig into this potential, sometimes lazily pushing along their characters in a way that’s more primetime soap than it needs to be. Even “Northern Exposure” had more standalone stories wrapped up in individual episodes than “Resident Alien,” which basically uses its first few episodes to tell a continuous story about Harry’s attempts to merge in with normal human society. He struggles with simple human concepts like handshakes and decorum while also searching for something he lost in the crash landing and dealing with the fact that there’s a kid in town who can see his true alien form. There’s a better version of all of this that has a bit more urgency, both in individual episodes and as a whole.


                        But despite the frustrating structure, “Resident Alien” is an easy hangout series thanks in large part to its cast. Tudyk nails the oddity of an alien who has to learn to deal with not only human behavior but the emotions and connections that come with it, things that aren’t really a concern for his species. He basically learns how to act like a human being from watching cable TV and Tudyk captures the character’s blend of awkward fascination with his predicament without going too broad. It’s a great physical performance, perfectly calibrated in a way that makes it believable that the locals would pause but also then brush of his oddity as a personality quirk. Most of the rest of the cast is forced to play straight man to Tudyk’s eccentricities, but they all do so admirably, especially Tomko and Alice Wetterlund, who almost steals the show as a charming bartender named D’arcy (especially in her scenes with Tudyk). It’s when the show contrasts fully realized and believable characters like D’arcy against the ridiculous concept at its center that it’s at its best. (Less so when it gets surprisingly soapish in some of its developments, including a secret baby.)

                        If “Resident Alien” can fix the slack narrative that sometimes derails its folksy charm, it could be a reliable hit for years to come. Ignoring the occasional missteps as it sets up its world and their characters, it’s a show that goes down easy at a time when it feels like audiences are looking for shows that don’t always need to challenge them with realism in every episode (witness the massive appeal of “Ted Lasso”). It probably won’t play in constant rotation like Harry’s favorite cable staple “Law & Order,” but you never know.

                        Four episodes screened for review.  


                        Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/streaming/Resident-alien-TV-review
                        By: Brian Tallerico
                        Posted: January 25, 2021, 4:32 pm

                        • Entertainer
                          Entertainer published a blog post Wrong Turn


                          Every now and then there’s a horror movie that proves reboots aren’t an inherently craven concept. (I happen to think that the recent “Child’s Play” and “The Grudge” movies fit that description.) “Wrong Turn,” directed by Mike P. Nelson and written by Alan McElroy (of 2003’s “Wrong Turn”) is such a gem. And it’s not just worthwhile in comparison to that Eliza Dushku-starring hicksploitation film, which equaled the artistry of a pancake. For my fellow skeptics, let me make it clear: gone are the West Virginian inbred cannibals and their hoard of corpse meat and car keys; the same goes for the dull predator vs. prey dynamic that dominated the first “Wrong Turn” (and inspired five sequels). The culture clash here between "goddamn hipster freaks" and people of the woods is more complicated here, and the way it unfolds is brutal and shocking without being depraved itself. 

                          This is a remake that has clearly moved on from the original, and now wants to be graded on its brains instead of its brawn—for the dialogue it adds to the tension between two civilizations, especially as McElroy evolves the slasher story to cult horror, like an Appalachian "Midsommar." That last part is where it gets a little less sturdy, but director Mike P. Nelson has a confidence that keeps this movie bolder than you expect. And considering its fitfully nasty traps, it can be mighty thrilling when you don’t really know where a reboot like this is going. 

                          This “Wrong Turn” shares the title mostly by branding—a group of hip, diverse young hikers also make a bad decision here, this time in search of a rare Civil War fort off an Appalachian trail. The batch includes Jen (an incredibly game Charlotte Vega) and her boyfriend Darius (Adain Bradley), an out-and-out socialist who works for a non-profit and openly dreams about an equal society. In general these hikers, who include a gay couple and also an interracial couple, are a liberal beacon for what they think the future of America should be. They're also dead meat, starting with the rogue tree trunk that suddenly barrels down the hill in an excellent, frantic sequence, killing one of them. 

                          Not that these outsiders weren’t warned by the locals of the nearby small Virginia town to stay away, after then accusing the hikers of never working "real jobs" (to which the young folks then reply with their different careers, albeit none of them blue-collar positions). The initial tension in the movie is between that of curdled Confederate dreams and Bernie Sanders-grade socialism, and while it can be a little on-the-nose, it does make for a strong foundation related to fear of the other. Which so happens to later manifest itself in the woods with a creepy cult known as The Foundation, who wear animal skulls as masks and moss as camouflage, and have created a secluded civilization the Appalachian mountains since 1859. Adam (Dylan McTee), the hiking group's hothead, is dragged into one of the traps set by members of The Foundation, sending the hikers into panic mode. Along with the figures Jen sees in the woods, and the traps that injure them around the mountain (Darius takes a spiked ball to the chest, but recovers with help of med student Milla [Emma Dumont]), they're convinced it is they who are being hunted. 

                          What’s striking, and a bit sloppy about this movie, is that it still humanizes everyone, albeit while honoring two different understandings of what is considered barbaric. When the hiking hipsters attack one of the Foundation members—without any outright violence committed beforehand—the act of killing becomes a divisive choice between the group. Adam, the guy who does the skull-smashing deed with a tree branch, screams out in self-defense, “These are clearly not good people!” The hikers face judgment when they are captured by other members of The Foundation. "Wrong Turn" then invests a chunk of its running time in a creepy court scene, inside the torch-lit caves of the cult, overseen by its stern ruler John (Bill Sage), whose rulings involve either darkness or death. He is deeply insulted when Jen, pleading for her life, accuses The Foundation of being barbaric. 

                          The Foundation is what particularly moves this film away from its original, instead bringing up memories of Ari Aster’s cult horror movie “Midsommar.” "Wrong Turn" is practically emboldened by the horror that Aster has popularized, of being doomed by a terror that’s just out of your eyesight. And it’s certainly Aster-like with the amount of head trauma here, as Nelson’s often jolting moments of skulls getting crushed, shot, stabbed etc., prove to be just the type of cold-blooded beats you’d want from a movie filled with visceral emotional and physical pain. Nelson certainly has a more down-and-dirty approach than Aster, using desaturated colors with his copious daylight (like Fede Álvarez's "Evil Dead" remake), making the surrounding woods all the more claustrophobic, especially when it appears that the trees have eyeballs. 

                          But the intellectual ambitions of this "Wrong Turn" sometimes overwhelm it, and the ultimate meaning behind The Foundation comes apart when you think about it. As a snarky Frankenstein of Darius' socialist dreams and the locals' conservative ideology, the cult doesn't make too much sense as the statement it clearly wants to be. It does, however, lead to some great thrills, as the traps set by The Foundation (for animals? for people?) on the mountains are horrific and surprising in their own right. 

                          There’s a lifeline during this horror in the form of Matthew Modine as Scott, Jen’s father. The movie even begins with his search for her, and it gives the story a depth that makes it especially painful and nasty—everyone here is a family member, someone's loved one. And as the story goes on, McElroy scripts an often tight but long game with select pieces like Scott, and the locals back in town who beat him up when he asks too many questions. At the same time, "Wrong Turn" proves sharp at creating a strong sense of characters being doomed, but giving them a glimmer of hope if they can beat the next nasty threat in front of them. Meeting the mountain's locals is only just the beginning, and it becomes exciting to see McElroy and Nelson evolve "Wrong Turn" into a bizarre, winding odyssey, albeit with a lot more on its mind than just a cool kill. 

                          In theaters only on January 26th and January 30th via Fathom Events.

                          Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/wrong-turn-movie-review-2021
                          By: Nick Allen
                          Posted: January 25, 2021, 4:39 pm

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                          In December, HBO dropped one of the best single episodes of television in 2020 in “Euphoria Part 1: Rue,” a standalone chapter forced into existence by the pandemic that caught viewers up with the fallout after the end of the first season of the Emmy-winning drama. The yin to its yang premieres this weekend in “Euphoria Part 2: Jules,” another hour that distills some of show's themes but examines them with the distinct, full voice of Hunter Schafer, who plays Jules and co-wrote the episode with creator Sam Levinson. It’s tempting to pick out commonalities between the two hours, but what’s more interesting is how much Schafer and Levinson differentiate the stories of Rue (Zendaya) and Jules, making both characters richer with these two hours that will have to tide fans over until the full second season later this year. Jules’ chapter is vulnerable and heartfelt, a raw emotion compared to Rue’s constant obfuscation and denial of her own feelings.


                          Much like Rue’s chapter, most of this hour unfolds as a two-hander, this one between Jules and a therapist played by Lauren Weedman. After a tone-setting intro in which memories of her time with Rue play out in Jules’ tear-filling eye set to Lorde’s “Liability,” the conversation really kicks in. But the interruptions increase: flashbacks to her time with Rue, her continued infatuation with “Tyler” (Nate’s online persona), and even drama with the return of her addict mother into her life, revealing more of what Jules was going through in season one. There are times when this chapter feels like it’s trying to do too much in terms of its narrative construction—the joy of watching Zendaya and Colman Domingo bounce off each other purely in conversation for an hour was one of the strengths of “Part 1”—but the inconsistency captures where Jules is at in her life, her feelings going a hundred miles an hour since the break-up with Rue. A first meeting with a therapist is often about throwing it all out on the table, and Jules reveals a lot about herself through the stories she chooses to tell about the connections between her & Rue, her & her parents, and her & her online partner. How are these connections different? How does Jules hold back or give of herself differently? 

                          “Part 2” starts off with Jules discussing gender as a construction, telling her therapist that she’s considering going off hormone therapy. How much of our identity is what we choose to present to other people and how much is internal? The discussion turns to when people instantly judge others based on how they look and how Jules has conformed to a self-formed perception of femininity for so much of her life. The theme of image vs. reality continues into memories of Tyler, the online paramour who turned out to be Nate (Jacob Elordi), and how much that passion became real to her, but was never real in a physical sense. All of this is prelude to a discussion about how Rue tore down all needs for concerns about identity and judgment, really seeing Jules in a way she hadn’t felt before.

                          As she was in the first season, Schafer is emotionally raw in a way that feels completely genuine. She nails all of the emotional backflips that she’s still processing without sinking into melodrama. Weedman is good but not given the kind of juicy part of her own that Domingo was in the first hour, and that hurts the process a little bit, and yet Levinson and Schafer compensate by opening up the episode more to flashbacks and other characters, including John Ales as Jules’ father and Elordi. There are revelations in the final scenes about Jules’ mother and even an encounter that might make people want to go back and watch Rue's hour again in a new light.

                          Taken as a whole, these two hours deepen the relationship between Rue and Jules in a way that wouldn’t have been possible as merely two episodes to start a second season. They have their own space and room to breathe. These standalone chapters each capture the passage of time in a different way and allow deeper analysis of characters than a traditional season would have allowed. Sam Levinson never wanted to have to make these episodes, but the truth is that his show is much better for having to do so.

                          "Euphoria Part 2: Jules" is now on HBO Max and will air on HBO tomorrow night. 



                          Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/streaming/jules-goes-to-therapy-in-her-own-special-episode-of-euphoria
                          By: Brian Tallerico
                          Posted: January 23, 2021, 7:45 pm

                          • Entertainer
                            Entertainer published a blog post Spoor


                            Environmentalism and feminism are one and the same in Agnieszka Holland’s gloomy, dystopian fable “Spoor.” Co-directed by Holland and her daughter Kasia Adamik with dreamlike quality, the film’s mossy world is a lush and damp one, where Mother Earth is threatened by men in ways both insidious and blatant. Imagine if the Coen brothers wrote and directed one of those darkly revisionist Disney films like “Maleficent,” and you will find yourself within the borders of this tale’s mountainous town pitched somewhere between Poland and Czech Republic, where men are ruthless, ungentlemanly hunters, empowered to disturb nature’s peace and wreck the well-being of the animals that reside within it.

                            They are also the destroyers of everything that matters to the movie’s central character Duszejko (Agnieszka Mandat), a hippy-ish, retired engineer and school teacher as well as a flesh-and-blood mother of the nature herself, leading a lonesome but principled life in that bloodthirsty village. Passionate about animal rights and astrology, the Klodzko Valley resident enjoys a decent, quiet existence with her two beloved dogs and plenty of Bach in the background until blood starts spilling mysteriously. It all begins with the inexplicable disappearance of her four-legged best friends one day. Facing man after unsympathetic man in her quest to find them—including one especially deranged priest who shames her for referring to her dogs as her children and denies a fact as obvious as animals having souls—Duszejko finds herself in the midst of an blood-splattered maze with an increasing body count.

                            One of the first victims that the crime wave claims is a violent poacher who lives next door to Duszejko. Then others join the ghastly aftermath: a police chief, a farmer, a local celebrity with shady connections. In the meantime, if only people would take Duszejko’s instincts seriously; that nature is finally fighting back and taking revenge from mankind for all their abuse and harm, and learn to read the earthly sings of dead deer and moody woods the way she does. But her warnings to all the local folk fall on disturbingly deaf ears, with curt and misogynistic authorities dismissing her worries (among them is a routine breaking of hunting laws) as crackpot theories from a crazy old woman. At least Duszejko proves to have some people around her that she could allegedly depend on—an interesting and deeply mysterious bunch with distinct peculiarities you’d expect in the orbit of such an eccentric character. There is Dyzio, an epileptic computer specialist who works at the police force. There is Matoga, a long-time neighbor who discovers the body of the dead poacher along with Duszejko. Also in the picture is a young woman on a heroic quest to regain the custody of her brother by any means necessary.

                            Adapted from Olga Tokarczuk’s novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, there is a loud political edge to “Spoor,” one that deals with animal rights and patriarchy head on, if not a little heavy-handedly. In that regard, her tale is a crowded one covering competing themes, genres and an array of multifaceted characters (an even a romantic plot-line somewhere in there), making one wonder whether an episodic treatment would have suited the source material better. Still, Mandat’s committed performance that wears the horrors of the tale on its sleeve makes the affair more than worthwhile. Not to mention Holland’s cinematic mastery itself that charges every frame of her misty, mud-ridden and chilly-to-the-touch film with the grandeur and ominous aliveness of the nature that surrounds Duszejko’s world. (Sensitive eyes should be warned that dead animal bodies and related grisly scenes won’t be uncommon throughout “Spoor.”) While it doesn’t measure up to some of the director’s greatest such as “In Darkness” and “Washington Square,” “Spoor” makes an unmistakable political statement nonetheless, with Holland’s lens capturing the heart and soul of the animals some of the film’s despicable characters cruelly disregard. 

                            Now available on VOD. 

                            Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/spoor-movie-review-2021
                            By: Tomris Laffly
                            Posted: January 22, 2021, 2:13 pm

                            • Entertainer
                              Entertainer published a blog post PG: Psycho Goreman


                              In theory, the kitschy supervillain comedy “PG: Psycho Goreman” seems like a guaranteed hit: a gory and knowingly goofy riff on fish-out-of-water action-adventures like “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” combined with rubber-suit monsters from Japanese tokusatsu type shows and movies like “Ultraman,” “Masked Rider,” and even “The Guyver.” Throw in a couple of precocious kids, a bunch of practical effects that recall standout ‘80s sci-fi and horror movies (like “RoboCop” and “Videodrome”), and a murderous guardian angel sidekick, and you’ve got a surefire formula for success. That’s the theory, at least.

                              In reality, “Psycho Goreman” isn’t clever or lively enough to be more than fitfully fun, especially given how much time is spent mocking generic, but painstakingly recreated plot contrivances. Maybe there’s a more ambitious (or at least righteously silly) parody amidst all the schticky callbacks and corny dialogue, but it’s hard to tell based on the movie’s episodic sketches.

                              “Psycho Goreman” opens with what looks like a parody of ‘80s toy commercials: brother and sister Luke and Mimi (Owen Myre and Nita-Josée Hanna) play a spirited round of Crazyball, complete with slow-motion roughhousing, mid-air jumping, and electric guitar shredding. Mimi, being the more aggressive of the two children, wins, so Luke has to bury himself alive (ha, kids these days). He starts the process, but quickly stops once he discovers an alien gem from the Planet Gigax (sigh), which summons a murderous, potentially world-ending creature that refers to himself by his preferred nickname: “The Archduke of Nightmares.”

                              Mimi doesn’t like that title though, and since she’s got the Gigaxian gem that somehow controls the Archduke, she (and Luke) rename our guy Psycho Goreman (Mimi on this new name: "It's fun, it's hip, it's now, and it's wow!"). They bond and mix it up with PG while we wait for a clash between him and religious zealot/robot angel Pandora (Kristen MacCulloch), Psycho Goreman’s vicious, holier-than-thou arch-nemesis. In the meantime, Mimi forces Psycho Goreman to play with her and her brother, which sets up a few chintzy set pieces and/or splattery monster fights, none of which are personal, dynamic, or weird enough to be memorable.

                              Unfortunately, waiting for something to happen in “Psycho Goreman” is often the hardest part of watching this otherwise soft-boiled spoof. There are even a couple of jokes about how aimless the movie is, or more specifically: gags that either draw out or interrupt the already slack set-up for new plot developments and confrontations. At the end of a dream sequence, Luke asks Psycho Goreman, “What happens now?” to which PG growls, “We wait for this dream of yours to conclude.” There’s a long pause as a random gaggle of zombies moan and crawl around the two characters. “’kay,” Luke adds, whole seconds before the scene wraps up.

                              Soon after that: Psycho Goreman gets into a fight with a gang of men in rubber monster suits, all of whom look like ripoffs, I mean tributes to other shows or movies. Luke, who observes the scene with his sister, asks her: “How long is this going to go on for?” The implied answer is, in this case, the right one: too long, though that’s ostensibly part of the joke’s appeal.

                              The other part is just how proudly juvenile and silly “Psycho Goreman” is. Imagine a Troma movie, but without the goony anger or social conscience of founder/guiding light Lloyd Kaufman, or the usual horndog-placating, above-the-waist nudity. That’s “Psycho Goreman,” a sour comedy that never stops reminding us, often through Luke’s tinny dialogue, about how formulaic and incredible this sort of story is. No lessons are learned, as they joke at film’s end, but there’s a bunch of monsters hitting and/or disremembering each other, so presumably that’s enough to tick off most viewers’ boxes. I wish I enjoyed watching a fine, but unremarkable cast dig into dialogue that feels like an otherwise lazy mashup of sitcom and sci-fi tropes, like when Psycho Goreman learns to say “frig off” as his catchphrase after Pandora tells him that he “will not stand between me and my holy destiny.” I guess “hasta la huego, babe” was too on the nose.

                              I have to admit, I’m mostly disappointed by “Psycho Goreman” because everything in it is up proverbial alley, from the critique of action-figure-friendly superheroism to the nuclear family gone ballistic power dynamic of Luke and Mimi’s family. I just wish that the movie was either funnier and/or more focused on a scene-to-scene or joke-for-joke level. There’s some funny ideas here, like when the kids’ dad Greg (Adam Brooks) receives a pestering, urgent psychic distress call from PG while Greg tries to use the toilet. But the execution of this gag is so characteristically flat and uninvolving that I often wondered what the point of this genre exercise was, apart from being the cinematic equivalent of a geeky mood board. I theoretically understand the appeal of “Psycho Goreman”—I just didn’t see it on-screen.

                              Now playing in theaters and available on digital platforms.

                              Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/pg-psycho-goreman-movie-review-2021
                              By: Simon Abrams
                              Posted: January 22, 2021, 2:13 pm


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