Desolation (2017) [Blu-Ray]

No matter what the tragic back story the writers feed us it’s impossible to root for characters when they make consistently stupid decisions. “Desolation” is heavy on clunky symbolism, and comprised of three characters that do nothing but make bad choices when they’re in the middle of a bad situation. Anyone with common sense probably could have made it out of the situation director Sam Patton presents, but there’s more concern with doling out goofy poetic irony than any kind of chills or suspense.

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Our House (2018)

I’m always a sucker for a very good ghost movie, and “Our House” is not one of them. The problem with it is both narrative and tonal, where it’s much too melodramatic to invest in the horror elements, and too horror to appreciate it as a tale of a grieving family struggling to keep it together. What we’re left with is a pretty crummy, rather monotonous supernatural drama that we’ve seen a dozen times in the past. Anthony Scott Burns seems to be aiming for a genre entry in the vein of “We Are Still Here,” but it ends up feeling more like a tame sequel to “White Noise.”

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Microhabitat (So-gong-nyeo) (2017) [Fantasia 2018]

A young woman living paycheck to paycheck on a very tight budget finds herself in a hard place when she has to decide what to cut from her budget when her rent goes up by quite a bit. As she tries to find a way, she decides to abandon the tiny apartment and go couch surfing for a while. As things advance, her situation becomes more and more precarious.

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The First Purge (2018)

I’ve come around on “The Purge” movies in 2018. What I once thought of as goofy exploitation movies, are now goofy exploitation movies with a point. They’re exploitation we need right now, they’re kind of angry diatribes about society that I’ve come to respect. Stuff about the white privileged banking off of the purge, the purge becoming an industry on to itself, “The Purge” posing as an alternate universe tale where the female candidate for president reigned supreme, and now where “The First Purge” begins as an “experiment.”

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Female Filmmaker Friday: Tremble All You Want (Katte ni furuetero) (2017) [Fantasia 2018]

A young woman who has never dated lives in her imagination and in memories of the one boy who made her teenage heart flutter. As she tries to reconnect with him, another option opens right in front of her. What will she go for and how will it affect her life?

Directed by Akiko Ohku who also wrote the screenplay based on the novel by Risa Wataya, Tremble All You Want is a sweet story about holding onto the past, looking for what one wants, having standards, and learning to let go. The way to film is built and written is sweet but not overly so, the lead of Yoshika has an active imagination and it adds a big chunk of whimsy to the story and makes it about more than just a girl chasing a boy who may or may not give her a second thought. Some of the scenes have a bit of a feel similar to that of Amelie while not having a similar color palette and shooting style, something that is definitely good in establishing mood but also in establishing the director as doing her own thing here.

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Female Filmmaker Friday: Marie Antoinette (2006)

A look at life, loves, and losses of Marie Antoinette, a young girl sent to marry the future king of France at 15, who began her reign at 19, and lost her way in luxury and decadence soon after.

Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, the film makes a case for the viewer to see Marie Antoinette in a better light than what they have learned in history class. Here she’s painted as a teenage girl sent to marry a man she’s never met, pushed to produce heirs to the throne, while given a lavish and decadent lifestyle which led to her life feeling unfulfilled and thus making her do all she could to make her life as interesting as she could with what was offered to her. Here the take on Marie Antoinette is almost friendly, showing her as a complex person who was raised in luxury, married into more luxury, and thus completely disconnected from the French populace that ultimately took her and her husband down. The film approaches this without judgment and an interest in humanizing without glorifying a woman who’s often only known for a single quote.

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Flower (2018)

Probably the most disappointing movie I’ve seen all year, I probably would have shut “Flower” off midway were it not for the great turn by Zooey Deutch. Deutch has become a rising star in film, never failing to be charming, charismatic, funny, and beautiful. She’s one of the survivors of Disney television whose managed to convey some genuine humanity and appeal in a variety of roles ever since. It’s just a shame she got saddled with such a mean, vicious, and despicable dark drama romance that’s about as demented as it gets. “Flower” feels like the writers tried to combine Diablo Cody and Larry Clarke in to one twisted freak of a film, and man does it suck.

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Aragne: Sign of Vermillion (2018) [Fantasia 2018]

Saku Sakomoto’s “Aragne” is a real stab at anime horror that embraces its nonsensical story, and never actually delivers a narrative at any point during its run time. “Aragne” is thankfully a merciful hour long film, but one that’s a disorienting, and incoherent experience. And not in the artistic way. More in the realm that Sakomoto seems to have half assed a lot of the film and kind of took it in to the realm where he makes it looks intentional the whole way through.

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