Trey Edward Shults’ “It Comes At Night” is a great movie, it’s also a poorly marketed movie by a studio that had no idea what to make of it. It’s a masterful dramatic thriller less in the realm of “The Walking Dead” and much more in the realm of “On the Road.” Shults definitely creates a film that focuses on the apocalypse and a family surviving through the apocalypse. But what Shults does is create an enemy that assures an inevitable and unstoppable death at the hands of a miserable disease that is inexplicable and remorseless. When we meet Paul, his wife and son Travis, they’re beginning to set their grandfather free in the woods where they plan to execute and bury him.
When a disease sweeps the area, all parents become crazed killers going after their offspring. In one house, a teenage girl and her little brother try to survive while their parents do all in their powers to kill them.
One of the last relics of the video store, I vividly recall coming across the cover to “Ice Cream Man” at least a dozen times and wondered what horror Clint Howard would dole up from the back of a truck. Years later, “Ice Cream Man” has caught on as a surreal and self-aware horror thriller that packs in a lot of gore, grue, and goofy black comedy that makes it a collector’s item. From Jan Michael Vincent shooting a bunch of mental patients, to the Ice Cream Man using Ice Cream as a symbol of his sexual repression and rage, to really bad padding to make one of the child actors look heavy, “Ice Cream Man” has earned its status as a cult classic since video stores shut down permanently.
Brian Taylor’s “Mom and Dad” has a really good idea on its hands and sometimes he doesn’t really know what to do with it. “Mom and Dad” best sums up the whole of its premise in the opening where Taylor stages the film like the opening to Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead.” A mom looks back at her toddler sitting in its seat, gets out of the car and walks away calmly as a train barrels down on it. We then flicker to a small suburb from top view where carnage is about to ensue. Granted, “Mom and Dad” begins very tensely and starts off with a lot of mounting suspense that kept me glued to the screen.
Based on Mary Stewart’s classic children’s book “The Little Broomstick,” we meet frizzy haired Mary, a young girl sent to live with her great aunt Charlotte by her parents as they prepare to move. Overcome by boredom, she ventures out in to the wilderness and follows a mysterious black cat in to the nearby forest. There she finds an old broomstick embedded in an old tree, as well as a mysterious glowing flower called the “Fly-by-Night.” The influences of Studio Ghibli are all over the place in Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s animated adventure “Mary and the Witch’s Flower.” From “Whisper of the Heart,” “Spirited Away,” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” there are so many nods and winks to the aforementioned properties that it becomes kind of a treat to see it all unfold.
Chalk it up to rock bottom expectations, but “It” blew me away when it arrived in theaters mainly because it exceeded my expectations and proved to be a stellar film all around. Andres Muschetti already killed it with his adaptation of his short “Mama,” but he brings his same sensibility in another coming of age tale where pure evil meets innocence. “It” is a masterstroke of a reboot, a movie that pays tribute to the original novel and re-invents every aspect from the ground up for a new audience without dumbing down the material.
It’s David Ayer with another cop drama except rather than a socially relevant tale about mismatched officers of a different race or gender or religion—it’s got Orcs! “Bright” is by no means as clever as it thinks it is, as it uses fantasy tropes not to move the story forward or to lend a new twist to the cop drama, but to hammer us over the head with clumsy allegories and symbolism. Max Landis’ script is painfully stale and lacks any kind of idea as to what it’s trying to get across. It’s much too serious to take as a fantasy film, and not silly enough to take it as a meta-cop movie. Even the opening scene of Will Smith’s character beating a fairy to death on his front lawn with a broom is flat and never quite played up as a meta joke, so much as a poorly delivered device to alert us that we’re watching a “different” kind of cop movie.
Rian Johnson has created what is easily one of the most complete and well developed “Star Wars” cinematic installments since “Empire.” While it does have the occasional pitfall (Porgs), “The Last Jedi” is a masterstroke for the series so far. Johnson manages to skillfully build on this new universe while also answering a lot of the pressing questions that the fans had for “The Force Awakens.” This is the second film to usher in the new generation and ease out the originals, turning this in to a war where the underdogs are still the rebels and they’re filled with reverence for folks like Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa. Johnson focuses primarily on the “How,” and “Why” questions from “The Force Awakens,” allowing fans closure on a lot of the nagging questions that left them excited and or baffled.