The idea of the cost of war has never been more thoughtfully and emotionally conveyed than in Isao Takahata’s “Grave of the Fireflies.” The 1988 animated film is still one of the most emotional and powerful films I’ve ever seen, it’s a film that completely transcends all ideas of storytelling, and destroys any stigma that animation is a child’s medium that is limited in scope and substances, especially when telling human stories.
The mix of war movies and horror movies have always been a natural combination, since they’re both manage to examine the dark sides of combat and humanity. It’s just a shame that there haven’t been many movies of the sub-genre that have been worth watching. Thankfully, while “Overlord” isn’t a complete masterpiece, it manages to come out in the end as a sleek and very clever amalgam of horror, fantasy, and war oriented action. It might also sweeten the pot that Avery’s horror war hybrid feels like a spiritual prequel to “Re-Animator.” Director Julius Avery approaches the idea of a horror movie set during World War II with great right balance of both genres, allowing “Overlord” to be a character piece first and then delve right in to the horrendous grue and human ugliness.
Somehow in the age of studios reviving remnants of the eighties and destroying them with convoluted mythology and narratives, “Predator” has been somewhat spared. Sure, it was involved with the “Alien” series for a bit, but it’s primarily stayed simplistic and true to the original film–unlike the “Terminator” and “Alien” movie series. “The Predator” is a movie that will likely divide fans of the original film and series as a whole; it’s filled with a ton of plot, an array of characters and is somewhat the antithesis of the original film’s more straight forward machismo based narrative. It also dares to expand on the mythos, should Shane Black be given another shot with a sequel.
John Sturges’s “The Great Escape” is easily one of my favorite action movies of all time, and one of my top five McQueen pictures (“The Getaway” takes the number one prize). It’s legacy and influence on pop culture and action cinema as a whole has been lasting, with John Sturges presenting a slew of brilliant actors at the top of their games in what is a very intriguing tale about escaping Nazi clutches, and fighting for freedom. “The Coolest Guy Movie Ever” is a fine and entertaining historical documentary for anyone that fancies themselves a fan of the movie. It’s exhaustive, meticulous in its detail, and we even get some candid stories about the cast.
Having seen mostly independent films and foreign releases, making a top 10 of mainstream, theatrically released films is practically impossible. However, some of these films deserve to be recognized and seen. Here are my 5 favorites of the mainstream American films I’ve seen this year.
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.
What I love about “Kong: Skull Island” is that while it’s essentially a good old fashioned matinee monster movie at heart, it’s also a pretty clever take on the Vietnam war. “Kong: Skull Island” implements the classic trope from the classic giant monster movies taking a group of armed men and women in to the wilderness, and uses that as an allegory for the Vietnam war. Like the aforementioned war, US soldiers storm in to a wilderness they were unprepared to do battle with, except they face an unparalleled force of nature. Also very effectively setting up a cinematic universe, Jordan Vogt-Roberts aspires for a lot, and succeeds as a simple and harrowing adventure with big monsters, and menacing creatures far and wide.
Bob Clark’s “Deathdream” is one of the most sought after horror films ever made, one of those films that has been inexplicably out of print constantly and very much prized as a genuine horror gem. I’m one of those people that having seen “Deathdream” twice just can’t like what Bob Clark brings his audience. One of the reasons why is because “Deathdream” is so relentlessly bleak and dark. It’s an immensely depressing and viciously grim movie. And while that’s one of the main elements it’s been propelled it in to cult status, for me it’s just a major hindrance. I remember watching Bob Clark’s horror film the first time and just leaving it in a state of sadness.