Tuesday, December 26, 2023

The Ten Best Movies Of 2023

Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver
It’s that time of year again. 2023 has wound down, the holidays, whatever that looks like for you, are here, and this is the natural moment to look back at the last 12 months and talk about the best movies of the year.

Friday, December 1, 2023

'Silent Night' (2023) Movie Review

Joel Kinnaman with a shotgun
John Woo is arguably the greatest action director of all time. So, you better believe when the master drops a dialogue-free Christmas-themed revenge movie, I am all over that. Silent Night sees Woo working in what closely approximates a low-budget 1990s direct-to-video action aesthetic. It’s a little sparser and a little less slick than in his heyday, and at times it’s very clear he’s working with a smaller budget, but the Woo still shines through. Though the finished product has been divisive, and certainly doesn’t live up to the director’s career highs, this is a blast of fun, high-octane holiday retribution.

Friday, November 10, 2023

'It's A Wonderful Knife' (2023) Movie Review

a young woman just saw a murder
For his first two features, writer Michael Kennedy has used essentially the same strategy. He takes an iconic movie plot and asks, but what if it was a slasher? There’s 2020’s Freaky Friday riff, Freaky, and now he teams up with Tragedy Girls director Tyler MacIntyre for It’s a Wonderful Knife. You can probably discern the premise from the title. The result plays something like an unapologetically queer Hallmark Christmas movie covered in blood and stab wounds. Which is as much damn fun as it sounds.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

'Boudica: Queen Of War' (2023) Movie Review

olga kurylenko as a warrior queen
Epic scope and scale on a bargain-basement budget. That might be the best way to describe DTV action auteur Jesse V. Johnson’s newest film, Boudica: Queen of War, starring Olga Kurylenko, who has carved quite a niche for herself in this realm. 

Friday, October 13, 2023

'The Elderly' Movie Review

old man doing a hobby
The Elderly, from Spanish co-directors Raul Cerezo and Fernando Gonzalez Gomez, taps into a number of primal, deep-seated fears. Ideas of our bodies aging and betraying us touch on body horror; there’s the dread of losing our autonomy, in both a physical and mental capacity. It has something to say about how society values, or more accurately, doesn’t value the aged, attends to the looming specter of Spain’s fascist past, which may not be as far in the rearview as many believe, and even copes with the threat of climate catastrophe.

Friday, September 22, 2023

'No One Will Save You' (2023) Movie Review

kaitlyn dever hiding from aliens
I think I love the way Brian Duffield’s brain works. Spontaneous is easily one of my favorite and most re-watched movies of the last few years; Love and Monsters, which he wrote but didn’t direct, is great; and now we can add his latest multi-hyphenated endeavor, No One Will Save You, to this pile as it does not disappoint. At a base level, this is an alien-home-invasion story, but the reality is so much stranger and more complicated than that. 

Friday, August 11, 2023

'New Life' (2023) Movie Review

sonya walger with a gun
A young woman, frantic and covered in blood, flees unknown pursuers. An older woman, a fixer with an as-yet-undefined degenerative condition, is tasked with tracking her down and stopping her from crossing the border. So begins writer/director John Rosman’s taut horror-thriller New Life.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

'Devils' Movie Review

devils south korean movie fantasia 2023
The easiest, most obvious comparison point for director Kim Jae-hoon’s Devils is John Woo’s 1997 Face/Off. While not an exact one-to-one correlation, the two are similar enough that it’s definitely worth a mention and provides a good idea of what to expect. Both revolve around a cop and a serial killer who swap bodies and the ensuing game of cat-and-mouse, though Kim’s film works more in thriller territory than Woo’s bonkers action realm. None of this is meant to be dismissive, and though they walk similar lines, Devils does enough by the end to differentiate itself and make excellent an intriguing use of its core concept.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

'Sympathy For The Devil' (2023) Movie Review

nicolas cage and joel kinnaman
It’s hard to make a movie about two people alone in a car compelling. It’s been done, but unfortunately for Sympathy for the Devil, that’s not one of the film’s strong suits. Even Nicolas Cage fully let off the leash to riff and ramble and devour scenery and rant about the Mucous Man sprinkling boogers into his childhood nose isn’t enough to make this interesting or save an otherwise tepid, humdrum thriller.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Fantasia 2023: 10 Films To Check Out

Wait, it’s been a year already? I guess that’s what happens when time loses all meaning. The good news, however, is that since a year has passed it’s already time for the 2023 installment of the Fantasia Film Festival in ye olde Montreal.

Friday, July 7, 2023

'Once Upon A Time In Uganda' (2021) Movie Review

this is wakaliwood!
If you’re a fan of action movies, you owe it to yourself to dive into the filmography of no-budget Ugandan film studio Wakaliwood. Shot in a slum, with budgets that top out in the hundreds of dollars, mastermind Isaac Nabwana, a former brickmaker, has assembled a beyond-ragtag crew that has pumped out some of the most energetic, entertaining action movies you’ll ever see. The story of how this exists in the first place is even more unlikely than the plots of the movies, and Cathryne Czubek’s documentary Once Upon a Time in Uganda tracks the saga of the wildest action movie studio around.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

'God Is A Bullet' (2023) Movie Review

maika monroe with a bullet
When a Satanic cult murders his ex-wife and abducts his teenage daughter, small town detective Bob Hightower (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), more of a housecat than a badass lawman, must team up with Case Hardin (Maika Monroe), an escapee from said Satanic cult, to track them down and get her back. Along the way they acquire a lot of tattoos, kill some folks, and confront the savage void of humanity. So goes Nick Cassavetes’ latest film, God is a Bullet, based on the novel of the same name by mysterious pseudonymous author Boston Teran.

Friday, June 16, 2023

'Til Death Do Us Part' (2023) Movie Review

natalie burn in a wedding dress
You’ve seen this opening countless times in an endless parade of Lifetime movies. It’s the day of the big wedding. Everyone is at the church. The handsome groom hangs out with his boys. The hunky best man struggles to put the finishing touches on his toast. The bride, radiant and ever so in love, looks into the mirror and gets cold feet. Even the title font and opening score scream this specific brand of light, fluffy, inoffensive made-for-cable romantic fare. 

Thursday, June 8, 2023

'The Angry Black Girl And Her Monster' (2023) Movie Review

laya deleon hayes
“Death is a disease,” begins writer/director Bomani J. Story’s The Angry Black Girls and Her Monster. “And if death is a disease, there’s a cure.” And that’s exactly what 17-year-old Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes), her family and community indelibly marred by this blight, sets out to accomplish in this pressing, powerful modern interpretation of the Frankenstein story. Within the framework of this familiar narrative, Story spins a tale that, though we’ve seen before in many regards, is fresh and urgent and proves there’s still plenty of life in the corpse of Mary Shelley’s saga of the Modern Prometheus.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

'The Roundup: No Way Out' (2023) Movie Review

ma dong-seok punching dudes
By the time you get to the third installment of a franchise, you often know what to expect. Sometimes that can be repetitive and stale, but when it comes to The Roundup: No Way Out, the sequel to 2022’s The Roundup, itself a follow up to 2017’s The Outlaws, the filmmakers know exactly what audiences want—star Ma Dong-seok punching dudes very, very hard and being droll and hilarious as he does—and delivers a substantial amount of that. And it is good.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

SIFF 2023: 'The Night Of The 12th' Capsule Review

two detectives looking worried
As the protagonist of The Night of the 12th says, every investigator has one case that haunts them, that they never solved and can’t let go. They let you know from the jump exactly how this will play out.

SIFF 2023: 'Burning Hearts' Capsule Review

black and white photo of elodie
What if Romeo and Juliet but with warring small town Italian farm mob families? That’s the basic conceit of Pippo Mezzapesa’s Burning Hearts, where a forbidden romance shatters a fragile truce and stirs up a generational blood feud.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

'The Wrath Of Becky' (2023) Movie Review

lulu wilson covered in blood
You ever have a friend that trouble just seems to find no matter what? They’ll be walking down the street or riding the bus, minding their own business, and someone always talks shit or tries to start a fight for no discernable reason? That seems to be Becky (Lulu Wilson) and fascists. After dismantling a gang of white supremacists led by Kevin James in 2020’s Becky, the precocious murder-teen is back, slightly older and a bit more grizzled, to fuck up more fascist assholes in The Wrath of Becky. And she is indeed wrathful.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

SIFF 2023: 'The Last Exit' Capsule Review

joely richardson with a gun
When a pair of criminal brothers on the run attempt to find shelter from a storm in an isolated farmhouse inhabited by a reclusive family, they get much more than they bargained for as the mother, a steely, badass Joely Richardson, fights back.

Monday, May 22, 2023

SIFF 2023: 'Satan Wants You' Capsule Review

michelle remembers
Nowadays we think of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s as almost quaint, forgetting how it decimated countless lives and gripped the country in a destructive frenzy. One talking head in Satan Wants You  refers to the book Michelle Remembers as “Patient zero for the Satanic Panic,” and the documentary digs into that now-discredited tale that fanned the flames of mass hysteria.

Friday, May 19, 2023

SIFF 2023: 'Egghead & Twinkie' Capsule Review

egghead and twinkie smiling
Well, Egghead & Twinkie is freaking adorable. In Sarah Kambe Holland’s twee, lo-fi indie comedy, when trans-racial adoptee Twinkie comes out to her conservative parents it doesn’t go great. She sets out on a cross-country adventure with her nerdy bff Egghead to meet her online DJ crush.

SIFF 2023: 'Mother Superior' Capsule Review

bloody eyed virgin mary
When a young orphan nurse takes a job caring for an ailing baroness at a remote estate, you know spookiness is about to happen. And filmmaker Marie Alice Wolfszahn’s Mother Superior doesn’t let us down.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

'Fast X' (2023) Movie Review

vin diesel with a car door
Last time they went to freaking space. In a Pontiac Fiero! So, the biggest question about Fast X, the tenth chapter in the Toretto-centric saga of Southern-California-car-enthusiasts-turned-international-mega-spies, is how the hell are they going to outdo that? Well, Jason Momoa as gay-coded street race Jesus is one way. Unfortunately, Momoa and his delirious, gleeful performance is the only thing Fast X has going for it. It’s also never been clearer just how much this franchise misses the late Paul Walker and how much it’s lost its way since his death.

SIFF 2023: 'A Disturbance In The Force' Capsule Review

mark hamill in the star wars holiday special
Among fans, the Star Wars Holiday Special is a kind of myth, an artifact some have seen but that’s spoken of as a fable. In reality, it’s an ill-advised lunatic oddity aimed to cash-in on raging Star Wars mania that George Lucas tried to bury. Which just made people want it more. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

'Outpost' (2023) Movie Review

beth dover with an axe
Comedians making horror movies or otherwise moonlighting in the genre is nothing new. And then there’s the oft repeated adage about the fine line separating the two—just look at Jordan Peele’s quote about the difference between horror and comedy being the music. Anyway, the latest comedy personality to dip his toe into the scary end of the pool is The State and Brooklyn Nine-Nine alum Joe Lo Truglio, who makes his feature directorial debut with Outpost.

SIFF 2023: 'Circus Of The Scars' Capsule Review

jim rose circus sideshow documentary
To viewers of a certain age, the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow holds an infamous spot in our collective memory. For many ‘90s kids, it was our introduction to an updated carnival geek/freak show. Corey Wees’ documentary, Circus of the Scars, offers an in-depth time capsule of this specific cultural phenomenon and era.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

SIFF 2023: 'Even Hell Has Its Heroes' Capsule Review

Dylan Carlson of Earth plays guitar
In certain circles, experimental metal band Earth is revered with a sense of mythic awe. Heavily influential, especially to the early grunge era and continuing today, Clyde Petersen’s documentary, Even Hell Has its Heroes, tracks the group’s path, specifically mastermind Dylan Carlson, offering a glimpse behind the reclusive curtain.

Monday, May 15, 2023

SIFF 2023: 'Douglas Sirk - Hope As In Despair' Capsule Review

douglas sirk hope as in despair
Douglas Sirk was the master of American melodrama, his films commercial juggernauts while being largely panned critically. Roman Huben’s documentary, Douglas Sirk—Hope as in Despair, digs into the drama of his own life.

SIFF 2023: 'Punderneath It All' Capsule Review

woman at a pun slam
A sucker for documentaries that explore the most niche, off-the-beaten-path slices of life, Abby Hagan’s film, Punderneath it All, about the world of puns, punning, and pun slams, is freaking catnip.

Friday, May 12, 2023

SIFF 2023: 'Irati' Capsule Review

ancient dude slashing another ancient dude in battle
Set in 778, director Paul Urkijo’s Irati follows a young man and woman tasked by a witch to travel deep into a strange, remote forest to retrieve a corpse and claim a birthright. Been there. 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

SIFF 2023: 'Falcon Lake' Capsule Review

kid in a creepy mask
Falcon Lake fronts like a horror movie. Grainy 16mm presentation calls to mind early slashers, a genre-esque score layers suspense and tension, a teen girl obsesses over a legendary death, and there’s even a cabin-in-the-woods setting. 

Friday, April 28, 2023

'The Black Demon' (2023) Movie Review

josh lucas in wind
What’s worse than dealing with a shark attack? Dealing with a giant shark attack. And what’s worse than dealing with a giant shark attack? Dealing with a giant demon-shark attack. And this isn’t your average giant demon-shark, no, this is a giant demon-shark, called forth by a vengeful Aztec deity, that makes people hallucinate and have horrific visions. In addition to all the usual destructive giant shark shenanigans. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

'Polite Society' (2023) Movie Review

priya kansara about to kick ass
Young martial artist Ria (Priya Kansara) wants to be a professional stunt performer. Her older sister, Lena (Ritu Arya), has dreams of being an artist, though she’s dropped out of art school. Problem is, their Pakistani immigrant parents, while indulgent of the whims of their children, have aims of their own. When the directionless Lena agrees to an arranged marriage to too-good-to-be-true doctor Salim (Akshay Khanna) and his family who may or may not have a nefarious endgame—Ria has an overactive imagination and is prone to flights of wild fancy, so who’s to say what’s real—it’s up to the younger sister to save the day. Or maybe just ruin the Big Day.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

'Sisu' (2022) Movie Review

a grizzled prospector about to murder nazis
If John Wick was a sparse Finnish spaghetti western, one full of brutal, graphic carnage and a grizzled, silent protagonist absolutely eviscerating Nazis, it might look quite a bit like writer/director Jalmari Helander’s Sisu. The Rare Exports helmer delivers a wild, head-stabbing, fascist-exploding good time and the feel-good movie of 2023. Unless you’re a Nazi. But if you are a Nazi, you should feel bad about yourself and the choices you made.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

'The Best Man' (2023) Movie Review

brendan fehr with a machine gun
Even in the best of circumstances, weddings are stressful as hell. Sure, they’re lovely, joyous occasions, but you’ve got a monumental logistical task, simmering family drama, travel, accommodations, drunk relatives. It’s a lot. And then you have to worry about a crew of vengeance-minded mercenaries showing up on the day to wreck up the joint. Oh, that didn’t happen to you? Cool, cool. Though that is the basic premise of Shane Dax Taylor’s The Best Man.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The BoneBat Comedy Of Horrors Film Festival Is Almost A Damn Teenager!

a green skull wearing a fez
This is the place where I was going to make a crack about how it’s spring and of course what we really want to do is spend a beautiful weekend day sitting in the dark watching horror movies with a bunch of like-minded weirdos. But the weather in Seattle has been utter trash, so you don’t have anything better to do than attend the BoneBat Comedy of Horrors Film Festival.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

'How To Blow Up A Pipeline' (2022) Movie Review

a bunch of activists on a van
When a filmmaker sets out to make a movie with a specific political message, all too often the result plays didactic, blunt, and heavy handed, practically screaming, “This is our movie, this is our message!” from the rooftops. It can be off-putting, even if you share the same viewpoint—most people don’t watch movies to be lectured one way or another. Cam director Daniel Goldhaber’s How to Blow Up a Pipeline is certainly a movie with something to say. 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

'Fugue' (2018) Movie Review

woman scowling
Fugue, Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s follow up to her coming-of-age mermaid-horror-musical The Lure, originally premiered in 2018, but is just now receiving a U.S. release. And it’s kind of a weird bird. It presents as a thriller—it looks and acts the part—but for all the aesthetic posturing, it ultimately boils down to a domestic drama, albeit an unusual one, about identity, love, family, and more. If anything, presenting as it does serves as a red herring or a subversion of expectations—it looks like one thing, but in reality, is something much different.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

'Fist Of The Condor' (2023) Movie Review

marko zaror swooping low
When star Marko Zaror and writer/director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza team up, you damn well better believe we’re paying attention. When this Chilean duo gets together, we get movies like Kiltro, Mandrill, and Redeemer, among others, and rarely does Zaror get to shine as brightly as he does in these films. (Unless he’s facing off against Scott Adkins.) And their latest venture, Fist of the Condor, delivers just what fans want and expect. 

Monday, March 13, 2023

The 2023 Oscar Winners

everything everywhere all at once
It doesn’t always happen, in fact it’s pretty rare, but every once in a while my movie tastes line up with the Oscars. This just so happens to be one of those years. Everything Everywhere All at Once was easily my favorite movie of 2022 and it won, well, damn near everything. And now we can officially call her Academy Award winner Michelle Yeoh, which is pretty fantastic.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

'The Park' (2023) Movie Review

teen girl with a machine gun
Writer/director Shal Ngo’s feature debut, The Park, is a tale of opposite forces, both colliding and pulling against each other. Playfulness crashes into sadism, goofiness bangs heads with savagery, practical concerns compete with wild dreams, and, most centrally, hope struggles to overcome despair. It’s Mad Max via Lord of the Flies, blending action and horror in a post-apocalyptic saga of roving child murder gangs, earnest friendship, and an abandoned amusement park.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

'The Outwaters' (2023) Movie Review

bloody man face
There are certainly examples I like quite a bit—Trollhunter, the Rec films, a few others—but for the most part, I don’t and never have enjoyed found footage as a cinematic approach. It’s never done much for me, and I generally find the drawbacks outweigh the benefits as an aesthetic and narrative conceit. That admittedly large caveat out of the way, Robbie Banfitch’s The Outwaters uses this format to dive headlong into experimental cosmic horror. This microbudget affair puts a fresh sheen on the subgenre, and though it tumbles into familiar pitfalls and engenders extreme, polarized reactions from viewers, both warranted and understandable, it ranks toward the top of the found footage pile.