Movie Reviews

Movie Reviews

Leave No Trace at The Devil’s Doorway.

What’s on tap for today?

Happy Friday the 13th! In honor of the day I was able to take in a couple of screenings for some smaller movies–not related to The Rock punching a building or Adam Sandler sucking in ways unrelated to his non-animated work–that you should be able to take a gander at beginning, well today (7/13/18). Leave No Trace stars the ever talented Ben Foster as a tortured vet who prefers living off-the-grid with his daughter until their all natural life is uprooted and they are forced to integrate back into society. Then, we’ll dip into the volatile world of found footage horror with The Devil’s Doorway, a scathing exploration of religion that dives into dark recesses of hell and the mysterious supernatural–good times were had by all. PS….children doing weird sh*t in the dark is never not scary.

Leave No Trace

leavenotrace_posterGenerally, when you consider the idea of a homeless individual one’s natural instinct is to assume that this is an individual with no means to secure a roof over their head. It’s not unreasonable to assume very few have ever considered the idea that the people they’ve encountered and assumed were homeless are choosing to live that way–and–if you choose to live out in the open, are you really homeless?

Such is the case with Debra Granik’s latest picture, Leave No Trace, which finds Will (Ben Foster) and his daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) living out in the woods surrounding Portland, Oregon. Not struggling to survive, not out on the streets begging for money or shelter, but living off the land with the supplies they have–and buying goods from selling expired meds that Will was once given to ward off his PTSD. However, despite how carefully Will trained his daughter to be in the lookout for people roaming the woods they are plucked from their nook and forced back into society to try to assimilate back as productive normal on-the-grid schmucks. This proves to be too much for the tortured Will to bare and his insistence to go back to normal becomes the wedge that may drive he and Tom apart now that she’s gotten a taste of what it’s like to be a part of a normal society. (more…)

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F-F-F-Fantasia Film Festival 2018 and its 17 Most Intriguing Titles TGoF Can’t Wait to See!

What’s on tap for today?

Friday July 13, 2018 marks the official kickoff of the Fantasia Film Festival which ends on August 2, 2018. I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the films featured in the Montreal festival for the last four years and like each year before it the titles just keep getting more and more interesting. Last year I was able to take in titles that ended up being some of my favorite genre offerings of the year (Tragedy Girls and Better Watch Out). So before we press start on this year’s insanity, lets take a look at some of the titles I’m most looking forward to (hopefully) deliver some reviews for as the fest gets under way! Why 17? I dunno, cause it’s not the standard 10 and its an odd number which just seemed like the right thing to do. Also, I miscounted when I did all the write-ups (since I lumped 3 into one paragraph) and didn’t feel like taking two of them off the list–sooo yeah.

Anna and the Apocalypse

Say zombies and you have my attention–then hit me with musical and I start to pull back a bit. However, the buzz for this one out of Sundance is hard to ignore. Plus it’s a horror christmas movie which always excites me. So paint me optimistic with a touch a caution as we await to see if this is a cult classic in the making and not just the classic tune of festival hype.

annaapocalypse_img

Arizona

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The Family That Cults Together, Stays Together.

What’s on tap for today?

Did I miss the memo? Is being involved in some weird occult/cult shenanigans all the rage now? The Endless, Pyewacket, and now Hereditary are riding high in many critical circles and each have their own little twist on the taboo. So, if spreading funky juju all over my essence is now the in thing then apparently my Saturday night is all booked up. Oh yeah, and this tiny little indie movie came out this weekend, Incredibles 2, maybe you’ve heard of it. I don’t think I need to explain why these two movies are different, but they’re similar only for the fact that they have to deal with the complexities of family. Also, one has way fewer beheadings than the other–let’s find out which one, shall we?

Hereditary

A couple weeks have passed since I first screened Hereditary and there is one thing I can say for certain–not a day has passed that I haven’t thought about it. Granted a lot of it was people asking me what I though and if it was as amazing and scary as the ads and critics had said it was. Putting it right out there, as I walked out of the theater I was extremely conflicted and two weeks later not much else as changed. I’m still of the mind that I like this movie, and the one thing I’m fairly certain about is that it’s absolutely not the horror juggernaut that the marketing has billed it as. In fact, unless you don’t regularly watch horror movies it’s not all that scary. It’s unsettling and there’s lots of disturbing visuals, but I never once worried about sleeping at night–and neither should you. (more…)

The Endless Quiet of Infinity

What’s on tap for today?

Not gonna waste any time, since it’s been a bit since I’ve last checked in. I’ve got 3 reviews of vastly different movies with one of them being about a decade in the making. So strap in and enjoy!

The Endless

theendless_posterEvery indie director has that moment where their constant struggle to break into the mainstream or to just be gifted with the means to make a film without it feeling like pulling teeth in regards to time, budget and studio cooperation, hits its peak. From there the powers that be finally recognize the talent and make things happen for these filmmakers. If there is any cinematic justice in this world then The Endless is that moment for Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead.

Blessed by a tremendous marketing campaign including a series of jaw dropping posters, The Endless is a special kind of mind warping weirdness that simply has to be seen if you’re even a fringe genre fanatic. Of course there’s no guarantee you’ll love it as deeply and enthusiastically as this reviewer, but for the sheer ambition of it all, Benson and Moorhead are owed your attention.

Starring the filmmakers themselves as brothers returning to a cult they escaped a decade earlier for a day long visit they find themselves confronted with the possibility that their memory of the compound and the beliefs of the members may not be as crazy as they once thought. (more…)

Annihilation And It Feels So Good + Game Night, Toppling Goliath Can Designs & Omaha Film Festival Kickoff Week

What’s on tap for today?

theendless_posterThe flu is the pits. Like anyone in the history of ever has ever really needed to justify that sentence. Yes, the flu and various other illnesses/concerns kept me down and out over the last couple of weeks hindering my ability (eh, at least my desire) to be productive. This in turn has assured that I would fall behind on a couple of movie reviews which got kicked down far enough to combine a number of goings on in the world of this busy dad.

Today’s update will take us through reviews of Alex Garland’s stellar sci-fi drama Annihilation and the surprisingly hilarious thrills of Game Night. After that I’ll dabble into the ever changing landscape of Toppling Goliath Brewing Company’s canned beers–including their badass can designs–before capping the post off to express the excitement behind what will be my first appearance at an Omaha Film Festival event as the fest kicks off this week. Let’s dig in, shall we? (more…)

V-Day Pics and Fifty Shades of Gettin’ Rowdy with Duckman

Note: The new changes are still in the works, while I work on getting them integrated fully below you’ll fine a taste of what I expect to be the norm for posts on this page. A mixture of life updates, movie/tv/beer reviews. 

What’s on tap for today?

DSC_2198Countless other parents before me know the endless barrage of incoherent insanity that comes with the daily life of a two year old. I’m not sure anything prepared me for a photo shoot with TWO two year olds and the resulting absurdism that enfolded. Next, the wife and I took the world’s most annoyingly consumer driven holiday and had ourselves a date night which included some sushi and a trip to the Alamo Drafthouse for a ‘Rowdy Screening’ of Fifty Shades Freed. Lastly, I revisit my childhood to recount a cartoon I’m thinking I didn’t really understand or appreciate for my age at the time…Duckman.

V-Day Pics

It’s been at least a week now since Valentine’s Day came and went stealing depressing amounts of money from the pockets of men and women alike. Forcing ourselves to buy gifts on a designated day that prove to our SOs that we love them–cause, ya know…how else would they know? Anyway, to commemorate the holiday it was decreed that we take girly girl to a studio and get her pictures taken in a super adorable dress that my wife picked out, that was also on sale (score!).  (more…)

[Movie Reviews/Blog Update] Behold, Victor Crowley’s Psychotic Winchester Cloverfield Paradox

1517860057122You may begin to notice a few changes in the coming weeks/months here at Tall Glass of Film. The first will be a name change forthcoming. The changes coming are part of my attempt to mediate time spent doing one of my favorite things (writing) by including all relevant aspects of it into the medium. I’m a dad who loves movies, beer, the Chicago Cubs and writing. So I’m the future this blog will have a combination of those things integrated into the posts.

You might get straightforward movie reviews and beer reviews, but also life updates as being a dad with a now 2-year old daughter. This may include the highs and lows of being a dad, funny stories, sad stories, and just random musings as the mood to write strikes. So no don’t expect your typical parenting blog or a one-dimensional review blog from here on how. The goal is to expand a bit and in the process entertain in word form.

So to begin a slow transition, here’s a quadruple dose of short movie reviews! Note: Haven’t decided if the ratings are gonna stick around or not. So if you like or dislike them, lemme know. I can use any and all feedback based on what anyone stumbling across this likes to see. 

Victor Crowley

victorcrowley_posterAdam Green is a director with a clear passion for the genre he works in almost exclusively. That passion doesn’t always translate successfully, but it’s evident in how he talks about it on his and Joe Lynch’s podcast, “The Movie Crypt”, and it’s evident in the visual presentation of his movies. It’s the content that sometimes falls flat–particularly within the Hatchet franchise.

Victor Crowley sees Green returning to the swamp that essentially launched his career and more so than ever before it feels like he’s having a blast delivering the gory goods. Picking up a decade after the events of the first film, Andrew (Perry Shen), is a ostracized survivor often accused of the murders that were perpetrated by Victor Crowley. While making the rounds with his book telling his side of what happened in that Louisiana swamp he’s lured back by the promise of a massive pay-day if he gives an interview at the site of the murders. To his dismay the plane carrying him and a small crew crashes in the swamp trapping them inside, meanwhile a group a filmmakers mistakenly resurrects Cowley who picks up where he left off…dismembering anyone who is unlucky enough to cross his path.

Crowley is the modern horror icon who never met a body part he couldn’t mangle in one way or another. Green continues the bloodletting once again, allowing Crowley (reprised by the lumbering genre vet Kane Hodder) to scalp, rip off limbs, stomp skulls and generally eviscerate the flesh of any living person he encounters. Blood geysers and jelly filled prosthetics dominate each frame as Green seeks to not reinvent the wheel here, but instead just guide it back on track after a pair of poorly received sequels.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, no one flips on a movie Victor Crowley to be moved by the performances or marvel at its creative wit–this is all about the blood and guts and Green delivers all the audience can handle. Combined with a sinister yet playful sense of humor, Victor Crowley propels and hacks its way to the top of what this franchise has to offer.

Rating: B+

Psychotic!

psychotic_posterWe’re far and away from the explosion of homage and throwbacks. In many ways, filmmakers trying their hand at resurrecting the glory days of 70’s and 80’s schlockfests ends up being a transparent attempt to hide budget constraints. Every so often filmmakers can surprise with a surprising love letter to the style that transcends their original intentions. Psychotic! is not the latter. Still, Maxwell Frey and Derek Gibbons have crafted a love letter of sorts–just one that feels like it was sloppily written by a drunk teenager.

I don’t mean for that to sound overly negative. We all have fond memories of our drunk teenage days, but we hardly ever seek out that part of our history for doses of wisdom or taste. Psychotic! is essentially Halloween, if Halloween was about New York hipsters in a constant drug haze. The score is very much Halloween inspired, yet the violence and slasher carries tones of Giallo–the end result is a combo that’s enjoyable yet frustrating.

Hipsters and hipster culture is and will always be annoyingly infuriating and confusing (to someone like me), so Psychotic!’s characters are already set up for failure. Smug self-importance, disregard for normal speech and behavior patterns and irrational criticism run rampant which often are at odds with what a viewer like myself are willing to tolerate. Yet, there are moments of coherence that feel as though they were meant for a different movie entirely. A meta sense of humor and well staged (yet decidedly low-budget) effects are the film’s strong suit.

Pyschotic! is the type of movie that you can–like a true hipster–point at as having knowledge of while everyone else squints in disapproval. Having seen the film isn’t going to make you the superior movie geek to anyone you know, but it’s definitely worth a go if you accidentally stumble on it when browsing the depths of Netflix/Shudder one day.

Rating: C

Winchester

winchester_posterIf there was ever a movie that deserved to be retroactively retitled to JUMP SCARE: THE MOVIE, it’s Winchester. It’s sad to see talents like The Spierig Brothers (who helmed such fantastic films as Predestination and Daybreakers) devolve into directors for hire in studio misfires like Jigsaw and the film currently on the chopping block. Even more, it’s embarrassing to see the great Helen Mirren struggling to make any of this sound intelligent.

Mirren stars as Sarah Winchester, the heiress of the Winchester firearm fortune who is ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation when she orders the endless construction of her mansion. Adding on to the mansion isn’t so much the peculiar behavior so much as the design and impetus of the rooms being that they are meant to draw and trap the souls of victims at the hands of the various Winchester rifles that Sarah believes are haunting her looking for peace. However, Dr. Price (Jason Clarke) arrives to conduct his evaluation when a particularly powerful and vengeful spirit has taken residence in the mansion.

The lunacy of this story and the actual physical structure–which is a real place for those who might not be aware–is fascinating in and of itself. Winchester holds promise in that it’s attempting to bring some sort of coherence that translates to the screen, but fails at almost every turn. What left is a mass of wasted potential that takes the easy scare whenever it possibly can instead of squeezing an eerie sense of surrealism from its “fact” based story.

Winchester is a paint by numbers jump-scare-a-thon that doesn’t even bother to be playful by coloring even a fraction outside the lines. The Spierigs wastes its two leads in supremely disappointing fashion while further damaging their once creative promising careers in favor of yet another lazy studio cash grab.

Rating: D+

The Cloverfield Paradox

cloverfield3_posterBad Robot shocked us all by announcing that Cloverfield 4 (currently titled Overlord) wasn’t just part of the Cloverfieldiverse, but was finished filming and could essentially drop at any time. The only issue being that at the time, the fate of Cloverfield 3 (originally titled God Particle then rumored to be called Cloverfield Station) was still up in the air. Then the genre community collectively gasped when a trailer dropped during Super Bowl 52 indicating it was ‘Coming Very Soon’ via Netflix and was now titled The Cloverfield Paradox. Nerds took to their devices, fired up Netflix and gasped once again by the words “Available After the Game”. History was officially made. A film that no one had a clue when it was going to be released was going to be available the same night its marketing premiered.

Critics didn’t screen it beforehand (allegedly) and we would all have the ability to see this thing unfold before the hype machine got rolling. Perhaps though, this was all by design. That studio worries of a film that didn’t meet their expectations lead to multiple delays and the opportunity to manufacture a buzz through a Netflix acquisition and a “Never been done before” marketing technique would drive traffic to a film that quite simply can’t live up the insanity of its release drama.

The Cloverfield Paradox is not inherently a bad movie. However, it is a frustrating experience that borders on annoying. Annoying because it has no business being a Cloverfield movie and its attempt to shoehorn it into that universe are transparent and sloppy. From the horribly written Donal Logue exposition dump that sets the stage for the entire Cloverfield universe in general, to the obvious and eye-rolling jump scare in the closing seconds–the film’s biggest faults are that it has the audacity to carry the name Cloverfield.

God Particle is the perfect name for this movie. It wouldn’t fix some of the sloppy science that’s on display nor would it save it from some of its other flaws, but it would’ve eliminated the retroactive rage that comes with tying it unnecessarily to a franchise its script clearly didn’t originally intend. As a sci-fi thriller The Cloverfield Paradox has a fascinating arc that runs parallel to extra footage shot specifically to throw the Cloverfield references in. The antics on the space station have a gleeful insanity to them as long as you ignore the dime store science it throws at you. It’s all very light and entertaining so long as you try not to peel back too many layers.

Its ties to the Cloverfieldiverse are all bad though. I have an admiration for what they are TRYING to do, but it so clearly could have been done so much better with even just a smidge more planning and execution. Serving to bridge the gap and explain in some ways how the aliens from 10 Cloverfield Lane (sorry, but if you watched Paradox without seeing Lane I don’t feel that bad about spoiling the fact that Lane has aliens) are so different from the monster we see in 2008’s Cloverfield. Also setting the stage for a different set of supernatural surprises that could be in store for us in the upcoming Overlord.

The Cloverfield Paradox while eerily familiar is worse off due to its forced connections. If it helps to ease the transition to explain this universe and its many possibilities then I for one and happy with letting it be an unfortunate blip on an otherwise promising franchise radar that just so happens to be an okay enough sci-fi thriller on its own–which might be the real paradox here.

Rating: C+

[Movie Review] The Force Returns as Beautiful as it is Dangerous in ‘The Last Jedi’

Fandom in all its forms is equal in its ability to disappoint and awe. You can’t please everyone and thus is the eternal struggle of the working artist. Rian Johnson has come from humble artistic origins to helming a geek property with a rabid fan base quick to swarm perceived failings. As a casual fan of the Star Wars franchise that will lose in spectacular faction at whatever trivia you can conjure there are few fatal flaws that this reviewer will dig up within the internal mythology. As a result in conjunction with being a fan of Johnson’s filmography The Last Jedi takes the series to near euphoric heights that previously felt out of reach.

Without boring anyone with regurgitating plot bears I’ll say just this to begin–this is not your father’s Star Wars. Rian Johnson admirably zigs when geeks everywhere expected him to zag, boldly interpreting this universe in his own unique way. By doing so the director explores complex and–sit down for this–NEW concepts behind where this universe could evolve. What that means for our beloved franchise is that characters may not behave or grow in ways we expect which many fans misinterpret as weakness in Johnson’s vision and refuse to accept a unique interpretation that isn’t just fascinating–sit down again–it also fits.

Cry for my geek cred to be revoked if you must–I don’t know how official any of these things are to begin with. So many people are focused on their own idea of how this franchise should have continued without stopping to realize we all have our own process for internalizing ideals and Star Wars is not immune to those seeds growing into something bigger or just (gasp) different from the original impetus. George Lucas opened this door for us all and were eternally grateful, but let’s face it, he nearly allowed the door to be welded shut forever. Now Johnson has stepped through the door lovingly opened once again by JJ Abrams with a swagger audiences simply aren’t attuned to–which is fine, but don’t assume that Johnson’s tune is inferior.

The Last Jedi doesn’t pander to fans coming back with rose colored glasses–especially as it pertains to Luke Skywalker or the his thus far. Sure, Luke’s arc is unexpected in how it undercuts the journey we’ve seen thus far, but The Force Awakens was criticized for not taking enough risks and following the SW formula. The Last Jedi is hitting stricter backlash for taking the risks that TFA didn’t make–further proof that as an artist you can’t please everyone.

If you can’t get on board with the story, one thing is certain–this is hands down the most beautiful Star Wars movie to date. The stunning color contrast of the salt planet with red soil during the climactic battle to the breathtaking visuals of a shattered ship after a collision at light speed. Johnson has created some of the most iconic and visually astonishing shots and sequences within the franchise to date. A throne room light saber battle takes center stage as the film’s most memorable moments–it’s color scheme, choreography, technical skill and audacity is unrivaled within the many films in canon.

The film’s biggest missteps consist of an unfortunate side mission for Fin involving a trip to an illustrious casino planet chock full of the galaxy’s most obnoxious creatures–though it does stuff in a timely and affecting theme. To counter it’s faults though, Johnson stuns with a number of clever emotional beats that pays off fumbled set ups while also having a little something to say about modern times with a wit that we simply could never have squeezed from latter day Lucas.

Episode VIII has proven to be one of the most challenging entries to the Star Wars universe when it comes to fans loyalties. It is without a doubt time for fans to let go of their preconceptions and…in the words of the wise Luke Skywalker, “Just breathe”. Rian Johnson is a filmmaker who’s passion is rivaled only by his own fandom and that’s why his direction of the franchise cannot and should not be shrugged off or maligned, but embraced with a ferocious Wookie hug. The Last Jedi isn’t just one of 2017’s best blockbuster offerings, it’s one of the finest Star Wars entry to date.

Rating: A-

Beer Recommendation: Coming from a galaxy far far away–well Iowa anyway–comes Intergalactic Warrior from Toppling Goliath Brewing Company. Nestled in Northeast Iowa Toppling Goliath pumps out world class beer left and right–despite transparent contract brews that somewhat tainted their standing for passionate beer geeks across the globe. Galaxy and Warrior hops combine to catapalty a juicy yet pleasantly bitter kick of citrus that collided with a full and crisp mouthfeel. The beer’s earthy finish cements Toppling Goliath’s unique approach to hop bombs that have made them the talk of the Midwest. Pairs perfectly with epic lightsaber battles and roasted Porg.

[Movie Review] Edgy Advertising Pays Off for ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

threebillboards_posterThe world Martin McDonagh creates in his latest flick Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one where there are no consequences for the horrible things we do to one another. It’s of course not necessarily a rule as some actions do carry consequences, but not in the traditional sense of how we expect those to be punished for things like–kicking children in their genitals, throwing people out of windows or throwing molotov cocktails at a police station. It’s also the type of world where the characters in spite of all their flaws and curt behavior to one another have an underlying care for one another that’s not uncommon amongst small town folk. It may only come out during some of the more dire situations and stuffed down even under duress, but it’s there and McDonagh encapsulates it brilliantly.

Several months following the brutal rape and murder of Angela Hayes her mother, Mildred (Frances McDormand) is struck suddenly with an outside-the-box idea while driving home along the highway where her daughter’s crime occurred. There, three tattered billboards stand, unused since the 80’s and Mildred wants to use them to send a message to the small town’s chief of police Bill (Woody Harrelson). The message is simple–that she hasn’t forgotten that no killer has been caught and wants answers. The billboards are innoffensive but concise and have an adverse effect on the police’s overall empathy for Mildred even as Bill regrets how the case turned out. They do however get the town stirred up which leads to the towns underlying tensions to manifest in wild and potentially dangerous ways.  (more…)

[Movie Review] ‘The Disaster Artist’ is Real Hollywood Movie!

disasterartist_posterThe cinematic embarrassment that became a cult phenomenon now has its own movie dedicated to the madman at its core. Many wondered, how could anyone make a good movie out of what is widely considered one of the worst movies ever made? Jame Franco and his team have don’t exactly that thanks in large part to its surprising earnestness in relation to its titular subject and love of the property as a whole.

It perhaps could have been too easy to make a mockery of the lore behind, The Room. A enigmatic crazy person, Tommy Wiseau (portrayed by James Franco with a bizarre accent and a dream–to come to LA with the hopes of becoming a star. In tow with his best friend, Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), the two struggle to make their dream a reality so they decide to manifest destiny themselves. Tommy conjures up a big time American drama in which he will star alongside Mark and together they will force Hollywood to know their names–and boy did they ever. (more…)