[Early Review] Boy Erased (2018)

Director: Joel Edgerton

Cast: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Joe Alwin, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, Cherry Jones, Flea

Screenplay: Joel Edgerton

114 mins. Rated R for sexual content including an assault, some language and brief drug use.

 

Joel Edgerton (The Gift) just kind of came out of nowhere. Sure, he had been acting for several years, but I never would have placed him as a more-than-competent director and writer, but he did just that with his first film. Now, he seeks to follow-up The Gift with the true-life family drama, Boy Erased.

Boy Erased is the story of Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea, Mid90s), a college student who is having a crisis of faith. He has impure thoughts about men. His mother, Nancy (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!, TV’s Big Little Lies), and father, Marshall (Russell Crowe, Les Miserables, The Mummy), sign him up for a gay conversion therapy. His father is a Baptist preacher who will not allow Jared to live in his house or visit if he remains the way he is. Jared attends classes everyday with head therapist Victor Sykes (Edgerton), a firm believer in the process who pushes Jared and others to the extreme in his quest to make them “normal” heterosexual boys again. As time goes on, Lucas comes to the realization that he is who he is and “changing” is not an option.

Boy Erased takes a while before it really kicks into high gear. The first half of the film to me was a little lost in trying to find its footing. I’m not sure what the big problem is because I like the film’s structure of beginning in media res. The writing is fine but the slow build nature mixed with some pacing issues in editing likely created this problem.

That being said, when it does get going, the last half of this film is an absolute powerhouse. Hedges and Crowe are, in particular, revelatory. There is one scene in particular toward the end of the film that these two share that brought me to tears. The raw emotion of a father and son on two completely different wavelengths is something so heartbreaking.

Writer/Director/Supporting Actor Edgerton holds a capable lens to the proceedings and he tends to just let the performances do the heavy lifting. His work as Sykes in a little disturbing and very saddening. As I said before, I think his writing stumbles a bit at the beginning, but all in all, he is a talent worthy of watching.

Edgerton has a moral focus with the film and its presentation of this conversion therapy. There are a lot of horrific things happening here and it’s made all the more shocking with his choice to end the film with some follow-up on the characters but also some facts about conversion therapy that really hit home with me. These types of endings don’t always work, but Boy Erased is a film that definitely sticks the landing. It’s just sad that a film like this even had to be made, but conversion therapy is a very real and frightening thing for LGBTQ people, especially the young ones who are already going through so much in their adolescence.

Boy Erased struggles a bit out of the gate, but when it finds its footing, Joel Edgerton proves to be a force both behind and in front of the camera. He fills his films with impactful performances that elevate his own craft in the process. It’s not an easy film to view, even with a few peppered moments of levity, particularly from Jared’s mother, but it’s an incredible moving tale about the human spirit and one man’s journey to accept himself. See this movie as soon as you can.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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First Man (2018)

Director: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke

Screenplay: Josh Singer

141 mins. Rated PG-13 for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language.

 

Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) is working pretty hard to make up for the disappointing and embarrassing situation at the Oscars in 2017. This year, he returns with the wildly ambitious biographical drama First Man.

First Man chronicles the life of Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine, Blade Runner 2049) in the eight years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission, where Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. During that time, Armstrong experienced great loss in his personal and professional life, and the relationship with his wife Janet (Claire Foy, Unsane, TV’s The Crown). It also encompasses many of the trials, training, and missions that were required to get to the moon.

Chazelle really excels with his character development. His strengths are characters that have trouble connecting to other people. He tends to have characters who are driven by a specific goal and cannot see how that goal is affecting those around them. The relationship between Neil and Janet is so strongly built and examined in the film so that we as viewers can watch them strain and test their marriage with Armstrong’s excessive drive to complete his mission. Neil is running from the pain of loss in his life and as he gets closer and closer to achieving his goal, he finds that the losses continue to pile.

The film is magnificently shot. This is one of the most beautifully filmed pieces of cinema I’ve seen this year. The visuals are aged and elegant and they capture the feeling of the time. The gorgeous visuals are matched and juxtaposed with actual audio and video from the time. He uses this to convey a new sense of the time. So many films about the space program push for an America Pride angle with their imagery. Chazelle instead chose to show how pain and difficulty comes with this mission, and how many Americans viewed it at the time. The question of whether or not this Space Race was worth it becomes a central argument in First Man, and it fits very well with the story that Chazelle is telling.

The controversy about the flag plays in here quite heavily. It’s not really spoilery to say that we will see Armstrong on the moon at some point in the film, and when he does, I feel like many expected to see an American flag firmly planted on the moon’s surface, and while the flag is visible, it is not directly focused on. Some have complained about this (people who hadn’t seen the film yet and wanted something to be mad about), but again, Chazelle’s focus seems to be on the impact for Mankind and also on Armstrong’s personal journey.

First Man is the first Universal Pictures film to use IMAX cameras, and they are only used for the lunar sequences, but those sequences just left me…breathless. I felt like I was actually on the moon with Armstrong. If you get the chance, see First Man in IMAX. It is worth it.

The other area where Chazelle has an edge is his endings. All of his movies that I’ve seen have had such awe-inspiring endings, and First Man, while quiet and subtle, has an excellent ending that shows what was most important to Chazelle: character.

I have so many things to say about First Man as I unravel more of what I saw, but this was quite an experience. The pacing was one area that seemed to be a struggle for me. Even though I loved the slow-burn, I felt as though the movie could have trimmed maybe 10-15 minutes, but overall, this is a tremendous achievement for Chazelle, who is just killing it right now. See this one in theaters.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, click here.

For my review of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, click here.

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Director: Spike Lee

Cast: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace

Screenplay: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Wilmott, Spike Lee

135 mins. Rated R for language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing violent material and some sexual references.

 

BlacKkKlansman kind of snuck up on me. I had no idea this film was coming out. I didn’t even know Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Rodney King) was working on a major project. This film just kind of appeared one day. It’s one of those films that you almost can’t believe is based on a true story. This one more so than most. I had a feeling it would be an interesting film when I finally did hear about it. The shocking thing was just how damn good it was.

The film is the so-crazy-you-won’t-believe-it true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington, Monster, TV’s Ballers), the first black officer in Colorado Springs. Moving from a lowly records position to an undercover assignment, Ron ends up posing as a white supremacist. Using a “white” voice on the phone speaking with members of the KKK and another detective, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, TV’s Girls), posing as white Ron in public, he works his way up to the top of the KKK, eventually speaking to and sharing a room with David Duke (Topher Grace, Delirium, TV’s That ’70s Show), the Grand Wizard of the Klan. Now, Ron and Flip find themselves in an interesting and dangerous arena and must do all they can to expose the local chapter of the Klan before something unthinkable happens.

I read somewhere that when Jordan Peele told Spike Lee about the project that Spike didn’t really believe it, and to be fair, it’s a hard story to believe. When Lee finally signed on, he had several important elements he wanted to infuse in the story: he wanted to heighten some of the more comedic parts of this larger-than-life story, and he wanted to make his film as relevant as possible to the current political climate. If that was his focus, he was damn successful.

There are some historical inaccuracies in the film, namely that Stallworth apparently never used a “white” voice and it was just his own. The time the film is set was slightly adjusted as well. I don’t think less on the experience because I feel like these and other changes heightened the cinematic experience and impact of the story. True stories are never 100% true even if we try real hard.

John David Washington is flat-out revelatory as Stallworth. He disappeared into the role and the two became one. I completely forgot I was watching a movie, I was so engrossed. Partnered up with Driver in a supporting role and it just melded so perfectly, but I have to mention Topher Grace’s performance. This is not something that I ever pegged him for, but his smarmy attitude and sinister calmness was haunting and strange.

When Lee decided to infuse his story with even more relevancy than it had, he found a profound connection with our current political atmosphere, one that isn’t wholly new, but it is wholly unique to the director. There are references and lines, both major and minor, that firmly plant this story in present day, even though the film is set decades ago. There is a scene where two characters cast doubt that America will ever have a white supremacist for a President and it’s almost as if both performers looked directly at the camera and audience, pausing for desired effect. It’s unsettling with a dose of comedic.

What I can tell you is that Lee’s film starts with a bang, a long speech by Alec Baldwin as the incredibly racist and hateful Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard. It also ends with a bang, one I won’t ruin for you, but I can say that when this film came to a conclusion, my jaw was hanging. I was so incredibly shocked by the ending that Lee chose to put to the film, and I think it is powerful, disturbing, and the perfect ending for this film.

Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is unlike almost any film I’ve seen this or any year, and it stands as one of my favorites. It seems to fire on all cylinders, and even though the first act takes a few minutes before it really kicks into high gear, I’m merely nitpicking an incredible experience, one that I hope you’re ready for. This is maybe one of the most important films of this year or any other. See this movie.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Incredibles 2 (2018)

Director: Brad Bird

Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huckleberry Milner, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Brad Bird

118 mins. Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language.

 

Incredibles 2 was about to become a thing of legend, an anticipated film that seemed to never come. I didn’t believe it myself until the first teaser, but here we are. So then the real question comes, was the wait worth it. Thankfully, yes, it really is.

The sequel picks up right where the first film left off, with The Underminer’s attack on the city. This event triggers more government scrutiny on masked vigilantes, until Bob (Craig T. Nelson, Book Club, TV’s Coach) and Helen (Holly Hunter, The Piano, TV’s Here and Now) are offered to be sponsored by Winston Deaver and the company he runs with his sister, Evelyn. Elastigirl is the first step of the plan to ease the public’s view of heroes because she tends to cause less property damage, leaving Bob behind to take care of the kids. As Elastigirl hunts down the villainous and mysterious Screenslaver, a criminal who uses television screens to hypnotize his victims, Bob struggles to teach Dash (Huckleberry Milner) about New Math, help Violet (Sarah Vowell, A.C.O.D., Please Give) get through boy troubles, and figure out just what the deal is with Jack-Jack.

The first thing to note with Incredibles 2 is how well-structured the film is, especially for picking up right when the first film ended. That’s not an easy feat if it isn’t thoughtfully planned out ahead of time, and it doesn’t sound like the cliffhanger from the first film was planned to be actually resolved, but writer/director Brad Bird (Ratatouille, Tomorrowland) took the story laid out and enhanced the quality of the first film in the process, making a two-film arc that works really well together. These films are two sides of the same coin, and they are both all the better for it. Bird stated numerous times that he wouldn’t make a sequel until he had the right story for it, and Pixar gave him the time to do just that.

An important element of a sequel gestating for 14 years is the need to grow with the audience. The Harry Potter franchise understand the need to grow with its audience, as did Pixar favorite Toy Story, but Incredibles 2 takes it a step further. The violence and adult content associated with the sequel is interesting and risky and proves that Pixar is not a company that makes children’s movies, but instead a company that makes animated films for everyone to enjoy. Incredibles 2 employs the first usage of a gun in a Pixar film as well as heightened language. Again, not issues from this reviewer, but I am proud that Bird is unafraid to grow with his audience and use what it necessary to make the film he wants to make.

The voice work is exemplary here, especially Holly Hunter’s work. She gets a lot more to do here with the lead character swap of the sequel. This is not an easy feat for sequels as well, especially when thinking about Pixar’s previous failure in character-swapping Cars 2. It was disastrous there and it works quite well here, mostly because Helen was a well-written, well-defined character in the first film, whereas Mater was comic relief and never that well-rounded to begin with.

It’s nice to see the reversal and how it affects Bob. He is someone that doesn’t think about anything but saving lives and defeating evil, so forcing him to stay in the shadows is an interesting character arc. I didn’t like how his story roped in Edna Mode, but I can live with it. I was able to relate to him more as a character due to the difficulty he has to face in day-to-day minutiae.

The Screenslaver is an interesting villain this time around. It’s nearly impossible to top Syndrome with the uniqueness of the villain this time around, but I did enjoy the hunt. The big problem from a story perspective is how simple it is to figure out the identity of the Screenslaver. I was putting it together rather easily, and the clues are there. Maybe I was the only one, but I felt it was a clear direction.

I suppose there should be some discussion on the controversy here. Yes, Incredibles 2 has some sequences involving flashing images that may be harmful to people with epilepsy. It was definitely straining to my eyes, and I don’t usually have trouble with that, but I left the theater with a headache. Is it a problem? Yeah, kind of. This was a poor decision and I’m surprised no one thought about the effect it would have on the big screen. I think, at home, it won’t be an issue,but this was a major mistake. There were other ways to make these sequences work on film. Still, I’d rather watch this sequence than discuss the other controversy the film has: public outcry over the lack of “The” in the title (seriously, this was also a thing).

Incredibles 2 is an all-around wonder of a film, and though it isn’t as strong as the first film (but really, that’s a tough ladder to climb), it is still quite an exceptional experience. Barring some pacing issues in the second half of the film, Incredibles 2 is a well-structured and emotionally resonant sequel that moves its core group of characters forward in new and exciting ways. This is definitely one to see.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] The Front Runner (2018)

Director: Jason Reitman

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, Molly Ephraim, Kaitlyn Dever

Screenplay: Matt Bai, Jay Carson, Jason Reitman

113 mins. Rated R for language including some sexual references.

 

If you’re planning on making a political drama, ensure that it helps to shine a light on our current political system. The Front Runner does just that.

After a failed 1984 attempt at making the ballot, Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, The Greatest Showman) is making waves in 1988 as the front runner to the presidency. Everything seems to be falling perfectly in place for Hart, until reporters from The Miami Herald unveil an affair between Hart and a young woman who isn’t his wife. Now, Hart needs to save his political future without destroying his marriage to wife Lee (Vera Farmiga, The Departed, The Commuter). His campaign manager Bill Dixon (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash, Father Figures) truly believes that Hart is the savior our government needs, but he finds that he faces a mountain of problems in righting the ship for Hart, who struggles with the notion that his free time and life outside of the office is nobody’s business but his own.

There are several award-worthy performances in The Front Runner, most notably Jackman’s. It becomes difficult at times to even think of Jackman in the role. His work as Hart is so strong and well-built as he plays the flawed potential-President. His exchanges with Farmiga are incredible, and she is wonderful as Lee Hart, a wife who understands the toll of being married to one of the most talked about men in America. Her only ask? That he not embarrass her. She gets more than she bargained for. Lastly, J.K. Simmons is a revelation as Dixon, a man who knows the state of the game and is aware of it changing right in front of him.

The Front Runner has some gorgeous visuals and it convinced me that I was in 1988 experiencing all of this for the first time. Director Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Tully) has such an incredible color palette on the screen for his audience, and it makes all the drama unfolding onscreen really POP.

The biggest flaws with the narrative is the bloated nature and some of the extra fat on the story. I didn’t need the subplot with Donna Rice and Irene Kelly (Molly Ephraim, Parked, TV’s Last Man Standing). It’s important information for its own story, but I didn’t feel like it mattered to Gary’s journey. There’s also a lot of time spent with Lee and daughter Andrea (Kaitlyn Dever, Detroit, TV’s Justified) at the house holed up hiding from reporters. Again, it doesn’t do much to Gary’s journey. Interesting though it may be, I was following Jackman’s character. Trim some of the excess from the film and it will streamline the pacing so much more.

The Front Runner is quite fascinating in the current political climate. If Hart had run today, would he have won? If he hadn’t been caught, how would the world be different? It raises a lot of questions, and director Reitman puts all the pieces in play and lets them dance around. Exactly what the statement he’s trying to make is somewhat muddled, but performances and visual flair can say quite a lot. The Front Runner will likely be snubbed for a lot of potential Oscar wins as the season goes on, but it’s worth your time when it opens on Election Day. Just make sure to vote first.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 11 – Hell Fest (2018)

Director: Gregory Plotkin

Cast: Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Tony Todd

Screenplay: Seth M. Sherwood, Blair Butler, Akela Cooper

89 mins. Rated R for horror violence, and language including some sexual references.

 

Damn, this movie made me want to visit a haunt real bad.

In Hell Fest, Natalie (Amy Forsyth, A Christmas Horror Story, TV’s Channel Zero) returns to her former apartment to find that her best friend Brooke (Reign Edwards, 35 and Ticking, TV’s The Bold and the Beautiful) has rented out her old room to Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus, The Last Witch Hunter, TV’s Voltron), an old classmate who did not get along well with Natalie. Brooke won’t let Natalie sulk about it for long, though, because tonight is all about Hell Fest, a traveling horror theme park set up during the Halloween season. What they do not expect, though, is that a masked killer has entered Hell Fest this year, and he plans on taking out his murderous rage on Natalie and her friends.

Hell Fest was a fun time, but it didn’t feel like it met its unique setting with a unique style. The Hell Fest setting is rather cool, but at times, it made the film feel very repetitive. As the haunts progress into more and more terrifying, I didn’t feel like the haunts actually became scarier. They became a little too distracting.

The performances fluctuated between serviceable and awful. Edwards delivers some truly terrible lines. The only performance that I truly enjoyed was the quick near-cameo performance of Tony Todd (Candyman, Death House) as The Barker of Hell Fest. Todd knows how to get the most from his limited screen time, and he isn’t utilized greatly, but he is a lot of fun.

The design of the killer in the film was made by Tony Gardner’s company, which also created the masks for Scream and Happy Death Day. The killer is rather unnerving, as is his limited background.

Director Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) worked very well with atmosphere and visual appeal in the film. He does ride a line between cheesy and frightening with the world he has created.

Hell Fest is a fun time and could make for an interesting franchise, but the first film stumbles pretty often. The performances don’t really work, the pacing is a little off, and the film feels repetitive. The look of the killer and the atmosphere surrounding him make for an enjoyable experience, but a flawed one nonetheless.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Life Itself (2018)

Director: Dan Fogelman

Cast: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Laia Costa, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas

Screenplay: Dan Fogelman

118 mins. Rated R for language including sexual references, some violent images and brief drug use.

 

Life Itself is poised to capture that couples date night money this weekend, but is it any good?

The film follows a couple, Will (Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina, Annihilation) and Abby (Olivia Wilde, Tron: Legacy, TV’s Vinyl) from college to marriage and onward as the twisting, winding road of their story echoes throughout future generations. After their marriage ends, Will is forced by to tread through his past by Dr. Cait Morris (Annette Bening, American Beauty, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) in order to put his life back on track. But is he remembering things right? Is he a reliable narrator? Is anyone? Life Itself attempts to answer these questions as several different people from vast walks of life intertwine.

Life Itself is poorly-conceived schmaltz and depression disguised to look like a romantic drama. Director Dan Fogelman (Danny Collins) attempts to pull at heartstrings with some of the most awkwardly crafted sequences trying their best to swim in a sinking plot. I could tell Oscar Isaac was really trying, but some of the dialogue he is forced to utter is so cringe-worthy that I almost can’t believe he was able to get it out. The scenes in which he and Dr. Morris are looking back at his relationship with Abby feel like a soap opera mixed with an afterschool special in some sort of attempt at being A Christmas Carol. They stand there and awkwardly toss words at each other while the more important stuff, the actual flashback lies before them.

Life Itself’s plot construction also left a lot to be desired. This film felt like it was laid out with a connect-the-dots in which someone already completed for me. I was sitting in my seat, actively betting myself on how certain sequences would play out and, more often than not, I was right.

I think what’s most shocking is how Life Itself both does and does not take its emotional core seriously. The film jokes about death and pain in some of the strangest ways while actually asking you to feel sad at the right times. It’s tone stays consistent for large stretches and then drastically veers into uncharted territory.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some value in the film. I actually found many of the performances to be fine, particularly from Isaac as Will, Bening as Morris, Mandy Patinkin (Smurfs: The Lost Village, TV’s Homeland) as Will’s father Irwin, and Antonio Banderas (The Mask of Zorro, TV’s Genius) as Mr. Saccione, an owner of a olive farm featured in the latter part of the movie. Banderas delivers a monologue excellently when he is first featured.

Life Itself is a bigger-budgeted version of a high schooler’s experimental short film. It’s really trying to be something here, but it waxes philosophy in such a hammy fashion that it devolves into little more than drivel by the end of its lengthy runtime. I actually really wanted to like this movie, but alas, this is one that is definitely not worth your time.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[Early Review] The House with a Clock in its Walls (2018)

Director: Eli Roth

Cast: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Renee Elise Goldsberg, Sunny Suljic, Kyle MacLachlan

Screenplay: Eric Kripke

104 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor, and language.

 

I never would’ve expected Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Death Wish) to direct a family film. I did expect him to cameo in it.

The House with a Clock in its Walls is based on the 1970s book of the same name, and it is set in 1955 after Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro, Daddy’s Home, Fun Mom Dinner) is sent to live with his estranged uncle Jonathan (Jack Black, School of Rock, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) at his home in New Zebedee, Michigan. Uncle Jonathan’s home is considered to be one of the strangest in town, and Lewis quickly learns his uncle is a warlock, and his neighbor, Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett, Carol, How to Train Your Dragon 2) is a witch, and a year earlier, a very tortured warlock named Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan, Inside Out, TV’s Twin Peaks) died in the house. As Lewis begins training to become a warlock like his uncle, he struggles with the task of not revealing his new powers to a popular boy in school named Tarby (Sunny Suljic, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot), and Lewis makes a grave mistake that risks the lives of not just his newfound family, but all life on Earth.

Let me tell you about the things I didn’t like in The House with a Clock in its Walls because overall, I rather enjoyed myself. I think Owen Vaccaro really struggles to play the leading role here, and most of the best scenes in the film are based around Black, Blanchett, and MacLachlan. His performance tends to fall back on back theatrics and disappointing crying and screaming. I understand that may be how he is portrayed in the book, but it just doesn’t work here.

The pacing is a little chunky as well, particularly in the middle of the film. There’s a lot going on, but most of the scenes at Lewis’s new school simply bog down the film and should’ve been drastically trimmed to keep the pace going.

All that being said, I had a grin on my face for a large portion of the movie. I was reminded of children’s horror from the 1990s like the Goosebumps TV show and films like Hocus Pocus, Casper, and The Witches. The movie was actually rather creepy and discussed some gruesome things, and I saw kids in the theater with me covering their eyes and keeping two fingers split so as to keep watching. Some kids really love being scared, and I’m glad that Hollywood is recognizing that again. Eli Roth does a fine job of mixing the horror with the fun, aided by a nice screenplay from Eric Kripke (Boogeyman, TV’s Supernatural).

Most of the scenes outside of the school actually left me wanting more mythology. Lewis keeps bringing up a character from television called Captain Midnight and I feel like we only barely scratched the surface. I wanted more Captain Midnight, I wanted more creatures and spells in the house, I wanted more backstory from Izard. I just wanted more. Learning that the book is part of a series makes me really want to see this become a franchise.

The House with a Clock in its Walls stumbles a bit here and there, but I still had fun watching it. It’s the kind of film that you can bring your kids to and still have fun. It feels like it could be the Hocus Pocus of this generation, staying with youths as they grow up and show their kids, and I hope you give it a try. I mean, they are releasing it with Thriller in 3D (something I did not get to see last night), so go for that at the very least.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever, click here.

 

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[Early Review] The Nun (2018)

Director: Corin Hardy

Cast: Demian Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet

Screenplay: Gary Dauberman

96 mins. Rated R for terror, violence, and disturbing/bloody images.

 

I’ve been a fan of The Conjuring universe since the first film, and outside of the original Annabelle film, I’ve found them to be very competently put together as individual films while also contributing nicely to a larger framework. Still, though, there’s been something rather concerning about The Nun and, looking to the future, The Crooked Man. What’s been bothering me about both films have been the narrative that’s been set up within The Conjuring 2. The Nun and The Crooked Man are both very connected to the Warrens and the specific case that they are working on within the film, The Crooked Man purposefully created as an apparition meant to frighten or horrify one particular child. I just couldn’t see how a film could be formed that respected the characters that have been built and forge a new interesting path. Last night, I saw The Nun at an early press screening, and while being a more competent film that expected, it still struggles to exist without hanging on previous films.

The Nun follows Father Burke (Demian Bichir, The Hateful Eight, Alien: Covenant), a sort-of Catholic detective, who is sent by the Vatican to investigate a horrible suicide by a nun at an abbey in Romania. He is joined by Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga, The Final Girls, TV’s American Horror Story), a novitiate who suffers from disturbing visions, as the two attempt to unravel the mystery of the suicide and determine what horrors lie within the walls of the abbey.

Comparatively speaking, The Nun is not the worst film in this universe, but it rest on the lower side of things for several small reasons that build to a less-than-incredible experience. The way the film starts made me feel like Warner Bros. put their hands in the post-production process as the opening has a minute-long prologue featuring a montage from The Conjuring 2 all about the Nun. It felt very unneeded and very forced as if the studio-head walked out in front of the audience at the beginning and shouted, “Remember the nun from The Conjuring 2? That’s what this movie is!” You don’t need that. I think without the forced connectivity to the rest of the universe, The Nun works fine as a standalone film. I took a friend to Annabelle: Creation who had only seen the original The Conjuring. He didn’t take issue with the universe connections and enjoyed himself nonetheless. There’s some overworking of the universe connections later on that also could have been trimmed as more of an Easter egg to fans instead of a full-blown forced explanation as well.

I also wasn’t a fan of secondary character Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet, Elle, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets), the man who helps guide Father Burke and Sister Irene to the Abbey, and the humor he brings to the film. Bloquet is not entirely to blame here. I just found that the combination of the dialogue in Gary Dauberman’s (It, Within) script with Bloquet’s portrayal and the direction by Corin Hardy (The Hallow) combined to make some unfunny pieces of humor that didn’t fit the tone of the narrative. Nothing altogether cringeworthy, but just out of place.

Now, that’s not to say that I hated the film. Far from it. I found myself thoroughly interested in the mystery and the intrigue. I wanted more of it. I did jump quite a bit at some of the more well-planned out scares (though many of the scares are rather similar, someone getting stalked by a nun), and I mildly enjoyed the partnership between Bichir’s Burke and Farmiga’s Irene. It just wasn’t up to par with what I’ve come to expect.

All in all, The Nun is a scary enough film with a flawed screenplay and a little glaringly obvious studio assistance. It’s a nice enough film that should satisfy the audience even if it falls short of its franchise expectations.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen The Nun yet? What’s your favorite film in The Conjuring universe? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

For my review of David F. Sandberg’s Annabelle: Creation, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring 2, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Early Review] Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

Director: Morgan Neville

Cast: Fred Rogers, Joanne Rogers, Betty Aberlin, McColm Cephas Jr.

94 mins. Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and language.

 

I think we all remember Mr. Rogers. I grew up watching the reruns as a child. The unlikely star of the show was interesting, informative, and entertaining. Director Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom, Keith Richards: Under the Influence) seemed to have been moved by Mr. Rogers as well, as his love letter to the man expertly shows.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? showcases Fred Rogers and his amazing life, detailing aspects of his upbringing, the importance of love and respect for our children, and the emotional difficulties he faced while creating such a game-changing program for youths.

Let me start this off with…I laughed. I cried. I did both at the same time. This is a powerhouse examination of one of the more fascinating humans in recent memory. Director Neville elects to provide a mixture of important moments from the television program’s decades-long history and show the context and intent in their creation. He adds in memories from Fred’s crew, family and friends with snippets of archive footage and interviews with the man himself.

This is an expert example in biographical documentary. There is the presentation of a life with an emphasis on how that life contributed to the world, and Fred Rogers indeed influenced the world. I was particularly moved with the way he interacted with the cast and crew of the show as well as the lessons he taught and how Neville uses them perfectly to convey how Rogers would have wanted to convey them anew.

It’s hard to describe the film without just flat-out describing all the ways it has changed my perception of myself and others. The best way to do so would be to simply tell you to see this movie. I know there are a lot of big films in cinemas right now but I implore you to choose Won’t You Be My Neighbor? It’s one of my favorite films of the year, a joyous celebration of love from a man who gave so much of it. See this now.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe