Movie Review – The Humans

The Humans (2021)
Written & Directed by Stephen Karam

You wouldn’t be in the wrong to walk away from The Humans feeling a bit confused about how you were supposed to feel watching this filmed stage play. The work’s creator, Stephen Karam, has imbued his movie with such a foreboding and menacing tone. This is followed by numerous jumpscares that cut through the monotonous and passive-aggressive dialogue of the characters. The story’s setting even brushes up against the premise in an interesting way: A crumbling New York apartment complex where a family meets to have Thanksgiving dinner. The audience is constantly unsettled by noises coming from neighboring apartments or figures briefly glimpsed through blurry, rain-stained windows. This is a Thanksgiving ghost story for the 21st century.

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Patron Pick – The Game

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will get to pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

The Game (1997)
Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris
Directed by David Fincher

David Fincher is a director I highly respect, but I wouldn’t say I love all his movies. I was lukewarm on Benjamin Button; Mank was good but only stood out because of the emaciated year 2020 was, and Alien 3 is flawed but interesting. I count Zodiac as one of my favorite pictures of all time, and Gone Girl is also a masterpiece. The Game has always been a strange one to me, made in the period between Seven and Fight Club; it is such an odd movie with a unique story. It certainly feels like a Fincher movie from the cinematography and lighting, but it never solidifies a consistent tone. Matt picked this as his Patron selection for November, and it allowed me to revisit the second David Fincher film I ever saw.

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Movie Review – The Card Counter

The Card Counter (2021)
Written & Directed by Paul Schrader

Paul Schrader’s filmmaking career has been a strange series of peaks and valleys, with movies like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull as standouts. Since then, he’s made an eclectic filmography but with one constant in almost every picture: a tight focus on an intense male protagonist. I come from the camp that doesn’t see Schrader’s focus on this subject as an endorsement. In many instances, they are self-examinations and critiques, and in others, they seek to present a type of person society tries to look away from out of discomfort. Travis Bickle, for instance, isn’t meant to be a person we admire, but we are certainly expected to find some empathy for him. Schrader seems sincerely interested in the plight of war veterans and looking at crucial issues of our time. The Card Counter brings those two elements together.

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TV Review – Scenes From a Marriage (1973)

Scenes from a Marriage (Criterion Channel)
Written & Directed by Ingmar Bergman

While I am very much aware of Ingmar Bergman, I sadly admit he is a blind spot in my personal cinema education. The only other work I’ve watched is the theatrical version of Fanny and Alexander, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. With HBO releasing a modern remake of Scenes From a Marriage, I thought it would be an excellent time to watch the original and expand my knowledge of the Swedish director’s filmography. The only thing I really knew going into the six-episode mini-series was that it had such a profound effect on Europeans that it caused a spike in the divorce rate due to its frank portrayal of marriage and the difficulties associated with the union.

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TV Review – Squid Game Season 1

Squid Game Season 1 (Netflix)
Written & Directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk

I was skeptical when I first heard about the viral Netflix hit Squid Game. Anytime a show is that popular and popping up in so many corners of the internet, I can’t help but think it’s some shallow meme-ish nonsense. However, the fact that it was a Korean series caught my interest. Over the last twenty years, I’ve enjoyed almost every film I’ve seen from that country. Their filmmakers have a fantastic eye and are telling stories that are relevant beyond their own culture. So when I heard Squid Game was addressing issues of economic class, I was sold that I needed to see it, spurred on by the hilarious right-wing media tripping over their feet to argue it wasn’t a critique of capitalism (even though that is what the creator said) and that it was “really about communism.”

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Comic Book Review – The Terrifics Part 1

The Terrifics Part 1
Reviewing stories found in The Terrifics #1-14
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Ivan Reis, Jose Luis, Joe Bennett, Evan ‘Doc” Shaner, Dale Eaglesham, Viktor Bogdanovic, Jonathan Glapion, Jordi Tarragona, Dexter Vines, and Scott Hanna

In 2017, DC Comics introduced the concept of the Dark Multiverse to its wide array of alternate realities. It was the creation of writer Scott Snyder who was coming to the end of a large story cycle he’d been developing since New 52 started in 2011. The Dark Multiverse is a collection of realities that mirror the standard Multiverse most readers knew about. In the aftermath of Dark Knights: Metal, the crossover event that introduced all of this, a group of titles was spun-off under the banner of The New Age of DC Heroes, aka the Dark Matter line. By 2020, all eight books were canceled, and this subset of the DC Universe has essentially been forgotten already. 

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Movie Review – Thumbsucker

Thumbsucker (2005)
Written & Directed by Mike Mills

Mike Mills has been a director that has intrigued me since my college days. I don’t know how to describe his particular aesthetic, and it has undoubtedly changed from his first feature to the present. With his newest film, C’mon C’mon, being released this weekend, I thought I should revisit that debut film and see how it holds up sixteen years later. I have enjoyed all of his output (Beginners, 21st Century Women) and think those earlier music videos and short films haven’t aged with the times very well. Mills certainly isn’t offensive, but he is very twee in how he tells his stories.

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Movie Review – Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)
Written by Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman
Directed by Jason Reitman

Can the Ghostbusters join the ranks of Star Wars and the MCU as a cinematic franchise to be mined into the ground until everyone hates it? This is the question Sony executives will be asking this weekend as they open the second Ghostbusters reboot/sequel in the last 5 years. Having recently rewatched the first two Ghostbusters movies, I was curious to see how hard they hit the nostalgia button with this one, very likely as the studio wanted to wash the stink of the 2016 film away from theaters. I suspected and was proven right that the script would lean heavy into nostalgia bait territory.

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Movie Review – Honeydew

Honeydew (2021)
Written & Directed by Devereux Milburn

Sometimes you come across a movie so bizarre that you can’t quite figure out if you enjoyed it or hated it. Honeydew is such a movie. It probably didn’t help that I watched it after consuming my nightly quarter of an edible, but I find that often acts as a filter, heightening the things I like about a piece of media and spotlighting everything I hate. For Honeydew, my mind was confused while watching it because you had so many elements clashing with each other that made the picture feel like it was causing you to love and hate it moment by moment. Ultimately, I wondered if that wasn’t the intent of the movie.

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Movie Review – Come True

Come True (2021)
Written & Directed by Anthony Scott Burns

Certain movies hit my personal aesthetics so perfectly I love them immediately. Beyond the Black Rainbow and It Follows are two films that sit in that dreamlike 80s-ish wheelhouse. They don’t spam cultural references to get across their implied eras; they just exude the vibe. When you watch them, it feels like that movie you saw when you were up way too late, half asleep, not sure if you remember it quite right. They are movies where you don’t need concrete logic; you just need them to feel a certain way. Come True is another picture I can add to that list. Its blend of visuals and music made me immediately love it.

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