The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)
Written & Directed by Noah Baumbach
In the same way, Woody Allen made his career focused on movies about intellectual types in New York, Noah Baumbach has taken that motif and added a genuine examination of family. Allen’s characters were always nebbish & neurotic but always seemed to be swinging singles. Baumbach’s characters are caught up in familial dysfunction. The Meyerowitz Stories delivers its narrative at a fast pace and will remind viewers of one of Baumbach’s contemporaries and sometimes collaborator, Wes Anderson. The picture is a more grounded take on the near fairytale-like world of The Royal Tenenbaums, complete with Ben Stiller as one of the siblings. Though this may sound incredibly derivative, the film has a familiar & seemingly forgotten tone you don’t find in movies these days.
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There are a LOT of bad Stephen King movies out there. The Tommyknockers. Dreamcatcher. Maximum Overdrive. Sleepwalkers. Thinner. I’d argue there are more lousy King adaptations than good ones. But his work resonates with audiences so profoundly that I suspect the films will keep coming for far beyond his and our lifetimes. Here are my personal favorites of movies made based on his work with some thoughts about them.
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The Wild Storm Volume 1
Reprints The Wild Storm #1-6
Written by Warren Ellis
Illustrated by Jon Davis-Hunt
In 1992, comics were at one of their financial peaks with superstar artists at the forefront of what was driving the buying frenzy. This allowed several Marvel artists to strike out on their own and created Image Comics, a creator-focused publishing house where they could feel free to play and know they had ultimate ownership of their properties. Jim Lee was one of those artists, having made a name for himself illustrating X-Men, the highest-selling comic of the day. Lee and fellow artist Brandon Choi co-founded Wildstorm, their branch of Image and it was home to the most consistently produced titles at the company. Some of these titles were WildCATs, Deathblow, Stormwatch, and Gen13, all existing in an original shared universe with very complex back history. In 1999, as the market cooled down, Lee sold Wildstorm to DC Comics and took on a more significant leadership role with his new company. Today, Jim Lee is the Co-Publisher and Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics.
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Written & Directed by Coralie Fargeat
Everything is in that title. A young American socialite, Jen, travels to Richard, her lover’s secluded desert chalet for a weekend tryst. He’s a married man, of which Jen is aware, and the relationship is very shallow. Their fun gets interrupted by Richard’s hunting buddies, Stan and Dmitri. They have come a day earlier than planned, and now Richard’s cheating is out on the table. Being his “buds,” they are cool with it and openly lust after Jen, who tries to keep things playful.
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Written & Directed by Michael Pearce
Everything Beast is predicated on could become cliche so quickly in the hands of a lazy filmmaker. A serial killer is targeting teenage girls on the island of Jersey, England. The movie could be an investigative procedural, but it isn’t. There’s a dark romance between protagonist Moll and local poacher Pascal that could be something Twilight adjacent, but the director refuses to go there, though he will hint at it. What Beast ultimately reveals itself as is a dark psychological profile about a young woman coming into her own, shaking off the repressive elements of her middle-class upbringing and her label as a “damaged woman.”
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Written & Directed by Samuel Maoz
The foxtrot is a dance where you’re always coming back to where you started, walking a rectangular path. This cyclical movement can be seen in our contemporary history as the once thought dead specter of fascism has frighteningly reared its head. One of the great foxtrots of our time has been the Israel-Palestine conflict that has been going on since the late 1940s. After decades of war, it seemed in the 1970s that there might be some movement towards positive progress only for the Netanyahu regime to make this strife a key platform. The Israelis still send their young men and women into compulsory service as part of this conflict and, like so many cultures in the West, find a way to justify spilling gallons of their children’s blood for the demands of old men.
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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
Written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner
Directed by Jake Kasdan
The children’s literature of Chris Van Allsburg is mysterious. If you’ve ever read The Stranger, his picture book about a mysterious vagrant whose arrival at a farmhouse signals a pause in the seasons, you’ll know how powerfully haunting his illustrations can be. His work exists on a line between photo-realism and surreality. Faces look real, yet the world around these characters feel as if it emerged from a dream. The original 1995 film adaptation of Jumanji does a reasonably good job of telling its story with those visually softened edges of Van Allsburg’s illustrations but is forced to expand significantly upon the source material. The film would be followed by an animated series by Everett Peck and resembled the look of his work, Duck Man and Rugrats. A little-seen film sequel Zathura would be released in the early 2000s, based on a book that is a spiritual companion to Jumanji more than anything else. This brings us to the current state of Jumanji as a media product.
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