Movie Review – Undergods

Undergods (2020)
Written and Directed by Chino Moya

Western society is in its twilight. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not; it is. All it takes is stepping back a bit, viewing this particular political hegemony from an intellectual distance, and seeing the decline in real time. I am 40. When I am 50, society will be worse than it is now. And so on and so on until I die. There is potential goodness in people, but there are also potent, influential institutions devoted to sowing division, agitation, and distraction. So what will that future world, that sprawling landscape of inhuman Hell, possibly look like? Filmmaker Chino Moya posits this blasted wasteland, populated with brutalist architecture. The irony here is that, like all good science fiction, Moya isn’t talking about the potential future but reflecting on what he sees in our present through a lens of fantasy.

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Movie Review – The Souvenir Part II

The Souvenir Part II (2021)
Written & Directed by Joanna Hogg

The Souvenir was not the sort of film we expect sequels for anymore. It’s an intimate, funny & poignant story about a young woman coming into her own and dealing with her first tragic love. The second film is about the ripples in that relationship and the death that ended up rippling through a young filmmaker’s life. It became a significant influence on her art. All of this is directly autobiographical, based on Hogg’s own experiences coming into her own as a filmmaker and the effects her ill-fated relationship had on that work. 

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Patron Pick – The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (1988)

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will 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 Bekah Lindstrom.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (1988)
Written by C.S. Lewis & Alan Seymour
Directed by Marilyn Fox

I remember having the first book of The Chronicles of Narnia read aloud to me around seven or eight. It was my first introduction to C.S. Lewis’ series and immediately piqued my interest. A couple years later, this British television mini-series aired on PBS’ Wonderworks, a children’s anthology, and I was pulled in right away. While it doesn’t compare to the lavish production values of 1980s blockbusters, it did make me feel like I was passing into another world. Narnia felt very real and honestly very frightening. The series does not hold back on some terrifying imagery for a little kid. Many years passed before I rewatched it and what I found was that, while very faithful to the book, it does not hold up from an adult perspective.

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Movie Review – Limbo

Limbo (2021)
Written & Directed by Ben Sharrock

Cinema is always a tension between aesthetics and narrative. Sometimes the two gel together perfectly so that tension is barely felt. Other times you find movies veering wildly in one direction over the other. I personally will always enjoy a picture where the narrative is most in focus, but having well-crafted visual sensibilities at work can’t hurt. Limbo has a striking visual look, nothing too ornate, but immaculate focused cinematography. Comparisons to Wes Anderson or Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) will be immediate. However, the picture is not merely a copy of someone else’s work. Limbo presents a very human story in an incredibly isolated place. The way images are framed intentionally keeps us at arm’s length, just as the characters in its story would to others. But as the film goes on, we are drawn in closer.

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Movie Review – Spencer

Spencer (2021)
Written by Steven Knight
Directed by Pablo Larrain

I can’t say I was ever enamored with Diana. I was very aware of her as a child and into my teens, but the whole English royal family thing just wasn’t all that interesting. I still find it odd that even ceremonial monarchies still exist. What a terrible drain on the people to keep funding such a meaningless thing. I was interested in this movie because it is helmed by Pablo Larrain, who directed the fantastic Jackie, a biopic from Jackie Kennedy’s POV. I think Larrain does an excellent job of centering women who, while seen as iconic, are often not given a voice in their own narratives. They are often the spouse of X rather than a person unto their own. So I was looking forward to seeing Diana fleshed out as a multi-dimensional person.

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Movie Review – Last Night in Soho

Last Night in Soho (2021)
Written by Edgar Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Directed by Edgar Wright

Edgar Wright has consistently delivered good movies with broad appeal to audiences. From Shaun of the Dead to Baby Driver, I certainly respect Wright’s work while not my favorite films or my favorite filmmaker. Last Night in Soho is a different turn for Wright, his first female protagonist and an homage to giallo & Hitchcock. I wouldn’t say this is my favorite of his catalog of films, it’s certainly not bad, but I wasn’t drawn in that strongly by the story. This has been a common trend I’ve noticed with his last few movies, they are technically fantastic and visually inventive, but I feel cold to the characters.

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Movie Review – Censor

Censor (2021)
Written by Prano Bailey-Bond & Anthony Fletcher
Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond

As the home video market grew in the late 1970s and into the 1980s/90s, the United Kingdom clamped down on horror and pornography films they deemed harmful to society. This came as a result of significant film distributors keeping away from that market out of privacy fears. The gap was filled by an avalanche of low-budget content. The British Board of Film Censors employed people to watch these movies and determine a rating, and also, if they were so beyond the pale, they should have prosecution brought against them. These films would garner the nickname “video nasties.” It’s against this moral panic over movies that the film Censor takes place.

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TV Review – Starstruck

Starstruck (HBO Max)
Written by Rose Matafeo and Alice Snedden
Directed by Karen Maine

As we continue with me watching things, you might be looking at this and wondering ‘another romcom?’ and my answer would be: If you pay me (link to patreon), I might consider something else, but for now, mama’s gotta do what feels right.

Starstruck is a BBC-Three show picked up by HBO, starring Rose Matafeo as Jessie and Nikesh Patel as Tom Kapoor. It feels like one of those fan-fics you would encounter on Tumblr while bored one night, except Jessie would be either ‘you’ or Y/N (your name) and has less sex in it.

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Movie Review – Caveat

Caveat (2020)
Written & Directed by Damian McCarthy

Lynchian is a term that gets thrown around a little too liberally. It’s meant to denote that something is reminiscent of the work of filmmaker David Lynch, but it is often applied to either tv shows set in strange small towns or for media that is esoteric & quirky. The Lynch aesthetic is much more specific from my perspective, a way of telling stories in abstracted settings brimming with emotion & passion. People often behave in strange ways, and stories have elements of melodrama that take bleak turns. Not much I’ve seen has genuinely reminded me of that, but Caveat is actually a movie that lives up to the term. I won’t say Caveat is as masterfully delivered as Lynch’s films, but it is a decent horror movie that builds a unique atmosphere.

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Movie Review – Saint Maud

Saint Maud (2021)
Written & Directed by Rose Glass

Religion and horror seemed tied together since the very beginning. Christianity has its fair share of dark & horrific elements. Just sit down and read through the Old Testament, and you’ll come across multiple gruesome stories about the wrath of God. Religious dogma in the hands of mentally unstable people can be a volatile combination. You can look across the American landscape and see a little under half the population caught up in a fervor fueled by a distorted understanding of the Bible. While filmmaker Rose Glass may not be living in the heart of the United States’s current madness, she certainly shows an understanding of how this particular poison can be so enticing to a person who is alone and unstable.

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