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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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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Ghostbusters II (1989)
Written by Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Ghostbusters was always meant to be a standalone movie, but financial success in the 1980s meant you had to make a sequel, which remains true today. But something weird happened where a new chairman of Columbia Pictures took control in 1986. David Putnam liked smaller movies that garnered critical acclaim, even greenlighting a handful of foreign directors’ transitions into American films. So as big as the hype around Ghostbusters even years out from its release, everything seemed to point to the franchise being dead. The main actors were also obstacles as many of them were booked up or simply weren’t keen on revisiting the world of Ghostbusters. Putnam was eventually removed as chair in 1987 after making some incendiary comments about Bill Murray and others. Dawn Steel was put in charge, and after numerous box office failures for the studio, she saw Ghostbusters II as a way to redeem Columbia financially.
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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Written by Dave Callaham, Destin Daniel Cretton, and Andrew Lanham
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
I think the era of Marvel movies might be over. It was an inevitability; they churned out so much in a decade that they couldn’t help but plug into a formula with a few exceptions here and there. I look forward to Spider-Man: No Way Home, but for shallow nostalgia reasons, and Thor: Love and Thunder is the only one I genuinely think I’ll enjoy. I don’t “stan” any of these or any other comic book cinematic universe’s characters, and I say this as someone who has been reading comics for over thirty years. While on the surface seeming like a fresh new property, Shang-Chi is another boring, well-tread origin story that we’ve seen a thousand times before.
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Written by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Ghostbusters is a film that has firmly placed itself in the memory of many an older Millennial. For myself, I can remember my family renting a VCR (that was a thing at one point) and this movie for the weekend when I must have been four years old. I vividly remember sitting in that living room and being scared by the opening library scene. I think that’s one of the things that’s key to why Ghostbusters stuck with so many people. It was as much a comedy as it was a horror movie. That balance of genres helps soften the more frightening moments, but it’s still very much a creepy, scary film. This is something every sequel fails to understand and explains why they’ve done so poorly.
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Rose Plays Julie (2021)
Written & Directed by Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy
In recent years, I’ve stumbled across mentions of the American discomfort with long silences. I don’t think I’ve ever been affected by this psychological fear, but who knows. I have noticed people who can’t bear a space where nothing is being said or done. However, from what I have seen of cinema from other regions, they are much more comfortable with contemplative silence. They are not averse to letting an audience sit for a moment, taking in all the little sensory details of the space and what has happened. This is core to the way Rose Plays Julie’s story. It deals with such a sensitive & uncomfortable topic that the filmmakers know we need to sit and think.
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Psycho Goreman (2020)
Written & Directed by Steven Kostanski
1980s/90s nostalgia is running rampant in popular culture. Whether its new streaming series that evoke the mood of the period or new versions of classic action figures released into the wild or reboots of franchises that are beloved, America just cannot get enough of crawling into a cocoon of childhood memories instead of confronting that ever-present horror of this moment in time. Psycho Goreman is a violent beating from the past, refusing to allow things to be so fuzzy and friendly. Instead, we get the bloody horrifying Saturday morning cartoon we all sort of really dreamt about, a hilarious and absurdist take on the Power Rangers, E.T., and many other corporate childhood darlings.
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Written & Directed by Noah Hutton
In recent years, the gig economy has sadly become more prevalent, starting in large urban centers and working its way out to rural environs. It is predicated on people unable to find steady, well-paying work, particularly those who are desperate. This desperation often comes out of unexpected tragedy, and for Americans, that is linked with medical debt. If you’ve spent time in honest conversation with someone who drives for Uber or does InstaCart, you’ll quickly learn how hard it is to stay above water even with these gigs. Their wages are often lower than expected, and the public they serve can be anything but kind. Lapsis uses the dregs of the gig economy as a jumping-off point for its science-fiction satire.
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The Killing of Two Lovers (2020)
Written & Directed by Robert Machoian
From the title, you likely have some expectations. This is going to be a film with violence centered around a relationship of some kind. And you would sort of be correct, but The Killing of Two Lovers is a much more complicated film than that. It’s a story told from a very particular perspective with a purpose. I came across a review from the British Film Institute publication Sight & Sound about this movie that completely shocked me. They read the picture as an obscured defense of the central character, and that baffled me. After watching the movie, Ariana and I had a totally different read than many others, immediately discussing how the ending left us feeling very unsettled.
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Wonder Woman and Justice League America Volume 2 (2017)
Reprints Justice League America #86-91, Justice League International #65-66, and Justice League Task Force #13-14
Written by Dan Vado, Mark Waid, and Gerard Jones
Art by Marc Campos, Chuck Wojtkiewicz, and Sal Velluto
The Justice League of the 1980s/90s was winding down at this time. When Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis introduced their take on the classic DC superhero team, it emphasized humor and character relationships rather than non-stop action. However, the influence of the “extreme” and “edgy” Image Comics and other alternative publishers reshaped how DC presented its characters. The title most struck by this fad, in my opinion, is Justice League America which devolved into chaos. Dan Vado can’t solely be blamed for what this collection presents as multiple entries are authored by Mark Waid and Gerard Joes. The core story is meant to be an epic gathering of all the Leagues at the time, but it feels so incoherent and sloppy.
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