Ad Astra

2019 | dir: James Gray | 124 m

As Earth is plunged into disaster, Brad Pitt ventures into space to find his father, echoing a mixture of both 2001: A Space Odyssey and the more recent Interstellar. It ends up being a very solid film, but it lacked a certain "wow" factor that some other contemporary science fiction films have provided. Pitt turns in an excellent performance amid an intriguing story that never outstays its welcome - there is on scene that felt a bit forced, but the film runs at a near-perfect two hours and is satisfying in each act. What really got me excited was the depiction of this future; it feels grounded, realistic and doesn't venture into the outrageous, but more of an evolution of our current world. It will be worth rewatching just to pick up more details in these beautiful shots, and I have a feeling this will grow even better in time. This is the type of sci-fi I want to see on the big screen.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

The Blob

1988 | dir: Chuck Russell | 95 m

There's a poster floating around for this film that features a still from the movie wherein one of our characters is bursting toward you, covered in the slime of the blob itself: it always gave me the chills. There's really no excuse for taking so long to watch this, and I'm kicking myself after now just doing so for the first time, as this movie was an absolute blast. The film mixes together the ideal level of humour/hokiness with abject horror as we're treated to numerous on screen deaths that hit me harder than your typical gore film. The Blob is not afraid to push you around: it sets up characters and gives them personality, then pulls the rug out from under you with some of their gruesome deaths. Indeed, no one is safe here and the rules are set upon very early, which makes the rest of the film that much more intense. The special effects are absolutely incredible, with just a few shots that were clearly not given a priority - IMDb trivia tells me half the budget of the film was spent on special effects, and it really shows. I could easily see this film working it's way into an annual rotation.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Possum

2018 | dir: Matthew Holness | 85 m

Watching Possum was very akin to ghost hunting in an old turn-of-the-century tuberculosis hospital, wherein the first little bit was very fun, but my mind wandered, gets tired, and I proceed to fall asleep in the morgue (except here I was at least on the comfort of a couch). The poster is absolutely brilliant and is enough to get you interested; the trailer promises an tense, heavy tone and pulls you in. The movie itself really failed to impress me though, and I'm hesitant to rate it poorly as I feel as though I'm at least partially to blame: being a little later at night (I didn't start this at midnight or anything though) and a long day behind me, I struggled to keep my eyes open throughout the short runtime, although I do feel as though I saw mostly what I needed. Everything moves slowly, creepily and for whatever reason could not get under my skin, although I can appreciate what they were going for. 

Rating: 1.5 / 5

IT Chapter Two

2019 | dir: Andy Muschietti | 169 m

Following up 2017's IT remake was not going to be an easy task, but I felt confident and yes, even excited for the second chapter. I really adored IT, so it bums me out a touch that I wasn't enthralled with the next installment - although I want to chalk up some of my experience to recent illness and a general burnout on films in general. What's really missing from Chapter Two is all the charm from the first one, and it's a direct result of the story and focusing entirely on the Losers as adults (there is a good amount of childhood stuff thrown in though). As opposed to a horror/coming-of-age story, we are instead given a very defined, mission-based movie that relies on the characters remembering all the events from the first film (which are fresh in our mind) and knowing exactly what they are up against. As a result, the film feels as though it meanders a bit as they search their own childhood while we - the audience - know exactly where this all ends up. The film clocking in at nearly three hours long doesn't help the situation either but I don't feel as though we do without much of what we get and I'm curious if the parallel storytelling of the original would have worked better in this situation - and yes, I still need to see that original miniseries. The stuff I did like: the casting was incredible; the journey the characters take was rewarding, and the imagery was incredible. Chapter Two spills onto screen with absolute demonic and twisted ideas that was a delight to see on the big screen. Without question this was a solid followup but found it lacking - I will definitely be doing a double feature when it hits home screens later on.

Rating: 3 / 5

Carriers

2009 | dir: David Pastor | 84 m

This film has been sitting in my collection for nearly a decade, nearing the top of the watchlist on occasion but nearing the "get rid of" pile more often than not. Every few years I must evaluate some of those bottom films and give it an opportunity to state its case on sticking around a bit longer. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell you what made me keep this film around, although I'm glad I did as putting it on and finishing the film (in one sitting, no less) granted a sense of accomplishment that is altogether uncommon in my habits. The film, Carriers, is merely okay though: it follows two brothers - and their girlfriends - as they navigate the harsh post-apocalyptic disease-ridden country. Their goal is to reach a fondly remember childhood beach town the brothers vacationed at as kids, but they'll come across other survivors and dangers. It's honestly, pretty run of the mill. Chris Pine does turn in a decent performance, but the film teeters too strongly on the genre tropes and is immediately all too familiar. It attempts to build some suspense on occasion but it quicky peters out: the strength of the film resides in building the brothers' relationship.

Rating: 1.5 / 5

Brightburn

2019 | dir: David Yarovesky | 91 m

The premise was simple enough: what if Superman came to Earth but turned out to be a real jerk? It's not exactly new either, but the current superhero-dominated cinema landscape hasn't played around with the idea of these super-powered being letting loose with all their strength. So I was excited, for a short time. The movie came and went without much fanfare, so when I did have an opportunity to check it out, I was expecting pretty poor results. And that's pretty much what I got: there is nothing particularly interesting about this film as it fails to really delve into the character of an "Evil Superman." Instead, it really leans into grotesque horror, which doesn't need to be super-villain fueled - you'll get a lot of nasty body stuff going on in other more competent thrillers. There's much to be said about the child's turn to evil and lack of motivation in doing so, but I might be venturing into spoiler territory and ultimately, it doesn't matter: every character - save for mom played by Elizabeth Banks - is a flat, shallow jerk. While I initially gave it two stars, I'm finding it difficult to justify why now (a couple of weeks later): there is very little redeeming the film (the special effects are good and the runtime is brisk).

Rating: 2 / 5

 

City Slickers

1991 | dir: Ron Underwood112 m

This one hit me a bit harder than I thought it would. Putting City Slickers on having not seen it in upwards of twenty five years, I was was expecting a bit of a light comedy on a Sunday evening to round out the weekend; but it was different than I had remembered it as a child: it was relevant to my age. Indeed, Billy Crystal's character and group of friends are experiencing a pre-middle aged crisis of sorts as they approach 40 and begin questioning their happiness (or contentment may be more appropriate) when he takes a look at his career and what life has amounted to. They find themselves taking a fully immersive ranch vacation: a few weeks working the land and taking a long journey of bringing cattle across country. It's funny as always, and perhaps even moreso now that I'm older (arguably more mature), but notably poignant and entertaining as we watch these characters overcome the odds whilst hitting their own highs and lows. It's a touching adventure and I look forward to seeing the sequel (of which I have no memory of seeing in my childhood).

Rating: 3.5 / 5 

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101587/
Letterboxd: https://boxd.it/28P0

Alice Sweet Alice

1976 | dir: Alfred Sole | 98 m

The stars were aligned for me to watch this movie: it was discussed in some detail on The Evolution of Horror podcast that I've been getting into, and released by Arrow recently on bluray: the timing was too good to pass up so I indulged in this murder mystery film.

Alice is a withdrawn 12-year-old who lives with her mother and her younger sister, Karen, who gets most of the attention from her mother, leaving Alice out of the spotlight. But when Karen is found brutally murdered in a church, suspicions start to turn toward Alice. But could a 12-year-old girl really be capable of such savagery?

Well, that about sets the stage properly for the film, doesn't it? But it doesn't prepare you for the true horror of this movie: the disgusting adults. It almost bears a disclaimer that the actress playing young Alice was nineteen at the time of filming, although that doesn't make things much easier to watch. You'll be uncomfortable as characters make incredibly bad comments about Alice's body, to a point wherein it seems the filmmakers are intent on giving you sympathy for the girl while at the same time having her serve as the primary suspect of the brutal murder of her sister and some other violent attacks on others. Things felt a bit off for me throughout the film, and I found it difficult to invest myself fully as the film explores themes of religion, innocence and guilt around a decidedly scary and distinctive looking murderer in a bright yellow raincoat. It most certainly holds more to appreciate, as I read other, smarter reviews of the film, but I would be hard-pressed to revisit the film again without a purpose.

Rating: 3.5 / 5  | IMDB | Letterboxd

The Dawn Wall

2017 | dir: Josh Lowell, Peter Mortimer | 101 m

A little while ago Cale coerced me into watching Free Solo; it had been on my watchlist/radar for a bit but sometimes you just need that little encouragement to take the plunge. It's not that i dislike documentaries, it's just that I *rarely* watch them. And the film did not disappoint; so when it came time to watch a movie with my parents and we were browsing Netflix, I had to jump on The Dawn Wall: the ingredients were similar to Free Solo and it looked to be well regarded. Dawn does not disappoint. The documentary follows Tommy Caldwell's incredible story in his journey to not just climb El Capitan, but to strike out a new route up what would have been considered an impossible obstacle. It's an interesting lifestory, harrowing to watch and incredibly fascinating. It also makes me quite happy to be content on the ground my entire life, yet respect those that strive for the ascent. This is a must watch for anyone with the slightest tingle of adventure in them.

Rating: 4 / 5 | IMDB | Letterboxd