My Darling Clementine

1946 | dir: John Ford | 103 m

This movie is gorgeous; it's beautiful in more ways than one but I was truly taken aback by how striking the black and white film looked. The shots are deliberate and eye catching; the shadows are looming and bottomless. What makes getting into these westerns as a genre that I haven't really explored before is the astonishment of these old films: while many, many years ago I would be reluctant to watching a film from the 40's, maybe with the mindset that everything coming out 40+ years later would be inherently better somehow, but that was a foolish train of thought for a younger self. Henry Fonda's Wyatt Earp and Victor Mature as 'Doc' Holliday are absolutely ablaze here; their screen presence is bolstered by excellent framing and cinematography, but their acting really shines through. The steady pacing, developed characters and simple-yet-elegant plot and story make me yearn for the opposite of what we have right now: (most) modern movies are bloated, spend too much time on bravado and overly complicated stories. There's really not much else that I can competently say about the film; I haven't done my research to see where this stands but surely, it must be considered one of the best of the genre.

Rating: 4 / 5

The Lighthouse

2019 | dir: Robert Eggers | 110 m

This review may contain spoilers.

It's been nary twenty four hours since somberly leaving the theatre after watching The Lighthouse and I'm still unsure what I just witnessed, but I do have a feeling I just participated in something unique, and maybe even great. Throughout the nearly two hour runtime of the film, I was mesmerized from beginning to end, and there were many moments that have stuck with me, with noted significance on the performances by Patterson and Dafoe: they were incredible. Dafoe's Thomas Wake has a few close shot monologues that had me pouring over every word, every movement of his face and terrified as I gazed into those unblinking eyes. Pattinson plays Winslow, a newcomer in the lighthouse keeping world: he is adamant to perform his duties by the book, but is quickly (or maybe it's slowly) rolled over by Wake's relentless task-driving and unwillingness to adhere to anyone's rules but his own. Wake keeps the upper portion of the lighthouse off limits to Winslow, which - combined with living in such small quarters with someone and a belligerent seagull - drive him slowly mad. As the audience, we never venture away Pattinson's perspective and can't help but feel that madness reach out at us from the square frame of the lens. We question how much time has passed; we wonder if some of this is in Winslow's mind; we beg to know what's so special in the lighthouse. There's a degree of quirky humour throughout as well that perfectly complemented the weight of brewing terror.  The sound is ominous, loud and frightening. The black and white, square aspect ratio feels purposefully claustrophobic at times and beautifully unique throughout. 

I really look forward to seeing this one again.

Rating: 4 / 5

Gemini Man

2019 | dir: Ang Lee | 117 m

I got a weird feeling from Gemini Man, and I'm fairly certain it wasn't the high frame rate (HFR) 3D, although you have to take into consideration the way the film was shot when assessing the overall score, I will try to separate them as best I can. There's nothing much to be said for the plot or story of this film: you've seen the trailers so you know the core premise that Will Smith's uber-agent character is cloned and they must face off against one another.  The way they put them together is a bit cliched as you roll your eyes gently (but not too much because you don't want to miss the incredible 3D effects) as the film takes its sweet time getting to where you know it's going. Immediately after coming out of the theatre I found myself picking apart many of the small things in the film which never feels good, but in this case those small things seemed to be related to plot points that the characters kept mentioning in dialogue but seemed superfluous to the story itself. Given the film was shot in 3D, there is very little depth to our characters as good opposes evil and there is little ambiguity to play with; some of the acting came across as tired, as I often wondered if they shot too many takes or not enough for the performers to find their groove.

As middling as the movie was, the HFR and 3D were the primary driving force to seeing this movie on the big screen. It did not disappoint. My only other experience with HFR at the movies was seeing The Hobbit films; I recognized the odd movement and motion (for example, characters appearing to walk quickly) but that melted away after a short adjustment period. Gemini Man did not seem to suffer the same way: while the motion was incredibly smooth and noticeable, I did not find it distracting at all; instead, I was caught up in the wonder of the image quality itself. It certainly helps that Lee shot most of the film in bright daylight in exotic locales, and many of the action scenes were done at night (to presumably cover up the CGI). I'm sure the HFR effect is off-putting to many but I was fully engrossed in it as it presents a clarity that goes unmatched without. Ang Lee plays with the combination of HFR and 3D to interesting effect - like a scene shot with a fish-eye lens as a high speed train rushes past but I can't help but feel that these technical achievements come at the expense of the movie itself. 

Rating: 2.5 / 5

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

2016 | dir: André Øvredal | 99 m

I don't know if it says more about me or about the horror industry that when I first heard about The Autopsy of Jane Doe, I immediately assumed necrophilia was going to play a large part in the plot. (Am I so out of touch? No, it's the children who are wrong.) I'm not sure why, exactly, but my mind kept trying to connect it with Deadgirl, a movie that involves some teenage boys, a zombie girl, and a whole lot of lube. Although, I'm not sure whether sex with somebody who's only mostly dead counts as necrophilia or it's really more of a grey area, zombiphilia. Either way, the point is The Autopsy of Jane Doe was actually nothing like Deadgirl, and I definitely don't have a fetish for corpses that can legally be proven in a court of law as far as you know. 

Collector's Corner: 12 Monkeys

Almost since the beginning, Terry Gilliam has been a mainstay in my movie collection, and my DVD copy of 12 Monkeys has been around since university. It easily claimed a spot on the list of Essential Cinema that my friends and I hashed out over countless drunken nights and weekend marathon gaming sessions of SSX Tricky. So I was super stoked to upgrade to the Arrow release of 12 Monkeys a couple weeks back when Ryebone and I made our annual pilgrimage to FAN EXPO, it being a staple of my cinematic diet for so long.

And also a little sad.

Not at the superior visual and audio quality of the new Blu-ray version, which is awesome, but at the replacement of the specific DVD copy that has been a part of my life, literally for decades now. For some, sentimentality over a particular copy of a particular movie that was mass-produced around the world may be difficult to grasp. It's the same basic drive that fuels all sentimental connections, I suppose; that particular thing is associated in one's brain with another thing that occurred in temporal proximity as that brain tries to make sense of all this data. With 12 Monkeys it's not as visceral as some other films--I remember I bought it at the local CD Plus back when that chain still existed in Canada--but I can't narrow down the exact time. But I still remember that in my budding collection of maybe a couple of dozen films, 12 Monkeys made that early cut of essential films I had to have at my fingertips at all times.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

2019 | dir: Jon Watts | 129m

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is, by this point, a well-oiled machine that basically prints money on command. Spider-Man Far From Home, the second solo outing for Peter Parker and his alter-ego in the MCU, seemed destined to be a smash success, as most Marvel films are these days. And, of course, it is raking in a tonne of dough. There's no question it's a financial success for Marvel Studios and their evil overlords at Disney. It did what it was designed to do, and exactly nothing more.

I went in to Spider-Man: Far From Home as a fan of the MCU in general: a few terrible films, a few great films, a lot of solid films somewhere in between those two extremes, but always well-thought out and part of a larger plan. I remember walking out of Avengers: Infinity War and thinking that this is probably as close as I would get to experiencing a cinematic event that people watching The Empire Strikes Back for the first time in theatres must have shared. I'm impressed at the MCU's long-form storytelling, a sort of modern reinvention of the old serial films that people like George Lucas grew up on, and I'm on board, man. I'm picking up what they're putting down.

So of course following this classical rhetorical device of listing my franchise-appropriate geek bona fides, I will follow up with how disappointed I was with Spider-Man: Far From Home. It wasn't terrible; it wasn't great. It was a standard middle-of-the-road MCU film, but almost cynical in its mediocrity, as though tempting audiences to even try and let their heroes - both super and corporate - fail.

Dark Phoenix

Sometimes a film is nearing release amid a turmoil of negative hype, and as it crests to a swelling of negative criticism in the final days the movie releases to a thud at the box office - exactly as expected. And sometimes, your curiosity still gets the best of you, and you have to watch the train wreck for yourself. As an avid enthusiast for so-called "bad" films, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to watch the (presumably) last entry in Fox's rocky X-Men franchise that began so innocently, and triumphantly nearly twenty years ago. The series was a owed a small debt as well; I've seen every entry in the theatre and I wouldn't allow some nasty reviews to deter me from completing the saga: it was the least I could do for the franchise that ultimately opened the door for our modern superhero blockbuster films.

It nearly bears repeating, that expectations into a film hold a lot of sway over opinions of the film (least for me). So in this case, my expectations are pretty low. Like, VERY low. With that, I may just enjoy the film for what it is.

Collector's Corner: Prince of Darkness

John Carpenter. When you absolutely, positively have to scare every last bubble-gum chewer in the room, accept no substitute. Some people live with no regrets; regretting stuff is pretty much all I do. With regards to my video library, one of my current regrets is the lack of John Carpenter films, which I've started to remedy with my recent acquisition of Prince of Darkness, an integral entry in his self-described "Apocalypse Trilogy" alongside The Thing and In The Mouth of Madness. In this company, Prince of Darkness is the weakest entry, but it's also a great entry.  Any time you can get Donald Pleasence, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, and Alice Cooper in the same film about an ultimate evil force trying to bring about the end of days, you can't go wrong.