Nicholas Cage as Red Andrea Riseborough as Mandy Bloom Linus Roache as Jeremiah Sand
This is a hard movie to review and not spoil because so much of the experience requires thorough explanation to properly make sense of the sheer scope of what’s being communicated. Mandy is almost best understood as two separate stories: one about a couple, Red and Mandy, and their tranquil domestic experience being ripped apart by a drugged out cult; second about Red’s revenge tour after the events of what happens. Both stories work to give each other weight and you come to appreciate how the movie is laid out after subsequent re-watches.
Cosmatos relishes in provoking the audience to think without ever preaching a lesson to them. There are strange, unexplainable images that’ll have you asking what everything really means. Certain shots bleed into other shots creating a surreal experience, as reality and fantasy switch without warning. In spite of this ambiguity, the movie never forgets to tell a compelling story, so the events that happen always make sense. The allegory/meaning never comes at the cost of the story, which gives the movie an edge over something like mother!, a movie I think tackles very similar subject matter. Yes, there’s a clear thriller revenge story, but underneath the surface Mandy is an exploration of humanity’s relation to transcendence (God) and Nature. Mandy, Red, and the leader of the cult, Jeremiah are all stand-ins for different explorations of these ideas and watching them clash and evolve seems to be a Cosmatos’s prophecy for our future. Saying any more would spoil the movie, but if you enjoy discussions of this sort or liked mother! ,this movie has a lot to offer.
The movie is a stunning audio-visual experience that’s dripping in personality. There are very distinct colors and hues that appear during key moments and the way those colors are tied and utilized in relation to each other lends itself to an poignant style that conveys a lot of meaning at the same time. During the third act, there are evocative animations that make use of the color scheme but also give the movie a distinct fairy tail feeling. There are fun over-the-top action scenes that make full use of the R Rating. Sound design is mesmerizing and the score always manages to lull you into the screen, no matter the circumstance.
Cosmatos is one of the few directors I’ve seen who seems to know how to channel Cage’s ferocity and absurd antics. He gives the actor the room to breathe and really take over the movie in the latter half of it. To Cage’s credit, he’s reserved, calm, and seems like he’s trying to recover from trauma in the first half of the movie, so his snap into his more familiar high energy acting patterns feels cathartic. Watching him absolutely lose it and throw all his energy into his revenge scheme is a hell of a lot of fun and is well worth the slower first half. Similarly, Riseborough gives off an life-affirming vibe from the moment she’s introduced and compliments Cage well. Their relationship is authentic and cute to watch develop, so later developments hit as hard as they need to.
My only issue with the movie is this one sub-plot that feels incredibly out of place. It’s the transition point between the two stories and ruins the immersive hypnotic feeling the movie had been building up till that point. It also dumps a lot of exposition which I thought was a bit too much information. It’s not all bad and has some funny moments, but I wish it didn’t happen so I could have just stayed in the zone from start to finish.
Mandy is a neon infused revenge thriller about a man on a quest for vengeance looking for members of the drugged out gang that intruded on his peaceful, loving relationship. It’s entertaining, stylish, and dripping with subtext about humanity’s relationship to religion and the environment.
I have a more in depth piece about this coming soon, so check back later for a spoiler discussion.
Claire Foy as Sawyer Valentini Joshua Leonard as David Jay Pharoah as Nate Amy Irving as Angelina Valentini Juno Temple as Violet
This is a movie that deserves to be talked about in the same vein asGet Outwhen it comes to well done social-commentary horror movies. While Peele’s debut dealt with race, Soderbergh’s story tackles the mental health industry, the #MeToo movement, incel culture, and the effects of a society that amps up paranoia while blaming you for feeling scared. Watching these themes intersect is what makes the movie so distinct and memorable.
The story follows Sawyer Valenti, a women trying to get her life back on track after a harrowing series of run-ins with a serial stalker. After she’s committed to a mental facility, she finds herself trying to find a way out and to deal with the possibility that her stalker is in the institution with her. Soderbergh does a great job at portraying the horrors of being a women in the world. Sawyer deals with snide remarks at the workplace, lack of respect during cordial interactions, constant gaslighting, and a severe lack of respect. She’s simultaneously taught to handle situations with a certain fear and sense of uneasiness and is disrespected for those qualities. It’s frustrating to watch her constantly undermined and thwarted by a system that seems to make it impossible for her to ever win.
What makes the story so much more interesting is the presence of well-rounded and interesting side characters. Angelina is Sawyer’s fierce mother and is on her daughter’s side, trying to help her out. Nate is a resourceful and interesting kind-of friend on the side. Watching him interact with and teach Sawyer the rules of the land is fun, and their burgeoning friendship is pulled off convincingly. The other patients at the facility are handled with respect. This isn’t a mental patients scary movie. In fact, the movie actively argues the opposite. It’s clear that Soderbergh thinks that the mental health industry is almost irredeemable and actively serves to trap everyday people in a system to suck them dry of their money. The patients reflect this. They’re all “off” but they’re not crazy. They’re social, have codes of conduct, and want to interact.
Every major performance is also great. Foy understands the motivations that drive her character and makes her sometimes questionable actions feel believable. The fear, the desperation, the indignation, the sheer lack of energy at having to deal with any more nonsense. You can feel her emotions through the way she moves her body across the screen. Pharoah is amazing in his side role and adds a lot of levity to the otherwise tense movie. He plays well off Foy and the scenes they have talking to each other are among my favorite as a result.
So if you haven’t heard already, this movie was shot exclusively on an iPhone 7 Plus. Soderbergh has talked a lot about how he’s astounded with the results of the movie. I went in to the movie because I heard it was only shot on a cell phone and I was curious at how it’d turn out. I think Soderbergh’s experiment proved mixed results. There are a lot of great shots and sequences, but they never feel as powerful as they should because the iPhone can’t capture the light at all. There’s very little contrast in dark scenes, so you almost start praying for more stuff to occur in the light, just so you know for sure what’s happening. The movie looks a lot more grimy and worn out. I personally liked it, because I thought it fight with the movie and psyche of the characters but if you want something that looks clean, look elsewhere. I didn’t think the movie looked bad per say. I just think that this movie deserved better because of how good the story and characters are.
Plot wise, I don’t share a lot of the same criticisms I’ve seen a lot of other reviews bring up. I think a lot of the sequences in the movie are justified or are done for very distinctive purposes. That being said, there’s only two plot elements that comes up in the third act that feel a bit too absurd. I thought the movie was going to be more nuanced/ambiguous with one of these ideas and it isn’t which made me pretty sad. It’s not that the movie is bad , but it feels like what could’ve been a genuine horror masterpiece is only pretty good instead. However, I can honestly say watching this inspired me. If something this great can be made with an iPhone camera, then there’s only room for improvement. Any of us can make a movie, and I applaud a bigger director for doing this. (Yes I know Tangerine exists. I watched it later and I highly recommend it for people who want to see the true places the medium can go).
Unsane is a horror movie about the everyday scenarios women have to go through and does a great job at fairly demonstrating that struggle. The film’s nuanced takes on incel culture, #MeToo tenets, and the mental health industry make it one of the most interesting movies of recent times. Thought it stumbles in some places, I can’t help but appreciate the effort.
The movie being shot on an iPhone 7 may upset some people. The movie is grainy and lighting isn’t that great, but you won’t notice as much when you’re lost in the story.
I have a more in depth piece about this coming soon, so check back later for a spoiler discussion.
Madeline Brewer as Alice Ackerman/Lola_Lola Patch Darragh as Arnold/TinkerBoy Michael Dempsey as Barney
I”ll be the first to admit that I thought this movie would be a crapshoot going in. I didn’t see any reviews or anything. I just thought the description sounded interesting enough to warrant a watch . A cam girl psychological horror? Even if it wasn’t that great at least it’d be something new. Man oh man, did I underestimate what I was getting into. From the very first scene, Goldhaber lets you know that this isn’t some trendy social media cash grab movie like Friend Request. Instead it’s a deep look into the horrors of internet privacy and security and the ways we’ve become almost defined by our digital personas.
The movie follows Alice Ackerman, more popularly known by her online persona, Lola_Lola. She’s a camstar who’s been rising through the ranks and is finally on the cusp of making the top 50 most popular content creators. However, just as things start to look promising, Alice notices that her account has been hacked by a girl who looks exactly like her. This clone “Lola” acts,looks, and feels the part and Alice is forced to navigate a harrowing situation with little to no support given the nature of the occupation. The set up is even scarier when you take into account the rise of things like deep fake technology. The movie isn’t based on real events, but I wouldn’t be so sure of that in a decade or two.
This is a movie that treats its subject matter with serious respect. The camgirls that are portrayed are real human beings. They’re smart and treat their source of income like any other working adult would do. Screenplay author Isa Mazzei needs to be commended for creating a nuanced, balanced look into the lives of a group that’s constantly judged but never given a fair shake at presenting their own stories. Likewise, every single person who knows of Alice and her occupation treats her differently. Yes, there’s slut shaming and vicious judgement, but there’s also acceptance and solidarity. It keeps the movie from feeling preachy, and helps focus attention on the plot, so the themes come off natural.
The discussion at hand is broad and touches on a lot of different topics that come together in interesting and horrifying ways. After Alice has her channel taken, she attempts to use different legal channels but never receives a proper response. It’s reflective of the way the law and corporations receive social buy in under the idea that regulative channels will properly do their job, but if people are willing to keep in line with sub-par service, then what’s the point of fixing anything? Interests are transient and there’s a quick fix for any kind of entertainment if you’re willing to look for it and have the capital to ensure that it happens the way you want. You don’t need to fix the system. You just need money to navigate it.
This idea is only expanded by the streamer/anonymous chatroom setting the story takes place in. Yes anonymity and ease of streaming allows content creators to reach out to their expanding audiences more often, but it comes at the cost of putting oneself out there. People give money to those do what they want, and given the ability of anyone to be a content creator, newer entrants have to constantly one up themselves and their peers. You never know who’s giving you the money or why they’re doing it. The audience never has to share and the information asymmetry can lead to some pretty horrendous situations. In some cases, it means receiving money to participate in awful activities. When a creator gives in, the result generates more depraved behavior because suddenly everything has a relative price point. It’s a vicious feed back loop that culminates in the virtual erasure of people. Cam girls aren’t people . They’re consumable objects . It’s just a question of whether or not the audience wants to hurt and/or sexualize them.
CAM is a dark look into the tumultuous, and highly dangerous lives of cam girls. In a world where relevance equals money and money equals livelihood, people are forced constantly escalate their behavior to make ends meet. In the cam girl industry, that escalation comes with serious, sometimes horrifying costs. If you’re looking for a horror movie that effectively uses social media at the heart of its scares, look no further than CAM. It’s one of the best.
Carla Gugino as Jessica Chiara Aurelia as Young Jessica Bruce Greenwood as Gerald Henry Thomas as Tom Kate Siegel as Sally Carel Struycken as Moonlight Man
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Mike Flanagan is one of the best horror directors in the game right now and this adaptationis the some of the best proof. Gerald’s Game is one of the few King stories I’ve read so when I saw Flangan was directing, I was intrigued in seeing how he’d adapt the unconventional narrative style the story uses. Flanagan and Jeff Howard both deserve applause for synthesizing the ideas of the novel in a suspenseful and easy to digest way.
The story follows a couple, Gerald and Jessica, as they go off on a trip to rekindle the spark in their marriage. After handcuffing Jessica to the bed and downing a few viagra, Gerald tries to initiate some rape-play which Jessica finds too disturbing to continue anymore. After she rejects his advances, he dies suddenly of a heart attack and she finds herself trapped in an abandoned house, handcuffed to a bed, and completely alone. The initial build-up to all of this is handled with an great eye for detail. Issues that come to plague Jessica in her struggle to survive are set up early on, so subsequent reveals and twists feel sweet and satisfying.
The story primarily takes place through a series of conversations Jessica has with projections of her subconscious. Representations of herself, her late husband, traumatic memories of her family and the situation that they placed her in, and nightmare scenarios plague her as she attempts to make out what’s real and what’s relevant to keeping her alive. As Jessica struggles to survive, she’s forced to navigate her trauma and the way she’s attempted to handle it throughout her life. Her story goes to dark places and if is presented with the respect and seriousness it deserves. There are hard scenes to watch, but they’re never exploitative or voyeuristic. They exist to remind you of the uncomfortable truth, but aren’t visceral or provocative outside of that. The deplorable nature of the act is horrifying enough.
A lot of the movie rides on Carla Gugino’s performance. She’s the protagonist and has to play a women who goes through some heartbreaking and emotionally complex realizations about herself and the way she’s dealt with deep seated trauma. Watching the layers of herself slowly fade away to the core of who she is is amazing, and you can feel the intensity of her desire to get to heart of what ails her. Gugino also talks to herself for most of the movie, but breathes life into the conversation so you always feel like something’s going on. The entire movie is her talking to projections of her subconscious, one of the avatars being her subconcious personified as a clone of herself. She manages to be just as convincing talking to herself ( aka nothing in the room) as she does when she talks to Gerald. It’s a testament to how well she threw herself into the role.
I love this movie because I never thought it would be something that could be adapted (a fairly common sentiment). The way that the ideas and discussions are streamlined into easy to follow story-lines gives the movie a more complete and tight feeling. Rarely do I like a movie for than a book, but this is one of those rare exceptions. The adaptation gives Jessica far more agency, which is important because the heart of the movie is learning how to deal with trauma. More agency means more ability to introspectively act and engage in a more thorough catharsis. Her journey through her trauma is moving and never comes at the cost of the more exciting elements of the story. The hard to imagine gory scene from the novel makes its way here and is just as hard to watch. It all just comes to demonstrate how well the adaptation understood the source material and the strengths of a film over a book. It only takes what it needs and does its best to cover the sentiments of what it doesn’t directly copy over.
Gerald’s Game is one of the best King adaptations to date. It’s a touching tale about overcoming trauma and reclaiming agency. There are certainly visceral scares, but the real horror comes from understanding of the way we try and deal with our pain.
Kate Siegel as Maddie Young John Gallagher Jr. as The Assailant
Hush tells the story of Maddie, a deaf author, suffering from a particularly grueling case of writers’ block. Given her condition, she doesn’t notice when a nameless intruder stakes his claim in her house, hell bent on torturing her until it’s no longer fun and then killing her after. Little does he know that Maddie’s not ready to give in and she’s more resourceful than she looks.
This is the first Mike Flanagan movie I ever watched and is the first of many reasons why I will watch anything he makes (As of writing this, I’m only missing The Haunting of Hill House). Typically when I watch a movie, I have anywhere from a few to a lot of “Why don’t they just…?” or “That doesn’t make sense and would never happen!” thoughts. That issue happens far less often in a Flanagan movie because he spends time justifying every decision and helping the audience understand exactly what all the outs are. This movie takes great pain to humor the audience’s “what-if” scenarios, in a way that’s both logistically and visually satisfying.
The movie does a great job of establishing each of the main characters as individuals and as a cat-and-mouse pair that’s trying to take each the other one out. Siegel is excellent as the lead and manages to convey a lot of intention and emotion through excellent facial expressions and physical acting. She’s not allowed to talk in a traditional sense, so watching her “show” her thoughts makes the experience feel more personal. Within a few scenes, I was invested in her well-being and found myself rooting for her to win. She uses her circumstances and wit to constantly navigate the situation, so the movie feels unique in how competent the “final girl” starts off. It’s a refreshing change of pace that keeps the movie feeling fresh in a genre that needs new life injected into it. John Gallagher Jr. is unnerving as the unnamed assailant. He’s a total psychopath and the movie hammers that point in more than once. Early on, when he realizes Maddie is deaf, he decides it would be more fun to torture her and go in for the kill, because he could prolong it like a game. The cold, calm, and composed way John fulfills his actions makes it clear that the events in the movie are nothing more than sick and twisted entertainment for his character. Side characters are used effectively. None of them linger for longer than they need to and they’re presented as capable in their own right. It makes them feel like they’re real parts of the world, as opposed to throw-away characters meant to change the pace up and add new sources of tension.
Maddie’s condition is used to great effect and Flanagan has found a way to give her a voice in spite of her lack of speaking. Things happen in the background, and Maddie doesn’t turn around to look at them. It’s typical horror movie bad decision 101, but in her case it’s understandable because she can’t hear the noises of the “things” happening around her. It creates excellent square sequences where we see menacing things happen around her and know that she’s walking straight into harrowing circumstances.
Though the movie is deftly crafted and well-paced, it doesn’t do anything spectacular to change up the genre or make its themes refined. There’s a simple underlying story of defying expectations and using them to your advantage, but it’s only ever explored in one way. It’s relatable but not complex. That’s not a bad thing, but given how well executed and conceived the mechanics and performances are, the same level of nuance in the themes or story would have elevated this movie into something really great. Don’t get it twisted, this is one of the best slashers of the past decade. I just thought it had way more potential.
Hush is one of the best slashers of the past decade and is sure to entertain anyone who has a hankering for a bad-ass “final” girl. Deaf author vs sadistic psychopath plays out with a lot more finesse and nuance than you’d expect.There are innovative communication strategies, well executed chase sequences, and tons of chilling harrowing moments. Best part? It’s only 81 minutes, so you don’t need to spend a long time waiting around.
Well the hype is real. I feel like my life has changed. Adam Sandler is actually a phenomenal actor. I feel like everything I’ve seen from him up till now has been a prank . Still in awe. Also the Safdie brothers are geniuses and I need to watch everything they’ve done. If you can’t guess by now, Uncut Gems, is one of the best movies of 2019 and this past decade and had me completely floored by the end of the 135 minute run-time.
This movie is an assault on the senses and I mean that in the most literal way. The way it’s directed from the camera movement to sound design is meant to induce a state of panic and anxiety. If you suffer from those issues already, the film may be too much and I genuinely think you should go see it with someone even if you don’t suffer from them. Now that the warning is out of the way- holy wow. I thought I was losing it during the film because of the way sound would keep cutting in. There is auditory clutter that makes it feel like you can’t hear yourself think. It keeps you on edge and tense – you have to focus to get at bits and I felt like the movie was sweeping me along. There’s always something going happening on the screen so it feels like your senses are constantly befuddled. I thought it was perfect – I haven’t been this purely immersed in a film in a genuinely long time. I could feel my heart pumping out of my chest by the time I started getting out of my seat.
All of this synergizes perfectly with the plot which follows Howard (Adam Sandler), a jeweler who has a “bit” of a debt issue and a huge gambling problem. There’s a constant sense of tension as Howard traverses from one deal to another, desperate to keep the antagonistic forces coming for him at bay. There’s also a lot of comedy – from the dysfunction of different schemes playing out differently than imagined or just Sandler exuding persona. It’s a perfect complement to the tension at play. Speaking of tension – a lot of it revolves around the NBA. If you like basketball (or are just a huge Kevin Garnett fan) this movie has a lot of fun moments for you. I remember feeling excitement about games that happened years ago but almost like I was reliving them viscerally because of how the sport is talked about and utilized. On top of all of this, there’s ripe family drama and watching the dysfunction play out is more than entertaining. Watching all these intersecting threads come together is a delight and makes the story feel like a train-wreck waiting to happen.
A story is only as good as its characters and this film has them in spades. Sandler’s performance as Howard is mesmerizing. I was rooting for him the whole film, but the character is scum-bag with a heart of gold(?). However, Sandler adds a depth of nuance to that that makes him far more complex and grounded. He goes from caring father, to inconsiderate lover, to gambling addict. Each transformation feels in place and all of them come together to make one of the most interesting protagonists of 2019. This movie would not work without Sandler – if Howard was unlikable or unbelievable the tension wouldn’t be as profound because there wouldn’t be real stakes.
Thankfully, Sandler is accompanied by a slew of actors (some of whom are acting for the first time) who let him really shine and show off the range of his emotions. If someone told me that Kevin Garnett could act as well as he could play basketball before now I wouldn’t believe it. Now all I want is more movies with him. He’s cool and aloof at one point and fanatical the next – watching him tango with Sandler is immensely satisfying. Julia Fox’s performance injects some much needed levity to the movie – she never takes away from the tension – she just helps accentuate it with proper changes in demeanor. Finally, Keith Williams Richards is absolutely terrifying as Phil. The fact that this is his first movie ever is shocking – he absolutely sold the underlying crime portion of the story and amplified the tension every time he was on the screen. I want to mention everyone but that would be way too many people – literally even minor characters get more characterization in this movie than some primary characters in other movies.
This film is one of the best depictions I’ve ever seen of gambling and addiction. When the thrill is high and the game is at play, we feel like Howard- ecstatic. When he wins, I win – or that’s how I felt as I saw his schemes playing out. However, it works the same way with losses. Whenever something went wrong or could go wrong, I felt tense. Twitchy. Anxious. Since the movie aims to put the audience into the same mood as Howard, every twist or reveal feels that much more serious. It also becomes comprehend how someone could become completely lost in game. This is why the movie worked for me – I feel like I got Howard and wanted him to succeed in spite of himself and the situation he was in and I absolutely should not have felt that way- which is kind of great in a perverse kind of way.
TLDR: An absolute attack on all fronts – this movie is like a roller coaster that never stops and rarely slows down. Sandler is a tour de force and the Safdie brothers know how to keep the audience engaged.
Final Rating: 10/ 10. I was left speechless after the movie. There are so many beautiful scenes, funny moments, and terrifying
I’ve never seen a movie by Bong Joon-ho before I saw Parasite, and if any of them are even remotely close to the cinematic masterpiece that I witnessed, I’m definitely going to have to check them out. If you can’t guess already, I absolutely adored every second of this movie and couldn’t keep my eyes off the screen. This is probably the best class consciousness movie I’ve ever seen and I’m already ready to watch it all over again.
The movie follows the Kim family – a group of incredibly skilled and intelligent scam artists. Because the family is poor and lives in an incredibly impoverished location, they each have to make full use of their wits in order to cling to their lives. The movie really gets started once the son, Ki Woo (Choi Woo-shik) infiltrates a rich family and slowly helps his own family infiltrate and take from his rich clientele. However, unlike the traditional rich evil character type we’re used to, the main “antagonists” of the film seem fairly normal and even nice at times. There are moments, especially closer to the third act where you can get why the main characters don’t like them as much, but they’re never overbearing. The best part? The characters don’t know their counterparts are actually nuanced and distinct from the archetypes they have formed in their head. As a result, interactions between the groups are comedic and thought provoking. The juxtaposition of the smart and poor with the rich, non-malicious, but ignorant creates this wonderful interplay of previously unseen class interactions. There are a lot of moments that forced me to recognize certain moments in my own life and unpack the assumptions and biases I had. Expectations are subverted , but it never feels like it’s done for no reason. It all calculated, but comes off as natural.
As a result, the movie can be funny when it wants and serious when it needs to be. Jokes hit well because of the way expectations are set up. There are always good punch lines but what elevates them to the next level is their thematic significance. After finishing the movie, I knew I had to watch the movie again to see how the earlier jokes figured into the way things unraveled.
The movie also shines on a technical level. Camera work is off the charts. There are gorgeous shots of the characters traversing treks of the city. These moments help to drive home the social positions of different character groups. The impoverished are geographically positioned lower compared to the rich who are placed higher. Pan and tilt shots are expertly used to amplify this feeling. The score naturally flows and accompanies the different sections In particular, the more epic musical tracks helped sell the tension in a lot of the latter parts of the film. The architecture of the house the majority of the action takes place in is also beautiful. The layout of it helped reinforce themes while providing eye candy. It’s relation to the sun and other sources of light was also something I wasn’t expecting but thoroughly enjoyed. All these elements always help reinforce one another making the whole experience feel more textured.
This is a film I think almost any one can relate to because it is fundamentally a story of a family’s struggle to survive under capitalism. Though the first part of the movie is more lighthearted, the movie never takes the characters predicaments lightly. Any possible mistake can risk upending everything. That’s the real beauty of the movie. We actually end up cheering for a group of con-artists swindling a naive wealthy family. Whenever something felt like it was going to fall apart, I felt genuinely scared, because I cared for and wanted everything to go well for the Kims. I could see large swaths of my life in theirs, and I think a lot of people will feel the same way. That’s why the tale never feels long or unbelievable. Take away the names and location and suddenly you have the tale of billions of people around the planet. That’s powerful.
TLDR: Parasite is a masterclass film. Every element from the story to set design helps sell a thought-provoking and bold story about class consciousness and the human condition.
Final Rating: 10/10. If you’ve ever felt like the world has had it out for you then you owe it to yourself to watch this cinematic masterpiece. It might be one of the most relatable and human pieces of art I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.