I recently asked a (white) kiwi friend of mine recently about his thoughts on Lee Tamahori’s riveting 1994 drama masterpiece Once Were Warriors (based on the book by Alan Duff and referring to the warrior nature of the Māori people), and he said it was “hard-wired to New Zealand DNA,” which was a fascinating response since, as a Canadian, I hadn’t heard much of it until now. It’s a brutal watch, and not one that you’ll soon forget, telling the story of a working-class urban Māori family who begin to fall apart after the patriarch Jake loses his job. Consequently, his behaviour spirals into domestic abuse (physical and verbal), alcoholism, and worse. Indeed, Jake is a pressure cooker of rage and fury, as we see not only in the beatdowns in his local dive bar, but also at home when his wife Beth resists him (violence as a means of asserting control). Jake also harbours a subconscious resentment of his wife’s status as a princess in the rural Māori community (she moved into town to be with her husband, which was the first mistake), and while it is easier to blame most of the atrocities on Jake’s toxicity, I think the real culprit is colonialism. It is colonialism that has displaced people from their land and forced them to restructure family hierarchies (the patriarchal figure is not a traditional one in Māori culture apparently).Continue reading
PLEASE NOTE: This “conspiracy theory” is a joke. It’s not an actual conspiracy theory, I just made it up to be funny. Do not take this seriously. This isn’t misinformation, it’s humour.
It was recently confirmed that Avatar 2, after over a decade of development, production, and post-production, will finally be released on December 16, 2022. Naturally, with a movie so focused on 3D technology and whatever other immersive tricks James Cameron has up his sleeve, I expect that Avatar 2 will be an exclusive theatrical release. Which got me to thinking…it will probably be one of the first mega-blockbusters to be released when movie theatres finally open fully as COVID-19 becomes less and less severe and we’re allowed to attend screenings en masse. And that in turn got me to thinking…WHAT IF JAMES CAMERON CREATED COVID-19 TO BOOST AVATAR 2?? I mean, it only makes sense, right? How do you top the previous Avatar‘s record of being the top-grossing movie of all time, especially when, as so many people have pointed out, the first Avatar hasn’t really had a lasting impact on pop culture? Well, you do it by making it the first big theatrical release of the post-pandemic era, and in doing so, not only do you rake in massive amounts of money, but Avatar 2 becomes the movie that “saved the cinemas.” OPEN YOUR EYES, PEOPLE. JAMES CAMERON DID COVID.
BUT NOT REALLY. Come on, I can’t believe I feel like I need to put disclaimers on either end of this ridiculous conspiracy theory that I made up. But we live in an age of misinformation and harmful conspiracy nonsense. So there it is: this is a joke!
Nicolas Gessner’s 1976 film The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane has finally come to Shudder, enchanting and entertaining fresh audiences with yet another strong early performance from Jodie Foster and Martin Sheen. Foster plays Rynn Jacobs, a remarkably intelligent child who lives on the edge of town in a huge house with (apparently) her parents, although they remain unseen, creating ambiguity as to whether they are actually there or not. The story is based on a book by Laird Koenig’s 1974 novel of the same name (keen to check it out), and the film brought Shirley Jackson’s novels to mind, particularly We Have Always Lived in the Castle, particularly the invasive threat of the townsfolk (from nosy landladies to pedophiles) as well as the ambiguous agenda of the protagonist (Merricat and Rynn). As with most of her early roles, including Taxi Driver, it’s a challenging one and also controversial, but Foster really nails it. Martin Sheen is at his utmost depraved here as Frank Hallet, a pedophile with an unhealthy interest in Rynn who not only continues to frequent the house with increased malice with every visit (and the hamster scene is also truly unforgivable), but is also the son of the unpleasant landlady Cora. The landlady might also discover more than she bargained for when she tries to investigate the whereabouts of Rynn’s curiously absent parents.Continue reading
Duncan Skiles’ 2018 “killer thriller” The Clovehitch Killer is a real pearl on Netflix, a fantastic find that was recommended via one of Stephen King’s Tweets (he also gave it a glowing review). It’s based on the crimes of the BTK Killer (Dennis Rader), a serial killer who would break into homes and then bind and torture and kill (hence the name) whole families. He disappeared into the guise of dedicated suburban family father for decades before being uncovered. While the serial killer tropes and stories have been seemingly milked to death, this film takes the frightening idea of the potential serial killer father and asks the question, “What if your father was in fact a serial killer?,” and I think it ultimately succeeds in breathing new life into the serial killer story and offering fresh perspectives and questions. And there are plot twists and red herrings galore, particularly how the serial killer manipulates everyone around him, and the audience is also manipulated by their psychopathy and total lack of empathy (we also believe the lies and question our own intentions and antics).Continue reading
I finally got around to watching the classic 1982 The Slumber Party Massacre, and it was worth the wait. I think it’s my new favourite slasher movie! The film had a strange production, and because of it, it’s delightfully subversive in terms of gender and expectation (most of the women are independent and pretty resourceful, and most of the guys in it are kind of losers and pretty useless when it comes down to it). Apparently Rita Mae Brown (feminist author of Rubyfruit Jungle) wrote the original screenplay as a parody of the slasher film genre, but then the studio wanted to play it straight, so they added the usual sex, nudity, and gore. The end result is a lot of fun to see, and also quite refreshing for a slasher movie. It’s also directed by a female director (Amy Holden Jones, who co-wrote 1992’s Beethoven), so it’s great to have a female perspective, even though the female nudity is quite surprising considering. One of my favourite characters was the sexy telephone repair person, but unfortunately she gets killed minutes/seconds after being introduced. Still pretty cool to have more women in trades though!Continue reading
Nikolaj Arcel’s 2012 Danish film A Royal Affair (En kongelig affære) is an absolute delight and a visual feast for the senses. I recently watched Thomas Vinterberg’s latest film Another Round (Druk), which also stars my favourite actor Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal, The Hunt, Valhalla Rising, Casino Royale, At Eternity’s Gate, Arctic), and it was also excellent, and not just an essential rumination on alcoholism, masculinity, maintaining and balancing adulthood, and more, but also a powerful affirmation of life, especially in light of the death of Vinterberg’s daughter, who died days into the shoot (and you can feel her presence in a beautiful way as you watch the film). Watching Another Round inspired me to dig through more of Mads’ (actually pronounced “Mass” rather than “Mads”) Danish filmography, especially since there are so many buried treasures. He’s also great in The Hunt, Pusher 1 and 2, and Adam’s Apples (but such a good person should not have to suffer as he does), among others. I had a hard time getting into Flickering Lights or Men and Chickens because I didn’t appreciate or understand the humour as much as I wanted to, and I look forward to seeing him in The Green Butchers and After the Wedding (any other Mads recommendations are welcome too!). A Royal Affair is indeed a buried treasure among others.Continue reading
Martin Scorsese’s 1999 film Bringing out the Dead is an adaptation of Joe Connelly’s excellent novel of the same name (the title actually comes from, as you might think, from the infamous scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail), which is actually based on his own experiences as an EMT in New York City, and tells the story of Frank, a burnt-out paramedic working the graveyard shift in Hell’s Kitchen who starts to see hallucinations/ghosts of his dead patients, namely Rose, a young woman who overdosed that he couldn’t save. Nicolas Cage stars, but he is unusually restrained for the most part here, and it’s one of his best films in my opinion, alongside some of his other less over-the-top roles such as Leaving Las Vegas, Joe, Raising Arizona, and Red Rock West, to name a few. But he’s great for the role – he really wanted to work with Marty, and Marty thought of him instantly when he read Connelly’s book. I devoured the book in a few days, and its themes of grief, overcoming trauma, healing, and rumination on why we cared about others really stayed with me. In addition, Frank’s philosophical and existential musings were very inspiring. I couldn’t unhear Nicolas Cage as I read the book, and that’s a good thing, although part of me kind of wishes I had read the book beforehand.Continue reading
What a dazzling corker of an opening! The camera cranes down to the marquee of a health facility and suddenly lightning strikes on the sign. Henceforth the club is “Death Spa” and cinematographer Arledge Armenaki lurks around the corridors with a voyeuristic point-of-view. In a steam room, a curvaceous dancer sensually caresses her body until the temperature increases and she is practically simmering inside.Continue reading
‘The Hunt’ is Blumhouse’s archly hipster, redundant rendition of ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ with liberal dosages of presumptuous gallows humor which never materialize into talking-head laughs (the anti-elite lines are mortifying edentate- “We’re gonna be on Hannity…Just like those two Jew boys that fucked Nixon up.”).
‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow’ is an enjoyably blithe horror-comedy hybrid for Jim Cummings’ trifecta of headliner, writer and director and beyond that, it is a bittersweet epitaph for Robert Forster whose gravitas stratify this lycanthrope tale to snowbound film noir on the wavelength of Coen Brothers (“You feel like you’re having a heart attack? Right now?” “Nah, since August.”).Continue reading