After delivering a series of awful originals this year, which include The Cloverfield Paradox, Mute, and The Kissing Booth, Netflix finally delivers with Alex Strangelove. A touching film that hits familiar John Hughes-esque territory, but delivers a raunchy, comedic and heartwarming story of self-discovery.
The film follows type-A nerd Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny), as he navigates the “savage kingdom that is the modern American high school.” He meets Claire (Madeline Weinstein) and they become best friends, start their own web series, and eventually, they start dating. This is where the familiar “You’ll be the laughing stock of the school if you don’t lose your virginity!!” flashbacks kick in, and just like every teenager, Alex is going through the same pressure. But things get complicated when Alex meets the charismatic, gay Elliot (Antonio Marziale), who sends Alex down a rollercoaster of sexual discovery and acceptance.
Grief, guilt, and mental illness are not unusual themes in horror film. We’ve seen them in The Babadook, The Witch, It Follows, the list goes on. But Ari Aster’s debut feature film, Hereditary, takes the struggles of grief to another horrifying level. What he creates is a tense, devastating, and at times difficult to watch, look at the trauma we suffer at the hands of our family and how that trauma lives on past death.
Hereditary opens on the grieving Graham family. Annie, played by the phenomenal Toni Collette, has lost her mother and is trying to work her way through this loss with support groups and working on her artistic miniatures. Meanwhile, her husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne) tries to maintain some semblance of normalcy with their son, Peter (Alex Wolff), and young daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro). But slowly everything begins to fall apart into a very dark place. Telling you any more about the plot would ruin the film and this is best viewed without any idea of what to expect.
Sometimes, before watching a new film, there’s a murky feeling that it’s going to be an intense experience. The Tale is one of those films. The HBO film follows Jennifer, played by Laura Dern, as she is forced to revisit the circumstances of her first “relationship” with an older man as a child after her mother discovers a story written by her younger self. If the premise isn’t powerful and sensitive enough, the film is based on the story written by the writer-director Jennifer Fox’s younger self at the time of her abuse. Primarily because of its plot, the film is not particularly “entertaining,” at moments even difficult, but it’s so powerful that it’s a must-watch.
I had only one expectation for Drew Pearce’s directorial debut, Hotel Artemis. I wanted to have fun experiencing the amazing, star-studded ensemble cast play off one another. Unfortunately, it was never met. Instead, Hotel Artemis packs an unnecessarily convoluted narrative, unrealized world-building for a banal backdrop, and poor allocation of screen time, which results in a film that feels like a melting pot of half-baked concepts and ideas. The conclusion to the action romp loses any steam the movie had going for it, leaving you with a feeling of unfulfillment.
There is a slight amount of praise awarded for its solid performances and imaginative aesthetics (even if they never go far enough), but as it stands, this one-location action flick can never quite settle on what narrative footing, tone, or message it wants to leave us with. For a film that wastes so much time with feeding its audience expositional dialogue–from one-note characters about their motivation–the lack of understanding and control of its own world and setting is quite the accomplishment in itself. An anti-masterclass in “show don’t tell”.
German film has been suffering from an utter lack of strong genre films during the past years. With the exception from a few, rare surprises like independent filmmaker AKIZ’s brilliant film Der Nachtmahr (which became a flop that ultimately left the director in debt), there is no real courage to delve back into certain narrative patterns, and when they do, they play it incredibly safe, which dampens the hope for possible investors of such films even more. It’s very strange, especially since turning back time reveals that the brightest lights were of German cinema, where genre films such as Metropolis, Vampyr, and M shaped their successors worldwide into what they are today.
While Ulrich Köhler’s In My Room, a film heavily influenced by the filmmaking style of the Berliner Schule–a german filmmaking movement that originated in the 90’s, whose representatives are often formed by a depressive, stakeless atmosphere mirroring both social and humanist grievances–is not a genre film per se, but it shows a surprising amount of flirtation with post-apocalyptic motifs and images. It’s a refreshing change of pace on a visual plane, not only for the Berliner Schule, but the entirety of contemporary german film.
I will admit that I haven’t seen Jim Hosking’s previous Sundance venture The Greasy Strangler—a grotesque exercise in trying to annoy as many people as possible. After speaking with others at my screening who had seen The Greasy Strangler, it was evident that no one particularly liked it. So why were we here, seated for his sophomore feature? Morbid curiosity perhaps?
Credit should be given where it’s due, there are few directors with as a vision as singular as Hosking, a style that’s about as anti-Hollywood as it can get. Will he be able to retain his signature idiosyncratic style with top-tier comedic actors like Aubrey Plaza, Craig Robinson, and Jemaine Clement on board? To answer that question: yes he can, for better or for worse. Fans of The Greasy Strangler will revel in this offbeat trip. To everyone else, I recommend you don’t waste your time.
A few weeks ago, Deadpool 2, the sequel to the 2016 comic book action flick/rom-com, opened at a successful yet comparatively underwhelming $125 million at the box office, missing its $130-150 million target. On its second weekend, it dropped at an alarming 66% against Avengers: Infinity War and the opening to Solo: A Star Wars Story–meaning there is an apparent large gap between the performance of the first film and its sequel.
Theorizing about its box office performance is a more complicated conversation, as there are tons of factors going into these numbers (in fact, I would love if the money bar would stop raising for huge blockbusters). However, I do find that it is time to question if whether or not Deadpool‘s Family Guy-esque brand of humor and egregious use of comedic, lighthearted violence can stay relevant in the charged times we’re currently living in. Is Deadpool simply just outdated for the majority of today’s modern audience? For me anyway, the answer is: absolutely.