Movie review: “The Witch” (2016)

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“I cannot write my name.”

“I will guide thy hand.”

It’s a rare occurrence anymore that viewing a new film makes such a subconscious impression upon me that I carry it forward into my dreams. I didn’t have a bad night per se, a mere handful of hours removed from viewing writer-director Robert Eggers’ grim and engrossing period piece The Witch, but I will say it was emotionally fraught. Nor did I dream outright of witches, the existence of which, with their wanton, many would say dangerous perversion and sublimation of the established word and will of God, was an accepted if not central tenet of the Puritan faith, and for a simple reason. Traditionally, I have never found witches particularly scary, though I’m sure your mileage will vary. Though accomplished and involving in its own right, Eggers’ film subtly gains or loses potency depending, in part, on the personal baggage – faith, fears, family – his viewer brings to it, but operates at such a level of sustained tension, even during those great stretches when nothing much appears to be happening, that I’m certain I wasn’t the only one so affected. Continue reading “Movie review: “The Witch” (2016)”

Movie review: “Deadpool” (2016)

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“What if I told you we can make you better? You’re a fighter. We can give you abilities most men only dream of. Make you a superhero…”

“Just promise me you’ll do right by me, so I can do right by someone else. And don’t make the super suit green. Or animated!”

There is a level on which practically any information I divulge about Deadpool below the purely superficial could be construed as a spoiler, so I must be especially light on my feet – or, at any rate, more careful than is the man of the hour, a shoot-first, quip-second, slash-third, wash-rinse-repeat rolling ball of destruction with a delightful tendency to leave any room he enters looking like a smoldering ruin and/or the aftermath of a successful large-scale weapons test. Yes, I plan to tread carefully. Luckily, the film is such a riot of rapid fire sass, fury, and invention (and bullets!) that it doesn’t have to pivot on plot in order to surprise. You can take it from me that Deadpool has lots to spring on what will either be its fully primed, giddily anticipatory or, failing that, completely unprepared, fairly aghast audience. Much of the movie’s appeal undeniably lies in its conspicuous lack of a middle ground. Continue reading “Movie review: “Deadpool” (2016)”

Movie review: “Hail, Caesar!” (2016)

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“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”

“How long since your last confession?”

“Um, twenty-seven…hours.”

“It’s really too soon, my son. You’re just not that bad a person.”

“I don’t know, Father. I snuck a cigarette, I didn’t get home in time for dinner…and I struck a movie star in anger!”

As a writer/director/production team, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen are responsible for some of the unquestionably best and most esoteric movies of the last thirty years, a roll call – including Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and Inside Llewyn Davis, among others – consisting of equal parts unvarnished Oscar bait and uncompromised wish fulfillment as high art, even if the wish itself sometimes seems culled from common stock. Part of the joy of following the Coens’ career has come from the fact that their pictures are so patently unlike anyone else’s, although they do display a tendency toward circular self-reference – perhaps unintentional, perhaps not, depending on the title – the further into their filmography one ventures. Continue reading “Movie review: “Hail, Caesar!” (2016)”

My Top 20 Albums of 2015 + supplemental lists

2015

Introduction

I have always had a procrastination problem. To hear my mother tell, it’s more like a birthright. My parents are both procrastinators and so I was hit with both barrels. I “never had a chance,” she’s told me more than once. At the conclusion of what I thought was a fairly banner second year, I closed up shop for DAE on December 18, 2015, leaving myself time off for all my various holiday travels and, in theory at least, building in enough room to comfortably finish my traditional year-end album countdown within the roughly three-week window. Or so I thought. Unlike last year, this vacation time did not especially cry out to be shared, plus I received a slew of unexpected bumps and priority adjustments that I did not experience in 2014. I still occasionally get annoyed that essentially taking the month of August 2014 off in order to write my “Iron Maiden Saved My Life” essay precluded me from reviewing Guardians of the Galaxy or paying my proper, bottomless respects to the late Robin Williams. Unless I have something at least under construction at all times, I can’t maintain the schedule I want for this blog, which is, roughly, to produce one reasonably thorough/polished piece per week. Continue reading “My Top 20 Albums of 2015 + supplemental lists”