Jessica Chastain stands in her creepy mansion in Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak.

‘Crimson Peak’ is a ghost story that would be better without the ghosts

Guillermo Del Toro is perhaps the most frustrating filmmaker around, as Crimson Peak adds yet another beautifully mounted yet awkwardly conceived narrative to his filmography, which is increasingly made up of over-embellished productions that seem to get made more to satisfy del Toro’s personal penchant for grand guinol imagery than to tell any kind of cohesive or meaningful story. Continue reading ‘Crimson Peak’ is a ghost story that would be better without the ghosts

The real Donald Trumbo sits in his bathtub as he writes.

A look at communism in ‘Trumbo’ and ‘Hail Caesar’

Though it was a national controversy in the 1950s, it has now become a part of every high school’s history curriculum that senator McCarthy went apeshit over members of the communist party infiltrating Hollywood. This is something of an absurd notion. But the fact that it made it all the way to the supreme court says a little something about how serious the fear of the Red Menace was back then. It also says a little something that we’ve had two comedies address the “Hollywood Ten” in the span of a few short months. Those films are Trumbo and the Coen brother’s recent Hail Caesar!
Continue reading A look at communism in ‘Trumbo’ and ‘Hail Caesar’

Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Will Smith, and Tommy Lee Jones ma all be part of a Men in Black Jump Street extended universe.

Is the ‘Jump Street/Men in Black’ crossover film an extended universe?

In an odd turn of events last summer, Sony announced they would be taking the Jump Street franchise that thus far consists of two very successful, but relatively straightforward adaptations of the classic TV show, and creating two spin off films. The first is a female driven version of the franchise to be written by Lucia Aniello and Paul Downs of Broad City. The second is, for some reason, to be simultaneously a reboot of the Men in Black franchise and a crossover Men in Black/Jump Street film. Continue reading Is the ‘Jump Street/Men in Black’ crossover film an extended universe?

Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay in a loving embrace in Lenny Abrahamson's Room.

‘Room’ challenges form as it takes a bold look at trauma

While I’m not quite feeling the depressing drop in worthy films we normally see at the dawn of a new year, we’ve had a Coen bros already and both a Malick and a Nichols are shortly on their way, I’m still finding a void in film news worth writing about. So to take a look at one of the many works released in the interim period of my writing, I’ve decided to review Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, which was released this week on DVD and Blu-Ray. Continue reading ‘Room’ challenges form as it takes a bold look at trauma

Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling in a southern funeral home in The Silence of the Lambs.

A battle of the sexes in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’

With the Academy Awards having officially dished out their annual little gold men to primarily white, male recipients, there is little in film news worth writing about. Rarely does the beginning of the year offer much that lasts. With that in mind I’ve decided to take a look at a rare instance in which a film from early in the year took home the top prize at the Oscars and, more importantly, remains a brilliant and important film that reveals more with each subsequent viewing. I am referring to Jonathon Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. Continue reading A battle of the sexes in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’

Spotlight wins best picture at the Oscars.

A quick look at how the Oscars went down

As promised, I am providing a quick overview of what happened at the Oscars, following my predictions. In part this is just a fun assessment of how I did against the supposed “professional” Oscar prognosticators. And in part this is going to be a review of the show itself and the awards dished out. The Oscars are traditionally a silly, three-hour, masturbatory industry insider celebration. This year was no exception. But this year the Oscars did provide few fun upsets throughout the night and offered a host ready to address the issue of race at the Oscars head on. Continue reading A quick look at how the Oscars went down

The Oscars, to be awarded tonight.

Complete Guide to Predicting the Oscars

Every year I make personal predictions on at least the top eight categories at the Oscars. And on a couple of occasions I’ve written broad prediction pieces that glossed over the major awards. But I realize, to my surprise, that this is the first time I will be providing a complete list of all twenty-four categories. I will also follow up tomorrow with a list of the winners and an analysis of how I did against the experts. But the chief purpose of this post is to provide a framework for anyone with limited knowledge to watch the show with a little more context. Continue reading Complete Guide to Predicting the Oscars

Ava Duvernay, Disney's new director for the A Wrinkle in Time movie.

Ava DuVernay’s long road to ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

A couple of days ago it was announced that Ava Duvernay, the esteemed director of Middle of Nowhere and Selma, had signed on to direct an adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time for Disney. These kinds of announcements come about once a week so it took a second to register with me just how exciting this news really is. It took a while for me to piece together the different reports I’d heard about Duvernay over the course of the past year and contextualize this news within her career. Continue reading Ava DuVernay’s long road to ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

Ice Cube and son say "fuck the police" in F. Gary Gray's Straight Outta Compton, a major player in #OscarsSoWhite.

A brief overview of #OscarsSoWhite

When did #OscarsSoWhite start? As an online movement it exploded last year when Ava Duvernay’s Selma garnered a measly two Oscar nominations. Industry analysts were estimating it to land closer to six and have a serious shot at winning the top prize. It was nominated for best picture. But in Vegas the odds on its victory were worse than twenty to one by night of the ceremony. And that wasn’t the beginning of #OscarsSoWhite. In fact, it wasn’t even the first time that the media had tried to address the racial imbalance of the entertainment industry through the lens of the Academy Awards. Continue reading A brief overview of #OscarsSoWhite

Thomasin, the main character of The Witch, looks terrified as her Puritan life is destroyed in Robert Eggers' debut film.

‘The Witch’ is a solid debut film that’s more folktale than horror

I see less than one horror film per year. The last one I paid to see in theaters was The Babadook, about fourteen months ago. So the fact that The Witch got me out of the house at all says something. Why this one and none of the dozens of others that hit theaters every year? For one the trailers are fun. But also The Witch isn’t a studio production; it was one of the most revered films at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. And the subtitle “A New England Folktale” is intriguingly atypical for the horror genre. Continue reading ‘The Witch’ is a solid debut film that’s more folktale than horror