Coming of age stories are frequently awkward, often painful, but ultimately, usually, hopeful. Pin Cushion is one of those rare coming of age stories that is not really invested in perpetuating the myth that oddballs and weirdoes emerge from adolescence as interesting and functional adults. It is instead preoccupied with the ways that trauma passes between generations, and that no amount of parental love and acceptance can make up for a lack of same from peers. In Pin Cushion, bullying is not the métier of the playground, but is a cycle that perpetuates into adulthood, and bullies don’t always get their comeuppance (or, if they do, it’s just more trauma for the pile). Pin Cushion’s image of adolescence is a candy-colored darkness.Continue reading “Mother-daughter heartbreak in the colorful, tragic Pin Cushion”
Category Archives: Reviews
The Lodgers is creepy, low-key Gothic horror
A dilapidated estate in the Irish countryside is the setting for Brian O’Malley’s The Lodgers, a Gothic haunted house story set in the days following World War I. Any Gothic film set in a grand country estate immediately calls to mind Rebecca’s Manderley, and The Lodgers certainly has shared DNA with the Gothic films that have come before, including The Innocents and a little bit Picnic at Hanging Rock. It also calls to mind Guillermo Del Toro’s recent Gothic horror-romance, Crimson Peak, though where that film reaches for spectacle (and kind of face-plants in the garden of its own grandeur), The Lodgers is a quieter tale, atmospheric and creepy and full of decay.
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Sweet Virginia is a tense slice of backwoods life
Three men playing a late-night poker game are interrupted by the arrival of a man demanding the early bird special. The bar is closed, but the patron won’t leave, and the disagreement ends the only way it can, with a triple homicide. From the first moments of Sweet Virginia, the ominous, droning score of Brooke Blair and Will Blair—brothers of actor Macon Blair and collaborators with their mutual friend, director Jeremy Saulnier—set the tone for a white-knuckle thriller that never lets up on the tension and dread.
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Brigsby Bear: Kyle Mooney’s weird love letter to fandom
Brigsby Bear is a piece of weirdo cinema that seems like the kind of fake movie you’d see as a film-within-a-film mocking Sundance. It’s precious bordering on twee, deeply nostalgic, possessed of a quirky synth score (courtesy David Wingo, frequent Jeff Nichols collaborator), and full of actors from the indie comedy scene. It’s practically a checklist of Sundance stereotypes—and it was, indeed, a big hit at this year’s Sundance. But Brigsby transcends its made-for-mockery foundation. It’s a little too sweet for the inherent darkness of its story, but Brigsby Bear is a sensitive and sincere portrait of loneliness and fandom.
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Sherlock goes off the rails
After a series opener in which Sherlock traded its mystery status for soap, the second episode of series four, “The Lying Detective”, doubles down on the new soap operatic direction of the show and delivers even more antics and heavy-handed emotional beats. It’s not the worst decision to explore other facets of a character, such as Sherlock’s drug addiction, which actually matters in this episode, but for Sherlock, the show, the tonal shift has been so sudden and so hard it’s jarring. And it doesn’t quite sit right on a show about a man whose emotions are famously repressed and take a back seat to his analytical skills. That leads the show to feel excessive and even sloppy, as everything careens around an essentially unstable axis.
Green Room is brutal, relentless tension
Filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier made a splash in 2013 with Blue Ruin, a funny-sad but brutal film in the revenge-thriller vein about a man seeking revenge who is wholly unequipped to seek revenge. Saulnier follows up Blue Ruin with Green Room—sensing a theme here—a film I was bitterly upset about missing at TIFF last fall. But Green Room is now in theaters, and I finally saw it, and holy shit, it made me sick to my stomach in the best possible way. Green Room ratchets up the tension and the horror over ninety minutes until the possibility of puking starts to feel like sweet relief.Continue reading “Green Room is brutal, relentless tension”
The 5th Wave is terrible, but also COMPLETELY INSANE
I didn’t have high hopes for The 5th Wave going into it. It looked like a Hunger Games rip-off, with your requisite YA dystopia and obligatory love triangle, and I was preparing myself for the worst. But then the movie began and though The 5th Wave is not a good movie, it’s so fucking DARK and BIZARRE that I kind of came around to it, in the end. I don’t recommend spending your money on it, but should you catch it on cable or Netflix someday, it’s worth watching as an artifact of insanity. It’s the craziest of the YA dystopia movies by far, taking the premise of “child murder as entertainment” to new, un-dreamed-of heights.Continue reading “The 5th Wave is terrible, but also COMPLETELY INSANE”