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.

Someone cast Jon Bernthal in a nice romantic comedy

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Cooties is an odd-ball horror/comedy that excels at neither

Cooties_posterI have generally enjoyed Elijah Wood’s post-Lord of the Rings career as he’s largely retreated into genre and takes on interesting and offbeat projects like Wilfred and the Maniac remake—both of which are good, as is last year’s Grand Piano—but his latest movie, Cooties, of which he is both producer and star, is not up to his usual standard of oddball fare. (He also has movies with Vin Diesel AND Nicolas Cage coming up, which means that either he’s taking “ironic performance” to whole new levels or that LOTR money is running low.) Cooties is a zombie movie with the twist that it’s set at an elementary school and the kids are the only ones affected by a zombie virus outbreak, leaving their beleaguered teachers to fend them off or die trying. Continue reading “Cooties is an odd-ball horror/comedy that excels at neither”

The Duke of Burgundy is a retro erotic treat

Duke-Of-Burgundy-PosterWith Fifty Shades of Grey due later this month, there’s a lot of focus on erotica at the cinema, or rather, the near complete lack thereof. Once upon a time, there was a niche market for grown-up films about sex, and it ranged from highbrow arthouse fare like Last Tango in Paris to the sexploitation flicks of grindhouse movies. Erotica used to be a whole healthy ecosystem within cinema, but it disappeared in the 1980s, and now there is only the occasional outlier in grown-up sex-themed movies. This month, though, there are two movies dealing with adult relationships and intimacy and sex: the ubiquitous Fifty Shades, but also the indie gem The Duke of Burgundy, which is now available on demand.

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Horns: Putting the “fractured” in fractured fairytale

Horns-Movie-PosterI wanted to like Horns so much. I’ve enjoyed writer/director Alexandre Aja’s pulpy genre output since 2003’s French horror flick High Tension, and enjoyed the hell out of the campy, gore-laden Piranha 3D. Horns looked more ambitious than those films, though, still working the genre tropes that Aja uses so well but expanding into a broader, more fantastical realm, adapted from Joe Hill’s novel. The trailers looked great, I loved the cast (starring Daniel Radcliffe and featuring Max Minghella, Juno Temple, and Joe Anderson), and with a premiere at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, it seemed like Horns might be something a little bit special. Continue reading “Horns: Putting the “fractured” in fractured fairytale”

The Trip to Italy: A comedy sequel that actually improves on the first

trip_to_italy_posterIn 2011 I loved The Trip, the largely improvisational road trip comedy starring Steve Coogan (Philomena) and Rob Brydon (a bunch of British TV stuff). So I was primed to love the sequel, The Trip to Italy, now in limited release and available on demand. But even with a positive bias, here’s how much I like Italy: Even though Comcast was being a total cunt that was determined to ruin my viewing experience with constant outages, I STILL enjoyed my viewing experience. It’s funny, light but thoughtful, and—surprisingly, for a sequel—fresh. Continue reading “The Trip to Italy: A comedy sequel that actually improves on the first”

VOD Review Double Shot: They Came Together & Trust Me

I’m way behind on reviews, so I’m going to be doubling up on demand reviews for the next couple weeks. Never let it be said that there’s nothing good to watch! Good movies are everywhere, you just have to…sit at home and push a couple buttons. Seriously, it’s never been easier to access quality cinema.

They Came Together

ETA: This movie gets better on repeat viewings.

TCT-poster2001’s Wet Hot American Summer is, as far as I’m concerned, a comedy achievement along the lines of Spinal Tap. It’s not quite Spinal Tap (NOTHING IS SPINAL TAP), but it’s pretty close. Written by Michael Showalter and David Wain, and directed by Wain, Summer is like a time capsule, except it wasn’t memorializing the past but predicting the future. Look at the cast: Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper, H. Jon Benjamin (the immortal voice of Sterling Archer) voicing a can of vegetables, Michael Ian Black—it’s a who’s who of today’s top comedy performers and writers. It’s also incredibly funny and actually quite touching. Continue reading “VOD Review Double Shot: They Came Together & Trust Me”

Grand Piano is ridiculous, thrilling

grand-piano-movie-posterThere was a point in the thriller Grand Piano that I laughed out loud. It was a climactic moment—it probably wasn’t supposed to be funny. But it was just so ludicrous that I couldn’t help it. The movie ventured firmly into unintentional comedy, but the weird thing was, it didn’t take away from the movie, or the experience of watching it, at all. It was just acknowledgment that, yes, things had gotten a wee bit silly, but that it was still entertaining and the conclusion satisfying, after all. Grand Piano is borderline stupid but it’s so STYLISH that really, nothing else matters. Continue reading “Grand Piano is ridiculous, thrilling”