The Wes Craven Retrospective: Invitation to Hell (1984)

1984 was quite a busy year for Wes Craven who managed to release three films at that time: A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes 2 and Invitation to Hell, the latter of which was a made-for-TV project he did not have a hand in writing. Similarly to how I felt about his 1978 outing Summer of Fear, a movie-of-the-week thriller with Linda Blair, I was immediately asking the very fundamental question of why Wes Craven – busy as he was – would ever decide to re-enter the world of television.

Continue reading

Last Night in Soho (2021)

Film4

Over the course of his entire career, Edgar Wright has been interested in exploring ideas surrounding nostalgia, clinging onto the past and dealing with changing life circumstances, all hidden within hyper-stylized genre experiments functioning as nostalgic love letters to movies Wright grew up watching. Admittedly, this idea of wrapping nostalgia around nostalgia is what gave Shaun of the DeadHot Fuzz and – quite frankly – nearly all of his movies their particular charm and convinced the audiences not only to let themselves be taken onto these wild adventures, but also perhaps tickled their own nostalgic glands. After all, we all know someone who failed to grow up, maybe we can’t part ways with our favourite pub, or maybe we all know what it’s like to come back to our hometown after many years to see how the place changed and how we no longer fit in there despite our memories telling us we should be able to. 

Continue reading

The French Dispatch (2021)

Searchlight Pictures

Ever since Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson’s films have been progressively and iteratively becoming fully ensconced in layers of his characteristic idiosyncratic style. Perhaps a case could be made that he’s been on this trajectory ever since he picked up a camera and that it was too difficult to fish it out from his early movies, such as Bottle Rocket or Rushmore, because this trajectory was never linear. It was exponential. As time went on and Anderson grew more confident behind the camera, his movies have slowly but surely transcended into a universe of their own, a universe of uber-quirky comedy underpinned by a visual aesthetic attempting to blur the line between live-action filmmaking and stop-motion animation, of which Anderson is also particularly fond (see Fantastic Mr Fox and Isle of Dogs).  

Continue reading

Dune (2021)

WB

Ever since its publication in 1965, Frank Herbert’s Dune has remained an elusive and treacherous challenge for filmmakers to adapt. Many have tried and failed and those who succeeded have seen their vision diluted and pared down. The seemingly insurmountable narrative and thematic density of Frank Herbert’s prose was enough to bring Hollywood to its knees and turn Dune into one of the Holy Grails of literary works infamously unwilling to bend to the will of the film industry – together with The Lord of the Rings and Ulysses  until now. Well, sort of.  

Continue reading

The Last Duel (2021)

20th Century Studios

Ridley Scott is eighty-three years old. In fact, he will soon turn eighty-four. At this age, many filmmakers – at least those who remain active and haven’t thrown in the towel to spend the twilight of their lives sipping wine in Bali or writing memoirs – tend to slow down a bit, maybe direct their artistic interests towards more meditative output, like Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho for example. Alternatively, like Francis Ford Coppola who is actively trying to burn his private fortune to make Megalopolis, or Charlie Chaplin who came out of retirement in 1967 to direct A Countess of Hong Kong, they might also want to stage their one last hurrah and realize that one passion project that somehow had eluded them for decades.  

Continue reading

Halloween Kills (2021)

Universal Pictures

When the David Gordon Green-directed refurbishment of the tattered Halloween franchise hit the screens in 2018, it looked as though the baton had been passed into the hands of people who knew how to update it for the modern viewer while staying loyal to its roots and paying due homage to its father, John Carpenter. I suppose the film’s strongest asset was its decision to effectively distance itself from the haphazardly engineered lore imposed upon this series by multiple sequels, most of which were at best – politely put – uninspired and in some cases downright atrocious. This way, the movie was allowed the luxury of simplicity because it didn’t have to spin multiple plates and pay off the ludicrous decision to make Laurie Strode Michael Myers’ sister (which was introduced in the 1981 sequel) while tipping the hat to various other elements of franchise mythos. The 2018 Halloween was lean and mean. It was brutal, scary, effective and straightforward. Sadly, the newly released sequel Halloween Kills is everything but.  

Continue reading

The Guilty (2021)

Netflix

The concept of a single-location thriller is at this point an element of filmmaking tradition with its roots reaching all the way back to Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat and Rope, and possibly quite a bit further into the silent era. The toolbox needed to execute such an artificially constrained narrative successfully has been honed over many decades by many great directors and especially in recent years – owing to the pandemic – the idea of staging an entire movie in a single location has become a go-to avenue for artistic expression. Therefore, the Jake Gyllenhaal-starring remake of a Danish sleeper hit The Guilty was seemingly tailor-fit for the current zeitgeist.  

Continue reading

A Hidden Life (2019)

Fox Searchlight

Some filmmakers find their movie in the screenplay and then shoot it as it was written. Some find the movie they want to make on the set. They make decisions based on feedback from actors and other collaborators, preside over happy accidents and shape their movie in camera. Others make their movie in the editing bay by sculpting the footage into shape. And then… there’s Terrence Malick. 

Continue reading