Stepping Up

I can’t believe they made Mysterio work.

Seriously, Jon Watts and co. deserve praise just for translating this guy to the screen so well, fishbowl and all.

MCU Spider-Man: all the power, with some of the responsibility. At least, that’s the feeling I’ve gotten lately. In his previous appearances, he’s primarily playing second fiddle to the big boys, save for some stellar moments in Homecoming, which I adored. I was thrilled to see him step up and come into his own more with Far from Home, and Tom Holland does a wonderful job selling the mixed emotions Peter feels after everything that happened in Endgame. But I still feel ever so slightly disconnected at times from things that happen to this version of Peter Parker. Maybe it’s the sidestepping of Uncle Ben, but this Peter rarely loses. Homecoming did a lot right, but Spider-Man’s bit parts in the last two Avengers films didn’t do a lot for Peter Parker’s day-to-day life. …


To Infinity and Beyond

Toy Story came out when I was a baby. When I turned five, Toy Story 2 blew my mind. I was in high school when Toy Story 3 focused on growing up and learning to let go. Now I’m in my 20s, and Buzz and Woody are back for another beautiful story. And it is beautiful. If nothing else, Toy Story 4 is gorgeous, from the captivating animation, to the breathtaking water and lighting. Nobody does full 3D animation like Pixar.

If you’re anything like me, maybe the plot of Toy Story 3, and its focus on toys dealing with what happens when their child grows up, left a lingering question in your mind: what’s going to happen when Bonnie grows up? Evidently, Pixar was thinking the same thing, and their answer is different, and maybe even more moving than what I dreamed up. …


Assembled.

Outside of one’s opinions on superhero films, watching what Marvel Studios has been able to do in the last decade has been an absolute thrill. To take such a risk with Iron Man, and then to turn that success into multiple franchises featuring an interconnected story and more or less consistent continuity — not only is this an unprecedented feat in filmmaking, but they’ve managed to introduce and maintain characters that have connected with a lot of people emotionally.

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Through moments that work and even some that fall flat, the characters are why audiences have flocked to these movies for over a decade. To see the culmination of all of these stories with Endgame is fascinating. This hasn’t happened before. The level of excitement is absurd. If you’ve avoided spoilers (Don’t worry, I won’t ruin anything), this story is probably something you’re at least vaguely related in seeing, even if just to experience the end of this huge narrative experiment. …


This Mud Stinks.

Yorgos Lanthimos clearly enjoyed Barry Lyndon.

But let’s talk about The Favourite. This off-kilter, half-true look at a tumultuous time in English history is absolutely captivating. The cinematography is gorgeous, echoing Stanley Kubrick constantly, and highlighting wonderful production, set, and wardrobe design. Seriously, this is a pretty movie. The use of wide angle lenses (for which I have a soft spot) is at once beautiful and unsettling, and the world of the film never once feels quaint or trite — instead, the sprawling estate of Queen Anne is a gorgeous prison, a lovely place to never leave. With its vast grounds and sumptuous gardens, comparisons to the Overlook Hotel are impossible to ignore — and with those thoughts, come subconscious feelings of anxiety. …


Real Emotion

Alfonso Cuarón is one of my favorite directors working today. Every step of this man’s career has been some sort of creative leap — whether it’s raunchy comedy, dystopian drama, Shakespeare adaptation, or a boundary-pushing space blockbuster, Cuarón approaches each project with such measured, clear focus that I am completely enthralled every time.

Where his early career was defined by Y Tu Mamá También, his later films have borrowed similar filmmaking techniques to tackle very different topics. His signature long takes make Children of Men harrowing, while his dedication to small character moments makes Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban many people’s favorite film in the series. But for a long time I wondered — would Cuarón ever return to something more like Y Tu Mamá También? …


Anyone can wear the mask.

I loved Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. I loved the animation, which flowed beautifully from action to emotional moments and in and out of various unique styles for the individual spider-people. I loved the music — the way it evolves for each new character and heightens the tension in the more thrilling moments is wonderful. The original songs work in tandem with the score, too — scenes of Miles walking to school or jumping off buildings feel even more memorable due to the strong work of the many featured artists.

But what I love the most is the way the movie treats Spider-Man. I know he’s just a comic book character. He’s not real. He’s a crazy guy in spandex who swings around and punches bad guys. But he’s also been such an inspiration to me throughout my life. When I was very young, Spider-Man showed me how to be brave; how to keep going when things et tough. Spider-Man will lose; he will mess up and make mistakes and hurt himself or others. But he’ll always get up. He won’t quit. He’ll keep going and giving because he has to — Spider-Man isn’t the greatest superhero because he can do whatever a spider can, he’s the greatest because underneath the mask and quips, he’s just a guy. He struggles with paying rent and dating and holding down a job. And through it all, he will stand up for the little guy. He’ll do whatever it takes to help others. …


A Remake with Heart.

A Star is Born isn’t a new story, and it’s not the most original story — but, as one of the characters learns, what’s important isn’t necessarily what notes are played, it’s how they’re played. Bradley Cooper knows which notes he’s playing, and he knows very well how he’s going to play them. A Star is Born succeeds in a number of ways, from its kinetic, close-up cinematography to the genuinely compelling musical numbers. Primarily, though, the film succeeds in telling a human story, one that feels not only genuine, but consistently meaningful.

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Cooper’s performance almost manages to upstage his direction; starring in and directing this film might sound silly or pretentious, but Cooper manages to exceed expectations both in front of and behind the lens. He’s intense and powerful, but also vulnerable and somber — and he sells the musical scenes so well. His co-stars are certainly able to keep up, however. Sam Elliott is riveting as Jack’s older brother, delivering what might be a career-best performance. Dave Chappelle is also memorable in a brief appearance, pending levity and thoughtfulness to scenes that might otherwise feel contrived or cliche. …


She isn’t gone.

Hereditary is as haunting a film as any I’ve seen in some time. It’s clearly inspired by The Shining and maybe Rosemary’s Baby and/or The Exorcist, among others, but the influence of Stanley Kubrick’s meticulous attention to detail is noticeable and extremely important to the atmosphere of this film. Like The Shining, this is a movie that builds from a point of relative normalcy into a throughoughly unsettling nightmare of the profane. …


Revisiting a Horror Classic

I recently had the opportunity to watch Tobe Hooper’s 1974 film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in its entirety, my first viewing of the film without any television censors. Having grown up watching various horror films, but never dwelling on Texas Chain Saw, I had certain expectations. What follows is an examination of how the film shattered all of them.

I don’t know how to accurately rate The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It’s gross, dirty, dated in some ways, and definitely not the film its reputation and sequels might lead one to believe.

But on its own, I’ve found it to be a singular work, one which explores the absolute evil which lurks just off the beaten path. Misdirection and misinformation play a central role in the experience of watching this film, from its opening narration and newsreel exposition to the unhinged depravity lurking inside the Sawyer home. We’re told these events are true, but they can’t be… right? We expect a group of vaguely shallow teenagers to engage in the typical debauchery horror films feature, but the characters here aren’t looking for that. They want to visit an old house, and on their way, they pick up a hitchhiker. Everything that follows is a spiral downwards into a dirty, disgusting hell which grows more nightmarish and horrific with each passing second. …


Disassembled

When we go to see Marvel movies, it’s not because we expect them to be perfect. At least, I don’t. I never expect a Marvel film to push the boundaries of filmmaking or change the way we approach certain techniques. I expect pulpy fun and banter, sometimes to a fault. If that’s what you want from Avengers: Infinity War, then you’ll get it.

I come for the characters. When I was young, I read everything I could, and comic books were a particular favorite way for me to pass time. When superhero movies became more common in the early 2000s, I was delighted. …

About

Josh Kirkland

talking about movies.

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