REVIEW: Klaus [2019]

A true act of good will always sparks another. For a figure as ubiquitous as Santa Claus, the myriad ways in which his origin can be reborn, refashioned, and retrofitted seem infinite. Those seeking a new direction generally take the old and filter it through a contemporary generational lens wherein the jolly man’s title is passed down the line either by magic (The Santa Clause) or birthright (Arthur Christmas). Those choosing to start from scratch instead have therefore become a fascinating subsection of the Christmas genre simply by ensuring nothing…

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REVIEW: Feast of the Seven Fishes [2019]

What the hell is nostalgia? Titled after the Southern Italian tradition that made its way across the Atlantic to become a part of many Italian-American families’ Christmas Eve celebrations, Robert Tinnell‘s adaptation of his own graphic novel/recipe book Feast of the Seven Fishes does well to center itself upon its food even if the people eating it prove the real focal point. It’s probably not a coincidence then that most of our attention is specifically spent on seven teens with a direct or peripheral connection to dinner at Grandpa Johnny’s…

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REVIEW: Mercy Christmas [2017]

Fresh is best. Michael Briskett (Steven Hubbell) awakens in a dark room with plastic sheets covered in blood hung behind him. It’s imagery you’ve seen countless times in horror films—butcher accoutrement readied for torture porn carnage. But writer/director Ryan Nelson (alongside Beth Levy Nelson as co-writer) is only giving us a tease of what’s to come before rewinding two days to show the unfortunate circumstances that led poor Michael to an unknown basement decorated for Christmas. First we have to meet his douchebag boss Andy Robillard (Cole Gleason) as he…

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REVIEW: The Man Who Invented Christmas [2017]

Why throw everything away for a minor holiday? As Les Standiford‘s book would tell it, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) found himself in somewhat of a creative rut after a lengthy and expensive tour of America post-Oliver Twist. He had published three flops since buying a new London home in need of wholesale remodeling and began watching his pocketbook dwindle along with his confidence. It was as though the autumn of 1843 presented him a make or break moment wherein he wasn’t certain he would ever write again. And then inspiration…

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REVIEW: Halloween III: Season of the Witch [1982]

They’re fun. They’re frightening. And they glow in the dark. After the insane success of John Carpenter‘s Halloween and the modest follow-through of its sequel Halloween II ($70 million on a $300,000 budget and $25.5 million on a $2.5 million budget respectively), the director readied to leave Haddonfield, Laurie Strode, and their malevolent predator behind. How many times can you bring the same supernatural monster back to life anyway? (Wink, wink.) His idea was to therefore pivot the franchise into an anthology series wherein the generic title/holiday would constitute the…

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FANTASIA17 REVIEW: Better Watch Out [2017]

“U LEAVE U DIE” It’s Christmas and songs of carolers are in the air of a quaint suburban neighborhood populated by houses big enough to list four bedrooms yet safe enough to not need alarms. Perfectly imperfect families live inside them like the pulls-no-punches Deandra (Virginia Madsen) and affably self-deprecating Robert (Patrick Warburton) showing how love can take and sometimes excel with a little argumentatively sarcastic friction. They may drink and swear, but they’d do anything for twelve-going-on-thirteen year old son Luke (Levi Miller)—and he knows it. A sensitive kid…

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REVIEW: Krisha [2016]

“Them cars are getting faster and them wings are getting weaker” While it may not be autobiographical in a plot sense, no one can watch Trey Edward Shults‘ debut Krisha without a full recognition of its honesty and authenticity as far as the emotional turmoil running through the writer/director’s mind. I say this more than just as a result of acknowledging how he shot the film in his parents’ home with a cast almost exclusively made up of family and friends either. Whether these actors are seasoned or amateur and…

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REVIEW: Krisha [2014]

“I thought we got rid of her” The story behind Krisha is a fascinating one. Writer/director Trey Edward Shults was readying his feature debut when the acquisition of resources necessary to finish proved too difficult. So he took what he had already filmed and fashioned it into this short—one that ultimately won a Special Jury Award at SXSW before its critical acclaim got his mind and ambition back on track to place the full expanded version before cameras. It’s a personal story dealing with emotional demons (autobiographically and fictionally) he…

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REVIEW: Die Hard [1988]

“Make fists with your toes” It’s become such an action classic with numerous sequels, copycats, and homages and yet Die Hard as we know it almost never was—by choice. Novelist Roderick Thorp wrote Nothing Lasts Forever, his follow-up to The Detective, thirteen years after the original because he saw The Towering Inferno and dreamt up an idea of one man in a skyscraper hunted by terrorists. It starred his NYPD Detective Joe Leland, now aged and retired, visiting his daughter’s office building in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve where he…

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REVIEW: Eyes Wide Shut [1999]

“Fidelio” Would you gamble everything for lust? Is thinking about infidelity as egregious an offence as the act itself? After all, faithfulness isn’t merely a construct of the physical world—our trust and respect goes beyond the exterior into the very fibers of our being to make the words “I’d never cheat on you” flow effortlessly and involuntarily from our lips even when thinking about the person we’d commit it with in a heartbeat. But lust clouds our judgment. It makes us do things we wouldn’t normally do. It allows for…

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TIFF16 REVIEW: Boys in the Trees [2016]

“Can’t end a story without a dead body” We’ve all lost friends whether from naturally parting ways or an avoidable blow-up proving petty in hindsight. Age advances and tastes evolve—we don’t often think much of the phenomenon because they find peers more attuned to who they’ve become just like you. But sometimes the severed relationship carries with it pangs of guilt. Maybe the fracture was triggered by lame excuses like the concept of survival of the fittest, you joining your oppressors in order to stop being oppressed. Perhaps you cut…

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