The Happening – Hilariocity Review

"What? No!" Take an interest in science and check out my Hilariocity Review of The Happening! More »

The Wicker Man – Hilariocity Review

One of the best worst movies ever made, starring Nicolas Cage! More »

The Worst Movies of 2013

Feel like dying? Watch these movies if you dare! More »

The Best Movies of 2013

The very best movies that were released in 2013. More »


Unsane – Movie Review

Official Synopsis:

A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear–but is it real or a product of her delusion?

Review Summary:

Unsane is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Claire Foy as Sawyer, a young woman recovering from a traumatic experience, who finds herself admitted to a mental institution against her will. While trying to figure out how to escape, that past trauma creeps back into her life. No, this is not gratefully not a remake of Dario Argento’s film.

As you’ve likely heard from every review or article published about this film, Soderbergh shot the whole thing with an iPhone 7 plus, utilizing the Filmic Pro App and three Moment lenses: 18mm, 60mm, and a fisheye. Soderbergh has stated he thinks most audience members won’t notice, and that this is the future of movies.

Let’s stow that debate for a second and focus on the story. Claire Foy is stunning throughout the 97 minute runtime, bringing a sense of unease and paranoia in virtually every scene. As we unfold her past, and see the connections to her current predicament, Unsane gets considerably more captivating.

Also great is Joshua Leonard as an orderly at the institution with sinister motives. Of the three stars of The Blair Witch Project, he’s had the most success, however he’s been relegated to mostly horror B-movies, so it’s nice to see him given a meaty role.

Like most films about mental institutions—especially ones featuring unwilling patients—there’s a sense of frustration that develops as Sawyer is never heard, shut down constantly and ignored by everyone around her. Soderbergh tries to generate a sense of uncertainly surrounding her sanity, and the film’s marketing campaign even asks the question, “Is she or isn’t she?”

But at least for me, this mystery didn’t seem all that confusing, and what eventually unravels felt more like a natural progression than a fascinating turn of events. Sawyer’s mistreatment and the actions of those around her all point to one possible outcome, so the film rarely surprised me.

Her discussions with fellow patients almost always ended the same, in a slap or some violent action that only makes Sawyer look more insane, and after awhile, I became irritated with how she handled these situations. It was like watching someone try to climb out of a hole, while simultaneously digging themselves in deeper.

So back to the cinematography. When a filmmaker in Soderbergh’s position makes a choice like this, I look for logical reasons why. If you’re a no budget filmmaker, the decision to use an iPhone makes sense, but what about this film needed this?

The best this choice does is create a personal look to the film. Slightly documentary-esque. There’s an aura of schlocky cheapness to it that can sometimes make it more frightening.

But Soderbergh’s claim that no one will notice is ludicrous. The 1.56 aspect ratio, the overblown highlights in the color spectrum, and even the jittery dolly shots are noticeable to anyone who’s ever made a short film before. The images are mostly flat, with little depth, coming off more like high quality security camera footage than something cinematic.

Soderbergh is a phenomenal director, but when you’re at the place he is in his career, this choice seems more like a way to get him excited about directing again, and less of a technical option that actually benefits the story being told.

Still, there’s enough tension and dread present in Unsane and certainly in the brilliant work from Claire Foy to recommend it, and Soderbergh is always an engaging director, even when his films are a little unremarkable.

(See the above video review for a more in-depth discussion)

Grade: B-

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Starring: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah

MPAA Rating: R for disturbing behavior, violence, language, and sex references

Run Time: 98 min

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Isle of Dogs – Movie Review

Official Synopsis:

Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog.

Review Summary:

Isle of Dogs was directed by Wes Anderson and features the voice talents of Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and many others. It takes place in the fantasy city of Megasaki, Japan, where a viral outbreak of “snout fever” has caused the corrupt mayor, Mr. Kobayashi, to banish all dogs to trash island. When a boy named Atari ventures to the island searching for his long lost dog, Spots, a pack of mangy mutts joins him on an adventure to locate his missing dog.

Wes Anderson is no stranger to stop motion, having directed Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was charming and gorgeously rendered. But with Isle of Dogs, virtually everything about the technique has been improved. While 3D animation has reached stunning new heights, hand-drawn and stop motion will always hold a special place in my heart. There’s a rough-around-the-edges feel to almost every shot. It’s obvious that a painstaking amount of hard work has gone into each and every single frame.

Alexander Desplat’s score propels the film along with a steady pace, creating a surprising amount of suspense as well. It was surprinsing how riveting the film was at times, and much of that can be attributed to his wonderful music.

In typical Wes Anderson style, the actors are almost self-aware in their delivery. The line readings feel idiosyncratic of the stars themselves. Almost as if Anderson is knowingly allowing the actor’s public persona to seep through. For instance, every line from Bill Murray or Jeff Goldblum feels almost tailor made for them, for their style. This can sometimes be a distraction, but a minor one. Bryan Cranston’s performance as Chief—the stray dog who prefers eating trash over puppy snaps—is a real highlight.

The amount of visual wonder present in Isle of Dogs can be staggering. Looking beyond the work behind the stop motion technique, Anderson composes beautiful images, as usual. He loves symmetry, and that couldn’t be clearer with the perfectly balanced shots. One recurring image that has stayed in mind is the silhouette of an unknown dog in the distance, one that Chief says has no scent. While all of Anderson’s film’s are visual delights, Isle of Dogs is one of his most gorgeous.

Sometimes the story turns to excessive flashbacks that halt the progression of the film, damaging the pacing. This can cause some sequences to feel a little uneven. There’s also an odd choice to not provide English subtitles for the Japanese language scenes, and instead, these scenes are either narrated in English, or literally interpreted by another character voiced by Francis McDormand. This was a poor idea for a few reasons. For one, it made it difficult to connect with the Japanese characters, especially young Atari. Since we’re always experiencing their point of view through someone else, and sometimes their dialogue is actually drowned out entirely. If this film were rated G or even PG this choice might make more sense, like for instance, if Anderson was assuming that children didn’t want to read subtitles. But it’s rated PG-13, and is aimed at older audiences. So the use of English speaking interpreters feels unnecessary, because it adds nothing artistically to the film. There’s also a subplot with a foreign exchange student played by Greta Gerwig that feels useless, that did little for the story’s movement.

Besides these gripes, Isle of Dogs is a stunning animation achievement. Anderson’s distinctive style elevates an occasionally uneven story, and his brilliant cast of actors lend their considerable talents to some remarkable characters, that in the end, have unexpectedly moving backstories. I’m always happy to see animation aimed at adults. That’s something I’ve pushed for on this channel since the beginning. I hope that Hollywood continues to give us mature-themed stories like this in animation form.

(See the above video review for a more in-depth discussion)

Grade: B+

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and some violent images

Run Time: 101 min

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Ghost Stories – Movie Review

Official Synopsis:

Arch skeptic Professor Phillip Goodman embarks upon a terror-filled quest when he stumbles across a long-lost file containing details of three cases of inexplicable ‘hauntings’.

Review Summary:

Ghost Stories is an original indie horror gem, full of surprises and unique viewpoints on horror. The editing and unsettling use of sound heightens the tension and keeps things grounded. Each performer goes above expectations for the horror genre, adding emotional depth and weight to the film.

The ending was, however, a bit of a disappointment. To avoid spoilers, I’ll simply say that it’s a trope we’ve seen before many times and it’s a bit of a cop out.

With hidden themes and commentary and repressed guilt and sadness, Ghost Stories sets itself above the norm as a horror movie to watch!

(See the above video review for a more in-depth discussion)

Grade: A-

Directed by: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman

Starring: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 98 min

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The Disaster Artist – Movie Review

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Justice League – Movie Review

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Pyewacket – Movie Review

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The Glass Castle – Movie Review

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Kidnap – Movie Review

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Annabelle: Creation – Movie Review

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Dunkirk – Movie Review

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