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Film Review: Empire of Light (2022)

From start to finish, Empire of Light is an exquisite film. Set in the early 1980's in a beautiful, vintage cinema in a quaint English seaside town, the film explores the complexities of the lives of those who work at the movie theater. While it's certainly an ensemble film, Olivia Colman's brilliant performance coupled with Micheal Ward's nuanced portrayal of her unexpected leading man allows both to shine in extraordinary ways rarely seen in contemporary films. Their performances are masterful individually, yet equally powerful as a poetic duet of two seemingly different people impacted by the collision of lives. Featuring a sensational supporting cast that includes standout performances by Toby Jones, Hannah Onslow, and Tom Brooke, Mendes creates a bittersweet extended family out of his characters all connected by place, something anyone who has worked in a similar public-serving job can relate to.  At it's core, Empire of Light is a fascinating and sometime bru
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Film Review: The Menu (2022)

I hope you bring your appetite to this deliciously devilish film. The Menu , a dark horror comedy film directed by Mark Mylod, delivers every course it serves. Stylistic and aesthetically exquisite, this movie will be celebrated not only for its mesmerizing visuals but for it's clever script, expert direction, and nuanced performances from a cast of ultra talented actors, including a wonderful Judith Light (will someone please put this wonderful woman in more films?). The creepy premise feels simple: a group of self-obsessed strangers find themselves sharing a terrifying experience. They're the guest at a posh, elite private restaurant located on a secluded island in the middle of nowhere (or, so it seems). The first half of the film is a slow move, keeping the audience (and the characters) in one location: the dining room and adjacent kitchen of the restaurant. Mylod takes a chance by keeping us here for so long, but it's a risk that works because, as an audience member, I

Film Review: Empire Records (1995)

It's hard to believe that this cult classic from 1995 is nearly three decades old. While elements of the film have stood the test of time (including one of the best film soundtracks to ever be made), there are bittersweet reminders here that the world that Empire Records depicts no longer exists. For those who were around in the 1990's, this often poignant movie will hit your nostalgic sweet spot, making you yearn for yesteryears. Yet, sentimentality aside, Empire Records presents a romanticized view of retail life as we once knew it. The fact the film takes place in a record store (which have sadly become extinct - for the most part) and only a few other locations are shown, the movie possesses a theatre-like charm. At times, you can't help but wonder if Empire Records should really be adapted for the stage (hey, there's a musical in there somewhere). The cast is attractive and clever, tossing witticisms left and right in a style reminiscent of Dorothy Parker. Every

Film Review: His Girl Friday (1940)

This fantastic comedy from 1940 is filled with brilliant, clever dialogue and outstanding performances. Based on the stage play The Front Page (written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur), His Girl Frida y was actually the second cinematic adaption of this story (the first being the 1931 film also titled The Front Page ). Director Howard Hawks made an excellent choice in changing the lead role of Hildy to a female character instead of male, as originally written. This decision not only allowed Rosalind Russell the opportunity to give a career-best performance, but set the foundation for this version to take a romantic turn by allowing our two leads (Russell and Cary Grant) to fall back in love (they were once married). It also gives us one of the earliest film depictions of a woman with a successful career. Russel's character is a force to be reckoned with, as she goes toe-to-toe with every male colleague in her no-holds-barred approach in a competitive newsroom. Filled with not-s

Film Review: Halloween Ends (2022)

Halloween Ends is not a perfect film but it offers audience members a wild cinematic ride. The Halloween film franchise is loved by a very devoted fanbase (myself included; the original Halloween is my all-time favorite horror film). With that said, no matter what artistic choices director David Gordon Green made for this supposed final entry in the Michael Myers vs. Laurie Strode cannon, there was bound to be unhappy skeptics and intense scrutiny. Here, Green makes bold choices. Instead of following the prescribed playbook for all things slasher film, Green takes us deep into what feels like a dark character study, exploring the psychology of the hunted and the hunter. It's one major downfall is this: the plot feels like a hodgepodge of never fully realized story ideas and this weakness almost derails the film (it's predecessor Halloween Kills was dreadful and ranks as the worst Halloween film made - my opinion). Yet. Green knows these characters, their lore and legacy. He

Film Review: House on Haunted Hill (1959)

This fun flick from 1959 feels like a thrill ride, navigating viewers through a haunted house seemingly filled with creepy ghosts and moments of sheer terror. The concept of this spooky tale is fairly simple: a wealthy man (played deliciously by Vincent Price who knows a thing or two about horror films) gathers a group of strangers together and challenges them to spend the night in his home, which is reportedly haunted. Whoever survives the night will walk away with cash. The night takes a turn when the guests are informed they're actually trapped inside the house. There's no way out until dawn. What follows is a string of carnival-like pranks and frights, all intended to scare the guests away. The action of the night is paralleled with a subplot focusing on the marital discord between Price's character and Carol Ohmart's character, his wife. Directed by master of schlock William Castle (who was legendary for turning B-movies into surprise cinematic hits), the film is a

Film Review: Bros (2022)

Billy Eichner's has broken new filmmaking ground with this charming, hilarious romantic comedy. Although fairly formulaic (the film checks many required romcom boxes), the movie sets itself apart by telling the story of two men falling in love, played by Eichner (who also co-wrote the script) and Luke Macfarlane ( Brothers and Sisters and many Hallmark Channel movies). It's to director Nicholas Stoller's credit that Bros moves forward at a brisk, enjoyable pace. Even during the lengthier scenes in which our two leads talk through their feelings (including a very powerful, passionate monologue delivered by Eichner), the film never feels stalled or sluggish. It's only flaw is this: Bros tries to please everyone and in doing so feels a bit overwhelming with excess that distracts us from the love story. There's a lot of (sometimes heavy handed) political correctness happening that feels as if the creative team were trying to fill the movie with as much as possible - i