Monday, September 26, 2016

Paranormal Activty: The Marked Ones Review

On the one hand, good for the Paranormal Activity franchise to try something new. A different direction from the Katie and Kristi horror fest that grew tired after four films (it actually grew tired after three, which made the fourth quite unfortunate), and with the change also comes some welcome diversity to the casting with an almost entirely Latino ensemble featured here.

On the other hand, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is a painfully boring and totally forgettable film. It's like a weird, uninteresting mash up of a the usual tropes of the horror sub-genre and Chronicle, the shockingly terrific film by Josh Trank that made me believe that found footage could be utilized in an interesting way again. The Marked Ones leaves me feeling the exact opposite of that.

There are a few decent jump scares that made me, well, jump, but those are few and far between the constant attempts at achieving this that are telegraphed from a mile away. Sometimes seeing something coming can be terrifying, without a doubt, but only when the story, performances and stylistic choices of the film have earned that level of dread from the audience.

With previous Paranormal Activity films, they did enough to make me take a peak behind me late at night, ensure that nothing evil lurked nearby. After The Marked Ones ended, I laid down and quickly fell asleep without even giving it a thought.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Audrie & Daisy Review

One of the most fascinating things about becoming an adult, getting married and having a daughter has been the realization of just how naive I was as an adolescent. I had no idea what rape culture was because I never saw it, never considered it, never felt the pain associated with it. While in high school I attended an enormous amount of parties and the alcohol was flowing, but the line between right and wrong was never blurry for me. If I am 18 and she's younger, it's wrong. If I am sober and she's drunk, it's shameful to even consider. If I am interested and she says no, it's reprehensible. It's disgusting. It's rape.

It wasn't until a year ago when a local, extremely popular and talented athlete was accused of rape that I started to truly open my eyes to it. Rape culture. It's not that I know for a fact that this athlete was guilty, I have no idea. It was the automatic assumption of his innocence, the immediate desire of the overwhelming majority to assume the worst about the potential victim and continue to cheer their favorite player that I found nauseating. Wrong. Shameful. Reprehensible. Disgusting.

Why would she be at his house if she didn't want it?

What was she expecting to happen, being out so late?

She shouldn't put herself in that situation, drinking so much.

If she didn't want it, she shouldn't wear a skirt so short. She shouldn't show so much cleavage.

What a slut.

The new Netflix Original Documentary Audrie & Daisy is infuriating to watch. The girls that are assaulted and no one gives a damn, either ignored or shamed rather than supported by a world that refuses to listen to their cries. These two heartbreaking stories about young women who did nothing wrong, did nothing to deserve what happened to them and yet they become hashtags originated in mockery, pictures that spread like wildfire and/or videos that become viral among their peers. Victims who are demonized for what the demons did to them. It's not okay. It's the type of film that makes it really difficult for me to sleep at night, which explains why I am awake at this hour writing this instead of enjoying a peaceful slumber. The rage that is being emitted from my moving fingers, you may not appreciate or understand, but what happens to so many innocent people in this world while many others laugh, criticize, abuse and bully until the victims feel that the only way out of their pain is death. Suicide instead of living the long, meaningful, fulfilling life that they deserve. It's not okay.

As a documentary, it's a really solid work but no question it could have been better. I would have loved a deeper examination into rape culture, into what causes a man to be as pathetic and deplorable as the Sheriff that is featured during the Daisy portion of the film rather than quick interview portions that give him a platform to share his despicable views regarding whether or not the boys did anything wrong, regarding who really was to blame for what happened that night, but this portion of the narrative was too quickly put out there without any digging as to what creates such a harmful mindset. The intentions of Audrie & Daisy are brave and incredibly admirable and I truly believe a film like this should be required viewing for young people who may not fully comprehend just how serious this topic is, because I was once naive too, but at least I knew without a shadow of a doubt the difference between right and wrong. It's horrifying how many people apparently don't.

It's terrifying, looking in at my daughter right now and seeing the innocence, the optimism, the beauty of an 8 year old who still sees the world as such a great and exciting place because I refuse to believe how easily that can be taken away from her. I can't comprehend that she or any girl could someday be blamed for being assaulted. No victim should ever become a joke, a series of pictures they never wanted taken, a video they never consented to or a hashtag.

It's not fucking okay.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Paranormal Activity 4 Review

Alright, Paranormal Activity franchise. Listen up. I think we need to sit down and have a talk for a second, which is going to be a bit awkward considering I am just now catching up on these films years after they were released, but still, what I am about to say needs to be said.

You surprised the hell out of me by releasing three films I actually mildly enjoyed. THREE! After I saw the first one when it was released, I liked it and all, but I figured that was pretty much it for me. No chance a sequel would work, and any subsequent films beyond that point? Forget it. All going to be lazy garbage cash grabs with little to no redeeming qualities, yet now that I am actually sitting down and taking a lot at these films, it turns out they are a bit lazy but just enough clever and smart set pieces and scares to make them worthwhile cash grabs. Doesn't sound like much, but trust me, it's a win.

I feel like I need to really emphasize this to make sure I get my point across: I would watch the first three films again. Hell, I would buy them on Blu-ray provided they were only a few bucks each so I could enjoy them again when the mood strikes, or when my kid is old enough that scaring the ever living shit out of her just before bedtime becomes fun rather than frowned upon.

You had to go and make a fourth one though, didn't ya? You just had to. What makes it worse is that you took the already strained as far as it could go connective tissue that the first three featured and included it AGAIN. It was dead, there was nothing left to tell regarding the stories of sisters Katie and Kristi and the adorable little doomed to be a fucking creepy scamp Hunter. Personally, I still wish each film could have been its own standalone entity featuring different paranormal situations, locations and characters because most of what keeps me up at night is the concept that what I am seeing could happen to me too, and that just isn't there when you attach it to specific people for specific reasons that could never apply to me. Still, despite this qualm, it worked for three films. THREE! (I'm still shocked myself). Paranormal Activity 4 though, good gravy is this thing is a turd.

Lackluster jump scares, set pieces lacking originality or creativity, uninteresting characters, and a reliance on the totally overplayed "creepy kid" factor that horror films keep trotting out over and over. I could give minor credit for the usage of the Xbox Kinect, which is pretty cool, but for me it doesn't have a lot of luster since I have been watching the Chads on Ghost Adventures use that technology for years, and trust me when I say that those guys yelling "SOMETHING JUST TOUCHED MY HAND BRO! SOMETHING JUST TOUCHED MY HAND! DO YOU FEEL THAT! DO YOU FEEL HOW COLD IT IS BRO! IT'S SO COLD RIGHT HERE BRO!" is far more entertaining than anything that occurs in Paranormal Activity 4. Nothing here even dreams of coming close to the ingenious simplicity of the camera attached to an oscillating fan in the third movie.

The next movie I watch is Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, which I am anticipating might be poor in quality due to word of mouth but truthfully I have no idea what it is about, what characters are in it and so on. I have no idea if it in any way connects to these four films, but I hope not. Enough with the damn sisters and the kid. You had me for three (THREE!) films, I bought in enough to enjoy the ride. Everything crashed to the ground during the boring, uninspired Paranormal Activity 4.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Paranormal Activity 3 Review

I gotta say, as a person who saw only the original Paranormal Activity and mildly liked it, only to skip the rest of the films going forward initially, watching these films now has been a surprising treat. Despite being flawed, the franchise has been a lot of fun, and that includes the third installment.

The decision to make a prequel to the first two films to explain the origin of the demonic entity that haunted sisters Katie and Kristi is an interesting one, as the backstory (that I didn't care for) involving their childhood is vaguely discussed but never fleshed out in detail. New to the franchise co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, best known for their hit documentary Catfish that has since shined a light on a cultural phenomenon, explore where the evil began with unfortunately mixed results.

The first misstep involves the pacing early on in the film, because while this is the third of a series, it doesn't simply feature already established characters that an audience has a deep understanding of going into the experience. Katie and Kristi, sure, familiar despite going back in time and seeing them as children here, but their parents are fresh faces and it is vital that we feel something for them before the scares start to take over. Joost and Schulman along with writer Christopher Landon waste little time before trying to fill the viewers with dread, but it's missing a factor that helped make the first two films work: the idea that you need to earn the scares by allowing the characters affected to mean something first.

Paranormal Activity 3 also suffers from a bit of predictability that takes some intensity away from what happens. The scariest moments in films like these are those we don't see coming, and there is a lot I saw coming here, but not all. There are a few pretty entertaining moments that sent shivers down my spine, and the usage of an oscillating fan with a camera attached to it proves to be an absolutely ingenious piece of horror filmmaking, easily my favorite thing to happen during the franchise through three films.

I'm not sure why, but I anticipated a disaster once I reached the third Paranormal Activity film. Perhaps there was word of mouth I recall that only added fuel to my skip all those movies fire, but truthfully even this pretty mediocre picture still gave me a few moments to smile about and one or two scenes I may never forget.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Paranormal Activity 2 Review

I have gotten to the point with found footage where I want the filmmakers to sell me their realism by delivering quality performances and a halfway decent explanation of why a character is filming every damn moment of their lives, but please, don't literally try to tell me it's real. The opening frame of Paranormal Activity 2 is a message from Paramount Pictures thanking the families of the deceased, and this immediately leaves a bad taste in my mouth because trying too hard makes me cringe. Everyone sitting in the cinema opening night knows this is fake, right? Attempting to duplicate the magic that came with The Blair Witch Project, the film that actually convinced members of the audience that it was made with authentic footage, was impossible to achieve by the time the Paranormal Activity franchise invaded the sub-genre.

That being said, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film after a rocky start. The performances are solid, selling the notion that we are watching people rather than actors, and the one advantage the first two Paranormal Activity films have over other found footage entries is the addition of the security cameras into the home, allowing much of what we see to be piped through that system rather than the inclusion of an absurd character that never puts a camera down, even when someone is looking at them literally screaming "PUT THE CAMERA DOWN!". Running at barely over 90 minutes in length, the pacing is excellent, constantly keeping me on my toes yet being patient enough to give me a chance to fully examine frames rather than edit manically for the sake of perceived action.

I wasn't fully aware of the plot of Paranormal Activity 2 so I was caught off guard by the fact that it was so closely tied to the first movie, and the connective tissue between the two is handled well. Unfortunately with this connectivity comes the same problem I had with the original, and that is the desire to give backstory when I believe providing none would have been more effective. I don't need to know how or why these people got there, or what from their past could have attracted a demonic possession today. The Paranormal Activity series would benefit from being bare bones simple, just introduce a family to a home, make shit go crazy and let us witness how it unfolds. As soon as the daughter of the family got on her computer and did research in regards to their terrifying circumstances, the disappointment set in and what was once a riveting slice of paranormal fun lost a bit of its luster.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Jaws 2 Review

What lurks underneath the water is still terrifying and the screams continue to ring through the air across Amity Island, but something is missing from Jaws 2, and it's more than just the name Steven Spielberg. The events that occur during this second great white death extravaganza carry with them a feeling of redundancy which makes it all the more noticeable how perfect it was to have Roy Scheider's Brody alongside Robert Shaw's Quint and Richard Dreyfuss's Hooper. The absence of compelling supporting players makes the building of tension and the execution of the horror essential to make this sequel worthy of a watch, and Jaws 2 does at least slightly succeed in this regard. The scenes in the water are gripping and unnerving, yet they achieve nothing more than in the moment thrills rather than lasting cinematic memories.

I read somewhere that Scheider was initially reluctant to sign on to doing this sequel, but you can't really sense a different approach from him personally throughout the film, a performance pretty much in lock step with what he brought to Jaws and his familiar face adds appeal to the picture. Unfortunately there just isn't much here for him to work with, and if anything this film serves as a reminder that the original didn't succeed solely because of an iconic musical score and a giant fucking shark. It's the quiet sequences between characters, the moments that feel safe enough to allow an audience to let its guard down even for just a few minutes, that are crucial to making us clench up when we get another sight of the fin lurking in the distance. Director Jeannot Szwarc and screenwriter Carl Gottlieb clearly understand this enough to attempt to embrace the notion, but the spaces between the scenes in which the blue water turns red feel like nothing more than recycled boring filler.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Sea of Trees Review

The first few minutes of The Sea of Trees tell us a lot about the lead character without really saying anything at all. Arthur Brennan (Matthew McConaughey) parks his car at the airport, but leaves his keys on the passenger seat and walks away. He buys a one way ticket rather than round trip. He has no luggage. While we aren't literally told or shown his reason for travel, it doesn't take a very observant viewer to put the pieces together when these events combined with his demeanor spell out the word suicide. Regardless, it's an intriguing start to a picture with a load of talent involved.

Starring the aforementioned McConaughey along with Ken Watanabe and Naomi Watts and directed by Gus Van Sant, had I not heard a single bit of buzz regarding The Sea of Trees prior to watching I would have entered with lofty expectations but essentially every word said about this movie after its premiere at Cannes has been negative. Therefore, still hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, I gave it a chance.

Arthur's destination is a forest near Mt. Fuji known to be a place where people go to end their lives, and his plan is put into motion until he sees another man named Takumi (Watanabe) wandering past, clearly in need of assistance. This triggers Arthur's instincts, to help the man first before carrying out his own fate, but once they engage each other in conversation his life is prolonged, at least temporarily. Spliced into this journey are flashback sequences that are meant to reveal what lead to this point, what could push a man to the brink and convince him he no longer has a reason to live. Almost everything about this film is a little flimsy and misguided, but in these moments it truly dies.

Unfortunately the only way The Sea of Trees could have been salvaged would have been to remove Naomi Watts entirely, which sounds awful but the poor decision to show rather than just tell in regards to their relationship turned an intriguing premise into a melodramatic nightmare. It isn't her fault that every scene involving her character is insufferably written and the path she takes is like something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel only worse. At least Sparks knows his target audience and caters to it successfully, because what writer Chris Sparling has created here is a corny and laughable failure. The Sea of Trees would have been much more powerful had it stayed grounded to the dialogue between the two men in that remote setting, painting a portrait of pain through storytelling and emotion but instead the flashbacks destroy any momentum the movie gains while in the gorgeous and mysterious woods.

By the time the "heartbreaking" twist happens I already was down on The Sea of Trees, but in that moment it became a disaster. An honest attempt at being shocking and unexpected, yet I could see it a mile way, and not only did I see it, I was begging Sparling and Van Sant to prove me wrong. When it happens I started literally laughing at something intended on being devastating. It is a cheap and poorly executed twist of fate, and everything after that point to the very last frame makes a bad film one of the worst of the year.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Fits Review

"We were once the dream, must we choose to be slaves to gravity."

It just so happens that the concept of cinema being "dead" is being tossed around right when I watched The Fits

Cinema is alive and well. Perhaps some people just aren't looking hard enough.

It's a coming-of-age story, but that's putting it unfairly simple. Light on dialogue, heavy on powerful imagery, this story told by writer/director Anna Rose Holmer checks in at a lean 70ish minutes in length and it flows so perfectly you couldn't add or cut a single thing. Toni (Royalty Hightower) is an eleven year old girl spending most of her time training to be a boxer with her older brother at an inner city community center in Cincinnati. The opening sequence of the film is nothing more than Toni doing sit-ups while looking into the camera, yet it develops the character with shocking simplicity because we can see the strength already. Using the same building and practicing in a room nearby is an all-girl dance team, and Toni can't help but watch them perform with fascination and envy. She leaves her comfort zone by deciding to join the squad, but she struggles to fit in and find her rhythm. 

Prior to sitting down to watch the film, I had not given the title all that much thought, but when I started to understand what it might be referring to I was surprised by the direction of the narrative. Instead of being solely about a girl practicing her moves, hoping to be a part of this team, soon after Toni joins the group a few of the other girls start to experience mysterious and scary episodes including seizures. As a person who dealt with epilepsy during my adolescence, I found the suddenness of this development to be jarring, but not in a bad way. It was a jolt of energy and intrigue into a picture that felt like it might be headed down a conventional and familiar path. The performances across the board were excellent and the portrayal of these "fits" felt so real, and yet what they represent is probably not as literal as it seems. They are blamed on the public drinking water in the building, and given what we now know regarding the decision making in Flint, Michigan and their lead-filled water and the systemic racism that plagues that level of tragic misconduct, it's interesting to see it used in the plot as a health hazard given that this film takes place in an underdeveloped African American community.

Given the way these episodes are filmed and the excellent yet ominous musical score that plays throughout the film, it almost feels like The Fits is destined to hit a truly startling tonal shift and become a horror film near the end, but it doesn't happen. Whatever it is that is causing these girls to seize and vomit, they survive and come out the other side seemingly sans concern, and it's obvious that we as an audience are waiting for Toni to be next much like I'm sure the character is as well. When it does happen, and it does, it results in one of the best sequences of any film in 2016, a finale that is jaw dropping and perfect.

With a brilliant breakthrough performance from Royalty Hightower, The Fits is a film that has so much going on while seeming short and simple. It's made with raw confidence that makes every single shot feel real, portraying the repetitive nature of anything that requires hard work and practice in order to achieve success with an authentic honesty. Whether through punches, dance moves or running up and down steps, Toni is a girl facing circumstances that so many face, that of an underprivileged child whom the world is trying to leave behind, but it's clear from that opening shot that she is fighting to be so much more. Every scene after this serves to reinforce this notion. 

"We were once the dream, must we choose to be slaves to gravity."

The Fits is one of the best films of the year.


Friday, September 2, 2016

XOXO Review

Towards the end of the new Netflix original film XOXO, the lead character of the film Ethan (Graham Phillips) is about to take the stage at the huge EDM (electronic dance music) festival that shares the same name as the film. He's extremely nervous, and who can blame him? He is about to perform his music in front of a crowd so massive I couldn't even begin to estimate the size of it. His best friend/manager Tariq (Brett DelBuono) is providing the words of encouragement, you can do it, you were born for this moment, and so on. The usual stuff. Ethan works up the courage and heads out on stage, and the camera zooms in close to his face. A bead of sweat rolls down his face. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. It's time to perform.

Ethan plugs a flash drive into a USB port, his music plays, and he pumps his fist along with it, creating easily one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes I have come across in a long time.

In all seriousness, I admire the heart and sense of fun that writer/director Christopher Louie brings to the film, and it is certainly meant to be enjoyed by a far different target audience than I am a member of. The problem is, what is actually here is nothing more than a predictable vapid wasteland of cliches, terrible dialogue and pretty colors and lights. At the start of the film Krystal (Sarah Hyland) and Ethan don't know each other yet, but she declares that her and a guy she meant online share one of his songs as their song. How romantic, right? Here's the thing though: we are 5 minutes into the movie and I could have verbally declared that in the end, she would fall in love with Ethan himself. All that was needed in order to establish this is he's going to perform, she's going to listen, and these are clearly the two most important characters to the story.

Toss in the Tariq character who works for his dad, a mean and unforgiving man who doesn't understand the dreams of his son and demands he work in the family business. Heard that before? Of course you have, because it has been played to death. You can hear the "Do you really want to spend your whole life doing something you don't love?" conversation coming from a mile away, the moment where Tariq feels inspired to leave the past behind and focus on his own future. I'm all for utilizing familiar tropes when the time is right, but take a risk somewhere in the narrative. Do something to stand out from the crowd of dime a dozen romantic comedy films aimed towards teens.

XOXO features some imagery that is pleasing to look at, which is to be expected when half the film takes place at an event illuminated by glowing neon lights, but there is nothing here otherwise. I was reminded of both Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Spring Breakers, only with essentially none of the comedic chops of the former and not a blip of the satirical thematic nature of the latter. If anything this has motivated me to go back and give Spring Breakers another chance, as I admired it the first time around but wasn't as blown away as so many others were. Maybe some good will come from XOXO after all then, because on its own it's nothing more than a waste of 90 minutes.


10 Most Anticipated Films - September and October 2016

Summer is coming to a close and thus we are entering a certain time of the year, that of cooler temperatures, playoff baseball and the opening kickoff of a new NFL season.

Oh, and Oscar season of course.

Starting every year in September until the calendar flips a rush of films all competing for award recognition get released. Some are just as great as well all hope. Some are even better. Others fall victim to unrealistic expectations and never have a shot at Oscar glory. Some are just bad.

There are 10 films specifically coming out over the next two months that I have my eye on, kind of like that incredibly vivid picture above that appears in one of the films listed. Listed in chronological order rather than ranked by level of anticipation, here are those movies:

The Light Between Oceans - September 2nd

I go into this one with a strange and conflicted vibe because not every factor in advance is clicking. What I am excited about: it's directed by Derek Cianfrance, the man who was behind the camera for two incredible films previously, Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines. It's starring two amazing actors, Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, and they actually fell in love in reality while filming so I would hope their chemistry on screen will pop. The photography during the trailer is gorgeous. What concerns me: my wife read the novel of the same name that the film is based on, released in 2012 from author M.L. Stedman, and she seriously disliked it. I trust her judgment when it comes to a good story.

I am holding out hope that the talent involved in translating the book to the screen will make it soar. 

Sully - September 9th

Another film listed, and another I have a bit of doubt clouding my own expectations. When you see Tom Hanks pop up in a biographical award season release, it's hard to not assume a level of quality. Director Clint Eastwood is extremely hit or miss, which depending on how you look at that, it either means be worried this is a miss OR perhaps this will be one of his hits. The man directed my favorite western of all time, so I will always have some hope when a new film of his is due out, and Sully looks like a fascinatingly complex character study about a man who saved so many lives and yet has his choices questioned, both by the public as well as internally by himself. 

Blair Witch - September 16th

Everyone knows the original, the massive mega hit The Blair Witch Project, filmed on a next to nothing budget only to bring in roughly $250 million worldwide. I love that damn film, and it's completely forgettable and poorly conceived sequel meant that the original would stand alone...or perhaps not. In case you missed the awesome story behind this new film, which is a sequel, not a reboot, director Adam Wingard (the man behind the extremely fun You're Next and The Guest) had been promoting his upcoming film titled The Woods only to surprise an audience at Comic Con with the fact that it had been a secret Blair Witch sequel all along. The best part? Word is it's just as great as I would hope. I can't wait to go see this one in just a couple of weeks.

Snowden - September 16th

It's extremely fair to say that Oliver Stone is pretty hit or miss over the course of his career, but when he hits, my goodness it's something special. His new film Snowden, based on the story of Edward Snowden, the NSA employee that leaked thousands of classified government documents and fled the country to avoid facing criminal charges, could be a hit. It could also be a total miss too, but isn't that half the fun of it? Seeing a film and deciding for yourself whether it works. With an impressive cast lead by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role, I am ready to give this one a chance and hope for the best. 

American Honey - September 30th

I know very little about American Honey beyond it being directed by Andrea Arnold and the fact that it received some extremely positive buzz after it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. I would like to keep it that way. Haven't watched a trailer, only know a small portion of the cast and have no idea what the story entails. Just sit me down and let me figure it all out as I go along. Some might have trouble understanding how I can be so eager to see a film I know so little about, and it's simple: find critics you trust and read their general, vague thoughts after seeing the film. I like what little I have seen from them on American Honey.

The Girl on the Train - October 7th

I read and loved the novel this film is based on, and ever since I have been eagerly awaiting this adaptation. I hope they get it right. Stylistically the book was easily comparable to Gone Girl, but I refuse to enter into this one with such lofty expectations. Directed by Tate Taylor, whose most famous work prior to this was the Oscar nominated The Help from 2011, I am still skeptical of him being chosen for material with this sort of tone, but I am obviously still hoping for the best. If they do it right, this is going to be one fun film to watch unfold. Starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Allison Janney, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans and Justin Theroux, The Girl on the Train is just one piece of a very interesting weekend.

The Birth of a Nation - October 7th

When The Birth of a Nation premiered at Sundance early this year, it obviously dominated the festival and was considered a shoe-in for Oscar glory a year later. Given an awards push release date, writer/director Nate Parker has created something that is apparently powerful and incredibly timely considering the controversy of our last Academy Awards and their complete disregard for potential minority nominees. The Birth of a Nation was exactly the film we needed...until it wasn't. Recently it has come to light that Parker not only was accused of rape when he was in college, it is widely believed he was guilty of the crime and got off only on a technicality. To make matters worse, the victim would later go on to end her life. Absolutely tragic first, and terrible optics for the upcoming film second.

Personally, I have always been one to say that I feel I should judge the art, not the person who creates it, and it feels hypocritical of me to write off this film when I have embraced plenty of others made by terrible men in the past. I will admit paying for a ticket feels wrong though, because giving the film a chance is one thing but supporting the man financially is something else. We'll see how I go about handling that, but regardless I look forward to seeing The Birth of a Nation finally, all these months after those who got a chance to see it couldn't stop heaping praise towards the picture. 

Voyage of Time - October 7th

It's a documentary about the birth and eventual death of our universe by Terrence Malick, the man who created my favorite film of all time The Tree of Life. Oh, and it was specifically designed to play on IMAX screens. Enough said.

The 13th - October 7th

Noticing a trend with October 7th? Here's the thing too: the odds of me actually going to a theater that weekend and seeing anything are slim to none. The Cubs will be playing their first three playoff games over the weekend and my daughter's birthday will be celebrated as well, two things that are more important to me than cinema. So of course the biggest film weekend of the year takes place over a few days with very little time to watch anything, but one that I will absolutely be seeing is the new documentary by director Ava DuVernay (Selma) called The 13th. It chronicles the history of racial inequality in the United States and the reason I am so confident that I will see it? It was picked up by Netflix and will be streaming that day. 

The Handmaiden - October 21st

A simple rule I follow: if Park Chan-wook directs it, I will watch it. Easy, right? Why do I have that rule? Because I still remember the first time I watched his masterpiece Oldboy and felt like I was glued to my seat in the end. Even his first English language feature Stoker, while flawed on a narrative level, is absolutely sublime in terms of technical achievements. Word on the street is his new effort titled The Handmaiden is another stunner, so yeah, I'm in.

Special shout-out to A Monster Calls, which was to be included in this list but just the other day it was announced that it's release date has been changed to December 23rd. Had I ranked this list, it would have been number one, hence the desire to write quickly about it here. I recently read the novel that the film is based on, and it is the first time I have ever cried while reading. Like, openly had multiple tears falling from my eyes and had to leave the room to collect myself. A beautiful and heartbreaking story and I expect it to translate well onto the screen, hopefully resulting in a powerful cinematic experience. Trust me, it will be on my November - December list, which is sure to be crowded with a whole lot of greatness.