Loved this. Every character is so full of life, right on down to the speaking roles with only one scene. Also a great Chicago film, which finds some beauty in the city while also pointing out the corrupt heart. One of the best crime dramas in recent memory.
PADDINGTON 2 is the most cheerful, uplifting, good-natured prison movie ever. Just delightful. I want to give this movie a hug.
MIKEY AND NICKY
Holy shit. This movie. I don't believe I'd heard of MIKEY AND NICKY just a couple months ago. Well, anyway, it's great. Falk and Cassavetes are superb. Clenched teeth, frothing mad, strangely funny script. Great film. Kind of floored me. Not sure exactly what I was expecting but it delivered more. Will be picking up the new Criterion disc next year. (Farewell, FilmStruck.)
THE TALE is excellent. Hard to watch at times but excellent. Makes some interesting narrative choices, all of which work. The storyteller wrestles with her past, searching for truth in memory, and casts actors in her place so we can follow along. Fascinating and raw.
OVERLORD is very good. Works as a war film, a 'men on a mission' movie, and a horror movie. Make the special serum green and it could've easily been called WAR OF RE-ANIMATOR. It's in touch with its B-movie concept but takes itself seriously, which is for the best in this case.
One almost wishes they'd kept the horror stuff out of the trailers and marketed it as a war film only. Would've been a fun surprise, like vampires showing up in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. In any case, it's a good war/horror mashup, and one of my favorite such films since OUTPOST.
Wonderful film. Funny, sweet, and horrifically uncomfortable. So depressingly relatable it hurts sometimes.
Some of the best use of music you'll see in a 2018 movie, making one laugh and experience dread in equal measure.
One of the year's best films.
This week over at Scriptophobic, I talk about the fragility of ideas in storytelling, the value of test pitching ideas to friends, and the importance of protecting those ideas during the first draft writing process. Check it out!
Stan Lee has died at age 95.
This man meant so much to me. Not only was he one of the first creatives I was introduced to (by way of comic books and Saturday morning cartoons), but his creations made a kid like myself not feel so small or alone. His work made my imagination run wild -- still does. It's difficult if not impossible to imagine a pop culture world without Stan Lee's influence on it.
I knew this day was coming but didn't want to believe it. RIP, Stan.
It’s Election Eve in America. This is the most important midterm election of my lifetime – probably yours, too! And I am begging you to please get out to vote. Get your significant other to do the same. Bring your grandma along, too, why not? Don't believe the polls. Don't think your vote isn't needed. Show up, wait in line. Vote. We need you.
America is standing on the edge. The government is openly flirting with fascism and authoritarianism. The Republican Party has shown zero interest in reining this in and is happy to look the other way as the president drags us into the mud pits. The country is divided, this is true. Trump wants it that way. Almost everything he says or does pits one group of us against the other. He wants us to fear, to hate, to distrust one another. And sometimes that message is heard loud and clear by the unwell among us, resulting in mayhem and sometimes death.
We have a chance to check the president’s power. We have the opportunity to say, ‘No more. This is not who we are. We SEE what you’re doing and we’re sick of it.’ And the way to do this is to vote. The only way this stops is if we make it stop with the vote. And it won’t end this election, even if every Democratic candidate wins. It’s going to be a long process to rebuild what was broken and educate those who have been lied to for years. But we do it one step at a time. One vote at a time.
I just want us to be good and decent again. I want political crimes to be met with consequences. I want to look towards the future with hope rather than dread. And we can work toward these simple, attainable goals by electing people who believe in our values. Vote for people who will defend women’s rights and the rights of minorities. Vote for people who believe in science and the threat of global warming. Vote for people who believe mass shootings should be met with serious discussions about guns in America rather than just a ‘gee, what can we do?’ shrug. Vote for people who believe in stamping out corruption in government. Vote for people who aren’t racists or fascists. These political candidates will represent us for years. Make sure they’re REALLY representing us and what we believe.
And please don’t stay home because your candidate doesn’t pass your personal purity test. In Illinois, the candidates I favored in the primary didn’t make it to the general election. So what, I voted for the next best thing, which in this case is Democrats all the way down the ballot (I voted early). In a better time, maybe we could decide to vote for a third party candidate to send a message, but that’s not where we’re at right now. Every vote counts. Wasting votes on folks who can’t win or not voting at all = a vote for Trump.
I’m going to wrap this up by saying that I know it’s unpopular among some people to see political views expressed too strongly online, especially by creative types who want you to buy their book/art/movie/music/whatever. But this is more important than that. I want every book sale I can get but I will give up a book here and there for the ability to have my say about the things important to me. Besides which, I think you’ll find a lot of my personal politics in my books, anyway. Hell, my kaiju novel has to do with refugees being met at a supposed safe haven by gates that refuse to open, so… yeah. If my views expressed online are going to make you reconsider reading my books, chances are you weren’t going to like them anyway.
If it sounds alarmist to suggest that you should vote as if your life depends on it, then at least vote as if your freedoms depend on it. That’s the plain simple truth. Voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, basic American rights are all on the ballot this year. Protect them. Vote Democrat.
I watched so many movies this October. I took part in HoopTober, a Letterboxd horror movie scavenger hunt, and reviewed 31 movies. You can find them at the link. In addition to all the horror movies, I also caught some other good stuff. Here's a few faves. (As always, click the art and you'll find my affiliate link to Amazon if you wish to purchase one of the films.)
The 2018 Halloween is the best Halloween sequel since Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). And it might even be better than that film, too. It’s a great horror film anchored by a wonderful dramatic performance by Jamie Lee Curtis and no shortage of scares. I would’ve liked Halloween more without a dumb, short-lived subplot, but I still love the movie for what it is. Brutal, funny, and not lacking in something to say, it’s one of my favorites of the year.
You can read a full, detailed review of the film at CityOnFire.
Holy shit. I cannot remember the last time I saw a movie so full to the brim with dark, depressing, horrific imagery. You hear of movies that are an 'assault on the senses' well this was an assault on the soul. It's also an amazing piece of storytelling and a fantastic film. I doubt I will ever watch it again, though.
I think we need a new movie like Threads and The Day After to remind modern audiences of the horrific cost of nuclear war. Not to exploit our fears but to inform and upset us. The threat of nuclear holocaust has not diminished since these films were made. In many ways, the threat has intensified with bigger bombs and crazier world leaders. People need a reminder now and then of the threat these weapons pose.
Upgrade is the definition of cool. Creative camera work, badass action, and a dark sense of humor. It's the movie that the live-action Ghost in the Shell should've been. Oh how I wish I'd been able to see it in theatres. Instant cult classic.
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Sorry to Bother You is amazing. Like post-Ferguson Vonnegut. Funny and also heartbreaking. Sci-fi America and immediately recognizable 2018 America at the same time. It's an entire world in 2 hours. A must see film. Don't let anybody spoil it for you.
First Man is great -- love the back-and-forth between thundering noise and complete silence. A Simple Favor is one of the most delightful surprises of the year. A Star is Born is a beautifully acted drama that's going to win a ton of statues. The Hate U Give is one of the year's most important films and features what should be a star-making performance from Amandla Stenberg.
At CityOnFire, I reviewed Jeremy Saulnier's chiller Hold the Dark, Gareth Evans' badass horror movie Apostle, and the kickboxing/prison true story A Prayer Before Dawn if you wanna give those reviews a look.
Technology of the super connected, social media world can be intimidating for writers when we're trying to craft our perfect plots. Today at Scriptophobic, I talk about embracing technology in our storytelling instead of being afraid of it.
It was my pleasure to speak with Kendall Reviews around the time of the release of my new book IN THE SHADOW OF EXTINCTION: A KAIJU EPIC. In the interview, I talk about the novel, my writing process, and a few favorite books and movies. Check it out!
I got away for a week this September in order to recharge the mental batteries for the months ahead -- they will be trying months politically, creatively, and mentally. I returned just in time to see a Supreme Court nominee yelling about beer, so it's safe to say I needed that time away, it was helpful. My goodness, this year is so strange.
Also watched some good movies.
Aneesh Chaganty's SEARCHING is excellent. The pursuit of truth is more compelling than the truth revealed but that's a minor complaint in what is otherwise a great mystery and one of my favorites of the year. Don't dismiss it because you sense a gimmick movie. It might indeed be a gimmick movie, but it's also much more. John Cho is fantastic. Good stuff. (I wrote about the film's use of technology for Scriptophobic and that should be going up on the site soon.)
The Day After
THE DAY AFTER is amazing. And oh so depressing. It has this docudrama style that sets it apart from other disaster films. The result is chilling. I seriously got emotional watching it. Hard to believe it was made for tv. A stunner.
Atsuko Hirayanagi's OH, LUCY! is a wonderful dark comedy/drama featuring one of the best performances of the year from Shinobu Terajima. I wrote a full review over at City on Fire.
The Death of Stalin
From the creator of VEEP and IN THE LOOP comes one of the darkest dark comedies you'll ever see. THE DEATH OF STALIN is a hilarious, rapid fire political comedy about the days following the death of Joseph Stalin. The screenplay is brilliant.
My Young Auntie
MY YOUNG AUNTIE is now one of my favorite Shaw Brothers films. An absolute delight. "Lady power, very fierce!" My only real complaint is that Kara Hui disappears in the finale and the men take over, which is a shame because she's definitely the best thing in the film. Otherwise, I loved this.
This week at Scriptophobic, I speak about how writing apocalyptic fiction and screenplays can be a valuable outlet in our chaotic world. Click the image to read more.
One of the popular concepts of kaiju storytelling that isn’t often translated when the genre crosses the Pacific is the idea of a link between monster and man. You see this in Ultraman, the 90’s Gamera trilogy, and an assortment of other tokusatsu entertainment. The closest we get to some approximation of that in Western Kaiju is the link between man and machine as seen in Pacific Rim and (the Americanized) Power Rangers. Raffael Coronelli’s Daikaiju Yuki is one of the only examples I can recall of the man/monster concept in an American kaiju tale. It’s a refreshing new take on the kaiju novel with an old school twist.
Daikaiju Yuki takes place in the distant future after our world succumbed to nuclear war and the advent of the kaiju. The world we know is something of the distant past. Now most the world is split into four warring nations, some simply looking to live in peace and others vying for superiority on a global scale. The new weapons of mass destruction are the kaiju. The nemesis nations have used their links with kaiju (a giant bear and a giant bird, in this case) to destroy armies and cities as they continue their conquest. Our heroine Yuki is sent to a temple to check on the progress of raising her nation’s kaiju, Narajin. As she sneakily inspects the temple, Yuki accidentally performs the task necessary for linking her body/mind/soul with that of the kaiju, thus waking the giant lion god from its deep slumber.
There are stumbles and self-doubt as Yuki tries to talk her way out of the enormous responsibility she has inherited. The kaiju Narajin, seen as a god to many, believes that Yuki is worthy to be sharing the fight to save the world with him. They communicate telepathically, as depicted with lots of italic text, giving Yuki (and the reader) the lowdown on how the kaiju ‘pantheon’ works and their role in the world. Yuki and the kaiju then march across the globe looking to unite others like them in preparation for the coming battle.
Daikaiju Yuki is enormous fun. It’s like an anime take on kaiju storytelling, with a big cast of characters and new details explored with each new chapter/episode. I had pleasant flashbacks to Saturday morning cartoons like Digimon and Sony’s Godzilla: The Series (the movie sucked but the cartoon was good, yo). The heroes that Yuki meets along the way are a diverse bunch, each with big personalities (there is an emphasis on diversity which I took great joy in. Yuki is a lesbian kaiju superhero badass and I love her). There’s big kaiju rumbles on a regular basis and the monsters are each original and easy to take a liking to.
The novel is a little on the short side this appears to be by design. A sequel and a spinoff are already available. I will be reading them both shortly. In a time when kaiju fiction is going through a surprise boom of popularity, many authors (myself included) have used the opportunity to tell dark tales that mainstream kaiju entertainment was reluctant to give us. Coronelli goes the other direction and embraces the fun and fantasy of kaiju spectacle. Ishiro Honda, who directed a number of the best Godzilla movies, frequently used the kaiju threat as a way to bring people together to accomplish common goals. Honda believed in the good of mankind. Daikaiju Yuki is similar in that way. Evil accomplishes much in its time on earth and even the people who mean to do good are not without their faults, but ultimately if we find a way to come together then perhaps peace will win out. I dig it.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
Blog notice: mostly this blog is for sharing my thoughts and talking about my books. From time to time I will also comment on books, films, music, sports, and/or videogames. During these times I may use images of the creative works under discussion. I'm posting the images under the "fair use" allowance, for purposes such as criticism, comments, reporting, teaching, and research. If you have any issue with images used on this blog, please contact me and the images will be removed.
I am not paid for my reviews and I do not take book review requests at this time.