Reviews included so far...
1. Crimson Peak
6. Good Omens
7. Bird Box
9. The Creator
Review by Syd Couick
Crimson Peak is a 2015 gothic horror and romance film directed by Guillermo del Toro, who is famous for his visuals. The film follows the main protagonist Edith, played by Mia Wasikowska, who after her father’s unusual death, marries the mysterious Sir Thomas Sharpe and moves with him into a dilapidated mansion with his sister, Lady Lucille.
While staying, strange things occur, Edith can see ghosts, an ability she’s had since the time her mother’s ghost came to warn her about going to Crimson Peak when she was a child. She encounters many ghosts, ghosts of women, even one with an infant, who are angry with the occupants of the mansion. Edith searches everywhere for its secrets, careful to avoid Lady Lucille who isn’t fond of her and seems jealous of her new sister-in-law having the attention of her brother. What Edith finds is truly disturbing. As she makes an escape, she realizes why the land the mansion is on is called Crimson Peak.
This movie is one of my favorites. Mia Wasikowska is one of my favorite actresses in the Alice in Wonderland film directed by Tim Burton. Trigger warning for the surprise incest at the end, but besides that the shock throughout the plot leaves watchers' jaws dropped and eyes wide open. Something new is discovered around every corner which personally left me saying “What fresh Hell?!?” more than I’d like to admit. The movie isn’t too graphic, and it keeps a consistent speed and good amount of suspense throughout so viewers don’t become bored. I absolutely recommend this film for a movie night with friends or with your dog or with your mom to scare her.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Review by Dr. Edward Royston
I’ve previously shared my thoughts on video game adaptations, and adaptations of tabletop games may have an even worse track record. Do you even remember Battleship (2012)? Let’s all take a moment of silence in honor of the sacrifices Rihanna has made. Really, aside from the wonderful Clue (1985) with all its different endings and warnings about communism and red herrings, movie adaptations of tabletop games have ranged from forgettable to downright terrible. Dungeons & Dragons (2000) falls into the latter category. It’s offensively bad, not just to fans of the world’s first roleplaying game, but also to just, like, normal ass people who want to enjoy a fun movie. It’s best to not even talk about its loathsome sequels.
Thankfully, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) joins Clue in the pantheon of actually good tabletop game movie adaptations. Indeed, like Clue, one might even call it a great movie.
Why is D&D:HAT actually good, and maybe great? It’s because the movie isn’t just an adaption of a tabletop game, it’s also an adaptation of the very successful MCU formula that began with Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): take a crew of misfits and screw-ups, send them on an epic quest to save civilization from the bald and tattooed forces of evil, and liberally pepper the whole thing with tongue-in-cheek and self-deprecating jokes. D&D: HAT one ups that formula by replacing Hollywood’s worst Chris (Pratt) with Hollywood’s best Chris (Pine) and doing the whole found family theme without drenching it in schmaltz and Cat Stevens music. And while its main villain is about as interesting as your average MCU baddie, she stays mostly in the background and gives Hugh Grant ample room to ham it up as a smarmy con-artist turned Lord of Neverwinter.
As an adaption of the MCU formula to a different intellectual property, D&D: HAT will delight those normal ass people who just want a fun movie. You don’t need to know the paladin’s level progression to laugh at Regé-Jean Page asserting that he does not “traffic in colloquialisms.” You don’t need to have read every entry in Drizzt Do’Urden’s Guide to the Underdark to laugh at the antics of Themberchaud, the morbidly obese red dragon.
And as an adaptation of the D&D tabletop game, it will delight longtime fans who know every entry in their Monster Manual, Players’ Handbook, and Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. Don’t worry about dreaded beholders being reduced to silly guard dogs. The monsters, magic, setting, and their lore in this are on point. Displacer beasts displace, Time Stop stops time, and Neverwinter lies south of Icewind Dale along the Sword Coast. Yes, technically it’s against the rules for a druid to wildshape into an owlbear because the latter is a monstrosity rather than a beast, but such a transformation falls under the “rule of cool”. So does casting a black man to play the setting’s most iconic magic user. As one of those longtime fans myself, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed D&D: HAT. I hope it goes on to spawn sequels worth talking about.
The Yellow Wallpaper
Review by Cortney Queen
Are We Maintaining Our Progressivity?
You read “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman. You experience Jane’s descent into madness—shall I dare say madness?—while she endures postpartum depression. You hear John address her as “girl” and “silly goose.” You read, “But what is one to do?” and suffer in silence with Jane. You can’t do anything. You can only sit and wonder how men of that time genuinely believed in the most senseless, featherbrained ideology: man should make the decisions because man knows best.
Gilman crafts the story in such a way that allows the reader to see the absurdity in the “rest cure.” Not only that, but readers can pick up on the several reasons Jane continues to suffer: John is never home, he ignores Jane’s obvious wants and needs, and he addresses her like she is a “little girl.” There is an obvious skewed power dynamic, and it is clear Gilman argues against it. One hundred and thirty-three years later, though, a story that advocated for women’s autonomy has become a horror film. Gilman’s message is muddled. Once again, women are depicted as “crazy” or “insane.” The opening scene shows Jane throwing her baby out of the carriage…yes, you read that correctly. While not textual accurate, I suppose tossing a crying baby out of the carriage serves to heighten your senses and create a suspenseful mood. Throughout the film, viewers are met with eerie silence and odd scenes of Jane roaming the yard. Modifying Gilman’s story to fit into the thriller genre was a poor choice. Instead of focusing on the social message, viewers are wondering when the next jump scare is coming out or what “odd” and “crazy” action Jane will take next. The movie seems to up play those dysphemisms we have fought to avoid when discussing mental health crises, especially for the feminine population.
As a reader of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I could argue that the moments of silence and focus on Jane’s isolation highlight Gilman’s message. The concern, however, is raised with viewers who are not avid 1800s American Literature readers. Would they be able to pick up on Gilman’s message? Or would they view Jane as another “woman gone crazy?” If you are up for the task of watching a ninety-nine-minute movie with not much substance, I would advise you to take a moment—it is a short story after all and not a novel—to read the story before indulging in the film. Only then will you be able to appreciate the eerie silence, the blank stares, and the haphazard roaming.
Howl’s Moving Castle
Review by Alana Jordan
Howl’s Moving Castle is an absolutely adorable movie that I will always love to watch over and over again. The movie was directed by Hayao Miyazaki and released in 2004, and it’s based on the novel of the same name written by Diana Wynne Jones. The movie has wonderful visuals, beautiful music, loveable characters, and a unique story too.
Sophie is the protagonist of the film, and she begins the story without much confidence in herself. She is suddenly visited and cursed by a jealous witch who visits the hat shop Sophie works in, and she is turned into an old woman for the majority of the movie. Sophie leaves her hat shop to look for any ways to break the spell, and she finds Howl’s moving castle. She decides to stay with Howl, and she meets and befriends Calcifer, who powers the castle, and Howl’s apprentice named Markl. Howl is the other protagonist who is a very talented magician, and he is also the only one who can break Sophie’s curse.
During the story, Howl and Sophie fall more and more in love with each other, and at one point Howl completely changes one of the rooms in the castle to appear like a beautiful garden just to make her happy. The entire movie is known for its incredible visuals in each of its characters, movements, and environments, but this scene in particular is especially memorable to me. The colors used in the scenery, the intricate details, and the fluidity of Sophie, Howl, and the natural movements from the flowers are truly stunning to watch. Every scene has so much care and attention to detail put into it; it is definitely one of the prettiest movies I have ever watched. Another visual detail I noticed was that Sophie periodically turns back into her true self when she feels genuine confidence in herself during certain events in the movie, and when her feelings become stronger for Howl.
Their relationship is very sweet and romantic, and it is really lovely to see them growing as people and making each other happier too as the film progresses! By the end of the movie, Sophie gains a lot of confidence and love for herself, and she is shown to be really happy and fulfilled living her life the way she truly wants to.
This movie is not only charming and delightful to watch in all of its aspects, but it also reminded me how important Sophie’s lesson was that she learned in the film: it is important to let yourself feel confident and loved by yourself especially, and how it is also important to let yourself be open to new changes, experiences and adventures sometimes. It also displays how important it can be to stay determined to achieve the things you want in life, even if it seems easier to just give up and accept what cards you have been dealt. At some points in the movie Sophie felt like she should accept her curse as it is, but she continued to find a way to break it and keep her loved ones safe and happy too no matter what.
Review by Alana Jordan
Spirited Away is a Studio Ghibli film that was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and released in 2001. The animated film is best known for its beautiful visuals and its fascinating characters and sceneries that are heavily based on Japanese folklore. It held the title of being the most successful and highest grossing film in Japanese history for 19 years, and it has been one of my personal favorite movies to watch every so often for a few years now.
The film’s protagonist is Chihiro, a young girl who is moving to a new town with her parents. Her parents come across a park and find delicious looking food to eat at one of the park’s stalls, and they are completely unable to stop eating. Chihiro goes off and wanders around the park for a little bit, but when she comes back to her parents they’ve pigged out so hard that they literally turned into pigs. Night time approaches and all of the spirits that stay within the park become visible to her. Chihiro then meets Haku, who tells her: that she will disappear unless she eats some food from the spirit world, she must work at the busy bathhouse that only exists within the spirit world (at least for the time being), and that she must remember who she used to be in order to return home and turn her parents back into humans (which gets more and more difficult for her the longer she stays in the spirit world).
The colors used in each scene are eye-catching, all of the character designs are wonderful, and every area that Chihiro goes to including the bathhouse are made with an incredible attention to detail in every scene as well. The animation is always fluid and looks smooth and pleasing, and the movie is mesmerizing to watch solely based on the visuals alone. The instrumental music was composed and conducted by Joe Hisaishi, who also composed the music for Howl’s Moving Castle as well, and it is also very beautiful to listen to. Although the music in this movie isn’t as memorable to me as the music in Howl’s Moving Castle is, it is still fantastic and adds another layer of charm to the film.
I believe Spirited Away absolutely deserves all of the praise and recognition that it has received in the past 20+ years, and it still holds up as an excellent movie just the same as when it was originally released. I initially decided to watch it mainly because of the visuals and I was curious about the characters, and it had exceeded my expectations and became quite a bit of a comfort movie for me. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it before and is interested in amazing animated films in general!
Review by Chris Taylor
Hello, all, whomever may be reading this. It is to my great shame that I confess I am not a major fan of Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchet. This is not because I do not like their work, but simply because I’ve never consumed much of it. None of Terry Pratchet’s, to my even greater shame; Discworld is deeply overwhelming to me, and I know little of him beyond that. I am not the person to write this review. So, any and all rabid fans: don’t come for me.
Good Omens, subtitle: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, was a book co-written by Gaiman and Pratchet and published in 1990. It gained a large cult following and left a mark in early fandom and shipping culture, which is how I, someone deeply entrenched in that culture, found it. After many different adaptations, including a radio play, a fan-made musical and a never realized movie adaptation, allegedly featuring Robin Williams and Johnny Depp as Aziraphale and Crowley, Good Omens received a tv adaptation in 2019. It promptly exploded on Tumblr, and the internet at large, entrancing a whole new lot of young queer internet folk.
In July of 2019, crammed onto a hotel room couch with four very good friends, I watched Good Omens episode 1 on a cracked Ipad. It was over for me from there. I would read the book afterwards.
The story goes like this. There’s an angel and a demon, Aziraphale and Crowley, played by Michael Sheen and David Tennant. They’ve known each other since the beginning of time (and maybe even a little before that) and they’re very good friends. They love earth, a lot more than either one cares about heaven or hell, and that becomes a problem when it's time for the apocalypse. The antichrist is born, a boy named Adam. The story from there follows the time shortly before the apocalypse and a variety of shenanigans from various characters, human and otherwise, trying to prevent the apocalypse, to varying degrees of success.
Overall, it’s a memorable story with a ticking clock and a cast of fun faces to spend time with. Characters such as: a witch-trialed witch and the witch-finder who witch-trialed her, and their individual descendants who are prophesied to get together. There is the aforementioned anti-christ, and his dog named Dog. As well as his group of friends simply referred to as “The them.” A witch-finder general of the modern ages, and a medium who doubles as…A, uhm, well, a seamstress. The four horsemen, minus pestilence but plus pollution, and some delightful companions of theirs sorely missing from the show. And lest we forget two characters who the promotional material, the fandom and even the various covers of the book would lead you to believe are a lot more prominent than they really are: The Southern Pansy and The Flash Bastard, Aziraphale and Crowley.
This is definitely where the book shines over the show: the characters. Now, don’t get me wrong, the same characters (for the most part) are all there in both versions. Aziraphale and Crowley of the TV show have a much larger role than in the book, with an extended cold opening focusing entirely on their relationship. They steal the show! They steal the show…A little too well. This is evident in the fandom, and it's a symptom of something larger than just two-gay-white-man-itis. Take one look at the fanart; who do you think the favorites are? The human characters of the show feel…Lacking, in my opinion. They’re still charming, but it feels like you’re just waiting for Aziraphale and Crowley to come back the whole time when someone like Adam is on-screen. This is a real problem, considering they’re not the main character(s), He is. Maybe it's just child actors…Don’t get me wrong, they do a good job, but you know. The book’s cast feels much more rounded.
Now, where I do have to give the show the win is practically for the same thing I just complained about. Those darn angels and demons again, and not just Aziraphale and Crowley! Those two’s extended presence in the show is a welcome treat! However, the extra attention that’s given to heaven and hell in the show is almost even more of one! The set design of heaven and hell are some of my favorite parts of the show! I love that they’re two offices in the same building, one a spick and span, white and bland monstrosity at the top of the highrise (I just know those LED lights make the worst noise) and the other set in a grimey basement, over crowded, and filled with rotting paper, outdated technology and frankly hilarious signs written in comic sans. I love the other angels and demons in the show (forever a Beelzebub stan). I love how much more present Aziraphale and Crowley’s respective worlds are! It adds a lot! I also just have to give props to the show for God being voiced by a woman; Frances Mcdormand knocks it out of the park with what little she is given. It's a nice, if shallow, little rebellion. I could go into how, on the flip side, the human world suffers in the show; however, I won’t. This is getting long.
Overall, they are very similar and yet different beasts. I’d encourage most anyone to consume both! They’re both hilarious and great fun and tell a good story about protecting the environment, and the powers of love and individuals working together, all that . If you watch the show: be warned: the CGI is horrible. If you read the book: prepare yourself for some very 90s typical homophobia. And maybe, just maybe, check out season 2 of the show, which is great, as well, for very different reasons, and also so, so pretty to look at. If we don’t get an ending I swear- no. Scratch that, none of this “Maybe just maybe” bullshit. If you’ve read this far: you owe it to me, personally, to watch s2 so that I, personally, can have a s3. Thanks, and goodbye! Ciao!
Review by Cassie Barnes
Bird Box is a 2018 American post-apocalyptic horror thriller film directed by Susanne Bier and written by Eric Heisserer, based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Josh Malerman. The film follows the main character Malorie Hayes, played by Sandra Bullock, as she tries to protect herself and two children from entities which cause people who look at them to unwillingly die by their own hands.
In the beginning you hear the eerie static voice over of a dispatcher as he describes what seems to be a safe place and the dangers that lie ahead on the journey to get there. You do not know what has happened, but you come to the realization that it was tragic, and victims who wanted to survive risked everything to escape it. Next, we see a pregnant Malorie living as a shut in at her home art studio while her sister begs her to become one with the outside world. She did not know it then, but her life was about to drastically change and take a turn for the worse. Breaking news is announced over their local news station. Images flash one by one of street fires and civilians running down the streets of Europe. News of mass suicides have been reported in Europe and Russia. No one seems to have a logical explanation for why this is happening besides
making the country aware that this “disease” is not pathological or viral. Up till this moment this was Malorie’s normal life, a soon to be single mother choosing to keep her and her baby from the world in hopes of protecting it. Malorie goes on with her day and gets a routine ultrasound
and soon after she gets her first glimpse of what damage this new disease may cause.
The woman, she initially saw speaking on the phone on their way in was now violently smashing her head against the window. Cracking glass and blood splattering against the window. She ran to the car and urged her sister to get them out of there as soon as possible. However, as fate may have it this disease starts to take over their town and everything she holds dear. Police cars are racing down the street in hopes of providing some aid to what is happening, but they are too late.
Cars crash one after another as they try to escape whatever danger has made it to their town. She loses everything she loves in a matter of minutes and is forced to take refuge in the home of the man whose wife risked her life to help her, a pregnant woman in this time of horror. The following scenes you will see Malorie on the pursuit of protecting her two children in this new and frightening world while completely blindfolded, meeting many interesting people along the
way as well as losing many of them to the “creatures” that continue to haunt and target them every step of the way.
As someone who has lived through their own era of depression and continues to deal with high anxiety, I am aware of how difficult it is to not cut off everyone in your life in fear of hurting yourself or them. For years I felt alone and in the dark like I was blind to reality. This film resonated with me in a way that is unimaginable and spoke life to every single thing I felt when I was in that head space. I grew to love this movie once I understood the meaning behind all the behaviors that were clearly thought out throughout the script and the acting that made it possible. I connected to its message on a deeper level than I intended, and it truly made the movie worth watching. It speaks of the societal stigma of how we often turn a blind eye to mental health in this country. I think we could all take advantage of looking at societal issues from another point of view and this does all of that and more.
Review by Abbie Yarboro
The movie Tammy is a comedy movie that stars Melissa Mcarthy. Melissa is one of the best comedian actors of all time. She stars as “Tammy” who is a trash-talking character that has no real purpose in life and is a big mess. In this movie Tammy will keep you on your toes with her comedy, bad-luck, low-working, and foul mouth character she performs in this comedy movie.
The movie starts off with Tammy hitting a deer with her junky car which makes her fashionably late like always to her job called Topper Jacks. She then is fired, which means she
gets to go home early to find her wonderful husband Greg (Nat Faxon) having a home cooked dinner with the next-door neighbor Missi (Toni Collette). She then packs up all her stuff and drives two doors down where her mother Jeb (Allison Jenney) and grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) live and wants to go on a road trip. Of course the alcoholic grandmother Pearl is down, but Tammy is not too fond of her grandmother due to the fact that she tried to sleep with
her ex husband. Tammy had no choice so they both start their adventurous road trip in Pearl's Cadillac and with $6,700 cash.
The Road trip consists of a Jet-Ski accident, Jail time for both Tammy and Pearl, robbery, un-do robbery, a luxurious July 4th party, prison time for Tammy, nursing home for Pearl, and lastly a trip to Niagara Falls. One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when Tammy robs her old job with a finger paper gun, also with a paper bag over her head for Pearl's bond to get out of jail. But of course Tammy doesn’t just want money she wants pies as well. When she is ordering to put all the money and pies in her paper bag she asks Becky and Larry whom she is robbing from if they like pie’s and tells them to take pies for them as well. Tammy then proceeds to lock Becky and Larry in the freezer with their pies and is successful with her robbery. Tammy then heads straight to the jail house to bail out her Grandma Pearl, only to find her already bailed out. Pearl then finds through watching the news that Tammy was the one that robbed her old job and was making her return the money in the morning. Pearl and Tammy both go with their paper bags and return the money. While Tammy and Pearl are overcoming all of their obstacles in this movie, at the end they both get their life back on track and become best friends.
I enjoyed this adventurous movie and laughed way too much and would recommend it to anyone that needs a good laugh in their life.
Review by Dr. Royston
An orbiting station named NOMAD slowly traverses the sky like a Sword of Damocles, its laser imagers scanning the ground below for targets. A massive tank trundles over a village, crushing buildings, and firing guided missiles, “US Army” in sans-serif font along its side. A child looks into the camera, innocence in her eyes, and then turns to look upon an ancient pagoda and reveals the exposed electronics of her robot skull.
These are just some of the stunning images from Gareth Edwards’ new film, The Creator. Edwards, known best for directing probably the most well-regarded of Disney’s Star Wars films, Rogue One and 2014’s reboot of the Godzilla franchise, is no stranger to stunning visuals. But his works have been the victim of studio meddling that has muddied his stories and compromised his visions. Just think of the amazing scene where Jyn Erso confronts a TIE fighter from the Rogue One trailer that never appears in the actual film.
So with The Creator, we finally get to see Edwards make the film he wanted to make and tell the story he wanted to tell the way he wanted to tell it. And from a visual standpoint, the result is amazing. Edwards paints for us a dystopian future where the US war machine is bent towards the destruction of artificial intelligence persons who have been granted asylum in south-east Asia. The intermingling of high tech weapons and advanced humanoid robots with bamboo villages and moldering Buddhist temples perfectly captures William Gibson’s old adage, “the future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.” As a giant nerd for all things cyberpunk and near-future dystopia, I am in love with the world this film presents. That world is brought to life with excellent performances by John David Washington as the film’s stoic and reluctant protagonist, Allison Janney as his belligerent commanding officer, and newcomer Madeleine Yuna Voyles as Alphie, the messianic child robot around whom the film’s conflict spins.
It's that conflict where the film falters. The Creator is by no means a bad movie, and its style conveys a lot of substance. But that substance is stale. The Creator draws upon visual associations with America’s most ignoble conflicts, the decades long wars in Vietnam and the Middle East. Like those wars, The Creator’s war is one between an incredibly well-equipped and technologically overwhelming US military and a rag-tag insurgency. That that insurgency has numerous underground facilities where they produce advanced AI persons who are almost indistinguishable from humans (aside from their clearly mechanical skulls) is something I’m willing to set aside for the sake of storytelling and thematics. But it is indicative of the ways in which The Creator doesn’t bring anything new to the conversation.
Let’s be clear here, the AI persons in the film are stand-ins for all the people dehumanized by the US war machine and the policies that inflict its violence around the globe. That they are arguably inhuman because they are artificial persons, robots, serves to articulate flawed and false arguments about the inhumanity of the targets of that violence. This is good, solid anti-colonial and anti-imperialist messaging. But that’s the rub. I can think of a number of other SF films and stories that have the same messaging. One in particular comes to mind. It too features robots that are really people. It too features Vietnam war imagery. It was made 46 years before The Creator, and I know Edwards is aware of it because everyone is aware of this movie, and Edwards himself made a prequel to it. That’s not to say you should just watch Star Wars instead of The Creator, just that the problem is you can watch Star Wars instead of The Creator. You’ll get the same message. And no matter how cool NOMAD is, it’s still no Death Star.