‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Review – A Thrilling Martial Arts Odyssey

How the hell do you introduce a new superhero this far into the Marvel game? This is something the MCU has to contend with as the roster gets bigger, and Shang-Chi is the newest member post-Endgame. For one, you stack the right talent: director Destin Daniel Cretton at the helm, a storied action cinematographer in Bill Pope, the late Brad Allan as fight choreographer, along with a dizzying who’s who of a predominantly Asian cast. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may be burdened with the standard grooves of an origin story, but it blazes past the stumbling block to the tune of a martial arts action romp.

Continue reading

CHVRCHES ‘Screen Violence’ Review – Horror Never Sounded So Euphoric

The first time I heard of CHVRCHES was in 2016 through video games of all things: “Warning Call,” the soaring theme for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. I was one of, like, 10 people who wanted a sequel to Mirror’s Edge so this kind of stuck. Then, while cruising past some fools in Forza Horizon 3, on came “Clearest Blue” and that Depeche Mode-style beat drop poured in like confetti. And I haven’t even gotten to their fiery collaboration with Paramore’s Hayley Williams.

As a band, I never knew what to make of Chvrches. I only liked 3 songs off of Love Is Dead but was otherwise infatuated with their elegant covers. Once I heard the tie-in song to Death Stranding, I started listening INTENTLY. (Any group that can make Hideo Kojima cry has my undivided attention.)

The moves they made in the leadup to their newest album definitely piqued my interest. The Cure’s Robert Smith lends some guest vocals on the LP, plus a dual collaboration with horror maestro-turned-composer John Carpenter. Now THOSE are some power moves for a Scottish pop-trio you thought you had figured out by now. With Screen Violence, Chvrches defies barriers and expectations, traversing a sci-fi horror synth-scape with the sunny optimism of a John Hughes movie. It’s no wonder they turn to film over video games for inspiration. Their sound has blossomed into something unbearably cinematic.

Continue reading

‘The Suicide Squad’ Review – Over-the-Top Comic Book Mayhem

We all know of James Gunn’s ignominious fall from grace. He went from shock-jock provocateur in his Troma days, which curiously led to him scripting the live-action Scooby Doo, followed by the Dawn of the Dead remake; he directed his own horror genre mash-up in Slither, proceeded to indict vigilantes and superheroes with his twisted indie Super, and then was handed the reins of an obscure Marvel franchise to call his own. Gunn’s career read like the unlikeliest of success stories.

Studio gigs are a dream come true for upcoming filmmakers because there’s an assurance to the work that doesn’t exist in independent filmmaking. If a director can meet all of the studio’s requirements for bringing in bankable stars, appealing to a PG-13 audience, merchandising and marketing, etc., then the studio will bankroll your “vision” and stand by you in both success and failure, supposedly. It’s the very assurance that Steven Spielberg had when Universal Studios secured him as a young talent through a multi-picture contract.

It seemed like Disney had Gunn’s back when Guardians 3 was announced months before Vol. 2 came out. And then they dumped him. I mention this because it’s the first time since entering the studio system that Gunn might have felt expendable—and perhaps why he was drawn to this expendable group of heroes.

Continue reading

‘Fear Street Part Three: 1666’ Review – The Trilogy Ends on a Screaming High Note

It feels both like yesterday when Fear Street Part One: 1994 dropped and yet, oh so long ago? We’re so used to trilogies spaced out every one or two years. Netflix said “here’s some instant gratification for ya” and circumvented the franchise machine with its weekly rollout of a whole horror trilogy, one that simultaneously pushes the envelope in the streaming game AND revives the slasher for a new generation. Fear Street Part Three: 1666 is the final chapter that brings everything together in a surprisingly emotional and bottom-line crowd-pleasing way. You think you’ll close the book on Shadyside after this? Think again. Part Three just might have you pleading for more Fear Street movies for as long as you have a Netflix subscription.

Continue reading

‘Fear Street Part Two: 1978’ Review – Bloody Summer Camp Fun

I’ve been to one summer camp in my life. I was 13. It was a Christian retreat called New Beginnings and it was a near death the worst experience of my life. My cousins and I were due for confirmation – the next step above being baptized. We had two choices: attend church classes in the Fall during school or go to summer camp. We went to summer camp.

It was Jesus-themed everything. We sang songs during every meal (there was always a motherfucker with an acoustic guitar), chaperones routinely gave sermons about our lord and savior, and every night we joined hands and praised to the Almighty for another day on this blessed Earth. I promise I will write this horror movie one day.

I guess in the end I’ve got nothing to complain about because at least I survived.

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is the nightmare summer retreat to kill the very concept of summer camps. Part One: 1994 was the 90s slasher resurgent. Part Two is Friday the 13th meets Wet Hot American Summer. It’s both funny and gruesome, sunny yet grim. Part One is my favorite of the Fear Street movies so far, but Part Two is its own replayable horror gem, rough edges and all.

Continue reading