Content / trigger warning: Blonde contains flashing and strobing effect imagery that may be triggering to those with photosensitivity.
Blonde is rated NC-17 for some sexual content. It contains frightening and intense images involving abuse, assault, and abortion. These topics are briefly discussed in the review below.
Blonde isn’t the feel-good biopic you’re looking for. Nor is it a sentimental tear-jerker. Andrew Dominik’s 2-hour and 46-minute adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel is difficult, depressing, and demanding. It’s the kind of movie that made me tell my parents, “Don’t watch it, you won’t like it” (although the MPAA rating alone would have been enough to turn them away). But as I watched, I also felt that I, as a critic, wasn’t supposed to like it. With so many unconventional stylistic elements at play and so much controversial content, I felt like the only “correct” review I could give would be to call the movie problematic and pretentious. However, that review wouldn’t be genuine. There are certain shots, sequences, scenes, and techniques in Blonde that really don’t work — and yet, I found myself completely engaged with the film, not wanting it to end. It wasn’t until the JFK blowjob scene when a male critic in the audience burst out laughing (to my extreme annoyance, as I was sympathizing with Marilyn’s perspective and admiring what the scene had to say about sexual power dynamics) that I figured out what Blonde was doing right. It was making me aware of myself as a woman, as a critic, as a movie lover, and as a human. Blonde gave me one of the most powerful and visceral experiences I’ve had at the movies in a long time. For that reason, I don’t want to focus on all the little things that didn’t work. Instead, I want to focus on a few big things that it got right. After all, any movie that makes you more aware of yourself has to be doing something right.
One of the scariest things about cults is that they can form right under our noses. Cult leaders need to psychologically isolate their followers in order to maintain control, but they don’t have to keep everyone on a remote island in order to do so. Still, perhaps the best way to illustrate the intense psychological control that cult leaders achieve is to tell a story about a cult that’s geographically isolated from the real world. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate how a deeply disturbed man could earn the trust and respect of a whole community of devout followers is to confine that man and his followers to a remote location that seems to exist in a universe of its own. In Nikias Chryssos’s A Pure Place, a sickeningly imaginative film that he wrote with Lars Henning Jung, the entire population of a remote Greek island is under the spell of a charming and charismatic leader named Fust (Sam Louwyck). This deeply disturbed (but powerful) man is utterly obsessed with cleanliness, and he’s positioned himself as a savior who will lead the people to a pure place that’s free from man’s worst enemy: dirt. In addition to following Fust, the community also worships Hygeia, the Greek goddess of cleanliness. The cult is intense and otherworldly, so separated from the real world that Fust’s twisted desires have become the only law. The one thing connecting this mysterious island to the outside world is the product that Fust’s followers make in his factory: soap.
Part Expressionist Melodrama and Part Campy Horror, “The Attachment Diaries (El Apego)” Sends Mixed Messages About Trauma and Mental Health Issues [Chattanooga Film Festival]
Content/trigger warning: The Attachment Diaries deals with sexual assault, self-harm, mental illness, and abortion. These subjects are also briefly discussed in the review below.
The Attachment Diaries is a difficult movie for two reasons. First, it focuses on a handful of difficult topics (including abortion, which has just become more relevant than ever in the United States), and it presents those topics in a blunt and, at times, irreverent way. Second, it’s difficult because it asks us to think about imperfect people in imperfect situations. The film appeals to very raw and carnal emotions, asking viewers to indulge in the thoughts and feelings that we aren’t supposed to think and feel. It’s a good thing that The Attachment Diaries is so masterfully shot, because it may take several viewings to make sense of it.
Inception (2010) may be one of the most well-known movies about dreams from the last 20 years, but the indie masterpiece Strawberry Mansion is by far one of the most creative and enchanting. From the minds of co-writers and directors Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley, Strawberry Mansion tells a story about love, imagination, and the importance of dreams, exploring these themes in a rich fantasy world that emulates the sci-fi classics of the VHS era. With a limited budget and a very specific vision for what they wanted to create, Birney and Audley worked for years to make Strawberry Mansion happen. Their years of dedication most definitely paid off, and they succeeded in making a breathtaking and unforgettable movie that transports viewers back to a time when actors in animal costumes was the peak of sci-fi / fantasy production design. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2021 and went on to screen at the Fantasia International Film Festival later that year. Starting June 21, 2022, Strawberry Mansion will be available on Blu-ray and DVD for fantasy lovers everywhere to add to their home video collections.
If the first trailer for Jordan Peele’s Nope piqued your curiosity with its foreboding tone and vague details, then you were probably bummed out by the final trailer, which seemed to give everything away. You’ll be pleased to know that despite its revealing final trailer, Nope still has a handful of surprises to offer. While it's not quite as intense or chilling as Peele’s first two feature films, Get Out (2017) and Us (2019), Nope is a well-developed, well-rounded, and well-crafted flick that is sure to delight crowds at the theater. It’s filled with all the thrills and chills of a summer box-office hit, bringing together the best of comedy, sci-fi, and horror. And, of course, every shot is accented by Peele’s penchant for the disturbing. As the talented writer and director proved with his first two films, Peele has more than a few tricks up his sleeves when it comes to plot twists, uncanny visuals, and bizarre narratives. Peele has not only joined the ranks of 21st century auteurs - he’s also leading the charge.
Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder is far removed from Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearian take on the comic book series in Thor (2011). The fourth Thor film in the MCU is even more wacky and bizarre than Thor: Ragnarok (2017), which was also directed by Waititi. Perhaps the difference is that this time, Waititi was also responsible for the story and co-wrote the script with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. The good news is, Thor: Love and Thunder features the same cast and characters we’ve come to know and love over the last decade. Throughout the three directorial changes of the Thor films and the many stylistic shifts of the other MCU films featuring Thor, Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Natalie Portman (Jane Foster) have remained consistent in their performances, developing characters that can stand the test of time. The question is, can those characters withstand yet another attack on the universe by a new, menacing villain? In Love and Thunder, Thor’s strength is tested once again as he faces Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), a dark and devilish figure who’s hellbent on destroying all gods. King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (voiced by Waititi) are there to help, but Thor is at a disadvantage because he can’t bring his trusty hammer, Mjolnir, into battle. This time, the legendary weapon has decided to lend its powers to a new warrior: Mighty Thor, aka, Dr. Jane Foster.
The Action-Packed Finale of the Jurassic World Trilogy, “Jurassic World Dominion,” Is Mostly a Tedious Gimmick
(From left) Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), and Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) in JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow.
A strong-willed teen enters her mountain home in a huff, avoiding eye-contact with her over-protective mother. When the tough and rugged family patriarch returns home from a full day of horseback riding and animal herding, he greets his wife with a smooch as she tells him that he needs to talk with his daughter about her recklessness. Later, the family gathers around a campfire for dinner, comfy and cozy in their boots and flannel shirts. It’s not the beginning of a made-for-TV movie about a horse ranch – it’s the beginning of the latest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise: Jurassic World Dominion. Luckily, the movie gets a little better along the way, and it hits its stride during the action sequences. The wholesome, home-on-the-range dialogue gives way to suspenseful fights and chases, and the lead characters step aside to make room for the original Jurassic Park trio: Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Oh, and of course, Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) is involved, as per usual. But even with the return of these familiar faces, it’s clear that Dominion is a different beast than its predecessors. In a frantic attempt to please fans and bring closure to the Jurassic World trilogy, the creative team behind Dominion threw a bunch of self-referential jokes and half-hearted Spielberg nostalgia into the screenplay and hoped for the best.
(L-R): Tina Belcher (voiced by Dan Mintz), Linda Belcher (voiced by John Roberts), Louise Belcher (voiced by Kristen Schaal), Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), Gene Belcher (voiced by Eugene Mirman), and Calvin Fischoeder (voiced by Kevin Kline) in 20th Century Studios' THE BOB'S BURGERS MOVIE. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
It’s been 11 years since America was introduced to the Belcher family – Linda, Tina, Gene, Louise, and Bob – the stars of the animated adult comedy series, “Bob’s Burgers.” The awkward but sincere family has given us plenty to laugh about, and they’ve certainly pushed through their fair share of questionable circumstances. “Bob’s Burgers” stands out because of its oddball characters and its particular flavor of absurd humor – and these are precisely the characteristics that define The Bob’s Burgers Movie. Yes, after 200+ episodes full of potty jokes, musical numbers, pubescent sexual angst (on Tina’s part), and “wholesome” family fun, the boisterous Belchers have finally made it to the big screen – and just in time for summer.
“Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” Has Its Chipmunk Cheeks Stuffed With Nostalgic References to Classic Cartoons
In 1943, Disney introduced the world to a pair of chipmunks, Chip and Dale, in the cartoon short, “Private Pluto.” The delightful duo made appearances in a number of other shorts over the years, and in 1988 they finally landed their own show. But what happened to Chip and Dale after that show ended in 1990? After three decades out of the spotlight, the classic cartoon characters have returned in an all-new movie, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. Even though the new film seeks to introduce the beloved characters to a new generation, it’s just as much for the parents in the audience as it is for the kids. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a hilarious feature-length running joke about the evolution of animation, and it’s got its chipmunk cheeks packed full of references to nostalgic cartoon characters.
We Need to Talk About Dialogue and Character Development: Todd Wolfe’s Gamer Comedy “We Need to Talk” Misses the Target
If you really want to mess with someone’s head, all you have to do is send them a text that says, “we need to talk,” and then wait a few hours before telling them what you want to talk about. It’s a maddening social cliffhanger that will drive anyone crazy with anxiety, and it’s also a great setup for a movie. Writer / director Todd Wolfe begins his gamer comedy flick, We Need to Talk, on a seemingly ordinary morning in the life of a gaming influencer named Scott (James Maslow), who goes by Great Scott online. The typical morning turns into a rather unusual day when Scott’s girlfriend, Aly (Christel Khalil), says that when she gets home from work, the two of them “need to talk.” Scott immediately starts obsessing over what Aly might want to talk about, and he even posts about it on social media for his thousands of subscribers to see. Of course, everyone has a different opinion about the situation, and Scott can only wait until the end of the day to find out what’s really going on. Meanwhile, he needs to finish a video review for a new game that’s about to drop, and his producer / editor Joe (Johnathan Fernandez) won’t get off his case about it. Much like Scott, the audience is left to wonder what Aly wants to talk about, and that curiosity keeps us watching through corny dialogue and insincere character development. We Need to Talk may not have a whole lot to offer, but at least it’s got a story question that will keep you watching until the end (or perhaps make you want to fast-forward just to see the end).
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."