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.
If you want to avoid a horror-movie situation, it’s probably best to stay away from isolated cabins in the dead of winter. Stephen King was certainly onto something when he set The Shining and Misery in snowed-in Colorado abodes. The strange, frigid silence of a snowstorm is the perfect backdrop for stories about isolation and hopelessness. That’s why director Damien Power was so drawn to No Exit, a novel by Taylor Adams, which also takes place during a blizzard in Colorado. In Power’s film adaptation of the book, which premieres February 25, 2022, on Hulu, Power makes the most of the snowy, isolated setting. He creates the ideal setup for the heroine, Darby (Havana Rose Liu), to undergo intense physical and psychological distress.
Enjoy a little “Respect” When You Get Home — The Anticipated Aretha Franklin Biopic Starring Jennifer Hudson Is Now Available
Great performers like Aretha Franklin are remembered for much more than their God-given talents. They’re also remembered for their ability to connect with their audience. A good performer will practice and train for years to master their craft, but a great performer will draw on their life experiences to add meaning and depth to their music. Aretha Franklin certainly lived through a full range of human experiences, and she had plenty to share with her audience. So, when Jennifer Hudson took on the challenge of portraying the Queen of Soul in Respect, she did everything she could to capture Aretha’s spirit in a genuine and honoring manner. This fun, flashy, and entertaining musical biopic directed by Liesl Tommy is now available to own on digital, Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray/ DVD combo pack includes five behind-the-scenes featurettes that give us a brief look at the work that went into making the movie.
“Knocking” Takes Its Time Building Suspense, but Cecilia Milocco’s Steady Performance Will Keep You Hooked
If you’ve spent any time living in an apartment building or a dorm, you’ve probably had a few run-ins with noisy neighbors. It takes guts to knock on a stranger’s door and ask them to keep it down. Depending on what kind of noise you hear, you might even opt to skip the awkward conversation and call the police. But what happens when nobody else can hear what you’re hearing? What do you do when someone is calling out to you for help and the police don’t believe you? Who can you turn to when your neighbors think you’re having a psychotic break? In Frida Kempff’s psychological thriller, Knocking, a woman named Molly (Cecilia Milocco) becomes suspicious of the men in her apartment building when she hears persistent knocking and crying coming from the floor above her at night. No one else can hear it, and no one is interested in helping her solve the mystery. But Molly knows what she heard, and she’ll stop at nothing to help the unknown woman on the other side of her ceiling.
When it comes to fairy tales, setting is key. Fairy tales don’t have to take place in the past or in distant kingdoms, but their settings should invoke a sense of wonder and enchantment. The setting of a fairy tale should work alongside the other thematic elements to draw out and challenge the hero’s best and worst character traits. And if there’s any place where we’ve seen the best and worst of people over the past few years, it’s been right here on the internet. Therefore, it’s no surprise that writer/director Mamoru Hosoda chose to set his 21st-century adaptation of a classic fairytale in a bustling and vibrant virtual world. With a little help from VR technology, the heroine of the story, Belle, can be whoever she wants to be — and her counterpart, “the beast,” can hide his true identity behind a curated “tough guy” internet persona. Belle is a rich, detailed, and ambitious film that’s part fairy tale, part coming-of-age story, and part VR adventure.
Content Warning: The Blazing World involves heavy subject matters that may be triggering to some viewers, including self-harm. These issues are briefly discussed in the following review.
The fantasy genre is endlessly attractive. It can enchant us with whimsical imagery and inspire us with dynamic characters who set off on adventurous quests. Fantasy lets us escape into mystical worlds with different rules than our own — but usually, those worlds reveal some kind of universal truth. In The Blazing World, a college student named Margaret Winter (played by Carlson Young, who also wrote and directed the movie) enters a fantasy world that reflects the inner workings of her subconscious mind. Her mystical journey through this world allows her to process grief that she’s been bottling up since childhood. The Blazing World is an attractive fantasy film, but a flawed one. It’s attractive in a sensory way, charming us with lush imagery and a rich sound design. The story, however, is more distancing than attractive, and it gets stuck under the weight of heavy-handed and self-indulgent psychoanalytic themes.
On Wednesday, September 29, 2021, horror streaming service Shudder will introduce a new serial murder movie to its library, Seance. The movie was written and directed by Simon Barrett, an experienced horror writer whose previous credits include You’re Next (2011) and Blair Witch (2016). Seance, however, is his feature directorial debut. The cast includes a few somewhat recognizable faces including Suki Waterhouse (The Divergent Series: Insurgent) and Madisen Beaty (Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood). If you’re wondering what a filmmaker can do with the serial murder genre that hasn’t already been done, you’ll be disappointed to hear that Seance does absolutely nothing to answer that question. The movie briefly gestures to some intriguing and unique horror themes, but in the end, it turns out something like Scream Queens (2015-2016) stripped of any and all creativity. Seance could have been a cringey disaster – but thankfully, the cast gives solid, natural performances that hold the movie together.
“Hellbender” shows off one family’s filmmaking talents but falls flat under the weight of its poorly developed plot and dialogue. [Fantasia International Film Festival]
From Rosemary’s Baby to False Positive, Psycho to Mommie Dearest, motherhood and the horror genre are a match made in heaven. The labyrinth of psycho-socio-political issues surrounding motherhood, pregnancy, and the mother-child relationship has truly found its home in horror cinema. One of the horror flicks showing at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, Hellbender, is not only about motherhood, but also stars a real-life mother-daughter duo. In fact, Hellbender was written, directed, shot, edited, scored, and produced by the four members of the Adams/Poser family: John Adams, Toby Poser and their two daughters, Lulu and Zelda Adams. All four family members also make an appearance in this occult horror film, with Zelda and Toby taking the lead roles. The family filmmaking feat is incredibly impressive, and Hellbender’s high production value showcases the family’s talents and creativity. Unfortunately, however, one little filmmaking misstep can bring a movie crashing down. In this case, that one misstep is the dialogue. While Hellbender is otherwise horrifically beautiful, the script and plot development leave much to be desired.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."