Oh look, it’s another ‘Halloween’ sequel

Where the shape’s mask looks pristine in many sequels, Halloween (2018) offers a textured, much older-looking version of the mask for a much older character. It’s a nice touch. Images courtesy Universal Pictures.

4/10 After 40 years, it’s finally here — the 11th Halloween movie!

Yeah, there are 10 others, but this one is different! This one ignores the preceding continuity — well, the 10, 20 and 30 year anniversary sequels all did that as well, so I guess that part isn’t unique. This one brings back Jamie Lee Curtis — oh, no, a lot of sequels did that. But this one has her children — oh, so did the 20 year anniversary movie, H20: Halloween 20 Years Later. It looks like the only movie producers were hoping we wouldn’t forget about was the 1978 original.

Forty years after the events of the original Halloween, we return Haddonfield, Illinois to meet a Laurie Strode (Curtis) who has been unable to live a normal life. Her mind and decisions have been dominated by the unresolved trauma of the massacre 40 years prior. She’s become a prepper who obsesses over Michael Myers’ (James Jude Courtney with original actor Nick Castle reprising his role in one shot) legal proceedings, an obsession that has ended two marriages and estranged her from her daughter, Karen Nelson (Judy Greer), and granddaughter, Allyson Nelson (Andi Matichak).

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You’ve probably already missed ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’

After breaking out as an action star in Thor, Chris Hemsworth doesn’t get nearly enough credit as a dramatic actor. His versatility is on full display in Bad Times at the El Royale as a freakish cult leader who crashes the movie two hours in. Image courtesy 20th Century Fox.

8/10 I remember an era in my youth, before Marvel, before Lord of the Rings, when you could go see a movie and have it just be a movie. Any given show was expected to provide its own, complete world with a beginning, middle and end that made sense fully within its own context, with foreshadowing for sequels that weren’t guaranteed and pandering to fans of esoteric source material kept to a bare minimum. Movies that didn’t have a history in other media. Movies that couldn’t skate by on being the sequel to this or a prequel to that or “from the producers of” some other damn thing. Movies that had to stand on their own two legs, made for audiences that wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less. Good times.

Bad Times at the El Royale opens with a long take of Felix O’Kelly (Nick Offerman) burying something in the floorboards in a room at the El Royale Hotel, straddling the border of California and Nevada somewhere just west of Reno. Ten years later, four strangers, vacuum salesman Seymour “Laramie” Sullivan (Jon Hamm), Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), blues singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) and the mysterious Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), arrive at the hotel, now all but abandoned, each with a secret to hide and hoping for a smaller crowd. The group clashes in an extended second act before judgement arrives in the form of California cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth).

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‘First Man’ puts man on Moon, won’t put camera on tripod

This shot didn’t even make it into the final film. Or it might have and I missed it. I honestly wouldn’t know. (Images courtesy Universal Pictures)

3/10 April 20, 1962, less than 60 years after mankind first took wing. In the experimental North American X-15 hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft, Neil Armstrong climbs to 207,500 feet, more than seven times the height of Mount Everest. Armstrong attempts to dive back to Earth, but the aircraft bounces off the outside of the stratosphere. His control surfaces find no purchase on the thin air around him, and the X-15 begins to fall uncontrollably into outer space. Using the reaction control system, spacecraft thrusters designed to maneuver even in the endless vacuum, Armstrong banks the craft sideways and slices his way back into the atmosphere.

His pen and other knickknacks begin to float as tidal forces warp inside the cockpit. Though it was surely a top-of-the-line aircraft for its time, the X-15 feels like it could fall apart at any minute. The 2018 audience has truly stepped into a plane built in the 1960s. The camera stays in the cockpit and fixates mostly on Armstrong’s face, every blast of turbulence magnified by the seemingly unlatched camera’s bouncing. In surely one of the most pulse-pounding cold opens in cinematic history, First Man genuinely makes viewers feel that Armstrong is in mortal peril years before his final triumph.

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‘Star is Born’ not great, will probably win best picture

Images courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

6/10 A Star is Born is the kind of predictable, pretentious Oscarbate that I want to despise with every fiber of my being, but I can not. Everything about this movie tells me I should hate it, but it is too soundly made for me to truly dislike.

Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper, who also writes, directs and produces) is an international country music megastar who refuses to address his alcohol dependency or his growing tinnitus. Out of booze after a show, he ducks into a drag bar, where he meets and immediately falls in love with burgeoning songwriter Ally (Lady Gaga). Maine coaxes her into going on tour with him and even brings her on stage to sing her own songs for the first time. Tensions mount as her star eventually begins to burn brighter than his own and his drinking antics intensify.

One of the biggest factors in A Star is Born’s rapturous reception is its crass, emotionally manipulative ending, which we’ll need to address in order to discuss the film fully. If you keep reading without having seen it, the film won’t have its full effect, but I’d argue that it’s not all that effective anyway.

Spoilers below.

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Like a turd in the wind

Images courtesy Sony Pictures Releasing.

4/10 After months of extreme public ridicule, Venom has finally arrived, and make no mistake, it is bad. Oh boy, it is so bad. But despite how much fun’s been had at its expense since the first teaser was released last February, it’s far from the worst movie of the year. It actually stands alarmingly head-and-shoulders above some other movies out right now.

After violating his fiance’s trust and his newspaper’s legitimacy, journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) loses everything. He’s rightly fired, and his fiancé Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) rightly leaves him. Six months later after nothing interesting happens I guess, Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) gives him an inside scoop on the company he was investigating, the Life Foundation. Skirth confirms Brock’s assertion that CEO Elon Musk Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) is recruiting vulnerable San Franciscans for experimentation, specifically with a dangerous parasitic alien life form. Brock investigates and is taken by one of the symbiotes, which he discovers is conscious and goes by Cummyeyes McGoo Venom (also Hardy).

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