‘Hereditary’ an audacious mixed bag

Hereditary’s absolutely spectacular set design contributes mightily to its atmosphere. Everything about the purpose-built set feels off-kilter and out of place. The shadows always seem longer than they should be, and you can never really see as much as you think you should. Images courtesy A24.

9/10 And now for Hereditary, this year’s “scariest movie ever made.”

The film begins with the funeral of the Graham family matriarch, Ellen, after which her daughter Annie (Toni Collette) begins to see strange things around the house. The family soon falls victim to a terrifying inheritance the grandmother left behind.

Hereditary is a baffling movie from a technical perspective and a difficult movie to recommend based simply on the broad array of responses. I’ve seen people walk out halfway through as the film fails to hit any really exciting notes until its climax, I’ve seen people laugh out loud at that climax, I’ve seen people – like me – completely gripped in terror by the entire movie, and all reactions are correct.

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‘Ocean’s’ movie remade with female cast, sky doesn’t fall

Image courtesy Warner Bros.

8/10 Oh now this is interesting – what they’ve done is, they’ve taken a movie that was made with an all-male cast, and remade it with an all-female cast instead, and then the trailer didn’t suck, and then the movie didn’t suck, and then the distribution company didn’t turn it into a months-long catastrophe by responding only to the misogynistic aspect of the reception and deliberately ignoring any valid criticisms of their terrible, terrible film.

That’s a really interesting strategy.

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‘On Chesil Beach’ laughably bad with a horrifying message to boot

I suppose Saorise Ronan could be a redeeming factor. I’ve never really been a fan of hers, but she’s far better than the rest of this movie. Images courtesy Bleeker Street Media.

2/10 The terrible cinematic execution of On Chesil Beach is enough for a negative review in its own right, but we’d also be remiss to look past the film’s horrible underlying message.

On Chesil Beach opens as two newlyweds, Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle) and Florence Ponting (Saoirse Ronan), walk along the titular beach. Both of them are asexual — Ponting in the sense that she’s disgusted by sex and has no interest in it, and Mayhew in that he is the human opposite of an erection. As they spend the afternoon awkwardly negotiating their first sexual encounter, the film flashes back across their upbringing and relationship.

From the very first frame of On Chesil Beach, its infuriating visual motif is established — vast swaths of compositional space. The frame is mostly empty. You spend the majority of the movie looking at nothing. Somewhere between half and two thirds of the vast majority of the shots are empty space.

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‘First Reformed’ a technical masterpiece

Image courtesy A24.

9/10 First Reformed is turning heads and starting conversations, and that’s what’ll get you in the door. What’ll keep you on the edge of your seat is a textbook work of art, a film in which every frame is completely perfect.

At a rural historical church somewhere in the Tri-State area, Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke) has lost the ability to pray. He keeps a nightly journal about his crisis of faith, and will frequently read it as narration over the action of the preceding day. One of his parishioners, Mary (Amanda Seyfried), requests Toller’s help in counseling her husband Michael (Philip Ettinger), a radical environmentalist who wants her to terminate their pregnancy because he thinks it would be irresponsible to bring a child to term.

Toller drinks heavily as he writes. He says that he will not allow himself to remove entries in his journal or scratch out even a single word, but each night we see him, he is starting on a blank page, and nothing seems to have been written on the opposite side, casting extreme doubt on his honesty as a narrator. As his physical and mental health deteriorates, he writes and narrates less and less frequently and his onscreen experiences become more and more bizarre.

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Against all odds, ‘Solo’ is pretty good

Images courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

8/10 It’s finally here — Solo: A Star Wars Story, the movie-like Star Wars product that no one waited for. That’s not to say it wasn’t anticipated, but no one at Disney wasted even a moment holding their breath for this. This movie was scheduled for the original Star Wars’ 41st anniversary May 25, 2018, and come hell or high water, it was releasing on this date.

No matter what.

Surrounded by extraordinary cynicism stemming from one of the most publicly botched productions in recent memory, merely being watchable would have been a major success for Solo. It does better than that — it’s actually a lot of fun.

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