‘The Grudge’ is exactly the type of movie that gets dumped on the first weekend of January

A lot of what made me think this movie was going to be different was the rich golden hue on most of its images, which is nice, but doesn’t contribute much of anything. Images courtesy Sony Pictures Releasing.

2/10 I adore Takashi Shimizu’s American Grudge movies from the mid-‘00s for their unforgiving pacing and dense array of strong jump scares, so I was excited to see a reboot coming from writer/director Nicolas Pesce – not because I’d seen or enjoyed any of his prior work, just because I implicitly trust the process of promoting indie directors to do studio work despite all the examples of it not working out. I’d somehow gotten into my head the idea of this 2020 Grudge movie as being a passion project by someone who wanted to bring the franchise into a new decade instead of a routine attempt by Sony to milk its properties, one that they’d been trying to push out for almost 10 years by itself without success.

Hoping for a piece of art when I should have been expecting a corporate cast-off, I kind of got both.

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10 years of entropy

Image courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

It is Jan. 15, 2020. Ten years ago today, I caught a matinee showing of The Book of Eli, a deeply forgettable Denzel Washington vehicle boasting Mila Kunis and Gary Oldman as the villain, at AMC Irving Mall. It was my first published movie review for the Tarrant County College Collegian, which I’d begged my way onto as a high schooler. I have been doing this now for 10 years.

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The most important movies of 2019

Annual top 10 lists are dumb and arbitrary and I hate them, even as I’ve started doing them. We can do better here. Instead of a static list of 10 favorites, 10 peanuts with which to pack the year away forever, let’s put together a list of the movies that we’ll carry with us into the future.

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‘1917’ is an idea so grand it couldn’t be ruined

M A J E S T I C ! Images courtesy Universal Pictures.

10/10 1917 is a one-take World War I movie. Great idea. All movies should be built from of ideas this great. Spectacular work. Bravo. No notes.

April 6, 1917, the day the U.S. officially enters the Great War, Eastern France- After months of brutal, tooth-and-claw trench warfare, the Germans have retreated nine miles to the Hindenburg Line. Col. Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) is set for a full-scale attack at dawn, thinking he’ll be charging at a retreating army, but aerial intelligence indicates the new line is even more heavily fortified and Mackenzie’s men will be running headlong into their own slaughter. With the phone lines cut and no other way of getting this intelligence to the front, Gen. Erinmore (Colin Firth) sends lance corporals William Schofield and Tom Blake (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) across No Man’s Land to hand-deliver orders calling off the attack with the lives of 1,600 men hanging in the balance.

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‘Hidden Life’ refines Malick’s technique into something accessible

“…For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs” –George Eliot. Images courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures.

8/10 For years, writer/director Terrence Malick has defined the inaccessible, nose-raising arthouse film, exactly the kind of self-important, self-satirical movie mainstream audiences think of when they think about movies they don’t want to watch. A Hidden Life does nothing to change that, but it’s a wonderful application of his process. 

St. Radegund, Nazi Austria- Austrian peasant Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) tends the farm he’s lived on all his life. After the Anschluß, he is conscripted into the Wehrmacht, but cannot serve because he refuses to swear personal loyalty to Adolf Hitler. As a farmer, he is exempted from service for a period of years, but is eventually called into active duty. In 1943, he was convicted by military tribunal and executed for sedition against a country and an army that he did not willingly join. He was declared a martyr and beatified by the Catholic Church in 2007.

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