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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The GeekRex Podcast Episode 161: Reviewing ROMA and THE FAVOURITE

This week, Hannah and Kyle discuss Netflix's most ambitiously produced film yet, the Alfonso Cuaron-directed ROMA, and then we take on the new Yorgos Lanthimos' slice of satire: THE FAVOURITE. A double-header well worth talking about.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

THE FAVOURITE dominates the 2018 Atlanta Film Critics Circle Awards

Yesterday, the Atlanta Film Critics Circle (AFCC) hosted its second vote for year-end awards, and the results are in: our favorite is The Favourite. As you can see in the announcement below, The Favourite nearly swept, taking home Best Film, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Ensemble and Best Screenplay.

Other notable wins include Alfonso Cuaron for Best Director for Roma, Ethan Hawke for Best Actor in First Reformed, and Sam Elliott getting the nod for Best Supporting Actor in A Star Is Born.

Take a peek at the full awards list below, as well as the final tally of the group's top ten films. Another great year of cinema!

Atlanta Film Critics Circle Announces Its 2018 Winners

For the second year, the 25 voting members in Atlanta’s only dedicated city-specific critics group, the Atlanta Film Critics Circle, has awarded its top films of the year.

The number one film this year is Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s gender-bending tale of female jockeying for power during Queen Anne’s reign in 18th century England, The Favourite. Featuring a powerhouse female cast including Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, the film also garnered a Best Actress Award for Olivia Colman, a Best Supporting Actress nod for Emma Stone, as well as Best Screenplay and Best Ensemble Cast awards.

“The film is defined by incredible performances and a powerful rendering of the viciousness behind class divisions,” says AFCC co-founder Felicia Feaster. “Though set in the 18th century, there is clear resonance for our current age and the often brutal circumstances for women who are powerless and lack social standing in Yorgos Lanthimos’ trenchant rendering of gender divisions and power,” says Feaster.

Actor Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut A Star Is Born was the second of the top 10 films, with Alfonso Cuarón’s unconventional autobiographical tale Roma centered on his beloved housekeeper coming in third. Roma also netted awards for Best Foreign Language Film, for Best Director and Best Cinematography.

Other notable winners included Best Documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? which spotlights the revered PBS television program “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” host Fred Rogers, who brought uncommon kindness, civility and a social conscience to his work with children.

For his role as a morally conflicted priest in the somber Paul Schrader-directed drama First Reformed, Ethan Hawke won a Best Actor Award with Sam Elliott garnered a Best Supporting Actor award for his turn as the older brother and surrogate father to Bradley Cooper’s country music star in A Star Is Born.

The AFCC also presented special awards for Best Breakthrough Performer, a category that was tied between Elise Fisher as the painfully awkward teenager at the center of the funny, poignant Bo Burnham film Eighth Grade and Grammy-winning Lady Gaga as the rising pop star in the musical melodrama A Star Is Born.

“Our list includes period dramas, inventive horror, commentary on religion, race relations and the environment, minimalist art-house fare, stark social media observations, sci-fi fantasy and a fresh take on the traditional Hollywood epic,” says AFCC co-founder Michael Clark. “It covers the gamut and I’m very pleased with the members’ collective enthusiasm.”

About the AFCC

Co-founded by longtime Atlanta film critics Felicia Feaster and Michael Clark, the Atlanta Film Critics Circle is an attempt to fill a void in the local film community and in the representation of Atlanta’s media on the national stage.
Composed of a dynamic mix of Atlanta-based critics working in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, the AFCC’s mission is to establish a national presence for a film critics group in Atlanta and to foster a vibrant film culture in Atlanta, already home to an exploding film industry production presence.
Founding members (critics living in and/or currently writing for global, national, regional and/or Atlanta metro area outlets) of AFCC vote in early December for the group’s annual awards.

Complete AFCC Award List

Top 10 films

2.       A STAR IS BORN
3.       ROMA
4.       A QUIET PLACE
8.      Tie: FIRST MAN

Best Lead Actor

Best Lead Actress
Olivia Colman in THE FAVORITE

Best Supporting Actor
Sam Elliott in A STAR IS BORN

Best Supporting Actress
Emma Stone in THE FAVORITE

Best Ensemble Cast

Best Director
Alfonso Cuarón for ROMA

Best Screenplay
Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara for THE FAVOURITE

Best Documentary

Best Foreign Language Film

Best Animated Film

Best Cinematography
Alfonso Cuarón for ROMA

Best Original Score
Justin Hurwitz for FIRST MAN

Tie: Elsie Fisher and Lady Gaga

AFCC Special Award for BEST FIRST FILM
Bradley Cooper for A STAR IS BORN

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Monday, November 19, 2018

BAFF 2018: Best Short Films of the Fest

This year's Buried Alive Film Festival has perhaps the best crop of short horror films I've seen to date! As always, if any of these sounds interesting to you, seek them out and support the filmmakers!

Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre
Dir. IIja Rautsi – Finland – 15min

I was thrilled to see the amount of fantastically feminist shorts at this year's festival, and this was one of my favorites. After a couple has a car accident, they are held captive by a bunch of men who cannot believe the woman is a horror fan. With my favorite jump scare of the whole festival–a man bursts through a door saying, "You're not a real horror fan! Name your top ten horror films!"–this one is super clever and painfully funny.

Should You Meet A Lady In A Darkened Wood
Dir. Daniel Stankler – UK – 4min

This animated short is totally gorgeous, done in a very classic looking animated style that feels incredibly Halloweeny. You can watch the whole film above, and if you're reading this, stop and watch instead. I'd love to see more like this!

Tuesday’s Crowd
Dir. William Kioultzopoulos – 20min

I'm generally staunchly against 'long' short films, but this one works very, very well. A fry cook who is having a bad night intersects with a couple gangsters in a night that gets increasingly weird. This plays like a sequence from an early Paul Thomas Anderson film, and is definitely worth seeking out!

Dir. Kate Dolan – Ireland – 9min

Another great feminist piece! After a man exposes himself to some women on the street, he finds himself being hunted by them, only now they have turned into terrifying cat-women. This is a fantastic concept that feels sadly relevant, and is the perfect kind of subject for a short film.

Post Mortem Mary
Dir. Joshua Long – Australia – 10min

This exceptionally well produced period piece sees a young girl in the 1840s helping her mother in the extremely creepy job of taking post-mortem photos. She is told to make a dead child seem alive, and the results are spine-tinglingly eerie. Definitely a prestige kind of short film, and one that seems ripe for feature adaptation.

Great Choice
Dir. Robin Comisar – 7min

I think we've found a well deserved successor to Too Many Cooks! This bizarre and hilarious film starts with a Red Lobster commercial from 1994, then rewinds the tape to see it play out again and again, with the woman becoming more self-aware that she's trapped in a loop each time. The awesome Carrie Coon (Fargo, Gone Girl) stars in what becomes a surreal, nostalgic nightmare.

Nothing a Little Soap and Water Can’t Fix
Dir. Jennifer Proctor – 9min

Using only clips from other films, this film cuts through all the repeated motions of women in bathtub scenes in film (and horror movies in particular) history. We go from opening the steamy door, to dipping the toe, to drinking a glass of wine, all the way to the often bloody end. All the shots that are used (and overused) in these kinds of scenes create its own surreal, anxious narrative when placed together. This one could not have possibly been more up my alley, and belongs in the best experimental shorts blocks!

Riley Was Here
Dir. Jon Rhoads and Mike Marrero – USA – 15min

This somber, dark film takes a unique spin on the zombie genre and tells a very compelling story within that universe. In a world where the zombie outbreak was quelled and a vaccine was created, some extremists intentionally get infected as a sort of high. This is all slowly revealed in this excellently shot and tensely edited short.

We Got a Monkey's Paw
Dir. Aaron Pagniano – USA – 9min

This short film tells the story of two roommates: Zach is obsessed with occult adventures but Jakki is sick of it and looking for a way out. When Zach reveals he has a monkey's paw, their wishes (of course) go awry and cause all kinds of chaos, from time travel to 'mombies' (mom zombies). It's got a fantastic sense of humor, great performances, and some super clever gags, so I'm looking forward to what this crew does next!

The Buried Alive Film Festival happens in Atlanta, Georgia in November each year. Check out buriedalivefilmfest.com for details on next year's fest!
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BAFF 2018: Feature Films Overview

This year's selection of feature films at the Buried Alive Film Festival 2018 was easily the best I've seen in years. From an insightful documentary to neon gore, there was certainly something for every horror fan! Here is my rundown of all the features shown at this year's festival.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

BAFF 2018: VIOLENCE VOYAGER is the grossest children's adventure ever made

Have you ever found yourself watching a Studio Ghibli movie and thinking, "I wish these child characters suffered a strange bodily transformation"? Or perhaps you were watching The Fly and lamented the fact that Cronenberg hasn't made a children's body horror film. If you fall into either of those categories, boy do I have the film for you!

Violence Voyager tells the story of Bobby, a 12-year old American boy living in the mountainous regions of Japan. When he and his friend Akkun decide to hike over the mountain to visit their friend on one of the last days of Summer, they happen upon a strange amusement park. Though the park seems empty, the man and his daughter that run it seem friendly enough, so the boys decide to check it out. After having fun making their way through, fighting robot decorations with water pistols, they soon discover that the park is a cover for something much more sinister and real.

We can't talk about this film without first talking about its style, because it's so super unique. The film is done in what is called Gekimation, which is sort of a mix of animation and puppetry in which all the characters are flat drawings that are physically moved around against a drawn background. This allows for some really interesting depth that traditional animation can't achieve, and also means things like real water, blood spatter, etc. can be used in conjunction with the puppets. It also means it must have taken an enormous amount of work (three years from director Ujicha, I believe), as each character has thousands of different drawings to cover each scene in the film.

This style initially gives it a very whimsical feel that matches how the kids feel finding a cool amusement park that they can explore all to themselves, but then works as a perfect counterpoint to the grotesque body horror that is to come. This movie is messed up, in the best possible way; without spoiling it too much, lets just say that some kids are turned into weird creatures that resemble half-robot-half-insects, and there are numerous scenes involving an acid that melts skin. Even in the most dramatic and horrifying moments, though, it nearly always manages to keep the tone of adventure, making the whole thing a bizarre and singular experience. I never knew how badly I needed to see a hideously transformed boy go on a mission with help from his animal friends to rescue other children from a monstrous facility in the guise of an amusement park.

Violence Voyager is wild, weird, and wonderful. From the beautiful animation style to the score that is reminiscent of an adventure game with dark undertones, it is a movie that can't be easily categorized–except that it seems Ujichi is making it his own (his previous film, The Burning Buddha Man seems to have a similar style and tone). Long live the Cronenbergian Children's Adventure!

Violence Voyager played at the Buried Alive Film Festival 2018, and is making its way through the international festival circuit. Check out their website for more updates on where you can see it!
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Thursday, November 15, 2018

The GeekRex Podcast Episode 160: Reviewing GREEN BOOK and WIDOWS

This week, Hannah and Kyle dive into this weekend's newest releases, the heartland-tugging road tripper Green Book, and Steve McQueen's first foray into action filmmaking with Widows.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

BAFF 2018: FRAMED live streams insightful frights

"The time will come when our personality begins and our viral existence ends. That will be a real fucking mess! You won't exist without internet." This quote from the new Spanish horror film Framed sums up the complex ideas that the film manages to explore underneath its bloody exterior.

The concept is a simple one that essentially combines something like The Strangers and Nerve: a group of friends is terrorized in their home by a psychopathic stranger who is streaming the whole thing live on the web in an attempt to get as many viewers as possible. We've seen this kind of thing before, but perhaps not as well, not as successful as a horror movie, and certainly not as cleverly.

From the opening shot, full of neon and bursting out of blackness with booming sound design, its clear that the viewer is in for a treat. Framed is shot very well, with beautifully stylized lighting that defies the usual drabness that accompanies home invasion style horror. Picking any frame at random, I'm struck by the strong color contrast, from the light blues to warm yellows to bloody reds. The sound design throughout, while at times a little cliche in its jump scare stabs, is incredibly effective; the gooshy gore sounds and glitchy transitions really sell the scares. Throw in the pumping electronic music that starts during the intensely cool opening credits sequence and you've got a lot to sink your visual and auditory teeth into.

Speaking of gore, this movie is not for the faint of heart. The kills are often brutal, from dismemberment to zombie-style neck bites. Particularly disturbing is one kill that involves a knife to the head that the victim survives, meaning his death is drawn out over much of the movie in a way that will make you continually cringe. The practical effects are great, and the makeup team deserves a special shout out for the purpling bruises and gashes that look oh-so-painful.

As a surface level horror film, it plays a bit like a torture porn home invasion crossover, something almost like a gorier Funny Games, but the real surprise treat is that there is much more to the film than blood for blood's sake. There's an element of economics as a character complains that due to the lack of jobs in Spain, he has to try to make scary videos to upload and make a few Euros. Later, the characters realize that nearly all of them have jobs that involve "being as viral as possible," even the guy helping poor children in Africa get connected to the internet.

The same character also happens to be the very first viewer of "Amusement in Somebody Else's Home," the channel that will eventually broadcast their own torment. On top of the more obvious social commentary of the millions of viewers that continually tune into the violence from the comfort of their own homes, this clever moment implies a more individual responsibility; we are all complicit in the increasing violence on the web, even when we know it hurts us. This is taken further as the television news at first is horrified by this new media phenomenon, but eventually latches on enthusiastically as viewership rises.

Another interesting bit that sets this film apart is that the killer uses strange drugs to control his victims, making them obey his every command or turning them into animalistic creatures. While this aspect pushes the limits of the believability of the situation, it does act as a powerful metaphor for how we as a society have given control of our lives over to the realm of the internet.

Overall, Framed is an impressive achievement in modern horror. Whether you're looking for a bloodsoaked gorefest with over-the-top kills or something with some thought and commentary behind it, you'll be satisfied. I expected something far less polished and well thought out, and was pleasantly surprised!

Framed will be screening this Saturday 11/17 at 4pm as part of Buried Alive Film Festival 2018 in Atlanta Georgia. You can support and follow the film by visiting their website and Facebook page.
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