Overlord (2018)

Director: Julius Avery
Stars: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Gianny Taufer, Pilou Asbæk, Bokeem Woodbine
Runtime: 110 minutes
Viewed at: AMC Quail Springs Mall 24 (IMAX)

Avery’s inventive horror hybrid uses the sizable clout only a J.J. Abrams production could provide to create a wild, gory and spectacular A-list B-movie. From the brilliant first act in the front lines before D-Day to the dark caverns of underground Nazi zombie experiments, historical accuracy is in the back of Overlord’s mind, but the entertainment value is absolutely priceless. The ambiance makes it a fantastic war movie, well placed scares and disturbing practical effects make it excellent horror, and the action-packed final act ends things in bloody fashion. (90 words/A)

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Wildlife (2018)

Director: Paul Dano
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp
Runtime: 104 minutes
Viewed at: Rodeo Cinema

Montana. 1960. A family of three: husband Jerry leaves to fight wildfires, wife Jeannette copes through self destruction, son Joe struggles to process his new normal. Wildlife’s plot choices or heavy themes aren’t terribly wild – the period detail, cinematography, and Dano’s direction and script, which he co-wrote with Zoe Kazan, give it life. Dano takes the role of a casual observer, albeit one gifted with his acting style’s ability to sympathize with the undeserving. He’s not alone: Mulligan’s complex turn as Jeannette, shines alongside Gyllenhaal’s usual brilliance and Oxenbould’s mature, muted turn, a total 180° from The Visit. (99 words/A)

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Directors: Bryan Singer, Dexter Fletcher (uncredited)
Stars: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers
Runtime: 135 minutes
Viewed at: AMC Quail Springs Mall 24 – Dolby Cinema

Some of it’s real life, some is just fantasy. Last half, it’s implied, demonizes poor Mercury. Fact changes that drastic usually make biopics bite the dust. But the brief history of Queen, from humble pubs to Live Aid, stuns in its sheer entertainment, like the band itself. And the man himself – Malek disappears into Freddie Mercury. It’s hard to not laugh, cry, boom boom clap through those biopic beats, right down to meticulously shot recreations of Queen’s concerts, including their famed Live Aid set, and bombastic sound and visuals. Bohemian Rhapsody should keep Queen fans having a good time. (99 words/A MINUS)

Suspiria (2018)

Director: Luca Guadagnino
Stars: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Caven, Elena Fokina, Sylvie Testud, Renée Soutendijk, Christine LeBoutte, Fabrizia Sacchi, Małgosia Bela, Jessica Harper, Chloë Grace Moretz
Runtime: 152 minutes
Viewed at: Cinemark Tinseltown OKC

Guadagnino’s remake takes the basic plot of Argento’s classic (Berlin dance academy witches’ coven) and reinvents it into an artsy horror escapade. The year, 1977; the dance academy borders East Berlin. Muted hues and Thom Yorke’s gorgeous, utilitarian score create a lull of complacency. Suddenly, modern dance gets juxtaposed with bone-breaking contortion, and the complex narrative leads to a ritualistic climax doused in Argentesque deep red. Then there’s Swinton’s amazing triple role, and Johnson’s best. The pacing does stumble, given the punishing length. Yet, as a rare risk taking remake with pondering plot in between graphic gore, Suspiria works. (99 words/A MINUS)

Mandy (2018)

Director: Panos Cosmatos
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke
Runtime: 121 minutes
Viewed on VOD

Cosmatos’ gorgeous gorefest is less a cinematic fever dream than a hallucinatory heavy metal nightmare. Cage plays the vengeful husband of a woman killed by a religious death cult and does so at the Cagiest possible level. Cosmatos’ style assaults viewers with every conceivable ‘80s horror trope. The pacing teeters from methodically slow to hellishly fast, the color palette from bright to mute, the moods from tranquility to downright insanity. Add the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s brilliant score to the mix, and Mandy’s action horror excellence left me like Cage in the penultimate shot: grinning from ear to bloody ear. (99 words/A PLUS PLUS PLUS)

First Man (2018)

Director: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Pablo Schrieber, Jason Clarke
Runtime: 138 minutes
Viewed at: AMC Quail Springs 24 (IMAX)

Chazelle’s honest romanticism in his direction brilliantly extends to his Neil Armstrong biopic. He carefully balances the ‘60s fantasy of space with the real cost in NASA’s first Gemini and Apollo programs leading to Armstrong and Aldrin’s first orbit. In doing so, Gosling gets another exceptional turn, tactfully portraying Armstrong’s marked introversion, grief, and uncertainty, with Foy‘s turn as Janet Armstrong finding stability through the complexities of living with an astronaut. That human dimension adds even more peril to the stellar flight and moon landing sequences, making First Man the last word in space biopics. (95 words/A PLUS)

A Star Is Born (2018)

Director: Bradley Cooper
Stars: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliott
Runtime: 135 minutes
Viewed at: AMC Quail Springs Mall 24 – Dolby Cinema

Turns out Stars don’t fade. Cooper breathes new, thoroughly modern life into the romantic tragedy musical between a teetotaling country singer and an ordinary woman with extraordinary gifts. His human direction, perfectly matched with his sympathetic performance and Libatique’s glossy cinematography, already make this the definitive telling. But enough of that: we need to talk about Gaga. Her raw, uncompromising cinematic talents, previously just hinted at, have arrived. To compare, she balances perfectly between Garland’s meek melancholy and Streisand’s overt melodrama, and her instantaneous chemistry with Cooper makes the downfall particularly heartrending. Retellings are never this profound. (97 words/A PLUS)

The House with a Clock in its Walls (2018)

Director: Eli Roth
Stars: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sunny Suljic, Kyle MacLachlan
Runtime: 104 minutes
Viewed at: AMC Quail Springs Mall 24

What’s stranger than the ticking noise in Uncle Jonathan’s mansion? Roth making a family movie? Or his kiddie Gothic horror actually working? Amblin to the core: Nerdy protagonist, warlock uncle, bewitching Blanchett, light scares, quirky running gags, occasional family unfriendly moments that helicopter parents will just love. Only this time, there’s gorgeous CG and production design, with just several droplets of its director’s trademark blood. The best thing about Roth’s fantasy frightfest, despite some narrative stumbles, is its sense of wonder, following right into the Spielbergian tradition of adult directors utilizing inventiveness over gore for brave kids. Still creepy. (99 words/A MINUS)

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Director: Spike Lee
Stars: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace
Runtime: 135 minutes
Viewed at: AMC Quail Springs Mall 24

Lee opens his best joint in years with the disclaimer: “Based On Some Fo’Real, Fo’Real Sh*t.” It hits the fan. Lee uses the KKK infiltration by Colorado detective Ron Stallworth (played masterfully here by Denzel’s son) as a springboard for visual dialogue, when he’s at his best: cinema as sermon, Hollywood gloss intercut with bleak reality. He mocks racist dumbassery, only to show audiences their terrifyingly real capabilities, creating an ending that will divide some, but speak to many more—just like Do The Right Thing did. BlacKkKlansman shows Lee’s unapologetic talents have not only not waned, but matured. (99 words/A PLUS)

White Boy Rick (2018)

Director: Yann Demange
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry, Rory Cochrane, RJ Cyler, Jonathan Majors, Keenon Jackson (YG), Eddie Marsan, Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie
Runtime: 116 minutes
Viewed at: AMC Penn Square Mall 10

The alternating ambition and stoicism of Demange’s direction worked fantastically for ‘71, so it’s a shame his sophomore effort is such a mess. Although the acting and production values take the audience deep into the Detroit home of teen FBI informant Rick Wershe (Merritt, a decent debut) and his arms-dealing dad Rick Sr. (McConaughey, amazing), the rhyme and rhythm are lacking. White Boy Rick tries to be many things: a criminal caper, a depiction of crack’s brutality in the ‘80s, a parable on how crime doesn’t pay. Yet, with a disjointed script, Demange plays it too by the book. (99 words/C PLUS)