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The Debts The Debts is offline
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1. Hereditary.

I never wanted to be your mother.

What is a truly scary movie? What is the stuff that chills you to the bone and leaves you in a sweat while either watching it or afterwards? It’s hard to tell, with the horror genre being as subjective as it is. One person’s scary is another person’s unintentional comedy. In regards to first time director Ari Aster’s Hereditary, he conjures something that for my money is the former and goes beyond just being simply “scary”. By jerry rigging supernatural horror tropes into a story about grief and familial trauma, he creates a film that feels like some kind of never–ending nightmare. Even for a seasoned horror vet like such as myself, the film showed me things I wish I didn’t see: Endless wailing in deep pain, the off kilter vibe from frame one, particularly pitch black gallows humor, the boxy cinematography, seriously sadistic deaths which are presented with open glee, and a heavenly downer of a conclusion. Its hatred of the audience rivals what I saw in Alien Covenant last year. Coupled with extraordinary performances (especially that of Toni Collette’s emotionally chaotic work as mess of a a mother and Alex Wolff’s haunted shell of a teenager) and a troubling amount of dread, its a film for the ages and strong evidence (as if needed, given the amount of good stuff we’ve had lately) that the horror genre definitely has its balls back.



2. Won't You Be My Neighbor?.

The greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving.

The world is a sometimes maddening and frustrating place to live in. People are complicated ugly creatures and it’s easy to view them as just that, with not much in the way of redeeming qualities. Yet Fred “McFeely” Rogers, host of his self titled Mister Rogers Neighborhood show, would sit down with you and try to find the good in you, no matter how big, small or different you were. And in Morgan Neville’s gentle documentary shows us Fred in all of his genuine beauty. The film goes through a lot about him, warts and all, and is impossible to watch without shedding a tear. In all honesty, he was a bigger badass than anyone else simply by being the better man without arrogance or pride and frankly, we need more men him like this in this world of ours.



3. The Night Comes For Us.

You can’t kill what’s already dead.

Bone crunching, head smashing, ball chopping, finger ripping, knife biting, head exploding, machete wielding relentlessly sustained mayhem – To say that Timo Tjahjanto’s splatter action flick is violent is the understatement of the year. You will gawk, cover your eyes, gasp and squeal with childlike glee over how he keeps coming up with methods to maim the human body in this tale of redemption of a gangster (Joe Taslim) who decides to grow a conscience and faces the bloody (emphasis on bloody) consequences. It’s a relentless ride that will make you wonder if there is too much blood in the human body. We may never get a Raid 3 by Gareth Evans but this more than suffice and with rumors that Tjahjanto wants to make this into a series, he’s certainly come out of the gate swinging. Here’s to more carnage.



4. Blindspotting.

If it’s so disrespectful, then why is it okay for me to call you that?!

So many movies these days tackle serious subject matters with such stern faces on them but is it possible to have them make us laugh too? Carlos López Estrada’s debut, working off a screenplay written by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Cassel (who also starred and produced the project), explores the final days of a man named Collin (Diggs) who’s finally about to be off parole as he deals with being a witness to the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer, his over aggressive best friend Will (Cassel), increasingly surreal nightmares and the ever changing social and racial climate in Oakland, California. To say that the film is powerful is putting it lightly and and it’s all thanks to the friendship between Collin and Will. You care about these two so much that it hurts when you see them at each other’s throats and the film puts a human face on everything, even on characters who other films wouldn’t deserve it. It hits hard and I can't recommend it enough.



5. The Death of Stalin.

I’ve had nightmares that made more sense than this.

Totalitarianism has never been this funny. Based on the French graphic novel of the same name, Armando Iannucci has crafted not only one of the best of the year but also the funniest in depicting the mad scramble in the Soviet Union government when Joseph Stalin (played briefly but memorably by Adrian McLoughlin) dies of a stroke caused by a laughing fit. What follows is at once one of the most terrifying yet hilarious films you will see all year between its razor sharp dialogue, a cast at the top of their game and an atmosphere of extreme discomfort. It’s like Downfall meets The Office! Be on the lookout for Jason Isaacs in particular as the scene stealing General Zhukov, “the man who took Germany” and who gleefully conspires with Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi, one of his finest roles in years) to usurp the current powers that be. Also for my money this sports score of the year, as composer Christopher Willis wonderfully captures the balance of terror and beauty in Soviet culture wonderfully.



6. The House That Jack Built.

If you feel like screaming, I definitely think that you should.

Lars von Trier is a name that inspires delight as much as it does scorn. A filmmaker who thrives on endless provocation and open hostility while having a chuckle about how much the audience is mad at his newest movie. And unsurprisingly, his horror/thriller/comedy (yes to that last one) The House That Jack Built pretty much got the response he was going for of folks complaining about the film’s abhorrent violence towards the innocent (women especially) and the deliberate pretentiousness of its protagonist Jack (Mat Dillon), a serial killer who plays out like what would happen if you mashed George Costanza with Patrick Bateman. The is an epic in its own ways, from the runtime to the densely collected themes he assembles like either him simultaneously self-critiquing and narcissistically celebrating his work to its grandly theatrical ending. Its a thoroughly grotesque odyssey into absolute evil but also funny, very well acted (with Dillon performing career best work here and the real front runner for Best Actor this year, regardless of what awards ceremonies tell me) and it won’t escape your head any time soon. Trust me.



7. Paddington 2.

Aunt Lucy said, if we’re kind and polite the world will be right.

Take one look at this bear right here and tell me you can’t find anything adorable about this little guy. Expanding on the elegance of the wonderful original, Paul King goes all in with a bigger and beautifully made sequel that’s so delightfully tight and well made in an absurd amount of ways that would make even the most experienced filmmakers blush. When dear Paddington tries to get his Aunt Lucy a pop up book of London, he finds himself falsely framed by a dastardly actor (a devilishly narcissistic Hugh Grant, being so good here he is deserving of awards talk) and has to prove his innocence, with the help of family and his new found inmate friends. Even prison is cute and cuddly in this! If children’s entertainment were more demanding of higher quality works like this, we’d be in a better place. But every once in a while, a gem like this comes along and warms even the iciest of hearts.



8. Annihilation.

Ventress wants to reach the lighthouse. You want to fight it. But I don’t think I want any of those things.

Alex Garland is one of my favorite screenwriters, so I was baffled to why I responded tepidly to his debut as a director with Ex Machina. Luckily for his sophomore effort, a loose adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name, he stepped up his game major league in a film that’s as beautiful as it frequently grotesque. Playing out like a sort of mix of STALKER, a gender inverted Predator and Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space, Garland effectively stages a film that’s haunting in its horrors and gruesomeness but also oddly calming. The alien nature that devours everything is refreshingly depicted as not some kind of mustache twirling villain but instead a natural, all devouring force that will make everything something else, something new. It’s haunting stuff and to say I’ve rewatched this multiple times is putting it lightly.



9. Mirai.

Are you saying you lost yourself?

Metaphor is a weird thing to be used in fiction. Last year, we had Metaphor: The Movie with Darren Aronofsky’s hyperbolic flurry that was mother!. And this year we’re given a similarly heavy on the metaphors and allegory story but far more kinder and gentler with Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai, a nicely straightforward, exceedingly wholesome and visually dazzling story of a toddler being resistant over the fact he’s got a baby sister in the household. The charm and cuteness levels are through the roof on this from frame one, and for a movie with such low stakes, it’s hard not to get caught up with its endearing characters and universal themes of family history across multiple generations. I laughed a lot and even came close to tearing up hard towards the end and you just might too too.



10. Mandy.

Oh man, they wronged you. You exude a cosmic darkness.

If one were to look up a contemporary interpretation of the word “phantasmagorical” in the modern dictionary, they would see a massive one sheet poster of Panos Costmatos’ Mandy spread out across two pages rather than any typical description detailing what the word means. This is extreme art house action/horror of the nth degree, a movie that doesn’t even feel like it comes from our primitive and mundane reality, taking a simple straightforward tale of revenge and turns it into a simultaneously sad story of grief of losing lost love AND a rambunctiously gonzo spectacle of extreme violence, pretty colors and an animistic performance by the great Nic Cage. Much as it’s fun to make fun of the man for his recent film choices, Mandy shows us that yes, Cage is still one of our most eccentric living actors who 110% commits to whatever role he’s playing. As a result with working with such interesting material, he gives us easily one of this year’s most distinct performances, more worthy of awards talk than any biopic impersonation. This is probably the most divisive film of the year, but also easily its most unique. You may have heard this tale before but not told like this.



11. Overlord.

They have been given a purpose.

Sometimes, the best movies benefit from being the most simple in terms of what they’re about and how their plot goes down. And Julius Avery’s Overlord, a rock ‘em-‘sock em WWII action/horror hybrid is as straightforward as they come: What would happen if Where Eagles Dare became Re-Animator halfway in? From start to finish, this is a goddamn blast in all of its gooey, icky glory. This is lean, no bullshit B-movie entertainment of the absolute finest rife with terrific performances, solid tension, quick pacing and delicious gore, all with a sense of seriousness that never becomes overbearing. Overlord may have bombed at the box office, but should most definitely earn an enthusiastic following on video. Plus hey, nothing beats watching Nazis and super Nazis getting blown to smithereens.



12. Apostle.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Gareth Evans, most famous for his ultra violent Indonesian action series The Raid, decides to take a different direction in his career in this Netflix original which he directed, wrote, produced and even edited himself. This isn’t the first time he’s dabbled in cult horror (the segment Safe Haven from V/H/S 2, which he co-directed with fellow action filmmaker Timo Tjahjanto). But here, we’re allowed to see him really go off in this absolutely insane and blood drenched spin on The Wicker Man, telling the story of a former man of the cloth named Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) and his quest to rescue his sister from a nefarious nature worshiping cult. It doesn’t fully work—the pacing takes a little too much time getting to the good stuff in spite of being very upfront about there being something not quite right with island it takes place on and characters aren’t as fully developed as they should be. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I got a major kick out of this bugnuts ambitious as hell and grandly scaled piece of religious horror.



13. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.

You got a problem with cartoons?

To think that one of the most energetic and visually idiosyncratic films of 2018 came from the Sony corporation and the studio that did The Emoji Movie somewhat blows my mind. Possibly surpassing the high standards set forth by even the Raimi films, directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman working alongside the power team of Christopher Lord and Phil Miller craft this wonderfully dimension swinging story of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and his growth into becoming the new Spider-Man while also trying to save the very fabric of reality with the help of other Spider-Men and Women from other universes, from a burnt out Peter Parker to Spider-Pig in this love letter to the character as a whole. It’s fast, fun and you won’t believe your eyes of this heartfelt sugar rush of a movie. Batman once said a hero can by anyone and Spider-Verse almost acts like the cinematic nail to hammer that point in. Don’t miss it.



14. Game Night.

How can that be profitable for Frito-Lay?

Most studio comedies these days unfortunately run the gamut of either crappy improv that goes on for hours or half hearted remakes/sequels of their original classics. So it becomes bizarrely refreshing to see a mid budget comedy like this do neither (man, remember when these were dime-a-dozen? Times really have changed). Seemingly coming out of nowhere in the dead of February, this delightful comedy centered around a group of friends who’s night of fun turns deadly involving kidnappings, murder, gunshot wounds and adorable dogos, among other bits of insanity. Yet the film always maintains a nice air of friendliness and quick pacing in spite of the dire things I described. Who would think that directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein would show such a major improvement over their debut Vacation from a couple years back?



15. Avengers: Infinity War.

No resurrections this time.

This film shouldn’t exist. Better yet, it should just be a mess with how many characters and payoffs to previous plot threads from other MCU movies. But oddly enough, it isn’t. In fact, its somehow superbly constructed. The Russo Brothers continue their odd climbs in quality from the shallow trudge that was The Winter Soldier and the solid but imperfect Civil War with this stunning epic that spans the entire cosmos as every hero from every facet does their best to stop the mad titan Thanos (Josh Brolin in a surprisingly nuanced performance) from annihilating half of the universe to restore what he believes as some sort of “balance” to prevent the universe destroying itself. Most of the time when people use Empire Strikes Back as a comparison to sequels, I roll my eyes but frankly, that moniker is earned here: It is by far the darkest and even outright nihilistic hour for the entire franchise and I’ll be damned if it didn’t win me over when the melancholic credits rolled.



16. A Star Is Born.

I just wanted to take another look at you.

Feel like I need a second viewing to fully appreciate the film, but holy hell who knew Bradley Cooper could direct this well? Guess working with Clint Eastwood a couple years back really did rub off on him in all the best ways in this straightforward but effective and unpretentious redo of the famous rise and fall story. The music rocks, the performances are off the charts, the camera work stuns and it proudly wears its heart on its sleeve. Above all, it feels much more rawer than these “singer gets popular” stories than most of them lack. The story maybe fictitious but it feels more real than any typical musical biopic out there, especially in its depictions of self destruction and heartbreak. This didn't wind up taking the gold at this year's Oscars as I was hoping, but I have a feeling it'll be treasured for a looooooong time.



17. First Reformed.

My hands shake as I write these lines.

For a majority of Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, I was convinced I was watching one of the top five best films of the year. This haunting story of Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke in a revelatory performance) as he finds himself in a spiral of self destruction and fears of our planet’s ecosystem kept stunning me the more it went on: The exceptional cinematography, the unbelievably sharp script, the mournful mood, every performance across the board……until the ending hits, which is quite honestly one of the most baffling conclusions I’ve ever seen for a movie like this to end on. I cannot in good conscience fully sing my praises of the film as much as I want to yet I would still recommend it for everything it does well. In a sea of ridiculously insecure Religious propaganda films like the God’s Not Dead series, what Schrader does here is honestly what we need more of. Just stick the landing better next time, will ya?



18. You Were Never Really Here.

Joe? Wake up. It’s a beautiful day.

On the base synopsis, Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here (based off a book by the same name by Jonathan Ames) seems like a bog standard thriller: An ex military man named Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) moonlights as an assassin killing people who need to die and rescuing underage women from their abusers. However, when he takes on a job to rescue a senator’s daughter under not too dissimilar from his other jobs, things go to hell in a hand basket and Joe has to find a way to piece it all back together. But instead of going for a Taken-esque route like so many other filmmakers would, Ramsay gives us something bold, artistic and genuinely harrowing in its depiction of PTSD, the consequence of violence, suicide and trying to find hope in situations where there is none. For a film that cares so little about actual on screen violence (perhaps a little too much), it shows great empathy for those affected by it and I doubt you can say that about a lot of movies of this type, regardless of how good they are.



19. Sicario: Day of The Soldado.

How do you define terrorism?

Now here’s an oddball of a movie: A sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed films of the decade without the original director, cinematographer, lead actress, composer (RIP Johan Johansson) but still keeping the original writer and two of its supporting players, who were seen as major highlights from its predecessor bringing along a new director, cinematographer and composer. However, despite some bumps in the road, Stefano Sollima’s Day of The Soldado continues its predecessors sense of dread and brutality in the cartel wars. A DTV sequel this is not, from its sharp production values to its doubling down on its ugliness of what a colossal, psychotic clusterfruitcake the war on drugs truly is. There’s no victories here, no grandstanding message to be delivered like the first film did, no moral characters; Just an endless pit of violence and destruction with no end. Yet I found it almost as much as compelling as the first, thanks to excellent performances from its cast and brutally effective setpieces. And you can bet your ass I’ll be in line for a third one if it ever gets made.



20. The Mule.

You’re welcome, dykes.

I won’t lie when I say I’m a fanboy of Clint Eastwood, both as an actor and filmmaker. I love his understated approach, no frills presentation and how he presents his messages in films; Just saying what they’re about and leaving audience to decide on what they feel instead of shoving it down their throat. And with The Mule, he continues his tried and true methods with this quiet crowd pleaser of a 90 year old man dealing with financial issues who finds himself inexplicably becoming the cartels go-to delivery man for their shipments. While the subject matter and marketing makes it look like a somber affair, the final film is a much more lighter and fun ride, thanks to Eastwood having a ball dicking around on the road between munching down on snacks at pit stops, listening to oldies and having threesomes with prostitutes. Sometimes, simple dad movies like this make for perfectly pleasant viewing than any mega budget spectacular and if this is Eastwood’s last stab at acting, he chose a good note to leave on.



21. A Quiet Place.

I love you. I have always loved you.

Third time’s the charm for writer-director-actor John Krasinski with his horror smash A Quiet Place, a cracker jack creature feature with a terrific gimmick: Living in a world where noise is forbidden due to ravenous monsters who are attracted to it and will eat your ass if you so much as step on the tiniest twig. It’s absolutely effective stuff, from how he so masterfully stages tension and gets really terrific performances out of his actors, from his real life wife Emily Blunt to deaf actress Millicent Simmonds. But what really makes this monster movie so effective is its surprising heart; Seriously, the movie really gets you to care about the Abbott family and their struggle against these vicious creatures that have plagued the world. On top of that, it looks and sounds terrific, from Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s surprisingly gorgeous 35mm photography to sharp sound design and Marco Beltrami’s score, which is honestly one of his best in years. It may not reinvent the wheel but it has a nuts and bolts approach to filmmaking I greatly appreciate and I can’t wait to see what Krasinski does next.



22. Disobedience.

You will be a brilliant mother! You’ve got to be brave and beautiful.

For the first first half hour of Sebastián Lelio’s adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s novel of the same name, I wasn’t fully feeling it. The story of a photographer (Rachel Weisz) who comes back to the her Jewish community community who has ostracized her and in the process reunites with a lost flame of hers (Rachel McAdams) made me think that I was in for a slog of a romance drama. It was drab and slow moving. However, once our two leads lock lips, the film kicks into overdrive into being an emotional love story of forbidden passions and buckling in the face of rigid rigid Religious traditions. Yes, this is a movie where McAdams spits in the Weisz’s mouth, but there’s so much going on here thematically and emotionally to just approach the film in a shallow manner such as that does it a real disservice. It’s truly a beautiful story and if one has Amazon Prime, do check it out. You won’t regret it.



23. Eighth Grade.

Gucci!

Growing up, quite frankly, sucks. Especially when you’re a teen and you are going through all of the headaches one would expect go through such as awkwardness, puberty, not knowing whether to follow the beat of your own drum or just roll with what’s “popular”, etc etc. And Bo Burnham’s debut details all the trials and tribulations one experiences when transitioning from middle school to high school all through the eyes of Kayla (Elsie Fisher in a super endearing performance), as she’s still reeling from an awful run. You will most certainly cringe and squirm during moments of the film but thanks to its sincerity and a surprising amount of creative tricks in its filmmaking (from format changes to one takes to even a John Carpenter-esque synth score) make it an experience far more palatable than one would think. It’s not without issues mind you (for a movie that’s 90 minutes, it feels like two hours instead) but all in all, a worthy watch and a kind hearted entry in the well worn coming of age canon.



24. Revenge.

Women always have to put up a f**king fight.

I want to get something out of the way that might make me look like a jerk but just hear me out: No, Coralie Fargeat’s first swing at a full length feature is not the radical reinvention of the Rape/Revenge genre some make it out to be. Narrative-wise all things considered, it’s rather by the book as a bubbly blonde named Jen (Matilda Lutz) finds herself on the receiving end of an unforgivable punishment at the hands of a group of men who stubbornly refuse to either not get the hint or acknowledged that they screwed up. These flaws in the male ego come to bite them severely in the ass as Jen comes back as a silent, blood soaked and dirt covered avenging angel out to get even in the most ruthless way possible. And what it lacks in originality, to say that the film is makes up for in purebred genre thrills is an understatement. From Fargeat’s eye for gloriously excessive style to Lutz’s thoroughly fierce and committed performance, the film morphs into a blast of righteousness and tons of blood from then on and never looks back. Some may find it hard to watch while others will roll their eyes at its flourishes but for my money, I was hooked pretty much all the way to the film’s piercing final shot.



25. Den of Thieves.

You’re not the bad guys; We are.

A two and a half hour knockoff of HEAT starring Gerard Butler and directed by the guy who’s written the scripts for such action schlock like A Man Apart and London Has Fallen released back in January doesn’t sound too promising on paper. Here’s a movie that has everything going against it but here’s the shocker: It’s good! Hell, even a tinge close to great even. For a first timer in the director’s chair, Christian Gudegast shows a surprisingly steady and clean hand towards this pulpy material that it probably doesn’t deserve as Butler plays a gloriously swinging dick, burnt out corrupt cop tracking down a group of ex-marines turned thieves planning to rob the Federal Reserve. Here’s a movie that drinks cheap beer by the pitcher and munches on crappy Asian food but sometimes, that is far from a bad thing when it’s as ambitious and thoroughly entertaining as this is. In a year where we saw a surprising amount of heist films (such as American Animals, Ocean’s 8 and Widows), this was the one that topped them all and with a sequel currently in development, I can’t wait to see more adventures of Big Nick O’Brien.

Last edited by The Debts; 03-05-2019 at 12:31 AM.
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