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Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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The Exorcist is one of the most popular, groundbreaking, influential horror films of all time…and I used to hate it. To be fair, The Exorcist was a victim of its own success, because for decades it was advertised as "the scariest movie ever made!". All this hype, and when teenage me finally saw it, I wasn't scared, I was bored outta my goddamn mind. There are countless scenes from the movie that have been parodied and ripped-off a million times that it was hard to take any of this seriously. Thankfully, when I revisited the film many years later I warmed up to it, not because I think it's a particularly great horror film, but because it's just a great film in general. Technically speaking, this is a brilliant movie. William Friedkin directs the hell out of it, creating so much tension and atmosphere without resorting to cheap jump scares and loud noises (there's barely any music in the film), while also keeping things surprisingly grounded in reality. At its core The Exorcist is about a mother with a sick child who exhausts every possible resource known to man to find out what's wrong with her daughter, slowly going mad as the child gets worse, until she has no choice but to resort to an exorcism. Yep, it's basically a family drama with some supernatural stuff sprinkled throughout, until we get to the third act where everything goes completely bonkers. If you've somehow never seen The Exorcist, don't go into it expecting "the scariest movie ever made", expect an extremely well-written and directed film, with phenomenal performances, wonderful atmosphere and a few good shocks.
If there's one thing that's universally agreed upon by horror fans, it's that the second half of the It miniseries is complete garbage. And even though the 2017 version of It was a huge hit with fans and critics, I immediately got nervous about the inevitable sequel. All the stuff with the kids vs Pennywise was easy to translate, but the second half was always gonna be tough because adults vs Pennywise just isn't as scary. Thankfully, It Chapter Two isn't the complete dumpster fire the miniseries was, but I've gotta say it was still a bit of a disappointment. Returning director Andy Muschietti manages to re-capture a lot of what made the first film work so well thanks to some remarkable casting, it's just too bad his editor forgot to actually edit the movie. Yes, It Chapter Two is almost three hours long, and that's definitely my biggest problem with this movie. Not only is it way too long, the pacing is downright bizarre and there's a lot of comedic moments that seem totally out-of-place. Still, there's a lot to like - the performances are universally terrific (Bill Hader steals the movie), the are some wonderfully creepy/gruesome moments, some interesting metaphysical elements are introduced, and I honestly had a good time watching the movie. If only the script was more focused, the editor actually did his job, and all the pointless flashbacks with the kids (who've been de-aged with horrible CGI) were ditched, It Chapter Two would've been a far better followup. I'm not sure if it will get better or worse with a re-watch, but I generally enjoyed It Chapter Two, even with all of its major flaws.
If you'd have told me Into the Spider-Verse would end up being one of my favourite Spider-Man movies there's a good chance I'd have peed my pants from laughing so hard. The trailers did nothing to spark my interest, and even after the great word-of-mouth I still expected something average. Well, not only is this one of the best Spider-Man movies ever, it's one of the best superhero movies ever. It gets so much right and completely understands the character of Spider-Man better than any of the other films. It's original, surprising, funny, and delivers some genuine heart and emotion. The fact they were able to pull this off within a story that's more than a little unorthodox, and just downright weird at times, is an impressive accomplishment. It turns the relatively unknown Miles Morales into one of the most exciting new heroes in the Marvel universe, and also happens to be one of the most visually stunning, and unique, animated films I've ever seen. I don't think anyone expected Into the Spider-Verse to be quite this good, but it's nice to still be surprised by a genre that gets extremely repetitive and predictable at times. If you've been avoiding the movie because it's animated or you think it's for kids, big mistake. Into the Spider-Verse is all-around terrific filmmaking, and deserves everyones attention.
Sicario was first released back in 2015. I just watched it for the first time last week…and I really have no excuse other than I'm an idiot. I knew I'd like it, I'd heard nothing but amazing things, and five minutes into the movie I completely regretted not watching it sooner. Sicario is, hands down, one of the best action/thrillers of the decade. Director Denis Villeneuve manages to create so much suspense and intensity throughout 120 minutes that at times it's almost unbearable. Needless to say, my fingernails did not survive this movie. The plot itself is fairly basic - the FBI teams up with some shady people to fight a brutal Mexican drug cartel. Emily Blunt plays the young FBI agent recruited into the fight, and for most of the movie the audience is just as confused and suspicious as she is. It delivers plenty of wonderful "what the hell?" moments, as you never really get a sense of anyone's true motivations until the end. The performances are universally terrific and the dialogue is sharp, but the main reason the movie works so masterfully is Villeneuve. With the help of some striking cinematography and a brilliant score, he gives us one of the most surprising, tense, and atmospheric thrillers in the history of the genre. If you've never seen Sicario, please don't make my mistake and see it ASAP.