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Showing posts by: Peter Foy click to see Peter Foy's profile
Feb 2 2018 3:00pm

The End of the F***ing World, and I Feel Fine

It doesn’t take long to ascertain what the British series The End of the F***ing World (readily available to stream through Netflix) is aspiring to be. Just from its NSFW (albeit censored) title, one can judge that the show already has a bit of a punk gene to it. From the opening scene where protagonist James talks about his propensity to become a serial killer, it’s clear that viewers are in for something that’s nothing less than misanthropic. It’s a pitch-black comedy for sure, but it’s also light-hearted, breezy, and fully romantic. Also, despite its television-based episodic structure, it feels more like cinema and should really strike a chord with people that have been anxious for a pulpy road trip.

Based on a comic book by Charles S. Forman, The End of the F***ing World definitely has a setup that reflects the inherent pent-up nihilism of being a suburban teenager. Seventeen-year-old James (Alex Lawther) is a budding psychopath who spends his free time killing small animals, ultimately desiring to kill a human eventually. Almost as disturbed is his schoolmate Alyssa (Jessica Barden), an even younger girl who detests the banality of her locale and comes off as a nymphomaniac to her peers (despite being a virgin). The two end up forming a relationship; Alyssa is drawn to James’s darkness, while James primarily sees Alyssa as a potential first victim. Fed up with her restricting family, Alyssa pressures James into stealing his father’s car, and they go on a road trip with nary a set destination.

[To be mad in a deranged world is not madness. It's sanity...]

Jan 12 2018 2:00pm

Search Party: Why the TBS Hit Is the Crime Series Millennials (for Better or Worse) Need

**Spoilers Ahead**

Search Party has the dubious distinction of being a series that’s true colors don’t show right away. In fact, it really isn’t until the second season that the series shows its true ethos, primarily because it performs the impossible feat of turning the debut season’s idea on its head while still retaining its identity. What’s more, the show actually lacerates the culture it depicts, offering us characters that become increasingly more deplorable—and even criminal in their actions—yet also avoiding the pitfall of being cynical by being all-too nuanced and self-aware in its presentation and commentary. Not too shabby for a show that’s concept would seem out of place for the YA section at your local library.

From afar, one might mistake Search Party’s idea of having something of a gimmick to it, especially if judging the first season alone. (If you don’t want the ending of the first season to be ruined, then don’t read a single thing about the second!) Following a group of 20-something New Yorkers who bring it upon themselves to find a missing classmate would seem like a clear attempt at modernizing the Nancy Drew mystery series for the smartphone age. The advertising suggests this as well, with the bright colors, character renderings that are cheekily modeled off of traditional teen-mystery novels, and the throwback titles (promos for the first season referred to it as “The Curious Case of the Lost Soul”). Still, it doesn’t take too long to delve into Search Party and realize that the programmatic formatting is just a hook and that there is something far more intelligent going on.

[Read more about Search Party!]

Dec 19 2017 1:00pm

Review: Thelma (2017)

Although mankind would like to think that they have free will throughout their life, there is the inarguable fact that one has absolutely no control over their upbringing. We are brought into this world knowing nothing and are powerless from being imprinted with the values and ideologies of our parents, guardians, and mandated norms in general. Even as we reach early adulthood and enter a broader world and scope of freedom, the strains of one’s childhood—whether blatant or subconscious—still linger. In Joachim Trier’s latest film, Thelma, this theme is richly explored through dark and supernatural elements that build to a beautifully poignant moment.

The film’s titular character is a biology student at a college in Oslo who is clearly a prisoner to her parent's overbearing presence. Raised Catholic and ever cast under their watchful eye (they even regularly check her social media), Thelma has shunned alcohol and even close friendships during her time in academia. However, things take a turn for the unexpected when she meets another female student at her school named Anja (Kaya Wilkins).

[Read Peter Foy's review of Thelma...]

Dec 4 2017 3:00pm

Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

When film noir is brought up, the first thing people tend to think of is the environments that these films are associated with. They think of the dark alleys and smog-saturated urban locales of American cities (typically LA but sometimes New York) where many an evil deed has taken place.

However, rural noir is a thing too, and it has given us some of the genre’s most evocative films. Fargo is often considered the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece. Aussie director Jane Campion gave a feminist stab at it with her chilling mini-series, Top of the Lake. David Cronenberg turned the neo-noir format on its head with his brilliant A History of Violence (see here). Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the latest attempt at rural noir, and it not only sustains the validity of the genre but it’s a great film by any measure.

[Read Peter Foy's review of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri...]

Nov 28 2017 3:30pm

Review: The Shape of Water (2017)

While Mexican director Guillermo del Toro has become a vastly recognizable artist across several mediums (with his name gracing novels, films, FX’s The Strain, and even aborted video games), there is certainly one particular piece of his that has gained him respect and favor throughout the industry: Pan’s Labyrinth. The 2006 dark fantasy film was heralded as a masterpiece by numerous critics and made more than quadruple its budget at the box-office. Its legacy has carried out for the decade since its release (and I personally think it’s the greatest fantasy film ever made), yet del Toro’s career path didn’t go on the seamless trajectory one would have hoped for after the release of that crucial masterpiece.

After two years of effort on the project, Guillermo del Toro would end up abandoning the director’s chair on The Hobbit. After this, he faced even greater disappointment when Universal Studios refused to greenlight his adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness—a long-time dream project of his—due to its staggering production costs and his refusal to shoot the film for a PG-13 rating. Five years after the release of Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, Guillermo del Toro would finally direct another film with the summer blockbuster Pacific Rima financial hit if not a major critical favorite. Two years later, he followed that up with Crimson Peak. This return to gothic-horror was modestly successful at the box office but was shockingly pedestrian in comparison to the director’s usually highly-imaginative oeuvre.

[Read Peter Foy's review of The Shape of Water!]

Oct 17 2017 12:00pm

Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Not many films sci-fi films can truly attest to having the legacy that Blade Runner has accumulated in the 35 years since its release. Loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the film told a contemplative tale of a future police officer tasked with terminating artificial humans known as replicants, and it drew as equally from film noir as it did science-fiction.

Directed by Ridley Scott (fresh off his success from Alien), the film hit theaters in the summer of 1982. It wasn’t initially met with great critical acclaim, and it actually underperformed at the box office. Over time, however, its importance became more lucid, as its influence could be felt in countless films from Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi roller-coaster Total Recall (also a Dick adaptation) to the beautiful anime classic Ghost in the Shell.

It’s often considered one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time by critics, as well as one of the truly great films of the 1980s (perhaps in no small part because a generation raised on Star Wars was liable to adhere to an edgier sci-fi film starring Harrison Ford as they grew up). Of even more distinction, Blade Runner has even been released in different versions over the years, with perhaps even more acclaim than the original (despite the film’s recognition, Ridley Scott’s preferred cut didn’t see release until a decade ago).

[Read Peter Foy's review of Blade Runner 2049...]

Oct 2 2017 12:00pm

Top 10 Crime Films of the 21st Century

What is it that makes for a great crime film? Is a movie a crime film simply because it deals with illicit characters? In that case, couldn’t a lot of political films be classified as such? Or what about corporate life? Aren’t these people infinitely worse than the robbers, thugs, and gangsters that continually saturate our media? These are all questions that I don’t readily have answers for, but they were what I pondered as I assembled this hypothetical ranking.

For this list, I left off at least one avant-garde film with film noir elements (*cough* Mulholland Drive *cough*) as well as perhaps a superhero film that possessed the gravity of a crime picture (rhymes with The Mark White). Also, I wasn’t too partial towards listing Westerns or straight-up action films here (although you might catch some exceptions).

I wanted this list to really represent the crime film at its most unfiltered. The kind of hardboiled goodness that would make Jim Thompson and Raymond Chandler cackle in glee. The stuff that presents a dark and treacherous world so enunciated yet believable in every regard. Therefore, without further ado, here are my picks for our young century’s best crime pictures:

[See the full list!]

Sep 11 2017 3:30pm

Review: Good Time (2017)

Making a crime thriller set in contemporary New York is tricky these days for one principal reason: there isn’t that much crime there anymore. In the 44 years since Martin Scorsese released Mean Streets, the Concrete Jungle has cleaned up its act by pushing out the pimps, pushers, and pornographers and replacing them with overpriced restaurants and Marvel and Nickelodeon characters.

Face it, you really have to be looking for it if you want to come across a bad neighborhood in New York these days—what with the rapid infestation of gentrification and all—and it can even be a little unnerving for filmmakers how family-friendly the place has become (Gaspar Noé originally wanted to shoot Enter the Void there, but opted for Tokyo instead after discovering New York didn’t quite have the underbelly he was looking for). That said, the Safdie Brothers (a filmmaking duo consisting of siblings Joshua and Ben) have succeeded in making a crime thriller that’s stylish and palpable, albeit also one that sorely underwrites an intriguing plot element.

[Read Peter Foy's review of Good Time...]

Jul 17 2017 4:00pm

Baby Driver: Why Edgar Wright’s Latest Is the Best Film of the Summer

For a movie that has accumulated such a high volume of accolades since its premiere, it’s a bit perplexing to find that Baby Driver is actually a bit of a difficult movie to review. Perhaps it’s because so much has been said about the film already, but the more likely reason is that the movie can be considered a sort of a self-review.

A pop-culture pastiche that uses an abundance of tropes, pop-culture references, and singular craft, Edgar Wright’s fifth film is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek assessment of the film industry’s current status quo while also being a radiant beacon of creativity. Whether this was a conscious decision on Wright’s part or not remains murky, but it certainly entices my mind the more I think about the possibility of Baby Driver being a deceptive film essay. That said, here goes my review anyway. Perhaps the best way to start is by addressing the man in the director’s chair.

[Read Peter Foy's review of Baby Driver...]

Jun 2 2017 2:00pm

Krisha: A Look Back at Trey Edward Shults’s Unbelievable Debut Feature

For a number of reasons, it’s logical for people to perceive that the quality of indie cinema has diminished since the dawn of the new millennium. After the auteur slump in the early 1980s, filmmakers like David Lynch and the Coen Brothers brought indie prominence back to the forefront of American cinema, ushering in the “VCR Generation” canon with filmmakers such as Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino. Unfortunately, after this fruitful indie boom, studio mandates became even more strict in the ever-changing technological climate. Budget restraints and other obstacles made it nearly impossible for even established filmmakers to develop the films that they wanted (explained in further detail in this excellent article here). 

For these concerns, we didn’t see the emergence of many great new American filmmakers after the year 2000 (although with recent debut features such as Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin and Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, one could make a case we’re reaching a new influx). However, one of last year’s most under-looked releases was a stark debut feature from a young Texan man named Trey Edward Shults. Krisha is a film experience that immediately comes off as transgressive, and with Shuts’s promising sophomore feature, It Comes at Night, soon to be released, it’s the ideal time to seek out its predecessor.

[Read Peter Foy's review of Krisha...]

Apr 17 2017 1:00pm

5 Reasons Why Legion Is the Best Comic Book TV Series to Date

If you just caught the 1st season of FX’s latest original series Legion (although given the less-than-stellar ratings I’m thinking you haven’t), then you probably have a rush of feelings towards it. Over the season’s eight episodes, viewers were given a relentlessly strange narrative that was ostensibly trying to do something transgressive with the superhero genre while also being accessible towards fans of the X-Men franchise. The results tended to befuddle many yet greatly appeal to the more open-minded, and those that stuck with the series from beginning to end will hopefully agree with this: it worked, and it worked really fucking well!

Series creator Noah Hawley (the man responsible for FX’s other largely transgressive genre exercise, Fargo) has indeed found a glory box in his take on a lesser-known X-Men comics character. Taking the character’s setup of being misconstrued by professionals as being insane when he’s actually a massively powerful telepath, Legion is psychological, unpredictable, and enjoyable in a way no other comic-book-derived series has been to date. 

Simply put, this debut season for Legion outdoes any other TV comic adaptation, even the better ones (i.e., The Walking Dead, Preacher, Jessica Jones, etc.), and also just might officially mark Noah Hawley as being the best thing to happen for genre television since Joss Whedon’s hey-day. Here’s five reasons why Legion should be your next TV obsession:

[See why YOU should be watching FX's Legion...]

Mar 23 2017 4:00pm

Review: Personal Shopper (2017)

It’s rational to think that one hasn’t fully matured as a human until they’ve come to understand death. No matter how much one has been told about the taxing toll of losing a loved one throughout their life, it’s really impossible to know what grief feels like until you’ve actually experienced it. The turmoil and soul-crushing despair that one must go through isn’t comparable to anything else in life, and that’s often the case for why ghost stories tend to be so personal yet universal. For that reason Personal Shopper, the new supernatural thriller from French filmmaker Olivier Assayas, finds comfortable footing in a semi-familiar template while also refusing to give into clichés.

The film’s story is about Maureen (Kristen Stewart), an American working in Paris as a personal shopper for a wealthy celebrity. Currently struggling after the death of her twin brother Lewis (from an ailment that she also possesses), Maureen tries using her background as a medium to see if she can communicate with her brother from the hereafter. Close while alive, the two siblings had made a pact that they would send each other a sign if either one of them died. After several occurrences where she interacts with spirits, she begins to receive anonymous text messages, which heightens both her fear and hope of reaching out to Lewis again.

[Brother from another ... plane of existence]

Mar 20 2017 11:00am

Review: Raw (2017)

When your debut feature film receives attention for containing materials that causes audience members to faint, one must wonder what that says about your capabilities as an artist/provocateur. This did indeed happen when French director Julia Ducournau screened her film Raw at The Toronto Film Festival last fall, and it’s an ugly fact that’s been latched onto the film up to its wide release in the States (premiering ahead of its release in Europe). 

Ducournau went on to say that she was shocked to hear of this and also dismayed because she felt that cinema shouldn’t be something that can possibly inflict harm on viewers. Regardless, there’s little doubt that the press headlines helped Raw get a distributor, and hopefully it will attract horror fans to catch a movie that’s leagues more subdued than your standard gorefest. In fact, in many ways Raw is anything but a shocker.

[Read more about the movie on everyone's lips!]

Mar 6 2017 1:00pm

Review: Get Out (2017)

Social thrillers are hard to pull off. While, sure, there have been numerous genre films that have managed to satisfy as entertainment while still being potent allegory, there are exceedingly more instances where filmmakers get bogged down with their ideas, resulting in a half-baked execution (The Purge franchise, anyone?). For Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, however, the comedian has turned out an imaginative comedy-horror that’s socially prescient in an unpretentious manner and very often very well-made (albeit a little rough in its 3rd act). The film is Get Out, and it may have just become the first sleeper hit of the year.

A young African-American man named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) finds himself on a trip to meet the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams). Upon coming to the rural town where her parents live, however, both our protagonist and we the viewers apprehend that this community has some seedy secret. Other black people in the town seem to have some robotic mannerisms to them, and Rose’s parents (and neighbors) seem all too interested in Chris’s physical attributes. Needless to say, Chris eventually finds himself in a fight for his life that may cost him both his freedom and his sanity.

[Get out ... get out, get out, get out!]

Feb 13 2017 1:00pm

The Player: Why Robert Altman’s Hollywood Satire Is an Even Better Film 25 Years Later

Screenplay writers hate Hollywood! It really is as simple as that.

There's a good chance you would too if you had to go through all the studio bullshit (i.e., studio rewrites, budget cuts, lame-brain producers) just to see a version of your project reach theaters that barely resembles what you had in mind.

Just ask Michael Tolkin, who came to Holywood in the 1980s with aspirations of writing scripts that felt like Steven Spielberg meets Reiner Werner Fassbinder (Ha! Like that’d ever happen.) and eventually found it to be a lost cause. Instead though, Tolkin decided to use his hardships of working in Hollywood as a basis for a crime novel, The Player, and it ended up being his bridge towards finally having a fruitful career in the cinematic world. In 1992, the book was adapted into a film, with Tolkin supplying the screenplay and Robert Altman helming it as director.

[In the name of all writers ... I'm going to kill you]

Dec 8 2016 4:30pm

Point Blank (1967): The Only Neo-Noir that Matters

I’ve been a consumer of countless crime fiction novels, films, and television for most of my life now—from eras ranging from Raymond Chandler to Elmore Leonard to Dennis Lehane—yet still I find myself pausing to ask this bleeding question: what the hell does neo-noir ever mean?

Most commonly, people refer to neo-noir as anything that follows the template of the classical film noir era, which occurred in the 1940s and '50s. For that reason, films like Chinatown and L.A. Confidential often get labeled as neo-noir, but I find it difficult not to see this as a misnomer. Those films carry an authenticity that makes me feel that they were really part of the classical era.

Other people take the word more literally and feel it applies to noir-esque films with science-fiction elements in them, such as Blade Runner. But, more often than not, the noir themes in these films tend to be overshadowed by the spectacle.

Even some filmmakers seem to be less than privy to the term (don’t count on the Coen Brothers or Quentin Tarantino ever describing their films as neo-noir). And when I talk about film in my favorite genre of cinema, you best believe I drop the “neo” in most cases. That said, there are still a handful of films I feel are best described by the aforementioned term. For that reason, I believe John Boorman’s 1967 film Point Blank ranks as the best neo-nor ever made.

[See why Point Blank is the only neo-noir that matters...]

Dec 5 2016 1:00pm

Review: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Nocturnal Animals opens with a credits sequence that may very well go down as the most visceral and unexpected of the year. It’s a sequence that showcases obese naked women dancing and performing strange acts of jubilation, all while a dramatic orchestral score plays. It’s imagery that’s morose and comical at the same time, and at the end, it’s revealed to be a video piece for an art opening that protagonist Susan is curating. This opening certainly gains the viewer’s undivided attention with ease, but like Nocturnal Animals itself, the opening is duplicitous eye candy and confused towards its own artistry.

Yet, it also is a fitting setup for the film’s plot. Susan (Amy Adams) is a gallery operator in Los Angeles who dresses in elegance and modern art, which also seems to mask her unsatisfying marriage and financial woes. Susan, however, soon receives a surprising gift from her ex-husband Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal). Tony has written a novel that is going to be published, but he’s sent his manuscript to Susan as well as dedicated the book to her.

[Aww, how sweet...]

Nov 18 2016 4:30pm

Stray Bullets: Why You Should Be Reading One of the Best Crime Comics Around

Crime comics are among the most popular genres in mainstream comic books (perhaps only second to superheros). For generations, comic readers have eaten up hardboiled goodness like Sin City and 100 Bullets, titles that have proven there’s much more mainstream appeal in comic books than just seeing grown men wear homoerotic tights. What’s more though, the genre has shown real artistic merit, particularly in one long-running series that is sorely under-read and left off too many contemporary must-read lists: David Lapham’s Stray Bullets.

First published in 1995, Stray Bullets was the bleeding edge of independent comics for its time. Not only did Lapham write and draw the comic entirely himself, but he published it through his own El Capitan Books, allowing him to put out the series the exact way he wanted to. A non-linear crime story that was entirely printed in black-and-white and favored a hefty degree of realism, the series was unlike any other American series at the time (hell, even the design of the TPB’s looked closer to the European standard).

[Read more about your next comic obsession...]

Oct 27 2016 12:00pm

Don’t Look Now: The Best Horror Film You’ve Never Seen

When mainstream publications make best-of lists pertaining to horror films, there are always a number of mainstays you can expect to see in the perceived top ten. These films include The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead, Alien, and Psycho, and even some slightly less-lauded entrees like David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly and The Omen are likely to show up, too.

There is one particularly great horror film, however, that is sorely left off many of these lists—largely because it was out-of-print for a small eternity. What’s more, the film has also been massively influential on other filmmakers and has aged better than most of its contemporaries.

[Actually, we'd really like you to look...]

Sep 22 2016 3:30pm

Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter: A Lost American Classic

When literary laureates list their picks for great American novels, rarely are crime novels brought up in the same breath. Sure, there were plenty of bestsellers in the genre that led to more acclaimed film adaptations (Mario Puzo’s The Godfather being perhaps the most obvious), and certain authors like Jim Thompson were even lauded for how transgressive they were able to be with the genre, but, as a whole, the genre was collectively seen by reviewers as pulp, shallow, and ultimately disposable. A shame, too, as at its strongest, crime fiction can eclipse preposterous ideas and represent something undeniably human. Perhaps the most indispensable example of this is Don Carpenter’s first novel: Hard Rain Falling.

A generation-spanning story set in America’s West Coast (primarily in Oregon and Northern California) in the mid-20th century, the book recounts the lives of two street-raised kids and their tribulations into adulthood. We’re first introduced to Jack Levitt, an orphaned teenager in Portland who spends his rebellious days seeking sex and booze and partaking in crimes with his local gang. His life takes a real turn-around, however, when he meets Billy Lancing, a light-skinned Negro from Seattle who has run away from home to try and make it as a billiard champ. Levitt forms a strong bond with Lancing that takes them from the dingy pool halls of Portland to a tumultuous prison sentence—and an unexpected happiness that follows.

[Read Peter Foy's review of the lost American classic, Hard Rain Falling...]