• Ghostbusters: Afterlife

    Ghostbusters: Afterlife

    ★½

    Egon's farmhouse in Ghostbusters: Afterlife is haunted, not by ghosts, but by memes. Or maybe they're one and the same?

    If history is the contextualized, linearly organized ordering of the past, memes are the past decontextualized. Online memes are defined as being short transmissions of remixed culture. In a way, that sounds like a ghost; an ephemeral blip from an ambiguous past popping up to index a time long forgotten. Like any form of media, a meme can be evocative…

  • The Ballad of Little Jo

    The Ballad of Little Jo

    ★★★★

    It's against the law to dress improper to your sex!

    As much as the mythology of the American West occupies itself with notions of unabated freedom, it is in equal measure about fencing off land, establishing laws, bisecting countryside with railway lines, and the implied hierarchies of manifest destiny. In short, borders and demarcations. The Ballad of Little Jo concludes on a shot emphasizing the gendered implications of those borders, zooming in on the gutter between two photos in a…

  • Demon Seed

    Demon Seed

    ★★½

    You must accept the situation. Try to behave rationally.

    Demon Seed exemplifies why "bad" movies are worthy of equal study to "good" ones. Demon Seed is not a "bad" movie in terms of technical expertise (Proteus IV's golden, triangular snake body is a special effects marvel and the first half of the film mines the infinitely rich biological vs. artificial life thematic vein well enough), but it is an unpleasant and cruel movie. After the first act of set-up, the…

  • Nope

    Nope

    ★★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    Seeking to settle a bet, former California governor (and later founder of Stanford University) Leland Stanford beckons noted photographer Eadweard Muybridge to develop a camera mechanism that will capture a horse's gallop second-by-second to prove that at a point all four hooves leave the ground. After some experimentation, Muybridge succeeds, using tripwires triggered by the horse to record each stage of movement. It's a corker of a story, making the history it relates that much more captivating.

    Early in Jordan…

  • Ringu

    Ringu

    ★★★½

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    An urban legend about a haunted VHS tape that curses the viewer to die in seven days circulates by word of mouth, exemplified by the bedroom gossip that opens Ringu. Likewise, the curse those teenagers initially laugh off circulates through the networked, reproducible technology that has come to control our society's narratives nearly twenty-five years after this film's release. An oral tradition versus (but simultaneously linked to) an electronic one.

    In Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television, Jeffrey…

  • Happy Together

    Happy Together

    ★★★★

    Lai Yiu-Fai. . .let's start over.

    In a Kar-wai Wong film, I'm always watching the clock. Not in the sense of being bored, but in the sense of staying alert for any diegetic clocks, watches, or timepieces that may appear. Out of those in Happy Together, two notable instances are the retro flip clock in Yiu-fai Lai and Po-wing Ho's shared apartment and the massive digital billboard overlooking the Buenos Aires city center. In one of Christopher Doyle's numerous under-cranked…

  • We're All Going to the World's Fair

    We're All Going to the World's Fair

    ★★★½

    It's okay, I know it takes awhile to come out of the nightmare. Sometimes it feels - sometimes it still feels real even when you're awake.

    - Silent Sounds ASMR

    From black, an ouroboros-esque buffering emblem pops onto the screen. Creating a perfect circle, a grayish arrow loops into a black arrow, which itself reconnects with the former; one source flowing into another in a perpetual loop. We're All Going to the World's Fair's structure enacts that ouroboric iconography through…

  • Gunslinger

    Gunslinger

    ★★★½

    Regardless of this film's reputation as a disaster-ridden production (constant rain, injured actors), Gunslinger's curio premise (A woman takes up her husband's badge? Mercy me!) and the committed performances of its core trio layer in enough gendered commentary to make this B-grade release an important piece of genre history.

    A precursor to The Dalton Girls a year later, Gunslinger blurs the usually strict gendered lines of the Western. When Rose Hood's lawman husband halfheartedly intones that she should not rush…

  • The Wind

    The Wind

    ★★★

    Director Emma Tammi pulls off a pretty deft genre-blending coup by treating the wide-open landscapes of the Western like the claustrophobic, confined spaces of haunted houses and horror films. Traditionally, suspense in a horror film generates from the frame restricting the audience's viewpoint so that they become anxious about the monsters that can jump out from the off-screen space or appear in the always ominous negative space of a frame. Here, Tammi inverts those spatial dynamics, but retains the same…

  • Thor: Love and Thunder

    Thor: Love and Thunder

    ★★½

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    Another classic Thor adventure!

    In Thor: Love and Thunder, characters delude themselves through the stories they tell. Like any evangelical, Gorr initially devotes himself to the doctrine of the gods: that they are benevolent, that there is an afterlife, that they exist to protect their disciples. Once that faith gets disproven, Gorr simply trades it for another, submitting to the whispered commandments of the Necrosword. Back on Earth, Jane Foster practices the same self-deception when believing she can defeat stage…

  • Buck and the Preacher

    Buck and the Preacher

    ★★★★

    It's like a poison is soaked into the ground.

    About halfway through Buck and the Preacher, Ruby Dee's Ruth - who, aside from being held hostage by a band of white raiders early in the film, has been absent - provides a clear-eyed oppositional gaze to the viewpoints of its two leads. While Buck and the Reverend Willis Oakes Rutherford are not blind to the unfulfilled promises of land and unmolested freedom (the "forty acres and a mule" reallocation of…

  • Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

    Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

    ★★

    I think David Yates' secret is that he's slowly been turning these Fantastic Beasts films into silent movies. Watching this third (and presumably final) entry (there's no way WB doesn't cancel the next two), you start to notice how many sequences play out with little to no dialog, letting the surrealist imagery of the Wizarding World's magic do the talking. However, it's not a secret juicy enough to be worth keeping.