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The Best Films of 2023: A Year in Review

Let’s cross our fingers that 2024 is good for the movies. Just when it seemed like movie theatres were recovering from a few years of rolling COVID-precautionary closures, Hollywood executives brought their might and greed down against the writers and actors who helped make 2023 such a great year for movies. The guild strikes in response to the studios made for a pretty brutal Fall with festivals and releases generally offering limited coverage opportunities for dramatic films, which were already…

TIFF 2023: A Playlist of Memorable Soundtrack Moments

As has become a September tradition at That Shelf, we’re taking time out of our recovery to revisit our favourite needle drops from the many memorable films we screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). So now that the People’s Choice picks have been announced (American Fiction was tops!) and the final film screened, it’s time for a well-deserved rest. So relax, put your feet up, and settle in for a playlist of songs that hack immediately back to…

Moanin’ over Moana? Disney’s been doing remakes for 100 years

It’s been a weird year to be a Disney fan. Putting aside the corporate drama — like Bob Iger’s return as CEO in November and the continuing feud in Florida with Gov. Ron DeSantis — we’ve seen the company struggling at the box office, despite several high-profile releases. The once-untouchable Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t selling tickets like it used to, The Little Mermaid failed to make a splash, and Pixar’s return to theatres, Elemental, is underperforming financially (so far, anyway)…

The Best Films of 2023 So Far: Uncle BlackBerry Who Can Recall His Past Lives

If you thought going to the movies in 2020, 2021 or 2022 was weird, take a look at theatres in 2023. At least in Toronto, a homegrown movie like BlackBerry is packing them in, while rooms showing the latest Marvel movie have a vacancy rate that’s usually reserved for Canadian films. Audiences are back and the movies are back, so pass the popcorn because 2023 is only halfway done!

Asteroid City Is Wes Anderson’s Wacky Ride with Meta-Theatre

The stage was set for Wes Anderson. The auteur de quirk’s latest film, Asteroid City, opens with a prologue that admittedly threw this reviewer for a loop. A host (Bryan Cranston) advises the audience that Asteroid City, the film you’re about to see, is actually a play. Anderson’s film is a film-within-a-film. Or, rather, it’s a play-within-a-film. The conceit seems like a smart continuation of the formal sophistication Anderson displayed with The French Dispatch. After paying homage to the literary world with an anthology…

It’s Time to Embrace the 3-Hour-Long Blockbuster Again

“Why would they do that?” questioned my 7-year-old daughter as the credits began to roll for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Her query did not stem from the foggy haze of confusion surrounding a plot point, but from the clear-eyed rage of anger. For 2 hours and 20 minutes, a child who normally gets restless in movies was fully engrossed in the adventure of Miles Morales and his Spider-Verse friends and then the plug was pulled.

Recent reviews

Fennell has a flair for wicked dialogue, using conversational scenes to upend each character’s place on the ladder. Only Felix doesn’t move. In shots, one constantly watches to see who is presented higher in the frame. Who currently holds the upper hand? The introduction of Felix’s sister Venetia (Alison Oliver) reconfigures the film considerably. Everything that follows escalates into the type of pulpy thriller one don’t see much in theatres. But viewers might be inclined to say this could’ve just been on HBO.

Read Colin Biggs' full review: thatshelf.com/napoleon-and-saltburn-two-films-that-trolled-us-to-varying-success/

The assumption of a Ridley Scott-directed Napoleon is that it would exhaustively cover his military record and the tumultuousness of his rule. Whether one expects the majority of the film to be a bedroom farce instead of war on the battlefield largely dictates one’s enjoyment of the film. What Scott and screenwriter David Scarpa offer is Napoleon’s marriage as a microcosm of his reign. Unable to control his wife, it’s not difficult to see why the tyrannical general couldn’t keep…

Far from following the familiar tropes of standard biopics, The Iron Claw coalesces around Kevin, the oldest surviving member of the Von Erich clan. As the second son in a family of sons, Kevin treats his responsibilities and obligations to his family in and out of the ring with near monk-like severity. In an early montage, we see him devote every waking minute to improving himself physically: going for a run on the family farm in the early morning, hitting…

It may be hard to picture now, but rowing was one of the most popular spectator sports around in the 1920s and 1930s. With their country behind them, the University of Washington team would ultimately win the gold medal in Berlin, just narrowly besting Italy and Germany in a morale-boosting win.

But therein lies the problem with The Boys In The Boat. From the outset, audiences already know that the crew will defy the odds to win. It’s a feel-good…

Liked reviews

"How doth ye like yon apples?!"

Simultaneously one of the great action parodies because beyond the expertly crafted Looney Tunes visual gags, on a filmmaking level it's frequently indistinguishable from the real thing (god McTiernan) and one of the best movies about a movie star literally wrestling with their own Hollywood fantasy image and myth. "You've brought me nothing but pain!"

Full discussion on episode 57 of my podcast SLEAZOIDS.

15-YEAR OLD ME: "Oh boy! A RESIDENT EVIL film and a remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD! I hope this means there will be a new wave of zombie films!"

*A FINGER ON THE MONKEY'S PAW CURLS*

Zack Snyder can craft a fun action scene, but I am baffled as to why he wanted to make ARMY OF THE DEAD.

It's a zombie heist film (There's potential there!), with a charming gang of actors (I do love Dave Bautista!), buckets…

So weird, so Danish, and yet, not even Anders Thomas Jensen’s weirdest Danish film.