Kantemir Balagov has the confidence to tell his story chiefly through the faces of his characters as well as their placement in the frame, thereby…
10 NEW TO NETFLIX
8 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
I'm only human and so there's a bit of an impulse to include a release in this column on which I'm quoted on the cover, even if the movie itself is something of a mixed bag. The quote "'Mean Girls' meets 'The Purge" is from my Sundance viewing of this divisive genre film, and is more descriptive than praising. What's been interesting to watch about the conversation around this abrasive, incendiary castigation of internet culture is that I have been very lonely in my middle ground opinion. I like its ideas more than its execution, but find it fascinating how many people either LOVE or HATE this movie. Honestly, we need more movies like that—movies that provoke conversation and debate. So you should see this not because I'm quoted on the cover but because you should pick a side ... or join me in the neutral zone.
This is another movie that people seemed to either embrace or abhor and I finished with a shoulder shrug. Maybe that's not fair. I mostly liked Drew Goddard's single-setting bloodbath, but I'm stunned that anyone sees enough to like or hate here to include in either ten best or ten worst lists for the entirety of 2018. On the positive side, the ensemble is fantastic, especially Cynthia Erivo, Jeff Bridges, and Chris Hemsworth. It's never boring, weaving several subplots on a very bad night at the El Royale hotel into one backstabbing tapestry. It's also too long, too unfocused, and slips through your fingers once it's over. There's a tighter, smarter version of "El Royale" in this one that could have been great. But this one is still pretty good—available On Demand now and on Blu-ray on 1/1.
Making Bad Times at the El Royale
Did Michael Moore's latest provocation influence the election as he so clearly hoped it would when he dropped it in the heat of the season? Maybe. Probably not, though. The fact is that Moore doesn't have the impact he once did, but should that be the only way we judge him as a filmmaker? As an influencer? It will be interesting to see how his most overtly political films like this one stand up with a couple decades of history behind them. For me, the best pieces of "Fahrenheit 11/9" don't focus on the Trump Presidency but the various stories of the last few years that led to the voter apathy that was arguably the biggest reason he won. And, say what you will about this film's lack of focus, there's a great mini-doc buried within this film about the Flint water crisis that you really should see.
After the TIFF premiere of Shane Black's latest reboot/sequel to the hit '80s sci-fi/action film, I suspected that I would be in the minority of critics who enjoyed it but didn't expect it to be quite so drastic. I stand by my 2am take in Canada that this is a fun action movie that understands what worked about the original film while also taking some of the same ideas in a new direction. No, it's not going to be anyone's favorite movie of 2018, but it's a quick, enjoyable rental on a Saturday night, and it works even better at home than in the middle of the night in Toronto.
A Touch of Black
The Takedown Team
Only this column could go from "The Predator" to "Schindler's List," but that's how we roll at the HECG (and the byproduct of alphabetical listings). For the 25th anniversary of one of the best films of the '90s, Universal has upgraded Steven Spielberg's Oscar winner with a 4K release that reminds viewers why this movie was so rapturously praised when it came out in 1993. Given 4 stars by Roger on its initial release, he didn't wait long to put it in the Great Movies pantheon, and it's a movie that has held up remarkably well. The 4K release is accompanied by a new documentary called "Schindler's List: 25 Years Later," adding to the sense that this is one of the essential 4K Blu-ray releases of 2018.
NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM SUPERVISED BY STEVEN SPIELBERG
DOLBY VISION/HDR 10 PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
NEW Schindler's List: 25 Years Later - Featurette
NEW USC Shoah Foundation Story with Steven Spielberg (2018)
Voices from the List - Featurette
Let Their Testimonies Speak - Stronger Than Hate
About IWitness (2018)
Paul Feig's mystery/comedy looked like a disaster before it was released. It was coming out at a time of year when studios are known for dumping movies that they don't know what to do with, and it didn't play any fests or get much in the way of critics screenings. And then it dropped and most people were pleasantly surprised. A reasonably big hit (almost $100 million worldwide), "A Simple Favor" filled a hole in storytelling for adults that Hollywood simply doesn't care about as much as they used to. In a time when the mid-budget movie is disappearing, it feels like everything is a part of a franchise or a low-budget indie. The mid-budget filmmakers went to TV. And so it's so heartening to see a solid mid-budget flick that offers a night of entertainment for grown-ups away from Netflix. I'm a little less high on the flick than everybody else (I think Blake Lively is amazing but the movie sags a bit when she's absent), but it's totally worth a rental.
Buy it here
3 Audio Commentaries with Cast and Crew
When the acolytes of John Carpenter talk about the horror icon, they often stick solely to, well, his horror films. How many pieces can the internet produce about the greatness of "Halloween," "The Thing," or underrated pics like "The Fog" and "Prince of Darkness"? Lost in a lot of the talk about Carpenter is what is actually his highest-grossing film outside of Mike Myers, 1984's "Starman." This has always been a film that I hold close to my heart as I was nine when it came out and, well, that's a good age for this movie. It's an underrated film with a truly great performance from Jeff Bridges. As Roger wrote 34 years ago, "Actors sometimes try to change their appearance; Bridges does something trickier, and tries to convince us that Jeff Bridges is not inhabited by himself."
NEW They Came from Hollywood: Re-visiting STARMAN – featuring director John Carpenter, actors Jeff Bridges, Charles Martin Smith and script supervisor Sandy King-Carpenter
Audio Commentary with director John Carpenter and Jeff Bridges
Ah, "Venom." Is this smash hit a good movie? Noooo. It's clunky and weird. And yet there's something in here that almost brings it together and that's the totally committed lunacy from Tom Hardy. Whether he's talking to the symbiote inhabiting his body or eating a live lobster out of the tank in which he's sitting, there's something inspired in so many of his choices. Sadly, the rest of the movie totally pales in comparison, including something I didn't think was possible: flat performances from Riz Ahmed and Michelle Williams. As much as I don't want to see "Venom" again, I'll be curious about "Venom 2" just to see if Hardy's energy can be featured in a project that deserves it.
Venom Mode: When selecting this mode the film will engage informative pop-ups throughout the film to provide insight on the movie's relationship to the comics, and to reveal hidden references that even a seasoned Venom-fan may have missed!
Deleted & Extended Scenes: These deleted and extended scenes will give fans even more of the Venom action they loved in theaters!
Ride to Hospital – Eddie and Venom take a ride to the hospital.
Car Alarm – Let's just say that Venom is not fond of car alarms.
San Quentin – Extended post-credits scene at San Quentin.
From Symbiote to Screen: A mini documentary about the history of Venom in comics and his journey to the big screen. Interviews with Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, Ruben Fleischer, Oliver Scholl, and Director and Comic Fanboy Kevin Smith.
The Lethal Protector in Action: Go behind the scenes with the production crew and learn the secrets behind the awesome Motorcycle stunts, wire stunts, and drones.
Venom Vision: A look at how Ruben Fleischer came to the project, gathered his team, and made Venom a reality. Utilizes interviews from cast, crew, and producers as well as Fleischer himself.
Designing Venom: Designing and creating Venom meant a huge challenge for VFX artists; follow the amazing journey.
Symbiote Secrets: Blink and you may have missed it! Enjoy the hidden references throughout the film.
8 Select Scenes Pre-Vis sequences: See the progression of the visual effects, storyboards and fight chorography compared to the finished film.
"Venom" by Eminem – Music Video
"Sunflower" by Post Malone, Swae Lee (From Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Sneak Peek: Meanwhile in another universe …
A TV review of Star Trek: Picard.
The 2020 Oscar nominations.
A review of FOX's 9-1-1: Lone Star, starring Rob Lowe and Liv Tyler.
A tribute to the late, great Terry Jones.