Author: Simon Abrams

  • “The Island” Is Like “Lord of the Flies” With Grown-Up Schmucks

    The mordantly hilarious Chinese black comedy The Island is what you’d get if Lord of the Flies were reimagined as a capitalist critique about a group of adult white-collar workers who, shipwrecked on a tropical island, create a society ruled by power-hungry “bosses,” a title vied for by competing wannabe leaders Wang (Wang Xiao) and Zhang (Hewei Yu). […]

  • Superhero Spoof “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” Rides the Coattails of Lazy Meta-Jokes

    The peppy but cynical animated superhero comedy Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is eager to flatter you, as so many of its lazy meta-reflexive jokes suggest. Most of the gags in this pandering spoof are about their own schematic nature — they’re jokes about how you’re smarter than the jokes. The story follows insecure […]

  • “14 Cameras”: Some Movies Are Just Bad

    It’s hard to tell if the makers of the bewilderingly awful home invasion thriller 14 Cameras — which follows cartoonishly gross Internet voyeur Gerald (Neville Archambault) as he uses nanny-cams to spy on a nuclear family at a secluded California summer house — believe that web users are innately monstrous or if the Internet only underscores […]

  • Who Needs Drugs When You’ve Got “Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings”?

    The equally thrilling and exhausting Hong Kong martial arts fantasy Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings boasts more inventive weapons, monsters, and plot twists than most Western audiences will know what to do with. Like the popular Chinese gong’an courtroom mystery series that it’s very loosely inspired by, Detective Dee has a convoluted, episodic narrative that primarily […]

  • Paris Is for Lovers and Also Zombies in “The Night Eats the World”

    You’ll probably enjoy the French zombie film The Night Eats the World if post-apocalyptic sci-fi like 28 Days Later and The Omega Man are your moviegoing answer to comfort food. Like those earlier films, this paranoid fantasy gives filmgoers the vicarious thrill of watching a resourceful loner — in this case, American tourist Sam (Anders […]

  • Vincent Cassel’s Charisma Saves “Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti”

    The decision to cast — and keep the camera pointed at — magnetic leading man Vincent Cassel is the most novel aspect of the otherwise staid French biopic Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti. It’s a Lust for Life–like period drama, following master artist Paul Gauguin as he abandons his wife and children and moves to French […]

  • The Subjects of “A Skin So Soft” Are Here to Pump Themselves Up

    Canadian filmmaker Denis Côté holds up a shallow mirror to the world of bodybuilding in the underwhelming experimental documentary A Skin So Soft, a dialogue-light portrait of six professional Canadian weight lifters who perform a variety of exercise routines, including hoisting barbells and hauling tractor tires. Côté (Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, Bestiaire) stresses the […]

  • The Slow-Burn Style of Techno-Thriller “Hover” Makes It Worth Seeing

    Fans open to no-budget sci-fi should check out Hover, a surprisingly effective techno-thriller that predicts a future where terminally ill farmers look to Transitions — a company that performs assisted suicides for the physically infirm — to help them escape the hard financial times caused by a perfect storm of global warming, population growth, and poor […]

  • “Incident in a Ghostland” Is a Disturbing and Effective Critique of Misogynist Torture Porn

    The grisly post-torture-porn horror flick Incident in a Ghostland serves as an effectively punishing critique of the relentless misogyny that has become a staple of every stupid Texas Chain Saw Massacre knockoff that pits sexually active women against emotionally disturbed serial killers. Writer-director Pascal Laugier (Martyrs) dwells on the wounds (bruises, welts, tears, and so much blood) […]

  • Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska’s Alt-Western “Damsel” Isn’t as Clever as It Thinks It Is

    The tonally berserk western-comedy hybrid Damsel often suggests a Wes Anderson–directed acid western, only without Anderson’s knack for sad-sack jokes about macho pride or the acid western’s typically spiritual consideration of white guys’ destructive nature. Instead, fraternal co-writer/co-director duo David and Nathan Zellner (Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter) subject the understandably exasperated pioneer woman Penelope (Mia Wasikowska) […]

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