Star Wars: Rogue One

Rebellions are built on hope.

Fitting that the end of our Star Wars month is about the story that sparked the fire that freed the Galaxy from the Empire. Tim Daniel joins Dan to talk about their favorite Star Wars film, Rogue One. We talk far too long about Saw Gerrera, the themes of the film, and what makes it stand out amongst giants.

Subscribe now or listen below!

Star Wars: Rogue One GateCrashers

Rebellions are built on hope. Fitting that the end of our Star Wars month is about the story that sparked the fire that freed the Galaxy from the Empire. Tim Daniel joins Dan to talk about their favorite Star Wars film, Rogue One. We talk far too long about Saw Gerrera, the themes of the film, and what makes it stand out amongst giants.
  1. Star Wars: Rogue One
  2. Star Wars: The Sequel Trilogy
  3. Star Wars: The Original Trilogy
  4. Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy
  5. Interview with George Motz

Disney’s Jungle Cruise: A Spoiler Free Review

There is almost nothing I look forward to more when I’m in Disney World than hopping aboard one of the beloved Jungle Cruise boats. For ten minutes you escape into a new adventure, with a wise-cracking skipper to navigate your passage through the winding river. From my very first Disney trip all the way into adulthood, the Jungle Cruise ride has always held a special place in my mouse-shaped heart. I had very high expectations when I heard Disney was developing a film based on my favorite ride. When one looks to the success and quality of the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, you know Disney can get it right. Thankfully, Jungle Cruise starring Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson delivered.  

True to the nature of its source material, director Jaume Collet-Serra’s film retains the humor found in the ride, while introducing new lore and history that will be appreciated by Disney lovers young and old. Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall play siblings who require the navigational skills of a boat skipper portrayed by Dwayne Johnson. Blunt, last seen on Disney screens as Mary Poppins, is Lily Houghton; a determined, revolutionary woman. Blunt is effortlessly cool as she channels Indiana Jones, and volleys hilarious quips back and forth with Johnson. These two embody the spirit of Bogart and Hepburn in the African Queen, a film Jungle Cruise gently tips its hat to. Johnson, as the fearless skipper Frank Wolff, is charming and full of surprises. Jack Whitehall as MacGregor Houghton, makes good use of his “posh boy” stand-up routine, but don’t expect this portrayal to be one-note. Whitehall infuses warmth and depth to the persona he’s cultivated over the years to delight viewers. Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, Edgar Ramírez, and Veronica Falcón round out this marvelous cast with wonderful performances of their own. 

Something mysterious is hidden deep in the whiles of the amazon, and this trio is determined to find it. If I say anymore, it will ruin the pun-filled ride, just know the plot twists and turns are worth the adventure. Jungle Cruise is reminiscent of films like Romancing the Stone and The Mummy, with well-executed action scenes that are laugh-out-loud funny. Cinematography by Flavio Martínez Labiano is sweeping and grand, while a score from James Newton Howard perfectly complements the action.

There is no shortage of trials when traversing the Amazon, and Skipper Frank has a dad-joke prepared to meet them all. Johnson and Blunt are a dynamic duo, making this 2 hour and 36-minute run time feel like no work at all. Jungle Cruise will sail in to theaters and Disney+ Premier Access Friday July 30th. For those who think they should skip this one, well, you’re in De-Nile!


Reagan’s Recs: Sci-Fi

In honour of Star Wars month here at GateCrashers, this month’s theme for Reagan’s Recs is Science-Fiction. 

Science-Fiction is one of my favourite genres and it has been for a very long time. For just about as long as I can remember I’ve always loved everything from B-movies to more horror-leaning stories to science-fantasy epics. Star Wars and Star Trek have long been staples of my life but they aren’t the only pieces of Science-Fiction that I love nor are they the pieces that have been in my life the longest. 

That honour instead belongs to Godzilla (1998), the first movie I ever saw and to date, the only movie that has ever caused me to get so upset about it that I’ve given myself a tension headache while talking about it (true story).

Most of the movies or franchises I mentioned (with one very big exception) aren’t part of this list. Instead, I chose to focus mostly on stand-alone features ranging from the 1950s all the way up to 2019. This list went through several variations, some of the movies I wanted to include earlier didn’t make the cut not because I didn’t feel they deserved it, but because I didn’t feel I could do my love for them justice in the way I was writing about them. Others that did make the cut felt so necessary to include that I just had to. One in particular (the second-to-last one) struck me as perhaps the most necessary inclusion to this list. 

Rather than prattle on for even longer than I already have, I’ll let everyone move on to what they’re actually here for; the recs. 

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), dir. Robert Wise, United States

Perhaps my favourite science-fiction film ever; The Day the Earth Stood Still is a cold war-era film about an alien named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) who travels to earth with a message: “change or be destroyed”. 

Directed by Robert Wise who would later go on to direct Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Day the Earth Stood Still is, at its core, hopeful sci-fi. Klaatu doesn’t come to Earth with only the intention to destroy it, he comes with the intention of help. 

Hopeful sci-fi is my favourite sci-fi, I was raised on Trek, why would I want a story that says that humanity is doomed, that there’s no hope for us. 

Treasure Planet (2002), dir. Rob Clements, John Musker, United States

Treasure Planet slaps, it just does. Look me in the eyes and try to deny the fact that this is a good movie. It’s Treasure Island in space! There’s some dad stuff! What’s not to love? (I admit that these two points are very specific to me and my tastes.)

This movie understands two things: pirates are cool and space is awesome, it also understands that the best way to improve on both of those concepts is by combining them. 

But it isn’t what’s on screen so much as the story behind the production that really stands out to me. For decades, Treasure Planet was Rob Clement and John Musker’s passion project. First pitched in 1985 at the same time as The Little Mermaid only to be rejected because Michael Eisner was aware of a Star Trek film with a similar approach that was in production at Paramount (as evidenced by the fact that no such film exists, it eventually went unproduced) In 1989, following the release of The Little Mermaid Musker and Clements pitched it a second time with Disney still uninterested in the idea. Following the release of Aladdin, the duo pitched Treasure Planet for a third time only for Jeffrey Katzenberg to reject it. Eventually, they brought the idea straight to Roy E. Disney himself who backed the idea and made his wishes known to Eisner who finally agreed to produce Treasure Planet. Following the completion of Hercules, production on Treasure Planet finally began with principal animation beginning in 2000. 

Treasure Planet is very different from Musker and Clement’s other projects in that it isn’t a musical. Instead, the film makes use of an orchestral score and two songs by John Rzeznik of The Goo Goo Dolls (“I’m Still Here” and “Always Know Where You Are”). That isn’t to say that the songs aren’t as good as the songs in say The Little Mermaid or Hercules, I included a link to “I’m Still Here” for a reason after all. 

I could say so much more about this but I’ve already said so much so instead, I’ll leave you with this: Treasure Planet has heart and it has it in spades. 

Annihilation (2018), dir. Alex Garland, United States

Based on the book by James VanderMeer, Annihilation is about a group of women who enter a quarantined zone known as The Shimmer that is full of flora and fauna that has been mutated by an alien entity. 

Cosmic horror (which is what Annihilation is, let’s face it) is woefully difficult to get just right. But when it’s done right it’s great. Annihilation does it right and it does so (quite literally) beautifully. The events unfolding onscreen are horrifying and yet still, they’re beautiful. It’s eco-horror that pays painstaking attention to making the horror as gorgeous as possible. An entire world in the form of a carnivorous plant, drawing its victims in and invading them, making them part of it. It’s horrific. It’s awesome in the most traditional sense of the word. It’s beautiful. 

And yet the true beauty of Annihilation lies not in the visuals. Instead, the true beauty of this film comes from the fact that everyone who sees it seems to come away from it with a different idea of what it’s about; to some, it’s ano-cancer, to others it’s about how relationships change us on a fundamental level, and even still others see it as addressing humanity’s leaning towards self-destruction. I prefer the second explanation myself, the idea that loving someone is something that you don’t come out of unscathed regardless of how things turn out is something that’s really struck me from the moment I first heard that interpretation. The idea that love is a powerful enough force to change our very beings is both beautiful and terrifying; just like the movie. 

The Vast of Night (2019), dir. Andrew Patterson, United States

(CW: The Vast of Night contains a fictionalized reference to the United States government employing minorities — in this case, Black men and Mexican men — to work hazardous jobs, with one of the characters remarking on whether or not those people were chosen on purpose and several instances of period-typical use of the term “Indian” in reference to First Nations people.)

The Vast of Night is one of those rare debut features that knocks your socks off. Made on a budget of $700,000, Vast of Night makes up for lack of funds with clever tricks and snappy dialogue. The movie, which is framed as a Twilight Zone type of story is a simple, quiet, 1950s science-fiction story about two teens in a small New Mexico town. 

While both of the lead actors are incredible, the real star is the cinematography. With an overabundance of the technique in recent years, it takes a lot for a long take to be impressive but somehow, someway, cinematographer M. I. Littin-Menz makes his standout amongst the crowd. The four-minute, fifteen-second shot takes us from the switchboard to the radio station where Everett (Jake Horowitz) works, along the way showing us just how small this town is. It’s both a show of brilliance on the end director Andrew Patterson and Littin-Menz and a clever way to get us oriented. 

Aside from that long take, one of the other standout scenes is the scene where Fay (Sierra McCormick) is running the switchboard. It’s one of a few scenes that allows the movie to introduce the idea of an alien invasion through the calls that Fay is listening in on and the strange frequency she hears over the radio and as she listens in on calls. 

The Vast of Night is brilliant both as a debut and as a vintage-flavoured science-fiction story that feels reminiscent both of the radio dramas I used to listen to on long car drives and the AM radio shows I would turn on when I was bored and couldn’t sleep late at night. 

Star Trek: Beyond (2016), dir. Justin Lin, United States

Star Trek: Beyond has one of the best needle drops in the history of cinema and I will fight you on that.

The most important thing about this movie is that it’s fun. After all, a key moment is set to the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”

Star Trek is about space exploration, yes, but it’s also about hope. The world of Star Trek is a world that says “we are going to be ok.” This is a world in which humanity has come together for the greater good. It’s a world where space exploration can be for anyone, not just the ultra-wealthy. It’s a world I’ve wanted all my life, one that seems less likely as each day passes. The world outside is harsh, but Star Trek, in many of its forms, argues that that harshness will not be forever. It’s a kind of hope that at times feels useless.

But the thing about hope (or at least the thing I believe about hope, relentless optimist that I am) is that it’s a form of rebellion. To see darkness on the horizon and to still refuse to give up and accept that darkness as inevitable is, on the one hand, stupid. But at the same time, who are rebels if not those who saw the worst was to come and yet still refused to give in, refused to accept that hope is worthless. 


Star Wars: The Sequel Trilogy


Today, Ashley and Ethan sit down to discuss the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. They talk about everything from their love of these films, emo bitch boy Kylo Ren to the one, the only, Babu Frik.

Make sure to listen at the beginning for the penultimate chapter in our four-part audio drama, Star Wars: Wild Space Episode III – The Return of the Imp.

This week’s intro is best enjoyed with headphones!

Subscribe now or listen below!

Star Wars: Rogue One GateCrashers

Rebellions are built on hope. Fitting that the end of our Star Wars month is about the story that sparked the fire that freed the Galaxy from the Empire. Tim Daniel joins Dan to talk about their favorite Star Wars film, Rogue One. We talk far too long about Saw Gerrera, the themes of the film, and what makes it stand out amongst giants.
  1. Star Wars: Rogue One
  2. Star Wars: The Sequel Trilogy
  3. Star Wars: The Original Trilogy
  4. Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy
  5. Interview with George Motz

Kandisha is a Brutal Take on Urban Legends

CW:  Kandisha contains gore, abuse, animal death, and suicide.

Kandisha, a new Shudder Original Film that premieres July 22nd only on Shudder is a female-led horror film that acts as an especially brutal take on the urban legend subgenre.

Directors, Alexandre Bastille and Julien Maury (A L’intérieur, Leatherface) have a background in New French Extremity; a film movement characterized by, amongst other things, extreme violence. While not as intense as other films that have been attached to the movement (take, for example, Martyrs), Kandisha is still violent to a further extent than most horror movies, especially most urban legend movies.

the film follows three girls, Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse), Bintou (Suzy Bemba), and Morjana (Samarcande Saadi) as they face off against an evil spirit that is killing the men they love one by one. Part slasher film and part ghost story, Kandisha incorporates both elements by tying them together with an urban legend type story based on the Moroccan legend of Aïsha Kandisha, a beautiful woman with goat legs who lives near water sources and preys on men. The legend of Kandisha is first introduced while the protagonists are painting a mural of one of the girls’, Morjana’s parents who had died before the movie’s beginning. While painting, they find the word “Kandisha” written on one of the walls in the abandoned building they’re using for the mural. Morjana explains to Amélie and Bintou who Kandisha is and the girls begin to make fun of the idea of a spirit who comes when you perform a specific ritual.

L-R: Morjana (Samarcande Saadi), Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse), and Bintou (Suzy Bemba) / Photo Credit: Shudder

Eventually, after a harrowing encounter with her ex-boyfriend leads to a physical altercation, Amélie summons Kandisha, resulting in the death of her ex and leading to further deaths as all of the men in the girls’ lives are killed one by one until only Amélie’s younger brother remains.

Aside from the level of gore, Kandisha has few characteristics that distinguish it from other urban legend-inspired movies. It’s far from being counted among the worst like The Bye Bye Man and Slender Man but it’s also not a standout like Candyman. At the same time, however, Kandisha isn’t trying to be more than what it is; it understands that it isn’t “elevated horror” (a term I loathe for reasons I won’t be getting into here), it’s a popcorn movie, something fun to see with friends, albeit with a bit more bite than one might expect. 

Amelie (Mathlide Lamusse) / Photo Credit: Shudder

One of the most interesting aspects of Kandisha is the way it escalates, slowly easing you in as the deaths get progressively more gruesome, only to show little of the final death; nothing more than a single shot from far away. While there are many gross moments, Kandisha never feels especially gratuitous. In fact, in a scene that shares similarities to a scene in Suspiria (2018) far less is shown in this version than in Suspiria’s. However, it’s still heard, and we do still see the blood from the kill as well as the reaction of an onlooker. Despite that, while time is spent lingering on the body of the victim, it isn’t an especially long time. None of the deaths are greeted with long shots of the aftermath, for most, it’s quick cuts after showing us just enough.

But that isn’t to say there’s not an aftermath of another kind shown on screen. Rather than spending long on the gore, Kandisha shows us the mourners. A shot of a memorial to one of the victims is shown, Amélie, Bintou, and Morjana discuss their grief with each other. There’s a focus on the toll that these deaths are taking more so than there is on the actual deaths themselves.

Kandisha succeeds in almost every respect up until the ending which, if I’m being entirely honest, feels a little bit like a sequel hook for a movie that decidedly doesn’t need a sequel. Kandisha is strong enough to stand on its own and I hope it continues to be standalone for that reason.


Star Wars: The Original Trilogy

That’s no moon… it’s a gate crashing!

Today, Dan and Mike discuss the films that started it all, Star Wars: The Original Trilogy! Dan gets into his deep love of all things Jabba, and Mike shark-shames Dan while going on about the importance of John Williams for an entire 20 minutes.

Listen at the beginning of this week’s episode for the next iteration of our four-part special, Star Wars: Wild Space Episode II – Dark Revelations of the Jedi.

This week’s intro is best enjoyed with headphones!

Subscribe now or listen below!

Star Wars: Rogue One GateCrashers

Rebellions are built on hope. Fitting that the end of our Star Wars month is about the story that sparked the fire that freed the Galaxy from the Empire. Tim Daniel joins Dan to talk about their favorite Star Wars film, Rogue One. We talk far too long about Saw Gerrera, the themes of the film, and what makes it stand out amongst giants.
  1. Star Wars: Rogue One
  2. Star Wars: The Sequel Trilogy
  3. Star Wars: The Original Trilogy
  4. Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy
  5. Interview with George Motz

Reagan’s Recs: Sci-Fi w/ Ethan Chamberlain

Welcome back to another guest edition of Reagan’s Recs. This month’s guest is Ethan Chamberlain who up until now has been entirely behind the scenes as my editor.

I haven’t known Ethan for very long, if memory serves (it often doesn’t) one of our first conversations was me pitching Reagan’s Recs to him. In that short time, however, I’ve come to consider Ethan a good friend; he’s always willing to send stupid jokes back and forth, even at the expense of his own sleep schedule. While planning for July, Ethan asked if he could take the July guest spot; what else could I say except yes? After all, Ethan has been the mastermind between Star Wars month, what better way to celebrate than by having him talk about sci-fi; a frequent staple of our conversations, what with our mutual love of Trek et al.

Ethan loves movies, and he specifically loves these movies. I’m glad that all of you get a little bit of insight into why he loves these movies.

Hi, I’m Ethan. While normally I’d be behind the scenes editing Reagan’s Recs, I’ve stepped in front of the imaginary camera this week to talk about some of my favorite sci-fi films. It’s been a joy working on these with Reagan so getting the chance to shout about these films is a real pleasure.

Now, when it comes to sci-fi, I have a deep-rooted love of the genre dating back to the first film I remember seeing in theatres, Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones. It was a life-changing experience getting to see all the varied worlds, people, creatures, and especially spaceships. Since that day I’ve never looked back and I’ve grown to appreciate what sci-fi can do when it comes to exploring themes of a social nature, be it head-on or via allegory. And not only that, I still geek out over all the new, exciting worlds that are out there to be discovered.

So let’s take a look at just a sampling of my favorite sci-fi films. You’ve probably heard of most, if not all of these, but hey, I enjoy them so you’re gonna listen to me wax poetic about them.

Contact (1997), dir. Robert Zemeckis

(CW: Strobe lighting)

While being the oldest film on the list, Contact is the most recent addition to my sci-fi top picks having watched it for the first time just this year. Let me tell you, I kicked myself for waiting this long to watch it. Zemeckis, perhaps best known for another sci-fi film: Back to the Future, brings an incredibly realistic sensibility to the central premise of the film, what happens when we make contact with extraterrestrials?

Anchored by an incredible performance from Jodie Foster, the film tackles the cultural conflicts between religion and science brought on by the apparent first contact head-on, and whether the two can co-exist in this new world order. Foster’s character goes on one hell of a journey throughout the film, being the one who discovers the message from outer space, all the way through to being the one sent to make the proverbial handshake with these extraterrestrials, before finally standing up for her belief in the truth at the film’s conclusion.

With what was at the time, state-of-the-art special effects that still hold up to this day, Contact makes for one of the best sci-fi experiences out there, not just due to said effects but because it has heart and empathy at its center.

The Martian (2015) dir. Ridley Scott

(CW: Strong language, Intense action scenes, 70s disco music)

Have you found yourself getting increasingly angry about the state of the world lately? Yeah? Well, let me tell you about The Martian. Directed by the GOAT Ridley Scott, the film follows astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) after a near-death experience leaves him stranded on Mars, seemingly without hope of rescue.

So how exactly, I’m hearing you ask, will this make me feel better? Simple, through sheer ingenuity and belief in himself, Watney works through problem after problem to survive, even managing to plant crops on the red planet. Accompanied by one hell of an ensemble cast (special shoutout to Mackenzie Davis and Donald Glover) back on Earth working to bring Mark home, The Martian will make you feel good about the goodness of humanity, and that there is hope for the future. Oh, and it also has both an incredible score from Harry Gregson-Williams, and one hell of an accompanying soundtrack of 70s disco bangers that bring a sense of joy to what can, at times, be quite an emotionally taxing film.

Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow (2014) dir. Doug Liman

(CW: Graphic scenes of death, Tom Cruise running)

Time Loops! Perhaps my favorite sub-genre of sci-fi. I love time loops so much I could have just chosen films of that nature and been happy with this article. But I went with what I consider to be the best of the lot. Originally released under the title Edge of Tomorrow, before being changed to  Live, Die, Repeat when put out on home media (stupid, I know). The film follows Tom Cruise as a military major who talked his way into being a media liaison to stay out of the fight because he is, at heart, a coward who gets found out and sent to the front lines in a war against alien invaders.

He is accompanied in his quest to now win the war and overcome his cowardly sensibilities Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who had been caught up in a similar time loop at a previous battle against the alien invaders, winning the day in the end and becoming a war hero in the process. Rita is the true highlight of the film, Blunt’s performance captures something not often seen to such an extent; the soldier, no, the hero, who saved the day and now has the expectations of the world weighing down on them to do it again. It’s good stuff and takes the film from being a fun way to spend a couple of hours to one of the best sci-fi films around.

Star Trek (2009) dir. JJ Abrams

(CW: Scottish accent)

When I started figuring out what films I was going to include on this list I originally set out not to include any “franchise” films, as that can go down a tricky road of differing opinions of what film is the best to start with when getting into a specific franchise. But then I remembered how much Star Trek ‘09 as it’s commonly referred to, served as an introduction to not just Trek, but the genre as a whole.

Being an almost completely fresh start for the series, the film, directed by JJ Abrams, jumped over to an alternate timeline separate from the shackles of the franchise and able to explore new story angles, while still keeping the core of Star Trek at its heart.

With a cast of newcomers who capture the essence of the original actors perfectly, Star Trek ‘09 makes for an enormously enjoyable watch that will get you excited to check out more of the iconic franchise.  

Interstellar (2014) dir. Christopher Nolan

(CW: Intense action, Will make you cry)

And so we come to the last film on the list, not just my favorite of the lot, but my favorite film of all time: Interstellar. Christopher Nolan’s ode to space travel, the film follows an Earth not too far into the future ravaged by dust storms, which serves as an allegory to climate change. The film explores the question of how exactly can we survive, and Nolan points the film in the direction of space travel. We are meant to leave the Earth.

I could talk about the insane visual effects of the film once it takes flight into space, or the familial bond across time between Coop (Matthew McConaughey) and his children, I could even talk about Hans Zimmer’s heartbreakingly beautiful score, instead, I’ll leave you with the following:

The make-or-break point for a lot of people in Interstellar comes around the halfway mark. Dr. Amelia Brandt (Anne Hathaway, putting in a career-best performance) asks both the characters she’s with, and the audience, to believe in love, not just as a shared bond between individuals, but as a driving force of the universe. And I don’t know about you, but I’m more than willing to take that leap. I’m happy to believe in love. Because love is the key. Maybe we should trust that even if we can’t understand it.



Fireworks, Fatherhood, and JAWS

The white screen my father had recently purchased in conjunction with a far too advanced projector was placed about 15 feet from the pool I currently resided in. It was dusk, and the water began to darken to the point where you were unsure what else lurked beside you and most importantly, below you. My father fumbled with this new technology as a caveman would crafting the first wheel, but after a few choice swears under his breath, it was ready.

The film began innocently enough with scenes of a bonfire and two young lovers racing off for a moonlit skinny dip. The companion was too drunk, stumbling to get his pants off, a surefire sign the night would probably end disappointingly regardless of our fearless females’ future adventure into the water. She dove in and made her way toward the distant buoy when arguably the most recognizable two notes played, duh-nuh…duh-nuh. Building slowly and then into a frenzy, the music was in line with the anticipated attack as her body bobbed up and down. Looking out for any savior, and screaming to her already incapacitated beach lover, we witnessed this woman be yanked through the water easily by her tormentor below. As quickly as the struggle began, it was over; the music had reached its crescendo and our satiated monster disappeared. My chest got tight and the hairs on my leg felt every slight movement in the water below me.

You can never be too sure that a 25-foot Great White shark is not skulking in your father’s 15-foot pool. Trying to hold on to my last vestige of dignity, I toed the bottom of the pool with my float secured around me. All the while wondering, “Do I look like a donut to the ocean’s apex predator?” Luckily, I made it out unscathed. I finished the film in the comfort of a lounge chair with absolute awe and amazement as fireworks began to shoot off in the distance. The date was July 4th and that night unknowingly marked the start of a tradition that I have yet to miss (excluding the pandemic); watching Jaws with my dad.

This year will be my 15th viewing of Jaws on Independence Day, and a tradition I plan on continuing. My love for fireworks, hot dogs, and the occasional summer beer aside, I honestly would rather sit in front of my TV and watch this masterpiece unfold with my dad. My Father said it best when I asked him to be part of this: “Please don’t interview me.” I think even he cannot fully explain the draw of the film, especially during the height of summer.

The movie is essentially two films; one on the island before the hunt and one aboard our heroes’ boat, the ORCA. The first hour of the film builds the shark as a ruthless menace in the water, evidenced by the traumatic devouring a young boy in a raft. As the victims begin to pile up on the shore town of Amity, Police Chief Brody, played effortlessly by Roy Scheider, pleads with local government to close the beaches. As any shore town local would tell you, Summer is the season to make money and unless the shark decides to pay taxes, everything is to remain open thanks to spineless Mayor Vaughn. Is it strikingly familiar seeing a local government clearly ignore the warning signs of something dangerous, yet allow their citizens to carry on without fear for the sake of the economy? Ponder that for a moment. Are we living in Amity?

Apologies for the interlude, but after further urgence from our hunky scientist, Matt Hooper, portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss, Chief Brody tries his best to keep order on the beaches. The Shark, whether it be a scent-based vendetta or pure luck, almost succeeds in attacking Brody’s son, but misses the opportunity. Our team of Hooper and Brody decide to hire intimidating fisherman Quint, the role Robert Shaw was born for; and this unlikely crew take their fateful voyage aboard the Orca to kill the shark once and for all.

Growing up, I saw a lot of similarities between Quint and my father. They both worked long hours and had this gruffness about them that I could never quite pin down. Not to say I was afraid of my father, but just the looks he gave were enough to make me question if I really did finish my homework or if I was just full of shit. The parallels between the two made me look forward to the latter half of the film; when it was Robert Shaw’s time to shine. From his USS Indianapolis speech, which I used as an audition piece at one point, to his smashing of the radio, I simply thought he was the most badass sea captain. It wasn’t until recently that my opinions on such matters started to change.

As you grow older, you start to revisit the films that shaped your childhood and see if they hold up to the test of time. Upon viewing Jaws in 2019, as the film reaches the point where Quint is slowly being eaten and all hope seems lost, I had this strange epiphany. My father was never Quint. I had built my father up as Quint as a means to see my dad as some sea-fairing badass, but that just wasn’t the dad that I had finally gotten the chance to know. The dad who watched me raise my own son, the little boy who now sits between us as the big shark eats the angry man (his words). No, my dad was not Quint. He had always been Brody. The man whom worked just as hard, but also lived for his family and did the absolute insane thing of following this shark out to open water. Not to say my father would board a boat, but I’ve seen my father make more sacrifices for his family than anyone else. 

There is no perfect relationship with any parent. Finding common ground can be a struggle, and luckily, this is where Jaws came in. Even when my patriotism for this country is negligible, when it comes to the 4th, I can always look forward to these two hours with my father where nothing else really matters. When pitching this article, I insisted that Jaws is the greatest 4th of July film of all-time, and while I still stand by that, I also will admit that it is my favorite 4th of July film of all-time. To this day, when I sit down to watch it, I think back to that first time sitting on the float in the pool, and watching my father smile as I made a mad dash to a chair on dry land, because I was too fearful of the non-existent shark possibly swimming by me. Every year after, we still enjoy our Root Beer Floats and laugh at the same parts we have seen dozens of times, including our tandem howl of, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!”

Some things change, but some things stay the same.

Our annual tradition is coming up soon and after missing last year due to the pandemic, there’s almost nothing more that I’m looking forward to. So, this 4th of July, start a tradition, make a memory, or just do something you love. But don’t forget to check the pool for a shark. 


Werewolves Within: A Howling Whodunnit in the Neighborhood

When the trailer for this film popped up in my feed a few months back, skepticism was my first feeling; especially after finding out it’s based off a Ubisoft game of the same title. Well, like a man turning into a werewolf, consider everything about me changed. This IFC backed venture directed by Josh Ruben, whom you may recall directed and starred opposite Aya Cash in the worth-watching Scare Me, shows that he’s no one-hit wonder behind the lens. The writing is witty and sharp, with the kind of one-liners and retorts that’ll be running through your mind for the foreseeable future. The real magic is the cohesiveness of this small cast whose performances carry the film from beginning to end.

Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, Harvey Guillén, Cheyenne Jackson and Glenn Fleshler’s standout performances made this horror-comedy such an easy recommendation for this reviewer. We open with Sam Richardson (Detroiters, VEEP, I Think You Should Leave) as Finn Wheeler, a Park Ranger on his new assignment in the town of Beaverfield. Finn is a nice guy, no not one of those nice guys, but perhaps just the archetype of a good guy that has been missing in our own reality. He runs into the newly appointed mail carrier Cecily, played perfectly by Milana Vayntrub in a role that allowed her to flex her comedic chops. Cecily is a progressive woman who sees the town for what it is; behind the times. Finn and Cecily hit it off right away while meeting the rest of the residents; including Joaquim and Devon Wolfson, the dynamic duo of Harvey Guillén and Cheyenne Jackson. My heart leapt when these two appeared, my love of Guillén from his scene-stealing performance in What We Do in the Shadows and Cheyenne Jackson from his limited time on 30 ROCK, I knew something special was coming my way. Joaquiam and Devon are an affluent couple from tech dealings and owning a yoga studio. The other surprise was the brutish trapper Emerson, Glenn Fleshler, who viewers will remember as the behemoth monster Errol Childress from True Detective season one. Enter the classic shut-in scenario: a massive snowstorm, an impassable road blockage, destroyed generators, the entire town stuck in the rustic Beaverfield Inn, and let’s not forget the werewolf trapped within.

Keeping to the spoiler-free credo that my reviews follow, let us delicately traverse the inner-workings of this film. From the opening quote accredited to Mr. Rogers that sprawls across the screen, “Listening is where love begins. Listening to ourselves and then our neighbors,” we see our first clue into the message behind the madness that follows. A pipeline is being built in Beaverfield, with one side looking at the profit that will come with it, and other looking at the nature that will be destroyed. Pressure is mounting even before the lycanthropes presence is detected. Mr. Rogers is quoted a few times more within the film, but the ideology remains, it’s not a beautiful day in this neighborhood. Tensions continue to mount amongst our trapped guests; finally reaching a breaking point when they begin to be picked off one-by-one. But is it all the werewolf’s doing? Ruben does a tremendous job highlighting this feeling of paranoia amongst the inn’s lodgers and leaving viewers guessing up to the last minute not who the werewolf is, but rather, was there ever really a werewolf at all. Congruent with this, Werewolves Within might be one of the more enlightened films; touching on very relevant opinions and beliefs that are troubling neighbors in our own world. To hit on such a diverse range of topics, while still maintain a classic, gruesome horror presence, this film has earned its spot amongst the best of horror-comedies.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I REALLY enjoyed this film. From beginning to the very surprising end, again no spoilers, I did not reach for my phone or check to see how much time was left. In fact, my only criticism would have been to flesh it out a bit longer. Its 96-minute runtime went by in the blink of the eye, a credit to this talented cast and fast-moving plot. I just couldn’t get enough of this town or it’s people. When you have a group of actors that are as talented as this, you want every opportunity to see them flex their chops. Give me a series on the day-to-day lives of these townspeople because that is how invested I am. I’ve glanced at other reviews where they claimed this lacked a “big star,” when in reality, they all were stars. From Cecily’s dancing to the Ace of Base classic “The Sign,” an eventual gif I will use to message my wife to let her know it’s time to party, to the delivery of Finn’s bumper sticker worthy line: “It’s fucking okay to be nice! Pardon my Language. It’s effin’ okay to be nice,” this was just a joy to watch.

Almost two decades ago, IFC went from the little engine that could, to the little engine that did, taking chances on films like this one; films that might not have received a second look. We need more companies to take these risks before we are inundated with sequel after sequel and the same 5 or 6 faces in leading roles. After watching the actors and actresses I have enjoyed so much in other works finally be put in the direct spotlight makes me hopeful again for the future of filmmaking. Werewolves Within got the director and cast it deserved, doing the seemingly impossible, making an enjoyable adaptation from a video game. It opens in theaters nationally Friday July 2nd and on-demand. If you are looking for something scary, fun, and thoughtful, you are in luck, and may I recommend bringing a neighbor or two?


Censor is a Brilliant Neon-Soaked Debut

Censor, director Prano Bailey-Bond’s feature film debut is a neon-soaked horror mystery set against the backdrop of the era of video nasties, a term for horror movies deemed unfit for viewing in the United Kingdom due to extreme violence that some felt might lead children into committing acts of violence themselves. Think Tipper Gore and the PMRC but for horror movies. Some of the movies deemed video nasties included Suspria (1977), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Scanners, and The Thing.

Enid Baines (Niamh Algar) is a film censor who screens horror films and assigns them a rating and, where necessary, decides if any cuts are needed. After one of the films she passed is deemed to be the inspiration behind a grisly murder, Enid becomes an object of public scrutiny. At the same time, a mysterious director has requested that she screen one of his movies. As she’s watching the movie in question, Don’t Go Into the Church, she begins to notice shocking similarities between the movie and her memories of the day her younger sister Nina went missing.

Niamh Algar in CENSOR, a Magnet release. © CPL/SSF. Photo credit: Maria Lax. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

While the neon aesthetic of the film points towards Censor being just another in the recent spate of neon-drenched indie horror flicks best exemplified by films like Mandy and Color Out of Space (both of which being movies that I love), Censor is something different. The neon lights present in Censor serve a narrative purpose that lies deeper than the surface level. Contrary to what the trailers may lead one to believe, Censor is a slow-paced character study that follows Enid as she spirals out of control in the face of the events unfolding in front of her, the lighting intensifies; becoming more akin to the vibrant reds and greens of a Dario Argento film. While that lighting is present for most of the movie, it isn’t until the plot itself intensifies that, at the same time as the aspect ratio shrinks, taking on the characteristics of one of the films Enid would screen, so too does the colour take on that characteristic. Several scenes were shot on tape, complimenting the more grounded, grainy footage that makes up the majority of the film with the less realistic aesthetic of the video nasties that Enid screens, candy-coloured blood and all.

Niamh Algar in CENSOR, a Magnet release. © CPL/SSF. Photo credit: Maria Lax. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Speaking of the aspect ratio, the slow change from widescreen to 4:3 was one of the aspects of this movie that stuck out to me because it didn’t stick out to me until the ratio had already shrunk significantly. It’s a slow change that takes place in the last half hour as the film truly becomes a video nasty in its own right while taking on the aspect ratio of one. In terms of aspect ratio changes in movies, the only other one that really sticks out to me is from Waves (2019) a movie entirely unlike this one that, aside from a few moments, I don’t like at all. In fact, take this as the opposite of an invitation to watch Waves, watch Censor instead. You’ll have a better time and you won’t feel like you’ve spent the night watching something made by someone who likes The Life of Pablo a little too much.

But I digress. Censor is a brilliant, stylish debut that promises much more to come from Prano Bailey-Bond; I for one can’t wait to see what comes next.