Tag Archives: colossal

The Worst and, more importantly, THE BEST of 2017, so far

So, as I am the grand arbiter of all things film, I’m officially calling the summer movie season at its close. Alas Logan Lucky, The Glass Castle, or Annabelle: Creation, you’re all part of the fall movie season. However will you survive?

And at the close of summer movie season, we’re essentially halfway through the movie year. I know we’re more than halfway through the calendar year, but trust me, that back half is always as packed as it gets. There’ll end up being things that are Oscar nominees that aren’t even on our radar right now. The worst movie of the year is likely still yet to come (though it’s hard to imagine right now).

But since I’m a fiend for lists, let’s make one, shall we? Let’s give a few check-ins and see where we are, starting with the worst (because it gets the attention) before taking a full celebration of the best.

Bottom 5 Films of 2017 So Far

5) The Dark Tower

Idris Elba

Ahh, The Dark Tower. The best franchise that will never quite be. Based on Stephen King’s series of epic fantasy western Lovecraftian meta-novels, some much smarter studio could have had a new Game of Thrones on its hands. Alas, it was in the hands of Sony and they instead produced a fall flat on its face. A mess of bad studio production, The Dark Tower wastes its actors, murders its pacing, and takes all the material and tosses it out the window for a mid-90s adaptation premise. Any film that features Matthew McConaughey saying “I see you’re still impervious to my magicks” with a straight face has an uphill battle. The Dark Tower doesn’t win it.

4) The Circle


A bland mess of technophobia, I really just feel bad for the people involved here. The Circle is Black Mirror without the brains or heart, an aesthetic rip-off by a huge number of people who should be able to make some better stamp. Staring a pitch-perfect satire of late capitalism in the face, The Circle is content to shake its fist at social media and ultimately end up going nowhere.

3) Transformers: The Last Knight


Look, who the living fuck expects anything out of this franchise at this point? The best Transformers has ever been able to aspire to is Bay’s weird hypercompetencies managing to shine through the material. But when they don’t, it’s the same thing that happens every goddamned time: A mess of story with awful design with a runtime that lasts for aeons.

2) Ghost in the Shell


A pile-up of decisions so bad that you’re more baffled that it ever happened than mad that someone chose to do it. That all said, this is a film that was never going to be great and still manages to enrage far above its station. A messy script, terrible direction, and boring setpieces would sink any movie, but a movie that white-washes like this one does deserves all the ire that can be thrown. When your material is so fertile with intellect, you can’t be this fucking stupid in putting it together.

1) The Book of Henry


Colin Trevorrow is a rare sort of filmmaker, one who in a past era would have perhaps been run out of town after town after the people found out his snake oil elixirs just weren’t working. The Book of Henry is his raw nerve put on screen. Excessively manipulative, baffling in every plot point put on screen, and a masterpiece of inhuman behavior, seemingly put together by a man who’s never met a human but is fairly certain he knows how they work. Fuck this movie.


Colossal is a brilliant movie where the monster is man

For everyone who’s ever knocked a few things over trying to get into bed after that last ill-advised shot, Colossal may stand in all too stark of a reality. A witty and deeply relatable movie that takes its indie movie premise and bends it so far that it runs joyously into originality, Colossal has so much on its mind that perhaps its greatest pleasure is simply seeing the layers here unfold.

Colossal has functionally two separate films (in the best way) unfurl in its runtime. The first is the story of Gloria (Anne Hathaway), an “internet writer” who breaks up with her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), due to her excessive drinking and party lifestyle after a  and moves back to her small hometown. She reconnects with childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudekis), starts working in Oscar’s bar, and generally tries to get her life together.

During this time, she discovers that at 8:05 every morning, she can take control of a giant monster that manifests itself over Seoul and has generally wrecked up the place. You know, as you do.

In this, the monster becomes a literalizing metaphor for the destructiveness of Gloria’s alcoholism. I mean, that much is obvious, one of the first things you learn about literature is that the monster is always metaphor.

Yet it’s still a potent idea for precisely reasons that Colossal demonstrates. There’s a power in the way it addresses Gloria’s connection to the monster, turning it into the avatar of the lives that she’s wrecked. Writer/Director Nacho Vigolando handles it gracefully, never overblowing or underselling, but equivocating, using the same emotions.

That sense of learning what you did from others later, the hoping that you didn’t cause that much devastation. Vigolando handles these things extremely well, making them connect enough for even the person who’s maybe blacked out once to understand those darker worries of those who fall into the consistent habit.

It also helps that he has Anne Hathaway as Gloria. No stranger to public scorn that seems completely out of her control, Colossal feels personal for her, taking some of that darkness that she has demonstrated a penchant for before (think Rachel Getting Married, wherein she gives one of the finest caustic sniping performances on film) and makes it empathetic, understanding what a rough time of things does to people. Hathaway is phenomenal here, showing off the absolute and total performative control that makes her an actress worth talking about.

That’s movie #1. A “person needs to get stuff together in their hometown” movie that plays so effectively because it isn’t just that. It’s a genre picture that takes that tropes and uses the power of monster as metaphor to give a special punch, a sickening literalization that puts things together in their fullness.

Now, I want to discuss the rest of this movie, but understand that doing so means that I’m spoiling the biggest surprises this movie has to offer. My review isn’t complete without it. So, I’m going to put the trailer here and a recommendation. Colossal is a brilliant, pitch-perfectly put together piece of genre fiction, and is absolutely worth your time. Now, go see it, and then continue below.

Movie #2 is something that has its seeds first sown in the first half. Sudekis’ Oscar seems just a little too aggressively nice. He keeps trying to insert himself into her life, helping her out, being a nice guy. He’s got great friends, but you notice that he won’t stop pushing and pulling them, the ringleader of the group.

Then, one fateful morning, Oscar finds out that he too manifests in Seoul, as a giant robot. There’s a certain perverse joy he takes in that power, as he realizes he can use it to control Gloria, who needs him less and less as she’s getting her demons under control. And as he starts to let his rage and his desire to control come out more and more.

Yes, the real monster here? “Nice guys.”

We know them, those guys who fake kindness to expect returns. Vigolando has made Colossal an all too-modern metaphor, living with the particular phenomenons made apparent by technology and the 21st century. Colossal is not an “internet movie,” but there’s an understanding of what it’s like to live with the people it’s created and enabled.

Colossal has an understanding of masculine rage, of a specific kind of man who’s toxic to his own relationships and the relationships of others. Vigolando here has created a monster movie that effectively gets at how we can be the smallest monsters, of control and abuse and the entitlement to others.

Much of that is from Sudekis, who inverts his nice-guy persona and takes a far far more active role in the second-half. He uses his natural affableness and aloofness and turns it into a dark disconnect with humanity. He makes the slide so perfectly and lays the groundwork so well that it makes you look at him a little differently. That’s a performance.

With Colossal, it ultimately comes down to how incredibly well it tells the stories it tries to sell. Vigolando is a master of tone, wielding his control at every step and letting the story dance along the ridiculousness and the seriousness inherent in the premise. It’s told with such a casual hand that its more serious moments snap all the more into focus. Every element is wedded perfectly to its aims.

Colossal is simply great filmmaking, relevant and thoughtful and eminently enjoyable at every step. Vigolando took on a lot and here it absolutely all snaps into brilliant focus, a story of pain and rage and personal redemption with giant monsters. What more could you want?

Grade: A

A Preview of The Fall Season (Based on the Festivals)

That’s right, it’s every film lover’s favorite time of year. FESTIVAL SEASON. When a whole bunch of people descend on random areas of the world (Toronto, Colorado, Venice, Tribeca) and start to get a look at the movies of prestige. Those that are gonna be in the critical and awards conversations for the end of the year, and that I’m not gonna shut up about. So, let’s prepare for the movies I might be breathing down your neck about seeing, might be flippantly dismissing.


The latest from Sicario director Denis Villenueve, this Amy Adams-starring alien invasion thriller seeks to pitch things in a different way. Amy Adams plays a linguist tasked with figuring out how to communicate with the aliens so that we don’t start a war to end our planet. Early reviews indicate this one is as smart and tightly-shot, but has the depth and surprising emotional connection that was missing in the previous suffocatingly-tense thriller Sicario, which is what may have kept me from loving that one.

Worth thinking about if you like: Sicario, Interstellar, that linguistics class in college



Do you weirdly hate Anne Hathaway? What’s wrong with you? Well, if you do, watch a movie where she hates herself too, and also may be linked mentally to a giant rampaging legally-distinct-from-but-basically-Godzilla on the other side of the world. Director Nacho Vigolando is promising a film about a difficult woman having troubles and dealing with them in the most sci-fi-twisty of ways. Also starring Jason Sudekis and Dan Stevens, early word has been mixed, with some praising the bold weirdness and Hathaway’s performance and others claiming the film doesn’t quite meet its goals. Either way, worth a look.

Worth thinking about if you like: Godzilla (2014), Rachel Getting Married, the surprisingly rare genre of films mixing indie beautiful people angst and giant monsters.

Free Fire

From Ben Wheatley, director of this year’s measured film of chaos High-Rise, comes decidedly less measured chaos. An arms deal gone wrong is an excuse for the premise of a bunch of great actors (and Sharlto Copley) to put on 70s leisure suits and shoot the hell out of each other. Early word suggests that the movie may not be much more than that, but also that you may not care.

Worth thinking about if you like: High-Rise, Reservoir Dogs, leisure suits, truly rampant gun violence

The Girl With All The Gifts

From one of Britain’s best TV directors Colm McCarthy comes The Girl With All The Gifts, an attempt at another different spin on a genre thought dead. A dystopian future where humanity is threatened by a virus that turns people into zombies (called “hungries” because no zombie film can exist in a world where zombies already are a cultural thing) and its only salvation a group of children who are able to straddle the line between zombie and humanity. Early reviews pin this one as thoughtful and surprisingly bold, as well as a necessary diversionary path for a horror genre essentially all but run into the ground at this point.

Worth thinking about if you like: 28 Days Later, The Walking Dead (formerly), YA novels about being special even when you’re a zombie.


In what has quietly become Queen of the Mountain in the Best Actress race, Natalie Portman plays Jackie Kennedy in the wake of JFK’s assassination in a film by Pablo Larrain. Early reviews have not only singled out Portman for a memorable and towering performance, but the film itself as a well-composed and hypnotic mediation on tragedy.

Worth thinking about if you like: Under the Skin and Marie Antoinette (as per critic David Ehrlich), American history, Boston accents from people who just went to Harvard.

La La Land

This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about this one, and I earnestly can’t imagine it’ll be my last. An old-school musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as young lovers trying to make it big in LA, the festival circuit has been ecstatically kind to this one, drawing comparisons to Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which piques my interest in particular. The critical reaction is near universally positive and I’ve been convinced for a while this is going to end up in the final heat for best picture this year.

Worth thinking about if you like: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Whiplash, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, beautiful people doing artistically satisfying things

Manchester By The Sea

Another favorite of the festival circuit, Kenneth Lonergan’s first film since the sprawling Margaret is a story of delicate sadness in the wake of tragedy. Casey Affleck has been singled out for praise, along with Lonergan’s scripting and direction. Another potential favorite for the Oscar voters in the wake of a now wide-open race, this is a film to break out the tissues on.

Worth thinking about if you like: Margaret, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, engaging at an ironic distance with movies about “Sad White People.”

A Monster Calls

This is a film based on a remarkable book. Delicate and tearjerking, Ness’ A Monster Calls is a fantastic book on dealing with grief through storytelling, and the film looks to be much of the same. Made by J.A. Bayona (who’s got a spotty record to this point), the trailers have  seemed to already retain that same power, though I wonder how I’ll feel with Kubo treading the same ground. Early reviews have been decidedly divided, with some calling it one of their favorites of the year and some receiving absolutely nothing from it.

Worth thinking about if you like: Kubo and the Two Strings, The BFG, your stocks in tissue companies


The other film that seems to be getting near-universal La La Land-esque praise is this poetic mediation of black experience by director Barry Jenkins. It follows a young man named Chiron through three stages of his life as he grapples with a broken home, bullies, and his sexuality. Early reviews have called this one impeccably made, emotional and heartbreaking, and incredibly real.

Worth thinking about if you like: Brokeback Mountain, Boyhood, being way ahead of the cinematic curve.

Nocturnal Animals


Fashion magnate Tom Ford proved himself a surprisingly strong director with A Single Man, and he seems to be following it up with yet more skill and phenomenal acting choices with Nocturnal Animals. The story of Amy Adams (again) playing an art gallery owner who’s grappling with the revelations of a book her ex-husband Jake Gylenhaal wrote and sent to her. Early reviews point towards a phenomenal cast gripped in a trashy pulpy epic that might surprise fans of A Single Man. 

Worth thinking about if you like: A Single Man, Nightcrawler, the fact that the movie led to this picture: