Villains

Some films are good, some are bad and some are great, but there are those that can only be described as an utter delight and Villains fits that bill. It’s one of those demented, go for broke horror comedies that doesn’t always add up or coalesce it’s various tones together symmetrically but goddamn of it isn’t a blast of pitch black humour, blessed practical gore effects and four lead performances that truly push the boundaries of the craft of acting into something else. Maika Monroe and Bill Skarsgard play two unbelievably dumb petty criminals, a sort of dimestore Bonnie & Clyde, who run out of gas as they’re on the run after robbing… wait for it… a gas station. Their only option is to break into the nearest, and only, house in the area to look for more options and it’s there they find a five year old girl chained up in the basement, and must contend with the homeowners, a deranged pair of loons played with American Apple Pie hospitality and charm by Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick. These two chipper darlings are as crazy as they come and have soon ensnared the two wayward youngsters in their bizarre antics, while the two race to outsmart them and free the poor mute girl below. The plot can be kind of random and wanton, but the real treasure here lies in the meticulously calibrated, phenomenal acting work from all four and the razor sharp, diabolical scriptwriting to back them up. Monroe is already horror royalty from modern classics like It Follows and The Guest, while it goes without saying that Skarsgard is squarely in the pantheon for his portrayal of a certain evil clown. They work brilliantly together because they both lose their trademark moody, withdrawn and wistful styles of acting for a bubbly, effervescent, mile-a-minute-slapstick concoction that is joyous to watch, and manage manage to find a genuine sweetness and caring for each other that shines through all the more madcap, lurid elements and makes them rough yet lovable and blessedly bumbling characters to invest in. Donovan has slowly been building a repertoire of darkly sarcastic, terrifyingly dangerous villains in stuff like FX’s Fargo, Let Him Go and more, his work here is a class act in balancing insanity, southern charm and sudden bursts of punishing sadism. Sedgwick is a natural beauty who has this spotless Miss America aura to her that she turns on its head and plays to full effect as the mot certifiably bonkers character in the story, she’s at once scary, pitiable, sultry and hysterical. This is one of those specific, special flicks like Raimi’s Evil Dead or Friedkin’s Killer Joe where the story might not always play by the rules or stay on the tracks but you really don’t care because the actors just tear the scenery to shreds, the laughs and violence come fast and furious, there are even a few arthouse flourishes sprinkled in and it’s just such a wild fuckin ride. Great film.

-Nate Hill

Edson Oda’s Nine Days

I’m just a kid from Canada who blathers on about movies on Facebook, I have no formal literary training or real clout in the journalism foray, and as such every once in a moon there comes a film that’s so good, so powerful, profound and so potentially life changing (what is cinema for, if not that?) that I feel it’s a bit above my pay grade to review it, but in the case of Edson Oda’s Nine Days I feel like I need to or you might miss this unbelievable, perspective shattering indie that seems to have come from nowhere but is here to rock our collective worlds and the lands beyond. The film presents to us a stoic, lone man called Will (Winston Duke, Us). Will lives in a rustic bungalow on a desolation of endless salt flats, and he sits in his house observing a wall of tube TV’s all displaying various human lives unfold in hazy POV. He takes periodic notes, records some of these moments onto VHS tapes and catalogues them in droves of filing cabinets. He’s visited by a colleague and advisor called Kyo (Benedict Wong, Annihilation, The Martian), and the two seem to be the only ones out there. It soon becomes clear that the people on the TV’s are humans living their lives in this world, and that Will and Kyo are in some other plane of existence, their task being to observe those who are alive and when an opening appears, to interview/audition potential new souls for a chance to be born in our world. When, through a heartbreaking tragedy, an opening does show up Will invites several souls into his house for the interview process including a quiet, observant introvert (Bill Skarsgard, It), a gregarious good timer (Tony Hale) and a startlingly observant, intuitive soul called Emma (Zazie Beetz, Deadpool 2, Joker). Now, usually a premise like this in films would be played for satire or just… not taken completely seriously but somehow this very wild concept couldn’t feel more down to earth in the hands of this creative team and, in hushed reverence, I believed every beat of it was happening for real. As Will interviews souls it becomes apparent that he is wounded from his time on earth in a way that is so deep and so painful that even these half formed human souls who aren’t even full beings yet, can somehow intuitively sense it. This goes especially for Emma, who is like an unbelievably precocious child that just picks up on intangible things as a sort of gift. As the selection process unfolds and more souls are eliminated it becomes clear that Will has to fix something broken deep within his own psyche, and this is where the film becomes downright transcendent and also where I just don’t feel qualified to properly convey the messages or themes, which are deep, dense and essential. It’s a film about not taking your time alive as a human being for granted, because there are so many unborn souls who may never get a chance. Not only are the themes compelling and thought provoking, they are multilayered, meditatively introspective and just ambiguous enough to feel like a real and flawed system of beings interacting in a world beyond our own. Wong’s wonderful character comments on the mysterious nature of both our existence and theirs and the aching existential wonder that any sort of being finds themselves in, the forces governing them always just out of reach. Duke and Beetz are unreasonably good here and if the Oscars ever took the time to recognize independent films they would both be front and centre, as would first time writer director Edson Oda (I simply CANNOT comprehending the fact that this is a feature debut, it’s TOO assured) and composer Antonio Pinto who weaves an original score too beautiful for words, full of melancholic, celestial string passages and hypnotic, dreamlike beats in between. One reviewer I saw on IMDb said about this film, and I quote, “After 60 years of watching movies, I’ve finally found the best one.” Well it’s obviously all subjective and personally I could never pick a singular, definitive “best movie ever,” the notion itself is redundant. However, I would consider Nine Days to be just about as close to perfection as one can get in the medium of film, that rare piece that just soars on every level and has the power to change lives. It’s getting a limited theatrical run at the moment and if you notice it playing in your city please go, it’s that one in a million film that lingers in your thoughts and dreams for a long time after, that elusive piece of art that doesn’t just exist onscreen for two hours before fading, but rather lives on in the hearts and minds of those who see it and takes on a soul of its own. Masterpiece and the best film of the year so far.

-Nate Hill

Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2 does what any great sequel should do: blasts the first one out of the water. Well, kind of. In terms of quality and fun, it’s *as* brilliant as the first and manages to capture that scrappy, irreverent charisma once again. Where it excels over the first is what’s built onto that blueprint and improved upon, namely a way better villain than that Jason Statham knockoff they had the first time around. Although not as developed as he could be, Josh Brolin’s Cable is a formidable, aesthetically slick presence that calls to mind Arnie’s T-101 subtly, while giving the actor room to bounce and banter with Wade Wilson. As for the Merc? He’s funnier, sadder and more larger than life in this one, his rampantly raunchy sense of humour made even more so by intense personal tragedy. One of the key assets of this story is an ironic romantic heart amidst the glib antics, and that wisely gets played up here; Wade is a badly hurt guy in more ways than just physical, and as Cable dryly points out, he uses humour to mask inner pain (reminds me of me). That’s the core of what makes him so relatable and engaging, and by now Reynolds is so good at playing this role he should get a fifty picture deal. The plot here is admittedly thin, but in such a ramshackle narrative packed with supporting characters and gags both visual and otherwise, that’s understandable. The best running joke involves Wade & Co. recruiting a short lived mutant team that includes Bill ‘Pennywise’ Skarsgard, Terry Crews and a cameo so quick and hilarious I won’t spoil the fun, but keep your eyes peeled for The Vanisher’s split second closeup. They don’t last long though and not since MacGruber have I witnessed wanton, hysterical negligence and ineptitude in friendly fire casualties. Deadpool stands out because it broke the mold of nearly all superhero films to come before; its R rating allows it t have the kind of unbridled fun that the genre should have sparked from day one. The first film pioneered a very specific brand of mischief and debauchery.. this one takes the concept and runs with it and the results are pure summer movie bliss.

-Nate Hill