Seattle Cinema Survey :Best 21st Century Horror Film

Hi to all and thanks for joining us for another edition of the Seattle Cinema Survey, where horror month rolls along because Halloween is the best dammit!

This week, I’ve asked our crew of local critics, bloggers and people with awful, just awful opinions; What’s the best horror film of the 21st Century?

A rather straightforward question, I’m somehow torn by my own query. That is due to one fact, which would be Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. A basically perfect film, that manages to create engaging, complex characters in a zombie comedy, before going full-horror in the last act, Shaun of the Dead remains a member of both genres. As such, I’m going to pick a movie that is a full-tilt scream factory.

That selection is Danny Boyle’s marvelous 28 Days Later. An update of the zombie-genre, where our infected bunch rush you with the intensity of Black Friday shoppers, Boyle’s work crawls through the veins quite uncomfortably. The concepts aren’t altogether new, with a confused individual stepping into a dystopian world. What makes the project so gut-churning is how on-your-toes the whole endeavor manages to be throughout. Along with the previously discussed former-humans longing to tear you limb from limb, it’s the rampant nature of the turn into such a creature that lingers. The sequence where one of our crew begins to rage and flail after an errant drop of blood into HIS EYE gives me chills at the mere thought.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See
This is a damn hard one. All the people griping and grousing about how horror is dead haven’t paid attention for the last 16 years. Cabin in the Woods deconstructs and inverts horror tropes in unique and inventive ways, 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead helped redefine the zombie genre for a new generation, The Descent is pure claustrophobic nightmare and throws in a curve when you least expect, Kill List obliterates traditional genre boundaries, I Saw the Devil is a vicious revenge masterpiece, What We Do in the Shadows reinvigorates both vampire movies and mockumentaries, Shaun of the Dead pulls off that most difficult feat—a horror comedy that is legitimately both funny and scary, The Devil’s Backbone still stands as Guillermo del Toro’s best movie and a marvelous modern ghost story to boot, Trouble Every Day may be the artsiest cannibal movie ever made, and Piranha 3D has everything I want out of a schlocky, 3D exploitation movie.
Dammit, I don’t know.

My pick could easily be any of these movie, or countless others. Maybe teetering on the verge of an all-out Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic collapse or a potential fascist dictatorship means horror has plenty of primal fears to tap into. What the hell, I’ll go with Bong Joon-ho’s 2006 creature feature The Host for my pick today. It’s certainly the best monster movie in recent memory, and manages to be funny, harrowing, and legitimately moving. Coupled with some of the Weta Workshop’s best effects work (sorry, Lord of the Rings and Black Sheep—another potential choice), it’s one for the ages.

Tim Hall of The People’s Critic @peoplescrtic

This answer can change for me every month. For now, I’m going with 2007’s The Mist. I was locked in during the first few minutes when Dan runs in and screams, “There’s somthing in the mist.” All these people stuck in a store and they’re told there are unspeakable horrors in the mist. Without even seeing what’s out there, the group starts to take sides. When the monsters do show up, Mrs. Carmody forms a tiny cult of survivors and starts “sacrificing” people. At times she’s scarier than the monsters outside.

The premise is simple but effective and the monsters are out of this world terrifying – even the ones you can barely see. My favorite scene is the group trip to the pharmacy next door. The scene is so tense as you’re waiting for something to happen and it all hits the fan at the same time.

The ending of The Mist makes it a must watch every October.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
I typically don’t get scared by monster movies, but I remember being scared shitless when I went to go see The Descent. So that’s my answer. And after being scared in such a way, the theater informed me I wouldn’t be allowed back, if you get my meaning.

Matt Oakes of Silver Screen Riot @SSRdotcom
This century has been an absolute showstopper for horror films and being a horror fanatic, I could go on and on and on. Off the top of my head: The Loved Ones, I Saw the Devil, Martyrs, Session 9, The Mist, The Descent, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, 28 Days Later, Kill List, The Babadook, The Descent, The Conjuring, The Cabin in the Woods, Let the Right One In, Shaun of the Dead. But though some listed above may be superior none are to me as utterly rewatchable and insanely enjoyable as Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell. Simple, scary and hilarious, there is not a tedious moment in Drag Me To Hell. From the first time Christine Brown is practicing pronunciation in her car mirror to the showstopping train tracks finale and all the ooey, gooey junk falling into her mouth along the way, Drag Me To Hell is amazeballs through and through.

Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak @moviefreaksara
Neil Marshall’s 2005 stunner The Descent is a masterpiece. An absolutely horrifying excursion into the bowels of the earth, it isn’t so much a darkly lit, unbearably claustrophobic monster movie as it is a fearless examination of grief, courage, friendship and solidarity. The saga of a group of close-knit female friends with an adventurous streak reuniting for the first time since one of their members, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), has suffered unimaginable tragedy, the movie’s an unfathomable nightmare of tension that’s as unrelenting as it is emotionally complex.

Not that the creatures these six spelunking women end up encountering aren’t terrifying. They are, Marshall utilizing their lithe, limber carnivorous forms as if they were the shark from Jaws, only showcasing them at just the right moment in order to provide maximum impact upon the viewer. But it is always the human dynamic that is the most startling, the way Sarah must deal with her ravenous grief while the other women reveal their inner strengths and weaknesses as they attempt to survive their ordeal.

The U.S. release version of the film, which is admittedly amazing, softens things a little bit, allowing the tiniest ray of light to shine inside this seemingly impenetrable darkness. The original cut, however, is a thing of deranged, unsettling beauty, building to a denouement that’s up there with the final moments of something like Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Diabolique or Takashi Miike’s Audition. It’s a quiet, unsettling final scene that overwhelms in its serene madness, Sarah discovering a form of peace that comes at a cataclysmic cost.

Jason Roestel @filmbastard

As I ponder this most excellent question various interior personas would each like to submit their candidate. The aged cinemaphile in me says Pascal Laugier’s outstanding existential slaughterhouse Martyrs, with its bipolar plot swings and catastrophic violence, all of it driving toward a finale more metaphysical/spiritual sucker punch than standard genre showdown. Laugier has yet to top the feature that made him a known entity in the American horror industry. Same goes for Neil Marshall, who I believe made one of the best horror films of any century (well, the two centuries in the contest) with 2005’s The Descent. Neil never made another film on that level. As far as the inner child who grew up on Ridley Scott’s Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing, and who developed a taste for the creepy crawly side of the film industry, that kid would go with The Descent for his choice. It should be noted how estrogenic my selections are. Riot grrrls unite and all that. And since we’re on the topic of gore girls, Lucky McKee’s May is not to be ignored in this category.


Was I Nuts ? – Donnie Darko

Are there still those committed to Sparkle Motion. 15 years ago the cult of Donnie Darko began, but the movie has become more of an early 21st Century antique than a touchstone for future film lovers. With its own nostalgia for the 80s baked into cinematic recipe, Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko doesn’t seem to be developing into the kind of underground classic that each generation of movie-nerd harkens back to. Instead, it’s “I Believe In a Thing Called Love,” liking “Family Guy” or other ideas only twenty-somethings were into when W was first President; an idea from yesterday.

Was the love for Donnie Darko a misguided admiration for an alright film that, just by being a bit different than the time’s norm, was graded on a curve? Are the poorly received follow-ups of Kelly less a sign of decline or proof that the filmmaker was never that good to begin with? Was I nuts?


The Film

Released on October 26, 2001 to little fanfare, Donnie Darko is sci-fi/horror/teenage drama by writer-direct Richard Kelly in his feature-length debut. The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie, a suburban teenager whose life is a mélange of boredom, arguing with family and pills. Then a jet engine falls into his bedroom and he begins talking to a rabbit-costumed figure named Frank; as happens. Amidst the normal turmoil of high school life, Donnie grows increasingly distant and angrier, haunted by interactions with Frank and this spectre’s claims that the world will end in 28 days, 6 days, 42 minutes and 12 seconds.

With a middling box-office reception, Donnie Darko did get enough critical acclaim to keep chatter about the picture alive. The movie would receive three Independent Spirit Award nominations, with Gyllenhaal getting into the Best Male Lead race. The film that looked dead kept going. According to The AV Club, “The Pioneer Theatre in New York ran it as a midnight movie for two years.” DVD sales, which began really taking off at this time period, became a boon for Kelly’s work, with numbers generally being quoted that the movie made over $10 million from the format in the first few years. Suddenly, you couldn’t go to a Suncoast, Hot Topic or Spencer’s without seeing Frank the Bunny on posters or someone playing the movie’s soundtrack. Popularity continued to grow, even leading to Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut getting a release in 2004, featuring 20-plus minutes of footage, a change in the musical cues and a lot more time-travel talk.


The Memory

I can rather vividly recall watching Donnie Darko for the first time and imagine the story isn’t too dissimilar from many people’s initial outings. During my junior year of college at Salisbury University, my dear friend Kat (thanks buddy), also a movie-nerd, kept raving about the film and insisted I watched her DVD of it. Slightly hesitant as it featured that kid from The Bubble Boy, I nonetheless gave it a chance. I was quite quickly hooked, in love with the moodiness of it all and the low-key nature of its sci-fi world that manages to mix in a horror tinge. What followed was uber fandom, complete with t-shirt, a Frank the Bunny jack-o-lantern that took three hours to carve and a $30 DVD purchase from fucking Suncoast because Best Buy wouldn’t regularly have it for $10 until a few months later.

Like a virus…but the good kind…of virus…um…I spread the good word of all things Sparkle Motion. Jake Gyllenhaal became someone to watch and I waited with baited breath for what Richard Kelly would do next, which led to the abysmal, yet definitely different, yet definitely abysmal Southland Tales in 2007.

The Prediction

Donnie Darko has to be good, right? I mean, please.


The Result

With all of the Amblin Entertainment nostalgia that’s creeping into pop-culture of late, and “Stranger Things” being such a success for Netflix, it’s peculiar that Donnie Darko has not been talked about more of late. Especially since it still remains quite fantastic.

All of those bits you recall adoring continue to ring with confidence, right from the first scene. We all recall the sequence of Donnie descending at dawn from the hillside, as we see him bicycling through the suburbs, his father messing with big-sis and Echo & the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” scoring it all, the scene aided strongly by the deep, crisp guitar and bass plucks from that tune. There is an immediate sense that something is a little off. Yet, even before that, Kelly’s movie compels, as we slowly zoom along the first glimpses of morning, mountains in the distance, birds chirping and Donnie waking up on the side of the road, confused by it all.

The economy of storytelling continues right after this, as the Darkos chat, or rather loudly argue, over dinner. Sister Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal), is revealed as a burgeoning Democrat, making papa Eddie (Holmes Osborne) freeze in disgust and mama Rose (Mary McDonnell) sarcastically laugh at the notion. As Donnie delights in the fuss, Elizabeth jabs about his failure to take prescribed therapeutic medication. All the while, little Samantha (Daveigh Chase) sits oblivious. The dynamics of home are set.

The complexities of school then come into focus, with Tears for Fears “Head Over Heels” our chorus. Kelly uses a long-take to show our ensemble as Donnie walks down the hallway. There’s the sneering, rebellious kid. A teacher clinging to a book, shocked by the youth. A young girl that walks alone. Seth Rogen doing drugs. An oblivious principal. In a short-while, Kelly has given us a host of players in two striking sequences, and he’ll use a variation of this towards the close of the movie, but not so much as a one-note crutch.


A lot of credit must be given to the cast here. Gyllenhaal is an enigmatic as memory serves, the kid who means well but isn’t concerned with being a prick. His early defense of an Asian classmate hints at his good nature, even as he remains friendly with the teens instigating the cruelty. Gyllenhaal plays Donnie as almost too-smart for his own good, his cockiness and an inability to hold his tongue making himself seem beyond just another high-school kid. That innocence remains though, personified by the initial courting of Jena Malone’s Gretchen. The new kid in town, Gretchen and Donnie are first linked when Ms. Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore) tells her new pupil to sit next to the cutest boy in class, of which Mr. Darko receives the honor. Soon, Donnie is getting comfortable talking to Gretchen as he walks her home from school. She mentions her father’s “emotional problems”, a fact Donnie perks up to, stating, “Oh I have those too!.” This excitement is quickly rebuffed by the tragic fact that Gretchen’s father stabbed her mother multiple times; deflating Donnie’s eagerness. From then on, Donnie frets, with Gyllenhaal’s speech getting anxious and Malone’s character strangely becoming more confident. The ebb and flow of this pair, each thoroughly trying to be cooler than at all, is delightful.

The unsung highlight of Donnie Darko is probably Mary McDonnell’s Rose, both as a piece of writing and acting. For all of the mystery of Frank the Bunny and the time-travel filling, it all comes back to the family dynamic. Rose is vital to that as she profoundly cares for her son, a boy that grows further away from the baby that once resided in their home. Donnie calls her a “bitch,” a sting that goes far below the skin. It’s interesting to see how much Donnie is her son, as his skepticism of people’s motives and the casual snooty responses are definitely a part of her nature. When Beth Grant’s Kitty comes to Rose’s door in desperate need of a Sparkle Motion chaperone, McDonnell’s face is gold, shaping into faux-sadness that Kitty can’t go now due to unforeseen circumstances. This is all vital to make that conclusion, where the sacrifice that must be made occurs, have the required level of weight. There are others close to Donnie that are impacted, but it’s the pure, overwhelming grief on Rose’s face that makes it mean something.

Kelly may have not made another good movie since Donnie Darko. Perhaps Southland Tales doubled-down too much on the peculiarities and The Box went too deep with the over-explanations of oddities; it’s hard to tell. He will always have this one, the cult classic that briefly escaped into the mainstream, before sinking back into the shadows with other offbeat greats.


Seattle Cinema Survey : Unappreciated Horror Sequels

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Seattle Cinema Survey, home of me bothering local critics, writers and nerds about various movie related things. As Halloween is but a few weeks away, it’s all things spooky-scary, with horror getting the spotlight this month.

In this round, we take a peek at something horror cinema provides a lot of; sequels. There is an endless supply of follow-ups to beloved, and definitely not beloved, horror work, with the great ones (Evil Dead 2, Dawn of the Dead, The Bride of Frankenstein), being universally lauded. However, with so much to pick from, I asked; What’s the most unappreciated horror sequel?

Three answers sprung to mind for me. The first is The Exorcist III, which a contributor later in this survey gushes about with precision. Second to jump out for me is Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, the direct sequel to Carpenter’s masterpiece that is assuredly inferior to that original and nonetheless superior to most slashers. Strangely, my pick is also Halloween II, but in the form of Rob Zombie’s sequel to his own – not especially good – remake of the Michael Meyers classic.

Where Zombie’s initial stab at the world of Haddonfield was too closely tangled up in reworkings and throwbacks, his Halloween II managed to be its own gnarly, gruesome beast. Still featuring a flash of the terrific hospital sequence from Rosenthal’s sequel, here Zombie messes with the terror that’s crawed into the daily psyches of those infected by the mayhem of round one. The dirt and grain of the 16mm filmstock enhances the skewed reality of it all, as the polish of too many Halloween pics is unseen.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight

I maintain that all the Friday the 13th movie are good, or at least watchable, up until Jason Takes Manhattan (Jason X is also fun, though I hesitate to use the word good as a description); Gremlins 2: The New Batch doesn’t get as much love as it should, especially as a satirization of sequels; Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is bonkers and misunderstood, though it has its defenders and I feel like it’s star has rightfully been on the rise in recent years. But it’s another franchise that’s home to the most underappreciated sequel.

While The Exorcist is one of the greatest horror movies of all time, the first sequel, The Exorcist 2: The Heretic, is, well, not good. 1990’s The Exorcist III, however, is pretty boss. Written and directed by William Peter Blatty, who wrote the original novel, The Exorcist III takes a step in a different direction, though keeps the general supernatural ambiance and creep factor. The story follows Lieutenant Kinderman (now played by George C. Scott) from the first film as he investigates the Gemini Killer, a Zodiac-style serial murderer. It stands on its own, has aged well, and though it doesn’t top the original, The Exorcist III is a sturdy, underrated horror joint that honors what came before.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber

A couple that come to mind are Paranormal Activity 2 and 28 Weeks Later. The first Paranormal Activity gave me nightmares, and while it relies heavily on gimmicks, those same gimmicks (and some added ones) still work surprisingly well with its sequel. I don’t remember exactly what happens in the movie, but I also remember walking out of the theater saying, “That still made me jump.”

28 Days Later is considered one of the best zombie movies out there, though you can tell Danny Boyle intended it to be a standalone movie. On the surface, the sequel, with a different director, feels like a cash grab, but it’s still a super exciting and suspenseful cash grab.

But my selection for most under-appreciated horror sequel will go to Psycho II. It’s a movie that shouldn’t exist and has no right to be any good, but it’s a legitimately well made movie that extends the story of Norman Bates in a realistic way. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but I bet many, many people have dismissed it outright–that’s why it’s my choice.


Review – The Girl on the Train

Directed by Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up) and based on Paula Hawkins’ popular novel of the same name, The Girl on the Train is a lurid whodunit where our protagonist isn’t merely an unreliable narrator, there’s a strong change she’s the killer everyone is trying to uncover. Said narrator is Rachel (Emily Blunt), a thoroughly drunk woman whose life has become a sad routine of heading into New York City every morning, sipping on a thermos of booze and staring at the neighborhood she once resided in with her now ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux). As Rachel’s life flops on, Tom remains in the pair’s old home, where he lives with new wifey Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their young child; a little one the former were never able to produce together.

The flame of yesteryear isn’t the only thing Rachel’s obsesses over, as their’s also Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), a seemingly idealic twosome whom Rachel projects all of life’s missed blisses. That is until Rachel witnesses Megan in the arms of another amidst one ride, leading to her own private investigation of this new figure, a decision that comes with screaming, a figure in a dark tunnel and our lead waking up with caked blood all over her clothes and body.

The Girl on the Train is the kind of film that would definitely have featured Michael Douglas were it released in the early 90s. Slightly pulpy, erotic and erratic, Taylor’s take on this kind of story is slightly conservative. The violent acts are started in frame but the impact, especially the most severe moments, aren’t shown. The various sexual trists begin and aren’t lingered on for long. This isn’t Paul Verhoeven, but rather a work attempting for an austere take on the genre. The end result is an alright movie that gets a lot of juice from a terrific Emily Blunt performance. Her Rachel is an unflinching life that’s gone off the rails. She stumbles here, lies to strangers there and is always, always on the verge of tears. Blunt keeps Rachel a vivid character; a troubling pseudo-sleuth in it for herself more than the person that has gone missing.

The movie’s main struggles take up the periphery. Taking a note from the book’s layout, we occasionally cut to the other leading ladies of this tale. We get a little time with Anna, displaying her anxiousness about Rachel still hanging about the edges of her and Tom’s life. We also get glimpses of Megan, where her melancholy over a life of mistakes and insecurities regularly bubble up. However, these ventures into the times and turmoils of Anna and Megan don’t walk the line well. There is too little room given to their existences to make them compelling, yet too much shown to justify the minutes spent on them, as each visit grows increasingly expository. This weighs down The Girl on the Train, as those making up this fictional playground aren’t intriguing enough to make up for the lack of trashiness.

Yet, when the conclusion comes and everyone’s motives are revealed, there is a bit of a punch. Even with flashbacks being a tad too prominent, the viscera finally flows and there is an outstanding use of a corkscrew that may lead to quite a few squeals. The whole is not great. It’s not a must-see. It is good enough.


Seattle Cinema Survey :Scariest Non-Horror Movie Scenes

Hello all and welcome to the Seattle Cinema Survey, home of the area’s critics, bloggers and nerds responding to my weekly queries.

With Halloween around the corner, I’m making October all-things-spoooooooooky. We’re kicking that theme off with: What’s your favorite scary scene in a non-horror movie?

In my eyes, it almost has to be a Disney scene, for they remain the source of countless terrified children, especially in their earlier films. As much as people moan about modern kid’s pics growing uncomfortably adult in their displays, I can’t help but thinking of the pure creepiness of Pinocchio, in particular the moment where our titular wooden boy chugs beers and smokes cigars with his newfound buddies on their way to Treasure Island.

As Pinocchio and pals await new joys, we have the evil Coachman tricking these desperate youths and making them slave labor, as the freshly inbided beverages transform the kids into literal donkeys. The eeeeeps kick in as the recently turned, still wearing their clothes, bellow in fear, with a few strays that can still speak being hauled together to scream in pain as one. Seconds later Pinocchio realizes what’s happening as his best mate’s mug molds long-ears and fingers crumple into hooves. The remaining evolution is shown via shadows and even louder howls of confusion and panic. It is unnerving to this day.

Adam Gehrke of Fox 13/Cinema Squabble/Most Things Seattle @AdamGehrke
While I’m not sure this qualifies as my favorite all-time horror scene in a non-horror pic, I think the first one I fell in love with was the Large Marge sequence in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, it’s something that gives us a glimpse of what Tim Burton had in store for us just a few short years later, and it continues to scare the pants off of unsuspecting kids to this day. Good times!

Tim Hall of The People’s Critic @peoplescrtic
It has to be my favorite scene from 2002’s Signs. When people aren’t sure if there are really aliens or not, Merrill is watching a found footage clip from a kids birthday party and you can see the alien.

The scene works because they delay showing the alien that’s camouflaged in the bushes. After the reveal it’s a shot of Merril’s reaction and he looks frightened. Then for good measure they show the alien again but this time in slow motion. It’s a fantastic scene.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
This is a tough one to think about without doing more research than I’m willing to invest–I’m sure there are much scarier moments out there–but a few scenes come to mind:

– That random moment in The Fellowship of the Ring where Bilbo, desperate for the ring, momentarily turns into a monster. The transformation really makes no sense when you think about it, but it certainly makes me jump.
– In Se7en, I still hold my breathe when the police pull back the sheet to reveal the nearly dead but not quite victim who has been locked in his apartment for months, chained to his bed.
– That drug trip scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where Mr. Wonka takes his guests on the boat ride from hell. I hated that scene as a kid, and hate it to this day.
– Baby. Ceiling. Trainspotting.

But if I think about a scene that would freak out my non-existent child, it would be that face-melting scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yummy.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight
The psychedelic boat scene in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is straight up nightmare fuel; the entire withdrawal scene in Trainspotting wrecks me every time, especially the ceiling baby; Large Marge in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure still makes me jump; John Goodman losing his shit and screaming, “Look upon me, I’ll show you the life of the mind,” against a hell-scape backdrop in Barton Fink; the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3; opening the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the beating heart scene in Temple of Doom (at seven-years-old that messed me up to the point where I got a tattoo of it); and any scene where someone gets buried alive. They may not be horror in the strictest sense, but every single one of these moments brings me to my knees.

But my scariest scene in a non-horror movie has to be Joe Pesci’s entire, “I’m funny how? I mean funny like a clown? I amuse you?” speech from Goodfellas. Maybe I’ve known too many unhinged folks who can turn on a dime like that, who can go from laughing and having a good time to shitting-my-pants terrifying in a blink. But the transition from fun to awkward to uncomfortable to sheer terror is so damn visceral and real. He plays it off, but that’s the moment we get a peek at Tommy’s true psycho tendencies, and the glimpse is horrifying.

Jason Roestel of HarshRealm.Us @filmbastard

Scariest scene in a non-horror movie? Lots to choose from, but I’m going to go with the card game in Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day. Ethan Hawke’s rookie, Officer Hoyt, sits down for a truce game of cards between factions – law and disorder. Disorder being represented by a gang shotcaller named ‘Smiley’ (Cliff Curtis in one of his best roles) and his crew of tat’d up soldiers. Still caught between being the wolf his boss, Detective Alonzo Harris, (Denzel Washinton, who won the academy award that year for this film) wants him to be to tackle the streets of East Los Angeles, and the sheep he’s trying to grow out of, he abruptly finds himself without his shepherd, as Harris tells his underling he needs to use the bathroom and to hold tight. He then disappears for an extremely long, agonizingly tense stretch of time. As the gangsters and the single cop play poker it becomes apparent that these killers have no respect for Hoyt, or his office, their comments go from passive aggressive to straight up aggressive. At one point they ask to see Hoyt’s gun, and as much as we want to scream to the kid not to surrender his firearm in this environment, he gives it over. Our one comfort left is the faith that any second Alonzo, criminal cop heavyweight, will step back into the scene and save the rookie from this quagmire. It’s just then that it dawns on us. Harris, always nine steps ahead of the game, has set his partner up. He’s not going to swoop in and save the doomed rookie. A rookie who’s now unarmed and hopelessly outnumbered in a fortress of gangbangers and killers. That sickening feeling we’ve been feeling for the last five minutes in our stomachs suddenly becomes a kick to the guts.

Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak/Seattle Gay News @moviefreaksara
There were many moments in a number of films I can think of when I ponder this question, but only one came to me in the immediate seconds after it was asked. To save her son Timmy, Mrs. Brisby must go seek out The Great Owl to learn how to make sure her home isn’t destroyed by the farmer’s ploy. Into his nest she must go, a small, meek little mouse, and in looking this fearsome predator in the eye, hopefully discover the courage to make sure her family doesn’t meet with unfathomable devastation.
There is something about Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH, an adaptation of Robert C. O’Brien award-winning novel, that has allowed it to slowly but surely withstand the test of time and become something of a moderate animated classic. This 1982 marvel is filled with visual delights, honest emotions and thrilling sequences of action and adventure. But it also tackles some fairly adult themes, not the least of which is this terrifying journey inside The Great Owl’s homestead. It’s a stirring sequence, one that sent shivers down my spine as a child and continues to fascinate me now as an adult. In a story filled with more than its fair share of thrills and chills, this one, to me, stands out above just about any other, and as such is a deliriously giddy fright the kid in me has loved revisiting again and again in the almost 35 years since the film’s original release.


Seattle Cinema Survey : Live-Action Disney Films

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Seattle Cinema Survey, home to where critics, writers and allegedly frozen heads are asked film related questions by yours truly.

This week, with The Queen of Katwe getting excellent reviews, some of the best for a non-animated Disney product in years, I asked this crew; What’s your favorite live-action Disney picture?

I’m personally going with the glee given life that is 1964’s Mary Poppins, a favorite in childhood and adulthood. Full of feminism, fantastic songs, and a properly legendary performance by Julie Andrews, this adaptation of the P.L. Travers series of books is one of cinema’s sweetest confections. It’s a family film that entertains all audiences without resorting to gags for the adults only, pop culture references or characters coming to unearned breakthroughs on being good to one another. It’s a kind, warm piece of love that is practically perfect in every way.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, so the vast majority of live-action Disney films I watched were from those years. There are a lot of solid films to choose from–including Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Rocketeer, The Mighty Ducks and even Angels in the Outfield—but I’m going to have to go with the Disney-produced musical Newsies. I don’t know why, but I remember just loving this movie as a kid, with the poor bastards (led by Christian Bale) revolting against their rich employer.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight
Disney’s made so many fantastic live-action movies that it’s hard to choose a favorite (and mine’s definitely a favorite, I won’t argue it’s the best by any stretch of the imagination). The Rocketeer still kicks all of the ass, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea is one of the great cinematic adventures of all time, and Never Cry Wolf was a weirdly huge part of my childhood. Then there are classics like Mary Poppins, and I’m not even going to mention Old Yeller (sniff), but the more I think about it, the more my entry has to be The Black Hole.

Though it’s gathered a modest cult following, Gary Nelson’s 1979 sci-fi opus, then one of the most expensive pictures ever made, has a reputation as a flop and a failure. And sure, it’s way silly, wasn’t a hit, and doesn’t hold up like some of its genre compatriots, but I can still watch this damn near any time. Its influence was so great on me personally that the first time I watched Psycho when I was a kid, my reaction when I saw Anthony Perkins was, “Hey, it’s the guy from The Black Hole.”

Brian Taibl of Brian the Movie Guy @MovieGuyBrian
Mary Poppins (1964), hands down. Nominated for 13 Academy Awards and winner of five (including Julie Andrews’ legendary performance), it’s rightfully considered a classic by all who have and have not given it a go.

In deftly, effectively and masterfully employing humor, drama, music, animation, special effects and an overall urgent sense of wonderment, Mary Poppins is transcendent in its ability to entertain.

It’s irresistible. It’s charming. It’s accessibly energetic. It’s a toe-tapping, gleefully unrestrained and immensely inventive romp that challenges you to experience many of your human emotions in one fell sitting…and if it doesn’t succeed (?!), you need to go sit and watch it again (which you should be doing anyway).

Mary Poppins is indeed supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!


A Few Words on Blair Witch

Blair Witch, the unexpected sequel to 1999’s love-it or hate-it horror phenomenon is as unnecessary, occasionally enjoyable and largely mediocre as 99% of horror follow-ups. That it was made in secret by pair of, so-far, quite talented fellas (Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett of You’re Next and The Guest) is more an interesting note than a sign of quality.

The woods of Burkitsville, Maryland once again have twenty-something wannabe documentarians enter its unending sprawl. This time, however, the legend still hangs in the air. Where in The Blair Witch Project the locals of a middle of nowhere town talked about the mysterious happenings of the surrounding wilderness as if it was a story from the area’s founding fathers, here the peculiar disappearance of those from the original movie uncomfortably lingers. The – far – younger brother of Heather, she of the runny nose who led the trio of Project, still ponders if big-sis is out there. He is James (James Allen McCune), and he’s recently come across some new footage that appears to be filmed in the same don’t-go-in-that-fucking-house where Heather was last seen howling in terror. Thus, James, three buddies and the pair that found this new tape go back into the depths of Burkitsville to find the truth.

The truth is entirely what you’d expect. Noises in the night. Walking in circles. Those awesome wooden stick-figures. There is new stuff too. Wingard and Barrett double-down on weirdness, coming up with an inventive manner for our protagonists to struggles in their never-ending attempt to find where the damn car is parked. Yet, what’s there remains familiar to the point of tedious. Sure there’s fresh tech, allowing a larger variety of camera angles. A drone too. That drone goes up, looks at lots of trees, and then goes down, before being a part of one of the all-time dumb character decisions I can recall.

Like the parade of Halloween movies, Paranormal Activity pics or the like, Blair Witch 2016 is thoroughly alright. As something to watch on AMC in four years while carving pumpkins, it will do. Beyond that, this is a letdown that will be remembered by few, if any.


Seattle Cinema Survey : One-Hit Wonder Directors

Welcome to another round of the Seattle Cinema Survey, where I give local critics and writers the opportunity to look like fools by giving terrible, terrible replies to the various movie-themed questions I ask them.
This week, the inspiration is one Antoine Fuqua, whose remake of The Magnificent Seven arrives Friday. With a steady career, Fuqua is still often cited for directing Training Day, the sole project to his name that’s generally beloved. Which got me wondering; What’s the best cinematic one-hit wonder?

I offered no limits to our contributors, though I’m putting some on my own reply. For one, it can’t be the sole great work due to early retirement/death/etc. Secondly, it had to be made a person whose filmography is relatively deep, be it a journeyman or a hack like, say, Brett Ratner.

As an elitist prick, I had to go with someone Dutch who began his career as a notable cinematographer, before making one amazing piece of cinema and then having a career spiral into a cobweb of bad sequels and remakes. Yes, I’m going with Mr. Jan de Bont and a little slice of heaven that is assuredly playing on TNT right now; Speed.

The middle chapter of Keanu’s 90s action masterpiece set (bookended by Point Break and The Matrix), Speed had de Bont going full Die Hard on a bus, a fitting move since his hand was a significant reason that Bruce Willis classic remains so beloved. Speed is a thrilling collection of awesome stunts, likeable characters and a pure popcorn premise of bus slow down equals bad. Followed up by the not awful Twister, de Bont then did Speed 2: Cruise Control (ludicrous woof), an update of The Haunting (awful woof) and the second Lara Croft (boring woof). Having his own playground of toys only made for excellence once with de Bont, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.

Tim Hall of The People’s Critic Blog @peoplescrtic
It has to be 1991’s Straight Out of Brooklyn by Matty Rich. Rich went on to direct 1994’s Inkwell but nothing compared to how raw and real Straight Out of Brooklyn was. SOB was such a masterpiece, everyone thought Rich was the next Spike Lee. He was on the same trajectory John Singleton was on after Boyz n The Hood.
SOB is a great story about a young man planning to rob a drug dealer. It stars The Wire’s Lawrence Gillard Jr as the film’s main character. He gives a phenomenal performance in a story that’s real and grounded. At the time, people saw crime and criminals in the inner city as people who were savages. SOB showed a young man who was desperate to change his situation and didn’t have too many options other than to rob.

Dennis’ story is as humanizing as it is doomed from the start.

SOB and Matty Rich are easily forgotten despite the film being a staple for cinema in the early 90’s. It’s well worth a watch.

Drew Powell of Queen Anne News/Drew’s Movie Blog @
Antoine Fuqua and Training Day is an obvious choice for this question but I’m going with the dreamy The Night of the Hunter, the one and only film directed by British acting legend Charles Laughton. Part film noir and part surrealistic nightmare, The Night of the Hunter is one of the weirdest, most beautiful (the movie was photographed by Orson Welles collaborator Stanley Cortez in gorgeous black and white and its visual design was heavily inspired by German Expressionism) film’s I’ve ever seen. And major props goes to Robert Mitchum–giving a truly menacing, spine-tingling performance as a charismatic but psychopathic preacher. Due to poor box office and lackluster critic reviews at the time (it has since been rightly reevaluated as a classic) Laughton didn’t direct again. It’s a shame but at the same time making one great film is a difficult task. Laughton can at least be proud (in cinema heaven) that his solo directorial effort is a bona fide masterpiece. And one that firmly sits in my personal top ten of all time.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight
There are so many one-hit-wonder directors to choose from, this is going to be tough. Shit, if I were Charles Laughton and made The Night of the Hunter, I might never make another movie either. Tons of actors have tried their hand behind the camera once. Jack Lemmon’s Kotch wracked up a bunch of Oscar nominations, James Cagney delivered an effective film noir with Short Cut to Hell, and I can’t be the only one who saw and loved Bill Murray’s Quick Change in the theater in 1990, can I? Kinka Usher’s Mystery Men, his only feature directorial effort, is a movie I’m still surprised isn’t one of the premiere cult movies of this generation. All things considered, however, I have to go with Trent Harris’ Rubin and End.
Saying Trent Harris had a “hit” with Rubin and Ed is, admittedly, a stretch. It’s also not his only feature (The Beaver Trilogy and Plan 10 From Outer Space are his other most notable titles, though he never had much more of a career), but it’s his opus. It’s a goddamned wing-nut masterpiece that everyone should watch at least once in their life.

A delightfully bizarre road trip buddy comedy about two republicans wandering the desert looking for a place to bury a cat, Rubin and Ed is endlessly quotable, weirdly gorgeous, more moving than you might expect, and flat out fucking strange.

More myth than movie, in college I watched it three midnights in a row at the old UA theater downtown. They showed Harris’ personal print, which may or may not have been the only one left in existence. Pre-Ebay, I spent months tracking down an original VHS copy (still one of my prized possessions, made even more so with a Crispin Glover autograph—the only autograph I’ve ever sought out), which was no easy feat since the distributor supposedly rounded up and destroyed as many as possible.

Mike Ward of Should I See It @ShouldISeeIt

Tony Kaye and American History X, although perhaps an asterisk should be added next to his name because to this day, he disavows the final cut that made the film famous and saw Edward Norton give arguably his career-best performance.

The production was completed in mid-1997 and Kaye turned in a final cut of AHX. Although New Line Cinema was impressed with the film, they gave Kaye a long list of suggested edits and alterations. Kaye agreed and turned in a shorter, far more truncated version of the film, more than a year after the studio requested the changes! This frustrated everyone, including Norton, who Kaye was already angry about having to work with when his choice for the lead, Joaquin Phoenix, declined the project because he felt the script was distasteful and unacceptable.

Kaye also fought with his screenwriter David McKenna during the course of the production and initially warmed to the idea of Norton’s becoming so invested in the project because he liked Norton’s ideas on how to improve the script. However, Kaye’s second cut made everyone frustrated and New Line circumvented Kaye and gave all the footage to newly hired editor Jerry Greenberg and Norton, allowed to assist in crafting the final cut of the film. The film was released on October 30, 1998.

Prior to release, Kaye was outraged, claimed the film was stolen from him and applied for an Alan Smithee credit. When the DGA denied his request, he demanded he be credited as “Humpty Dumpty”. That didn’t happen either.

Ultimately, Norton earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination and the film has been viewed as a controversial, polarizing screed on racism. Elements of it are ever so pertinent to this day. Kaye, however, has largely been shunned from the industry. His second film, the 2007 documentary Lake of Fire, took him 16 years to complete and served as a graphic, unflinching look at abortion, which included footage of an actual procedure amidst its black-and-white, 152 minute running time, Kaye has all but vanished. His legacy of music videos preceded his foray into feature films, but the bridges burned are legendary and American History X stands as his one (and likely only) great film.
Matt Oakes of Silver Screen Riot @SSRdotcom

Mr. Dan O’Bannon met and collaborated with John Carpenter at film school and wrote a treatment for what would eventually become Dark Star. For a short while, he worked as an animator on the original Star Wars and later banded with Ronald Shusett to write Alien, for which he would also supervise computer effects. But O’Bannon only stepped behind the camera twice and the world is a lesser place for it. His debut, Return of the Living Dead, was a shocking strike; a horror-comedy that spawned an instant cult following and has aged immensely well since its 1985 reveal. Return of the Living Dead is a personal favorite, an absurd, irreverent addition to an absurd, irreverent genre with an instantly iconic cast of punk rockers and ill-favored company men and some of the best practical effects in any horror movie ever (Tarman FTW!). O’Bannon later returned behind the camera in 1992 for The Resurrected, an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft novella, but was not quite able to capture that same lightning in a bottle. He would never direct again.

Sara Michelle Fetters of Seattle Gay News/MovieFreak @moviefreaksara
There are so many great answers to this question, not the least of which would be 1955’s The Night of the Hunter directed by actor Charles Laughton, shockingly the ONLY movie he ever stepped behind the camera to helm. Others that come to mind include Erik Skjoldbjærg’s Insomnia with Stellan Skarsgård, George Sluizer’s terrifying 1988 version of The Vanishing, Adam McKay’s astonishingly good The Big Short, George Clooney’s superb Good Night, and Good Luck. and Hugh Hudson’s Chariots of Fire (although, admittedly he also made Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, so maybe Hudson had more than one, but that’s open for debate).
But I’m going to go off the beaten path a little, and while Chopping Mall is hardly a “great” movie, per se, it’s so manically entertaining, so much unadulterated B-movie fun, director Jim Wynorski’s 1986 gem leapt to mind before just about any other title. The story of a group of amorous twenty-somethings trapped in a L.A. mall after hours with a trio of malfunctioning security robots intent on hunting them down, this film epitomizes the 1980s underground horror craze to perfection, its ingenious VHS cover art beckoning a generation of intrigued viewers who have gone on to make it a cult favorite that has more that stood the test of time.

For Wynorski, a filmmaker who has spent three decades closely associated with Roger Corman, this is without a doubt the pinnacle of his long, seemingly unstoppable schlock career (he just directed Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre and CobraGator, I kid you not). His script for Chopping Mall, co-written with Steve Mitchell, is surprisingly nimble, playing with genre tropes and clichés in a variety of imaginative ways that are as amusing as they are effective. More than that, he presents characters who are actually worth caring for, and while none of them would ever be considered “complex” or “multidimensional” that does not make them any less worthy an emotional investment.
Throw in arguably the greatest head explosion of all-time (Scanners probably edges it out, but not be near as much as you might think), three sensationally designed robots (created by Oscar-winner Robert Short) and playful performances from Night of the Comet’s Kelli Maroney and Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton (just to name the two most familiar names; the entire cast is pretty terrific), this movie is a total sensation that just gets better and better with each passing year. Considering its from the guy whose only other noteworthy features are Deathstalker II and a Not of This Earth remake, to call Chopping Mall Wynorski’s best is a decided understatement. Thank you…and have a nice day.

Brian Taibl of Brian the Movie Guy @MovieGuyBrian
There are a few solid, near-respectable choices in this survey category…

…but if any critic here chooses something other than The Empire Strike Back (from director Irvin Kershner) then that critic is not to be trusted.

If you need me to explain my choice then you’re not to be trusted either.

Trust me.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
Donnie fucking Darko.


Was I Nuts ? – The Crow: City of Angels

The Summer Revisit of 1996, with it’s original host of disappoints, comes to a close as it must; a week or so later than intended and with a film I’m pretty sure I’m going to find unbearable.

As has been previously discussed here, 1994’s The Crow was a perfect creation for a suburban white kid like myself entering his teens. It had violence, a bit of goth weirdness and a bunch of rock music. So, when The Crow: City of Angels was announced, I was basically the target audience. Having read a few of the comics, the notion of the character returning in a different persona, with revenge once more being sought for and by a person taken from life too soon, didn’t ring as merely a cash-grab.

Plus you know, a soundtrack with Korn, White Zombie and Seven Mary Three; what could go wrong? I’m going to regret this me-thinks.

The Film

Released to blisteringly bad reviews on August 30th, 1996, The Crow: City of Angels opened at #1 on the box-office charts, raking in a decent $9.78 million. However, that ended up being roughly half of the entire domestic gross ($17.92 million), or roughly about one-third of what it’s predecessor managed to garner.

The film was directed by Tim Pope, he of many a music video for The Cure, which makes sense. It remains his sole feature film credit. Once more finding it’s source in the James O’Barr comic book, City of Angels stars Vincent Perez as Ashe Corven, a young man killed by a drug-lord. Ashe’s end comes violently, with his son Danny (Eric Acosta) being caught in the chaos. The horror of it all is too much, and Ashe’s soul is unable to cross until the next realm without settling the wrongs done to he and his blood. Plus, you know, he’s got to wear leather, make-up and kill people in a manner that leaves little crow-silhouettes.

While Alex Proyas made a film heralded for its melancholy and eerie aura, Pope’s movie was seen by many as an example of music video directors failing to crossover, for the Finchers/Gondrys/Jonze’s were and have always been the exception and not the rule.


The Memory

City of Angels came at a time where it was near-impossible for me to hate a movie I was excited to see. I might be bored by the film. I might find the film annoying in huge parts. I might immediately forget the film’s details.

I wasn’t going to say – or honestly feel –  it was bad though.

Though I recall my dad taking me to this R-Rated picture at my St. Mary’s County movie theatre, the only real element of the project that sticks in my brain is the goofy Crow symbols that accidentally get made. In the original movie, Brandon Lee’s character creates these vicious calling-cards of his destruction, as the titular symbol is painted in blood on rusted walls or via an inferno on a dilapidated dock. City of Angels, if memory serves, has the same image, just miraculously appearing on the forehead of a man who’s skull was cracked open.

What hangs deeper in the recesses of the ol’ brain is the soundtrack for the movie, which I basically had on repeat for the summer along with Metallica’s “Load” and Better than Ezra’s “Friction, Baby.” The album had the right amount of droning misery that was a perfect prescription for a teenager who just moved from San Diego, California to a town where the big thing to do was go to the Wal-Mart.

The Expectations

Well, I’m zero-for-three on revisits in this project, meaning that on some level, what was once garbage remains garbage. I never watched any of the subsequent straight-to-video adaptations of The Crow and there has never been much in the way of, “You know, City of Angels is super underrated.” I’m hoping for a couple nice visual touches and for that Hole cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” to be used in a cool manner.


The Verdict

The Crow: City of Angels can barely be labeled a film. There is less plot here than in Andy Warhol’s Empire. Director Tim Pope and – egads!!! – David S. Goyer slightly repurpose the skeleton of the original and little else. We once more have a handsome, young dead guy with black hair, a criminal kingpin who hires terrible help and hangs with a woman who knows mystical stuff, the aforementioned Crow symbols and a hero who literally laughs in the face of danger.

They do bring to the party one Thomas Jane as baddie in a terrible wig named Nemo.

Really, this whole endeavor comes across as schlocky fan-fiction given a small budget by a Hot Topic store manager. The first film took the steps to, you know, build up characters. Yes, more than the at least one that is traditional. Brandon Lee’s Eric Draven wanted to help people amidst his vengeance, as his past humanity bubbled under the scars and cold flesh that currently roamed the land. Vincent Perez gets none of that. His Ashe Corven has the unfortunate back-story of being murdered, along with his son. That’s about it for details. His dead kid gets more shading, as at least we found out the boy liked to paint. Ashe is a walking trench-coat with hair so feathery it’s meant to look like, presumably, the feathers of a crow itself. Yay.

He cackles here and there while attempting to butcher those that led to his downfall, but it never reads as unnerving like it did in the first movie. Here, the giggles read goofily, akin to when children pretend to be crazy by throwing their hands up in the air and bellow “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!”

This could still work though. Pope’s career in music videos could just skip past traditional storytelling into something arthouse and enigmatic. Sadly, that’s not the case either. We have a lot of dusty sound-stages and streets smothered in dry-ice to such an extent that the only logical conclusion is the Executive Producer’s brother-in-law must work in the dry-ice business and really needed help this year. Instead of a fresh flair for visuals, we have slow-motion and a crow flying past palm trees, which as it tends to happen, leads to said palm trees exploding into a fiery ball of what-the-fuck. The movie can’t even determine how to use its soundtrack properly, just throwing in a few of its notable covers here or there. Well, we do at least get Iggy Pop playing a villain who wanders into a club where an Iggy Pop song is playing in the background. So, there’s that. Plus, there is Eva Green 1.0 Mia Kirshner.

So at this end of this 1996 project, it’s fascinating to see that Hollywood was often so bad back then too. With 2016’s summer being quite thoroughly trashed, it’s a reminder of the ebs and flows of the studio system and that it’s always, always, always a fool’s errand to claim the death of cinema when there’s a fresh batch of films around the corner and that the goods are typically just outside the obvious purview.


Seattle Cinema Survey : Love Triangles

Hello all and thanks for joining us once more for the Seattle Cinema Survey.

In this week’s rundown of me passing along questions about the world of movies to the area’s critics, bloggers and writers, on the eve of Bridget Jones’s Baby, I asked; What’s your favorite love triangle in film history?

For myself, the answer has to be the troubled trio of the magnificent James L. Brooks film Broadcast News. At the heart of it is Holly Hunter’s Jane; the finest brain for the world of modern (aka the 80s) journalism. A person with the highest of standards for her work, that same intensity has led to a love-life that is often abysmal. She is loved by her best friend and longtime collaborator Aaron (a never better, or sweatier, Albert Brooks). Their connection is tight and confusing. Then the handsome devil arrives in the form of William Hurt’s Tom, an aspiring reporter with innate likability and a distinct lack of polish.

The movie is funny and heartbreaking in equal measures, with the pinnacle coming after Aaron’s grandest televisual failure leads to a host of unspoken feelings rushing out with passion, sincerity and fury.

Mike Ward of Should I See It @ShouldISeeIt
Hands down the first cinematic love triangle that comes to mind is the one germinating between Luisa, Julio, and Tenoch in Alfonso Cuaron’s still incredible 2002 drama Y Tu Mamá También.

Luisa (Maribel Verdú) is a married woman, flirted with by two high school boys (Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal), just graduated, at a wedding on the eve of their summer. The boys invite her to join them on a road trip to a beach resort and she dismisses them. However, soon she gets blindsided by a series of events (some known to the audience, some not revealed initially…) and on a whim, with seemingly nothing to lose, Luisa joins the boys for a road trip to a place called “Heaven’s Mouth.”

Cuarón’s film pushes past the tropes of being just a “road trip” movie and gives us three deeply compelling characters, lost and confused with what comes next for each of them. Sex, drugs, it’s all there for the taking. But as they get to know one another, and each find out more about themselves, brilliant narration segments keep things in perspective. This is a movie pushing boundaries and comfort levels every step of the way. It is raw, honest, uncomfortable, and beautiful all at once. And at its heart are two boys, older than they want to be, and a woman, clinging to youth she never realized she still had.

Tim Hall of The People’s Critic @peoplescrtic
There are so many non Twilight movies to choose from. My pick is Nola (Scarlett Johansson) Chris (Jonathan Rys Meyers), and Chloe (Emily Mortimer) in 2005’s Match Point.

Chris stumbling into a wealthy family and falling for his brother-in-law’s ex is creepy enough. What’s even creepier is the lengths he goes to maintain his marriage during his fling.

I’ve seen Scarlett Johansson, so I totally get why Chris would gamble his entire life for a few moments with her. His ability to put that mask back on and go home was insane. One of the great things about Match Point is how they slowly turn Chris from a lovable fool into a crazed, adulterous maniac.

Matt Oakes of Silver Screen Riot @SSRdotcom
Alfonso Cuaron has been changing the cinematic landscape since the turn of the century and for all his technical achievements (OG longshot reigning champ) the Mexican director has never been steamier than in his lauded 2001 feature, Y Tu Mama Tambien. Within, two teenage boys – Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal – take a cross country road trip accompanied by a luscious older women (Maribel Verdú) who’s just recently been scorned by her husband. The film charters an exploration of sensuality and sexuality that erupts into one of the most meaningful and sexiest parables on maturation to ever grace the screens. The sex was hot but the relationships – and subsequent performances – behind the sexual debauchery felt organic and lived in.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight
Hokey love triangles are a staple of every wannabe young adult dystopian franchise, but they don’t always have to be sappy, overwrought, and desperately melodramatic. Rick, Ilsa, and Victor in Casablanca is one of the greats of all time. Y Tu Mama Tambien and its core romantic threesome may well still be Alfonso Cuaraon’s best movie. Then there’s Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot, and mighty stop-motion gorilla in King Kong. Hell, even most of Star Wars features a love triangle, at least until we learn two of them are siblings and shit gets awkward.

Casablanca is probably the greatest cinematic love triangle, and if not the most effective use of the trope, at least one of the top few. Not to mention the most famous. But as far as favorites go, I really, really enjoy the one at the center of Fight Club. Three people, one of whom is totally made up and only exists in Edward Norton’s head, it doesn’t get much more twisted than that.

Brian Taibl of Brian the Movie Guy @MovieGuyBrian

You say ‘movie love triangle’ and the first few runner-ups for me are the zany and saccharine-sweet Roxanne, the cinematically trailblazing Chasing Amy, the pugilistically puzzling Fight Club and the classically kinky The Graduate – all great films!

But nothing, for me, beats the chemistry-rich duality of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – where a battle for hearts, minds and money brews between petty Freddie Benson, suave Laurence Jameson (aka James Nedenvedden, aka Laurence Fells, etc) and the naïve soap queen, Janet Colgate.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a measured, crafty, witty, cynical, goofy and downright hilarious comedy classic – a movie that falls squarely in the arena of ‘they don’t make ‘em like this anymore’. And because everybody is playing a role, perhaps love hexagon is a more apt description…

I’ll take the cork off my fork if I’m the only one who’s tossed this comedy masterpiece in to the mix…

Jason Roestel @filmbastard

This one was easy. We could call it a love rectangle if we include the one ring, but the triangle between Frodo, Sam, and Gollum was one fraught with joy, passion, and heartbreak. Gollum ultimately loses the war for Frodo, but gains the grace of the ring for a few seconds before burning to death with it in his grubby little hands. Sam and Frodo do end up working out the kinks in their relationship after their spat on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, but only for a few years. Sam eventually ends up in the arms of a bar Hobbit named Rosie Cotton, while Frodo moves on to commit gradual suicide on the Elven shores of The Grey Havens. Love in Middle Earth is a risky prospect no matter how you cut it.