Zack Snyder’s 300 presaged the howling fascism of the alt-right

“Was that racist, or did it just seem racist?” That was the basic idea of the conversation that my friends and I had as we left the movie theater in the spring of 2007. We had just borne witness to 300, Zack Snyder’s gruesome orgy of CGI blood-spurts and thunderous group-grunts. The movie had been a sensory…

Nocturama is a mesmerizing, disturbing tour de force—and one of the best films of the year

A

A nocturama is the part of the zoo where they keep the small animals that only come out at night. The term is obscure, but evocative—so, an apt title for the audacious and disturbing new film by the French writer-director Bertrand Bonello (House Of Pleasures, Saint Laurent), the longer second part of which finds a…

The trailer for Wonder looks a lot like a grade-school version of Mask

Movies like Wonder basically have “emotional button-pushing” baked into their very DNA. It’s the story of a young boy with facial disfigurement who is entering the fifth grade in a public school for the first time, trying to find friends, all while enduring the cruelties of other children. It has the obvious potential…

The Only Living Boy In New York is a Simon & Garfunkel song brought to life and made terrible

D

The gorgeous 1970 Simon & Garfunkel song “The Only Living Boy In New York” has a petty origin story: It was written by Paul Simon about his bitter loneliness when his singing partner Art Garfunkel left him in New York to go shoot a movie in Mexico. (Jeez, Simon, maybe just let Garfunkel have that one?) That acrimony…

The best movies of 1997

Hindsight is 20/20. Does it get sharper when the distance between then and now is 20 years? The A.V. Club wasn’t putting together best-of lists in 1997, so it’s impossible to know how this retroactive ranking of the year’s movies might compare with one compiled by the staff at the time—especially since that staff has…

Annabelle: Creation is more fun than you might expect from a prequel to a spin-off

B

Once upon a time, a monster hit like The Conjuring, James Wan’s dubiously fact-based but highly effective spin on the haunted-house movie, would have inspired a series of lesser sequels and nothing more. But we’re living now in the age of the expanded universe, when franchises don’t follow a single forward path,…

Mortal Kombat’s 1997 was the opposite of a flawless victory

It’s not hard to see why Mortal Kombat turned into one of the biggest pop-culture phenomena of the ’90s. It wasn’t the first game with gratuitous gore, but none of its bloody predecessors had the marketing dollars, strategic timing, or eye-catching panache of Midway’s infamous fighter. Landing one year after Street…

Aubrey Plaza goes full psycho stalker in the Instagram-era satire Ingrid Goes West

B

Aubrey Plaza is not April Ludgate, this is true. But her Parks And Recreation character’s eye-rolling, morbid sensibility has proven so beloved that the two have become inextricable in the cultural eye. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, you’d have to ask Plaza, but after Parks And Rec ended in 2015, she…

The powerful Whose Streets? looks back at the unrest in Ferguson

B+

It was just three years ago—on August 9, 2014—that Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed the unarmed Michael Brown, setting off widespread protests in suburban St. Louis and around the country. There are differing accounts of what happened that day and the reasons behind it, but to Ferguson’s…

Natalie Portman helps commune with the dead (or does she?) in the muddled Planetarium

C

Numerous potentially interesting ideas orbit one another in Planetarium, but none boasts sufficient gravity to merit a landing, it seems. Set in 1930s France, the film begins intriguingly enough, introducing Laura (Natalie Portman) and her much younger sister, Kate (Lily-Rose Depp), as they perform a public séance for…

1997 was the year Star Wars came back and never left

The Star Wars universe has evolved and expanded (and in the case of the Expanded Universe, contracted) considerably in the last two decades, a process that took root in the mid-’90s and entered hyperspace in 1997. On the occasion of the franchise’s 20th anniversary, the original trilogy of films set a long time ago in…

Jennifer Lawrence loses her shit in the trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!

The full trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s new movie Mother!, dropped in the dead of night by Paramount, manifests whispered insinuations from its teaser, showing visuals to accompany snippets of dialogue edited into that previous promo. That means we get to see Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer as the mystery couple who…

From The Dark Tower to Batman & Robin, crappy blockbusters share one guilty party

This past weekend greeted eager popcorn-movie fans with a dispiriting barrage of negative reviews for The Dark Tower, the would-be franchise starter of the messy but popular Stephen King book series of the same name. Everything from the lackluster direction by Nikolaj Arcel to poor choices in cutting and pasting…