Johnny Szlauderbach

‘Detroit,’ domestic disturbance

By Johnny Szlauderbach / August 3rd, 2017 / 0 Comments

Director Kathryn Bigelow long ago abandoned the biker vampires and surfer cops that propelled her early work. She makes big, important movies now that start big, important conversations. The loudest so far was about Zero Dark Thirty and its alleged suggestion that “enhanced interrogation” provided key information in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. I don’t have…

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‘A Ghost Story,’ phantom pain

By Johnny Szlauderbach / July 26th, 2017 / 0 Comments

A Ghost Story is so spare that its main characters don’t have names. (The credits list Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as C and M, respectively.) Outwardly a love story, it’s phenomenally sincere stuff. And while the image of Affleck haunting his old stomping ground through a white sheet and two eyeholes is easily ridiculed,…

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‘Dunkirk,’ fog of war

By Johnny Szlauderbach / July 20th, 2017 / 1 Comment

Christopher Nolan is fascinated by mechanical precision—his movies radiate with the same formal fastidiousness and emotional remove that guided Kubrick. But he’s chillier than Kubrick; Nolan doesn’t make movies so much as he builds contraptions. And, as if he was unsure of his command of craft, Nolan demonstrates an uneasy reliance on razzle-dazzle chicanery over…

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‘The Beguiled,’ castration anxiety

By Johnny Szlauderbach / June 29th, 2017 / 1 Comment

The poster for The Beguiled radiates with the visages of its three stars: Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning. Kidman, who channels Deborah Kerr here as much as she did in The Others and who looks as if she hasn’t aged a day in the 16 years since that movie’s release, plays Martha Farnsworth…

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‘Wonder Woman,’ Greek Goddess

By Johnny Szlauderbach / June 2nd, 2017 / 0 Comments

Wonder Woman (a.k.a. Diana Prince) emerged in the lull between the 19th Ammendment and the sexual revolution. In the character’s embrace of sexuality, femininity, and agency, she’s almost like a vision from the future: a proto-third-waver who never suffered the indignities of the postwar era. That kind of liberated earnestness drives Wonder Woman’s perversely old-fashioned…

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REVIEW: ‘Alien: Covenant,’ religious fanaticism

By Johnny Szlauderbach / May 11th, 2017 / 0 Comments

Those of us who adore the 1979 movie Alien do so because we “admire its purity.” That line is spoken by undercover android Ash when he encounters the extraterrestrial specimen—he’s a sucker for efficiency—but it applies equally to the movie’s conceptual backbone. Alien combined creaky haunted house tropes and a slasher-movie literalism with a working-class view…

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REVIEW: ‘Kong: Skull Island,’ gorilla warfare

By Johnny Szlauderbach / March 8th, 2017 / 0 Comments

Kong, giant ape and eighth wonder of the world, might as well be a stand-in for the whole enterprise known as blockbuster filmmaking. He’s a six-foot gorilla blown up to gigantic proportions; for Kong, the life-sized is spectacle. And on the practical end, he seems to pop up onscreen around forward leaps in special effects.…

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REVIEW: ‘Get Out,’ radical injustice

By Johnny Szlauderbach / February 23rd, 2017 / 0 Comments

Horror movies are the medium’s most express conduit into our collective anxieties. Nuclear annihilation, creeping Soviet subversion, and anti-communist hysteria loomed over Eisenhower-era cinema; race and Vietnam flow through Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; and the resurgent conservativism of the Reagan years spawned a slew of teenage slasher flicks. Even…

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