Four new film reviews for March from Jason Coffman on Film Monthly

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IMAGES

Robert Altman’s oeuvre is one of the all-time greatest of American directors. He was never afraid to be wildly, recklessly ambitious and risk artistic and commercial failure, and that bravery resulted in a body of work that spans an impressive breadth of subject matter and genre. In the 1970s Altman was particularly bold, careening from his hit Vietnam comedy/drama M.A.S.H. (1970) to his astonishing take on the Western with McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), from his career-defining magnum opus Nashville (1975) to the incredibly bleak post-apocalyptic science fiction of Quintet (1979). Through the first half of his directing career Altman periodically returned to a loose thematic tetralogy of films focused on women that began with That Cold Day in the Park (1969) and concluded with Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982). The best known of these films is 3 Women(1977), which has previously been released by The Criterion Collection, but arguably the best–and certainly the most unsettling–has been difficult to see in the States for years. Images (1972) is a full-tilt psychological horror film that has been long overdue for its moment in the spotlight, and Arrow Academy’s new Blu-ray release of the film is the perfect way for new audiences to be introduced to this harrowing art-horror masterpiece.

BIRDBOY: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN

New York-based distributor GKIDS has had a great track record since their launch in 2009, importing excellent animated features from all over the world to the States that would otherwise probably never get a shot at being seen on big screens. They’ve been rewarded with considerable critical acclaim, and even had a hand in distributing multiple films nominated for Best Animated Picture at the Academy Awards including like The Book of KellsChico & RitaErnest and Celestine, and most recently The Breadwinner. Their catalog is heavy on family-friendly movies–including Studio Ghibli’s classic anime features–but they have never shied away from releasing worthwhile animated work with a darker bent. In other words, they were the perfect home for Alberto Vázquez and Pedro Rivera’s film Birdboy: The Forgotten Children.

THEY REMAIN

Occasionally the stars align and the universe gives filmgoers accidental double or triple features, unintentional companion pieces that address similar thematic and/or narrative territory released in a short period of time. As of this writing, we are currently in the midst of one of these rare occurrences that is particularly exciting for horror/sci-fi fans. Alex Garland’s Annihilation, in which a team of scientists strike out into an inexplicable wilderness that may or may not be some kind of alien phenomenon, was released in theaters a few weeks ago. Coming soon is Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s The Endless, in which a pair of brothers who escaped a “UFO cult” as kids go back to the remote compound where the cult still lives only to find something much more sinister than they expected. And now They Remain, a claustrophobic two-hander about a pair of researchers investigating the former site of a large Mansonesque cult decades after its violent end, is currently in limited release.

THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT

Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers was a surprise hit in 2008, inspiring a popular resurgence for the “home invasion” horror subgenre. A sequel seemed inevitable, but no one would probably have guessed it would be nearly a decade before that sequel hit the big screen. As one might expect, the landscape of genre cinema has undergone massive changes in the nearly 10 years that have passed since Bertino’s film. Paranormal Activity was released in 2009 and its success spawned a massive flood of “found footage” independent horror and an entire series of films that has already run its course. More importantly, the Saw franchise–which was between its fourth and fifth installments when The Strangers was released–has already undergone its first death and resurrection. But Jigsaw, released in 2017 and the first Saw film since 2010, did very little to change the formula that had made the series such a major box office force. The Strangers: Prey at Night, however, goes in a much different direction. Incorporating influences of some of the last decade of horror, the film updates its approach rather than just replicate the first film and hope for the best.

 

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