Sound of Metal (Amazon Prime Video)
Easily one of the best films of the year and it just happens to showcase an amazing fully fleshed out metalhead character with inner depths and emotions, a far cry from the typical metalhead character troupe we've seen overplayed.
That metalhead is Ruben Stone, exceptionally brought to life by Riz Ahmed on a career defining -potentially award winning performance, a mid-level touring drummer in a metal two-piece with front-woman/guitarist girlfriend Lou - another resounding performance this time from Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One, "Bates Motel").
This isn't a Hollywood glitzy representation but a gritty-down to Earth exploration of the hard work, sweat and detail driven ethic that represents the majority of bands in our genre.
Mid-show, Ruben's hearing begins to fade before bellowing completely out leaving him completely distantly lost from his comfortable world of sound. It's not just the lack of communication that hurts, but the crashing of everything he's known to love - an absolute full fledge burn of his entire life from his relationship - propped up from tandem music building - to his purpose of life, a purpose that keeps him fledging forward instead of peering back - back at a life full of haunting and devastating destruction.
As Ruben's current purpose falls around him, he lashes out in this new world of hopelessness replacing his past one, once surrounded by cheering admirers is now left completely quiet. The problems run deeper as past issues, personal obstacles he previously overcame, expose themselves as he copes and deals with this unstoppable reality and he tumbles into potentially falling back in addition.
Co-writer/director Darius Marder (written alongside his brother Abraham and from a story created by Darius and acclaimed writer/director Derek Cianfrance - The Place Beyond the Pines, Blue Valentine which used the band Jucifer as inspiration - though to note, neither member ever lost hearing) delivers a thrilling and deft experience as the story unravels in an organic grounded way capturing us as part of the experience instead of us viewing the experience in a traditional movie sense that smacks you over the head with plot points. Normally there would be some over-blown exposition on his addiction reveal but Marder plays it out directly the way it would in real-life.
The films excels carefully exploring a wide-ranged of different themes and issues that affect our culture and even a more broader societal scale.
Even though it’s not a major point in the movie, you can’t overlook the importance of representation in this film especially as we expand upon our culture.
For a full dive into the film and its place in the Knotfest Culture check out our featured spotlight piece 'Sound of Metal': A Film That Gives Metal the Respect It Deserves.
Anything for Jackson (Shudder)
A shocking open sets the tone for a consistently exciting and evolving storyline with smart thought-out surprising unravels to match the jump scares. The writing is incredible, never a dull moment as the story twists and turns while director Justin G. Dyck does an excellent job of using multiple approaches with everything at his disposal. The film never grows stale, it's a constant rush and is easily one of the best films of the year.
Some horror uses cheap writing to advance the story, these pieces play out like a skilled chess match. The colliding character forces are loaded with well rounded high stakes that bring meaning to the confrontations gripping you emotionally.
It's not all intriguing plot though, the story spikes with anxiety filled scenes and shout out loud graphic gore scenes that raise the hair everywhere. There’s some serious breath-taking haunting scenes that will burn in your memory.
The scenery, while mostly contained to one room, are giftedly shot with a beautiful eye on the details making it an another asset to an already skilled bag.
In any other take on this, the opportunity exists for this story to lose reality but strong performances from leads Sheila McCarthy & Julian Richings keeps the film's interesting premise grounded with emotional depth that ranges through burning desires of caring and determination into life-threatening horrors all with an unexpected flair of dry comedy.
A definite must watch emotional horror with enough scares to satisfy the casual horror film and top-notch acting, writing and directing packing a wallop of feeling to attract even non-horror lovers.
Christmas Crossfire (Wir Können Nicht Anders) (Netflix)
A German orgy of violent chaos unfolds in Netflix's Christmas Crossfire. Definitely in the vein of Guy Ritchie or Martin McDonagh, the film sets varied hardened characters loose in a maze after two passerby-ers (trying to get it on in their van) stumble across an amateur gang potentially ending a man's life - one who isn't too grateful for the save.
While the laughs and violence excitedly shine brightest, the film does a great job unveiling characters motives in a creative way setting up some intense moments as one man spiraling through consistent failures and self-viewed lack of appreciation in a 'Falling Down' sense drives the action.
The return of David Fincher. After six years since his last film (2014's Gone Girl), one of Hollywood's most darkly creative directors (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network) returns after a brief spell of TV series ('Mindhunters' & 'House of Cards' and undeveloped projects The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo & World War Z sequels, Utopia). 'Mank' has already established itself as a front runner for award season in almost every category.
"1930s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing wit and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish 'Citizen Kane'. Starring Academy Award Winner Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Sam Troughton, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Burke, and Charles Dance.”
One of the most unique and comedically fun horror films of the year, Porno explodes after a group of highly religious youths stumble across a demonic film reel while closing down a local small-town theater.
Led by their youth leader equivalent (an amazingly fierce Robbie Tann playing Heavy Metal Jeff with the perfect amount of wit while expertly hitting on the usual youth leader tropes) the group battles their unexpected secular sexual urges as a succubus sucks away their innocence.
Paranormal: Season 1 (Netflix)
For those not afraid to read subtitles, this Egyptian series is a high-class battle of the scientific and spiritual - slinging a self deprecating, intelligent dark dry wit through a series of supernatural occurrences uniquely telling the tale (adapted from the book series Ma Waraa Al Tabiaa) of paranormal experiences infiltrating a professor's life.
Spotlighted by broken down over-this-shit bland basic looking professor Dr. Refaat Ismail (played expertly by star Ahmed Amin) who is overqualified for the job he currently leads that is further infused with a constant reminder of Murphy’s laws... or curses - depending on who’s eyes you view through. His logic forward thinking smacked by these supernatural occurrences all under the constant threat of bombing emotionally scarring raids of failed missteps.
It all kicks off when Scotland transplant Maggie - a still striking former classmate and crush - arrives at his college. After a hilariously awkward birthday dinner at his sister's where Maggie is thrown into an already awkward family dynamic including his current overzealous fiancé. A past experience comes to the surface and starts the havoc all over again plagued by a childhood ghost who refuses to let him escape her grip.
This adventure sends him to the brink of reality, sanity and his will, attacking him in all the central ways as he battles to hold everything he's built and everything he feels responsibility for.
Throughout he wrestles with overcoming the notion of caring and putting effort into things that can come back to hurt him, things that have previously left deep scars.
It's shot like a drama with gorgeous imagery showcasing the beautiful scenery Egypt has to offer, spoken like a comedy, and at times brings the action of a disaster monster flick all morally wrapped up as Refaat has to face his demons to take back control of his vastly depreciating life.
Past drama unravels, quickly crafting character suspense when a high school clique gets back together on a retreat to the middle of nowhere. After a night of partying they wake up with timed bomb vests strapped to their chests - with time running out with they band together to form a plan or selfishly destroy each other??? Bwamb Bwamb Bwamb
'Triggered' utilizes itself as a magnifying glass to the current societal culture of young adults but instead of droning on with generic scoldings of out-of-touch adults, the film instead uses typical stereotypes in a fresh adventure allowing the characters to show intricacies a macro approach to the subject misses really diving into the emotional scars left as we came of age.
The action sparks fast and the development precise leaving the story pacing at furious level. It packs brutal gore filled with throat slits, explosions, dismemberment and more but it's not just the sights that grab the praise, the intensity levels with high character stakes, randoms slashes of comedy all throughout cleverly sprinkled twists.
The film definitely knows what it is and plays into it - with shades of Saw, I Know What You Did Last Summer, In Time, Lord of Flies - most of which get on the nose shoutouts - and thus is able to stay true to its strengths and give a solid hour and a half.
She Dies Tomorrow (Hulu)
"After waking up convinced that she is going to die tomorrow, Amy’s carefully mended life begins to unravel. As her delusions of certain death become contagious to those around her, Amy and her friends’ lives spiral out of control in a tantalizing descent into madness. Written, directed, and produced by Amy Seimetz.
Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Jurassic Park 3 (Netflix)
The iconic action, and at times horror, franchise rampages onto Netflix. The original film rejuvenated the dinosaur craze and brought expert level filmmaking to blockbusters.
Essentially serving as a 1990s progression of Jaws, Jurassic Park used charismatic and interesting characters through an enthralling and fun story with non-stop quotable and now classic dialogue to create the pieces from which to build a jaw-dropping world of some of the most intense monster sequences in all of film.
A serious game-changer when it arrived, the series continues on now through the Jurassic World series - the new Jurassic World: Dominion dropping next year with original members returning.
When you finish, feel free to check out the Netflix original animated series 'Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous' that dropped back in Sept.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Hulu)
The epic journey displaying one of the most daunting, innovative, sprawling, and intricate film series of all time hits Hulu for an immersive weekend of adventure.
The franchise transformed what a fan base could be - while also innovating the world with its next level special effects (most specifically its premiere of the real-time motion capture system) that would blow the roof on what was capable in filmmaking.
The action adventure journey won 17 Academy Awards, while being nominated for 30. That, blended with its extraordinate box-office pull of about 3 billion dollars places its uniquely atop of the best trilogies ever wining audiences and critics across the board.
Big Mouth: Season 4 (Netflix)
The smash adult animated success (now renewed through season 6) sees our favorite juvenile characters spending the summer at camp continuing the struggles of coming of age through puberty level hijinks with new characters voiced by Seth Rogen, John Oliver & Zach Galifianakis (among others) joining regulars Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Maya Rudolph and more.
The Hurt Locker (Amazon Prime Video & Hulu)
2010's Oscar Best Picture Winner hit a few streaming services this week, finally unleashing this heart-stopping thriller for those who were starting to get too sentimental during this holiday season.
Kathryn Bigelow lets the agonizing intensity burn in some of the most breath-taking thrilling scenes of all cinema. She expertly focuses on letting scenes breathe allowing her talented actors to really shine in Mark Boal's gripping script.
With career kicking-off performances from Jeremy Renner (nominated for Best Actor) and Anthony Mackie as two faces of the effects of war's trauma, the film doubles as an exploration of war's toll and gives us the most can't miss a moment movie of the decade.
Santa’s Slay (Peacock)
Bill Goldberg stars as murderous Santa who has just been unshackled from his 1,000 years lost bet which forced him to be the jolly present-delivering man we've come to love.
Now the demon spawn is free to do what he does best - kill in over the top Christmas ways that should bring joy to those sick of the Hallmark Channel.
Mix-up your holiday viewing with this throwback slasher.
COMING THIS WEEK:
Waiting For The Barbarians (Hulu 12.5)
Academy Award Winning actor Mark Rylance stars as a man forced to confront a larger empire, and his own morals, in this already acclaimed drama that sees Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson stand tall in opposition.
"A magistrate at an isolated outpost reevaluates his loyalty to his nation when an army colonel uses cruel tactics to interrogate the locals about a possible uprising." Starring Johnny Depp, Mark Rylance, and Robert Pattinson. Directed by Ciro Guerra. Written by J. M. Coetzee, based on his novel of the same name.
Eli Roth's History of Horror (Shudder 12.10)
It had been two years since Eli Roth delved into the history and influence of the genre with his History of Horror series on AMC until Season 2 kicked off in October this year on AMC. Now the entire season is available to stream on Shudder.
Season one of Roth’s exploration of the culture featured insight from directors, special effects artists, writers, actors, cinematographers and some of the most respected names in field. Among the contributors of season one included Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Diablo Cody, Robert Englund, Joe Dante, Edgar Wright, John Landis, Rob Zombie and Roger Corman to name a few.
Season two continued Roth’s excavation into the archives of horror with appearances from Bill Hader, Ari Aster (Hereditary & Midsommar), Jordan Peele, Tom Savini, Jack Black, and Ashley Laurence among others.
If you missed season one you can stream every episode on SHUDDER.
'Star Wars: The Mandalorian' - Season 2 (Disney+)
The most anticipated series of the year returns on Disney Plus.
Among the important talking points of the new season, include individual episodes directed by Robert Rodriguez, Rick Famuyiwa, Carl Weathers and series creator Jon Favreau.
There will also be some prominent additions to the ensemble cast including Timothy Olyphant as Cobb Vanth, Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano, and Temuera Morrison, formerly Jengo Fett, now playing playing Boba Fett.
According to Favreau, the season will include episodes of various lengths, with a much more expansive approach to the characters in the story. In fact, Favreau has cited Game of Thrones as a source of inspiration for the second season.