“The Witch”

“The Witch” is a slow burn melodrama, but a damn scary one! I applaud writer/director Robert Eggers for creating such a tense and atmospheric period piece.

“The Witch” takes place in the 1600’s and follows a deeply religious New England family, who moves from their plantation to an isolated forest to grow crops. Like most horror films, the family finds themselves cursed *after* moving. They soon believe they’re cursed by God when their crops die, their baby goes missing, and several horrific atrocities occur.

“The Witch” is one of the most mesmerizing and effective supernatural horror films I’ve ever seen. Eggers’ directorial debut is a love letter to witchcraft stories and a heartbreaking depiction of one very dysfunctional family.

We have our innocent protagonist Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), her religiously and sexually confused brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), creepy twin siblings, her noble-but-dimwitted father William (Ralph Ineson), and her increasingly psychotic mother Katherine (Kate Dickie). Their environment turns them against one another, as do their opposing views of God.

SOME SPOILERS AHEAD! SHIMMY IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS!

The witches are unseen for a majority of the time, but they instigate the family’s descent into madness and watch them fall apart. That’s what makes witches terrifying – their mind games. We also see animals in bizarre scenarios, including a stalker brown rabbit, a black goat that has a violent meltdown, and one disturbing sequence involving a crow.

Eggers directs the actors’ emotions masterfully with tight handheld close-ups, capturing their discomfort and heartbreak. His script’s dialogue is authentic Puritan dialogue that will force you to pay attention to the screen. His ambiguous writing is handled confidently. His buildup to the dark finale will leave you shaken. “The Witch” is a great horror film and not for the faint of heart.

Grade: A+

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“Deadpool”

If meta humor and mayhem-fueled action tickle your fancy like it does mine, “Deadpool” is for you.

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD, CHILDREN! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!

This is Ryan Reynolds’s passion project (he’s the star and producer) as he portrays Wade Wilson, an invincible wisecracking mercenary seeking revenge. Wilson has a twisted sense of humor while on his bloodthirsty rampage (he makes a joke about killing someone in five minutes while chasing them on a Zamboni).

Ryan Reynolds hasn’t had the best luck over the last seven years with a long string of critical and commercial failures (“Green Lantern”, “RIPD” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” are just a few to name). Reynolds even expressed disappointment in “Origins: Wolverine”, but props to him for taking control over “Deadpool”. This is a faithful adaptation and easily a career revival for Reynolds.

Reynolds cracks self-aware jokes and pop culture references throughout “Deadpool” in the middle of action sequences. This isn’t limited to making fun of himself in “Origins: Wolverine” and “Green Lantern”, referencing the “X-Men” franchise, “Alien 3”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Matrix”, and Jared from Subway. Yeah, pretty good sense of humor for a disfigured maniac .

It’s the writers’ (credited in the genius opening credits as the “Real Heroes of the Movie”), script that make Reynolds shine. It’s a combination of dark comedy, romantic drama, revenge thriller, and superhero satire. First time director Tim Miller (credited as “An Overpaid Tool”) does a great job directing the intentionally clumsy and energetic action sequences without giving us a headache.

The supporting cast also has their fine moments with TJ Miller (“Silicon Valley”) as Wilson’s best friend, Morena Baccarin (“Firefly”) as Wilson’s equally sassy and vulgar girlfriend, and Ed Skrein (the original Daario Nahares in “Game of Thrones”) as a violent-yet-overly insecure villain.

The movie isn’t perfect since it’s a semi-origin story and has mild pacing issues with drawn-out flashbacks. Aside from that, “Deadpool” wastes no time entertaining us with its warped humor and badassery.

Grade: A

“Hail, Caesar!”

The wacky Coen Brothers go back to their bizarre and experimental comedic roots with “Hail, Caesar!”. This is when they are at their best.

“Hail, Caesar!” is an episodic dark comedy set in the Golden Age of Hollywood, starring Josh Brolin as fixer, Eddie Mannix. Mannix is a neurotic man who acts tough, but is soft in a rough industry. We get a glimpse at a day in the life of Mannix, as he sorts out a pregnancy scandal with a single actress (Scarlett Johansson), manages a cowboy star’s (Alden Ehrenreich) miscasting in an art film, and searches for a missing debauched Hollywood favorite (George Clooney); all while keeping twin journalists (both played by Tilda Swinton) off his back.

“Hail, Caesar!” is likely the Coens’ most polarizing film since “The Big Lebowski” and it’s just as weird, due to its episodic format and semi-confusing plot. It’s also a movie that satirizes the movie industry while delivering jokes that require your undivided attention. Sure, it’s a bit drawn out and semi-heavy handed, but it’s damn good!

The Coens craft “Hail, Caesar!” as a part Film Noir, part Hollywood satire, and a part political satire, and it all works for the most part. Each cast member delivers rich and funny performances, as expected in a Coen Brothers movie.

Brolin delivers one of his quirkiest performances, portraying Mannix as a tough guy who’s overly concerned with whether or not he’s a good person, stressing over bad habits like smoking. Clooney is always his best with the Coens and delivers a hilarious performance as the dimwitted, egomaniac Kirk Douglas-type. Ehrenreich steals every scene as a Texan star who can’t deliver a simple line as directed, and Channing Tatum dances in a terrific cameo as a musical star with a mysterious background.

The Coens load “Hail, Caesar!” with great sequences, including movies within the movie (these are more introductory sequences for our cast), a smart banter between different religious figures on how Jesus should be portrayed, and some beautiful imagery (the film is shot by Roger Deakins of “Skyfall” and “No Country for Old Men”).

Some sequences and characters aren’t as well developed as others, particularly Tatum’s. With his character (not spoiling anything here), we should have either had more of him or none of him, despite the golden dance sequence.

The Coens vary between dark and violent thrillers like “No Country for Old Men” and Fargo, and quirky comedies like “Raising Arizona” and “The Big Lebowski”. “Hail, Caesar!” falls under the latter and is for anyone who loves movies or film history.

Grade: A-