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Eighth Grade is a Triumph of Bad Skin and Baby Fat

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“Thirteen-year-old Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school–the end of her thus far disastrous eighth grade year before she begins high school.” 

That IMDB quote above sums up the story of Eighth Grade, but captures none of the nuances of Bo Burnham’s clever directorial debut. And that’s fine, because putting a finer point on the story might limit the audience in the same way giving the film an R rating did. Yes, this is some heady stuff, some of the sexual references may seem a bit too adult for your average thirteen year old. Still, this isn’t 1977, where your only choice for seeing naked humans might be sneaking onto the bookmobile and leafing through old copies of National Geographic. This is 2018, where all things good and bad are a thumb swipe away.

I would guess that thirteen year olds today know way more than I ever did at thirteen, and maybe more than I did at twenty. We insult them by suggesting they can’t navigate the sexual subjects Mr. Burnham handles with aplomb in Eighth Grade.

Not to say that it’s a dark film, just a complex one.

In a true breakout performance, Elsie Fisher plays Kayla, whose YouTube channel gets as many hits as she has friends… which is to say none. She’s a square peg at school who never came out of the shell she was in when she made that shoebox time capsule three years ago.

Kayla makes a few last ditch efforts to fit in before the school year ends, even if that means pretending she’s something that she isn’t. Or at least isn’t yet. Does she make all the right choices? No. Did you?

I saw the film with parents of young children and wondered if it played out like a horror movie to them. One scene in particular of a high schooler forcing a game of truth or dare on Kayla in the dark backseat of his car is appropriately creepy and expertly directed. Not to say that it’s a dark film, just a complex one. Even the trope that social media masks the truth more than reveals it is handled with a light touch. There’s a ton of laughs even if some make you uncomfortable.

Like last years Lady Bird, Eighth Grade succeeds in balancing the notion of what we are supposed to be with what we are becoming – and while most of us are not in eighth grade anymore, we are always becoming.

The cast of Eighth Grade take questions at Alamo Draft House in Brooklyn.

Using a host of pen names, Eric Curran has been blogging in one form or another for well over 10 years. He's a partner at One Track Mine, and also runs the blog Jealous Foodies.

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Halloween: The Classic Slasher Film Gets a Proper Sequel

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“Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.”

1539919451162Michael Meyers is considered one of the elder slashers that helped catapult the sub-genre in the late 70’s and opened the door for such favorites as Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kreuger.

Much like its influences, the Halloween films have churned out eleven sequels, prequels, and I guess spin-offs, that tend to be cheap thrills on a boring night. These production companies try their best to produce cash grab after cash grab that tend to water down the legacies of the original films for the sake of forced jokes and cheap jump scares. Does this sequel, that for some reason names itself after the original movie, have anything to bring to the table?

Yes, I would say so. It feels like this movie attributes itself as a direct sequel to the first film, and totally ignores every other film in the franchise. This was a good move because this film does feel like a direct sequel – almost like it was an old movie from the 80’s recently unearthed with an aged washed-out color scheme and familiar score. It wasn’t as polished as the H20 series, but it wasn’t as grungy and delusional as the Rob Zombie films, either

The plot managed to remain simple which often is the Kryptonite for sequels and does a few callbacks to the first film without being heavy-handed about it.

Michael Meyers felt like an old man with the Director David Gordon Green giving us glimpses of his age, however he’s still very broad and menacing with little need to run after his victims. He tends to be great at sneaking and trapping his victims in inescapable corners.

“Feels like an old movie from the 80’s that was recently unearthed…”

The acting was decent, led by the talented Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode. The characters felt real and not too far-fetched for some B-movie style decision making.

Even the story was engaging, but be prepared to question how some people are oblivious when they should be on high alert that a psycho murderer is on the loose in their town. Either way, you might want to lock your doors.

Overall Grade: B

It definitely was better that the last few Halloween films and manages to provide a couple of scares and jumps.

The director made a good decision of going with a John Carpenter-style Halloween film that delivers on good old slasher film exploitation without feeling the pressures of some big-time studio exec telling him to tone it down.

* * *

Halloween (2018)
Horror, Thriller
October 2018
Director: David Gordon Green
Blumhouse/Miramax
1 hour 46 minutes
IMDB reference click here

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The Predator

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When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.”

The movies that made my childhood great continue to get tarnished for a profit. First Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, now this. When they announced that another Predator movie was coming out this year, I let out my first exhausted sigh since I saw a Predator running side by side with Sanaa Lathan. The only thing that piqued my interest is that the prestigious Hollywood writer and original Predator alum, Shane Black was writing and directing this film. Lo and behold, not even Mr. Black could save this movie.

Before I get into my dislikes in this film, lets talk about the state of monsters in movies. Making a bigger hybrid of the original does not officially make a better movie. Typically these hybrids tend to stifle themselves by having all these new superpowers they can’t even use to dominate the unevolved human species, and find a way to self-implode, thus making them useless as a threat or even close to an iconic character.

Subtly is what made the first one great.

Now, in regards to the Predator series…it’s over. I know this film tried to open itself up to a sequel, but no. Leave it alone. We’ve watered it down way too much. What made the first film amazing was the ambiguity of the Predator. We didn’t know what it was or why it was killing people. In essence, we were drawn closer to the movie because we didn’t  see the monster until the 3rd act. After we saw its face and knew its intentions, the magic was gone. That’s why every other Predator movie paled in comparison.

Now this film in particular, it overcompensated by trying to be the biggest Predator movie without realizing that subtly is what made the first one great. It told you the Predator’s intentions way before we needed to know, and even tried to turn it into a social commentary. Listen, I’m here to see a Predator movie, not get beat over the head with the state of our planet…again.

What I found annoying is that everyone was so amazing at deciphering the Predators intentions, physical makeup, language, purpose, and weaponry with the smallest clues and all of a sudden they knew everything there was to know about these creatures. The speed and precision that these areas were identified were just way too convenient.

Okay, the little kid, Jacob Tremblay. I’ve done reviews of his movies before and I think he’s a great actor, but why the hell do we have a kid in a Predator movie??? You know he’s safe, and it changes the whole dynamic because now you know the adults are going to appease to the kid and turn this movie into something more friendlier than what we were expecting.

Overall Grade: D

As the movie went on, my grade got worse. The original Predator in this film was bad-ass enough, but introducing the hybrid Predator actually worsened the value of the movie. With that, the acting got worse and the plot conveniences got better and turned this movie into a big pile of Predator dung. They tried to resort to comedy and forgot that this film was originally a testosterone-filled horror/action thriller that was unforgiving to human sympathies and catered to the realities of brutal warfare. Also, another Predator film that failed to have a Schwarzenegger cameo. Remember, Dutch NEVER DIED!!!

Bonus Feature: Best Predator movies in order.

6. Predator 2
5. Predator vs. Alien
4. The Predator
3. Predator vs. Alien 2
2. Predators (go see this one instead. It’s a lot better)
1. Predator (the best one, period)

The Predator
Action, Adventure, (Horror)
September 2018
Director: Shane Black
20th Century Fox
1 hour 47 minutes
IMDB reference click here

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Ralph Breaks the Internet | Official Trailer

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