Den of Geek Critics’ Picks
If you’re looking for a good time, steer clear of the great William Friedkin’s Killer Joe. However, if you’re looking for a black comedy as dark as pitch populated with nasty characters in a send-up of classic film noir storytelling, then Killer Joe may just be the tragicomedy for you. Adapted from a play by Tracy Letts, Killer Joe centers on a hapless father-son pair that hire a slick contract killer played by Matthew McConaughey to murder the matriarch of their family so that they can collect the life insurance policy to pay some debts. Obviously, things don’t go exactly as planned. The film’s kinetic pace keeps its cruel and incompetent cast of dimwits from over-staying their welcome, and this is the performance that kicked off McConaughey’s career resurgence and for good reason. Killer Joe is raw, unpleasant, but highly watchable.
I Am Not Your Negro
I Am Not Your Negro takes an unfinished book by brilliant American writer James Baldwin and uses it as a starting point to discuss Baldwin’s life, passions and his home country’s ugly history of racism. There’s a reason I Am Not Your Negro was a modest “hit” for a documentary and took home its fair share of awards. It’s stark, honest and smartly constructed around Baldwin’s wit and humanity. In today’s political climate, it should be considered essential viewing. Though the film seems to erase Baldwin’s queerness, it’s still an incendiary depiction of race relations and highlights how little progress the United States has made since the 1960s.
Let the Right One In
Based on a novel by Swedish horror author John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In tells the heartwarming story of a lonely little Stockholm boy who becomes friends with the teenage girl next door—who happens to be an ancient vampire. Featuring stunning performances by then 11-year-olds Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, and directed with impeccable restraint by Tomas Alfredson, Let the Right One In is exquisite character-driven horror that has in many ways set the template for the “elevated” genre offerings of the last decade. A fresh take on the vampire genre with impeccably crafted atmosphere, Let the Right One In is equal parts gorgeous and macabre.
Tucker and Dale Vs Evil
More a sophisticated comedy of errors than a horror film, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil is a loving satire of the teen slasher genre. More accurately, it perfectly sends up hixploitation films. Hixploitation is the genre of horror that relies on the stereotypes and fear of “rednecks” and “hillbillies,” and the protagonists in this film are a couple of sweet good ol’boys that are grossly misunderstood by a group of judgy, yuppie teens. When Dale saves pretty college girl Allison from drowning near his recently purchased, remote cabin in the woods, her dimwitted friends try to “rescue” her from who they see as a hillbilly monster. As their rescue attempts result in horrific accidents, the teens become more convinced that they’re dealing with evil hillbilly killers. Hilarity, and blood, ensue. A horror comedy with heart and a much-needed message, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil simultaneously celebrates and skewers horror genre conventions.
Sam Mendes’ faithful adaptation of Richard Yates’ acclaimed novel features Oscar caliber performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, reuniting for the first time after the most successful film of the 20th century, Titanic. Exploring the disenchantment and malaise at the heart of 1950s suburbia, Revolutionary Road tackles themes of loneliness, entrapment, forgiveness, and desire. The murder’s row of talent in the ensemble helps elevate what some could consider a stodgy adaptation into something more human and heartbreaking. An underrated precursor to pop culture touchstone Mad Men, Revolutionary Road deserves a revisit.
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