A Word of Dreams’ 20 Favorite Films of 2018 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

*Please note that the films included are based on a 2018 U.S. release date.

20. Incident in a Ghostland
(Director: Pascal Laugier)

19. They Remain
(Director: Philip Gelatt)

18. The Endless
(Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead)

17. Upgrade
(Director: Leigh Whannell)

16. Unsane
(Director: Steven Soderbergh)

15. My Hero’s Shadow
(Director: Justin Young)

14. Ready Player One
(Director: Steven Spielberg)

13. Thoroughbreds
(Director: Cory Finley)

12. Revenge
(Director: Coralie Fargeat)

11. The Insult
(Director: Ziad Doueiri)

10. The Death of Stalin
(Director: Armando Iannucci)

9. Annihilation
(Director: Alex Garland)

8. A Quiet Place
(Director: John Krasinski)

7. Isle of Dogs
(Director: Wes Anderson)

6.The Tale
(Director: Jennifer Fox)

5.You Were Never Really Here
(Director: Lynne Ramsay)

4. Loveless
(Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev)

3. King Cohen
(Director: Steve Mitchell)

2.Hereditary
(Director: Ari Aster)

1.Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
(Director:J.A. Bayona)

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“Imposter” – (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***** out of *****.

“Imposter” (2018) is among the most relatable, beautifully made, deeply symbolic and personal compositions yet from the incredibly talented writer-director Chris Esper. The nine-minute and fifty-four second short film is a series of three interconnected vignettes. They focus on the inward struggles of anxiety and the idea of the Imposter Syndrome. The latter concept, which was formulated by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in 1978, concerns the idea that someone who is known for their accomplishments are afraid of being exposed as a con.

This theme is expounded upon early on in the form of an overworked man, Mike (in a powerhouse performance from Tom Mariano). During a meeting, he is plagued by visions of a young jester (in a quietly heartfelt enactment from Brendan Meehan). This figure can be seen as the adolescent side of Mike who simply wants to enjoy life. After his meeting he gets on a bus. From herein, we follow an artist (Sheetal Kelkar) and her counterpart (Jamie Braddy) to an art gallery. Here Esper wordlessly shows that both parties feel like they are embarrassed and on display. Returning to the aforementioned vehicle, Esper goes among the populace of the transport. In so doing, he often utilizes direct imagery to quickly tell many private stories of worry and woe. This ends on a highly effective note of tragedy that involves two military veterans (William DeCoff and Adam Masnyk).

Esper’s latest mechanizes tremendously well as social commentary and as an almost entirely dialogue free character study. His scripting and guidance of the project is masterful and mature at every avenue. The Stories in Motion and On Edge Productions fabrication, potently edited by Esper, is also a triumphant demonstration of Ben Alexander and Bryce Brashears’ sound. The same can be said of the lush cinematography from Rick King. This is also true of the make-up and special effects from Julianne Ross. The gently used music from Steven Lanning-Cafaro is haunting and evocative. It fits the tone of the project exceptionally.

All of these moviemaking ingredients help make “Imposter” a timely and timeless meditation on the insecurities which secretly bind so many individuals. I especially related to the first two segments. They immediately spoke to both the full-time laborer and the part-time writer within me. Yet, what is just as remarkable is how, when viewed as a whole, Esper creates a portrait of our civilization that is as intimate as it is grand. This is cinematic poetry. It is as open to interpretation as it is credible and layered. Esper wants to prove that beneath each person is an entire world of wounded self-doubt that others may never understand. He has done so with intelligence and grace. “Imposter” is a masterpiece. It is also one of the best ventures of its type I’ve seen all year.

(Unrated).

The Best Horror and Horror/Comedy Films of 2018 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

 

The 10 Best Horror Films:

10. Winchester
Directors: Michael and Peter Spierig.

9. Tonight She Comes
Director: Matt Stuertz.

8. Unsane
Director: Steven Soderbergh.

7. Terrifier
Director: Damien Leone.

6. The Strangers: Prey at Night
Director: Johannes Roberts.

5. They Remain
Director: Philip Gelatt.

4. Revenge
Director: Coralie Fargeat.

3. Annihilation
Director: Alex Garland.

2. A Quiet Place
Director: John Krasinski.

1. Hereditary
Director: Ari Aster.

 

Runners-Up:

Cargo
Directors: Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke.

Insidious: The Last Key
Director: Adam Robitel.

Island Zero
Director: Josh Gerritsen.

The Manor
Director: Jonathan Schermerhorn.

 

The 5 Best Horror/Comedies

5. 4/20 Massacre
Director: Dylan Reynolds.

4. Mom and Dad
Director: Brian Taylor.

3. Soft Matter
Director: Jim Hickcox.

2. Bus Party to Hell
Director: Rolfe Kanefsky.

1. Hell’s Kitty
Director: Nicholas Tana.

“The Continuation of the Dance” By Andrew Buckner (Poem)

The Continuation of the Dance
By Andrew Buckner

Often the path to literary creation
Is paved with backsteps, hesitations!
Often golden cities of subplots must be destroyed
For true worth, audience immersion, to be employed.
Often the time spent
Hardly equates a new stone turned; a character’s breath lent.

Yet, there are the rare occasions
Where every word and beat has the right spin.
You are the orchestrator of the world’s most beautiful melody
And the harmony flows freely, melodically
With the perfect pitch and tone
And nothing needs to endure discarded, alone.

But, what matters in either circumstance
Is the continuation of the dance.

The patient writer, as all great artists, will find his or her way.

And, in so doing, history’s eternal remembrance
Will be the award admiring droves will gladly pay.

“King Cohen” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***** out of *****.

King Cohen (2017), from writer-director Steve Mitchell, is a lively, charming and effortlessly entertaining tribute to the life and work of cinematic giant Larry Cohen. Yet, one of the most successful attributes of the 107-minute feature is that is filled with the ambition, charm and optimistic spirit of its focal point. This characteristic is made evermore intimate and invigorating by Cohen’s own nostalgic recollections. Early in the production they arrive as Cohen recalls his being a young cinephile and literary prodigy. More specifically, one who sold his first story to the dramatic anthology series Kraft Television Theater (1947-1958) in 1958. This was at the age of 17. As the endeavor goes on, these vividly narrated memories extend to the behind-the-scenes events and the often-impromptu creative sparks which helped fashion his early television and later movie work.

Cohen’s various relationships with his cast and crew members further flesh out the project. The sequences where Cohen and actor Fred Williamson, who appeared in a variety of Cohen’s efforts, disagree on the details of certain related situations they were both involved in are when the jovial charm of the documentary is most evident. But there is another layer of appeal to the arrangement. It is just as infectious. This is when modern moving picture masterminds such as J.J. Abrams, Joe Dante, John Landis and Martin Scorsese discuss their thoughts and personal connections to Cohen’s material. Such a sensation of motivation is further expounded upon in arrangements such as a delightful one found in the second half of the exercise. This is where fans of Cohen’s brilliant dark comedy, The Stuff (1985), speak of why the science-fiction/horror tour de force remains memorable and relevant to the culture of today. These bits add to the underlying perspective of awe, inspiration, love and endearing respect for Cohen and his contributions to the photographic art form which help make King Cohen such a resonant and deeply personal masterpiece. This is true from the engrossing commencement to its uniquely uplifting conclusion.

The segments which discuss the making of and audience reaction to the action film Black Caeser (1973) are also particularly intriguing. This interest continued during the discussion of how Cohen’s approach to the medium changed during the fabrication of Hell Up in Harlem (1973). When the eventual, though slow-going, success of Cohen’s classic monstrous baby on the loose opus, It’s Alive (1974), and terrifying tackle of theological issues, God Told Me To (1976), filled the screen I was equally riveted. The musings on the invention of Cohen’s timeless take on the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl, Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) and involvement with Bette Davis during the recording of Wicked Stepmother (1989) were equally captivating.

Mitchell’s composition earns even more acclaim for meticulously covering nearly every one of his ventures. Moreover, the affair contains terrific music from composer Joe Kraemer. It also conveys same said cinematography by David C.P. Chan. Such elements heighten the striking quality of the piece. Correspondingly, Mitchell’s pacing and style is perfectly fitting for the tone and theme of the undertaking. The sound and editing are sharp. Also, the incorporation of stills and clips from Cohen’s constructions make Mitchell’s latest more well-rounded and complete.

In turn, Mitchell offers audiences one of the best big screen entries of its type you will see all year. King Cohen is pure celluloid joy. Those of us who grew up both admiring and obsessed with Cohen’s tales owe it to themselves to see this as soon as possible. You can do so when Mitchell’s marvelous labor is released in select theaters on July 27th, 2018 through Dark Star Pictures.

(Unrated).

“The Love Children: A Tale in Seven Pantoum Poems” By Andrew Buckner

THE LOVE CHILDREN:
A TALE IN SEVEN PANTOUM POEMS

By Andrew Buckner

I.

In the back alleys of Dave Sivo’s clinic
The illegal human reassignment surgery was performed.
It was advertised as a cure for the sick
That had become for mankind the norm.

The illegal human reassignment surgery was performed-
It transformed men into pythons, women into gill-fish goddesses.
That had become for mankind the norm-
It started in hopes to relieve their stress.

It transformed men into pythons, women into gill-fish goddesses.
It was advertised as a cure for the sick.
It started in hopes to relieve their stress.
In the back alleys of Dave Sivo’s Clinic…

II.

As the years passed, the alteration succeeded
Thousands of times, the masses
Saw it as an escape, a second chance, from the disease which bled
All goodness, kindness from the human classes.

Thousands of times, the masses
Which were rehabilitated became harder to ignore.
All goodness, kindness from the human classes
Remained in the DNA of the different, while all else declared war.

Which were rehabilitated became harder to ignore-
Saw it as an escape, a second chance, from the disease which bled-
Remained in the DNA of the different, while all else declared war-
As the years passed, the alteration succeeded…

III.

…It expanded and new sexes, species were born.
All of them were from the patron’s imagination.
Some wanted to be beautiful, others purposefully torn;
Deformed in face, with exposed body pimples, indignations.

All of them were from the patron’s imagination
For they soon knew that such sights
Deformed in face, with exposed body pimples, indignations
Were part of Earth’s betterment; a way to embrace surface imperfections, fright.

For they soon knew that such sights-
Some wanted to be beautiful, others purposefully torn-
Were part of Earth’s betterment; a way to embrace surface imperfections, fright…
…It expanded and new sexes, species were born.

IV.

They called themselves “The Love Children”.
They knew that their mere existence
Was enough to mirror the potential of the most backwards of men.
They embraced all that was said to be ugly (True luster, in a sense).

And they knew that their mere existence
Was more impactful than the fateful bullet; hate’s repugnant song-
They embraced all that was said to be ugly (True luster, in a sense).
And by never firing a gun, flailing a knife or speaking ill they echoed that throng.

Was more impactful than the fateful bullet; hate’s repugnant song-
Was enough to mirror the potential of the most backwards of men-
And by never firing a gun, flailing a knife or speaking ill they echoed that throng-
They called themselves “The Love Children”.

V.

In so doing, those that held onto their anger gradually diminished-
No one can possibly live healthily in such a continuously deflated state-
And quickly the number of those that came to Dave Sivo’s Clinic with the same wish
Did exponentially inflate.

No one can possibly live healthily in such a continuously deflated state-
And when unrealized ambitions, images became reality;
Did exponentially inflate-
Violence, aggression lost its primitive appeal to some; peace was Earth’s gravity.

And when unrealized ambitions, images became reality
And quickly the number of those that came to Dave Sivo’s Clinic with the same wish-
Violence, aggression lost its primitive appeal to some; peace was Earth’s gravity-
In so doing, those that held onto their anger gradually diminished.

VI.

As the faces, overall appearance of everyone, became wildly different
Conformity became the target of criticism.
Though civilization once pondered a new name for humanity, the intent
Remained to remember our flaws, but never return to such a shallow prism.

Conformity became the target of criticism.
Thus, once proudly erected walls of materialism were left standing.
Remained to remember our flaws, but never return to such a shallow prism-
The currency was kindness. The retired lifting of backbreaking jobs was outstanding.

Thus, once proudly erected walls of materialism were left standing.
Though civilization once pondered a new name for humanity, the intent-
The currency was kindness. The retired lifting of backbreaking jobs was outstanding.
As the faces, overall appearance of everyone, became wildly different…

VII.

…Everyone reverted to calling themselves “Human”
For the initial factor of our genus, hope, had been restored.
The lessons learned became a new brand of evolution.
In so doing, we grew gills and guts instead of spilling gore.

For the initial factor of our genus, hope, had been restored-
It was the goal that every child from therein would not loose stride.
In so doing, they grew gills and guts instead of spilling gore
And, in turn, flesh and country again became a thing of pride.

It was the goal that every child from therein would not loose stride-
For the initial factor of our genus, hope, had been restored.
And, in turn, flesh and country again became a thing of pride
…Everyone reverted to calling themselves “Human”.

“My Hero’s Shadow” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***** out of *****.

My Hero’s Shadow (2018), the debut feature from writer-director Justin Young, is a fascinating, intimate and in-depth documentary. It explores the themes of family, forgiveness, judgment and perspective to masterful effect. Utilizing one-on-one discussions and a quietly poignant style that works wonderfully for the endeavor, Young crafts an arrangement that is as thoughtful as it is absorbing. There is also a distinct message of unyielding love, and that no one is purely noble or nefarious, at the heart of the piece. Such welcome notions make the exercise evermore timely and resonant.

Young’s configuration is a meditation on the man who struck Nancy Kerrigan with a baton in 1994, Shane Stant. His private accounts, especially when addressing what led him to engage in such an action, are certainly eye-opening. Yet, the brilliance of the film emerges from the story being reflected through the compassionate viewpoint of Shane’s sister, Maile. She was only three years old when the incident took place. In so doing, her memory of her brother is shaped from who Shane became after the previously stated occurrence. The foundation of the undertaking is erected when Maile meets with Shane 20 years after the attack. This is to openly converse on what transpired that day at Cobo Arena.

Such is an undoubtedly gripping topic. It is one which Young handles in a manner that finds poetry in simple sights and communions. For instance, there is a memorable sequence where Maile speaks of an individual who found growth and tranquility in watching a sun rise for 142 days in a row. The glimpses into Shane and Maile’s childhoods that course throughout the project are just as harrowing. Such insights allow audiences to leave the 78-minute venture with a well-rounded sense of who these two people are personally. The bits that go into Shane’s public perception are just as well-done.

With its economical length, efficient pace and technically skillful construction, Young’s exertion is a surefire triumph. Its alternately melancholy and inspiring tones deepen the picture of Maile and Shane that Young thoroughly paints. This is also true of those who have impacted the lives of the duo. In turn, Young formulates an incredibly illuminating composition; a tour de force that compels viewers to see the humanity in others. My Hero’s Shadow, which is currently seeking distribution, is a must-see!

(Unrated).

“Hide in the Light” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***** out of *****.

Hide in the Light (2018), the debut feature from co-writer and director Mikey McGregor, is moody, spectacular supernatural horror. The efficient and well-mounted 80-minute film effectively utilizes the time-honored device of the sinister being lurking unseen in the darkness. This is most noteworthy in the tense and exciting second half of the arrangement. Yet, the feature is so well-made, paced and tense that it never ceases to feel fresh and exciting. Richard Albert’s wonderfully creepy music, McGregor’s brilliant behind the lens work and Gonzalo Digenio’s rich cinematography only make the production evermore haunting and memorable. These qualities are enhanced by the stunning performances present throughout the endeavor. For example, Eric Roberts offers a phenomenal depiction as Father Wes. Additionally, Jesse James is terrific as Todd. The same can be said of Lindsay Lamb’s engaging depiction of Becca.

McGregor’s movie tells the tale of a group of thrill-seeking friends. They break into the fictional Saint Petersberg Orphanage in hopes of exploration. In so doing, they find themselves being stalked by paranormal forces. Eventually the credibly etched and relatable protagonists on-screen unveil that they can only find safety by doing as the title suggests. The symbolism of such an act, especially in a religious sense, is applied intriguingly to the project. This is without the notion ever being overdone.

Such a solid narrative foundation calls to mind David F. Sandberg’s Lights Out (2016) in its concept. Yet, McGregor’s fabrication is comparable to James Wan’s modern haunted house masterpiece The Conjuring (2013) in its ability to unnerve. This is evident in the chilling five-minute prologue of the endeavor. It is set in 1966. In turn, McGregor and his fellow scripters Cynthia Bravo (who deftly plays Karen) and Digenio craft a tale that is as scary as it is entertaining. Hide in the Light is imaginative and harrowing; an instant genre classic! It will be released by High Octane Pictures later in the year.

(Unrated).

“Hell’s Kitty” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Hell’s Kitty (2016), the 98-minute sophomore feature from writer-director Nicholas Tana, is an affectionate and wildly hilarious sendup of the ardent bond between owner and pet. It also successfully operates as a loving parody of the horror genre. Particularly, the compositions of literary maestro Stephen King. Additionally, sly references to classic films rooted in this genre abound. Nods to Ghostbusters (1984), Poltergeist (1982), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), Halloween (1978), the Friday the 13th franchise (1980-present), The Fog (1980) and The Omen (1976) are all cleverly woven into the fabric of the narrative. Yet, the most brilliant of these bits is a black and white lampooning of the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho (1960). It occurs near the one-hour mark. Heightening the enjoyment of this factor is an all-star cast of categorically related cinematic veterans. All of whom have small roles throughout the picture. They are also frequently named after personas from the opuses of terror mentioned above. Nina Kate’s amusing representation of Dr. Laurie Strodes is a wonderful example. Similarly, Doug Jones (2017’s stunning The Shape of Water) is terrific as Father Damien. Dale Midkiff (1989’s Pet Sematary) is engaging as Rosemary Carrie. Continually, Lynn Lowry is a delight to watch as The Medium. Courtney Gains is exceptional as Mordicia. A late sequence that kids the original adaptation of King’s Children of the Corn (1984), which Gains appeared in as the antagonistic Malachi, is another memorable highlight of the exercise.

Based on both the web series and the comic book of the same name, the production is inspired by Tana’s own personal experiences with his cat, Angel. Such is a moniker shared by the feline cited in the title of Tana’s tale. In the affair, Nick (in a lively and charismatic depiction from Tana), is a Hollywood screenwriter. He is one whose attempts at romantic entanglements are constantly cut short. This is by Angel’s violent outbursts when women are around him. As these murderous eruptions increase in number, Nick believes his cat has been possessed by a demon. Seeking help from a variety of individuals, Nick attempts to stop the body count by getting his beloved companion exorcised.

Such is a fun and inventive concept. It also works tremendously well. This is especially evident when combined with the proudly tongue-in-cheek execution of the exertion. Tana’s witty, heartfelt and skillfully paced script makes the most of this idea. The arrangement is complete with felicitous humor and dialogue. Correspondingly, the characters are just as smartly crafted and relatable. Furthermore, the sharp storytelling abilities in Tana’s screenplay are made increasingly alluring. This is via Tana’s charming and stylish guidance of the project.

Assisting matters is the visually impressive opening and closing credits. Richard Albert’s music, with supplementary material from Wolfgang Lackner, is certainly tone-fitting. The most memorable and side-splitting of these selections is a number that sounds like a moggy-driven rendition of Jerry Goldsmith’s “Ave Satani” (1976). The playful effects, striking cinematography, excellent sound and proficient editing enhance the immersive pleasure derived from the undertaking.

Produced by Denise Acosta, Hell’s Kitty is grand, 1980’s influenced entertainment. The intermittent sequences of gore are effectively constructed. Still, the labor is never overly reliant on these instances. This can also be said of the spirited scares Tana compiles throughout the endeavor. In so doing, Tana erects an impeccable atmosphere that mixes laughter with the paranormal. It is one that never wavers from commencement to conclusion. Highly reminiscent of Tim Burton’s timeless Beetlejuice (1988) and Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners (1996) in both quality and sheer rewatchability, Tana’s configuration is destined to be a cult classic! I recommend checking it out when it arrives on video on demand on March 13th, 2018.

(Unrated).

“Curse of the Witch’s Doll” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: **** out of *****.

Curse of the Witch’s Doll (2018), the debut feature from writer-director Lawrence Fowler, is an ambitious and frequently surprising 98-minute horror film. It is one which largely defies the stalk-and-slash expectations of the killer toy sub-genre. Still, what is just as noteworthy is how often Fowler changes the setting and categorization of the piece. For instance, the presentation commences with a quick, but gripping, bit that takes place in 1660. Afterwards, Fowler fast-forwards to the year where the bulk of the action in Fowler’s endeavor resides: 1942. The early sequences in this time frame beautifully flesh-out the bond between our heroine, Adeline Gray (in an always compelling turn from Helen Crevel), and her daughter, Chloe (in a mesmerizing enactment from Layla Watts). They are attempting to escape the bombing in their home town. This discharge leads them to an ominous mansion in the woods. Taking refuge in the domicile, the movie effectively plays like a gothic haunted house work for the first half of the presentation. Paired along with this strong element is the air of a missing person narrative. Such occurs as Chloe suddenly vanishes near the 20-minute mark. Eventually, the grief-stricken Adeline comes to believe that this disappearance was caused by the creepy title object.

Fowler handles this initial portion of the affair aptly. There is an atmosphere of mystery to the manner the proceedings found in this segment unfold that is both tense and interesting. Such an approach makes the alluring plot of the production evermore captivating. But, the exercise loses some momentum when the location of the action shifts after this stage. From herein, the new position for the chronicle becomes a time-honored cliché. This is disheartening after the earlier arrangement. Despite this previously stated disappointment, and the fact that some of the sequences in this latter phase can be a bit too dialogue-heavy, the undertaking still endures as focused and absorbing. Strengthening this aspect is that the project ends with a satisfying nod to the found footage technique. It is rooted in the present day.

What is just as enjoyable in Fowler’s presentation is the minimal use of its skillful effects. Such a decision adds a classic demeanor to the entirety. It is one that splendidly compliments the chill-inducing tone of the exertion. Helping matters is co-producer Geoff Fowler’s stunning doll design. Liz Fowler’s costume work is similarly stellar. The same can also be said of Lawrence Fowler’s seamless editing. His writing is sharp, character-driven and smartly paced. Likewise, his guidance of the project is claustrophobic, stylish and superb. The cinematography, make-up and sound contributions are masterful. Furthermore, Claire Carreno is excellent as The Witch. Philip Ridout’s depiction of Arthur Harper is brilliant. Neil Hobbs’ representation of Detective Nolan is terrific.

Spanning over 450 years, Curse of the Witch’s Doll is a success. Though it suffers at times in its later phases, the High Octane Pictures release remains admirable. This is especially true when considering the variety instilled in how Fowler tells his tale. There is a finely tuned sense of menace throughout that is addictive. Furthermore, the on-screen personas are relatable. Fowler’s stalwart concentration on Adeline’s plight heightens both the dramatic sensibilities and the underlying suspense of the project. Audiences are with Fowler’s lead through every painful step in her journey. Because of this, the Northampton, England recorded exertion fluently balances both emotional and physical terrors. The result of these high-functioning qualities is a well-crafted cinematic excursion. It is one that is unafraid to take risks and proudly surpasses presumptions. I highly recommend seeking out Fowler’s latest arrangement. It will arrive on VOD on February 2nd and on DVD March 6th, 2018.

(Unrated). Contains violence and adult themes.