,,Practical Magic” retrospective review: A timeless film with empowering components and charming premise

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

This retrospective review contains spoilers for Practical Magic.

Practical Magic premiered in 1998 when I was only three years old. Thankfully for my future critic self, my parents made sure to take care of my film and television education. In effect, I knew the film by Griffin Dunne, based on Alice Hofman’s book, early on. As the title indicates, Practical Magic is packed with titular magic but not only — it contains an empowering narrative, highlights the importance of sisterhood, and discusses how difficult it is to walk away from domestic abuse. All of those aspects make the film still very relevant for the new generation and first-time viewers.

The film focuses on the Owens family, highlighting the relationship between two sister witches, Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman). The family also includes women’s aunts who practically raised them — Jett (Diane Wiest) and Frances (Stockard Channing). After Sally’s husband suddenly passes away due to the awful curse that lies upon the Owens women; a curse that prevents them from safely falling in love and living happily, the widow and her daughters, Antonia (Alexandra Artrip) and Kylie (Evan Rachel Wood) move back into Sally’s family manor.

But the story is more complex than that, with many elements that are less magical and more realistic, especially as one grows older and revisits the film. As the plot progresses and Gillian returns to the family home, her abusive boyfriend, Jimmy Angelov (Goran Visnjic), follows, resulting in fatal consequences — death from the poison that Sally mixes in his drink. The situation shown in the film perfectly illustrates women’s fear of not being believed, even in light of self-defense. The third act of Practical Magic then shifts from its magical (sic!) undertones to a thriller, as the criminal investigation in Jimmy Angelov’s missing case commences under the watchful (two-colored) eyes of Gary Hallet (Aidan Quinn).

There’s a lot to admire about the third act, particularly when all the women in the village band together to help Gillian, who gets possessed by Jimmy’s tortured soul. Even after so many years, the sight of all the participants joining hands evokes strong emotions. Practical Magic’s premise about female strength, the damaging effect of abuse on one’s psyche, and the fight for body autonomy is still very relatable, making the film a timeless story.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

There is one another aspect of Practical Magic that makes it memorable, and it’s the issue of bullying in the film. For the sisters as well as Sally’s daughters, being raised by witches has its consequences. In effect, many times throughout the film, we observe kids yelling, “Witch, witch, you’re a bi*tch!” as well as perceive fellow parents gaslighting Sally and begrudging Gillian in their prejudice. Said aspect may be helpful for younger audience where, perhaps, some struggle with the presence of bullying at school. Thanks to its versatility, the film is perfect for everybody.

There are many memorable moments in Practical Magic — one of them illustrates young Sally (Camilla Bell) casting a spell to find a perfect love — but with a twist. She conjures virtually impossible future partner to ensure that the person doesn’t exist. But, as the film proves further through Quinn’s character, it’s quite difficult to beat the fate at its own game. Artrip and Wood are also utterly charming in the roles of Sally’s daughters.

Next to the aforementioned components, Dunne’s picture possesses a suitable and catchy soundtrack that adds to the overall atmosphere of the film, with songs from Stevie Nicks, among others. When looking further into Practical Magic’s legacy and its Rotten Tomatoes score, which still stands at 21 percent, it becomes even more unbelievable, especially given the film’s aforementioned timelessness. The audience score, on the other hand, more accurately reflects the film’s reception.

Regardless of the score, and not without the flaws, Practical Magic will still have the ability to enchant viewers that are passionate about empowerment and representation of female characters on film and tv. It may not be a film for all, but the ambiguity of opinions demonstrates the beauty of art and how different people perceive it based on their own experiences and feelings. I’ll stand by my opinion that Dunne’s adaptation is a classic position for the Halloween season and an empowering film, ideal for a group hangout and a post-film discussion on themes contained in it.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

At the very least, it’s so worth seeing Kidman, Bullock, Wiest, and Channing’s characters dancing around the kitchen and drinking “midnight margaritas” while humming Harry Nilson’s Coconut. Who knows, maybe after viewing, you’d like to apply Sally’s kind advise — Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for luck, and fall in love whenever you can.

Practical Magic is currently available to stream on Hulu.

“X” Review: A Polarizing, Brutal Slasher Packed With Steamy Performances

The director goes off the chains with X in this steamy ode to the 70s about sex, mental health, and aging. Forget everything you know about the horror genre and get ready for the hottest, craziest rollercoaster that defies many taboos.

When you’re a kid, being an adult is mysterious and seemingly so cardinal. As a result, you were always curious about what the adults would talk about when discussing “grown-up” topics. Ti West’s X reminds us of this feeling and demonstrates that we don’t actually differ that much from one another, despite the many years between us. The dark urges don’t go away; in fact, they grow stronger. The director goes off the chains with X in this steamy ode to the 70s about sex, mental health, and aging. Forget everything you know about the horror genre and get ready for the hottest, craziest rollercoaster that breaks many taboos.

Rural Texas, 1970. A group of filmmakers embark on a journey to create a one-of-a-kind adult film. Especially RJ (Owen Campbell), the production’s director, believes it’s possible to make such a film with depth and he’s determined to do so. The group rents a dusty yet charming rustic cottage from the older man to shoot the film. In addition to the directors and those in charge of the setting, the group includes Lorraine (Jenna Ortega)—RJ’s girlfriend, Maxine (Mia Goth), and her partner/boss, Wayne (Martin Henderson), and the film’s main characters, Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Murphy) and Jackson Hole (Kid Cudi). As the cast and crew attempt to shoot an adult film under their hosts’ noses, the elderly couple catches them in the act. The tone quickly shifts to a brutal slaughter rife, full of naturalism and commentary on generational divides and our need for physical pleasures that only grow in adulthood.

Ti West’s story almost constantly plays on our digust, and shock to see what’s natural in such an unapologetic way. The director, known for his work on The House of the Devil, gives the genre a new twist and breaks all the taboos when in terms of lovemaking and physical pleasures. The film is sensual, enthralling, brutal, and mind-bending. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen; is for people willing to see things they have never seen before.

Jenna Ortega in X / courtesy of A24

When the main cast lacks the ability to carry the film, it’s unlikely to be a success. X’s extraordinary cast—Ortega, Goth, Snow, Campbell, Cudi, and Henderson, elevates the movie to a new level, delivering polarizing, steamy, perhaps contentious performances. Ortega and Goth stood out the most to me and shined the brightest in their strong-willed and even empowering roles. Ortega, in particular, demonstrates herself to be a fantastic scream queen for the contemporary time and audience. What began with Scream continues in X. Even though she isn’t the lead in this adult-movie-gone-brutal scenario, the actress is captivating and excels in the role.

In a way, feels like a throwback horror film and exudes big 70s vibes thanks to its killer soundtrack, editing, and cinematography. With the addition of the brutal kills and scenes that will stay with you for the rest of your life, becomes one of the most shocking films of the year, deserving of acclaim in the same way that Ti West deserves ovations for breaking so many taboos and forcing the average audience to open their minds.

Courtesy of A24

X is a vastly pleasing bloodbath in which the creators blend a groovy, liberating ambiance of the 1970s with an adult film topic, and slasher. The entire setting is deliciously composed, with every component meticulously detailed.

X could be a literal story about the production of a crazy adult movie that simply gone horribly wrong. It could also be a tale about our wants and the hypocrisy of people who judge others for their desires while harboring the same exact ones deep within themselves. Ti West makes sure that we’re thoroughly shocked, maybe even disgusted by what we see. The director highlights naturalism and thrives in it. There are no ghosts, but an ugly, dangerous truths about people and their unstoppable needs.

is not a film for the faint of heart. West’s story throws us right into the deep water, broadens our horizons, and provokes us. It’s an unforgettable film worth revisiting, with a soundtrack jam-packed with bangers and performances out of this world.

Grade: A

„Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a gruesome film for the acquired taste

Texas Chainsaw Massacre won’t be for everybody and that’s as obvious as the fact that the film’s killer wears someone else’s face in every film. But its amount of gore and elaborate death scenes may satisfy a horror/slasher/Leatherface fan.

February 22nd, 2022

The slashers’ beauty, among others, is the chaos and confusion the various franchises cause in the audience who often attempts to understand the chapters’ ultimate order and tirelessly find a deeper meaning. But the truth is—while the deeper meaning may be there, it’s not always the case nor should it be. This is why Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a great new entry into the franchise and becomes an interesting continuation filled with campiness and gore.

One may even call it a requel, as per Scream’s new horror expert, Mindy. Or I claim it to be. In David Blue Garcia’s newest film (now streaming on Netflix), Olwen Fouéré portrays Sally—a quite legendary figure and Leatherface’s only survivor from the original Tobe Hopper’s movie.

Marilyn Burns portrayed Sally in Hopper’s production. But, given Burns’ untimely death, would this be the ultimate exception, and the film is, in fact, a requel? I certainly believe so. The film is that and so much more. It strives to deliver as much gore as possible. Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues, the writers of the gruesome script, ensure that we remember the elaborate death scenes.

Courtesy of Netflix

The film follows a group of friends—Ruth (Nell Hudson), Dante (Jacob Latimore), Melody (Sarah Yarkin), and her sister, Lila (Elsie Fisher), as they travel to Harlow, Texas, to execute a new business idea. Their mission is to resurrect a Texas ghost town and invite others to join them and create a new community. It sounds like a dream, especially in the contemporary life where the daily routine is going a little bit too fast.

According to the familiar plot, they have no idea they are about to encounter Leatherface (Bob Burnham), the legendary serial killer who wears a mask made out of human skin. The man seeks vengeance on the young people who, whether they intended or not, contributed to his caretaker’s death (Alice Krige).

But after the surprising arrival of the Learherface’s survivor, who seeks her own vengeance, everything turns into a bloody, absurd, and gruesome spectacle that leads to an expected yet still satisfying finale.

The level of acting is rather shadowed by everything else in the film. The script is known, predictable yet it manages to make us squirm. Sarah Yarkin and Elise Fisher as estranged sisters make a great and entertaining duo, especially in *that* bus scene. Additionally, the creators attempt to include a social commentary on the school shootings in Lila’s character and how greatly they affect the students. The matter is serious and worth discussing but it seems misplaced amongst other elements of the film.

If you’re an average viewer, it may be quite difficult to rate slasher films as such, especially when the creators focus on the visual, gruesome aspects, not the story itself. They’re not putting pressure on the character development. Instead, they focus on the villain and his revenge.

Knowing this and remembering that slashers recently tend to mock its own genre and other films that we can categorize as requels, one must realize that Texas Chainsaw Massacre values gore more than the solid narrative. The director doesn’t limit the amount of blood splattering, presenting possibly the bloodiest rage of Leatherface. It’s a spectacle filled with broken bones and countless moments of Leatherface slicing into his victims’ flesh. After the young people get involved, the rage grows and spirals out of control. You may not be expecting this much violence, so brace yourself for a wild ride.

As previously stated, slasher films revel in the over-the-top story or elements that poke fun at other creations, such as the worn-out but somehow always engaging stereotype of the killer remembering, even seeking, his first victim—the one who got away. A similar notion can be found in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With a parallel narrative in the new installment, the creators appear to be making fun of recent Halloween sequels. Whatever it is, it’s effective and not at all disrespectful—it even further highlights the campiness of recent slashers.

However, we can only speculate as far as director’s intentions are their form of art and may not ever be known. Nonetheless, the film is a welcomed diversion from everyday life. Instead of chasing deadlines and worrying excessively, it’s sometimes nice to enjoy screaming at a bloody slasher.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre won’t be for everybody and that’s as obvious as the fact that the film’s killer wears someone else’s face in every film. But its amount of gore and elaborate death scenes may satisfy a horror/slasher/Leatherface fan.

Grade: C+

Retrospective Review: “AHS: 1984” offers an 80’s nostalgia, but lacks the “American Horror Story” vibe—And It’s Not A Bad Thing!

As a person born in the 90s, with an old soul who’s in love with Etta James or Siouxsie and The Banshees, the love for the 80s shouldn’t come as a surprise. And although 1984 lacked a specific atmosphere that the American Horror Story franchise provides, it’s not a bad thing. On the contrary—it offers something new. 

The glorious time of the 80s was not only great because of the legendary music, or eccentric clothing. It possesses its richness and interest thanks to many slasher films created at that time. Such films as Friday The 13th or I Know What You Did Last Summer inspired another season of the franchise. As a person born in the 90s, with an old soul who’s in love with Etta James or Siouxsie and The Banshees, the love for the 80s shouldn’t come as a surprise. And although Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s AHS:1984 lacked a specific atmosphere that the American Horror Story franchise usually provides, it’s not a bad thing. On the contrary—it offers something fresh. 

1984, California. Brooke Thompson (Emma Roberts), Montana Duke (Billie Lourd), Xavier Plympton (Cody Fern), Chet Clancy (Gus Kenworthy), and Ray Powell (DeRon Horton) meets at the dance aerobics class supervised by Montana. Shortly after, the group decides to sign up as counselors at the infamous Camp Redwood, where a gruesome massacre transpired fourteen years ago. 

As the group listens to Donna’s story (Angelica Ross) and chats by the fire, they have absolutely no idea that Mr. Jingles, aka Benjamin Richter (John Carroll Lynch), escapes an insane asylum and follows the path to his past, tightly connected with God-fearing camp owner, Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman). At the same time, another famous serial killer travels to Camp Redwood to kill the victim that escaped him back in Los Angeles. 

The plot takes its time and, as a result, possesses a few snoozes here and there. Some scenes seem to be quite monotonous, but they prove to be beneficial for the story in the end. The narrative is cheesy, campy, and cartoonish, but it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be—a reflection of the 80s in horror, the existence and evolution of slashers and brutal serial killers. 

The season is not without stumbles, but good elements win over the flaws. The script is imaginative and enjoyable as the blood splatters everywhere and body parts fly all over the place. Nonetheless, 1984 still seems to be less bloody than, for example, Hotel or less suspenseful than Asylum

Murphy and Falchuk blend their legendary cast with new faces, creating an unusual combination. Characters are well-crafted and maintain their momentum where it’s necessary. Although the lack of the scream queen of the television or, for others, Sarah Paulson this season certainly takes its toll on the season. The character development varies from one role to another. Chet and Ray’s characters are the setting for Margaret, Nurse Rita, or Brooke, who are at the forefront of the plot. 

Leslie Grossman as Margaret Booth / FX Networks.

What easily focuses the attention is a phenomenal, hyperbolic performance of Leslie Grossman as a religious freak, Margaret Booth. Her eccentric wardrobe filled with tailor-made suits, a hairstyle like Ivana Trump, and the exaggerated statements about God will remind you of your weird aunt who comes to visit you now and then and decides to control your life for the five-hour visit span. Alongside Grossman, Angelica Ross, likewise, deserves applause. Previously known from her role in Pose, Ross’ character is a career-driven woman with an ambitious yet intriguing fixation for serial killers and their anthropology. Ross’ nurse Rita, aka Donna Chambers, would be a great conversation starter on the topic of how far you can go in the name of science and your family.

A great surprise was the role of Roberts as a shy, young Brooke Thompson. The last name is no accident; it’s a little ode for Wes Craven’s The Nightmare on Elm Street and Heather Langenkamp’s character. The role was a nice change for Roberts to play someone other than the ignorant, entitled type she’s known from, for example, in Coven or Wild Child. We also need to thank the casting team, who selected Zach Villa as a young Richard Ramirez. Both him and John Carroll Lynch did a magnificent job in the season.

The excellent, greatly written 80s nostalgia manifests itself in many different elements—neon-styled lighting and the feeling of restlessness create a perfect setting for horror and 80s fans. However, it would be nothing without a fitting soundtrack. The music tones are mostly led by Billi Idol, his White Wedding, and even more cult songs.

The season provides much fun, especially for the fans that seek nostalgia in cinema and television. That is precisely the essence of AHS: 1984—the fantastic narrative that is a return to the slasher culture and the subgenre’s birth. Although it’s not the best entry to the franchise, it’s certainly a success among the fans.

AHS: 1984 is streaming on Netflix and Hulu. 

Sundance 2022: “892”, “Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power”, “Fresh”, “Emergency”

Due to the increase in cases, the 2022 Sundance Film Festival’s board decided to go entirely virtual, similar to last year. Despite the sudden changes and additional obstacles, the program was meticulously prepared, as evidenced by the graphic design, interviews, and pre-screening chats.

The following article recapitulates a few positions that I’ve had a chance to see in the last few days during Sundance 2022. The films differ from each other in terms of genres, style, and the after-thought that they provoke.

Due to the increase in cases, the 2022 Sundance Film Festival’s board decided to go entirely virtual, similar to last year. Despite the sudden changes and additional obstacles, the program was meticulously prepared, as evidenced by the graphic design, interviews, and pre-screening chats.

The following article recapitulates a few positions that I’ve had a chance to see in the last few days during Sundance 2022. The films differ from each other in terms of genres, style, and the after-thought that they provoke.

Emergency

EMERGENCY / Sundance 2022

The first film I saw at Sundance 2022 was Emergency. Directed by Carey Williams, the film initially appears to be a witty comedy. On the other hand, the third act transforms into a powerful statement, prompting self-reflection and stimulating debate.

The night can flow in various ways, and the group of friends is about to find out. As they prepare for a legendary party night, three college students—Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins), Sean (RJ Cyler), and Carlos (Sebastian Chacon)—must decide whether to call the police when they find themselves in an unexpected and dangerous situation.

Cyler, Chacon, and Watkins give competent and thoughtful performances that linger with a viewer for quite some time. Watkins as Kunle, in particular, manages to intrigue and move the audience during the heartbreaking finale. The film begins almost innocently, but its presence is intended to make a statement about police brutality and highlight how frequently the Black community is forced into difficult situations.

Emergency holds the audience’s attention with a solid narrative and detailed direction. In addition, the superb cast ensemble captivates at all times.

Fresh

FRESH / Sundance 2022

Mimi Cave’s spine-chilling thriller, with an elevated script by Lauryn Kahn, not only shocks but disgusts. Fresh is perhaps the biggest surprise of this year’s film festival, and it’s one we won’t soon forget thanks to its complex script and shocking conclusion.

When Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is about to give up on numerous dating apps and the mission of finding “the one,” she meets Steve (Sebastian Stan), a charming and educated man. Contrary to popular belief, the couple meets at the bar in an old-fashioned, even archaic manner.

But Noa quickly realizes that even the old way won’t work if you’re only out for meat and blood—literally. In a shocking twist, the main female character becomes a prisoner of true evil and fights for survival at any cost.

Fresh isn’t an easy watch; it will often shock you to your core and put your instincts to the test almost every step of the way. There are numerous possible conversations to have after the closing credits roll on the screen. First and foremost, the film reminds us of the perils that await single women in this brave, new world. Furthermore, it provides a contemporary commentary on society, materialism, and the splendor surrounding the riches—highly recommended.

892

892 / Sundance 2022

Nothing can prepare you for what Abi Damaris Corbin accomplished in 892. The thriller, co-written with Kwame Kwei-Armah and premiering at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, is filled with shocking twists and turns, and unbelievable tension.

Brian Brown-Easley (John Boyega), a Marine veteran, faces mental and emotional difficulties as he attempts to reintegrate into civilian life. Unfortunately, Brian’s situation worsens when Verenan’s Affairs withholds the last of his paychecks.

Utterly helpless, the man decides to rob the bank. After Brian takes the measure into his own hands and takes bank tellers Estel (Nicole Beharie) and Rosa (Selenis Leyva) into a hostage situation, we can thoroughly feel Brian’s high range of strong, ambivalent emotions that fill the screen.

892 doesn’t slow down for a single second. It commences swiftly, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats for almost the entire film. Boyega, Beharie, and Leyva are all enthralling and often heartbreaking characters. I was floored by 892, which, with the appearance of late Michael Kenneth Williams, left me nearly screaming with helplessness towards this country’s broken system.

Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power

BRAINWASHED: SEX-CAMERA-POWER / Sundance 2022

While diversity and female representation continues to grow and evolve as we educate ourselves, many harmful elements in our daily lives remain ever-present and, worse, go unnoticed. Thankfully, Nina Menkes takes matters into her own hands in Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power, focusing on a critical subject: the portrayal of female eroticism in film through the male gaze.

Menkes raises awareness and zeroes in on a serious yet critically overlooked issue in the film industry by presenting collected data and conducting interviews with specialists. Furthermore, the director provides many brilliant and comprehensive examples from films spanning many decades to help better visualize the problem and be aware of it as we move forward.

Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power appears to be an ordinary documentary, yet it feels different as it focuses on the issue of female eroticism presented via the male gaze and presents the negative results of it that we must address quickly. Menke’s film does a good job of bringing the issue to light, and its structure is substantive, clear, and, more important; necessary.

2022 Sundance Film Festival is taking place from January 20 to January 30 virtually on www.https://www.sundance.org/.