My website it currently undergoing a pretty major design overhaul. Please bear with me as progress continues. All of the links should still work, but you may find yourself on a page that still has the old design.
Coming soon to Joel on Film: Joel on Oscars! I'm making changes, some cosmetic and others a bit more necessary, to the front page of this website and various others throughout (Pardon my dust as I clean up around here), and that includes tackling the awards season. Yes, this will be a permanent fixture at the site now, updated every two weeks from October to broadcast. Just keep an eye on the top of the page for that soon!
The Hurricane Heist
Now here is a premise ripe with potential: A hurricane, reportedly the largest storm on record, is barreling toward a small town that happens to include a facility belonging to the United States Department of the Treasury, and a group of mercenaries plans to use the cover of the storm to steal the 600 million dollars held by that facility, before making their quick getaway while the hurricane's eye gives them a forty-mile head start. One can practically lick the potential in The Hurricane Heist, especially since director Rob Cohen and screenwriters Scott Windhauser and Jeff Dixon are presented with the opportunity to capitalize on what Howard Hawks once said about what makes a good movie.
The Strangers: Prey at Night
Following up your unfairly maligned horror film ten years after the fact might seem like a strange idea, but The Strangers: Prey at Night dispels its audience's confusion almost immediately by diverging from its 2008 predecessor's own approach to the home-invasion thriller. To be sure, some things remain: The sound design is still minimalistic but immersive, here refusing to allow the audience to be guided to the scares by a sting on the soundtrack or by the kind of cheap misdirection to be found in lesser efforts. The songs of the soundtrack are still key background to its most intense sequences, its psychotic killers enjoying some classic rock and 1980s pop songs while carrying out their heinous acts.
A Wrinkle in Time
Like its source material, A Wrinkle in Time gets better as it gets weirder and more surreal. Adapting Madeline L'Engle's 1962 novel of the same name (the first of five installments), screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell stumble in their approach to the build-up to those surreal developments, condensing much of the novel into concepts that need to be explained more than they should be. If that phrase flies in the face of logic, do understand that much of this story, too, flies (sometimes literally) in the face of conventional storytelling. This is a movie that ultimately does not trust its audience to go with the flow.
(In preparation for the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, to be released near the tenth anniversary of the franchise, I will be performing a reevaluation of Phases One and Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This will not extend to the first six films of Phase Three, as that is still in progress. Each week from March 9th until the week of April 20th, I will cover each active year of those two Phases. Click Continue reading... for my updated thoughts on 2008's Iron Man now, and stay tuned for more reissued MCU reviews in the weeks to come!)
The Incredible Hulk
(In preparation for the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, to be released near the tenth anniversary of the franchise, I will be performing a reevaluation of Phases One and Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This will not extend to the first six films of Phase Three, as that is still in progress. Each week from March 9th until the week of April 20th, I will cover each active year of those two Phases. Click Continue reading... for my updated thoughts on 2008's The Incredible Hulk now, and stay tuned for more reissued MCU reviews in the weeks to come!)
It is best to consider the closed world of director Francis Lawrence's Red Sparrow as it is: cruel, heartless, and often brutal. When our protagonist is raped by a target of Russian intelligence agents, only to be sprayed by the blood from his neck when he is rather gruesomely strangled with metal wire, she receives no sympathy from those intelligence agents. Instead, she is given two choices: be killed as a witness to the murder (which, officially, didn't happen, of course) or be installed in what she later terms a "whore school," an education in the art and heartlessness of seduction. As Justin Haythe's screenplay moves inexorably toward its conclusion, a curious thing happens to this protagonist.
Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope
Even today, "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope" is relentless in its pacing and highly effective in its relaying of the hero's journey, told through the prism of an oddball space western never expected to succeed by writer/director George Lucas. It's amusing now, seeing the film as a fairly straightforward study of good vs. evil, to consider that it was mocked by those contemporary filmmakers who thought Lucas foolish to take on such fringe genre material. This is a story of light and dark, of a force that binds the galaxy together, and of three ragtag antiheroes forced into a conflict that seems to have spanned decades.
There is the young man whose past dictates his future and his fate and who dreams of better things off in the space outside his planet that includes two suns to the west. There is the young woman, a member of her planet's royal family but far more headstrong and willful than that implies, who simply wants peace for her people. There is the scoundrel, whose gruffness is as lovable as his ruthlessness is disarming (He kills another smuggler out of both self-defense and self-preservation). There is the main heavy, a villain of real menace whose connection to the hero is the fuel for a classic revenge story and who has the physical presence necessary for the job of villain.