BONES AND ALL horror adjacent movie review

Intriguing concept, poorly written. The highly anticipated film from director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) leaves a mediocre taste on the palate. Moreover, Bones and All represents another example of the result of concentrating more on atmosphere and technical elements than on strategic storytelling and proper plotting. “A day in the life of…” or simply “dealing with life” is not a goal; therefore, a plot it does not make. Vapid dialogue and lack of diegetic purpose plague this rather gothic romance. However, the gore is handled tastefully. The most pleasant surprise in the film is the cameo by veteran horror actress Jessica Harper of Suspiria fame! She may only be on screen for a few minutes, but her performance will captivate audiences! Unfortunately, the rest of the film is largely forgettable. In contrast to many other films this year that greatly exceed the two hour runtime, this one clocks in at a sluggishly paced two hours and ten minutes.

Love blossoms between Maren (Taylor Russell), a young woman on the margins of society, and Lee (Timotée Chalamet), a disenfranchised drifter as they embark on a 3,000-mile odyssey through the backroads of America. However, despite their best efforts, all roads lead back to their terrifying pasts and a final stand that will determine whether their love can survive their differences.

While the concept is interesting (although Warm Bodies did it better), the execution is sloppy. And I am not talking about the dining habits of our central characters. I’m talking about the disregard for screenwriting conventions. There are many refreshing ideas in the film, but the ideas are not fleshed out sufficiently. I applaud the film for delivering an original expression of an extension of the zombie genre, but I wish the story had been better paced and structured–oh yeah–an external goal for the central characters would’ve been nice too.

Although the film boasts solid casting choices (especially the Harper cameo), the visual aesthetic the central characters bring to the screen is not supported by compelling talent or character arcs. There simply wasn’t much to these characters; they are borderline one-dimensional. Lots of potential for depth, but the characters are largely the same at the end as they are at the beginning.

For all the potential for the film to serve as a social commentary on feeling alone in the world, the film never thematically lands on any particular ideology or observation of society. Extrapolating from the thematic evidence the audience is given, the film is most likely attempting to craft a story depicting when someone feels alone in the world, but surprised to find out that they are not. When relationships with your fellow man (be it platonic or romantic) are actually possible.

Despite the film taking place in the late 1980s (an era that is growing blasé as a setting for film and TV), it shares a lot in common with gothic romances because of the subject matter. Seems like every other movie releasing takes place in the 1980s, which is beginning to become tiresome and unimaginative. But, I suppose we have Stranger Things to thank for that. On the topic of visual aesthetics and production design, the film’s various midwest settings feel like a character in and of themselves. I appreciate design most when you can see the hand of the artist.

Perhaps Bones and All works better as a novel because it is overwhelmingly internally driven. Not having read the novel, I can merely infer what may have been lost in the novel to screen adaptation. Most likely what is lost is that which cannot be shown on screen, so I cannot fault the screenwriters for that. Where I do find fault is neglecting a proper outside/action story driven by a plot that points and builds to a climactic showdown and resolution. We have plenty of internal need (aka inside/emotional story), but simply dealing with life or finding love is not sufficient for purposes of compelling cinematic storytelling.

Ryan teaches Film Studies and Screenwriting at the University of Tampa and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter. If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

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“The Meg” movie review

They finally got a bigger boat. But, it’s still no match for the Megalodon! Maybe The Meg lacks the cinematic genius of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and maybe it isn’t as thrilling as The Shallows and perhaps it doesn’t have the parody and satire of Sharknado, but good thing for you, it doesn’t pretend to be any of those. It proudly hits theatres everywhere this weekend as a thrilling larger than life creature feature horror film about a gigantic shark that wreaks havoc in the waters of southeast Asia until Jason Statham dives in to save the day. Another title for this shark movie of epic proportions could be Dive Hard (haha). With clear homages to JawsDeep Blue Sea, and Jurassic Park, this film plays out as an unconventional love letter of sorts to the aforementioned movies, and the man vs nature horror genre as a whole. Even though recent news suggests that Statham is unhappy with the theatrical we are getting (because it lacks much of the violence that was shot in order to keep a PG-13 rating), you are in for a fun time witnessing the aquatic carnage and high seas action. Movies like this one are designed for one purpose, to entertain you at the megaplex for a couple of hours during oppressively hot summer days of August. At the end of the day, The Meg is an exponentially more expensive SyFy Channel original movie with a fantastic lead actor who plays Jason Statham better than anyone else. But you know what, it’s a lot of fun to watch! Dive right on into the action this weekend.

After a deep sea submarine exploring the Mariana Trench is attacked and stranded by an unknown force, the chief researcher at a state-of-the-art underwater facility, bankrolled by an eccentric billionaire, contacts deep sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Statham). With time running out for the submarine crew, Jonas must overcome psychological obstacles from his past in order to lead the mission to rescue the team. Unbeknownst to the research team, they’ve encountered an unimaginable threat that makes its way from the deepest depths of the ocean to crowded beaches. The team must work together to stop the monstrous killing machine knows as the megalodon.

Filled with cliches and homages, director Jon Turteltaub clearly did not set out to direct a Jaws for 2018 nor did he set out to make a comedy like Sharknado, but he did create a fantastically fun shark horror movie that takes itself just seriously enough but still remains playful–as much as you can with a man-eating giant pre-historic shark. The scene with the helicopter flying through the islands to the research facility is taken right out of Jurassic Park. And it arrives at an underwater research facility that is taken directly from Deep Blue Sea, and then several shots and musical scores pay homage to Jaws throughout the remainder of the film. For all the tropes and cliches in the film, they are each executed strategically with wit and style. Statham is great as the hero, and I can think of few other actors who could have done such an excellent job with this film. Bruce Willis is honestly the only other name that comes to mind to have done the character justice. Comparing this creature feature horror film to the other big one this summer Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, I can honestly that I enjoyed The Meg more. And that is hard to admit since I am a card-carrying member of the Jurassic Park fan club.

If you enjoy fun horror films, do yourself a favor and swim to your local cinema to come face-to-face with Megalodon. You may notice that this review is a lot shorter than my typical ones, and that is because some movies are just meant to be enjoyed for what they are instead of analyzing the storytelling and experience.

Checkout my retrospective on JAWS!

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