Upgrade (2018)


Set in the near-future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. But when Grey, a self-identified technophobe, has his world turned upside down, his only hope for revenge is an experimental computer chip implant called Stem. (IMDb)
A pretty standard revenge plot (cool twist/ending aside) is elevated by some interesting sci-fi schlock, along with some creative choreography/cinematography (see that spinning camera during fight scenes; the “first person shooter” angle), strong supporting performances (see Hardie as the chilling Fisk; Gilbertson as the troubled Eron) and dashes of surprising humour from Marshall-Green’s refreshingly dynamic take on the man-on-a-revenge-mission trope (“you didn’t know that I was a ninja!”).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

The Predator (2018)


When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race. (IMDb)
The opening music and spaceship crash give a classic action/sci-fi vibe but it’s inconsistent at best in the first act. The second act with its ragtag crew shows both comedic (see the motel bed arranging) and dramatic (see the ex-soldiers’ haunting pasts) potential but then the comedy gets distasteful and the drama’s dismissed. Then the third act’s just a glut of suspense-less action (Casey’s chair move was cool though) and a poor plot. An unlikable lead and confusing villain never help matters.
5.5/10 (Poor)

Winchester (2018)


Ensconced in her sprawling California mansion, eccentric firearm heiress Sarah Winchester believes she is haunted by the souls of people killed by the Winchester repeating rifle. (IMDb)
Had potential–loved that red font of the opening title, the set-up was intriguing, and the setting perfectly spooky and surreal–but the execution really underwhelms: the interest surrounding the titular character dissolves almost right after we meet her, and what follows is merely a half-baked ghost story with mediocre jump scares and a commentary on grief and gun violence that’s never fully realized (not helped by average turns and poor dialogue–there’s a lot of people talking to themselves).
5.5/10 (Poor)


Hereditary (2018)


After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets. (IMDb)
A truly torturous twisting of unbearable family drama and bone-chilling horror, with the strength of the former (great performances all around) providing a deep sense of dread to be accented by the terrifying visuals of the latter. Starts to unravel a bit in the final act, but it’s no less riveting thanks to the continued strong cinematography and sound(track). Superbly directed (I don’t think I’ve ever been more on edge or left more horrified then I was with that pivotal accident scene).
8.5/10 (Amazing)


You Were Never Really Here (2017)


A traumatized veteran, unafraid of violence, tracks down missing girls for a living. When a job spins out of control, Joe’s nightmares overtake him as a conspiracy is uncovered leading to what may be his death trip or his awakening. (IMDb)
It’s a seen-before premise but you don’t really notice because of the unique and masterful craftsmanship (the plot is thin but in an engaging, albeit slightly hard-to-follow way: the visual, in-between-the-lines storytelling is refreshing; the camerawork and editing are consistently creative-loved that taxi title) and strongly written and acted protagonist (the parallel drawn between him and Nina, both just trying to wait out the pain of their existence, is a moving one–see the lake scene).
8/10 (Great)


Thoroughbreds (2017)


Two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. Together, they hatch a plan to solve both of their problems-no matter what the cost. (IMDb)
It’s a little slow but the patient pace eventually fits really nicely into the overall unnerving, dryly/darkly witty atmosphere (see the amazing slow-zoom one-take shot with Amanda sleeping on the couch). The leads are excellent, and their respective arcs revealed at the end were a nice surprise for a more mood-oriented film, even if they didn’t feel quite justified. Wonderful cinematography and careful use of music and sound throughout add more artistic flair to this white-collar weirdness.
7.5/10 (Really Good)


Tag (2018)


A small group of former classmates organize an elaborate, annual game of tag that requires some to travel all over the country. (IMDb)
The goofy premise is a lot of fun, providing its share of incredulous comedy and wacky slapstick (Renner’s inner-voiceovers a la RDJ’s Sherlock Holmes were hilarious; see especially the AA attack), and the characters are all funny (stoner Chilli was a personal fav) and have great chemistry. More than that though, they both work together to spark interesting discussion on adult friendship, ethics in competition, and the value of play, leading to a moving final scene (the soundtrack was perfect).
7.5/10 (Really Good)