Is 'Hereditary' Director's Sophomore Horror Film 'Midsommar' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
MILLENNIALS' 'WICKER MAN'

· Updated:

Ari Aster's first film "Hereditary" was one of the best breakout horror films last year. Does "Midsommar," Aster's film about a group of Americans who visit a Swedish summer festival and realize far too late that there's something sinister lying beneath the village's sunny veneer, measure up? Here's what the reviews have to say.

Like 'Hereditary,' 'Midsommar' Examines Grief Through The Prism Of Horror

Kicking-off with a horrifying tragedy set against a dark, snowy backdrop, Midsommar promptly sends a group of Americans to the sun-drenched world of a secluded Swedish village. The group consists of Dani (Florence Pugh) and her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), along with William Jackson Harper as the studious Mark, and Will Poulter as the laugh-out-loud funny Josh. 

[/Film]

The Americans see the outing as an exciting vacation, but soon they're sucked into a ceremony they can't escape

[Screen Daily]

The World Crafted By Aster And Cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski Is Eerie And Hypnotic

Aster and cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski do marvelously well to suggest a creeping unease behind this verdant, sun-dappled utopia in these early scenes, where the oddities strewn throughout the village – the ancient runes, the unexplained grizzly bear in a wooden cage, the banners and frescoes depicting some very outré rituals — feel all the more ominous for being hidden in plain sight.

[Variety]

It's a complete contrast to the impenetrable shadows of Aster's Hereditary, and makes for an overall surreal experience. Audiences are so used to horror being drenched in darkness that they're likely to be caught completely off-guard by Midsommar's bright and sunny horror.

[/Film]

But The Movie Suffers Occasionally From A Predictable Plot

On the one hand, Aster has created such an evocative premise, calling to mind previous horror movies about cults and pagan ceremonies, that it floods the viewer with queasy possibilities of what may follow. But on the other, Midsommar raises expectations that it sometimes fails to satisfy. Dreadful things are in store but, with some notable (and marvellously chilling) exceptions, they frequently play out in typically alarming ways.

​[Screen Daily]

Aster isn't terribly interested in reinventing the wheel when it comes to the structure of his Wicker Man riff, so although astute audiences may not know exactly how it's going to happen, we all have a general idea that this whole thing is leading somewhere violent and disturbing, and the interminable tension eventually gives way to mere impatience.

[Bloody Disgusting]

Florence Pugh's Performance Is What Anchors The Movie

There's not a weak link in the bunch, and Pugh turns in a fairly devastating performance. 

[Birth.Movies.Death.]

Pugh is extraordinary as she delineates Dani's warring impulses, between the animal ache and the pragmatic person who still remains. Her performance is a fine companion piece to Toni Collette's in Hereditary: breakneck and yet measured, a comedy of human foible and messy impulse. 

[Vanity Fair]

While The Male Characters In The Movie Are Less Well-Realized

Aster's characters have been relegated to broad caricatures we've seen before: self-involved young Americans fated to stumble into a situation beyond their control, and a world keen on exploiting that weakness. Only Dani hovers above these familiar beats, largely due to Pugh[.] 

[IndieWire]

There Is Plenty Of Gore As Well As WTF Moments For Horror Fans

Aster unleashes a hodgepodge of haunting pageantries and ritualistic prayer, outrageous fertility rituals, and plenty of psychedelic dance numbers. The WTF quotient is high, but not without cause.

[IndieWire]

What follows is a series of grave encounters, clashing identities, and bloody body horror that rivals the depths of depravity Aster demonstrated in Hereditary. If that movie's shocking head scene made you squirmy, Midsommar is here to annihilate your dreams with even more despicable imagery. 

[Nerdist]

And For A Horror Movie, It's Surprisingly Funny

[Midsommar] is unquestionably a scary movie. And yet, it's also surprisingly hilarious. For 2 hours and 20 minutes, Aster takes audiences on a journey through a shockingly crowd-pleasing story that blends both laugh-out-loud humor and mind-blowing weirdness. 

[/FIlm]

Perhaps what's most surprising about Midsommar is also how damn funny it can be. Poulter's Matt as the boorish American is specifically there to laugh atand not with. Harper's Josh is the pseudo-intellectual who wants to impress everyone but fails. And Reynor's Christian is impotent without a woman in his life, a pathetic man baby who needs help in what may be one of the most awkward yet arresting sex scenes. 

[Dread Central]

Despite Its Imperfections, 'Midsommar' Is Still A Worthy Sojourn And An Audacious Undertaking

Never as impactful, as emotional, or as frightening as the director's debut – nor nearly as much of a mindf–k as any of its most obvious precursors ("Kill List," "The Wicker Man," "Mother!") — "Midsommar" nonetheless seems engineered to draw fiercely polarized reactions. In truth, it's neither the masterpiece nor the disaster that the film's most vocal viewers are bound to claim. Rather, it's an admirably strange, thematically muddled curiosity from a talented filmmaker who allows his ambitions to outpace his execution.

[Variety]

This film will alienate a lot of people (much like Hereditary, its audience exit polling is likely going to be abysmal), but there's a wonderfully audacious confidence to the way Midsommar is built. Its mannered style and sureness of theme, if not always execution, rattles you like a shake to the shoulders.

[Vanity Fair]

Photographed with extreme care, the film sometimes wears its ambitions on its sleeve. Dani has a nightmare full of what might be called Kubrickian visions while huddled beneath a blanket whose hexagonal decorations look like a cool-hued homage to the carpet in The Shining. But Midsommar remains too entertained by its exotic rituals to reach the abyss-staring quality of that tale. More unsettling than frightening, it's still a trip worth taking.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

TL; DR

Midsommar is an intermittently impressive and frustrating film, but worth watching for every single one of its flaws. You can't come this close to greatness without trying harder than, frankly, most filmmakers would bother, and the ambition translates into a strange, gorgeous, complicated experience.

[Bloody Disgusting]

 


Pre-order your tickets here.


Is The Seth Rogen Comedy 'An American Pickle' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
IN A REAL PICKLE HERE

Digg · Updated:

The movie, which streams on HBO Max on August 6, has an enticing premise: a man gets preserved in a jar in the early 20th century and wakes up 100 years later in contemporary Brooklyn. But does the movie itself live up to its zany plot? Here's what the reviews say.


Seth Rogen Plays Two Men, Herschel Greenbaum, A Man Who Wakes Up After 100 Years In A Pickle Vat, And Greenbaum's Great-Grandson, Ben

An Eastern European labourer named Herschel (Seth Rogen) arrives in America, only to be pickled for 100 years in a factory accident. He awakes in 2020, and moves in with his only surviving relative: great-grandson Ben (also Rogen). Things are going swimmingly — until Herschel wrecks Ben's business, leading to a vengeful game of oneupmanship.

[Empire]

While Hershel is low-key confounded by these modern times (what with interracial dating, women's rights, and the high cost of produce), he is most perplexed by his descendant's priorities. Ben doesn't observe Jewish religious traditions and hasn't visited the family graves in years. He has no wife, no children, and no career that Herschel can comprehend. So tensions rise. In no time at all, the pair declare each other enemies. Herschel strikes out on his own with a pickle cart with wares pulled freegan-style from dumpster diving. Meanwhile, Ben stews over how to ruin his eccentric great-grandfather.

[IGN]


The Movie Probes Into Issues Of Jewish Immigration Identity — Though Perhaps Not Deeply Enough

In its best moments, An American Pickle knows how to thread the needle between fish-out-of-water comedy and retaining a thoughtful look at Jewish ancestry in America, but those moments are few and far between […] Every time the movie has a chance to go deeper, whether it's with immigration or legacy or American comfort or Judaism, An American Pickle skims the surface and moves on.

[Collider]

Made in the midst of a resurgence in blatant anti-Semitism across the US, it's a strange choice for "An American Pickle" to reveal that Herschel's greatest backlash comes from...violent Christians? The movie sidesteps the most alarming aspect of Jewish persecution — its resurgence in public over the last four years — and never even gives Herschel a chance to learn about the Holocaust.

[IndieWire]


As A Comedy, It Sometimes Falls Flat In Delivering Laughs

There are some scattered laughs but it's not particularly funny, and "American Pickle" […] is generally all over the place, aiming to be an abstract comedy about family and religion but losing its way trying to also poke fun at modern culture.

[USA Today]

 [T]he film fails to build its laughs into substantial comic momentum, or even construct many substantial scenes. (Tellingly, one of its funniest is a mid-credits bonus.) As it progresses, the material feels more and more like a series of slightly amusing paragraphs, with sentimentality wedged uncomfortably between flights of satirical whimsy.

[The AV Club]

There are laughs along the way with Herschel and Ben's mirror-image intergenerational, culture-clash roommate bromance. But, inevitably, as with so much high-concept comedy, the real laughs, the ones built on detachment, self-aware flippancy and cynicism, come at the beginning, with the establishment of the premise.

[The Guardian]


The Story's Emotional Beats, However, Manage To Shine Through

 Despite the acrimoniousness of their split, you root for their inevitable reconciliation, which closes the movie on a warm note […] "An American Pickle" is neither the most substantial nor the most sophisticated comedy, but its soulful sweetness outweighs its flaws.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

It may not always succeed as a comedy but as a drama, this is the real dill. Part time-travelling family drama, part idiosyncratic immigrant-adventure comedy, "An American Pickle"'s gags underwhelm, but its emotion and originality will surprise you.

[Empire]

[T]he thread of leaning on family to process grief is touching, and Rogen manages to make Herschel and Ben's longing to connect feel real. The movie is frequently funny, sometimes sweet, and never particularly deep, but it does have a uniquely odd relationship to time that gives it a peculiar extra layer. Call it the proprietary brine.

[Wired]


And Rogen's Charisma Helps To Keep The Audience Entertained, Even When The Rest Of The Movie Falters

[I]t's enjoyable enough to watch the actor single-handedly rescue the high concept surrounding him.

[IndieWire]

Rogen is an always likable actor whose reputation was built largely on playing crude, sophomoric stoners. But there's an inherent sweetness in his screen persona that's been there since the very beginning on "Freaks and Geeks," notably in the affecting story arc in which his befuddled character, Ken Miller, struggled with the revelation of his tuba-playing girlfriend Amy's intersex birth origins. It's a variation on Ken — the tender, passionate bear of a guy occasionally stymied by his blind spots — that steers "An American Pickle" through its narrative rough patches.

[The Hollywood Reporter]


TL; DR

Nothing in "American Pickle" can match the silly storybook fantasy of its opening moments, but they do a good job of getting us hooked. 

[IndieWire]


Watch The Trailer Here


Is The Google Pixel 4A Worth It? Here's What The Reviews Say
NOT PHONING IT IN

Digg · Updated:

The Pixel 4A, which will be released on August 20, is incredibly affordable at $349, but can it compete with other smartphones? Here's what the reviews say.


The Best Feature Of The Phone Is The Camera

[W]hen it comes to photos, the Pixel 4A goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 — and often wins.

[The Verge]

There is no distinguishable difference between the $350 Pixel 4a's and the Pixel 4's camera, a phone that starts at $800. That's incredible, and if you like your photos to look good, it's a major reason why the Pixel 4a should be at the very, very top of your list. 

[Business Insider]


Design-Wise, It's Not The Flashiest Phone

The Pixel has always been a phone that felt a lot nicer than it looked — it's not the most stylish. The Pixel 4a's design is even more basic than ever, though. It comes in Just Black and... that's it. There are no other sizes available, either. Keeping to one size and color was part of Google's strategy to reduce production costs. 

[Engadget]

The word I use most often to describe Pixel hardware is "unassuming." It's basic: no frills, no fanciness, just an easy-to-hold phone without any embellishments. It's a little boring, but at least it isn't tacky.

[The Verge]


But Helpful Software Features Like Live Captioning Might Be Drawing Points For Users

Google's software tends to make up for its basic hardware, and as usual, the company has some helpful tools that make the Pixel experience better than any other Android phone. Most of these have already been announced, like its personal safety and car crash detection feature, Google Docs integration for the Recorder app, as well as adaptive battery management. With the Pixel 4a, though, Google is bringing its Live Caption feature to calls.

[Engadget]

I like Google's bonus software features that it includes on Pixel phones. The voice recorder app is able to transcribe text, for example, and accurately transcribed about 90% of my interview with Google during a Pixel 4a briefing. It just saves me a ton of time that I'd otherwise spend trying to jot everything down. Other unique software features include crash detection, which can automatically call 911 if you get in a car accident.

[CNBC]


The Performance Of The Phone Is Generally Fine, Though It Can Be Slow Sometimes

The Pixel 4a has a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It's fine and fast enough to keep the phone running smoothly. There are a few hiccups at times, though. I noticed it would stutter while scrolling through long lists, like in Twitter, but that problem generally resolved itself after a few days. Google was aware of this, too, and it may just be that it takes some time for things to store inside the phone's memory.

[CNBC]

Anecdotally, the phone works quickly with most tasks. Unlocking the screen with my fingerprint, launching Assistant and opening apps went off without a hitch. But the Pixel 4A isn't the smoothest phone I handled. After I downloaded Call of Duty and PUBG, I had to restart the phone because both apps stalled while loading.

[CNET]


Some Of The Phone's Drawbacks Are Its Lack Of Wireless Charging And Waterproofness

Google left out one big feature that does matter: water resistance. That would save a phone that was accidentally dunked in a toilet or left out in a storm. So it was disappointing not to have it because durability was another feature that people wanted most in their smartphones.

[The New York Times]

This phone doesn't have some of the premium flourishes, like wireless charging, water resistance, a triple-lens camera, or 5G connectivity. But, it gets the core features so right that those extra flourishes seem irrelevant. 

[Business Insider]


Most Importantly Though, The Phone Is A Great Bargain With Its Cheap Price

The Pixel 4A is about $50 cheaper than its closest competitors and has 128GB of storage, instead of 64GB like years past, so it really is a solid value. And these days, any amount of money that can be saved is crucial.

[CNET]

The Pixel 4A is cheaper than high-end devices largely because it lacks the frills in fancy phones, like wireless charging and a face scanner. But for what you pay, it's a great value. Its camera quality and bright screen are on a par with many of the best smartphones out there.

[The New York Times]


TL; DR

The Pixel 4A is cheap and basic, but most cheap phones don't get the basics right. The Pixel 4A does. And just to remind you: it does so for $349.

[The Verge]


You can pre-order the Pixel 4A at Google Store and BestBuy. And if you're interested in buying a Pixel 4, you can buy one here.


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