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[Tribeca ’24] ‘#AMFAD: All My Friends Are Dead’: Modern take on slashers is the best in years

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[Tribeca ’24] ‘#AMFAD: All My Friends Are Dead’: Modern take on slashers is the best in years

#AMFAD: All My Friends Are Dead is a modern take on the slasher sub-genre making its World Premiere at Tribeca. A group of friends are headed to the biggest music festival of the year. They rent an Airbnb and prepare for a wild time involving sex and drugs, along with the mandatory posting and live streaming. They soon find themselves the target of a vicious killer who begins to gruesomely take them out one by one.

Slashers have the luxury of being able to follow a formula and still be very fun. #AMFAD certainly has the pattern down. The group includes a stoner, a horned up lothario, and a conceited “hot chick”. But writers John Baldecchi, Jessica Sarah Flaum, and Josh Sims put everything through a modern filter. Guy (Jack Doupe-Smith) may like to indulge in recreational assistance, but none of the others are adverse to drugs, either. A police officer even helpfully points out, some of the things Jack does are legal. For their part, L.B. (Julian Haig, Riverdale) livestreams his sexcapades and Mona (Jennifer Ens, Chapelwaite) is an influencer. The movie appeals to longtime genre fans without alienating newcomers.

It is not just the characters that have been updated for the 21st century. The energy and tone are fast paced and fun. Director Marucs Dunstan  may present a familiar story, but it is done in a lively way that keeps surprising the audience. Colors are creatively used and quick cuts amp up the scares. The long cold open is an interesting decision, that ends up being more strange than anything else. Still, it adds to the overall chaotic nature of #AMFAD.

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Kills are always one of the most scrutinized part of any slasher and they are well done here. A mix of disgusting, shocking, and funny, #AMFAD does an excellent job of never taking itself too seriously without taking away from the horror of what is happening. Gore hounds will definitely be impressed with what they see. 

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#AMFAD is an excellent modern take on the Final Girl. The days of the puerile and too good to be true Final Girl ended long ago, but the trope has been slightly altered more than it has actually evolved. They may be more willing to have sex or partake in a drink, but the idea of the Final Girl has changed very little over the decades. 

Sarah (Jade Pettyjohn, Little Fires Everywhere) is the biggest leap the character has seen since Sidney Prescott was first harassed by Ghostface. She is not afraid to party with her more reckless friends, yet she is still the voice of reason. That being said, her motivations seem murky at times – she seems willing to spend time with L.B. In another scene, she has not issues using someone for a ride. In other words, she has the type of complexity that Final Girls are never allowed to have. The climatic scenes involving the Final Girl will likely catch anyone watching off-guard.

#AMFAD: All My Friends Are Dead is a fantastic addition to the slasher sub-genre. It is the right combination of funny, exciting, and disgusting that only the best slashers are able to pull off. Nothing ever feels out of place in a plot that is able to touch on heavy topics and still lean into its sillier aspects. It is easily one of the best slashers to come around in years.  

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Tribeca Festival takes from June 5 – June 16. The full lineup can be found HERE.

#AMFAD: All My Friends Are Dead will be released In Select Theaters and On Digital and On Demand on August 2, 2024. 

[Tribeca '24] '#AMFAD: All My Friends Are Dead': Modern take on slashers is the best in years

[Tribeca ’24] ‘#AMFAD: All My Friends Are Dead’: Modern take on slashers is the best in years

#AMFAD: All My Friends Are Dead

#AMFAD: All My Friends Are Dead is a fantastic addition to the slasher sub-genre. It is the right combination of funny, exciting, and disgusting that only the best slashers are able to pull off.

Great chemistry between cast enhances the already fun characters.

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Outrageous kills

Best Final Girl in years

Ending gets a little too twist heavy

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Film Review: 'Thelma' is the Sweetest Mix of Action, Comedy, and Senior Citizens You'll Ever See – Awards Radar

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Film Review: 'Thelma' is the Sweetest Mix of Action, Comedy, and Senior Citizens You'll Ever See – Awards Radar
Magnolia Pictures

An unlikely action hero can be a lot of fun. There might not be a more unlikely one in 2024 than June Squibb, but that’s just what she is in Thelma, a tale of a grandmother taking back what’s hers. An action-comedy hybrid that gives a senior citizen her very own revenge tale? Yep, it’s as good as it sounds, too. The film is a low level blast.

Thelma shows not just that a bit of cleverness can go a long way, but also that we should never put performers into a box due to their age. You wouldn’t expect a star vehicle for Squibb in her 90s to begin with, but a mix of action and comedy that explicitly references the Mission: Impossible franchise? It sounds like a dream, but once you see it, you’ll know that this movie is just a dream come true.

Magnolia Pictures

Thelma Post (Squibb) lives a fairly simple life ever since she lost her husband. Her grandson Daniel (Fred Hechinger) comes by a lot to help her with the computer, hang out, and just be a good egg. She doesn’t hear too well anymore and occasionally gets confused, but for a 93 year old, she’s doing just fine. One day, after Daniel heads home, she gets a call from someone pretending to be him, scamming her into thinking he’s been in an accident. Suspicious initially but too worried about him to really consider things, she sends off some money, scaring her daughter Gail (Parker Posey) and her husband Alan (Clark Gregg) in the process. When they all figure out that she’s been taken for a ride, they start to think if she needs to be put into a home. Embarrassed, Thelma has other plans.

While Alan and Gail are hounding Daniel about his life choices, Thelma takes the opportunity to begin an investigation. Stealing a ride from her friend Ben (Richard Roundtree), he eventually joins her on this mission. As they navigate the clues and begin to bond again, they actually manage to sniff out a lead or two. I won’t say what ends up happening, but it’s deeply satisfying, to say the least, and even touching.

Magnolia Pictures

June Squibb gets the role of a lifetime at 93 and runs with it. Getting to play age appropriate, she’s funny, sad, and always captivating. The late Richard Roundtree is just as good, with the two of them having impeccable chemistry. She’s relishing this opportunity, while he is having so much fun. It’s a pleasure to watch them in action, even if she’s in it more than he is. Clark Gregg, Fred Hechinger, and Parker Posey are less memorable, though Hechinger does get some nice moments with Squibb. Supporting players include Nicole Byer, Aidan Fiske, Malcolm McDowell, Ruben Rabasa, and more, but Squibb is the star.

Writer/director Josh Margolin puts such a lovely little spin on the genre here, clearly wanting to honor his grandmother, but also just wanting to tell a good story. It’s a revenge tale on par with any of late, but the action and comedy are all done in such a way befitting characters closer to the century mark than any other potential action heroes. Things run a bit long and there isn’t a ton of style on display, but Margolin has the goods with Thelma when it comes to fun. Entertainment value? That’s through the roof here.

Thelma is a delight. The premise certainly sounds appealing, with the execution landing in a big way. This is a genuine crowd-pleaser of the first order. As far as summer counter-programming goes, this is the kind of flick that deserves to be a hit. Don’t miss this one!

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SCORE: ★★★

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Movie Reviews

Fancy Dance (2024) – Movie Review

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Fancy Dance (2024) – Movie Review

Fancy Dance, 2024.

Directed by Erica Tremblay.
Starring Lily Gladstone, Isabel Deroy-Olson, Ryan Begay, Shea Whigham, Audrey Wasilewski, Crystle Lightning, Tamara Podemski, Patrice Fisher, Ryan RedCorn, Lillian Faye Thomas, Casey Camp-Horinek, Tyler Tipton, Dennis Newman, Trey Munden, Arianne Martin, Blayne Allen, Michael Rowe, Hauli Gray, Blake Blair, Kylie Dirtseller, and Cory Hart.

SYNOPSIS:

Following her sister’s disappearance, a Native American hustler kidnaps her niece from the child’s white grandparents and sets out for the state powwow in hopes of keeping what is left of their family intact.

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Infuriatingly, displacement is common among minorities, especially natives. Co-writer/director Erica Tremblay’s Fancy Dance tells such a tale, highlighting the distinction between the effort, or lack thereof, child protective services, local authorities, and even FBI agents funnel into cases under certain circumstances. If it involves white relatives, authorities will feel more pressed to investigate and likely be more prominent in the outcome.

This is also a complicated story, so that’s not to absolve Lily Gladstone’s Seneca-Cayuga nation clan member Jax, who does sneak her 13-year-old niece Roki (Isabel Deroy-Olson) away from the white grandparents Frank and Nancy (Shea Whigham and Audrey Wasilewski) she has been forced under the guardianship of following yet another disappearance from her troubled mother (longer than usual and still missing) and the powers that be believing a slight criminal record has made the aunt unfit to take over those responsibilities. Considering Jax has normalized stealing and theft to Roki and does have a history of selling drugs, there is a small amount of concern, but nothing that should kickstart uprooting someone away from their people, home, and culture.

The inquisitive, good-natured Roki is also excited for the annual powwow not just for the traditional symbolic dancing but also because she believes that, regardless of where her mom is now, she will be there, and they will be reunited during a ceremonial dance. What exactly the relationship is like between daughter and mother feels underexplored and isn’t exactly spoken about, but it’s also apparent that there is a darker truth, with Jax urging her local reservation cup brother JJ (Ryan Begay) to convince authorities with the more pull that the situation this serious this time, or to break some ground in the case himself.

Working together with screenwriter Miciana Alise, Erica Tremblay also portrays the white grandparents, particularly Nancy, as more misguided than outright villainous, which goes a long way in further grounding the narrative. They don’t understand how important the powwow is to Roki (who has already been practicing her moves and has a cute jacket picked out as part of her outfit), claiming they must get her settled into this suburban home hours away from the reservation. Frank also seems to incorrectly assume that it would be wise to keep Roki away from that “mess,” referring to nearby drug dealers, prostitution, and the alarming amount of missing person cases that could be related to some shady surrounding white men. Meanwhile, Nancy cluelessly believes ballet lessons will replace something deeply entrenched in Roki’s identity and sense of self.

This is important to note since, when Jax essentially kidnaps Roki to figure things out (she is along for the ride since they will be going to the powwow), it’s even easier to be on her side and to feel that instant frustration when all types of authorities instantly jump to assist the white grandfather. And even if Jax is not necessarily the most positive influence in some areas, there are also tender moments among the thieving and squatting in rich people’s homes, such as managing Roki through her first period. In many respects, Jax feels like a friend to Roki, who hasn’t yet embraced the fact that it’s time to be a second mom.

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The chemistry between Lily Gladstone and Isabel Deroy-Olson is airtight and sweetly expresses a mimicry bond but convincingly conveys their trust-breaking, as the latter becomes wiser to the former not telling the full truth about her missing mother. Their wonderful performances continuously overcome the shakier, more overblown story beats (such as something involving a firearm). Furthermore, Lily Gladstone is tremendous, maneuvering between steely toughness, desperation, and vulnerability. Between avoiding authorities on this road trip, piecing together clues about her sister’s disappearance, and pestering her brother JJ to investigate some of those revelations, it brings out a nuanced, emotionally layered performance.

Even if Fancy Dance falls into some melodramatic trappings elsewhere, the resolution of the mystery aspect is realistically bleak. It makes the case for not just an unfortunate element of reservation life but also what continues to happen because it’s seemingly unimportant to local authorities. It’s not all gloom, though, as the final moving scene is earned, fits the characters’ journey, and celebrates the culture.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=embed/playlist

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Movie Reviews

‘This is CineMMA’ movie reviews: Episode archives

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‘This is CineMMA’ movie reviews: Episode archives

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On MMA Fighting’s This Is CineMMA podcast, the movie review crew of Alexander K. Lee, Jed Meshew, and E. Casey Leydon take a look at films that span the combat sports spectrum. From tales of UFC legends, to MMA stars like Conor McGregor butting heads with award-winning actors, to good old-fashioned street fight flicks, we leave no stone unturned in our ongoing search for the greatest mixed martial arts movie of all-time.

Check out every episode of This is CineMMA here, on YouTube, and in podcast form on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever else you find your favorite podcasts.

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