Ever since his feature film directing debut in 1977, Ridley Scott has been a master of crafting the epic movie no matter the genre, from the Crusades-set Kingdom of Heaven and the Oscar-winning Gladiator set in ancient Rome to the sci-fi dystopia Blade Runner and several films in the Alien franchise. He succeeds once again in the epic genre with his latest film, The Last Duel, which tells a grand and timely yet intimate and secular tale based on actual events with an innovative story structure that’s not without its flaws, but they’re more than made up for by strong performances from its cast, authentic set and costume design, an ominous tone and thrilling action sequences.
When it comes to the stories that make the biggest headlines, we assume the big news outlets are reporting most of the information accurately. Thankfully, however, documentaries play a big role in developing the entire story from start to finish, making the stories we thought we knew even more captivating, jaw-dropping, or unheard of. National Geographic’s The Rescue is another story we thought we knew, but the entire story is even more unbelievable thanks to the remarkable work, findings, and research by filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, who also made the 2018 Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo.
Every year, more than a handful of nonfiction movies present topics on current-day issues. Most stick the landing, at the very least. But whether the stick with audiences much longer than just a few hours after their viewing, is a whole other story. This year’s movie that presents a current-day issue (or crisis) that we as a whole country face in such a powerful way is Mass. While there are no easy routes or clear resolutions by the end of its story, Mass presents its issues with force, veracity, and sincerity that are hard to ignore.
The lyrics, beats, dance routines, and messages put together in musicals have created some of the most memorable movies in cinematic history. However, musicals don’t work if more than one of these components fail to hit a high note. And in the case of Dear Evan Hansen, almost everything, aside from some of the music, just flat out doesn’t work or even make a case for having made this Broadway-hit into a movie. When you mix together the cast led by a poorly miscast titular character, complex messaging and offbeat pacing, it makes for just an oddly-made movie that’s more head-scratching than inspiring.
One of the most promising things when it comes to film right now is the idea of “spiritual sequels” to successful horror movies from decades ago. This first started with 2018’s Halloween, which turned out to be a Grade-A sequel to the 1978 classic. Last month, it was announced that Universal Pictures was making a spiritual sequel to the mega-hit 1973 horror film The Exorcist that will star Leslie Odom Jr; this too can be great given the right script and direction. Right now, Universal is the only studio to go down this path of reintroducing horror icons years and years later. I love the concept of bringing these franchises to the present with the mythology intact because there’s so much you can do. And now, we are presented with another spiritual sequel in the form of a Jordan Peele-produced (and co-written) sequel to 1992’s Candyman. Unfortunately, however, this Candyman is anything but thrilling or buzzworthy.
The partnership between film distributor LionsGate and production company Millennium Media has been shaky as far as their output in the action movie genre is concerned; for every box office success like The Hitman’s Bodyguard and The Expendables franchise, there’s an underwhelming disappointment like the 2019 Hellboy reboot and Angel Has Fallen. Thankfully, their latest collaboration, The Protégé, is on the former side of the spectrum thanks to strong direction from Martin Campbell, entertaining action sequences, and solid performances from Michael Keaton and Maggie Q. Read more
I think we can all agree that job interviews are among the most stressful things we encounter in life, right? Whatever your goal, you want to nail it. During the time leading up to job interviews, the nerves and anxiety reach all sorts of emotional points. And then, to make matters worse, once an interview is over, the anxiety over how you did begins. Did you do well? Did you answer everything correctly? What more could you have done? Granted, not everyone who goes through interviews experiences all these emotions. Some handle interviews better than others. All of this plays out on the big screen in the thought-provoking Nine Days. However, its subject material is not about a job interview; it’s related to souls interviewing to be given life on earth. Interviewing in the “great beyond” sounds more stressful than your typical job interview process, doesn’t it?
If you’ve seen a preview for Stillwater, then you’ve certainly noticed (and possibly were taken aback by) Matt Damon sporting a goatee. Then you may find out by watching the preview (or doing a Google search) that the title of the movie comes from the name of a town in Oklahoma. So, things might be starting to add up in your head about what type of guy Damon is playing, right? At least for me, I was immediately interested in the A-list actor’s role in this Tom McCarthy project. And if you read the plot description, the movie certainly sounds like a riff on the Taken franchise. (And Matt Damon recently discussed this on a podcast hosted by Marc Maron.) However, there is much more underneath the surface of Stillwater, and the result is a mostly character-driven drama that exceeds expectations.
Nicolas Cage, for all his up-and-down performances over the years, is still one of the most prolific actors in the business today. Sure, he’s had more duds than you might think and churns those out quite often, even as recently as earlier this year with Willy’s Wonderland. But then you take a look at his other movies, especially in the past couple of years, like Color Out of Space and Mandy, and they are great. Anytime Cage has a new movie, for all intents and purposes, it always grabs you. And so when a movie called Pig starring an actor like him arrives, it certainly will get your attention. However, Pig is not what you’re expecting. And that’s more than fine, thanks to Cage’s performance and the film’s subject material we see play out over its 90-minute runtime. Read more
A compelling horror movie is hard to come by in this day and age. Cheap jump scares and a lackluster script with thin characters is what you mostly see in theaters these days when it comes to horror. The Conjuring Universe has provided us with the opposite of that in some cases, and in others they fall right into that category. The universe, as a whole, is a bit of a roller coaster, but there’s lot to like overall. Let’s take a look at the rankings.Read more
Even without the title of this review, I probably don’t have to spew more than a few words into this piece before you, the reader, will know that The Mitchells vs.The Machines is another good animated movie from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. I mean, seriously. Anytime Lord and Miller have explored animated movies, they’ve struck gold. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The LEGO Movie, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse—all three of these are delightful in their own ways and are arguably some of the best animated movies from the past 15 years, so I had little fear their new feature debuting on Netflix tomorrow would disappoint. It didn’t and the results deliver an intelligent, often hilarious, animated movie that is both relevant and telling when it comes to how most people have become more than dependent on technology these days.
If there’s one area that Netflix has shifted a bit of its focus to for original content in recent years, it’s the animation department. While some of their animated shows have been great, none of their animated movies has been knock-out-of-the-park material or memorable (if memory serves right) for this critic. And while I liked Netflix’s Over the Moon, released last year (and is now nominated for Best Animated Film at the upcoming Oscars), I wasn’t over the moon (insert chuckle here) about it. However, Netflix has a gem with Arlo the Alligator Boy, which drops on Netflix tomorrow. This sweet, wonderful 2D animated tale is a must-see for families and animated film lovers alike. Filled with great original songs and a message that should resonate with all, Arlo the Alligator Boy is an animated musical we’ll be talking about for the rest of the year.
The path to the epic showdown between Godzilla and Kong in this MonsterVerse has not exactly been the smoothest road. All three movies leading up to this point have dealt with issues within the asphalt of said road. Godzilla didn’t show enough of everyone’s favorite lizard, Kong: Skull Island was not seen in the same light as Peter Jackson’s take on the giant ape (though I beg to differ), and Godzilla: King of the Monsters showed too much fighting in the dark, making it difficult to see exactly what was happening. Let’s also not forget that all three of these movies to varying degrees had human character problems due to script issues. And coming into Godzilla vs. Kong, I had some reservations considering how disappointed I was with King of the Monsters and how this film was being directed by someone who has made two of the worst movies I’ve seen in the past five years (one of which you can read about here). However, despite all this, Godzilla vs. Kong shows us what we’ve all been waiting for leading up to this film. While the human character issues remain a problem, when the two titans collide, it’s shown in such grand fashion that it causes pure excitement, and that alone is worth the price of admission rather than merely watching it from the comfort of your home.
I’ll be honest: faith-based movies usually fall at the bottom of the totem pole or desire for me to watch. It’s only because these faith-based movies are typically low on production values coupled with very, very bad acting. And I get it: most faith-based movies rely on low budgets to be successful (like most horror movies) these days. But they’re never my cup of tea. However, Netflix has invested seemingly more money in A Week Away than any faith-based movie I can recall in some time. The results? Well, story-wise, it’s predictable with a High School Musical spinoff vibe where religion plays a role. However, some of the musical numbers shown are entertaining and show how talented some of the young cast members are, which bodes well for their futures.