Directed by Christopher Landon — Screenplay by Christopher Landon.
Christopher Landon is a rather interesting up-and-coming horror filmmaker. Reportedly scheduled to remake Frank Marshall’s Arachnophobia, Landon has made a career off taking well-trod genre fare and giving it a modern feel and often with a comedic slant. Among other things, he co-wrote D. J. Caruso’s Disturbia (a thriller that is so close to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window in the concept that it led to a lawsuit) and several Paranormal Activity films, before he became a household name for horror film fans by writing and directing his Happy Death Day films (slasher comedies that runs with the time-loop concept from Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day) and Freaky, 2020s horror comedy reinterpretation of the classic body swap story Freaky Friday. His latest film, We Have A Ghost, is similarly placed squarely in the horror-comedy genre-blend and it, too, wears its inspirations on its sleeves. Most of Landon’s previous films as a director have been decent-to-good, and although We Have A Ghost doesn’t reach its full potential, it’s still a pretty decent but derivative little family film.
Directed by Rian Johnson — Screenplay by Rian Johnson.
In 2019, Looper and The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson released his original ‘whodunnit’ ensemble crime mystery Knives Out. It was a huge success as it received critical acclaim and notable Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Oscar nominations. The film also helped to bring new life to the ‘whodunnit’ genre. It was so successful that this year there are several of those stories including See How They Run and the Apple-series The Afterparty. The massive success also led to a bidding war for Johnson’s Benoit Blanc-led Knives Out sequels. That bidding war was won by Netflix (they paid a whopping $469 million) and they have released its first sequel today just in time for Christmas. It brings me great joy to report that Glass Onion is almost exactly as good as the original film that preceded it, even though it no longer feels quite as fresh.
Zach Cregger’s Barbarian, one of the most entertaining surprise hits of the year, follows Tess Marshall (played by Georgina Campbell), as she arrives at a remote house that she has booked, only to find out that someone else, Keith (played by Bill Skarsgård), is already staying there due to the house having been double-booked. When Tess finds out that there isn’t really an open motel close by, she has to decide if she feels comfortable staying at the house with this total stranger. What she doesn’t know is that the house isn’t exactly what it seems.
Directed by Ruben Östlund (The Square) — Screenplay by Ruben Östlund.
Alongside the Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier (Oslo 31. August) and the Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Druk), the Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund is one of the very best Scandinavian filmmakers working right now. Östlund has been working as a filmmaker for more than a decade, but I think it’s fair to say that it is with his 2014 effort, Force Majeure, that he had his true international breakthrough. Including his latest film, Östlund’s last three films have all received awards at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. With Triangle of Sadness, the Swede is now a two-time Palme d’Or winner (winning his first one for the utterly hilarious The Square from 2017). Having swapped the square out in favor of a triangle (the title refers to an area between your eyebrows and your nose bridge that can be ‘fixed’ with botox), Östlund has managed to keep his satirical writing equally sharp and at times outright hilarious. Triangle of Sadness is one of the best films of the year.
Directed by Tom Gormican – Screenplay by Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten.
Nicolas Cage is incredible. He’s a legend. This film’s opening states as much. It is true, though. The Academy Award winner may have done a lot of cheaper straight-to-video B-films over the course of more than the last decade, but the star with a cult following has remained a wildly entertaining thespian through it all, and he hasn’t lost a step, like Michael Sarnoski’s Pig, from last year, proved. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent may not ultimately earn Cage as many critical accolades as the aforementioned Sarnoski film did, but it is a great comedic tribute to Cage, as well as a reminder to audiences all around the world that he’s still here, he never went anywhere, and he’s as entertaining as ever.
Directed by Mimi Cave – Screenplay by Lauryn Kahn.
Modern dating can be difficult. We all like to think that we can have a grand love story and just meet someone out of the blue, but, nowadays, many people find their eventual partners through online dating. In Mimi Cave’s FRESH — her feature debut as a director – Noa (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones) is tired of spending so much time finding potential suitors on the online ‘meat market.’ Her online dating usually ends with disappointing dates with rude men or with men sending inappropriate images that she never once asked for. So, it is understandable that she excitedly chases romance when she meets and flirts with the undeniable charming ‘Steve’ (played by Sebastian Stan) in a local supermarket. In spite of obvious red flags (he has no Instagram account!), she decides to go away with him on a weekend vacation, where she will soon find out that he has an uncommon ‘hobby’ — to say the least — and that his intentions aren’t good.
Directed by Adam McKay (Vice) — Screenplay by Adam McKay.
On Christmas Eve, Netflix released Adam McKay’s star-studded pre-apocalyptic satirical science-fiction film Don’t Look Up, which is a film about scientists trying to get people to care about a life-threatening event being on the horizon. The streamers’ global audience probably didn’t expect McKay’s satirical and irreverent take on a possible world-ending event in their Christmas stockings, but it isn’t coal you’ve found on Christmas morning, rather it is a minutes-to-midnight plea to look around you and realize what needs to be changed before it’s too late that is delivered via a scathing satire whose tone sometimes even resembles a Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-esque apocalyptic comedy. Perhaps stars like DiCaprio, Lawrence, Streep, and Chalamet will get you to press play on a film that tries desperately to get people around the world to realize that we absolutely have to listen to and trust scientists and not just political campaigning.
Over the years, I have certainly not tried to hide the fact that I think 2016’s Suicide Squad, which was directed by David Ayer (though he has repeatedly made it clear that the film was essentially taken away from him as a result of studio interference), is, to put it mildly, one of my least favorite films ever made in the superhero genre. That 2016 film certainly reeked of studio interference, it was an almost incoherent mess, it was needlessly grimy and at times quite ugly, it used a decent soundtrack as a crutch and in a way that became incredibly tiring, all the while failing to get you to care about the characters or the relationships they were building. There were some decent things about it, but, on the whole, it felt like someone had tried to turn Ayer’s vision into a shameless imitation of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and that just didn’t work for the film that Ayer had envisioned.
Directed by Craig Brewer (Dolemite Is My Name) — Screenplay by Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein, and David Sheffield.
Craig Brewer’s Coming 2 America takes place 30 years after the events of the first film, and the sequel still follows Akeem (played by Eddie Murphy), who has now become king of Zamunda, as he tries to figure out who his heir to the throne will be. The neighboring nation conveniently called Nextdoria (you get the joke) has proposed that since Akeem has no male successor to the throne, his eldest daughter, Meeka (played by KiKi Layne), should be married to the eldest son of the leader of Nextdoria for the purpose of bringing the two nations closer together. But Akeem doesn’t like that idea, so he is looking for another way out of this problem. Continue reading “REVIEW: Coming 2 America (2021)”→
Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen — Screenplay by Anders Thomas Jensen.
It is quite extraordinary that in a year like 2020, which has seen a global pandemic severely damage the film industry and movie theaters all around the world, somehow the Danish film industry has thrived. This year has produced several event films, so to speak, in my home country. It all began with Mikkel Nørgaard’s Klovn: The Final, which is a continuation of arguably Denmark’s most popular comedy series of the last two decades. Then, not too long ago, Thomas Vinterberg’s near-masterpiece Druk was released to rave reviews, and it has almost single-handedly revived Danish movie theaters. Now, this week, Anders Thomas Jensen’s black comedy Retfærdighedens Ryttere has been released in Denmark. It is strange to say this, but, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been a remarkably strong year for the Danish film industry. Continue reading “REVIEW: Retfærdighedens Ryttere (2020)”→