Directed by Babak Anvari — Screenplay by Babak Anvari & Namsi Khan.
The British-Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari burst onto the scene with his wildly impressive feature-length directorial debut, Under The Shadow, a terrific but underseen psychological horror film that was selected as the British entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards. Widely praised, it was a good springboard for Anvari, but his follow-up film, Wounds starring Armie Hammer, represented “a disappointingly severe sophomore slump” for Anvari. When his third effort, I Came By, which, like his previous two efforts, was released on Netflix in my region, it was without much fanfare. To me, it almost felt like it was being hidden, which concerned me. In my review of Wounds, I noted how I really wanted “to see [Babak Anvari] make a triumphant return with a film that is as brilliant and promising as I thought [Under The Shadow] was.” So, did I get what I want? Eh, not really. It’s not a recommendation, but, admittedly, it is better than Wounds.
Over the years, Netflix has struggled to create a true film franchise. Films like Bright, Extraction, The Old Guard, and Red Notice have been their first attempts to really kickstart a film franchise. Their latest attempt, The Gray Man, is an adaptation of the Mark Greaney novel of the same name. The $200 million-budgeted film is directed by the Russo brothers (of Avengers and Community fame), has a $200 million budget, and features a star-studded cast. Netflix is trying, again and again, to get a real franchise off the ground, and this very well could be it, even though it, admittedly, struggles to set itself apart from other films like it.
Directed by Kevin Macdonald – Screenplay by M.B. Traven, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani.
Kevin Macdonald’s The Mauritanian is a legal drama based on Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir Guantanamo Diary. The film tells the true story of Mohamedou’s experience as a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, in which he was subject to so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ which essentially amounts to torture. The film juxtaposes the perspectives of two lawyers — Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and Nancy Hollander (played by Jodie Foster) — who are both trying to make sense of exactly what made Mohamedou (played by Tahar Rahim) confess to crimes of terrorism. To do so, Nancy and Stuart must try to gain access to thousands of redacted classified documents.
Directed by Zack Snyder — Screenplay by Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten, and Joby Harold.
There is always something special about films that return a filmmaker to his beginnings in some way, shape, or form. Such a film may not always end up as a ‘return to form,’ but for a filmmaker to return to his roots is undeniably exciting. Before Zack Snyder became a fanboy favorite as the director of multiple different graphic novel adaptations such as Man of Steel or 300, his very first feature film was the 2004 remake of the 1970s horror classic Dawn of the Dead. The remake, which was written by James Gunn, is still my favorite film that Snyder has directed, so I was naturally very excited when it was announced that he was returning to the zombie horror sub-genre with Netflix’s Army of the Dead. Although it’s certainly not as good as his previous zombie flick, Snyder’s latest film is definitely worth checking out on Netflix.
The following is a review of Knives Out — a Rian Johnson whodunnit.
Are Agatha Christie-inspired murder mystery films making a quiet comeback right under our noses? In 2017, Kenneth Branagh resurrected the genre on the big screen with his adaptation of Murder On the Orient Express, which is getting a sequel in 2020. Earlier in 2019, Kyle Newacheck released an Adam Sandler-led murder mystery film titled Murder Mystery, which I suggested might be “the most watchable of Sandler’s made-for-Netflix comedies.” Now we have Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, which isn’t just the best of the bunch, it’s also genuinely one of the most entertaining films of the year. Knives Out is a fresh and modern labyrinthine murder mystery complete with a stylish main location, as well as witty and timely social and political satire. Continue reading “REVIEW: Knives Out (2019)”→
The following is a review of Terminator: Dark Fate — Directed by Tim Miller.
Just a couple of years ago, Terminator Genisys broke my heart. Nevertheless, on Friday, I found myself in a movie theater ready to watch the next Terminator-film in its opening weekend. Terminator, a long-running franchise that hasn’t found a lot of success since James Cameron left the film series’ director’s chair and let multiple others sit in it, has been run into the ground. The first two films, which were both directed by James Cameron, are both iconic and Terminator 2: Judgment Day might be my favorite action film ever made. Since then Jonathan Mostow, McG, and Alan Taylor have all tried and, to varying degrees, failed to resurrect and reboot the film series in a successful and satisfying way. Continue reading “REVIEW: Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)”→
The following is a review of Judy — Directed by Rupert Goold.
Rupert Goold’s Judy is a biographical picture about the final year of Judy Garland’s life. The biopic is based on the Peter Quilter stage musical End of the Rainbow, and the film mostly takes place in 1969 when Judy Garland (played by Renée Zellweger) relocated to the United Kingdom for work and to be able to afford a potential custody battle in court. The multi-talented star is, at this point in her life, a wreck. The American industries that made her a star now see her as unreliable, she is unable to pay her bills, she doesn’t eat, she is severely depressed, and she suffers from issues related to substance abuse. Her job in London represents one last moment in the spotlight to dazzle, use her stardom, and make the money she needs to keep her family together. Though she often hesitates to go on stage, it is only on the stage that she can find energy and satisfaction in her last year. Continue reading “REVIEW: Judy (2019)”→
The following is a review of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark — Directed by André Øvredal.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is an adaptation of a trilogy of children’s horror short story collections of the same name from author Alvin Schwartz. The film has been in development since 2013, and now Norwegian filmmaker André Øvredal has finally brought the children’s short stories to the big screen in the form of a horror film that’s frankly really enjoyable if you know what you’re getting into. This is just scary enough to severely frighten teens, but I don’t think it is so frightening that it’ll haunt them at night unless they are young tweens, but you and your kids’ mileage may vary. It’s a cute and fairly effective horror film that, I think, has the potential to become a favorite for teens. Those who dug Annabelle Comes Home will be happy with this similarly cutesy horror film. Continue reading “REVIEW: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)”→
The following is a short review of The Kid — Directed by Vincent D’Onofrio.
Maybe it’s an unfair and impolite thought, but whenever an actor-turned-director gets an A-list cast for his next feature, I start to worry that the star-studded cast only agreed to appear in the film as a favor to a good friend who is trying their hand at a new thing that he or she is relatively inexperienced at. The Kid, a new somewhat-biographical western, is Vincent D’Onofrio’s second feature film as a director. His sophomore effort as a director features a cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, and Dane DeHaan. I may never learn if they joined this film as a favor or not, but I can say that I enjoyed this film quite a bit. Continue reading “REVIEW: The Kid (2019)”→
The following is a review of Cold Case Hammarskjöld — Directed by Mads Brügger.
In Mads Brügger’s Cold Case Hammarskjöld, a Danish filmmaker and journalist teams up with Göran Björkdahl from Sweden who has inherited a particular obsession from his father. Björkdahl is obsessed with the mysterious death of Dag Hammarskjöld, the UN General Secretary who died in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia in 1961. Together, Brügger and Björkdahl hope to uncover what exactly happened to Hammarskjöld by investigating the theory that he was murdered. But, in doing so, Brügger and Björkdahl come upon a complex conspiracy theory about a mysterious paramilitary organization, the so-called South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAIMR), with sinister plans for the continent. Continue reading “REVIEW: Cold Case Hammarskjöld (2019 – Documentary)”→