REVIEW: Boston Strangler (2023)

Keira Knightley in Matt Ruskin’s BOSTON STRANGLER — PHOTO: 20th Century Studios.

Directed by Matt Ruskin — Screenplay by Matt Ruskin.

Boston Strangler is based on the true story of the investigation into the 1960s serial killer known as the ‘Boston Strangler.’ The film primarily follows Boston Record American reporters Loretta McLaughlin (played by Keira Knightley) and Jean Cole (played by Carrie Coon) as they try to investigate the story and break through small cracks in their profession’s glass ceiling.

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REVIEW: 65 (2023)

Adam Driver and Ariana Greenblatt star in ’65’ — PHOTO: Patti Perret / Sony Pictures.

Directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods — Screenplay by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods.

The first time I saw the trailer for 65, I was immediately hooked. Here was a sci-fi film, with an excellent leading man, that appeared to dare to do something else with dinosaurs than the Jurassic Park sequels did. ‘Dinosaurs versus Adam Driver with sci-fi weapons’ was a concept that was always right up my alley. I was curious to find out what novel sci-fi twist or spin that writer-directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (the duo who wrote A Quiet Place) had hidden up their sleeves. However, 65 didn’t have all that much hidden in the final film that wasn’t already apparent from the trailer and this was a massive disappointment to me. 

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REVIEW: Luther: The Fallen Sun (2023)

Idris Elba as John Luther in LUTHER: THE FALLEN SUN — PHOTO: NETFLIX.

Directed by Jamie Payne — Screenplay by Neil Cross.

The British crime drama series Luther has been on my watchlist for quite some time. Recently, with the release of Luther: The Fallen Sun on the horizon, I decided to finally check it out, and, so, I’ve spent the better part of a week binge-watching the British series that proved to be a successful star vehicle for Idris Elba whose magnetic screen presence elevated the series above lesser genre fare. I liked the series quite a bit, but, admittedly, the show started to lose me around series four, and the show didn’t hold my attention or interest as well in series four and five as it had done earlier. This did make me nervous about the film, as it was written by the series’ writer and creator and directed by the man who directed the fifth series. While The Fallen Sun is not without faults (it’s incredibly obvious what it’s trying to be), I must admit that I found it to be more arresting, gripping, and watchable than both series four and five. 

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REVIEW: Knock at the Cabin (2023)

Dave Bautista (left) in M. Night Shyamalan’s KNOCK AT THE CABIN — PHOTO. Universal Pictures.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan — Screenplay by M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, and Michael Sherman.

Like you may have read previously elsewhere, M. Night Shyamalan was once dubbed ‘the next Spielberg.’ It was meant as a great honor but became a bit of a challenge to live up to. After four or five disappointments in a row between the mid-2000s to the early 2010s, Shyamalan was no longer being compared to Spielberg but rather known for his reliance on twists and his cameo appearances, as well as for his kind of unconvincing dialogue. With The Visit and Split, fans of his — and I consider myself a fan — started to believe that he was making a return to form with simpler premises and genuinely strong films. Then Glass was released — the conclusion to his Unbreakable trilogy — and it was another crushing disappointment — a cruel twist on his supposed ‘return to form’ for fans of his. He’s not done, though. In 2021, he released Old to mixed reviews, and, this year, he’s got Knock at the Cabin to showcase his talents with. Unfortunately, neither of those films fully worked for me. They aren’t outright disasters like some of the works that derailed his career, but even though they indicate that Shyamalan is on his way back, they also show that he still has a ways to go before being back ‘in form.’

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REVIEW: Missing (2023)

Storm Reid in MISSING — PHOTO: SONY PICTURES.

Directed by Will Merrick and Nick Johnson — Screenplay by Will Merrick and Nick Johnson.

The filmmaking medium is constantly in a state of development and reinvention with artists seeking to find new ways to tell audiovisual stories. The found-footage genre was a huge trend that still pops up every now and again nowadays, and the latest found-footage-esque trend is the screenlife, or screencast, genre where the entire story is told by showing computer screens, smartphone screens, or the like. The Unfriended films are solid horror examples of this (as is Rob Savage’s Host, a terrific COVID-set horror film about Zoom video calls), and Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching starring John Cho is probably the best film of its kind. Searching followed a scared father searching for his missing daughter. The editors of Searching Nick Johnson and Will Merrick have ‘graduated’ and now serve as directors of its ‘standalone sequel’ titled Missing. On the whole, Missing is a really solid feature directorial debut, but it also feels really familiar and isn’t quite as good as the film it is following up on. 

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REVIEW: The Last of Us – “When We Are In Need”

Scott Shepherd as ‘David’ and Bella Ramsey as ‘Ellie’ in HBO’s THE LAST OF US –PHOTO: HBO / Liane Hentscher.

The following is a recap and review of the eighth episode of HBO’s The Last of Us. Expect story spoilers.

In the eighth and penultimate episode of the first season of the HBO adaptation of the critically acclaimed video game franchise known as The Last of Us — titled When We Are In Need — Ellie (played by Bella Ramsey) encounters a group of survivors that may be more trouble than they seem. When We Are In Need was directed by Ali Abbasi (Holy Spider) and written by Craig Mazin (Chernobyl).

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REVIEW: Creed III (2023)

Jonathan Majors as ‘Diamond’ Damian Anderson in CREED III — PHOTO: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / Warner Bros. Pictures / United Artists Releasing.

Directed by Michael B. Jordan — Screenplay by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin.

It would be fair to say that Michael B. Jordan is, to a certain extent, following in the footsteps of Sylvester Stallone. Not only has he taken over as the lead of the Rocky franchise, which is now spearheaded by Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis “Donnie” Creed, but his films have followed similar patterns as Stallone’s Rocky films. With Creed III, the extent to which Jordan is following in his footsteps has reached a new level with Jordan taking on directing duties just as Stallone eventually did for one of his most beloved franchises, which he appeared to exit at the end of Creed II (I thought it was a sweet ending to his story, though it sounds like he isn’t happy about the series moving on without him). Ryan Coogler’s Creed was a beautiful and moving knockout blow, Steven Caple, Jr.’s Creed II was solid but formulaic (and felt too much like a sequel to Rocky IV), and, now, Michael B. Jordan’s Creed III is similarly formulaic but it is also a strong and satisfying response to some of the reservations that I had about Creed II

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REVIEW: The Last of Us – “Left Behind”

Bella Ramsey as ‘Ellie’ and Storm Reid as ‘Riley’ in HBO’s THE LAST OF US — PHOTO: HBO / Liane Hentscher.

The following is a recap and review of the seventh episode of HBO’s The Last of Us. Expect story spoilers.

In the seventh episode of the first season of the HBO adaptation of the masterful video game franchise known as The Last of Us — titled Left Behind — we flash back to Ellie (played by Bella Ramsey) in FEDRA school. She gets into fights in school and may be headed down the wrong path in life, but then an old friend, Riley (played by Storm Reid), stops by and gives her an adventure in a nearby mall. Left Behind was directed by Liza Johnson and written by Neil Druckmann (co-creator of The Last of Us video game franchise).

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REVIEW: We Have A Ghost (2023)

David Harbour and Anthony Mackie in WE HAVE A GHOST — PHOTO: NETFLIX.

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. 

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REVIEW: The Last of Us – “Kin”

Gabriel Luna as ‘Tommy’ and Pedro Pascal as ‘Joel’ in HBO’s THE LAST OF US — PHOTO: HBO / Liane Hentscher.

The following is a recap and review of the sixth episode of HBO’s The Last of Us. Expect story spoilers.

In the sixth episode of the first season of the HBO adaptation of the masterful video game franchise known as The Last of Us — titled Kin — Joel (played by Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (played by Bella Ramsey) reach Wyoming and search for Joel’s brother, Tommy (played by Gabriel Luna), and Joel starts having panic attacks. Kin was directed by Jasmila Žbanić (Quo Vadis, Aida?) and written by Craig Mazin (Chernobyl).

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