For my birthday which just recently passed, I decided to take a little hiatus from just about everything work-related. That included reviews, but didn’t include going to the movies! With a week of free time and a Regal’s Unlimited Pass, I decided to catch up on a few films I missed.
Rather than attempt to do individual reviews for each of the 5 films (would’ve been more if I hadn’t messed up the times with the wrong theaters), I am opting to do a compilation quick review list. The reality is, most of the films have been out for at least two weeks or more, and the idea of doing a full on, deep dive review so late seemed like an ill timed attempt at relevance. Likewise, there’s a plethora of new movies coming out between now and the end of the year, so doing a quick review list seemed like the best way to get all of the reviews out quickly. So, let’s dig into it! Here are 5 films I watched last week!
Marvel’s most divisive outing seems to be a victim of poor critical reception that everyone suddenly decided to give enormous credence to. I already did an extensive look at this very skewed perception, so I won’t harp on it again. The truth is, I REALLY enjoyed “Eternals.” It was well acted, well directed, and pretty well written too despite some ambitious failings regarding the overall story. It is by no means a perfect film, and I would also agree that it is purposefully divisive due to it being more of an existential and philosophical family drama that happens to span 7000 years and enormous cosmic beings. Yes, it has a lot of the same when it comes to the MCU, but “Eternals” really does go out of its way to be different. Chloe Zhao clearly wanted to do something new, and I think she does a pretty good job doing just that, all things considered.
I will agree that the films biggest weakness is that it’s a film in the first place. “Eternals” should’ve been a limited series, or at the very least have a series that preceded it. There is just simply too much to cover even in the films long runtime. The task of introducing 10 new characters plus a universally sprawling cosmic lore as well as retcon and connect these events to previous is a massive undertaking for ANYONE to nail with perfection. The characters are so likable that it ends up being its greatest strength and greatest weakness. You like all of the eternals, but you want so much more of them. There were so many times where something would happen and I felt myself wanting to shout out loud “why isn’t this an episode!?” The point is, “Eternals” is good, and you while it may not be for everyone the way most things in the past have been within Marvel, I would say it’s still worth seeing for yourself.
Also, I’m gonna need a Kingo and Karun “The Office” style mockumentary about the making of his latest Bollywood movie. Just a whole series of talking heads from these two and the rest of the cast. Hell, I’ll settle for shorts on YouTube. If you’ve EVER wanted me to consider buying YouTube Premium, “Kingo and Karun” is the only way I would ever consider it.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
We are witnessing a coming of age story with Edgar Wright and his work behind the camera. I’m a huge Wright fan, and “Last Night in Soho” shows off the man’s immense directorial talent. You can also see that he’s growing and experimenting, taking stabs at different genres and playing with new and unique camera tricks to convey strange, dark, and sometimes disturbing stories. “Last Night in Soho” is one helluva of journey, one that really asks its audience to stick it out to the end even as the story seems to get darker and darker. I’m not entirely sure the framework of sex workers is the right choice, as there were some portrayals (intentional or not) that seemed to convey the wrong conclusion about them. However, Wright’s commentary on the dangers of nostalgia and revenge through the lens of a ghost story absolutely works. Wright builds constant tension all throughout “Soho,” and never reveals his whole hand until the literal final moments.
And there’s Anya Taylor Joy, who once again dazzles with every single moment of screen time. That’s not to say everyone else does poorly; they don’t. But damn is Joy something special. Thomasin Mckenzie does a great joy playing off of her, and their connection is again strengthen by strong performance and incredible in-camera mirror work. The production and cinematography is masterful, just shy of sheer genius. Mckenzie and Joy are simply wonderful, with Matt Smith shedding his affable charm as his long run as The Doctor in “Doctor Who” for a villainous embodiment of abusers enabled by patriarchy and socially acceptable by the times. He looms over the whole film in a good (and bad by nature) way, and it’s wonderful to watch all of them interact. “Last Night in Soho” is disturbing and haunting, but it’s one helluva ride that’s worth taking.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Probably the most underrated film on the list, “Antlers” is superb supernatural horror. Directed by Scott Cooper (“Black Mass” “Hostiles“), he brings his patient filmmaking style to create a tense, suspenseful slow burn thriller. Cooper demands that his audience sit in the unknown, slowly revealing one detail after another until it all comes together, but never ever giving you a chance to breath in the process. It is a really tricky balance to achieve. Cooper somehow manages to keep you on the edge of your seat all while relying almost entirely on atmosphere and what’s not being said rather than heavy jump scares and exposition dumps. It’s only real drawback is as the film nears its conclusion, it starts to lean a little too heavy into overly serious themes regarding addiction and child abuse. That’s not to say that “Antlers” doesn’t have a worthy payoff (because it does), but rather that the film works best when we know the least. At its core, “Antlers” is a creature feature with something to say, and it struggles to try and really keep it all together. So yes, it’s strangely balanced and imbalanced depending on what Cooper is juggling. Luckily, he catches more than he drops.
The cast is fantastic, with Keri Russell and Jessie Plemons doing a majority of the heavy lifting and succeeding. Plemons in particular shows his more subdued side, as he sheds his sociopathic hitman and over the top caricature weirdness for a very real person. Newcomer Jeremy T. Thomas as Lucas Weaver also carries his weight, having to do most of his acting without words. He does a really good job portraying a very troubled boy in need of help but having no idea how to ask for it. They all have solid chemistry together, and help you invest in all of them quickly and consistently. “Antlers” relies on atmosphere and tone to create suspense, and does so really well. It is also superbly shot and acted, and while it may get a little too heavy handed for its own good, its strengths are worth checking out for any horror fan.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
I know I’ve used this same line for Nicolas Cage more than once, but this film requires me to use it here for Wes Anderson. “The French Dispatch” is the answer to the question “how much Wes could Anderson Wes if Anderson could Wes Anderson?” Even for fans of his filmography, this film feels more like a dare than actual film. It’s as if a good friend sat down with Anderson and said, “How Wes Anderson can you actually get?” and Wes literally said, “hold my beer.” I can’t stress enough how out there this film is. “The French Dispatch” is more like a Wes Anderson Anthology rather than an actual feature film. Picture “Love, Death, and Robots” directed by Wes Anderson. There’s no other way to describe it. And it dials up everything the director is known for to 11. Stunning visuals and set pieces, incredible attention to detail, center framing, quirky oddball characters, lightning fast banter, and of course, Owen Wilson. The scenery is the magnum opus of Anderson films, sporting some of the best production design I’ve ever seen on screen.
Of course the cast is great. That kind of goes without saying, and there’s simply too many people to name to even attempt to list here. Basically, if they were in any film of his before, they’re in “The French Dispatch” somewhere. The biggest problem with the film is that it’s not really about anything. Unlike the rest of his filmography, this is the first film that doesn’t put broken people front and center. At the heart of every Anderson film, no matter how bizarre and unique there are always damaged people processing trauma. “The French Dispatch” certainly has eccentric individuals, but you never get the sense that there’s anyone we really need to concern ourselves with. It’s actually too pretentious even for Wes Anderson, and feels more like a meta commentary on the burden of creativity (particularly writing) he’s shouldered instead of a film about people. This is a hard one, because I enjoyed the film a lot but didn’t love it like I have before. I also wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone who isn’t already a fan of the director. it is completely inaccessible to anyone that isn’t already versed in the highly stylized filmography. So, go see it? Or, maybe, don’t?
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Ok, so this one is kind of cheating since I didn’t actually go to the movies to watch it. But it was a new movie that came out, and the spectacle of “Red Notice” might as well have been theatrical release. Netflix spent a reported $300 million on this film, and it certainly screams its budget. The film is big and loud and messy, and is exactly the kind of action/adventure film theaters love to screen. Everything from the cast to the production value, you can feel how expensive it all is. “Red Notice” is admittedly going to have some recency bias. After sitting through a number of heavy, weighty, dramatic films, something like this is really refreshing. “Red Notice” knows what it is and never really tries to be anything else except when it’s literally made up of everything else. And make no mistake, there is nothing that happens in “Red Notice” that hasn’t happened in countless other films. It’s essentially the heist plot of “Ocean’s 12” meets an almost shot for shot third act remake of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” mixed with “Fast Five” action starring Deadpool, Hobbs, and Wonder Woman.
So ya, I’ll be the first to tell you that the film is wholly forgettable and extremely derivative. It doesn’t really equate to much more than the sum of its parts, but what makes all of this forgivable is how much damn fun it all is. Mindless action adventure flicks can be really enjoyable when they’re done right, and “Red Notice” is fully aware of its strengths and doubles down on them so hard you can forgive most if not all of its base shortcomings. The film is truly the Ryan Reynolds show, with his quippy comedic timing shouldering a majority of the comedy. So, if you’re not really into Reynolds doing what he does best, this movie will feel tiresome rather quickly. Gal Gadot shedding her naive Demi-god stature and demonstrating charm and a carefree performance is more than welcomed and I want her to do much, much more of this. She has probably some of the best scenes in the movie, attributed to her ability to go tit for tat with both Johnson and Reynolds at every turn. So much so you actually kind of miss her when she’s not onscreen.
“Red Notice” isn’t a great movie, but it’s a damn fun one. And it’s one you don’t really have to invest in too much. Sometimes that’s exactly what we need. Not everything in film has to mean something. Sometimes we can just sit back and watch stuff blow up as Ryan Reynolds cracks jokes while The Rock smolders all while Gal Gadot playfully sings “Downtown.” How does that NOT spark joy?
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
So there you go, 5 films I watched last week. What did you think of these movies? What new movies did you check out recently?