Pre-text: I'm a big fan of the "Scream" franchise...heck, who isn't? The series, with all four previous installment having been directed by the late, legendary horror master, Wes Craven, began in 1996, and not only poked fun at the slasher-horror genre, but transcended it. It was fresh, new and different. Moreover, it was loads of fun.
The original film's success brought about a renaissance of sorts for horror movies, and was followed by "Scream 2" the following year, "Scream 3" in 2000 and "Scream 4" back in 2011. In my review of "Scream 4," I had wrote:
"11 years later for 'Scream 4' seems like the right timing for Scream to return with something worthy of shouting about. With the same sense of style and personality, I could see another Scream movie coming out maybe every 5 to 10 years, to give wry commentary on the state of the genre."
Well at least they got the timing right...then new film, called simply "Scream" and not "Scream 5" as it probably should be, lacks that familiar style and personality that made the others so sharp (pun intended). In a series where the killer is always a copycat, for the first time, this chapter is more "wanna-be" than it is "wants-to-be-good."
In spirit, we need more female-led action films, but "The 355" is not worthy of the all-star cast of women it has assembled.
Review: 'Drive My Car' a profound reminder of the importance of the journey rather than the destination
A surprising title has been popping up on more than one year-end "Best of" lists: "Drive My Car." It's only "surprising" because as a Japanese film, it isn't a film that many Americans have even heard of, but it stops becoming a surprise for any who have seen it.
That's because "Drive My Car" deserves all the hype it's been getting. A nearly three-hour long drama that speeds by and pulls you in, featuring some powerful performances and complexities not often found, quite frankly, in many domestic films. A year-end list that does not include "Drive My Car" can be taken as an admission that the film wasn't seen by that particular critic (which explains why it doesn't appear on my Best of 2021 list), because it's truly one of the best, most impactful films of the year (it's also Japan's selection and entry for Best International Feature at this year's Academy Awards).
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi is simply one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation. His 2011 film, "A Separation" stands out as one of the very best films of the past several decades...and that's no understatement. You can always count on tense, deeply personal moral conflicts in a Farhadi film, served without any judgment or bias. His latest effort, "A Hero," is no different, and is a deeply compelling film that offers no easy answers...just the way that Farhadi likes it.
Olivia Colman is a great actress, who in "The Lost Daughter," has never been better. She plays Leda Caruso, an academic who is vacationing in Greece, alone. It's a deeply compelling character study of not just this woman, but of all women, who face societal pressures to not only become mothers, but the best mothers that they can be. Existing solely for the sake of others is perhaps the most selfless act in the world, but it doesn't leave a lot of room for personal - or what some may consider "selfish" - happiness.
Directed and adapted by actress Maggie Gyllenhaal - in this her directorial debut - "The Lost Daughter" bucks conventions to become one of the few films of 2021 that is simply impossible to forget.
The real tragedy of "The Tragedy of Macbeth" is that it will be a challenge to get people to see it...the works of William Shakespeare while classic, are not exactly accessible.
But for those willing to let it in, or who are fans of Shakespeare, will find "The Tragedy of Macbeth" to be one of the most effective, spell-binding takes on the famous play ever committed to screen.
There is a slang meaning for "red rocket" that I won't go in to (Google it if you must). but its an appropriate title for the latest film from Sean Baker. Baker has been on an upward trajectory himself, first making waves with the 2015 indie hit "Tangerine" (shot completely on an iPhone) and then following that up with his highly-regarded 2017 film, "The Florida Project," which landed an Oscar nomination for one of its stars, Willem Dafoe.
Baker has an uncanny knack for shining light into corners of rural, lower class America that rarely get attention, and the "deplorables" that populate these overlooked areas. "Red Rocket" fits in perfectly - thematically - with "The Florida Project" and "Tangerine" and features one of the most surprising comeback performances of this or any year.
Yes, Simon Rex - who once went by the rap name Dirt Nasty, who was a famous MTV VJ in the mid-90s and who dabbled as an actor in pornography - gives one of the year's best performances in "Red Rocket," against all odds, playing a washed-up ex-porn star. Go figure.
Fans are being asked to plug back into The Matrix franchise, nearly 20 years since the last two installments, "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions" hit theaters just a few months apart back in 2003. The love story of Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) was at the heart of this ground-breaking film saga that mixed action with high-concept sci-fi and stunning visuals, returning over 1 billion (with a "b") at the box office for the trilogy.
Lana Wachowski returns to the franchise (sans her usual partner, sister Lilly) to give us a fourth chapter, "The Matrix Resurrections," a decidedly uneven but wildly ambitious return to the world of rogue programs, slow-motion bullets, steam-punk aesthetics, unabashed ass-kicking and endless sci-fi mumbo-jumbo. Its high-aiming philosophy works better than its action set pieces, but ultimately this is a mixed-bag reboot whose main themes get buried under a mountain of code.
You can tell that "The Tender Bar" might have worked better on the page as it was intended, for those that are into inspirational, personal, coming-of-age stories. But the memoir - by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, J.R. Moehringer - becomes a sloshy, melodramatic snooze-fest as adapted by director George Clooney, with a screenplay by Academy Award winning scribe, William Monahan ("The Departed").
Somewhere along the line, the "Kingsman" films stopped being fun.
When "Kingsman: The Secret Service" debuted in 2015, it was one of my favorite films of that year. It was a vibrant comic-book movie (of which it is based), but one meant for adults. It was surprising, violent, funny and cool...a spy-action-thriller that wandered close to satire, walking a line between James Bond danger and Austin Powers buffoonery. It kicked-ass. And its director, Matthew Vaughn (who ironically directed "Kick-Ass") was on a roll, having also hit a home run with "X-Men: First Class."
The sequel was inevitable, and when "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" came in 2017, I called it a "soul-crushingly disappointing sequel." It was not good...not good at all. It starred Elton John , which should pretty much cue you in.
Even still, I was cautiously optimistic for "The King's Man," a film promised as a prequel to the original movie. It was long-delayed, first scheduled to hit theaters in November of 2019 before being pushed back due to the pandemic and a bevy of other reasons. Over two years later, it's finally here, but this is one that should have been kept permanently on the shelf.
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