Some stories are so bizarre, they can't possibly be untrue.
"Zola" is one such tale.
Meyer Lansky is one of the most enthralling mobsters in American history, and yet, he seems to always be represented as a supporting player. Finally, Lansky is given his due.
There is a lot to like about "Lansky," and if you're a fan of Mafia movies or crime dramas, you won't be disappointed that you checked this out. But you can't help but feel that there was a better version of his story to be told on-screen.
We've come to expect implausible, over-the-top ridiculousness in the "Fast & Furious" movies...heck, we almost rely on it.
But with "F9," the franchise is dealt a critical blow in that it forgets to be fun. Yes, in a film series where it is completely acceptable for cars to jump from skyscraper to skyscraper, where the laws of physics and all beliefs are permanently suspended, where men and women have perfected the ability to leap unscathed from exploding vehicles, "F9" is the first chapter that feels tired, uninspired, lazy and most egregiously of all for a "Fast & Furious" film, stuck in second gear.
Indie films, above all others, are ones that I root for to succeed. But sometimes you have to call a spade a spade. "The Birthday Cake" is one of the oddest little films you'll come across, and not in a good way. It contains a mix of what seems like flavorful ingredients that when blended together, leaves a terrible taste in your mouth.
This is one course worth passing on altogether.
If you were a fan of the original 2017 action-comedy, "The Hitman's Bodyguard," there is almost no way that you won't also like its sequel, "The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard." That's because it's essentially the same movie, with the same primary cast, writer and director, but it's a lot leaner (shorter), tighter and funnier than its predecessor.
Did we need a sequel to "The Hitman's Bodyguard"? Nah. But in a world where Intellectual Properties reign supreme, there are worse universes to find yourself thrown back into.
Disney has a thing for its villains, and Cruella de Vil has always been one of the company's most iconic. New this weekend (in theaters and available on Disney+), "Cruella" gives us the origin story of a character who first appeared on-screen in the 1961 animated classic, "101 Dalmations" and who most recently was portrayed by Glenn Close in the live-action 1996 remake, "101 Dalmations" and its dog of a sequel, "102 Dalmations" (Close gives her seal of approval over this new version of the character, being that she's one of the film's Executive Producers).
Emma Stone is a perfect young Cruella de Vil, with the ability to be so likable and angelic at times but who can also turn on her devilish side with a quick flash of a look and a grin. There's nothing at all wrong with her rendition of the infamous Disney villainess, but "Cruella" is clogged with so much unnecessary and distracting nonsense that it - just barely - doesn't quite work.
"The Dry," based on the 2016 book of the same name by Jane Harper, is already one of the highest-grossing Australian films of all-time. Like many other films, it was set for release during the Summer of 2020, but didn't make its Melbourne premiere until last December.
Now arriving state-side, it's time for American audiences to discover what all the well-warranted hype is about.
The 2018 novel, "The Woman in the Window," by author A.J. Finn, was a hot property in Hollywood and almost immediately after its release, was green-lit as a feature film. It attracted Oscar-caliber talent, like Amy Adams, Julianne Moore and Gary Oldman, with an adapted screenplay by Tracy Letts and Scott Rudin. Esteemed director Joe Wright ("Darkest Hour," "Atonement") was brought on board and "The Woman in the Window" looked like a surefire hit.
That is, until disastrous test screenings with audiences sent the movie back into post-production and delayed it from its original October 2019 release date. The pandemic put it out even farther, and 20th Century Studios was more than happy to sell it off to Netflix, who purchased the rights to the film and then unceremoniously dumped it as a mid-May release (Netflix, a PR powerhouse, did little to promote it and doesn't seem to have much confidence in its performance).
It's never a good sign when a movie goes through so much, but even in knowing the film's journey, it still lands as a massive disappointment when it arrives and is ever worse than you expect. With Adams, Oldman, Moore and also featuring Brian Tyree Henry, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Wyatt Russell and Anthony Mackie (the latter two of whom were recent co-stars in "The Falcon & The Winter Soldier"), you expect something great, and "The Woman in the Window" is not great...even if glimpsed through a window from across the street would one never reach that conclusion.
The "Saw" franchise is one of the most successful horror franchises of all-time, having grossed over a billion - with a "b" - since the first film hit theaters back in 2004. "Spiral: From the Book of Saw" is now the ninth film in the series and the first since the 2017 release, "Jigsaw."
The first two films in the series were fresh, unique and clever despite being labeled, perhaps correctly, as "torture porn." But the further we get away from that original pair of films, the more pointless the movies have become. Consequently "Spiral," feels like a copy of of a copy of a copy...an inauthentic wanna-be, much like the new killer it features who is yet again out for some twisted form of vengeance.
Zack Snyder has worked his way into the hearts of millions and is one of the most talked-about directors of the past year. The "Zack Snyder Cut" of "Justice League" that was recently released was well-received and dreamed into fruition by his fervent fan-base. But long before he ever took on The Caped Crusader and his Super-Friends, Snyder cut his teeth on a zombie movie...a George Romero zombie movie no less...the 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead." It was Snyder's first feature-film and he returns to world of the undead with his own original zombie tale, "Army of the Dead."
Yes, it's way too long (it is a Zack Snyder film after all), and it never quite lives up to its outstanding opening sequence. But sometimes it's nice to just rest one's brain, and that particular muscle is not at all needed to enjoy this one. "Army of the Dead" definitely pays tribute to the zombie genre, in that mindlessness is not only welcome, it's the main dish.
If only it didn't take itself so seriously.
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