Perhaps you've heard of "Don't Worry Darling"? It's hard to have not heard about it, as it's been dominating headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past month. From "spit-gate" between Harry Styles and Chris Pine, to Florence Pugh not doing press for the film, to friction between director Olivia Wilde and allegedly "fired" actor Shia LaBeouf. It then debuted at the Venice Film Festival to mixed reviews, with many critics applauding the performance of Florence Pugh, but attacking the performance of Harry Styles, and the film as a whole.
Having now seen it, I can accept all sides of the argument. Yes, Florence Pugh is great. Yes, the film itself is a cluttered, unfocused mess at times. Yes, Olivia Wilde's direction seems a bit too artsy for her own good. I will push back though, on the performance of Styles, who I found to be better than just fine, heck, he was effective. Sure, he may not be on the same level as Pugh, but his role didn't demand that he needed to be.
At any rate, "Don't Worry Darling" is a movie that will polarize audiences. But that's also usually a good sign, that a movie was able to ignite some level of passion from its audience, for good or for bad.
But despite its many, many flaws, I found there to be a LOT going on under the hood. Themes of feminism, masculinity and control. Systemic issues that churn out desperate individuals, who will buy into almost anything that promises a better way. The idea of individualism, gender roles and boundaries. Even some deeply buried political messages.
"Don't Worry Darling" isn't a throw-away thriller. It has meaning and purpose, even if its execution is way off, sometimes jarringly so. And it's definitely a movie that should spark conversation on the car ride home, whether you loved it or loathed it.
I rarely will start off a review by telling readers to watch the movie first, but in the instance of "Barbarian," I would hate to even spoil a morsel of the fun. So for real, if you haven't yet seen it, it's OK. You don't have to read on if you don't want to. Go see the movie and then come back here.
This isn't a spoiler-heavy review by any means, but "Barbarian" is best experienced by not knowing where the hell it's going. The headline is that I enjoyed it, despite it all falling apart by the end. It's a fantastic date movie or one to experience with friends, and it excels as a film that plays off of audience expectations...and trust me, no one will see where this one twists and turns to.
For the vast majority of "Bodies Bodies Bodies," it feels like just another average horror/thriller. But hang in there, because this one sticks the landing with a surprising pay-off that is well worth the investment.
Writer/Director Riley Stearns really made a real splash with the criminally underrated and underseen 2019 black-comedy, "The Art of Self-Defense" (read my review of that film here). He follows it up with "Dual," another film that exists in the same darkly comedic vein that his previous work did, but this one doesn't quite resonate nearly as much.
"Dual" is a film that introduces a very compelling concept, but veers well off course. By the time it tries to right the ship, it's too far gone for us to care.
The pandemic had much more of an impact on the movie industry than just at the box office. You can sort of tell the kind of film that was made during lockdown: Small, character-driven dramas or thrillers that utilize very few locations and minimal casts.
This weekend there is an example of how to accomplish this effectively (see "The Outfit"), and how difficult it can be. With "Windfall" (on Netflix Friday 3/18), we're happy that the cast and crew got out there and made a movie, but the result is a banal so-called "thriller" that's so minimal you'll nearly forget it's even there.
"Deep Water" might be remembered - if at all - for being the movie that started an off-screen romance between its two stars, Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas. There must have been real chemistry between the two, but you'd never know it by watching "Deep Water," a cold plunge into shallow erotic thriller territory, by a director who has been kept on ice for nearly two decades.
If you saw Netflix's recent "The Tinder Swindler" and thought it was unsettling, then just wait until you get a load of "Fresh." This sharp, witty and downright shocking horror-comedy caused jaws to drop when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2022, and now all of us can share in the exasperation as it lands on Hulu this Friday.
I am tempted to just create a "Liam Neeson Movie" review template, where I could save my self time and trouble by simply inserting Liam's character name, occupation and co-stars into the review.
This Academy Award nominated actor seems completely content to fill his current schedule with one throw-away action flick after another. "Cold Pursuit." "The Commuter." "Honest Thief." "The Marksman." "The Ice Road." And now "Blacklight." All of them trying to recreate the success of Neeson's 2008 film "Taken," but none of them sticking the landing.
Apparently there is still a market for action thrillers starring a nearly 70-year-old man, and if any of these other aforementioned movies were up your alley, then most likely you'll also approve of "Blacklight."
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.
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