Hello, 615Filmers. Have you missed me? Of course you have. How could you not?
I’ve got more reviews for you. Try to contain your enthusiasm. Plenty of takes to go around. I am a generous person.
Ticket to Paradise
George Clooney and Julia Roberts powering a romcom like this is like getting an entire power plant to light a Christmas yard display. The elevation of the material here is palpable because those two just ooze charisma. You add Kaitlyn Dever and Billie Lourd, a great location, an able director with a feel for romance and timing, and a script that’s just funny and introspective enough to withstand its shortcomings … you get a heck of a time. This is so easy. Hollywood should be embarrassed it’s let these movies slide into a streaming wasteland. I’m guessing they’ll figure out sooner than later why these movies need to come back. It’s an easy movie to like.
Mia Goth is on one in this. Like … she’s going for it. This, at least to me, has a much better through-line than X did. It tells a better, scarier story about how hurt people … hurt people, and about how chasing fame is a cancerous pursuit fueled by the worst tendencies inside of us. Ti West really seems emotionally driven by this grander story, as he’s trying to say something poignant about the industry while also using strong horror tropes to satisfy genre fans.
At least to me, X felt a little too straightforward, if very well done for what it is. Pearl feels like the riskier endeavor. It’s not really a classical horror film, as much as it is an incredibly dark character study with horror seeping through. It’s all on Goth to keep it from ever getting too comfortable, and she is sensational. Her big monologue and the final scene in the film are just so different, one almost begging you to feel sympathy for a psychopath, the other refusing to let you leave with anything than a pit in your stomach. That’s the best closing shot of the year, at least to me. It’s one that shows you the depths Goth goes to plunge this character into darkness. It’s terrifying. West just lathers it on, too, the way he makes you sit in the moment and uses the music to make you feel like it’ll never end. It’s a test of endurance, in how long you can stare at the screen without crawling out of your skin. It’s like trying to run away from a monster in a room with no doors. It’s almost sucking you in. That’s good horror right there, unforgettable imagery laced in theme that’ll show up in your technicolor nightmares. This was pretty great. Like that last shot, it’s going to linger. How could it not?
Where to Watch: Theaters, VOD
Catherine Called Birdy
Not really familiar with much of Lena Dunham’s work outside of reputation, and I know she’s got her detractors, but I found this to be a very spirited affair. A really clever spin on the coming-of-age comedy with a whip-smart script that feels pretty discerning with how to play into its timeframe while also making relevant, useful commentary. Actually pretty damn funny, too. Bella Ramsey is going to take off once that Last of Us show comes on; she’s stellar here. Enjoyed this!
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
Kind of a B-movie riff on Annihilation, which is funny since Paramount also did that. Maika Monroe is already an elite Scream Queen, and Jake Lacy is born to play a part like this. The twist is better because of what they do with it, not just that they try to pull it off in general. It seemed kind of done before until you understood exactly what they were going to do with it. Be patient with this one. It takes some time to really gel, but the third act really makes some bold decisions. It’s way more what I thought the guys that made Villains would do in a movie like this. I dug it!
Where to Watch: Paramount+
Tár feels much less “cancel culture movie,” so much more a parable told with a battering ram and a bullhorn. It’s Macbeth meets Amadeus meets Steve Jobs meets your Twitter feed. A dense, electric entrapment of ideas and crescendos. Blanchett’s best?
Also, Todd Field is a glorious sicko for that last scene. Good heavens.
One of my favorite aspects of this film is how it founds itself on literary themes about the rise and fall of power to show how our culture of accountability has strong roots in our stories and history. Ain’t nothing new about the corrosion of absolute power. Happens faster now.
There’s also such a fine walk between buzzy cultural debates about “cancelling” and the real terror of those in power abusing their standing without regard to their actions. This film does as well a job of dicing up the nuances to both and the pratfalls of semantics as I’ve seen.
Where to Watch: Theaters
For everyone that complains that nobody takes risks with IP movies anymore … meet my friend, Halloween Ends.
It’s hard to remember the last time we got a franchise movie like this that threw fan expectation to the wind this aggressively. I didn’t care for Halloween Kills, but I at least respect what it was trying to do. Here, I think David Gordon Green swings in the exact opposite direction, to make Haddonfield a different kind of villain than it was in Kills, and it just works so well.
Putting the movie on a relative unknown’s shoulders (Rohan Campbell) and having him carry most of the movie’s water was just a bold ass decision, but I liked it a lot. He’s got some Skeet Ulrich vibes going on, with some Paul Dano and James Franco in there, too. A very dangerous, beguiling, sympathetic actor, which worked to build up such a tragic character into something more … well, you’ll get it. I’d love to see this guy get more work to do. He’s got a spark.
JLC does just enough to justify Strode’s story continuing, and I’m glad they stamp it here rather than leave things dangling. Halloween sure as hell ends, and it’s quite a finish.
Not for everyone, some people will hate this. It betrays the bombastic, Michael-filled finale people probably wanted, the 2-hour marquee melee, to tell a very Halloween-esque story about how communities create monsters, and how monsters create communities. It’s a tantalizing, uncompromising finale, completely unnecessary (like all of these movies) but also energetic, nasty and 80s Lost Boys/90s Scream-ass moody and fun in the way it breaks down its own Shape and color. Kinda loved it, warts and all. It’s my favorite of the DGG trilogy. Wish the script were a little cleaner, but the big swing means some grass kicked up on the green.
Clearly nothing will top the original Halloween, but all the respect in the world for DGG and Danny McBride letting this be the note the franchise goes out on (at least for now until the inevitable reboot happens).
Where to Watch: Theaters, Peacock
Like all Apatow-produced films, this could’ve been 100 minutes, but it’s hard to want to nitpick such a sweet romcom that is also grappling with its own history so honestly as this one does. Very funny, Luke Macfarlane is fantastic, Billy Eichner can root a cast. Takes a little time to really get going, but once it does, it’s one of the better comedies of the year. Nic Stoller can make these movies in his sleep. The Dear Evan Hansen joke was aces. Now someone give Bowen Yang a movie.
Where to Watch: Theaters, VOD
I hope Rob Zombie gets to do a Netflix series with this because you can tell how much fun he’s having. It’s very relaxed, corny and heartfelt. No stakes can almost make it … too relaxed … to really build any momentum, but for an extended pilot for a TV reboot, it’s hard to be that disappointed since this is recreating, y’know, The Munsters. This is probably best-case scenario for The Munsters in 2022. It’s cute! I dunno. It’s not bad.
Where to Watch: Netflix, VOD
I’d been avoiding this because honestly who has the time, but I needed something dumb to watch on an airplane … Morbius it is.
It’s not really the disaster it’s made out to be, more a corporate IP dump that’s written by a computer and features supporting actors who are showing up to cash those checks. Michael Keaton probably got a nice car for doing … like what a day or two worth of work? Also who had the idea to cast Jared Harris in this? He’s way too talented to play “the doctor who is older than Morbius.”
I don’t think Jared Leto is a good actor when he is being this serious, and he proves that here. At least his Joker, as cringey as it is, made character decisions. This is just kind of dry ice. Eddie Munster looking ass.
Matt Smith tries to do PG-13 Lost Boys, and he’s definitely the most interesting vampire man.
Daniel Espinosa seems to have kind of disavowed this movie, or at least hinted what’s here isn’t what he was trying to do, and I can empathize with the idea a better movie is in here … somewhere. You recast Leto, make this R and lean in on the campiness like Venom did, and you might have something workable. As it is, it’s Marvel streaming content, perfectly housed now on Netflix to be passively consumed by people who are on their phones. It’s a throwback in form, but not in personality. There’s nothing weird or dated about this movie; it’s just filling a superhero quota.
Where to Watch: Netflix, VOD
I Love You, You Hate Me
The second half of this is way too far a stretch in so many wrong directions, in trying to galaxy brain the connection to people being unnecessarily pissed about Barney to #TheTimes, and in trying to lurch into the true crime space to highlight what seems to be a deeply sad period in the Barney creator’s son’s life. It just feels weird and unnecessary to spend so much time on it.
This is hard from the Discovery/Netflix school of documentary style, cheaply made but just interesting enough to keep your attention. I think there’s a captivating story here about the creation of a cultural behemoth and the bizarre backlash it garnered. At times, you see the sparks of a better piece of work showing through, but after an hour, it just starts to feel like a waste of time. Once they step the stage, they fail to really live up to the thesis, which could be a hell of a study in the right hands. Don’t love it, don’t hate it. It’s just there. Entertaining until it runs out of gas.
Also, letting the “Jihad for Barney” guy off the hook like that is bush league. Like, c’mon, press that guy a little harder for being such a self-pronounced jackass. Sheesh.
Where to Watch: Peacock
This is like Iceland’s Gone Baby Gone. A, forgive the pun, chilling procedural about generational sin. It’ll make you want to lock your door, get under a nice blanket with a cup of cocoa and shut the world out. Ain’t a friendly place sometimes. Maybe the best film I’ve seen from Kormákur.
Where to Watch: VOD
One of those lovely “old buddy” comedies where two elderly people just go hang out and reminisce on life in lovely vistas. Just having been to Iceland, it was fun to see places I’d seen in real life. This is as easygoing as can be, but my gosh, that Southern doctor is a old school horndog. Chill out, my guy. This is really good, though. I really hope that old doctor goes to therapy.
Where to Watch: Starz, VOD
A stirring story of survival, told without a lot of frill or overdone drama. It’s just a good movie about the sheer strength of the human spirit when pressed to its absolute limits. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson is spectacular in such a difficult performance, one that purely relies on body language to show the depths of pain this guy went through to survive. He’s still actually alive in real life, too! Just an amazing story. It shows the resolve of the people of Iceland to withstand … anything and everything.
Where to Watch: VOD
A bleak (bleet?) film about the inescapable bond family members have, as badly as you know neither of them want to have it. Icelandic film doesn’t have to go this hard. This is like Yorgos Lanthimos more grounded in reality, or Todd Solondz with a big, bushy white beard. In the end, though, it’s about legacy, and how even your least favorite family member will still go to bat for you because, damn it, blood is blood.
Where to Watch: Hulu, Hoopla, Kanopy, VOD
50 First Dates
This was a big gap in my Sandler filmography, so I popped this on while on a flight.
Aside from some of the churlish material, this has to be one of Sandler’s best from his original run. He’s actually committed to a vision here, and the story actually tries to find the poignancy in its premise rather than just the humor. Sandler and Drew Barrymore have undeniable chemistry, and the film makes pretty great use of its supporting cast (maybe recast Rob Schneider).
None of these movies have completely stood the test of time, but this is a much better studio romcom than what we got then and what we get now. It’s a shame someone can’t figure out how to do more movies like this. Shave off some of the stupider moments, and you’d actually have a really damn good romcom here. Though I think I’m so generally apologetic with Sandler’s original run that I’d actually call this a really damn good romcom.
Allen Covert, still the best Sandler supporting player.
Where to Watch: VOD
I’ve never seen a Golden Age Disney film in a theater before, and I’m very glad I did.
Some of the Tom and Jerry stuff goes a hair too long, but it’s a small gripe compared to the artistry and storytelling on display here. A powerhouse.
I took my mom to see this because it’s her favorite movie, so I win Best Son of the Day.
Where to Watch: Disney+, VOD