The end of March saw a slower pace for new releases, with a big theatrical offering and not much on streaming. Enjoy the calm, as things will pick up again, soon. Regardless, I saw a few interesting films this week and have my reviews below. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
Antlers (HBO Max)
Starring: Jesse Plemons, Keri Russell, and Jeremy T. Thomas
Synopsis: This horror film was released in 2021, but I didn’t catch it in theaters. It’s now streaming on HBO Max, and I was curious to check it out. Plemons and Russell are solid leads, which is part of the draw. The film comes from director Scott Cooper, who previously helmed Crazy Heart, Black Mass and Hostiles. It’s set in a small Oregon town where a young boy (Thomas) is struggling and his teacher, Julia (Russell), takes notice. She’s just moved home after years living in California. She was abused by her father, and is struggling to re-adjust to home, living with her brother (Plemons), who’s now the Sheriff. She thinks her student is being abused and tries to intervene. What she discovers is something much darker. The set up here is decent, and some of the shots work. There is a sense of menace here that works decently as well. But overall, the depth of story and character isn’t as strong as it should be, and the script doesn’t live up to the cast. As a result, this isn’t as shocking or engaging as it’s meant to be. It’s a decent idea but the execution doesn’t come together, leaving it as a somewhat forgettable final product.
Rating: Rated R for violence including gruesome images, and for language.
The Lost City (Theaters)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Brad Pitt, Daniel Radcliffe, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Synopsis: The biggest release this week was The Lost City, a romantic comedy featuring an all-star cast. The film centers on romance novelist Loretta (Bullock) who is struggling to complete her latest book and struggling with motivation after losing her husband. While on tour, she’s paired with her cover model, Alan (Tatum), who she doesn’t enjoy. When an eccentric wealthy explorer (Radcliffe) takes her hostage to help find the real ancient city that inspired her books, Alan springs into action. He calls on a pro (Pitt) and heads to her rescue, while her agent (Randolph) seeks other means to secure Loretta’s freedom. Will they get there before it’s too late? Will an odd couple attract? We already know the answers to these questions, but it’s the journey and not the destination that attracts viewers. And this journey is worth taking. Directors Aaron and Adam Nee do a nice job using the cast and the story here. There’s some nice shots and fun locations. The mystery unfolds at a good pace, and Bullock and Tatum work well together to keep you engaged in the narrative. Radcliffe has fun as the villain, and Randolph is great in support as well, but Pitt is the MVP here. This is fun ride with some witty lines and a decent story. It delivers all you’d expect from the genre and makes for a fun date night as well.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence and some bloody images, suggestive material, partial nudity and language.
Phoenix Rising (HBO Max)
Synopsis: This documentary takes a hard and unflinching look at domestic violence and sexual abuse through the eyes of its subject, Evan Rachel Wood. Many have seen Wood’s portrayals on screen, from Thirteen to Ides of March to Westworld, but few know the horrors she endured. Wood was in a long-term relationship with musician Marilyn Manson, but only years after it ended was she able to open up about what she endured. Rising Phoenix, directed by Amy Berg, allows Wood to share her story, and to explore the backlash she faced and the work she’s done to help others in similar situations. Abuse runs rampant among the powerful in entertainment and sports, and often the stories of victims are dismissed or questioned. Wood felt that when sharing her own story, and this documentary helps dive into that and an entire system that makes victims feel guilt and shame for trying to come forward. It’s an emotional and powerful presentation that plays out over about two and half hours and two parts, both of which are available to stream now on HBO Max.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.