Last week I only caught a few streaming movies, this week I went wild! Enjoy a gaggle of reviews from films I saw this week below! If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
Starring: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgard, Justin Long, and Matthew Patrick Davis
Synopsis: There isn’t really a horror movie season, as we see spooky releases throughout the year. But once we hit September, it usually ramps up. No matter what the rest of the season holds, we know we’ll at least have one gripping and original horror film thanks to writer/director Zach Cregger and Barbarian. It’s best to go into the film cold, so I won’t elaborate on plot here aside from saying the initial set up is something out of Vrbo nightmares, but this one has plenty of hidden depths. Cregger’s script crackles, and his direction is on point. The acting is sharp. I enjoyed Campbell and Skarsgard, and Davis is incredible, too. But the performance of the film comes from Long, who’s never been better. He’s given a meaty role and sinks his teeth into it, bringing plenty of humor into this dark and gripping story. I enjoyed this one a lot.
Rating: Rated R for some strong violence and gore, disturbing material, language throughout and nudity.
Clerks III (Theaters)
Starring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, and Rosario Dawson
Synopsis: I was in college when I stumbled on Smith’s directorial debut, a black-and-white feature about two friends toiling away at a local convenience store. Clerks spawned a whole cinematic universe, in addition to a 2006 sequel. Now, nearly 30 years after the original, Smith is completing his trilogy. We return to the Quick Stop, where Dante (O’Halloran) and Randal (Anderson) are still toiling away, now as owners. The film is full of fun celebrity cameos and plenty of nostalgia, especially for fans that have stuck with these characters over the years. But this isn’t going for pure comedy. There is some comedy, and some very clever lines and pop culture references. But this is a much deeper film than any of Smith’s other films from the Jay and Silent Bob universe. It’s the best performance from Smith himself as Silent Bob, using his dialogue to deeply enhance the production. But I was really blown away by O’Halloran. I’ve often thought of Dante, and his moniker, “I’m not even supposed to be here today,” over the years. This one shows us that while his literal position behind the counter at the Quick Stop is the same, he’s grown a lot more introspective. His scenes with Dawson are incredible and his big monologue is deeply emotional. This film has plenty of heart and for that reason it’s one of my favorite Smith films and easily the best of the Clerks trilogy.
Rating: Rated R for pervasive language, crude sexual material, and drug content.
Do Revenge (Netflix)
Starring: Camila Mendes, Maya Hawke, and Austin Abrams
Synopsis: The latest from Netflix is a teen revenge film that draws inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. In it, Drea (Mendes) was the queen of the school until her boyfriend (Abrams) leaked a private video, making her a pariah and leaving her feeling violated. Eleanor (Hawke) is recovering from a similar scandal caused by a violation when the two cross paths and determine they should each help each other get revenge. Things don’t go as planned, and there’s more to the story than first appears. This film has a clever hook which helps a mundane story. The script has a few interesting moments, but mostly it works thanks to Mendes and Hawke. They have great chemistry and turn in performances that help elevate the material. This is an easy and decent watch, if somewhat uninspired. It’s worth checking out just for Mendes and Hawke.
God’s Country (Theaters)
Starring: Thandiwe Newton, Joris Jarsky, Jefferson White, and Kai Lennox
Synopsis: This drama debuted at Sundance and now makes its way to theaters. It stars Newton as a college professor living alone in a canyon in a rural area. She’s recently lost her mother and is struggling. When a pair of hunters (Jarsky and White) begin using her land for their efforts, she confronts them and things quickly get out of hand. At the same time, she’s struggling with inconsistencies at work and clashing with her department chair (Lennox), who also happens to be her neighbor. All this swirls over seven days as she deals with trauma from the past. Newton gives an engaging lead performance but the rest of the story just doesn’t do that work justice. There are beautiful moments in the film and some nice craft from director Julian Higgins. I liked some of the supporting work as well, in particular a scene with Jarsky in a church and one with Jeremy Bobb and Newton at a holiday party. In the end, the story just doesn’t all come together in a satisfying way, which diminishes the finish product.
Rating: Rated R for Language.
Goodnight Mommy (Amazon Prime)
Starring: Naomi Watts, Cameron Crovetti, and Nicholas Crovetti
Synopsis: This is the English-language re-make of a 2014 Austrian film, now available to stream on Amazon Prime. In the film, twin brothers (Cameron and Nicolas), arrive to spend time with their mother (Watts). They find her wearing a bandage on her face and behaving strangely. It’s not the warm welcome they sought, and soon the brothers begin to suspect something is wrong. This is meant to be a thriller or horror film, but mostly it’s just a dull affair. Watts is miss used in the film, barely making an impact. I liked the brothers, particularly Cameron who has to do more of the heavy lifting. But the story isn’t engaging, nor is this production. This is a creative misfire that can be safely skipped.
Rating: Rated R for some language.
See How They Run (Theaters)
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, David Oyelowo, and Harris Dickinson
Synopsis: Set in 1953 in London’s West End, this murder mystery is about a murder and mystery set at a theater showing Agatha Christie’s Mouse Trap. It’s very meta. We get an opening monologue about the nature of murder mysteries from the victim, then go through the motions of the story with a pair of investigators—the grizzled veteran battling personal demons (Rockwell) and the eager youngster (Ronan). This is a clever concept with a solid period look and strong cast. Director Tom George adds some fun visual flourishes at times, but the story is mostly dry. I enjoyed the final act, which presents a call back to something from earlier in the film. But the path to get there is too meandering and the characters aren’t developed enough to hook you. It’s OK and at times clever but falls short of its potential.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for some violence/bloody images and a sexual reference.
The Woman King (Theaters)
Starring: Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, and John Boyega
Synopsis: This new biopic from writer Dana Stevens takes us back to 1823 and the Kingdom of Dahomey in Africa. The kingdom and its young king (Boyega) face a threat from a rival tribe and the ongoing threat of the slave trade stealing the nation’s people. But Dahomey has a secret weapon—a group of women warriors led by General Nanisca (Davis) who hope to turn the tide of the war and end the slave trade. There are some great action sequences here as director Gina Prince-Bythewood does a beautiful job of building the tension and capturing the action. But it’s the beautiful story and performances that put this over-the-top. Davis is tremendous in the lead role but I was moved by the performance of Mbedu, who becomes the point-of-view character that pulls you through this world. The entire cast was fantastic. Lynch steals all the scenes she’s in as well. This is a great ride but one with a lot of heart. It’s one of my favorite films of the year so far.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing material, thematic content, brief language and partial nudity.
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.
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