Reviewed by Adam Donato
The 2018 Halloween reboot/sequel was quite a hit. How could it not be, now being produced by Blumhouse, who puts ten million dollars into no-name movies with no-name talent and they are successful. Give them a franchise like Halloween and the tickets just sell themselves. The film had a finale that felt satisfying, but when a movie makes over twenty-five times its budget, there has to be a sequel.
Halloween Kills picks up right where the first movie left off. Laurie Strode and her daughters are driving away from the burning house where Michael Meyers was left to die. Some firefighters come to the rescue and inadvertently allow The Shape to escape. As he goes off on a killing spree, the town bands together to make sure evil dies tonight. Did the continuation of the story feel organic? Of course not. Does that matter? Honestly, no.
While most of the main characters have little to nothing to do in the story and having the ending of the first movie go to waste, this movie is still a good time. Let’s be very honest with ourselves. This is the third second movie in a franchise that has squeezed out more juice than it probably deserves. At the end of the day, all that matters is that the scary sequences were effective and the humor kept things entertaining in between.
It is absolutely imperative that you watch this movie with a crowd. At the early screening, people were screaming and jumping out of their seats. There was nothing crazy inventive about the horror in the movie, but it was pure classic slasher horror. The body count was certainly high and the constant threat of dread, whenever Michael Meyers is on the loose, was prevalent as ever. It’s certainly one of the scarier movies of the year.
David Gordon Green has such an interesting filmography. How does the same director of Pineapple Express direct Joe? Then he goes on to reboot the Halloween franchise. It goes without saying that a movie written by Danny McBride is funny. The weird part about it is the most dominant emotion felt in the theater was laughter. Obviously, comedy and horror go hand in hand, but the focus on comedy here is almost admirable. This just might be the saving grace of the movie because the concept is so drawn out and ridiculous at this point. Like can this dude ever die? The humor certainly went a long way making up for the lack of a substantial story.
There are much worse reanimated horror franchises to deal with on a yearly basis. Better another at least fun Halloween movie than another Paranormal Activity spin-off. The only real complaint is the lack of thought put into the story and characters. Announcing that there is going to be not one, but two sequels and the second one has the word “ends” in the title, instilled confidence that they had some kind of plan for the trilogy. The lack of story, character, and enticing cliffhanger shows that none of those things are the priority. This is fine because this movie is a surface-level crowd pleaser. It’s a scary and funny good time at the movies. Nothing more, nothing less.
Halloween Kills hits theaters and Peacock on October 15.
Reviewed by Adam Donato
Who doesn’t love a good time travel movie? Needle in a Timestack is fortunate enough to be headlined with a pretty solid cast. Leslie Odom Jr. stars as a man who is desperate to maintain his relationship with his wife, but feels threatened by her rich, time traveling ex-husband. Cynthia Erivo and Orlando Bloom star as the wife and ex-husband, despite their limited roles. Famous producer John Ridley is the writer and director for this project. Does this movie have the star power and substance to claim relevance despite its lack of theatrical release?
Leslie Odom Jr. is a solid leading man. Most recently receiving awards nominations for his role in One Night in Miami…, it’s been nice to see him get more roles in projects. His character in this movie is entirely paranoid and deeply depressing, but his performance makes it worthwhile.
As previously stated, Erivo and especially Bloom are brief in this movie despite the plot entirely surrounding their characters. Erivo makes more of an impression as she has good chemistry with Odom Jr. Bloom, on the other hand, it’s just nice to know that he is still around. As the villain, Bloom isn’t very present in the movie, but when he is on screen he does leave an impact.
The plot of the movie is boring and feels drawn out. It’s not surprising to find out this is an adaptation of a short story. It is surprising to find out that it was a short story published to Playboy back in 1983. There's nothing sexier than trying out a new wife for a few weeks. The pacing issue is not detrimental to the individual character arcs, all of which feel fleshed out and satisfying by the end.
The only annoying aspect about the movie is the law of time travel in the movie’s universe. Not how time travel actually works (almost every movie gets that wrong), it’s explained in the movie that time travel is legal, but exorbitantly expensive. It is illegal to change things in the past though. This is maddening because wouldn’t the smallest of actions have the possibility of changing big things? Not to mention that one of the characters goes back in time specifically to change something, does it, and gets away with it like it was nothing. Like no, you went to a legit business and deliberately disobeyed their rules. When you go back to the present and things are very different for you, then it should be clear that the past was changed. There’s no consequence. It’s just weird.
Needle in a Timestack definitely not bad, but it’s also not one that you’d be eager to recommend. It’s a solid time to watch and everything feels wrapped up all nicely. The pacing and plot discrepancies are slightly annoying, but nothing that would prohibit the experience. It’s a cute movie that’s enjoyable enough to watch.
Needle in a Timestack hits theaters and VOD on October 15.
Reviewed by Adam Donato
Nothing is more subjective than comedy. That being said, if someone was opposed to the concept of a comedy film where the plot is centered around the COVID-19 pandemic, then that would be fair. Bo Burnham basically made a movie about his time spent during the pandemic and how mentally damaging the experience was. Is it in poor taste or is it timely and relevant? It could go either way, but that’s not the question at hand. The question is: Is Stop and Go good?
The film is written by its two main stars Whitney Call and Mallory Everton. It’s also directed by Everton who shared directorial duties with Stephen Meek. Call and Everton are most known for their various roles in the sketch comedy show called Studio C. The two ladies play sisters who go on a road trip during the pandemic to save their at-risk grandmother from getting COVID at her nursing home. Along the way, they goof around with each other and text some guy one of them hooked up with right before the pandemic started.
It goes without saying that the two leads have chemistry. They've been working together for about a decade, so they better have chemistry. That’s not the problem. The problem is that they are not funny. Making funny faces is good if you’re Jim Carrey or if your audience is just small children, but here it was just annoying. It’s interesting that the two leads wrote the script because it would not be surprising to find out that there was no script. They probably just wrote a loose outline of the plot and thought they would be funny enough to improvise the whole movie in the car. The nicest way to say that the movie is not funny is by looking at the genres on IMDb. It’s listed as a drama and nothing else. That’s fair.
The plot is also terrible. There’s little to none character or plot resolution that could be considered satisfying. Remember the movie Locke starring Tom Hardy? The movie where a man is in a car on the phone for 90 minutes. This movie is very reminiscent of that as so much of it is just them sitting in the car. It's the easiest type of movie to film: just them goofing off with each other in the car. Nothing happens. There’s a kid taking care of their mice and some guy is accidentally sending pictures of his junk to one of the girls. That is the entire second act of the movie. None of it is funny. The only interesting part about the story is how it portrays the fear and confusion associated with living through the beginning of the pandemic. Disinfecting the groceries? That one hit home. Relatives who think it's all a hoax? That one might be too soon.
Overall, it’s harmless. There’s nothing really offensive in regards to the story being about the pandemic. It’s a thing that happened and changed everything forever. Of course there are going to be movies about it. To answer the question, it’s not a good movie. The humor is annoying, the plot barely exists, and the setting will just remind you how everything sucks. If you’re going to watch this movie, wear a mask so you can use it to cover your eyes and take a nap.
Stop and Go hits theaters and VOD on October 1.
Reviewed by Adam Donato
Nic Cage is a genre all to himself. His newest film is directed by Sion Sono, who is most known for the four-hour love triangle called Love Exposure. Their new film is about a thief who is tasked with rescuing a young woman for his freedom. The young woman is played by the mid-2010s phenom, Sofia Boutella. After debuting at Sundance 2021, does Prisoners of the Ghostland live up to the Nic Cage standard enough to find relevance?
This movie is the quintessential Nicolas Cage picture. He plays a badass who is either silent or yelling. There is little in between. This Japanese western is your typical story about a renegade who covers up his heart of gold with his badass facade. Cage plays this character perfectly. He’s insanely hilarious when you want him to be and the rest of the time he’s obnoxiously cool. It might as well be Mad Max on crack, which is funny because Mad Max is already insane.
The supporting cast is headlined by Boutella, but Bill Moseley steals the show. He plays The Governor, who has a thick accent and is dressed up in an all-white suit with the matching hat. This character is the villain and watching him be extra is especially great because his scenes with Cage are always the ones where Cage is soft-spoken so the two characters contrast really well. Boutella is there and does fine. It’s funny watching her now remembering how big she was not too long ago and wondering what happened (The Mummy, the answer is The Mummy). It’s hard to identify any other standouts in the movie because everybody was equally insane, except for Narisa Suzuki, who was especially enjoyable to watch.
One of the crowning achievements of the movie is how visually pleasing it is. There are some sets that definitely stand out and add to the world itself. There’s a giant clock in Ghostland that requires a bunch of men to hold back its giant hands. This is done because if the clock continues to tick then it will explode. The opening shows Cage and his accomplice robbing a bank. The bank is pristinely white and the colors within are very vibrant. This set piece contrasts very well with the rest of the dystopian world the characters trudge through the rest of the movie.
Fans of Nicolas Cage watch his movies to be entertained and Prisoners of the Ghostland definitely does the trick. While the story is not art, the movie more than makes up for it with its insanity. What a fantastic year for Cage. Would definitely recommend doing a double feature with this and Willy’s Wonderland. If you can catch a theatrical release, the audience reaction alone would be worth the price of admission. Look at the poster and you’ll get exactly what you pay for.
Prisoners of the Ghostland hits theaters and VOD on September 17.
Reviewed by Adam Donato
The commercial art industry is a lot more sketchy than one would think. When an unreal piece of art enters the fray, the entire world takes notice. Is it real or is it fake? While that should be for the experts to decide, they can’t. So it might just be up to you. The winner of the New Documentary Director for Ballroom Dancer back in 2011, Andreas Koefoed, attempts to get the story straight when it comes to the most controversial piece of art in modern history. Is this documentary worth a record amount at auction or is it relegated to a publicity stunt?
This very well could’ve been an entire story about a bunch of stuffy old people describing how to restore a painting. Of course, some of this story is about that, but the rabbit hole that this documentary goes down is wild. It's a story about global politics and integrity that makes it feel larger than life. The event in question is so recent and so large scale that it will make audiences wonder how they don’t remember hearing about this in the news when it happened.
Just under a decade ago, a painting was found that turned out to potentially be attributed to the all-time great, Leonardo Da Vinci. Painted on a poor-quality piece of wood with plenty of wear and tear, the beginning of the documentary dissects the legitimacy of the work of art. Some skeptics don’t think the painting went under the utmost scrutiny to be undeniably defined as a Da Vinci piece. The painting then goes on to sell for a record amount to an anonymous buyer. This is such a dense subject that is ripe for a documentary. There’s so much to explore here and it is quite the ride.
There is a flurry of interviews of experts close to the situation that bring a good amount of insight into the events surrounding the painting. One of the experts, in particular, adds quite a bit of heart to the story. Dianne Dwyer Modestini had her whole life consumed by this painting. After restoring it and making some money for her involvement in the distribution, she made a website with all of the information that she has learned about the painting to defend its legitimacy. Especially since there are several villainous figures prevalent in the interviews, Modestini stands out as the hero of the story.
This industry-defining work of art is most certainly deserving of its own documentary. Clocking in at a 100 minute run time, this story never drags. Not only does this entry seem like the best of Koefoed’s career, but this review projects it to be in the conversation for best documentary at the end of the year. Hopefully this doc sheds some light on a dying industry because whether or not the painting is authentic, it is a conversation. This is certainly worth anyone’s time to become part of the conversation.
The Lost Leonardo hits theaters on August 13.
Review by Adam Donato
Multiple Oscar nominee Lucy Walker is back in the ring for another documentary, this time exploring the dangerous wildfires that occur in California and discussing solutions for the future. Bring Your Own Brigade is a heartbreaking tale with interviews from those who were impacted by the disasters themselves. Will the community band together to overcome this tragedy?
It really is amazing in the saddest way how much first person footage of the fires themselves there are in this movie. This does a lot to show the magnitude of these disasters. After seeing what they saw it is surprising that the survivors were even able to get out alive. Obviously the survivors would want for this footage to be seen in the hopes that it would inspire people to take these issues more seriously.
Speaking of the people, those who were present in the documentary are so interesting. They are simultaneously the best and worst part of this documentary. Either they are super impacted by what they experienced and have dedicated themselves to changing their ways or they are the complete opposite. Of course the people who have changed are where the emotional heart of this movie lies. The people coming together to do as much good as they can to help people in their greatest time of need. Seeing how passionate they are about preventing this from happening again is inspiring.
On the other hand, those who are dug in to staying the same are equally as infuriating as they are interesting. It’s like watching a car wreck and you can’t look away. There’s well over an hour of footage of fires destroying everything and people crying about having to see dead skeletons. Cut to a bunch of old people complaining about not being able to have some plants within five feet of their home. The smallest of inconveniences that doesn’t cost any money and they just won’t have it. There’s two different types of sadness in this movie. Sadness for those who are trying their best to stop this from happening again and sadness for those who are so ignorant and selfish to not make small sacrifices so their house and all their neighbors houses don’t burn down.
This documentary will make you feel sadness, anger and bittersweet joy. There are real life horrors in the world and this story is a testament to the human spirit of our ability to overcome. What an important story for those who live somewhere that is at risk of this disaster. Walker clearly has a strong voice with a lot to say about people and community. Hopefully people will learn from this story and develop a more constructive relationship with the environment to prevent this from hurting people.
Bring Your Own Brigade is now in theaters and hits CBSN and Paramount+ on August 20.
Reviewed by Adam Donato
Director of Bloodworth, Shane Dax Taylor burst back onto the scene with Masquerade. This thriller shows a wealthy family under attack as masked pair of thieves try to steal their precious artwork. Audiences are not left without star power in this under-the-radar flick. Bella Thorne, star of Shake it Up, leads this thriller as a kind bartender just trying to help some inebriated parents get home to their daughter. With a poster that proudly identifies itself as being produced by the same producer as Insidious and Split, does Steven Schneider produce a movie that lives up to those standards?
Now obviously this movie is not as good as Insidious or Split, but how bad is it? Pretty bad. The best thing that can be said about this movie is it has a merciful run time of exactly 80 minutes. While the movie does have things going on from start to finish, it is surprisingly such a drag. The parents don’t even get involved in the action until well over half of the movie, so the audience is left with fourteen-year-old actress Alyvia Alyn Lind trying to avoid the thieves in this giant house. Why this process takes a whole 80 minutes is beyond reason. How this episode of television is stretched to match the length of a full movie is borderline criminal.
Bella Thorne is definitely in the movie. The whole time the audience will be wondering why she is there and assume what the story doesn’t want one to assume. The rest of the cast is fine. Honestly, the best performance comes from Lind, who happens to be the only character worth rooting for. Watching her negotiate and combat the thieves is the most watchable part of the movie. The ending is satisfying in the sense that there is an explanation for why anything is happening, but also frustrating in the sense that nothing was really built on any kind of foundation of information.
It’s a good thing this movie is listed as a thriller and not as horror because it is not the least bit scary. The thieves have some kind of beekeeping masks on that changes their voices and every time they say something, it is laughable. At a bare minimum, the question of the movie is inherently thrilling. Will this little girl come out of this robbery alive? On that level, the story functions. That being said, little else does function in this movie.
While this thriller attempts to masquerade as a competent movie, audiences are sure to see through its mask. The resolution acts like it has more weight than the story deserves. While there is consistent action, it feels like nothing happens in the movie. It would be irresponsible to even recommend this to fans of Thorne as her role in the movie is quite possibly the most frustrating thing about it.
Masquerade hits theaters and VOD on July 30.
Reviewed by Adam Donato
Old is an adaptation of a graphic novel called Sandcastle. Once again, M. Night Shyamalan tackles the suspense thriller genre in a way that nobody else can. Despite the mixed critical reception of Glass, it was an overwhelming success at the box office. Now with a prime release date in the heat of the summer, Old premieres against the lowly Snake Eyes spin-off and leftovers from Black Widow and Space Jam. Can M. Night reestablish himself as an event filmmaker?
This movie tells the story of a family who goes on vacation to this beautiful beach resort and finds themselves trapped among others on a secluded beach that seems to have strange effects on their bodies. Suspicions arise when a dead body is discovered and the children start to age rapidly. Total chaos ensues as the gang tries to escape. An interesting concept that is ripe with potential. Mix that with some of M. Night’s mastery of suspense juxtaposed with his odd sense of humor, and it makes an edge-of-your-seat blockbuster.
A good amount of the suspense comes from body horror as the group finds themselves at odds with their own changing bodies. It’s not gory, but it’s not easy to watch either. What’s scarier is the consequences that come with aging rapidly and the paranoia of the members themselves. The rapid aging adds a level of urgency that keeps the movie going at a fast clip. There’s a good amount of attention to detail as characters grow older and face difficulties that come with that.
Not only is the film scary, but it also has a lot to say. The mystery of the movie is wrapped up in a satisfying manner that only strengthens the themes. These concepts are explored through external conflicts brought forth by each of the individual parties in the groups. Everything is deliberately placed and adds to the overall point of the movie.
One of the most important aspects that make this movie work is the performances. Having the aged children still speak like children strengthens the weight of their situation. One line that Shyamalan loves to toe in his movies is having characters that feel natural. He has a way of making characters talk that makes them seem so weird and jokes that border cringe. In a movie based on having characters react to strange things happening, this weirdness only adds to the uneasiness of the events in the story.
Certainly, this is a film that is sure to stick with audiences. It's definitely something that takes time to marinate so one can dissect everything it’s trying to say. This is the type of movie that is prime for a rewatch, which won’t be hard because of its entertainment value. There’s laughs, suspense, and genuine heart here that makes Old not only one of the best movies of the summer, but also the year.
Old hits theaters on July 23.
Reviewed by Adam Donato
Director S.K. Dale debuts his first feature film known as Till Death, a story about an unfaithful wife in a failing marriage who finds herself handcuffed to her dead husband while at a reclusive lake house on their anniversary. Megan Fox herself headlines the movie as Emma, the cheating wife. She is joined by other morally questionable men played by Eoin Macken, Aml Ameen, Jack Roth, and Callan Mulvey. Does Megan Fox carry this movie as well as Emma carries her dead husband?
Did you know that Megan Fox doesn’t only make movies about giant fighting robots and turtles? She’s had herself a nice little acting run since 2019. Nothing worth mentioning, but she even led a movie or two. Despite the fact that Jennifer’s Body came out over a decade ago, it still proves that Fox can lead a good horror movie. In this movie, she doesn’t have very much to do at all. For the first twenty minutes, she’s just kind of over everything and for the rest of the movie she is both literally and metaphorically being weighed down. She’s definitely a notable enough movie star to interest audiences to see this movie and some people will just see this because she’s a famous celebrity crush. Other than that, not much going on here.
So if your lead isn’t doing much, then what else is left here? The title is clever. Weirdly enough there’s another movie called Till Death coming out this year with Evangeline Lilly and Jason Sudeikis. It’s just cute because the whole movie is about how she is tethered to her dead husband and the whole “till death do us part” thing is funny. They can’t part because he is dead.
There is a large chunk of this movie that is just Emma dragging her dead husband around the lake house looking for clues. It is beyond slow and frustrating watching this carry out. The plan of revenge upon Emma is so convoluted anyways. The finishing act of the plot to get back at her is so over the top. Without going into spoilers, the movie delves into a very generic bad guy going after the final girl situation.
Overall, the movie was just under passable. Megan Fox is a character unto herself and even she was underwhelming. I can’t wait to see this movie in the free section on VUDU. Until then, theatrically released horror movies are overachieving this summer and are much more likely to quench that horror thirst. That being said, it will be nice to see Megan Fox in more movies. It’s worth a second glance just for that.
Till Death hits theaters and VOD on July 2.
Reviewed by Adam Donato
Summer is the time for fun and love, but June in particular is important for pride. What a perfect time for Summer of 85 to be released. Directed by François Ozon, this film is about two young men who become infatuated with one another until their love runs dangerously hot. The film stars young guns Félix Lefebvre, Benjamin Voisin, and Philippine Velge.
Obviously, comparing it to Call Me By Your Name is unfair. That’s an Oscar-winning movie and even though it’s a similar type of romance that takes place in the summer of a beautiful European country, this should be judged on its own. Certainly can recommend it to those who are a fan of Call Me By Your Name. Summer of 85 is an enjoyable movie. Obviously it’s beautiful thanks to the setting. A lot of the music is fits and adds to the vibe.
The performances are the highlight of the movie. Lefebvre and Voisin have a lot of chemistry and own all of their scenes. Their romance is easily sold and a delight to watch. The worst thing you could say about it is that it wasn’t given enough time. At just about ninety minutes, their romance feels rushed. That did help with expressing the nature of their relationship. Being that it was a young summer fling, it would be underdeveloped and rushed. That being said, the third act comes seemingly out of nowhere and takes the viewer out of the experience.
This leads to the larger point in that it is a very typical movie. The plot is very run-of-the-mill. That is until the third act where things become more unique. Getting to the conclusion is rushed, but once they get there, they wrap things up quite nicely. Starting the movie at the end is also problematic. This makes the plot behind the romance feel contrived and unnecessary. It’s one of those things where all of the problems could be solved very easily, but the main character is being weird. Obviously the circumstances allow for a lack of strategic actions, but as a viewer, it is extremely frustrating. Also, it does take place back in 1985, so times were different, but still.
Overall, Summer of 85 is an enjoyable watch. The movie leans into the season and provides for solid vibes. The romance is cute despite their adolescence providing much poor decision-making. It will be interesting to continue to see Ozon’s other projects as there is clear talent here. Check it out by the end of the month and especially before the end of the summer. Double feature it with In The Heights for some summer fun.
Summer of 85 hits theaters on June 18.