Borat Subsequent Moviefilm will release this Friday, October 23 on Amazon Prime Video.
Fairly quickly, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm -- aka Borat 2 aka Borat: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan -- addresses the very nice
elephant in the room by figuring out how comedian Sacha Baron Cohen is going to pull off a majority of his stunts now that the Borat character is a veritable, and recognizable, pop-culture icon. The easy answer is, Borat, in-film, is a celebrity in the States and since he's on a secret mission, he'll have to wear disguises.
But Borat 2's better solution to this issue is giving Cohen a capable, captivating co-star in the form of Maria Bakalova, who plays Tutar, Borat's teen daughter. With Bakalova's awesome addition and fearless presence, Cohen has found a true on-screen partner in crime. And while this Borat sequel may, at times, lack some of the sinister sting of the original, it can surely boast Bakalova as its breakout star.
The question remains though: Even with Bakalova's boisterous energy and commitment, how does Borat work in 2020? Satirically, the film tackles many of the things the original did 14 years ago -- from racism to sexism to just plain pigheaded ignorance -- and we know, firsthand, that exposing liars and lechers and hate-mongers and QAnon pushers doesn't really do all that much. Despite this film containing moments with Vice President Mike Pence and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani (read about his questionable Borat encounter here), as well as those who think the Democrats created the coronavirus, there's no "gotcha" moment here. We're at a terrifying time in history where that no longer exists.
Regardless, Borat 2 is ultimately a more rewarding experience than the first film because the story is better. Whereas the first film used Borat's crazed obsession with Pamela Anderson as a thread to connect cringe-worthy "cultural" interviews and escapades, this sequel has a heart to it and feels, overall, more like a movie with occasional pranks, punks, and anxiety-amplifying situations. Basically, it's the tale of Borat and Tutar and their burgeoning relationship (which flies in the face of Borat's "Kazakh" belief that women are livestock), and then everyone else gets roped into their orbit and are used to tell that
story. So, bottom line, way more folks are Bowfinger'd into an actual movie here than the first one, which shifts the overall focus in a good way. It's different. It's an evolution. And it's still funny as hell.
Having been sentenced to a life of hard labor in a Gulag due to shaming Kazakhstan in 2006 (while also becoming a hit in America), Borat is released from his shackles so he can head back to the U.S. on a mission to win Trump's favor - by giving a celebrity monkey to VP Pence. It's not long though before the objective shifts to Borat giving away Tutar to Pence as a child bride and much of the film involves Tutar, who's treated like a house pet most of the time, experiencing Western culture as she "prepares" herself to be the perfect gift (makeover, tan, cosmetic surgery, etc).
An argument can be made that no one went above and beyond more, as co-star, than Ken Davitian, who played producer Azamat in the first film, and literally ran around a hotel with Cohen while they were both whole-ass naked, but Bakalova is able to be hilarious while also carrying some of the cringey weight. As Tutar, she not only participates in the movie's most memorable, and jaw-dropping, moments but she's also allowed to exist on her own and cause her own brand of calamity with unsuspecting members of the public.
Again, nothing here is going to tarnish any one politician's reputation more than they've already done so in their own right, but the third act, essentially the final half-hour, is a masterstroke. Not only does Cohen need to quickly incorporate the pandemic into the running story, with the initial shutdowns and quarantining that happened at the end of March (which he does by bringing us into the home of Jim and Jerry, who think Hilary Clinton drinks the adrenal secretions of tortured children), but he has to also funnel that into the ultimate endgame, which is a mesmerizingly stunning and vomitous "final battle" with Giuliani
-- which, is by far, the best "using a real person as a third actor in a three-person scene they don't know they're a part of" in the film.
There are a few times -- and this just comes with the territory this many years later -- where you wonder if the people Cohen is interacting with are truly fooled or just going along with "the bit," but that usually happens during scenes that aren't meant to induce gasps or pearl-clutching. Borat 2, even switching things up on the fly due to a pandemic, is still a savagely great, and gross, time.
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The Witches debuts on HBO Max in the U.S. on October 22 and opens in theaters internationally on October 28.
Witches are real. They wear gloves to hide their claws. They don't have any toes, and they all wear wigs to hide their bald heads. And apparently, they are colorful, CGI-Joker-lite, and quite dull.
Based on Roald Dahl's 1983 novel of the same name, The Witches is Robert Zemeckis' remake of Nicolas Roeg's 1990 horror film for kids about a young orphaned boy (Jahzir Kadeem Bruno, making his feature film debut) who goes to live with his Grandma (Octavia Spencer) after losing his parents in a car accident. Already closer to death than any child his age should be, things quickly turn bad when Grandma starts getting seriously ill, and even worse when the nice little trip they take to an opulent seaside resort on the Gulf Coast turns into an unexpected battle against a coven of witches that plan to turn every child on Earth into mice.
Robert Zemeckis has had a fascinating, if super inconsistent, career. He started out as a possible successor to Spielberg, thanks to his ability to mix character-driven stories with cutting-edge visual effects to deliver grand spectacles that pull at your heartstrings. But then, Zemeckis started to rely more and more on CGI as the driving force of the story, leaving all substance behind. While Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit remain indisputable classics, his streak of motion-capture CGI movies -- Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol -- feel like a director chasing the shadow of his former self. Even if Zemeckis, alongside co-writers Kenya Barris (Black-ish) and Guillermo del Toro change the setting from England and Norway to 1967's Alabama in an attempt to add some historical and cultural context and nuance to this new version, The Witches feels not entirely unlike watching Tim Burton's remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: you get a colorful and entertaining enough film that completely fails to capture the heart of the story and leaves a sour aftertaste.
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Roald Dahl's The Witches is not only a celebrated tale that has captivated and scared millions of kids around the world, but the 1990 adaptation by Nicolas Roeg is a cult classic in its own right. Because of this, it's nearly impossible not to compare Zemeckis' remake to the 1990 version. Roeg, who had already made a name for himself in horror with Don't Look Now, infused the film with an odd blend of sex appeal and disturbing horror imagery, which made the witches terrifying even before we discovered their hideous appearance. The Witches was also the final film that Jim Henson personally worked on before his death, and his work elevated the film to new terrifying heights that still hold up today.
More than anything, the problem with Zemeckis' take on The Witches is that it lacks the sense of danger and darkness that Dahl's story, and even the movie itself, hints at. Even though it seems to be telling a story about the dangers of trusting strangers — no matter how nice and kind they may look — and about accepting your own mortality, Zemeckis gives us a completely harmless and comedy-heavy fantasy adventure. Every time the story hints at a sinister implication for what's happening on screen, Zemeckis instantly undercuts the tension with cartoonish humor. That he also decides to replace nearly all practical effects in the original for some very obvious and distracting CGI does nothing but diminish the gravitas of the story.
Not that the film looks entirely bad; on the contrary, Zemeckis knows how to deliver grandiose productions that look out of this world. The lavish production design for the holiday resort and the fantastical costumes really pop. At times, the director even uses CGI to create a bigger sense of immersion in ways that can't be done practically. The problem is that, as luxuriant as the film looks, The Witches remains surface level throughout its runtime, more interested in spectacle than heart.
Nowhere does this feel more obvious than in the change in setting. It's not like moving the action to '60s Alabama inherently requires the film to dive into racism or politics, but the script clearly wants you to think it's using this change for something significant, but doesn't. Early on, when we first arrive at the resort and the kid asks his Grandma if they'll be safe from witches, Grandma answers that witches are interested in taking kids that people won't miss or look for if they disappear. The Witches implies that it'll have some deeper commentary on race or socioeconomics, but it soon becomes clear that the film is using this as window dressing with zero interest in pursuing the implications of its setting.
Still, even if Zemeckis doesn't take full advantage of the story he's telling, and seems disinterested in character or commentary, he still manages to provide a basic family-friendly spectacle. Families looking to introduce a less traumatic more lite version of Roald Dahl's classic to kids may enjoy this comedy-heavy take, especially once Anne Hathaway jumps on screen. Completely different from Anjelica Huston's iconic Grand High Witch, Hathaway decides to go full camp for her turn as the head of the coven. Using a strange amalgam of Scandinavian accents that sound more Russian than Norwegian, and an over-the-top performance straight out of Fright Night, Hathaway looks like the lovechild of Heath Ledger's Joker and Mortal Kombat’s Mileena and Baraka. If The Witches is this year's Cats
, then Anne Hathaway is the film's Judi Dench, fully aware of the mess she's in, and chewing every scene she's in like she's a better-dressed Willy Wonka.
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Rebecca premieres exclusively on Netflix on October 21.
Rebecca is a tale of whirlwind romance, betrayal, sex, and murder. So why is Ben Wheatley's version such an absolute snooze?
Based on the 1938 novel by Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca centers on a lovely and naïve young woman (Lily James), who unexpectedly tumbles into a life-changing love affair in Monte Carlo. From a humble background, she is a professional lady's companion, essentially a personal assistant to the elderly social climber Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd), who relishes remarking on how low on the ladder the young woman is. It's a thankless job until she crosses paths with wealthy widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). He sweeps her away to decadent lunches, scenic drives along the coast, and sensual visits to the beach. After a speedy courtship, they marry and she becomes Mrs. de Winter, the second mistress of the massive and remote English estate of Manderley.
The poor girl thinks she married into a dream life of wealth and romance. Then comes the rude awakening that she lives in the long shadow of the late Mrs. Rebecca de Winter. In this sprawling mansion, the second wife is barred from the west wing where the late Rebecca used to roam. Her husband's affections have cooled toward her, and she's subjected to sullenness and scolding. Then, there's Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), the sneering housekeeper who never fails to mention how the new Mrs. de Winter is failing to live up to the memory of her predecessor. The pressure of comparison drives the young woman to dark places until a horrible secret is washed ashore that puts a horrid trial on the de Winter marriage.
The original novel was a tale of gothic terror and gaslighting, as the unnamed heroine doubted herself and her sanity in the face of such coldness and cruelty. Though adapted many times since, the Rebecca most remembered is Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 version, which starred Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier. This film proved so seminal that it's impossible not to compare Wheatley's adaptation to it. And in this, the new version only suffers.
Hitchcock brought a macabre wit to his Rebecca, which made posh clowns out of the upper crust who treated his heroine like a pretty plaything. The theatricality of his Van Hopper made her an arrogant buffoon for audiences to chortle at, while awkward moments about boating and costumes balls invited dark guffaws. Though in films like Sightseers, High-Rise and Free Fire, Wheatley has shown a flair for subversive and dark jokes, he bleeds dry the humor here. This choice undermines upper-class criticism and certainly makes this film far less fun. The only laugh to be found comes at the expense of the new Mrs. de Winter. While taking her on the tour of the home, Danvers practically hisses, "I'm sorry. I thought you'd been a lady's maid." It's not remotely amusing out of context. But within the film and with Thomas's withering delivery, it's shade meant to establish swiftly and stingingly that the new wife will not rule this house.
Wheatley's made a name for himself with films that brandish ultra-violence and dangerous desires. In this, he might have set himself apart from Hitchcock's classic, as it was made under the suffocating censorship of the Hays Code, which demanded studios tone down anything that might outrage audiences. Yet, he opts for bewildering restraint. Admittedly, the adapted screenplay by Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel, and Anna Waterhouse hews more closely to the novel in a climactic revelation. Plus, it makes explicit lesbian longing that was only implied in Hitchcock's version. Nonetheless, for a story that is meant to be about sex and death, this film still feels shockingly tame.
The trouble begins with the couple's first date, where they eat oysters together. This delicacy is notorious for not only its aphrodisiac qualities but also for the visual symbolism of a certain sexual act. Wheatley shows us the future Mrs. de Winter nervously swallowing an oyster, but when Rebecca cuts to Maxim, we've missed the money shot. Here was an easy opportunity for Wheatley to spark thirst for his devastatingly handsome leading man, and he wastes it. Then, instead of actually witnessing this defining date, Wheatley cuts to hours later, robbing of us of conversation and chemistry. A montage of gorgeous locations and Maxim in crisp resort wear is offered in place of any substance. A strange little sandcastle built on her shoulder blade is given as a substitute for actual sexual connection. When a love scene does come, it is as if Wheatley has no interest in its lust. It's brief, shot chastely with hazy focus and no sounds of ragged breath or moans, just a gentle instrumental score. A scene discussing horse riding proves steamier.
I'm not just talking cheap thrills. To understand Rebecca's heroine, you must understand what would urge her to throw away the life she knew on a whim to run off forever with a man she barely knows. We might be swept up in the wave of passion she feels, but Wheatley seems uninterested in building any justification for her choice beyond he looks like Armie Hammer. If she were a fool, that might be reason enough. But the script suggests that while she is naïve about the ways of the absurdly wealthy, Mrs. de Winter's is a ruthlessly clever girl in other regards. So, this idealism doesn't really click comfortably, especially as James carries with her a sharp glare that suggests a sharp mind.
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The Trial of the Chicago 7 is now streaming on Netflix.
Even before Aaron Sorkin imbued the event with his patented wordsmithery, the trial of the Chicago 7 was a moment in American history rife with cinematic potential for the way it so clearly laid out a “David vs. Goliath” systemic inequity at the heart of the U.S. justice system. Fifty years after the fact, what Sorkin -- in his capacity as both writer and director -- has arrived at is a take on the story that not only ties the many narrative threads, court transcripts, and points-of-view into a cohesive, engaging whole but is also as much a searing indictment of our current moment as it is a look back at one of our most shameful historical episodes.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 arrives on Netflix this week after first beginning development more than a decade ago as a potential project for director Steven Speilberg. While it’s impossible to know with certainty what Spielberg would have done with it (though there are certainly some very “Spielberg-y” flourishes in the Sorkin version), it’s clear that the famed creator behind The West Wing
was more than suited to taking the helm, evincing a considerable leap in comfort and confidence here after making his directorial debut with Molly’s Game
three years ago.
The story itself is one that’s known -- if at all -- only in its broad strokes by many Americans (Sorkin himself said he had no idea what Spielberg was referring to when first offered the writing gig): After several anti-war and counterculture activists converged on the city of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention to make a statement against the still-ongoing Vietnam War, riots erupted and confrontations with the Chicago police ensued.
Several months later, newly-elected President Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell decided to charge several of those involved -- among them Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), and David Dellinger (John Caroll Lynch) -- with conspiracy. The legal justification to proceed with the prosecution was tenuous at best, but this was, in true mob boss fashion, as much about sending a message as anything else.
The resultant case spanned several months, stretching from April 1969 to February 1970, and it shows Sorkin’s effortless command of structure that he never gets bogged down in the sheer volume of details he has to convey. Instead, following a brief pre-title montage establishing the temporal context and laying out our main characters, the movie smartly uses the trial itself as the framework upon which to hang everything else, elucidating past events (often across very different perspectives) through the testimony of those involved.
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And as is so often the case with actors given the chance to speak Sorkin’s dialogue, everyone involved manages to make a meal of it. This is a cast of all-stars across the board, with not a weak link to be found. While there are moments when Redmayne and Cohen seem tongue-twisted by having to find an American accent to wrap around those words, they still effectively embody the poles of the ideological spectrum within the seven (and within the anti-war movement itself), with Hayden the establishment anti-establishmentarian and Hoffman the firebrand.
(In fact, Redmayne-as-Hayden seems at times to be channeling another Sorkin surrogate, Rob Lowe’s Sam Seaborn from The West Wing, in his plea for working for change within the system.)
Meanwhile, the poles of the justice system itself are represented by Mark Rylance as defense attorney William Kunstler (who Wikipedia helpfully refers to as “an American radical lawyer”) and Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella). Rylance of course nabbed an Oscar for his supporting turn in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies
five years ago, and he brings the same level of empathy to his role here, playing a man trying desperately to prove justice is possible even when the odds are stacked against you (“There are no political trials” in America he says repeatedly -- and perhaps naively).
Meanwhile, Langella represents the equal-and-opposite counterforce to Kunstler, with his Hoffman (not, he makes sure to point out to the jury, related to the defendant) coming off like a bored tyrant, less devoted to applying the law dispassionately than using his courtroom as a fiefdom over which he has a virtually unfettered hand to do what he will. It’s hard not to laugh morbidly at the events as they unfold onscreen, and knowing it’s fairly accurate to the way things actually played out is even more difficult to process.
In addition to the actors above, an especially memorable turn comes from Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party who, despite no connection to any of the other activists, found himself lumped in with the defendants (initially targeted as the “Chicago 8”) simply because the administration wanted an excuse to go after the Black Panthers. What followed, with Seale eventually forced to sit bound and gagged in court after protesting his innocence, is as shocking today as it must have been at the time, and Mateen is absolutely masterful at embodying both vulnerability and righteous outrage.
I could go on just talking about the cast, from Joseph Gordon-Levitt as lead prosecutor Richard Schultz to Michael Keaton making quite a memorable mark in two brief scenes as Johnson-era Attorney General Ramsey Clark. As mentioned earlier, it says something about Sorkin’s screenwriting prowess that so many talented players happily line up for a chance to mouth his words, even if only for a moment. But above and beyond the ensemble and the script, what Sorkin demonstrates with this film is a mastery over the form itself, using the entire cinematic apparatus to spin a tale of injustice in search of an answer.
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IGN serves a global audience, so with Saint Maud now playing in UK cinemas as well at Beyond Fest in the US, we are publishing our review from Kristy Puchko who watched the movie at a press screening pre-pandemic. Read more on IGN's policy on movie reviews in light of COVID-19 here. IGN strongly encourages anyone considering going to a movie theater during the COVID-19 pandemic to check their local public health and safety guidelines before buying a ticket.
Loneliness can be a dangerous whirlpool. A slight tug of sadness pulls to an intense ache of isolation, sucking its victim into a vicious downward spiral that threatens to swallow them whole. This hellish experience is the unnerving journey explored in the cerebral yet carnal horror film, Saint Maud.
In her feature directorial debut, writer/helmer Rose Glass ushers audiences into the world of a pious young nurse called Maud (a mesmerizing Morfydd Clark). On the surface, she seems meek and modest, a mousy Christian twenty-something who dresses conservatively and dedicates herself to caring for the terminally ill in home-based hospice care. But from the film's first scene, Glass warns us of Maud's inner darkness.
Before this mild-mannered young woman moves from her humble studio apartment into the lavish home of Amanda (a fierce Jennifer Ehle), a celebrated choreographer who is inching towards death, Maud is shown with blood on her hands, gaping in horror at a gory corpse draping off a hospital gurney. Is this the future or the past? A threat or a trauma? Saint Maud delights in teasing out the answer by plunging us into the mind of its protagonist.
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Though outwardly timid, Maud has a rich inner life. She speaks to God throughout her day in a whispered voiceover. It's not just prayers. Maud gossips to God, criticizing the hedonistic indulgences of booze, cigarettes, vanity, and lesbian sex that Amanda enjoys in her numbered days. Maud believes there's a greater joy to be found in salvation. Her relationship with God has shown her as much. Though God is silent in their conversations, He sends rushes of love that hit Maud as body-rattling orgasms, twisting her limbs into fits of pleasure and contorting her mouth and eyes into jarring distortions. But God is not her only love.
As she grows captivated by Amanda's smirks, saltiness, and sensuality, Maud fantasizes about saving this hedonist's soul. Through this self-ordained mission, Maud briefly breaks free from her loneliness by appeasing her God and impressing Amanda. However, her zealotry crosses a line that'll push this wild-eyed waif down a dangerous path of revolt, revelation, and reckless redemption.
The narrative Glass chisels is etched in anxiety, heartache, and religious fervor. Every scene throbs with an eerie tension, as each one pulls us deeper into Maud's state of mind. Flashbacks, dream sequences, and voiceover allow us to bear witness to her darkest secrets, unspoken prayers, and repressed desires. Sound design wretched with metallic scraping, watery echoes, and groans of pressure throbs throughout to express the building emotions that Maud doesn't dare express.
This nightmarish soundscape swells, threatening to consume us as these dark moods threaten to consume her. Yet we are more than the audience to Maud's melancholy and madness. We are ultimately her God, seeing all as she turns to virtue and then vice to grasp desperately for the solace of love and connection. We are invited to judge her every move with a blend of empathy and horror. Then, we are left to wonder what it all says about humankind.
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Note: this is a spoiler-free review of Batman: Death in the Family, which is available now on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, DVD and Digital HD.
DC's direct-to-video animated movie line has been in need of a creative shake-up for a while now, and 2020 has been the year that finally delivered on that need. The decision to wrap up the mediocre DC Animated Movie Universe with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
and start fresh with a new continuity and new art style in Superman: Man of Tomorrow
has been just the jolt these movies needed. And now DC goes for a hat trick with Batman: Death in the Family, the first of these projects to dabble with interactive, choice-based storytelling. It’s not an entirely successful experiment, but it’s still worth experiencing this interactive movie for yourself.
Death in the Family is ostensibly a prequel to 2010's Batman: Under the Red Hood
, easily among the most critically acclaimed additions to the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line. But rather than settle for simply adapting the infamous 1988 comic and revealing more about that fateful day Joker killed Jason Todd, Death in the Family is trying something a little different. The film is built around a "choose your own adventure" element. At several key points during the course of the story, viewers will be prompted to make a choice with their remote control and alter the flow of the plot. So while one version of the story will follow established continuity and show a resurrected Jason returning to Gotham City to claim vengeance against the Joker, other versions might play out differently.
It's certainly a novel approach, and one that makes sense given that the original comic's ending was dictated by a 1-900 dial-in voting campaign (spoiler - apparently DC readers weren't very fond of Jason Todd at the time). It's certainly preferable to a feature-length, in-canon Under the Red Hood prequel. The original movie already showed us all the back-story necessary to appreciate the present-day Batman/Red Hood/Joker dynamic. Instead, this is a chance for writer/director Brandon Vietti to think creatively and explore the different paths Jason's story might have taken. What if Batman arrived in time to save him? What if Jason managed to save himself, but only after suffering severe physical and psychological damage? Suffice it to say, this story could have gone down even darker paths.
The novelty of the interactive element aside (and not all versions of the movie include that option
), it's genuinely fun seeing these different takes on an iconic Batman story. While pretty much every branching path results in Jason becoming some violent vigilante or another, there are some fun surprises and left turns along the way. The movie includes plenty of clever visual homages to the comic and even draws inspiration from a completely unexpected yet weirdly fitting Batman comic.
It also helps having the main voice cast from Under the Red Hood - Bruce Greenwood as Batman, Vincent Martella as Jason Todd and John DiMaggio as Joker - back in their old roles and reinforcing that connection to the original movie. Greenwood may well be the most underrated Batman voice actor around, though the lack of distinction between his solemn, gravelly Batman and his equally solemn, gravelly Bruce Wayne is a minor sticking point. Happily, though, Martella does a great job of distinguishing between the younger, more idealistic Jason and the various incarnations of his post-Joker self.
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Death in the Family is technically a short film, with each individual storyline spanning 10-20 minutes, hence the "DC Showcase" branding. Still, the branching story paths ensure that viewers will probably spend as much time actively watching it as they do DC's full-length animated movies. The disc makes that rewatching process easy enough. Whenever the credits start rolling, it pulls up icons for all previously viewed chapters and allows you to instantly jump back and try out alternate choices.
That being said, there is a repetitive quality that grows with each new run-through of the movie. Many of the storylines wind up culminating in similar scenarios. There's a fair amount of footage that's recycled for different stories or repurposed from Under the Red Hood. In fact, one of the main storylines becomes little more than a retelling of that movie's events, with Greenwood's Bruce recounting his ordeal fighting his ex-sidekick. Maybe that's handy as a reminder for casual fans who haven't watched Under the Red Hood since its release, but it is disappointing to see so much screen time devoted to a glorified clip show (though at least it ends on a fun note).
Enjoyable though it is, Death in the Family is hindered by its small scope. Though it subverts a familiar Batman tale in new and frequently clever ways, no one story thread is given much room to expand and unfold. Some storylines end far too soon, and there are moments practically begging for interactive choices that the movie glosses right over. The movie is a unique and worthwhile experiment for DC, but in some ways the company might have been better off simply choosing one of these alternate universe ideas and building a full-length movie around it.
This is a catch-up review, where we head back and watch a movie we missed over the past few months of PVOD and limited theatrical releases. The Outpost was released via PVOD last July but it's been recently made available to stream on Netflix.
Admittedly, most war films aren't my bag, but The Outpost, from director Rod Lurie (The Last Castle, Straw Dogs), is an exceptional blend of writing, acting, and technical filmmaking. Sadly, like many other small and medium-budgeted films that weren't delayed due to COVID, The Outpost got blurred out and buried over the summer during the failed experiment to reopen theaters.
Based on journalist Jake Tapper's non-fiction book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, the film depicts the months leading up to the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan, where just over 50 soldiers found themselves surrounded on all sides by hundreds of Taliban insurgents in a death trap of an outpost, located in a remote region of the country at the bottom of three steep mountains.
Any attacker would automatically have the high-ground advantage and just about every day at this station, which was established as a peacekeeping outreach program between the U.S. military and the locals, the soldiers manning the base endured a few minutes of gunfire. The Taliban's scouting attacks became as commonplace as the sunrise and were treated as almost banal occurrences despite how lethal these skirmishes could be.
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Yes, those assigned to Combat Outpost Keating were aware of its reputation. Commanding officers who were flown in knew the area's high mortality rate for the oft-targeted captains. The soldiers knew that the camp itself was at the bottom of a kill-zone cauldron and that air support was at least two hours away. The Outpost, as a story, nicely draws us into a large ensemble, who you at first think will all too easily blend together into nebulous characters, and shows us a battalion that's, bottom line, just trying to survive the day-to-day. While their superiors focus on respectful (and mostly fruitless) sit-downs with local tribal elders, the men band together as possible "short-timers," knowing that no matter how good any of them are they could be taken out at any time.
There's an episodic nature to The Outpost that really works well. Perhaps stemming from Lurie's TV shows, like Commander in Chief and Line of Fire, the film traverses several months in these soldiers' lives, giving us quick hits of their daily routine and big bursts of some of their more violent encounters. Not only does it work as a nice build to the final 20 to 30 minutes of the movie, which is the superbly-executed Battle of Kamdesh sequence, but it's also the best way to utilize a large cast and give most everyone a scene or two to help them stand out.
When the film starts, it generously gives you everyone's name, though no one is expected to instantly memorize them all. In fact, it's such a daunting amount of names that you might worry you'll never get the hang of them. But, as mentioned, the movie works very hard, presumedly because this is based on a true story (where one of the surviving soldiers is even playing himself), to make everyone feel important and utilized. That's not to say the movie doesn't focus on some more than others, as there are a few "main" characters, but everyone still feels like they're part of the larger puzzle.
Scott Eastwood and Caleb Landry Jones are the standouts here, whereas Orlando Bloom is good but also kind of a larger-name cameo. Eastwood, who can't help but give off Clint vibes, delivers a very engaging and urgent performance as Staff Sergeant Romesha while Caleb Landry Jones uses his inherent oddball qualities to bring Specialist Carter to life, as an angry man who doesn't fit in with the rest of his squad. Bloom, mentioned previously, doesn't quite have the screen time the film's poster might suggest while a similar brief pop-in worth mentioning involves another famous actor's son, Milo Gibson.
Because of The Outpost's segmented quality it feels similar, in some ways, to Full Metal Jacket. Unlike that movie though, which spotlights Kubrick's trademark objectivity and distance, The Outpost succeeds in portraying a realistic camaraderie among the cast. It's not "cinema verite," but there's a wonderful naturalness to a lot of the dialogue and exchanges. And then all of that feeds into the emotional stakes of the firefights. And by the time you get to the big finish, which features a handful of "oners" and impressive tracking shots to bring us into the battle, you're on the edge of your seat because you care about the collective.
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IGN serves a global audience, so with The Show screening at the Sitges Film Festival, we are publishing our review from Kristy Puchko who watched the movie via a digital screener. Read more on IGN's policy on movie reviews in light of COVID-19 here. IGN strongly encourages anyone considering going to a movie theater during the COVID-19 pandemic to check their local public health and safety guidelines before buying a ticket.
English comics author Alan Moore has brought us Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, and Batman: The Killing Joke, all of which have resulted in dark film adaptations. Now, the man behind twisted tales of seething vigilantes, eccentric killers, and obsessive detectives gives us The Show, which offers such a dizzying mystery that you might feel your brain is melting. Whether that's a good thing - your mileage may vary.
Written by Moore, The Show begins by pitching us cold into the mission of a mysterious man (Tom Burke) in search of a vicious jewelry thief (Darrell D'Silva). The peculiar protagonist gives various names: Bob Mitchum, Steve Lipman, and Fletcher Dennis. He alternately claims to be an antique dealer, a concerned sibling, and a detective in search of a dangerous criminal. His identity is just the first mystery introduced here. Those that follow will include an inconvenient death, a curious coma dream, a long-dead comedy duo, and a decades-old cold case. With a razor-sharp intellect and an instinct for how to handle colorful characters, our hero -- who we'll call Dennis for ease -- makes short work of uncovering one stirring secret after another. Yet he underestimates the deeply rooted strangeness of the little English town into which he's stumbled.
The investigation at the core of Moore's screenplay is fascinating, yet feels like a tool to allow for exploration of the phantasmagorical playground that is his Northampton netherworld. It is a place overflowing with outrageous characters, quirky locations, and sinister secrets. Seeking the silver-haired thief, Dennis comes across a stud drug dealer (Sheila Atim) who uses voodoo as a marketing tool, a flamboyant front-man (Eric Lampaert) who wears a Hitler mustache on stage, an erotic-asphyxiation enthusiastic (Siobhan Hewlett) with a ravenous need to make sense of mystery, and a pair of pint-sized private eyes (Oaklee Pendergast and Ethan Rouse) who crack cases before bedtime and demand payment in energy drinks.
Around them, Northampton is a visual feast of blight, back alleys, and bonkers billboards. A cramped library brandishes a sign that reads, "That'll lern yer…" A car's bumper sticker proclaims, "I break for poignant moments," and an ad on the side of a building boasts in big bold letters: "Escapism: more fun than a box of spiders!" Director Mitch Jenkins, who previously collaborated with Moore on the 2014 prequel Show Pieces, runs with the surreal tone of this story, offering a production design that bleeds with violent hues and is so rich in details you might wish the plot would slow down so you could sit and take it all in. Every inch of the frame seems relentlessly stuffed with details, like Terry Gilliam's neon-colored dystopian drama The Zero Theorem. In both, the overwhelming visual clutter is part of the message, a bombastic criticism of a world gone mad.
The Show packs in visual flourishes with an oddball subplot about a masked superhero alongside a mystery of murder, mayhem, and the damned. Likewise, it is stuffed with dialogue. Moore's script delivers an all-you-can-eat buffet of half-snatched conversations, from cab drivers, bar patrons, landlords, and hospital staff. As Dennis seeks answers, he's caught up in musings on everything from near-death experiences, vampire names, and veganism, to the connection between art and magic.
Bringing this weird world to life is a cast that gamely embraces the dreamlike vision Moore and Jenkins establish in script and style. With an expressive eye and otherwise restrained expression, Burke plays a detective that feels like a mix between Humphrey Bogart and art-house Robert Pattinson. Centered around such an enigmatic figure, the movie feels a bit emotionally anemic. However, Hewlett arises as his Girl Friday, offering the rapid-fire delivery of a fast-talking dame with a vulnerable dose of understandable bewilderment.
Christopher Fairbank pops up to spit F-bombs and savage villainy with a dark relish, while Atim offers an eerie cool and smoky sensuality as the high priestess of the party drug scene. Young Pendergast score laughs as his child-detective narrates aloud as if in a black-and-white noir, "He was as inconspicuous as a werewolf at a christening." Then, as icing on a cake of too-muchness, Moore himself appears as a literally moon-faced menace, who speaks in riddles and occasionally croons.
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Hubie Halloween is available Wednesday, October 7 on Netflix.
Though Netflix might be in the business of unceremoniously ending most of its shows these days
, it's still "all in" when it comes to Adam Sandler movies
, having already extended the shockingly generous deal it had with the comedian for four more films
and another enormous pile of cash. Meanwhile, the sixth and final film from the original Sandler deal, Hubie Halloween, launches this week and, well, the good news is it's not
a noxious mess.
It's not as good as the best film in Sandler's Netflix oeuvre, which was Murder Mystery
, but it's also heaps better than (arguably) his worst Netflix outing, The Ridiculous 6
. Despite gags involving vomit, feces, urine, and other Sandler film staples/secretions, Hubie Halloween is generally a family film, one that harkens back to the likes of early projects such as Billy Madison and The Waterboy. In fact, Sandler's man-child "Hubie" Dubois (full name: Hubert Shubert Dubois) is such a mash up of SNL's Canteen Boy and The Waterboy's Bobby Boucher that it was easy to assume, when he walks through the door of his house, that his mom would be played by Kathy Bates (she's played by June Squibb, and Hubie has a thermos, not a canteen).
Hubie, who lives in Salem, Mass, and whose lineage dates back to the wrong end (meaning fiery end) of the Witch Trials, is the local dork who loves Halloween and acts like a perpetual safety monitor for the town, causing most around him to hurl insults and debris (and axes?) at him. He longs for his high school crush, Violet Valentine (Modern Family's Julie Bowen), but he's never had the courage to ask her out. Fortunately, she already loves him back too so no real work needs to be done narratively in this area of the film.
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On this particular Halloween however, with Hubie suffering the usual slings and arrows from his piggish fellow citizens, the town will have to deal with a Michael Myers-styled escaped lunatic, a possible werewolf, and mysterious kidnappings. These could either all be connected somehow or simply misunderstandings and pranks.
Needless to say, Hubie has his hands full as the self-appointed monitor for Halloween safety and as someone who continually puts others' happiness ahead of his own. One thing that easily earns this Sandler joint a few more points is that the messaging is sweet and kind. It's about the strength it takes to be charitable and caring and how it's always the truly weak who bully and abuse. Naturally, to get to that candy center you'll have to endure dozens of jokes falling flat, a bunch of people falling down, and Hubie falling for every single Halloween prank -- each one making him scream in abject terror.
Actually, that last part, where Hubie sort of violently overreacts to every fake ghost and ghoul he sees is one of the movie's most endearing, and exuberant, running gags. I'm not ashamed to say I chuckled a few times here, over some diabolically dumb s***, but that's because there are actual attempts at traditional comedy in Hubie Halloween and not just Sandler's penchant for presenting us with the lowest common denominator.
Also, aside from Happy Madison company regulars like Steve Buscemi and Rob Schneider (and I guess Kevin James too), this movie has a ton of very talented people popping up in amusingly minuscule parts, from SNL's Melissa Villaseñor, Mikey Day, and Keenan Thompson to grizzled old-guard comedians like Colin Quinn and George Wallace. Also...Ray Liotta? Who I guess is part of this crazy lot now? (All of this is to say that the best cameo, which is a fun Happy Gilmore callback, happens during the first minute of the film.)
Bowen has the privilege/chore of playing the one person in town who not only sees value in Hubie because he's nice but is also, yes, head over heels in love with him. Yes, the woman who lusts for the quirky dolt is another time-honored Sandler tradition observed here. The story, if it's at all worth paying attention to, sort of crumbles apart in the third act when the true menace of Salem is revealed, but it neither ruins the movie nor does it make an impact in any meaningful way. The movie is designed to be brainless and sweet and anything remotely clever to arise from it is kind of a happy accident.
Vampires vs. the Bronx is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.
Vampire movies for the most part have focused only on the sexual aspect of Bram Stoker's monster. The seduction of the innocent, and the sexual liberation of women — which ran contrary to the Victorian society that read Stoker's novel. But Netflix's latest kid-friendly horror film, Vampires vs. the Bronx flips the script and uses the undead as symbols of class tensions and the systematic oppression in communities of color through gentrification. If nothing else, that alone makes Vampires vs. the Bronx a film worth checking out. That it's also a fun film with a great sense of humor and identity, and a great cast to boot makes it the perfect way to start the Halloween season.
Director Oz Rodriguez (who co-wrote the script with Blaise Hemingway) isn't here to rewrite vampire lore, but to use decades of existing tropes in order to give a voice to the voiceless, and tell a story that hasn't been told before. The film follows Miguel Martinez (Jaden Michael), also known around the block as the "Lil Mayor" of the Bronx. Miguel is planning a big block party in support of a local bodega imperiled by rising rent, one run by a friend and sort of fatherly figure for him and his friends, Tony (played by Bronx faithful The Kid Mero). It turns out Tony's bodega isn't the only place that's being forced out of business, as some mysterious real estate company has been purchasing storefronts left and right, replacing the local nail salon with a store that sells different types of overpriced kale, or a literal butter store. More importantly, it seems people are disappearing too. It is up to Miguel and his friends -- Bobby (Gerald W. Jones III), and "the Puerto Rican Harry Potter" Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) -- to save the neighborhood.
Rodriguez doesn't try to hide the core message of the film. On the contrary, it literally spells it out in the first five minutes of the film, as we see a nail salon owner selling their business to some outsider businessman before a tall, blonde dude literally sucks the blood out of them. Indeed, the film is interested in taking on the true horrors of gentrification, and explores it as a form of white supremacy — the people buying up the property around the block are not just any old white people, but ancient, pale white vampires with nearly silver hair who targeted the Bronx specifically because it's a community of color that not many people outside of it care about. Every time a new poster showing the face of a disappeared member of the community shows up, the characters sigh and refer to the Bronx as "somewhere where no one cares when people disappear."
Though they deal with different types of monsters, Vampires vs. the Bronx will most likely be compared to Joe Cornish's Attack the Block, which also combined genre storytelling with social commentary to great effect. And like Attack the Block, Oz Rodriguez's film owes much of its success to its very specific setting. It's become a bit of a cliché to refer to a film's location as a character, but it is very much true of the Bronx in this film (it's even in the title). Vampires vs. the Bronx celebrates the traditions and mix of cultures in the Bronx at every chance it gets. When the kids arm up to find the undead, they realize everything they need is already at hand, because Latinx households are already equipped with garlic (or at least garlic adobo), and plenty of crucifixes. While at the bodega, the owner can't stop talking and showing off his precious Sammy Sosa baseball bat. Nearly every character sneaks in a few phrases in Spanish without the need to subtitle them, all while bachata blasts through the speakers. It's small moments like these that help the film feel authentic as it builds an image of the Bronx not as a ghettoized slum, but as a unique place worth protecting and conserving.
Rodriguez, who comes from a long comedy background including the "A Kanye Place" parody for Saturday Night Live, knows just when to imbue the film with campy humor, or with more somber thrills. The kids make for a fantastic group you wouldn't mind seeing more of, and each of the supporting characters is as memorable as the next, particularly Method Man as Father Jackson, and Chris Redd and Vladimir Caamaño as two guys who offer snappy commentary on what's going on around them.
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Jaden Michael, Gerald Jones III, and Gregory Diaz IV in Vampires vs. the Bronx. (Photo: Netflix)[/caption]
If there's one big flaw in the film, it's that it's a bit superficial in terms of character and plot. Other than its gentrification theme, the film follows a bit of a predictable plot. Basically, if you have seen any '80s-style movie starring kids fighting an outside threat to save their home, you've seen Vampires vs. the Bronx. Likewise, though the actors do a great job making you believe in the kids, their characters themselves are little more than archetypes without any sort of development or arc.
Vampires vs. the Bronx won't revolutionize the vampire subgenre. But if you're looking to introduce someone to the genre, or you want a film that has something to say about gentrification and how it affects communities that also happens to be a delightfully entertaining kid-friendly horror film, this is the movie for you.
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