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Kristen Stewart has long ago shed the role that made her: the quiet, awkward Bella Thorne in the Twilight franchise. 2019 saw Stewart take on the very fun (but commercial failure) Charlie's Angels and this year she continues her journey to fully-fledged action star with the uneven but still impressive deep-sea thriller Underwater.
Directed by William Eubank from a script by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad, Underwater follows the crew of a subterranean laboratory located seven miles beneath sea level as they fight for survival in the face of a terrifying threat. So far, so Alien, and honestly Underwater is at its best when it's wearing its influences on its sleeve. But a lack of convictions -- and belief in the audience -- often makes the film feel weaker than the excellent and ambitious sci-fi that's come before.
With his 2016 directorial debut The Eyes Of My Mother, writer/helmer Nicolas Pesce had critics championing him as a bold new voice in horror for his black-and-white cinematography, dread-entrenched character study, and its bleak tale of love, isolation, and violence. In 2018, he returned to the spotlight of the Sundance Film Festival with Piercing, a horror-thriller about an aspiring killer and the sex worker he's eying to be his victim. Now, this on-the-rise horror auteur returns to put his mark on a once-hot horror franchise with the star-stuffed, studio offering The Grudge. But horror fans might wish Pesce had let dead things stay dead. This Grudge is a trudge through muck, meandering plot, half-baked performances, and tired tropes that should’ve been retired by the end of the 2000s.
This is a mostly spoiler-free review of The Mandalorian Season 1, which is now streaming in its entirety on Disney+. (The only spoiler is the existence of Baby Yoda, which, unless you’ve been living without internet access for the past two months, is pretty unavoidable at this point.) Read our spoiler-filled reviews for every episode of The Mandalorian below.
This review is via IGN Japan, where Lupin III: The First is now playing in theaters.
Lupin III: The First is the first computer-generated entry in the long-running franchise about the thieving adventures of the grandson of France’s famous thief Arsène Lupin and his merry band of frenemies. And while its story retreads old ground a little too much, it wears its new 3D animation style well. Lupin III: The First doesn’t stray far from its roots, relying heavily on the long-running franchise’s staples, but it does offer up a serviceable romp that doesn’t wear out its welcome.
The latest in the series is directed and written by Takashi Yamazaki, who’s an expert in this sort of thing: He directed 2014’s Stand by Me Doraemon, another CG take on a long-running Japanese franchise. The critical and financial success of that film no doubt inspired, at least partially, the production of this one, and Lupin’s transition to CG works just as well this time around.
With the next James Bond movie not out for another few months, you may be pining for a good spy flick. Well, it’s not quite 007, but the new animated film Spies in Disguise has gadgets, the world’s greatest spy in Lance Sterling (voiced by Will Smith), a villain with a robot arm (Ben Mendelsohn) and a sort of Q in the form of a goofy kid named Walter Beckett (Tom Holland). It also has our super-spy turning into a very angry pigeon. That’s where the comparisons end. Spies In Disguise has a slow start, but once it accepts its wackiness, it turns into a charming film. The pairing of Tom Holland and Will Smith absolutely works. This might not be a must-see for adults, but if you’re bringing the kids in your family, you’ll definitely be entertained.
Ah, 2019, a year of cinematic innovation: The leap forward in motion-capture technology in Alita: Battle Angel. The nature documentary quality of The Lion King’s animation. The de-aging of Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino in The Irishman. And, just in time for Christmas, the cat’s finally out of the bag on the nightmare-inducing digital fur technology of director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Cats, which grants cat-like versions of Jason Derulo and Taylor Swift the freedom to do big dance numbers without the burden of feline prosthetics. Only, with CGI covering their entire bodies, not to mention Hooper’s inexplicable need for green screen environments, all that dancing feels terribly inhuman.
While we aim to make this review as spoiler-free as possible, we understand that the definition of such and sensitivities vary. We take pains to avoid references to any specific story events, but we do discuss themes and differences between the direction of this movie and previous Star Wars films.
There’s no way to end the Skywalker Saga and make all the fans happy – and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker certainly isn’t going to make all the fans happy. Those who loved The Last Jedi will surely be peeved by the jettisoning of what that divisive eighth installment introduced, while those irked by The Force Awakens’ nostalgia-bait will likely be irritated by Episode IX’s recycling of familiar beats and plentiful fan service. The Rise of Skywalker labors incredibly hard to check all the boxes and fulfill its narrative obligations to the preceding entries, so much so that you can practically hear the gears of the creative machinery groaning under the strain like the Millennium Falcon trying to make the jump to hyperspace. It ultimately makes the film a clunky and convoluted conclusion to this beloved saga, entertaining and endearing as it may be.