The Vast of Night Review

The Vast of Night debuted on Amazon's Prime Video platform, and at some select drive-in theaters, on May 29. [poilib element="accentDivider"] Modestly framed as an episode of a '50s-era Twilight Zone-style series called Paradox Theater, The Vast of Night, from first-time director Andrew Patterson, is a savvy and stunning slice of throwback sci-fi. The film's small scope and tight assuredness of story makes for a gripping watch as a motormouthed local DJ and a teen switchboard operator in a small New Mexico town begin to precariously peel a few layers off of a UFO conspiracy on a night when just about everyone else in the neighborhood is focused on a local high school basketball game. This shoestring affair manages to eschew most of the clumsy trappings of a low-budget production by keeping things simple and script-heavy. The screenplay, from James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, is light on action but high on tension. The critical speeches delivered by the characters -- tales of clandestine military projects and "people in the sky" who can get inside the heads of ordinary citizens -- are crafted and paced like finely-tuned campfire ghost stories. We hang on every word. The performances from the spare ensemble are simultaneously stylized and natural, allowing the two central characters to shine as anchors while those who share their eerie encounters (a radio caller, an old widow in town) are able to slowly spool out their spooky yarns. [ignvideo url="https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/05/29/the-vast-of-night-official-trailer"] The Vast of Night could easily work as a stage play -- or even a radio play, if we're really digging into the nearly century-old War of the Worlds influences -- as so much of it takes place either in the high school gym, the switchboard desk, or the local radio hub. The '50s era, and the barren burg setting, gives us a town that's mostly dark at night, with the main source of light emanating from the school as it prepares for the big game. This cloaks the rest of the movie, and the story itself, in a blanket of darkness that rarely even offers up a good clear glimpse of our protagonists' faces. That, plus Patterson's choice to kick things off with an ambitious tracking shot that mostly captures Everett (Jake Horowitz) and Fay (Sierra McCormick) from behind creates a palate that's both dynamic and distant. Horowitz's Everett and McCormick's Fay play kindred chatterbox spirits, like an American Graffiti Mulder and Scully. Both are interested in science and the technology of the time that works to connect and bring people together. Also, both of them plan to, someday, escape the mundane folksiness of Cayuga, NM. Their age difference wouldn't make a budding romance totally unacceptable, especially for the time, but the script is smart enough to mostly lean away from that and keep things centered, after the first ten minutes, on the strange audio phenomenon Fay hears at the switchboard. The Vast of Night is definitely a knowing nod to a famous decade of schlock sci-fi flicks, but the film itself is a quiet storm. It's not out for shock and awe, it aims to unsettle and mystify. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=the-vast-of-night-gallery&captions=true"] The music by Erick Alexander and Jared Bulmer evokes the serenity of Philip Glass while also hinting at the "behind the veil" cosmic lore that America's southwestern (and more sparsely populated) states been steeped in for almost eighty years. Patterson creates a film that stretches and breathes even while confined to only a handful of locations. It takes a few minutes to get used to the patter, since the characters tend to speak fast and use a distracting (at times) amount of old-timey slang and lingo (some of which sounds made up, in fact), but once Everett and Fay begin their punctuated pairing, as she tests out a new tape recorder during their evening trek to her house, the overall cadence settles and the story starts to nicely build suspense. The Vast of Night is a humble-yet-striking outing for Patterson, who's able to create a jittery and jarring vibe with very little. Now that the world of streaming and VOD often includes hugely-budgeted films that would play much better on giant screens (and in the past months, ones that were ultimately meant to), it's great to see a uniquely stripped-down story like this.  

New in VOD: Inheritance Review

Inheritance is now available to rent through Video-On-Demand.  [poilib element="accentDivider"] Despite admirable efforts from its two leads, Inheritance is a hollow thriller that makes viewers wait too long for a dull, simplistic twist. It's the type of mystery that relies heavily on a third-act swerve to justify the entire journey, stretching out the story, signaling that something is going to crash down on our hero's head in the end. But when that moment comes, Inheritance chooses the most predictable and drab conclusion. Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror, Tolkien) plays Lauren Monroe, an ambitiously righteous Manhattan D.A. whose corruption-busting tactics fly fiercely in the face of her super-wealthy family. When her father (Patrick Warburton) mysteriously dies, he leaves Lauren a cryptic message and the key to a hidden bunker on the Monroe estate. We're only ten minutes in now and the film is purposefully, and obviously, playing a shell game (with one shell) by having Warburton's patriarch not mention anything in his posthumous video to Lauren regarding what she's about to find. Because of this, she falls into a rabbit hole of nonsense and nincompoopery that could have been easily avoidable. [ignvideo url="https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/05/20/inheritance-official-trailer"] Inside the underground shelter, Lauren finds a tortured, chained-up man played by Simon Pegg, Herein lies the film's ghoulish hook. Lauren has inherited her dad's most dastardly deed. She's literally looking at the skeleton in the closet. Pegg plays man who's been held captive for 30 years by Lauren's father. A poor soul who now hopes Lauren, as the do-gooder "black sheep" of the clan, will set him free. Inheritance sets up Lauren's spotlight life as being a stressful and precarious one. She's in the middle of a headline-making trial and her brother (played by Chase Crawford) is running for office. It's understandable that this insane situation, involving an inhumanely-treated prisoner on her family's property, would cause everyone's best-laid aspirations to crash and burn. But even given all that, it's still hard to buy Lauren not immediately contacting the authorities or, in the very least, going to other members of her family (who may not know the situation but may know who this guy is). [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=netflix-spotlight-june-2020&captions=true"] Instead, Lauren drives herself mad with anxiety while trying to figure out if Pegg's character is full of s*** or not. And considering how poorly she handles all of this, you wind up wondering why her dad, in his message, tells her that he couldn't leave this secret with anyone else. By the end of the movie, you come to realize that literally anyone else would have been a better choice to tackle this dilemma. Inheritance, which was supposed to make its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival last month, is a glossy "gotcha"-style puzzle that feels like it would have been right at home in the midst of '90s' "cat and mouse" mysteries, as its story beats feel like they were unearthed a few decades ago. Pegg and Collins are better than the material here, with Pegg getting to play around with his darker, desperate side and Collins nicely unraveling as her world spirals. Even the premise feels fun and fresh. But after the first act, everything plays out so lazily while Lauren searches for answers to things that, ultimately, wind up not mattering or making a difference. This is Pegg's second collaboration with director Vaughn Stein after 2018's Terminal and it's clear the actor, mostly known for comedy, is using these projects to branch out into more macabre fare. And he delivers a captivating character. Unfortunately, the twists and turns wind up turning it all into sinister schlock. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=worst-reviewed-movies-of-2020&captions=true"]

Netflix’s The Lovebirds Review

For years, Kumail Nanjiani has played comedic sidekicks, delivering one-liners with a smirk or an eye-roll to hysterical effect. Meanwhile, Issa Rae's been slaying as the lead on her comedy series, Insecure. Now, this charismatic pair has teamed up for their biggest film roles to date in the action rom-com The Lovebirds. This is their moment to shine. They know it, and they refuse to waste a single second, delivering a hilarious, heartwarming, and pulse-pounding romp. Directed by Michael Showalter, The Lovebirds follows a New Orleans couple through one wild night that will change their lives forever. Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) were once an enviable couple, sharing warm smiles, silly jokes, and undeniable chemistry. However, four years in, things have turned caustic. Their night begins with the kind of nothing argument that spirals into a screaming match and stinging insults. A debate about The Amazing Race spins into the two breaking up while driving to a friend's dinner party. Then, a twist of fate and a couple of panicked mistakes leaves them in an alley with a shattered windshield, a crushed corpse, and the cops on their tail. The lovebirds aren't murderers, but their story is too strange to be believed. So, Jibran and Leilani set out to catch the real killer and clear their names. On the run, they fall into a wild world of shady characters, Southern-fried torture, and a freaky--but fancy--secret sex cult. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=netflix-spotlight-may-2020&captions=true"] While the trailers for The Lovebirds were a bit lackluster, the movie itself is full of fun. Like Game Night or The Out-of-Towners, it embraces the manic mayhem that can be had by chucking Average Joes (and Janes) into a bizarre quest that hurls them out of their comfort zone. The script by Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall, and Martin Gero sets up our odd couple swiftly. He is, as a cerebral documentarian, obsessed with schedules and order; she is a free-spirited advertising exec, devoted to spontaneity and social media cache. Then, over the course of the first 20 minutes, they lose their car, phones, sense of safety and their stylish clothes, which are swapped for tacky fast-fashion complete with unicorn-horned hoodie. But in all this loss, they find a new freedom to be the badasses needed in this DIY murder investigation. Plus, they rediscover their romantic spark. The "action" of this action-comedy is pretty low-key, involving one car chase, a handful of escapes, and a slew of comically violent fight scenes. Still, these scenes pack a punch because of the superb comic timing of its stars. This delightful duo throws themselves full-bodied into pratfalls. Their faces stretch wide in cartoonish terror when confronted by gun-wielding (and grease-wielding) foes. Their voices scratch at goofy wails when under stress. When bickering, they exchange banter at a crackling speed that not only makes the jokes zing, but also underlines the intimacy between Jibran and Leilani. Their sharp tones and weariness suggests nitpicking over the details of a TV show are fights they've had before. These bickering bits are hilarious but also a bit heart-wrenching, because who among us hasn't been in that place, in that familiar pettiness? [ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/01/16/the-lovebirds-official-trailer-1] It's no surprise that Nanjiani and Rae are hysterical together. They're clearly in their comfort zones when it comes to goofily badgering a could-be culprit or riffing jokes during an Eyes Wide Shut-like orgy scene. However, what's most exciting in The Lovebirds is how well they click as romantic leads. Rae is radiant as Leilani. When she's not landing jokes or glowering in bad cop mode, her broad smile is contagious as she earnestly sings along to Katy Perry on the radio. Nanjiani is her pitch-perfect screen partner. He previously wooed audiences with his autobiographical rom-com-drama The Big Sick, but here he offers something broader and surprisingly steamier. Before his MCU makeover made him a muscle man, Nanjiani laid down a thirst trap here with a shirtless scene that not only displays some solidly resplendent chest hair, but also the sparking sexual chemistry he shares with Rae. A lot of rom-coms can make you root for their characters because they are funny together. Far fewer pull off the heat that The Lovebirds offers.

Snowpiercer Series Premiere Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the premiere episode of TNT's Snowpiercer follow... [poilib element="accentDivider"] It was a certainly a slippery, icy trek along the way -- what with the change in showrunner two years ago (from Sarah Connor Chronicles' Josh Friedman to Orphan Black's Graeme Manson) and an entire pilot episode directed by Doctor Strange's Scott Derickson mostly being scrapped and rewritten/reshot -- but the Snowpiercer TV series is finally upon us. And, considering the global conditions we all face now, it's one of the last big "event" TV shows we'll get to see for a while. Snowpiercer, as a series, is mostly effective reworking of Jacques Lob's Le Transperceneige graphic novel (which was famously adapted into a feature film by Oscar-winner Bong Joon-ho in 2013) that's a sort of pared-down, semi-simplified version of the premise with a murder mystery squared-pegged into the story so as to manifest a spine for a TV series. The set-up -- which involves a massive climate shift bringing all of humanity to war, scientists over-correcting Earth's temperature and freezing everything, and then a psychotic visionary named Wilfred developing a "Noah's Ark"-style perpetually-moving train for the most privileged members of our species -- is all pretty much the same as the comic. The idea of a non-stop "balanced" ecosystem consisting of 1001 cars enables the show to feel, most of the time, like a space saga as "Snowpiercer," the locomotive, is basically a spaceship. A craft that is supposed contain within its narrow walls all the elements of our main characters' former planet (as well as some new realms - like, um, orgy zones?). [ignvideo url="https://www.ign.com/videos/2019/07/21/snowpiercer-season-1-trailer-comic-con-2019"] When you combine that design with the necessary evils of a caste system, and then add to that a number of unwanted stragglers who violently forced their way onto the train as it was starting up, and who've now lived for years in a caboose of abject squalor, and you've got a story that's primed and ready to mirror many of our ongoing modern societal ills in the way only sci-fi usually can. Snowpiercer feels insane as a logline but it's really just an excuse for an awesome, claustrophobic revolution that leads its characters, and us viewers, toward hard truths about civilization as a whole. The series teases the original "rebellion" arc that Bong Joon-ho created for his film by giving us a palpable powder keg of poor folk living in the rear of the train ("Tailies" as they refer to themselves, which is reminiscent of Lost) who, after enduring seven years of desperation and awfulness, are ready to brutally escape their confines and battle their way through enough cars to get to the engine. They've got the "world's last Australian," a large man named Strong Boy who they give most of their food to so he can act like an RPG-style Tank, an old man who remembers the joys of being alone, and Daveed Diggs' Layton - a former homicide detective who forcefully boarded the train with his wife (who has since left him to become a plaything for folks in a fancier car). [ignvideo url="https://www.ign.com/videos/2019/10/05/snowpiercer-sneak-peek-revealed-at-new-york-comic-con"] Diggs' character is the centerpiece of the show while also representing where the story tries to twist and transform itself from a revolution to a demolition. As in Demolition Man. Layton gets spirited away from his fellow Tailies, right on the precipice of a huge bloodbath, so that he can solve a murder case that the perfect society in the front of the train is ill-equipped to handle. Like Demolition Man or The Village or any number of films with similar themes, Snowpiercer showcases a "utopia" unable to predict something going awry, somehow ignorant to the fact that "sometimes people just kill each other." Here, Snowpiercer strains a bit to find its legs as an ongoing series by literally halting and interrupting a massive ambush right before it starts so the story can shift into a "whodunnit?". When you combine that with the Wilfred reveal happening at the end of the episode, where we learn that Jennifer Connelly's Melanie - aka the "voice of the train" from Hospitality - is Wilfred, or in the very least acting as Wilfred because something happened to the real person and she's now maintaining the illusion, and the series starts to lose some of its steam. Let's hope the show has bigger surprises on the way now that's given up who's driving the train. The show looks great and the action all lands well, but there's a spark missing. At least so far. Diggs is good as our hero and Connelly is cool as his uneasy First-Class ally (who also happens to be secretly running the show), but the murder mystery is nestled in between two mostly-unlikable factions: the privileged dopes living in the long stretch of cars designated for the rich and powerful and the temperamental hot-heads who stew in the butt of the train. Layton's the only semi-likable presence and he's not quite enough to make us fully care about solving the case for the one-percenters or saving the lives of the Tailies.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs The Reverend Review

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs the Reverend is now streaming on Netflix. [poilib element="accentDivider"] "It's two-thirty in the damn morning! That's when Mark Wahlbergs wake up." Oh, Titus Andromedon. How we've missed you. If you're looking for a pitch-perfect project that's both distracting and interactive (distract-eractive?) during these uncertain quaran-times, the new "Choose Your Own Adventure" Kimmy Schmidt movie on Netflix (also see: Black Mirror's "Bandersnatch") is a grand, howling watch. News of a possible Kimmy movie has been bubbling for a few years now. The series ended on a decent-enough high, with an acceptable amount of closure, so a continuation wasn't anything we necessarily needed, but these are fun characters and the series is one of the last remaining feel-good, positive-vibes comedies from the previous decade (which has always been a miracle considering its dark-as-hell premise) so bringing this world back for a quick, raucous romp is a welcome slice of whimsey. Kimmy vs the Reverend's emotional core is kind of a retread of the dark fears and anxieties Kimmy's already overcome, sure, but the show's fierce jokes still rattle off rapid fire, hitting you like mirthful missiles, and the narrative weaving of the "chose your journey" gimmick adds a bit of meta-flare to the proceedings. The movie never splinters viewers off into sprawling, dark spirals like "Bandersnatch," obviously, nor does it offer up wildly different outcomes to land on. There's most definitely a path, and sometimes you're offered up a comically-laced "do-over" when you've made the less-than-correct choice. In fact, some of the first avenues you take drastically switch things up in the third act so there's ample opportunity to mess around with the decision making. The writing is crisp and clever, as usual, making the in-house, self-referential nuggets regarding the "choice is yours" shtick (where one wrong move even lands you in an alternate timeline with a cloned Kimmy) never feel outside of, or foreign to, the Kimmy wheelhouse we know and adore. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-kimmy-vs-the-reverend-gallery&captions=true"] What worlds are left for Kimmy to conquer, you might ask? Well, there's marriage, to Daniel Radcliffe's Prince Frederick (a role that, along with TBS' Miracle Workers, helps the Harry Potter icon solidify his comic chops) as well as one final showdown with Jon Hamm's Dick Wayne. Which is kind of a no-brainer plot-wise given Hamm's almost unfair ability to be so damn hilarious after spending the better part of the last decade refining brooding, introspective drama. While Kimmy discovers a clue that points toward the ridiculous Reverend Dick (prison gane name: Vete Pedefilo Blanco) possibly having a second bunker, with even more victims, still out there (there's that crazily morbid longline again!), Titus rails against a new movie action role (because it means getting into shape), Lillian attempts to "temp" Frederick during a Bachelorette party, and Jacqueline, in one of the movie's funniest (and possibly most niche) sidebars, gets locked into a rambling lecture from a screenwriter. [ignvideo url="https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/05/01/new-to-netflix-for-may-2020"] Because Kimmy Schmidt is a comedy, and a surreal one at times, there's a huge amount of playfulness present when it comes to the stalling "time to make a choice" moments, where the characters have to engage in chewy chatter while the viewer makes up their mind. These are often coy and cutesy cutaways where writers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (along with Sam Means and Meredith Scardino) use whatever's at their disposal to craft comic interludes - even going so far as to make Lillian and Sara Chase's Cyndee literally say who they are over and over for those who might get character names mixed up. Want to see the Reverend explode? Want to hear Titus slay (or butcher) "Free Bird?" Kimmy vs the Reverend is a labyrinth of laughs that actually encourages you to make the "wrong" choices first because the stakes are never not soaked in silliness. Plus, guest spots from Jack McBrayer, Josh Groban, Johnny Knoxville, Chris Parnell -- and even Kimmy-verse characters Yuko-3000 and Jan the Backpack -- help make this an even giddier affair.  

Scoob! Review

Scoob! is now on premium VOD. Find out where to watch it. [poilib element="accentDivider"] Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. gang make the leap to CG feature animation in Scoob!, a sweet, amusing family flick that was supposed to open in theaters until well, you know, and is now debuting on VOD instead. At a brisk 90 minutes, Scoob! is a nice, light snack for parents and kids stuck at home these days, with enough silly gags for children to get a kick out of and enough knowing references for adults to appreciate. The more one knows about classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons the better as Scoob! is essentially a shared universe film. New viewers will learn enough about these reimagined and contemporized versions of Blue Falcon, Dynomutt, Dick Dastardly, Dee Dee Skyes and the like to get it -- this isn’t exactly a complex mythology audiences have to wrap their heads around here -- but the greater the knowledge one has of these old toons the more all the references and Easter eggs will be appreciated. The standout among the film’s Hanna-Barbera additions is by far Mark Wahlberg’s obliviously unready yet overconfident superhero Blue Falcon, who plays a much larger role here than some might expect, with Jason Isaacs’ gleefully mean Dick Dastardly a close second. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=scoob-images&captions=true"] As for the hotly debated casting of Will Forte as Shaggy, while it’s understandable that some fans may have grown attached to Matthew Lillard’s incarnation of the character (in both live-action and animation) and are upset that a new actor is voicing Shaggy here, it bears reminding that Lillard himself took over the role following another actor’s iconic interpretation and faced backlash online at the time. Forte’s interpretation of the character is fine, perhaps sounding a bit less scratchy than Lillard or Casey Kasem’s voices, but his Shaggy is as sweet, dopey, and easily rattled as his predecessors. Of the main Mystery Inc. quintet, Fred -- ably voiced by Zac Efron -- is the character who has been tweaked the most. He has a bit more personality and is less wooden than some past incarnations, his ascot is gone, and while he still does all the driving, Fred’s not exactly the team’s de facto leader here as each member gets their moment to take charge or make an important decision. That said, this movie is decidedly a Shaggy and Scooby story through and through. An extended pre-credits prologue reveals not only how young Shaggy met little Scoob but also how the Mystery Inc. gang came to be and their first ghostbusting mission as kids. Shaggy and Scooby’s meet-cute is as adorkable as you’d hope, with each character filling a void in the other’s life. The movie has a lot of heart and keeps the thematic emphasis throughout on friendship -- not just between humans but also between people and their pets. [ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/03/07/scoob-final-trailer-easter-eggs-and-hanna-barbera-references] The film’s exploration of the human-canine bond goes beyond just Shaggy and Scoob to Blue Falcon and Dynomutt and even to villain Dick Dastardly, who fans will recall had his own four-legged sidekick named Muttley in the old cartoons. Dogs, in this story, are there to help transform the characters of their owners. Best friends have their ups and downs even if one is a cowardly teen and the other a talking dog. The movie’s messaging isn’t terribly novel or deep as it is aimed squarely at children and dog lovers so anything beyond the simplistic would arguably belong in a different sort of movie altogether. Scoob! is also a save-the-world adventure film, complete with superhero allies and a big bad with a robot army. The action is plentiful, with lots of sci-fi gadgetry and vehicular set-pieces thanks to Blue Falcon and Dick Dastardly. The film’s CG animation retains the recognizable traits of the iconic Scooby-Doo characters without making them look like yet another riff on Pixar and DreamWorks’ styles, but 2015’s The Peanuts Movie remains the most faithful adaptation yet of an original 2D cartoon to CG feature animation.

Capone Review

With theaters closed, Vertical Entertainment and Redbox Entertainment have teamed up to release Capone as a home premiere on VOD release on May 12th  with an on-demand 48-hour rental. [poilib element="accentDivider"] In his first feature film since 2015’s Fantastic Four, director Josh Trank documents the sad, slow decline of a once mighty king in Capone. Anyone expecting this to be a Tommy Guns-blazing crime epic a la The Untouchables may be stunned to find a methodically paced character study that owes more to psychological and body horror than to pulpy gangster flicks. While the movie acknowledges the existence of that larger-than-life crime boss, this is about what happens to Al Capone long after his Prohibition glory days and subsequent incarceration, as the neurosyphilis he’s long had finally ravages him beyond any hope of recovery. This is not an Al Capone we’ve ever seen on screen before, but it’s one that true crime aficionados like myself have been curious to see explored in a drama. For mob buffs and those who enjoy character studies, Capone offers an intimate, sometimes challenging look at one of America’s most notorious figures. But the film’s own narrow focus and drawing room play-style approach could turn off those general viewers who might normally check out a movie about the original “Scarface” and expect to find something less niche. While there are a few scenes here of Al Capone wielding a Tommy Gun, he’s dressed in adult diapers and lost in a mental fog while doing it. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=capone-images&captions=true"] Instead, Capone repeatedly shows Al -- or “Fonzo” as he’s called throughout (indeed, his wife Mae at one point says the name “Al” is not said in their home anymore) -- in an eroding mental and physical state, whether it’s hallucinating seeing figures from his past or losing bladder control. Trank has expressed a fascination with radical changes in the human body and how people cope with them before in both Chronicle and Fantastic Four, so Capone seems a natural (and grounded) extension of that peculiar interest. But the film -- which Trank also scripted and edited -- doesn’t necessarily offer much new information with each sad spectacle of seeing the king of the underworld brought so low, and the plot itself is fairly thin. Set almost entirely within the confines of his Florida compound during the last year of his life, Capone sees “Fonzo” struggling to recall where he hid $10 million in ill-gotten gains somewhere on the estate while figures from his literal and figurative past revisit him. Fonzo wants to know where the loot is, as do his family members - who will be left with nothing once he dies - and the Feds, who are still stalking him years after he was released from prison early due to illness. But the lost loot is just a McGuffin as the focus of the movie really is on watching a sick man grow increasingly sicker while those around him do what they can to either help or exploit him. This is where things get tricky for the movie, though, as Capone is at its best and most involving when we’re lost in Al’s reveries with him. He literally hobbles along through the dark, unsure of what’s real and what isn’t, but the movie can also confuse the viewer by cutting back and forth between Al’s reality and the movie’s reality. It’s a fine line to walk between artsy obfuscation and unnecessary plot convolutions, and Capone doesn’t always strike the right balance. Still, it’s intriguing to see this fresh approach with a historical figure that’s been the subject of dozens of movies and TV shows over the years. [ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/04/16/capone-official-trailer-1] As Capone, Tom Hardy gives one of his most Actor-y performances, one that ranges from scenery-chewing to incredibly nuanced, sometimes even within the same scene. It may take a bit for viewers to adjust to the makeup job and Hardy’s affected gravelly, mumbly speaking voice, both of which may call to mind a Dick Tracy villain (but seeing as how Capone inspired Dick Tracy villains like Big Boy Caprice, that may be strangely fitting). His Fonzo is pitiable, but there are flashes of the dangerous brute who once ruled Chicago like a king; the point of the movie and Hardy’s highly physical performance is to show how far the mighty have fallen. It’s far from subtle, and will likely prove divisive to viewers, but he’s the most magnetic element in the film whenever he’s onscreen. Co-stars Linda Cardellini and Matt Dillon lend able support, but this is definitely The Tom Hardy Show. As much as Capone delves into the heretofore unfilmed twilight of its subject’s sordid life, one should obviously not expect complete historical accuracy. There’s a running subplot revolving around a young mystery character with ties to Al, but ultimately this invention is there to help connect Capone’s real life with his fugue state of imagined threats and interactions. Again, the movie walks a tricky line between the two, not always successfully, but Capone deserves kudos and a watch for daring to do something different with its subject.

Capone Review

With theaters closed, Vertical Entertainment and Redbox Entertainment have teamed up to release Capone as a home premiere on VOD release on May 12th  with an on-demand 48-hour rental. [poilib element="accentDivider"] In his first feature film since 2015’s Fantastic Four, director Josh Trank documents the sad, slow decline of a once mighty king in Capone. Anyone expecting this to be a Tommy Guns-blazing crime epic a la The Untouchables may be stunned to find a methodically paced character study that owes more to psychological and body horror than to pulpy gangster flicks. While the movie acknowledges the existence of that larger-than-life crime boss, this is about what happens to Al Capone long after his Prohibition glory days and subsequent incarceration, as the neurosyphilis he’s long had finally ravages him beyond any hope of recovery. This is not an Al Capone we’ve ever seen on screen before, but it’s one that true crime aficionados like myself have been curious to see explored in a drama. For mob buffs and those who enjoy character studies, Capone offers an intimate, sometimes challenging look at one of America’s most notorious figures. But the film’s own narrow focus and drawing room play-style approach could turn off those general viewers who might normally check out a movie about the original “Scarface” and expect to find something less niche. While there are a few scenes here of Al Capone wielding a Tommy Gun, he’s dressed in adult diapers and lost in a mental fog while doing it. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=capone-images&captions=true"] Instead, Capone repeatedly shows Al -- or “Fonzo” as he’s called throughout (indeed, his wife Mae at one point says the name “Al” is not said in their home anymore) -- in an eroding mental and physical state, whether it’s hallucinating seeing figures from his past or losing bladder control. Trank has expressed a fascination with radical changes in the human body and how people cope with them before in both Chronicle and Fantastic Four, so Capone seems a natural (and grounded) extension of that peculiar interest. But the film -- which Trank also scripted and edited -- doesn’t necessarily offer much new information with each sad spectacle of seeing the king of the underworld brought so low, and the plot itself is fairly thin. Set almost entirely within the confines of his Florida compound during the last year of his life, Capone sees “Fonzo” struggling to recall where he hid $10 million in ill-gotten gains somewhere on the estate while figures from his literal and figurative past revisit him. Fonzo wants to know where the loot is, as do his family members - who will be left with nothing once he dies - and the Feds, who are still stalking him years after he was released from prison early due to illness. But the lost loot is just a McGuffin as the focus of the movie really is on watching a sick man grow increasingly sicker while those around him do what they can to either help or exploit him. This is where things get tricky for the movie, though, as Capone is at its best and most involving when we’re lost in Al’s reveries with him. He literally hobbles along through the dark, unsure of what’s real and what isn’t, but the movie can also confuse the viewer by cutting back and forth between Al’s reality and the movie’s reality. It’s a fine line to walk between artsy obfuscation and unnecessary plot convolutions, and Capone doesn’t always strike the right balance. Still, it’s intriguing to see this fresh approach with a historical figure that’s been the subject of dozens of movies and TV shows over the years. [ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/04/16/capone-official-trailer-1] As Capone, Tom Hardy gives one of his most Actor-y performances, one that ranges from scenery-chewing to incredibly nuanced, sometimes even within the same scene. It may take a bit for viewers to adjust to the makeup job and Hardy’s affected gravelly, mumbly speaking voice, both of which may call to mind a Dick Tracy villain (but seeing as how Capone inspired Dick Tracy villains like Big Boy Caprice, that may be strangely fitting). His Fonzo is pitiable, but there are flashes of the dangerous brute who once ruled Chicago like a king; the point of the movie and Hardy’s highly physical performance is to show how far the mighty have fallen. It’s far from subtle, and will likely prove divisive to viewers, but he’s the most magnetic element in the film whenever he’s onscreen. Co-stars Linda Cardellini and Matt Dillon lend able support, but this is definitely The Tom Hardy Show. As much as Capone delves into the heretofore unfilmed twilight of its subject’s sordid life, one should obviously not expect complete historical accuracy. There’s a running subplot revolving around a young mystery character with ties to Al, but ultimately this invention is there to help connect Capone’s real life with his fugue state of imagined threats and interactions. Again, the movie walks a tricky line between the two, not always successfully, but Capone deserves kudos and a watch for daring to do something different with its subject.

Hollywood Punks and Hippie Scientists: New VOD Movies to Stream This Weekend

With Hollywood on hold during the COVID-19 shutdown, and many movies moving to VOD (or hitting VOD early), we've got a mini streaming round-up for you here, offering up quick bite reviews for three notable films hitting digital this weekend. The first is a musical adaptation the cult '80s film Valley Girl, starring Happy Death Day's Jessica Rothe and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Chloe Bennet. It's a movie that sat on the shelf for a while due to the 2018 controversy surrounding YouTube star Logan Paul, who appears in the film as Rothe's jock boyfriend. Though delayed, it was still planned as a theatrical release (and even played at some drive-in theaters on Friday). Now however, it's ready for you at home. The second film, Arkansas, is a quirky Elmore Leonard/Tarantino-esque neo-noir from Hot Tub Time Machine's Clark Duke, who makes his directorial debut while also co-starring and co-writing. Liam Hemsworth, Eden Brolin, John Malkovich and Vince Vaughn also headline. The third slice of streaming is the documentary Spaceship Earth, which recounts the wondrous and wild Biosphere 2 experiment from the early '90s in a way that might satisfy those looking for another "truth is stranger than fiction" story to satiate their need for out-there exploits post-Tiger King. The film also takes viewers inside one of history's most notable voluntary quarantines, as the eight individuals agreed to remove themselves from society and live  in a dome for two years. [poilib element="accentDivider"]

Valley Girl

  • VOD Date: May 8
  • Available on AmazonGooglePlay, Vudu, YouTube, Apple, Redbox, FandangoNOW, Xbox, and other local cable and/or satellite providers.
Valley-Girl-2020-Poster-Header 2020's Valley Girl may feel juiced-up when compared to the original 1983 Nic Cage/Deborah Foreman movie it's based on, but all the dancing and hullabaloo makes for a sweet and lively romance that's accentuated by fun performances. Jessica Rothe and Poldark's Josh Whitehouse -- as the stylish Encino mallrat and angry abandoned punk who fall in love -- work well together and help create a nice emotional spine that supports a bevy of throwback hits - ranging from Madonna's "Material Girl" to The Go-Go's "We Got the Beat" to The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry." The musical aspects of this star-crossed caper land with vivid enthusiasm and the frame of the film, which resembles The Princess Bride, as a mother (Alicia Silverstone) shares the story of first true love with her teen daughter, gives us a nice narrative reason to revisit the '80s as we watch everything unfold as a totally tubular flashback. Guest spots from Judy Greer, Rob Huebel, Randall Park, and Thomas Lennon (who appears as legendary KROQ DJ Rodney Bingheimer!) add some pep to the steps while cameos from original Valley Girls E.G. Daily and Heidi Holicker act as a whimsical wink to fans of the first film. Heck, you can count this now as a notable cameo too as 2020 quarantine star Mary Neely, who reenacted a ton of famous musicals on Twitter while self-isolation, is in here too as a dorky classmate. If you're looking for a spirited diversion while holed up at home, Valley Girl is a great pick. SCORE: 8.0 [poilib element="accentDivider"]

Arkansas

  • VOD Date: May 8
  • Available on Amazon, GooglePlay, Vudu, YouTube, FandangoNOW, Apple, Xbox, and other local cable and/or satellite providers
Arkansas-Liams-Hemsworth-Clark-Duke-2 Arkansas isn't without merit. It never quite takes flight, but as an oddball, relaxed-fit Cornbread Mafia movie, it has a few surprises up its sleeve. Its blood pressure never gets too high as everything, including the violence, plays out in a very matter-of-fact manner, which brings to mind the pacing employed by indie fables like Sling Blade, One False Move, and even S. Craig Zahler's Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Dragged Across Concrete. The latter two, of course, also star Vince Vaughn, who seems to have found his later-career niche as a low-level lowlife. You can include his role in Season 2 of True Detective here too. Arkansas never fully grabs you on an emotional level, or even offers up anything ultimately clever enough to laud, but it works on some very basic surrogate family levels as Liam Hemsworth's laconic sociopath and director Clark Duke's verbose sleaze just sort of "exist" their way through a career as drug runners for a mystery kingpin named Frog. Coen Brothers and Tarantino-lite happenstance occur all around them as a parade of famous faces -- like Vaughn, John Malkovich, Vivica A. Fox, and Michael Kenneth Williams -- enter and exit the scene as pawns and players in a very hodgepodge drug trade. Eden Brolin (daughter of Josh) makes a nice showing here, in one of her first major film roles (with famous faces, that is), as a local nurse who fall for Duke's character, Swin. There's a lazy melancholy heart underneath Arkansas. The film, while slight in all the wrong places, still leaves you with something even though it never settles on an overall message. SCORE: 6.0 [poilib element="accentDivider"]

Spaceship Earth

  • VOD Date: May 8
  • Available on Hulu and Apple
spaceship_earth_biosphere_2_promo_shot_2_courtesy_of_neon_copy About thirty minutes into Spaceship Earth, which boasts a certain sect of (successful) '60s counter-culture "weirdos" at its core, one begins to marvel at the driving spirit and ingenuity of John Allen, and the rest of the Synergia collective, in his efforts in ecology and engineering. The Biosphere 2 project from 1991 -- the fantastical research facility that became a pop-culture phenomenon, and eventually a media punchline (which includes 1996's Bio-Dome, starring Pauly Shore) -- was done, ostensibly, to see if humans could set up habitation on other planets. But at its core was a desire to solve Earth's many human-caused ecological problems in the here and now. Biosphere 2 was a noble project that fell apart due to a myriad of reasons. Spaceship Earth may not have the sensational, or criminal, aspects of Netflix's Tiger King, but it's still am intriguing look at a mostly-forgotten about chapter of scientific history. With so many now discussing the possibly colonization of Mars, it's important to look back at how Biosphere 2 failed...because it wasn't allowed to be a failure. The whole purpose of Biosphere 2, which still remains the largest closed system ever created, was to learn. No one expected a home run during a first at-bat, but the more the media latched onto it, and hubris took over, the more it was going to be a categoric failure if it wasn't a 100% success. It was meant to teach but so many, too many, glommed onto the sensational sci-fi aspects of it. Spaceship Earth, as a documentary, is a gentle ride. It's always interesting but it also never peaks or crescendos. You'll meet a lot of very "lost" theater boobs (some with kooky nicknames), who bounced from job to job, purpose to purpose, until they fell into a community of dreamers and, most importantly, doers. Then there are the eight who volunteered to live inside Biosphere 2 for two years. A group of excited pioneers who succumbed to the worst aspects of isolation, and the dangerous aspects malnourished and oxygen-starved while in isolation. It hits home for all those currently self-distancing and hiding themselves away during the pandemic. SCORE: 7.0 [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=new-movies-coming-to-vod-early&captions=true"] [poilib element="accentDivider"] Matt Fowler is a writer for IGN and a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler and Facebook at Facebook.com/MattBFowler.