Fatal Affair

fatal affair

An Affair to Forget

The psychotic-admirer thriller emerged in 1987 with Fatal Attraction and has since spawned countless followers.  It’s a subgenre I hold dear, my personal favorites being the deliciously trashy Fear and the manipulative-yet-gripping The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.  Though its ’90s heyday may be behind us, the formula refuses to die, proving to be a reliable template for lowbrow, frequently “erotic” fare.  Just in the past few years we’ve had The Intruder (psychotic ex-homeowner), Greta (psychotic mother-figure), and Ma (psychotic booze hookup).  Now Netflix is getting in on the action with Fatal Affair, a movie as lazy as its title. Continue reading

Amadeus: The Director’s Cut (1984)

amadeus

An Artist of Note

Looking back at Amadeus, the first thing that comes to mind is the sad realization that it wouldn’t stand a chance in hell of being made today.  A big-budgeted period piece about a well-known but fairly niche subject would be deemed far too financially risky in today’s timid Hollywood.  How lucky we are, then, that this movie was made at all, since it’s the kind of auteur-driven, thrillingly original, and richly cinematic movie so rarely seen in modern theaters. Continue reading

7500

7500

Cabin Pressure

7500, an airborne thriller from Amazon Studios, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tobias Ellis, the co-pilot of a nighttime flight from Berlin to Paris, on which his girlfriend (Aylin Tezel) is working as a flight attendant.  Shortly after the plane takes off, a quartet of terrorists storm the cockpit brandishing makeshift knives.  Though Tobias manages to close the cockpit door, the scuffle leaves him injured and the captain (Carlo Kitzlinger) incapacitated, along with a terrorist Tobias knocked out and tied up.  Left to fly the plane and contact authorities on the ground by himself, Tobias’s only links to the rest of the plane are the intercom system and the security camera mounted just outside the cockpit.  As the terrorists in the main cabin grow impatient, they force Tobias to make increasingly brutal choices as the de facto hostage negotiator. Continue reading

Hannibal (2001)

hannibal

Hungry for More

There’s no question that The Silence of the Lambs is a great movie.  The makers of Hannibal certainly think so; otherwise they wouldn’t invoke its memory every chance they get.  It’s a quality that’s oddly ahead of its time, portending modern sequels like Jurassic World and The Force Awakens that get most of their mileage from milking their beloved predecessors.  Hannibal’s most shameless reference is the title character’s multiple utterances of the famous line, “Hello, Clarice,” which was never actually said in The Silence of the Lambs but plowed its way into pop culture history anyway.  The charitable interpretation of this Mandela effect-made-real is that it’s a knowing joke on the part of the filmmakers, though it’s easier to dismiss it – and the rest of Hannibal’s blatant throwbacks – as pandering. Continue reading

You Should Have Left

You should have left

Bacon and Cheese

At first glance, You Should Have Left seems to be a by-the-book haunted house movie.  It certainly checks plenty of the boxes: the isolated and mysterious vacation home, the precocious child in tune with the supernatural, the sinister presence that grows more and more tangible.  But writer/director David Koepp has more on his mind than weaving a workmanlike horror yarn, attempting – with varying degrees of success – to add a more serious dramatic element to the proceedings. Continue reading

The Edge (1997)

the-edge_8860226

Claws of Death

The Edge, much to my pleasure, is a hard movie to classify.  It’s a survival adventure but not a survival adventure, a killer-animal flick and not a killer-animal flick, a two-hander yet not a two-hander.  It skirts that rare line of mass entertainment and highbrow drama, chiefly thanks to David Mamet’s sly script, which never sacrifices smarts for action – or vice versa. Continue reading

The King of Staten Island

the king of staten island

Tattoo Pallor

The King of Staten Island is one of the latest movies to be downgraded to a direct-to-streaming release, but doesn’t suffer too much for it.  Sure, one might have wrung more enjoyment out of sharing its laughs with fellow theatergoers, but ultimately the latest Judd Apatow movie plays just fine on the small screen.  It already seems destined to enjoy a second life on cable alongside Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.  Continue reading

The Last Samurai (2003)

last samurai

Eastern Thomases

It’s easy to dismiss The Last Samurai at first glance as just another entry in the evergreen “soldier betrays his masters and goes native” subgenre.  The formula has proven to be a robust one, but the movies it’s yielded have varied widely in quality – from the acclaimed Dances With Wolves to the beautiful but paper-thin Avatar.  The Last Samurai proves to be one of the category’s best entries, setting itself apart through surefooted execution and a deeply human story. Continue reading

The High Note

the high note

In the Key of Eh

The High Note’s coronavirus-induced direct-to-streaming release might be a blessing in disguise, seeing as it’s a perfect example of a movie that makes no case whatsoever to be seen in theaters.  Its visual palette has that bland, distinctly digital warmth that has become the go-to for so many low-ish budget releases these days.  But since The High Note makes it clear from the get-go that it has no pretensions of visual style, its real test is how it fares as a frothy romantic comedy. Continue reading