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

Anaconda (1997)

anaconda

Snake Charmer

As an avid fan of killer-animal movies, one thing I’ve learned is that they are shockingly easy to fuck up.  For every Deep Blue Sea there are a dozen Shark Nights, for every Alligator countless Primevals.  But within the pantheon of trashy creature features, my favorite has to be Anaconda.  The movie has never enjoyed the warmest of receptions – its critical response was mixed at best, and it’s often used as a bad-movie punchline – and it’s not hard to see why.  It’s unapologetically cheesy, old-fashioned, and lowbrow.  But I believe that Anaconda’s true intended audience is the die-hard fans of its genre, and for those of us in that group it’s an absolute corker. Continue reading

The Wrong Missy

the wrong missy

Miss-taken Identity

I had low expectations going into The Wrong Missy.  On the surface, it seemed like another Netflix production designed primarily to give the Happy Madison crew a paid vacation in an exotic location, á la the aggressively mediocre Murder Mystery and The Do-Over.  And while The Wrong Missy doesn’t do much to refute that accusation, there are just enough signs of life to set it apart. Continue reading

No Escape (1994)

no escape

Lord of the Sighs

No Escape begins with a text crawl which informs us that in the then-distant future of 2022, all prisons are controlled by corporations.  It’s a promising enough – though hardly original – basis for a movie, but it turns out to have little bearing on No Escape’s actual narrative, which turns out to be more Mad Max-light than the futuristic prison break movie it initially promises. Continue reading