The year is 1978, and a spate of child disappearances have rocked a suburban Ohio town. The culprit is an unidentified figure (Ethan Hawke) nicknamed “the Grabber” by locals. 13-year-old Finney Shaw (Mason Thames) and his younger sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) are aware of the kidnappings, but have more pressing concerns in the form of vicious bullies and an abusive father (Jeremy Davies).
The 2010s weren’t the best decade for Adam Sandler. He had settled into a comfortable niche starring in movies whose quality generally ranged from tolerable to dreadful, and his lack of interest only became more apparent in the movies he made under his lucrative Netflix contract. But in 2019, his performance in Uncut Gems reminded us that he could be a compelling dramatic actor when he wanted to – although the release of Hubie Halloween less than a year later dampened hopes of a McConaughey-esque late career renaissance. The Netflix sports drama Hustle sees Sandler back in more serious territory, to mixed results.
“Now eventually you do plan to have dinosaurs in your dinosaur movie, right?”
As the (alleged) finale of its franchise, Jurassic World Dominion clearly wants to be a bigger, better movie than its two predecessors. It expands its scope by letting the dinosaurs run rampant across the globe, and what’s at stake is that reliable old chestnut, the survival of mankind. But these attempts at escalation backfire, cheapening the dinosaurs as well as the plot. By making the dinosaurs a part of everyday life, the movie robs them of their mystique; and by threatening us with an ending far too bleak for such a corporate piece of filmmaking, it renders the stakes non-existent.
For most of We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, the only person in sight is Casey (Anna Cobb), a lonely and anxiety-ridden teenager. She seeks connection through the World’s Fair Challenge, a creepypasta offshoot billing itself as the world’s scariest online horror game. All one has to do to join is prick their finger, watch a series of flashing images, then report the “symptoms” that allegedly manifest after the video. There’s no goal per se, except for sharing one’s videos with others and trying to uncover the game’s many secrets.
Though no one would ever accused Unhinged of being ambitious, it’s ruthlessly efficient. It takes a premise that’s as high-concept as they come, does everything it needs to with it, then exits gracefully. And while this leanness is certainly a point in its favor, what really makes it worth watching is Russell Crowe’s towering villain turn.
In these dire times for movies, one has to be thankful for the mere existence of Tenet, a big-budget, big-screen experience in the age of direct-to-streaming. Though released well over a month ago, it remains in multiplexes simply due to the lack of any theatrical output to replace it.
Get Duked doesn’t waste any time, laying out its premise in the very first scene: three juvenile delinquent chavs are “volunteered” by their schoolmasters for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, an outdoor program meant to build character for wayward youths. The movie immediately shows off its amped-up, in-your-face style, complete with stylized cartoon cutaways scored by fast-forwarded dialogue. It announces Get Duked as a genuinely bold effort if nothing else, though its effect becomes less potent as the movie progresses.
Flight is a movie that peaks during its opening scenes, but what a peak it is. Its first act plane-crash sequence is the movie’s clear peak, an edge-of-your-seat ten minutes that are both breathlessly thrilling and terrifyingly believable.
In the cockpit is Whip Whittaker (Denzel Washington), a seasoned airline pilot with a serious alcohol and drug addiction. Coming off a night of heavy drinking and a morning of cocaine use, Whip’s seemingly routine morning flight from Orlando to Atlanta suffers a severe mechanical error. Through a combination of Zen-like calm and sheer skill, Whip manages to land the plane in a field with only six lives lost. Though hailed as a hero by the media, he’s too busy mourning the death of his flight attendant paramour to bask in the spotlight.
One of #Alive’s most welcome assets is its knowledge that its audience has seen plenty of zombie movies, and thus doesn’t spend any more time than necessary before things go haywire. The movie hits the ground running, only lasting a few minutes before the inevitable outbreak; just long enough for us to get a brass-tacks introduction to Oh Joon-woo (Ah-In Yoo), a twentysomething slacker living in his parents’ apartment. Home by himself when the pandemic hits, he watches powerlessly from his fourth-floor Juliette balcony as sprinting, ravenous zombies devour the residents of his neighborhood. Securely barricaded in the apartment, he tries to contact his family and find a way to get rescued. But Joon-woo’s food and water are in short supply, putting an expiration date on his isolated haven.
If nothing else, one can admire the fact that Double Team represents an era of film when studios weren’t afraid to take big risks. Today, the idea of spending 30 million dollars on an R-rated movie starring a past-his-prime action star and a famous athlete would never get past the pitching stage, let alone greenlit. And though Double Team’s gamble didn’t pay off, neither in quality nor box-office receipts; I, for one, am happy that this turkey exists.