Get Duked

Oi Scouts

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.

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#Alive

NEET of the Living Dead

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.

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Sputnik

sputnik

Red Scares

Despite its name, Sputnik is not a space-set horror movie.  Most of it takes place on Earth, within the confines of a claustrophobic military laboratory.  We open aboard a Russian satellite, with two Soviet cosmonauts preparing for their descent back to Earth.  After technical trouble and a run-in with an unseen creature, the spacecraft crash lands on Earth, with Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov) the sole survivor. Continue reading

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

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 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 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

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

Extraction

extraction

The Bodhi-guard

The first thing one notices about Extraction is the bizarre name of Chris Hemsworth’s character.  Tyler Rake is clearly meant to be a punchy action-hero moniker, but there’s something off about it; it’s both too silly and not silly enough.  The script attempts to get ahead of the criticism by making a knowing joke about it, but it remains a distractingly misguided touch.  In short, the name doesn’t work, but at least the movie (mostly) does. Continue reading

Onward

onward

Day of the Dad

As others have observed, the overall trend of Pixar’s releases has been a gradual decline in creativity, with the freshness of Toy Story giving way to the banal likes of Cars and Inside Out.  The conceit of Onward is on the trite end of the spectrum; its serviceable and shallow fantasy-creatures-meet-modern-technology setup feels like it could have come from any one of Hollywood’s anonymous computer animation factories. Continue reading