Throughout his tumultuous career, M. Night Shyamalan has been singularly focused on trying to surprise audiences. What’s most surprising about his latest film however, is just how little has changed in his bag of tricks. Old has all the hallmarks of Shyamalan’s storytelling style. There’s a preponderance of silly, inauthentic dialogue, tons of on the nose exposition, awkward comic relief that rarely lands as intended, and what seems like an active hatred for ambiguity. Yet, for all of Old’s silliness and lack of depth, it does provide a decent amount of suspense and is home to one really interesting concept.
Concluding a trilogy is a tricky proposition in any context. When it comes to the Fear Street trilogy however, its weekly release schedule means the first two entries are incredibly fresh in the audience’s’ minds going into the final chapter. So it stands to reason the conclusion had a lot to live up to and the potential for a lot of scrutiny to be levied at it. To add to that pressure, Part One and Part Two had the benefit of mostly disappearing into their respective time periods whereas Part Three had the unenviable task of serving as both an origin story and conclusion. Fortunately, Netflix’s ambitious gamble of releasing its Fear Street trilogy (based on the teen horror books by R.L. Stine) in weekly installments has paid off with a fun and satisfactory end in Fear Street Part Three: 1666.
As the middle part of a trilogy, Fear Street Part Two: 1978 suffers pacing issues and rehashed ideas and lore established in Part One. While Part Two never quite reaches the levels of fun and inventiveness present in Part One, it does further deepen the lore of Shadyside and sets the stage for Part Three in interesting and surprising ways.
In the 1990s, R.L. Stine’s Fear Street was like a big brother horror book series to Goosebumps. While Goosebumps was geared toward preteens, Fear Street catered to a more mature (relatively speaking) teen audience and featured more gruesome scares than its kid brother counterpart. Set in the town of Shadyside, Fear Street told anthologized stories of gore and horror throughout the cursed land. Now director Leigh Janiak (Honeymoon) and Netflix are delivering a trilogy of Fear Street films, with each entry telling a Shadyside story from a specific year. The trilogy is releasing weekly and is off to a terrific start with its bloody and energetic first entry, Fear Street Part One: 1994.
What started in 2001 as a street racing, DVD player heist movie shamelessly patterned after Point Break (Point Brake, anyone?) has become a globe-trotting, doomsday device stopping, spy team-up franchise. It’s nothing short of commendable (and, to some, probably perplexing) how this franchise managed to become a box office juggernaut. But nine movies and one spin-off is enough to wear down the tread on any long-running franchise. And while F9: The Fast Saga does deliver on plenty of ridiculous physics-breaking spectacle moments, there’s no mistaking that everyone’s favorite film family is showing signs their adventures may need to be parked for good.
Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead can be seen as a homecoming of sorts for the filmmaker. After years of dark and gloomy comic book adaptations (from a moody Man of Steel to a CrossFit Batman), Snyder’s latest film is his first original IP and non-superhero film since Sucker Punch in 2011. It’s also his second ever zombie apocalypse movie since his directorial debut, Dawn of the Dead in 2004. But even the good-will gained from the surprisingly refreshing Snyder Cut of Justice League earlier this year (and the noticeable absence of a lot of Snyder’s more distracting director traits), Army of the Dead still falls short of what it could have been.
Overall, The Lie is a solid thriller that could have been more if it stuck its landing. The pacing is strong and the performances by Enos, King, and Sarsgaard carry the tension of the film really well. It is unfortunate that The Lie’s vagueness in respect to character motivations and a lackluster presentation of its ending ultimately holds the film back.
George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, The Midnight Sky, tells of a world evacuated and a dying man keeping the light on to notify the last remnants of humanity. Unfortunately, what could have been a thought-provoking exploration of regret and isolation ultimately turns into a piecemeal rehash of genre and wilderness survival elements that were done much better in the films from which Clooney draws inspiration. He forsakes exposition in favor of needless ambiguity that leads to a payoff lacking the emotional resonance the film desperately needs. What’s left is a hollow and joyless expedition into the last days of Earth that’s devoid of any real intrigue.
Boseman’s powerhouse performance as Levee in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom underscores what a tremendous loss his passing was to the film community. It’s easily one of the best performances of the year and potentially the best performance of Boseman’s entire career, tragically short as it was.
Although this brilliant Cold War time bomb thriller has lived in the shadow of Kubrick’s satirical masterpiece Dr. Strangelove for decades, it’s deserving of just as much high praise. The fear and tension at play in Fail Safe is just as palpable and relevant today as it was in 1964. The film provides us with horrific solutions to impossible problems delivered through the vessel of a relatable President who commands our respect immediately. As such, it will leave you with a lot to consider and debate long after you see it.
Gibney and his team present a compelling and infuriating view of Donald Trump’s antagonistic relationship to science. Totally Under Control paints a vivid picture of how the anti-science views of the Trump administration has contributed to the deaths of over 214,000 Americans and climbing.
What 76 Days achieves through its fly on the wall documenting is to put human faces on the superheroic actions of healthcare workers. It does so with dignity and grace as we watch medical staff in a Wuhan hospital try to stem the flood of horror at their doorstep and the emotional toll it takes on them.
Set among the turbulence of armed conflict in late 1980s Peru, the film is harrowing in the way it compartmentalizes its drama into the character of Georgina and establishes the horrific journey she has ahead of her. Lonely journalist Pedro also has his own painful arc to contend with as he works to uncover what happened to Georgina’s child. The two characters’ arc intertwine and land a little differently, but the message and tragedy of Song Without a Name plays on.
All for My Mother, Małgorzata Imielska’s debut feature out of Poland, is largely comprised of hardships and trauma that befall the lead character Olka. Through her experience in a reformatory with other troubled teens who wish her harm, to a temporary stay with a couple who aren’t as warm and welcoming as they seem, Olka has one simple goal in mind: to reunite with her mother. That’s all she consciously desires, yet it’s not what she truly needs or yearns for beneath the surface. What Olka truly craves is acceptance and a sense of belonging. She is desperate for the stability of family and the journey she finds herself on makes for a heartbreaking and emotional ride. It’s a ride that includes frequent stops as the path she follows becomes more bleak and dour the further she goes.
The power of In Case of Emergency is in the way it documents its subjects in the relative normal era before COVID and then shows us the toll of the global pandemic on their resolve. It acts as a reminder that heroes are constantly working on the frontline of society’s harshest realities and that they deserve to be recognized even when we aren’t facing unprecedented times.