Bushwick

Bushwick

Directed By: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Starring: Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow, Angelic Zambrana, Jeremie Harris, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Alex Breaux, Arturo Castro, et.al.
Rating: TV-MA
Grade: C+

Grad student Sophie and her boyfriend get off the subway in her neighborhood to visit her family, and they find themselves in a literal war zone. When her boyfriend is killed, Sophie attempts to make her way to her grandmother’s house only a few blocks away. After a run-in with some local thugs, Sophie meets Stupe, a retired veteran trying to make it to his family in Hoboken, and begs him to accompany her to find her family. Finding her grandmother dead, Sophie heads to her sisters, where they manage to capture and interrogate one of the invading militia men, who tells them that several of the US states have declared their intention to secede from the Union, and that the attack on Bushwick was meant to soft-target invasion to pressure the president to sign the secession papers. Armed with this information, Sophie, her sister, and Stupe attempt to gather a group of people to fight back and make their way to a safe evacuation point at a nearby park.

When taken at face value, this isn’t a bad movie. It was a relatively low-budget feature, and they did the best they could with what they had, though you get the sense that with a proper budget, they could have made a fantastic cautionary tale. Bautista and Snow make the most of what they’re given to work with, which sadly isn’t much. The two have a decent chemistry nonetheless, and work well together. One fun fact: a majority of the movie takes place in one long shot (or at least is edited to give the appearance that it does).

The special effects are okay, and from what I could tell, the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Action fans with 90 minutes to spare should enjoy this. The plot isn’t overly complicated, and as long as you don’t mind a melancholy ending, it’s actually a somewhat enjoyable popcorn flick. Despite the nature of the film, there isn’t much blood or gore, and it mostly gets its rating from language and one suggestive scene, so it should probably be okay for kids to watch along with their parents.

Bushwick is currently available free to stream through Netflix, and it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.
I’m always on the lookout for new things to watch/read, so if you have a suggestion for me, just let me know!

Prospect

Prospect

Directed By: Christopher Caldwell, Zeek Earl
Starring: Sophie Thatcher, Jay Duplass, Pedro Pascal, Luke Pitzrik, Arthur Deranleau, Andre Royo, Alex McCauley, Doug Dawson, Krista Johnson, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: A-

Teenage Cee and her father, Damon, have a contract to harvest a large deposit of a rare gem from a toxic alien planet. When their landing craft is thrown off-course, they must hike to the location of the deposit. As they make their way through the forest, they encounter a pair of bandits looking for the same gem on the planet. After her father is killed in the confrontation with the bandits, Cee makes a tenuous pact with the remaining bandit, a man named Ezra, who offers Cee a potential way off the planet in exchange for a portion of the haul. Together, Cee and Ezra make their way across the forest, fighting the various dangers and obstacles they come across as they trek to the location of the gem deposit.

This movie is among the rare, slow-burning sci-fi movies that manage not to be a complete bore. The storyline itself is rather simple, and is one seen in plenty of Westerns made over the years, it just so happens that the movie takes place on an alien planet instead of the western United States. The atmosphere itself is slightly eerie, and definitely feels like an alien planet. Sophie Thatcher does an excellent job as Cee, and makes the character seem like she’s desperate to hold onto as much of her youth as she can while being forced to grow up. She and Pedro Pascal work well together, and have a decent chemistry that doesn’t come off as skeevy.

There don’t seem to be too many special effects, but the ones present are well done, and any background filler isn’t noticeable.

Fans of sci-fi should enjoy this movie, as should fans of dramatic thrillers who don’t mind a small dose of science fiction mixed in. While you might want to pay a little closer attention the first time you watch, this movie is good enough to warrant repeated viewings, and shouldn’t annoy anyone watching it more than once.

Prospect is currently available free to stream through Hulu, and it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.
I’m always looking for new things to watch/read, so if you have a suggestion for me, just let me know!

Beyond Skyline

BeyondSkyline

Directed By: Liam O’Donnell
Starring: Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Jonny Weston, Callan Mulvaney, Antonio Fargas, Pamelyn Chee, Yayan Ruhian, Jacob Vargas, Iko Uwais, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: B-

After bailing his son out of jail, police officer Mark Corley must lead a group of people to safety after an alien invasion begins. After Mark, his son Trent, subway conductor Audrey, and blind, homeless veteran Sarge are captured by the aliens, Mark looks for a way to free his new friends and finds a young pregnant woman named Elaine, who tells him that one of the soldiers has the mind of her boyfriend, Jarrod, and that he is different than the other soldiers. When she dies after Mark helps her give birth to her daughter, he takes the child and he and Jarrod find a way to bring down the alien ship. After the crash, Mark and his friends take the child off the ship and find out that they crashed in Indonesia, where they attempt to find a way to fight back against the alien invaders who have come looking for Elaine’s child.

A sequel to the 2010 movie Skyline, this movie is as surprisingly enjoyable as that one was. In fact, knowing this movie exists might make the original slightly more enjoyable, as that one had a strange ending that, at the time, I felt was odd and slightly out of tune with the rest of an otherwise decent movie. This sequel doesn’t suffer from the same off-step ending its predecessor did. The storyline as whole was slightly more interesting, and is a decent sci-fi/alien invasion movie. The actors all work well together and the locations in Indonesia are beautiful.

The special effects are fairly well done, especially given the smaller budget, and any background filler isn’t noticeable.

Anyone who enjoyed the original, or is just looking for a decent alien invasion movie should enjoy this. The movie is good enough that it shouldn’t start to grate after only one or two views, and it’s easy enough to follow that you don’t need to devote all of your attention to it while it’s on.

Beyond Skyline is currently available free to stream through Netflix, and it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.
I’m always looking for new things to watch/read, so if you have a suggestion for me, just let me know!

Us

Us

Directed By: Jordan Peele
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Yahya Abul-Mateen II, Anna Diop, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: B

While on a family vacation to Santa Cruz with their friends, Adelaide Wilson can’t shake a sense of foreboding stemming from an incident in her past when she wandered off while at the pier carnival with her parents. After spending some time catching up with their friends the Tylers, Adelaide loses sight of her son at the beach, and then urges her family to return to their vacation home. Shortly after they return, they lose power and soon find a group of people standing on their driveway. The Wilsons quickly learn that the people are their ‘tethered’ doubles, a handful of remnants from a long-abandon attempt to control humanity by using clones of people. After outwitting their doubles, the Wilsons attempt to find help, and also try to learn why people’s doubles have surfaced after so many years.

This movie, a second outing for writer-director Jordan Peele, is a better-than-average horror movie, though the ending lacks the shock that accompanied the first one. Though it’s possible I feel that way since the twist ending was spoiled for me long before I ever saw the movie. It’s still a well-told story, and the idea of there being millions, or even billions of doubles tied to people is unsettling, but it’s just not quite the stellar outing that many were hoping it would be. That said, the actors all have decent chemistry and work well together.

There doesn’t appear to many special effects used, and any background filler isn’t noticeable.

Fans of horror/thriller movies, including Peele’s first movie, Get Out, should enjoy this movie. There is a bit of an unsettling aura in the film that makes it interesting, and the movie itself is good enough that anyone who likes it will likely enjoy watching it more than once without it getting annoying.

Us is currently available free to stream if you have HBO, and it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.
I’m always looking for new things to watch/read, so if you have a suggestion for me, just let me know!

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

ManWhoKilledDQ

Directed By: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Olga Kurylenko, Stellan Skarsgård, Joana Ribiero, Óscar Jaenada, Jason Watkins, Paloma Boyd, Jordi Mollà, et.al.
Rating: NR
Grade: A

Cynical filmmaker Toby finds himself directing his latest film near the village where he made a student film, and finds the local shoemaker he had hired living in the delusion of being Don Quixote, the role he had in Toby’s film, and who now believes Toby to be his traveling companion, Sancho Panza. As Toby follows Quixote on his quest to rescue his lady love, he is confronted with the consequences of the film he made in his idealistic youth, and forced to reevaluate the path his life is on.

I was pleasantly surprised with this movie, which is one of only a handful of Terry Gilliam movies I’ve seen. Don Quixote seems to rest in the center of his storytelling style, with tonal shifts between the dramatic and the purposefully ridiculous, and Gilliam seems to be one of the few filmmakers who can make that type of storytelling work. The performances by Pryce and Driver are amazing as you begin to wonder if the movie is actually happening, or if stress and being overworked are causing Toby to have a mental breakdown. I’m almost completely unfamiliar with Don Quixote, so I have no idea if the movie plot parallels the book in any way.

What few special effects used appear to be decent, and the background filler isn’t really noticeable.

Fans of Terry Gilliam or any of the actors involved will likely enjoy this movie. While it may be a bit much to watch regularly, it shouldn’t grate for occasional viewings. Anyone looking for a laugh and a slightly-wacky story should enjoy the movie as well.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is currently available to stream through Sony Crackle, and it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

My Soul To Take

MySoulToTake

Directed By: Wes Craven
Starring: Max Thieriot, John Magaro, Denzel Whitaker, Zena Grey, Nick Lashaway, Paulina Olsynski, Jeremy Chu, Emily Meage, Frank Grillo, Danai Gurira, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: D+

Sixteen years ago in the town of Riverton, on the same night a local serial killer called the Riverton Ripper died, seven children were born, several of who weren’t due for weeks or even months. Years later, those children have been raised with the rumors that they are the reincarnations of the various personalities the killer had. However, as teens are killed one by one, people begin to believe that the Ripper didn’t actually die, and that he’s attempting to seek vengeance by killing the children born the night he supposedly died.

There’s really no use in trying to mince words. This movie is not good. The characters are underdeveloped, the plot moves too quickly, there are characters and bits of plot that aren’t fully explored, and side stories that are entirely unnecessary, which considering the nearly 2-hour run time, is somewhat surprising. It honestly would have benefitted from the extra 15 or 20 minutes in order to make a more coherent movie. One of the few bright spots of the movie is Max Thieriot, who plays one of the only characters to get some kind of development.

What few special effects used appear to be decent, and the background filler isn’t really noticeable.

While I wouldn’t recommend the movie, anyone wanting a lesson in how not to make a horror/thriller should use this as their prime example. If you’re a desperate fan of Wes Craven or one of the actors involved, proceed at your own risk. This is one of the few instances in which I felt like my time had been wasted by the movie I was watching, and it’s ridiculous how easily entertained I am.

My Soul to Take is currently only available free to stream if you have HBO, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Shazam!

Shazam

Directed By: David F. Sandberg
Starring: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody, Djimon Hounsou, Faithe Herman, Meagan Goode, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B+

When 14 year old foster kid Billy Batson defends one of his foster siblings from bullies, he finds himself transported into a cavern, where a dying wizard bestows a gift upon him that gives him the appearance of 30-something superhero. Pursued by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, a rejected candidate for the powers Billy now possesses, Billy enlists the help of his foster brother, Freddy, to figure out not only what his abilities are, but also how to use them. After Sivana, aided by physical manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins, figures out Billy’s identity and threatens his new family, Billy bands together with his siblings to stop Sivana and keep their family safe.

Another one of DC’s side properties that they made in an attempt to diversify their Extended Universe (DCEU), Shazam is well-made and entertaining. Lighter in tone than most of DC’s other current films, it’s another step in the right direction to create a diversified universe, much like the one Marvel offers. The actors all work well together, and Levi, who plays Billy’s superhero persona, has the right personality to play a teen that looks like an adult. Strong, who plays Sivana, lets his natural accent slip through occasionally, but for the most part he seems to be able to keep control of it.

The special effects are all very well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Fans of the movies based on DC comics, and maybe most fans of comic book movies in general, should enjoy this. It’s fun and light-hearted, and while it doesn’t necessarily add to the Justice League spectrum, it’s still a good movie to watch, and it’s fun enough that it shouldn’t grate on rewatching. There are just enough references to past DC movies to remind you that they’re set in the same universe.

Shazam! isn’t currently available free to stream at the moment, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Unicorn Store

UnicornStore

Directed By: Brie Larson
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford, Mamoudou Athie, Hamish Linklater, Martha McIsaac, Karan Soni, et.al.
Rating: TV-PG
Network: Netflix
Grade: B-

After failing out of art school and moving back in with her parents, 20-something dreamer Kit decides it’s time to grow up. After getting an office job through a temp agency, she receives an invitation to a place known only as The Store. There, she meets the Salesman, who tells her that she has an opportunity to buy the one thing she’s always wanted to have: a real, live unicorn. As Kit makes preparations to house and care for her unicorn, she meets Virgil, a hardware store employee who’s intrigued by her quest, as well as her unwavering belief that she will actually be acquiring the mythical creature. When she’s also presented with an opportunity to advance at her job, Kit is torn between abandoning her childhood dreams and finally becoming a responsible adult.

This movie is very much What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get. Aside from an almost painfully obvious lesson that growing up doesn’t necessarily mean letting go of your dreams or losing your sense of whimsy, there isn’t a whole lot of depth and hidden meaning. That said, the acting is fairly decent. Samuel L. Jackson seems to be having a ball playing the Salesman, and Brie Larson, who pulls double duty as both the star and the director, seems incredibly comfortable with Kit’s unendingly idealistic nature. Cusack and Whitford, who play Kit’s parents, do a great job of hovering between wanting their child to be happy and just wanting them to finally grow up.

What little special effects are used are pretty good, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Anyone looking to relax their mind with harmless fluff for 90 minutes or so will probably like this. The ending is relatively happy, and, as stated above, you won’t be taxed with hidden meanings. While the movie’s humor and somewhat nonsensical storyline may not appeal to everyone, anyone still in touch with their inner child should like it.

Unicorn Store is currently only available free to stream through Netflix, with no word as to whether they plan to make it available commercially.

Escape Room

EscapeRoom

Directed By: Adam Robitel
Starring: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nick Dodani, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: A-

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, student Zoey, grocery store stocker Ben, and stockbroker Jason are mysteriously presented with a gift of a black puzzle box from someone they know. After solving the puzzle, they find an invitation to an escape room challenge, which holds a prize of $10,000 to anyone who can escape it. After their arrival at the company site for the room, they meet three others who also received the puzzle boxes, war vet Amanda, trucker Mike, and gaming enthusiast Danny. When the escape room mechanisms are triggered, they group quickly learn that the game isn’t what they first thought, and they all fight to stay alive against a system designed to kill them.

This movie was surprisingly good. I was entirely unaware of the escape room phenomenon before seeing this, so the concept seemed to be a fairly original take on a locked room mystery. Though only three of the characters get proper introductions before the action starts, they, for the most part, get some decent background instead of just being used as blank cannon fodder to increase tensions. The actors all do well with their characters, and they all have a fair amount of chemistry with each other. The puzzles themselves are all interesting, and aren’t obvious about the solutions or the potential dangers.

The special effects are fairly well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Fans of the horror/thriller genre should enjoy this movie. While there’s very little gore, it’s actually a pretty good thriller, and while it does open with a bit of a spoiler as to who survives, there are a few decent twists along the way. Anyone wanting to watch this shouldn’t be disappointed if they have to spend money on a rental, and it’s something that can be viewed multiple times without getting too boring.

Escape Room is currently only available free to stream if you have Starz, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Long Shot

LongShot

Directed By: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ravi Patel, Bob Odenkirk, Andy Serkis, Randall Park, Alexander Skarsgård, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: C+

After quitting his job as a reporter for The Brooklyn Advocate when he believes that they have sold out, Fred Flarsky, along with his best friend Lance, attends a concert where he runs into Charlotte Field, his former babysitter and childhood crush, who is now the US Secretary of State and a potential presidential candidate in the upcoming election. Charlotte, believing her speeches need to be overhauled, hires Fred on as a staff writer to help voters relate to her more. As they reconnect and get to know each other as adults over the course of her campaign, Fred and Charlotte begin to develop feelings for each other. However, when a scandal surrounding Fred is brought to light, Charlotte must decide whether to dismiss him from the campaign and protect her reputation, or follow her heart and keep him around.

Seth Rogen seems to be one of those who can toe the line between a typical romantic comedy and the frat-style gross out comedy he’s better known for. This movie, while far better than his previous attempt at creating a hybrid gross out/RomCom, still seems to not know whether it wants to fully commit to a comedy style fully. At times it pushes into full-on RomCom territory, then slides back into gross out territory. Though, I will say, for the most part it handles to balance fairly well. Despite the fact that they seem to be an odd pairing, Rogen and Theron have a decent chemistry together, and the way the story unfolds, combined with Rogen’s strangely affable charm, it doesn’t seem entirely outside the realm of possibility that her character would be interested in his.

There aren’t many special effects used, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

It’s hard to pinpoint a demographic for this movie. Parts of it may be too romance-y for fans of frat humor, and likewise, some of it will be too frat-y for fans of RomComs. I would suggest that most fans of either genre give it a watch. At the very least, it’s worth the price of a rental, and you may be surprised by how much you don’t hate it.

Long Shot is currently not available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.