Another (random) month, another handful of (random) short reviews! Here you can find some quick reviews of some digitally available movies that may (or may not) take your fancy. We’ve got a fairly mixed list this month, with a decent mix of genres, too. Something for everyone, hopefully!
May’s TTRs consists of: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Crimes of the Future, Don’t Worry Darling, Hellraiser (2022), Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Old, Scream (2022), Winnie the Pooh: Blood & Honey and X.
Director: Peyton Reed
Writer: Jeff Loveness
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathryn Newton, Jonathan Majors, Bill Murray, Katy M. O’Brian
Quantumania is the first movie of Phase Five of the MCU. Is it a strong start to this Phase? No, but neither is it a total failure. Let’s face it, the MCU has thus far peaked with Infinity War/Endgame to round off the first three Phases, then it had some strong television shows linked in to Phase Four, so it will be tough going to keep momentum up going forward. Quantumania is an average action film that heavily relies on CGI, something that clearly meant a lot of invisible/green screen acting for the cast, and also meant the imaginations of the visual creatives could go wild, and go wild they did, with an array of creatures and domains in the Quantum Realm. At times it’s a lot to take in and comes across as a bit too silly, but for some audiences that will be part of its charm, I’m sure. Much is revealed about what happened during the thirty years that Janet van Dyne (Pfeiffer) was in the Quantum Realm and what it could mean on a much larger scale. The film does have its moments, especially for Ant-Man himself, Scott Lang (Rudd), but the main takeaway is the introduction of a villain who’s to be the next Big Bad of the MCU: Kang the Conqueror (Majors). We have had a glimpse of him previously (or a variation of him) in Loki, and next we can expect him to be showing up in future movies/TV shows, also with his own movie in the works, too. So, although Quantumania isn’t anything groundbreaking and doesn’t feel quite as involving as its predecessors, we are given a decent and proper introduction to Kang and get a good idea of what will happen in the near future.
Director: Ryan Coogler
Writers: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Cast: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
This one was always going to be a hard watch and a tough one to get right, following the passing of Chadwick Boseman. But, Coogler and the cast did an excellent job of a follow-up to 2018’s Black Panther. The story is just as involving and action-packed with intricate set pieces and costumes that allow it to stand out uniquely within the MCU. Much of the story stems from the death of T’Challa (a wise move to not recast and lay the character to rest instead), the fight to protect Wakanda and its biggest and most precious resource, Vibranium, and to find the next Black Panther. T’Challa’s sister, Shuri (Wright) takes the lead in this movie, and Wright really does an excellent job of stepping into the shoes left by Boseman. The movie pays emotional tribute to both Boseman and T’Challa that will leave you weeping, but it also manages to keep the spirit alive and move the story along in a meaningful and entertaining way. This film ended Phase Four of the MCU nicely, and the ending of the movie left a lot open for future appearances of the Black Panther.
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart
Cronenberg is well-known as a body horror filmmaker, and I for one am a particular fan of his 1999 movie Existenz. Thus, I was rather looking forward to Crimes of the Future, being that it was marketed in a similar vein. But I must say I was a tad disappointed. The “body horror” was there (though less of the “horror”, really), but I felt the story was lacking in many ways. It’s interesting, and the themes it presents are worth talking about, but it lacked some real depth for me. It relied a lot on the visual effects to shock and awe, which they did at times, but I wanted more from the characters and their intentions. In many ways, it made me feel the same way I felt after watching Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, in that I was disappointed and thought the story could have delved more into what could be. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable and thought-provoking watch that could ignite many a conversation about evolution and genetics.
Director: Olivia Wilde
Writer: Katie Silberman
Cast: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll
This was another movie that had a lot of potential but again fell a little flat. The story follows a couple who apparently live in a very Stepford Wives-style world. Everything appears to be perfect, that is until the cracks begin to show, revealing something lurking beneath the gleaming exterior. It’s an interesting psychological thriller, but much of it feels familiar due to a lack of originality in the plot. There was plenty of room to explore other aspects of what the film ultimately reveals, but instead the whole thing built itself up to reward us with an underwhelming raison d’etre. The best thing about this movie is Florence Pugh (she’s the best thing about most projects she does, frankly), giving her all into a character that falls below the need for her exceptional acting talents. Styles was perfectly cast as your average American (even the accent wasn’t that bad, when he put it to use), and the supporting cast did just as well. Don’t Worry Darling will keep you guessing and hoping for a good payoff, but for me the payoff was deflating.
Director: David Bruckner
Writers: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski
Cast: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynn, Aoife Hinds, Jason Liles, Yinka Olorunnife, Selina Lo, Zachary Hing, Goran Višnjić
As a self-confessed horror enthusiast, as well as a fan of the Hellraiser series (though not every movie is a gem… far from it…), I had been a little sceptical of a reboot even though I have previously advocated for one. This one follows Riley (A’zion), a recovering addict, as a mysterious puzzle box falls into her hands. As the many levels of the box are solved and lives are taken, Riley discovers the sadomasochistic Cenobites and the disturbing things they represent. The original movie is a joy for horror fans, particularly fans of gore and/or the supernatural. Clive Barker’s original creation is a deep dive into the psyche as well as some of our most primal fears. This new movie does its best to capture the spirit of what Hellraiser is about, but it really only touches the surface. The plot is interesting, but the story it’s fleshed out with is left rather wanting. The characters aren’t particularly interesting, they’re a bit 2000s-teen-horror-flick, and overall the body horror is a little more tame. But, there are some moments to gleam from it that hark back to the original and do give some hope of a future for the franchise.
Director: Dean Fleischer Camp
Writers: Dean Fleischer Camp, Jenny Slate, Nick Paley
Cast: Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer Camp, Isabella Rossellini
First off, I just want to say that this heartwarming little film was ROBBED at the Academy Awards this year. The story’s of a little shell named Marcel (Slate) who lives with his grandmother, Connie (Rossellini). A documentarian named Dean (Fleischer Camp) follows Marcel in his day-to-day life, and they post it online. After gaining numerous fans, Dean helps Marcel to use the public’s interest to help locate his long-lost family. Marcel is an adorable little character, physically, vocally and morally. His story seems insignificant, yet it says a tremendous amount about the power of social media in both positive and negative lights. The effort that went in to the stop-motion animation makes it all the better, as it treads the line of believeability at a much better distance than that of CGI. It’s emotional, it’s funny, it’s intelligent, and most of all, it’s entertaining, sure to become a cult classic.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Abbey Lee, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ken Leung, Eliza Scanlen, Aaron Pierre, Embeth Davidtz, Emun Elliott
Another year, another strange, somewhat mind-bending horror/thriller from Shyamalan. This time, we follow a bunch of people on holiday at a resort, who find themselves on a nearby isolated beach that has them all rapidly aging at the rate of a about one year every thirty mintues. This isn’t one of Shyamalan’s better movies; the plot is stagnant at times (ironically), the characters are often just annoying, and the ultimate reveal of why the aging is happening isn’t all that exciting. What it does have going for it however is the way the characters interact. Emotions run high, true colours are shown, and the nature of humans, both good and bad, is bared for all to see. The most interesting thing is seeing the reactions people have to each other and their circumstances. Everything else feels more by-the-by. It’s a simple thriller and will serve if you want an easy watch, but don’t expect to be blown away.
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gilett
Writers: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick
Cast: Melissa Barrera, Jack Quaid, Mikey Madison, Jenna Ortega, Dylan Minnette, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Sonia Ammar, Marley Shelton, Kyle Gallner, Skeet Ulrich, Heather Matarazzo, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell
Here we are with yet another reboot of a popular horror franchise. But, lo and behold, this one is NOT terrible, far from it, actually! Scream (2022) is probably one of the most self-aware movies I have ever seen. It takes meta to a whole new level. The plot is essentially the same as the very first Scream from 1996, with the new Ghostface being a copycat of the first Ghostface. The teens being terrorised reunite the old gang of Dewey (Arquette), Gale (Cox) and Sidney (Campbell) as they fight to save lives and unmask this new Ghostface. The framework for the movie could easily have been its ultimate downfall, but instead the comedy of it all hits the mark and, rather than the audience alone laughing at its stupidity, the movie (and its characters) easily laughs at itself, and yet it also manages to have decent moments of action and horror, much like the original movie did. Its shock tactics are nothing new, and yet somehow they work and vibe well with the comedic aspects (one particular moment with doors opening and closing and the expectation of someone standing behind had me lol-ing). Duely noted too was the nods and tributes to original Scream creator Wes Craven, which ended the movie nicely.
Director: Rhys Frake-Waterfield
Writer: Rhys Frake-Waterfield
Cast: Craig David Dowsett, Chris Cordell, Amber Doig-Thorne, Nikolai Leon, Maria Taylor, Natasha Rose Mills, Danielle Ronald
Well. Um. You know what… I appreciate the idea, truly. If Disney can twist their fairytales, why can’t someone wrench all the wholesomeness out of Pooh and friends? After Christopher Robin (Leon) leaves for college, Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Owl and Rabbit feel abandoned and are ultimately left to fend for themselves, resulting in them committing some heinous acts. When Christopher eventually returns, he discovers only Pooh and Piglet remain, and they are not the kindly animals he once knew. Honestly, this movie hits all the right markers of a standard horror movie (it’s got gore, suspense, jump scares, evil characters, dumb characters), it just ultimately isn’t a good movie. Using Winnie the Pooh as a gimmick to make it stand out does nothing for it, as the (purposely, I have to assume) terrible costuming just makes us think it’s a couple of psychos dressed as Pooh and Piglet out to exact some terror on people. At no point can it be taken seriously, and if it had gone a similar route as Scream (2022) and learned to laugh at itself, it may have gotten more credibility. This is just a weird movie you can stick on in the background while you go about your day and occasionally look over to see Pooh hammering away at someone’s head.
Director: Ti West
Writer: Ti West
Cast: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, Scott Mescudi
This was a fun horror/slasher movie that calls back to the horror B-movies of the seventies/eighties. Maxine (Goth) and a few friends go on a road trip to a rural farm in order to shoot a low-budget porn movie. The owners of the farm however are much more than the quiet old couple they initially appear to be. Sure, there’s nothing particularly new about the plot or the setting or the characters, but something about it feels classic, nostalgic even, and the shocks and gore of it all isn’t overdone to the point of wondering where the story is. It’s got a decent creep factor and the main antagonists harbour secrets that you’re just dying to know about (pun intended, I guess). There is a sequel, Pearl, which I am yet to see but will watch ASAP and likely write about in a future TTR, and another planned with the title MaXXXine. Judging by the titles, you can see there’s some link between Maxine and another character named Pearl, and I’m looking forward to finding out what that link is.