It’s a mob against the masked man in this not especially terrifying continuation of a retconned timeline horror mythology. After his successful 2018 reboot, David Gordon Green further builds his boogeyman opus with the second of a proposed trilogy, Halloween Kills (C), but this follow-up proves to be a rather routine slasher film despite being competently made. There’s a bit of a big chill in the air as reuniting survivors of violent attacks by serial killer Michael Myers form a vigilante squad to thwart him once and for all, or at least until the next planned sequel, while the largely sidelined Jamie Lee Curtis character Laurie Strode recovers in a hospital after a failed attempt at offing Myers. Judy Greer and Andi Matichak get little to do as the descendants of the Strode bloodline. Will Patton as a sheriff deputy and Anthony Michael Hall as one of the kids Laurie used to babysit also get few contributions aside from Hall’s frequent exclamation that, “Evil dies tonight!” The brute force body count and candied cornucopia of creative slayings should thrill hardcore fans of horror films, but the musings that the Town of Haddonfield is now basically cursed by fear that turns neighbors against one another, Purge style, doesn’t really stick. The only mild inspiration is that Michael’s childhood home is now occupied by a gay couple (Scott MacArthur and Michael McDonald) who view the domicile for its camp value; if only the irony were carried through in other vignettes, there might have been more cleverness amidst the carnage. This installment basically confirms a tradition of inferior sequels, treads water for most of its duration and portends a “Shape” of things to come.
Real-life stories of Hollywood royalty, chronicles of singing poets and lovers, displays of supernatural super heroics and much more will vie for your attention across multiplex and media as the fall film season gets fully underway. Filmmakers continue to showcase the movies they’ve been safely creating during the pandemic, and you’ll get a variety of new fare to enjoy on both big screens and home streaming in the months ahead.
Anticipated sequels and franchises include No Time to Die, the latest Daniel Craig 007 film; Dune, which covers half of the dense sci-fi novel about outer space wars; Halloween Kills with further mayhem between knife-wielding Michael Myers and scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis; and Maverick, Tom Cruise’s long-awaited follow-up to Top Gun.
True-life sagas range from director Ridley Scott’s chronicle of a murderous fashion family with House of Gucci starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver to Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos with Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem as television idols Lucy and Desi Arnaz. Two tragic legends also get the big-screen treatment as Kristen Stewart plays Princess Diana in Spencer and Ana de Armas embodies Marilyn Monroe in Blonde. And King Richard stars Will Smith as the father and coach of the Williams tennis sisters.
After the recent successes of Marvel on television, an emboldened box office run should continue with recent Oscar winner Chloé Zhao’s Eternals featuring an ensemble of immortal gods such as Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek plus the third in the latest Spider-Man trilogy, No Way Home, injecting a bit of twisty multiverse time travel into the teen web-slinger’s adventures.
Dear Evan Hansen with Ben Platt as a troubled teenager opposite Amy Adams and Julianne Moore ushers in a season of musicals, followed by Peter Dinklage in an acclaimed crooning performance as Cyrano, Andrew Garfield as an artist on the brink of hitting it big as he faces an early mid-life crisis in Tick Tick Boom, the Colombia-set Disney animated family feature Encanto about a magical family and Steven Spielberg’s version of West Side Story starring Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as star-crossed lovers in the gang lands of New York.
Awards season will be in full bloom when Martin Scorsese presents Killers of the Flower Moon starring Leo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro, Jane Campion showcases The Power of the Dog with Kirsten Dunst and Benedict Cumberbatch, and Guillermo del Toro transports us to Nightmare Alley with Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett. The next movie by the droll Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch, features talent such as Timothée Chalamet and Bill Murray.
Some other anticipated autumn fare includes Don’t Look Up, a crashing comet comedy with DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence; Kenneth Branagh’s personal black and white historical drama Belfast with Jamie Dornan and Judi Dench; and the artsy Last Night in Soho with eccentric leading lady Anya Taylor-Joy. Plus there’s some unexpected casting including Denzel Washington as the title character in Tragedy of Macbeth and Brendan Fraser as a 600-pound man in The Whale.
There’s something for everyone, and expect these and many more to receive their bite-sized reviews weekly here at www.SilverScreenCapture.com.
This story is also syndicated throughout American newspapers this month.
An undoubtedly frustrating and absolutely beguiling head scratcher of a fever dream musical, Leos Carax’s Annette (C+) is the love child of Sweeney Todd and Chucky from Child’s Play and plays like a dystopian La La Land in its biting take on twisty Hollywood romance. Set to an unusual parade of songs by the band Sparks, it’s more of a film experience to let wash over you rather than ever taking it too literally or seriously. A sensational and physically ominous Adam Driver absolutely sells the central performance of an unhinged comedian who marries an opera singer (a resplendent but underused Marion Cotillard) and starts a family including the marionette child of the film’s title. Carax is known for mixing the natural and artificial, so it’s appropriate he leverages a Brechtian rock opera approach with songs like “We Love Each Other So Much” as a stand-in for an actual courtship and “I’m an Accompanist” to introduce Simon Helberg’s character who is exactly that on the piano. The oddball styling of the songs and sequences, the bonkers shifts in tone and vocal quality and the meandering plot line don’t add up to a cohesive whole, but boy is it an intriguing mixed bag of an experiment. And for fans of Driver, this is probably the most Driver performance you’ve ever seen.
More of a bonbon for cinephiles than a slasher contraption for the masses, Nia DaCosta’s Candyman (B+) builds on producer Jordan Peele’s recent masterworks to expose horrors of the American race and class struggle. Her uncanny Chicago-set narrative about appropriation and gentrification focuses primarily on razor-focused actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen, who plays an artist obsessed with a new subject based on the urban legend of a hook-armed killer bearing sweets who once haunted the city’s projects. The talented Teyonah Parris provides a formidable foil as his partner, an art gallery executive trying to remain above the fray of mysterious mounting events. The ubiquitous Colman Domingo is also effective in a small role. The cinematography, music and menace are straight out of a Hitchcock or Kubrick composition, providing the typical tenets of the horror genre with a considerable upscale upgrade. The labyrinthine honeycomb of this only slightly supernatural take on the Windy City, filled with swirling bees, fun house mirrors, eerie incantations and blood dripping like honey through nooks and hallways, becomes an apt metaphor for twists to come. There are few extended sequences of gore or fan favorite jump scares; instead there is a gradual unveiling of themes and origin stories to stimulate the mind and provide a deeper sense of unsettling. Watch the color palette for clues, and enjoy creative montages including shadow puppets for clever insights into the backstory. DaCosta is all sting as she goes in for both the message and the kill, and if there were one constructive criticism to offer an already pensive film, it would be that it needed even more character development and nuance so that personal transformations could fire with additional intensity. DaCosta’s film is strong and beguiling, and it could become one of those unsuspecting art films to mysteriously rule the box office.
You might find yourself with resting glitch face after all the stimulation of Shawn Levy’s video game comedy fantasy Free Guy (B), a film that actually gets better and richer as it progresses and reveals superpowers in some of the most supporting players in society. A bit of a riff or revival of The Truman Show set in an open-world video game, this film places Ryan Reynolds at the center as a “non-player character” who learns he can start making his own choices. There’s interplay among the denizens of the game, plus a plot about a diabolical dudebro executive (a hilarious Taika Waititi) trying to manipulate the gameplay to line his pockets and a duo of developers (Jodie Comer and Joe Keery, both earnest) helping steer the situation to a better resolution. The passiveness of the main character is a problem for the first half of the movie, despite Reynolds’ considerable charms and penchant for physical comedy. But the film gains a bit of soulfulness at the half-way point and proceeds to surprise and delight. If you can bear the clang and clamor, you’ll find Levy and company have something to say about community, about taming toxic masculinity and about choosing your own adventure. It’s a bit better than expected, with funny asides, clever effects and a timely lesson about the power of world building.
Even the Queen of Soul herself can be enhanced by a judicious editor, and Liesl Tommy’s Aretha Franklin biopic Respect (C) would have been improved if the filmmakers had commenced to condense. Instead the film takes a fairly circuitous journey in the telling of the songstress’ life and gives cursory treatment to some significant incidents of trauma she experiences as both a child and adult. Jennifer Hudson’s singing is sublime, but there’s a hollowness to the character and portrayal, slighted and undermined by unfocused writing and narrative. Forest Whitaker and Marlon Wayans also have rather thankless roles as the controlling men in the musician’s life. There’s also a relative paucity of musical sequences, which is disappointing given the film’s ample duration. After a rather absorbing first hour, the film doesn’t trust its most creative instincts and instead resorts to paint-by-numbers behind-the-music conventions for nearly 90 more minutes. The movie imparts lots of great data points about why Aretha Franklin was a trailblazer, but Tommy’s film largely misses the mark in taking viewers beneath the surface of the legend.
This reboot of a cult comic book ensemble film is distinguished by a parade of sensational casting and visual choices. James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad (A-) is a splattery spectacular madcap adventure with rousing action, vivid effects, ribald humor and idiosyncratic characters. Although its violence is not for the faint of heart, Gunn’s film is tonally and thematically one of the most winning DC Comics adaptations yet. The story revolves around the government sending the world’s most dangerous supervillains including Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena) Ratcatcher (Daniela Melchior) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) to a remote, enemy-infused island for a search-and-destroy mission related to a science conspiracy. Interlaced into the propulsive plot is a menagerie of exquisite weaponry, human/animal hybrids, throwaway gags, witty asides and just about any treasures Gunn can bury in the cartoonish carnage. It’s a rollicking ride with Robbie again a delightful standout and Melchior a winning find as a pied piper of both CGI rodents and some surprisingly emotional moments. Add in an anthropomorphic shark, stunning stunts and an epic showdown finale, and many will agree Gunn has assembled one helluva Squad.
Welcome to the Arthurian art film that’s about to get medieval on your summer. A trippy and faithful adaptation of a 14th century poem, David Lowery’s Green Knight (aka Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Anonymous) (B+) is both cerebral and eerie in its duration, culminating in a brilliant near dialogue free final act as the protagonist faces his fears. It’s essentially about a bit of a deal with the devil and the ensuing consequences as a knight musters the courage for a showdown that will seal his destiny. Dev Patel is engaging as flawed protagonist Gawain. Alicia Vikander as two characters – Essel and the Lady – and Joel Edgerton as The Lord also turn in outstanding performances as pivotal pawns along the massive chess board of an epic. The film is earthy, pulpy and often looks like a Renaissance painting come to life. The production design and costuming are exquisite. Because it is rather intellectual and episodic (with lovely ornate title cards, incidentally), it’s sometimes difficult to trace exactly where the film is headed (or beheaded) in the journey of its sweeping storyline; but even when the pace is slow, it is a mesmerizing piece of cinema.
Hot off a series of horror movies and Liam Neeson-led thrillers, director Jaume Collet-Serra is an unlikely choice to helm an old-fashioned Disney adventure based on a classic theme park ride but acquits himself nicely in the pleasant summer escapism fare of Jungle Cruise (B-). Similarly, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, best known for muscular action films, gets to flex his unexpectedly assured comedic timing to successful avail as a South American skipper of a small riverboat who takes a group of travelers including siblings played by Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall through a jungle in search of the Tree of Life. Johnson and Blunt are winning comic and would-be romantic partners with verbal and physical pratfalls aplenty, as he wields dad jokes and swagger in equal doses to her acerbic and acrobatic spunkiness. Faring less on the likability scale are characters played by Jesse Plemmons, Paul Giamatti and a coterie of cursed conquistadors in cartoonish or CGI villainous roles which add very little menace opposite the explorers. The film works best in rip-roaring action sequences and when Blunt and Whitehall provide some droll fish-out-of-water entanglements. As for the plot, we’ve been down this river many times in much better films. The first hour is fairly breezy fun; then as the protagonists get closer to their goal, the sogginess sets into sluggishness for a good while. Still, it’s competently made family friendly fun, and most of the kids haven’t seen the movies this riffs on, so it may all be new to them. Like its Adventureland origin attraction, you get to sit down in the shade and take a breezy ride for a while with a smile on your face for much of its duration, and that may be all we need this summer.
This summer writer/director M. Night Shyamalan invites you to his private coastal paradise for a reverse-Cocoon Geriatric Park with the potential to push every Benjamin Button of your patience. The film Old (D) is a disorienting suspense thriller with about one and a half intriguing ideas very poorly executed including the notion of accelerated aging as a plot device and its effect on a bevy of unsuspecting vacationers. The ensemble including the talented Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps and Rufus Sewell seems as adrift as the viewers in this filmmaker’s typical parade of nonsense followed by final act reveals. Without a clear protagonist and in some cases with the same characters played by multiple actors, this seaside spectacle is a cacophonous cavalcade for most of its duration. Shyamalan can occasionally stage an interesting action sequence or a supernatural Twilight Zone-esque twist, and it’s a game attempt at terror in the daylight, but he neither nails the play nor the payoff this time around. After a few films of creative redemption since his lowest point with the waterlogged Lady in the Water, the director’s latest aquatic fare is to be avoided like a Baby Ruth in the country club swimming pool.
A striking lived-in central performance by Mark Wahlberg as an anti-bullying crusader lifts Reinaldo Marcus Green’s frank biographical tale of Joe Bell (B-) above its sentimental R-rated afterschool special conceits. Structurally wobbly and a touch treacly, the film about a father’s road to redemption after not doing all he could to save his gay son from abuse at the hands of his high school classmates is often quite moving and revealing. Connie Britton is wonderful as well as the family matriarch, and Reid Miller gives a sensitive portrayal of the troubled teen: fragile, flamboyant and fiery. Green tinges the threadbare story with moments of realism, poignancy and heartbreaking self-reflection; it is best in its most small and intimate moments as opposed to its large gestures. The film is superb in depicting little-seen insights into the father-son bond and showcasing what it means to be strong in your own skin, and Wahlberg nails the central role. Even when the film sometimes stumbles in storytelling, it is a well-meaning summons to travel the world with head held high. It imparts lessons the world still needs to hear.
The nuclear family of superhero assassins comprised of Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour are pretty much the anti-Incredibles in Marvel’s new action installment. Also not so incredible: the languid pacing of Cate Shortland’s Black Widow (B), but this somewhat perfunctory saga still showcases some interesting backstory, a few well choreographed action sequences and some committed acting from the ensemble. Actually the three characters who are not the lead are the ones who contribute the most to this installment. The plot finds Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff a fugitive on the run who’s forced to confront a conspiracy tied to her past, and Pugh gamely plays her estranged little sister with dollops of deadpans. The humor in this episode centers on the sibling’s wisecracks about the titular character’s self-important poses and the witty dialogue of Harbour’s spandex festooned Russian super soldier who’s a second-rate mixed bag of hero and father figure. Shortland loves to pull back from her stunt sequences to show what an epic landscape she is painting on, but all the globetrotting still feels more surface than lived-in. There aren’t too many surprises, but altogether it’s a pretty sturdy entry into the MCU canon with action and heart.