Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Review: Okko's Inn

Release date: September 21, 2018
Running time: 94 minutes
Starring: Seiran Kobayashi, Nana Mizuki, Satsumi Matsuda 

Okko is a young girl who tragically loses both of her parents to a car accident.  However, she miraculously survives unscathed and goes to live with her grandmother who runs a traditional Japanese hot spring inn.  Determined to do all she can to help her old grandmother, Okko takes on the role of junior innkeeper and begins to assist wherever she can including cleaning, cooking, and even finding new tenants.  However, she also finds out that she can see ghosts in the inn, which leads to all sorts of antics as she adjusts to her new life.

First and foremost, Okko's Inn is beautifully animated.  The animation is bright, colorful, and smooth with a nice cartoonish look to all the characters.  The inn itself is beautifully drawn, as are Okko and the various ghosts and spirits that she is able to see.  The nature scenes are likewise just wonderful to see. And the story of Okko's Inn teaches a lot of good lessons, from forgiveness to how to handle bullying to not judging people based on looks alone.  These are some great lessons to teach kids and I am glad that this movie allows that.  And the characters that you meet to teach these lessons are fun and very different.  The movie features a variety of individuals, from family to guests to ghosts and spirits, keeping the story interesting.

However, the story of Okko's Inn starts with a horrible tragedy; but it doesn't seem like Okko emotionally deals with this.  It comes up here and there, but for the most part she puts on a smile and optimistic face.  This is part of her character, but it also feels unrealistic given what just happened to her.  And although there are good lessons taught, the story itself progresses relatively slow and with no urgency.  Part of this might be by design but it just didn't feel like much happened in this movie.  I loved the animation and seeing the world, but I also would have liked the story to have a little more gravity and emotional growth for her.  

Okko's Inn is a beautiful, charming anime with bright, colorful animation, an interesting ensemble of characters, and good life lessons.  

Rent it.

Review: Waves

Release date: November 15, 2019
Running time: 135 minutes
Starring: Taylor Russell, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Alexa Demie 

Waves follows a suburban black family that seems to have everything going for it, but a series of misfortunes derails what used to be a perfect life.  How this family deals with these misfortunes, and the real emotional connections between them form the core of this movie.  And what a movie.  The emotions in this film are raw, mixed, explosive, and altogether very human.  

Waves just does everything right.  It is an emotional roller coaster, and a lot of that is helped by some stellar acting.  The entire family is amazing, headlined by Kelvin Harrison Jr. as their young son, who has the world in his hands.  He exhibits so much emotion, both good and bad, that it is a treat to watch.  He really carries much of the film and forms the crux of the plot.  His character exhibits so much about growing up: with high expectations and a feeling of invincibility, and of knowing that only you can fix the problems before you.  His sister, Taylor Russell, is a very different character, but likewise shows the depths of emotion that our youth experience.  Her father, Sterling K. Brown, is simply phenomenal as a father who has a strong emotional core but also is a relentless head of the household pushing his son to be the best he can be.  His mixed character of a loving, devoted father who is also disciplined and demanding is a very interesting one to watch.  And some of his writing and the lessons he gives to his family are insightful.  Seriously, I loved seeing a family that talked and interacted like this; it highlights some really great dialog and also good examples of people who have different approaches to very difficult situations.

Waves's story helps to create this emotional roller coaster, with very high highs and very low lows.  It rolls back and forth like the waves that give this movie its title.  The story demonstrates both the folly and boundless optimism of youth.  And this is helped along by some some a really wonderful soundtrack.  It has good, modern music to help set the scenes, but it also has fantastic timing.  During one truly emotional scene, the beats on the soundtrack were matched up with the sounds happening around the characters that really added a lot to the experience.  And the cinematography is also amazing, with a very economical and deliberate shot choice.  Scenes are composed to have exactly what they need to tell the story and are beautifully chosen.  Also, the use of lighting helps immensely, especially during the scenes where police are on the scene.  Their flashing lights illuminate the characters perfectly when needed.  

Waves is simply a treat: an emotional roller coaster about a suburban black family with phenomenal acting, insightful writing, and a story that demonstrates the folly and boundless optimism of youth.

Watch it.

Deal: Digital Movie Deals: March 31, 2020

Close out the month with this collection of digital movie deals, to help keep you entertained while you quarantine.  With more and more states entering stay at home orders, digital movie deals are going to be even more important to keep everyone entertained!

Movies Anywhere Movies:


Monday, March 30, 2020

Review: The Lighthouse

Release date: November 1, 2019
Running time: 109 minutes
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Valeriia Karaman 

The Lighthouse focuses on two men (Pattinson and Dafoe), working on a remote lighthouse in New England.  Wake (Dafoe) is the old timer who has been doing this for far too long, and he strictly keeps Winslow (Pattinson) in line as he takes care of the day to day tasks.  Despite this being a small island, there is always something to do.  And the two can go months without seeing another soul, with the only human interaction in the that time being each other.  And being so isolated in such a mundane place can have an effect on anyone, and start to change your psyche as a result.  

The first thing you will notice about this movie is that it is shot in black and white and in a 4:3 aspect ratio.  Both of these seem to be intentional choices, and both help to focus the viewer on how isolating and mundane this lighthouse and the jobs around it are.  The black and white means that everything looks bland and dark, and the 4:3 aspect ratio makes you focus on the characters and helps to have the film feel isolating.  Without being able to see any of the surroundings, it really does feel like these characters are on their own.  And the film also does a great job of displaying just how desolate life is out here; it makes every task seem like a chore, taking much longer than one might expect.  Grabbing coal for the fire, well that requires using a rickety wheelbarrow up a large hill in the mud, in the rain.  The film does a great job of drawing out every task, and throwing obstacles in the way of our protagonists.  All of this helps to portray this lighthouse as a terrible place.  

This is helped along by some absolutely phenomenal performances from Pattinson and Dafoe.  Being that the lighthouse is basically empty, these two end up carrying the story on their own.  Pattinson in particular has to carry this burden solo, and he does an amazing job.  The man can act, and this is definitely a showcase for him.  If he was trying to shed his image from Twilight, well boy did he succeed in this film.  The story of the Lighthouse starts off as a mundane story about two men and slowly descends into a tale of madness.  Again, in this respect both Pattinson and Dafoe do an amazing job as the madness sets in and the scenes get more bizarre.  And again, Pattinson is particularly compelling and forced to carry much of this load.  The one downside to this film is that the ending, although fitting with the general theme and trajectory of the movie, is a little out there.  However, the entire journey to get there makes everything worth it. 

The Lighthouse has a distinctive and recognizable style, along with Oscar-worthy performances from its two leads. 

Watch it.

Review: Another Day of Life

Release date: October 26, 2018
Running time: 85 minutes
Starring: Miroslaw Haniszewski, Vergil J. Smith, Tomasz Zietek 

Another Day of Life follows war journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski (Haniszewski) as he covers the Angolan civil war.  Kapuscinski was in Angola for three months and witnessed first-hand the horrors of the conflict, the danger of battle, and the shifting lines of the various fronts.  The film details this journey, some experiences from his teaching days, and the various people he met during his stay in Angola.

Another Day of Life's most striking feature is its distinctive animation style, although the film isn't entirely animated.  The film combines documentary footage, computer animated recreations, and current footage of Angolan people to tell this story.  The computer generated animation is striking, with a cell shaded, hand drawn look to it.  And it provides an interesting way for the viewers to relive what Kapuscinski went through.  However, in practice this comes off as artificial. The animation is less hand drawn and more akin to what you would see in a modern, cell-shaded video game.  The character movement is good but still has some jerky tendencies, making the videos feel less natural.  And they also tend to blunt the impact of some of the scenes, as seeing the horrors of war through an animated lense is less real and less shocking than seeing documentary footage.  Maybe this was by choice but the story itself was so compelling that I wanted to see it in as realistic a fashion as I could.

Another Day of Life does give a good amount of background to the conflict, as well as introducing many to a side of life that they would never experience.  The documentary footage and footage from modern day Angola are really something to see.  Seeing the conflict and the effects it has had in the modern day really humanizes what many have probably only read about.  And the movie is helped along by a fantastic soundtrack that has period appropriate pieces where needed and dramatic music during the intense scenes.  And the movie does not feel like it pulls any punches.  Despite it being based on Kapuscinski's time and book, it also portrays the man's flaws.  He gets too involved in the conflict and openly sides with one side over the other, which I imagine is not something a journalist should do.  However, it allows it to be a very personal movie on top of being informative.  

Another Day of Life uses its distinctive animation style, documentary footage, and modern day images to tell a compelling, personal war story. 

Rent it

Saturday, March 28, 2020

What to Watch This Quarantine: Uplifting Movies

As many of us are stuck indoors for extended periods of time, the only options for entertainment are streaming.  Luckily, we have you covered with a selection of themed movies.  This time, we are highlighting some uplifting movies to help raise everyone's spirits during quarantine.  

Always Be My Maybe (Netflix)

A charming romantic comedy featuring Ali Wong and Randall Park, this film has a great sense of humor, really fun characters, and real emotions.  It also is set in San Francisco, so this might be the only way you can see the city for a little bit.

Blinded By The Light (HBO)
Blinded By The Light is the inspiring true story about following one’s dreams and unlikely passions.  Our review said that “[t]hose hoping to chase their dreams should watch this and just might find a Reason to Believe.”  

East Side Sushi (Amazon)
This movie was previously on streaming but took a haitus.  It was recently added back and it is defintely worth a watch.  The film is a great underdog story about a working-class, single mother, who decides to take a job at a local Japanese restaurant and pursue a dream of becoming a sushi chef. 

The Intouchables (VUDU)
The movie is simply phenomenal. It was remade for America with Kevin Heart and Bryan Cranston, and although the remake is a fine film, the original is just phenomenal.  It tells the story of a wealthy paraplegic who takes a chance on a guy from the streets when he hires him as a caretaker. The two begin an interesting, funny, and wonderful friendship that grows throughout the movie.

The Kids Are All Right (Cinemax)
A wonderful, modern family drama follows a lesbian couple about to send their oldest daughter off to college.  However, a chain reaction of events tests the strength of this family.  

The Kings Speech (Showtime)
Starring Colin Firth as Prince Albert during the build up to World War II, this inspiring historical drama shows the Prince dealing with drama at home, a rising threat abroad, and conquering his own severe speech impediment.

Miracle (Disney+)
Need inspiration?  Look no further than inspirational sports movies.  Miracle tells the tale of a hard nosed hockey coach trying to mold the young men of the 1980 U.S. Hockey team.  With some truly inspiring performances in an equally inspiring story, this is a great one to turn on during this quarantine. 

Slumdog Millionaire (Cinemax)
A young man has the chance of a lifetime when he gets on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."  The movie follows him on the show but also flashes back to his life, showing the harsh realities of his upbringing and how those experiences shaped him to be exactly where he was.  

The Upside (Showtime)
The American version of the fantastic French film, the Upside keeps almost everything that made The Intouchables such a phenomenal film.  Sure, it is not necessary, but if you haven't seen the original, just want to revisit this touching story, or would prefer English audio over subtitles, then give The Upside a watch.  

Deal: Digital Movie Deals: March 28, 2020

To help you get through quarantine, here are some digital movie deals collected from various retailers.  There are some very good deals in here so make sure to browse through!  There is a Boon Joon-Ho triple pack at its lowest price ever, $13 at VUDU.  Additionally, the Dark Knight Trilogyis $14.99 for all 3 in 4K on apple devices and HD on linked Movies Anywhere accounts.
Individual Movies:

Movies Anywhere
Not Movies Anywhere
Digital Movie Bundles:

Movies Anywhere

Not Movies Anywhere
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Friday, March 27, 2020

Review: The Big Show Show

Release date: April 6, 2020
Running time: 10 Episodes (30 minutes each)
Starring: Paul Wight, Allison Munn, Reylynn Caster 

After hanging up his boots on his WWE career, the retired Superstar The Big Show (Paul Wight) now transitions to his next mission in life: his home life.  His teenage daughter Lola (Caster) comes to live with him, his wife Cassy (Munn), and his other two daughters. But even with an impressive physique (7 feet tall, 400 pounds), he realizes that his muscles are not going to get things done; he is no longer the center of attention within the family and is now out numbered and out smarted by them.

This feel-good sitcom show is a throw back to 90's classics such as "Boy Meets World" and "Full House."  However, this series does have updates to make it feel timely and appeal to a new generation of families.  The sitcom is called The Big Show Show, so naturally The Big Show, with his larger than life charisma, physique, and personality, are front and center.  And as much as I enjoyed his monster persona and his antics terrorizing the little kids in this series, he carries many emotions that I didn't necessarily see when he was wrestling.  In this sitcom, he displays humor and a certain family aspect that humanizes him in a way that I didn't see from his stage persona.  Episodes are filled with challenges and obstructions that are lighthearted and enjoyable.  But these also are meant to teach some good life lessons, ones that build good friendships and family unity.

The young cast are absolute future stars.  JJ (Juliet Donenfeld) surely is the highlight and I can't wait to see what else she does in her career.  And the wardrobe in this series is surprisingly fashionable, with sophisticated looks in the latest trends, vintage, and modern day selections.  It's strange to bring up fashion, but it was something that was enjoyable about the series and definitely made me look forward to seeing what they were wearing in each episode.

Another thing I liked about this show is that it is made to appeal to both fans of WWE and those that are fans of family sitcoms.  But don't worry wrestling fans, the series still includes great cameos and even wrestling themed scenes that pay homage to the fan base.  So if you are looking for something to enjoy either alone or with the family, this series is for you. And finally, the Big Show Show had a very good conclusion that makes me excited for the next season.  

The Big Show Show has the charisma of The Big Show, packaged in a family sitcom that will appeal to wrestling fans as well as anyone looking for a feel good, funny show.

Watch It.

What to Watch This Weekend: March 27, 2020

At Redbox: 1917
1917 uses impressive camera work and Hollywood magic, booming special effects, and realistic sets to tell an authentic, dramatic war story.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Netflix): The Occupant
The Occupant has a stellar performance from its lead, who drives an exciting, different thriller with a strong story and interesting characters.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Starz): Once Upon A Time . . . In Hollywood 
Adam Sandler's fantastic return to serious roles is a diamond in the rough!  Uncut Gems is complex, with enough facets to allow its fantastic characters to sparkle brightly.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Netflix): Uncorked
Uncorked is a strong, full-bodied movie, with hints of great characters, wonderful strong portrayals a black family in Memphis, and charm and humor.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (AppleTV+): The Banker
The Banker tells an important, timely story with great charisma between its stars and manages to entertain while educating about complex issues.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Netflix): Lu Over The Wall
From Masaaki Yuasa and Science Saru, who brought us the impressive Ride Your Wave, Lu Over the Wall also has a distinctive visual style, wonderful use of colors, and a fun story.  

Review: Uncorked

Release date: March 27, 2020
Running time: 104 minutes
Starring: Courtney B. Vance, Niecy Nash, Mamoudou Athie

Uncorked is the story of a young man Elijah (Athie) who is torn between pursing his dream in being a master sommelier or following the wishes of his father and taking over the family BBQ business.  Elijah's dream is to be one of the few master sommeliers in the country, but in order to do that, he has to go to expensive school and disappoint his father, who is grooming him to take over the business.  Not only will he have to handle the pressures of school, he also has to deal with his father's passive aggressive feelings of rejection.  However, Elijah has the support of his mother Sylvia (Nash), who helps keep his father Louis (Vance) in line.  

Written and directed by Prentice Penny in his directorial debut, this film takes personal reflections and experiences from his own family history.  Having a story told by a black person about a black family based around a father son relationship that doesn't fall into the standard tropes about black father's being absent from their family is a truly special experience and, unfortunately, rare for this genre.  The father in this film is doing everything he can to keep the family in the business, and I am glad that this film is able to portray the strong family structure in this way.  Seeing a loving, strongly bonded family with the women being the true matron is likewise infrequent.  I definitely appreciated Penny's display of a black family working together though challenges, drama, and disagreements without those disagreements turning into chaos.  Bravo for this portrayal and for providing a strong, non-stereotypical family unit.

And aside from the family, the movie itself is very unconventional.  For starters, Elijah wants to be a sommelier, which in his own words, is not a profession with many black people.  However, he follows his own heart and love of wine to try to make his dream a reality.  The dialogue between characters--especially by the women--was a treat.  A lot of the writing was very natural and had undertones of humor, with hints of balanced notes of comedy and drama.  The acting is also quite strong, with very good, moving performances by Niecy Nash and Courtney B Vance.  Mamoudou Athie is likewise fantastic; he embraced his character and definitely portrayed a young man who was torn between his duty to his family and his desire to follow his dreams.  Matt McGorry was also enjoyable to see in this film being that smart snarky character he does best, however his character had some odd antics that seemed unnatural and out of place in this film.  Additionally, the movie highlights the city of Memphis through its culture with its food, music, dance, art and soul. 

This movie has a lot going for it, with a strong base and great characters.  However, after the initial taste, it loses a little in the body.  For starters, the movie doesn't really explore why Elijah got so passionate about wine.  It is mentioned, but I would really love to have more in the story about this.  The middle part of the movie was interesting, but it also didn't explore enough of Elijah's character development, especially during an important class trip.  The ending also left a bitter taste in your mouth; it was not bad, just a little unfulfilling.  On a related note, as much as I loved Elijah's character, he seemed to go back and forth between his desires.  It highlighted his conflict, but he also seemed to go all in for various directions at different times, which left for a slightly disjointed character.  All of this leaves a film that highlights how important it is to pursue your dreams, but doesn't allow the viewers to feel that connected to the process.  

Uncorked is a strong, full-bodied movie, with hints of great characters, wonderful strong portrayals of a black family in Memphis, and charm and humor.  

Rent it

Thursday, March 26, 2020

News: GKids Acquires North American Rights To Anime "Lupin the 3rd: The First"

GKIDS, the acclaimed producer and distributor of animation for adult and family audiences, announced that it has acquired the North American distribution rights for the animated feature LUPIN THE 3RD: THE FIRST, a new animated feature  from director/screenwriter Takashi Yamazaki (STAND BY ME DORAEMON, DRAGON QUEST: YOUR STORY). The "LUPIN THE 3RD" franchise, from original creator Monkey Punch, began in 1967 and has spanned a variety of manga, TV, game, theme park ride, and musical adaptations, including The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), the feature film debut from the acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki. GKIDS will release LUPIN THE 3RD: THE FIRST theatrically in 2020 in both Japanese and an all-new English language dub. 

The iconic "gentleman thief" Lupin III returns in an action-packed, continent-spanning adventure, as Lupin III and his colorful underworld companions race to uncover the secrets of the mysterious Bresson Diary, before it falls into the hands of a dark cabal that will stop at nothing to resurrect the Third Reich. The gang undertakes trap-filled tombs, aerial escapades and daring prison escapes with the trademark wit and visual finesse that have made LUPIN THE 3RD one of the most storied animation franchises in the world, in a thrilling new caper that is sure to delight fans old and new.

Review: Harriet

Release date: November 1, 2019
Running time: 125 minutes
Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn 

Harriet is a slightly Hollywood-ized biopic of the famous Harriet Tubman.  However, unlike many of the tales we learned growing up, this movie portrays Harriet (Erivo) as a devoutly religious, strong willed, and steely resolved woman who was hell bent on freeing as many slaves as possible.  And amazingly, this is the more accurate version of the historical figure.  Although some characters and events were created for the movie, a lot of the more remarkable aspects of Tubman's life are portrayed accurately and should provide a new take on this woman that everyone has learned about. 

Harriet is portrayed by Cynthia Erivo in an Oscar-worthy performance.  She portrays Tubman as a fierce, driven, and fearless woman who ventures many times to the south to free slaves.  She frees so many slaves that a bounty is placed on her head and she is given the nickname "Moses."  Erivo's performance is strong and according to some quick research, fairly accurate.  One aspect of this film that I appreciated was that it portrayed Tubman's visions, which she believed were from God.  I did not realize that she had this, nor how deeply religious she was, and seeing this on screen was a nice lesson for me.  The acting is strong across the board in this movie, but Erivo is really the star of the show.

And the story of Harriet, despite having a few Hollywood changes, is riveting and will keep you engaged throughout the relatively long film.  And that is helped along by a stellar score that makes the action scenes more exciting and the serious scenes that much more emotional.  It really is a testament to this film that everything is done right.  And that includes portraying the United States at the time.  The movie does a good job of portraying just how hopeless life was for African Americans, slave or free, at the time.  It doesn't portray it as brutally as other movies have (such as in 12 Years a Slave), but it also doesn't pull any punches.  There are descriptions of the treatment, scars on the current and former slaves, and just a general disregard for human life that come across vividly in the film. 

Harriet tells the compelling story of an influential woman with Oscar-worthy acting, an exciting and heartbreaking script, and a stellar score.   

Watch it.

Review: The Banker

Release date: March 20, 2020
Running time: 120 minutes
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Nicholas Hoult, Anthony Mackie 

Based on a true story, The Banker follows two African American bankers Joe Morris (Jackson) and Bernard Garrett (Mackie)  during the 1950s and 60s.  The pair hoped to get into real estate to both achieve their goals of being landowners and bankers. But as expected, this was a difficult, nearly impossible proposition for African Americans at the time.  Faced with racism and the other evils of this time, the two were still determined to follow their dreams and bent, and even broke, the rules to make it there.  

This movie is a treat.  With great star power and a story that many have never heard of but might appreciate and even relate to, this movie definitely delivers the goods. Starting with the star power, this is not the first time Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie have shared the screen, and this collaboration still does not disappoint.  And the inclusion of Nia Long was a bonus; she is timeless and always elevates a film.  I am glad Apple TV+ decided to go forward with the release of this film; it might not have seen the light of day after it was halted in December due to allegations against co-producer and actor Bernard Garrett Jr.  But if it had not, this story might not have reached a wide audience!  The movie has both a ton of real estate information and Samuel L. Jackson's characteristic comedy.  And the movie strikes the right balance of accurately presenting the racism that these two experienced without feeling like it was trying to be edgy.  

A story that highlights African Americans who were able to take action in remedying situations and circumstances that violate their civil rights, providing opportunities for others and giving back to the community is definitely a story that I can get behind.  This film not only tells this story, but also educates the audience on matters that are still relevant to the world today.  And the reverberations from these two men's actions did enact real change.  Stellar performances, with a story that was easy to get behind even with the complicated Real Estate math, the movie flows great and is entertaining while educating at the same time. 

The Banker tells an important, timely story with great charisma between its stars and manages to entertain while educating about complex issues.

Watch it

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Review: After We Leave

Release date: February 21, 2020
Running time: 82 minutes
Starring: Brian Silverman, Clay Wilcox, Anslem Richardson

After We Leave follows a husband who is hunting for his estranged wife in order to reunite with her and leave a dying planet Earth.  In this world, the rich and powerful have already left Earth for a better life, and the rest of society is waiting around for the end or for the chance to join the rich.  When Jack (Silverman) finally gets his visa to leave Earth, he must hunt down the wife he abandoned years ago in order to make it in time.  But as he tries to find her, the sins of his past come back to haunt him. 

After We Leave is a low budget indie sci-fi film, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.  The film uses everything it can to craft a dystopian sci-fi drama without the big Hollywood effects or spectacle.  The sci-fi in this film is much more subtle: communications devices that are on your temple, DNA readers, and chips that can disable a person.  These allow the movie to feel like it is in the near future without showing a lot.  And the film likewise manages to depict a dying Earth without laying everything out for the viewer; it hints here and there but mostly highlights this by shooting in desolate areas.  Additionally, this film focuses on the characters, namely the main character Jack.  You get bits and pieces of his backstory throughout without too much being revealed.  I can see how this can be frustrating but it was nice to see a film that didn't hold the viewers hands.  And by focusing on the characters, After We Leave can really dig into their emotional journey, which is helped immensely by a very good score.  The music really helped set the tone for emotional scenes and gave the world a lot more life than you would expect from a low budget indie film. The final song has been stuck in my head for days after watching it!

However, After We Leave has some issues.  First and foremost, the ending is very unfulfilling.  It didn't sour me on the whole film, as some viewers have pointed out, but it really didn't make much sense given the entirety of the film.  And, probably because of the movie's budget, many of the action scenes are only shown as snippets.  So for a big scene, you might get a part of the end of it, or for a fight scene you might only see the beginning of it.  This is unfortunate as it does pull you back down to earth on the limitation's of this movie's budget.  And, the plot does seem to meander aimlessly at times.  But don't let these dissuade you from a really solid budget indie movie.  I liked the different take on a dystopian film, the fresh perspective, the focus on characters, and the amazing score.  The sensible shot choice and filming location really help to flesh out and modernize this film.  

After We Leave is a fresh first effort from writer / director Aleem Hossain, with a minimalist style, fresh perspective, and amazing score that elevates this film. 

Rent it

Review: The Occupant

Release date: March 25, 2020
Running time: 103 minutes
Starring:  Javier Gutiérrez, Mario Casas, Bruna Cusí

The Occupant is a new thriller about a previously successful and cunning man who has recently fallen on bad times.  Although he still tries to maintain an appearance of success, it slowly unravels around him.  Now, forced to deal with the reality of his situation, he has to move out of his beloved apartment.  But when he realizes he still has the keys to his apartment and can still go there during the day, he begins a scheme to reclaim his old life.  

Although the description made it sound like a a standard horror film, the Occupant is a really good movie.  It is less a horror movie and more a thriller, which really looks into the schemes of Javier (Gutiérrez).  This film spends a great deal of time setting up Javier's character and really showing the depths that he has sunk to from his past success.  It is a very long build up, but it is so worth it.  Part of this is because of Gutiérrez's phenomenal acting; he really does a great job of personifying Javier's character and subtly playing all the parties around him.  He is caring when he needs to be, defiant when it calls for it, and downright cunning when he wants to get his way.  The rest of the cast is very good, with solid performances all around, especially from Javier's friend Tomás (Casas).  But Javier spends a lot of time alone and so, forcing Gutiérrez to carry much of the film on his own.  

One of the things I love about this movie is that it is a horror / thriller but without the gore that you would normally expect from the genre.  It is refreshing to see something like this, with a feeling of dread but more for the psychological aspect rather than blood and guts.  In that respect, this movie is similar to Parasite; a thriller with good acting but without the typical tropes that you would expect.  If there is one critique of this film, it is that it is fairly macho-focused.  Javier is clever and tries to manipulate all, but no one really puts up a fight against him.  And the women in the movie are more pawns than independent, strong characters.  But that being said, this is a fantastic film with a strong performance and concept.

The Occupant has a stellar performance from its lead, who drives an exciting, different thriller with a strong story and interesting characters.

Watch it

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Review: After Midnight

Release date: February 20, 2020
Running time: 134 minutes
Starring: Jeremy Gardner, Brea Grant, Henry Zebrowski 

After Midnight follows a heartbroken man (Gardner) who is left in an empty home after his girlfriend of far too long leaves him (Grant).  However, as soon as she is gone, a strange creature attacks his house every night.  The man is left to defend his family's home on his own and stays up every night fending off the monster.  Unfortunately, no on in the town believes him except for his friend (Zebrowski), but their efforts seem to be to no avail.  

After Midnight bills itself as a creature feature and it starts off like that, but unfortunately it gives way to a relationship drama.  The creature is less of a feature and more of a convenient trope to explore the couple's relationship and what went wrong.  There are more flashbacks to better / worse times than there are suspenseful creature scenes.  And although the movie has some good acting, notably from Gardner, the characters are few and far between.  Much of the movie involves Gardner on his couch, guarding a door against an onslaught that the audience can't see.  And this would be OK if the camera showed anything else, even glimpses of the creature, but those rarely occur.  

And that is the essential problem with this movie.  As I said, it bills itself as a creature movie but doesn't have enough creature to be a feature.  It is really more about the relationship, with long flash backs to what happened and scenes that emphasize how lonely Hank (Gardner) is.  The story is not bad, and it is told in an interesting out of order way where flashbacks occur during the restless nights that fill in the backstory, but it is just not that interesting.  And the movie itself is too short to really develop much, making it feel shallow.  I applaud them for trying to merge genres and create this hybrid, but in the end, like the creature in this film, it is too illusory to be effective.

After Midnight has solid acting and an interesting story, but it unfortunately has too little creature to be a creature feature. 

Pass on it.