Friday, July 23, 2021

Here After Review: Interesting Characters And Premise Hampered By An Outdated Core Idea

Nora Arnezeder	...	Honey Bee Christina Ricci	Christina Ricci	...	Scarlett Jackie Cruz	Jackie Cruz	...	Susan Michael Rispoli	Michael Rispoli	...	Angelo Jeannie Berlin	Jeannie Berlin	...	Goldie Andy Karl	Andy Karl	...	Michael Nikki M. James	Nikki M. James	...	Faith Florencia Lozano	Florencia Lozano	...	Amy Cindy Cheung	Cindy Cheung	...	Carol Elissa Middleton	Elissa Middleton	...	Barbie Alex Hurt	Alex Hurt	...	Patrick Gabrielle Ryan	Gabrielle Ryan	...	Megan Richard Topol	Richard Topol	...	Jay Taylor Rose	Taylor Rose	...	Tasha Heidi Germaine Schnappauf	Heidi Germaine Schnappauf	...	Abby Heather Litteer	Heather Litteer	...	Ginger Obi Abili	Obi Abili	...	Stranger Kathy Searle	Kathy Searle	...	Karen

Release date: July 23, 2021
Running time: 90 minutes
Written and Directed By: Harry Greenberger
Cast: Christina Ricci, Andy Karl, Nora Arnezeder, Jackie Cruz, and Michael Rispoli 

A struggling actor, Michael, dies right after a bad breakup, awakening to a singles Purgatory where he must find his soul mate in order to cross over to the other side. With limited time to find true love among other recently deceased single New Yorkers, Michael must navigate the new customs of a ghostly dating life…as if dating in New York wasn’t hard enough already. When he meets the woman of his dreams, who happens to be alive, Michael must figure out how to cheat the system to cross over with her.

Ray Iannicelli	Ray Iannicelli	...	Dad Bisserat Tseggai	Bisserat Tseggai	...	Actress Toni D'Antonio	Toni D'Antonio	...	Officer Souza Megan Haley	Megan Haley	...	Rita Christine Jones	Christine Jones	...	Bonnie Toccarra Cash	Toccarra Cash	...	Tricia Jill Shackner	Jill Shackner	...	Jenny Mike Bocchetti	Mike Bocchetti	...	Reader Maya Deshmukh	Maya Deshmukh	...	Sheri Sarah Ellen Stephens	Sarah Ellen Stephens	...	Lindsay Craig Geraghty	Craig Geraghty	...	Craig Adrienne Gandolfi	Adrienne Gandolfi	...	Champagne Twin 1 Rev Paul Bearer	Rev Paul Bearer	...	Wally (as Rev. Paul Bearer) Emeka Guindo	Emeka Guindo	...	Harvey Amy Gandolfi	Amy Gandolfi	...	Champagne Twin 2 Carla Rhodes	Carla Rhodes	...	Carla
Here After is a mixed bag.  It has some star power with the inclusion of Christina Ricci but, as is often the case with indie films, she doesn't get enough screen time to make much of an impact.  The main stars of the movie are Andy Karl and Nora Arnezeder, an odd couple of sorts that do have some fun chemistry on screen.  Especially due to the situation in which they meet, there is some ridiculousness and a lot of difficulty as they get to know each other, but it does make for some fun moments.  And despite the film's rocky start, it does get better over time, especially as Michael and Honey Bee's relationship grows.  It's fun to see them learn to deal with Michael's situation and to see how they adapt.  

But the problem with Here After is that it doesn't really seem to have a greater message and the message it has seems to be an antiquated idea.  I did not love the core reason for Michael's purgatory, that he needed to have someone with him to cross over or else his soul would just cease to be.  I didn't understand why someone would need to be accompanied by someone else, and this pairing concept just didn't sit right.  It wasn't even that single people would go somewhere else, they would just cease to exist.  And the film also has a toxic character that just seems like a strange addition.  He escalates quickly and for seemingly no reason or provocation.  When he had a character turn, it didn't really make sense and just seemed like a convenient plot vehicle.  Here After is not a bad movie, just not one that seems to have a lot going for it.  The main actors are likable and put in fine performances, but are not helped by a script that doesn't give them much to work with.  And in the end you have a film that requires people to be paired to be happy.  Social interaction is important, but you can have meaningful relationships that are long term without being a couple.

Here After has an enjoyable cast and funny moments, but the film's core idea feels outdated and the main antagonist seems to escalate too quickly and for no reason.  

Pass on it.

Tom Baker	...	associate producer David Ebel	...	associate producer Carmine Famiglietti	...	producer Harry Greenberger	...	producer Ilana Rossein	...	line producer James Shuman	...	associate producer
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Here After is available digitally and on demand on July 23, 2021.  

For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.

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CatVideoFest 2021 Review: It's Got A Lot of Cats

Release date: July 23, 2021
Running time: 71 minutes

CatVideoFest is a compilation reel of the latest and best cat videos culled from countless hours of unique submissions and sourced animations, music videos, and classic internet powerhouses. CatVideoFest is a joyous communal experience, only available in theaters, and raises money for cats in need through partnerships with local cat charities, animal welfare organizations, and shelters to best serve cats in the area.

CatVideoFest 2021 is basically a late night TikTok compilation of cat videos.  You will know if this film is for you just by that description.  Are you a human being that likes cats?  Then this will be for you.  Are you some sort of soulless individual that gets no enjoyment from watching cat antics?  Then this is likely not the movie for you.  The film features a little over an hour of cats doing what they do best, being curious, destructive, loving, intriguing, and just plain weird.  But it is not just short, TikTok style videos that make up this film; there are also some animated submissions made especially for this festival as well as a few longer videos that add some meat to the film.  But even these longer videos are only a minute or so long, and the entire CatVideoFest experience is one of constant change and enjoyment.  But that's not to say that this is frenzied; the film features cats in all elements.  You have some videos where cats are being curious, hiding, or even sleeping. 

The compilation has loose categories for the various videos, with these broken up by "Gif" sessions, or short sections of cats doing silly or gif-worthy stunts.  The categories help to keep the videos in a certain categorization, but the videos are not exceedingly different between the various sections.  And although CatVideoFest is an enjoyable experience, I can't help but feel like this is essentially what you would get if you search for cat videos on any number of platforms.  Now there is something to be said for a catered experience, one that does the legwork for you, but overall, this just feels like something that one could find on their own in a late night bender.  But that being said, the film does have some very entertaining short cat videos and a good amount of quality feline content.  If you are a cat lover, or just a human being that has seen the internet, then this selection will dig its entertaining claws into your brain and not let go.

CatVideoFest 2021 lives up to its name, with a quality compilation of cats doing what they do best, being curious, destructive, loving, intriguing, and just plain weird.

Rent it.

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CatVideoFest 2021 is available in theaters on July 23, 2021. 

For showtimes, via virtual cinema, click here.  

What to Watch This Weekend: Trollhunters, Old, Last Letter From Your Lover, Sexy Beasts, Sword Art Online, Quiet Place Part II, Spiral, Initiation

For The Timeless Romantic: The Last Letter From Your Lover (Netflix)
The Last Letter From Your Love has two intriguing storylines, some amazing fashion and style, and some wonderful views of the French Riviera to fall in love with.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Ridiculous Reality Show: Sexy Beasts (Netflix)
Sexy Beasts is the most fun and ridiculous reality dating show you can watch, with a silly premise that makes for some interesting dates and lets these individual's personalities shine through!  For more information, check out the review!

For The Trollhunters Fans: Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans (Netflix)
Trollhunters: Rise of Titans continues the Tales of Arcadia trilogy with some beautiful animation and larger than life encounters that will determine the fate of the Trollhunters world.  For more information, check out the review

For The Disappointed Trollhunters Fans: Sword Art Online (Netflix)
I have heard lots of mixed results with the Trollhunters ending, but for those looking for something else to watch after Trollhunters, check out Sword Art Online, an animated series that features a fantasy setting with some technology.  

For A Twisted Aging Story: Old (Theaters)
Old has a mysterious story, some very nice performances and small touches, and a trademark M. Night Shyamalan twist ending, but the quirks and odd dialogue might cast some shadows on this beach vacation.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Tense, Quiet Evening: A Quiet Place Part II (Paramount+)
A Quiet Place Part II continues the Abbott's story with the same amazing sound effects and trademark muffled horror that made the first movie such an auditory treat.  For more information, check out the review!

For The Next Chapter in the Book of Saw: Spiral (Redbox)
Spiral's star power, brutal challenges and effects, and police procedural story will draw you down into this next chapter from the Book of Saw.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Crazy, Murderous Horror Party: Initiation (Redbox)
Initiation's college slasher party is amplified with great practical effects, brutal deaths, a good amount of tension, and a social media message.  For more information, check out our review!

Screening: See Stillwater Early and Free

We have partnered with Focus Features for an early screening of the phenomenal film, Stillwater.  The film is coming to DC area theaters on Friday, July 30th but you can watch it early and free!  Details and entry form are below.

Stillwater

A dramatic thriller directed by Academy Award® winner Tom McCarthy and starring Matt Damon, STILLWATER follows an American oil-rig roughneck from Oklahoma who travels to Marseille to visit his estranged daughter, in prison for a murder she claims she did not commit.

Director: Tom McCarthy

Writers: Tom McCarthy, Marcus Hinchey, Thomas Bidegain, Noe Debre

Producers: Steve Golin, Tom McCarthy, Jonathan King, Liza Chasin

Cast: Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin

Rating: PG-13

Screening Info:

STILLWATER

Wednesday, July 28th

Regal Gallery Place

7:00PM 


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Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Christmas Dance Review: A Holiday Cookie Cutter Movie

Katherine Kelly Lang	...	Mary Richard Karn	Richard Karn	...	Sherman Briana White	Briana White	...	Kate Kristen Vaganos	Kristen Vaganos	...	Sarah Master P	Master P	...	Brother Moore Scott Bailey	Scott Bailey	...	Mr. Davenport Jeff Willy	Jeff Willy	...	Restaurant Patron Symonne Harrison	Symonne Harrison	...	Taylor Carson Nicely	Carson Nicely	...	Jason Emilee Bickert	Emilee Bickert	...	Parent Jessica Richards	Jessica Richards	...	Karen Josh Hooks	Josh Hooks	...	Brother Ron (as Joshua Hooks) Sinorice Moss	Sinorice Moss	...	Dr. Leo McCoy Melissa Jo Bailey	Melissa Jo Bailey	...	Sister Grace Nikki Saryan	Nikki Saryan	...	Restaurant Patron (as Veronica Saryan) Cassady Jane Lorentzen	Cassady Jane Lorentzen	...	Young Kate Brady Amaya	Brady Amaya	...	Young Sherman Jr. Thalia Oliver	Thalia Oliver	...	Play Ensemble

Release date: July 23, 2021
Running time: 100 minutes
Written and Directed By: Michael Arcell
Starring: Kristen Vaganos, Carson Nicely, Scott Bailey, Briana White, Katherine Kelly Lang, Master P, and Richard Karn

Traumatized by her past Christmas is not at the top of Sarah’s list this time of year. However, waltzing through life’s unexpected emergencies, she is taught the Christmas dance.

Linda Cushma	...	Caroler Miles Faber	Miles Faber	...	Sherman Jr. Noah Nelson	Noah Nelson	...	Young Jason Evan Richards	Evan Richards	...	Office Worker Leni Harper	Leni Harper	...	Church Member Kel King	Kel King	...	Church Member Emily Reed	Emily Reed	...	Church Member Angel Contreras	Angel Contreras	...	Play Ensemble Spencer Langston	Spencer Langston	...	Caroler, Church Member DeeDee Michaels	DeeDee Michaels	...	Mrs. Baxter Stranton Aiono	Stranton Aiono	...	Church member / Play Attendee Bill Witter Sr.	Bill Witter Sr.	...	Retirement Home Visitor Bobby Phillips	Bobby Phillips	...	Church Member Ben Orf	Ben Orf	...	Church Member Kaj Marfil	Kaj Marfil	...	Chorus Myra Dent	Myra Dent	...	Hospital Visitor Alvin Knight Sr.	Alvin Knight Sr.	...	Retirement Home Visitor Michael Arcell	Michael Arcell	...	Chad
The Christmas Dance is a by the numbers Christmas movie.  If you would list holiday movie tropes, the Christmas Dance would be it.  It actually has a big city girl coming home to her hometown for Christmas and meeting the down to earth childhood friend who is now hot and teaches her the meaning of Christmas.  Like seriously, if you just played Christmas movies mad libs, this would be the movie you got.  The tropes are serious, the Christmas spirit is plentiful, and the mentions of family are enough to make Vin Diesel happy.

But through all of this, you do get an enjoyable Christmas movie for those that are looking for it.  What you also get is a movie that is unabashedly religious, with prominent mentions of the church and of religion, and additional prayer scenes.  But what I loved most about this aspect of it is that it felt genuine, and the messages from the movie actually felt like true Christian messages and not something that was bolted in for the film.  The message of taking care of your community and of helping others was welcome, as was a frank discussion about whether we should be judging people that took those handouts.  It was great to see and I really appreciated this aspect of the film.

But outside of this interesting religious message, The Christmas Dance is a by the numbers Christmas movie.  And on top of that, it has some hallmarks of a budget Hallmark movie. The effects are noticeably absent during some pivotal scenes, with timed cuts to make sure that what happens is implied.  And despite the emphasis on Sarah's past trauma, this really doesn't seem like something that should be affecting her.  Sure it gives her an excuse for why she never came back, but it also feels like something that is completely minor in the grand scheme of things.  And maybe that's the point but I feel like this film could have used a few more retakes on the story.

The Christmas Dance is an unabashedly Christian Christmas movie with a wonderful message about taking care of your community, but it has a holiday cookie cutter story and some inconsistent performances along the way.

Pass on it.

Michael Arcell	...	producer (produced by) Kristi Kilday	...	producer Percy Miller	...	producer Romeo Miller	...	executive producer Kevin J Nelson	...	producer (produced by)
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The Christmas Dance is available digitally and on demand on July 23, 2021.  

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The Last Letter From Your Lover Review: A Stylish Time-Bending Love Story

Shailene Woodley	...	Jennifer Stirling Felicity Jones	Felicity Jones	...	Ellie Emma Appleton	Emma Appleton	...	Hannah Joe Alwyn	Joe Alwyn	...	Laurence Callum Turner	Callum Turner	...	Anthony O'Hare Ben Cross	Ben Cross	...	Older Anthony Vilhelm Blomgren	Vilhelm Blomgren	...	Rob Ncuti Gatwa	Ncuti Gatwa		 Christian Brassington	Christian Brassington		 Nabhaan Rizwan	Nabhaan Rizwan		 Diana Kent	Diana Kent	...	Older Jennifer Ann Ogbomo	Ann Ogbomo	...	Janet Alfredo Tavares	Alfredo Tavares	...	Charlie Joakim Skarli	Joakim Skarli	...	Actor Manoj Anand	Manoj Anand	...	Train Passenger Louis James	Louis James	...	Ex Boyfriend (archive footage) Lee Knight	Lee Knight	...	Francis

Release date: July 23, 2021
Running Time: 110 minutes
Directed by: Augustine Frizzell
Written by: Nick Payne and Esta Spalding
Based on the novel by: Jojo Moyes
Cast: Felicity Jones, Callum Turner, Joe Alwyn, Nabhaan Rizwan and Shailene Woodley

A pair of interwoven stories set in the present and past, The Last Letter From Your Lover follows Ellie Haworth (Felicity Jones), an ambitious journalist who discovers a trove of secret love letters from 1965 and becomes determined to solve the mystery of the forbidden affair at their center. As she uncovers the story behind Jennifer Stirling (Shailene Woodley), the wife of a wealthy industrialist, and Anthony O’Hare (Callum Turner) the financial journalist assigned to cover him, a love story of Ellie’s own begins to unfold with the assistance of an earnest and endearing archivist (Nabhaan Rizwan) who helps her track down more letters. 

Jennifer Aries	...	Postal Worker 1965 Juliet Hartley	Juliet Hartley	...	Alice Eve Harding	Eve Harding	...	Train Passenger Bikramjit Gurm	Bikramjit Gurm	...	Sub Post Office Owner Emilio Aniba	Emilio Aniba		 Matt Mella	Matt Mella	...	French hotel receptionist Francesca Bailey	Francesca Bailey		 Maya Raskin	Maya Raskin		 Lucas Danton	Lucas Danton	...	Mod Gangster Erin Jones	Erin Jones	...	Mini Skirt Girls (uncredited) Ntiarna Xavier Knight	Ntiarna Xavier Knight	...	Bar Woman (uncredited) Tiago Martins	Tiago Martins	...	Jazz Dancer (uncredited) Ekran Mustafa	Ekran Mustafa	...	Pub Goer (uncredited) Andrew G. Ogleby	Andrew G. Ogleby	...	Post Office Customer (uncredited) Xander Turian	Xander Turian	...	Pub Goer (uncredited)
The Last Letter From Your Lover has an interwoven timeline that is confusing at first, but quickly becomes easier to follow as you get to know these characters.  And you will want to get to know them thanks to this fantastic cast.  The film is headlined by some all stars in each story, and they all add to a wonderful love story experience.  Felicity Jones is fun if a bit guarded as Ellie, who is researching this story while trying to keep her emotions in check.  And the strangely rule following but likeable archivist (played by Nabhaan Rizwan) was also a lot of fun.  Seeing these two work together to solve this mystery provided much of the heart and a lot of humor of the film.  But what provided the fire was Shailene Woodley and Callum Turner, as two unhappy people that find each other for a summer romance.  Turner is great as his standard bad boy-ish character with a heart of gold, and Woodley is enjoyable as an unhappy wife to an industrialist.  And although Alwyn's character isn't likeable, he does a good job playing this unlikeable husband.

But what helps them fall in love is the amazing location.  This romance takes place in the French Riviera, with beautiful scenery to help propel this romance forward.  There are some striking sunsets and water scenes as the two become closer.  But I also loved Woodley's outfits; the crew must have had a lot of fun dressing her because each outfit was out of a magazine.  It had a distinct Jackie O feeling to it with fashionable attire and a perfect accompanying hat.  And throughout this all is some fantastic, time appropriate music that plays to set the stage.  It helps to make these romance scenes feel older and yet gives them an upbeat feel.

However, the story of this film is a little slow.  The film itself has plenty going on but the romance goes through some starts and stops as the story progresses.  Don't worry though, you'll still enjoy your time with these individuals despite the measured pace.  And additionally, Felicity Jones's character is enjoyable at the start, but has a strange character change partway through.  It seemed to come abruptly and just didn't quite fit.  It does then feed into the ending, but I could have gone without it.  And although the love story itself is an enjoyable one, it also feels like the problems explored in it are not that extreme.  The pair had a privileged life and despite the challenges faced in their lives, they still seemed to be capable of finding each other.  The story is a messy life story, but one where the characters seem like they could have ended up in a happier state much earlier. 

The Last Letter From Your Love has two intriguing storylines, some amazing fashion and style, and some wonderful views of the French Riviera to fall in love with. 

Watch it.

Graham Broadbent	...	producer Ruth Coady	...	executive producer Peter Czernin	...	producer Celia Duval	...	co-producer (as Célia Duval) Shana Eddy-Grouf	...	executive producer Ron Halpern	...	executive producer Rachel Clara Henochsberg	...	co-producer Felicity Jones	...	executive producer Ben Knight	...	executive producer Didier Lupfer	...	executive producer Diarmuid McKeown	...	executive producer Patrice Theroux	...	executive producer Stephen Traynor	...	producer Simone Urdl	...	producer Jennifer Weiss	...	producer Shailene Woodley	...	executive producer

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The Last Letter From Your Lover is available on Netflix on July 23, 2021.

Old Review: A Beautiful, Dread-Filled Day At The Beach

Gael García Bernal	...	Guy Vicky Krieps	Vicky Krieps	...	Prisca Rufus Sewell	Rufus Sewell	...	Charles Alex Wolff	Alex Wolff	...	Trent Aged 15 Thomasin McKenzie	Thomasin McKenzie	...	Maddox Aged 16 Abbey Lee	Abbey Lee	...	Chrystal Nikki Amuka-Bird	Nikki Amuka-Bird	...	Patricia Ken Leung	Ken Leung	...	Jarin Eliza Scanlen	Eliza Scanlen	...	Kara Aged 15 Aaron Pierre	Aaron Pierre	...	Mid-Sized Sedan Embeth Davidtz	Embeth Davidtz	...	Adult Maddox Emun Elliott	Emun Elliott	...	Adult Trent Alexa Swinton	Alexa Swinton	...	Maddox Aged 11 Gustaf Hammarsten	Gustaf Hammarsten	...	Resort Manager Kathleen Chalfant	Kathleen Chalfant	...	Agnes Francesca Eastwood	Francesca Eastwood	...	Madrid Nolan River	Nolan River	...	Trent Aged 6 Luca Faustino Rodriguez	Luca Faustino Rodriguez	...	Trent Aged 11

Release date: July 23, 2021
Running time: 101 minutes
Written and Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: 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 

This summer, visionary filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan unveils a chilling, mysterious new thriller about a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly … reducing their entire lives into a single day. 

Mikaya Fisher	...	Kara Aged 11 Kailen Jude	Kailen Jude	...	Idlib M. Night Shyamalan	M. Night Shyamalan	...	Hotel Van Driver Matthew Shear	Matthew Shear	...	Sidney Daniel Ison	Daniel Ison	...	Greg Mitchel Jeffrey Holsman	Jeffrey Holsman	...	Mr. Brody Margaux Da Silva	Margaux Da Silva	...	Scientist John Twohy	John Twohy	...	CIA Agent Produced by  Marc Bienstock	...	producer (produced by) Ashwin Rajan	...	producer (produced by) Steven Schneider	...	executive producer M. Night Shyamalan	...	producer (produced by)
Old is a mixed bag.  It has some really interesting features and some of that trademark M. Night Shyamalan strangeness, and of course the twist ending, but the journey to get to that part is rough and choppy.  First, for the good, the film features several children and their dialogue is strange, but understandably so.  I liked how the kids asked some random questions and how they spoke to each other, which did feel like how kids would talk.  And the great touch is that as the kids age rapidly on the secluded beaches, their bodies change but the dialogue remains simple.  The performances by the adult kids: Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, and Eliza Scanlen helped to suspend your disbelief as it often did sound like children in the bodies of grown ups.  And the idyllic setting of the beach is another nice touch.  The beach is simply beautiful, with a peaceful and otherworldly feel to it.  

But it is the small touches that help to sell this film.  For one, the music has a tribal feel to it, but one that also seems to incorporate the sounds of a ticking clock.  It was a small but noticeable touch that I really appreciated.  And the cinematography is a mixed bag, but often it is stellar.  There are some great long takes of the characters as they process what is going on and try to make sense of this strange situation.  And you have some very artful shots that frame the terrible acts happening with this wonderful view of nature.  And one thing that was a subtle but appreciated touch is that the trees around the beach are all aged and dead.  As you're looking past the beach, the trees are beautiful and lush, but they turn brown closer to the actual area.  These little touches do a great job of selling this world and the overall story.

But Old does have some odd quirks, first and foremost with the dialogue.  The film has some lines that just feel random and questionable delivery.  Sometimes the characters sound flat and sometimes the responses just aren't in the same tone as the conversation that is happening.  And the lines can occasionally sound random, like when people offer up information or say statements that don't really relate to the previous conversation.  It's like the film is forcing ideas or plot points onto the screen in an unnatural manner.  And on top of that, there were some weird glitches, like when one of the character's swimsuits changed with seemingly no explanation.  And some of the dread shots just look strange, like a lower budget movie trying to create a sinister effect.  It, like much of the film, was odd and just felt off.  And with the great cinematography, there were some shots that were distracting.  There was one where it had an unfocused view of a character while something else is happening off screen, and another where the shot is of the beach from the water but the waves obscure a small part of the shot every few seconds.  But the film does have a twist ending, and one that was much more acceptable on the spectrum of Shyamalan endings.  

Old has a mysterious story, some very nice performances and small touches, and a trademark M. Night Shyamalan twist ending, but the quirks and odd dialogue might cast some shadows on this beach vacation..

Rent it.

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Old is in theaters on July 23, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins Review: An Action Packed, Messy Origin Story

Henry Golding	...	Snake Eyes Andrew Koji	Andrew Koji	...	Tommy / Storm Shadow Haruka Abe	Haruka Abe	...	Akiko Takehiro Hira	Takehiro Hira	...	Kenta Eri Ishida	Eri Ishida	...	Sen Iko Uwais	Iko Uwais	...	Hard Master Peter Mensah	Peter Mensah	...	Blind Master Úrsula Corberó	Úrsula Corberó	...	Baroness Samara Weaving	Samara Weaving	...	Scarlett Samuel Finzi	Samuel Finzi	...	Mr. Augustine Steven Allerick	Steven Allerick	...	Father Max Archibald	Max Archibald	...	Young Snake Eyes Simon Chin	Simon Chin	...	Hama Derrick DeVilliers	Derrick DeVilliers	...	Promoter Kento Matsunami	Kento Matsunami	...	Arashikage Ninja Guard James Hiroyuki Liao	James Hiroyuki Liao	...	Yasuzo Kenji Tanigaki	Kenji Tanigaki	...	Yakuza with Eye Patch Dean Muhtadi	Dean Muhtadi	...	Bruiser Streetfighter (as Mojo Rawley)

Release date: July 23, 2021
Running time: 121 minutes
Directed By: Robert Schwentke
Written By: Evan Spiliotopoulos (screenplay by), Joe Shrapnel (screenplay by), A0nna Waterhouse(screenplay by)
Starring: Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Úrsula Corberó, Samara Weaving, Haruka Abe, Tahehiro Hira, and Iko Uwais

Based on the iconic G.I. Joe character, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins stars Henry Golding as Snake Eyes, a tenacious loner who is welcomed into an ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage after saving the life of their heir apparent. Upon arrival in Japan, the Arashikage teach Snake Eyes the ways of the ninja warrior while also providing something he’s been longing for: a home. But, when secrets from his past are revealed, Snake Eyes’ honor and allegiance will be tested – even if that means losing the trust of those closest to him. 

Sean Owen Roberts	...	Augustine's Hired Thugs Jason Day	Jason Day	...	Augustine's Hired Thugs Kojun Notsu	Kojun Notsu	...	Arashikage Mechanic Neal Honda	Neal Honda	...	Yakuza Ryan Klarenbach	Ryan Klarenbach	...	Cobra Commando 1 Owen Szabo	Owen Szabo	...	Cobra Commando 2 Brandon Melendy	Brandon Melendy	...	Cobra Agent 1 Gui DaSilva-Greene	Gui DaSilva-Greene	...	Cobra Agent 2 (as Gui Dasilva) Solomon Brende	Solomon Brende	...	Cobra Agent 3 Samuel Brasseur	Samuel Brasseur	...	Soccer Player (as Samuel LeBrasseur) Hugh Aodh O'Brien	Hugh Aodh O'Brien	...	Ambulance Driver Michael Gaines	Michael Gaines	...	Police Driver Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Paul Cheng	Paul Cheng	...	Kenta Yakuza 1 (uncredited) Calum Dench	Calum Dench	...	Soccer kid (uncredited) Nicholas Dohy	Nicholas Dohy	...	Security Thug (uncredited) Shota Kakibata	Shota Kakibata	...	Yakuza (uncredited)
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins has the unenviable task of trying to make the 80s kids cartoon translate onto the big screen.  And this effort is a noble one, with lots of hits and misses as a result.  The first thing I'll get to is yes, Henry Golding can play an action hero.  The fighting isn't as fluid as I would have hoped but he moves over into the action realm well with a strong portrayal of Snake Eyes.  And the rest of the cast is enjoyable as well, filling out the G.I. Joe universe with some fun and sometimes overly dramatic characters.  I liked Koji as Storm Shadow, with his intense demeaner at times.  And Weaving as Scarlett was a nice surprise to see.  She had a supreme confidence that comes from being a Joe and it translated perfectly on the screen.  And special shout out to Iko Uwais (from the Raid series) as Hard Master.  

And the setting of the film is a lot of fun as well.  The movie is set in Tokyo, with the energy, lights, and excitement that comes with it.  But after the initial vision of the world, you get a more tranquil Japanese castle setting that is a peaceful respite from the city.  The Japanese influence in this film is apparent, with plenty of Japanese text and a high energy, neon credits sequence that incorporates both Japanese names and the English equivalents.  And the film also takes you into some of the enjoyable aspects of Japan, like neon-soaked alleys and a bath house.  But the setting is also good for some of the noir aspects of the film, with secret meetings in rain soaked alleys and a game of cat and mouse as we discover that there is more to this story than meets the eyes.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura	...	producer (produced by) (p.g.a.) David Ellison	...	executive producer Dana Goldberg	...	executive producer Brian Goldner	...	producer Don Granger	...	executive producer Erik Howsam	...	producer (produced by) (p.g.a.) Greg Mooradian	...	executive producer Jeff G. Waxman	...	executive producer
But some of the absurdity of the G.I. Joe universe just leaks in here.  For one, the characters are all called by their callsigns, which makes sense, but some of them are silly.  Snake Eyes gets called "Snake Eyes" or "Snake" even before he has become the iconic hero.  There is a training person named Hard Master and Blind Master, which sound silly when you think that they are Japanese warriors and supreme fighters.  And the film has to tie this into the Joes vs. Cobra mythos, which leads to some odd suspension of disbelief scenes.  This film feels like it was trying to go for a Batman Begins origin story, and succeeds in that respect in a few instances, but has too much overall G.I. Joe baggage to pull it off.  The benefit that Batman Begins had was that that time in Bruce Wayne's life was more free form, all you had to do was have him emerge as Batman.  Here they have to establish the Joes, Cobra, and several main characters, which makes for a messier integration.

But probably most egregious is that the action in this film is hit or miss.  When it hits, it is exciting to see.  Seeing Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow going blade to blade with waves of bad guys is a treat, and there is a car chase that is very well done as well.  But early on, the hand to hand combat has a decidedly shaky cam and blurred look to it.  The action has some sort of motion blur on so that it is tough to focus on what people are doing, and this is not helped by some dark footage and a shaky camera that makes it extra hard to focus.  It was actually a little discomforting to watch since it was hard to focus and frenzied.  And on top of that, there is some CG at the end that is bad and feels wholly unnecessary.  

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins shows Golding as a decidedly more crazy, less rich Asian fighter, with some intense summer action and a neon-drenched Tokyo that ties into the greater G.I. Joe story.

Rent it.

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Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is in theaters on July 23, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Kandisha Review: A Demon Terrorizes A Trio of Rebellious Graffiti Artists

Directed by  Alexandre Bustillo	 Julien Maury	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Alexandre Bustillo	 Julien Maury	Cast   Walid Afkir	Walid Afkir	...	Recteur Suzy Bemba	Suzy Bemba	...	Bintou Bakary Diombera	Bakary Diombera	...	Ako Sandor Funtek	Sandor Funtek	...	Erwan Félix Glaux-Delporto	Félix Glaux-Delporto	...	Antoine Dylan Krief	Dylan Krief	...	Ben Mathilde Lamusse	Mathilde Lamusse	...	Amélie Nassim Lyes	Nassim Lyes	...	Abdel (as Nassim Si Ahmed) Samarcande Saadi	Samarcande Saadi	...	Morjana Mériem Sarolie	Mériem Sarolie	...	Kandisha

Release date: July 22, 2021 Running time: 85 minutes Directed By: Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo Starring: Mathilde Lamusse, Samarcande Saadi and Suzy Bemba It’s summer break and best friends Amélie, Bintou and Morjana hang together with other neighborhood teens. Nightly, they have fun sharing scary stories and urban legends. But when Amélie is assaulted by her ex, she remembers the story of Kandisha, a powerful and vengeful demon. Afraid and upset, Amélie summons her. The next day, her ex is found dead. The legend is true and now Kandisha is on a killing spree— and it’s up to the three girls to break the curse.

Kandisha has a slow opening that introduces you to the legend and all the characters. But the slow opening does get more interesting when you see the three main female characters, who are all a little rebellious. They are street artists and work at night when the city is dead. The film also starts with a good hip hop soundtrack to help frame this rebellious crew. And when the deaths start happening, Kandisha also shines, with brutal fatalities and good practical effects. Bones break, brain matter splatters, and blood flows when this demon starts to take her sacrifices. And when the friends try to get rid of the demon, Kandisha also has a tense and imaginative exorcism scene. I like how the scene changed and shifted as it tried to convince the friends to stop the exorcism attempt.

But although Kandisha does a lot right, I do wish there was a little more reasoning to its murder spree. it seems to pick victims at random and this leads to an odd situation where people are dying for seemingly no reason. You do find out why later in the movie, but in the initial stages it just seems like a series of random killings. And the killings themselves are pretty quick, with less dread than I would have hoped before the person is killed. Also, the film starts with some banter that seemed to maybe be lost in translation; it didn't sound like something kids would talk about but maybe that's just my age. Additionally, the film starts with an interesting obfuscation aspect that is just abandoned as the killing ramps up. And the original conflict that summons the demon also feels manufactured and odd. It escalates very quickly, which is the motivation to summon the demon, but it seems too quick and too much. But after this all, Kandisha does have a tense ending that is made all the more impactful by the journey so far. I liked how the film ended despite some of the hiccups in the middle. And it follows this up with a good ending "stinger."

Kandisha summons some brutal kills and violence with a trio of rebellious female leads in this French hip hop exorcism horror film.

Rent it.

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Kandisha is available to stream on Shudder starting July 22, 2021. 

The Nest Review: A Slow Building Creature Feature

Dee Wallace	Dee Wallace	...	Marissa Sarah Navratil	Sarah Navratil	...	Beth Maple Suttles	Maple Suttles	...	Meg Kevin Patrick Murphy	Kevin Patrick Murphy	...	Jack Drez Ryan	Drez Ryan	...	Ashe Blaque Fowler	Blaque Fowler	...	Nick Anna Lynn Holleman	Anna Lynn Holleman	...	Mrs. Jean Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Penny Munroe	Penny Munroe	...	Billie Piper Suttles	Piper Suttles	...	Child at the Window

Release date: July 20, 2021
Running time: 101 minutes
Directed By: James Suttles
Written By: Jennifer Trudrung
Starring: Dee Wallace, Sarah Navratil, Kevin Patrick Murphy, Drez Ryan, Blaque Fowler, Anna Lynn Holleman, Penny Munroe, Maple Suttles, and Piper Suttles

When Meg and her mother Beth visit a yard sale, Beth buys her young daughter an adorable stuffed bear, thinking it may help with Meg’s separation anxiety. As children do, she quickly becomes attached to the bear, talking to it and taking it everywhere she goes. However, soon Beth notices that the bear is communicating with Meg and even influencing her behavior. When Meg starts developing hoarding habits, and seems infected by a parasitic creature, things take a turn for the worse. Soon it’s clear there’s something much more nightmarish and sinister to this yard sale toy than anyone could have imagined.

Tamara Hopkins	...	co-producer Mary McNeill	...	executive producer Jennifer L. Ray	...	executive producer James Suttles	...	producer Matthew R. Zboyovski	...	producer
The Nest has a creepy opening that sets the stage perfectly for this psychological creature film.  The strange yard sale, weird bear, and very odd old man is a great way to set up some of the creepier aspects of this film.  And this sense of unease follows throughout the film as you don't quite know when people are turning (or already turned).  The film also has a smart, otherworldly insect sound for when infected people are communicating, which is a nice unsettling touch that is subtle, but quite noticeable.  And as the film progresses and people become more under the strange insect's spell, the characters transform as well.  This seems to be done with some good makeup and subtle character shifts, but it just helps to add to the unease in this film.  And on top of this, the film has some good practical effects for the transformations and some of the injuries, as well as a use of real insects for some of the unsettling creature shots.  It made these scenes much better and I'm glad that the directors decided to use insect costars rather than some noticeable CG.  

But the problem with the Nest is that it does a good amount right, but has some major flaws.  First and foremost, the audio is inconsistent with noticeable cuts and re-records present in the film.  It is more noticeable than normal, with full on new lines in some instances with different background noise than the scene.  Additionally, the film has some inconsistent acting and line delivery, which I imagine was the reason for some of the cut in vocals.  And for the most part, the film has a good slow buildup but also seems to take a while to get where it is going.  The movie could have been sped up in the middle as it really felt like we were idling for a while.  And additionally, although I liked the creature part of this, I feel like it has been done better before.  Check out The Arbors for a creature feature with more dread and a more interesting story.  

The Nest dials up the dread with a slow building story and a focus on unsettling characters and practical insect effects. 
.
Rent it.

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The Nest is available digitally and on demand on July 20, 2021.  

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Monday, July 19, 2021

Giveaway: Enter to win a Blu-Ray Copy of Spiral, From The Book of Saw!

Thanks to our friends at Lionsgate, we are offering our readers the chance to win Spiral, from the Book of Saw, a tense thriller that takes place in the world of Saw.  We are giving away some Blu-Ray copies of the film to celebrate the physical release on July 20, 2021!  The film stars Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols, and Samuel L. Jackson (Written Review, YouTube Review).  Enter below for your chance to win.  

Contest goes until Saturday, July 24 so enter now and secure your chance to win!  Please note that this contest is only open to our readers in the United States due to shipping issues.  Please enter below and use an email address that you check regularly.  The winner will be contacted on early Sunday to request a shipping address.

Spiral Info

Release date: May 14, 2021
Running time: 93 minutes
Starring: Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols, and Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Written by: Josh Stolberg & Pete Goldfinger

A criminal mastermind unleashes a twisted form of justice in Spiral, the terrifying new chapter from the book of Saw. Working in the shadow of his father, an esteemed police veteran (Samuel L. Jackson), brash Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) and his rookie partner (Max Minghella) take charge of a grisly investigation into murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game. 

Hydra Review: Indie Japanese Martial Arts Action

Masanori Mimoto	...	Takashi Sato Miu	Miu	...	Rina Kishida Tasuku Nagase	Tasuku Nagase	...	Kenta Kirita Takaya Aoyagi	Takaya Aoyagi	...	Shinichi Miyazaki Takashi Nishina	Takashi Nishina	...	Masa Sugimoto Satoshi Kibe	Satoshi Kibe	...	Yosuke Mirai Kensuke Sonomura	Kensuke Sonomura	...	Rick Tsutomu Uchigasaki	Tsutomu Uchigasaki	...	Naoyuki Sawada Naoki Hayashida	Naoki Hayashida	...	Yoichi Kouzuma Kazunori Yajima	Kazunori Yajima	...	Roi Yuma Takagi	Yuma Takagi	...	Takashi Sato - 7 Years Old Kaoru Gotô	Kaoru Gotô	...	Yukari Uchiumi Hironobu Nomura	Hironobu Nomura	...	Keiji Hasegawa Naohiro Kawamoto	Naohiro Kawamoto	...	Syu Ueda Tomoro Taguchi	Tomoro Taguchi	...	Teru Nakaya (as Tomorowo Taguchi) Yoji Tanaka	Yoji Tanaka	...	Junichiro Kishida (as BoBA)

Release date: July 20, 2021 (Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital)
Running time: 78 minutes
Directed By: Kensuke Sonomura
Starring: Masanori Mimoto

After retiring as an assassin, Takashi leads a quiet life as a chef at a sushi bar, where he secretly watches over the daughter of a former associate. His peace is short-lived: soon, he is recruited for a final job that he simply can’t refuse.

Produced by  Yoshitsugu Kogawa	...	executive producer Kazunari Nakajima	...	executive producer Masataka Yamada	...	producerCinematography by  Yasuyuki Suzuki	Film Editing by  Kensuke Sonomura	Stunts  Koji Kawamoto	...	action cooperation Naohiro Kawamoto	...	action choreographer Masanori Mimoto	...	action choreographer Kensuke Sonomura	...	action choreographer
Hydra feels like an indie Japanese film from the small cast to the limited locations and short run time.  But the movie does have a lot going for it.  There is an air of mystery to the main character as you don't quite know what to make of him initially.  He is a mysterious, quiet person that is supremely confident but also quite awkward.  I liked him at times but overall he did come off as a little weird with his absolute refusal to interact with people.  There would be genuine attempts to try and talk with him or become friends with him, and he would essentially just show zero emotion.  He would go to those events but not really say or do much.  And the film also has some really great action sequences that are exciting to watch.  They are fast paced and action packed, although they do sometimes feel like more flailing and less actual fighting.  This might be because they are hitting so fast, but it sometimes looked like hands were moving but not actually connecting into meaningful fight sequences.  

However, Hydra is a short movie that takes a very long time to develop.  We learn a little bit about the setting and characters, and the main story doesn't really get started until about 40 minutes into the film.  This wouldn't be a big issue if the film wasn't a total of 78 minutes long.  The story is also confusing with not a lot revealed at the start.  And when the big revelation happens, it is not that impactful mostly because you don't' quite know what to make of the main character.  And there were some confusing additional touches at the end that blunted the impact of the overall film.  But if you're interested in a film with some intense fighting and hand to hand combat, Hydra is a good choice.  And it is also accompanied by some really great music (I especially liked the jazz songs) and some stylish touches to the action, like a scene where the film goes black and white during a flash back.

Hydra has intense hand to hand combat, a good musical score, and a mysterious story, in this indie Japanese martial arts detective film.

Rent it.

karate japan japanese movies movie indie indiefilm
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Hydra is available on VOD, Digital, DVD and Blu-ray on July 20, 2021.  It is also available to stream on Hi-Yah! now!

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Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans Review: An Overwhelming But Beautifully Animated Adventure

Tatiana Maslany	Tatiana Maslany	...	Aja (voice) Emile Hirsch	Emile Hirsch	...	Jim (voice) Nick Offerman	Nick Offerman	...	Vex (voice) Alfred Molina	Alfred Molina	...	Archie (voice) Steven Yeun	Steven Yeun	...	Steve (voice) Grey Griffin	Grey Griffin	...	(voice) Tom Kenny	Tom Kenny	...	(voice) Nick Frost	Nick Frost	...	Stuart (voice) Kelsey Grammer	Kelsey Grammer	...	Blinky (voice) Diego Luna	Diego Luna	...	Krel (voice) James Hong	James Hong	...	(voice) Colin O'Donoghue	Colin O'Donoghue	...	Douxie (voice) Amy Landecker	Amy Landecker	...	(voice) Cheryl Hines	Cheryl Hines	...	Momblank (voice) Jonathan Hyde	Jonathan Hyde	...	(voice) Laraine Newman	Laraine Newman	...	(voice) Brian Blessed	Brian Blessed	...	Charlemagne (voice) Fred Tatasciore	Fred Tatasciore	...	(voice)

Release date: July 21, 2021
Running time: 98 minutes
Directed by: Johane Matte, Francisco Ruiz Velasco, Andrew L. Schmidt
Written by: Marc Guggenheim, Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Lexi Medrano, Charlie Saxton, Kelsey Grammer, Alfred Molina, Steven Yeun, Nick Frost, Colin O'Donoghue, Diego Luna, Tatiana Maslany, Cole Sand, Nick Offerman, Fred Tatasciore, Brian Blessed, Kay Bess, Piotr Michael, James Hong, Tom Kenny, Angel Lin, Amy Landecker, Jonathan Hyde, Bebe Wood, Laraine Newman, Grey Griffin, Cheryl Hines

Following the events of the Tales of Arcadia trilogy, the heroes of Arcadia must band together to protect humanity from the evil Arcane Order, who wield their dark and uncontrollable magic to summon ancient titans that threaten to destroy the world.

Bebe Wood	...	(voice) Charlie Saxton	Charlie Saxton	...	Toby (voice) Lexi Medrano	Lexi Medrano	...	Claire (voice) Cole Sand	Cole Sand	...	(voice) Piotr Michael	Piotr Michael	...	(voice) Kay Bess	Kay Bess	...	(voice) Angel Lin	Angel Lin	...	(voice) Produced by  Guillermo del Toro	...	producer Marc Guggenheim	...	producer Dan Hageman	...	producer Kevin Hageman	...	producer Chad Hammes	...	producer Jaena Sta. Ana	...	line producer
Trollhunters continues the story of Acadia and the many characters that were introduced in that trilogy.  If you haven't seen the series, then it shouldn't be a problem as the film does have a recap at the start of what occurred.  It is a brief recap but will give you enough to follow along.  But after that recap you have some beautiful animation to tell this story.  Although the characters have a clean, simple animation style, the film itself has some gorgeous moments.  Especially when the titans are introduced you have some amazing animation and larger than life fights.  And through all this, the film has an extensive and high quality voice cast.  Despite some of the craziness of the film, the voice work is top notch with some funny and relatable characters.  The humor is hit or miss, but it is at least not distracting to hear the voices.  

However, the Tales of Arcadia trilogy had a lot of information that is tough to follow if you haven't been watching the series.  This is my fault for not watching, but for someone without the backstory this is a tough movie to follow.  I imagine this is what happens when someone watches any of the Avengers movies as there are just crazy characters from each film popping in and out.  Imagine watching Avengers: Endgame as your first entry into the Marvel universe.  In Trollhunters, maybe 20 minutes in I had already met a cat wizard, a plant wizard, a giant monster, a nerdy guy with a hammer, a goth wizard, some space person, and someone got pregnant.  And that was maybe a third of the characters you meet.  Additionally, the film is just a jumbled mass of ideas.  Again, this might be because I don't have the backstory but I found it hard to follow along with the mix of traditional mythology, space technology, normal people, and magical entities.  And although the film is rated TV-7, it was a little scarier and more violent than I expected for a kids movie.  Nothing too bad, but not something that I would want to show my young kids.  But all that being said, the movie is a great introduction to sci fi and fantasy concepts for kids.  It kind of hits all the major franchises in one swoop, and my kids ultimately enjoyed it.  

Trollhunters: Rise of Titans continues the Tales of Arcadia trilogy with some beautiful animation and larger than life encounters that will determine the fate of the Trollhunters world.

Rent it.

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Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans is available on Netflix on June 21, 2021.

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