If you want to avoid a horror-movie situation, it’s probably best to stay away from isolated cabins in the dead of winter. Stephen King was certainly onto something when he set The Shining and Misery in snowed-in Colorado abodes. The strange, frigid silence of a snowstorm is the perfect backdrop for stories about isolation and hopelessness. That’s why director Damien Power was so drawn to No Exit, a novel by Taylor Adams, which also takes place during a blizzard in Colorado. In Power’s film adaptation of the book, which premieres February 25, 2022, on Hulu, Power makes the most of the snowy, isolated setting. He creates the ideal setup for the heroine, Darby (Havana Rose Liu), to undergo intense physical and psychological distress.
This Valentine’s Day, Do Something Different (Or, Stay in and Watch a Warm and Familiar Rom-Com That Will Melt Your Heart)
Heartwarming romantic comedy Marry Me will hit theaters just in time for Valentine’s Day. The flick stars rom-com veterans Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, along with comedian Sarah Silverman, singer-songwriter Maluma, and the impressive young Chloe Coleman. Based on the graphic novel by Bobby Crosby, the movie is about an unlikely romance between popstar Kat Valdez (Lopez) and divorced math teacher Charlie Gilbert (Wilson). Kat is all set to marry a fellow performer named Bastian (Maluma), and their wedding will be the event of the decade. They plan to tie the knot during an extravagant concert with hundreds of fans watching in person and millions more streaming the ceremony in countries all over the world. But after a last-minute hiccup, Kat is left questioning everything. As she steps out in front of the crowd with ice-cold feet, she realizes that if she wants something different, she has to do something different. And that’s when she notices Charlie’s face in the crowd. In a moment of desperation, Kat points to Charlie and says, “I’ll marry you.”
When it comes to fairy tales, setting is key. Fairy tales don’t have to take place in the past or in distant kingdoms, but their settings should invoke a sense of wonder and enchantment. The setting of a fairy tale should work alongside the other thematic elements to draw out and challenge the hero’s best and worst character traits. And if there’s any place where we’ve seen the best and worst of people over the past few years, it’s been right here on the internet. Therefore, it’s no surprise that writer/director Mamoru Hosoda chose to set his 21st-century adaptation of a classic fairytale in a bustling and vibrant virtual world. With a little help from VR technology, the heroine of the story, Belle, can be whoever she wants to be — and her counterpart, “the beast,” can hide his true identity behind a curated “tough guy” internet persona. Belle is a rich, detailed, and ambitious film that’s part fairy tale, part coming-of-age story, and part VR adventure.
Mothers, Hide Your Children: Another Cinematic Adaptation of "The Legend of La Llorona" Hits Select Theatres Friday, January 7, 2022
In the trailer for The Legend of La Llorona, a distraught mother (Autumn Reeser) asks, “What is ‘a llorona’ and what does it want with my son?” Clearly, this mother isn’t a fan of low-budget horror. If she was, she’d probably recognize the Mexican folktale of La Llorona, or “the weeping woman,” which has served as the inspiration for a number of forgettable spooky flicks over the years. In 2019, the legend was brought to life in two film adaptations that proved to be somewhat more popular than their predecessors — Michael Chaves’ The Curse of La Llorona (the sixth feature installment in The Conjuring Universe) and Jayro Bustamante’s La Llorona.
At the beginning of the 2021, Chloé Zhao became the second woman in history to win the Oscar for best director. She now rounds out the year by joining the ranks of filmmakers who have made their mark on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Zhao makes her Marvel debut directing Eternals, a fast-paced, action-packed, big-budget, CGI-infused Hollywood spectacular that’s vastly different from the slow-burning film for which she won the Oscar, Nomadland. We can catch glimpses of Zhao’s directorial expertise, respect for nature, and reverence for human connection in Eternals — but in the end, the movie is still characterized by the same distinctive style, themes, and humor that define all films in the MCU (how many jokes can you make about non-human beings trying to figure out human technology?). After Avengers: Endgame, Eternals feels a bit like an all-or-nothing attempt to get a new superhero group together as quickly as possible. Fans should buckle up, because there’s a lot going on in this latest addition to the MCU.
We’ve all had at least one bad family road trip. Maybe it was the time your toddler threw up all over your new car, or maybe it was the time you had to sit squished between your least favorite cousins for several hours with no AC. But those experiences seem like dream vacations compared to the nightmarish family road trip that unfolds in Coming Home in the Dark. In this tense thriller directed by James Ashcroft, schoolteacher “Hoaggie” (Erik Thomson) and his wife Jill (Miriama McDowell) undergo chilling physical and psychological trials during a hiking trip with their two sons (Billy Paratene and Frankie Paratene). The movie is based on a short story by Owen Marshall and skillfully adapted for the screen by James Ashcroft and Eli Kent. After an impressive festival run, Coming Home in the Dark will be available on VOD and in select theaters starting October 1, 2021.
Despite its tried and true formula and undeniable star power, “Cry Macho” falls far below expectations
A washed-up has-been, played by a seasoned veteran of the silver screen, teaches a young boy in the midst of a family crisis what it really means to be a man, and hilarious shenanigans ensue amidst heartwarming emotional development. Sounds like an instant classic, right? After all, the formula worked for Secondhand Lions, and similar story lines have served as the basis for countless other successful Hollywood flicks. With a star like Clint Eastwood serving as director and lead actor, you’d think that not much could go wrong. Unfortunately, however, the creative team behind Cry Macho relied a bit too much on Eastwood’s star power. The lighthearted western / road trip comedy may entertain a few Eastwood fans who have nothing better to watch, but overall, the flick leaves much to be desired.
“Small Engine Repair” fires on all cylinders with breathtaking performances and nuanced thematic development
Scotch, steaks, and a small-engine repair shop - the perfect recipe for an evening of male comradery and boyish banter. When single-father Frankie (John Pollono) invites two of his lifelong buddies to watch a pay-per-view fight in his shop, his pals have no idea that he’s actually recruiting them for his mad and dangerous plan to help his daughter, Crystal (Ciara Bravo). John Pollono’s deceptively simple Small Engine Repair is packed with tension and suspense, and it provides a subtle yet thorough investigation of modern masculinity. Pollono wrote, directed, and starred in the film, which is based on his award-winning play of the same name. Small Engine Repair was accepted to the 2020 SXSW Film Festival, but the release was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting this Friday, September 10, 2021, you can catch this pleasantly surprising dark comedy / thriller on the big screen.
Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” is packed with thrilling twists and turns, recreating classic adventure flicks for a new generation of young cinemagoers.
If you’ve ever stood in an hour-long line just to take your kids on a 10-minute amusement park ride, you’re probably wondering how anyone could transform the brief thrills of that attraction into an engaging feature-length movie. But, in 2003, Disney did it as only Disney can, releasing the first of five Pirates of the Caribbean movies that, together, would bring in billions at the box office. Disney has taken another stab at theme park-inspired films with Jungle Cruise, which is based on the Disneyland attraction of the same name. The ride itself was inspired by Disney’s “True Life Adventure” documentaries and has been around since the park opened in 1955. Decades later, Disney now gives the “jungle cruise” concept a new twist under the direction of Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, 2016; Run All Night 2015).
Before she was saving the world with Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, and Captain America, founding Avenger and kick-ass spy Black Widow (aka Natasha Romanoff) was…well, what was she doing? It’s a question that Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fans have been asking since Black Widow made her franchise debut in Iron Man 2 (2010). Her past was shrouded in mystery, making her the ideal character for a solo spin off movie, and Scarlett Johansson brought such strength and emotional depth to the character that we couldn’t help but ask for more. A Black Widow movie couldn’t just be an exposition on the character’s past. It needed to give her the chance to stand in the spotlight and get some much-deserved screen time. It needed to be unique, action-packed, and emotionally satisfying. It needed to add meaning to the character and allow fans to appreciate Black Widow’s role in other MCU movies even more. As fans waited years for such a movie, these expectations only grew. After one extra year of waiting due to the pandemic, MCU fans will finally get what they’ve been waiting for on July 9, 2021. The question is, does Black Widow live up to years of fan expectations?
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."