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Scream VI

The best Scream sequel
Scream VI is a marked improvement over its predecessor and safely lands as the best Scream film since the original. The decision to move the setting to NYC was a great one as the new environment leads to several fun set pieces. The opening is fantastic and maybe the best in the series. One of the more surprising elements is how absolutely brutal the kills are. I cringed a few times, which is rare for me.

The film is of course meta, but tones it down from the last film and handles it much better. My main criticism will have to be the reveal of Ghostface and his kills. They went in a bit of an obvious direction for who Ghostface was and if you were paying attention, there were some clues that spoiled it a bit. Also, my god the number of times you can get stabbed in this movie and miraculously survive. Having all the main characters survive after certain death really lessened the stakes and was a bit annoying at the end. However, the rest of the film is so solid that I can overlook most of my issues.


A committed Driver lifts this slightly above the pack
I really think this film would be doing much better at the box office with a better title and clearer marketing. This is a more than serviceable action thriller starring a legitimate star that is mostly entertaining for its 90 minute runtime.

The CGI is surprisingly good given the small budget and it's cool seeing dinos in a non-Jurassic Park film. The story is probably the weakest element given its cliched beats and real Last of Us vibe. Some wooden dialogue and lack of exposition round out my critiques. I liked the futuristic tech in the film and Driver delivers an expected solid showing. 65 won't light the genre on fire, but it's better than it's getting credit for.

The Whale

Fraser delivers a career best performance
I really enjoyed the intimate setting of the film. Some may criticize the "play-like" atmosphere, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if it makes sense for the story, and the story is really affecting. I bought into all of the characters' traits and motivations. It just felt very real, in a way that most films can't pull off.

There are some obvious parallels to another Aronofsky master class, The Wrestler, which is one of my favorite films. Similarly, the lead performance should win an Oscar due to the power and genuine pathos. The Whale is one of the most profound films you will see all year. As long as you're astute enough to realize this isn't a point-and-laugh sideshow, but a poignant portrait of someone with a crippling addiction, you'll find a moving story from one of our boldest directors.

Im Westen nichts Neues

Masters of War
It's hard to come across a more brutal, in-your-face film this year than All Quiet on the Western Front. Frame after frame is filled with stunning cinematography of disturbing atrocities. It's well-worn ground, but this film does manage to provide a modest update of a classic film.

The horrors of war are the big theme here as you follow several young soldiers over their time in the war. WWI trench scenes have been nailed the last few years (Wonder Woman, 1917, The King's Man), however the camerawork, score, and direction at work here lends a new perspective. Detractors may go after the changes from the novel and character development, but I didn't mind it too much.


I'm All Shook Up
This is the most Baz Luhrman film you could expect, for better or worse. There's a wild energy and extravagance, combined with lots of jarring cuts and musical choices. Austin Butler is really great in the role. Not Oscar-worthy in my opinion, but a career-making performance for sure.

Tom Hanks... boy oh boy I'm not sure what he or Luhrman were thinking with this role. The accent is so ridiculous it threatens to take you out of the movie. It gets more tolerable as the film progresses, but the first act is pretty rough largely because of it, along with some scattershot editing and storytelling. Framing the story from Parker's perspective was certainly a choice as well.

When Elvis is focused on its titular icon, the film wiggles along with bustling energy. It can just get a bit buried in an extensive runtime. I wouldn't say I have a burning love for Elvis, but I'd recommend it for those looking for a biopic that plays it pretty safe and has lots of fun concert scenes.

Women Talking

Not the most enjoyable watch
For more than just its subject matter, Women Talking can be a challenging viewing experience. Covering a topic like this will always lead to a divided response, however when your film lacks a lot of forward momentum and it looks like you set color grading to monochrome, it becomes an even bigger uphill climb. I understand the color is intentional, but it didn't work for me. The story also can drag a bit when you realize 20 minutes in exactly where it's going. I must say I didn't expect the shortest Oscar film this year to be the one that lagged the most.

I do appreciate the photography, I just wish it wasn't so lifeless. The cast is also outstanding and it's hard to pinpoint one person in particular that stood out. My pick would probably be Rooney Mara. I also appreciated casting the sweetest man on the planet, Ben Whishaw, in his role. The dialogue is well-written, however it just feels a bit pointless at times with the story direction.


Effective and chilling
Watcher is pretty much exactly what I hoped it would be. I love this type of thriller and find much more genuine fear and uneasiness from horror films that utilize atmosphere and the real world like this. Maika Monroe was an inspired choice for the lead as she has a very unassuming and endearing quality to her.

There are a few decision-making issues like with pretty much all thrillers like this, but the good far outweighs the bad here. Chloe Okuno commands her craft well here by conjuring up a tense, chilling thriller that leaves you with more to think about than you may expect with this type of film.

Triangle of Sadness

Eat the Rich
There's nothing particularly new here that hasn't been said before, but you have to admire the craftsmanship and performances. I'm all for a good lambasting of the out of touch wealthy, so this was up my alley. This film was more humorous than I anticipated, which was good since this balanced out some of the "hit you over the head" commentary about class. It reminds me of Don't Look Up with its repeated message in a bit of a bloated runtime.

Triangle of Sadness can be a bit of a difficult watch at times due to its gross out style, however if you can stomach all of that, there's some pointed satire and humor that makes for hearty entertainment.

Creed III

Continues this solid franchise in hard-hitting fashion
While this might end up being my least favorite of the three Creed films, I still found it to be an emotionally affecting and entertaining film. Majors is the clear standout here as he brings such pain and anger to his character with just a look. Similar to Creed II, you almost feel more sympathy towards the antagonist because of how well-written he is. Jordan is reliably strong though and does an admirable job behind the camera. I appreciated a lot of the risks he took and hope he gets more chances to refine his style.

Not everything is roses though, as the absence of the Rocky theme and Ludwig Goransson is strongly felt. The first two Creed films have incredible scores, so I found myself feeling something was missing during the training montage and final fight. The film also loses some of its energy in the 2nd half when Majors sort of disappears. He's electric on screen and his boxing style is ferocious to say the least, so he deserved a little more focus in the 3rd act.

Creed III keeps this franchise fighting above its weight class and I'm excited to see where they go from here.

Knock at the Cabin

I don't know, I had a pretty decent time with this
No, this isn't prime firing-on-all-cylinders Shyamalan, but it's still an enjoyable hour and a half at the movies. My attention was kept for the entire runtime and I was curious to see where the story would go. I think it's a disservice to the film to go in expecting some crazy Shyamalanian twist. You should judge it for what it is, not based on your expectations for the director. If you have issues with the divergence from the book, that's a fair criticism. I haven't read it, but I can understand people liking that ending more.

Dave Bautista gives an incredibly thoughtful, nuanced performance that might be the best of his career thus far. M. Night's camerawork continues to be a highlight in his films as I really enjoyed a lot of the interesting angles he shot with. Knock at the Cabin may not proceed in any wild directions, but I enjoyed it for what it was.

The Sea Beast

Charming fun
This has the feel of a recent Disney Animated film, which is definitely a compliment. From a story that has some real weight to it, to a tiny, cute creature that never fails to provide genuine laughs, Chris Williams really has it all down from his time directing some of Disney's best animated films.

I was surprised by the route they took with the story, as I thought it would be a simple beast hunting plot. The Sea Beast has some real How to Train Your Dragon vibes and it honestly worked for me. It hits a lot of the expected story beats, but when your film is this delightful, you really don't mind. I hope Netflix continues to produce this kind of quality animated fare.

She Said

Formulaic, but often harrowing
She Said doesn't really add anything new to the genre that All the President's Men and Spotlight haven't already perfected, but it's fairly watchable and helps you appreciate how powerless so many women can feel in awful situations like these.

Mulligan and Kazan do the heavy-lifting with this fact-based story and they're both solid in their roles. I do find it a bit ironic that in this story about Hollywood power and influence, the granddaughter of Elia Kazan, one of the most famous and controversial filmmakers ever, is front and center. It's also a bit rich for Hollywood to be the ones making this film and patting themselves on the back for doing the right thing, when a lot of them knowingly allowed Weinstein to operate for decades.

She Said isn't groundbreaking and isn't too far off from being called bland, but if you can overlook some of the problems behind the scenes, there is a relatively decent film here.

Your Place or Mine

Pro Tip: Have your two stars spend more than 5 minutes together in the movie
It's a bit ridiculous you manage to get Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher to sign on for this mediocre rom-com, yet spend nearly the entire runtime with them on opposite sides of the country. No, the split screen phone conversations don't count. It's just a bit crazy that you have genuine Hollywood stars and you fail to capitalize on their banter and chemistry together.

What this leaves is an occasionally interesting, but more often lackluster Netflix Original. We've seen the story a thousand times and there's not really any new spin on it here. That's not to say there's nothing to like here, as it's a relatively harmless, light film. However, it just really feels like this could've had some more inspired dialogue, story beats, and character work on the journey to the expected finale. I'm not trying to sound like I hate movies you can predict, as I generally enjoy rom-coms and their big, cliched finale. This just felt like one that had potential to elevate a bit higher than most, but settles for being 2 hours of your life you likely won't remember much about or wish to revisit.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

A mixed bag
After most entries in Phase 4 passed by without doing much to set up the next big bad in the MCU, I was eagerly anticipating this film given it would be the big screen introduction of Kang. While Majors shines as Kang, the rest of the film and even some of the narrative choices with Kang leave a bit of a "meh" feeling.

As far as positives, Paul Rudd remains as endearing as ever. MODOK is a tad jarring, but I liked the tie-in to Yellowjacket. The visuals are solid and it's a very colorful movie. Majors truly has a magnetic presence on screen and I found his dialogues and conversations to be very compelling.

For negatives, there aren't really any arcs for the characters and Ant-Man himself ends up in literally the same place (on the sidewalk thinking about how good his life is) as the beginning of the film. Scott's cohorts aren't given much to do either. The MCU hallmark of jokes undercutting serious moments unfortunately continues and honestly the comedy really didn't land as well as the first two films. I also got major Rise of Skywalker vibes with the cliche "everyone in the rebellion shows up to fight the space troopers at the end."

However, my big issue with the film is the ending. This movie felt like it should've had some major consequences to establish Kang as an Avengers-level threat. Having Scott and Hope dispatch him while a portal opens up to save them literally seconds after you thought they might get trapped in the Quantum Realm or Kang would escape was eyeroll-inducing. The Council of Kangs scene was also almost more goofy than menacing.

I'm hopeful that Feige can right the ship and get the Multiverse Saga to Infinity Saga levels of hype, but right now I'm just left not feeling much. I never thought I'd say this, but I think I'm currently looking forward more to seeing how The Flash movie resets the DCU than how the MCU multiverse plays out.

You People

Astonishingly annoying
It's been some time that I've been so bewildered and frustrated watching a film.

This very talented cast is absolutely wasted on a terrible script filled with inane and outdated jokes. It's 2023, I think we've moved beyond the ridiculous viewpoints and stereotypes displayed in this film. The characters behave in such ridiculous ways. Eddie Murphy suddenly just decides to stop being a racist piece of crap and Julia Louis-Dreyfus has an awakening about how to speak to black people normally. It's all just so freaking annoying to watch.

Hill and London also have net zero chemistry between them, which funny enough, really tends to tank a romantic comedy.


Got what I wanted
You know what to expect with a movie called Plane starring Gerard Butler released in January. I wanted a fun throwback to 90s action B-movies and I mostly got exactly what I expected, which is a good thing. Movies like this are sadly much fewer these days. Plane leans more towards the "taking things seriously" than the "in-on-the-joke" approach and it works due to the great pacing, commitment from the actors, and hard-hitting action.

Butler, or should I say Brodie Torrance, fills the lead role nicely and I really wish Mike Colter was in more stuff as he shined in what was asked of him. Plane arrives safely at its destination with minimal turbulence and maximum enjoyment.

Infinity Pool

Deeply disturbing
Brandon Cronenberg certainly knows how to create an unsettling and foreboding atmosphere. From the first minute, there's a palpable sense of impending doom that leads all the way up to the bizarre sci-fi elements of the film being revealed. I loved the trippy arthouse vibe that made you feel like you getting a whiff of the ekki gate yourself. The drug-fueled orgy was certainly something to behold.

The film does lose a little momentum and intrigue about halfway through as it felt like Cronenberg wasn't exactly sure where to go with the story. This is my only real nitpick though. Skarsgard and Goth are both mesmerizing in their roles and have a real knack for picking these excellent arthouse projects.

Shotgun Wedding

Why does this exist?
Is it so JLo can continue to front her persona of being a nice, decent human being? Because this movie just makes me hate her even more with how try-hard she is with her take-no-crap strong, funny woman who also happens to look fabulous. Why don't you go back to picking up the money your husband puts down as tips for waiters?

This movie is incredibly dull and poorly written, which is a shame because there is some genuine talent surrounding the dud of a couple. Josh Duhamel is about as bland as it gets for a leading man. The story is painfully predictable and offers no enjoyment throughout its excessive runtime. Skip this garbage.


Not worth your time
Blonde is a rather unpleasant watch that doesn't really add anything to the legacy of Marilyn Monroe or the world of cinema. Dominik chooses to make Monroe seem like a victimized, passive participant in her own story. This movie probably qualifies as trauma porn because of how much harrowing suffering you're forced to witness. I was a bit surprised with how amateurish the dialogue seemed as well.

Ana de Armas fully commits to the role with a bravura performance, though I did find her accent a bit distracting at times. The photography is top notch and I would say the most noteworthy aspect of the film. The score is another standout, though used too sparingly. Blonde is a bit a slog and I can't say it's really worth the investment to prop up something so incendiary.

P. S. The use of "daddy" by de Armas so many times in this movie was something I never needed in my life.


Scream meets Hush meets.... Fauci?
Movies like this live or die based on the decisions of the protagonists and while the ones in this film make some decent decisions, as the movie progresses they become increasingly dumb. It's a shame because there are some effective thrills and a solid premise here.

It balances the tone of satirizing Covid while also not completely disregarding the pandemic. The Covid stuff does lead to some pretty funny jokes though. It's a bit predictable as you can guess the killer's motives and it loses some momentum near the finale. For a Peacock Original, Sick is a decent jaunt into the world of pandemics and home invasions.


Predictable, but surprisingly enjoyable
You pretty much know exactly where the story is going from the very beginning, but M3GAN manages to maintain a darkly comedic tone and brisk pace that makes the film a pretty enjoyable watch.

Allison Williams was a good choice for the lead as she's a better actress than she gets credit for. The child actor did a fine job, but man that kid was almost too insufferable to bear. I get that her parents died, but holy mother of pearl that kid needed some discipline. M3GAN is honestly more hilarious than scary. Most of the scares are pretty tame and can be seen from a mile away, but the uncanny valley vibe and head tilts lead to some solid laughs.

Where the Crawdads Sing

Marsh girls aren't like other girls
Daisy Edgar-Jones gives a fine performance, however even she cannot keep this sinking boat afloat. The film meanders on for what feels like much longer than two hours without really accomplishing anything of note. The photography is quite beautiful, but it lends the feeling of style over substance.

It checks off every cliché in the book, pun intended. The story just comes across as very corny and predictable with little to no surprises, including the ending. So much of the dialogue comes across as very stilted and the plot is full of annoying contrivances.

I really wanted to like this movie more, but it just fell pretty flat for me. Also, look into the author being wanted for questioning for a murder in Zambia and its relation to major plot points in this book. Crazy stuff.


Not as bad as others are whining about
No, this isn't Jaws, but it certainly isn't a 1/10 all time failure. A good chunk of the film is entertaining and well-filmed. It gets a little ridiculous near the end, but up to that point, bar some dumb decision-making, it's not a bad film. The one-shot technique lends a perspective of feeling like a participant in the savannah horror which was pretty neat.

Yes, the daughters are unbearably annoying, but Idris being his usual cool self counterbalances a lot of that. Take the family drama stuff out of the movie and it's a pretty tight, engaging thriller. Beast is far from the worst movie to come out this year and there are far worse ways to spend 90 minutes.

The Menu

Delicious satire
Led by a fantastic performance from Ralph Fiennes, The Menu is a supremely enjoyable new thriller. The whole cast is up to the task and makes for a compelling watch. Even after trailers that seemingly gave away too much, the story still manages to go in surprising directions.

The humor was a nice standout in this film as I found myself chuckling at the dark jokes all throughout the runtime. I also liked that it didn't veer too far in the direction of horror and mostly stayed in the realm of artsy thriller.

This was a nice skewering of the fine dining world and I would love to see even more biting satires of the food industry in the future.


The perfect role for Sandler
I think I might actually like Adam Sandler in this role more than his role in Uncut Gems, and I really enjoyed his performance in that film. This feels like the perfect marriage of Sandler's dramatic chops with his quippy, everyman persona. He's incredibly endearing and I hope he continues to find roles like this.

Hustle doesn't try to surprise you. You know exactly where it's going, but you really don't mind given the confidence of the storytelling. As a basketball fan, I loved all of the cameos, references, and the unabashed love of the game vibe. This is a film for basketball lovers, but you don't need to be one to enjoy its underdog story. Hustle is a fun watch and one of the better sports films in some time.

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