All posts by Alex Brannan

2021 Oscar Predictions — Best Actress

You might think that this category is all wrapped up now that the Golden Globes have happened. But the Globes are not the be-all end-all predictor of the Oscars. This is particularly true in acting categories, where the campaigning to the Globes’ HFPA looks much different than it does for the Academy. Each year, there seems to be at least one off-the-beaten-path choice by the Globes in the acting categories. And this year, that left-field win appears to be from the Best Actress category.

2021 Oscar Predictions — Best Supporting Actor

Some people like to talk about “category fraud” in the acting categories. It is generally a fairly semantic debate. Is Lakeith Stanfield the lead of Judas and the Black Messiah? Why, then, is he nominated with Daniel Kaluuya in Supporting? Does that mean there is no lead actor in the film?

But it’s just a matter of campaigning. In general, it is easier to get your film’s actor nominated in a supporting category than it is the lead category. In ensemble films, it is fairly easy to make the argument that anyone is a supporting performance, just based on screentime and/or billing. I’d put Stanfield in the lead category, but I’m also just happy to see him nominated. He and Kaluuya both are two of the best actors working today.

Bad Trip (2021) Movie Review

Eric Andre and Kitao Sakurai’s Bad Trip, a loosely-narrativized prank film, was a casualty of theaters closing in 2020. Now, what was originally planned for theatrical release has landed on the front page of Netflix. It is a common fate for films nowadays. But, perhaps unexpectedly, this mid-budget comedy is one of those lost 2020 films which would probably have played best in a crowded theater environment. So…you could call it the Tenet of comedy.

The film strings together a thin plot involving Chris (Andre) who, after being starstruck by the re-entry of his high school crush Maria (Michaela Conlin) into his life, brings his friend Bud (Lil Rel Howery) on a roadtrip to New York City to win her heart. Meanwhile, Bud’s sister (Tiffany Haddish), who recently escaped from prison, hunts Bud and Chris down for stealing her car. However, the real selling points of the movie are Continue reading Bad Trip (2021) Movie Review

Zach Snyder’s Justice League (2021) Movie Review

There is so much baggage, backstory, self-mythologizing, and overly amplified discourse surrounding the fated “Snyder Cut” of DC’s Justice League that I don’t care to touch with a 10-foot pole. So let’s just suffice it to say that I never believed the hype of the Snyder cut, and that if you are amped for the four-hour-long version of the DC team-up movie, then you are probably going to get everything you want from this HBO Max release.

2017’s Justice League is credited to Zach Snyder, who had to step away from the project early in post-production due to a family tragedy. Joss Whedon stepped in to complete the project, which led to Continue reading Zach Snyder’s Justice League (2021) Movie Review

Monster Hunter (2020) Movie Review

The cold open to Paul W.S. Anderson’s Monster Hunter involves a not-quite-good-looking CGI desert landscape which is sculpted by a pirate ship (that rides on the seas of sand) and a semi-visually-defined monster roughly the same size as that ship. Following this scene (not so much an establishment of this fantasy world as a shotgun blast propelling us backwards into it), we find ourselves in a recognizable setting. A military squadron saddles up their humvee and sets course, speaking in generalized hoo-rah jargon in a scene which establishes basic character types. One of them is a jokester. One of them is the hard-as-nails commanding officer. One of them looks longingly at a picture of his family back home.

The movie is called Monster Hunter. No one ever said it was going to be subtle.

Suddenly (inexplicably, one might say), the squadron is caught up in a storm which lands them in a barren desert landscape (like the one from the previous scene. Hm…). It does not take long before they are chased by a large horned beast (a monster, if you will). They put up a good fight, but the creature quickly Continue reading Monster Hunter (2020) Movie Review

Wrong Turn (2021) Movie Review

Mike P. Nelson’s Wrong Turn, a hard reboot of the 2003 horror film of the same name (which in turn spawned numerous direct-to-video sequels), is (at least initially) so knowingly a “teen scream” slasher that it borders on parody.

A group of late-twenty-somethings hiking the Appalachian Trail find themselves lost somewhere in Virginia and set upon by something lurking in the woods. Almost instantly, the film starts teetering on the “city/country axis” like it’s a gymnast on a balance beam. The rural Virginia folk turn their noses at these “yuppie” millennial travelers, with one confronting them about how they likely never worked a day in their lives (actually, our protagonist has a double master’s degree in art history and dance, so she is a gainfully employed barista).

When our clan of hikers find themselves stranded, one of the first things that strikes fear into their hearts is the inexplicable disappearance of their cell phones. Without this precious tool (“No phone, no GPS!”), they are all but helpless to defend themselves against the crude makeshift traps set for them among the trees. When they come across the people who are terrorizing them, the travelers Continue reading Wrong Turn (2021) Movie Review

Lucky (2021) Movie Review

May (Brea Grant), the protagonist of Lucky, suffers the condescending disinterest of the police, reductionist head-shrinking of social workers, and emotional manipulation and gaslighting of her partner (Dhruv Uday Singh). Oh, and she also gets attacked by a masked man every night of her life.

Lucky, written by Grant and directed by Natasha Kermani, is a lean (perhaps too lean) horror satire that imagines society’s patriarchy, microaggressions, and trauma as a surreal nightmare cycling again and again with no end in sight. As far as “social horror” goes, it’s a pretty perfect premise.

The film starts as a fresh twist on an old favorite. May and her husband Ted are attacked in their home by an intruder in the middle of the night. Only, Ted is shockingly nonplussed by the situation. In fact, Continue reading Lucky (2021) Movie Review

Tom & Jerry (2021) Movie Review

It took no longer than one minute watching Tom & Jerry for me to realize that this animation-live action hybrid reboot of the classic cartoon wasn’t going to go well. Once I saw a trio of animated pigeons lip-syncing to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It” as they fly over the New York City skyline, I just knew. I could sense that the team behind this film—namely director Tim Story and screenwriter Kevin Costello—didn’t have a firm grasp on what would translate this older intellectual property into something entertaining to a new generation of youngsters.

The problem isn’t necessarily the hackneyed technique of adding a cool hip-hop soundtrack to a property not known for such sounds. It isn’t even really the conceit of bringing cartoon characters “into the big city,” a premise which has been used in such big screen duds as The Smurfs (2011). The real issue I have Continue reading Tom & Jerry (2021) Movie Review

I Care a Lot (2021) Movie Review

The initial premise of J Blakeson’s I Care a Lot reads similar to Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Jordan Belfort exploited the ignored, undervalued currency in penny stocks and hit it rich. Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) exploits the ignored, undervalued currency in elderly care and hits it rich.

Gamifying the system of old folks’ homes, Grayson convinces the legal system to give her soul legal care of elderly patients suffering from “dementia” (read: some “mental confusion,” as quoted by a corrupt physician). She has an agreement with a care facility to dump off her wards. Meanwhile, she flips their homes and sells their belongings. She lines the wall of her office with headshots of her victims, dotting them with color-coded stickers—a point system. It’s a game.

Until it isn’t.

I Care a Lot takes a turn early on, one which morphs this Wolf of Wall Street meets Unsane plot into something unexpected. And who am I to spoil the fun. Let’s just say Continue reading I Care a Lot (2021) Movie Review

Freaky (2020) Movie Review

Writer-director Christopher Landon has a long history working with Blumhouse, first with the Paranormal Activity sequels then with the duo of Happy Death Day horror-comedies. The latter—Happy Death Day 2U in particular—present an intriguing twist on familiar generic ground which I enjoyed quite a bit. It would only make sense, then, that his latest,¬†Freaky, a body-swap horror farce, would tickle my fancy just the same. That was my first thought.

Then, I recalled that Landon also co-wrote and directed¬†Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, a similarly self-aware horror comedy that I found Continue reading Freaky (2020) Movie Review