Kenneth Branagh’s sleek Agatha Christie adaptation, his second after 2017’s underwhelming and overly staid Murder on the Orient Express, is a delight, just so long as you are patient with it.
For a murder mystery, Death on the Nile takes its sweet time getting to the murder. The script almost teases you with this delay. The characters are introduced (or reintroduced in some cases) with a coy monologue which lays out the backstories which establish each person’s potential motives. Establishing shots are occasionally interrupted by sudden acts of animal violence, as if to say, murder is in the nature of this world — just give it time. One poorly staged false start nearly takes the head off of the love-struck heiress Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle (Gal Gadot).
2nd Chance premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival
Ramin Bahrani is a director known primarily for fiction filmmaking. He made the Fahrenheit 451 adaptation for HBO. Last year, his script for The White Tiger was nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA. It perhaps does not come as a surprise then that Bahrani was initially approached by producers to make the story of Richard Davis, the Michigan man who developed the modern bulletproof vest, into a fiction film. And Davis’ tale could potentially make for an engaging fiction, given how outlandish aspects of it are.
Emergency premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and is competing in the festival’s U.S Dramatic competition.
Carey Williams’ 2018 film Emergency won Sundance’s Special Jury Prize for short-form filmmaking. He adapted this short, with KD Davila serving as screenwriter, into a feature film of the same name. The film is one part buddy comedy, one part coming-of-age movie, and one part drama reflecting on multiple tensions present in the American conscious. If this sounds like three things which do not go together, you aren’t wrong. The extent to which one buys into the tonal tightrope walk Emergency is attempting is crucial to the enjoyment of the film.
The extra-textual more or less fuels Hollywood at this point. Intertextuality and metatextuality exists in all manner of blockbuster cinema. And this certainly bleeds through to the audiences. Even casual moviegoers have become intimately aware of the larger, interconnected puzzle that makes up the Marvel cinematic universe, enough so that Spider-Man: No Way Home is released not as some esoteric nerdcore comic book movie which only the most knowledgeable fans are able to follow. No, it is one of the most profitable films ever, regardless of pandemic concerns.
Warning: this review hints at major spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home.
I haven’t posted on this site since October 15, almost two months to the day that I’m writing this. But I’m going to pretend like that’s not the case, and that I’m a normal film critic and not a graduate student with a job who has realized that it is hard to find time to balance one’s responsibilities with film critic hobbyism.
Anyway…how about that Marvel Studios, huh? Bouncing back from a rough year at the theatrical box office, Disney’s theatrical cash cow had four movies in the can for 2021. Following a glorious financial success with Avengers: Endgame, the studio needed a firm reset of its film properties (its streaming series properties have done their own legwork in moving the IP forward).
V/H/S/94 is screening as part of the 2021 Fantastic Fest.
V/H/S/94, the fourth installment in the cult horror anthology film series, follows the franchise’s weakest entry, V/H/S: Viral, a forgettable and occasionally downright lazy film. 94 marks the return of Simon Barrett and Timo Tjahjanto, the former of which had a hand in both V/H/S and V/H/S/2 and the latter of which directed a segment in the second film. It seems evident that this film is meant to be a course correction of sorts.
Homebound is screening as part of the 2021 Fantastic Fest.
Sebastian Godwin’s debut feature, Homebound, is a lean domestic thriller with a transfixing tone and a less-than-satisfying conclusion.
Holly (Aisling Loftus) is off to meet her fiance Richard’s (Tom Goodman-Hill) ex-wife and children in the countryside. On arrival, most of the family is nowhere to be found. Eventually, Richard’s estranged children come out of the woodwork. However, they are cagey and distant. The ex-wife, Nina, is apparently not planning on showing up at all. By dinner, even Richard is acting somewhat strange, exhibiting mood swings which Holly is off-put by.
Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest is screening as part of the 2021 Fantastic Fest.
Seth Gordon’s 2007 The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters has become something of a cult doc. It depicts a classic underdog story within the arcade gaming community. An unknown family man who plays a Donkey Kong cabinet in his garage at nights goes after the world record set by video gamings biggest name at the time, Billy Mitchell. (Mitchell was later accused of cheating and falsifying his achievements. His world records were temporarily stripped from him and ultimately reinstated in 2020. There remain open legal cases on the issue which have yet to be resolved).