Kneel Before VOD: October 24th
Charlize Theron lights up the screen as a deadly spy on mission in ‘80s Berlin to recover some sensitive information about fellow agents. There are double agents and twists aplenty in the overly convoluted plot that takes itself too seriously, but those issues are worth putting up with for the movie’s very in-your-face stunning visuals and to see Theron be sexy and kick ass in the movie’s excellent, but too few, action scenes. The recent trend of one-take fight scenes is taken to the next level with the film’s hallway fight that rivals the greats.
Pixar’s Cars series has always felt like the studio’s least inspired, corporate-mandated requirement, to continue doing more interesting films like Inside Out. It turns out that the third entry doesn’t do much to dissuade that view. Lightning McQueen’s (Owen Wilson) getting up there in years and the new models have outraced him into obscurity. Not content with this, he teams up with a newcomer, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), who may or may not have her own motives, to get back in form. The film’s many racing scenes annoy rather than excite and the film’s main message has been conveyed better in Pixar’s other, better films. I’m a big fan of Alonzo though, so it’s fun to hear her.
Clocking in at a lean 82 minutes, first-time feature director Jeremy Rush’s Netflix Original is a nonstop, frantic car action film. Frank Grillo stars as an unnamed getaway driver on a regular heist when he gets a mysterious call that instructs him to leave his crew behind. From then on, he’s wrapped in a tense game of cat and mouse with the dangerous caller as he races around the city. Following in the footsteps of Steven Knight’s Locke, Wheelman is another film that manages to keep its tension without ever leaving the car. Grillo does some of his best work yet as the wheelman.
Amazon Prime: Free Fire
From one great film set entirely in one location to another. Ben Wheatley’s action-comedy Free Fire is a brilliant idea that is sort of a misfire. Brie Larson is the middleman in an arms deal between the IRA and a weapons dealer. When the deal goes wrong, the two factions get locked in a lengthy shootout and the IRA members must recover the money and get the hell out. The great cast including Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, and Sharlto Copley doing their parts for with paper-thin premise. The action is entertaining for a while, but it does eventually become a bit tiresome and uninspired.
Also Streaming: The Wall
Hulu Plus: Jersey Girl
Jersey Girl is often pointed to as Kevin Smith’s worst film, and I wholeheartedly disagree (that would be Cop Out). He might not be the most gifted or stylish filmmaker, but his movies always have a lot of heart, and that’s no more prominently displayed than here, even if it’s more than a little melodramatic and formulaic. Ben Affleck is Ollie, a New Jerseyan struggling to raise his daughter after the death of his wife and the loss of his lucrative job. He’s given up on love, but he falls for a local video store clerk, Maya (Liv Tyler). Like I said, it’s quite derivative and you shouldn’t expect it to reinvent the wheel, but if you’re in the mood for an earnest, yet weepy film you could do far worse.
HBO GO: John Wick: Chapter 2
The second entry in the John Wick franchise (it feels so good to say those words) ups the ante in terms of spectacle and ends up being the best action film in a year full of great ones. After taking himself out of retirement, the legendary hitman (Keanu Reeves) is now called on to repay a debt and must travel to Rome to take down the head of a major crime family so her brother (Riccardo Scamarcio) can take over. Reeves has found the role of a lifetime in Wick, and he gives it his all in the beautifully-lit film’s many well-choreographed shootouts.
Also Streaming: May God Save Us
FilmStruck: The Whip and the Body
FilmStruck added a handful of films from famed Italian giallo director Mario Bava. I’m going to recommend here his sadomasochistic 1963 film The Whip and the Body. Although he is set to be married soon, Kurt (Christopher Lee) has an affair with a woman who then kills herself. His wife-to-be flees with another man, but after a night of passion, she agrees to come back until Kurt is found dead and his ghost haunts her. For his article on Bava’s best, Alex Miller called the film “a winding, erotic and baroque journey that feels like the best horror Edgar Allan Poe never wrote.”
Shudder: Universal Monsters: The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man
I’ve been highlighting a bunch of great modern horror titles this month across the different streaming services, but I’ve failed to discuss the classics until now. Shudder just added a great selection of the seminal Universal Monsters movies, or as they’ll henceforth be known in this sad world, the Dark Universe precursors. Experience such legends as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Elsa Lanchester in the thrilling classics. The comedy is largely of its time-and-place, but the horror is eternal, as these movies hold up as well today as they did back then.