“Enola Holmes” stars Millie Bobby Brown, Sam Claflin, Henry Cavill, and Helena Bonham Carter. Released on Netflix on September 23, 2020, the film chronicles the adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister.
The film is directed by Harry Bradbeer, who is known for directing several shows like “Killing Eve” and “Fleabag”. It is based on the book series The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer. For many years, Sherlock Holmes has solved many mysteries throughout London with his trustworthy sidekick Dr. Watson. Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes has become a cultural icon with his strong sense of observation and logical reasoning. However, there are specific cases that are so tough, one Holmes isn’t enough to crack them. If you’ve been following the history of Holmes for quite a while, you might have realized that he has relatives by his side, not just Watson. There’s his older brother Mycroft Holmes and surprisingly, his younger sister who hasn’t gotten the chance to be in the spotlight until now. This latest film involving Doyle’s characters takes the franchise in a different direction by placing its focus on Holmes’ energetic and determined sister. I’m not a huge Holmes fan myself, but I have watched several adaptations of the character, such as Guy Ritchie’s version and its sequel starring Robert Downey Jr., so my expectation for this new adaptation was pretty standard. With that in mind, let’s find out if this film is as exciting as solving actual mysteries.
Taking place during the Victorian era, the story follows the young sister of the famous Sherlock Holmes (Cavill). Enola Holmes (Brown) is a care-free and intelligent young woman whose beliefs are much different compared to the beliefs of other women, much to the dismay of her other brother Mycroft (Claflin). She’s inspired by her mother, Eudoria (Carter), who taught her almost everything such as jujitsu, reading books, and word puzzles. On her sixteenth birthday, Enola discovers that her mother has gone missing, leaving only her birthday gifts as her clues. Enola must use her trustworthy skills to travel to London and find her mother. Along the way, she encounters Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), a young lord who is targeted by a mysterious assassin. This is another adaptation that takes the Holmes lore in a light-hearted and family-friendly direction in order to attract people who are unfamiliar with the source material. Clearly, I’ve seen a couple of film adaptations that took this similar approach, most notably the “Gnomeo & Juliet” follow-up “Sherlock Gnomes” and the infamous “Holmes & Watson” back in 2018. Those films, in particular, struggled to crack the case in terms of living up to the concept’s potential. “Enola Holmes”, on the other hand, managed to solve it in a heartbeat. With a tight and fresh script by Jack Thorne and Harry Bradbeer’s quirky sense of direction, this is one of the better adaptations of “Sherlock Holmes” I have ever seen as well as one of the best surprises of the year. What I honestly liked about the film’s story was not just its fresh appeal and the colorful production design, but also the character of Enola. The film explores Enola’s growth by showcasing her personal journey to forge her own path in the midst of solving her first case during a time when women’s roles are automatically given to them. It can get a bit political with its themes, but it was balanced well with a fun and lively mystery that offers plenty of intrigue, twists, and heart, and who doesn’t love a fun mystery? Not every mystery needs to be serious, you know. After taking on supporting roles in “Stranger Things” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”, Millie Bobby Brown finally takes center stage, both as the main lead and as one of the film’s producers, in what could be her biggest challenge in her career. Unsurprisingly, she was able to impress me without any problems at all. She delivered the right amount of attitude and charisma into her performance and her fourth-wall-breaking sequences, resulting in her being the best part of the film. If you love her in “Stranger Things”, you might love her in “Enola Holmes” as well. I also thought that Henry Cavill was perfectly cast as Sherlock. Everything about him was absolutely brilliant in my eyes. He’s got the physique, he’s got the looks, and he’s got the accent that screams “intelligence”. If his goal was to make himself known for other roles outside of Superman when it comes to film, I would say he’s getting there. Sam Claflin also did pretty well as Mycroft, although I wasn’t into the fact that they made the character a bit too much of a jerk, but that’s just me. Going back to the film’s direction, I enjoyed the fact that it respects the lore it’s based on while delivering an upbeat and peculiar perspective on it. While Guy Ritchie’s take on the source material offered an approach that’s gritty, stylistic, and action-packed, Harry Bradbeer delivered an approach that’s clearly the exact opposite, along with plenty of dialogue that’s easy to pay attention to. As for its flaws, I would say that the film can be a bit too stretched out for its own good, clocking in at around two hours. While the pacing in the first two acts was pretty consistent, the third act slowed it down just a tiny bit.
Overall, it’s no mystery that “Enola Holmes” is a highly-entertaining and spirited take on the world of Sherlock Holmes. Lead by an irresistible main lead, an engaging screenplay, and a fresh style that’s envisioned by Harry Bradbeer, the film is another case that deserves to be solved by its audience. This is an easy recommendation for those who are familiar with the source material and are in a mood for something light-hearted. There have already been talks about making it into a franchise for Netflix as of this writing, and all I can say about that is…I am ready if they are.
“Antebellum” stars Janelle Monáe, Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, and Gabourey Sidibe. Released on September 18, 2020, the film is about an author who is trapped in a Southern slave plantation.
The film is written and directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz in their feature directorial debuts. We often get scared by a lot of things such as ghosts, demons, monsters, and skydiving. However, there’s one thing that I believe puts all of those fears to shame, and that, my fellow readers, is slavery. Having to work non-stop for the people who owned you and being treated like garbage is nothing but pure torture, especially from the perspective of an African American in the 19th century. Now imagine yourself reliving this difficult time. Scary, huh? Seriously, if that ain’t a horrifying nightmare for everyone, I don’t know what is. That is the topic of this weekend’s newest release, which sees this terrifying fear come to life before our own eyes. It’s never too early to celebrate Halloween, am I right? This is another film that was originally scheduled to hit theaters before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down, including cinemas. It was supposed to make its debut in April before it got delayed to August and then eventually got removed from the release schedule entirely. After a while, the film’s studio Lionsgate announced that it will be released through video on demand instead, making this the latest film to go from theatrical release to VOD release since the pandemic began. Such an interesting time to live in right now. Now that it’s finally available for our home-viewing pleasure, let's see if this latest horror film can bring in some early frights.
The story follows Veronica Henley (Monáe), a woman who’s having a successful career as an author. Her life suddenly changes when she is mysteriously abducted and is placed in the Antebellum South, where she is held as a slave at a plantation. She must use her wits to free herself and the other captives from this devastating time that they’re forced to live in. You might be thinking that this is a standard horror film that involves some type of time travel, but it’s actually more than just that. It’s also a film that represents one of the most provocative sins that are still happening today: the mistreatment of African Americans. Whether it’s during the Antebellum South or even today, people of color have been treated differently compared to the people who are white. What makes this situation even worse is that we don’t know when these heinous acts will end. These themes alone would’ve make this film another groundbreaking experience that’s in the same veins as “Da 5 Bloods” or even “Get Out”. Sadly, they’re the only things that I actually liked from the film. While it did represent this topic in a frustrating and honest matter, the representation was nearly ruined by its poor story choices and its lack of genuine frights. It’s like the writers/directors made a cake with the ingredients being two cups of the horrors of real-life problems and a few dashes of the elements of films from Jordan Peele and M. Night Shyamalan. Instead of a tasty treat that everyone will enjoy on a daily basis, it wound up being a sloppy and shameful mess that will make them question why they made it in the first place. It looked nice from a technical aspect, I can give them that, but when it comes to the storytelling, it’s a mediocre horror film that lacks any depth in its characters and the environment and has no idea what to do with it. I also want to point out that the second act of the film was not only misplaced and confusing in terms of the narrative, but also a bit slow. I think it would’ve been a bit better if it was placed after the title credits and then explore more of the situation that the characters are in. On a positive note, the cast did pretty well with their performances, with Monáe being the highlight as Veronica. While not her strongest performance in her career, Monáe did express the emotional and terrifying side of her character to a satisfying degree. Lange and Malone were also decent as Senator Denton and Elizabeth respectively, while Gabourey Sidibe did her best to keep the second act alive as Veronica’s friend Dawn.
Overall, “Antebellum” works fine as a call-to-action against the mistreatment of African Americans, but like its topic, its poor execution is simply impossible to ignore. I respect the filmmakers for sending this type of message out to the world with this film, and I hope I get to see more of that message really soon. Unfortunately, I have to say that the story they’re trying to tell to back up this message just didn’t work for me. As a regular horror film, it struggled massively to combine its themes with proper storytelling and scares in a way that Jordan Peele can with his films. I can’t say that it’s the worse thing I’ve seen, but I can say that I was pretty disappointed with this one.
“The Devil All the Time” stars Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Robert Pattinson, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, Eliza Scanlen, and Harry Melling. Released on Netflix on September 16, 2020, the film is about a young man who attempts to protect his loved ones from corruption and brutality.
The film is directed by Antonio Campos, who also directed “Afterschool”, “Simon Killer”, and “Christine”. It is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock. A lot of things can happen after the war, especially when you’re around people with terrifying secrets. This next film from Netflix is another book-to-movie adaptation, and much like “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”, this is a psychological perspective of a situation that will make you feel a bit uncomfortable. Looks like Netflix is starting to become a fan of the genre. This was something that I wanted to check out because of its cast, most notably Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson. Holland has been on the rise since bringing Spider-Man to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Pattinson is still gaining popularity from his fans in his post-Twilight days. Having these two together in a film will surely give the streaming service a respectable amount of views, but is it good enough for me to recommend it?
The story takes place in Southern Ohio and West Virginia after the events of World War II, where we see multiple characters in a series of unnerving and violent events spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s. The characters consists of Arvin Russell (Holland), a young man who is raised by his grandmother after his parents died, Lenora Laferty (Scanlen), Arvin’s step-sister, Carl (Clarke) and Sandy Henderson (Keough), a husband-and-wife murder duo, Sheriff Lee Bodecker (Stan) and Reverend Preston Teagardin (Pattinson), a preacher with a dark side. If you have read the book it’s based on (or read the rating box on the poster), you should already know how twisted and violent this film is going to be. In fact, seeing the film’s title alone would get the viewers to realize that they’re in for a treat, and not the kind that'll leave you feeling satisfied. The film deals with plenty of grim topics like corruption and violence which would’ve make this an experience that’ll leave viewers uncomfortable in a good way. Unfortunately, for me, it turned out to be an experience that’s neither provocative nor disturbing, resulting in an underwhelming thriller that didn’t leave that much of an impact. The only things that I personally enjoy were the cast and Campos’ filmmaking style. As expected, Tom Holland delivered a riveting performance as Arvin, a young man who does what it takes to protect the people he loves. This is another performance that fully captures the feelings of a character inside and out without over-expressing themselves. It’s subtle, but also effective. Robert Pattinson was also very enticing in his role as Preston as well as Clarke and Keough as Carl and Sandy respectively. I also want to point out that the narration in the film is provided by the book’s author himself, Donald Ray Pollock, which I thought was a nice touch for those who want to hear the story from the perspective of the person who wrote it. Antonio Campos has a remarkable style that captures the harsh and bleak reality of the film’s timeline, ranging from its respectable cinematography to its production design. It looks impressive from a filmmaker’s perspective. The problem that lies within it is that in terms of its plot and characters, it lacked an unnerving impact that it was going for. I’m pretty sure that most people will feel uncomfortable with its disturbing nature, but from my personal perspective, it felt like the film didn't have a strong script to go along with its intended nature. It definitely has its share of images that may upset certain people. However, I don't think they’re alarming enough to remain in my brain for hours. It also didn’t help that the film suffered a bit from some of its pacing issues. There were a few scenes that dragged a little bit, but thankfully, they didn’t take me out of the film entirely.
Overall, “The Devil All the Time” is an impressive-looking film that showcases this reality in a depressing way, even though it wasn’t able to wash away some of the sins that it committed during the process. While the film does deliver some remarkable talent onscreen and represents Campos’ stunning filmmaking style, its average screenplay and pacing kept it from reaching its intended potential. I would say it’s watchable for those who read the book, but as I mentioned before, it didn’t leave that much of an impact for me compared to the other films I’ve seen that also have disturbing content.
“Unpregnant” stars Haley Lu Richardson, Barbie Ferreira, Alex MacNicoll, Breckin Meyer, Giancarlo Esposito, Sugar Lyn Beard, and Betty Who. Released on HBO Max on September 10, 2020, the film is about a teenager who goes on a road trip with her former friend to get an abortion.
The film is directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg, who is known for directing several films from The Asylum as well as directing “A Deadly Adoption” and the 2020 remake of “Valley Girl”. It is based on the novel of the same name by Ted Caplan and Jenni Hendricks. You can’t have a fun road trip without someone by your side, especially since this road trip involves getting an abortion. HBO Max has gotten off to an impressive start with their original documentaries like “On the Record” and last month’s “Class Action Park”. The latter is worth checking out, by the way. Although, their original film library is having a hard time finding their footing. I’m not really impressed with how “An American Pickle” turned out even though it has earned some good reviews from critics. I enjoyed Seth Rogen’s performance, but the overall story wasn’t as delicious as a jar full of pickles. So I was hoping that the next few films from HBO Max would be able to turn things around, including a film that deals with abortion. I don’t watch a lot of films that involve this type of concept because let’s face it, abortions take away lives before they’re even born, and that’s no good. Despite the fact that they’re good for teens who aren’t ready to handle that type of responsibility, I belong in a group that doesn’t support this heartless crime. But don’t worry, I’m only viewing the film because of its cast and the positive reviews it’s been getting. So with that in mind, let’s find out if this latest original film from HBO Max is worth a trip.
The story centers on Veronica Clarke (Richardson), a high school student who dreams of enrolling in an Ivy League college. Her dream and her reputation are put into jeopardy, however, when she discovers that she is pregnant. After she learns that she can’t get an abortion in her home state without her parents’ permission, she convinces her former friend Bailey Butler (Ferreira) to take her to the next nearest clinic to get one, which is in Albuquerque. During their road trip, they attempt to rekindle their friendship while being forced to go through one mishap after another. The plot is equivalent to “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”, which is another film that involves a road trip to get an abortion, with a small dash of inspiration from Ridley Scott’s “Thelma & Louise”. You might understand what I mean if you saw one of the films I mentioned. This is one of the subjects in film that can be a bit tricky to represent if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you treat it poorly by making numerous jokes about it, you’ll be receiving death threats in the mail in a matter of minutes. If you make it too dark and depressing, then it will become unwatchable for its target audience. “Unpregnant” was able to properly balance this representation as well as deliver a fun and heartwarming tale about two former friends reconnecting with one another. Its thematic depth wasn’t as deep as it could’ve been when it comes to its subject matter, but it didn’t hinder this compelling experience thanks to its mixture of light-hearted comedy and teen drama that treats its mature topic with respect and care. Haley Lu Richardson delivered a performance that’s worthy of her talents as Veronica, but the real star here is Barbie Ferreira, who is known for starring in the HBO series “Euphoria”. Ferreira’s character, Bailey, is someone who isn’t afraid to get a little crazy, but is also meaningful during specific moments in the film. It’s the type of blend that Ferreira was successfully able to pull off mostly due to her charismatic performance and her chemistry with Richardson. She’s basically one of the reasons why I found this film entertaining and endearing. If you’re concerned that Ferreira’s character might ruin the film because of her personality, worry not. She passed with flying colors in my book. The rest of the cast, including Meyer and Esposito, also had some good moments that weren’t as memorable as the chemistry between the two main lead actresses, but were worthy enough to make it more watchable. Truth be told, I was a bit baffled to see Goldenberg helm this type of film after directing several low-budget television films, including the Lifetime movie “A Deadly Adoption”. At first, I was worried that the film might turn out to be as cheesy as those types of films, but after watching it for myself, I was surprised to see that she’s able to make it bearable and a bit more realistic. Goldenberg offered a respectable balance in its tone that understood the issues of its sensitive topic without constantly making fun of it. There was this one scene that I believe could’ve been ripped out of any low-brow road trip comedy, making its tonal shift not only unexpected, but a bit off-putting. Aside from that, the film’s tone has a proper balance that doesn’t offend or alienate its audience.
Overall, “Unpregnant” is a road trip that isn’t as boring as a real-life road trip. While it’s not a powerful portrayal of its themes, it has enough heart and humor to provide a well-acted and suitably-written comedy that’s not only entertaining, but also thoughtful. Thanks to the chemistry between Richardson and Ferreira, Goldenberg’s direction, and a screenplay that’s both honest and funny, this is one of the better films that HBO Max has to offer. Here’s hoping that the streaming service can keep that trend going in the future.
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” stars Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette, and David Thewlis. Released on Netflix on September 4, 2020, the film is about a woman who questions her relationship while meeting with her boyfriend’s parents.
The film is written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, who also directed “Synecdoche, New York” and “Anomalisa”. It is based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Iain Reid. Sometimes the most challenging part about being in a relationship is figuring out whether to end it or not. Writer/director Charlie Kaufman is back to give us a psychological perspective of this nerve-wrecking situation that’s streaming exclusively on Netflix. My experience with Kaufman’s filmmaking style was pretty rare since the only film I’ve seen from him so far was “Anomalisa” back in 2015, which I thought was a superb animated film for mature audiences. However, that didn’t stop me from checking it out because I heard some pretty good things about it…and because I got nothing else to see in the theater for a while. With that in mind, let’s see if this film is just as stressful as meeting your loved one’s parents.
The story follows a young woman (Buckley) who is contemplating on ending her relationship with her boyfriend Jake (Plemons). Before she can do that, Jake decided to take her to meet his parents (played by Collette and Thewlis respectively) at their farm. During their visit, the young woman experiences some unusual events that’ll make her think about her relationship even more. The best way I can describe this film is that it is metaphorical in its imagery and its dialogue, which is something that Charlie Kaufman is known for in his other works. It is also one of the films that challenge your mind and get you talking about what the heck you just saw on the screen, for better or for worse. I’m serious about the “for better or for worse” part because there is one group of people that are into films that get them thinking about their complex symbolism, and there’s another group that prefer films that provide escapism. Personally, this film felt more suitable for the former group. There were plenty of moments that I liked from this bizarre piece of cinematic art, but there were also some moments that left me feeling befuddled in a bad way, including the third act. Charlie Kaufman represented the complexities of the human condition with an unnerving sense of subtlety and beauty. However, the film suffered a bit from its uneven pacing and the ending. With a runtime of two hours and 14 minutes, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” can feel like it has overstayed its welcome for casual moviegoers, but it was able to make this visit a bit more welcoming thanks to its cast and Kaufman’s screenplay. Jessie Buckley delivered a remarkable performance as the young woman who’s stuck in an internal conflict with herself. This is something that I thought was well-handled because Buckley allowed the audience to understand her character’s emotions both physically and mentally in terms of her dialogue. Jesse Plemons was also good in his role as Jake. There’s nothing else I could really say about his performance. He was spot on. The best part of the cast, in my opinion, has to go to Toni Collette as Jake’s mother. Seriously, is there anything that this actress can’t do? Much like her role in “Hereditary”, Collette had plenty of enjoyable moments that made her unsettling performance more engaging. Another thing that I liked was Łukasz Żal’s cinematography, which was shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s a beautiful-looking film that displays its sequences like they were pieces of art, even the ones that are somewhat creepy. Going back to its flaws, the film does drag a little bit despite the cast doing their best to capture my interest, mostly because that there’s nothing going on until something strange starts to happen. Most of the film had sequences that offer some significance in its themes, such as the surreal imagery and the ones involving the high school janitor (played by Guy Boyd). These sequences alone were pretty impressive from a critical perspective, but for moviegoers who aren’t familiar with Kaufman’s other works and the source material, they can leave a pretty darn headache. The ending is also something that left me feeling a bit mixed. I didn’t love it, but I also didn’t hate it either. I just don’t know what to think of it honestly. It’s one of those things in movies that left me feeling undecided.
Overall, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a piece of art that’s both pretty and uncomfortable to look at, even though it lacked the qualities needed to get its modern audience interested. Its pacing and the ending are some of the things that prevented the film from reaching “best film” status in my eyes. For those who understand Kaufman’s storytelling skills, this is a suitable and unsettling experience that’s carried by a talented cast, a respectable screenplay, and its gorgeous cinematography. To be honest with you guys, this was a tough movie for me to talk about because of how it was represented on screen. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but the film said otherwise, leaving me with a confused state. I’m happy that some of the people liked, or even loved, this one because of the complexity of its themes. Personally, I thought that there are other films that handled the complexity a bit better than this. It’s a decent film that’s available on Netflix, but it’s not something that I would watch over and over again.