“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.
“Mulan” stars Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li, and Jet Li. Released on Disney+ on September 4, 2020, the film is about a woman who takes her father’s place to serve in the Imperial Chinese Army.
The film is directed by Niki Caro, who also directed films such as “Whale Rider”, “North Country”, “McFarland, USA”, and “The Zookeeper’s Wife”. It is based on the Chinese folklore “The Ballad of Mulan” by Guo Maoqian, and it is a live action adaptation of the 1998 animated film of the same name. Whether we like it or not, the Disney live-action remake train is still chugging along with its next stop being…you guessed it, China. After months of waiting, we are finally getting to see if this latest remake can become a mighty warrior or a mighty wimp. Originally destined to be the next box office hit for Disney, the film was delayed multiple times from its original March 2020 release date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeing that the coronavirus is not going away anytime soon, the studio has finally decided to cancel its theatrical release in favor of a Disney+ release, but with a catch. This release marks the debut of the streaming service’s newest feature called “Premier Access” in which you have to pay an additional $30 to watch the film. That’s right, on a streaming service that allows you to watch a bunch of movies for free with a paid subscription, you have to give it more money in order to watch a new movie. That’s insane. On the plus side, however, you get to keep the film for as long as you stay subscribed to Disney+. Seeing that the film costs around $200 million to make, I can see why they made this decision. The coronavirus is still circling around the area, and the theaters are doing what they can to keep themselves open, even if it means decreasing their capacities by 50 percent. So if the film is released in theaters instead during this time, the probability of it breaking even would be…less than 50 percent. Releasing it on Disney+ with a price tag does sound irritating at first, but at least it will keep families safe at home during the pandemic. It would be interesting to see how much money it makes from Disney’s premiere access strategy, but right now, I’m more focused on how their latest remake turns out. With that in mind, let’s head out to war.
The film follows the same storyline as the 1998 animated film, except there are no musical numbers and there's no small dragon with the voice of Eddie Murphy. So if you’re hoping that the film will have the same formula as the recent Disney remakes like “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King”, you might feel either disappointed or grateful depending on your perspectives towards the latter two. For those who haven’t seen the 1998 version, the story centers on Mulan (Yifei), the eldest daughter of the Hua family. She learns that the Emperor of China (Jet Li) is issuing a decree that one man from each family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend China from Northern invaders lead by the ruthless Bori Khan (Lee) and a powerful witch named Xian Lang (Gong Li). Hua Zhou (Tza Ma), Mulan’s father and a former war veteran, was chosen to take part in the army despite his poor health. Fearing that her father may not survive, Mulan decides to take his place by disguising herself as a man. With the help of Commander Tung (Yen) and the other recruits, including the ambitious Chen Honghui (An), Mulan must face every obstacle possible in order to save China and embrace her true potential. The film marks the first Disney live-action remake to earn a PG-13 rating as opposed to the usual PG rating that the other remakes received, mostly due to its violent content. So there will be some sequences that might be a bit intense for the younger crowd. Just throwing it out there in case you’re planning on watching it with your kids. This is a mature take on the animated version’s narrative that showcases the main character’s journey of self-discovery, which is one of the main reasons why the 1998 film still holds a place in my heart, with the other reason being Mushu, of course. What I like about this live-action upgrade is that it honored the themes and Chinese traditions that were represented in the animated version, such as being honorable and true to one’s self, while offering some new material to keep the story from being too familiar. We still see Mulan as a woman who’s willing to save her father and bring honor to her family despite the consequences of breaking tradition. I still see Mulan as a great role model who inspires other women to not be afraid of who they want to be, and I’m happy to see that portrayal again in a whole new light. The next thing I want to talk about is the cast, which consists of actors from Asian descent. Smart move, Disney, smart move. Liu Yifei assumes the role of the title character that once belonged to Ming-Na Wen in the animated version. She’s been in other films before this one, but unsurprisingly, I haven’t heard of anything she’s been in because they’re mostly from China, so I’m counting this as my first encounter with this actress/singer. All I can really say about her performance was that it was fine. She definitely captured the spirit of the character in her own way, even though her acting was a hit-and-miss. I still prefer Wen’s portrayal of Mulan, but Yifei has enough moments of her own to reintroduce the character to a new generation of fans. Donnie Yen and Yoson An were also decent in their roles as Commander Tung and Chen Honghui respectively, with the latter being a tolerable addition to the film. The only character in the remake that interested me the most was Xian Lang, who was portrayed by Gong Li. I was concerned that she’ll wind up being a generic sidekick to Jason Scott Lee’s Bori Khan, a vile warrior who’s based on Shan Yu from the animated version. Seeing that she actually got plenty of things to do in the film was, in my eyes, quite surprising. Without giving away spoilers, I thought the screenwriters did a nice job at attempting to give Xian Lang some necessary depth. As for Li’s performance, it was good. Not bad, not perfect. Just good enough. I also want to mention Jet Li, who was almost unrecognizable as the Emperor of China in terms of his makeup and his voice. He was passable in the role, but I couldn’t help but feel that the way he sounds wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. It didn’t detract my experience with the film, so I’m thankful for that. The film’s production design and the costumes were also the best parts because of how they accurately reflect the lifestyle and traditions of the Chinese culture. They looked absolutely stunning, in my opinion. So yeah, there are definitely some good things that can be found in this latest live-action remake from Disney, but unfortunately, there are also some bad things that could bring dishonor to some die-hard fans of the 1998 version. Obviously, this is another remake that lacked the impact of its animated counterpart in terms of its storytelling, a common flaw that has plagued the other live-action remakes before this one. While I did appreciate the film for staying true to the source material as well as delivering some fresh material to make itself stand out on its own, I thought the execution on these qualities fell a bit flat. The clunky narrative structure didn’t help that much as it constantly rushed through specific scenes without giving them the amount of depth they deserve. For a film that’s less than two hours long, that’s pretty annoying. The action sequences were also something that left me feeling mixed. On the one hand, the choreography was simply enjoyable. On the other hand, the action that was shown onscreen wasn’t as exciting as I thought they would be. If its goal was to create an action style that resembles the kung fu movies from the past, then I hate to say that it wasn’t able to accomplish that mission. Because of the flawed editing and the forgettable stunt work, the film’s sequences struggled to combine realistic war elements with the elements that require suspension of disbelief.
Overall, the live-action remake of “Mulan” is honorable with its themes and inspiration, but its flawed storytelling prevented it from making a man out of me. It definitely has plenty of likable moments, such as the cast, the messages, and the production design. However, it also has moments that make this another disappointing addition to the studio’s “live-action remake” collection, such as its rushed narrative and the action sequences. It’s something that you will either love or hate depending on your expectations towards it. Was it worth paying additional money for? Not really, but hey, it could’ve been a lot worse. It’s a fine watch for those who are interested and are familiar with the 1998 version. As for those who are saving up their money on important stuff, they’re better off waiting until it’s free to watch on Disney+.
“Tenet” stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh. Releasing on September 3, 2020, the film has a secret agent attempting to prevent World War III.
The film is written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who also directed films such as “Following”, “Memento”, “Batman Begins”, “Inception”, and “Dunkirk”. You know how time travel in movies and television gives viewers an opportunity to relive specific parts in history? Well, one man is about to give us a whole new meaning of “time travel”. Acclaimed director Christopher Nolan is back once again with another film that appears to be his most challenging one yet. He has tackled the mind-blowing world of dreams in “Inception”, and he has amazed us with the wonders of space travel and wormholes in “Interstellar”. Now, he’s about to handle the stunning world of time and quantum physics. You got to appreciate the guy for taking a massive interest in science. After being delayed a couple of times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the film has finally arrived to bring back the cinematic experience that we’ve been missing for so long because knowing Nolan, he has a severe passion for the art of cinema. This is one of my most anticipated films of 2020 mostly because of my curiosity towards its bizarre concept and Nolan’s involvement. Whenever he’s on board, we can already assume that we’re in good hands. It has the cinematic qualities to impress plenty of fans of Nolan’s works, but will it also win over casual moviegoers? Before I continue, I just want to let you guys know that I attended an early access screening of the film before its official release. I will do my best to keep things spoiler-free in this review so that you can experience it for yourself…if you’re able to. Now that I got that out of the way, let’s get started.
The film tells the story of a CIA agent named…um. That’s funny, he doesn’t have a name. He’s just called “the Protagonist” according to the credits. That’s fine. I’ll just name him after the actor who’s playing him, John David Washington. Sounds about right. So, CIA agent John David Washington is recruited into a secret organization after his mission went awry. He learns that this organization is investigating the origin of objects that can move backwards in time. With the assistance of his handler Neil (Pattinson), John David Washington must prevent the Russians from using them to start World War III. Similar to “Inception” and “Interstellar”, “Tenet” used scientific methods to create a unique cinematic experience that combines breathtaking sequences with a plot that’s both complex and engaging. Think of this as a summer blockbuster with a brain…that’s released after the summer. Nolan usually has a way of reminding his audience that even though his film has the style of a cinematic blockbuster, it also has a lot of elements that they got to pay attention to, such as the dialogue and the concept’s rules. This can be troublesome for certain viewers, especially when they have to deal with the sound mixing and the convoluted story. Personally, I have no problems following the story because of how Nolan made the dialogue-driven sequences interesting with his direction and screenplay. Despite its runtime being two and a half hours, the film moved along quite briskly, which should help make the dialogue scenes more bearable. There were definitely a few moments where the dialogue was a bit hard for me to hear due to the sound mixing, but thankfully, they weren’t as irritating as the moments from “Interstellar”. While the storytelling in “Tenet” didn’t quite reach the same level as the likes of “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” (two of my favorite films from Nolan), it still has enough creativity and mind-bending thrills in its complex concept to represent an outstanding experience from start to finish. John David Washington delivered another solid performance as the Protagonist despite his character depth being a bit flat. He really didn’t have a strong enough personality to make viewers care about whether he lives or dies, resulting in him being one of the film’s primary weaknesses. I think the explanation behind this character, in my opinion, was that he was made to serve as the audience’s point of view. We’re experiencing certain things the same way the Protagonist is experiencing himself. That would be my personal guess. Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki were also great in their roles as Neil and Kat respectively, and Kenneth Branagh offered an intimidating and absorbing performance as Andrei Sator, a Russian oligarch and Kat’s husband. Another thing I want to mention is the film’s technical aspects, which were my personal highlights of the experience. Ranging from the immersive cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema to the incredible visual effects, “Tenet” is a mind-bending extravaganza that successfully generates the spirit of a dialogue-driven spy thriller and the soul of a visual-heavy action blockbuster. The way they did the “inversion” sequences, especially the action parts, was just…wow. If I could tell you about them, I would, but I can’t because as I mentioned before, this is a spoiler-free review. They’re just something that you have to see for yourselves. I also thought that the musical score from Ludwig Göransson was quite impressive. Not one of my favorites from him, but it was good regardless.
Overall, Christopher Nolan scored another big hit in the form of “Tenet”, a time-twisting cinematic experience that’s riveting and dazzling enough to earn its sense of convolution. While its main character wasn’t as interesting as its concept, the film was able to compensate by delivering an original and eye-opening thriller that boasts an impressive cast, Nolan’s filmmaking style, an engaging plot, and some incredible visuals. This is definitely something that I would like to rewatch and see if I miss anything during my first viewing. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, probably later on down the road. The film finally opens this weekend, and based on how I feel towards it, it is something that must be experienced on the big screen.