Home Video Round-Up 5/7/2022

No Exit (4/26/2022)

No Exit was supposed to be a 20th Century Fox release but like a lot of pre-merger movies from that studio under a certain budget it’s now being dumped onto streaming, which I think should annoy me but if I’m being honest I can’t say this is something I’d ever be terribly interested in seeing in theaters and home release is probably right for it.  The film is not an adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play of the same name, though I suppose if you squint you can find similar themes of flawed people stuck together in a hotbox, but really this is just a thriller plain and simple.  The film follows a woman who finds herself in the middle of nowhere when a snowstorm shuts down the roads and she’s forced to hunker down in a visitor center with a handful of other motorists.  There, she notices a young girl tied up in the back of a parked car and from there needs to figure out who the kidnapper is and how to stop them and save the girl.  So, it’s a bit of a high concept film but as high concepts go it’s not terribly novel, and while there are some decent performances here by people like Havana Rose Liu and Danny Ramirez, there isn’t really any star power in the film’s small ensemble beyond Dennis Haysbert and Dale Dickey.  They mystery also resolves itself really early on and becomes more of a cat and mouse thing, but not necessarily one that’s delivering much you haven’t seen.  There are some good moments here and there and it’s reasonably well made within its small scope and modest budget, but I can’t say anything about it really excels or makes it standout either.  It will pass the time if you’re bored, might be something good to watch on an airplane or something.

*** out of Five

Deep Water (5/1/2022)

I’ve noticed lately that the glut of “effects driven franchise movies” coming out of Hollywood these days has led to a sort of rose tinted nostalgia for the trashy movies the studios used to put out in previous eras and I think that’s mostly a mistake.  Both Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay put out movies this year and while neither were exactly embraced with open arms there was an odd nostalgia in the air for both mens’ careers that certainly feels odd given that these same critics (rightly) had nothing nice to say about their past work.  It’s like reminiscing about Wal-Mart in the age of Amazon.  And a similar things seems to be happening in regards to the “erotic thriller” genre in the wake of director Adrian Lyne’s return to cinema after twenty years with his Ben Affleck starring erotic thriller Deep Water.  Do not let nostalgia fool you, with very few exceptions the wave of erotic thrillers we got in the 80s and early 90s were actually terrible.  Many of them were basically glorified softcore pornography and they deservedly won Razzie after Razzie when they were new and by and large his association with the genre kind of ran Lyne’s career into the ground and its sad that rather than move on he’s decided to return to this tainted well with his return.  The film involves Ben Affleck playing the husband to a woman played by Ana de Armas, who has apparently grown tired of the Affleck character’s skills in the bedroom and has convinced him to let her sleep with other men… you get the distinct impression that even if Affleck has allowed this he isn’t really okay with it, and he becomes something of a suspect once some of the men she’s had affairs with turn up dead.

So, obviously this couple is decidedly not opening up their marriage in a healthy and open way and you get the distinct impression that they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by consulting some online resources and maybe arranging for the de Armas to do her liaisons at a hotel or something instead of cucking Affleck in his own house.  But this is an erotic thriller, of course it’s not interested in the concept of healthy relationship dynamics being a possibility, it’s instead looking to display how everyone’s life is going to go to shit in the most salacious way possible if they diverge from god sanctioned monogamy.  Even compared to the erotic thrillers of old, however, this is a little weak.  Generally speaking those movies at least delivered on the legitimized skinimax thrills they were made for, and while this one isn’t exactly sexless it sure puts a lot of its liaisons off-screen and rarely goes below the belt in its gaze.  And the way the story develops is just the stupidest thing.  Whatever mystery it sets up is resolved in ways that are fairly anticlimactic and it ends with a very strange car chase.  Also there’s some weird stuff with snails that goes nowhere.  To make things worse you can’t help but compare this to David Fincher’s Gone Girl, which also featured Affleck and actually managed to take a salacious marriage story like this and do something infinitely more intriguing and well executed with it, by contrast this feels like a Dollar Store imitation.  Whatever affections people have for this genre and this movie are misplaced, it’s a total turkey.

*1/2 out of Five

Downfall: The Case Against Boeing (5/3/2022)

If you read about a story in the news you can probably bet there will be a documentary about it sometime in the next five years and this would be the documentary about the Boeing 737 Max scandal.  I remember hearing about the initial pair of crashes that set off this crisis at Boeing but it seems the whole affair kind of fell off my radar after that, which is unfortunate because the findings of the ensuing investigation are very worth knowing about.  In fact the evidence certainly seems pretty damning.  The movie makes a pretty effective case that when Boeing started falling behind Airbus they tried to solve it with a merger that ultimately left them very beholden to shareholders and, tale as old as time, they started cutting corners in order to satisfy Wall Street’s demands and this finally blew up in their face in the form of the 737 Max, which had a faulty system they tried to cover up in order to avoid additional regulatory scrutiny.  It’s pretty sickening.  The movie itself is a pretty straightforward talking head doc building a narrative against the company and as the title implies it’s kind of just presenting the case against without the “case for,” though unless this thing is really manipulating facts I’m not sure the is much of a case for the company to make.  I guess the one thing that seems to be missing here is a way forward.  Boeing it too big to fail and in the grand scheme of things I don’t think they necessarily should in much the way I don’t necessarily think the world would have been a better place if Ford had folded after their Pinto scandal.  So what is an appropriate way for a company to move forward from something like this?  I don’t have the answer to that and I’m not sure if the film does either.

*** out of Five

Windfall (5/6/2022)

Windfall would be the second “limited cast straight-to-streaming thriller” I’ve seen recently, a trend that might have been the result of pandemic era shooting conditions.  This one is set at a remote Southern California vacation home of a tech CEO (Jesse Plemmons), who unexpectedly arrives at this home with his wife (Lily Collins) to find a squatter (Jason Segel) robbing the place.  Panicking, the robber takes the two of them hostage and there’s a standoff of sorts as they wait for a cash delivery to arrive that the robber intends to run away with.  From there it becomes clear that the CEO’s marriage to his wife is rocky and the process of being held hostage together kind of makes them snipe at each other while in captivity.  So, it’s kind of like The Ref but played straight instead of as a comedy.  It’s a setup with some potential but I don’t think they really pull it off here.  The CEO is of course an asshole, but the film seems to be trying to draw some kind of equivalence between him and the violent criminal hostage taker that I don’t think really holds together on that level and I especially don’t believe the borderline Stockholm Syndrome that the wife is supposed to go through, which is pretty key to the movie and neither the script nor Lily Collins performance really sell it.  There’s some interesting elements here and I enjoyed Plemmons and Segel and also Collins when she isn’t being asked to do the impossible but it’s not really enough and the minimalism of the setup doesn’t have quite the novelty that I think the creators assumed it did.

** out of Five

Turning Red (5/7/2022)

As I’ve said a number of times recently I’m a bit of a defender of latter day Pixar, which I think gets held to a bit of an unfair standard by critics, so it’s interesting that their latest film Turning Red is their first film in a while where I’m actually less enthused than the critical consensus.  That isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot here to like.  The film looks at a thirteen year old girl from a Chinese immigrant family who suddenly turns into a human sized red panda one morning and learns that this is a family curse and that she needs to just endure for a month before it can be exorcised through a ritual when the moon is in a specific alignment.  The film’s director, Domee Shi, has been very vocal about the fact that the film (minus the whole red panda thing) is drawing from her own childhood memories and the conflicts she had with her mother, who I think would qualify as what they call a “Tiger Mom.”  The film does a good job or really putting you in this protagonist’s perspective and you can definitely see why her mother’s behavior would seem rather mortifying to her.  The problem though is that I don’t think the red panda part holds together even a little as a metaphor.  Many have viewed these transformations as being about anxiety over puberty, which makes sense initially but with very few exceptions puberty isn’t something you can decide to stop or not stop at a certain point and it’s also not something that’s exclusive to any one family.  I suppose this could be more of a statement about the Chinese traditionalist family demanding people like this character repress their sexual urges, which is a much less comfortable thing to try to talk about critically for a variety of reasons and is kind of a weird thing to make a Pixar movie about.  There’s probably something there but I don’t think it works cleanly and I can’t say I was terribly impressed by the film’s chaotic kaiju inspired ending.  In general I think I would have liked it better if it was a straight coming of age story with no red panda hijinks but at that point why are you making a Pixar animation?  There’s enough in the film to make it worth a watch but I think it’s kind of a confused movie in a lot of ways.

*** out of Five


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