There’s lots to cover this week, so let’s just hop right into it.
First is an action thriller about a cop who becomes the target of criminals and her fellow police officers by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a new psychological horror film from the director of “The Witch,” a historical drama based on the war of the currents between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, and finally a horror movie featuring a cellphone app that kills.
Let’s get to the reviews.
First up is ”Black and Blue.”
A rookie policewoman from New Orleans, Alicia West (Naomie Harris), inadvertently captures the shooting death of a young drug dealer on her body cam.
After realizing the murder was committed by corrupt cops, she teams up with the only person from the community who’s willing to help her (Tyrese Gibson). Now, she finds herself on the run from both the vengeful criminals and the lawmen who desperately want to destroy the incriminating footage.
Now if this isn’t a touchy subject, I don’t know what is.
This work of fiction dives headfirst into the very real sense of animosity felt between law enforcement and the African American community.
I mean for crying out loud, the movie opens up with a black person jogging down a neighborhood street wearing a dark hoodie, only to be immediately stopped and physically harassed by police officers, simply for walking while being black.
The film makes its messaging incredibly clear right up front. It very much wants to tap into the resentment caused by the many recent cases of police brutality against African Americans.
Everything here is about the divide.
Our main character, Alicia, is someone caught up right in the middle, as she’s both black and a member of law enforcement.
Adding further to her conflicted emotions is the fact that she grew up in the area she now patrols as an officer of the law, and people she used to know as a child now look at her as an enemy.
In my mind, all this made for a fairly compelling setup. One that had the potential to capture the feeling of current political climate we find ourselves in.
And the film might have been able to do just that, if the writing wasn’t so ridiculously shallow.
The lack of subtlety here is almost laughable.
The police officers in this movie are so transparently evil, they border on being caricatures.
There’s no nuance. Just about every member of law enforcement we see is either insanely corrupt or complicit in said corruption.
I swear, every time a cop even got a glimpse of a black person here, they instantly began foaming at the mouth at the prospect of abusing and intimidating them.
The film invokes these very real world issues involving race and police brutality, but does so in such a simplistic, black and white manner, it can’t help but be seen as anything but childish.
To be clear, at its core I do support the basic message of this movie, and I believe its heart is in the right place. It’s just not very well done.
Surprisingly though, while the story itself might not be up to snuff, the actual storytelling here is remarkably solid.
The movie makes a point to set up a bunch of little details that end up paying off later in the movie somehow.
I was really impressed by the film’s attention to detail, especially considering how simple-minded the narrative came across.
It’s like the movie’s director was determined to do his best, regardless of how mediocre the script was.
I applaud that effort, but it still doesn’t make this film worth watching.
I suppose if you’re looking for a passable thriller with a satisfying ending, this might fit the bill. Just don’t expect anything resembling substance or subtlety.
“Black and Blue” is rated R.
Next up is “The Lighthouse.”
Two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
Nothing like a simple premise.
I gotta say, this is definitely one of the more distinct films I’ve ran across this year. Right out of the gate, you know it’s not going to be anything remotely resembling a modern day conventional horror movie.
From being shot in a 1.19:1 aspect ratio, resulting in an image even more square than the one you used to see on your old tube television, much less the widescreen perspective we’ve all grown accustomed to today, to being completely in black and white, this movie is incredibly reminiscent of old 1920-30 cinema.
But not only is the film’s look an aesthetic choice, it also adds to the film’s intense atmosphere. You almost feel claustrophobic watching something with this narrow of an aspect ratio, and it only serves to enhance the film’s cramped and isolated setting.
The other thing you’ll notice right off the bat is this movie is slavishly dedicated to maintaining period accurate dialogue, regardless of how difficult it might be to understand at times.
That fact will come as no surprise to fans of the director of this film, Robert Eggers.
His last movie, titled “The Witch,” is about a family of settlers in the 1600s who encounter increasingly horrifying circumstances all related to the nearby woods. And all of them speak exactly as you’d expect from people living in that time period.
That is definitely one movie I highly recommend watching with subtitles. I doubt I would have understood the characters otherwise. And for many people, I imagine “The Lighthouse” would be very similar.
Willem Dafoe basically talks like an old fashioned pirate, with lots of “ye’s,” “twer’s,” “twix’s,” and “tis’s” throughout.
And though I must admit I missed a few of the words he said, I didn’t really care because every time he opened his mouth to tell a story or berate Patterson’s character, it sounded like pure poetry to me.
The story here is one of madness. But from the beginning it’s very unclear who exactly is going mad.
Is it Dafoe as the crotchety old lighthouse keeper who does strange things at the top level of the lighthouse at night? Is it Pattinson’s character, who sees visions of things that shouldn’t exist?
Or are they both driving each other deeper into a delirium on this tiny isolated island with nothing but rain, fog, and seagulls to keep them company?
Frankly, I’m still not exactly sure, even after watching the movie.
The entire film is a journey of insanity. Just when you think the whole thing can’t get any more bizarre, the movie throws you a curveball that makes everything up until that point seem commonplace in comparison.
But even though I felt like I was going crazy watching this myself, I have to say I really liked it, in a messed up kind of way.
It’s one of those films so intense, so incredibly deranged, that you just can’t possibly look away.
That said, it definitely won’t be a movie for everyone.
It’s much more similar to arthouse films than most wide release horror. It often goes minutes at a time without a single line of dialogue. Plus it doesn’t have the jump scares many scary movies fans have grown accustomed to. Those looking for a simple screamfest should look elsewhere.
Instead this movie delivers a slow moving, incredibly atmospheric, unhinged experience. One that showcases Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson at their best.
“The Lighthouse” is rated R.
Third this week is “The Current War: Director’s Cut.”
Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon), the greatest inventors of the industrial age, engage in a battle of technology and ideas that will determine whose electrical system will power the new century.
Backed by J.P. Morgan, Edison dazzles the world by lighting Manhattan. But Westinghouse, aided by Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult), sees fatal flaws in Edison’s direct current design. Westinghouse and Tesla bet everything on risky and dangerous alternating current.
This is a movie I thought would never see the light of day.
Originally scheduled to be released back in 2017 by The Weinstein Company, this film was one of the many casualties buried under the sea of sexual abuse allegations made against disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
It didn’t help that pre release the film received a slew of negative reviews, panning the movie before it even saw the light of day.
A year later, a company named Lantern Capital won the distribution rights to “The Current War,” along with the remaining assets of The Weinstein Company, and news broke that the newly formed Lantern Entertainment planned to release the exact same version of the film that critics had already deemed terrible.
That didn’t sit well with the movie’s director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, especially considering the director’s claims that Weinstein sent him never ending notes “neutering the movie,” and eventually forced the director to send an incomplete version of the movie to be roasted by reviewers.
Luckily for Gomez-Rejon, there was a clause put into his contract. One that said if a cut of the movie was done without the director’s consent, the film’s executive producer, Martin Scorsese, would have to sign off on it.
And Scorsese, being a long time mentor of Gomez-Rejon, didn’t sign off on the movie until he knew Gomez-Rejon’s vision was complete.
So after some additional funds raised, and a few quick reshoots, here we are with his director’s cut. A version of the movie Gomez-Rejon is finally proud to show to the world.
So, was it all worth it?
Well as someone who wasn’t fortunate enough, or unfortunate as it may have been, to see the original version of the movie, I can’t compare the director’s cut to the Weinstein cut.
But what I can say is I definitely wasn’t too impressed with this movie.
Sure, it has this slick and flashy exterior, but the whole affair seemed so shallow.
It felt like I was watching a movie on fast-forward. The film was so desperate to cover a slew of historical moments, it never really gave us a chance to get to know the people involved in this war of the currents.
Their characters have zero depth. They brought on these fantastic actors like Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon, but they didn’t give them much of anything to work with.
It’s like the filmmaker was more obsessed with checking off a list of bullet points, rather than telling a complete coherent story with compelling characters.
To top it all off, I really didn’t care for how they filmed the movie. Just like “Yesterday” earlier this year, the cinematographer here seems completely obsessed with Dutch angles, the act of tilting the camera at an angle.
Like I said earlier this year, Dutch angles have a very specific usage in movies. They’re meant to invoke a feeling of unease. It’s a way of letting the audience know something is off about the scene they’re watching.
Here again, they’re just used randomly. This probably won’t bother most people, but personally I found it incredibly annoying.
In fact, I’d say the majority of viewers coming out of this movie will end up liking it okay.
It’s not awful, and that slick and flashy exterior I mentioned earlier will probably appeal to a lot of people. But when I watched this movie, I just saw a waste of potential. A missed opportunity to tell this incredible story that transformed the world into what it is today.
“The Current War: Director’s Cut” is rated PG-13.
Finally, the last movie this week is “Countdown.”
When a young nurse named Quinn (Elizabeth Lail) downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die, it tells her she only has three days to live.
With time ticking away and a figure haunting her, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out.
Well it’s about time. It took nearly until the end of October to finally get a proper cheap, gimmicky horror movie in theaters.
And what a wonderful trainwreck it is.
Look, I’m not gonna lie to you. “Countdown” is a bad movie. The script is generic, the acting is subpar, and the ‘horror’ aspects of this film basically amounts to nothing but lame forgettable jump-scares.
That said, for whatever reason, I deeply enjoyed this movie.
This film is filled to the brim with moments I thought were hilarious. Most are unintentionally funny sure, like some bad dialogue or a ridiculous plot point, but some of the comedy towards the middle of the film is actually intentional. And most surprisingly, some of it actually landed.
It’s almost like half way through, the filmmakers decided to turn the movie into a self-aware parody. Throwing in fun characters like a cellphone store employee who couldn’t be bothered to care about his customers and a nebbish looking demon obsessed priest.
I was shocked by how much this movie had me laughing. Perhaps the film just caught me in an odd state of delirium. Maybe it was sleep deprivation. I don’t know. Either way, I had a blast.
Objectively, it’s a movie that tries to be both a horror and comedy. One that isn’t spectacular at either. But I think the combination of terrible scares plus gags that tried just a little too hard created the perfect formula to tickle my funny bone at the time.
Sadly, despite being a wonderfully enjoyable movie-going experience for me, I don’t really think it’s a film I can recommend to anyone.
I’m sure a fair amount of teenagers will turn up to this film as it’s basically the only PG-13 horror movie that will be in theaters over Halloween. That is unless your favorite cinema still happens to be showing “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.”
For them, I’m sure “Countdown” will do just fine. The scares are far from creative, but they were at least moderately effective at times. And at the very least, the story is coherent. Heck, they even threw in a few twists and turns at the end to make it somewhat interesting.
Bottom line, if you’re looking for horror, you can definitely do better elsewhere. But if you’re looking for laughs, and you just so happen to have the exact same sense of humor I had late last Friday night, you might just strike comedy gold.
“Countdown” is rated PG-13.