Moonfall
2022
**
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Michael Peña, Charlie Plummer, Kelly Yu, Donald Sutherland

10 years after their Space Shuttle mission went mysteriously wrong, two former astronauts team up with an amateur scientist when the Moon leaves its orbit and heads towards Earth. While they are saving the planet, their family members cannot decide if they should run for their lives or stop and view the spectacle. Roland Emmerich has become known for his disaster and science fiction spectacles, which are often dumb and sometimes entertaining, and now he attempts to combine these two genres into one movie. The story starts with scenes of destruction, which are reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. The second half, on the other hand, is closer to Stargate and Independence Day. On the whole, this is a weird, occasionally confusing, and frequently stupid mishmash, which doesn’t really work. That explains why the movie was such a massive box office flop.


Ghostbusters: Afterlife
2021
***½
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor, Paul Rudd, Annie Potts, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver

After one of the legendary Ghostbusters dies alone, his estranged daughter and her two kids inherit his farm in Oklahoma, and learn the reason why the (grand)father left New York City and became a hermit. After two popular but mediocre classics, Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989), and a forgettable female reboot, my expectations were not high for another ghostbusting movie, but, lo and behold, this is a funny and entertaining science fiction comedy with nicely drawn characters. However, there is no escaping that if you have seen any of the previous three, the script does not offer any surprises. The 1980s cast appeared in different roles in the 2016 movie, but now they get to bring back their original characters.


Spencer
2021
**½
Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Jack Farthing, Sean Harris, Sally Hawkins, Freddie Spry, Jack Nielen, Stella Gonet, Richard Sammel

While the British royal family gather together to spend Christmas in 1991, the mentally fragile Princess Diana attempts to deal with her life in the public eye and the imminent collapse of her marriage. Pablo Larraín’s Jackie was an unconventional but dull portrait of Jackie Onassis, and I could use the same words to describe this psychological drama about the Princess of Wales. This is not a traditional biopic (neither was Diana), but a compelling portrayal of a woman having a nervous breakdown, but I’m not sure why that woman needs to be Diana. Nevertheless, Kristen Stewart gives a very fine lead performance. Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack is fitting but annoying as hell.


Benedetta
2021
***½
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Cast: Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling, Daphné Patakia, Lambert Wilson, Olivier Rabourdin, Louise Chevillotte, Hervé Pierre, Clotilde Courau

In 17th-century Italy, nun Benedetta begins to experience mystical and physically devastating visions of Jesus. At the same time, she is sexually attracted to Bartolomea, a young and abused peasant woman who takes refuge in the convent. Paul Verhoeven is no stranger to courting controversy, so a story about a lesbian nun sounds like right up his alley. However, his fact-based story turns out to be an intriguing historical drama and compelling character portrait, which doesn’t take a stand on whether Benedetta is a true mystic or just a con artist. Based on Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy by Judith C. Brown.


Only the Brave
2017
****
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, Andie MacDowell, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, Alex Russell, Dylan Kenin, Scott Foxx, Ryan Busch

Eric Marsh is superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite crew of wildland firefighters. Eric and his troubled young recruit Brendan are not the only members of the crew who struggle to balance their dangerous and all-encompassing work with their family lives. Joseph Kosinski blends real life events, good old-fashioned storytelling, great character work, strong performances, and seamless special effects into a gripping and moving 2-hour drama. Based on the GQ article No Exit by Sean Flynn.


Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front)
2022
**½
Director: Edward Berger
Cast: Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Daniel Brühl, Sebastian Hülk, Aaron Hilmer, Moritz Klaus, Adrian Grünewald, Edin Hasanovic, Thibault de Montalembert

In spring 1917, 17-year-old Paul Bäumer and three of his classmates volunteer for the Imperial German Army. However, the first night in the trenches is enough to shatter their idealistic view of the Great War. This war drama is based on Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, which was previously filmed in 1930 and 1979. This German adaptation drops almost all of the character backstories, takes some liberties with the actual history, and focuses mostly on the gory trench warfare. The battle scenes are harrowing and the anti-war message is clear, but this film doesn’t add anything I haven’t seen in other recent releases set in this period, such as 1917, Tolkien, and War Horse.


Hytti nro 6 (Compartment No. 6)
2021
****
Director: Juho Kuosmanen
Cast: Seidi Haarla, Yuri Borisov, Dinara Drukarova, Julia Aug, Galina Petrova, Konstantin Murzenko, Sergei Agafonov, Mihail Brašinski,Tomi Alatalo

In the late 1990s, Finnish student Laura embarks on a long train journey from Moscow to Murmansk, during which she is forced to share a small compartment with a blunt Russian man. This delightful Finnish (rail) road movie is loosely based on Rosa Liksom’s novel. It offers an original but authentic premise, and fills it with laughs, heartfelt moments, and terrific performances.


Barbarian
2022
**½
Director: Zach Cregger
Cast: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, Matthew Patrick Davis, Richard Brake, Kurt Braunohler

Tess arrives in her airbnb accomodation in the run-down part of Detroit, but finds it occupied by a man named Keith. Zach Cregger’s directorial debut starts well, as Tess decides to stay in the house but is unsure if she can trust this stranger. However, when Cregger sends Tess down to the dark and creepy basement, the whole thing turns into a disappointingly familiar exercise in horror movie tropes.


Uncharted
2022
**
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Antonio Banderas, Rudy Pankow, Tieman Jones, Manuel de Bias, Nolan North

Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan, two treasure hunters who don’t trust each other, team up to find the gold hidden by the Magellan expedition, but they have competition. This dull action adventure movie thinks of itself as a modern day Indiana Jones franchise, but unfortunately it doesn’t even reach the modest National Treasure level. What it most reminds me of is Red Notice, another recent movie with undeveloped characters, forgettable performances, stupid script, ridiculous set pieces, constant double-crosses, and complete lack of jeopardy. The episodic structure is a giveaway that the whole thing is based on Sony’s video game series.


Sonic the Hedgehog 2
2022
**
Director: Jeff Fowler
Cast: James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Shemar Moore, Idris Elba, Jim Carrey

While Sonic makes a new friend in Tails, a two-tailed fox, Dr. Robotnik exploits Knuckles, a bad-tempered alien who is looking for the Master Emerald, an object of great power. The surprisingly entertaining Sonic the Hedgehog delivered 90 minutes of good-natured silliness. This overlong and mechanical sequel, where the characters zoom around searching for a jewel, offers a staunch reminder that this franchise is based on a video game after all. The laughs are few and far apart, and only when Jim Carrey is onscreen.


Spaceship Earth
2020
**½
Director: Matt Wolf
Cast:

In 1991, four women and four men were sealed inside Biosphere 2, the largest manmade closed ecosystem in the world, where they planned to live the next two years studying its viability as a self-sustaining space colony. Matt Wolf’s underwhelming documentary depicts this fascinating endeavour, but fails to squeeze a drop of tension out of the events, although even the briefest research reveals that there was plenty of drama. It certainly feels like some compromises were made to secure the exclusive film footage and interviews. Wolf shows that Biosphere 2 was frowned upon by the scientific community and ridiculed by the media, but he fails to ask any tough questions from the biospherians or the members of the counterculture group who initiated the entire project.


Colectiv (Collective)
2019
*****
Director: Alexander Nanau
Cast:

In October 2015, a fire at Colectiv Club in Bucharest, Romania killed 27 people and left 180 injured. Over the coming months, 37 additional victims died in hospitals, many due to bacterial infections. This enthralling and harrowing documentary depicts the aftermath of the events from two different perspectives. In the first half, we follow the journalists of Gazeta Sporturilor, who investigate the fire and discover that the Romanian health care system uses diluted disinfectants. The second half concentrates on the new Minister of Health Vlad Voiculescu, who attempts fix the system. However, both journalists and politicians are about to find out that corruption runs deep in Romania.


Spy
2015
***
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, Jude Law, Peter Serafinowicz, Morena Baccarin

Following the success of The Heat, Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy return with another amusing collaboration. This time she plays a CIA desk jockey, who becomes a field agent overnight in order to recover a lost nuke. Like Johnny English back in the day, this comedy parodies James Bond and other spy movies. It offers some funny moments, especially in the first half, but Feig needlessly drags out a simple premise to a 2-hour movie. There are some nice performances, though. McCarthy is reliably energetic, Jason Statham makes good fun of his macho tough guy image as a fellow CIA agent, and Rose Byrne is hilariously obnoxious as the entitled villain.


Triple Frontier
2019
**½
Director: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal, Adria Arjona, Sheila Vand

Five Delta Force veterans reunite for a lucrative mission in the South American jungle. They plan to break into a cartel hideaway, kill the drug lord, and steal his millions. Everything goes smoothly, until the sight of all the money turns these seasoned professionals into greedy idiots. This entertaining but derivative military heist movie was co-scripted by Mark Boal, the Academy Award winning writer of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Boal adds credibility to the military details, but do not attempt to find the depth of his previous work in this escapist drama. Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (2020) tells a similar story with comparable success.


Ready or Not
2019

Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Cast: Samara Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Elyse Levesque, Nicky Guadagni, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell

Grace is marrying to the wealthy Le Domas family, but her new husband Alex failed to mention that on her wedding night she must take part in a brutal game. This stupid and gory horror comedy is neither funny nor particularly scary. It is delightfully short, though, but that comes at a price. Grace transforms from a hysterical newlywed to a ruthless killer in a matter of minutes. As for the other members of family and staff, I still have no clue who is who.


Angel Has Fallen
2019
**½
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Piper Perabo, Nick Nolte, Danny Huston

The years of service in the military and the Secret Service have taken their toll on Mike Banning’s body. However, the health issues become irrelevant when Mike is framed for an assassination attempt on President Trumbull. This action movie sequel maintains the level of enjoyability, plausibility and stupidity of the previous releases, Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen. This is the longest movie in the series and it tones down the violence to a slightly less graphic level.


Old
2021
***
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Abbey Lee, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ken Leung, Eliza Scanlen, Aaron Pierre, Embeth Davidtz, Emun Elliott

The Cappa family travel to a tropical holiday destination, where the four of them and half a dozen other people end up trapped on a secluded beach, where time seems to pass at a very rapid pace. Although this is based on existing material (a graphic novel titled Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters), the end result is a typical M. Night Shyamalan mystery with a twist ending. Shyamalan’s recent output has been poor, but this is a silly and enjoyable (body) horror movie, as along as you don’t pause for one second to think about all the plot holes and unanswered questions.


The Gray Man
2022
**
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Dhanush, Alfre Woodard, Billy Bob Thornton

An unnamed prisoner is recruited as an assassin for the CIA’s Sierra program. Several years later, someone from within the agency wants to end the program and eliminate the existing Sierra agents. This boring action movie cuts right to the chase. It introduces a skilled but emotionless hero we couldn’t care less about. More than 30 minutes in, we suddenly get a flashback which attempts and fails to give the protagonist some human-like qualities. The Russo brothers directed some enthralling action in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, but here the set pieces range from mediocre to incomprehensible. The main issue, however, is that the script is utterly unoriginal. Ryan Gosling gives another stoic lead performance and Chris Evans fails to shine as a one-note villain. This is based on a book series by Mark Greaney, and a sequel is obviously in the works.


CODA
2021
****½
Director: Sian Heder
Cast: Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Daniel Durant, Marlee Matlin, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Amy Forsyth, Kevin Chapman

As a hearing person, 17-year-old Ruby is an essential interpreter for her deaf parents and brother. During her last year of high school, she struggles to balance her family’s needs with her own dreams of becoming a singer. This feelgood film is based on the 2014 feature La Famille Bélier. The story is formulaic and manipulative but irresistibly funny and warm-hearted. These wonderfully portrayed characters feel like authentic three-dimensional human beings. The picture, screenplay, and Troy Kotsur, who plays Ruby’s father, won Academy Awards. The title refers to a child of deaf adults.


American Made
2017
****
Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright Olsen, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones, Jayma Mays, Lola Kirke, Connor Trinneer, Mauricio Mejía, Alejandro Edda, Benito Martinez

In the late 1970s, the CIA recruits Barry Seal, a commercial airline pilot, to fly reconnaissance missions in Central America. A few years later, he is running guns to the Nicaraguan Contras, transporting drugs from Colombia for the Medellin Cartel, and making so much money that he doesn’t know where to put it. This light-hearted and entertaining caper story is based on true events. Gary Spinelli’s script doesn’t spend one second questioning whether we should really be rooting for this represehensible man. Nevertheless, Tom Cruise gives an unusually relaxed performance in the lead. The HBO documentary series The Invisible Pilot tells a similar story of a different unapologetic aviator.


The Nightingale
2018
***
Director: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman, Harry Greenwood, Ewen Leslie, Charlie Shotwell, Michael Sheasby

In 1825, an Irish ex-convict teams up with an aboriginal tracker to seek revenge through the Tasmanian wilderness against an English officer who took everything from her. Jennifer Kent’s follow-up to The Babadook is a different type of horror film. The story is set in a period of horrific sexism, racism, abuse, and violence. The prevailing air of lawlessness in the depicted era reminded me of Deadwood, and like the TV show, this is extremely unpleasant viewing at times. All in all, however, this is a powerful and well-acted drama with layered main characters, who share a mutual hatred of the English.


Safe House
2012
**½
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Cast: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Rubén Blades, Nora Arnezeder, Robert Patrick

A junior CIA agent is bored with his job as the housekeeper of a Cape Town safe house. However, he gets more than he bargained for by having to protect a former agent who has gone rogue. This perfectly entertaining but utterly predictable action movie stands out only by virtue of being set and shot in South Africa. Denzel Washington could play this smartest-guy-in-the-room role in his sleep. Ryan Reynolds unexpectedly keeps his wisecracking to a minimum.


Clear History
2013
**
Director: Greg Mottola
Cast: Larry David, Bill Hader, Jon Hamm, Kate Hudson, Michael Keaton. Danny McBride, Eva Mendes, Amy Ryan, J. B. Smoove, Liev Schreiber

Nathan Flomm became a national joke after he gave up his stake in a hugely successful electric car start-up. 15 years later, he lives incognito in Martha’s Vineyard, until one day he runs into his old boss. Larry David has become a household name by playing a fictionalised version of himself in the HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm. This feature length comedy is sadly nothing but a lazy and overstretched episode of his TV show. The film is not awful, but it offers exactly the same type of observational humour and features the same protagonist, who cannot let even the most minor grievance go without opening his mouth. Even some of the cast members are familiar from his show.


The Light Between Oceans
2016
**½
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson

A lighthouse keeper, who has just returned from World War I, marries a local woman. After two traumatic miscarriages, the couple experience a miracle when a rowboat carrying a dead man and a newborn baby strands on the island. Derek Cianfrance’s adaptation of M. L. Stedman’s 2012 novel starts well, but the contrived story then takes some laughable turns on the way to its overly melodramatic conclusion. The story is supposedly set in Australia, but as good as Fassbender, Vikander, and Weisz are in their roles, they don’t sound like they’re from that part of the world.


The Girl with All the Gifts
2016
**½
Director: Colm McCarthy
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close, Sennia Nanua, Anamaria Marinca, Fisayo Akinade, Anthony Welsh, Dominique Tipper

In a dystopian future, a parasitic fungus has turned most of the population into cannibalistic hungries. A small group of people, which includes a young girl who could provide the cure to the infection, manage to escape and head towards London. Mike Carey’s science fiction story, which he scripted from his own novel, offers a slight variation on the old zombie movie formula, at least in the beginning and in the end. The middle part is very familiar creeping-silently-among-zombies stuff. I’m slightly bothered by the characterisation of the hungries, who sometimes eat their victims, and other times only bite and infect them. Visually, this is television standard.


Kick-Ass 2
2013
**½
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jim Carrey, Clark Duke, Morris Chestnut, Donald Faison, John Leguizamo, Augustus Prew, Garrett M. Brown, Iain Glen, Lindy Booth, Robert Emms, Steven Mackintosh

When Hit-Girl goes on hiatus, Kick-Ass finds kinship in a team of amateur superheroes. At the same time, Red Mist rebrands himself and assembles a group of nasty villains. The sequel to Kick-Ass offers more of the same. What was clever in the original, now feels overly familiar. Thankfully the movie is funny, subversive, offensive, and violent. Based on Hit Girl and Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.


Life
2017
**
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya

The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, pick up a space probe which carries extraterrestrial life from Mars. While the crew members study the organism, they throw a Re-Animator (1985) reference, but for some odd reason they haven’t seen Alien, which would have explained everything that is about to unfold. This science fiction movie offers good performances, impressive visuals, and a screenplay so unoriginal that it’s embarrassing. Even in this context, Ryan Reynolds manages to play the same wisecracking character he always does.


Elvis
2022
***
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Kelvin Harrison Jr, David Wenham, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Luke Bracey, Dacre Montgomery

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic is narrated by Colonel Tom Parker, the star’s duplicitous manager who famously exploited his client throughout his career. The story focuses on three key moments in the singer’s career: the breakthrough in the 1950s, the 68 Comeback Special, and the final years in Las Vegas. The film is long, yet it feels rushed and sanitised. Anything good that happens is due to Elvis’ brilliance, anything bad that happens is someone else’s fault. Amongst all of this, Priscilla barely registers as a character. Luhrmann clearly wants to focus on Elvis as a brilliant performer. The musical performances are admittedly impressive and there is no doubt that Austin Butler gives a very strong lead performance.


Mud
2012
***
Director: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon, Joe Don Baker, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, Paul Sparks, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon

Ellis and Neckbone are 14-year-old boys who discover a fugitive hiding on a small island in the Mississippi River. The boys form a bond with the elusive man and want to help him flee with his girlfriend. This interesting drama captures an authentic sense of place and inhabits it with believable well-drawn characters. However, the film’s questionable message appears to be that if you put your trust in women, be prepared for disappointment. Nevertheless, Tye Sheridan and Matthew McConaughey shine in their roles.


Promising Young Woman
2020
*****
Director: Emerald Fennell
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Chris Lowell, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon

After a traumatic event in college, Cassie dropped out of medical school. Now 30, she works in a coffee shop by day and goes out at nights to entrap men who are ready to take advantage of drunk women. Emerald Fennell’s feature debut is a deliciously nasty and funny black comedy, which offers a rather cynical view of the male species and their sense of entitlement. They are all monsters, or are they? This is what Cassie must asks herself when she attempts to put the past behind her and embark on a relationship with her former classmate. Fennell’s Academy Award winning screenplay unfolds like a Hitchcockian thriller. Carey Mulligan gives a terrific performance in the lead.


Call Me by Your Name
2017
***
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois

During the summer of 1983, 17-year-old Elio gradually falls for Oliver, an American graduate student who works as his father’s research assistant in their summer house in Northern Italy. This coming-of-age story is well-acted and shot, but as a drama it feels like much ado about nothing. I know that when you’re young and heartbroken, the whole world seems to revolve around your heightened emotions, but the central romance (more of a fling, to be honest) fails to resonate with me or, when necessary, tug at my heartstrings, despite the baggy run-time. Incidentally, Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty (1996) covered similar ground. James Ivory adapted André Aciman’s 2007 novel for his Academy Award winning screenplay.


First Reformed
2017
****
Director: Paul Schrader
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric Kyles, Victoria Hill, Philip Ettinger, Michael Gaston, Bill Hoag

Pastor Toller of the First Reformed Church counsels a young man who is completely overwhelmed by the implications of climate change. This drives the ailing and troubled pastor to question his own beliefs and purpose in the world. Paul Schrader has written some terrific screenplays about desperately lonely and self-destructive men (Taxi Driver and Raging Bull), but his directorial track record is a bit hit and miss. However, this intriguing and powerful drama is one of his best. Ethan Hawke is excellent in the lead.


The Heat
2013
***½
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demián Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Dan Bakkedahl, Taran Killam, Michael McDonald, Jane Curtin, Michael B. Tucci

To catch a mysterious drug lord, an uptight FBI agent is forced to team up with a Boston PD detective, who is not so particular about rules and regulations. This buddy action comedy is not terribly original, but it has great lead and supporting characters and, most importantly, it’s very funny. Bullock and McCarthy work well together.


A Simple Favor
2018
**
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Linda Cardellini, Dustin Milligan, Jean Smart, Rupert Friend, Eric Johnson

Single mother Stephanie begins to spend time with Emily, the mother of her son’s classmate, who then suddenly disappears. The peppy and productive Stephanie somehow makes a living running a vlog and the snarky and inaccessible Emily drowns her unhappiness in alcohol. Only in Hollywood would these two sketchy characters become friends. This second rate Gone Girl rehash is loosely based on Darcey Bell’s 2017 novel. The book was a thriller, but Jessica Sharzer’s tonally confused screenplay cannot decide if it wants to be a drama or a comedy. The resulting film is implausible, mechanical, and dull.


The Card Counter
2021
**
Director: Paul Schrader
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, Willem Dafoe, Alexander Babara, Bobby C. King

William Tell is a gambler who served time in military prison for his role in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. He meets a young man who wants to kill a retired officer who trained William. This dull drama about another lonely self-loathing man who fights his demons feels like Paul Schrader by the numbers. For this one, he combines two parallel stories, professional gambling and personal redemption, which are both equally boring. Nevertheless, Oscar Isaac gives another fine performance.