‘It Comes at Night’ Review

Director: Trey Edward Schults

Writers: Trey Edward Schults

Cast: Joel Edgerton, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough

Synopsis: Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son, but this will soon be put to test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

A24 is back at it with the horror-thriller and unnerving game with It Comes at Night. Although the trailers make the film seem like a bonafide horror film, It Comes at Night is much more than that, and leaves you sitting there wondering not just you’re watching, but just how you are going to cope with what you experienced.

The film follows the family of father, Paul (Joel Edgerton), wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), who secure themselves in a house in the woods from an unknown disease that has struck. The family does what they can to protect themselves: wear gas masks and gloves in case they come into contact with the infected, board up all the windows of the house, keep the red door closed and never – ever – go out at night. One day they come into contact with Will (Christopher Abbot), who says he has a family tucked away. Paul eventually, even though he does it reluctantly, goes with Will to get his family so all of them can be together. At first everything is fine, but soon tensions arise when things start to happen.

It Comes at Night works best when the paranoia is at its peak. The film mostly takes place inside the house, which immediately adds the tension because the house is almost always completely dark. It also doesn’t help that the film has multiple tracking shots into darkness that finally get illuminated at the last second, leaving you wondering if something is going to pop out? Will someone be standing in the corner? Or will it be nothing just leaving you on the edge of your seat?

However, even with the horror and post-apocalyptic aspects the film has, It Comes at Night also works as a family drama. The film opens with a death and Edgerton’s Paul makes it known to Travis, Will and through some of his actions, he’ll do whatever it takes to protect his family. Edgerton is also fantastic in this, as he pays the role with the utmost subtly but is a force when it comes to the quiet moments. Abbot’s Will also has some moments to shine and put his protective father mindset around the end of the film. These actions make you think, what would you do in that situation?

However, one of highlights of the cast is Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s Travis. He acts a little bit like a surrogate for us, even though he’s already in the thick of it. He also plays an important part of the film that I don’t want to get into too much, but it involves one of the more imaginative and tension-filled moments of the film. Unfortunately, Riley Keough’s Kim, Will’s wife, and Carmen Ejogo’s Sarah don’t get enough screen time to really get to know them too much, especially Keough, although she is involved in one of the more disturbing scenes.

All in all, It Comes at Night is a slow-burn kind of film, and while the marketing doesn’t do the film justice, it does make up for it by leaving you wonder where the film will go and how far it will too. Be ready to be just a bit depressed once this film ends.

It Comes At Night

4 out of 5

‘Alien: Covenant’ Review

Director: Ridley Scott

Writers: John Logan and Dante Harper

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Amy Seimetz, and Guy Pearce

Synopsis: The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I’m going to start off the review with this, I didn’t mind Prometheus. Was it a perfect film? No, it wasn’t, and even I can see the faults the film had. But the amount of bashing and hate the film received when the film was released was a bit too much. One of the problems that I do wholeheartedly believe was wrong with Prometheus wasn’t in the movie itself, it was the audience. I get it, it’s hard not to get really excited over a film. I do it, and I’m sure you do it too. But I remember the hype level for Prometheus and it was ridiculously over that I shut myself out from reading anything about the film before it came out. And I get it, I do, Alien has a special place in many people’s hearts – as it should – but people got themselves way to hyped up that they were disappointed with Prometheus because it wasn’t what they thought or wanted it to be.

So this brings us to Alien: Covenant. Not only is the film a sequel to Prometheus it’s also more of a step closer to reaching the point we saw in Alien. Not only is the film a continuation of what we saw before, but they go back to the early roots – a sci-fi horror film with the famous Xenomorph we have all learned to fear and love.

Covenant follows the colony ship called The Covenant, which is filled with couples, that is on the way to a new planet to start a new life. The only person awake and not in cryosleep is the android Walter (Michael Fassbender) who, like his predecessor David (also played by Fassbender), watches over the ship. However, an accident occurs that causes Walter to wake the crew members which results in some of them dying, including the captain. While the crew makes repairs they receive a mysterious transmission from a nearby undiscovered planet that is also perfect for them to inhabit. This leaves newly appointed, and untested, captain Oram (Billy Crudup) with a tough decision: go to the unknown planet that sent the transmission or continue the original course – of course, there wouldn’t be a movie if he chose the latter. The decision isn’t met with much agreement from the ship’s second-in-command, and chief terraformer Daniels (Katherine Waterston).

As we see in the trailers, a group heads to the planet seeing it as a perfect replacement, but soon they discover the origin of their transmission – the ship from Prometheus. As they try to explore more, two of the crew members get sick and as they try to head back they get stopped by the new creations Neomorphs, which of course, come bursting out of the sick crew members. The remaining members get saved by a mysterious figure who tells them to follow him. Skipping ahead, they discover that it’s David who is the only surviving member of the Prometheus. The crew later find out that the planet isn’t really all that safe.

Alien: Covenant is hard for me to judge. Almost like Prometheus, this movie is good until it isn’t. Ridley Scott knows how to direct sci-fi films, and the visuals here are pretty damn great, along with the combination of the landscapes that are beautiful, but the problem comes to some of the characters. While Prometheus didn’t focus on all the characters, you at least knew what all of them did. Covenant missteps on that a bit, as it only focuses on the bigger characters, making every other character just a prop for the Neomorphs and the Xenomorph to kill.

Fassbender is great once again as the androids David and Walter, and kudos to Fassbender for making the two vastly different in every way. Katherine Waterston joins the Alien franchise of female leading ladies, but her character only gets the time to shine when David or Walter aren’t around. Billy Crudup’s Captain Oram is a mixed bag and doesn’t really get earn his place until one of the bigger moments of the film – and I’ll be interested in seeing how people take and accept that scene. Danny McBride would be the next, and potentially final, big character in the film as one of the Covenant’s pilots named Tennessee. Surprisingly to some maybe, McBride does crack jokes in the film, but is one of the more grounded and down-to-earth characters in the film.

The rest of the cast is pretty much cannon fodder, Demian Bichir plays Lope, one of the head military leaders, who is actually in relationship with Hallet (Nathaniel Dean), but it never pays out as it should. Camen Ejogo plays Oram’s wife and biologist, who believes in Oram that he can lead the crew in a good direction, Amy Seimetz plays Faris, Tennessee’s wife, and the other pilot of the ship that is probably the best of the supporting characters, but she doesn’t get enough screen time.

Covenant does have the feeling of an Alien film, with the suspense, but it’s not as revved up as it should have been. Even the action scenes aren’t all that great and they end pretty quickly, which is a shame considering the previous Alien battles. When it focuses on the themes bought up in Prometheus, it extends them and while I won’t go into them in details – due to spoilers – it all comes down to David.

All in all, Alien Covenant is a frustrating movie. It’s a good movie until it isn’t, and when it becomes a bad movie it’s hard to get out of it. However, the big thing that does make me angry and disappointed, is some of the things bought up in Prometheus are not fleshed out or are completely erased which makes Covenant in some ways another rehash of ideas. I would still recommend Covenant to people, but keep your expectations low.

Alien Covenant

3 out of 5

May Movie Releases

Hello Boys and Girls!

It’s the beginning of the Summer Movie Season!

What better way to start off this run of movies than a great month of films. We got a lot of films to get to, so let’s get to it!

 

5th

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Sci-Fi Action – Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The Guardians (Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel) must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite character from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand. The returning cast includes Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion (playing a different character), Sean Gunn, and Glenn Close. The film’s new cast includes Kurt Russell (Quinn’s father, Ego), Sylvester Stallone, Chris Sullivan, Pom Klementieff, and Tommy Flanagan.

 

 

12th

Limited Release: The Wall

Directed by Doug Liman, an American sharpshooter is trapped in a standoff with an Iraqi sniper. The film was suppose to come out in March, but got pushed back to May, but either way it looks great. The Wall looks like a tension-filled drama I can’t wait to see. The film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Laith Nakli and John Cena.

 

 

Lowriders (Drama – Universal Pictures/BH Tilt/High Top Releasing/Imagine Entertainment)

A young street artist in East Los Angeles is caught between his father’s obsession with lowrider car culture, his ex-felon brother and his need for self-expression. The film stars Theo Rossi, Tony Revolori, Eva Longoria, Melissa Benoist, and Demian Bichir.

 

 

Snatched (Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Cherin Entertainment/Feigo Entertainment)

After being dumped by her boyfriend, Emily (Amy Schumer) decides to take a spontaneous trip with her mother (Goldie Hawn) to Ecuador, where they find themselves kidnapped, escaping and having to go on the run. The film stars Christopher Meloni, Oscar Jaenada, Ike Barinholtz, Tom Bateman, and Wanda Sykes.

 

 

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Fantasy Adventure – Warner Bros./Village Roadshow Pictures/Wilgram Productions/Safehouse Pictures/Weed Road Pictures)

Directed by Guy Ritchie, the film takes the very Ritchie tone to bringing a new take to the classical character Arthur played by Charlie Hunnam. The film sees Arthur, a street-smart brawler who finds himself drawn into a battle when he takes possession of the sword Excalibur. The film stars Jude Law, Annabelle Wallis, Katie McGrath, Djimon Hounsou, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Hermione Corfield, Aidan Gillen and Eric Bana.

 

 

19th

Diary of Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (Family Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Color Force)

Continuing the series based off the books by Jeff Kinney, Greg (Jason Drucker) convinces his family to take a road trip to attend his great grandmother’s 90th birthday as a cover for what he really wants: to attend a nearby gamer convention. Unsurprisingly, things do not go according to plan and the Heffley family antics ensue. The film also stars Charlie Wright, Tom Everett Scott, Owen Asztalos, Carlos Guerrero, and Alicia Silverstone.

 

 

Everything, Everything (Romance Drama – MGM, Alloy Entertainment, Itaca Films)

Based on the novel by Nicola Yoon, a teenager who’s lived a sheltered life because she’s allergic to everything, falls for the boy who moves in next door. The film stars Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Ana de la Reguera, Taylor Hickson, and Anika Noni Rose.

 

 

Alien: Covenant (Sci-Fi Thriller – 20th Century Fox/Scott Free Productions/TSG Entertainment/Brandywine Productions)

The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discover what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape. The film looks like it’s finally an Alien prequel, and bloody. Very, very bloody. The cast includes Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Carmen Ejogo, Demian Bichir, Danny McBride, Callie Hernandez, Noomi Rapace, James Franco, and Guy Pearce.

 

 

25th

Baywatch (Action Comedy – Paramount Pictures/Seven Bucks Productions/The Montecito Picture Company/Cold Spring Pictures/Contrafilm)

Two unlikely prospective lifeguards vie for jobs alongside the buff bodies who patrol a beach in California. Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Ilfenesh Hadera, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach, Priyanka Chopra, Hannibal Buress, Pamela Anderson, and David Hasselhoff.

 

 

26th

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Action Adventure – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Jerry Bruckheimer Films/Moving Picture Company)

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) searches for the trident of Poseidon when an old enemy from his past comes to haunt him. The film also stars the returning Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Martin Klebba, Stephen Graham, David Wenham, and Paul McCartney.

 

 

What are you looking forward to?

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ Review

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Director: David Yates

Writer: J.K. Rowling

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, Carmen Ejogo, Samantha Morton, Ron Perlman and Jon Voight

Synopsis: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

J.K. Rowling, her first feature film credit, and David Yates, who directed the last four Harry Potter films, have returned to bring all of us back to the Wizarding World, and for the most part, it feels pretty great to go back. It also helps that the film is set many years before the events of Harry Potter, so we get to see essentially a brand new world of magic and characters. Of course the action now takes place in American, rather than England, but the new characters and world are fun and enlightening in their way. However, and unfortunately, if you’re not familiar too much with Rowling’s history and lore she’s created, you might be a bit in the dark on some things, which does hinder the experience just a bit.

The film takes place in New York, 1926, as Newt Scamander (Redmayne) arrives by boat with his magical suitcase that happens to hold bevy, well, fantastic beasts. However, as he makes his way through the city his suitcase gets mixed up with a “No-Maj,” what the American Magic Community call their humans with no magic opposed to the word Muggle, in Jacob Kowalski (Fogler). When Jacob accidentally opens the case, many of Newt’s beasts get out and run rampant around New York. This gets the attention of Tina Goldstein (Waterston), who works for the Magical Congress of the United States (MACUSA). During this, head Auror (think security/magic cops) Percival Graves (Farrell) leans on a young troubled man, Credence (Miller) for help to find someone, or something, that is attacking New York City that might cause the magic world and human to go to war. All of this is happening while the looming threat of a dangerous wizard makes his way to America.

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So as you can see, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has a lot going on, and because of that, the film does stumble a bit to keep it all together and moving smoothly. There’s Newt’s storyline about tracking his beasts down with the help of Jacob, that eventually bleeds into Newt and Jacob meeting Tina and her sister Queenie (Sudol). There’s Graves and Credence’s story that is a culmination of Credence’s story and there’s the MACUSA, lead by President Seraphina Picquery, who have the looming threat of the dangerous and powerful wizard Grindelwald, who is briefly seen in the beginning, and will be the new big bad for this series of films. Each have their fair share of screen time, but everything still feels underdeveloped. Of course, knowing there are at least four sequels coming, it makes some sense, but doesn’t make it okay – Especially if people aren’t familiar with the history and lore.

Of course that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, stop you from enjoying the film because it is really enjoyable, especially when it relies on the humor, and of course, the titular fantastic beasts. People will definitely get a kick out of the creatures and beasts that have some really cool designs and lead some of the funniest and great moments in the film, including one particular creature that is introduced early in the film. Some of the dark themed material is interesting too, and again, is a bit underdeveloped but I would have loved to see more of that in the film considering the time period and how strict the magic community is in America.

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The cast chemistry is pretty solid, and one that we invest in right away. Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander is equal parts awkward but caring toward the creatures in his case, almost as if he rather be around them than people. That is until he meets Jacob, played by Dan Fogler, who I would arguable say is one of the highlights of the film, and even steals the show – at least human wise. Jacob is also pretty much our surrogate for the film, but also one that is a vital character to how No-Maj’s probably view the world they don’t understand.

The magic community is constantly trying to keep their world hidden from the human world, and it’s something that is on the verge of breaking because of the attacks Grindelwald has been doing. This connects to Ezra Miller’s character Credence, because he’s the adopted son of a Mary Lou, the leader of the Second Salemers, who look to expose the wizarding world saying they are all evil, and that being said, she isn’t the nicest person either. However, when we go to Jacob, he doesn’t see the wizards or creatures he encounters as evil. He is scared when he first encounters them – as all of us should and would be – but he’s more in awe and amazed by them, which leads to the great relationship between him and Newt.

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Katherine Waterston continues to prove she belongs on the big screen and can handle big characters. Although she is sworn by duty to bring in Newt and his briefcase, she eventually knows that Newt is kind hearted and helps him. Alison Sudol’s Queenie is a rather interesting and wide-eyed character who has never meant a No-Maj before. Ezra Miller, who should have had more screen time makes a worthy and worthwhile impression as his tortured soul character. Colin Farrell is always reliable, and is so here, but again, I wish we had more time with his character. Carmen Ejogo as the “President” of Magic doesn’t do much in the film, Jon Voight is in the film for literally three scenes, and while it feels like he’s character is important – and it is in a sense – the storyline is quickly dealt with, which feels rather odd and like a cheat.

While I had fun watching the film, Fantastic Beasts does have some odd pacing and tonal shifts. One moment we go from a fun and humorous moment and then suddenly go to a dark and ominous scene. While I can see what they were trying to do, it was a bit jarring the first time, and it happens more than once.

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All in all, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a good start to a new franchise, however, not without its drawbacks and missteps. If you’re not too familiar with the history and lore that’s not just in the books, you will be a little lost, but thankfully J.K. Rowling probably knew that. This new batch of characters and creatures is a magical – pun intended – bunch, and while I had my reservation about the film, I’m interested in seeing where his new story will take me.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

4 out of 5

‘The Purge: Anarchy’ Review

purge_anarchy

Dir: James DeMonaco

Cast: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoe Soul, Jack Conley, and Michael K. Williams

Synopsis: Five strangers find themselves trying to survive the night during the most dangerous night of the year, The Purge.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

When The Purge came out last year many people, myself included, thought the movie had a great premise but lacked the real execution that the movie needed. The Purge: Anarchy delivers the same premise but this time puts us outside a confined space and on the streets of Los Angeles. Does the setting change give us a better movie? Does it still make an underlying political commentary? More importantly, is it any good? Short answer, yes.

 

Although the movie is technically a sequel, it does have the feeling of being a different movie, expect with the return of one Edwin Hodge’s character in a very small role. Still set in the world where crime is legal for 12 hours we follow a new group and are placed outside in the gritty streets of Los Angeles. We get are introductions early on of all our characters. We have the mother daughter duo of waitress Eva (Ejogo) and Cali (Soul), married couple of the edge of divorce Shane (Gilford) and Liz (Sanchez) and our real main character Leo (Grillo).

 

Eva, Cali, Shane, and Liz are innocent civilians who get stuck on the street during The Purge, and Leo, although he’s on a mission of revenge, reluctantly decides to help the group.  He agrees to take them to a safe location, but first they must survive the violent street gangs (including the ones that are featured heavily in the ads), random psychopaths, and heavily armed troops wandering outside and chasing them.
 

It can’t be said enough, the best part about the sequel and probably what makes it better is DeMonaco takes the action outside this time around. Although there is nothing wrong in a home invasion or close quarters movie, Anarchy has the advantage of going to multiple places making the tension and thriller aspects of the movie stronger. You genuinely feel afraid for these characters because danger can come out of everywhere. The other great thing, even though it is cliché is what DeMonaco does with silence in the movie. There are a few pop-up moments but they don’t feel cheesy or dumb, they are actually done in a manner that’s okay.

 

Again, The Purge had some commentary on social issues that are relevant and DeMonaco still retains the commentary but this time he’s content to play it as loud as the action sequences rather than try to skillfully weave it into the story. Anarchy introduces Carmelo (K. Williams), a militant rebel leader that wants an ending to the Purge by breaking one of its unwritten rules: Don’t prevent others from purging.  He’s also one of the voices questioning the system rather than accepting the harsh reality.  He tries to make people rise up. But of course that’s the cruel twist because there’s no way to stop the violence until the leaders are brought down through violence. By the way, in case you don’t know who rules and is most protected during the Purge, it’s the rich.
 

The cast is pretty great here. Ejogo and Soul serve as the audience surrogates with their characters have a humanizing effect on Leo. They deliver believable performances as a mother and daughter thrown into this dangerous situation. The film’s other pair of Gilford and Sanchez are less effective (even though they are married in real life), serving more as a young couple in danger, although they do have one standout moment. Even Michael K. Williams character, who is really more of a cameo, has ups and downs and Williams is usually reliable.

 

But the movie belongs to Frank Grillo. I don’t think I’ve talked much about Grillo in reviews and it’s a damn shame. Grillo is one of my favorite actors and one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood, so it is nice to see him getting more attention in movies like Warrior, The Grey, and most recently Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Anyway, Grillo looks the part and grounds the movie in a gritty reality. He could have been a one-note vigilante, but Grillo finds this interesting and nice balance of being an anti-hero. He could be another older actor ready to take over the action genre like Liam Nesson in Taken. But the other thing that got to me, and this will be very nerdy, is that Grillo’s presence in the movie really made me think he’d be a great Punisher. He’s got the charisma, the look and the talent.

 

All in all The Purge: Anarchy does a lot of things better than the first. It’s got some great action sequences and a pretty impressive cast. Blumhouse Pictures is known for doing small budgeted movies and I’m amazed at how they got away with in Anarchy. Instead of a heavy handed political commentary or complex moral questions – even though there are some – it chooses to go the route of bloodlust.

The Purge: Anarchy

4 out of 5