Review: Turning Red

Turning Red (2022)

Director: Domee Shi

Writers: Julia Cho and Domee Shi

Starring: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, and James Hong

Review: Real talk. Do we even need reviews for Pixar movies anymore? Like, is there anybody on the fence for whether or not they’re going to see Turning Red? Because, personally, I’m on board as soon as I hear there’s a new Pixar movie. It doesn’t matter to me what it’s about. With very few exceptions, I know that it’s going to hit me with an emotional wallop and that I’m going to give it at least an 8/10. Turning Red is proof of that almost exactly. Nothing about the marketing of this movie made it seem like something I’d want to see. Yet, here I am; writing up yet another glowing Pixar review. Because this movie rocks!

First of all, the plot of Turning Red is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. From the trailers, they made it look like any typical werewolf situation but it’s a little more lighthearted and fun than that. Sure, it starts off with a family curse, where the women of our character’s family turn into giant red pandas every time they feel any strong emotion. And, of course, this can only be undone with an ancient ritual. However, it quickly becomes less Hulk and more X-Men as the plot progresses and Mei learns to embrace her “curse.” There are just as many scenes of her having a blast in panda form as there are her messing things up. Moments like her jamming out to a boy band soundtrack with her friends as this gigantic monster are what’s going to stick with me. I wish the advertising had leaned into that a bit more and less of the panic.

I also LOVED how this movie was clearly based on the experiences the director/writer had growing up in Toronto. There’s one review, in particular, that’s making the rounds that I couldn’t disagree with more. In it, the white male writer claims that this was too niche of a story to tell, aimed squarely at the Chinese-Canadian girls who were teens in the 2000s. Now, I’m not going to say that that specific group won’t like this movie even more than I do. Of course, they will. It’s representative of their life’s story. However, that’s what I love about cinema. I’m there to live someone else’s life. To hear their story. I think diversity in the stories being told is one of the movies’ (and life’s) strongest elements and I’m glad major studios like Disney/Pixar are backing stories like this. I have very little in common with the lead character of this movie. However, I felt for her just as strongly as I do any other protagonist. I really don’t understand how others wouldn’t.

I was also shocked by how grown-up this movie felt. While obviously never getting explicit, it didn’t really shy away from the puberty aspect either. I never, ever thought I’d see things like pads and tampons in a Disney animation. I didn’t think it’s a topic they’d even approach. But, I’m really glad they are. We don’t need to keep this stuff a dirty little secret anymore. Maybe a movie like this will make the transition less awkward and embarrassing for people who have to go through this in the future. After all, it’s all just part of life. Likewise, this movie gets a tad horny at times. Again, obviously, there’s no sex or really anything explicit. But, it’s very clear that Mei likes boys for more than their personalities. She’s not just making dough eyes at them like Ariel or Jasmine. She’s thinking about those abs and wanting them pressed up against her. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a character legitimately checking someone out and I’m here for it. Again, let’s normalize things like that. Maybe it’ll make teens feel less awkward about their changes. I’ve always been an advocate for teens watching Big Mouth, though I understand that maybe it gets a bit graphic. This, however, I think is the perfect stepping stone and should help in that oh-so-awkward transitory time. All while being totally PG.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Pixar film without them just hitting you square in the feels. It’s almost never just a light-hearted romp anymore. They’ve got to make you cry. Turning Red succeeds at that tremendously. On top of being a fun Teen Wolf-type movie, it also touches on themes of self-acceptance, living up to expectations, and generational trauma. Stuff that I think every single person in the world has dealt with and has battle scars from. I especially loved the mother-daughter relationship here, as both of them have to embrace the changes that are happening in their lives. The mom was afraid of losing her daughter, while the daughter was afraid of disappointing her mother. It’s all very real, emotional. and raw. I don’t know that I’ve seen a mother-daughter relationship so fully realized in a Disney flick. And, yes, it absolutely made me cry. I think that makes like five Pixar movies in a row now.

Overall, I really enjoyed Turning Red. It’s a really touching story about a girl embracing what makes her different, while also learning that she doesn’t have to live up to any standards but her own. I think that’s a very powerful message. Likewise, I was impressed with how honestly this story was told. Disney’s allowing more and more realistic elements to enter their fairytale environments and I’m here for it. I think kids can handle more than we let on. And, while I didn’t really get into it in my review, I really dug the animation style here. I’m not a huge anime fan, but even I can appreciate the nod to that style. I think Turning Red more than earns its place among the Pixar greats.

Oh, and the red panda is my favorite animal! They’re just so fluffy and cute. So, of course, I was stoked to spend so much screentime with one!

TL;DR: Turning Red is another hit for Pixar with a touching, fun, and surprisingly honest story about all the changes that come with being a teenager.

Score: 8/10 (Great)

Review: The Batman

The Batman (2022)

Director: Matt Reeves

Writers: Matt Reeves and Peter Craig

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, and Colin Farrell

Review: I’m going to be fully honest with you here. Up until the reviews started rolling in, I was not super excited for The Batman. Of course, every Batman movie comes with a certain level of excitement. It’s Batman after all. But, I was growing kinda tired of seeing the grounded, realistic takes on these characters. While I don’t want the Schmacher movies again, I think the world is ready for something along the lines of Batman: The Animated Series or the Arkham games. But, that’s not what Warner Bros is giving us at the moment. And, having now seen the results, I can’t be too mad. Because The Batman is so freaking good. I feel like it’s only the opening act of a grand, beautiful story arc, but it’s already my favorite live-action take on the Bat-Verse.

As I said before, I did not think we needed another grounded take on Batman. I thought after the Nolan trilogy we’d been there, done that. However, I wasn’t prepared for exactly how grounded Reeves’ Batman would get. Compared to this movie, the Nolanverse feels like a fantasy realm. While that universe was filled with gadgets that felt either cutting-edge or futuristic, this one is very much low-tech items that feel accessible now. This Bruce Wayne’s batmobile is a car. Not a tank. Not a big, flashy toy. A suped-up, demolition derby style, barely bat-themed car. Likewise, he’s got one Batarang and a parachute suit for gliding. The Batcave? Oh, you mean the basement? Basically, what I’m saying is that Lucius Fox isn’t providing him with limitless resources here. It’s one dude versus the entire Gotham crime scene.

Speaking of, this is by far the shittiest Gotham has ever been. This is the first time that I was like, “Yeah. I don’t understand why anyone would want to be here.” The Burton/Schumacher movies never made Gotham feel real, like an achievable, livable city. It was just too cartoony and over the top. Meanwhile, Nolan’s felt like just your average city. Gotham felt in line with Chicago, Boston, or Pittsburgh. Maybe not the best crime-wise, but not totally unlivable. But, Reeves’ Gotham freaking sucks and I want nothing to do with it. Do you know that scene at the end of Joker where everyone was worked up and destroying the town? That’s what this Gotham feels like all the time. It feels like you couldn’t take a two-minute walk down the street without being mugged. And there’s almost no hope of anything getting better because everyone involved with running the city is corrupt. From the lowliest cop all the way to the top. Even for Batman, making a difference here feels impossible. Honestly, a lot of Batman’s opening monologue in this movie reminded me more of Rorschach than any other Batman I’ve seen. But, while Rorschach’s sounds like the rambling of a madman, Batman’s kind of got a point here. It honestly doesn’t even seem worth it to try for this city.

And, then, of course, there are the villains. I honestly do not know how this movie is being marketed towards children, because, holy shit, is the main villain in this movie dark. Paul Dano’s Riddler, without a doubt, is the scariest villain we’ve ever gotten in a comic book movie. He doesn’t feel like a cartoon character at all. He’s a very realistic version of a serial killer in that everything he does is very methodical and creepy. There’s no grandstanding here. It’s just a man researching, stalking, and then brutally murdering victim after victim. While I was never quite on board with this take of the Riddler, I do appreciate that it fits the context of the movie quite well. It feels very much like a character that would not only exist but thrive in this world. And, like most serial killers, the person behind the mask seems oddly timid. That is until you get him worked up and the real monster comes out. I can’t think of anyone better to pull this kind of performance off than Paul Dano. He absolutely crushes it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the first non-Joker Batman actor to get an Oscar nomination.

Ok, so, as I’ve established, I was not necessarily looking forward to another darker, realistic take on the Batman mythos, but I was super surprised by how well Reeves’ handled it. But, here’s the thing, I don’t know if that alone would’ve made me love this movie as much as I did. No. What really impressed me was how much this actually felt like the Batman I know and love. Despite being so “edgy,” this felt more like Batman proper than any other I’ve seen to date. First of all, it’s the best use of Batman’s fear tactics I’ve ever seen. Even better than the Arkham games. Because this Batman 100% lives or dies by the shadows. He knows that intimidation is half of the battle. It’s how one dude is able to take down an entire squad of goons. The scene in the subway is one of the greatest Batman moments of all time because it fully takes advantage of making our hero actually scary. Second, the fight choreography is the best we’ve ever seen in a Bat-flick. Most of the time, the action in these movies feels super stiff because of the batsuit. However, this feels fluid and, perhaps most importantly, brutal. And, speaking of things we don’t usually get from Batman movies, he finally feels like a detective here! While “world’s greatest” might be a bit of a stretch, we see that he at least has a little bit of a noggin up in that cowl. It was great to see him at the scene of the crime actually scanning evidence and putting together clues. It’s a big part of Batman’s mythos that I’m glad is no longer missing. Robert Pattinson also does a brilliant job at blurring the lines between Bruce Wayne and Batman. It’s always said that Bruce Wayne is the one that’s really a mask, but this is the first time that feels authentic. As much as I love Keaton and Bale, they seemed to enjoy being Bruce Wayne too much. For all intents and purposes, this Wayne might as well not even exist. I loved it. And, as I’ve already mentioned, this Batman has maybe my favorite aesthetic of any Batman. To me: it’s all perfect: the suit, the car, the bike, the symbol, everything.

The next paragraph has very light spoilers. Nothing plot specific, but a little bit character development-wise. I do not think it’ll ruin anything for you, but I just want to be 100% transparent with anyone wanting to go in completely fresh

But, you know what my absolute favorite part of the entire movie is? The fact that Batman is kind of seen as a beacon of light towards the end of this movie. It’s usually very much the opposite. He’s usually being hunted down by the police and laughed at by the general public. But, here, it seems like the people of Gotham are legitimately happy to have him around. And we actually get a moment to see Batman stop and help civilians. It’s not an action scene. He’s not punching any criminals in the face. He’s just lending a helping hand, being a good samaritan, a beacon of light, to people who need it. We do not get scenes like that often enough in Batman media. It seems like every other superhero gets them. Spider-Man saves children from burning buildings. Superman gets cats out of trees. But we don’t get to see Batman do stuff like that often. Most of the time he just comes in, beats up the baddies, then leaves. It was nice to see that change. I had the biggest smile on my face during this sequence. And, at that moment, I knew Robert Pattinson had taken over as my favorite Batman. Everything about this take is just too good. This is the Batman I’d want in a Justice League movie. Because he is, 100% the team player superhero that the team needs. Unfortunately, he’s perhaps also the version least likely to ever appear in something like this. Because I can guarantee you that Superman does not exist in this universe. There is no way to make that work. It’s a real shame though because this otherwise proves that “dark and gritty” and “actually caring superhero” does not have to be mutually exclusive.

Man, I have so much to go into still but I have to start to wrap this up. Otherwise, I’ll be here forever. So, let’s do a speedrun of some other thoughts then wrap this up.

The plot was very good, though maybe not the most original. It’s very Se7en, very Chinatown, and a little Saw. However, I loved seeing those elements brought over to a Batman story. And, let’s face it, comics take inspiration from more established works and just plug their characters in all the time so it’s nothing new. Very on-brand.

All of the castings were pretty pitch-perfect. Obviously, Robert Pattinson and Paul Dano stole the show, but Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, and John Turturro deserve huge shoutouts. A separate, even larger shoutout has to go to Collin Farrell. His Penguin was absolutely the best, most comic-accurate take on any character in the Batman mythos. I cannot believe how absolutely lost in that character Farrell was. I will gladly tune into whatever he appears in next, whether on the big screen or small.

While very long, I only really felt that The Batman dragged once. And, without going into spoilers, it’s a certain scene with Alfred. It felt like it wasn’t earned yet and, if I had to cut anything, that’s what I would’ve snipped. Andy Serkis makes a terrific Alfred and the moment is very touching. It just feels like we didn’t know him well enough yet to dedicate that much time and emotion to him. Other than that, I felt like this was a very streamlined, earned three-hour runtime. Make sure your bladder is empty going in because there’s not much that can be easily missed.

So, as you can probably tell by this being one of the longest write-ups I’ve ever done, I really, really enjoyed The Batman. However, I would probably still rank it below The Dark Knight as my favorite Batman movie, because I feel like that one had a better plot and, let’s face it, Heath Ledger’s performance is unbeatable. But, as far as understanding Batman and his universe, The Batman is by far the better take. I love this universe. I love the tone. I love the characters. I love the action. And, I cannot wait to see what they do next. I will definitely be first in line.

TL;DR: Despite my reluctance to another “gritty” reboot, with The Batman, Matt Reeves has created my favorite live-action version of the character’s mythos to date and Pattinson is easily my new favorite Batman.

Score: 9/10 (Amazing)

Review: Cyrano

Cyrano (2022)

Director: Joe Wright

Writer: Erica Schmidt

Starring: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kevin Harrison Jr, and Ben Mendelsohn

Review: Man, I wish I had a Cyrano to write up my reviews. He’s so elegant and witty and I, while not completely unskilled, am not. I write in very plain English about the movies that I love (and, well, more than a few that I don’t). But, you know, you get what you get. Not everyone can be a great French poet. Anywho… let’s get to the review, shall we? Because Cyrano is quite good and definitely worth talking about more than it’s one Costume Design Oscar nomination would have you believe.

Honestly, after seeing it, I’m quite surprised the Oscars didn’t give Cyrano more love. Because, like most Joe Wright films, it’s almost technically perfect. The sets are visually impressive. The costumes are works of art. The cinematography is gorgeous. And, while subtle compared to many musicals, the dance choreography fits the tone and message of this movie perfectly. Seriously, this movie is absolutely gorgeous. Every scene feels like a painting come to life. And the emotion Wright is able to get simply out of his camera work is amazing. There’s a scene where he shoots Haley Bennett so personally and passionately that you can feel the love radiating off of the screen, even though she is alone and barely speaking. It’s so effective in getting us to care for her character just as much as our two male leads do. It’s an incredible piece of visual storytelling and just one example of how Wright makes this oft-told story work so well.

But, the real takeaway for me absolutely has to be Peter Dinklage as Cyrano himself. He is so perfectly suited for this role that you’d think it was written for him, even though you know the play was written over a hundred years ago and based on a real person. Still, the wit, the charm, the heartbreak, and the self-loathing feel like someone saw Tyrion on Game of Thrones and plopped him over into another movie. Yet, it’s almost more effective here because Cyrano wasn’t born into money and isn’t guaranteed anything in life. He has to build his own reputation and take his blows more often than a Lannister ever would. All of this gives a fantastic showcase of Dinklage’s acting abilities. And, of course, he absolutely crushes it. I wish the Best Actor field wasn’t so crowded because he definitely has earned his spot among those five nominees. It’s a shame he wasn’t nominated. Maybe we can just pretend that one of the trophies he took home for Game of Thrones was actually for this. Or, you know, hope he gets another Oscar-worthy role because he’s definitely an Oscar-worthy actor.

Unfortunately, while I definitely respected the work and talent that went into making Cyrano and I do like the story, I never found myself completely loving the movie. I think that mostly came down to the music. Now, I will be the first to admit that my music knowledge is slim at best. I cannot write music. I can’t even really tell you why good music is good. And, Cyrano was nominated for a Tony in 2018, so it’s obviously well-regarded. But… I don’t know. I just found most of the songs to be incredibly dull. Like, for most of them, I would’ve almost preferred for the characters to just talk their lines. This is weird because I’m normally such a big musical person. This one though just felt a bit unnecessary. The only exception to me was the song where the soldiers sang their letters to home out loud. That song was super powerful and very well done. I loved it. As for the rest, let’s just say this is the first recent musical I’ve left and didn’t listen to the soundtrack on the way home. None of these songs are making my Spotify wrapped this year.

Overall, I do definitely think Cyrano is a movie worth experiencing though. While I don’t think the music was particularly strong, it just has too much artistry on display to ignore. Peter Dinklage gives one of the absolute best performances of the year. Also, it’s pretty much perfectly made with beautiful scenery and some breathtaking visual storytelling from Joe Wright. Definitely deserved more than it’s one Oscar nomination. Oh well. Just goes to prove that the Academy doesn’t always know what’s best.

TL;DR: The combined talents of director Joe Wright and star Peter Dinklage make Cyrano a worthwhile take on an oft-told tale.

Score: 7/10 (Good)

Review: Uncharted

Uncharted (2022)

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Writers: Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Jon Hanley Rosenberg, and Mark D. Walker

Starring: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, and Antonio Banderas

Review: Ok. Let’s do a bit of table setting before we get into this review. I’m not going to claim to be much of a gamer. However, I have played all four main Uncharted games. Nathan Drake and I have been through a lot. Basically, what I’m saying is that I am an Uncharted fan. And, as a fan, I have conflicting thoughts on this movie. So, I’m going to try to be as fair as possible. I’m going to look at this work from two different angles. One, is it a good movie? And, two, is it a good adaptation? Because, while not on completely different ends of the spectrum, my answers to these questions are a bit different.

First of all, let’s pretend that someone went into this movie completely blind to the concept of Uncharted. I am certain that they would, at the very least, enjoy themselves. Because this is a generally likable movie. Honestly, its two-hour runtime kind of flies by. The characters are funny and charming. There’s constantly something entertaining happening on screen. And, it plays like a decent enough treasure-hunting movie. There’s nothing revolutionary here though. Most of the plot is stuff we’ve seen before. A lot of the acting is just ok. And, well, the action scenes are so blandly shot and filled with CGI that nothing ever feels real. However, if you’re just looking for a way to turn your brain off and enjoy something for two hours, it’ll meet those criteria.

But, as an Uncharted fan, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed. First of all, despite being a big fan of his, Tom Holland was never a good pick to play Nathan Drake. I thought that maybe I’d buy into it when I saw the movie but I just can’t. Nothing with him in the lead is ever going to feel like Uncharted to me. I’m sorry. Nathan Drake is a 6’2″, bulky, mid-30s, man’s man. He’s Captain America, not early-in-his-career Spider-Man. Literally, any of the other Avengers actors would’ve been a better fit for this role. Likewise, Sully is everybody’s young grandpa or older uncle. He’s a slimmer John Goodman with a graveling voice and mustache. Basically, not at all Mark Wahlberg. I know that sometimes size, age, and appearance aren’t everything when it comes to casting. If they were, I’d have written off Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine decades ago. But, again, no matter how enjoyable the movie, I just can’t buy this as Uncharted with these two in the leads.

As lackluster as the casting is, I’m not entirely sure that fixing that would’ve suddenly made the movie feel like the games though. Like I said, I’ve been through a lot with Nathan Drake. Each of his games consists of about 20-25 levels. In those levels, just about everything that can happen happens. Nathan is constantly climbing mountain after mountain, statue after statue. He’s swinging from ledge to ledge. He’s almost falling to his death. He’s dodging booby traps. He’s solving a different puzzle or riddle every other breath. And, he’s mowing down hundreds, if not thousands, of men who are trying to kill him. Basically, by the time Nathan Drake reaches the treasure, you feel as if he’s earned it. There’s this intense sense of accomplishment because you knew how much effort it took to get to that point. If the video game Nathan went on the same quest the movie Nathan did, it’d be the easiest adventure of his career, as the movie only really has four adventure sequences. One heist. One treasure hunting scene. And then two, very Uncharted feeling, over-the-top action scenes. Now, you might argue that this is due to the change in medium. And, I get that but I also have to rebuttals. One, if you don’t feel like you can properly adapt the scale of the source material, don’t even try it. We don’t NEED an Uncharted movie. The games were more than enough. And, perhaps more importantly, two, why does Indiana Jones not have that same problem? Indy’s adventures feel epic. Those movies are set piece after set piece. And almost every single one is iconic. By the time the credits roll, you feel as if you’ve been on this grand, important adventure with Indiana Jones. So, why does Uncharted feel so easy and breezy by comparison with almost the exact same runtime? It’s gotta be in the storytelling at that point. I’m not saying that every movie can be Raiders of the Lost Ark. I know that’s not doable. There’s a reason that’s a classic that even its sequels couldn’t quite live up to. However, I do believe that Raiders discredits anyone’s “well, it’s a shorter runtime than the game, so it’s only natural it’d feel less epic” argument. The simple fact is they could’ve and should’ve done better. End of story.

Overall, as you can tell, I have very mixed feelings about Uncharted. I think it more or less works as its own adventure movie, but it definitely falls flat as an adaptation. I just can’t help but think of the amazing take that we’re missing out on. Throw Nathan Fillion in there with someone like Spielberg, Cameron, or Scott directing and you could really have something special. Heck, even give it to the Russos or one of the Fast & Furious directors. Who knows? Maybe someday we will get a proper adaptation. Or, maybe the sequel, which I’m sure will be greenlit by the end of the week, will at least FEEL more like Uncharted, even if we’re still stuck with this cast. I hope so, because, like I keep saying, I’m a big fan of this franchise. I want to love an Uncharted movie. But, this one just doesn’t feel like an Uncharted movie worth loving.

TL;DR: If you’ve never played the games, odds are you’ll find Uncharted to be a pleasant enough adventure flick. But, if you’re a fan of the franchise, it leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Score: 5.5/10 (5 if you compare it to the games, 6 if you don’t, average to 5.5)

Review: Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile (2022)

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Writer: Michael Green

Starring: Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Kenneth Branagh, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, and Letitia Wright

Review: Who doesn’t like a good murder mystery? And, for over a hundred years now, it’s impossible to speak of good mysteries without mentioning Agatha Christie and, more specifically, her Hercule Poirot novels. As with most popular classics, they have been adapted time and time again. Most recently, Kenneth Branagh has taken up the role of directing the adaptations, while also playing the role himself. Death on the Nile is his second film in this franchise after 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, which I found quite enjoyable. Like that previous movie, this one is full of big-time actors chewing the scenery, trying to prove their innocence, until Poirot finally figures it out in the end. It’s a formula that’s been used time and time again, but, again, works pretty well here.

First things first, I really enjoy the overall feel of Death on the Nile. It’s just the right level of cheese. It feels like a classic B-movie that you’d accidentally stumble upon at three o’clock in the morning on TMC. But, not one that you’d change because you’d just be drawn in. A lot of that has to do with Branagh’s performance as Poirot. With his gigantic mustache and sometimes barely understandable French accent, he’s almost a cartoon character. But, Branagh makes it work. You believe that this is a real, albeit eccentric, person. And, in this one, you get to know the character on a deeper level, which only makes him work more. It’s not just Poirot that feels over the top and campy in all the right ways though. I love the absolute stretch Christie must’ve had to go through to even make these plots work. Like, how many different scenarios can you possibly think of where not only does someone get away with murder at first, but there are a dozen people (most played by big-name actors) with motives locked into the same locale? It’s ridiculous in all the right ways. Plus, the visual of a bunch of 1930s rich assholes cruising down the Nile River completely at each other’s throats, while stopping occasionally to attempt murder at the pyramids. There’s also no denying that this movie is incredibly sexy. The way Armie Hammer was dancing with his love interests? God damn! I haven’t seen dancing so dirty since Baby got put in the corner. Throw in an overcomplicated twist at the end. And *chef’s kiss* you’ve got yourself a perfectly cornball murder mystery premise.

I do have to admit though. I did not care for this one as much as I did the 2017 original. Why? I haven’t quite nailed that down, but I’ve got a few working theories. First of all, this one felt like it really dragged in the middle, which is something I don’t remember from the previous movie. While he was interviewing the suspects, I just felt bored by the fourth or fifth one. Especially when I feel like they didn’t really have much of a motive. Like, I understand why a detective would still interview them, but did we, the audience, have to see it? There’s one in particular that comes to mind with a revelation that mostly just had me shrugging. But, honestly, at least a handful could’ve easily been cut without us losing much. Second, and kind of related, this cast isn’t nearly as stacked as Orient Express’s was. You go down that cast list and it’s just heavy hitter after heavy hitter. On this one, there are more than a couple of people that I had to look up. One of which was a very pleasant surprise. I’ve never heard of Emma Mackey before, but I thought she was such a threatening presence as the scorned lover, set on torturing the newlyweds. And, I was very impressed with Letitia Wright, who proved that her charisma as Shuri in the MCU isn’t a one-off. But, as for almost everyone else… let’s just say this could’ve benefitted from a few more heavy hitters. Then, lastly, the reason that Death on the Nile 1000% couldn’t help. In 2017, Murder on the Orient Express seemed like a pleasant throwback to movies that we don’t really get anymore. Well, in 2019, we not only got another movie almost exactly like that but one that felt innovative, fresh, and very 21st century. That movie, of course, is Knives Out. Rainn Johnson’s absolute masterclass in murder mysteries made Branagh’s first movie look quaint, which means that the already inferior sequel is going to look even worse upon comparison. That’s the problem with making something that feels old-fashioned on purpose. When something fresh comes along, your product feels dated. It may not seem fair, but it is what it is.

All of that being said, I did still enjoy most of Death on the Nile. It was a fun, cheesy romp that had me entertained through most of the runtime. Plus, I’m always going to be down for a movie with this much style. I hope Branagh keeps making these movies because I’ll keep watching them. Even if they’re middle of the road like this one. Because, like I said at the start, who doesn’t like a good murder mystery?

TL;DR: While still entertaining, Death on the Nile feels like it’s missing a few ingredients that made its predecessor work so well.

Score: 6/10 (Ok)

Review: Moonfall

Moonfall (2022)

Director: Roland Emmerich

Writers: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser, and Spenser Cohen

Starring: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Michael Pena, Charlie Plummer, Kelly Yu, and Donald Sutherland

Review: Roland Emmerich made headlines earlier this week when he said that he believes Marvel and Star Wars movies are ruining cinema. Well, in my opinion, that’s pretty big talk for the man responsible for inflicting Moonfall onto the world, a movie about the moon being a spaceship. Because even the worst of those movies is at least twice as smart and entertaining as this piece of garbage.

Let’s start off by taking a look at the plot. And, unlike most of my reviews, this is going to go heavy into spoiler territory. I don’t even care to be honest. No one should have to sit through this shit. But, if you do not want spoilers, skip to the next paragraph. I’ll keep it spoiler-free from there. Anywho, Moonfall starts with a fairly simple, yet already absurd premise. The moon has changed orbits and is going to crash into Earth. Already pretty dumb, right? Don’t worry it gets worse, because we then learn that the moon is fake. Not the moon landing. The whole damn moon. Apparently, NASA has known about it since the 1960s and everyone from Neil Armstrong on has just kept it secret. How? Why? No clue. Oh, and there’s this nanobots-looking robot that has been killing astronauts who try to explore the moon’s surface to try to figure out what’s going on. What is that robot doing there? Now here’s where we get really bonkers and really, really spoiler-heavy. Apparently, billions of years ago, there were humans in a far-off galaxy. They were a super-advanced, peaceful society that left all of the decision-making to a benevolent artificial intelligence. Of course, this being science fiction, the artificial intelligence turned evil and started destroying humanity. The remaining humans fled in space stations, looking to create a suitable planet to live on. So, they CREATED OUR GALAXY, started life on Earth, and then had, I guess, another, nicer artificial intelligence (whose design totally rips off Contact btw) watch over the humans from the station, disguised as a moon. The nanobots were the evil robots who have since found the base and are trying to destroy it, with the final act being our heroes getting involved in this billions of years-long war. Yes, that’s literally the plot of a big studio movie showing in theaters. Not on Syfy. In theaters. From Paramount Studios. Are you kidding me? Roland Emmerich must’ve literally heard Obi-Wan’s line of “That’s no moon. That’s a space station.” and was like, “Huh, what if our moon was a space station?” Then, made up all of this bullshit to fill in the gaps. Seriously, this has to be one of THE dumbest movies I’ve ever seen.

But, here’s the worst part: it’s not even fun. If you’re going to be a big dumb, end-of-the-world, science fiction movie, you should at least be fun. Moonfall is boring as hell. There’s no tongue-in-cheek nature to it. No one is winking at the camera. It’s totally serious. This is really disappointing, because Emmerich’s best work, Independence Day, totally knew what kind of movie it was. And that premise is waaaaaaay more believable. But, I get it. Not every movie is supposed to be funny (although most dumb ones are). So, is it compelling in any way? Nope. None of these characters are worth becoming attached to. They have a very tell, don’t show approach to their backstories, often throwing in exposition to try to get us to feel something, anything. However, it doesn’t really work. By the time the final act rolled around, I barely cared who lived and who died. And these are likable, good, charismatic actors, who have stolen hearts with much smaller screentime so it’s gotta be on the writing.

Then, finally, there are the special effects. If you can usually count on one thing from an Emmerich film, it’s good special effects. Well… except for Moonfall apparently. Because these look horrendous. First of all, everything looks cheap. Like, again, Syfy movie or The Asylum cheap. But, perhaps most damningly, I never once believed even for a second that the actors were in the same space as the shit going on around them. We follow characters making their way through the country as the Earth is being destroyed. However, not only does it look like they’re in front of a green screen the entire time, but they also are barely reacting to what’s happening on that green screen. They often will be having a super chill, mostly peaceful conversation while meteors destroy everything around them. Or, they will just start unloading an old folks’ home with minimum urgency as if the problem is days away, while, just outside their window, a tidal wave is knocking over every other building in the city. Was the damage not supposed to be that bad originally? Was it supposed to be a slow buildup when they shot the actors’ scenes? Then, when it came to special effects time, they ramped everything up to eleven even when it made no sense in the context of the scenes? Because that’s exactly how it felt. I’ve never witnessed an apocalyptic movie with stakes that felt so small. Why was nobody panicking?

Honestly, I could go on and on about the stuff I found infuriating about Moonfall. But, the movie doesn’t deserve any more of my time… or yours, to be frank. The danger about me going on and on like this is that someone out there will think this is a “so bad, its good” kind of movie and seek it out. Or that they’ll want to see if I’m over exaggerating. Please don’t. For your own good. I checked it out for very similar reasons and regret it immensely. Like I said before, this isn’t a fun watch. There’s almost nothing redeeming about it, other than maybe the fact that they definitely shot for the moon. Unfortunately, they didn’t land among the stars in this case either.

TL;DR: Moonfall doesn’t even have enough decency to be entertaining while being one of the absolute dumbest movies I’ve ever seen.

Score: 2/10 (Painful)

Review: The Fallout

The Fallout (2022)

Director: Megan Park

Writer: Megan Park

Starring: Jenna Ortega, Maddie Ziegler, Julie Bowen, John Ortiz, Niles Finch, Will Ropp, and Shailene Woodley

Review: The Fallout is a very difficult movie to watch. From one of its first terrifying image of three teenagers hiding in a single bathroom stall from a school shooter to its last heartbreaking moments of human emotion, you spend the whole movie either crying or desperately holding back tears. It’s not a fun viewing experience. You’re not gonna find this on any “most rewatchable” list. But, movies like this are important. Looking into the mirror and seeing what our society is putting children through is vital. And Megan Park does a fantastic job presenting this tragic story to her audience.

The main thing that makes The Fallout work is how honest it feels. Every action that takes place over its runtime feels real and justified. I’ve thankfully never been through an event like this, but I can see how each of these reactions would happen in reality. Of course, there are the kids who take this as a rallying cry to fight for gun control. They’re the brave ones you see on the news, really fighting to make a difference. But, then, not every person is instantly going to be right there beside them. Everyone reacts in different ways. There are going to be the ones who lock themselves away from the world. The ones who spend hours and hours just crying in their room. There will be drug and alcohol abuse, as people try anything to block the pain. And, of course, there will be some who just try to ignore the situation completely. One of my favorite things about The Fallout is that it doesn’t cast judgment on any of their characters. They understand that everyone deals with trauma in their own unique way. And that’s not a bad thing. Though it is deeply unsettling to watch kids so young make questionable decisions, you understand and empathize with them for being put in that situation in the first place. It’s truly a talent.

I will say too, on a semi-unrelated note, that it helps that Megan Park seems to understand teenagers better than most of Hollywood. While their reactions to horrible events seem authentic, so do the little everyday moments we witness here. From the way they talk and text to one of them doing a TikTok dance in the background without anyone even thinking it’s slightly strange, everything feels authentic to what I’ve seen from Gen Z. Now, to be fair, I’m almost thirty, so I may be wrong. However, I have cousins that I talk to pretty regularly and this all seems true to their day-to-day lives. While not nearly as important as the big emotional stuff, little stuff like that helps to sell the overall narrative.

But, as much as I respect the hell out of her writing and directing, I can’t give all the credit of The Fallout’s success to Megan Park, because this cast is fantastic. Every single one of them gets a moment in the spotlight and they all completely crush it. First of all, Jenna Ortega has had quite a month. If you’d shown me her picture on New Years Day, I’d have told you I had no idea who she was. Now, she’s one of my favorite up-and-coming actors. She absolutely was pitch-perfect as our first victim and, then, minor heroine in Scream a few weeks ago, but completely blows that out of the water here. The sincere heartbreak and depression she brings to this role is unreal. I desperately wanted to give her a hug and tell her everything was going to be alright. And, obviously without spoilers, her final moments of this movie include some of the best acting I’ve ever seen. It’s right up there with Timothee Chalamet at the end of Call Me By Your Name. It’s a shame this won’t garner her the same kind of attention, because she deserves it. Either way, Ortega is definitely on my radar. I hope she’s a big star someday because she easily has the talent. But, like I said, the entire cast deserves all the recognition they can get here. Even the tiniest roles that really only get a scene or two to truly shine are turned into characters that’ll forever stick with me thanks to their performers. They all broke my heart in just the right ways. I cried a ton. It was a fantastic group effort. And, from now on, whenever I see any of these cast members, I’ll think “oh that’s ___! They were fantastic in The Fallout!”

I don’t really have any major complaints about The Fallout, but, of course, it’s not a review without bringing up at least one thing negative. Here, it’s one arc in particular that I feel doesn’t really have any resolution. She has a bit of a falling out with a character and despite it not feeling conclusive, we never see them again. They’re still talked about fondly, but there’s rekindling of that friendship. I feel like it’s a missed opportunity and feels jarring in the context of the rest of the movie. The runtime isn’t even that long, so a quick five minutes to put some closure there would’ve been very welcome. As it stands, it doesn’t ruin the movie for me, obviously. But, it does feel… I don’t know… off. I’d love to know what other people thought because it’s bugging me. So, reach out if you’ve seen The Fallout I guess!

Overall, I really, really enjoyed The Fallout. I thought it was the most important, jarring movie I’ve seen since Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Like that one, it’s incredibly hard to watch, but super important too. It puts a realistic, human perspective on tragedies we see all too often in this country. Not to put too much of my personal politics into this review, but, if you watch this movie and don’t feel like at least a little bit of change needs to be made, you’re a monster. Like, I don’t know that I can associate with you anymore. Because this is heartbreaking. Something has to be done to prevent stories like this from happening on a seemingly monthly basis. I’m glad people like Megan Park and Jenna Ortega are out here making sure we see the harsh realities of the world we live in.

TL;DR: The Fallout can be incredibly hard to watch, but vital in the way it humanizes all too common tragedies and is filled with fantastic performances by the entire cast.

Score: 8/10 (Great)

Review: The King’s Daughter

The King’s Daughter (2022)

Director: Sean McNamara

Writers: Barry Berman and James Schamus

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Kaya Scodelario, Benjamin Walker, William Hurt, Rachel Griffiths, and Fan Bingbing

Review: Honestly, did this movie ever even have a shot? First of all, in an age of delayed movies, this one takes the cake. Shooting on this ended all the way back in 2014! Do you know how different the world was back in 2014? There were only seven Star Wars movies back then? There have been five since this movie has been finished! So, what was the holdup? Essentially, studios played hot potato with it, passing it back and forth until one of them would eventually have to plop it into theaters and take the loss. But, that’s not the only thing this movie has going against it. You see, the director of this movie has almost forty years of experience in the field. The problem? None of that experience is very noteworthy with most of it being MTV, Nickelodeon, or Disney Channel shows. No shade to any of those, but they don’t really help the resume scream “big blockbuster director.” Then, finally, there’s a personal bias. See? I’m not that big of a fan of Pierce Brosnan. He’s by far my least favorite Bond and I haven’t really forgiven him for what I think is three of the franchise’s shittiest movies. Plus, this is a non-Disney fairy tale movie, which, again, don’t really have the best track record in the last 20 or so years. So, is the movie better than the sum of its parts? Did I enjoy it despite everything it had going against it? No. This movie is bad. And the people who made it should feel bad.

My main complaint with this movie is how incredibly boring it is. Nothing about it is special in the least. First of all, the plot is insanely predictable. Basically, an estranged daughter of King Louis XIV, who has a deep personal connection with the water, is brought into Versailles, where she bonds with her father. Meanwhile, she befriends a mermaid that the king has captured and intends to slay for a chance at immortality. What do you think is going to happen from here? Take a guess. If you’ve ever heard a story before, there’s a 98% chance you nailed the rest of the plot. With very few twists and turns, it plays out exactly as you think it would. Now, that’s not always a problem. Many of the classic Disney movies follow extremely simple plots. But, they also add a ton of charm that makes the characters and world stick with you for decades after your first viewing. Not The King’s Daughter though. These characters are as one-note and bland as you can get. I don’t think I could describe any of them to you except to say “she’s nice” and “they’re not.” Meanwhile, most of the cast, with a slight exception of Kaya Scodelario, seem to be sleepwalking through their entire performances. Heck, the mermaid itself has nothing going for it but some bad CGI. It’s remarkable how dull everything feels here.

I’ll give the movie a little credit though because it does work remarkably well in one sense. It is a hell of an advertisement for visiting Versailles. Having been filmed on location, the backdrops are spectacular. And you can tell the director knew that too since about 50% of the runtime can be summed up as “people in extravagant costumes traverse around the castle in slow motion.” At times, I admit, it was beautiful! However, with the less than stellar things going on inside that set, it had about the same effect perfume ads do. It’s pretty but ultimately hollow. It did cement my plans to eventually go to Paris someday though, because wow. I want to be there.

Overall, I don’t recommend The King’s Daughter. Other than the beautiful backdrop of Versailles, it has very little to offer. The story is predictable. The characters are unmemorable. The acting is flat. And, frankly, it feels a million times longer than the 90-minute runtime would have you believe. Stay home and watch a Disney animated feature instead. Heck, you’d probably be better off watching the live-action remake of that feature instead of watching this. At least you’d get something out of the experience. This is just a total waste of time.

TL;DR: Watching The King’s Daughter is like watching a perfume advertisement. The costumes and backdrop are gorgeous, but the experience is ultimately hollow and unremarkable.

Score: 4/10 (Bad)

Review: Scream

Scream (2022)

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Writers: James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick

Starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Dylan Minnette, Mason Godding, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mikey Madison, Sonia Ben Ammar, and Marley Shelton

Review: Full disclosure, as of last weekend, I had only seen one Scream movie. I saw the first one a couple of years ago and, while I really enjoyed it, I didn’t have much interest in tracking down the rest of the franchise. I wish I had. Because, in preparation for this one, I went back and watched the entire series within a week and had quite a fun time. These movies are right up my alley. I love the interconnected nature of each subsequent sequel. The look of Ghostface is so simple, yet brilliant. I like trying to figure out who the killer is and almost always being wrong. But, most of all, I love the commentary on the horror genre that these movies bring. No matter the decade, we can always count on the Scream franchise to cut deep on the current state of the genre. The only one I didn’t care for is Scream 3, which seemed to drop the clever writing and just seemed like your typical bad horror flick. Other than that, the series has been remarkably consistent, which you can’t say about many film sagas (let alone horror ones). So, did the Scream (2022) live up to the rest of the franchise? Absolutely, it did! This movie is easily one of the better in the already stellar series.

As I said before, my enjoyment of a Scream movie comes from the commentary. How well does this movie make fun of itself and movies like it? Well, the good news is that that’s probably this movie’s strongest point. While the first Scream was a commentary on the slasher cliches, the second on sequels, the third trilogy closers (?), and the fourth remakes, this one is based on the concept of the requel. You know, the belated sequel that brings back legacy characters but, more importantly, passes the torch to the new upcoming generation. While many of these young characters are new, they are all playing into archetypes and/or related to characters previously established in the Scream franchise. Think The Force Awakens or Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Oh, and while we’re on the topic of those particular fandoms, this is also a brilliant teardown of toxic fan culture. It comments on how nothing but the original is ever good enough for these fans, so studios have no choice but to just make the same movie over again. As someone who’s (a happier) member of some pretty toxic fandoms, they hit the nail on the head. The final act especially (which I obviously can’t go into due to spoilers) felt very familiar as someone who’s spent a ton of time on the Star Wars subreddits. So, again, the Scream writers seem to have their pulse on pop culture. They know what these studios are doing and are ready to ridicule them while also taking full advantage of the situation. Because, not only is this a parody, it’s also a damn fine good example of that type of sequel.

Speaking of legacy characters, I very much enjoyed all of the new additions to the cast here. Everyone perfectly understood what type of movie they were making and played their parts to perfection. I wish I had time to talk about all of them, but this review is probably too long as it is. Instead, I’ll point out some highlights. Melissa Barrera, who was excellent in In the Heights last summer, absolutely steals the show here. She’s probably the best horror/slasher lead we’ve had in a movie in almost a decade. Without getting into spoilers, I love how sensible she is. She’s one of the only characters in the franchise who not only knows the rules of horror films, but actually follows them. Most of the time, they’re like “Hey this is a bad idea” while actively doing the thing. Not her though and I appreciate that. I also really appreciated her backstory and thought it added a lot of depth and emotion to her character. When we get our next Scream movie (whether it’s next year or a decade from now), I hope they find a way to bring her back. (Fun sidebar: I almost compared her performance and the whole tone of this character to Samara Weaving in Ready or Not, which I just learned is directed by the same guys! So, yeah, if you liked Ready or Not, I think you’ll enjoy this one quite a bit too!) Likewise, I really enjoyed Gooding and Brown as a set of twins who grew up in Woodsboro and are obsessed with the Stab franchise. They were the less obnoxious versions of Jamie Kennedy’s character from the original trilogy and just oozed charisma. Again, without confirming whether that’s possible or not, I’d love to see more of these characters later on down the road. And, since we’ve brought up returning characters, let’s talk about the Scream OG trio of Sidney, Gale, and Dewey. While I do wish we’d seen more of them (Sid in particular), I do respect what this entry did with each of these characters. It wasn’t afraid to take risks that might allienate those fanboys this movie was commenting on. But, personally, I think all of their actions are perfectly in character and make the narative better. Which, again, is hard to go into without dropping spoilers.

Lastly, I gotta praise something that I’ve never praised in any other Scream sequel: the kills. You see? For as great of a series as I think this is, the kills have always been kind of underwhelming. 90% of them are just a quick stab to the gut, chest, or back. In fact, they’re so unscary that I found myself checking the ratings more than a few times. In an R rated franchise, the gore has always seemed rather PG-13 to me. Well, not in this fifth installment! I don’t know if it’s the change in directors, better special effects, or just the changing of the times and what you can get away with, but the murders in this movie actually get kind of gnarley. There are three in particular that I would rank among the best in the franchise. One of those was so brutal that I actually had to look away. I’ve never once had to hide from anything going on in a Scream movie. They’re generally fantastic, but not that scary. It was a nice change of pace to have something geniunely freak me out. (I hope they don’t cover it on the Kill Count until James A. Janisse comes back, because he’s the one that’s pointed out to me how un-innovative the Scream series has been in that regard. I’d love to see his opinions here.)

So, as you can probably tell, I really, really enjoyed Scream (2022). It had everything I love and have come to expect from the franchise. The commentary was top-notch. I laughed just as often as I was freaked out. It was probably the scariest movie in the series thus far. And, I thought all of the cast did a terrific job. I walked out of the theater extremely happy. This has probably moved the franchise into my favorite horror series of all-time. I just can’t think of one that’s been this consistantly good. And, I cannot wait for the next entry! I’m sure they’ll wait another decade or so for the horror landscape to shift once again and that’s more than ok with me. I’ll be first in line whenver they decide it’s worth making. Because I love me some Scream and it’s obviously not out of steam just yet.

TL;DR: In Scream (2022), the franchise proves that it hasn’t lost any of its biting commentary, while also providing its scariest entry to date.

Score: 8/10 (Great)

Review: The 355

The 355 (2022)

Director: Simon Kinberg

Writers: Theresa Rebeck and Simon Kinberg

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, Edgar Ramirez, and Sebastian Stan

Review: This might be the saddest kind of movie, to be honest. Because The 355 has so much going for it, but completely fails to live up to any of that potential. From what I’ve read online, this is a project led by Jessica Chastain. She came up with the concept and pitched the idea to Simon Kinberg, while they were making Dark Phoenix together. It’s a shame then that she didn’t decide to bring this up to someone, anyone more qualified to make a good movie out of it. She’s worked with so many talented people. Why did it have to be the guy who directed the worst X-Men movie? (Which is really saying something, by the way!)

Here’s the thing about Simon Kinberg. He’s a producer. Since 2005, he’s produced over 20 movies. Some of them are very, very good. He obviously knows what it takes to make a good movie. However, I don’t think he has the eye to make a good director. Both of his efforts, this and Dark Phoenix, have just been terribly bland. There’s no filter, no interesting camera angles, nothing. It just feels like he’s filming what’s going on in front of him and that’s it. We need a little pizzaz. On top of that, the only way he seems to be able to direct action sequences is to film them with extreme shaky cam, close-ups, and an overabundance of cuts. Honestly, the action scenes in this movie are extremely disorienting and almost gave me motion sickness on more than one occasion. There was one cool moment where a fight scene was only lit by the flashes of gunfire, which was pretty cool but something we’ve seen before. Other than that, I definitely was never super impressed with anything Kinberg threw at us.

But, here’s the thing, the writing did him no favors either. This is about as straightforward of a spy film as spy films get. The plot is that these women from all over the world are teaming up because a terrorist organization is selling a piece of tech that can hack into and shut down all devices hooked to the internet. Meanwhile, their superiors aren’t doing anything because they are corrupt, so they’ve got to go at it on their own. I’m sorry, but this plot is dated as hell, right? Like, we’d expect to see this in a late Brosnan-era Bond film, not something from Craig or whoever follows him. Like, it’s not as innovative or scary as the writers of The 355 seem to think it is. Yes. This technology is scary because we over-rely on tech, but this isn’t the first time a concept like that has been thrown around. And, “this agency is corrupt so I’ve got to do it myself” is the plot of 95% of the spy movies released in the last 20 years. I’m not saying that every spy movie should be completely original. I don’t think that’s possible. But, don’t be bland in your writing or directing! That’s almost impossible to come back from.

I’ve got to give them credit though. The leads tried their hardest to make this bland flick watchable. But, then again, looking at this cast, how could they not? These are top-tier actors who bring their A-game to everything they touch, even when it’s a C-tier movie. Chastain and Kruger are especially highlights, as spies who kick a ton of ass but are also always deeply vulnerable and flawed. In a more fair world, I could see their characters leading a franchise for several movies. Also knocking it out of the park was Cruz, as an agency therapist who just happened to be dragged into this. We’ve seen the kind of quirky, scared citizen dragged into an extreme situation by badasses before, but I’m not sure one has ever had as much heart as Cruz’s character. There is a scene where people she cares deeply about are put into the line of fire and Cruz portrays that heartbreak perfectly. That scene is probably only one of two truly memorable moments in this movie and a big part of that credit goes to her. And, of course, Nyong’o brings class and grace to her hacker role, as always. Honestly, the only weak point of the cast is Bingbing. She comes in later in the movie and kind of kills the chemistry of the group. It felt like throwing another member into the Beatles. A very stiff, unemotional, non-charismatic fifth member. Honestly, I don’t know why this character exists since she just serves to make the movie even that much blander.

But, in all honesty, for the majority of its runtime, I didn’t hate The 355. I don’t know if I would’ve recommended it, but the cast made it at least bearable. And, I truly appreciated how the movie never talked down to you. It was never pandering. Sure. It featured kick-ass women, but they were spies who just happened to be women. They never made a big deal about it. There’s not an Avengers: Endgame “she’s not alone” moment here. That is until the very last moments. After most of the plot has wrapped up, there is this “2 months later” epilogue and it has a completely different tone than the rest of the movie. It’s so on the nose. I don’t know if there was originally a different ending and it had to change because of focus groups or studio interference or something. But, god, I hated this ending. It felt tacked on and unnecessary. Like someone missed the point and needed it spelled out for them. I’m a firm believer that a bad ending can ruin a good movie, so you can only imagine what it does to a barely serviceable one.

Overall, I’d say that The 355 is entirely skippable. It’s far from the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but there’s not much that super stands out here either. I wish Chastain had pitched this to almost anyone else because the concept of these four women teaming up as super-spies sounds super appealing. I understand how this movie got made. I just don’t understand why they gave it the blandest possible treatment. With even just the smallest amount of spice, this could’ve been something special. Oh well. These things happen I guess. I just hope that studios catch on before another awesome concept goes to waste.

TL;DR: Despite a killer cast giving it their all, The 355 is about as uninspired as a spy thriller can get.

Score: 5/10 (Meh.)