Sundance Review: Fair Play

An unexpected promotion at a cutthroat hedge fund pushes a young couple’s relationship to the brink, threatening to unravel far more than their recent engagement.

Fair Play was my favorite film of the Sundance Film Festival, to be quite honest I did not expect this at all. Given the film’s premise you would think it would just be another romantic thriller but this film goes quite a few steps beyond to make this one thrilling experience. 

For starters Phoebe Dynevor and Aiden Ehrenreich are both quite incredible, they give the best performances from a film I saw at the festival. From the opening act of them coming off as a normal couple, to the downright chaotic moments in the final act were things evolve into a nightmare. There’s a huge range of emotions and depth the two display in the film, there’s so many striking moments between the two that really capture the film’s atmosphere to the point where it’s just unbelievable. Chloe Domont did such a wonderful job in the director’s chair, she starts the film off as you would expect a relationship thriller but like I said before quickly evolves into chaos. 

I was a bit worried how Fair Play was going to end but luckily Chloe Domont ended the film right on a very high note that really leaves the viewer in shock and with a lot of raw power oozing out of it. Fair Play is the very definition of a powerhouse film, every chance it gets it hits the viewer hard, with incredible performances from Dynevor, Ehrenreich or any of the rest of the cast, the script which is a whole other beast with very grounded moments and striking dialogue. There’s also the closeup shots that really put into the conversation of the characters, it helps that these conversations are very well grounded and get pretty personal between the characters. 

Overall Fair Play is a fantastic film and a truly masterfully crafted film that I’m seriously glad I saw, if you are going to put a select few films from the Sundance film festival on your radar make sure one of them is Fair Play. 

Fair Play currently has no release date. 

10/10 A+

Sundance Review: Divinity

Set in an otherworldly human existence, scientist Sterling Pierce dedicated his life to the quest for immortality, slowly creating the building blocks of a groundbreaking serum named “Divinity.” Jaxxon Pierce, his son, now controls and manufactures his father’s once-benevolent dream.

Not going to lie I watched Divinity five days ago (at the time this was written) and I still don’t quite know what to think of it, Divinity was a last minute addition to my Sundance schedule. I added it mainly due to hearing some talk about it being a very “out there film” and that description doesn’t even begin to describe this film. 

Divinity is if you took Mad Max and Tetsuo: The Iron Man, mixed with 16mm black and white cinematography and then made it like taking a psychedelic drug, there’s so much creativity here that it’s truly insane. The use of the 16mm black and white cinematography heavily reminds you of those very strange experimental films you come across every now and then only in film form. It also does remind you a bit of the universal monster movies as well, there’s some really spectacular use of stop motion and live action during the final battle of the film that gives it such a unique look to it. 

The cast is quite great as well, Stephen Dorff is quite great but the one who steals it is Moises Arias who really gives such a interesting performance that matches the tone the film is going for, the direction from Eddie Alcazar is quite a strong one it puts you in this world where just about anything can happen. The viewer is immediately taken into this world through the visuals and cinematography that does a lot of the talking, there’s so much creativity and imagination here that is truly exciting. 

Divinity is definitely not going to be for everyone, having that said if it sounds like your type of thing I do recommend checking this one out once it releases. 

Divinity currently has no release date. 

8/10 B+

Sundance Review: Cat Person

The brief relationship between a twenty-year-old sophomore college student Margot, and an older man Robert, who is a regular at the movie theater where Margot works.

I saved Cat Person for last during the Sundance Film Festival (don’t worry there’s still 8 more films to talk about) because this was my most anticipated for the festival, the cast really intrigued me and the premise definitely had the potential to be quite great. 

Let’s start with the positives, Emilia Jones is quite great and shows that she’s once again some really exciting new talent and Nicholas Braun gives a pretty unnerving performance that is quite effect in the first two acts. Cat Person also captures some of the harsh realities of online dating actually pretty well, the atmosphere is shown quite well in a lot of the scenes early on in the movie. Plus there’s some humor that actually does work quite well early on as well, notice how I keep saying “early on” well that’s because once the third act rolls around the movie really jumps the shark. I get what they were trying to go for but they really turned into a horror genre chase type of third act that just does not work here, which yes you can make the argument that situations like this could happen. But the problem is the movie all of a sudden switching it’s atmosphere around and not deciding what it truly wants to be. 

Does it want to be a drama that points out the harsh reality of online dating or does it want to turn into a horror movie that is easily outclassed by other horror films? It’s frustrating because if you take out a lot of the nonsense from the third act you have a very solid movie. I’m sure there will most definitely be an audience for Cat Person as like I said before I wouldn’t call it a bad movie, there is so much to like about it. 

Cat Person currently has no release date. 

6/10 C+

Emancipation has strong performances but weak writing.

Peter, a slave, flees a plantation in Louisiana after he was whipped within an inch of his life. He has to outwit cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on a torturous journey north.

I watched Emancipation a few days ago and to be quite honest I still have no idea how exactly I feel about it. This is definitely one of those cases where you can easily tell there is something here and the movie wants to say something, it’s just not doing it all that well. Will Smith and Ben Foster do a really great job and give some quite effective moments, Ben Foster is even downright horrifying at times and Will Smith gives this strong performance of wanting to see his family again. While the movie is well intentioned there are some serious flaws here that are a bit baffling, the movie is about slavery yet sort of plays out as a survival thriller movie. It attempts to try and combine the two but given the brutal violence that comes off more as shock value rather than trying to educate on how horrible slavery is, the problem is this movie is the very bare basics about slavery. Yes there are some very powerful moments from Will Smith about wanting to reunite with his family and really puts up a fight against his captors, however those moments are surrounded by stuff that has been done far better in other films.

Emancipation is available on Apple TV+

5/10 C

Quick Review: The Independent.

A young journalist discovers a conspiracy involving a U.S. Presidential candidate that could change the election and the fate of the country.

The Independent is a very dull political thriller that just sort of exists, while the cast isn’t bad as they give it their all with such a shallow script. Jodie Turner-Smith and Ann Dowd in particular are pretty okay, there were also some scenes that were admittedly engaging that gave the movie some sort tension. However a majority of it really fails to do anything more than just tell a bland political thriller story, it’s way too predictable for it’s own good and nothing really stands out at all. The biggest problem here is that it feels more like a pilot for a NBC show rather than a movie, which is probably why it was quietly shoved on to Peacock without any advertising. Which is quite odd because you would think a movie where John Cena is running for president would do a hell of a lot more with that idea. Overall The Independent is largely forgettable and just does not have a whole lot to it.

The Independent is available on Peacock.

3/10 D-

Most Anticipated Films Of November 2022!

We are almost at the end of 2022 which is sort of crazy to think about, it’s been such a spectacular year for film and it’s only going to get even better from here! Let’s start with a movie I saw back in March at SXSW that is quite disturbing.

Soft & Quiet – November 4th (VOD) – I’m going to link my review here so you know what you are getting into if you decide to watch it. It’s a very good film but very disturbing.

16. Disenchanted 2 – November 18th (Disney+)

15. Strange World – November 23rd (Theaters)

14. Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Plantasm – November 8th (VOD)

13. Selena Gomez: my mind & me – November 4th (Apple TV+)

12. She Said – November 18th (Theaters)

11. Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special – November 25th (Disney+)

10. EO – November 18th (Theaters)

9. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – November 11th (Theaters)

8. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story – November 4th (Roku)

7. The Son – November 11th (Theaters)

6. The Fabelmans – November 11th (Limited) and November 23rd (Wide)

5. The Wonder – November 16th (Netflix)

4. Causeway – November 4th (Apple TV+)

3. Armageddon Time – November 4th (Theaters)

2. The Menu – November 18th (Theaters)

1. Bones & All – November 18th (Theaters)

And that’s my list of the most anticipated films of this month! What are you excited for!

Run Sweetheart Run is entertaining yet could have been more.

After what begins as dinner with a client, a single mom finds herself hunted by a monstrous and seemingly unstoppable assailant.

Run Sweetheart Run is a film that is not subtle at all, it establishes very early on that it’s a #MeToo type of film. Which I’m definitely all for and at times the movie uses that quite well, Ella Balinska gives such a fantastic and fun performance here, she really gives it her all here and completely steals the show in every single way possible. The “RUN” title card sequences when Cherie (Balinska) is in danger are very fun and creative, mixed with some thrilling atmosphere as well a very solid score to go with it. The vampire elements I have to say are solid and actually do a few things differently, it’s just a tad frustrating that they aren’t used to the full potential. Ultimately what stops this movie from being even better is the script, as I said before it’s not subtle at all which leads to many problems as the movie goes on, the dialogue from the other characters is on the weak side and none of them really have any memorable or distinct personalities outside of their respective ones they are given. The third act does have a twist that is quite engaging but unfortunately is a bit too late to really sink in or to do anything memorable with. Run Sweetheart Run clearly had a lot of potential to be great and I truly hope Ella Balinska is given a better horror film to work with in the near future.

Run Sweetheart Run is available on Amazon Prime Video.

6/10 C+

Halloween Ends a solid wrap up to the David Gordon Green Trilogy.

Four years after her last encounter with masked killer Michael Myers, Laurie Strode is living with her granddaughter and trying to finish her memoir. Myers hasn’t been seen since, and Laurie finally decides to liberate herself from rage and fear and embrace life. However, when a young man stands accused of murdering a boy that he was babysitting, it ignites a cascade of violence and terror that forces Laurie to confront the evil she can’t control.

Halloween Ends is the final of the David Gordon Green trilogy of Halloween movies and the thirteenth film overall of the franchise, I will start out by saying that Halloween Ends is not going to be for everyone. It’s a very different film that doesn’t completely focus on being a full on slasher film as it does with the concept of evil and how it goes from person to person, there’s also the theme of the people of Haddonfield suffering as well. Jamie Lee Curtis and Andi Matichak are both fantastic here, they really give it their all and truly give some worthy performances of closing out the trilogy. The kills are of course quite great some of which being some pretty brutal ones that really capture the atmosphere of the film quite well, Corey Cunningham is a pretty interesting character that the film focuses on and the evil that is trying to take him, while the concept itself does have some weak moments as there are some script issues. The concept itself for the most part is pretty well done and actually captures the dark atmosphere the film has, there’s a lot more character moments in Halloween Ends than a lot of the other movies which is actually a breath of fresh air. The final moments of the film is a very strong wrap up to the trilogy and really captures the suffering of Haddonfield coming to end very well, overall Halloween Ends is a very different approach to the series and is a really strong one!

Halloween Ends is available in theaters and on Peacock!

8/10 B+

Stars At Noon is an atmospheric film with a stunning performance from Margaret Qualley

A young American journalist stranded in present-day Nicaragua seduces an enigmatic Englishman who seems like her best chance of escape. She soon realizes, though, that their torrid affair has only put her in more danger.

Not entirely sure if everything completely works in Claire Denis’s second film this year Stars At Noon but there is still quite a lot to really like. Claire Denis does a fantastic job with her direction and immediately sets up a very strong atmosphere that instantly connects to the setting of the film, there is this sort of mood to the film that is both atmospheric and very relaxed. It’s sort of hard to describe if you haven’t seen it but it really captures the setting in such an interesting way. Margaret Qualley once again show’s how incredible she is as an actress, she gives such a tremendous performance that really highlights how powerful her screen presence really is, this is a performance that is sadly going to go unnoticed but it’s truly a powerful performance that really builds the film. The 2 hour and 15 minute running time is a bit much as the movie does take some time to get going, but gets more and more interesting as it goes on. Lastly there’s the cinematography that is truly beautiful and is shot in a almost personal like manner that leads to some very captivating shots and moments. Stars At Noon is not going to be for everyone but I do recommend checking this one out!

Stars At Noon is available on all VOD platforms.

8/10 B+

The Stranger (2022) Film review

Mark, an undercover cop, forms an intense, intimate relationship with Henry, a murder suspect, in an attempt to earn his trust and get a confession, risking both of their lives in the process.

The Stranger is an interesting little film about violence, it’s a dark film that tackles the several themes of violence but doesn’t show it. Which that in itself is a pretty interesting approach to take, which I do think the film does quite well, combine that with some really strong performances and some well put together music as well and you have yourself a suspenseful film that really has an interesting approach on violence. It’s slow burn element is also quite great especially when combined with the cinematography that adds so much to the film, the writing could have definitely been a bit stronger in some areas as it does lose some footing during the third act. But this is some really interesting stuff that I recommend.

The Stranger is available on Netflix.

7/10 B