I See You
Helen Hunt and Jon Tenney play a married couple whose family of three is on the brink due to her infidelity. Meanwhile, the cop-husband is assigned a child kidnapping case, and someone — or something — seems to be haunting their suburban house.
Here’s the thing: I am burning out on “supernatural thrillers,” in which any kind of plot snag can be explained away by magical hocus-pocus of the screenwriter’s choosing. So it was a relief to me when, at the midpoint of this well-shot movie, it became less Poltergeist and more, oh, The Silence of the Lambs, I guess. There is a major plot development that changes everything, and mysterious events are (mostly) satisfactorily explained.
But not everything is satisfying. The script is simply too clever by half, with too many coincidences and “yeah, right” moments for my taste. Release: 2019 Grade: B
Don’t Worry Darling
Florence Pugh and Harry Styles are living the life in an experimental town on the West Coast. But lurking beneath the village’s 1950s, Ozzie-and-Harriet facade, something’s rotten in the state of California.
Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling is thought-provoking, well-made, and well-acted. It was considered a disappointment upon release earlier this year. Why is that?
I suspect it’s a matter of bad timing. Darling’s none-too-subtle message — The patriarchy is bad! Women are victims! — is propaganda we’ve been bludgeoned with for years now (thanks, The Handmaid’s Tale), and half the country isn’t having it. We’ve seen enough of Hillary and Nancy and Maxine to know that our problems aren’t strictly gender-related; they are power- and corruption-related. Laying responsibility solely on one sex doesn’t cut it.
But Wilde has made an entertaining movie and deserves kudos for that. I deduct points only for the plot’s lack of originality (The Stepford Wives, anyone?) — and for the politics of bad timing. Release: 2022 Grade: B+
Here’s an example of the triumph of marketing over substance. In the trailers for Smile, we learn that people inexplicably develop an evil smile right before something dreadful happens. We also see a clip of a truly frightening scene in which a woman runs up to the window of a waiting car and …
Little did I know, when I watched the ads, that those rictus-grins and the car scene are the only high points of this derivative, ponderous movie. We follow a nervous wreck of a mental-health therapist (Sosie Bacon) as she navigates a series of deaths involving the smilers — and a barrage of annoying “jump scares” that do little to disguise how lame the story is.
I suppose if I were 12 and Smile was my first horror movie, I might enjoy it. But I am not, and I didn’t. Release: 2022 Grade: C-
Filmmaker Jordan Peele’s career path is beginning to resemble that of M. Night Shyamalan — not necessarily a good thing. Both directors had early success (The Sixth Sense; Get Out), followed up with decent, if not spectacular, outings (Unbreakable; Us), and then chose a UFO/alien theme for movie number three (Signs; Nope).
Peele and Shyamalan, with their heavy reliance on twists, were both hailed as the second coming of Rod Serling. Peele, of course, injects social commentary into his films; Shyamalan, not so much.
Nope starts out well enough, with a suspenseful buildup as we learn that something scary is in the sky out west. But the second half of the film is a mess. It’s all nonsensical behavior and so-so special effects as brother-and-sister horse trainers (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) do battle with … something.
Shyamalan’s Signs wins the battle of the alien movies, hands down. Release: 2022 Grade: C
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