Movie Review Weekly Roundup: January 17-23, 2021

A man sits alone in a theater auditorium.

The following is part of a weekly compilation of movie reviews from The Buzz Track staff. These movies were watched in the previous week, and the reviews were originally posted on Letterboxd.


Central Intelligence (2016)

DIRECTOR: Rawson Marshall Thurber.
WRITERS: Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen, Rawson Marshall Thurber.
MPAA RATING: PG-13
GENRES: Action, Comedy, Crime.
LENGTH: 1h 47min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: January 17, 2021.

The promotional trailer does include a few of the funniest jokes from the movie. Yet, I still found the movie enjoyable to watch. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart come across as having a good rapport together on screen. Their on-screen comedic chemistry follows with them in the subsequent years with the Jumanji sequels. The entire story for Central Intelligence stems from the “fish out of water” plot device. It is simple, but it works. I would classify this movie as a fun popcorn flick to watch on any random weekend afternoon.


The Empty Man (2020)

DIRECTOR: David Prior.
WRITERS: David Prior (script), Cullen Bunn (book).
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Crime, Drama, Horror.
LENGTH: 2h 17min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: January 17, 2021.

I truly enjoyed watching this movie. It is a horror movie that does not rely on jump scare tactics like a crutch. And it does not utilize a group of obnoxious teens to be the crux of the plot for the entire movie. The concept of the movie’s story begins with the mythology of an urban legend and is structured to be a mystery story with a very creepy tone. It is the creepiness that helps maintain its horrific aspect. The movie’s prologue hooked me right in, and the main story with the private investigator held my interest. Although it begins as an urban legend story, the story ends with the horrific fallout of the hive-mind thinking in a cult religion. This movie is everything I was hoping Midsommar (2019) could have been but failed to be.


You Should Have Left (2020)

DIRECTOR: David Koepp.
WRITERS: David Koepp (script), Daniel Kehlmann (book).
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama, Horror, Mystery.
LENGTH: 1h 33min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: January 18, 2021.

Kevin Bacon is in his early sixties. Amanda Seyfried is in her mid-thirties. They are supposed to be a married couple with an eight-year-old child in this movie. As a result, I have immediately withdrawn from the story on an emotional level. Only in Hollywood, a thirty-year age gap between two romantic partners would be repetitiously normalized. It is a worn-out image that needs to be retired. The problem is made worse by a character design that is shallow and lame. And the poorly written dialogue does nothing to help encourage a sense of believability. Seyfried’s character is nothing more than a plot device and a shallow representation of an actual person. Clearly, she is in a completely different generation from Bacon’s character. For example, she heavily relies on being surrounded by contemporary technology, like mobile phones and laptops. On the other side, he is happy to be wandering through the hallways flipping the light switches, closing doors, and looking at photographs. The entire movie comes across like we have seen its story a hundred times before. There is no “meat on the bones” for the audience to savor when viewing it. I had the feeling like I was eating the stale leftovers from a mediocre holiday meal.


Spell (2020)

DIRECTOR: Mark Tonderai.
WRITERS: Kurt Wimmer.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Horror, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 31min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: January 18, 2021.

To summarize the movie, imagine if Annie Wilkes and Paul Sheldon from Misery (1990) are two black characters, and their story takes place along the backroads of the Appalachian Mountains. This movie’s plot is reminiscent of the horror movies from the late ’70s centered around crazy rednecks living in the rural country who torture the city folk who are just passing through the area. It is great to finally watch a movie that does not center around a group of characters played by white people doing the same old, boring story about white characters getting themselves into trouble again. The only white actor in this movie is a small throwaway character at the beginning of the story. It is nothing more than a small role. Good. There should be more casting choices like it. As far as it goes for the movie’s story, I would say it is decent. As I had previously stated, it reminds me to be a hybrid of other similar stories from decades ago. Little pieces of various story elements from here and there have been quite influential for this movie. It is not entirely a bad problem. But it is clearly an issue of recycling the same old horror genre plot points. Familiarity makes it easier for the general public to enjoy the viewing experience en masse.


Skyscraper (2018)

DIRECTOR: Rawson Marshall Thurber.
WRITERS: Rawson Marshall Thurber.
MPAA RATING: PG-13
GENRES: Action, Adventure, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 42min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: January 18, 2021.

Imagine blending The Towering Inferno (1974) and Die Hard (1988) together into a single film. The mixture may resemble an apt description for the plot of Skyscraper. Dwayne Johnson portrays a PG-13 variation of John McClane. He commits to the idea of entering a towering inferno of a skyscraper to rescue his family from a disastrous fate. The special effects in the movie are cool. But the high tech audio and visual room located in the “pearl” room at the top of the building is just a glorified hall of mirrors. There are too many action movies with a fight scene that occurs in a room filled with mirrors. John Wick 2 (2017) includes the same concept for a fight scene and earned some success with its execution. Skyscraper fails to deliver with its attempt at the concept.


The Doorman (2020)

DIRECTOR: Ryûhei Kitamura.
WRITERS: Lior Chefetz & Joe Swanson (screenplay), Greg Williams & Matt McAllester (story).
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Action, Drama, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 37min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: January 18, 2021.

I would hope the movie would be non-stop action and excitement from the start. After all, it does feature Batwoman and Léon. Ruby Rose is fully capable of playing the lead role in an action movie. She is formerly known as Batwoman and has shown off her athletic skills on screen. Jean Reno has grown into a niche performer as either the villain or a humorous supporting character. This movie is enjoyable at face value. I found it to be an enjoyable movie to watch. It is not worthy of placement on a top favorite list, but still fun to watch.


Geostorm (2017)

DIRECTOR: Dean Devlin.
WRITERS: Dean Devlin, Paul Guyot.
MPAA RATING: PG-13
GENRES: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 49min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: January 18, 2021.

The movie resides on a basic level of science fiction storytelling. It loudly proclaims the socio-political statement of how much we are in trouble as a human race. We have treated the Earth with complete disrespect. We waste too much of our time talking in circles with the petty political discourse. The movie came out in 2017. It attempts to predict how we will be living in 2022. As I write this article, it is currently the year 2021, and we do not have a satellite network orbiting the planet serving as a glorified climate control smart home. We do have a global connection of computer programmers who can code the hell out of anything. And we also have a group of vocal activists proclaiming the danger of climate change. They say we must change the behaviors that are destroying our planet. The movie has a large production budget for the fancy special effects. But the story is mediocre at best. The flash and flair of the visual effects would be the expected trade-off for the sub-par story writing.


Bloody Hell (2020)

DIRECTOR: Alister Grierson.
WRITERS: Robert Benjamin.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Action, Horror, Mystery.
LENGTH: 1h 33min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: January 19, 2021.

For a random selection at the rental store, I was going in for a blind viewing of this movie. I am surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The story is a mixture of action and horror. Half of it is about a military veteran who heroically stops a bank robbery in progress. The other half features his abduction while on vacation in Finland. His abductors are a family with a young cannibalistic son. They are only interested in finding fresh meat to feed him. Hence the horrific part of the story begins. The movie successfully blends the elements of action, horror, and comedy into one cohesive story. There are a few moments of graphic violence, so viewer discretion is advisable.


Hellboy (2019)

DIRECTOR: Neil Marshall.
WRITERS: Andrew Cosby (screenplay), Mike Mignola (created by).
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Action, Adventure, Fantasy.
LENGTH: 2h 1min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: January 19, 2021.

The movie is two hours long. What the hell, boy? I heard nothing but bad reviews of this movie when it was first released. All of the crunched numbers from the reviewers say it is a bad movie. The special effects are amazing. The prosthetic makeup is superb, especially with Hellboy’s trademark frown. When I saw it on screen, I immediately thought he stepped right out from one of the comic book panels. The story does run long, which would be the biggest complaint I have to share. There are several moments of gruesome horror. The movie deserves the ‘Hard R’ rating, 100%.


Alone (2020)

DIRECTOR: John Hyams.
WRITERS: Mattias Olsson.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 38min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: January 19, 2021.

It reminds me of what could have happened in Steven Spielberg’s Duel (1971). If only the villain of his movie would have stepped out of the semi-truck to harass the protagonist. That hypothetical scenario is how this movie actually develops from my viewpoint. The villain of this movie has poor driving etiquette on the roadways. And his interpersonal skills come across as a half-bred stalker. At one point, he proclaims to have been in a rush to arrive at his destination. He hopes it would suffice as an excuse for his poor driving etiquette. But he seems to have all the time in the world available to harass a random young lady he crosses paths with on the road. The concept for the plot is sitting in familiar territory. It has shown up in various forms throughout the years. This movie is decent. Definitely not great, but still a tolerable watch on a random afternoon.


Bloody Sunday (1960)

DIRECTOR: Mario Bava.
WRITERS: Ennio De Concini & Mario Serandrei (screenplay), Nikolay Gogol (story).
MPAA RATING: Unrated
GENRES: Horror.
LENGTH: 1h 27min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Alamo On Demand.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: January 23, 2021.

While watching the movie, I could not help but think it is a blend of the Spaghetti Western genre and a Hammer Film production. But it was produced and released before either format really hit their own stride in the mid-60s to the late 70s. I enjoyed the overly dramatic mood and the dark visual style of this movie. The story is a bit basic, but that is okay though. I did not have high expectations when I started watching the movie. So by its end, I walked away with nothing lost. I do appreciate the production decision to shoot it with black and white film stock. The visual effects utilize the dark shadows to hide certain visual tricks that will surprise and impress the audience. For example, the dark spaces hide the split-screen so one actor can appear on-screen as two characters. There are other wonderful little moments of visual effects relying on the use of shadows. But I do not want to spoil anything for those who may not have watched this movie yet.


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