Movie Review Weekly Roundup: January 24-30, 2021

A movie theater marquee that is promoting a week of classic films will be screened at the venue.

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.


Dark Water (2002)

DIRECTOR: Hideo Nakata.
WRITERS: Ken’ichi Suzuki & Yoshihiro Nakamura (screenplay), Kôji Suzuki (novel).
MPAA RATING: PG-13
GENRES: Drama, Horror, Mystery.
LENGTH: 1h 41min.
LANGUAGE: Japanese.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Alamo On Demand.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: January 24, 2021.

The movie is more of a sad tale than a horror story. It is about divorce, loneliness, responsibility, and abandonment. [spoiler] It is surprising to see the mother abandon her own biological daughter for a ghost child who drowned a couple of years prior. But sure as hell the child actor portraying her biological daughter knows how to turn on the waterworks during that scene. [/spoiler] This movie is the original adaptation of the book written by Kôji Suzuki. It is a bit more grounded in reality than the 2005 Hollywood remake. The visual style is simple in design. It does not appear bloated with a big-budget for special effects and lavish sets built on a sound stage. It appears to have utilized actual locations, which gives the movie a contextual feel of believability. I liked it that way.


Synchronic (2020)

DIRECTOR: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead.
WRITERS: Justin Benson.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi.
LENGTH: 1h 42min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: January 25, 2021.

I liked the concept of the movie. It is a blend of mystery and science fiction. But the delivery of its story seems a bit basic. The intentions are well-intentioned, but it suffers from a delusion of grandeur. It is not a bad movie, but just too small for its britches. The special effects are pretty cool to watch. And some of the story concepts have kept me interested and entertained throughout the duration of the movie. It does begin with a stance against drug abuse before shifting to a sob story about a dying man who is about to lose all interest in humanity. Then out of the blue, he discovers a new purpose in life and takes off running down the path of hope and good intent. Even with the meandering narrative at the beginning of the movie, I still found it mildly interesting. I doubt I will be placing this movie on my list of top favorite movies of all time. But I am sure I might turn back to watch it again once in a great while.


Wander (2020)

DIRECTOR: April Mullen.
WRITERS: Tim Doiron.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Thriller, Mystery.
LENGTH: 1h 34min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: January 26, 2021.

This movie is a recycled tale of a paranoid detective who wanders after a murder mystery and quickly believes it is part of a grand conspiratorial plan. It is a story thread told so many times already. It does not seem like it has anything new to bring to the table. A precursor of doom is the nine companies who produced the movie and then another four companies to distribute it. Thirteen companies total. Let that number sink in for a moment. It means not a single one of those companies would desire to take the brunt of the costs if the movie financially fails. There are a few recognizable names and faces in the main cast, but I wonder if they only did the film for the paycheck. It is all potatoes and very little meat.


Audrey (2020)

DIRECTOR: Helena Coan.
WRITERS: Helena Coan.
MPAA RATING: Unrated
GENRES: Documentary.
LENGTH: 1h 40min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: January 27, 2021.

This documentary film contains plenty of archive footage interlacing with contemporary interviews with Audrey’s friends, family, acquaintances, and more. Who does not love Audrey Hepburn? She is an international treasure. The movie insinuates she was a human soul in search of love. The implication suggests she may not have satisfactorily found what she was looking for exactly, but she came close to it. If you are an avid reader, I would suggest the biographical publication Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen.


Prisoners (2013)

DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve.
WRITERS: Aaron Guzikowski.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Crime, Drama, Mystery.
LENGTH: 2h 33min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: January 28, 2021.

I cannot believe it took me so long to sit down and watch this movie. I remember when it was first released and seeing the commercials on television. I thought it is just a string of moments with Hugh Jackman yelling at everyone. Yes, there are a lot of scenes of Hugh being angry at someone else in the story. In the context of the story, it makes sense for his angry motivation. Jake Gyllenhaal’s subdued performance does help balance out the tone and mood a bit. On the flip side, his stance of being limited in action because of police protocol serves a fuel for the fire of Hugh’s anger. The movie’s director Denis Villeneuve shows his skill in creating a mood and maintaining its tension. I enjoyed the movie more than I anticipated. Even though the core of its story has been told in various forms over the years, especially in episodic television, I think the mood and tone are what keeps my interest going from start to finish.


Under the Silver Lake (2018)

DIRECTOR: David Robert Mitchell.
WRITERS: David Robert Mitchell.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Crime, Drama, Mystery.
LENGTH: 2h 19min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: January 29, 2021.

This movie is trying to come across as being a much bigger deal than it really is. It is just a paranoid stoner living in Los Angeles without a paying job but seems to pass his time chasing after delusional conspiracies and visually objectifying women. What is this movie trying to say, exactly? It wants to be visually eerie and suspenseful like a David Lynch movie, and it fails to stick the landing. If anything, this movie might hit the mark for another viewer who thrives on the enjoyment of its material. I do not think I am its target audience.


The Snowman (2017)

DIRECTOR: Tomas Alfredson.
WRITERS: Peter Straughan, Hossein Amini, and Søren Sveistrup (screenplay); Jo Nesbø (book).
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Crime, Drama, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 59min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: January 30, 2021.

Some big names are hiding behind the scenes for this movie. Its director is Tomas Alfredson, a BAFTA nominee, the editor is Thelma Schoonmaker, a three-time Oscar winner, and Martin Scorcese is one of the executive producers. But why does the movie lack suspense, intrigue, horror, and genuine engagement for its audience? I am going to attribute the problems with the movie to the poorly constructed screenplay and production process. It turned into a case of making do with the holiday leftovers. Oh, is there plenty of leftover turkey and stuffing? Let’s slap some of it between two slices of bread and call it a sandwich. Shall we? One of the earliest scenes in the movie that did not settle well with me would be Val Kilmer’s first appearance. You only see the back of his head the majority of the time when he spoke. I am aware he was in treatment for throat cancer at the time the movie was in production. As a result, I wonder if it is an intentional decision to limit his dialogue on-screen. The editing of his first scene was disjointed and a bit unsettling. The movie occurs in Norway, so why is it filled with English and American actors? A final concern is a connection between the surname of the protagonist and the death of the villain. Really? It is a thinly veiled way to foreshadow a key plot point.


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