Movie Review Weekly Roundup: January 31 – February 6, 2021

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.


Black Bear (2020)

DIRECTOR: Lawrence Michael Levine.
WRITERS: Lawrence Michael Levine.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Comedy, Drama.
LENGTH: 1h 44min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: January 31, 2021.

Aubrey Plaza has jumped right into the world of independent movie making in her post “Parks and Rec” career. Black Bear marks her third indie movie as a producer. Of course, she also stars in a leading role for each one of them. I absolutely enjoyed watching this movie as well as Ingrid Goes West. As an actor, she is willing to go on an emotional rollercoaster to get the character performance done right in both films. I cannot accurately imagine what it would be like to go from the crazy ups and downs of the acting work and then flipping a switch over to the business side as the movie’s producer in between takes. Anyway, I really enjoyed watching Black Bear. I recommend going into your viewing of the movie knowing as little about the story as possible.


Season of the Witch (1972)

DIRECTOR: George A. Romero.
WRITERS: George A. Romero.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama, Horror.
LENGTH: 1h 30min.
ALTERNATE TITLE: Hungry Wives
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: February 1, 2021.

I would not say this movie is one of my favorite George A. Romero films. It leans way too much toward being a drama story with elements of horror mixed into it. The premise of the plot revolves around a woman stuck in a loveless marriage. She starts to practice witchcraft to get a bit of a thrill out of life and help stop the nightmares she experiences almost every night. Who knew practicing the dark arts could be such a life-changer? I apologize if I clearly missed the point of the movie. It feels like I did miss something important because it just didn’t click with me. Beware, there are a couple of run times for this movie. An original cut runs over two hours long, and an edited version runs around ninety minutes in length. I had watched the shorter version, but I am not sure if the abbreviation is entirely beneficial. It is straight to the point and simplistic, which is nice. Is anything important edited out of the narrative for the sake of concise storytelling? Probably not. But forty minutes are removed between the two versions. So what was cut? Anyway, the movie is okay. Not great, but also not bad.


Come Play (2020)

DIRECTOR: Jacob Chase.
WRITERS: Jacob Chase.
MPAA RATING: PG-13
GENRES: Drama, Horror, Mystery.
LENGTH: 1h 36min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: February 2, 2021.

I am not sure who is the target scare audience for this movie. The kids or the parents? From the child’s point of view, this movie is another boogeyman story. But from the parent’s perspective, it is about watching your child succumb to the enticement of modern technology. Way back when it was television, but now it is the use of mobile devices and computers. This movie is about an autistic boy who uses a mobile device to communicate with other people. He also uses the device to stay entertained when alone without any friends for accompaniment. His mom doesn’t mind his reliance on technology because it helps her communicate with her son. Ideally, she would like to hear him be more vocal in communication instead of using a mobile device as a translator. Other movies are better replacements for this one as a story about the boogeyman. It is an okay movie. I have seen worse, and I have seen better ones as well. Maybe Britta just out Britta’d herself in this movie.


The Lodge (2019)

DIRECTOR: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz.
WRITERS: Sergio Casci, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama, Horror, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 48min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Hulu.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: February 2, 2021.

So, this movie is definitely not comparable to The Shining. But I still found it to be a horror movie worth watching. Riley Keough puts in a strong effort with her acting performance in this movie. Her character is suffering from an undefined mental health condition, which is clearly prevalent with the appearance of prescription medication and erratically symptomatic behavior. Using a character’s mental health condition as a central plot point to induce fear and terror in others can carry harmful repercussions into the real lives of those suffering from a mental health condition. Why does she have to be the villain of the story? A villain who provokes negative emotional responses such as fear, disdain, and anger from those around her. A viewer or a group of viewers might equate and reinforce one person’s condition with an expectation of uncomfortable and negative responses from other people who interact with that individual. If I were to set all that aside while watching this movie, I would say how much I enjoyed its steady pacing and mood.


Wild Mountain Thyme (2020)

DIRECTOR: John Patrick Shanley.
WRITERS: John Patrick Shanley.
MPAA RATING: PG-13
GENRES: Drama, Romance.
LENGTH: 1h 42min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: February 2, 2021.

As a romantic drama, it does veer from the rubber-stamped plot of other hopeless romantic films. The main characters do spend more time apart than they do together in this movie. That is different from the norm where the romantic couple usually spends a lot of time together and builds their relationship. I think what I actually enjoyed the most about the movie is their quirky personalities. Maybe I am just partial to the movie’s untraditional style and its peculiar characters.


Let Him Go (2020)

DIRECTOR: Thomas Bezucha.
WRITERS: Thomas Bezucha (screenplay), Larry Watson (book).
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Crime, Drama, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 53min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: February 3, 2021.

I enjoy watching Kevin Costner movies, even the bad ones too. Let Him Go reunites Costner with Diane Lane for their third movie together. By now, it shows they have on-screen chemistry with each other. The premise for the movie’s plot is direct. It is simple but straightforward. It is about two grandparents who will do what they can to protect their family members from harm. A couple of parts in the movie did not have the dramatic weight I was hoping to see. For example, the dinner scene where the pair meet Blanche Weboy for the first time has so much potential to be intimidating and nerve-wracking. However, it gets halfway to where I was expecting it to go emotionally. But it does not quite cross the finish line to my satisfaction. After that dinner scene, the tension does build up. And it pays off well in the end.


Shadow in the Cloud (2020)

DIRECTOR: Roseanne Liang.
WRITERS: Max Landis, Roseanne Liang.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Action, Horror, War.
LENGTH: 1h 23min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: February 3, 2021.

The movie seems like it is trying to be too many different things at one time. Is it about female empowerment and gender politics? Motherhood? Wartime action hero? Or a superhero science fiction story with mutant bats? I have a feeling I must have missed the central message the movie is hoping to convey. It seems to be a bit convoluted with a blending of several different fictional and thematic elements mixed into one story. I was not sure if I should enjoy the movie as a simple genre flick. Or should it be viewed as a parable with a social message that should spark a moment of thought and introspection?


Dreamland (2020)

DIRECTOR: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte.
WRITERS: Nicolaas Zwart.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 38min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: February 4, 2021.

The story of Dreamland feels like a retelling of Bonnie and Clyde. But with Bonnie serving as the alpha of their relationship. Allison Wells is a bank robber wanted by the local authorities with a large bounty placed on her head. Eugene Evans is a young man living on a Texas farm during a length drought. It is the time of the great Dust Bowl. Farmers were poor and could not maintain a valuable living. Eugene hears of Allison’s criminal ways and is immediately enthralled. He grew up reading detective stories from dime-store publications. She is an adrenaline rush of excitement for his small-town lifestyle. The movie really does not take any hold of interest for me. The production holds up well, but the story feels all too familiar. Is it a rehash of the Bonnie and Clyde dynamic set against the background of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath? That is what this movie feels like to me.


Grand Isle (2019)

DIRECTOR: Stephen S. Campanelli.
WRITERS: Iver William Jallah, Rich Ronat.
MPAA RATING: Unrated – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama, Action, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 37min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: February 4, 2021.

I was not expecting to watch a “comedy” movie featuring Nicolas Cage as the villain. Grand Isle is so hilariously bad, it’s almost too good. The interactions between Walter and his wife Fancy had me laughing out loud in almost every scene together. The movie is not award-winning material, by no means. But it is definitely a great time for a laugh or two.


The Owners (2020)

DIRECTOR: Julius Berg.
WRITERS: Mathieu Gompel, Julius Berg, and Geoff Cox.
MPAA RATING: Unrated – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Action, Horror, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 32min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: February 4, 2021.

Never underestimate a woman’s intuition in a “fight or flight” situation. The Owners is in the style of horror movies that I usually enjoy watching. It is not all about the jump scares. Instead, it focuses on the tense and scary situations that feel very real. And the viewer, such as myself, genuinely roots for the survival of the main characters. The movie attempts to have a surprise ending, which is not completely surprising. Just unexpecting, really. I would definitely want to watch this movie once or twice more down the line.


Superman: Red Son (2020)

DIRECTOR: Sam Liu.
WRITERS: J.M. DeMatteis (screenplay); Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, and Kilian Plunkett (book).
MPAA RATING: PG-13
GENRES: Animation, Action, Sci-Fi.
LENGTH: 1h 24min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: February 4, 2021.

Oh my gosh! What if Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were all Russian superheroes during the Cold War? And then Lex Luthor was also the President of the United States. Just, what if? The story is okay in a mediocre fashion. Superman still tries to be the good Boy Scout, but now he is fighting against American capitalism because it’s absurdly evil. Batman is still angry and bitter towards everyone. And then Wonder Woman is fiercely adamant that all males serve no beneficial purpose because they are all vile misogynists with the sole purpose to destroy humanity at any cost. The Green Lantern Corps is the only superhero team on the American side. I like the animation style of the movie, which could be the only positive aspect I enjoyed.


Clemency (2019)

DIRECTOR: Chinonye Chukwu.
WRITERS: Chinonye Chukwu.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama.
LENGTH: 1h 52min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Hulu.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: February 5, 2021.

The acting performances in this movie are absolutely terrific! Alfre Woodard and Aldis Hodge did an outstanding job with their characters. A good sign they nailed the performance is when the filmmakers gladly sit on the long take of an actor’s performance without cutting around it in the editor’s room. Now I am interested in seeing more films from Chinonye Chukwu in the years to come.


Jonathan (2018)

DIRECTOR: Bill Oliver.
WRITERS: Gregory Davis, Peter Nickowitz, Bill Oliver.
MPAA RATING: TV-MA – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama, Sci-Fi.
LENGTH: 1h 35min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: February 6, 2021.

The premise of the movie quickly runs out of steam before the end of the first act. The story should have been a short movie, twenty-five to thirty minutes maximum. Instead, it runs about 95 minutes long. The main character has multiple personalities. Each one is aware of the other’s existence. They even communicate frequently through means of a video diary. Honestly, I was bored with the story rather quickly. The setup is intriguing, but the movie’s execution could not hold my interest for too long.


The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2018)

DIRECTOR: Robert D. Krzykowski.
WRITERS: Robert D. Krzykowski.
MPAA RATING: Unrated – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi.
LENGTH: 1h 38min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: February 6, 2021.

Hey, sasquatch just puked all over the voice of the Coors Light commercials! This flick is a full-fledged B-movie, and it embraces that status with a firm hug. I truly enjoyed watching it for being so bad yet unanticipatedly good. I would advise any viewer to go in with low expectations. Just appreciate the movie for what it is. Do not expect any award-winning material, but anticipate a nice, slow buzz of passing some time on a weekend afternoon.


I Think We’re Alone Now (2018)

DIRECTOR: Reed Morano.
WRITERS: Mike Makowsky.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi.
LENGTH: 1h 39min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: February 6, 2021.

A Pisces Rising wants to be left alone during the apocalypse. He would like to pass the time maintaining order and structure in his neighborhood. Clean up the neighbor’s houses to reduce any potential chaos from invaders. Reorganize the entire catalog at the local library to suit his desire for organization. Most of all, to be left alone without unnecessary interruption from the whims of a young woman who loves rock music, cute little puppy dogs, and unnecessary questions. I loved this movie because I could relate to the main character. Just leave the poor guy alone.


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Southwest Airlines Partners With Wattpad To Elevate And Celebrate Creative New Voices In Writing

“Southwest: Storytellers On The Rise Contest” calls upon the next generation of writers to celebrate what has been at the Heart of Southwest for 50 years: kindness.

Southwest Airlines continues to mark its 50th Anniversary year by coming together with Wattpad for the Southwest: Storytellers On The Rise Writing Contest, which celebrates what’s been at the Heart of the carrier’s values since its founding: kindness. Wattpad is the global multiplatform entertainment company for original stories and leading social storytelling platform. This contest will call upon aspiring and avid writers to share fiction or nonfiction stories of kindness rooted in travel. 

“As we look back on 50 years, we remember and celebrate the powerful stories that make up our rich history,” said Brandy King, Director of External Communication, which includes Brand Partnerships and Entertainment Public Relations initiatives. “Kindness and civility are core Southwest Values, and through this partnership, we’re excited to see how the Wattpad community of writers brings these attributes to life in their story submissions.”

“At Wattpad, we’re inspired every day by the powerful, transformative stories published on our platform,” said Chris Stefanyk, Head of Brand Partnerships at Wattpad. “We are thrilled to partner with Southwest to elevate new voices in storytelling and help writers take their writing skills and career to the next level.” 

Now through Feb. 28, 2021, U.S.-based writers can submit short stories via the Southwest profile on Wattpad for a chance to win the writing contest. The winning author will receive a once-in-a-lifetime writing mentorship opportunity with Beth Reekles, the author behind the global YA sensation and film franchise The Kissing Booth from Netflix and Komixx Entertainment, alongside additional prizes to help their writing career take off. The winning story will be showcased on Southwest channels later this year. 

“I’m really excited to be working on this campaign with Southwest and Wattpad. I think we’re all craving a little escapism right now, and books are a great way to do that,” said Reekles. “I’ve always loved the sense of community that Wattpad and its stories create, and look forward to working with the winner to help encourage them on their writing journey.”

As home to one of the most diverse groups of storytellers on the planet, with five million writers and a community of 90 million readers, Wattpad is the home for Gen Z writers.

The campaign will expand Southwest’s existing On The Rise platform, which currently supports up-and-coming musicians, to a broad spectrum of rising creatives, including filmmakers, writers, producers, and authors. Southwest Airlines hopes to uncover the most powerful stories of transformative human kindness; then bring them to life for travelers around the world. 

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. Open to legal residents of 50 United States and the District of Columbia (excluding Alaska) age 19 or older at time of entry. Void where prohibited. Eligible entrants may enter as many times as they wish (with valid, unique, and original Entries) during the Entry Period of Jan. 4-Feb 28, 2021. All fields must be completed. Approximate retail value of prize: $4,500. For complete details and Official Rules, visit Southwest: Storytellers On The Rise Contest Official Rules. By submitting this entry, you agree to the Official Rules. By entering, information collected will be used per Sponsor’s Privacy Policy at policies.wattpad.com/terms. Sponsor: Wattpad Corp., 36 Wellington St. E, Suite 200, Toronto, Ontario, M5E 1C7. Enter by 11:59:59 p.m. PT on Feb. 28, 2021.

Pay-TV Subscribers are Interested in Streaming Media as Part of Their Subscription Service

A new study examines how traditional Pay-TV and vMVPD services can grow revenues following changing consumer preferences during the COVID-19 crisis.

New research from Parks Associates shows that 60% of pay-TV subscribers are interested in streaming movies and TV shows from an online video service as part of their pay-TV subscription. This accounts for nearly half of US broadband households. The study “Pay TV: Perception, Adoption, and Retention” observes service providers are responding to this demand. The number of pay-TV consumers who receive online video services has jumped nearly 50% in a year. This new research examines the consumer perceptions of pay-TV services and features and measures the efficacy of different options pay-TV providers can leverage to retain subscribers. It also contrasts traditional pay-TV services and vMVPD services.

“If there was ever a time when entertainment service providers believed that OTT was a phase, they are now convinced of its permanence,” said Kristen Hanich, Senior Analyst, Parks Associates.

“In late 2019, the market reached the crossover point where the same percentage of US broadband households subscribed to an OTT service as subscribed to a pay-TV service. And now OTT adoption outpaces pay-TV by double digits,” she continues.

“The good news for providers is consumers often have both pay-TV and OTT. 79% of pay-TV households have both pay-TV and OTT subscriptions. Providers are in a spot where they must redouble their efforts to engage these subscribers by executing new innovations and business models or risk accelerating customer losses.”

Parks Associates: Appeal of Potential New Features
Parks Associates: Appeal of Potential New Features

COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the adoption of online video services, providing a small boost to online pay-TV services. The average number of over-the-top services among households with any OTT service is around 3.8 subscriptions per household. Whereas those households with a pay-TV service and an over-the-top service would subscribe to an average of 4.2 OTT services.

As online video grew, cancellation rates for traditional pay-TV have accelerated. Millions of more cancellations occurred in 2020 compared to 2019. The question now is how stable are the remaining pay-TV customers and how to ameliorate cancellations. Video streaming is the most popular value-added service among pay-TV households, but there is a growing interest in other advanced features:

  • 43% of pay-TV households are interested in having video calls on their TV
  • 40% are interested in controlling smart home devices and security systems from the TV
  • 34% are interested in playing video games on the TV through a cloud gaming service

“Pay-TV providers must keep offering their most valuable content, which includes live sporting and cultural events,” Hanich said. “Additionally, they must offer access to streaming, target new service to their interested customers, and perhaps be willing to take a hit on pricing until this chaotic market stabilizes.”