Movie Review Weekly Roundup: March 14-20, 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.


Adverse (2020)

DIRECTOR: Brian A. Metcalf.
WRITERS: Brian A. Metcalf.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Crime, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 34min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: March 14, 2021.

After his Oscar-nominated performance in The Wrestler (2008), it has been a hit or miss for Mickey Rourke’s subsequent films. This movie is decent but mostly forgettable. There are plenty of good actors who appear in it; for example, Sean Astin, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Penelope Ann Miller. However, Thomas Ian Nicholas has the leading role, and his performance needs improvement. Particularly the display of anger, panic, and anxiety just does not seem believable enough. Otherwise, the movie is better than I had expected when I sat down to watch it. But it does not leave a memorable impression on me.


Skyfire / 天·火 (2019)

DIRECTOR: Simon West.
WRITERS: Wei Bu, Sidney King.
MPAA RATING: Unrated
GENRES: Action, Drama, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 34min.
LANGUAGE: English, Mandarin.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: March 16, 2021.

Sure thing, this movie might have Jason Isaacs appearing in a supporting role. But the movie is basically a re-wrapped version of Jurassic World (2015) featuring a volcano instead of dinosaurs. The majority of the production was shot with the actors speaking in Mandarin, but I watched the dubbed version featuring voice-over actors performing with American accents. The dubbed version sounded a bit disjointed with the on-screen performances. The two elements do not mesh together very well. I thought the entire story is a bit cheesy. When it comes to disaster flicks about volcanoes, I am preferential to Dante’s Peak (1997).


Critical Thinking (2020)

DIRECTOR: John Leguizamo.
WRITERS: Dito Montiel.
MPAA RATING: Unrated – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama.
LENGTH: 1h 57min.
LANGUAGE: English, Spanish.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: March 17, 2021.

John Leguizamo directs and acts in this movie. It is based upon true events which occurred in the late ’90s at a high school in Florida. The structure of its story feels like a typical movie centered around a high school sports team that makes it all the way to the state championships. But the sport they are playing is not basketball, baseball, or football. It is the school’s chess team. Yes, chess. I really enjoyed watching the movie. I would definitely consider it to be worthy of a second and third viewing. Maybe I will order take out from Red Lobster to enjoy during the next watch.


Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder.
WRITERS: Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder, Will Beall.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Categories.
LENGTH: 4h 2min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: March 18, 2021.

Zack Snyder’s version is better than Joss Whedon’s theatrical cut. It fleshes out the details of the story arcs and backstories for the characters. It also includes more screen time for the supporting characters from the other DC Universe films, which is nice to see. One thing I struggled with is the aspect ratio. Why did Snyder go with the old-school 1.33:1 television aspect ratio? It makes the visual feel of the movie a bit cramped and goes against the widescreen coziness of all the previous superhero movies in recent decades. It took me a while before I discovered the formatting was intended that way for maximization of the IMAX screen in a theatrical projection. Also, I think the moment when Barry Allen meets Iris West for the first time and then saves her life from a car accident is an emotionally satisfying highlight of the first half. The most appealing element about this version would be the feeling of completion. It fleshes out more of the story with greater detail. The pacing does not feel rushed. And there are a lot of new supporting scenes that help explain the story as a whole.


Breaking News in Yuba County (2021)

DIRECTOR: Tate Taylor.
WRITERS: Amanda Idoko.
MPAA RATING: R
GENRES: Comedy, Crime, Drama.
LENGTH: 1h 36min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: March 20, 2021.

The pacing is fast-paced and in a rush, and only the primary plot points are holding up almost every scene. There is no time spent on letting the characters live in the moment and letting the tension build. It just feels like a “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” of a movie. I really like a lot of the actors who appear in this movie. But the story and pacing are absolutely horrendous. It is not even worth a second viewing.


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Movie Review Weekly Roundup: March 7-13, 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.


Going in Style (2017)

DIRECTOR: Zach Braff.
WRITERS: Theodore Melfi (screenplay), Edward Cannon (story).
MPAA RATING: PG-13
GENRES: Comedy, Crime.
LENGTH: 1h 36min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: March 7, 2021.

Heist movies have been around for a very long time. It is always great to see one that is fun and entertaining like this one. Although it hits some of the same old usual plot points and character motivations for a heist movie, the story feels fresh enough with a slightly different twist by featuring an older group of retirees as the bank robbers. I liked the movie. It is always great seeing long-time career actors still working and having some fun along the way.


Rabid (2019)

DIRECTOR: The Soska Sisters.
WRITERS: John Serge, The Soska Sisters.
MPAA RATING: Unrated – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Horror, Sci-Fi.
LENGTH: 1h 47min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: March 7, 2021.

Here is a horror movie remake from the Soska Sisters, who I will remember as the co-host of the short-lived game show Hellevator. It is based on David Cronenberg’s 1977 film of the same name. In some ways, I thought this story was more of a sad tale than a horror story. The main character goes through some crappy situations in her life, and I feel sorry for her. It is an okay film. But it is not as clean-cut and strong as I would hope it could be.


The Current War (2017)

DIRECTOR: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
WRITERS: Michael Mitnick.
MPAA RATING: PG-13
GENRES: Biography, Drama, History.
LENGTH: 1h 42min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: March 9, 2021.

This movie is a decent portrayal of the innovators who helped usher in the age of electricity and modern life. But it feels more like a made-for-television production that I would have watched in my history class back in high school. I liked the story and the acting in the movie, do not get me wrong. It just feels like there is some pizzazz missing to completely wow me. However, I might watch it once or twice more at some point in the future just for the sake of entertainment. At this point, I doubt it will ever appear on my all-time favorites list.


Guns Akimbo (2019)

DIRECTOR: Jason Lei Howden.
WRITERS: Jason Lei Howden.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Action, Comedy, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 38min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: March 10, 2021.

Yes, the movie is violent. Yes, Samara Weaving runs around as a trashed-down, psycho killer. And, yes, Harry Potter has a pair of guns screwed to his hands. Although the movie’s concept did remind me of the short-lived television show Blood Drive that aired in 2017. I liked this movie because of its world-building and tone, even if it plays like a catchy pop song in high rotation on corporate radio.


Free Solo (2018)

DIRECTOR: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.
WRITERS: N/A.
MPAA RATING: PG-13
GENRES: Documentary, Adventure, Sport.
LENGTH: 1h 40min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Disney Plus.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: March 10, 2021.

A cute woman drops her phone number off to a random stranger at a book signing event as a joke. Only after that point in time, she becomes self-aware of diving right into the deep end of the anxiety pool. The random stranger is an adrenaline junkie who wants to scale the side of a mountain over 2,000 feet tall without any safety equipment. And this guy struggles with certain emotional feelings like fear and love. The final third of the movie is not for those who easily cave to anxiety and panic. I liked this documentary.


Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

DIRECTOR: Shaka King.
WRITERS: Will Berson, Shaka King.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Biography, Drama, History.
LENGTH: 2h 6min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: March 13, 2021.

This story is such a dramatic retelling of Fred Hampton’s story. He was a political idealist leader and chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther organization. The movie depicts Hampton as a person with a vision of growth and care for his neighbors and community. He is not the villain of history here. I am sure a few of his political talking points might hit upon a few hot keywords that are topical in today’s political climate. It is a subject that has been continuously festering in American politics for centuries.


Tag (2018)

DIRECTOR: Jeff Tomsic.
WRITERS: Rob McKittrick, Mark Steilen, Russell Adams.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Action, Comedy.
LENGTH: 1h 40min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: March 13, 2021.

All of the best jokes appear in the movie’s promotional advertisements, and the punch lines still fall flat. While I was watching this movie, there was not one single instance when I laughed out loud. This fact alone should weigh a bit heavier than usual, as I had a decent beer buzz going during my viewing of the movie. It just does not strike any contact with my funny bone. I have enjoyed the previous works for most of the actors who appear in this movie. However, they did not make me laugh or entertain me in this one.


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Movie Review Weekly Roundup: February 28 – March 6, 2021


The Silencing (2020)

DIRECTOR: Robin Pront.
WRITERS: Micah Ranum.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Action, Crime, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 33min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: February 28, 2021.

It is such a mediocre story that isn’t fully committed to being a typical police procedural. We are constantly shifting between character points of view as the story goes along. One side is the local Sheriff. The other side a reclusive alcoholic with a troubled past. Both parties are involved in tracking down a bad guy. But each one has a different method of approach and purpose for accomplishing their mission. The movie’s production is high in quality, but the story did not really hold my attention and interest.


Freaky (2020)

DIRECTOR: Christopher Landon.
WRITERS: Michael Kennedy, Christopher Landon.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Comedy, Horror, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 42min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: March 1, 2021.

The plot of Freaky is easily summarized as a body-swapping slasher film. We have seen many variations of body-swapping movies over the last several decades in America, such as BigFreaky Friday (all versions), 13 Going on 30, et cetera. However, I do not recall any others who used the story trope to become the basis for a horror film. This is a welcoming change, for sure. I think the movie is an enjoyable watch. Because it is a horror film, this movie is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. So, viewer discretion is necessary.


Night School (2018)

DIRECTOR: Malcolm D. Lee.
WRITERS: Kevin Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells, Matthew Kellard, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg.
MPAA RATING: PG-13
GENRES: Comedy.
LENGTH: 1h 51min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: March 5, 2021.

This one would not be my absolute favorite Kevin Hart or Tiffany Haddish movie, by far. But it was enjoyable enough. A lot of the funny jokes that appear in the movie do slip through in the promotional trailers. It is okay. I still had some fun watching it. The movie would be worth watching if it is available to rent, stream, or is playing on basic cable when nothing else is on.


Fatale (2020)

DIRECTOR: Deon Taylor.
WRITERS: David Loughery.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 42min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: March 6, 2021.

Wow, such a lazy script. Its writing structure is thin. While watching the movie, I could imagine the writer is crossing off items from a “to do” list of plot points handed to him by his Screenwriting 101 teacher. Over the course of the movie, several character interactions and moments of dialogue are practically screaming at me as shallow moments of exposition, plot development, and character motivation. An honest shame, really.


Crisis (2021)

DIRECTOR: Nicholas Jarecki.
WRITERS: Nicholas Jarecki.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 58min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: March 6, 2021.

Three separate threads are weaving through this movie’s storyline. Each one feels like it is part of the same old, same old story we have seen several times before. First, there is a narcotics officer with questionable moral fiber and integrity. Then there is the science researcher with solid ethics and a firm grasp on positive morality. And finally, there is a mother who suffers the loss of a son to drugs and violence. Each story overlaps with the other based upon a shared theme. Prescription-strength pain medication can be addictive and deadly. It intrigues me to see Gary Oldman portray the science researcher in this movie, knowing full well thirty years ago he depicted a drug-addicted narcotics agent in The Professional. Interesting.


Open 24 Hours (2018)

DIRECTOR: Padraig Reynolds.
WRITERS: Padraig Reynolds.
MPAA RATING: Unrated – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Horror.
LENGTH: 1h 42min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: March 6, 2021.

Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer,
Came down upon her head.
Clang! Clang! Maxwell’s silver hammer,
Made sure that she was dead.

Boy, did I enjoy this movie! I feared it would be another mediocre horror film with no thrills or no self-respecting amount of production quality at all, but it sure did surprise me. It rests upon the classic “final girl” setup featuring a young woman in a leading role who proves she can hold her own against any scary villain, even if it is her own traumatic past trying to haunt her.


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