Week Of 05.16.2021 Movie Reviews
Reviewing Spiral, Those Who Wish Me Dead, And The Woman In The Window
It seems that for a month plus now since we got Godzilla VS Kong we’ve been stuck with underwhelming films. That changes this weekend as we get a major horror franchise reboot in Spiral, a highly anticipated book adaptation in Those Who Wish Me Dead, and a long delayed A list cast thriller in The Woman In The Window.
But first, a reminder of what my grading system for movies works like
- S Grade; 5.0 Stars: The Best Film I’ve Ever Seen, Everyone Has An S Graded Film
- A+/A- Grade; 4.0/4.5 Stars: One Of The Best Films Of The Year, If Not All-Time
- B+/B- Grade; 3.0/3.5 Stars: Worth A Trip To The Theatre For First Viewing
- C+/C- Grade; 2.0/2.5 Stars: Watch From Home For First Viewing
- D+/D- Grade; 1.0/1.5 Stars: Don’t Bother Watching This At All If You Can Help It
- F Grade; 0.5 Star: One Of The Worst Films Of All-Time
- Reminder: Reviews For These Films Can Change Over Time And Will Be Reflected Over At Our Letterboxd
With all that out of the way, lets get to the reviews already...
- The Plot: Working in the shadow of an esteemed police veteran, brash Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks and his rookie partner take charge of a grisly investigation into murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game.
- The Review: Originally slated for last year, this soft reboot and quasi spinoff of the infamous Saw horror franchise was getting some major good word of mouth among new media critical circles…then came in the more classic “old legacy type” type of critics with much harsher reviews. As someone who thinks the first Saw is one of the greatest films ever made, but the rest of the films in the franchise have ranged between mediocre to laughably bad, I found myself actually excited to check this one out. In the end sadly, I have to say I felt like this was more on the mediocre end than anything as good as the first one. That’s not to say I would rank this low among the franchise, it may arguably be the second best film of the franchise. But that’s not saying much given the track record of the other sequels.
Chris Rock (Who just by coincidence I’m sure pitched this film at a wedding to a Lionsgate exec) as the lead role feels off during a big chunk of the first half of the movie, but its almost like he remembered how much better an actor he could be (i.e Fargo) by the last half of the film. The movie sets up with awkward exposition and predictable tropes, only for the second half to see some interesting unpredictable turns. Samuel L Jackson as our lead protagonist’s father seems to be the best thing about this movie - bringing his A game as much as he could with this material in a project he could have gotten lazy with and just mailed something in for a paycheck. The side roles are acted commendably as well, even if the motivations of the characters and story beats are at times comically derivative.
The film’s climax plays out better then a lot of the other saw films’ attempts to replicate the perfect ending of the first film, but again I’m comparing this to much worse movies in a franchise filled with too many bad movies. The twist of who it is and the motivations of the killer all make sense. Unlike other Saw films I didn’t find myself rolling my eyes by the time the credits rolled, but I also felt like I just saw another flyby horror/detective procedural film that would be easily forgettable. One thing of note is that the movie does do a lot of setup as well for a would be sequel that we’ll probably get, but quite frankly I don’t really care if we get it or not.
This movie seems to be getting a lot of mixed reactions, from some who hate it worse than me to others who have slated it as an early nominee among their favorite films. I wish I liked it as much as the latter, but I can’t say this is among the worst of the year either. Overall this is the prime example of a movie that unless you’re a massive Saw franchise fan, I’d just say wait until Halloween season later this year and rent it for a spooky Friday movie night in with a significant other. C+ for SPIRAL. An okay horror flick that tries something new with an established franchise, but ultimately ends up nothing special.
- The Plot: A teenage murder witness finds himself pursued by twin assassins in the Montana wilderness with a survival expert tasked with protecting him – and a forest fire threatening to consume them all.
- The Review: Earlier this year this film was getting buzz as a potential Oscar contender among certain circles, but then when I saw Warner Brothers slate is as an addendum to a weekend where a new Saw film comes out, I knew the studio didn’t necessarily see this as something that grand. This is apparently an adaptation of a novel, and I wonder if it has sequels because the movie sets up a certain big bad villain that we never even see again after one scene - and played by a major actor and director at that (Tyler Perry himself) so the character is kind of unforgettable once you meet them.
The movie kicks off with some questionable dialogue and exposition, and when it settles down to kick off the plot the action seems to start and pause to a point that for me the pacing of the film felt off at times. Though I will say the acting here isn’t horrible either and the chemistry between our lead protagonist (Played by Angelina Jolie herself) and the child she’s trying to protect in this (Played by Finn Little), is easy to buy. There’s also a subplot in here regarding her ex and his pregnant wife that I feel at times was interesting but at other times feels like its an unnecessary addendum, but again this subplot might have been in the novel.
I saw one review that cited this as feeling a bit out of its time, which I think makes sense. It just feels like there’s better action films out there than this, as if this could have used a little more humph to make it more recommendable. But ultimately we get a pretty standard action film that if anything is more worth a watch on HBO Max or a rental at home in the months ahead rather than a theatrical experience. C+ for THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD. Kill some time with it if you must, but don’t expect anything worthwhile from it.
- The Plot: An agoraphobic woman living alone in New York begins spying on her new neighbors only to witness a disturbing act of violence.
- The Review: A seemingly cursed production that’s another adaptation to a book for this weekend. This was actually filmed all the way back in 2018, slated to release in 2019 before it was pushed back to a 2020, before it was then pushed back again to a 2021 release thanks to COVID. The original studio reportedly lost faith in the film as time passed, and were probably more than happy to give it to Netflix for release in 2021.
The cast here is incredibly impressive with Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Brian Tyree Henry leading a shot of others in what on paper could have probably been a solid thriller homage to Hitchcock’s tales. And there is a little bit of that, helped by a mood setting score and actors and actresses that I truly believe were trying their best with material that well…was trying a bit too hard to be Hitchcock.
There’s nothing wrong with callbacks, but this movie relies on them to a point that it almost becomes comical for those who are aware of classic thriller films. The dialogue at times just doesn’t land well, and the twists and turns are frankly pretty predictable and derivative. There’s characters in here that take a turn too sudden to a point that when secrets come out, it just feels like the movie isn’t revealing shades of gray but trying to dare you as to whether you’ll get a chance to like them. And worse yet, the movie does rely on the awful trope of jump scares - probably having Hitchcock rolling in his grave as a result.
But again the thrills are there, and you do get to see an incredibly impressive choice of ensemble here even with all the faults. The movie also wraps up predictably, but acceptably so. Some critics have been extremely harsh towards this movie, but I wouldn’t say its a disaster so much as its a time killing snack for those who appreciate thrillers like this. Had it come out as originally planned, I would have said save your theatrical tickets budget for a better film and just wait for this one to come out for renting at home. But its on Netflix and that’s where it likely deserves to be. C+ for THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW. An okay standard thriller that will do the trick for those without much to do at home even if it doesn’t live up to the greatness of the movies it wants to be.