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OUTSIDE THE WIRE (2021) review

January 16, 2021


written by: Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale
produced by: Rory Aitken, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Ildiko Kemeny, Anthony Mackie, Ben Pugh, Jason Spire & Erica Steinberg
directed by: Mikael Hafstrom
rating: R (for strong violence and language throughout)
runtime: 114 min.
U.S. release date: January 15, 2021 (Netflix)


It was recently announced that Netflix will be releasing a new movie every week in 2021, but I’m betting that’s just a small fraction of what will be coming out of the streaming giant this year. No doubt their aim will be to offer variety, but also aim to target certain genres as well. “Outside the Wire” is the kind of movie that scratches the itch viewers might have for “an action movie”, while adding a bit more to kind of stand out. While the action is aplenty, director Mikael Hafstrom (“Escape Plan” and “The Rite”) with screenwriters by Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale, place the story in a sci-fi future with the focus the terror of technology on the war front, be it drones or cyborgs. The overall message is muddled and lost amid a heavily reliance on action sequences, leaving little room for compelling characterization and ultimately making the story less interesting as it unravels. Read more…

WANDAVISION review (S1: 1-3)

January 15, 2021


It’s been eighteen months since we last saw the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and it feels like the last time we were in a movie theater was longer than that. While COVID may have derailed Marvel Studios theatrical release schedule (alas, “Black Widow”), their long-anticipated small screen plans are finally streaming our way this month with “WandaVision”, which may look and feel very different from what the studio has delivered in the past, yet is very much paying homage to television shows of the past in a unique and entertaining way. Read more…


January 9, 2021


written by Anabel Rodríguez Ríos and Sepp R. Brudermann
produced by: Sepp R. Brudermann
directed by: Anabel Rodríguez Ríos
rating: not rated
runtime: 99 min.
U.S. release date: December 31, 2020 (Topic streaming service)


While the primary focus of Anabel Rodríguez Ríos’ documentary “Once Upon a Time in Venezuela” is the people who live at a specific lakeside village, it serves as an indication of where the rest of the country is at as well. It could also be seen as an indictment of the corrupt politics and damaging pollution that has changed the landscape and way of life for the proud people who remain there. From start to finish, Rios is as immersed in this world as her viewers are, as the filmmaker offers an illuminating and often stunning looks at part of a country that is all but forgotten as it wallows in despair. Read more…

SHADOW IN THE CLOUD (2020) review

January 1, 2021


written by: Max Landis and Roseanne Liang
produced by: Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Kelly McCormick, Tom Hern & Fred Berger
directed by: Roseanne Liang
rating: R (for language throughout, sexual references and violence)
runtime: 83 min.
U.S. release date: January 1, 2021 (theaters, Amazon Prime Video & other VOD options) 


“Shadow in the Cloud” plays like a pulpy story out of an anthology collection that somehow came to life on screen. It’s unfortunate it’s not a big-screen, since what transpires in this taut action thriller would be something to behold and get lost in. It’s easy get lost in this exciting wartime horror yarn on whatever size screen and sound system you have, but it’s probably ideal to watch at night with the lights out, free of distractions. It may be a period piece, but “Shadow in the Cloud” isn’t confined to any set distinctions which makes fun to figure what kind of twists and turns it’ll take next. Read more…

ANOTHER ROUND (2020) review

December 31, 2020


written by: Tobias Lindholm
produced by: Sisse Graum Jørgensen and Kasper Dissing
directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
rating: not rated
runtime: 115 min.
U.S. release date: December 18, 2020 (virtual, Amazon)


Three Danish talents reunite for “Another Round” and it feels like whenever director Thomas Vinterberg, writer Tobias Lindholm, and actor Mads Mikkelsen get together, the outcome is something special. Granted, they’ve only done one previous film together, but that was the Oscar-nominated “The Hunt” from 2012 and while that was a tough watch, it was definitely great work from all three artists. Although their latest once again touches on some bleak subject matter, it is a dramedy that does so in a bit more of a balanced manner, adding doses of levity and hope to prevent us from being left in utter despair. Read more…


December 30, 2020


written by: Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli & Mario Monicelli
produced by: Silvio Clementelli
directed by: Mario Monicelli
rated: not rated
runtime: 106 min.
release date: October 12, 1960 (Italy), December 5, 2014 (New York City, digitally restored) & December 30, 2020 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL) 


The Italian film “The Passionate Thief” has an overall relatable manner to it – that is, if you’ve ever found yourself with no plans on New Years Eve. Worse yet, it brings to mind the times when you found yourself without a date or a significant other on the last night of the year. I’m sure we’ve all gone out with friends to celebrate the coming year, not quite knowing what the evening will bring or who we’ll meet. That’s what comes to mind while watching Mario Monicelli’s 1960 light comedic tale set in Rome, a wonderfully shot black-and-white film that follows a trio of characters through an unpredictable night. Read more…

MUSEUM TOWN (2020) review

December 28, 2020

written by: Noah Bashevkin, Pola Rapaport, and Jennifer Trainer

produced by: Noah Bashevkin, Robert Gould, Ivy Meeropol, Anders Schroeder, Yukiko Schroeder, and Jennifer Trainer
directed by: Jennifer Trainer
rated: not rated
runtime: 76 min.
U.S. release date: December 18, 2020 (virtual cinema)


Former journalist Jennifer Trainer makes her directorial debut with the documentary “Museum Town”, focusing on a specific location and an intriguing study that lies somewhere between architectural appropriation and anthropological change. It tells the story of how a contemporary art museum arrived in New Adams, a post-industrial town in northwest rural Massachusetts. It’s an informative and beautifully lensed look at how MASS MoCA came to be the museum of its kind in the world and how the location changed with the times in its more than two hundred years of existence. Read more…

THE MIDNIGHT SKY (2020) review

December 26, 2020


written by: Mark L. Smith
produced by: Grant Heslov, George Clooney, Keith Redmon, Bard Dorros & Cliff Roberts
directed by: George Clooney
rated: PG-13 (for some bloody images and brief strong language)
runtime: 118 min.
U.S. release date: December 23, 2020 (Netflix)


George Clooney is no stranger to science fiction, having starred in 2002’s “Solaris” remake from Steven Soderbergh and played a pivotal role in Alphonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” from 2013. It’s been four years since the actor has been in a movie (“Hail, Caesar!”) and six years since he directed one (“Monuments Men”) and now there’s “The Midnight Sky”, a science fiction film that Clooney stars in and directs, a post-apocalyptic one at that. There was something about the story here, which is adapting the 2016 novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton, that made him come back to this genre and get in front of and behind the camera once again. Read more…

NEWS OF THE WORLD (2020) review

December 25, 2020


written by: Paul Greengrass and Luke Davies (screenplay) and Paulette Jiles (novel)
produced by: Gary Goetzman, Gail Mutrux, and Gregory Goodman
directed by: Paul Greengrass
rated: PG-13 (for violence, disturbing images, thematic material and some language)
runtime: 118 min.
U.S. release date: December 25, 2020 (theaters)


English filmmaker Paul Greengrass has spent most of this career directing films that were once books, albeit of a certain genre – either thrillers (three “Jason Bourne” movies, “Green Zone”) or ones based on harrowing real-life events (“United 93″, Captain Phillips”, and “22 July”) – so, it’s curious to see his eleventh film tackle something completely different, yet still within his proclivities. “News of the World” is a Western that certainly has thrilling and tense moments and definitely aspects of survival during a fractured and transitional time in American history. It’s also an adaptation of a 2016 novel by Paulette Jiles that primarily deals with loss and responsibility, revolving around two different people who impact each other’s lives. Read more…

WONDER WOMAN 1984 (2020)

December 24, 2020


WARNING: The following review contains spoilers! You may want to hold off on reading until you’ve seen the movie. If that doesn’t matter, read on…


written by: Geoff Johns, David Callaham and Patty Jenkins
produced by: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot & Stephen Jones
directed by: Patty Jenkins
rated: PG-13 (for sequences of action and violence)
runtime: 151 min.
U.S. release date: December 24, 2020 (in theaters & HBO Max)


2017’s “Wonder Woman” was the third time audiences saw Gal Gadot portray the DC Comics superhero, but the first time the character helmed her own live-action full-length feature. It was a huge hit helmed by Patty Jenkins, breaking records the summer it was released as the highest grossing movie that year and the highest grossing film ever directed by a sole woman. In no time, a sequel was announced, reuniting Jenkins and Gadot, with Warner Brothers hoping they’d have yet another hit on their hands. Despite delays due to a global pandemic, “Wonder Woman 1984” is finally released, yet it takes a risk-free approach as it employs the failures of many other superhero movies before it while attempting to repeat the strengths of the last movie. Read more…