Kneel Before VOD: October 3rd
The best comedy of the summer is finally available for home viewing. Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish star as college friends reuniting for a fun party weekend in New Orleans at a major festival. The trip immediately turns crazy once the women hit the streets. All four are infectiously fun to watch, particularly Haddish, whose performance is an absolute knockout and easily one of the best comedy performances of the decade.
Marvel continues its string of great crowd-pleasers by introducing us (for the third time) to Spider-Man, this time around played by Tom Holland, who breathes a ton of life into the role. This film wisely sidesteps the typical origin story, opting instead to focus on Peter Parker after he's discovered his powers. Featuring Michael Keaton as the villainous Vulture, who is building his criminal empire using tech left behind after the Avenger's fight against the Chitauri. Between the exciting action sequences, the film also tells a compelling coming-of-age love story between Parker and his classmate Michelle (Zendaya).
Sofia Coppola's latest is a beautiful period thriller. Based on Thomas Cullinan's novel of the same name, The Beguiled takes place in the late 19th century at a girls school, nearly empty save for a handful of students and teacher Edwina (Nicole Kidman). One day a wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell) happens upon the school and the girls nurse him back to health as sexual tension arises. It's a challenging and dark story, fully realized thanks to Coppola's vision and great performances from Kidman and Farrell.
Stressing to pay for their kid's college education and looking for a quick buck, Kate (Amy Poehler) and Scott (Will Ferrell) team up with their insane neighbor Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) to open an underground casino in their basement. Mantzoukas is great in the largest role of his career, and Poehler and Ferrell are predictably fun, but the film feels no different than many of Ferrell's recent comedies, lacking heart and presenting the same tired jokes. It performed about as well, too, getting trashed by critics and underperforming at the box office.
Carol (Cate Blanchett) meets Therese (Rooney Mara) in a retail store and the two strike up a relationship, despite pressures of the time and the fact that both are in committed relationships. As a period piece, Carol is stunningly beautiful, full of lush set dressing and perfectly crafted period accurate clothing. Cate Blanchett is a knockout, as well, playing the stern Carol with unwavering certainty and sincerity. While I found Todd Haynes' film to be self-serious and poorly paced, it is worth it to watch Blanchett and Mara at their peaks.
Also Streaming: Beauty and the Beast, Jerry Before Seinfeld, Gerald's Game, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Blood Diamond, Inside Man, Eyes Wide Shut, Boogie Nights, I Love You Man, Before Midnight
Amazon Prime: Hatchet II
It's October, so it's time to get in the mood for horror. Just a few weeks ago we posted an entry for our Screams From the Crypt column all about the Hatchet series, Kane Hodder's gloriously silly and gory return to the slasher genre. Blood and over-the-top kills are the name of the game, as a group of badasses head off into the swamps of New Orleans to hunt down Victor Crowley, the super strong childlike murderer who just wants people off his land. Amazon Prime just added Hatchet II to its roster that already included Hatchet III, so it's a good time to get caught up just before the fourth entry, Victor Crowley kicks off a nationwide roadshow this October.
Also Streaming: Wild Horses, Parkland, Tin Star, Pan's Labyrinth, Fargo, Happy Feet, Clueless, The Lake House, Snake Eyes, Pet Sematary, Escape From L.A., Caddyshack, H2O Halloween, Ghost World, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Out of Time, Election
HBO GO: Assassin's Creed
Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard's performances lift this otherwise unremarkable action film to entertaining heights. This adaptation of the popular video game franchise follows a new character, Callum Lynch, a death row prisoner who gets roped into a massive plot by the Abstergo company to find the fabled Apple of Eden. The company believes that the location can be found by delving into Lynch's ancestry, and they hook him into a machine that lets him relive the memories of his ancestor, Aguilar in 15th century Spain. It's a heady concept that I felt was explained well for the uninitiated, and even if it doesn't work, I found the film's action scenes to be thrilling.
Hulu Plus: America's Sweethearts
A childhood favorite that doesn't quite hold up, America's Sweethearts stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and John Cusack as two movie stars doing a press tour for their latest starring effort shortly after going through a rough break-up as their manager (Billy Crystal) desperately tries to keep them together for the promotions. The two stars do have some chemistry but it's entirely wasted here, as are some quite fun supporting performances from Julia Roberts and the aforementioned Crystal. It certainly attempts to be humorous and likable, but there's a bad taste that is left in your mouth after watching this.
Three children are raised in complete isolation by their parents in a compound. They are taught a made-up language and a given little in the way of entertainment beyond cruel competitions and a prostitute brought in for one of the sons. It's a dark film and a depressing watch, something that Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, Killing of a Sacred Deer) has made his signature. The dark humor infused makes this true original watchable. Quite possibly the weirdest Best Foreign Language Oscar nominee in history.
Shudder: Evil Dead II
I'm going to expand this column for the month of October to include the horror-centric streaming service Shudder to ensure that we horror fans always have something to watch during our favorite month of the year. My first pick is Sam Raimi's classic Evil Dead II. This entry ratcheted up the comedy while sustaining its scary roots and focuses once again on Ash (Bruce Campbell) as he battles hellspawn in a cabin in the woods. The blood, gore, and thrills are Raimi at his absolute best.
Also Streaming: Flowers in the Attic