Connect with us

Movies News

‘Watcher’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

Published

on

‘Watcher’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

For her feature debut, Watcher, director Chloe Okuno has taken the well-worn genre of the stalker flick and given it a subtle jolt of freshness, making it less about the violence, which is more suggested than seen, than about the act of watching itself.

The result is a thriller whose temperature is on soft boil for most of its running time, until Okuno turns up the gas in the last few minutes for a convincingly extreme finale. In a genre movie climate marked by cheap thrills and easy scares — whatever gets us not to click on something else — it’s nice to see a film that sustains a viable ambiance of dread simply via someone looking out the window and shopping for groceries.

Watcher

The Bottom Line

A tense and novel watch.

Advertisement

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (U.S. Dramatic Competition)
Cast: Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Ciubuciu Bogdan Alexandru
Director: Chloe Okuno
Screenwriter: Zack Ford


1 hour 35 minutes

Granted, Watcher is set in present-day Bucharest, which is made to look scarier than most cities (a Dracula souvenir reminds us of Romania’s horror bona fides). But the real source of fear is the loneliness and isolation of an expat, Julie (Maika Monroe), who’s followed her boyfriend Francis (Karl Glusman) overseas for his new job.

With nothing to do but sit around their tasteful, slightly spooky if centrally located apartment — we learn that Julie used to be an actress; she seems to have no new career plans — our heroine begins to let her mind wander, especially when she sees a man constantly staring at her from a window across the street. Faster than you can pronounce voyeur, Julie is convinced the man is a stalker, her suspicions confirmed when he follows her one day into a supermarket. The fact that there’s a serial killer on the loose in town, and one who preys on young women, only adds to her anxiety.

At this point, most films would amp up the action by switching to either race-against-the-clock mode or torture-porn mode. But Okuno and screenwriter Zack Ford try another tactic, which is to keep things as real and ambiguous as possible, putting us in Julie’s shoes as we see what she sees and suspects what she suspects. We all like to concoct movies in our heads, and like the best point-of-view thrillers, Watcher makes that practice its main occupation: We’re watching someone watching being watched.

Advertisement

Rather than contradicting Julie at first, Francis tries his best to accommodate her. He asks the cops to intervene and they eventually bring Julie face to face with her stalker (Ciubuciu Bogdan Alexandru, arguably the creepiest looking actor in Romania). The air has been cleared, after which we begin to wonder whether this is all in Julie’s mind because she’s bored to death — a sentiment Francis begins to voice out loud.

There’s a nice undercurrent in Watcher that explores the listlessness of being an expat partner, sort of like in Lost in Translation but with the Bill Murray character replaced by a potential psychopath. The film doesn’t completely skirt stereotypes about its setting — the one neighbor Julie befriends is a stripper who works in a club that screams of post-communist despair — but it does rather accurately portray the solitude of moving abroad and not being able to fit in or communicate with others.

Divulging any more story at this point will ruin it, so let’s just say that Okuno does a good job keeping us in the dark and contemplating Julie’s sanity until her movie’s nail-biter of a finale, which is short, scary and delivers the gore we watchers have been waiting for. It’s an ending that feels earned because of the slow and steady buildup, and because of Monroe’s ability to constantly look terrified without batting an eyelid — something she already proved in David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows.

For a first feature, Watcher is skillfully and economically realized, making the most out of very little: one apartment, two windows, a few streets, a lost cat. Okuno and DP Benjamin Kirk Nielsen stage each sequence for maximum impact, even if there’s not much happening at times beyond someone looking outside. But they manage to make us look as well, waiting for things to go bad and for our promises to be fulfilled.

Advertisement

Movies News

Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Published

on

By

Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

Advertisement

The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

Advertisement

Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Movies News

Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

Published

on

By

According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

Advertisement

To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

Continue Reading

Movies News

Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

Published

on

By

Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

Advertisement

Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

Continue Reading

Trending