A weekend in the country can be a nightmare, if the right combination of people are thrown together. Writer-director Jack McHenry and co-writer Alice Sidgwick have taken this thought and run with it for their feature debut “Here Comes Hell”: a horror-comedy of the same gore-fest breed as Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” films, with the action instead taking place in an English country estate in the 1930s rather than in a cabin in the woods. The estate in question is Westwood Manor, recently acquired by the heir of a vast family fortune who has invited his friends to a dinner party at his new home. Naturally, post-dinner entertainment includes a seance - complete with an eccentric medium - which goes just as well as any cinematic encounter with the hereafter has done previously (with the exception of “Ghost”, of course).
François Ozon’s “8 Women” (2002) is a locked-house murder mystery whodunit with over the top caricatures who fling around accusations and burst into song. It’s ultra-theatrical and it’s brilliant. Based on Robert Thomas’s 1958 play “Huit Femmes”, the film is set in the 1950s in a snow-bound French manor far from help. As the family gathers for Christmas the patriarch Marcel (Dominique Lamure) is found murdered. Of course nobody can contact the police or get out through the snow. The murderer is amongst them and they need to figure out which one of them it is.
Over the years, genre cinema has had a lot of examples of crime dramas from the female perspective. We have had stellar examples further in the past like Kathryn Bigelow's sharp "Blue Steel" (1990) and F. Gary Gray's "Set It Off" (1996) and just recently, we had Lorene Scarafia's vibrant "Hustlers" (2019) and Andrea Berloff's problematic "The Kitchen" (2019). On the more ambitious side, we have had crime films that meld with other genres like Park Chan-wook's artistic "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" (2005), Carol Morley's "Out of Blue" (2018) and Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" (2012). In the case of Abner Pastoll's "A Good Woman Is Hard To Find" (2019), we have that perspective alongside other promising notions that make the film look great on paper. Firstly, it is a British film; and British cinema is well-known for their intensity within crime stories like James Watkins' "Eden Lake" (2008) and Daniel Barber's "Harry Brown" (2009).
The screening I attended showed the making of this film and the journey of the director (Gurinder Chadha) and the man whose life influenced this film (Sarfraz Manzoor). I was moved and utterly sucked in just watching the preview! I enjoyed the making of this film; from the director reading Sarfraz's memoir and instantly wanting to make the film to both of them anxiously waiting to hear back from Springsteen after sending him the screenplay. Based on the memoir of Sarfraz Manzoor, the majority of the topics are universal, making them easier to relate. Chadha manages to capture the difficulties individuals endure on a day to day basis all while successfully allowing the music to aid in the narration. Although the story takes place on a different continent to the one I live, it resonated with me. Political issues, social tensions, identity issues, family dynamics, friendships, and many more topics are situations we’re are currently experiencing.
There hasn’t been a stronger or more talked about example childhood fame leading to a destructive transition into adulthood than the story of Shia LaBeouf. After becoming an absolute hit on Disney’s “Even Stevens” and other small movie roles, LaBeouf reached new heights in starring in “Disturbia” and the “Transformers” franchise – that is until people started to talk about something else with LaBeouf. With his countless run-ins with the law, the story of him sitting in a theater watching all of his films, and him telling everyone to “just do it” turning him into a living meme, he basically became the butt of the internet’s jokes.
“I don’t feel anything”, Jonathan (Yonatan Langer, also known as the internationally-recognized porn star Jonathan Agassi) laments at the end of the film, having ostensibly reached an all-time low. He is broken, sick, depressed, numb, and addicted to drugs. He’s also a hardcore gay pornstar who does some escorting on the side. This documentary (by Tomer Heymann) establishes early on that porn is about building a fantasy and attempting to break the fourth wall. Here, we scratch the surface of Yonatan’s psyche; we learn that despite all the supposed fun that keeps pornstars like him busy, he seems terribly dissatisfied.
Here it is, 2019, and we’re just getting our very first feature film biopic of civil rights legend Harriet Tubman. It’s just a shame that it isn’t a more inspired one. Cynthia Erivo is more than competent in the lead role, bringing a vibrancy and determination to Tubman’s heroism, but the rest of the film is a drab, paint-by-numbers biopic.
Harriet was born a slave, under the name of Araminta Ross. When the film begins, she and her free husband John (Zackary Momoh) are unsuccessfully arguing the legality of her enslavement with her master. Their failure to negotiate Harriet’s freedom makes them so desperate that they discuss running away together, but circumstances transpire that force her to take the long, arduous journey north alone.
A social worker happens upon a trailer home. In it she finds a dead woman who has presumably overdosed; her body is surrounded by various pill bottles and a half-consumed NyQuil. The social worker explores the home and finds a young girl in a wooden chest. This is a chilling start to a tale which portrays grief and guilt in such an engaging and fresh way. Although flawed in structure, it succeeds in delivering the hysterical mother trope in ways which are fresh, exciting, and haunting. "The Deep Red" demonstrates, vividly, that some clichés deserve to be demolished and rebuilt; that in a more adventurous movie environment undercutting these tropes wouldn’t feel as fresh as it does here.
Netflix boasts its ability to release a number of comedy specials. If you have seen one special, you kind of get the gist of every other special. The material always differs but the presentation is the same. A comic stands alone, on stage, hoping their zingers land and their poignant messages get across. But when Jenny Slate’s “Stage Fright” landed on Netflix in October 2019, it redefined the comedy special.
Slate’s comedy is a certain brand. Watch her in 2014’s “Obvious Child,” and you will understand what you are getting in for. In the film, Slate plays, Donna, an underemployed, struggling comedienne who learns that she is pregnant after a one night stand. The jokes, and delivery, are killer. Slate adds heart to her humor and humor to her heart. The moments read different but all of the same elements are in play.