And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: All the Old Knives

I keep forgetting the name of this movie– wanting to call it Knives Out, which it isn’t. It’s not as sharp, or entertaining. But it is engrossing. There are worse ways to pass the time than watching a rakish Chris Pine and alluring Thandiwe (formerly known as Thandie) Newton engaging in intense dialogue (and other stuff too) while seeking to unravel the mystery of who is lying to whom.

Review: Huda’s Salon

This riveting “based on true events” thriller from two-time Academy Award nominee Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now, Omar) is set in the West Bank. Reem (Maisa Abd Elhadi) is a young Palestinian mother married to a very jealous man. One day she visits her hairdresser, Huda (Manal Awad), and tells her all about her struggles with him as her little daughter sleeps just beside her chair. The two women clearly enjoy their gossiping and kvetching. After the new do, Huda offers Reem a coffee, only it’s no friendly act, but a life altering event.

Quickie Review: No Exit

This taut little thriller is the perfect flick to watch from the comfort of your couch. In it a young woman checks herself out of rehab to rush to her dying mother’s bedside, only to get stranded with a group of strangers at a visitors’ center in the middle of a snow storm. But when she steps outside hoping to get a signal on her phone so she can contact her sister, she discovers a little girl trapped in a van and has to try and figure out which of her four fellow travelers is the kidnapper and how to rescue her.  It’s a brisk story with enough twists and turns to keep you engaged from beginning to end. 

Quickie Review: American Night

This neo-noir crime flick set in the art world has a good cast, looks fabulous, and even has some decent music. But at just over two hours in length, it never really finds its mojo. The story revolves around a stolen Andy Warhol Marilyn print. Michael, a young mafioso with the soul of an artist (Emile Hirsh) wants it back because his dead father promised it to him, but then sold it. And he’ll go to any length to find it. Murder, torture, whatever. 

Nashville Film Festival Rundown

This was my first time (virtually) attending the Nashville Film Festival.  It is close enough for me to drive over, but that was not possible this time around. They had a great slate of films spread over a week. But sadly a lot of the films I’d have loved to see were only available in person, mostly the big prestige flicks. Nevertheless, I did get to see quite a few worthy films from the comfort of my couch. Below is my rundown.

The films are: Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road; Fanny: The Right to Rock; Everybody is Looking for some Light; Poser; Leftover Feelings: A Studio B Revival; 7 Days; Window Boy Would Also Like To Have A Submarine; Potato Dreams; Porcupine; The Good Traitor; Huda’s Salon; Green Sea; Ayar; Luzzu.

Review: The Guilty

This American remake of a Danish thriller of the same name stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a cop who’s been put on desk duty awaiting a trial that could have serious repercussions on his career. He’s answering 911 calls and isn’t happy about it a bit. But when a call comes in from a woman that he quickly realizes is in trouble, everything changes.  Back in 2018 when the original came out, it landed at the top of my and Mainstream Chick’s lists for the best foreign films that year. Sadly, this new iteration doesn’t rise to that level. Sure Jake’s good, but Jakob Cedergren was amazing and a lot of the power of the first film came from his restrained performance. Gyllenhaal and director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Magnificent Seven) chose to go for more bombast. Perhaps if I hadn’t seen the first film, I’d be less critical.

Review: Wife of a Spy

This stylish thriller from director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is set in Japan in 1940 shortly before they entered World War II. It opens with beautiful young couple making an amateur movie about betrayal. The husband Yusaku (Issey Takahashi, Kill Bill) though is in the import-export business and movie-making, just a hobby. He and his wife Satoko (Aoi Yû ) are a thoroughly cosmopolitan couple, but the prevailing winds in the country are turning anti-Western and nationalistic. Then on a business trip to Manchuria, Yusaku witnesses horrifying atrocities being committed by the Imperial Japanese Army and returns with documentary proof that he plans to share with the world. But once Satoko discovers her husband’s plan, the question becomes whether she will be loyal to him or her country.

Quickie Review: The Night House

I rarely enjoy horror movies. They’re simply not my thing (with exceptions falling along the lines of a Poltergeist, A Quiet Place or The Conjuring). So I admit I’m not the best judge of whether it’s worth catching the unsettling, creepy ghost story put forward in The Night House. If you’re a fan of the genre, it probably can’t hurt – especially because the film is elevated by the ‘presence’ of British-American actress Rebecca Hall (Godzilla vs Kong, Christine). Hall plays Beth, a recent widow who discovers her husband led a secret life. As she seeks to unravel what triggered his sudden, unexpected death outside their dream house on a lake, Beth is beset by nightmares filled with disturbing visions and voices.

Quickie review: Crime Story

Sometimes the right ingredients do not make the tastiest meal. That’s the sad case in Crime Story, a revenge thriller starring Oscar winners Richard Dreyfuss and Mira Sorvino. He’s  reformed mobster Ben Myers who’s drawn back to his violent ways when thieves stage a home invasion and steal his stash while his beloved memory challenged wife Nan is home. His estranged daughter Nick (Sorvino) is a cop who’s currently working with a Congressman’s election team, and she’s trying to get Ben to step up for his other daughter’s kids, since she’s in hospice. Neither of them is going to get what they want. The basic plot is a clever series of twists and turns, and in the hands of a better director, it might have worked, but the film is a sad miss on so many levels. 

Review: Escape from Mogadishu

This based on a true story film is a nail biter. It’s the tale of North and South Korean diplomats and their  families caught in the middle of a civil war in Somalia in 1991 and their harrowing escape together. Then as now, the divided Koreans were natural enemies, but as the violence expanded and all their lives were at stake, they were able to put aside politics and work together to make their way across the war torn city to the safety of the Italian consulate and a plane home. With a stellar cast and breathtaking action, Escape from Mogadishu is a potent political thriller for foreign film aficionados.