‘Underwater’ Delivers Deep-Sea Monsters, While Merely Hinting at Something More Insidious

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CREDIT: Alan Markfield/Twentieth Century Fox

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, T.J. Miller, Mamoudou Athie, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr.

Director: William Eubank

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Attacks On and From Sci-Fi Horror Monsters

Release Date: January 10, 2020

The opening of Underwater promises intense pressure and pitch black scenarios, but honestly? It could’ve had even more pressure and been even more pitch black. That’s not to say that those prone to extreme claustrophobia should give this one a chance. It is, after all, about deep-sea researchers who have to walk to safety across the ocean floor after their vessel becomes damaged by an apparent earthquake. But it’s almost a little too bright, a little too out in the open. The creepy-crawlies that turn out to be lurking in their path are effectively monstrous, but the point of escape appears clearly within reach such that I was never fully worried. Maybe not everyone would make it through alive, but surely some of them would. The ingenuity and grit devised for getting around the beasts are fairly satisfying, but I found myself craving, or at least anticipating, more danger and mystery.

Going right along with the vibe of shining more light than expected, both the opening and end credits inform us that this misadventure will remain very much classified when all is said and done. But the thing is, we’re seeing the classified story. This whole movie is a peak behind the redaction! So why let us know that there is a cover-up when we’re already within the covers? Perhaps there is meant to be an implication, in thoroughly true blue X-Files spirit, that in the real world there are actually terrors in the deep running amok that most folks have no idea about because certain people have decided we’re not supposed to know about any of that. Alas, all that conspiracy flavor is merely the thinnest spread of icing. But by golly, if you’re going to tease us about what your monster is really all about, then please follow through with it.

Underwater is Recommended If You Like: Overlord, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, The X-Files but compressed

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Stuff Bunnies

This Is a Movie Review: The Front Runner

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CREDIT: Frank Masi/Sony Pictures

The Front Runner raises a lot of valid points about the propriety, or lack thereof, of prying into politicians’ personal lives, but it is liable to leave you more confused than ever, even if you have strong opinions about all the issues it raises. As the narrative goes, the coverage of Gary Hart’s supposed indiscretions during the 1988 Democratic primary completely derailed his campaign and led to the overall coarsening of the political media landscape that we have today. That may be an accurate narrative, but is it a bad thing that we know more about the personal lives of those who govern us? The fact that it all remained secret for so long is one reason why powerful people have gotten away with terrible behavior.

But as for how it affected Gary Hart specifically, did he deserve what happened to him? The way the movie presents it, it seems like he had been unfaithful in his marriage, but not necessarily in this case. And the Miami Herald, which originally reported on the story, did not appear to do their duest diligence to verify their implications. At least I can unequivocally say it is a good thing that Donna Rice, Hart’s alleged mistress, gets to have her side of the story presented. But otherwise, The Front Runner is a bit of a mess. Although, it could be a portrait of a mess.

I give The Front Runner 2.5 (Million) Accusations out of 5 (Possible) Indiscretions.

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Patti Cake$’ Makes Tasty North Jersey Hip Hop Cake as Fast as It Can

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Photo courtesy of Jeong Park. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

This review was originally posted on News Cult in August 2017.

Starring: Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty

Director: Geremy Jasper

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Rating: R for Three Generations of Women Spouting Profanity, Showing Off Cleavage at Job Interviews

Release Date: August 18, 2017 (Limited)

Most rappers are still black and male, but the genre is such a permanent fixture in the culture at large that any deviation from the demographic norm is hardly surprising. So I appreciate that Patti Cake$ treats the race and gender of its protagonist as generally no big deal one way or the other. After all, she does live in the “Dirty Jersey” melting pot of Bergen County (right across Manhattan along the George Washington Bridge). Alas, while Patti Cake$ does spit to its own rhythm, it hews pretty closely to the beats of the struggling artist narrative. But what it lacks in structural ingenuity, it makes up for with the variety of seemingly disparate parts that complement each other in its collage.

Patricia Dombrowski (Australian newcomer Danielle Macdonald) is feisty enough on her own, but it is thanks to her collaborators that she really shines. The group they form is christened “PBNJ,” wherein P is Patti, J is her longtime best friend on the hooks Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay), B is disaffected but sensitive anarchist beat-mixer Basterd, and N is Patti’s Nana (Cathy Moriarty), whose chainsmoke-ravaged rasp is adorably sampled and looped into the chorus. As far as rap goes, their tracks aren’t exactly mind-blowing, or game-changing, or groundbreaking, and the movie concedes as much. Still, they are plenty rousing. That relative lack of prowess holds it back from being an all-time great in the genre, but it is powerful enough, and the modesty is appreciated.

If Patti Cake$ sticks with you, it will most likely be because of how generously it lets you into Patti’s life. She is an upstanding young adult, putting just as much effort into into the money-making aspect of her hustle as she does the rhyming side. Her relationship with her mother Barb (Bridget Everett) is as affecting as it ought to be. Barb is not exactly supportive of Patti’s hip-hop ambitions, but it is not because she is unsupportive in general, far from it. Nor is it because she does not understand the life of an artist – in fact, she had a bit of a musical career herself as the lead singer of a lady metal band that was cut short just as they were on the edge of big-time success. It’s just that she’s old school, set in her own way, and just hasn’t seen any evidence that rap is a genre worth pursuing. That is why the final performance scene at an amateur showcase concert is so crucial. It wraps everything up thematically and unites every member of Patti’s family, putting her story squarely in the file of “crowd-pleaser.”

Patti Cake$ is Recommended If You Like: 8 Mile, Affectionately making fun of North Jersey, Mother-Daughter Bonding

Grade: 3 out of 5 Acronym Band Names