This Is a ‘Palm Springs’ Review… This Is a ‘Palm Springs’ Review… This Is a ‘Palm Springs’ Review…

2 Comments

Palm Springs (CREDIT: NEON/Hulu)

Starring: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, Meredith Hagner, Camila Mendes, Tyler Hoechlin, J.K. Simmons, Peter Gallagher, Dale Dickey

Director: Max Barbakow

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: July 10, 2020 (Hulu and Drive-In Theaters)

Time loop movies are surprisingly robust. You might think Groundhog Day has perfected the formula, but then all these newbies arrive in its wake, and they’re all, at the very least, not half bad. Case in point: the pretty dang good Palm Springs, which finds Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti stuck at a wedding. So I have decided to review Palm Springs by comparing it to all the other Groundhog Day-style time loop movies I’ve seen:

Palm Springs isn’t as transcendent as Groundhog Day, but it has a deeper conversation with eternity.
Palm Springs doesn’t have the sinister undertones of Source Code, although there is a random appearance from a certain extinct species that makes me think that maybe you could theorize about something like that lurking beneath the surface.
Palm Springs is more rooted in theoretical science than sci-fi when compared to Edge of Tomorrow, though it doesn’t flaunt it.
Palm Springs is a whole heck of a lot more fun than Before I Fall.
Palm Springs doesn’t have as much time for death montages as Happy Death Day. But both of them have plenty of time for fun and are thus the most kindred of spirits within this subgenre. The former takes place at a wedding and the latter at a college, and college friends are often invited to weddings, after all.
Palm Springs is not a sequel, unlike Happy Death Day 2 U. Perhaps one day Palm Springs will get a sequel, though I doubt it. But if it ever does, I’ll watch it.

I give Palm Springs 4 out of 4 out of 4 out of 4 out of 4 out of 4 Dinosaurs

It’s Time to Watch ‘Horse Girl’

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Katrina Marcinowski/Netflix

With so many movie theaters closed for the foreseeable future, I decided to finally watch and review some straight-to-streaming flicks I haven’t had a chance to get around to yet. And in the spirit of things being not-so-normal, these reviews will maybe be a little more, uh, shall we say, offbeat, than usual.

First up on the docket is Horse Girl, a seemingly quirky indie comedy, but actually no, it’s a psychological study of emergent mental illness, but with some trappings of low-budg sci-fi. We can use the catchall term “drama.” It stars and is co-written by Alison Brie. The other person handling scripting duties is Jeff Baena, who also sat in the directing chair. I know and love Jeff from The Little Hours, in which he previously directed Alison. It played at Sundance in January 2020 and landed on Netflix on February 7, 2020. Thanks to Alison’s presence, I knew I was going to definitely watch it eventually, as I’ve been a superfan of hers since her days on Community (which I’m legally obligated to acknowledge is my favorite show of all time whenever I mention it).

Alison plays Sarah, an introverted lass who works at an arts and crafts store and enjoys horses. Also, her stepdad is played by Paul Reiser! (That’s got to be a good sign, right?) Things seem to be going okay for her, especially when she strikes up a potential new romantic relationship on her birthday. But then, as she begins to experience lost time and unexplained visions, it appears that the mental struggles that run in her family are finally making themselves at home in her brain. Or is she actually a clone who is also dealing with flippin’ alien abductions, jeez?

If you’re forcing me to say one or the other, Sarah probably actually is indeed experiencing mental illness. But Horse Girl makes me think: isn’t the idea of alien abduction intoxicating? What if it could be the basis of a religion? You could believe in them, though not literally, just have faith in them in some sort of way. That’s just a kernel of an idea, we’ll see if it becomes anything more. Anyway, Alison is terrific, but y’all knew that already! (Dint ya?)

Movie Review: ‘Brightburn’ Has Some Chilling Horror Instincts, But It Miscalculates Its Own Stakes

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Boris Martin/Sony Pictures

Starring: Jackson A. Dunn, Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner

Director: David Yarovesky

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: R for Alarmingly Gory and Sadistic Violence

Release Date: May 24, 2019

“What if Superman, but evil?” sounds like a pretty slam-dunk pitch for a superhero horror movie, doesn’t it? Brightburn isn’t an official offshoot of the Man of Steel, though it does hew closely enough for me to wonder if any copyright lawyers need to get involved, considering that it’s about a childless couple living on a Kansas farm who adopt a superpowered baby boy who falls from the sky. This isn’t the first story to propose this sort of switcheroo, as the 2003 comic Red Son (in which Superman is raised in the Soviet Union) and the ’70s SNL Uberman sketch (in which he grows up in Nazi Germany) come to mind. But while those examples suggested that a superbeing’s environment is key, Brightburn comes down squarely on the nature side of the Nature vs. Nurture debate.

Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) has two loving and devoted parents (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman), but they mean nothing in the face of a spaceship that sends him telepathic messages to conquer Earth. Brightburn is most effective as a horror mashup of slasher and bad seed flicks, as Brandon quickly turns sadistically bloodthirsty as he discovers his abilities. But ultimately, the film is not equipped to work as a subversion of the superhero narrative. Once Brandon’s parents realize his intentions, it is clear that they (along with everybody else) are no match for him. In the desperation to present some sort of counterattack, Elizabeth Banks is required to deliver some pathetic dialogue that nobody could possibly salvage in the face of such an impossible-to-defeat opponent. The balances are all off-scale, and only little stinkers who want to watch the world burn could enjoy the resolution offered here.

Brightburn is Recommended If You Like: Twisted takes on superheroes, Saw, Slashers at their gnarliest

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Laser Eyes

This Is a Movie Review: ‘The Oath’ Offers a Caustic Vision of Thanksgiving in an America Built on Loyalty Above All Else

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Topic Studios/Roadside Attractions

This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2018.

Starring: Ike Barinholtz, Tiffany Haddish, Billy Magnussen, John Cho, Nora Dunn, Chris Ellis, Jon Barinholtz, Meredith Hagner, Carrie Brownstein, Jay Duplass

Director: Ike Barinholtz

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: R for the Profanity of Thanksgiving and Surprisingly Potentially Lethal Violence

Release Date: October 12, 2018 (Limited)

I do not pledge allegiance to The Oath. Nor do I pledge anti-allegiance to it. That lack of fiery passion might be antithetical to a movie that is all about getting everyone riled up, but I need to be honest about how I really feel. And besides, I believe that The Oath ultimately advocates taking a breath and having more measured reactions to potentially explosive situations.

Is the America of The Oath the America that writer-director Ike Barinholtz is worried his country is turning into? He stars as Chris, alongside Tiffany Haddish as his wife Kai, with the two of them united in their disgust at The President’s Oath, an act that requests that Americans declare their allegiance to the president. Barinholtz and Haddish are both known for playing unpredictable balls of energy, but they both tone it down quite a bit here. Perhaps it is best to think of Chris and Kai as what the typical Barinholtz and Haddish characters would become if they settled down in the suburbs and had a young daughter. They are still plenty wound-up, though, Barinholtz especially, as Chris is a news junkie who despairs at every story that pops up on his screens. I suspect that Barinholtz is not quite so constantly on edge in his personal life and that he allows himself the catharsis of freaking out in his work. (If my presumption is wrong, then I sympathize with his friends and families.)

The fallout of the Oath on Chris and Kai and their extended family plays out on Thanksgiving, that hallowed day of controversial conversations between loved ones breaking down along predictably political lines. The Oath ups the ante by throwing government officials, firearms, and general creeping paranoia into the mix. Barinholtz is clearly influenced by a current administration that values loyalty above ethics, but he keeps his warning timeless by avoiding giving a name to anyone in charge. This breakdown in trust in society could happen any time, The Oath argues, and maybe wacky black comedies are the best thing we have to make sense of that.

The Oath is Recommended If You Like: Black comedy stage plays about squabbling families, Grounded political dystopias

Grade: 3 out of 5 Breaking News Alerts