Film reviews by Vince Leo, author of the review site Qwipster.net, covering the latest blockbusters, independent films, foreign cinema, and VOD.
The Hunt (2020) | Craig Zobel
The Hunt is a violent satire in which liberals kidnap and hunt down "deplorables", aka Trump supporters. These deplorables wake up in an undisclosed rural area gagged online bloggers and internet trolls claimed to expose online as "Manorgate," but are left with keys, tools, and weapons to potentially defend themselves and get free. The private jet-flying, caviar-consuming liberal elites hunting them down like giving them a sporting chance, though the odds are heavily stacked against them. However, one of the captives is able to give the hunters a run for their money. Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Wayne Duvall, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Ethan Suplee appear in this film written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, directed by Craig Zobel.
Soul (2020) | Pete Docter & Kemp Powers
Jamie Foxx voices Joe Gardner, a middle-aged music teacher at a New York public middle school, frustrated by his lack of success toward becoming a professional jazz club musician. He's offered full-time status with the school when another door of opportunity opens. A former student mentions that a legendary jazz saxophonist named Dorothea Williams is auditioning for a new pianist in her jazz ensemble. Nailing the audition, Joe is exuberant, failing to notice an open manhole before falling into it. He next finds himself disassociated with his body in an afterlife existence, a soul waiting for its final destination (dubbed "The Great Beyond").
With dreams unfulfilled, Joe desperately wants his life back, escaping his fate by posing as a mentor for new souls in a pre-life training area called "The Great Before." Joe's assignment is to direct a soul called 22 to find her spark that will keep her happy and productive before assuming her role in the living world. However, 22 is a special case, spending eons avoiding the process under other mentors (even Mother Teresa lost her cool with her). When Terry, the accountant for souls, notices one is missing, she pursues Joe after he escapes back to Earth to regain his life.
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
The prolonged armed raid of the shopping mal reveals a jewelry store used as a front to fence valuable but stolen ancient artifacts brought to the Smithsonian for Diana (Gal Gadot) and her team to identify. That's where we meet the newly hired Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a mousy gem specialist with self-esteem issues, particularly around the self-confident and beautiful Diana Prince. In particular, one stands out, a phallic piece identified as the Dreamstone, a crystal of myth once believed throughout ancient history to grant wishes. Cavalierly, Barbara makes her wish to be like Diana, though not knowing that also means like Wonder Woman as a by-product. Diana makes her wish for Steve Trevor to be back in her life to continue the life they never got to spend together.
Overnight, Barbara's confidence begins to grow, and the men take note of her beauty while she begins to grow in strength and agility. At the same time, Diana is approached by a mysterious strange claiming to be Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). He doesn't look like him, but after a few words that only Steve might know, she sees the character with Chris Pine's face and voice henceforth. (This aspect will require audiences not to think too hard about an innocent man whose body will be used nonconsensually indefinitely for Diana to romance, while also having no family or friends in his life to notice he's completely changed).
Villainy soon enters the scene when Max Lord (Pedro Pascal), a TV infomercial conman who has headed the financially failing oil company called Black Gold Cooperative, enters the scene. Lord discovers they have the Dreamstone, and he's desperate enough to give it a try, using his charm on Barbara to get his hands on the piece and make his wish - which is to have the stone's powers. The physical stone disintegrates, and now Max has the power to grant anyone a wish - a power he uses in exchanges for the wealth, power, and fame of others who deal with him directly.
However, what the wish makers don't know is that there is a catch. Gaining the thing they desire most means losing the thing of most value they already possess. In Barbara's case, it is her kindness. In Max's case, it is a good father. And in Diana's case, it is the superpowers she needs to save the world.
Patty Jenkins directs.
Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) | Dean Parisot
The story involves the Bill (Alex Winter) & Ted (Keanu Reeves), now married with one child each, suffering a mid-life crisis, realizing that they never united humankind through their music as foretold. In fact, contrary to the end montage of Bogus Journey depicting their success, Face the Music shows the duo jaded after a career where they are more laughing-stock than the most popular band on Earth. The pressure to fulfill their destiny finds their marriage on the rocks, seeking couples therapy, but one where both couples are involved simultaneously; the duo's inability to separate their codependency is one of the issues. Someone from the future tells them they need to write the song within the next 77 minutes to achieve global peace and harmony, or the universe will come apart in a cataclysmic event called the Unraveling. Their plan: use the phone booth time machine to travel forward in time to steal the song from their future selves. Dean Parisot directs this third entry in the Bill & Ted series.
The One and Only Ivan (2020) | Thea Sharrock
The story centers around Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lives in a cage as the star of a struggling animal show at a suburban shopping center called the Big Top Mall & Video Arcade at Exit 8. Ivan’s main schtick is to roar and look intimidating, but behind the scenes, he is a thoughtful and sensitive soul. Other talented animals under the care of beleaguered ringleader Mack include a baseball-playing chicken, a sassy poodle, a bunny, a seal, a parrot, and an elderly elephant named Stella, plus a stray mutt called Bob.
Ivan befriends the young daughter of the mall cleaner who hands him supplies to draw, and it becomes something he takes an interest in doing, which has Mack seeing dollar signs to save his floundering circus attraction. An adorable baby elephant named Ruby arrives to become the latest attraction, under the tutelage and loving guidance of Stella. The drawing and painting, plus Ruby’s arrival, trigger Ivan’s memories of his childhood of freedom in the wild with his family, and Stella doesn’t want Ruby to live a sheltered life as she has had. Ivan plans to break free and deliver Ruby to a life of freedom.
Featuring Bryan Cranston, Ariana Greenblatt, Ramon Rodriguez, Owain Arthur as live actors. Voice work by Sam Rockwell, Danny DeVito, Brooklynn Prince, Angelina Jolie, Chaka Khan, Ron Funches, Helen Mirren.
Queen & Slim (2019) | Melina Matsoukas
In this potent and socially relevant dramatic thriller, Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) is a jaded criminal defense attorney and Slim a devoutly Christian retail clerk Slim (Daniel Kaluuya). They're on a Tinder date in a Cleveland diner. On the way to drop off Queen, Slim gets pulled over by a pushy cop (Sturgill Simpson), then things escalate into an intense altercation that results in Slim killing the cop in self-defense. From then on, the two become fugitives, relying on whatever help they can on the down-low to avoid being caught and find their way to Cuba. Lena Waithe scripts from an idea by James Frey. Melina Matsoukas directs.
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