Movie Reviews: ‘Spiral’ Finds New Way to Tell Old Story in ‘Saw’ Franchise


SPIRAL: 3 STARS

“And Justice for All,” the last four words of the American Pledge of Allegiance, encapsulates the dynamics of “Spiral: From the Book of ‘Saw’,” the ninth installment of the “Saw” franchise, currently in theaters.

On the one hand, you have a murderer who dispenses his own justice; inventively slaughter people who have broken a twisted moral code known only to the killer. For example, a detective who has lied on the stand multiple times has the choice of doing justice by ripping out his own tongue of lying or being killed. “Live or die. Take your pick.”

Then there is the police who must use more traditional means to enforce their mark of justice.

It may not be exactly what Congress had in mind, but in the “Saw” universe, there is more than one definition of the word justice.

Chris Rock is Zeke Banks, an idealistic but disillusioned big-city sleuth who tries to emerge from the shadow of his father Marcus (Samuel L. Jackson), a decorated hero cop and retired police chief. When Zeke and his partner, an enthusiastic rookie named William Shenk (Max Minghella), catch an unusual and macabre case, the game is on.

Literally.

A new serial killer, playing from the same playbook as the notorious villain Jigsaw, who has subjected his victims to deadly scenarios he called “games” or “tests”, terrorizes the dirty city cops, seeking to avenge the wrongs perpetrated by the Sud Metro Police and “reform” the department. “A Jigsaw impersonator,” Marcus says. “It might be difficult.”

As the bodies pile up, Zeke suspects the killer isn’t just playing games, he’s got another motive. Something personal.

After eight episodes of the “Saw” franchise, countless death traps and an iconic villain, “Spiral” finds a new way to tell an old story. Billy the Puppet and Jigsaw are gone, as are much of the blood that splashed on the screen in previous incarnations of the series. They have been replaced with a timely but underdeveloped subtext on police corruption and the addition of humor, an element often sorely missing from previous installments.

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed the second, third and fourth “Saw” films, “Spiral” is as much about the characters as it is about the consequences. Bousman and “Jigsaw” writers Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger, recalled the dark things. There are still enough traps and gore to satisfy “Saw” purists – there’s a finger-ripping machine and nasty hot wax – but the focus on the character raises the stakes, so that bloody stuff has more impact. It’s still a horror movie, but Bousman structures it like a thriller, although its reliance on flashbacks and exposure dampens some of the thrills.

There’s also a lot of harsh, uninspired dialogue and a lot of yelling, but also just enough wicked stuff and deadly games to keep fans happy.

The spiral logo that gives the film its name is meant to be emblematic of change and progress, but the film doesn’t quite match the meaning of the symbol. It shakes some of the dust off the old franchise without reinventing it or doing it justice.

THE WOMAN AT THE WINDOW: 3 STARS

Amy adams

In adapting “The Woman in the Window,” a new thriller starring Amy Adams and now airing on Netflix, director Joe Wright is borrowing generously from Hitchcock’s playbook, paying visual homage to everything from “Foreign Correspondent.” and “Psycho” to “Vertigo” and, of course, “rear window”. There are so many elevators in the look of the film that Brian DePalma’s myriad of tributes to Hitchcock feels like a little theft.

Adams plays child psychiatrist Anna Fox who lives alone in a rambling brownstone on 124th Street in Manhattan. Agoraphobic, she has panic attacks at the idea of ​​going out, not to mention crossing the threshold of her entry into the big and bad world. Her only regular contact with the outside world comes from a weekly visit from her therapist (Tracy Letts) and a downstairs tenant (Wyatt Russell).

When her new neighbors across the street unexpectedly pass by, she reluctantly lets teenager Ethan (Fred Hechinger) in to get to know each other. A day or two later, Jane (Julianne Moore) drops by to chat, ask indiscreet questions and have a glass of wine.

After the visits, Anna is voyeuristic into their lives, watching them from the security of her apartment as they go about their daily business, exposed by two large windows that display their living spaces.

One night, after mixing wine with her anxiety medication, she witnesses what appears to be a nasty domestic argument that turns fatal. The problem is, no one believes the ‘drunken cat lady taking pills’.

The question is, did she really witness a murder or was it a hallucination?

Anna is a classic and unreliable narrator, a character whose credibility is questioned every step of the way. Adams keeps her interesting, giving a human face to trauma, anxiety and grief. We never know if what we see is filtered through a drug haze or actually happens, and while Wright finds flashy visual ways to portray it, it’s Adams who connects emotionally.

There are some high-spirited filming moments in “The Woman in the Window,” but the changes in tone and pace make it difficult to get that viewing from the edge of your seat. Director Joe Wright brings his signature visual style to illustrate Anna’s anxiety. Unusual angles and sinister colors illustrate Anna’s disconnected moments, wide shots of her empty apartment represent her isolation. It’s done efficiently and inventively, but the loose pacing absorbs a lot of the energy from the storytelling.

“The Woman in the Window” has moments that really work, but it’s blunted by its deliberate pace, repetitive nature, and typical denominational ending.

SET SET: 3 ½ STARS

Together together

If I had to categorize “Together Together”, a new movie starring Ed Helms and now on VOD, I guess I would have to create a new category, the non-rom-com. It’s a relationship comedy that has some of the hallmarks of a romantic comedy, but not all of them, but still goes its own way.

Helms is Matt, a 45 year old single man who wants to start a family. When we first meet him, he awkwardly interviews 26-year-old Anna (Patti Harrison) for the surrogate role. She has quick answers to her questions – Have you ever stolen something? – and gets the job. Matt is eager to start his new life as a single father, but Anna, who gave a baby up for adoption years before, sees it as a job – a transaction with a fee of $ 15,000.

Divided into quarters, as the story unfolds Matt and Anna’s relationship grows. They share meals, watch “Friends,” whom she has never seen, and take prenatal classes together. They even attend some kind of couples therapy, even if their relationship is not romantic; It is more complicated than that. They are not in a relationship, but their relationship is intimate on many levels and this leads to misunderstandings that threaten their personal and professional relationships.

“Together Together” often gives the impression that it is becoming a Hollywood romantic comedy, and then, just as often, turns around. It constantly challenges the journey of traditional romantic comedy, while still allowing the characters to have an interesting connection.

Writer / director Nikole Beckwith has made a film about a platonic relationship between a man and a woman, edged with humor, melancholy and warmth. Helms brings his trademark nerdy awkwardness to the role, expertly playing Harrison’s more sardonic take on Anna. They are an irresistible couple, even if they are not really a couple.

“Together Together” is a different version of “When Harry Met Sally”, providing an updated and rather sweet response to this film’s famous query, “Can men and women be friends or sex is- is there still an obstacle? “

IN THE EARTH: 3 STARS

In the ground

Ben Wheatley’s latest film “In the Earth”, now on VOD, once again looks back at the psychological horror that fueled his other films like “Kill List” and “A Field in England”, with a hint of social commentary on his JG Ballard adaptation of “High-Rise”. Add to that a dash of folk horror and you’ve got a truly timely and mind-blowing movie that is best avoided by the disgusted.

Most people see a walk in the woods as a quiet respite from the world. But when Researcher Martin (Joel Fry) and Ranger Alma (Ellora Torchia) meet scientist Olivia Wendle (Hayley Squires) to perform tests in the forest during a pandemic, they are dispatched with ominous advice. . “People have a little fun in the woods sometimes,” says Frank (Mark Monero), Martin’s doctor. “It’s a hostile environment.

Indeed, things go wrong from the start. They stumble upon weird and abandoned campsites, equipment breaks down, Martin falls ill, and they are even attacked in their tent on a tense, sleepless night. The next day, help arrives in the form of Zach (Reece Shearsmith), an eccentric loner who lives deep in the woods. He offers painful, but much-needed help – this is pretty much where the disgusted may want to go make a sandwich and read a book – but soon begins to act erratically with a mixture of metaphysical ramblings and homicidal tendencies.

By the time they contact Dr Wendle, it’s unclear who they can trust as their journey into the heart of darkness takes on an increasingly mysterious psychedelic tone.

“In the Earth” is a trippy film that nevertheless seems to be linked to the earth. No matter how weird things get, and weird it gets, the masks, the isolation, the HazMat suits and the talk about quarantine and being out for the first time in forever, all make the story in too familiar terms. The post-apocalyptic vibe is all too real, but the rituals of the pagan alchemist, evil spirits, and a dose of paranoia provide a journey into the heart of darkness and absurd comedy that is an integral part of Wheatley’s style. .

Some will call “In the Earth” a horror movie, but it really isn’t. The repeated scenes of home surgery are dizzying and the strobe effects are disturbing, but your pulse will never quicken. Then there are the underdeveloped characters. You may feel sorry for them when strange things happen, but it’s hard to get involved in them.

What leaves you is a movie that offers a handful of ambitious notions of science versus religion and some additional gruesome visuals but, at best, it’s intellectual terror; all ideas and no emotion.


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