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REVIEW: Horizon Line

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The COVID-19 pandemic may have shifted the way we watch movies but has kept the month of January intact. STX’s latest, Horizon Line, represents everything, oh, so well-known about “the dumping ground of movies”; it features a paint-by-numbers story with minimal character development, borrowed from infinitely superior pictures. After their pilot (Keith David) dies of a heart attack while on the way to a wedding, passengers Sara (Allison Williams) and Jackson (Alexander Dreymon) must now control the plane, without a GPS, compass and functioning radio frequencies. Sounds familiar? It absolutely is.

Horizon Line Trailer: We Have to Get Off This Plane – /Film

Nothing new and/or exciting is offered in Horizon Line that would justify an early PVOD purchase, save for one visually enthralling action sequence involving the plane flying through a thunderstorm. The use of lightning just poses itself perfectly with the dark menace of the storm, even if the entire sequence is completely unrealistic. Sara flies above the storm, which causes her and Jackson to have altitude sickness. The portion of that sequence is insanely silly, as it reduces a serious, potentially life-threatening condition to a joke. However, without it, the plane wouldn’t have looped in insanity through the storm which causes the best [and only] cathartic release you’ll get while watching the film.

Every action sequence is filled with fake-outs, in which director Mikael Marciman and screenwriters Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken will manipulate the audience into thinking the characters are in imminent mortal danger, but never are. Everything that goes wrong in every action scene…does go wrong, to try making the audience care about the characters, but a last-minute save always happens to keep the characters alive. Because of this, Horizon Line is devoid of any stakes and importance. Characters are put in impractical situations, always protected by a higher power (the screenwriter) with overzealous last-minute saves to keep them alive.

It also doesn’t help that Horizon Line contains poor performances from its leads, due to its mediocre script. The first half-hour of the film is spent on “character development”, yet it only introduces the protagonists’ worst qualities, which never once pays off during the “plane disaster” part of the movie. Sara is too hung-up on her job to move away from the corporate world of downtown London to pursue her passion, while Jackson is too hung-up on his love for Sara. None of what was established in the first act of the film ever gets mentioned while they’re on a plane since they face mortal danger at any moment (but not really). Alexander Dreymon’s native accent slips more than once on the plane, even though he uses an American accent for its opening act and during tense sequences. Allison Williams’ goal during the entirety of the film is to tell Jackson (and the audience) what she’s doing, even though the audience can clearly see what’s going on. Granted, some will argue that in a total state of panic, someone could talk to themselves to alleviate their state, but the use of descriptive dialogue feels like pure description: “I’m going to do ________ and ________” instead of “Ok….what do I do? What can I do?”, which becomes an annoyance instead of compelling dialogue.

If you’re looking for new “content” to watch, that’s an amalgamation of transport disaster films such as Airport meets the framing device of Hany Abu-Assad’s The Mountain Between Us, with sprinkles of Cast Away (+a Jaws/The Shallows fake-out), then maybe Horizon Line is the film for you. If you’re looking for a transport-disaster film that has any sort of value to it, watch Airport (or The Poseidon Adventure) instead. You won’t feel like you’re wasting your time instead.

Horizon Line is now available to rent on premium video-on-demand retailers.

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Action

Twisters: A Swooping Storm of Entertainment

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Twisters [credit: Warner Bros/Universal Pictures]

Twisters was on a lot of people’s most anticipated lists for the year, and rightly so given the cast and crew involved. We don’t see a lot of big-budget disaster movies in mainstream Hollywood these days. So the idea of a modern reboot of Twister although slightly strange and sudden, seemed like a breath of fresh air in this world of superhero flicks and silly action comedies. Everything about the project says that the studio was dead serious about this one and was going all in.

 

Universal’s modern adaptation of the classic is helmed by Lee Isaac-Chung and co-produced by Steven Speilberg. It has a story by Top Gun: Maverick helmer Joseph Kosinski and an ensemble cast that includes Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell, Anthony Ramos, David Corenswet, Sasha Lane, Maura Tierney, Kiernan Shipka, Daryl McCormack, Katy O’Brian, Brandon Perea among others. Basically, every young star that has the potential to be a movie star is in this movie.

 

The movie opens with a long action sequence, where we get introduced to some of the characters including Daisy Edgar-Jones. This tornado sequence sets the tone and expectations for what’s to come. It tries to start off with a bang, but it is a little rocky at the beginning and takes a lot of formulaic tropes. Someone who has seen a lot of blockbuster action movies or disaster movies would almost start to get worried in the first 20 minutes because some of the scenes feel half-backed and lackluster. But once Daisy’s co-lead is introduced, that’s when the movie really gets going.

 

Of course, I’m talking about a little-known actor called Glen Powell. His screen presence is arguably as strong as anyone in the industry right now. He plays a “tornado wrangler’ named Tyler Owens, and his character is as badass as his name. But most importantly, he brings a much-needed injection of energy into the screenplay. Then we go into some exposition and the story goes a lot deeper than one would expect. The characters are well-built and the viewer really starts caring about each one of them.

Twisters [credit: Warner Bros./Universal Pictures]

The movie is shot with 35mm, which works perfectly for the landscape that Isaac-Chung is trying to capture. This is just his second directorial and his first attempt at a big-budget blockbuster, and it shows in his style as he opts to play it safe. he rarely takes big swings or shows ambition in some sequences. Most of the action sequences are thrilling and the tornadoes keep you on the edge of your seat. The visual effect work is also commendable and justifies the massive budget.

 

While the story is effective, the screenplay can be a little up and down at times, mostly in the first half. Another negative is the music choices. While the sound design is splendid, the score and the song choices are not so much. Some of the songs that played in the background were extremely distracting and did not fit at all. The movie also underdelivers on its own standards of brutality that it sets very early on. It also lacks a bit of warmth and is a little lightweight on humor.

 

Twisters succeeds at being a fun, thrilling blockbuster cinematic experience anchored by a magnetic Glen Powell and Daisy Edgar-Jones. The visual aesthetic is on point and tornado sequences make you feel like you’re right in the eye of the chaos. The cast is charming and the characters are treated with care. It may lack warmth and ambition, but it makes sure to entertain you and makes for an exciting summer blockbuster. Definitely worth an IMAX watch.

Twisters will be released in cinemas on July 19.

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‘Jane Austen’s Period Drama’ Review (TRIBECA) | A Brilliant Fusion of Comedy and Social Commentary

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Julia Aks
Julia Aks in a still from 'Jane Austen's Period Drama' (Photo Credit: Mickwick Productions)

We are in 2024 and sadly, the subject of periods or menstruation is still considered to be taboo in several cultures and societies. In cinema, we have seen a lot of titles talking about the issue with great sensitivity. However, none has been so effective and powerful as Julia Aks and Steve Pinder’s Jane Austen’s Period Drama. The short film, which is set against the backdrop of Georgian England, starts with a joyous moment of Miss Estrogenia receiving her much-awaited marriage proposal. However, things go upside down when she realizes that her period has arrived and her dress is drenched with blood. Upon seeing the blood, Mr Dickley takes Estrogenia to her home and calls for a doctor. Although Estrogenia has decided to tell Dickley about menstruation, her mother stops her from doing that because she feels that Mr. Dickley would drop the idea of marrying her daughter.

The movie’s narrative is clever, and witty, and intertwines traditional themes of love, social status, and marriage with contemporary issues of feminity and bodily autonomy. The unique mixture of both these elements creates a distinctive storyline that feels timeless and relevant at the same time. In this narrative, the unexpected period serves as a metaphor for the often unspoken aspects of womanhood that clash with societal expectations of decorum and propriety. This bold narrative allows viewers to be a part of Estrogenia’s life and how she navigates the balance between honesty and societal pressures.

Jane Austen Period Drama

A still from ‘Jane Austen’s Period Drama’ (Photo Credit: Mickwick Productions)

The writing is quirky, yet thought-provoking and explores the subject with sensitivity. The direction by Steve Pinder and Julia Aks is skillful, balancing the film’s comedic elements with its more serious undertones. Another aspect that makes the film such a brilliant watch is its cinematography. The cinematography captures the elegance of the 18th-century setting and opulent interiors that take viewers to a time when things were pretty different. The costumes and period-accurate set designs enhance the movie’s authenticity. Acting-wise. Julia Aks steals the show with a mesmerizing performance. Her performance enhances the viewing experience, giving viewers a glimpse of her impeccable talent. Meanwhile, the supporting cast delivers strong performances, adding richness and complexity to the story. The dynamics between characters are well-developed, with each interaction contributing to the overall narrative.

Overall, Jane Austen’s Period Drama is a brilliant and charming take on the genre of period drama. The film masterfully combines humor, thought-provoking storylines, and heart most extraordinarily. Additionally, the film does occasionally lean into modern sensibilities but never forgets its true destination. Solid performances, engaging script, and beautiful cinematography make this film a must-watch for everyone who loves literature and contemporary comedy.

Jane Austen’s Period Drama had its premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Festival.

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HORROR

Longlegs: An Atmospherically Distressing Exploration of Evil

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Longlegs [credit: neon]

Longlegs has been the talk of the town with early screening reactions terming it as “the scariest movie of the decade”, which not only raises eyebrows but also significantly raises expectations. Neon is backing it with a strong marketing campaign that has got many horror fans extremely excited about it. Oz Perkins’ latest horror feature stars Maika Monroe, Nicolas Cage, Blair Underwood and Alicia Witt.

 

The official synopsis says “In pursuit of a serial killer, an FBI agent uncovers a series of occult clues that she must solve to end his terrifying killing spree.” Maika Monroe plays Lee Harker, the FBI agent on the hunt for Longlegs, described as highly intuitive and sensitive, while Nic Cage who also produces the movie, plays the horrifying serial killer. Perkins sets the standard right off the bat with the very first scene of the movie, which proves to be just an appetizer for what’s to come.

 

Longlegs [credit: neon]

The movie is divided into 3 parts that act as the standard three acts in a feature. The first two acts are heavily focused on Lee as we get to know her and follow the FBI’s pursuit of a serial killer on a spree. Lee is a single child, lives alone in a cabin in the woods, and is highly intuitive, maybe even psychic. She is able to decode the clues left behind by Longlegs at the locations of the murders. Her performance is restrained yet penetrative and often symbolizes how the viewer feels while watching Longlegs.

 

Nicolas Cage is horrifyingly creepy as our serial killer. He is the best horror villain since Bill Skarsgaard’s Pennywise in my opinion. His screen time is limited but, highly impactful. The makeup and costume design deserves a lot of credit for his extremely gross appearance and at times you won’t be able to recognize that it’s Cage under that wig. He has a certain mannerism that is extremely distressing and just his words are enough to scare the hell out of you. Perkins manages to get the best out of both his leads, while the supporting cast is decent as well.

 

When it comes to the visuals, this is a very aesthetically strong film. Perkins manages to create atmospheric tension and fear with constantly changing aspect ratios and his color grading choices which are supported by a crisp sound design. Where he falls short is the writing. The movie is too slow at times which causes it to lose its intensity. Some of the dialogues also feel very generic or amateur, with jokes that feel abrupt and unnecessary.

Longlegs [credit: neon]

The movie also slips into multiple genres, most of which are intentional but do not necessarily work. It is a horror movie at the outset but also a serial killer crime drama, an investigative thriller with shades of noir and supernatural. The writing really falls off a cliff in the third act, with a twist that makes sense, but massively underwhelmes. That said, the way it explores evil is intriguing and offers a lot of food for thought. I would suggest going into this movie without any knowledge, the lesser you know the better.

 

Longlegs may not be the scariest movie of the decade but has more than enough to crawl under your skin and deliver pulsating chills. It has strong lead performances, effective jumpscares, and a beautifully unnerving aesthetic and works best when it explores evil and focuses on its characters. Horror fans should definitely experience this suffocating and haunting ride. Perkins’ latest feature is his best so far, but that said, it gets buried under its immense expectations.

Longlegs will be released in cinemas on July 12.

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