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Next Exit Review | New High-Concept Sci-Fi Flick Misses a Turn

PFF: This high-concept road trip sci-fi flick is too derivative of better films.



At one point in Next Exit, Teddy (Rahul Kohli) asks Rose (Katie Parker), “How do you make suicide pretentious?” While that may seem like a problematic question to even pose, it’s almost ironic for a film such as this one to even raise it. You see, we’ve had a number of recent existential sci-fi films — Petite Maman and Swan Song are two recent examples, 2013’s Her is another fantastic example, and if you go all the way back to 1982, Blade Runner may have done it better than the rest. But with Next Exit, they don’t actually answer that question because the film is far from offensively bad… It just has nothing new to say in that conversation.

We’re not given a specific date or year to figure out when Next Exit takes place, but it looks as though it’s in modern day or the very near future. There’s a scientific study called Life Beyond, an operation that allows people to commit painless suicide with the guarantee of an afterlife. The most prominent example is shown early on when a boy is recorded playing a game with his deceased father.

A still from Next Exit. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Rose and Teddy are both on their way to San Fransisco for their respective appointments and meet by chance when they both encounter issues at the rental car place. Since the two are heading to the same location, Rose begrudgingly agrees to take the cross-country road trip with Teddy; constantly suggesting he use the earbuds that he brought. 

And boy, you ever have one of those car rides when either you or your parent is upset? You know, the ones where each minute passes by excruciatingly slowly? That sums up how Rose and Teddy’s road trip begins. The two’s drive begins rockily as Rose initially puts up a wall as tall as Niagra Falls between the two. Her snarkiness results in the two quipping at a volume that would make the MCU proud (Parker’s delivery really comes through in these moments). This part of the film, and the final scene which will be talked about later, are where Parker and Kohli shine. For one, it’s quite believable that Rose doesn’t like Teddy because of how Parker portrays her, but outside of the final scene, this is really one of the few places the actors are allowed to impress. 

Maybe that’s because much of Next Exit feels like a walking cliche. I don’t want to fully brush it off because the film does feel personal and it wouldn’t shock me to find out that the story was born out of writer-director Mali Elfman’s own experiences, but everything from the road trip scenes to the stop at the bar to the hitchhiker they pick up has been done before (and more effectively). Even still, there are a few scenes that are notable such as the final one and the one where Rose meets her sister. It was in the latter that it especially felt like the film was personal. I don’t want to make assumptions, but it felt like the film was a message to who the characters represent, and that’s beautiful.

That said, if I wanted a sci-fi film from the last 12 months that had a character facing mortality, I’d watch Swan Song. If I wanted a road trip film, I’d watch Hit the Road. If I wanted a film that has both existential themes with a sci-fi twist, I’d watch Petite Maman. I truly don’t think that Next Exit is a bad film as much as an uninteresting one.

A still from Next Exit. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Anyways, as the trip goes on, the two begin warming up to each. Teddy wants to check off some of the things left off his bucket list that we learned he hasn’t done via a game of “Never Have I Ever” including robbing a store (as you do). I’m sure it’s not too difficult to see where this is going, so for the sake of spoilers, I’ll leave it at they get close, which is great under almost any other circumstances, and their journey continues on. 

A still from Next Exit. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

But really, even in with the whole question this film poses about mortality and suicide, it doesn’t feel like Next Exit has much to say outside of “it’s possible to find renewed meaning in life.” And that’s a great message, don’t get me wrong, it just feels like there was a missed opportunity to really pave a new path with that type of question and say something profound. Especially considering you have two characters quite literally driving into the face of death. 

Let’s fast-forward to the last scene which sees Rose and Teddy make it to the Life Beyond headquarters. Rose goes in, and after a brief video that more or less just says “thank you for doing the operation; you’ll be remembered as a footnote in the trials of the experiment,” it’s time for her to go under. This is where the opening shot of a door that is ajar among the stars in space comes back around. This is by far the most interesting the film gets from a thematic and visual standpoint. Rose gets to confront her demons and make the most important decision of her life. I won’t say what the ultimate outcome is, but odds are you’ve figured it out well before getting to this point. But I can’t deny that the film is gorgeous in this sequence. It’s also where the film leans the heaviest into horror, and it left me anxiously awaiting something to pop out of the empty space in the background. 

Ariel Marx, who did the amazing score for Shiva Baby, composed the score here unbeknownst to me until writing this review. It was one of the sole things that stood out throughout the film, and it makes complete sense now. Marx’s score begins as an old Hollywood-sounding sci-fi score before coming into the modern age with ominous notes (something she also did well with Shiva Baby). Her work really does complement the film. 

I guess like Next Exit, I really don’t have a whole lot of interesting things to say outside of that it was underwhelming. The performances were fine, Marx’s score is as good as you’d expect and the last act features some visual panache, but it’s too derivative of better films and isn’t memorable as a result which is unfortunate as a lover of high-concept sci-fi. And to her credit, this is Elfman’s feature-length debut. I’m sure she’s got a bright future ahead as a filmmaker and I look forward to seeing her next film because she clearly can tell a personal tale and the rest will continue to grow with each film. But as it stands with her first film, it missed an exit or two.

Next Exit will be released in theaters and on VOD on November 4. 


Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Chloe Domont’s ‘Fair Play’ Is A Spellbinding Debut That Challenges Gender Dynamics



Alden Ehrenreich as Luke and Phoebe Dynevor as Emily in 'Fair Play'. (Netflix)

Chloe Domont’s debut film, Fair Play, opens with a captivating scene that foreshadows the thrilling and thought-provoking journey ahead. A deeply in love couple, caught up in the excitement of a wedding, find themselves in a bathroom, passionately kissing. As their intimacy escalates, there is a surprising twist—blood stains their clothes. They share a giggle amidst the exhilaration, and their eyes land on a ring on the floor. With blood on their hands and a murder yet to be revealed, they go down on their knees once more, this time for a proposal. The scene sets the stage for a story that combines elements of romance, finance, and psychological intrigue.

Domont skillfully ventures beyond the trappings of a typical workplace affair and delves into the dark world of financial thrillers through a mesmerizing psychological puzzle. By taking a subtle narrative twist, she explores the fragility of gender dynamics. In a perfect love story, had Luke been promoted, everything would have been idyllic. However, Emily’s success and her private chamber disrupt their relationship, unveiling its underlying fractures. Overwhelmed with guilt, Emily immediately apologizes to Luke for achieving professional success. This familiar dynamic unfolds, highlighting society’s conditioning of women to downplay their achievements.

Alden Ehrenreich as Luke and Phoebe Dynevor as Emily in ‘Fair Play’. (Netflix)

Unlike traditional didactic tales, Fair Play abstains from presenting a clear moral center. Luke is not portrayed as a monster. Initially, he expresses pride in Emily’s success. However, something within him snaps as he faces the corrosive atmosphere of men assuming that Emily slept her way to the top. Emily, too, is drawn into the boys’ locker room conversations, refusing to concede her hard-earned accomplishments.

With astute storytelling and a refusal to pause for respite, Domont takes Fair Play on an unexpected trajectory. The film’s pacing mirrors the emotional claustrophobia of a chamber drama, intensifying the toxic power dynamics that shift nauseatingly fast. The narrative highlights how even well-intentioned condescension can overshadow narratives of men advocating for their female partners. It underscores the reality that equality in love, within heteronormative relationships, relies on unequal gender politics.

Phoebe Dynevor as Emily in ‘Fair Play’. (Netflix)

Cinematographer Menno Mans contributes to the film’s tension through tight close-up shots of the characters. This visual approach accelerates the emotional intensity woven into their relationship. The exceptional performances of the film’s two lead actors further complicate a linear reading of the story, lending an additional layer of ambivalence. The bathroom scene at the beginning recurs in a darker context near the film’s climax, showcasing the dramatic shift in the actors’ body language. Dynevor expertly weaponizes the fragility of her frame, while Ehrenreich masterfully adapts to his character’s evolving mentality. The film progressively transforms Luke from a genuinely loving and lucky man into a familiar representation of a man that resonates with the experiences of many women.

The return of blood on the floor symbolizes an undisclosed satisfaction, leaving the audience captivated by the film’s powerful exploration of gender dynamics and the human psyche.

Alden Ehrenreich as Luke and Phoebe Dynevor as Emily in Fair Play. (Netflix)

To be honest, FAIR PLAY is not what I expected and I enjoyed it very much. A captivating thriller that explores how power, gender roles, and workplace relationships interact.

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Prime Video

Gen V Season 1 is Bloody and Disgusting, Yet Utterly Compelling



Ever since The Boys premiered on Prime Video in 2019, it has consistently dropped jaws and blown people’s minds with its weirdly whacky, bloody and horny storytelling about corrupt superheroes. Hollywood had never seen anything quite like this. It is developed by Eric Kripke and creative forces such as Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were also involved. Three incredible seasons have made it into one of the biggest shows right now. It was no surprise that Prime Video would expand such a beloved universe and greenlight a spinoff series titled Gen V which is finally coming to Prime Video.


Gen V is focused around teen supes studying at Godolkin University, who strive to make their careers in crime fighting and potentially join the seven one day. This 8-episode series is set after the events of The Boys Season 3. This series is developed by Eric Kripke, Craig Rosenberg, and Evan Goldberg. It stars Jaz Sinclair, Chance Perdomo, Maddie Phillips, Lizzie Broadway, and Patrick Schwarzenegger among others.


If anyone was worried that this series would not be as wild and horny as The Boys just because it is set around teens, let me put those worries to bed because this series stays true to every aspect of its predecessor and maintains the unfiltered storytelling throughout. The tone is as outlandish as always and keeps up all the horniness in the characters, including the obsession with penises. It is very much a hard R-rated show, so it might be safe to think about who you recommend it to.

Chance Perdomo (Andre Anderson)

The performances here are excellent, by everyone. Jaz Sinclair who plays Marie Moreau, and Chance Perdomo who plays Andre Anderson are particularly great. They have an emotional vulnerability that makes them totally convincing and makes the viewer sympathize with them. Shelley Conn is mysterious and shrewd as Dean Shetty. Maddie Phillips and Lizzie Broadway are good too. But there isn’t a powerhouse performance such as Antony Starr as Homelander.

The story still revolves around supes, though this time a younger generation of them, and the overall world-building of this franchise but it is surprisingly deeper and more mature than most would expect. At its core, there is a meaningful coming-of-age story about dealing with loss, power and the pressure of high expectations. Every character has interesting arcs and the character development is very smooth. The writers also managed to juggle so many subplots at the same time and managed to keep most of them intriguing. The pacing is also very consistent and rarely slows down.

Several people just find The Boys too disgusting and can’t stand the extreme and explicit nature of the narrative. Gen V also runs on a very similar track in terms of storytelling. So those who did not enjoy The Boys, will most probably not enjoy the new spin-off either. But this show will definitely delight the die-hard fans of this iconic franchise. Gen V does take a lot of shortcuts in its narrative and I wish they let the relationships between characters marinate for a little while longer. The plot may also seem overstuffed at times and there is arguably a lack of action so far.

Gen V embraces the outrageousness of The Boys while delivering an engaging coming-of-age story and manages to stand out on its own. It is as bloody, horny, crudely funny and dramatic as you would expect. The series finds new energy and carries the legacy of its predecessor. The first six episodes are thoroughly engaging and get you invested in the characters and their motivations. Expect to have a blast and see a lot of cameos.

Episodes Viewed – 6 out of 8.

Gen V episodes 1-3 will stream on Prime on September 29 with the finale on November 3.

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The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar Is Wes Anderson’s Delightful Take On Roald Dahl’s Sweet Story



Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar in Roald Dahl's 'The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar' (Netflix)

Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson have both left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of generations. Dahl’s timeless stories have enchanted readers for decades, while Anderson’s groundbreaking films have pushed the boundaries of cinematic storytelling. Their unique talents and shared appreciation for the power of literature have now converged in Anderson’s latest masterpiece, the modern short film adaptation of Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.

Anderson, known for his extraordinary attention to detail and distinctive visual style, brings Dahl’s adult-friendly tale to life in a truly captivating way. With a star-studded cast that includes Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel, and Ben Kingsley, the film stays true to the author’s original text, with the actors delivering their lines directly from the page. This dedication to the literary essence of the story sets the stage for Anderson’s exceptional storytelling.

Dev Patel as Dr. Chatterjee, Sir Ben Kingsley as Imdad Khan and Richard Ayoade as Dr. Marshall in Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Cr. Netflix ©2023

Following his previous successful adaptation of Dahl’s work with the Oscar-nominated The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson is poised to once again captivate audiences with The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. In a mere 37 minutes, this short film manages to deliver a delightful and heartwarming experience that can beat any full-length feature film. The commitment and power of the A-list cast shine throughout, ensuring a resounding success on multiple levels.

From the very beginning, Fiennes embodies Dahl himself, narrating the tale as he seamlessly transitions between the comfort of his home and the picturesque outdoors.  By applying freeze-frame techniques and cleverly staged tableaus, Fiennes and his fellow actors walk through different sets that are magically transformed by on-screen “stagehands” right before our eyes. This dynamic interplay between reality and cunningness is a testament to Anderson’s growing fascination with the theatrical aspects of filmmaking.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar not only captures the imaginative essence found in Dahl’s works but also showcases the filmmaker’s mastery of visual storytelling. Each scene is meticulously crafted, with Anderson’s staging drawing heavily on theatrical influences. Costume changes happen seamlessly on camera, resulting in Ben Kingsley’s Khan humorously questioning the whereabouts of his mustache. Furthermore, practical effects, including a delightful box trick, add to the mesmerizing experience of witnessing the film’s creation unfold before our eyes.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar and Ralph Fiennes as the policeman in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Cr. Netflix ©2023

Anderson’s choice to create a short film rather than a feature-length production proves to be a stroke of genius. The pacing remains consistently engaging, ensuring that viewers remain captivated from start to finish. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is a visual feast, an entertaining experience, and, above all, a whole lot of fun.

When it comes to acting, it’s so hard to pick a standout because whenever an actor comes on the screen, he or she gives a performance that stays with you. Benedict Cumberbatch is magnetic in his portrayal of Henry Sugar and mesmerises you with a performance that shows his acting prowess. Ben Kingsley shows us why he is one of the greatest actors of all time. His monologues are truly special. Meanwhile, Dev Patel and Richard Ayoade are the magical new entrants in Anderson’s world of magical stories. Both of them are brilliant in their respective roles.

On the other hand, Ralph Fiennes showcases his versatility by embodying Roald Dahl in the most fantastic way possible.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Cr. Netflix ©2023

Roald Dahl’s rich storytelling finds new life through Wes Anderson’s innovative cinematic techniques. Their creative collaboration results in a short film that is visually pleasing, emotionally compelling, and brimming with the charm and magic that have made both artists legends in their respective fields. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is not to be missed, as it brings together the best of Dahl and Anderson, leaving audiences enraptured by its undeniable allure. Experience this enchanting journey, and let yourself be swept away by the power of imagination.

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