9/10 I was about a month late to the Hulu original Prey, but it’s obvious from the first few seconds that this is one of the best films of the year and almost certainly the best movie in the entire Predator franchise.
The Great Plains, 1719- Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young Comanche woman who dreams of becoming a great hunter, witnesses a Yautja ship descend to Earth, which she interprets as a mythological thunderbird cuing her to prove herself to her tribe by hunting the most dangerous game around. She joins a rescue party searching for a peer who hasn’t returned from such a quest, hoping to kill the mountain lion herself, but she and her tribe mates find themselves prey to something much more dangerous.
Prey is an absolutely gorgeous ode to the American wilderness. Shot on Stoney Nakoda land west of Calgary at the foot of the Alberta Rockies, director Dan Trachtenberg and cinematographer Jeff Cutter use anamorphic lenses and natural lighting of the 14-15 hour Alberta summer days to tell a story about competing relationships with nature. Prey’s subtext is rich and much more dramatic than its main narrative, and a lot of that is because you can see it – the subtext is the land, and the land is the star of every shot.
8/10The Invitation is exactly the kind of easily skippable highlight that rewards me for trying to see everything I can.
When newly orphaned Evie Jackson (Nathalie Emmanuel) discovers a second cousin Oliver Alexander (Hugh Skinner) on an ancestry website, he invites her to a wedding in the English countryside. The New York City waitress accustomed to late payments and sexual harassment suddenly finds herself an honored guest in a well-staffed English manor and a favorite of its master, Walter Deville (Thomas Doherty), and I don’t want to spoil anything, but the movie cites Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” as its inspiration, so.
8/10Bullet Train is an exclusive after-party of a movie, an after-dinner engagement for viewers with refined taste. It fails to be the riotous laugh-out-loud comedy it shoots for, but its camerawork, lighting, constant action, stellar costumes and disciplined story make for a fun, supportive watch.
Aboard the three-hour bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, an American hitman codenamed Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is assigned to steal a briefcase full of cash intended for a ransom payment, then step off at the first stop. The notoriously unlucky Ladybug is harried at every turn by a wide array of assassins with varying relationships to the kidnapping. The fighting draws him into the heart of Japanese organized crime as the train hurtles toward a rendezvous in Kyoto with its mysterious Russian-born leader known only as the White Death.
8/10 Night, West Texas, red solo cups litter the ground. A young woman is dragged away from a party to die, witnessed only by natural gas wells churning silently in the desert. Two thousand miles away, Old Glory catches on the East River breeze and unfurls proudly over the Brooklyn Bridge as the class of Manhattan magazine writers mingles in nondescript celebration.
The wee hours of that morning, New York Magazine reporter Ben Manalowitz (B.J. Novak, who also writes and directs) gets a call from Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook) to tell him that his sister, Abby Shaw, is dead. Under the impression that Manalowitz was Abby’s boyfriend, the Shaw family insists he come out to Texas for the funeral, where Ty Shaw confides to him that Abby’s death, an open-and-shut overdose on the opioids readily available on the oilfield, was actually murder most foul, a conclusion based on nothing but his own intuition. Manalowitz commits to stay and record a podcast about his search for vengeance.
Vengeance hangs on a very solid “want vs need” narrative skeleton, what’s cited as a common character arc but can only really work this well in a journalism or detective story, where the main character is necessarily separate from what he’s focused on. It’s an inherently dynamic setup. The storyteller dictates the story, but the story changes the teller.
There’s no more palpable bromance in Hollywood right now than the one between Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. Their electricity is palpable and joyous, and the Jumanji co-stars seem to have endeavored to work together more as time has gone on. With one starring in DC League of Super-Pets as Krypto the Superdog and the other as Ace the Bat-Hound, it seemed like a nice way to kill an afternoon. I don’t want to do a full analysis of a movie about talking animals with the celebrity voices – I’m 30 years old, that’s not fair, but there’s this one thing, this one small thing about it –