By Sarah Payne
The Lodge – February 7 – Is it just me or does late winter and early spring now rival Halloween for all the great horror releases? Starring Riley Keough (Elvis Presley’s oldest grandchild), The Lodge follows the story of a stepmom (Keough) and her two stepchildren spending a weekend together in an isolated winter cabin. FilmNation calls the film a “psychologically chilling slow burn.” Sevein Fiala is the film’s co-director and he also directed one of the most terrifying films I’ve seen in recent memory – Goodnight Mommy.
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You – February 12 – Just because I enjoy really good filmmaking and screenplays doesn’t mean I don’t have a few guilty pleasure favorites. Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, starring Lana Condor, is definitely one of those movies. It’s based on a young adult novel by the same name, about a girl whose private love letters get sent to each of her crushes. This month Netflix is releasing the second installment (of three) in the series – just in time for Valentine’s day. So ladies, you can either force your significant other to watch this one during your romantic date night or – more appropriately – save it for a Galentine’s night in with your besties.
Marriage Story – You’ve likely been hearing all the buzz about Marriage Story this month (starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson) with its award season wins. And you might be wondering: “Is this movie all it’s cracked up to be?” That depends. If you’re looking for an actual romantic “marriage story,” it’s probably not your cup of tea. For the most part, this film is depressing. It’s about divorce, not marriage. But it’s also so well acted – and so funny in a raw and real way. It carefully examines the complexities involved in untangling the knots of a complicated and broken relationship – from working with divorce lawyers to fighting for child custody. It’s heart-wrenching. Every scene with Laura Dern, who plays one of the divorce lawyers, is hilarious. I also have a newfound appreciation for Adam Driver, whose character in Girls all those years ago had left me with a bad taste. In fact, even though his character is supposed to be the “bad guy” in Marriage Story, I found myself rooting for him and wanting him to triumph. Now that’s a sign of a movie with heart.
Uncut Gems – Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, who also directed 2017’s Good Time with Robert Pattinson, Uncut Gems stays true to its title – raw and gritty. Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a New York City jeweler and gambling addict. His performance is so good, it’s actually a bit unnerving. For most of the movie, the camera jerks around unevenly and centers uncomfortably close on Sandler’s face as he digs himself deeper into debt and in more trouble with his loaners. While I certainly appreciated all the actors’ performances, I wouldn’t say it’s a pleasant viewing experience. For more than two and a half hours there a sense of impending doom and as you wait for the other shoe to drop – for any one of Howard’s poor life choices to come back and bite him.
Knives Out – If you’re looking for a classic “whodonit” mystery film with a sense of humor and style, Knives Out is for you. Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc, a private detective hired to investigate the apparent suicide of wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombey, played by Christopher Plummer. Craig and Plummer are rounded out by a stellar cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, and Toni Collette. Even with that cast, Ana de Armas, a relatively unknown Cuban-Spanish actress who plays Harlan’s nurse, is the film’s lead and breakout star.