Class Action Park” (HBO Max) is a schizophrenic documentary, but unavoidably so. It chronicles New Jersey’s Action Park, a theme park of dangerous water rides, motor cars and mini motorboats that existed from 1978-96 and clearly could never exist again. Documentarians Seth Porges and Chris Charles Scott III bounce back and forth between gleeful descriptions of the rides and much more sobering facts, ranging from park owner Eugene Mulvihill’s corruption to a teen’s death from a head injury.
Iliked “Cabin in the Woods” (2011), but I’m uncomfortable with how it has risen to classic status in the horror genre. Wild genre shifting and brazen disregard for the illusion of fear you’ve created for the audience is eye-opening the first time but it would be an unappealing trend. Luckily, films like that aren’t the norm, and if “Cabin” shows how they can go right, “The Hunt” shows how they can go wrong.
Mike Flanagan counts himself as an admirer of writer-director Remi Weekes’ “His House” (Netflix), and it’s no wonder: Like Flanagan’s work, Weekes’ calling-card film uses the structure and tropes of horror to slyly tell a surprising, insightful story about the human experience. Specifically, it’s the chronicle Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) Majur settling in the U.K., having fled the tribal war in South Sudan.
I’m not a huge connoisseur of courtroom dramas about wrongfully accused defendants, similar to why I don’t like war movies. I already know war is hell, and that the U.S. justice system is rotted by corruption. When convinced by my friends that I have to see a movie – such as Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” – I just hope there’s comic relief and other layers amid the messaging about how horribly unjust everything is.
I’m not the target audience for “Emma,” but given how good Anya Taylor-Joy is in everything – most recently, TV’s “The Queen’s Gambit” – I figured if she can’t hook me on this Jane Austen classic, nobody can. Well, actually, I am an admirer of “Clueless” (1995), but probably more for the modernized aspects than the core elements.
Fourteen years after the original “Borat,” there’s still no one who does this brand of comedy as well as Sacha Baron Cohen and his team. A mixture of candid-camera moments, improv acting, editing trickery – and a lot more scripted writing than they want you to know — “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Prime) had me simultaneously laughing out loud and wondering what techniques they used to achieve these scenes.
For a novella published in 1898, Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” is having a boffo 2020. The Netflix miniseries “The Haunting of Bly Manor” is rightfully getting all the hype, but “The Turning” also came out this year, in January before the mass theater shutdown. I watched this lesser-known adaptation out of curiosity after finishing “Bly Manor.” It gets some appeal from the intrigue of how a different creative team (screenwriters Chad and Carey W. Hayes of “The Conjuring” and director Floria Sigismondi) adapts the novella, but also loses suspense because I knew the story’s broad strokes.
Lulu Wilson has built up quite a resume of horror films and thriller TV, including “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” “Annabelle: Creation,” “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Sharp Objects.” She’s in those projects, and she’s good in them, but in the home invasion thriller “Becky,” she truly stars. Also revelatory in this violent, tense, taut and not remotely comedic little gem is Kevin James (yes, that Kevin James).
Ben Affleck is less interested in playing Batman nowadays and more interested in roles like fallen small-town hoops hero Jack Cunningham in “The Way Back,” where he’s the only big-name actor. In this well-crafted if familiar film, Affleck – along with piano and string work from Rob Simonsen – sells wordless scenes such as Jack drinking a beer in the shower and saying “f***.” We can tell he’s reflecting on how his life has come to this sad point.
Andy Samberg tones down his manchild shtick while retaining his Everyman charms, and he pairs wonderfully with Cristin Milioti in “Palm Springs,” a new Hulu release that gives us a pleasant option amid the shutdown of cinemas. It’s also unintentionally timely for this era when people don’t leave their homes as much: Samberg’s Nyles finds himself stuck at a destination wedding – he’s the boyfriend of bridesmaid Misty (Meredith Hagner) — repeating the day in a loop.