The King of Staten Island” is the most prominent of the few brave films that switched from theatrical release to video-on-demand amid the pandemic, and it’s also a good one. It had been long enough since I’d seen a good Judd Apatow movie – 2012’s “This Is 40,” the last film he both wrote and directed – that it’s a revelation to rediscover his sharp dialog and knack for showing that deeply flawed people are still worth rooting for.
Usually when a director drops his calling card, he has a few minor credits on his IMDB resume before that. But Andrew Patterson’s resume is empty other than “The Vast of Night” (Amazon Prime); the same goes for writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger. The film itself shows few signs of being helmed by first-timers, and not only in the sense of professionalism, but more importantly in its original sense of style.
Idon’t know if anyone keeps track of this sort of thing, but Vin Diesel must hold the record for most franchises for a B-list action star. Joining “Fast & Furious,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “XXX” and “Pitch Black” is “Bloodshot,” the first entry in the Valiant Cinematic Universe. An actor who no one hates and no one lines up for, Diesel plays the title character (real name: Ray Garrison) who speaks gruffly and seeks vengeance for the murder of his gal Gina (Talulah Riley).
Through the end of May, I’m looking back at the nine movies of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, watching most of them for the first time. Next up is the spinoff movie “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” (2019).
Leigh Whannell was a writer before he was a director, but “The Invisible Man” shows off his directorial skills more than his screenplay-penning talent. This third entry in what was originally intended to be a “Dark Universe” but is now just standalone films (“Dracula Untold” and 2017’s “The Mummy” were the first two) has the requisite moments of Cecelia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) being terrified of an invisible man in the room with her. That’s timeless monster-movie stuff.
When “Glass” came out about a year ago, it seemed like the last gasp of an era: No way would filmmakers continue to portray people with mental illness as villains after this. It’s not awfully PC, as a George Clooney-vintage Batman might say. But, speaking of Batman’s world, we got “Joker” later in the year. Love it or hate it, that film got people asking: Is the Joker bad because of his mental illness, or is he bad because he doesn’t have access to his medications? Is his behavior his fault or society’s fault?
The job of lighthouse keeper, from the long-ago days when the lights needed to be manned, has a pure and simple grandeur. The keeper had his list of daily duties — mundane, monotonous and lonely, yet essential for the survival of ships at sea. “The Lighthouse” (2019) – now on Amazon Prime — taps into some of the job’s reality, but it’s mostly a grim mood piece chronicling Robert Pattinson’s Ephraim being driven crazy by Willem Dafoe’s farting Thomas in the 1890s at an offshore New England lighthouse.
I’m disappointed that the sequel to “47 Meters Down,” the surprisingly good 2017 shark thriller that for some reason stars “This Is Us’ ” Mandy Moore, isn’t titled “48 Meters Down.” Title choice notwithstanding, “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” (2019) – now on Amazon Prime — is indeed a step down from the original. But it’s hard to hate the film even though it’s not all that scary. Returning director and co-writer Johannes Roberts knows how to do shark-based scuba-diving thrills, and – given the confines of the subgenre – this entry is reasonably distanced from the first.
Crawl” probably would’ve been called “Gatorcane” if it was part of the SyFy channel’s “Sharknado”-era offerings, but luckily it’s a mainstream movie with believable scenarios and top-shelf special effects. In fact, this effort from director Alexandre Aja (“Piranha 3D”) – now available for rental and streaming — might be the best one-sentence-premise movie of 2019: A college student and her dad are stuck in a flooding Florida house during a hurricane when alligators attack.
Underwater” is like a fond throwback to those B-list horror films that used to hit theaters in January a couple decades ago. 1997 through 2000 gave us “The Relic,” “Deep Rising,” “Virus” and “Supernova,” but then the trend died out. Director William Eubank’s “Underwater” brings it back, with one exception: This tale of desperate survivors on a steadily collapsing deep-sea oil rig is darn good, start to finish.