Cliff Walkers, Don’t Breathe 2, The Gateway, How it Ends
One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2022 is to try and watch one movie every night. I won’t be that strict about the actual number, but I will try to get as close to 365 movies as I can; obviously, some days I will have other stuff going on and I won’t be able to make up all those lost movies every time, but the point is to watch so many stuff that I have to get out of my comfort zone or dig up older stuff or less well known to meet my quota. As such, articles like this one may become more common. These types of articles will be a bunch of movies with a few short paragraphs about them and my thoughts on them; not necessarily short reviews, because the ones that truly peaked my interests will get their own articles, but more concise thoughts about a few movies.
- Cliff Walkers (2021)
Set in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, this historical spy thriller follows four Chinese Communist agents (that split into two groups of two) who parachute in to try and extract a former prisoner who may be able to expose Unit 731(for all history buffs, this is worth doing some research on as it is an interesting part of history). Despite some obvious “influences” to make certain characters villainous, Cliff Walkers is a great movie; as history shows, Unit 731 was one of the darkest moments in recent human history. It is a brutal reminder of the evil and inhumane lengths people can go to and the pain and suffering they can inflict on one another; there are more nuanced ways to show this, but the over-the-top nature shown here works just fine. As a spy thriller, there is so much to like here and it keeps the viewer on edge with a feeling of danger behind every step these characters make in enemy territory; every new character is a potential threat, every word they say is questioned immediately. These are not empty threats as well and the movie does take its time to create this sense of dread and then pay it off with some fantastic action scenes; I wish it had better character moments and arcs, but this is a great spy thriller with strong action elements.
- Don’t Breathe 2 (2021)
The original Don’t Breathe was a great, concise, horror movie with Stephen Lang’s performance as “The Blind Man” being a particular highlight and saving grace for what could have been a fairly average movie, had it not had that performance accompany some pretty good scares. The sequel, at one point, was called by producer Sam Raimi as “only the greatest idea for a sequel I’ve ever heard” and I’m very interested to see what he was referring to because this sequel is not that. With the original creators back, Don’t Breathe 2 has to be one of the least interesting sequels made by the original creators to a great movie; what was a simple, horrifying story turns into a soap opera; the great scares that captivated mainstream and genre buffs, are replaced by a lackluster attempt to create dread and suspense. Stephen Lang is still great and the story does still have that sickening twist that worked for the original, but those two features are drowned out by boring characters and laughable plot points which diminish any build-up of suspense.
- The Gateway (2021)
Michele Civetta co-writes and directs this gritty, social-drama, b-movie action mash-up that stars Shea Whigham, Olivia Munn, Bruce Dern, Frank Grillo, and Mark Boone Junior, with the last two being the real reason I watched the movie; show me Grillo and Boone Junior alongside b-movie sensibilities and I’ll show you my wallet its that easy. Having said that, this movie is mostly a social drama with occasional outbursts of b-movie violence and action; those end up being the best parts of the movie but don’t go in expecting to get your dose of that style, just a taster. Shea Whigham is pretty great in this one (he’s always great and I love watching actors, who usually play smaller parts, getting given their shot to star), but the characters and story are pretty forgettable. I do love me a good “oh crap we run out of money and need to finish this in 2 days” ending where everything wraps up in the last two minutes, and The Gateway does have a pretty good one of those that made me laugh, however that was more of a bonus to an otherwise forgettable movie with a few good moments.
- How it ends (2021)
Written, directed, and produced by Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein, How it ends is about Liza, and the mental projection of her younger self, going around their neighborhood and talking to people (all celebrity cameos) before getting to a party and the world ends; as most have noted, this is the most hipster movie of 2021. I don’t mind that, but it is a slog to get through despite it being 80 minutes long. When the cameos (usually by comedians) work, then this movie is brilliant; they last as long as the bit is still good and they also add some bittersweet moments to spice things up, despite not really having too much to say about its themes and story beyond “life’s short” or “don’t hold grudges”. When the cameos are not funny, then it is one of the most boring movies I’ve seen in quite some time. I like the idea and, at times, the execution, but even when it is hitting its targets its not as special or funny or deep as it thinks.