It’s a strange time in theaters.
We’re in the middle of a film valley, stuck between the dominance of what’s shaping up to be one of the year’s biggest box office successes – “Doctor Strange and the Multitude of Madness”, still dominating two weeks after its release – and the Memorial Day holiday in the United States next weekend.
Until next Friday when we’ll see the summer blockbuster season kick into high gear with the opening of the much-anticipated “Top Gun: Maverick” – a whole 36 years after the original – we get questionable fare like last week’s “Firestarter” remake (why?), and today’s sequel-to-a-movie-that-was-a-sequel-to-a-TV-show “Downton Abbey: A New Era” (why? why? why?).
Honestly, faced with these options, you might do better rewatching “Multiverse of Madness”, although the horror movie “Men” sounds somewhat promising. (And think of all the weird looks and comments you’ll get when you tell people “I’m going to watch ‘Men’”.)
Either that, or you could check out a few films released earlier this year, until all the remakes, reboots and rehashes scheduled to take us through August begin to arrive.
“Kimi” (US Rated R)
Cast: Zoe Kravitz, Byron Bowers, Jaime Camil, Rita Wilson, Robin Givens
Where to watch: HBO Max
Anxiety from the COVID pandemic and agoraphobia brought on by a previous assault combine to put a tech worker (Zoe Kravitz) in a difficult psychological place. When she discovers recorded evidence of a violent crime, she is resistant to report it. Seeking justice, she must do the thing she fears the most: she must leave her apartment.
Released in February, “Kimi” – which, in the film is the name of a Siri or Alexa-type virtual assistant smart speaker system – is the perfect star vehicle for Kravitz. Along with her turn as Catwoman in “The Batman” in March, this is shaping up to be quite a year for her.
And she’s knocking it out the park with her performances. In my review for “The Batman”, I suggested Kravitz might possibly be the best Catwoman of all time! In “Kimi” as Angela Childs, Kravitz is entirely believable as a seriously terrified and damaged recluse.
You be the judge as to whether “Kimi” is in support of virtual assistants, or is a cautionary tale against them. But it’s clear the picture has some serious views on the intrusiveness of big tech companies and the megalomania of some of their CEOs.
Oscar-winning Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”, “Erin Brockovich”, “Magic Mike”) has directed something decidedly Hitchcock-esque, and reminiscent of classic films like “Rear Window”.
As such, it’s super stylish and expressive – the composition of each frame, the unusual camera angles. There’s also the beautiful score, an intoxicating blend of the sort of stringed orchestra music you’d hear in a Hitchcock film along with modern high-tech sounds.
“Kimi” is suspenseful and tense, with a number of hold-your-breath moments. Towards the end, however, it does begin to run out of steam, and things are wrapped up a bit too neatly. But overall it is an exciting ride.
“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” (US Rated R)
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish, Neil Patrick Harris
Genre: Comedy, Action
Where to watch: In theaters/ Video on Demand
Talk about “unbearable weight”!
An extremely intriguing high-concept picture is incapable of living up to the sky-high hype it creates, but settles comfortably on some fluffy low-level clouds.
Released last month, we find actor Nick Cage – yes, he plays himself – unfulfilled and facing financial ruin. He accepts a $1 million offer to attend a wealthy fan’s (Pedro Pascal) birthday party. Things take a wildly unexpected turn when a CIA operative (Tiffany Haddish) recruits Cage for an unusual mission. Taking on the role of a lifetime, he soon finds himself channeling his most iconic and beloved characters to save himself and his loved ones.
Cage is great as a super ridiculous version of himself. Haddish, however, didn’t really need to be here, and adds little to the role; a character actor would have been fine. The rest of the supporting cast ranges from decent to okay.
The real standout, though – and the most-compelling reason to watch the whole picture – is Pascal, star of the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian”. He delivers a magnetic child-like exuberance in almost every scene, and is responsible for some of the funniest moments.
Unfortunately, the frequency (or infrequency) of those moments becomes a challenge. And “Massive Talent” can’t exactly be taken seriously as an action flick, and it’s not quite as funny as it purports to be or even could have been.
But it is undeniably entertaining: amusing, smile-inducing and reasonably fun.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email email@example.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.