Friday, July 1, 2022

Worth Mentioning - How Do I Live Without You?

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning. 

Thrills, twisted relationships, and high-flying action.

FRESH (2022)

Screenwriter Lauryn Kahn wrote the script for the horror thriller Fresh with the intention of crafting a story that could be enjoyed by fans of the horror genre as well as viewers who aren’t into horror. I can’t speak for viewers who don’t like horror movies, but I can attest to the fact that she was very successful at writing a movie that this horror fan thought was great. Horror-loving blog contributor Priscilla also thoroughly enjoyed Fresh.

Mimi Cave made an impressive feature directorial debut with this movie, bringing Kahn’s story to the screen in a way that instantly draws the viewer in. Daisy Edgar-Jones stars as Noa, a young woman in her early twenties who hasn’t been having much luck with dating apps. So it seems like a lucky break when she meets thirty-something surgeon Steve (Sebastian Stan) in a grocery store and their interaction ends with Noa being added as a contact in Steve’s phone. Soon Noa and Steve are dating, and he suggests that they take a trip together. That’s when everything falls apart and descends into horror territory.

When Noa is first chained up in the cellar of Steve’s secluded house in the country, I was concerned that this was going to be the sort of horror movie I don’t enjoy sitting through. Fresh has more than an hour left to go at that point, plenty of time for a movie to become an extremely unpleasant “torture porn” experience. Thankfully, Fresh isn’t that, even though things happen in this movie that will almost certainly be too disgusting for some non-horror fans to endure. But instead of focusing too much on the terrible things Steve does to Noa (or the other captives in his cellar), Cave and Kahn give us hope that Noa might be able to get out of this situation. We’re rooting for her to find a way to escape, waiting to see how she’s going to get the opportunity. And whether or not her attempt is going to be successful.

There are some nice subversions of expectations along the way, with some situations going in a different direction than the viewer will think they’re going to. But these filmmakers avoided the cruelty that others might have brought to the table. They know what the viewer wants to see and they deliver that, just in ways that might not be predicted.

Edgar-Jones and Stan do great work in their roles, and receive solid support from the likes of Jojo T. Gibbs, Andrea Bang, Dayo Okeniyi, Charlotte Le Bon, and Brett Dier.

Fresh is an excellent movie that I would highly recommend to fans of horror movies and thrillers. Viewers who don’t like horror? Sure, give it a try. Do be prepared to see some gross things, though.

CON AIR (1997)

Immediately after making his action movie debut in The Rock, Nicolas Cage re-teamed with The Rock producer Jerry Bruckheimer for an action movie that was released the next summer. Con Air. But while Cage had played into the idea that audiences wouldn’t expect him to be an action hero in The Rock, making his character an FBI office worker who has no experience in the field and no desire to have that experience, in his second action movie he is your typical action hero. In Con Air, he plays Cameron Poe, an Army Ranger who is so highly trained and skilled that he himself is, like his fellow action hero Martin Riggs, categorized as a Lethal Weapon. That’s why he’s slapped with a sizable prison sentence when he’s convicted of manslaughter after accidentally killing a man in a bar fight. If Poe had let the case go to trial, the death might have been ruled self-defense, since the man had a knife. Even though Poe brushed aside the chance to leave before the fight got started. But he took some bad advice from his lawyer and pleaded guilty.

Poe serves his time in California, and after eight years he gets paroled. He just needs to catch a prisoner transport flight back home to Alabama, where his wife Tricia (Monica Potter) and daughter Casey (Landry Allbright) – who was born right after he went to jail and has never met her father in person – are waiting for him. Unfortunately for Poe, the flight he catches is also being used to populate a new super-max prison in Alabama, so his fellow passengers are some of the worst the prison system has to offer. And this movie assembled a mind-blowing cast to play this bunch of murderers, rapists, and terrorists: Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Dave Chappelle, Danny Trejo, M.C. Gainey, Renoly, Jesse Borrego, and Nick Chinlund, among others. John Malkovich plays Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom, a prisoner who masterminds a successful plan for him and some of his fellow prisoners to escape their shackles during the flight and hijack the plane. Now Poe has to figure out how to get out of this situation and still get home safely. He can’t just walk away, because his cellmate “Baby-O” (Mykelti Williamson) is having a medical emergency on the plane and female guard Bishop (Rachel Ticotin) is in danger of being assaulted by the prisoners. So he has to be a hero and sabotage the prisoners’ daring escape attempt. As the plane makes its way across the country, there’s a big chance authorities are going to try to blow it out of the sky. The only person who truly believes there’s someone on board who might be able to stop the prisoners is U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin, played by John Cusack in his own action debut – and Cusack made sure to let audiences know that he wasn’t your typical action movie star by wearing sandals.

Directed by Simon West from a screenplay by Scott Rosenberg, Con Air is a great action movie, but also a really goofy one. It’s over-the-top and leans into silliness at every opportunity, before going completely off the rails during the climactic chase sequence. That chase is too ridiculous and cartoony for my taste, and Rosenberg isn’t very fond of it himself… but up until that point, the movie provides a very entertaining viewing experience. It’s a big step down from The Rock as far as I’m concerned, but still a fun action flick and a strong addition to the legend of Nicolas Cage.

Con Air has always had a special place in my heart, because I saw it on opening weekend under unique circumstances. I was on a road trip with my father, who was a truck driver. The same road trip I wrote about in my Film Appreciation article on Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. We went to see Con Air at a theatre somewhere in Texas, which was both my first time going to a theatre that had stadium seating and to this day remains the only time I have seen a movie in Texas.

My recent rewatch of Con Air happened due to the fact that I had been asked to write a video about the movie for the JoBlo Originals YouTube channel, so keep an eye out for that one.

The following review originally appeared on


Documentary and shorts filmmaker Lucas Nazareno Turturro has made his narrative feature directorial debut with the Argentine production The Fall of the Queens (a.k.a. Cómo mueren las reinas), working from a screenplay by first-time writers Constanza Boquet (who had a handful of acting credits to her name before this) and producer Mauro Guevara. Together they have crafted a captivating film that’s being marketed as a psychological thriller, but anyone who goes into The Fall of the Queens anticipating an abundance of thrills is going to be let down. Drama would be the more accurate description for the film – although it is a dark, twisted, and tragic drama.

The story centers on teenage sisters Juana – on the brink of 18 and played by Malena Filmus – and Mara – nearing her 15th birthday and played by Lola Abraldes. The girls live in isolation with their aunt Inés (Umbra Colombo) on a country property where they have no computer and there is no phone reception. Add in the fact that Inés is currently seriously distracted by the affair she’s trying to carry on with a married man and the girls are basically alone in the world, spending their days harvesting honey so Inés can sell it. (The film gets its title from their work with bee hives.) Early scenes establish that Juana has a questionable obsession with her own sister, even indicating that she’s attracted to her. They also show that she is fiercely protective of Mara, and will even go so far as to beat a stray dog to death with a shovel after it shows aggression toward her sibling. Then everything falls apart, in Juana’s opinion, when their male teenage cousin Lucio (Franco Rizzaro) shows up. Lucio’s apparently a somewhat troubled kid from a broken home, and the idea is that some time in the country will help straighten him out.

Time in the country without internet doesn’t really do much for Lucio other than give him the chance to smoke and drink with his cousins – and embark on a sexual relationship with Mara. Which, of course, does not sit well with Juana. Never mind that she’ll occasionally wander off to have casual sex with a local. Mara is not allowed to do this sort of thing. It’s clear that the jealousy Juana feels over the Mara/Lucio situation is going to lead their lives in a bad direction, and this is why The Fall of the Queens can be marketed as a thriller. This is the sort of movie that keeps the viewer on edge. We know something bad is going to happen. But when, and how bad is it going to be? Things do go terribly wrong, but even when they do the film never ventures too far into psycho-thriller territory.

Viewers seeking thrills may be disappointed, so the best way to approach The Fall of the Queens is to just allow yourself to get enveloped in the film’s strange atmosphere as you watch the story of Juana and Mara play out. The movie does get quite dark and there are definitely scenes that will make you uncomfortable, even if they’re not thrilling. The film is a terrific drama, and could be a promising start to Turturro’s narrative feature career – if he chooses to continue making movies along the lines of this one. The material he was working with on this one is also twisted enough that it indicates he really could make an effective psychological thriller if he decides to.

The cast Turturro assembled for the film did great work in their roles, making their characters come off like real people. Even if they’re really messed up people. I was shocked to see that Filmus is actually more than a decade older than the character she plays, as she fully and convincingly inhabits the role of the troubled teenager Juana. Juana is so intense and strange with her obsession and jealousy, the viewer sides with Mara... while at the same time disapproving of what she’s doing with Lucio. Since they’re relatives, too. It’s still better than Juana’s creepiness.

If you’re in the mood to watch a twisted drama, it’s highly recommended that you seek out The Fall of the Queens. The movie doesn’t seem to have gotten a whole lot of attention up to this point, which is surprising because it seems like something that should have racked up awards and accolades on the festival circuit and would go over very well with the arthouse crowd. Right now it seems to have “hidden gem” status, but hopefully it will find a large and appreciative audience as it makes its way out into the world. And whether you’re into it or not, at least it won’t take up too much of your time: The Fall of the Queens has a running time of just 83 minutes.

No comments:

Post a Comment