New Release Breakdown: April Edition
On this month’s New Release Breakdown, I journey through the multiverse, an icey cold tale of espionage, and another crappy Netflix release. Let’s get it rolling.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
Stuck running a local laundromat, Evelyn Wang remains unfulfilled from a life of broken dreams and an impending divorce. Her ordinary life suddenly flips upside down when a world-saving quest through the multiverse presents itself in Everything Everywhere All At Once.
From the quirky minds of the writer/director tandem, The Daniels (Swiss Army Man), it’s no surprise that A24’s latest serves as this year’s marquee critical darling. The duo constructs a vision of equally bold and affectionate ideas, utilizing the multiverse concept as an effective platform for ruminating on life’s inevitable regrets and revelations.
Everything Everywhere constantly throws engaging comedic gags and vibrant action setpieces at viewers, but I commend The Daniels most for never forgetting their integral thematic throughlines. The duo conjures meaningful reflections on generational trauma, familial disconnect, and life’s neverending pressures between all the chaos. Michelle Yeoh and 80’s icon Ke Huy Quan also elicit award-worthy performances from their depictions of Evelyn and her affectionately bumbling husband. It’s a blast to see Yeoh’s charismatic movie star presence entrenched in a three-dimensional character, with the actress exhibiting the type of range most projects don’t offer her.
I have some quibbles with Everything Everywhere. The film’s bombastic energy leads to some inevitable unevenness, as the comedic-centric first half pales to the more character-driven finale. A few misgivings do not erase the ample achievements Everything Everywhere scores across its ambitious runtime. The Daniels have crafted another surreal yet humanistic journey through our fragile condition.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is now playing in theaters.
All the Old Knives
A tragic terrorist attack forever alters the path of two entangled CIA Agents. Eight years later, the cold and calculated Henry reunites with his lost love Celia as speculation around the case emerges.
Dressed in the cloth of cloak-and-dagger spy yarns, All the Old Knives embraces the slow-cook tensions of a poised and well-tempered narrative yarn. I am admittedly a huge fan of the subgenre, with recent hits like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Wasp Network entrenching viewers in the textured intrigue behind professional espionage. I wish I could say the same about All the Old Knives, a sturdy yet underwhelming descent into cliched espionage territory.
The potential is certainly there. Director Janus Metz’s poised craftsmanship creates a refined setting simmering with tensions under the surface. Each frame is composed with great intricacy, reflecting the prim and proper facade of the superspy characters inhabiting the narrative. All the Old Knives’ slow-burn approach also creates a viable canvas for its central stars. Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton share an electric rapport as former lovers reuniting over an unsolved case, while Laurence Fishburn and Jonathan Pryce prop up thin support roles through their sheer presence.
Everything about All the Old Knives looks the part, but the end product feels oddly detached. Screenwriter Olen Steinhauer remains one step behind the viewer’s expectations, spinning a narrative arc that rests rigidly on spy movie cliches. For a movie so reliant on the tensions of each sleight discovery, the generic plotting prevents each twist and turn from taking on its intended impact.
Competence aside, All the Old Knives struggles to ignite much interest in its by-the-numbers espionage narrative.
All the Old Knives is now available on Amazon Prime.
Choose or Die
Two down-on-their-luck programmers discover a killer 80’s video game in the retro Netflix horror feature, Choose or Die. Director Toby Meakins and Screenwriter Simon Allen draw a compelling concept, a blood-soaked slasher depicting an 8-bit descent into the untapped horrors of our blinding nostalgia. It’s just a shame that the end product wastes any promise.
Choose or Die represents the latest Netflix streamer to woefully underutilize its high-concept premise. There are shadings of promise throughout, especially in Meakins’ clever utilization of 80’s game design to depict several of the grizzly setpieces. That said, the film exhibits a disproportionate reliance on its stylistic allures without providing a reason for viewers to invest in the half-baked narrative.
Stars Iola Evans and Asa Butterfield find themselves trying to ignite an emotional pulse out of Allen’s generic screenplay. Both actors are stuck with little to do, going through the motions in characters who read like amalgams of other horror archetypes. I also think Allen has a pulse on engaging ideas with the film’s denouncement of nostalgia culture – but the concepts are left untapped aside from a few lackluster dialogue exchanges (a character literally screams “Fuck the 80s”).
Similar to the dust-coated game it’s based on, Choose or Die is likely to be forgotten amidst an endless wave of throwaway horror offerings.
Choose or Die is now playing on Netflix.
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