The Film Fix: Previewing October’s Top Films in Theaters, Streaming
By JONATHAN W. HICKMAN, Special to The Paper
Below are reviews and capsules of various films this month in theaters and/or streaming.
Review rating … A “Fix” is recommended with a rating between 6 and 10. A “No Fix” is not recommended with a rating between 1 to 5.
The Creator (in theaters now) – No Fix Rating 5/10 – With its emphasis on special effects over story, “The Creator” is a middling success. But when the initially teased provocative elements are exhausted, director Gareth Edwards (see “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and 2014’s “Godzilla”) delivers a rushed action-packed and improbable closing act that leaves audiences empty.
“The Creator” starts well. In the future, an artificial intelligence (“AI”) is held responsible for a nuclear attack that levels the city of Los Angeles. In response, the West declares war on the machines. However, destroying AI proves more difficult than blowing up the robots and computers. To truly end the potential menace, the human creators and AI collaborators must also be eliminated.
To that end, a special forces soldier named Joshua (John David Washington) secretly embeds himself with human and android rebels to search for and kill the genius AI developer, Nirmata. When Joshua falls in love with one of the potential targets, her tragic loss changes the hardened warrior. But when the military reveals that his true love and child may still be alive, Joshua rejoins the cause to hunt for the mysterious computer expert and make the world safe from killer AI.
With its thrilling and intriguing setup, I was ready for something unique and transcendent. But alas, the script, written by director Edwards and Chris Weitz (see “The Golden Compass”), leans too heavily on derivative action elements instead of grappling meaningfully with its intellectual premise.
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (October 6) — This is a gruesome-looking prequel series to Stephen King’s popular but lesser novel. The best adaptation of the book has to be director Mary Lambert’s terrifying 1989 “Pet Sematary,” and the morbid 2019 reboot was lacking. Given the success of King’s projects over the last decade, it’s not surprising that streaming platforms are looking for new ways to exploit his back catalog. And streamer Max is set to deliver an “It” prequel series called “Welcome to Derry” in 2024.
The Continental: From the World of John Wick (now streaming) – After the fantastic conclusion of John Wick’s journey earlier this year, the producers seek to continue the frantic action by focusing on the hotel for assassins named The Continental. Set in the 1970s, Colin Woodell plays a young Winston Scott before he takes over the iconic refuge from the killing business. Mel Gibson is also a part of the large, diverse cast.
MAX (formerly HBO Max)
Our Flag Means Death (season 2 now streaming) – This surprisingly impactful series first felt very much like a light parody but became something more serious and emotionally connective with each and every episode. The story follows a wealthy landowner named Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) who gives up everything, including his wife and children, to become a pirate. This decision eventually brings him into contact with Blackbeard (Taika Waititi), and an unusual romance develops.
Wacky and peppered with hilarious low-brow humor that somehow feels elevated, “Our Flag Means Death” was an unlikely winner for Max when it was released in 2022. And given the story threads that were left unresolved in season one, I’m curious whether the colorful cast can keep the flag flying high.
Fair Play (now streaming) No Fix 5/10 – This sexy office set thriller contains one twist too many. The story has two young stock traders, Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich), working at the same company while carrying on a clandestine romance violating corporate policy. When Emily is promoted over Luke, his jealousy damages their relationship. Things boil over into potential violence as the two attractive, intelligent traders try to deal with their pettiness.
The performances are excellent in this tense film that can’t figure out how to resolve the incendiary workplace and gender dilemma. The conclusion will be particularly divisive, separating viewers into those who will find it provocative and those who find it a betrayal.
Gen V (now streaming) – Fix Rating 7/10 – This bloody profane spin-off from Prime’s popular series “The Boys” is a good bridge until season 4 of that show airs next year. “Gen V” follows the first generation of super-powered youngsters who were given Compound V as children. That drug enables them to do all sorts of strange, dangerous and wonderful things.
And the powers these college students possess are unique and often disgusting. For example, Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair) can control the blood in her body. These “blood powers” have caused her grief over the years, but once she’s properly trained, Marie might become a hero.
This fun series is not for the squeamish or the easily offended. But, at least, it doesn’t hold back and lull viewers into a place of relative safety. Inside of a few minutes into the first blood-soaked episode, you are either on board, or you’re pushing click. I’m betting there’s gonna be an audience for this one.
Loki (season 2 starts October 6) – Possibly one of the most entertaining Marvel series to date, season one of “Loki” managed to rebuild the reputation of and reanimate the God of Mischief, a victim of Thanos’ murderous grip. In season two, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his partner in time crime, Mobius (Owen Wilson), are joined by new faces, including a character played by recent Oscar-winner Ke Huy Quan, to combat evil Time Keepers.
Flora and Son (now streaming) 8/10 – This delightful musical romance comes from the pen of director John Carney (see the Oscar-winning “Once” and the marvelous “Sing Street”). In “Flora and Son,” an Irish single mother named Flora (Eve Hewson) tries to find herself and bond with her troubled son Max (Orén Kinlan) through the power of music.
After Max rejects Flora’s gift of a guitar, she decides to learn it herself. This choice leads her to YouTube, where Flora takes lessons from California-based Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Of course, Flora and Jeff begin a platonic romance over video conference while Max’s music also flourishes.
Like all of Carney’s films, “Flora and Son” is a tremendous crowd-pleaser, and the catchy tunes are likely to net end-of-year awards notice.
The Exorcist: Believer (October 6) – Director David Gordon Green tries to do with “The Exorcist” what he did for “Halloween.” Of course, after starting his direct sequels off well with that franchise, Green had trouble sustaining the momentum. And even though John Carpenter’s classic “Halloween” is held in high regard, tackling the revered property that is the Oscar-winning “The Exorcist” could be a bridge too far for the talented director.
But he’s managed to coax actress Ellen Burstyn back to the “Exorcist” fold, as she once again takes on the iconic Chris MacNeil from the 1973 original. And the rest of the cast for “Believer” is impressive, with Leslie Odom, Jr., and Ann Dowd, among others.
The Burial (select theaters on October 13) – After receiving a good reception at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, “The Burial” will be available in select theaters, followed by a Prime Video release. This one has Jamie Foxx playing a flashy lawyer representing a conservative white businessman, played by Tommy Lee Jones, in a lawsuit against a corporate juggernaut. Trailers tease a fun and inspirational courtroom drama.
Killers of the Flower Moon (October 20) – Taken from the David Grann non-fiction novel, “Killers of the Flower Moon” is a likely contender for all the end-of-the-year honors. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring his typical collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, the narrative concerns the amazing true story of the murders of many Native Americans for their oil rights in 1920s Osage County, Oklahoma.
While the focus might be on De Niro and DiCaprio’s work that will garner Oscar attention, the word is that Lily Gladstone’s performance as Mollie Burkhart steals the show. Like “Oppenheimer,” the nagging question is whether audiences will embrace a three-hour, twenty-six-minute historical drama in theaters. But for those who don’t take it in on the big screen, the film will soon make its streaming debut on Apple TV+.
Five Nights at Freddy’s (October 27) – This Blumhouse release has a security guard named Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson) making rounds in an old ShowBiz Pizza-like restaurant called Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. The place has prominent animatronic characters and was shut down when some kids “went missing.” When Mike discovers Freddy’s deadly secret, will he live to tell people about it?
This movie looks like a disposable horror idea that, through the power of Blumhouse (see “M3GAN”), might break through the standard formula. “Freddy’s” will make a limited theatrical run before being available on the Peacock streaming platform.
Jonathan W. Hickman is an entertainment attorney, filmmaker, college professor, and novelist. More about Jonathan can be found by visiting: filmproductionlaw.com. Folks can also follow him at dailyfilmfix.com.