Dec 9, 2023

Three New Movies and One Holiday Classic

We've had more opportunities to get out to our local Regal since the drive-in closed for the winter.  Here are some of the movies that we've gotten to see in the month of December that I haven't written about already.

Dream Scenario

A24 (2023)
In this movie, Nicolas Cage plays a middle-aged college professor named Paul Matthews who seems bitter towards just about everything in life, including his wife and two daughters.  I can't really blame him for his attitude towards his wife and kids though.  The four of them are among the most unlikable families in any movie that I've ever seen.  They even make Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening in American Beauty seem pleasant in comparison.

The story begins to take shape when Paul Matthews begins to appear in people's dreams, and not just the dreams of the people who know him.  It becomes a phenomenon when it happens across the planet to millions of different people of all ages and walks of life.  At first, he's just standing around not doing anything in their dreams, but as time goes by, people begin to have nightmares in which Paul is doing terrible things to them.  He's doing nothing to cause any of this to happen, but the reaction of the general public to these dreams in combination with his prickly attitude and his desire to capitalize on this notoriety to drive sales of a book that he hasn't even started writing.

I enjoyed this movie for the most part, but I'm not going to gush over it as much as I've seen some other folks do.  It's an interesting concept and Cage gives a great performance, but the screenplay is ten pounds of social commentary bullshit in a five pound bag.  It's not subtle either; it beats the audience over the head with allegories to cancel culture.  Watching this movie feels like you're sitting next to the filmmaker while they keep elbowing you in the ribs and whispering "see that... it's just like when so-and-so got cancelled over such-and-such".  I'm not sure if they're trying to dumb things down for the viewer or if they lack ability to create subtle, thought-provoking content, but I found myself rolling my eyes repeatedly throughout this movie.  The bracelet technology in the final act was also completely unnecessary.  It seemed like a sloppy attempt to shoehorn in even more social commentary, this time about monetization and consumer culture.  It would have been a much better movie if the filmmakers could step down off of their soapbox and focus on telling an entertaining story.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Lionsgate Films (2023)
I've enjoyed the audiobooks and the movies based on the first three books in this Suzanne Collins series, and while I haven't read or listened to the book for this prequel yet, I have been looking forward to seeing this movie.  I can't say how closely it keeps to the source material, but it was better than a lot of prequels that I've seen over the years.  It's not quite as action packed as the other films in the series, but it held my interest and it ends in a way that sets up a second prequel that continues the story of Coriolanus Snow's rise to power.  I don't think that project has been announced yet, but I'll be shocked if it doesn't happen.

The Cello
Rozam Media (2023)
I had never even heard of this movie before, but it had a single screening two nights ago at our local Regal, so we decided to go in completely cold.  As it happened, The Cello is a horror movie from Saudi Arabia and is mostly in Arabic with English subtitles.  There is a bit of spoken English in the film, most of which involves Jeremy Irons, who is for all intent and purposes playing the role of the devil, and Tobin Bell, who plays the role of the devil's servant whose role is to put cursed and/or haunted instruments into the hands of musicians.  It's a damn good horror flick, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to see it on the big screen.

Die Hard
20th Century Fox (1988)
Last, but not least, they have brought the 1988 classic Die Hard back to theaters for the holiday season.  We got to see it on 35mm at the Mahoning for this season's Christmas In July.  It's one of my favorites and I was too young to see it in theaters when it was first released 35 years ago, but I'm very glad to be able to see it at a drive-in and in an indoor cinema in 2023.