Flix At :48

Thursdays at 4:48 p.m.

Each week UPR’s Film Guru Casey T. Allen joins us for Flix at :48.

Tune in Thursday afternoons at 4:48 during All Things Considered for Casey’s reviews of the latest movie releases from Tinseltown.

Since last year was so unique for the film industry, the summer of 2020 felt refreshingly different at least for new releases. The constant conveyor belt of vapid action films halted last summer and other, more unique, films received more attention like First Cow, Shirley, and Miss Juneteenth. Since the light at the end of the COVID tunnel is still frustratingly far away, I thought the summer of 2021 would continue to offer surprising and memorable examples of independent film. But I realized I was wrong after watching Gunpowder Milkshake which premiered on July 14 through Netflix.

Perhaps the most anticipated summer movie of 2021, Black Widow premiered on July 9 in both movie theaters and on the Disney+ streaming platform. Directed by Australian woman Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome, 2017), Black Widow is a colossal, sexy, explosive action-adventure about the famous superspy Natasha Romanoff played by the steely Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story, 2019).

The Tomorrow War was released on July 2 this year and is available exclusively through streaming on Amazon Prime. When I watched this film conclude and I started to write this review, I thought to myself, "Where do I start?" And anyone who's been a teacher or a judge on a reality competition series knows the phrase, "Where do I start?" is not a good thing.

False Positive was released on June 25, 2021 and is available for streaming exclusively on Hulu. Ilana Glazer (Broad City, 2014-2019) and Justin Theroux (The Spy Who Dumped Me, 2018) play a happy married couple struggling to conceive a child. After meeting with a fertility doctor, played by a smarmy Pierce Brosnan (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, 2018), they achieve a pregnancy. But the excited mother-to-be faces unexpected decisions, simmering suspicious, and shocking emissions...of blood.


 

Adapted from the famous musical first produced on Broadway in 2008, In the Heights presents a vibrant kaleidoscopic view of the New York City neighborhood Washington Heights and the hopes and dreams of its Latinx residents. 

Before the action film Army of the Dead was released on May 21, it already made headlines with casting issues. Oh, dear! After the film finished shooting, one of its actors, comedian Chris D'Elia, had accusations surface in June 2020 of inappropriate sexual behavior with multiple teenage girls. The director then digitally removed Chris D'Elia from the film and reshot his part with replacement comedian Tig Notaro, who was filmed by herself and then digitally inserted into the film. That story is ten times more interesting than the movie itself.

Oscar-winner Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes, 2017) plays the title role in the dark and snazzy origin story of Cruella DeVil, one of the most flamboyant villains in the canon of Disney animated films who was first brought to life on the big screen in 1961's One Hundred and One Dalmatians (and followed by a handful of sequels and remakes).

With newly released thrillers The Woman in the Window directed by Joe Wright (Darkest Hour, 2017) and Those Who Wish Me Dead directed by Taylor Sheridan (Wind River, 2017), mainstream film looked promising May 14-16. But both these films proved disappointing mainly from trying too hard and using too many cliches. So I was pleasantly surprised to see another new film released May 12 on Netflix called Oxygen that elevated my weekend viewing from a dish at Sizzler to least a dish at The Cheesecake Factory. 

First of all, let me explain this film is not the gritty drama from 2003 starring Charlize Theron as a real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. This Monster was filmed in 2018 and was just released on May 7 through Netflix. 

For those of you who did not watch the Academy Awards ceremony on April 25, let me explain that much of the ceremony felt like a desperate, yet restrained, plea to get viewers to return to movie theaters as soon as it's possible and safe. 


Shalayne Smith Needham: Flix at 48 is up next with our film critic Casey T. Allen. Hi, Casey.

Courtesy of 'Thunder Force' movie.

Thunder Force is a superhero comedy first released on Netflix April 9th, and it inspired me to send a personal message to the film's leading actress, Melissa McCarthy (Superintelligence, 2020). The message reads like this: "Dear Melissa McCarthy, Please stop making movies with your writer/director husband Ben Falcone. Sincerely, Casey T. Allen. The end." 

Choosing to produce a fresh contemporary horror film is so often a bad decision, like rollerblading as an adult, or naming a newborn infant Kenneth. Thankfully, the film Relic has proven me wrong with a horror film that is lasting, patient, and chilling. Relic was officially released in July 2020 but has recently become available through both Amazon Prime and Redbox.

Shalayne Smith Needham: Our conversations recently have focused on award season for the film industry. There has been a lot of talk about the Oscars, which are coming up in about a month from now. It's been a difficult year for the industry, of course, with COVID-19. First, tell us how will the 93rd Annual Academy Awards be different this year?

Ammonite is a quiet lesbian drama centered on real-life geologist and fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet, Wonder Wheel, 2017) and her lonely world during 19th century England. This film was originally released in November last year, but who knows who actually saw it in November because it was likely in very few movie theaters in Utah and available on very few streaming platforms. But Ammonite has now been released on Hulu in early March for a wider audience to see. 

Courtesy of 'The United States vs. Billie Holliday'

Biopic films are an especially challenging mountain to climb. They’re done a lot, so they can get formulaic; and some go too far to sanitize their subject (Bohemian Rhapsody, 2018) or vilify them (Mommie Dearest, 1981). The United States vs. Billie Holiday miraculously doesn’t fall into any of these metaphorical ravines. 

Oscar-nominated actress Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, 2014) plays another villainous role as Marla Grayson, a professional guardian who takes care of old people who can no longer live independently. But Marla's care is a finely-tuned scam forcing the innocent seniors into a retirement home against their will, liquidating all their assets, and draining their life savings. But her crooked scheme takes a left turn when the latest victim she swindles turns out to be connected to a mobster. 

'Malcom & Marie' Review With Casey

Feb 23, 2021

 

Writer/director Sam Levinson (Another Happy Day, 2011) definitely shines in his explorations of complicated loving relationships and emotionally charged monologues. His latest film, Malcolm & Marie, serves exactly those things but in a boldly intimate way.

Actress Robin Wright (Wonder Woman 1984, 2020) co-produces and stars in her feature film directorial debut as an emotionally shattered woman retreating from life in the drama Land. After suffering a deep loss, a quiet woman moves into an abandoned cabin alone with no car, no electricity, no running water, and no phone deep in the mountains of Wyoming. Suffering dangerous winter storms, wild intruders, and persistent hunger, this woman places herself firmly in her grief with no intentions of escape.

Supernova is a heartfelt love story of two married men straining against loss, aging, and time. During a road trip through the countryside of England, one husband struggles to remain strong while the other husband struggles with dementia. 

The Midnight Sky is a quiet contemplative drama, set in the future, about survival and human connection adapted from the 2016 novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Since The Midnight Sky premiered on Netflix recently, it has inspired a persistent philosophical question in my mind: “What is happening to George Clooney?” I don’t mean to suggest that Gorge Clooney is sliding into Nicholas Cage territory. (Color Out of Space will forever remain one of the worst films of 2020.) What my question means is, “When did George Clooney become so sentimental in his work?” 

One Night in Miami is a powerful portrait of the anxieties and hopes of Black Americans in the 1960s, and it has strong connections to the culture of today. This film is adapted from a one-act play, written by an African American man Kemp Powers (who also worked on the screenplay), that was first produced in 2013 in Los Angeles. The story is a fictionalized gathering of four famous African American men celebrating in a motel room together in 1964.

Oftentimes, a drama film tugs at your heartstrings...and sometimes a film can lacerate them. When a young couple's home birth ends in tragedy, the expecting mother tries to keep living under a constant cloud of grief. 

First time feature film writer/director Emerald Fennell has created a story challenging the male gaze and stabbing it between the eyes. 

You are tuned to Utah Public Radio. I'm Shalayne Smith Needham, here with our film critic Casey T. Allen. Hello, Casey. 

You are tuned to Utah Public Radio. I'm Shalayne Smith Needham, here with our film critic Casey T. Allen. Hello, Casey.

'The Prom' Review With Casey

Dec 17, 2020
Courtesy of "The Prom" Movie

The Prom is a movie musical that premiered on Netflix on December 11th and is adapted from a Broadway musical first produced in New York City in 2018. The story follows four narcissist Broadway celebrities who travel to small town Indiana to publicly support a lesbian teenager who is banned from taking her girlfriend to her high school prom. Celebrity activism for LGBT youth guarantees positive publicity! Right?!

Courtesy of 'Mank' movie

Mank is a brilliant biopic of Herman Mankiewicz, his screenwriting career in Hollywood, and his creation of the screenplay for the famous Citizen Kane film from 1941. (Practically every film scholar and film historian includes Citizen Kane as one of the greatest films ever made.)

'The Life Ahead' Review With Casey

Nov 20, 2020
Courtesy of 'The Life Ahead' Movie

The Life Ahead is a coming-of-age drama set in Naples, Italy about a 12-year-old orphaned boy (Ibrahima Gueye) who is sent to live with an elderly cantankerous woman whom he recently robbed. This reluctant pairing is a clash of opposites with young and old, Muslim and Jew, refugee and native, as the young boy starts selling drugs on the street and his aged caretaker struggles with memories of the Holocaust.

'His House' Review With Casey

Nov 5, 2020
Courtesy of 'His House' Movie

When a married couple move into a crumbling apartment in London, they begin suspecting it's haunted after witnessing peeling walls, spilled fruit, and wet footprints. I know this premise sounds familiar and overdone. There's plenty of haunted house movies in the past that bleed together by using the same ideas, the same twists, and the same techniques to scare viewers. Some of these movies include Darkness (2002), The Messengers (2007), The Haunting in Connecticut (2009), The Conjuring (2013), and We Are Still Here (2015). 

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