It’s been a while since handling a set of reviews. But seeing how we’re nearing the end of March, I thought it would be easy for me to talk about three movies this year so far that I haven’t reviewed yet. So with that said, here are my thoughts on Kimi, Deep Water, and Studio 666.
Initially, I was all set to post this last Saturday morning, but the tragic news Friday night about Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins’s passing felt like it would be in bad taste. After just watching Studio 666 two days prior, his death hit me hard that night, especially talking about the movie with my mom hours ago. So, just letting you all know I postponed this for a bit. RIP Hawkins.
What’s the Story: Angela (Zoë Kravitz) is an agoraphobic, isolated Seattle tech worker who clears up miscommunication issues for an Alexa-type device. When she stumbles upon a voice recording of what sounds like a woman being murdered, and realizes that her company doesn’t want that information getting out, she takes it upon herself to bring the truth to light.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure about watching Kimi, but the positive reception a few days before it streamed on HBO Max convinced me to check out Steven Soderbergh’s latest. The Oscar-winning filmmaker has been churning out something new every year to keep him busy not retiring. This was the first movie I’ve seen with his name since 2017’s Logan Lucky because I never had the urge to see anything else new from him. Anyone who’s always looking for a neat thriller with this kind of story will be fondly enjoyed, just like me.
Apparently, Soderbergh and screenwriter David Koepp must’ve liked this concept similar to Rear Window or Disturbia with the added sense of paranoia installed in us. There’s something always intriguing when the main character discovers a shocking revelation and doesn’t exactly know how to handle it, whether it’s true. For what could’ve easily been a dull thriller with little things that will stand out, Kimi was able to show the director’s still capable of putting together an alarming and relevant story, having us question is the technology we often use is safe or is really sping on what we do daily. But Soderbergh, servicing as his own editor and cinematographer (obviously), lets the atmosphere feel captivating since most of the movie takes place in Kratz’s apartment doing work and communicating with Kimi, which helps us learn so much about her.
And this isn’t a complex plot to be following around, as it goes for a pretty old-fashioned vibe that I’m glad I didn’t know where it’ll go after Angela decides to dig deeper in this situation she finds herself in. Maybe I wanted to go on a bit longer to push the material of the plot further, but it does stay more grounded than usual. It can teach us throughout is just being safe around what can be pickup through our phones, computers, or other devices, just in case someone is listening in. And I wasn’t sure why it had to be set during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it thankfully wasn’t used as a gimmick when our character can have trouble even leaving her home.
Have I always had a crush on Zoë Kravitz? Who doesn’t at this point? But her performance as Angela is evidence of why I want her to be in more leading roles since he’s giving a role that requires her to be unsure of how to handle this discovery just learning who they are when we spend time with her during the first act. And I first didn’t know what to think of Soderberg’s style of camera work that follows Angela outside, but I warmed up to it because it was supposed to feel anxious about being nervous around her surroundings. Some might think the third act goes by quickly and feels a bit reminiscent of one other movie if you’ve already seen it, but while I agree it does add to the fast pace, I couldn’t see it going any other way.
Despite Kimi having a slight premise, Steven Soderbergh delivers a gripping techno-thriller. It’s tightly paced and provides an excellent performance from Zoë Kravitz. Most will feel underwhelmed, but I found it to be rather enjoyable.
Grade: (7/10) B
Kimi is now available to stream on HBO Max. Runtime: 91 Minutes. Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures/ New Line Cinema
What’s the Story: Vic and Melinda Van Allen are a couple in the small town of Little Wesley. Their loveless marriage is held together only by a precarious arrangement whereby, in order to avoid the messiness of divorce, Melinda is allowed to take any number of lovers as long as she does not desert her family. Vic becomes fascinated with the unsolved murder of one of Melinda’s former lovers, Martin McRae, and, in order to successfully drive away from her current fling, takes credit for the killing.
After numerous delays that made us question if this would ever come out, Deep Water gained some mild anticipation when it was announced. We’re lucky enough to see the return of the erotic thrillers and director Adrian Lyne. The erotic thrillers, reasonably popular around the late ’80s/ early to mid-’90s, would go out of their way to be intriguing with the steamy tension within the plot. But Lyne is best known for them inside his filmography with Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal, 9 1/2 Weeks, and Unfaithful, the latter of which was his last film from 20 years ago. Desperate as this wanted to be in being the captivating movie to ever stream with two attached leads who once dated after filming, it was nothing more than an underwhelming time that should’ve been more of a guilty pleasure.
An adaptation of the 1957 novel by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley) and a screenplay by Zach Helm (Stranger Than Fiction) and Sam Levinson (Euphoria), it had all the elements to make this appealing for those who weren’t expecting much, but being entertained by a trashy drama that wouldn’t take itself seriously. Yet, it did, and my interest pretty much decreased every 20 minutes or so. The setup for what Melinda is doing behind her husband’s back is enough, but it doesn’t allow itself to move forward in keeping your attention since Lyne goes for a lifeless and boring tale that doesn’t leave with a hint of feeling suspenseful. I wanted to feel sad for Vic because, in real life, that’s depressing letting his spouse have these affairs, though you can’t tell if he has this apparent dark side. Are we to believe Vic puts threats on these men to prove he loves his wife in their home or the causal hang out in their community? Jealousy, perhaps. The people around him make this dark joke about him killing one of Melinda’s lovers mysteriously disappeared that’s either believable or not. But, mysterious as it may seem, it isn’t had to know the intention he’s willing to go. Lyne is someone who will go out of his way to do risky stuff on film. They’re some sex scenes here and there showing de Armas’s body. However, this was awfully tamed from what I had in mind.
Ana de Armas and Ben Affleck aren’t really the blame since they give decent enough performances. Their chemistry, I wouldn’t go as far to say is excellent considering the two used to date for about a year after filming, but they worked well together despite their characters not being the most well-liked. Seriously, this didn’t have any moment where I needed to feel empathic for them with what they’re doing. However, I did think de Armas does more of the heavy lifting, while her co-star is doing a fine though not one of his memorable roles in the past few years. Maybe it’s me, but Affleck looked bored the entire time, being unengaged, like, that was his character was meant to be.
The rest of the supporting cast didn’t have much to do with a few feeling pointless. Tracy Lett’s writer character is the most suspicious person in almost every scene he’s in. Towards the end was when I got an unintentional laugh. Lil Rel Howery should’ve had more to work with as one of Affleck’s buddies, and Jacob Elori, who does not sit with me every time I see him now, barely had any screentime, which made me question if he had more scenes that were cut out.
Some wouldn’t call it a tedious watch, which I must ask what kept them engaged the entire time. The trailers didn’t hook me and lessened my excitement for it; all I was thinking was it should’ve been more intense or shocking to make me want to keep watching. Was there even a backstory of why this open marriage is occurring? Once the keeps up with the reveals, it never impacted the whole experience when it wasn’t a secret, to begin with. Not only that, none of the characters are even remotely likable. That momentum is drained very quickly to where I wanted to read the book to see if that had to offer more or watch a better movie like Unfaithful or even Gone Girl, a better Affleck film I watched days before this was released. Then once it gets to the third act, it ends rather abruptly after this poorly edited chase scene. This didn’t come together nicely with the potential behind it because it’s saddled with a messy plot with little to no personality.
Deep Water didn’t understand what I wanted to be, which led to this being nothing but a misfire. I was seriously hoping this would be so bad, it’s good type of experience, but I couldn’t care less about this. Adrian Lyn’s long-awaited return was a frustrating erotic thriller that failed to be sexy, engaging, or suspenseful. Affleck and de Armas were wasted with such shallow characters they’re playing. Trashy fun, it isn’t. It was supposed to get a theatrical release until Hulu picked it up. Though this would’ve been a hit at the box office.
Grade: (3/10) D+
Deep Water is streaming exclusively on Hulu. Runtime: 116 Minutes. Studio: Hulu
What’s the Story: When discussing their 10th studio album, rock band Foo Fighters- lead singer Dave Grohl, bass guitarist Nate Mendel, rhythm guitarist Pat Smear, drummer Taylor Hawkins, lead guitarist Chris Shiflett, and keyboardist Rami Jaffee- needs to make this a hit for their manager Shill (Jeff Garlin). All they need to get it done is a new and unique sound that they haven’t done before. They’re able to be hooked up with a vacant mansion in Encino. But they didn’t tell them this is the same place another rock band named Dream Widow were brutally murdered before releasing their debut album. Despite digging the acoustics from inside, coming up with something fresh as Dave in a writer’s block stage. That is until he finds a basement filled with a reel-to-reel recording of an unfinished song and soon becomes possessed by the evil spirit of the lead singer that gives him more ideas for songs and possibly the danger for the rest of his members.
For someone who has a strong heart for rock and roll and enjoys the occasional horror movie from time to time, who would’ve thought we get both featuring Foo Fighters to get a lot of frights in Studio 666. We’ve long past having strange movies with well-known bands playing themselves with a plot out of the ordinary, but what a rare sight to see right now. The last time this happened was probably with the under-appreciated box office bomb Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny. I love Foo Fighters. They’re still one of my favorite bands of all time, where jamming out to any of their music in the car boosts my energy up to eleven. Something is wrong with you if you don’t. Directed by BJ McDonnell (Hatchet III) and written by Jeff Behuler and Rebecca Hughes with a story by Grohl, this will please more of the fans who won’t care what it’s aiming for. This should’ve been so much better with the creativity behind this secret project.
However, the quick watch of the trailer already had you guessing we aren’t discussing an Oscar-winning film here. This was the band’s way of harkening back to the campy B-movies that were never meant to be regarded as masterpieces. When everything grows crazier as it progresses, everyone’s objectives towards the genre are fundamental. At most, it plays out like an episode of Scooby-Doo, only for the characters to get brutally murdered. You go into Studio 666 not expecting the perfect acting from the band members since they are musicians, first and foremost. But Dave Grohl is definitely the strongest out of everybody with the fictionalized version of himself going through the chaotic changes when he’s possessed, almost turning into Jack Torrance from The Shining. Who doesn’t like Grohl anyway? You dislike him, and I despise you. When they first arrived, not everything was as it seemed. Even putting up the equipment becomes dangerous when their recording engineer is electrocuted to death. Isn’t that a clear indication that it’s time to leave? Instead, Dave insisted on finishing the album because that’s what he wanted and then barbecuing meat on the grill. Besides them, there’s Whitney Cummings as the next-door neighbor who knows what went down in the house all those years ago; Will Forte in an all too brief appearance as the delivery driver who wants to share Dave his demo, and what a waste of Jenna Ortega who I thought would have more to do, honestly.
Those with weak stomachs might want to stay away because the gore factor is way up with its over-the-top and mostly practical effects to make the kills that much insane. Just the opening scene before the credits alone is nothing sure of being disturbing and this might be the goriest movie I’ve seen in a long time. But then, it takes its time to get another kill in maybe close to an hour. Nothing is more f-ed up than a pretty gnarly but brutal death by chainsaw that I haven’t seen done before, especially in an R-rated movie.
The problem with Studio 666 for being labeled a horror-comedy is that it wasn’t what hit compared to the popular blending of what came before. Maybe it would’ve hit the memorable sweet spot with a director with more experience or writing. There wasn’t as much cohesive backstory we got on what happened with the thrash band Dream Widow. Also, there was never a point where it scared me. I was disgusted, sure, but the story doesn’t make much sense once you start thinking about it and I was more into the jamming sessions part of the plot. And the comedy aspect wasn’t as clever as I wanted when many of them fell flat after a while. A couple got me, from Dave having the guys listen to a new track only to be “All My Life” and “Everlong” to a random cameo from singer Lionel Ritchie when Dave’s having writer’s block. The rest didn’t work when being edgy—repeatedly kicking each other in the balls? Nah.
It runs close to two hours, and it didn’t need to be. The pacing didn’t move as smoothly when it was cool seeing the guys record this 40-minute epic, it would end the same way without holding surprises, A movie like this can work for about 90 minutes, but it has to keep the energy going and not stretch out the premise thin. I thought it would wrap up for a minute until they threw in an unnecessary twist our way; they made it ten minutes too long.
While Studio 666 is all in good fun, this didn’t click for me, leading to being nothing more than a mixed bag upon thinking about it. The idea of the Foo Fighters in a horror-comedy makes for an exciting concept, but the lack of good humor and scares made the vibe uneven. Stupid it may appear, this has the possibility of having some cult following behind it.
But what’s your favorite Foo Fighters song? Here are my top 10:
- “The Pretender”
- “Learn to Fly”
- “Times Like These”
- “All My Life”
- “My Hero”
- “Best of You”
- “Monkey Wrench”
- “Long Road to Ruin”
Grade: (5/10) C+
Studio 666 is now available on Video on Demand (VOD). Runtime: 106 Minutes. Studio: Open Road Films