First Glance: “Made in Italy”

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Liam Neeson has made a name for himself as a tough-talking, no frills action star. That leads some people to forget that he is also a very good dramatic actor. I like his punch-and-shoot thrillers, but I always enjoy seeing him taking on weightier, more serious roles. He can also be very funny. James D’Arcy’s new dramedy “Made in Italy” looks to be tapping into Neeson’s dramatic and comedic sides.

The film appears to be a father-son story set in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Neeson inherits an Italian villa from his recently deceased wife. He and his estranged son (because they’re always estranged in these things) travel to Italy to get the house ready to put on the market. But old memories resurface and fixing up the house proves to be just what their strained relationship needed.

“Made in Italy” releases August 7th. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.

First Glance: “Ava” (2020)

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In “Ava” Jessica Chastain plays an assassin who has a weird fascination with chatting with her targets before and after she offs them. This seems to annoy Colin Farrell who believes she has become a liability to their ‘organization’. He puts an open contract on her life much to the chagrin of her mentor John Malkovich. Toss Geena Davis and Common into the mix and you have the upcoming action thriller from director Tate Taylor.

Obviously there is more to the story (at least I hope so). But I gotta say it looks like something we have seen before. Maybe a little John Wick-ish? Regardless, Taylor puts together an interesting cast and I have no doubt Chastain will make for a tough, compelling lead. It’ll all come down to the script and whether it can carve out its own unique space in the familiar territory.

“Ava” is set to release September 25th. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.

First Glance: “Greenland” (2020)

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It’s been a rough run for Gerard Butler but you gotta hand it to him. He keeps making movies. During this spell of not-so-great films he has fought terrorists, Egyptian gods, mind-controlling gamers, even a planet-killing superstorm. So it shouldn’t surprise us to see him take on fragments of a comet careening towards earth in what is deemed (and you probably guessed it) an “extinction level event”. Gulp!

Look I get it, disaster films are a dime-a-dozen. But I’m not going to lie, a part of me has always found them to be entertaining. Even the dumber ones (and there are plenty of those) offer me at least some degree of entertainment. Butler’s last disaster flick “Geostorm” was a glaring exception. It was genuinely terrible and I’m hoping this one doesn’t follow suit.

“Greenland” is releasing August 14th. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.

 

First Glance: “Waiting for the Barbarians”

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The oddly titled “Waiting for the Barbarians” dropped a new trailer and the first thing you notice is its attention-getting cast. Mark Rylance, Johnny Depp, and Robert Pattinson head this intriguing drama that debuted at the Venice Film Festival. It has finally been given a firm digital and on-demand release date and our first look at the film gives us plenty to chew on.

Set on the remote edges of an unnamed empire, the story seems to revolve around a well-meaning magistrate (Rylance), a sinister security officer (Depp), and an upstart trooper caught in the middle (Pattinson). I love the cast and its particularly great to see Rylance given such a meaty lead role. It has an interesting setting and the cinematography is unquestionably eye-catching.

“Waiting for the Barbarians” is set to release August 7th. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.

REVIEW: “Dangerous Lies” (2020)

The blandly titled “Dangerous Lies” is a Netflix Original that sounds like a cheap made-for-television thriller. To be honest, at times it feels like one too. It’s actually a competently made cautionary tale that doesn’t come together as nicely or as tidily as it should, but still makes for some breezy, light entertainment.

The film follows a young recently married couple struggling to make ends meet. Kate (Camila Mendes) works night shifts at a diner while Adam (Jessie Usher) tries to finish school. Four months pass and things aren’t much better. Kate now works as an at-home caregiver for a wealthy elderly man named Leonard (Elliott Gould) while a frustrated Adam has quit school to find a job to help pay down their growing debt.

Kate develops a close friendship with Leonard who lives in his big house alone with no family. During a conversation Kate relays her financial woes and Leonard is quick to offer help. She declines money but asks if Leonard would hire Adam to do lawn work since his gardener up an disappeared several months back. The optics certainly aren’t great – a young couple and an vulnerable senior citizen. They get even worse when Kate discovers Leonard dead.

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Photo Courtesy of Netflix

All of that sets up the second half which introduces a lurking slimeball named Hayden (Cam Gigandet), a chest full of cash, a possible murder, and a very suspicious police detective (Sasha Alexander). It becomes a series of twists ranging from clever to absurd followed by a series of reveals that are much the same. Director Michael Scott is pretty efficient with the storytelling, keeping things moving at a snappy pace, but not quite fast enough to overlook the gaping holes in logic. But before you can start chipping away at the silliness Scott hurries us along to the next twist or clue, cleverly keeping our attention diverted.

“Dangerous Lies” is one of those easy to make, small budget thrillers that pop up often on Netflix. It’s story of a young couple and a house full of secrets doesn’t sound especially new, but it’s told in a way that keeps things interesting despite juggling too many familiar tropes. And I should mention there are some interesting visual choices as well. It all makes for a movie that is just engaging enough to keep you watching. It still can’t avoid all of the pitfalls that come with movies like this, but it does give a good effort.

VERDICT – 2.5 STARS

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First Glance: “Wasp Network”

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Netflix continues their summer movie drops with the latest from acclaimed French filmmaker Olivier Assayas “Wasp Network”. His new film is a Netflix Original and will earn him his biggest premiere audience to date. One thing’s for sure, his film comes with a stacked cast including Penélope Cruz, Edgar Ramirez, Gael García Bernal, Ana de Armas, and Wagner Moura.

The spy thriller follows a Cuban pilot who joins up with a group of defectors in South Florida. They’re called the Wasp Network, a spy ring set on uncovering and infiltrating ant-Castro terrorist outfits in the mid-1990s. There is a ton of information to explore and hopefully Assayas (who also penned the script) doesn’t get bogged down trying to cover it all.

“Wasp Network” opens up on Netflix June 19th. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.