After a detour in universe building with Split and Glass, M. Night Shyamalan is back to his usual self with Old, a film that posits a beach that ages people rapidly. This kind of high-concept premise rhymes Old with The Happening, where the twist that Shyamalan is famous for is not some third-act development but a wacky what-if scenario, and the result is about the same. Shyamalan’s growth between the 2008 disaster and his latest is an increased talent for casting. There’s no dumbfounded Mark Wahlberg to wonder where the bees have gone, but just because he’s working with better actors doesn’t mean they contribute to the script. Old is a mess of manipulative and incoherent filmmaking that fails to make much of its premise.
Julia Ducournau’s debut film Raw featured exquisite body horror and cannibalism as sexual awakening. For all its squickiness and extremity, it was also fully graspable as a film that a group of viewers could take in and arrive at a similar conclusion as to what it was trying to say. That’s not the case with Durcournau’s Palme d’Or winning follow-up Titane, a messier but more assured and daring film that frolics in the same visceral pool that Raw did. Digesting Titane is a more difficult task, but what’s easy is acclaiming Ducournau as a rising star with two unforgettable films to her name. Both ecstatic and repulsive, tense and hilarious, Titane is a gnarly sojourn through gender, male affection, and the attraction between a human and a car.
The long-delayed and overdue Black Widow provides Scarlett Johansson’s longtime Marvel Cinematic Universe character her first standalone film in the ongoing franchise. A superspy who’s also one of the main cast’s few non-superpowered characters seems like an obvious Bond-esque film waiting to happen, but the studio instead chose to wait until after Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff had been killed off. Black Widow jumps back a few years in the MCU timeline to give Romanoff her due in a film that doubles as a means to fold in new characters, placing Romanoff on the back burner in her own starring vehicle. Now free to do whatever else she wants after tying herself to the globally successful MCU, Johansson will be fine going forward. However, Black Widow feels like one final slight towards a character who’s been around longer than almost every MCU major player. Studio kiss-off aside, director Cate Shortland puts together a perfectly competent version of a globe-trotting espionage thriller, albeit several years too late.
Random projects from the MMC Universe.