Sometimes a movie slips through the cracks, and I eventually catch up to it…
Shimmer Lake…It’s too bad this twisty, well-crafted noir film didn’t get a theaterical release because I feel the Netflix-only model is tantamount to getting buried with a “straight to DVD” release. There are 100s of new things on Netflix every single month, and a lot of stuff is surely getting lost in the shuffle, especially smaller, “Netflix-only” films most people haven’t heard of before.
Anyway, this bank-heist-gone-awry comic thriller unfolds backwards and that means we’re seeing the fates of several major characters before we know how they wound up that way (a mystery in the truest sense). This film will never be mistaken for “Memento,” and several key developments don’t hold up to close scrutiny, but the performances—including Stephanie Sigman as a femme fatale and a pair of wryly uninterested FBI agents—are just humane and funny enough to make this one mystery worth getting to the bottom of. Grade: B+
A Dog’s Purpose…Yes, this film about a reincarnated dog’s many lives is emotionally manipulative but only a total grouch would be totally immune to its sentimental charms. Since this is a tale that unfolds over the decades—from 60’s farm life to 70’s crime caper to late 80’s family sitcom—you may find some plotlines more compelling than others, but if you aren’t at least a little caught up by Dennis Quaid’s senior love with an old high school girlfriend by the end of this movie, you might be the only one. Grade: B+
Split…James McAvoy plays several different characters trapped in the body of a man with mulitiple personality disorder and kidnaps three nubile teenage girls to sacrifice to a new personality called “The Beast.” This film is a livelier effort than most of M. Night Shymalan’s recent movies, but there are still signs (get it?) that he’ll never really be as great at crafting dialogue or common sense (there are so many times a character does something mind-numbingly dumb) as he is mood. A lot of scenes are too clunky, and even if a bizarro ending is exciting, it also makes me a little scared Shymalan is going to ruin the legacy of his best film “Unbreakable” with a strung-together sequel. Grade: B-