In the 1990’s, a glorious time for American, independent cinema, writer-director Kevin Smith debuted with the ultra low budget comedy Clerks. It was a terrific movie because of the characters, the delicious dialogues on pop culture, and mostly because it was very, very funny. Smith followed up his cult success with some pretty great (Chasing Amy / Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) and not so great (Jay and Silent Bob Reboot) movies. Now Clerks III has arrived and it is Smith’s worst movie to date (from the ones I have seen). The main problem: it is not funny. And the dialogues don’t work. Also, the characters Dante and Randall are not interesting any more 26 years later. Randall is no longer harassing customers. And Dante’s self pity worked in the original because he had an actual big life decision to make. Now, it just gets tiresome. The one positive thing I can report about Clerks II is the ending. Spoiler alert: Dante dies! Not to be too harsh on Smith; I still love the guy. And not that I hated Dante so much that I wanted him to die. I just thought it was a fitting ending to the Clerks saga. Hopefully, Smith’s Mallrats follow-up will be better.
Clerks III is now available on Netflix
The verdict: to stream or not to stream? Not to stream. Watch the original instead.
The Master of Body Horror, David Cronenberg (now 79 years old), returns with a concept typical for him. In an unspecified future, evolution has taken a weird turn; humans don’t feel pain anymore and some grow new organs at rapid speed (‘accelerated evolution syndrome’). One of these persons is Saul Tensor (Viggo Mortensen, also getting older but he still ‘has it’). He forms a performance duo with Caprice (the always excellent Léa Seydoux). Together they perform the live removal of Saul’s newly developed organs in front of excited audiences. When Saul has a zipper in his stomach installed, which his partner finds sexually arousing and then performs fellatio on it, the movie reminds of a mix of Existenz (Cronenberg’s last science fiction film in which humans have a portal in their spine to connect them to virtual reality) and Cronenberg’s Crash (in which a group of people get sexually aroused from car crashes). It is typical of the Canadian writer/director to try to turn his audience on with images of grotesque organically shaped technology and horribly morphed bodies and their insides. It is a weird movie, even by the standards of the King of Venereal Horror, but those who have become accustomed to his style know it is probably also strangely fascinating. And it is. What also helps is the eerie music by his regular composer Howard Shore and the great cast, which also includes Kristen Stewart. How did he ever prepare his actors to get into character for this freakish story?
Crimes of the Future is now available on Amazon Prime
The verdict: to stream or not to stream? For Cronenberg completists, to stream. For all others it depends; can you stomach a dancer with his mouth and eyes sewn shut and ears attached all over his body?
I was very much looking forward to this The Matrix sequel as I am a devoted fan of the first movie and I, as opposed to many others, also appreciate the sequels (especially Reloaded). So I was ready for it. HBO Max, which has just started its streaming service in the Netherlands, offered The Matrix Resurrections as one their main big blockbusters to stream. Bring it on! I thought, but man, what a total disaster this was!! Neo and Trinity are somehow still plugged in the Matrix and Neo works as a game programmer who made the successful Matrix game series and he falls in love with Trinity once again. How very meta. I hated this storyline and thought it didn’t work at all, but I continued to watch this turd hoping that somehow it would redeem itself. This never happened. Even the action looked much worse than in the original movies. How is that even possible? As much as I tried to like it, I cannot think of a single thing to recommend this for. It falls apart from the start and is best considered as a glitch in the Matrix that should never have happened.
The Matrix Resurrections is now available on HBO Max.
The verdict: to stream or not to stream? Definitely NOT to stream
Guillermo del Toro is a terrific filmmaker, but Nightmare Alley is ultimately disappointing. It starts off well with a grifter (Bradley Cooper) who joins a traveling carnival in the 1940s. Here, he learns a mentalist act that he uses to independently become a successful psychic. Then he meets a psychiatrist (Cate Blanchet) who is out to expose him as a fraud. The atmosphere is a mix between a dreamlike David Lynch movie and a film noir. The cinematography and production design are obviously top notch and so is the cast. Where it goes wrong is the screenplay that Del Toro wrote with Kim Morgan based on a novel by William Lindsay. All the time (150 minutes!), you are waiting for a big reveal, but it never comes. This type of noir storytelling has programmed our brains to already know for certain that the main character is doomed, but how it eventually comes to pass in this movie is predictable and unsatisfying. Alas, Nightmare Alley may be a visual treat, but in terms of storytelling it fails to move the viewer.
Nightmare Alley is now available on Disney Plus
The verdict: to stream or not to stream? Not to stream