Category Archives: Thriller

Queen & Slim (2019) | Melina Matsoukas



In this potent and socially relevant dramatic thriller, Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) is a jaded criminal defense attorney and Slim a devoutly Christian retail clerk Slim (Daniel Kaluuya). They’re on a Tinder date in a Cleveland diner. On the way to drop off Queen, Slim gets pulled over by a pushy cop (Sturgill Simpson), then things escalate into an intense altercation that results in Slim killing the cop in self-defense. From then on, the two become fugitives, relying on whatever help they can on the down-low to avoid being caught and find their way to Cuba. Lena Waithe scripts from an idea by James Frey. Melina Matsoukas directs.


Bad Boys for Life (2020) | Adil and Bilall



In this third entry in the long-gestating franchise, Mike Lowery (Will Smith) gets gunned down by up-and-coming Miami crime kingpin Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio) who pops a few rounds into the cop at the direction of his ruthless mother Isabel (Kate del Castillo), getting revenge on all of those cops and lawyers who took down her drug-lord husband years before. Due to Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) making a pact with God to hang up the “bad boys” life if Mike pulls through, he refuses to join forces with his longtime partner on exacting revenge on Armando. To help supplement the cover, loose-cannon Mike teams up with the by-the-book ‘AMMO’ division of the force, a group of young guns with high-tech weapons. Of course, when tragedy strikes once again, Marcus gets off of his recliner for one more chance at the guts and glory of the “bad boys.”


Parasite (2019) | Bong Joon-ho



Song Kang-ho plays Kim Ki-taek, the father in the poor family that has no breadwinners due to the lack of good-paying jobs (the latest gig finds them folding pizza boxes). Poverty has become so pervasive that the family works overtime to find ways to not spend money, hijacking wifi from neighbors and resorting to forgery to gain credentials from schools they couldn’t even dream to be able to afford. They even leave the window open as the bug exterminator draws near to get “free fumigation”, inundating their basement apartment (and boxes meant to carry pizzas) with unhealthy chemicals. Things take a turn for the better when Ki-taek’s son, Ki-woo, gets a temporary job replacing a good friend as the tutor for Da-hye, a teenage daughter of a well-to-do family. In their palatial home, Ki-woo woos the young woman who develops a crush on him, just like she did the prior tutor, and convinces the naive mother that he has the skills necessary for the job. When Ki-woo learns that the young son in the rich family, Da-song, needs an art tutor, he brings in his sister for the job, pretending to be Ki-woo’s old college friend, then his dad, then his mother. But their taste of the high life makes it a place they want to stay for good.


Birds of Prey (2020) | Cathy Yan (aka “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey”)



The storyline picks up with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) just following her dastardly dreamboat, The Joker, breaking up with her, with the spinout of their toxic relationship leaving her in shambles. An oft-unhinged club owner named Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), whose alter ego is another powerful villain in Gotham City known as Black Mask has secured a rare diamond worth so much that he could afford to up his protection racket operation to become the biggest crime kingpin in Gotham City. That diamond is stumbled onto and taken by a pickpocket extraordinaire named Cassandra Cain, who ends up swallowing it to avoid having to give it up when frisked by police, making her the most sought after person in the city, especially after Roman places a half-million-dollar bounty on her.

All of this leads to Harley forming a ramshackle team of women with grievances with Black Mask to finally put an end to his murderous ways. That team includes Huntress, aka Helena Bertinelli (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a Punisher-type mafia princess-turned-vigilante who rides a motorcycle and shoots a crossbow – Black Canary, aka Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Leading the case for the Gotham City Police Department is Renee Montoya, played by Rosie Perez, and newcomer Ella Jay Basco portrays Cassandra Cain. Cathy Yan directs.


Uncut Gems (2019)



Set in 2012, Uncut Gems is a part crime drama and part character study, following the dealings of Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a New York jewelry merchant doing business by appointment in his highly secure private showroom. Not all is peachy-keen in Howard’s life, as his marriage is on the rocks, his mistress has begun to make him feel insecure, his lack of work ethic beginning to sour customers, he just might have colon cancer, and his gambling addiction has gotten him into a lot of debt that he can’t pay back easily. He’s a sucker for get-rich-quick schemes to keep him out of trouble; his latest involved the procuring of a large uncut Ethiopian black opal that may be worth up to a million dollars.

Enter Boston Celtics star, Kevin Garnett, who takes an immediate interest in purchasing the rare jewel upon seeing it, but is denied a sale because Howard already has it set up to auction within a few days. Garnett ends up borrowing the opal in exchange for one of his championship rings and has one of the best games of his career on the basketball court, making it the good-luck charm he has to have at the tail-end of his career. In the meantime, Howard has ended up pawning off Garnett’s ring and used the money to bet big on Garnett’s performance.

Directed by Benny and Joshua Safdie.


Knives Out (2019) | Rian Johnson



Set somewhere in New England, the plot of this murder mystery involves the death of the patriarch of the Thrombey family, Harlan (Christopher Plummer). Harlan is a wildly successful mystery novelist who has amassed a small fortune running a publishing company for his and other books. While initially thought to be suicide, several guests at Harlan’s 85th birthday acted quite suspiciously before his death that leaves open the possibility of foul play. Along with the police, an unknown person hires a famous detective named Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to check into the matter beyond the standard police questioning. Our main conduit into the story, however, is Marta (Ana de Armas), Harlan’s nurse that has a strange affliction where she will toss her cookies whenever she lies, making her an instant way to vet the truth, provided that she knows it. With Marta by his side, Blanc finds there may be more to the suicide than he initially thought, though the hows and whys remain elusive. Rian Johnson writes and directs. Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, and LaKeith Stanfield also appear.


The Lighthouse (2019) | Robert Eggers



There’s something to Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) that’s been deeply troubling him – an incident in the past that haunts him that his continued existence on the island serves as a persistent reminder. Their shift on the island in the middle of the sea was originally to be four weeks in duration.  Due to a leg injury, the boss, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), requires Ephraim to do nearly all of the physical labor on his behalf, which the younger man comes to deeply resent, feeling like a slave during the day and treated no better than an animal at night. On his end, Thomas feels like Ephraim doesn’t respect his authority, and his cooking skills, and he’s going to break the lad to fear him if he won’t at least show him the respect of his position., The wall between them is so prevalent, despite being in close proximity to one another, they don’t even learn each other’s names until well into their scheduled stay. From there, things get occasionally better, but often far worse, as Ephraim’s fear, guilt, and paranoia begin to get the better of him, combined with the toxicity of heavy drinking and feelings of overwhelming isolation. Visions come into his head of lusty mermaids, mocking seagulls, and a dead body he seems to know more about than he cares to remember. Robert Eggers directs and co-writes this unique psychological folk tale of a sort.


Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) | Tim Miller



As with the other Terminator films, a protagonist and antagonist are sent back to the modern-day from a dark future using a time-travel device. The protagonist (Mackenzie Davis) is a technologically augmented human super-soldier named Grace, who lands in Mexico City in order to try to act as a savior for humanity in the future (Natalia Reyes). The antagonist (Gabriel Luna) is an ultra-powerful Terminator model called a Rev-9, whose mission it is to terminate a young female autoworker living in Mexico named Dani Ramos. Lending assistance to the resistance is the return of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who sees kinship in Dani because she has been thrust into the same position as key to humans surviving the A.I. onslaught of the future. Arnold Schwarzenegger makes an appearance in the second half of the film as a T-800 model Terminator named “Carl” who has assimilated into human society after completing his mission of taking out John Connor. Tim Miller directs.


The Gemini Man (2019) | Ang Lee



Will Smith stars as Henry Brogan, a top-notch sniper and skilled combat fighter working for a black ops government agency named Gemini, performing one last kill before retiring from the assassin business at the ripe age of 50. He’s the best at what he does but hates the man he’s become, unable to even look at himself in the mirror without observing disappointment and pain. But just when he thinks he’s pulling out, they pull him back in, discovering that he’s been misled by his superior at Gemini, Clay (Clive Owen), in the nature of his latest assassination, making him feel betrayed. Along with fellow agent and his new ally, Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and his trusty pal Baron (Benedict Wong), Henry soon discovers they are trying to take him out as well, but with a younger, more agile, less angsty version of himself named Junior. Ang Lee directs this futuristic action-thriller.


Joker (2019)



Set in a crime-ridden Gotham City sometime in the early 1980s, Joaquin Phoenix stars as Arthur Fleck, a man who has been dealing with mental challenges his entire life, with little to show for all of his efforts to keep on the sane path. One of his afflictions is his uncontrollable laughter when faced with things that make him anxious, which often gets him into further trouble on its own. He’s living in a Gotham City apartment with his ailing mother, Penny (Frances Conroy), trying to make it on his own either as a clown or as a stand-up comedian, on the hope of getting on the number-one late-night talk show starring Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). Even with the several medications that he is on, his afflictions often get the better of him, but now he’s lost his job, his therapist, his meds, and his sanity, but finds there may be a new path to an audience when he gains notoriety as a Bernard Goetz-style subway shooter. Directed and co-written by Todd Phillips.