Each week, the Now Playing Podcast crew shares their latest recommends (and not recommends).
Brock: “Saw two distinctly different recent Arnold Schwarzenegger movies this week as I continue through his filmography as “extra credit” of sorts in conjunction with our Arnold action movies retrospective. The Iron Mask (2019) is like Flash Gordon (1980), in that it is unintentionally funny at at times, and that a lot of money was clearly spent on costumes, props, sets and definitely effects – but not on the script. The fight scene between Arnold and Jackie Chan was a cheesy delight. And in a much smaller film, the allegorical Maggie (2015), Arnold gives a nice restrained performance as the father of his terminally-ill twenty-something daughter stricken with, for lack of a better term, a zombie virus, before she turns “hungry”. The filmmakers deftly subvert expectations as we are waiting and waiting for the big action scene when Arnie takes out an army of zombies and then his deadly daughter, opting to keep it about the characters, and their actions in their last days together. Maggie is worth a watch.”
Stuart: “I may not deem Lord of the Rings as precious a franchise as some, but how could I not take a gander at “the most expensive TV show of all time” as it debuts on Prime this weekend? Spin-off series Rings of Power (2022) spent years in post production Mordor, and comes with an unsustainable $60 million per episode price tag. All so that hardcore fans can likely flame the writers and filmmakers forever for not living up to the legend of JRR Tolkien and Peter Jackson. I predict it to be a costly folly, but hope to be proven wrong as I sample the first two installments.”
Marjorie: “I watched Vengeance (2022) starring B.J. Novak (also directing) and Ashton Kutcher. Single New Yorker Ben receives a call in the middle of the night that his girlfriend Abby has died unexpectedly. The problem is that Ben is positively single and Abby was a hookup. Ben flies to Texas begrudgingly for her funeral and ends up unraveling an opioid scandal. This is Novak’s first turn as a director and he did a good job. The movie is funny, a little dark and at times, heartwarming. The movie feels like a bit of an ode to the good things about Texas – sunsets, Whataburger, football and rodeos. Vengeance is definitely worth watching, it’s an enjoyable movie and everyone turns in good performances.”
Jason: “Sometimes, you just want to watch hot people do their thing on screen. That’s why I gave 2005’s Into the Blue a little play-button-press this week. Paul Walker and Jessica Alba star as really, really, incredibly good looking people who stumble across a sunken treasure and a submerged cargo plane full of cocaine while diving with attractive couple Scott Caan and Ashley Scott. Into the Blue is a loose remake of 1977’s The Deep, only with a larger cast of hardbodies and no Louis Gossett Jr. doing voodoo. In fact, there’s no voodoo at all, just chiseled abs and barely there swimsuits. The action is pretty muted until the climax and the movie slows down a lot, but you don’t really notice when you’re busy thinking about spray tans. It’s worth noting this movie was directed by John Stockwell, who played Cougar in Top Gun. He also directed Blue Crush, so he’s into the whole ‘Hot people in the water’ thing. Me too!”
Heath: “If Terrence Malick directed The Thing it might look a little bit like You Won’t Be Alone (2022), an elevated horror film which takes place in 19th-century Macedonia. It follows a young woman (Sara Klimoska), who has been kept hidden away by her mother in a cave for her entire life, to save her from being taken by an evil witch (Anamaria Marinca). But she is eventually found by the witch and imbued with the ability to assume the form of anyone (or anything) she kills. It’s then she experiences the outside world for the first time by taking on the appearance and identity of the various people (and a dog) she encounters along the way. While slow at times, the evocative narration and beautiful cinematography keep this an interesting slow-burn experience that lingers with you long after the credits have rolled. It certainly won’t be to all tastes, but if you’re in the mood for something different, this is worth checking out.”
Santiago: “I finally watched Prey (2022). This movie feels like a stripped-back Hollywood blockbuster: it has an easy to follow plot and very few characters, which allows the filmmakers to feel the screen with lots of beautiful vistas and even more beautiful gore in less than two hours. I honestly wish more franchise films were made like this. Not every blockbuster needs to be an over 120-minute epic about saving the world from imminent destruction, you know? Strong Recommend.”