Escape Room: Tournament of Champions and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Adam Robitel
I have next to no memories of the first movie other than a general sense of loathing and contempt for its central premise and absurd ending. The whole thing just got memory-holed like so many bad horror movies I saw in theaters which I guess is an interesting position to be in when watching a sequel as the lack of concrete feelings definitely gives it a lot of leeway as far as trying new things; not to mention that the overall low opinion going into it only makes the bar that much easier to clear. It’s certainly possible that whatever negativity I felt for the first film has burned itself out and I’ll be more open for whatever this Saw Knockoff franchise wants to throw at me, but then again the trailers weren’t exactly selling me on anything beyond elaborate traps and people yelling which certainly sounds familiar to what I didn’t like last time around. Besides, we don’t NEED a Saw Knockoff anymore now that they’ve brought the series back and aimed it in a new and interesting direction! In any case, does this latest entry in the ESCAPE ROOM UNIVERSE expand upon the original and actually give us something interesting, or will this movie double down on everything that didn’t work the first time? Let’s find out!!
Following the events of the first film (which are helpfully summarized in a sequence that might as well have started with PREVIOUSLY ON ESCAPE ROOM), Zoey and Ben (Taylor Russell and Logan Miller) are still looking for the mysterious Minos corporation that set up the elaborate game from the first film and have seemingly set up games like this all over the place. After some cajoling from Zoey, the two of them travel to New York which seems to be their base of operations but find nothing there except an empty alley and a purse snatcher. Said purse snatcher grabs Zoey’s compass which I THINK was given to her by one of the characters in the first movie, and after an overly long chase through the streets of New York, they wind up on a subway car while the thief jumps out at the last second. For reasons that are never properly explained, this subway car JUST SO HAPPENS to have four other passengers on it and they all get directed into another one of those deadly escape rooms. ALSO as it turns out, the four other people are previous winners of one of Minos’s games which makes this (as one character helpfully says out loud) a tournament of champions. Our previous winners are Rachel, Brianna, Nathan, and Theo (Holland Roden, Indya Moore, Thomas Cocquere, and Carlito Olivero), and all six of them have to go from room to room solving deadly puzzles for some nebulous goal and the chance to maybe not get murdered, though with Zoey and Ben hot on Minos’s heels it seems unlikely that this game is just gonna swing open the doors for them even if they manage to find the right number of keys in a fish tank or whatever. Will Minos finally be brought down by the very champions that they’ve created, or will everyone be out for themselves in a desperate bid for survival? Is there more to this game than they first realize, or are the Shyamalan twists in this thing easy to spot from a mile away? Does any of it even matter when the game is apparently being run by money wizards that can literally do anything at any time with these nonsensical traps?
Escape Room and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Adam Robitel
Oh boy! Is it January already!? We all know that this is the BEST month for movies, am I right!? Okay, so the conventional wisdom has been that movies released in January are in a sort of deadzone where there’s next to no chance for an awards worthy movie to get recognition (especially when we’re still talking about awards for movies last year) and it’s far too early to start releasing the blockbusters since the box office is still densely packed with what came out at the tail end of last year. Whatever is coming out right now is usually doing so because there wasn’t much hope that a more valuable timeslot would amount to much for its box office, but then that’s not necessarily the same as a movie being BAD; just not particularly marketable. After all, Proud Mary was pretty good and came out in January! Okay, so did The Commuter, but the point is that it can go either way! Will this be the rare exception of not just a good movie in January but a good HORROR movie in January!? Let’s find out!!
Six people, Zoey, Ben, Amanda, Mike, Jason, and Danny (Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, and Nik Dodani) are given invitations for this super awesome Escape Room with the added incentive that if they manage to solve it they’ll get a ten grand prize! Well that sounds so good that you CAN’T pass it up, right!? Sure enough it turns out to be an elaborate trap where they have to solve the riddle of each room or die horrible deaths. Well that sounds like a poor way to spend your weekend (I’d certainly give this Escape Room Company a bad review on Yelp!) and it’s not like they have any idea why this is happening in the first place which is admittedly sort of a moot point if they can’t manage to find a way out before it’s too late. Can these six strangers work together in order to solve each room’s puzzle and make it to the very end of the game? What is it that connects these people together, and what does the Escape Room Company expect to get out of this in the first place? Who the heck is in charge here, anyway!?
Love Simon and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Greg Berlanti
Does anyone else think we’re at the point where we need to come up with a better way of describing movies like this one other than “Like a John Hughes movie”? As much as those movies are a touchstone in popular culture, the phrase a bit played out at this point, and on top that movies such as this one, despite being quite faithful to the overall formula and tone that he developed, feels like something that couldn’t have (even if it SHOULD have) been made in his time. I mean I GUESS we could go with “teenage coming of age story”, but that still doesn’t feel like it fully encapsulates the specific high school angst and post puberty struggles of self-discovery that made us develop the term in the first place. Anyway, I’m just rambling here as I honestly had no idea of this movie’s existence until it showed up at my local theater, but I am happy that we’re getting an ACTUAL LGBTQIA+ teen comedy as that kind of movie is a lot more in my wheelhouse than the super serious LGBTQIA+ films like Moonlight or even Carol. Does this manage to succeed in being just as good if not better than its straight peers in the genre, or is its good intentions just not enough to carry this film all the way through its run time? Let’s find out!!
Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is your typical teenager, in that he’s not quite sure about his place in the world and has secrets that he doesn’t feel like sharing with the rest of the world. As the audience though, we’re privy to ALL that information and we find out right away that Simon is in fact gay but hasn’t come out yet; not to his friends Leah, Abby, and Nick (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr), nor to his parents (Josh Duhmael and Jennifer Garner) and little sister (Talitha Bateman). He has his reasons for doing so and it’s not like there’s a LAW that says you have to do it as soon as you know, so his plan is to just continue pining after hot dudes while hiding any trace that he’s actually doing so! Simple enough, right!? Well… not necessarily. It turns out that there’s ANOTHER closeted gay dude in school who posts an anonymous letter on the school’s blog under the pseudonym Blue and leaves an e-mail address for people to contact him at. Simon on a whim decides to reach out to him (using a pseudonym as well) which leads to a flurry of back and forth e-mails as Simon starts to develop feelings for this unknown “Blue” person. However, since this IS a movie about teenagers, there has to be SOME sort of disaster and in this case it’s the nerdy kid Martin (Logan Miller) who finds Simon’s letters and tries to set up an “arrangement” (*cough* Blackmail *cough*) where Simon will help him clean up his act, take better care of himself, and become a much more attractive and emotionally available person which will help him meet awesome women who think he’s awesome and they can have awesome dates together. At least that’s what I’m sure is going through MARTIN’S head to make this sound so much more innocent, but what it breaks down to is Simon (under threat of being forcibly outed) having to arrange dates between Martin and Abby who the former has a crush on. Yeah, not the BEST situation to be in all things considered, and worse yet he might end up losing his chances with Blue who might get scared off if Simon is forcibly outed; thinking he might be next if he keeps contacting him. Can Simon juggle this rough situation with his everyday duties of being the typical American teenager? Will Martin make good on his threats and just how far will Simon have to go to keep that from happening? How is it that EVERYONE’S teenage years suck!? You’d think at least ONE person would luck out at some point!
Before I Fall and all the images you see in this review are owned by Open Road Films
Directed by Ry Russo-Young
Oh look! It’s that movie that looks like that one movie that came out two decades ago! Okay, so maybe it’s not a TOTALLY original concept, but it at least looks more interesting than other YA novel adaptations like Divergent or The 5th Wave, and it does so without having to be set in the apocalypse! The trailers seem to be leaning into the central conceit of the movie, and while it still has that YA aesthetics that look more drab and cheap than anything else, there seems like there’s some more effort thrown into this one than you’d typically expect. Does this manage to rise above its peers and be one of the better examples of the genre, or are they just getting better at marketing these kinds of films to the general public? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) waking up on CUPID DAY which is NOT Valentine’s Day because these super hip and cool teenagers say so… even though it’s celebrated exactly the same way; down to the roses being handed out which I’m sure by any other name would still make this Valentine’s Day. Anyway, she’s going through her day like it was any other; hanging out with her friends Lindsay, Ally, and Elody (Halston Sage, Cynthy Wu, and Medalion Rahimi), dodging the creepy kid who’s been pining after her for years (Logan Miller) and making out with her boyfriend (Kian Lawley) who’s honestly not much of a prize considering the dude wears his baseball cap backwards AT ALL TIMES. Still, thing seem to be going fine in their lives and the four of them go to a party that night at the creepy kids place in celebration of Love Day or whatever the hell this is. Hey, say what you will about his social skills; the dude has an awesome house! The party however turns out to be less awesome because the creepy girl at school Juliet (Elena Kampouris) starts some beef with Samantha’s friend and is swiftly run out of the party by everyone there. Feeling deflated, the four of them leave the party and WHAM! They get in a car crash which… I THINK kills them? Either way, Samantha wakes up the next day… EXCEPT IT’S NOT THE NEXT DAY! She’s stuck in a time loop where she wakes up on the same morning each day and has no idea what it would take to break out of it; if that’s even an option. Can Samantha find a way to escape the purgatory that she’s found herself in? What can she learn by having to repeat the same day over and over again, and is this a wake-up call for her to become a better person? I feel like I’ve seen this in a movie before. Have they done this in a movie before?