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Articles by Diana Beechner

A clever premise and charming leads make the year’s best Halloween scare
      Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe: Tater Tot & Patton) has a terrible birthday. She wakes in a geek’s room after a night of drinking. She’s late to class. A glass of chocolate milk is spilled on her head. Then she’s brutally murdered. 
     Good thing she gets to wake up to try the day over. And over, as she dies each new day. Finally, she decides to stop her serial killer dead.
     As Tree investigates the many people who might want to kill her, she starts learning. She develops fighting skills; plans ways to turn the table on her killer; and tries not to act like a garbage person. 
     Can Tree change for the better? Or is she doomed to be murdered for all eternity? 
     Clever, funny and entertaining, Happy Death Day is a tasty piece of Halloween candy for horror fans. Director Christopher Landon (Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to this slasher version of Groundhog Day, focusing on comedy rather than terror. 
     There are jump scares galore, but nothing about Happy Death Day is truly terrifying. Even Tree rolls her eyes each time her killer — wearing the worst baby mask ever — tracks her down. 
     Snappy writing and two fantastic performances make the movie work. 
     Rothe is charismatic enough to pull off bad behavior without making the audience hate Tree. Nor does Rothe push the redemption arc too hard, allowing Tree to fix her more egregious behavior while retaining the sass that makes her fun. Her transition from terrified victim to daring heroine is deeply satisfying.
     As the nerd who helps her figure out the rules of her repeating day, Israel Broussard (Say You Will) is both charming and earnest. Unlike Tree, Broussard’s Carter doesn’t retain memories when the day resets. It’s hilarious to watch Tree recruit Carter to her cause in increasingly odd ways. 
     Entertaining as it is, Happy Death Day is far from perfect. Beyond the clever gimmick, the plot is standard. You’ll also figure out the identity of the murderer long before Tree and Carter do. Still, it’s easy to join the cast and crew in sheer fun. 
Good Slasher/Comedy • PG-13 • 96 mins. 
 
New this Week
 
The Florida Project
     Six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) lives in a motel next to Disney World. Left on her own day after day by her well-meaning but neglectful mother, Moonee has only the harried motel manager (Willem Dafoe) to look after her. 
     Director Sean Baker is known for capturing slice-of-life stories in unexpected places. His filming style, which has included shooting on iPhones, makes his stories seem more like documentaries than works of fiction. 
     See it for Baker’s style, Prince and Dafoe’s rave performances and a story of how the innocence of childhood can make even the direst circumstances an adventure.
Prospects: Bright • R • 115 mins.
 
Geostorm
     In the near future, a network of satellites controls the weather and forestalls natural disasters. When the system goes down, all hell breaks loose.
     Tornadoes swarm across the plains. Tidal waves surge into major cities. Hail the size of small cars batters the population.
     A climatologist, a secret service agent and a nerd team up to stop these disasters by kidnapping the president.
     After a horrific hurricane season, Geostorm might seem relevant. It is not. This is a big-budget shlock fest that embarrasses its actors. Plus, effects look reused from the equally loathsome disaster flick 2012. 
Prospects: Disastrous • PG-13 • 109 mins.
 
Only the Brave
     As the Granite Mountain Hotshots battle the flames on Yarnell Mountain, the men think about the reasons they risk their lives to protect others. 
     Based on the true and tragic tale and featuring A-list talent including Jennifer Connelly, Josh Brolin, Jeff Daniels and Miles Teller, this movie should be both tearjerker and excellent drama. 
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 133 mins.
 
The Snowman
     When snow blankets a small town, there’s more to fear than frigid temperatures. A serial killer known as the Snowman emerges from hibernation to dismember women. 
     Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) teams up with a promising young recruit to finally trap the Snowman.
     This Scandinavian noir has all the components of a great thriller: bleak landscapes, isolation and good actors. Will the script go beyond a moody aesthetic and grotesque murders to make us care about the characters? 
Prospects: Flickering • R • 119 mins.
 
Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea ­Halloween
     The newest entry in Perry’s wildly popular franchise has Madea (Tyler Perry) and her friends venturing into a haunted campground on Halloween. As ghosts and ghouls attack, the crew must fight or flee. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 101 mins.