"Shadow in the Cloud"
1 star(s), 83 minutes, streaming
Sometimes, you stumble across a movie that’s just so outlandish, so what-the-frak ridiculous, that you secretly want it to be great, or at least, the new poster-child for batshit bonkers genre cinema.
“Shadow in the Cloud” could have been that movie with a little tweaking and a little tinkering. As it stands, though, instead of being the epitome of so-bad-it’s-good, it’s an early candidate for worst movie of 2021.
Co-written with Max Landis (“Chronicle,” “American Ultra”), the sophomore feature from director Roseanne Liang wants to ride the coattails of recent high-octane, female-fronted movies by telling the story of Maude Garrett (Chloë Grace Moretz), a World War II pilot and airplane mechanic, who finagles her way onboard a B-17 Flying Fortress with a secret package only to encounter a creature straight out of folklore that threatens to upend the B-17’s secret mission.
Don’t be fooled. “Shadow in the Cloud” is a faux feminist fable.
Instead of making Garrett smarter and more capable than the all-male squadron of soldiers, Landis and Liang instead make a mockery of her "We Can Do It!" gumption. In fact, “Shadow in the Cloud” may be one of the most misogynistic movies in recent memory. Seriously, the consistent insults and barbs lobbed at Garrett by the crew speed past tiresome and cliché early on, eventually arriving at offensive and repugnant.
But that’s not even the worst thing about “Shadow in the Cloud.” No, that honor is reserved for two late in the third act reveals, both of which are so dumb that they literally hurt your brain, and the many ways that the film asks viewers to suspend all logic and belief, particularly when Garrett is hanging upside down outside of the B-17 as it is in flight in the middle of a vicious dogfight with enemy planes while she tries to save her infant child (?!?) from a malicious gremlin (?!?) that wants to crash the aircraft.
If only Landis and Liang had a sense of humor. If only Garrett had been allowed to shout, “I’ve had it with the motherfucking gremlins on this motherfucking plane!” If only, then this might have been good.
2 star(s), 82 minutes, DVD and streaming
“Girl,” the debut thriller from actor-turned-director Chad Faust, is not without its moments, but the reality is that those fleetingly few sequences amount to a fraction of his film’s runtime. The rest of “Girl,” a bizarre backwoods revenge saga that plays like a mashup of “John Wick” and “Sling Blade,” moves at a glacial pace, punctuated by a series of increasingly uncomfortable close-ups on co-star Mickey Rourke’s macabre visage.
That’s right, Rourke is the big name in the cast, followed by Bella Thorne in the titular role as an unnamed young woman who travels to a dying shit-stain of a town to kill her abusive, absentee father before he can make good on a recent threat mailed to her mother. The big problem, as she discovers: Someone’s already tortured and killed him. “Who did this to you?” Girl asks, looking at his body. “I was going to do this to you.”
Thorne mumbles her way through what little dialogue Faust wrote, hiding her face behind a mop of greasy hair. Her main defining feature is the hatchet she brought with her to chop up her dad. Rourke, the sheriff of the shithole town, has a big secret that most viewers will figure out well before his mustache-twirling soliloquy where he spills the beans.
2 star(s), 100 minutes, Streaming
“Happy Face,” a curious Canadian dramedy about the way society treats people with facial deformities, is garnering all kinds of buzz. Not for nothing, the film has a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, which has become a key cog in its marketing.
And while there’s some merit to its positive reviews, the reality is that “Happy Face,” as well-intentioned as it is, suffers from an uneven script and too many subplots, which effectively neuter the overall message of acceptance, self-worth and self-love at its core.
I’m not saying you won’t benefit from watching “Happy Face,” particularly if you struggle with self-confidence and find yourself gun-shy whenever a stranger stares too long in your direction, but given the choice between spending an hour talking to a professional or nearly two hours watching this movie, I would turn off the TV and schedule a Zoom consultation.
1 star(s), 99 minutes, Blu-Ray, DVD and streaming
Eventually, maybe not in our lifetime, but some day, Liam Neeson will be offered a different character to play that isn’t hemmed in and constrained by the same action tropes that have become his go-to norm.
In “Honest Thief,” he plays Tom Dolan, a crackerjack bank robber who goes in and cleans out vaults when no one is at the financial institution to stop him. After meeting a special lady (Kate Walsh), who might just be the one, Neeson decides to go to the FBI and turn himself in, wagering that the fact that his crimes are without violence might grant him some leniency from a judge. Because this is a Liam Neeson action movie, however, the FBI agents are crooked as hell, harass his love interest and steal his stash of cash, which means Mister Wherever You Are, I Will Come For You is forced to spring into action to save his gal and beat the rap.
Just don’t even bother. In fact, just turn on TNT or USA Network or any other cable network that plays mostly movies and watch “Taken” again.
12 Hour Shift
4 star(s), 86 minutes, Blu-Ray, DVD and streaming
Brea Grant’s electrifying and subversively slick medical thriller, “12 Hour Shift,” finally arrives on home media after a rousing festival run.
I’ve talked about “12 Hour Shift” before, and I will tell you once again, if you love dark, twisted, original stories peppered with gallows humor, this movie needs to be at or near the top of your must-see list.
Angela Bettis is perfection as Mandy, a caustic registered nurse who spends her hospital shifts harvesting organs from terminal patients to sell to a local scumbag (Mick Foley), but the real discovery here is Chloe Farnworth as Mandy’s distant cousin by marriage Regina, who is tasked with transporting the organs. Regina is so ditzy and self-absorbed that she’s like a human version of Dug the pooch in “Up” who loses his shit whenever someone says ‘Squirrel!’
Go, now, and seek out “12 Hour Shift.” You can thank me later.
John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and Babes.com, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.
Support local journalism in these crazy days. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you up to the minute news on how Coronavirus is affecting Tampa and surrounding areas. Please consider making a one time or monthly donation to help support our staff. Every little bit helps.
Subscribe to our newsletter and follow @cl_tampabay on Twitter.