M. Night Shyamalan delivers, Damon soars in Stillwater, take a Jungle Cruise

click to enlarge Night Shyamalan's Old
Night Shyamalan's Old

Clever Old delivers

The curse of M. Night Shyamalan's career is that his second film was an instant classic. Fair or not, all the filmmaker's subsequent movies have been compared to The Sixth Sense, a highwater mark he'll likely never top. Still, that's not to say his other films don't have merit, and his latest, Old poses a myriad of intriguing questions regarding how our society looks at aging and disease, while provided a satisfying twist.

Long story short, a group of vacationers find themselves on a secluded beach where they start aging at a frighteningly rapid rate. Kids who are 6 and 8 years old in the morning are approaching middle age once evening rolls around. I'll let you guess the horrors those who start the day in their 40s and 50s experience over the course of the day. The tail that wags the dog in all of Shyamalan's films is the big reveal. Does the ending he has up his sleeve hold water? In this case it does, the conclusion prompting further thought over how far we're willing to go to conquer aging and death, and if we're meant to do so. In theaters.

click to enlarge Tom McCarthy's Stillwater
Tom McCarthy's Stillwater

Damon soars in Stillwater

There's so much right with Tom McCarthy's Stillwater, it seems petty to get hung up on its only mistake. Yet, there's one part of the story that's been bugging me since I've seen it, a nagging narrative misstep that casts a pall on an otherwise excellent production. Matt Damon is Bill Baker, an American ex-pat who's moved to Marseilles to be close to his daughter (Abigail Breslin), who's been imprisoned for killing her roommate. Convinced she's innocent, Baker sets out to gather enough evidence to prove it is so.

Far more than a crime mystery, the film focuses on the relationship that forms between Baker and a French mother and daughter, Virginie (Camille Cottin) and Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), who take him in. Becoming the family he lacks, the bigoted American begins to change, his view of the world and his place in it forever altered. Damon has never been better than he is here, while the poignancy between the three principals help overcome any of the movie's faults. One of the year's best, this one will be remembered at Oscar time. In theaters.

click to enlarge Disney's Jungle Cruise
Disney's Jungle Cruise

Cruise packs big fun

I had more fun with Disney's Jungle Cruise than I thought I would. The sixth feature based on a theme park attraction, it may not contain a single original idea, but it's rollicking entertainment, the very definition of a summer movie that goes down easy, engaging from the first frame to the last. Dwayne Johnson is Frank Wolff, the pun-slinging captain of the decrepit but reliable La Quila, a riverboat that provides tours of the Amazon River in Brazil. The crusty captain is hired by Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her brother, Macgregor (Jack Whitehall), to take them upriver to find the Tears of the Moon, a mythical plant that supposedly has the capability to cure all disease.

It's far from an easy journey as a maniacal German (Jesse Plemons) is on their tail, while they also have to contend with hungry cannibals, vicious piranhas and raging rapids, as well as mystical beings with supernatural powers. Again, nothing original here, but there's an energy that sweeps you away and the chemistry between Johnson and Blunt is so engaging, it makes it all seem fresh. Perhaps a bit too intense for viewers under 8 years old, it's rated PG-13 for a reason. In theaters and streaming on Disney+.

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