Now playing – ‘Evil Dead Rise,’ ‘Beau is Afraid,’ ‘Air’

Cesar Soto, Staff Writer

Although there are many fantastic blockbuster films that moviegoers can choose from, there are now some new smaller-scale films out in theaters right now. In this final edition to the “Now playing” series for this semester are spoiler-free reviews for movies that will provide thrilling experiences at a theater near you.

“Evil Dead Rise”

Directed by Lee Cronin, the fifth installment in the Evil Dead franchise is as gory and brutal as ever. In a fast-paced 97 minutes, the horror elements feel right at home with the twisted nature these movies have always had — even if the story and characters leave much to be desired.

The film follows two sisters who reunite after much time apart, until body-possessing demons enter the picture, forcing them to save their family and fight to survive.

To address the main issue first, the plot and the characters fall short in how the movie ultimately plays out. For some, that might not be an issue as it is a horror film designed to scare and entertain. However, it was difficult to care as much about them being in danger and fighting for survival when the film gives us no reason to care for these characters.

Thankfully, Cronin’s excellent understanding of the horror genre and his eye for what makes the franchise as iconic as it is justifies its existence as a bloody good time.

It is a mean and unrelenting movie with its brutality; it holds back no punches and is all the better for it. It was unpredictable as to what would happen to who, when and how, keeping audiences on their toes with its insanity. Most of the film is also set in a smaller location, creating a heightened sense of unease.

Many clever camera tricks and movements pay homage to Sam Raimi’s original “Evil Dead” films, such as how the camera would move through empty spaces to create suspense. This is shown in the opening scene, in particular, with how it sets the film’s tone and also features an excellent title card reveal.

While it was disappointing that the plot made this film more forgettable than it should have been, the film delivers the in-your-face bloodcurdling horror fans are looking for. It viciously serves it up on a silver platter for audiences to cover their eyes, scream and have a great time in the theater.

“Beau is Afraid”

Working with A24 once again, director Ari Aster has established a reputation for traumatizing audiences with “Hereditary” and “Midsommar.” He does the same here in his third feature film, but in entirely distinct ways that, while still difficult to grasp long after finishing the film, feel like a whole different side of the director’s visionary mind.

Aster enlists Joaquin Phoenix to play the titular character Beau, who embarks on an odyssey of sorts through his guilt and anxieties to search for his mother. While this synopsis appears straightforward, the layers to unpack in this film are endless. 

It is absolute chaos from the opening minute, as Aster immerses the audience into Phoenix’s paranoid state of mind. Everything he feels comes to life through terrific production and sound design, making what he feels much more visceral.

Phoenix entirely commits to this role’s challenges for its lengthy three-hour runtime. He transforms himself, both physically and emotionally, in many ways throughout that are impressive to see the Oscar-winning actor take on. 

With its prolonged runtime, however, there are moments throughout that serve questionable purposes and drag the pacing down. Aster deliberately takes his time to be metaphorical and artistic with his filmmaking, but to the point where some may find it pretentious or self-indulgent. 

While not all of his filmmaking choices paid off, there are plenty that will leave an impact on audiences’ minds. One such sequence involves a blend of practical effects and animation that have you doubting its significance at first, but the longer it goes on, the more you are immersed in the story it is telling.

While “Beau is Afraid” is certainly not the first choice if you are looking to solely be entertained at the theater, it is a unique filmgoing experience that will, at minimum, provide you something to take away and think about in your own life. The film’s ability to evoke strong positive or negative emotions is a testament to the power of cinema as an art form.


No matter what you know or how much you care about sneakers or basketball, director Ben Affleck directs the most satisfying crowdpleaser of the year thus far by giftedly telling a story that we already know the outcome of.

Set in 1984, the film tells the story of Sonny Vaccaro, played by Matt Damon, who heads struggling shoe company Nike’s pursuit, against all odds, to sign who would eventually become the most iconic basketball player in history, Michael Jordan.

Knowing how these events pan out places Affleck in a difficult spot as a filmmaker. However, he makes sure that we, as an audience, are still invested in Vaccaro’s pursuit. A zippy pace, the writing’s natural humor and dialogue, along with an incredible ensemble cast, sell all the story’s drama.

The cast not only features Damon and Affleck, but Chris Tucker, Jason Bateman and Chris Messina, who all play real-life sports executives during this time. Viola Davis as Jordan’s mother is the standout, bringing a level of gravitas to the screen that only actresses of her caliber can deliver.

Other creative filmmaking choices involve its 1980s setting, which is captured through costume design and song choices, although the excessive amount of needle drops gets overbearing at times. Affleck also decides not to show Michael Jordan himself in the movie, and when he is more involved in the story, he is shown only from the side or behind his head.

This makes the movie not solely about Jordan, as at that point in time, he was only known as a rookie, but rather about Nike’s pursuit to sign him that would change the sports world forever. How Affleck manages to make this story entertaining, despite the audience already knowing the outcome, is a success for him as a director.

On top of all the great blockbusters that are still playing in theaters today, three more unique moviegoing experiences are now available for you to choose from. Whether you decide to take flight with Nike creating the “Air Jordan,” venture out on a man’s psychological odyssey or fight off flesh-eating demons, you are in for a cinematic treat.

Which of these films was your favorite?


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