2023 Movie Reviews: Knock at the Cabin / You People / To Leslie / Amityville in Space

Home invasions, space ghosts, alcoholism and meeting the parents. Really stressful movie week.

Knock at the Cabin

Good or bad, great or terrible, I’m always first in line to see the new M. Night Shyamalan movie, who seems to have finally crawled out of his “possibly the worst filmmaker in America” status he seemed so trapped in during the years between Lady in the Water and the Smith Family Robinson – After Earth. In 2016, he gifted us Split, and while that film wasn’t great and ended terribly, it at least demonstrated that M. Night could still thrill us like he used to back in ’99. While I certainly didn’t love Glass or Old, both were a far cry from the director’s worst efforts. With Knock at the Cabin, he delivers a flawed but overall good movie, the best since his Sixth Sense-Unbreakable-Signs run. It opens spectacularly in fact, with a beautifully creepy Dave Bautista approaching a little girl in the woods with a promise that he’s her friend. He needs her daddies to do something for him, but the little girl isn’t some one-dimensional movie child idiot and quickly senses some shit is up. She runs back to the cabin to tell her two dads played by Mindhunter and Hamilton‘s Jonathan Groff and Spoiler Alert‘s Ben Aldridge. Completely unprepared for shit like this to go on, the house is quickly overtaken by Bautista and his associates, three seemingly normal people who’ve all had visions of what they must do to this family. That’s when Bautista drops the bomb — the world will end if the family doesn’t sacrifice one of its members. Not surprisingly, the two dads think Bautista is completely full of shit and call his bluff to devastating consequences. The most appealing thing about Knock at the Cabin is the strength of the cast with Groff and Aldridge making their characters and their relationship much more complex and interesting than these roles in thrillers typically are. Bautista continues to prove he’s the best wrestler-turned-actor we’ve ever seen, and supporting players like Nikki Amuka-Bird and a damn good Abby Quinn provide great support. However, as the story slowly sheds its ambiguity and reveals itself, it becomes less and less interesting. By the end it’s not that we’re completely checked out or anything, but merely disappointed that the movie ends up being this straightforward. There’s really no twist and the movie is crying out for one. M. Night is certainly a mushy Spielbergian when it comes to his representation of families in movies, and shit gets predictably schmaltzy, but it’s never as ham-fisted as some of his other works. The reason for this is because the cast is selling the shit out of EVERYTHING. It’s allegorical in ways that are neither particularly smart nor insulting to our intelligence, and it becomes clear this isn’t nearly as deep as M. Night thought it would be. However, it must be mentioned that the movie ends on a note that is as subtle as anything Mr. Shyamalan has ever written, clunkily but effectively communicating the conflicting emotions of our central characters. Grade: B (In Theaters)

You People

Sparsely funny and wildly unfocused, Netflix’s new Guess Whose Coming to Dinner riff feels like a chunky blend of three competing narratives, none of which are satisfying – one between Jonah Hill and his fiance, another between Jonah Hill and his fiance’s dad, and the final one and certainly stupidest, one between Jonah Hill and his podcast where he informs you about black culture. Things begin with a not-so-meet-cute between Hill’s Ezra and his future fiance, Amira (Lauren London). Both give adequate performances alone but together, have absolutely zero chemistry. In order for us to care, we need to be invested in this central relationship and the two come off more as work buddies than lovers. Eventually, Ezra meets Amira’s parents played very well by Eddie Murphy and Nia Long (she’s back!). In hands down the best scene of the film, Ezra speed talks his way into a super awkward meal with the two parents. It’s no surprise the majority of this scene made up the first teaser trailer Netflix released for You People, it’s the only good scene of the entire film. From that point there’s few laughs to be had, mostly involving Julia Louis-DreyfussGet Out-liberal mom character. You People is from black-ish creator Kenya Barris, which is surprising because that show is not only funnier but more effective at weaving social commentary into its narrative. You People doesn’t quite know what it’s trying to say and scenes clearly designed for awkward laughs only deliver on the awkward part until we’re left with something that feels more like a bland form of torture than a Netflix comedy. It’s far too ambitious in what it wants to accomplish that I think it skimps on laughs or the simple uncomplicated pleasures a typical forget-it-in-a-week Netflix comedy should provide. It’s not serious enough to be a drama and it’s not funny enough to be a comedy. I also have to mention that it does this bizarre thing where the clear narrative will switch over to improv riffing between two characters that feels jarringly out of place compared to the obviously scripted material. It’s the least organic improv I’ve ever seen outside of a school assembly trying to keep me off drugs. It’s like Barris was like “Matt Walsh! You’re UCB! Just make shit up!” Walsh plays Hill‘s boss and he’s rarely been less funny….let that sink in. Anyway, I found myself increasingly bored as the two hours went on. It’s way overlong, taking what is a 90-minute concept – tops! – and saddling it with an extra 30 minutes of butt and mind numbing padding. I enjoyed the first half hour, was apathetic about the second half hour, was actively disengaged by the third half hour and was bullshitting on my phone for the final half hour. Grade: C- (Netflix)

To Leslie

About thirty seconds into To Leslie, I was already convinced Andrea Riseborough fully deserved her Best Actress Oscar nomination. She plays Leslie, a houseless alcoholic awkwardly drifting from one couch to the next, irreparably damaging every personal relationship along the way. She won the lottery five years ago, but has since blown through all $190,000 of the prize money, leaving her with basically nothing. Over the course of two painful to watch hours, Leslie tries to resolve issues from her past, set up a future for herself and climb the impossible mountain of getting clean. The set-up of To Leslie is pretty straightforward and it doesn’t really offer us anything a dozen other substance abuse dramas haven’t offered us before. However, it works because the film is so entirely built around the character of Leslie that the whole movie rides or dies on the strength of her performance. Riseborough has an uncanny ability to fully engage the audience and keep them on their toes even when the story dovetails into the slow burn sadness of an alcoholic’s typical routine. It’s a performance that’s richly detailed and complex to be sure, but one that also feels so lived in that you’d think you were watching reality television, the saddest and most visceral of it anyway. I feel like I’ve met this woman before, a lot of us have. It’s also no surprise Celebrity Actor Giants like Kate Winslet and Edward Norton rallied behind this performance, it’s exactly the type actors love and are always impressed by – one where the actor makes themselves so vulnerable and cringe-y, the viewer tries to climb out of their own skin. While roughly 95% of To Leslie is built around Risenborough‘s character, the other five or so percent is made up of uniformly strong small performances from the actors playing the poor souls in Leslie’s orbit. Allison Janney is almost unrecognizable as a white-haired biker church lady who was once a close family friend of Leslie’s but now pities and despises her, publicly embarrassing Leslie every chance she gets. Veteran character actor Stephen Root plays her somewhat more understanding husband. Marc Maron, who you might know from his podcast, plays a motel owner who tries to help Leslie to mixed results. He’s a sad sack with a big heart, and it feels like the first role Maron has played that isn’t just a Marc Maron type. Overall this is a good movie elevated by a strong performance. It’s a shame Riseborough is getting so much shit for getting a nomination without spending millions of dollars campaigning. You don’t need to be promised a Gucci gift bag or enjoy a cupcake with Riseborough‘s face on it to realize this is a great performance worthy of a nomination. She’s also a very talented actor on the cusp of becoming a household name. She needs the exposure/boost the nomination will give her more than a Cate Blanchett or a Viola Davis or an Olivia Colman, because make no mistake, she is on the level of those actors, the whole world just doesn’t know it yet. Grade: B ($6.99 rental on VOD)

Amityville in Space

Amityville in Space is the only Amityville Horror movie I’ve ever seen besides the equally terrible Ryan Reynolds remake. Basically, The Amityville Horror was a successful 1979 horror film based on a true story of a Long Island family that went insane/violent cause of ghosts. In a really good 2012 documentary, My Amityville Horror, a lot of these spook house myths get put to rest with the examination of the real life family and the very real and scary allegations of physical and emotional abuse. Now, there are like thirty Amityville movies because I’m assuming the name is free domain or something. Essentially, any one of your neighbors with a videocamera and a dream can make an Amityville movie as seen with some of the recent ones – Amityville in the Hood, Amityville Thanksgiving, Amityville Vibrator (yes, that kind of vibrator) and most hilariously, Amityville Karen, which is about a real Karen moving into a haunted house. This one, Amityville In Space, is about the haunted house shooting itself into space to escape an exorcism. A thousand years pass, and around 3100 A.D., a group of space explorers come across it. They decide to send in their gay robot to check it out first, Vox, the only likable character in the whole stupid movie. When Vox encounters a man in a Party City gorilla mask, everyone back on the spaceship knows the house is fo real fo real haunted and send in reinforcements. From there the story takes some bizarre turns including the house being able to possess people through video transmission, like their version of Zoom. It can also temporarily possess people, but to no real end. Nobody in this movie really has a goal and the motivations of the house are anybody’s guess. It does however get very Christian in the third act when the priest from the beginning of the movie, somehow preserved perfectly within the house floating through space for over 1,000 years, brings the crew a message of God’s love that will be crucial to battling a guy in a Party City gorilla mask. None of this is particularly hilarious and I’ve seen several other bad movies in my life that are significantly more entertaining, but I will say to Amityville in Space‘s credit that it never drags during its 74-minute runtime. Most movies should be this short so maybe Amityville in Space is leading by example. It’s still a massive hunk of dog shit though. Grade: D (Tubi)


10 Best Films of 2022 w/ Honorable Mentions


Avatar: The Way of Water (B-)

Missing (B)

Infinity Pool (B+)


The Whale (B)

Women Talking (C)


Park Chan-wook for his latest film, Decision to Leave

Decision to Leave (A-)

Aftersun (A) – Best Film of 2022

Babylon (C-)


Bones and All (B)

Pearl (B+)

Bodies Bodies Bodies (B-)

Till (B)


All Quiet on the Western Front (C+)

White Noise (C-)

The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker (C+)

The House (B)

RRR (B+)


Empire of Light (D+)

The Banshees of Inisherin (A-)

The Menu (C+)

Barbarian (B+)

Elvis (B)


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (C+)

Werewolf by Night (C)


Black Widow

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (C+)


Crimes of the Future (B-)

Fire Island (B-)

Nightmare Alley (D+)

Spencer (C+)

Pig (A-)



Nope (B+)

Violent Night (B)

Jurassic World: Dominion (D)

The Black Phone (C+)


Tulsa King Season 1 (C)

Jackass Forever (B+)

Candyman (B)

Black Bear (B+)

Saint Maud (B+)


Licorice Pizza (A)

The Northman (B)

A Hero (B+) – Plagiarism Alert!

Lovers Rock (A)

Sound of Metal (A-)


X (B-)

Everything Everywhere All At Once (A-)

Red Rocket (A-)

Pleasure (B)

Bacurau (B+)


The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (B-)

The Father (B+)

Parallel Mothers (A-)

Spider-Man: No Way Home (B)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (C)

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