Amazon Prime review: Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects” (2013)

“Imagine everything you ever wanted shows up one day and calls itself your life. And, then, just when you start to believe in it… gone. And, suddenly, it gets very hard to imagine a future… that’s depression.”

If you don’t know what to watch next, Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects (2013) is available on Amazon Prime. The psychological thriller stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum. The filmmaker also cinematographed as well as edited the production.

After the release of her husband, Martin (Tatum), from a four-year prison sentence for insider trading, Emily Taylor (Mara) attempts suicide by crashing her car into the wall of a parking garage.

Doctor Jonathan Banks (Law), her assigned psychiatrist, prescribes her an experimental new antidepressant called Ablixa at the urging of her previous psychoanalyst, Doctor Victoria Siebert (Zeta-Jones).

When the side effects prove to be deadly, Doctor Banks finds his personal and professional reputation on the line.

Side Effects is Soderbergh’s masterstroke.

His filmography represents a range of genres, but an antiestablishment thematic stance (anti-corporate America in Erin Brockovich (2000), anti-DEA in Traffic (2000), anti-CDC in Contagion (2011), and anti-private insurance in Unsane (2018)) unites much of his work.

Side Effects takes on big pharma with an aesthetical style like only Soderbergh could be inspired by elegant muse Zeta-Jones to construct, as keen as the mise-en-scene in his Ocean’s series.

But it is Mara out of whom Soderbergh directs the performance of a lifetime. As mind-bending a character as Kim Novak in Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), Emily Taylor is a devastation for anyone who’s ever suffered from mental illness.

It is a sensitive, understated, multifaceted work of dramatic art.

But the film is almost a note-for-note twin to Phil Joanou’s Final Analysis (1992).

The Hitchcockian neo-noir thriller stars Richard Gere as a psychiatrist who meets a woman (Kim Basinger) through a patient (Uma Thurman), only to be caught up in the middle of a tumultuous marriage with her husband (Eric Roberts), to the doctor’s detriment.

If it feels like you’re seeing double, that’s because you are.

What Side Effects lacks in originality, though, it makes up for in quality – it is an evolution of Final Analysis, rather than a rip-off.

There is only so much wiggle room according to the generic conventions of the thriller – the goal is a single reaction, which is to thrill – and Side Effects is thrilling.

It is as thrilling for the critic to deconstruct as it is for the audience to be entertained by it, and that is what makes it the director’s magnum opus.

“The Guardian” takes a look back at Brian De Palma’s “Dressed to Kill” (1980)

The Guardian critic Erik Morse was twelve years old when he saw a heavily edited version of Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill (1980) for the first time on late-night television. According to Morse, in the decade before the film started appearing regularly on cable as well as video rentals, the Italian “giallo,” the genre from which De Palma borrows most heavily, had been followed up by low-budget slashers and erotic thrillers. Morse writes, “Dressed to Kill’s kaleidoscopic atmosphere – its watery, soft-focus lens, garish colour palette and flashy, optical tricks such as slow-motion, mirrored surfaces, split screens and dioptres – was a feast for my languorous, pre-teen senses.”

Governor of California Gavin Newsom will release guidelines Monday to resume film and television production

After meeting with a panel of five filmmakers yesterday, California Governor Gavin Newsom has announced he will issue guidelines Monday for film and television companies to resume production in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to The Mercury News. Among those sitting on the panel were director-producer Ava DuVernay, as well as Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. DuVernay, who lost a family member and a crew member to COVID-19, says the quarantine has had positive impacts on the filmmaking process, such as virtual writers rooms, in addition to fewer cast and crew crowding together on sets.

Warner Bros. Pictures will “#ReleaseTheSnyderCut” to HBO Max

After more than two years of campaigning on social media under the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, fans of the DC Extended Universe will get to stream the director’s cut of Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2017) on HBO Max in 2021, according to Fox Business. During the production of the film – which stars Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne, uniting some of the world’s most famous characters to face an apocalyptic threat – Snyder’s daughter committed suicide, forcing him to leave the production while Joss Whedon reportedly reshot the movie. Snyder told The Hollywood Reporter today, “You probably saw one-fourth of what I did.”

A look back at Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” (1989)

Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) – written as well as produced by the filmmaker, and starring Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, John Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson, and Lee himself – is one of the greatest films of all time, according to Far Out Magazine. Regardless, the racially charged release was only nominated in two categories at that year’s Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay), winning neither. Some critics said the movie could “incite black audiences to riot,” to which Lee responded, “I don’t remember people saying people were going to come out of theatres killing people after they watched Arnold Schwarzenegger films.”

“The Guardian” ranks the “Alien” films

In celebration of Alien Day in April, The Guardian critic Ben Child ranked the eight films in the classic science fiction series from worst to best. Beginning with Paul W. S. Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator (2004) as well as Colin and Greg Strause’s Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) tied for last, Child argues James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) surpasses Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) as the greatest installment in the saga. Child writes, “Final mention, however, goes to Scott’s original Alien… At the time, there had simply been no more terrifying movie ever made by Hollywood, while [Sigourney] Weaver delivered a career-making performance.”

Luca Guadagnino to direct “Scarface” remake with Coen Brothers script

Luca Guadagnino, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture for producing his Call Me By Your Name (2017), is set to direct a remake of Scarface written by the Coen Brothers, according to The Guardian. Howard Hawks directed the 1932 original starring Paul Muni, while Brian De Palma directed the 1983 version starring Al Pacino. Back in 2011, Martin Bergman, who produced De Palma’s Scarface, was named as a producer for the remake, with David Yates lined up to direct a screenplay by David Ayer, until Bergman died in 2018 and Dylan Clark, producer of Matt Reeves’s The Batman (2021), took over.

Hayao Miyazaki’s new film has years left of animation to complete

Since Hayao Miyazaki announced in 2016 he was coming out of retirement to follow up The Wind Rises (2013) with How Do You Live?, Studio Ghibli producer and general manager Toshio Suzuki says a team of sixty animators finished thirty-six minutes of film, according to IndieWire. This is compared to Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro (1988), which took eight animators eight months to complete; Suzuki says at one minute of hand-drawn animation per month and twelve minutes’ worth of movie a year, How Do You Live? will be done in three years. It is an adaptation of Yoshino Genzaburo’s 1937 coming-of-age tale.

A 98-year-old Betty White will star in a new Lifetime holiday film

Lifetime unveiled this year’s “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime” holiday film lineup, which includes a movie starring a ninety-eight-year-old Betty White, according to CBS News. In the movie, White will play a character who “helps whip would-be Santas into shape, spreading the true meaning of Christmas,” which leads the rest of the cast to wonder if she’s secret Mrs. Claus. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the twenty-eight holiday pictures are all in various stages of production, with the first set to premiere October 25 – Marie Osmond, Kelly Rowland, Melissa Joan Hart, as well as Mario Lopez will also appear in their own titles.

“The Guardian” runs a retrospective for Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2” (1963)

Pamela Hutchinson, writing for The Guardian, reviewed Federico Fellini’s (1963) after seeing it for the first time. According to Hutchinson, Fellini’s surrealist comedy-drama about a creatively blocked filmmaker named Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) is inspired by the director’s own… well… lack of inspiration and it is “an easy film to admire from the off… fluid and dreamlike.” However, Hutchinson takes issue with the film’s representation of Guido’s mistress, wife, and star, “mostly buxom and/or bothersome,” who appear in one of his fantasies as a harem of women who bathe him like an infant until he attacks them with a whip.