9 Movies Like Meg 2: The Trench (2023) On Cineplex Canada

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The concepts of roads not taken and domino effects have received plenty of cinematic attention in their showier forms by way of multiverse comic book movies and dimension-hopping films like Everything Everywhere All At Once. But, though there’s no hint of sci-fi in Past Lives, Celine Song’s gentle film can count itself as one of the best treatments of that universe-spawning question: “what if?”

When her family moves from Seoul to Canada, teenage Na Young bids a loaded farewell to classmate Hae Sung and changes her name to Nora. Years later, they reconnect online and discover the spark still burns between them. This is no idealistic romance, though: Past Lives is told with sober candor. Song acknowledges real obstacles standing in the way of a relationship between the two — those pragmatic (distance) and, more painfully, personal (evolving personalities, American husbands).

Those two threads — unrealized romance and the transmutation of identity that so often takes place after migrating — are expertly entwined in Past Lives to produce a sublime, aching meditation on memory and time, practical love and idealistic romance, and all the complex contradictions that exist in between. That Song communicates so much and so delicately in only her first film makes Past Lives all the more stunning.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: An Min-yeong, Chang Ki-ha, Chase Sui Wonders, Choi Won-young, Emily Cass McDonnell, Federico Rodriguez, Greta Lee, Hwang Seung-eon, Isaac Powell, Jack Alberts, Jane Yubin Kim, John Magaro, Jojo T. Gibbs, Kristen Sieh, Moon Seung-a, Moon Seung-ah, Seo Yeon-woo, Teo Yoo, Yim Seung-min, Yoon Ji-hye

Director: Celine Song

Rating: PG-13

The tired stereotype is that in horror films, it’s always the Black characters who are the first to die. The Blackening turns that on its head and gives us an interesting premise by asking, what if all the characters are Black? While it’s not the first film to do this (in fact, a lot of Black creatives are reclaiming horror and dominating the genre), it just might be the first to tackle the issue in a smart and funny way. This is a ridiculous parody filled with outsized performances and observational jokes, but it’s equally meta and socially aware as it literally (and thankfully) beats the stereotype to its final death. 

 

Genre: Comedy, Horror

Actor: Antoinette Robertson, Dewayne Perkins, Diedrich Bader, George Fisher, Grace Byers, James Preston Rogers, Jay Pharoah, Jermaine Fowler, Melvin Gregg, Sinqua Walls, X Mayo, Yvonne Orji

Director: Tim Story

Rating: R

Seven years after Zootopia, Pixar takes another crack at a racial prejudice metaphor — but, while the analogy is less creaky here, it’s still an awkward one, as diametrically opposed elements like fire and water stand in for human beings. The gaping flaws in its central concept aside, Elemental does wring something compelling out of its story: an exploration of second-generation immigrant guilt.

That might seem like an oddly specific and complex topic for what is ostensibly a kids’ film to grapple with, but this is the Pixar of Soul and Bao, not Finding Nemo and Toy Story. Ember (Leah Lewis) is an anthropomorphized young flame whose parents migrated from their home in Fireland to run a store in the NYC-like melting pot of Element City; she’s keenly aware of the sacrifices they made to give her a better life and believes the only way to repay them is to abandon her own dreams and run their store. This is the one part of Elemental’s metaphor that really lands, but it’s unfortunately sidelined to make way for an inter-elemental romance between Ember and a water-man that only pulls the focus back onto the film’s biggest weakness. Still, its emotional specificity and beautiful animation prevent it from being a total washout.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Alex Kapp, Catherine O'Hara, Joe Pera, Jonathan Adams, Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Mason Wertheimer, Matthew Yang King, P.L. Brown, Ronnie del Carmen, Ronobir Lahiri, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Wilma Bonet

Director: Peter Sohn

, 2023

Set in the quaint city of Burlington, Vermont, Paint is a cute and folksy comedy that has a Wes Anderson-esque charm to it. The characters are dressed in blocked pastels and wooly sweaters, while the protagonist Carl seems stuck in the ‘70s, and not just sartorially, too. He drives a “Vantastic” custom van, swears off cell phones, and manages to incorporate phrases like “far out” in his daily lingo. It all makes for whimsical viewing, but underneath the flair, there’s very little substance holding this picture up. It tells the tale of an aging narcissist who learns the error of his ways when a younger version of himself is hired to aid and eventually replace him. Narratively, it’s familiar and forgettable, and it becomes immediately clear that style is a crutch that the film leans on. It’s funny, at times, thanks to a very likable Wilson and a strong supporting cast (there are occasional laugh-out-loud moments too, like when Carl does the big reveal about his portrait). But ultimately, it’s just too flat to be as special as the art it admires. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Aidan T.K. Baker, Ciara Renée, Colin J. Sweeney, Crystal Tweed, Denny Dillon, Elizabeth Loyacano, Evander Duck Jr., Jen Smedley, Joel Leffert, Kristin Hensley, Lusia Strus, Michael Pemberton, Michaela Watkins, Owen Wilson, Rob Figueroa, Ryan Czerwonko, Ryan Gaul, Sarah Baker, Scott Beehner, Stephen Root, Wendi McLendon-Covey

Director: Brit McAdams

It's a pretty nifty idea to expand on just one section of Bram Stoker's Dracula that's essentially just a footnote but implies something much more violent and horrific. And to its credit, The Last Voyage of the Demeter takes this sliver of the source material very seriously—with strong, period-specific production design and a cast that brings humanity and morality to their otherwise two-dimensional characters. Unfortunately, the film just doesn't know what to do with itself. As a creature feature, the thrills are uninspired and difficult to see properly on screen; as a supposedly character-driven horror movie, it only ever gestures toward deeper ideas but fails to give the tragic nature of its story any weight. And Dracula himself has none of the terror or the sophistication that has made him such an enduring figure throughout all of fiction. He's just a thing with wings.

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Adam Shaw, Aisling Franciosi, Chris Walley, Christopher York, Corey Hawkins, David Dastmalchian, Graham Turner, Javier Botet, Jon Jon Briones, Liam Cunningham, Malcolm Galea, Martin Furulund, Nicolo Pasetti, Nikolai Nikolaeff, Noureddine Farihi, Sally Reeve, Stefan Kapičić, Vladimir Cabak, Woody Norman

Director: André Øvredal

Yet another drama designed to be emotional without actually doing the heavy lifting to get us invested, Prisoner's Daughter takes the easy way out at every turn, mistaking its use of capital-I Issues and dramatic plot points for substantial writing. This doesn't mean that the film itself isn't still watchable and competently performed (by a typically strong Brian Cox, but especially by Kate Beckinsale); it just fails to make a statement about any of its disparate parts mashed together. At the end of the day, it feels as if the film doesn't have enough faith in the already complex and difficult relationship at its center, so it attempts to dress it up with prison, cancer, drug addicts, and epilepsy—which only cheapens what's already there.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Brian Cox, Christopher Convery, Chuti Tiu, Cinthia Moura, Ernie Hudson, Jon Huertas, Kate Beckinsale, Mark Kubr, Mark Oliver Everett, Tyson Ritter, Yonel Dorelis

Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Rating: R

A movie based on a theme park ride is always going to be a marketing exercise, but what’s remarkable about Haunted Mansion is how uninterested it is in even pretending to be anything more. Amazon, Yankee Candle, CVS, Baskin Robbins, Burger King: you could fill a mall with the list of brands shamelessly name-dropped in the movie. Gallingly, the cast are even forced to do double duty as brand ambassadors during some of the movie’s most determined efforts at poignancy — oof.

Not even an ensemble featuring the comedic-dramatic chops of LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito, Owen Wilson, and Chase Dillon (the best of the bunch) can make such naked cash-grabs feel organic. What’s more, though, Haunted Mansion depressingly asks so little of its cast that there aren’t really any opportunities for them to counterbalance these embarrassing moments with anything approaching compelling. Adding to its struggles are the mansion’s sludgy color palette (which renders every scene unremarkable, no matter how moving or spooky it’s supposed to be) and the fact that it somehow feels rushed even at an overlong two hours. Though you can appreciate director Justin Simien’s efforts at elevating the material into something coherent, Haunted Mansion feels as lifeless as the ghosts that fill it.

Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Alisa Harris, Amy Parrish, Andrew Morgado, Anthony Burrell, Arielle Prepetit, Ashley John, Ben Bladon, Bryan McClure, Chad Crumley, Charity Jordan, Charles Black, Chase W. Dillon, Christopher Winchester, Clarence White III, Creek Wilson, Cruz Abelita, Dan Levy, Danny DeVito, Derrick James Moss, Don Stallings, Edward Zhu, Elisabeth Lagrande, Erika Coleman, Erion Brandon WIlliams, Fedor Steer, Glendon Ray Hobgood, Gralen Bryant Banks, Hasan Minhaj, Helene Henry, Ian Covell, J.R. Adduci, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jared Leto, Jared Simon, Jo Koy, John Curran, Kailie Sanders, Kamran Shaikh, Kat Montes, Kathi Callahan, Kay Galvin, Kurt Yue, Lakeith Stanfield, Lindsay Lamb, Lorenzo Beronilla, Lumar Christopher Leblanc III, Marcus Otis Hubbard, Marilu Henner, Mike Benitez, Nico Gomez, Owen Wilson, Paul Michael Robertson, Rick Andosca, Rosario Dawson, Rowan Joseph, Sebastien Soudais, Steve Zissis, Terence Mathews, Terence Rosemore, Tiffany Haddish, Tony Paone, Tracy Goode, William Calvert, Winona Ryder

Director: Justin Simien

Rating: PG-13

While at first it seems like this third installment in Antoine Fuqua's series of Denzel Washington star vehicles is setting itself up to be a more serious and thoughtful story of personal absolution, it gradually becomes clear that The Equalizer 3 has no story to tell. Very, very little happens in this movie, and all the time we spend with Washington (still somehow compelling, even when he's on autopilot) drinking tea and chatting with locals doesn't lead to any character relationships worth caring for. Fuqua and screenwriter Richard Wenk seem to want to create a sense of familiarity with this Italian town, through which we should ideally see the things Robert McCall grows to value in his violent life. But even the prettiest landscapes (shot by Robert Richardson) can't make up for how empty and misjudged the writing is.

There are approximately two short action scenes in The Equalizer 3, neither of which has the clockwork precision of the fights in the first film, or the environmental inventiveness of the climax of the second film. And while an action movie can aspire to something beyond its action, the fact that this installment has abandoned it completely is a genuinely perplexing choice.

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Adolfo Margiotta, Agostino Chiummariello, Andrea Dodero, Andrea Scarduzio, Arcangelo Iannace, Bruno Bilotta, Dakota Fanning, Danilo Capuzi, David Denman, Denzel Washington, Diego Riace, Eugenio Mastrandrea, Gaia Scodellaro, Gianluigi Scilla, Giovanni Scotti, Lucia Zotti, Marco Giuliani, Marta Zoffoli, Mauro Cremonini, Melissa Leo, Niccolò Senni, Remo Girone, Salvatore Ruocco, Sonia Ammar, Valerio Da Silva

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Rating: R

Despite a solid premise that should lead to compelling drama—about men scarred by war and the morally grey inner workings of the police—Confidential Informant devolves into a half-baked thriller that's as dull as its title. Flat direction, a lack of connective tissue between scenes, and an unfortunately visible lack of production resources suck the life out of the script and from the actors' performances. There's clearly a foundation to be built upon here, but the film makes a crucial mistake in trying to have its cake and eat it too: it wants to deliver all the (unsatisfying) thrills of an antihero police procedural, but it just doesn't have the money or the creativity to do this, on top of being a character drama. And so any tension that it tries to build up deflates by the end, its characters nothing but hollow shells, stuck in a story that that never gives them a chance to be anything more interesting.

Genre: Action, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Arielle Raycene, Dominic Purcell, Erik Valdez, Jon Lindstrom, Kate Bosworth, Meadow Williams, Mel Gibson, Nick Stahl

Director: Michael Oblowitz

Rating: R