Women movies not made for Meryl or Cate

Damsels in pre- or even post-Halloween distress

No One Gets Out Alive official poster

It seems that Netflix has been bankrolling films about women who have to move heaven and earth to survive. The heroines tend to find themselves in difficult and oftentimes precarious situations. Monsters, suicidal spouses, and the Yakuza are just among entities that imperil them. So you’ll forgive them if none of these leading ladies of the 2020s appear unaffected by the pandemic.  Rest assured these female roles weren’t written with Meryl Streep or Cate Blanchet in mind.

No One Gets Out Alive

Cast: Cristina Rodlo. Marc Menchaca
Screenplay by Jon Croker and Fernanda Coppel
Directed by Santiago Menghini

Credit: Netflix/YouTube

A movie best seen on Halloween, No One Gets Out Alive is an all-out horror replete with jump scares, gore, and monsters. It also has an underlying social message.  Undocumented female immigrants are forced to rent rooms for cheap in a dilapidated old building located in a dinghy neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio.

Among the handful of female tenants is Ambar (played by Cristina Rodlo). She had  crossed the border from Mexico in a container van. By day she works in a factory.  When she’s in her rented room, things go bumping in the night. Then a fellow tenant from Eastern Europe suddenly disappears.

Her various struggles in the land of promise—from financial woes to obtaining that elusive fake ID—are  compounded by her unusual  neighbors (supernatural beings) and the building’s unusual amenity (a sacrificial altar).  Of course, her situation is aggravated by the usual clichés. She does the  wrong thing at the crucial moment and does the right thing when it’s already too late.

It’s not memorable but the movie does teach a lesson or two. Undocumented female immigrants are sort of told to beware:  It’s indeed possible for them to look smoking hot in Cleveland, at least to head-eating monsters.  Horror movie buffs will be on Cloud 9. Y Donald Trump tambien.


Cast: Frieda Pinto, Logan Marshall-Green
Screenplay by Christopher Sparling
Directed by Adam Salky

Intrusion official poster

Credit: Netflix/YouTube

Intrusion is about an affluent, childless couple whose perfect existence suddenly becomes hellish, no thanks to an intruder.

Back in the 1980s, they would have been described as a yuppie couple whose idyllic lifestyle is violently disrupted by a seemingly congenial person who turns out to be the congenial person from hell. There were sweet nannies from hell, charming tenants from hell, and the list went on. In this opus, it takes a while for the two leads—and the viewers—to discover who the villain is.

At the start of the movie, viewers are made to witness the young couple’s luxe way of living. They reside blissfully in a sprawling house on the outskirts of a small town in California. She’s a child psychiatrist though she has to deal with a few demons of her own. He’s a hotshot architect so their brand new house is a magnificent showcase.

The mystery here is a cell phone and laptop are the only items missing

The plot gets moving when burglars break into their dream house twice. The mystery here is a cell phone and laptop are the only items missing.

Viewers will be annoyed to learn that the little wife is not as smart as she’s expected to be. She is consistent in making wrong and stupid decisions. She’s also not much of a psychiatrist as she can’t guess who the bad guy is even when she’s with him face-to-face. Well, neurotic children are her specialty. If the intruder had been a kid she’d be on to him.

The couple played by Frieda Pinto and Logan Marshall-Green are supposed to epitomize today’s young and successful American couple.  They’re not always convincing since they somewhat behave more like intruders posing as homeowners.   There is also a lack of chemistry between them. A brief backgrounder on how they fell for each other might have helped their characters.

Intrusion isn’t destined to be a classic but director Adam Salky injects enough suspense and thrills into the film’s last 15 minutes. It’s enough to satisfy fans of this film genre.


Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Woody Harrelson, Miyabi
Screenplay by Umair Aleem
Directed by Cedric Nicholas Troyan

Kate official poster

Credit: Netflix/YouTube

Kate is a neo-noir movie that gets much of its inspiration from the original film noir D.O.A (1950), which was remade in 1988 starring Dennis Quaid. Both movies follow the same plotline;  at the start of the movie, the hero is poisoned, of which there is no antidote. He’s given around two days to live and he uses his remaining time to hunt down the culprit.

In this new version, the lead character is a woman named Kate (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead). She’s an assassin based in Tokyo. She tells her superior (Woody Harrelson) that she intends to retire after one last hit.  But then she gets to drink the poison.  Getting her revenge is no mean feat since the Yakuza seems to be involved.

 Kate suffers from a derivative story. Aside from the poisoning, it traces the same route used by earlier movies about female assassins.   Perhaps to make up for its lack of originality, director Cedric Nicholas Troyan relies on showcasing the impressive art direction. It’s as if the  storyline and action are meant to serve as accents to the sets. Troyan’s minimalist approach also dilutes the desperation of the lead character. Kate plays like a gritless Zen version of Kill Bill.

But there are bits and pieces that make the movie worthwhile. The fight scenes are well-staged and there is a reasonable amount of thrills.  Mary Elizabeth  Winstead is intense in her portrayal. She always seems to be calm and in control though when things get bloodier, viewers root for her.

Tokyo’s dazzling neon lights and cosmopolitan night life provide a startling contrast to the underworld of the Yakuza. This modern city that never sleeps makes the perfect location for today’s neo-noir thrillers.

The Starling

Cast: Melissa McCarthy Chris O’Dowd, Kevin Kline
Screenplay by Mat Harris
Directed by Theodore Melfi

The Starling official poster

Credit: Netflix/YouTube

For the information of those among us who aren’t avid birdwatchers, the starling is a medium-sized bird that can be found in Europe, North America, and certain parts of Asia. The starling in the movie is a gregarious bird that can outmaneuver predators and will attack any creature that it deems a threat to its family. It has built a nest on a huge tree in a residential property in a middle-class neighborhood in the American Northeast.

Unfortunately for the lady in residence (played by Mellissa McCarthy), she is considered a threat by the starling. The bird attempts to attack her whenever she’s outdoors.

This should be the least of the woman’s problems, since she’s mourning the death of her infant from SIDS. The husband (Chris O’Dowd) couldn’t cope. He’s become suicidal and is, therefore, confined in a local mental institute.

Our heroine has to be the family’s strong one. It’s also become her mission to evict the pesky starling from her tree.

Any movie that can make the great Kevin Kline look boring is doomed to bomb

Reportedly, The Starling was on the list of Hollywood’s best unproduced scripts. Whoever came up with that list ought to be exiled to La La Land. The Starling’s script, penned by Mat Harris, belongs to the shredder. Not even the acclaimed director Theodore Melfi, who was lauded for writing and directing Hidden Figures, could save this one. He should have directed something he had written himself.

The movie fails to seamlessly fuse comedy with drama. At one moment, it plays like a sitcom and then it veers into slapstick. Suddenly, it’s so serious. It’s hard to empathize with the trials of the leads when the actors seem to want to remain hidden behind their cute and funny facades.  Even as they try to impart pathos in a scene, viewers aren’t moved. Instead, our tendency is to anticipate the next punch line.

Most problematic of them is the star herself, Melissa McCarthy. Her attempts to impart the suffering of a woman from depression is half-hearted. She seems reluctant to shed her image of a star that shines best in physical comedy. Thus when she finally breaks down and starts hollering at her husband, it still appears she’s still trying to be funny. The tragedy is completely lost in this translation. If I had seen this movie in a real theater, I can imagine the audience laughing nervously.

Also, any movie that can make the great Kevin Kline (as a psychiatrist turned veterinarian) look boring is doomed to bomb. And yes, somewhere in the story there exists a metaphor in the flying creature that plays the title role. But frankly my dears, I don’t care.

Read more:

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The Good Doctor—the Korean original and Hollywood remake go separate ways

Trese—where stars come and go faster than Voltes V

‘Friends’—the sexy Gen-Xers in my living room every week

Cruella: Like an expensive Hollywood tribute to Joey Gosiengfao’s epics

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About author


He is a freelance writer of lifestyle and entertainment, after having worked in Philippine broadsheets and magazines.

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