Violent Night (2022)

Decking the halls…..and the crooks!

David Harbour pounds, punches, slashes, slices, and dices his way through director Tommy Wirkola’s Violent Night. In the film, Harbour portrays Santa Claus, THE Santa Claus, who finds himself caught in the middle of a hostage situation involving a greedy family, an even greedier gang of villains, and a young girl who still believes in Santa and the magic of Christmas. After initially planning to skip out on the affair, Santa Claus decides to help the young girl, Trudy (Leah Brady), and her family. What ensues is a ton of holly jolly violence.

All of the villains in the film use handles like Krampus, Tinsel, Gingerbread, and Frosty. The group is headed up by Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo), who plans to take the Lightstone family hostage, break into the family safe, and run off with three million dollars in cash. His plan initially works like a charm, but when Santa arrives, things begin falling apart. Santa’s first few interactions with the mercenaries are clumsy and feature a lot of lucky breaks for Santa. As the villains become more dangerous, Santa Claus draws on his bloody past as a Viking warrior and uses “the bad things that he did for good” with a little help from Trudy.

Aside from Trudy and, to a lesser degree, her separated parents, the Lightstone family is just as unlikable as the villains in the film. Beverly D’Angelo turns in a wicked performance as Gertrude Lightstone, the family matriarch. Alex Hassell and Alexis Louder portray Jason and Linda Lightstone, Trudy’s parents. Edi Patterson plays Jason’s sister, Alva, and Cam Gigandet plays her Hollywood actor boyfriend, Morgan Steel. Alexander Elliot play’s Alva’s son, Bertrude “Bert” Lightstone. He’s an annoying, entitled social media influencer who actually gets some solid laughs in this film.

The film mixes brutal violence involving everything from guns and woodchippers to snowballs and Christmas tree stars. Santa is also very fond of a sledgehammer that he finds in a shed on the property. The special effects appear to be primarily practical with a few CGI moments thrown in when it comes to some of Santa’s more magical moments. It’s a funny and brutal flick and I honestly believe that it will become an adult Christmas classic.

If you enjoy overly violent films that are loaded with action, comedy, and even a little bit of heart, Violent Night is definitely a must-see film. It’s a well written and executed film and I hope that a sequel comes along in the near future.

Thanks for checking out my review. Give Violent Night a look. I think that you’ll enjoy it!

Torn Hearts (2022)

Abby Quinn (L) and Alexxis Lemire in Torn Hearts (2022).

“Atone.”

Katey Sagal gives a commanding performance and carries the rest of the cast in 2022’s Torn Hearts. The film is a Blumhouse production written by Rachel Koller Croft and directed by Brea Grant. Along with Sagal (Married…With Children, Sons Of Anarchy) are Abby Quinn (Knock At The Cabin), Alexxis Lemire (The Half Of It, Truth Or Dare), and Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project). In the film, Quinn and Lemire play Jordan Wilder and Leigh Blackhouse, a country duo known as Torn Hearts, who are looking for their big break. When an opportunity to pick the brain of (and possibly work with) Harper Dutch, one half of the iconic Dutchess Sisters, falls in Jordan’s lap, she and Leigh arrive unannounced at Harper’s home. As they begin working with Harper, the pair find themselves battling Harper and each other for a shot at fame in a twang-filled thriller of a film.

Katey Sagal as Harper Dutch.

This film had so much potential. Sure, the desire for fame and glory isn’t anything new, but weaving it into a horror film with country music as a backdrop is pretty unique if you ask me. What drags the film down, however, will vary depending upon everything from your knowledge of 90’s country music to the performances of two of the three female leads in the film. For me, hearing the Torn Hearts belt out nasally modern country twang was brutal. Thankfully that only happens in the beginning of the film. The supposed 90’s country music by the Dutchess Sisters, Hope and Harper Dutch, sounds more like country-politan 80’s country with modern lyrics. I was able to look beyond these miscues, however, and tried to enjoy the rest of the film (which does include a very beautiful acapella song by Harper and Torn Hearts). I also have to say that even though the Dutchess Sisters were sisters, their rise to fame eerily mirrors the real country duo of Naomi and Wynonna Judd, a mother/daughter duo for those not in the know. Considering the untimely suicide of Naomi earlier this year, the film was a tad bit more unnerving for me than it may be for others.

The three female leads in the film varied in their performances. Abby Quinn does a very good job at being the workhorse half of Torn Hearts. It was nice to watch her struggle emotionally as Jordan tries to come to terms with the fact that she’s the songwriter and musician of the duo and not the pretty star of the show that Alexxis Lemire’s Leigh was destined to be on the country music scene. Lemire’s performance was a little bit light in my opinion, but she didn’t derail the film. Katey Sagal was a juggernaut in this film. She looks, talks, and acts like a beaten down former country star who is falling apart at the seams. Her performance was unhinged, devilish, and brilliant. Plus, even as a deranged former country singer knocking on seventy years she looks sexy. I have to admit that. She carried this film.

What keeps Torn Hearts from being an all around winner of a horror film is that it just isn’t that scary. Sure, the point of the film is to show you what lengths people will go to in order to become famous, but there are no real moments of terror in this film. It’s more like mild suspense thriller that just downed a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. Brea Grant keeps things moving at a decent pace but Rachel Koller Croft’s story lacks the teeth that it desperately needed to make it a better film.

Brea Grant, director.

Torn Hearts is a decent little film that has more hits than misses in it. Unfortunately, the misses add up just enough to keep this film from being better. Katey Sagal takes up the slack and keeps the film interesting. It’s not a must-see film, but I don’t think that you’ll regret watching it.

Thanks for checking out my post. See you again soon!

In Defense Of Morbius (2022)

Honestly, Morbius Doesn’t Suck

When Sony/Columbia/Marvel released Morbius earlier this year, there were a ton of poor reviews about the film. Critics and fans alike bashed the origin story saying that it was just another generic superhero movie. They accused it of everything from having a paper-thin plot and dull characters to bad CGI and direction. Then there were folks like this guy who pulled out every ten dollar word that they could come up with to drive home the point of just how much this film sucked. Memes making fun of the film apparently drove Sony to erroneously re-release the movie because they thought that people enjoyed the movie. Yep, the cool kids pulled a fast one on Sony and the critics proved that they had a superior vocabulary.

Me? I don’t get any of the hate…..none of it.

Was the film really that bad? No, it wasn’t. I’m not saying that it was perfect or worthy of an award, but it wasn’t “lifeless,” “toothless,” “soulless,” “Frankensteined,” or “input generic horror/vampire/Universal Monsters reference here.” It was just okay. It was a standard comic book origin story where we get a little bit of background on the hero and the villain, witness the moment that both are “created,” and then see them square off in a CGI-laden battle to finish the film.

Despite the generic plot, director Daniel Espinosa manages to move it all along at a nice clip that doesn’t get boring. He breezes through Dr. Morbius’ youth, establishes our soon-to-be-bloodsucker as a sympathetic character, and then tosses the villain in at just the right moment to keep the pace on the high end. Jared Leto (Morbius), Adria Arjona (Dr. Bancroft), Jared Harris (Dr. Nicholas), and Tyrese Gibson (Stroud) all give solid performances. Al Madrigal (Rodriguez) injects just a hint of humor into the film. Matt Smith hams it up big time as Milo/Lucien, also injecting a little humor into an otherwise serious film.

The CGI was obvious at many points in the film, but thanks to the primarily dark scenes, it doesn’t stick out as poorly as it does in films like Avengers: Endgame or any recent Marvel offerings. It didn’t bother me when the CGI was noticeable. I especially enjoyed how the CGI was used with Morbius’ movements (streamer-styled trails behind him while he was in motion) and his echolocation power. I also really, really loved the music for the film composed by Jon Ekstrand. It’s some of the best music for a Marvel property that I’ve heard in a long time.

As I already mentioned, the film is pretty generic for a superhero movie and this definitely hurts it overall. Milo is something of a thin villain and his final battle with Morbius ends on a soft note, but he provides our hero with the catalyst he needs to become the “good guy” despite being a bloodthirsty monster. There are a few misfires plotwise such as the fact that Dr. Morbius has lunch in public and freely walks around the city despite having his face plastered all over the news as being wanted for murder. There are also plenty of throw away characters in the film who are used for nothing more than to build a body count. I also wish that the film went for an “R” rating instead of “PG-13,” as there was almost no blood or gore in the film.

Morbius isn’t perfect. It isn’t terrible, either. If that means I’m not one of the cool kids because I won’t bash the film then I guess I’m not one of the cool kids. That’s okay, I’ve never been one of the cool kids to begin with, so I’m pretty sure that I’ll survive just fine. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say that I enjoyed this film more than Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. It had more genuine horror elements in it that weren’t forced and a more believable villain. It also had a much needed serious tone, which is something that has been missing from the MCU for far too long. Also, the supposedly confusing mid-credits scenes weren’t that bad. All they do is establish the fact that the multiverse exists in Morbius’ world and he may or may not get to team up with one of the MCU’s best villains in Vulture. If you’re confused by that, you’ve got a long and difficult journey in front of you with the MCU.

To drive home the point that Morbius isn’t as bad as the naysayers want you to believe, it’s currently the number one film on Netflix. Why? Perhaps morbid curiosity is driving streamers to watch the film? Maybe they wanted to see the film in theaters but decided against it due to the poor reviews? COVID-19 might have kept many would-be filmgoers from checking it out at the cinema because they deemed the film unworthy of potential exposure to the virus? No matter the reason, Morbius is finally finding an audience, and I hope to see him back on the big screen in another film either as a villain or a hero.

Thanks for reading my post. I’m sure that there are plenty of you that disagree with me on this film, so let me have it in the comments section. See you again real soon!

Day Shift (2022)

DAY SHIFT. (L to R) Dave Franco as Seth and Jamie Foxx as Bud in Day Shift. Cr. Parrish Lewis/Netflix © 2022

“Mowing down vamps with my best friend, Bud.”

Jamie Foxx, Snoop Dogg, and Dave Franco team up to take down Karla Souza in J.J. Perry’s Day Shift. In the film, available only on Netflix, Foxx portrays Bud Jablonski, a down-on-his-luck vampire hunter who gets Big J (Snoop Dogg) to convince the vampire hunting union to reinstate him so that he can collect enough fangs to pay off his daughter’s school tuition and get her fitted for braces so that she and his estranged wife won’t move to Florida. Despite numerous past violations, the union boss, Ralph (Eric Lange) allows Bud back into the union but only if he hunts with a union representative watching his every move. That representative, Seth (Dave Franco), has to tag along for all of Bud’s hunts despite never having stepped foot out of the union office.

The duo soon find themselves the target of Audrey San Fernando (Karla Souza), an ambitious vampire that plans to take over the city by using real estate to build a vampire community. As the hunters become the hunted, Bud and Seth battle it out with Audrey and a number of other vampires. They team up with the Nazarian Brothers, another vampire hunting team, at one point as well. Does Bud manage to prevent his wife and daughter from leaving for good? Does Seth become a field man? Does Snoop save the day? Find out in the hilarious action yarn Day Shift!

Perhaps it is the fact that I set a very low bar for this film but I really, really enjoyed it. The action sequences are simply amazing and surprisingly light on CGI. Contortionists were used for many of the fighting sequences involving vampires, giving them an even creepier vibe. All of the action takes place at a neck breaking pace and serves as a wonderful bridge between plot developing scenes.

There’s also a ton of humor in this film. It’s laced throughout the story at perfect intervals, allowing viewers to take a break from the action and story development, laugh a bit, and then jump right back into the action. The film, despite being about vampires, doesn’t have a lot of horror elements (primarily gore), but that does not mean that it isn’t a horror film. It’s a great blend of horror, comedy, and action and I believe that J.J. Perry did a fine job directing all of it.

The cast was great. Foxx was funny but never too over the top. Franco was hilarious as well. Snoop Dogg’s role is limited but very enjoyable. Souza does a good job as Audrey, but never comes across as an unstoppable beast thanks to the injection of humor into the film. Meagan Good and Zion Broadnax portray Bud’s estranged wife, Jocelyn, and daughter, Paige, respectively. Zion is especially fun to watch on the screen. Eric Lange’s Ralph Seeger is hilariously annoying and I could easily see him become an enemy in a sequel. Oliver Masucci provides a ton of muscle as Klaus, Audrey’s right hand man. Natasha Liu Bordizzo has a small but significant role as Heather, Bud’s new neighbor. Steve Howey and Scott Adkins give Bud some muscular backup as the Nazarian Brothers in one of the film’s biggest action sequences.

I also have to mention the amazing soundtrack for the film. Featuring everyone from Body Count and Ice Cube to A.C.E. and The Blackbyrds, this film has great music that perfectly fits into each scene. There’s also a new track by J. Young called Bob (Mowing Down Vamps), which might just be my favorite track in the whole movie.

This movie is fun. It has great action, tons of humor, and excellent production quality. I keep seeing professional reviewers refer to it as a B-movie but they have it all wrong. This film could have easily been released on the big screen and would have made a solid chunk of money. It’s an excellent film that never tries to be more than it is: a buddy comedy/action/thriller/horror film. I’m just happy to see that it’s available on Netflix, and I believe that you need to watch it. It’s right up there with Bright as one of my favorite Netflix films.

Let me know what you think of the film in the comment section. I really like it and hope that you enjoy it as well. Thanks for reading my post. I’ll see you again real soon!

They/Them (2022)

Respect, Renew, Rejoice….

As soon as I saw the trailer for Blumhouse’s They/Them (pronounced They Slash Them), I knew that it wouldn’t be just another run of the mill slasher film. Yes, it has a cast filled primarily with LGBTQIA+ actors and takes place at a gay conversion therapy camp, which automatically makes it unique as a horror film, but that’s not what I believed would set it apart. I thought that it might utilize the horrors of conversion therapy as the catalyst for the horror and ultimately attempt to teach us about the evils of conversion therapy, discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people, or something along those lines. Instead, the film is more of a “hunter becomes the hunted” type horror thriller that, well, lacks thrills.

Spoiler-free review ahead!

The film follows a small group of LGBTQIA+ campers as they spend time at Camp Whistler, a conversion camp headed up by Owen Whistler (Kevin Bacon), his wife, Cora (Carrie Preston), who is the camp therapist, two activities directors, Zane and Sarah (Boone Platt and Hayley Griffith), and the brand new camp nurse, Molly (Anna Chlumsky). Initially, Owen and his brood of conversion counselors appear to be friendly and accepting of the campers. As the week progresses, however, the facade begins to chip away to reveal a sinister group of people intent on scaring the gay away from the campers.

While that might be scary in and of itself, the real horror comes in the form of a slasher that begins to take out individuals. Without giving too much away, the killer targets specific people to eliminate, and the film goes from being a potentially excellent reflection of the horrors of conversion therapy and the struggles of LGBTQIA+ in the world to a generic slasher film with an underwhelming and predictable conclusion.

I picked out the villain almost immediately. Certain characters were alluded to as the potential killer, but they were so forced that I was drawn to another character who, not surprisingly, was also blatantly obvious as the killer. The whole film has a forced tone to its horror, and the movie suffers as a result.

Don’t get me wrong. There were some amazing performances in this film. Monique Kim stood out from the pack as Veronica, the cooler-than-cool kid who eventually reveals their heart in the movie. Quei Tann, who portrayed Alexandra in the film, also gave a stirring performance. The rest of the young cast, especially Darwin del Fabro and Austin Crute, also gave great performances. Sadly, Theo Germaine, who played Jordan and was the focus of the film, delivered one of the weaker performances of the young cast members. Of the veteran actors in this film, Kevin Bacon pretty much phoned in his performance and Anna Chlumsky wasn’t given much to work with overall. Carrie Preston was sinister as the camp therapist and I wish that we would have had more of her on the screen.

This film wasn’t an entire bust. The performances of the young cast carried it enough that it held my interest. There’s a brilliant twist featuring one of the campers as well. As for the slasher, the mask was amazing and there’s definitely potential for a sequel. I just hope that if there is another They/Them film, it will either fully embrace the slasher angle or pursue exposing the evils of discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people. It’s worth a watch if you have Peacock, but it’s not a must-see film.

Thanks for checking out my review. I have a few more reviews up my sleeve that will be coming soon and next week I’ll be post my next entry in The Year of KISS. See you soon!

Throwback Thursday: Firestarter (1984)

“I’ll burn you up! I’ll fry you!”

I was a child way back in May of 1984 and the PG-13 rating was was just a few months away from making its debut with the film Red Dawn. Had Firestarter been released in August instead of May of that year, it quite possibly could have received the first PG-13 rating. Instead, it was given an R rating and somehow my parents still allowed me to watch it. I remember enjoying it. I remember feeling sad for Drew Barrymore’s character. I also have very vivid memories of the standoff scene at a friendly farmer’s home where Drew lights up a bunch of nasty government agents. This film stuck with me over the years, and with Blumhouse releasing a new adaptation of Stephen King’s 1980 novel on May 13, I decided to revisit the original film adaptation before diving into the new one.

I found out that I had forgotten more about the film than I remembered. I forgot how the cast was loaded from the top to the bottom with great actors including George C. Scott, Martin Sheen, Heather Locklear, and Art Carney. I also forgot that despite the cast, some of the performances were subpar. I also forgot how cheesy the fireballs looked in the film’s climax. I also didn’t have the same feelings about the relationship between Drew Barrymore’s Charlie McGee and David Keith’s Andy McGee. I definitely forgot the very pedophilia-like vibe that George C. Scott’s Rainbird gave off when he first described how “attractive and young” Charlie was in his eyes.

Despite these facts, I still really enjoyed this film. If you aren’t familiar with the story, here’s a brief rundown: Andy McGee and his daughter, Charlie, are on the run from “The Shop,” a government program that’s in the business of underhanded experimentation on humans. Andy has the ability to influence minds. His wife, Vicky, had similar powers. Both of them were products of the Shop and after falling in love, they married and had a child. Their daughter, Charlie, has the power of pyrokinesis. She can create, control, and emit fire. When the Shop shows up to collect Charlie in order to weaponize her, they kill Vicky. Andy catches up to the agents, blinds them with his mind, and then he and Charlie go on the run. Along the way they run into a friendly farming couple named Irv and Norma. They have another standoff with the Shop agents (the one I have vivid memories of from my youth), and continue running. Eventually the Shop catches them and separates them. You’ll have to watch the film to find out what happens next.

The film is considered by many to be one of the most loyal adaptations of a King story. Andy’s part of the tale is cut out almost completely, but we get to see Charlie’s full story. As a kid I felt that the relationship between Andy and Charlie was very strong, but it doesn’t hold up as well for me as an adult. It’s more like a big brother/little sister relationship. Andy and Vicky’s whirlwind love story is glazed over and we really don’t get to see much of Heather Locklear at all in the film. The special effects are pretty hokey but they don’t deter from the movie as a whole. George C. Scott is a bit underwhelming and pervy as Rainbird. Martin Sheen doesn’t have much to do but he is a key player in the film’s climax. Overall, David Keith and Drew Barrymore give the strongest performances, especially Keith. He looks worn out and tired of running the entire time. He also looks very vulnerable whenever he tells Irv (Art Carney) the truth about his situation.

Firestarter isn’t my favorite Stephen King film adaptation. It has a few slow moments, awkward pacing, and one casting misfire (Scott), but the individual performances of Keith and Barrymore are solid even though their father/daughter relationship doesn’t quite mesh.

The new Firestarter film is supposedly even more loyal to the book than this version, so I’m hoping that it turns out to be a good film. I’m also hoping that we get a cameo from one of the 1984 cast in the new film. I plan on reviewing it after seeing it this weekend.

Thanks for taking a trip back in time with me. Let me know your feelings about Firestarter in the comments. Also feel free to let me know if there are any films out there that you’d like me to revisit on Throwback Thursday.

Throwback Thursday: The Librarian: Quest For The Spear (2004)

Noah Wyle and Sonya Walger star as Flynn and Nicole.

Cable network TNT has been cranking out original films since 1989 when it released Nightbreaker starring father/son duo Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. The company has produced one hundred plus original films. Some of their most successful releases have been science fiction and adventure films. One film stands out above the rest of them, however, and that would be 2004’s The Librarian: Quest For The Spear. Despite an overall light atmosphere and questionable CGI, the film started a franchise that would include two sequels and a popular television series as well as comics and tie-in novels.

The Library.

In the film, perpetual student and all-around annoyingly intelligent nerd Flynn Carsen is forced out of college life by one of his professors in order for him to “see the world.” Upset that he can’t enroll for more classes for six months, Flynn heads home to his mother who has attempted yet again to set him up with a young lady. When that meeting goes south, Flynn heads to his room full of books in order to be miserable. His mother slips the mail onto a bookshelf for him. After stumbling over, a letter falls on him that invites him to the Metropolitan Public Library to interview for a position.

Flynn and his mother.

At the library, Flynn is chosen to be a Librarian, a member of a secret society that protects ancient artifacts, historically important items, and a number of legendary items that are real. Some of the items that Flynn is now responsible for include a unicorn, the Holy Grail, a jet pack, and the real Mona Lisa. Flynn is told about some of the other librarians that protected the items before him including the recently deceased Wilde.

Charlene and Judson.

Things go sideways when a secret group known as the Serpent Brotherhood sneak into the library on Flynn’s first night and steal a piece of the Spear of Destiny, the spear that pierced Jesus’ side while he was on the cross. Flynn is then sent on a mission to recover not only the stolen piece, but the two other pieces that are hidden across the world. High adventure sets in as Flynn travels from the library to the Amazonian Rain Forest where he teams up with one of the Guardians, protectors of the Librarians, named Nicole. The duo run from the Serpent Brotherhood, receive help from a local tribe, and eventually find the second piece of the spear only to learn that the previous Librarian, Wilde, is alive and well and part of the Serpent Brotherhood. He plans on uniting all three pieces of the spear in order to take control of the world. To find the third piece, however, he needs Flynn to translate a book written in the “Language of the Birds” to find the third piece. This leads the group to Shangri-La. Does Flynn save the day? I won’t spoil that part of the film for you. You’ll need to check it out for yourself.

The gang’s all here in Shangri-La.

The film has an amazing cast. Noah Wyle, one of the biggest stars on the long-running ER series, heads up the cast as Flynn. He portrays the character with awkward perfection. Wyle would go on to appear in the successful series Falling Skies after leaving ER and would also appear in both of the Librarian sequels and its television series spinoff. Wyle was nominated for the Saturn award for Best Actor in all three of his Librarian films and for Falling Skies. Nicole is played by the breathtakingly gorgeous Sonya Walger, no slouch on the screen herself, as she would go on to star in Lost, the very controversial Tell Me You Love Me, FlashForward, and For All Mankind. Kyle MacLachlan plays the wicked Wilde in the film. He’s probably best known for his work in Twin Peaks, Dune (1984), and Blue Velvet. For every lovely heroine there has to be a dastardly diva and Kelly Hu fits that perfectly as one of Wilde’s sidekicks, Lana. Hu has starred or co-starred in a number of television series and highly successful films over the years including Sunset Beach, X2, Warehouse 13, Hawaii 5-0, and The Scorpion King. Three legends round out the cast in supporting roles. Olympia Dukakis portrays Flynn’s mother and Jane Curtin and Bob Newhart portray Charlene and Judson, the administrator of the Library and a former Librarian that guides Flynn.

Lana gives a sheepish grin to Flynn. Despite being enemies she is a “fan of his work.”

This is a really fun, light adventure film. It’s somewhat of a mixture of the Indiana Jones films, The Mummy films featuring Brendan Fraser, and pretty much every cliched jungle adventure that has been produced over the years. The film knows this, however, and happily plays through its sequences knowing that it’s meant for nothing more than entertainment. Apparently it worked, based upon the film’s success and the success of its sequels and TV series spin-off.

A scaled down version of one of the Egyptian pyramids which ultimately plays an important role in the film.

There are hints of John Williams all over the place in Joseph LoDuca’s score. Known for his work in shows such as Xena: Warrior Princess and Spartacus, it should come as no surprise that he knows how to work his music into adventure stories. CGI was still fairly new in 2004. Its limitations are quite noticeable in this film but it doesn’t distract the viewer as much as you’d think.

Wilde and Lana size up the new Librarian and his Guardian.

It’s fun. That’s really all that I need to say about this film. It’s light, imperfect, and exactly what a made-for-TV movie should be but with a slightly larger budget. It has a great cast, fun cliffhanger moments, and knows its audience. If you have never watched The Librarian: Quest For The Spear before, give it a look. You won’t regret it. I’ll also be reviewing the other films in this series in the near future. All three of them are available on the free streamer Tubi and also on Blu-ray/DVD. The television series is available on a few different subscription services. Peacock also carries all three of the films.

Thanks for checking out my post.

The Batman (2022)

“I’m Vengeance.”

Spoiler-Free Review

Culling its primary tale from DC Comics’ The Long Halloween, Year One, and other Batman stories, 2022’s The Batman is a very solid movie. In the story, the Riddler is on a killing spree and Batman is trying to decipher all of the clues left in the wake of each murder. All of the murders are linked together and each one is executed with specific intentions to expose the true villains of Gotham City. Batman teams up with Jim Gordon and Catwoman to figure out the Riddler’s next move and take him down before he murders again. You’ll have to watch the film to see what happens and I highly recommend checking it out for yourself.

The film gives us a version of Batman that casual and film-only fans may not be familiar with: The Dark Knight Detective. Batman actively works with Gotham City’s police department, specifically James Gordon, and uses evidence, clues, and some sweet technology to decipher the Riddler’s game plan. Alfred is there as well, assisting Batman with his detective work. Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman, has her own motives for helping Batman but I don’t want to spoil any of that in this review.

The film also gives us a look at the seedy underbelly of Gotham. Fans will recognize characters such as Carmine Falcone and the Penguin and a few other folks that I won’t mention at the moment. As the Riddler slowly reveals his plans to Batman and the rest of Gotham City, we learn that many of the villains in the film aren’t as obvious as they seem. Of course, if you’re a reader of the comics, you’re well aware that the “white knights” of Gotham are sometimes just as crooked as or even worse than the obvious villains.

Pros:

  • The detective work: It was refreshing to see Batman actively working with GCPD. The police were uncomfortable with him in their territory but understood that he was most likely their best hope to solve the Riddler’s motives for murder and successfully capture him. Their relationship with Batman is uneasy.
  • The Penguin: Although he’s essentially a high level stooge for other crime bosses in this film, Colin Farrell’s portrayal of Oswald Cobblepot hints at much bigger things to come for the character. Farrrell was completely unrecognizable in the role and he gave the best performance of the entire cast in this film. He also provided some humorous moments in an otherwise dark film.
  • The Batman: Robert Pattinson’s Batman gets beat up a lot in this film and he has the scars to show it. He questions himself, questions others, and is methodical with everything that he does in the movie. He also provides some genuinely suspenseful moments in the film as he is often only heard and/or briefly seen at times. When villains peer into the darkness and hear footfalls but see nothing, you know that trouble is on the way for them.
  • Bruce Wayne: Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne looks worn out and depressed throughout the film. He actually looks and acts like a man who lives a double life and gets very little sleep as a result. I’m expecting the “playboy” persona to eventually come to light in later films, but this is the right Bruce Wayne for this story as it takes place.
  • James Gordon: Jeffrey Wright gives a stellar performance as Lt. Gordon. It’s a meat-and-potatoes version of the character who stands as the only member of GCPD that Batman fully trusts. They work together excellently in this film.
  • The Batmobile: It spends most of the film as part of the back drop, covered by a tarp. When it is finally revealed in all of its glory, however, it is shown to be the best Batmobile since the iconic 1989 version of the vehicle. It’s a monster on wheels and it strikes terror into those that dare square off against it.
  • Minimal CGI: Did they even use it in this film at all? If they did, the production does a great job of hiding it. Almost all of the effects in this film are practical and that, in my opinion, only adds to the grittiness and “realness” of the movie.
  • No On Screen Death Of The Parents: For the first time in a long time we get to see a Batman film that doesn’t include a flashback scene with Bruce’s parents getting murdered. Sure, that element is still present in the film, but how many times has that specific moment been visited over the years? It’s almost as bad as poor Uncle Ben getting shot down in the Spidey flicks!

Cons:

  • The film’s length: Clocking in at almost three hours in length, The Batman begins to wear out its welcome in the third act. In all honesty, they could have stopped the film thirty or so minutes earlier and I would have been just happy. When you believe that the film is almost over, a new threat arises and drags things out longer than necessary.

Yep, the film’s length is my only gripe. Had director Matt Reeves ended the tale just a little bit earlier this film would have been perfect. Everything else is well done. It’s not my favorite Batman film and it’s far from a masterpiece, but The Batman is an excellent Batman film that deserves any and all accolades that it receives.

The Cast:

  • Robert Pattinson as Batman/Bruce Wayne
  • Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman
  • Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon
  • John Turturro as Carmine Falcone
  • Paul Dano as The Riddler
  • Colin Farrell as The Penguin
  • Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth

Other cast members include Peter Sarsgaard, Charlie and Max Carver, Gil Perez-Abraham, and Jayme Lawson. All of the cast do great jobs but I cannot say enough about Farrell’s portrayal of the Penguin. John Turturro deserves a nod for his portrayal of Falcone as well.

So, there you have it. The Batman is a very good movie and it definitely needs to be seen on the big screen. I hope that you enjoyed my spoiler free review of the movie and I thank you for reading it. Be sure to check out the film!

Throwback Thursday: Stand By Me (1986)

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

Based upon Stephen King’s novella The Body, 1986’s Stand By Me may not look like a typical horror story from King but it definitely has horror elements. I’m not talking about vampires or demons or werewolves or even teenage girls with telekinetic powers. Nope, the horror in Stand By Me is much deeper, scarier, and real. It’s about growing up, dealing with family issues, and finding one’s way in life. That’s a lot scarier than a vampire in my book.

The story is about four young boys about to enter junior high who decide to go looking for the body of a recently deceased young man. One of the boys, Vern, overhears his brother talking about finding the body and not wanting to mention it to anyone because it would tie him to a car theft. Vern decides to tell his friends and they set out to discover the body for themselves, turn it into the authorities, and become heroes. As they follow the train tracks to the site where the body was found, viewers learn things about each of the boys. Gordie wants to be a writer and is struggling with the loss of his older brother, Denny. Chris, Gordie’s best friend and protector, battles with the fact that his family’s reputation hinders his own dreams. Vern isn’t as mature as the other boys and comes off as dimwitted at times. He fights to fit in with the rest of the group. Teddy has to deal with an abusive and alcoholic father who physically beats him and even tried to burn off his ear. All four of them are uncertain about entering junior high.

As the boys hike, Vern’s older brother, Billy, and his gang of friends headed up by the sinister Ace Merrill, are also on the trail to find the body. The two groups square off with one another. I won’t reveal what happens, but just know that in the end, we find out what happens to each of the four boys. It’s an amazing coming of age tale that gives people a glimpse into the minds, hearts, and fears of youngsters about to become men.

The story is narrated by an adult Gordie. He has become a successful writer and he tells the story of himself and his friends as they search for the body. I see him as a representation of Stephen King and King has said as much in interviews over the years. King also claims that this is one of his favorite films based upon his work.

The film was directed by Rob Reiner. It was one of his earliest directorial efforts and it is definitely one of his best. That’s saying a lot considering how many wonderful films that Reiner has directed over the years. The film’s soundtrack features some great music from the 1950’s and 60’s and the boys sing along with many of the songs as they walk the rails. The cinematography is amazing as well.

Stand By Me (1986) | Pers: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell.

The film’s cast is loaded with future stars of film and television. Young Gordie is portrayed by Wil Wheaton. Wheaton would go on to portray Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as guest star as himself on multiple episodes of The Big Bang Theory. Wheaton continues to work today having done voice work, web series, and a number of other projects. Speaking of The Big Bang Theory, another guest star on that series was Jerry O’Connell. O’Connell portrayed Vern in Stand By Me and he played Sheldon Cooper’s older brother on TBBT. O’Connell has had a very successful career as a voice over artist, star of film’s such as Joe’s Apartment, and appeared on a number of notable television shows including Sliders. Corey Feldman portrayed Teddy. Feldman already had quite the pedigree as an actor and his star would soon rise even higher when he teamed up with Corey Haim in a long string of successful films. Chris was portrayed by the late River Phoenix. Phoenix was well on his way to a massive film career after appearing in movies like My Own Private Idaho and Running On Empty. He tragically passed away at the age of twenty three due to drug use. Richard Dreyfuss portrayed the adult version of Gordie. Stand By Me was just one more in a long line of successful films for the star. John Cusack, another major star in film, had a small role as Gordie’s deceased brother Denny who appears in flashbacks.

Ace’s gang features a number of excellent character actors such as Casey Siemaszko and Bradley Gregg. Perhaps the biggest star of the film outside of Richard Dreyfuss is Kiefer Sutherland. He portrays Ace and the character is an excellent harbinger of what was to come with Sutherland’s portrayal of the equally wicked vampire named David in The Lost Boys. A string of hit films and a successful television show would follow. Just a few of his films include Young Guns, Flatliners, The Three Musketeers, and Dark City.

This is an amazing film. I hope that you take a look at it if you haven’t done so yet. It’s currently streaming on Netflix and runs about an hour and a half long.

Thanks for taking a look back with me. See you again soon.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

The Gentrification Of Slasher Films

2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a sequel to the original 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre, has quite a few things going for it. It takes a number of Texas stereotypes, social issues, and specific Austin, TX stereotypes and drops them in the middle of Leatherface’s latest killing spree. The funny thing is that these issues and stereotypes are at odds with one another but are forced to join forces to battle the chainsaw wielding wild man.

The film opens with a pair of somewhat arrogant social media influencers, Melody and Dante, on the road with Melody’s sister, Lila, and Dante’s fiance, Ruth. The group is headed for the ghost town of Harlow, where Melody and Dante plan to gentrify the heck out of the deserted locale. Hot on their heels is a bus full of potential investors, all of whom are nothing more than chainsaw fodder for the film. While heading to Harlow, the foursome manage to offend a local named Richter, a big truck drivin’, gun totin’ stereotypical Texas redneck. When they arrive in Harlow, they realize that Richter is the contractor that they hired to spruce up the town a bit ahead of the arrival of the bus of investors. Melody and Dante also discover an elderly woman who is still living in the local orphanage. Dante and Melody confront the woman, telling her that she must leave the property, and the old woman, upset, has a heart attack. She dies on the way to the hospital, setting off a “chain” of revenge killings by Leatherface. Bodies begin to pile up and the influencers are forced to set aside their personal biases and ideals in order to end Leatherface’s terror tour throughout the town.

When she hears that Leatherface has returned, Sally Hardesty, the only survivor from the original film, decides to finish off her adversary and heads for Harlow. She joins up with the remaining survivors in order to kill Leatherface. Her presence in the film feels a tad unnecessary but I’m assuming that it was meant to serve as a direct link to the original film. It also reminds me of every instance where Laurie Strode pops up in the Halloween franchise.

The film is pretty good. If you are familiar at all with the state of Texas, you know that its capital, Austin, is a polar opposite of the rest of the state. It’s a highly liberal city in a primarily conservative state, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre manages to force both of them to work together. It does a great job of showing the best and worst of both stereotypes without becoming political or heavy handed. In fact, there are quite a few humorous moments (possibly unintentional) in the film such as when a self-driving car rolls away while a victim is being massacred and when a young woman decides to use a gun only to find that it’s not loaded.

The film also utilizes contemporary issues such as school shootings, gun control, and gentrification to push its story forward. It manages to do so without getting preachy or even taking a side on any of the issues. It’s one of the best aspects of this film in my opinion.

There’s also plenty of gore. Leatherface uses hammers, knives, broken bones, and his token chainsaw to take out his victims. He’s also given a motive for his mutilation. You almost feel sorry for the guy, especially when it comes to one particularly arrogant young lady in the film.

The film’s cast does a great job. Elsie Fisher portrays Lila, the only truly likeable and sympathetic character in the film. Sarah Yarkin plays Lila’s gentrifying and arrogant sister who realizes her and Dante’s mistake and tries to fix things unsuccessfully. Jacob Latimore does a great job as Dante, who comes off more business minded and visionary than Melody. His fiance Ruth is played by Nell Hudson, who has a small role in the film but seems to be a pretty decent character. The film also stars Alice Krige in an almost unrecognizable performance as Mrs. Mc, Leatherface’s elderly caretaker. Jessica Allain stars as Catherine, a banker who brings bodies….um…..investors to the town of Harlow. Leatherface is portrayed by Mark Burnham and Moe Dunford portrays Richter, the Texas-as-Texas-can-be contractor.

Much like the original film, sound plays a massive part in the movie. Colin Stetson does an amazing job using music to build up tension in the film. Director David Blue Garcia keeps things moving at a frenetic pace as one would expect and there’s a lot about this film that reminds me of the original. It isn’t a watered down misfire like Halloween Kills, but I also don’t believe that it will have a lasting impression as the original film did way back in the seventies. It’s available to stream exclusively on Netflix at the moment and I do recommend it. It’s a gory callback to the original with plenty of unlikeable victims that you’ll enjoy watching Leatherface rip to shreds.

Thanks for reading my review. Leatherface isn’t one of my favorite film killers but I really did enjoy this film. Give it a chance and let me know what you think in the comments.