darkreignn

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Reviews

Bullet Train
(2022)

Endlessly entertaining, if a bit too long
Alcohol and "Bullet Train" - directed by David Leitch - have a lot in common: both start strong (I'm currently feeling the come up of some whiskey and cognac as we speak!); both contain feelings of euphoria within the first 20 to 50 minutes of consumption; however, both can last a bit too long for one's liking, with moments of intermittent boredom and nonsense sprinkled in-between the greatness. You see - much like alcohol - I wholeheartedly recommend "Bullet Train;" it is a slick, stylish, action-comedy that never ceases to entertain from the time it gets going to the time it ends; however, in between the entertainment and the ending, you will be able to feel the fact that it is outwearing its welcome.

Director David Leitch, if nothing else, signifies a high quality movie experience; from the first "John Wick" to "Deadpool 2" and "Atomic Blonde," my man knows how to direct competent action sequences. And so, when I saw his name pop up in every single trailer I saw for this movie, I, at the least, knew I was in for an action spectacle. However, what I didn't realize was how much "Bullet Train" would entertain me during sequences when no action was occurring on screen. But before I digress, let's talk action.

After watching action movie after action movie filled to the brim with close-up shaky camera, it was more refreshing than words can express to watch a movie that had nothing but clearly comprehensible action sequences. Every hit, slice, and gunshot was seen in full view of the camera, which was shocking, to say the least. I found myself on the edge of my seat every time an action sequence began. And thankfully, there are plenty of exciting - gory - action sequences that will draw viewer attention. Leitch draws inspiration from Japanese Yakuza films and packs "Bullet Train" full of katana battles, as well as with riveting gun fights and hand to hand combat sequences. And the best part of it is that everything is clearly filmed, but I'd expect nothing less from a co-director of the first "John Wick" movie.

What is more surprising is that "Bullet Train" manages to entertain even when there is nobody beating someone else up on screen. More of an action-comedy than a straight up action film, "Bullet Train" has plenty of moments that will elicit full-blown belly laughs from its audience, thanks in part to Brad Pitt's brilliant performance. No stranger to the limelight, Brad Pitt knocks it out of the park here with a role that highlights his action prowess as well as his comedy chops. And as one who has never been fully convinced by Pitt's acting abilities, his skill behind the camera and endlessly rewatchability has fully turned me into a fan.

Another thing I appreciated about "Bullet Train" was his unabashed style - taking notes from Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, this film has a rather unorthodox style that throws viewers in the middle of past and present, fully trusting them to pay attention as to what is going on, and why. And it works. I couldn't help but have a goofy smile plastered to my face as "Bullet Train" jumped back and forth and with it, serenading audiences with non sequiturs that - ultimately - tied everything together into a perfect bow. So be aware - even if things don't make perfect sense in the beginning, by the time the credits roll you will have everything spelled out for you.

Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, and Andrew Koji - amongst others - make up the cast, and each and every actor and actress bring their A-game, with enough charisma to lead a movie of their own; while Brad Pitt may steal the show, everyone else is so good in their own right that I found myself coming to this movie for Brad Pitt, and staying for the supporting actors.

In the end, "Bullet Train" is one great time at the movies. With enough action to satisfy even the most hard core adrenaline junkie and enough comedy to engage the most casual viewer, "Bullet Train' is a crowd pleaser in every sense of the word. Even with the high hopes that I had due to the director, my expectations were still blown out of the water - even if I do think this movie was a bit too long for its own good, and dragged on just a little too much. That said, there is so much to enjoy here that I find myself highly recommending this movie to anyone who is even the slightest bit interested in checking it out. Because, trust me, you won't regret giving this one a chance.

Us
(2019)

"Us" chooses social commentary over a cohesive narrative
Color me shocked that it has taken me three years to review Jordan Peele's second film, "Us." Why is that, you may be wondering? While my semi-consistent alcohol intake has ridden my mind of any specifics, the most likely conclusion is that I just didn't really enjoy this film the first time I saw it. So, after a long hiatus, I decided to give "Us" another go to see if my opinion has changed. Unfortunately, it really hasn't.

Sitting firmly at a six out of ten on my rating scale, "Us" does have its moments. Advertised as a horror film, "Us" can certainly be creepy; Jordan Peele has a real knack for visuals, and so this movie is appropriately atmospheric, especially as it mostly takes place during the night. Basically a slasher film, "Us" also contains plenty of slicing and dicing, though Peele keeps things restrained - this isn't the gore fest that you may be expecting, and as such, the movie doesn't sacrifice its tension for cheap blood and gore. And while I am always a sucker for cheap blood and gore, this more moderate approach keeps viewers engaged in the onscreen happenings without distracting them with sensory overload. So, while I did find myself enjoying "Us" from a visual perspective, I found myself underwhelmed by its plot, which I can only describe as sloppy; Jordan Peele is a master of coming up with excellent concepts - he just seems to have trouble with executing the landing. So, let's break down where "Us" falters.

No stranger to the slow burn, Peele takes his time setting things up here - with an effective and moody opening scene, "Us" then takes about 35 minutes to finally kick into high gear. While I typically enjoy slow burns, and especially when it comes to horror films, the problem here is that, by the time the action starts, "Us" is virtually half way through. So, with around an hour of run time left, Peele has to figure out a way to wrap up the plot in a satisfying manner, explain to the audience what's happening and why, and, in typical Peele fashion, sprinkle in a bit of social commentary. Jordan Peele tries to juggle it all, and only ends up dropping everything on the floor.

With only around an hour left in its run time when everything starts to kick off, "Us" simply doesn't have enough time to be effective. The house invasion shenanigans can be entertaining, but they're over so quickly that I didn't feel like I was being delivered what was advertised to me. And when the house invasion is over, the movie spirals into an agonizingly uninteresting direction, full of unbearable exposition that sucks all mystery out of the film and replaces it with confusion. Peele, in an attempt to answer the questions this movie sets up, only succeeds in creating numerous plot holes that only create more questions than they do answers. Why? Because Peele is more interested in social commentary than he is in delivering a cohesive narrative. "Us" devolves into a message film, one that throws logic by the wayside in order to preach to its audience. These are my absolute least favorite types of movies, so you can imagine my disdain.

That said, there is still enjoyment to be found here, if only in small spurts. The house invasion sequences are genuinely thrilling, the movie looks great, and in terms of performances everyone seems to be bringing their A-game. There is so much to like, in fact, that I wish Peele would have reigned himself in to make a more focused picture. By no means do I hate this film, but I find myself disappointed that it is only okay when it had the potential to be one of the horror greats.

Minions: The Rise of Gru
(2022)

I did not enjoy this
As a 26 year old man who is an avid enjoyer of all those #GentleMinions Tiktok videos, you'd think that "Minions: The Rise of Gru" would be right up my alley. And with those Gentle Minions memes in mind, today - Sunday, July 24 - I dragged two of my friends (who may not be my friends anymore after sitting through this movie with me) to see this movie with me. You may find yourself calling me foolish, naïve, or perhaps both for falling for the viral marketing tactic, but I legitimately expected to have a good time as I sat down in the theatre, small popcorn and slushy in had (and by the way, Cinemark theatre employees will, for some reason, make fun of you for ordering a small popcorn). Oh, how the gods of Olympus have forsaken me, because "Minions: Rise of Gru" was painful.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating. An experience? It was that, but it maybe wasn't necessarily a painful one. Think of the most middle of the road, average, mediocre, generic experience - that's what watching this movie felt like; it made zero impression on me, it had no impact, and by the end of the movie I felt exactly the same as I did when the film started. And as the movie played and I slowly began to realize I wasn't the target demographic, I felt the dread set in - mercifully, "Minions" sits at a one hour and 27 minute run time, which, granted, did go by quickly. However, during those fateful one hour and 27 minutes, I simply didn't find anything to enjoy.

The little yellow minions, adorable as they may be, tended to grind my gears with each passing minute - there's only so much a man can take of watching animated characters speak an unknown language and get hit over the head. Steve Carell was good as Gru, and did sound like he was having a fantastic time voicing him, and not only because this movie is yielding him millions of dollars. The story had a bit too much going on for its own good, but seemed to include a myriad of random occurrences that I imagine would be extremely entertaining for young children or audience members with ADHD. Nine jokes out of ten didn't land for me at all, but I admit I did chuckle at a few of the more outlandish things such as the minions hijacking a plane and serenading at a funeral service. There are a lot of bright colors and slapstick comedy, so I imagine children will have a field day with this. Adults? Not so much.

I don't know. I feel bad even reviewing this movie, as I am clearly not the audience they were intending for. That said, as a viewer of "Minions: The Rise of Gru," I am entitled to my opinion as much as anyone, and unfortunately, my opinion is that this is a pretty poor film, which is disappointing to me as I was genuinely looking forward to, hopefully, enjoying myself.

Nope
(2022)

An apt title
"Nope" is the next disappointment by Jordan Peele who, with each movie, seems to look more and more like a one hit wonder. "Get Out" was an incredible thriller that fired on every cylinder and hit every note; "Us" had a phenomenal trailer, but seemed to confuse audiences with its convoluted and borderline pretentious ending where, the more you think about things, the less sense they make. "Nope" follows that same vein, and I can't help but think that Peele feels as if he needs to shock and awe when, perhaps, a more simple, straightforward tale would have worked better.

"Nope" is two hours and ten minutes long, so you could say that this isn't a short, breezy film. And I don't necessarily have a problem with that. The problem is, however, that "Nope" doesn't have much to say, do, or tell within that lengthy run time. A slow burn to its very core, "Nope" takes its sweet time setting up the story that it wants to tell - scratch that, though, because there isn't much of a story here in the first place. If you've seen the second trailer for this film, you know that it's about two ranchers who seem to witness an unidentified flying object in the skies above and, as they are both down on their luck and strapped for cash, they decide to set up some cameras in hopes of capturing said UFO on film so they can sell the footage. An interesting, if bare bones, premise to be sure, but surely one that gives way to the real meat, hook, and plot of the film, no?

Nope. The story never gets any grander or more unique than its initial set up. Sure, there is a subplot that is, granted, pretty intense, leading to a few unique and twisted scenes, but it hardly adds anything to the movie except an added running time. Without spoilers, the subplot has to do with a certain animal; while I understood what they were going for, I couldn't help but wonder why the scenes didn't get cut in editing to create a tighter, more focused story, as I imagine the entire point of the subplot will fly over the heads of many.

The simple premise wouldn't be a problem if the film led to a bombastic and satisfying conclusion, but it doesn't. Throwing its simple premise out the window to instead attempt to surprise audiences with a twist that is somehow more underwhelming than my life, "Nope" devolves into a parody of itself by the end. I don't want to spoil anything, but I do want to say that the final act reveal takes all mystery, suspense, tension, and horror out of the picture completely - I literally couldn't believe my eyes; I mean, who thought what they did would be a good idea on any level, especially visually? Let's just say that, in this case, less would have been more.

"Nope" was a disappointment to me, and is further proof that Jordan Peele is - sadly - becoming a one hit wonder. A tighter, more streamlined and focused story would've worked wonders here, especially in helping to create the horror film that this movie was advertised as being. It pains me to say, however, that viewers may not find the contents of the film horrifying as much as they may find themselves scared of "Nope's" utter mediocrity.

Yellowjackets
(2021)

Enthralling
Nothing less than enthralling, with a sprawling first season that expertly switches from past to present, "Yellowjackets" combines teenage angst with adult drama to make a show that explores trauma, grief, regret, and just how far one will go to survive, even after surviving some of the most harrowing scenarios imaginable.

As a sucker for coming of age and high school movies, "Yellowjackets" resonated with me immediately; episode one opens showing the relationship and comradery with a group of high school girl soccer players - they train together, conspire against one another, get drunk and argue with each other, and then make up, earn each other's trust once again, and potentially break said trust almost immediately afterward. There's a metric ton of drama going on (where was all this during my high school experience?) that perfectly sets the stage for what is to come during the inevitable tragedy that occurs. However, before the girls find themselves stranded in the wilderness, the show also introduces the survivors of the crash who are alive and well in 2022. And if you thought that these girls had drama way back in the 90s, then you're going to be really impressed by how intense things can get in the present day.

While any other show would choose to focus wholly on one timeline and one series of events, the genius of "Yellowjackets" is in its chronology; unafraid to jump between timelines without warning, what could be annoying and confusing ends up elevating the experience due to the showcase of two timelines that build upon each other through levels and levels of drama. "Yellowjackets" is a slow burn, one that isn't ashamed to take its time setting up its pieces, both in the past and present - and with every piece set up, I couldn't help but want to keep watching to see when exactly they would knock it back down.

Stars the likes of Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress, Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci will most likely draw a lot of viewers in, and that is well warranted because the four of them - along with every single other actor and actress - is phenomenal in their role. Seriously, I can't remember the last time I've seen acting this excellent. While it would take too long to give a shout out to everyone, as everyone plays their role to perfection, I do want to say that Sophie Thatcher and Peter Gadiot were standouts; both of them played polar opposite characters, but I couldn't take my eyes off of them when they were on screen, and not only because they're both supremely attractive. Their performances had a certain magnetism to them - at times you won't know what they're up to, or whether they are trustworthy or deceitful, but you won't be able to stop watching to find out.

I could go on and on, but there's no point because the crux of my review boils down to these two words: Watch "Yellowjackets." My only real complaint is that everything isn't necessarily tied up in a nice bow by the end, but if season two can match the quality of season one, then I'd say we're in safe hands. And even if season two completely sucks, I know for a fact that season one is going to be something that I rewatch, and rewatch often.

The Gray Man
(2022)

The critics say "The Gray Man" is bad - that's how you know it's good
A non-stop thrill ride from beginning to end, "The Gray Man" boasts an impressive action set piece every ten to twenty minutes; so those with short attention spans - such as myself - can rejoice, as the Russo brothers have crafted a movie where viewer entertainment is top of mind.

Holding a staggering 52% rotten critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, it should come as no surprise that audiences, contrarian as they are, are highly enjoying this movie. And while I often find my own opinion to sway side to side like a pendulum from the critic score to the viewer consensus, in the case of "The Gray Man," I am planted firmly with the audience. Admittedly, the critics, pretentious as they seem to be, may or may not have some valid complaints; the film can be said to have a lack of innovation and ingenuity with its storytelling, and in terms of its purported "bland" visuals, the movie is rather dark, which caused me to squint and strain my eyes in the theatre. Besides those two things, however, "The Gray Man" is a super solid action film that constantly pumps adrenaline into the veins of its viewers.

With the breathtaking, neon drenched opening sequence, you will immediately recognize that there is competency behind, and in front of, the camera. Ryan Gosling and the gorgeous Ana de Armas are thrust front and center in the introduction, and their stoic, serious performances also demonstrate a dedication to quality - this isn't your typical Netflix production that's meant to only be viewed on your laptop monitor. A masterclass in tension building, the opening action sequence alone will tell you all you need to know about "The Gay Man" - it delivers. Expertly helmed with smooth transitions from hiding in plain sight stealth to John Wick style shootouts and Bourne-esque hand-to-hand combat sequences, the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the movie contains some of the most exciting and impressive looking scenes of action that I've seen in a film, period. From Gosling silently taking out enemies in the midst of New Years fireworks to engaging in a fist fight in the middle of said fireworks display, my jaw was planted on the ground as soon as this movie started. And the intensity didn't stop there.

A fight on a military aircraft that ends in a desperate dive back down to solid ground? Check. A city market shootout that turns into a city-wide car chase? Check. A sneaky house invasion that goes from quiet to guns blazing at the drop of a hat? Check. With "The Gray Man," the Russo brothers put their talent of action on full display by making literally every single action sequence seem like it should be taking place at the climax of the film. After every set piece I found myself thinking, "Surely things can't get any bigger from here," and the next set piece always upped the ante and blew my expectations out of the water. The minimal use of shaky camera and hyperactive editing will also ensure a clear line of sight with most - if not all - of the action, empowering viewers to feel absolutely immersed in what's occurring on screen.

Ryan Gosling is as handsome, muscular, and attractive as ever in his role as Six, a man who has a particular set of skills that you probably don't want to be on the receiving end of. Foregoing the quiet hero performance that so many other movies wanted him to emulate, "The Gray Man" allows Gosling to be charismatic, a suave talker who is as smooth with his words as he is with his proclivity toward violence. Chris Evans also got jacked for his performance as Lloyd Hansen, a merciless killer who actively enjoys inflicting pain on others. The film pits Six and Lloyd against each other in a Evans v Gosling match up that I never even knew I wanted. Evans looks like he is having an absolute blast in his role, seemingly more comfortable playing a villain than he was as a superhero. And as a Gosling fan I may be a bit biased, but I of course thought he was great in the movie; there is no Oscar-worthy acting at play here, but it's clear that everyone is playing their part professionally.

"The Gray Man" is a movie that is being lambasted by critics - that's the only sign you need that it's actually going to be good. This is a very thrilling action film that I am legitimately looking forward to watching again when it releases on Netflix. If you're a fan of action movies, you cannot go wrong here. Sure, the film may have benefited by being a little bit brighter visually, and there were a few moments of iffy editing, but none of the cons overpower the astounding action pros.

Moon Knight
(2022)

"Moon Knight" is flat-out entertaining
"Moon Knight" starts strong; with action, suspense, mystery, and supernatural shenanigans, the pilot combines genres together skillfully - think a blend of the "The Bourne Identity" with the "The Da Vinci Code." Plus, with a killer soundtrack and phenomenal acting from Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke, you'll find yourself wondering if the rest of the series can somehow match the heights that the first episode built to.

A six episode long series, season one of "Moon Knight" hooks viewers immediately; setting up a skillful amount of twists, turns, and questions, the average viewer will have no idea what's going on when they begin watching the show, which will only fuel their desire to keep watching to unravel the mystery. I was on the edge of my seat during the first episode of this series, with my adrenaline and serotonin running high. Oscar Isaac plays a lovable but bumbling museum worker who has a rather nasty tendency to sleepwalk, so much so that he has been forced to chain himself to his bed to avoid waking up in an entirely new location. Alas, things go awry, and after a disturbed sleep and a bout of violence, "Moon Knight" sets up so many puzzle pieces that I couldn't wait to find out just what would happen next.

Truth be told, no other episode reaches the phenomenal highs that the pilot does, but that's not to say that this series isn't good, because it really is. With excellent acting by performers who clearly care about the material, tight, comprehensible dialogue, and a concise story, "Moon Knight" manages to be completely engaging while avoiding the pitfalls of other recent Disney and Marvel properties. Where did this show succeed where others have failed? Simply put, it's obvious that "Moon Knight" had a roadmap guiding its story from its bright beginning to the (not so) bitter end. So yes, the story that this show decides to tell is a riveting one, and one that is fully developed by the time the final credits roll. And honestly, while I found most of my enjoyment through seeing this story unfold, "Moon Knight" has enough action for all you junkies out there who demand a good beating or two in their superhero cinema.

The best part about the action in "Moon Knight" is that it is well filmed and clearly comprehensible, albeit not as brutal as many expected or wanted. While much of what would be the more explicit violence is cleverly obscure or censored, the sheer creativity at play almost made this decision seem more out of preference than out of necessity - and make no mistake, it was certainly out of necessity to make the show more family friendly. That said, the action in this series was still slick and professionally filmed, with many standouts including an episode one car chase and a mid-series battle in a jousting arena.

Listen, "Moon Knight" is really good - it's one of the most entertaining TV shows that I've seen so far in 2022, and it's one that I actively have been recommending to others and want to rewatch. Perhaps with a harder edge it could've been as good as "The Punisher," but as a fun superhero excursion that dares to take risks and explore themes of mental illness and Egyptian mythology, "Moon Knight" certainly delivers.

Obi-Wan Kenobi
(2022)

A mixed bag
"Obi-Wan Kenobi" was polarizing, to say the least. While plenty of people found a lot to enjoy here, plenty of other people found themselves shellshocked by the decisions that Disney and crew decided to employ. How did I fare while watching the latest "Star Wars" property? After a shot (or more) and a beer (or two), I have found myself clearheaded enough to properly convey my thoughts. And my thoughts are: "Obi-Wan Kenobi" isn't a perfect show, but it is an entertaining one if you temper your expectations.

I'll be honest - most of my time spent watching "Kenobi" was spent feeling more negative emotions than positive. So then, why the 6 out of 10 rating? Simply put, the highs are just so high. Because, when "Obi-Wan Kenobi" fires on all cylinders, the show really puts the pedal to the metal. There are many moments from this series that are burned into my brain because of how exciting and emotionally resonant they were; the final episode specifically had one moment that practically had me in tears, while the previous episodes had a handful of moments that rendered me giddy due to the sheer badassery that I was witnessing on screen. Unfortunately, for every moment of awe, there was a moment of sheer embarrassment that made me reevaluate not only what was watching, but also my life decisions that led me up to that point.

From watching a chase sequence featuring a small child that looked like it was filmed by high school dropouts to dialogue that was as uncomfortable and forced as New Coke, "Kenobi" features an untold amount of questionable decisions on every front. The dialogue, the directing, the cinematography, the storytelling - at some point, everything will cause you to scratch your head in disbelief. Consistency is not the name of the game here, which is surprising when you have a singular director who is directing every single episode. Some episodes drive the plot forward with intense action and riveting, tight dialogue, while other episodes feel like they were written by the show runners of the final season of "Game of Thrones," written for no other purpose than to pad the already short running time.

And perhaps even more surprisingly, "Kenobi" feels cheap despite being produced by one of the wealthiest companies that grace the face of this earth. Many episodes feel like they were filmed on a shoestring budget, with absolutely ridiculous plot points and special effects that you almost will not believe you are actually witnessing. Most unforgivingly, much of the action in "Obi-Wan Kenobi" is, simply put, not well filmed. Lightsaber battles and laser gun shootouts look amateurish at best, and incomprehensible at worst, which calls into question the amount of passion the filmmakers had when taking this project up.

All of those negatives aside, however, when "Kenobi" is good, it really is good. Ewan McGregor is phenomenal, as is Hayden Christensen. Vivien Lyra Blair is good with what she gets as young Leia, but I only wish there was more for her to do. And while some of the action (and writing - full of questionable and unbelievable choices) is mediocre, a lot of it can be chalk full of emotion, which only adds to the intensity. The story, too, is exciting, if cobbled together; a two-hour runtime may have worked better in terms of narrative cohesion. The "Star Wars" universe is also always fun to be immersed in, and the show at least feels competent in spite of its many flaws.

In the end, I feel very mixed on "Obi-Wan Kenobi" - I wanted to absolutely love it, and in the end I only like it. There is a lot to enjoy here, but there's even more to call into question. That said, if you can turn your brain off and enjoy the "Star Wars" goodness for what it is, you may find yourself with a winner here. That said, who ever said that one had to turn their brain off to enjoy "Star Wars?" The ultimate dumbing down of the property, while attempting to appeal to a mass audience, has only managed to alienate fans of the series. Will you be one of the fans, or will you find yourself among one of the alienated? Despite all of its flaws, I do recommend you to watch "Obi-Wan Kenobi" because - even though you may find yourself sitting firmly in the camp of the unfavorable - you will at least find a few moments that will reignite your "Star Wars" fandom, and those moments are, without a doubt, worth experiencing.

The Terminal List
(2022)

An intriguing story makes up for the mediocre action
"The Terminal List" takes itself as seriously as stage four melanoma - and, like getting a stage four melanoma diagnosis, "The Terminal List" takes a certain type of person to sit there and patiently listen to it. Because make no mistake: watching this series takes your ears as much as your eyes due to the amount of dense dialogue that is delivered in virtually every scene. More of a psychological drama than the action series that it was advertised to be, "The Terminal List" runs the risk of being as bone dry as cabernet sauvignon - however, dedicated performances across the board combined with a taut script make this a watchable series, albeit not the one that was advertised in the commercials.

I found myself eager to get started watching this latest Chris Pratt joint, especially as it was being marketed as basically an eight-hour action film rather than a traditional series. And, with the first episode being directed by the one and only Antoine Fuqua, you could say that my expectations were high. And in the first episode, they weren't exactly met. Filled with lighting that can be called dimly lit at best, and completely incomprehensible at worst, the show was immediately dark, and not just in tone, which caused me to constantly strain my eyes - and as you can imagine, this stylistic decision made the action scenes in the first episode barely watchable; to say I was unimpressed would be an understatement. However, I kept watching, hoping that, if the action didn't hook me, the story would. And lo and behold, it did.

The first two episodes of this show presented a mystery that I immediately decided I had to see through to completion. Painting the main character's actions firmly in the category of grey, the set up was one of the best of any television show I have ever seen, and I found myself itching for the resolution to the mystery. Unfortunately, episode three had that resolution. To see such a conclusive answer, and one that was answered so quickly, was a bit of a downer, to be honest with you. Did I even need to continue watching? Honestly, probably not, but the show managed to keep my interest through its character interactions, and intermittent bursts of violence. Chris Pratt is really good here, though I may be biased because I am a fan of his. It was nice to see him in a serious role, and I especially enjoyed his relationship with Taylor Kitsch's character; both of them added a level of dramatic heft that kept me engaged throughout all eight episodes. And while every actor and actress plays their role well here, it was nice to see everyone equally on the same page in terms of taking their role seriously. I'd also like to give a shoutout to Jai Courney, who I am also a big fan of, and who was also fantastic here.

Now, if you're watching this show, you're probably watching it for the action - how is it? Eh. There isn't much action in this series, and the action there is can be hard to decipher to due shaky camera and quick edits. There is a phenomenal city shootout, as well as a mansion infiltration that turns from stealthy to guns blazing, and some hand-to-hand combat here and there that can be fun; it would've been more fun if the show employed a slow and steady camera style instead of Bourne-esque action cinematography. That said, not every action scene is like this, so you'll be sure to at least enjoy a handful of them. As I mentioned, there isn't much action in this show, as it is primarily a thriller and psychological drama - this may not work for you, but truth be told it managed to work for me.

"The Terminal List" isn't groundbreaking by any means, but I found it innovative in some respects and derivative in others. With eight one-hour long episodes, you can certainly feel this show's length and will be begging it to get going; other times you'll find yourself reveling in the long run time due to the intriguing mysteries and exciting character interactions and revelations. I don't think this is a great show, but I think it's a good one and, despite its faults, I've found myself recommending this to friends and family, and to you.

The Black Phone
(2021)

Very, very suspenseful
"The Black Phone" is a good film - let's get that out of the way. My recommendation? See it, but see it either very early, or very late, when there will not be many other people in the theatre, because seeing this film in a crowded room was a borderline insanity-inducing experience due to the never ending amount of audience interaction (i.e., literally no one would stop talking). With that out of the way, I feel fully confident in being able to suggest you watch this movie, as "The Black Phone" is a film that will resonate with horror fans, thriller fans, and those who just enjoy good cinema.

From the time the opening of the movie begins, you will immediately recognize the quality and competency at play; from the acting to the soundtrack, visuals, direction, cinematography, and everything in between, this is not a lazy film - actual care was put into this movie, and I'd expect nothing less from the director of "Sinister," which continues to be the scariest movie I have ever seen. And while "The Black Phone" isn't necessarily as frightening as "Sinister," it is a relentlessly suspenseful and disturbing experience that is recognizant of David Fincher's work.

From the get-go, "The Black Phone" gets under one's skin; I mean, if you're not inherently uncomfortable watching a movie about a child abductor, then I'd suggest booking an appointment with your nearest psychological professional. Ethan Hawke plays the kidnapper in this movie, one who constantly wears a mask that is reminiscent of the devil - the clever thing is, the mask is able to be taken apart and put back together with different pieces, reflecting multiple emotions that Ethan (The Grabber) may be feeling. It's a subtle touch, but one that adds a lot of creepiness to an already creepy character. And Ethan Hawke - though biased I may be as a big fan of his - plays The Grabber to perfection. With many scenes of genuine fright, this is a movie villain that I can imagine going down in infamy.

But the great thing about "The Black Phone" is that Ethan Hawke isn't the only good actor in this thing - in fact, literally everyone brings their A-game. Very reminiscent of the "It" remake, this film primarily stars younger actors and actresses in a coming of age type tale that combines the confusion of youth with the horror of the realities of life. It may be a tried and true horror movie method, but it's one that continues to be extremely effective. Mason Thames and Madeline McGraw steal the show here with performances that are surprisingly gripping for child actors, and every child actor in this movie follows the same example. While there may be a few iffy lines or cringy moments of dialogue, you'd be hard pressed to find any unconvincing performances.

Now I know what you're asking, "How's the horror?" Less of a horror film and more of a drama, I wouldn't call "The Black Phone" scary in the traditional sense. It does deal with many disturbing themes, but it isn't quite the horror-fest it so wants you to think it is. With that said, this is still a great thriller, one that doesn't let up and continuously holds attention. I found my eyes glued to the screen, never wanting to miss a moment of what was going to happen next. With absolutely nail biting sequences and a story that commands attention, if you are at all a fan of creepy films or David Finger-esque thrillers, you owe it to yourself to give this a watch. Watch it - but watch it alone!

Jurassic World Dominion
(2022)

Terribly filmed action ruined what could've been a fun film
As I sat in the theatre watching "Jurassic World: Dominion," I found that a question was forming in the back of my mind - small at first, like a mustard seed, but strong and pervasive in its growth. 30 minutes went by, then an hour, and I still couldn't shake it. The question? Well, I was simply wondering if "Jurassic World: Dominion" was secretly directed by Paul Greengrass due to the obnoxious and excessive use of close-up shaky camera.

Listen, I'm a simple man. When I go see a movie called "Jurassic World," I just want to watch some realistic looking dinosaurs eat people and wreak havoc. And "Jurassic World: Dominion" does have that in spades, after about an hour of horrifically boring, haphazard, stitched together plot necessities. You see, this movie takes a long time to find its footing; essentially two films for the price of one, you'll find yourself bouncing from character to character, scene to scene, until, inevitably, the two stories finally collide to form a cohesive whole. You'll be privy to awkward, forced dialogue delivered by actors who look like they'd rather be literally anywhere else. You'll sit through a collage of scenes that feel like they were sliced, diced, and stitched together in the editing room by Freddy Krueger. And in between the mediocre editing, wooden dialogue, and painful sequences of exposition, you will at least be able to feast your eyes on all of the dinosaur action your heart could ever desire. The problem is you won't be able to see any of it because, for some ungodly reason, most of the action in this movie was filmed in close-up shaky cam.

I mean, come on people. This is a movie that features CGI dinosaurs taking part in a city-wide motorcycle chase that looks like it was ripped directly out of "The Bourne Ultimatum" - at one point in this sequence the music even stops just so the audience can get a real feeling for how intense the action is. But you know what would've really made me get a feeling for the intensity of the action? A steady camera. I honestly got a headache trying to decipher the action, as the camera feels like it's always a few inches away from people, and it's constantly swaying in every single direction known to man. This faux-Paul Greengrass style of filmmaking is absolutely tiresome, and a pathetic excuse for generating excitement. If you really want to excite your audience, how about letting them clearly see what's happening, and who it's happening to. To say the least, the terribly filmed action ruined what could have otherwise been a fun film.

And that basically concludes my review of "Jurassic World: Dominion." This is, simply put, not a very good film. I very much enjoyed the first "Jurassic World" movie and was looking forward to this, but I just found it boring, with the most exciting thing being my struggle to stay away in the theatre. If you want mindless - and I do mean mindless - action, then you can go see this and probably enjoy yourself; it certainly can be a visual spectacle, but past the surface level thrills you'll find a stunning mess in virtually every single department. This is not worth your time, and definitely not worth as many words as I have written.

Crimes of the Future
(2022)

The perfect film for insomniacs
With an undoubtedly unique premise that you certainly have never seen - or even imagined - before, it's a wonder that "Crimes of the Future" is as dull as it is. I mean, wow; I never walk out of movies because I consider it an insult to the art of cinema, but while watching this film I was ready, willing, and eager to commit such an insult. There were even times when I found myself averting my eyes from the screen - not because I was disgusted by what I was seeing, but because the movie theatre wall was more exciting than anything occurring on screen. Simply put, "Crimes of the Future" sucks; let's break down why.

In the future, humans have lost the ability to feel pain; infections are a thing of the past! So, for fun and for a bizarre sense of personal pleasure and gratification, humanity has devolved to performing painless surgeries on each other. People huddle in dark alleys, cutting open each other's shoulders. The elite attend parties where they watch women cut open their own faces. And the newest must-see shows are performance art exhibitions where a live surgery is performed on a willing participant in front of an eager audience. How far will people go for personal pleasure? When is enough truly enough? And what does it mean to consent? "Crimes of the Future" has ideas that are ripe with possibility, filled to the brim with questions that you'll want to unravel. Such an intriguing premise, however, requires an intriguing, involving, and engaging plot; this movie doesn't have one.

Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that the story this movie decides to tell is needlessly confusing and convoluted, belonging more in an episode of "Star Trek" than in a purported body-horror film. A noir-esque take on the genre, "Crimes of the Future" does not give people what they want or expect; instead, it tells a tale so uninteresting that you won't believe Cronenberg found it fit to include in a movie where people perform surgeries on each other for fun. The movie all but throws its clever premise in the trash can to instead preach to its audience what it thinks the answer to humanity's problems are - an answer that is wrapped around one hour and 47 minutes of endless exposition.

For a movie that so heavily markets its surgeries, you'll be surprised to find them occurring few and far between. When they do occur, you'll be even more surprised to find that the sequences of surgery are by no means as graphic as you may have heard or thought. With barely any blood, the surgeries feel oddly sterile, almost as if the movie was afraid to actually gross its audience out. Sure, it's always slightly disgusting to see one human cut into another, but where were the risks? Truth be told, we've all seen bloodier surgeries on basic cable. However, these surgeries were, by far, the most visually interesting and entertaining part of the film - because, when you're not watching them, you'll be watching two characters talk, and talk, and talk to each other.

Yes, "Crimes of the Future" tells instead of shows, with exposition as subtle as a direct punch to the face. I don't even want to write about this, because I feel like words cannot emphasize enough just how horrendously boring this was to watch. So let's just get right into the cast: With a cast that includes the likes of Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, and Viggo Mortensen, "Crimes of the Future" has star power. All three of these people are fantastic (and very attractive) actors who I very much enjoy. Seydoux and Stewart are good here, with what little they have. Their dialogue is stilted and clunky and incomprehensible, but at the very least it is delivered well. Léa has a certain quality about her that can make even the very worst dialogue come off as natural and unassuming; Kristen portrayed a very meek character, one that always seemed like she was on the verge of tears, which I found interesting to watch. Viggo, on the other hand, was horrendous in this film, but not by any fault of his own. With an obviously poor script and what I can only imagine to be mediocre direction, Viggo's performance was the lowlight, with nothing unique to do or say.

I'm done with this review, and I'm done with this movie, because the more I write and think about this, the more I hate it. I recommend this movie to nobody, not even fans of Cronenberg. Actually - I take that back. I recommend all insomniacs to see this film, because it will lull you into the deepest, most restful sleep of your life. "Crimes of the Future?" More like, "Crimes Against Humanity" for delivering one of the worst movies I've seen so far in 2022. Blah.

Men
(2022)

Simultaneously too much and not enough
The climax of "Men" has a certain sequence that can only be described as grotesque - it was a real labor of love, if you will (read between the lines, my friend). And seeing this specific scene take up the entire width of the silver screen in extreme closeup was not something I particularly expected, or wanted, to see in theatres. However, in a weird way I admired this film for throwing caution to the wind - "Gosh darn it," this movie seems to say, "You'll watch what I want you to watch, and you'll like it!" And so I didn't mind the initial sequence, until director Alex Garland portrayed it three more times.

"Men" is simultaneously an exercise of too much and yet not enough. Because when Garland goes for it, he really goes for it; throwing everything and the kitchen sink at his audience in terms of visuals and sound design, on one hand this movie satisfies on a purely primal level. Crisp, bright colors permeate this movie, and coupled with the booming and borderline intrusive score, you have something that your eyes and ears will happily soak up. And in fact, from the moment this film started I was immediately in awe of just how good it looked. But on the other hand, all the visuals and sounds in the world can't make up for a poor plot, and "Men" has a poor plot.

Well, let me backtrack. The plot isn't inherently poor - actually, it's pretty interesting. Starring the beautiful Jessie Buckley as Harper, "Men" follows her as she retreats to a vacation home in the English countryside after experiencing a personal tragedy. Things just seem to go from bad to worse for poor Harper, though, as she soon stumbles across a town where the men look strikingly similar. It's an intriguing premise, especially since the film employs a heavy use of emotional dramatic tension to drive the story forward. You'll find yourself invested in the puzzle that's being put together before your eyes, and engaged in Harper's story and the very human drama that comes from it. And with this expert combination of horror and drama, "Men" seems to make you a promise of a satisfying conclusion. And would you be surprised if I told you that "Men" doesn't deliver?

Looking past the striking visuals, euphoric soundtrack, and Oscar-worthy acting from Jessie Buckley, you have yourself a movie that lacks development. Too long on the draw, the movie takes its time in setting up its main character. In doing so, the film becomes, primarily, a character piece with thriller elements to it - in fact, the horror doesn't really kick in until the latter half of the movie. This wouldn't be a bad thing if the movie actually had a satisfying story that tied the drama and horror together in a conclusive way, but it doesn't. Instead, "Men" feels like two separate movies: a study of grief, and a home invasion thriller. And to be honest with you, the purely dramatic sections of this movie were my favorite simply because the horror elements felt like a narrative afterthought.

Sure, you'll get all the suspense and bloodshed you want out of this type of premise; you'll also get a stunning lack of explanation as to why what's happening is happening. Actually, strike that. You will get an explanation, one that you'll find in one of the laziest cop outs for an ending that I've seen in quite some time. With the subtlety of an atom bomb, the ultimate reveal is uncreative to the extreme. Put it this way: I had my suspicions that the movie would go in the route I thought it was going in, and when my suspicions were confirmed, I couldn't help but groan.

"Men" crumbles under its own weight with a unique premise that the filmmakers, clearly, didn't know what to do with. A lack of satisfying narrative development means that "Men" doesn't wholly succeed as either a drama or a horror film. However, it's so well acted, so pretty to look at, and so nice to listen to that I can't outright reject this movie, because I will certainly be watching this again at home one day. My recommendation? Give this a watch solely for its sights and sounds, and temper your expectations in terms of its storyline. Doing so, you may find just enough to like, but not enough to love.

Firestarter
(2022)

Sloppy, silly, but somehow entertaining
"Firestarter" is unique. As a science-fiction horror film produced by Blumhouse Productions and released in 2022 with a 12-million dollar budget, a bankable leading man in the form of Zac Efron, and inspiration being taken from the popular novel by Stephen King, you'd expect that the pieces for a competent film would already be put together. Unfortunately, director Keith Thomas must not enjoy jigsaw puzzles, as "Firestarter" feels like it was assembled in 20 minutes by a group of amateur filmmakers on a shoestring budget of fifteen dollars.

The most shocking thing about "Firestarter" is how low quality it really is. And if you don't believe me, go take a gander at the trailer - the special effects on display in the preview are laughable (did you see that crow explode), the acting is seemingly wooden, and the film appears flat and lifeless. But surely the actual film utilizes every cent of its budget for some realistic fire effects, employs some visual flair, and draws viewers in with emotive, engaging acting? Only one out of those three are correct. Without a doubt, the best thing about this movie is Zac Efron and Ryan Kiera Armstrong as a father-daughter duo. Playing a concerned and loving father to a child who is basically an X-Men mutant, Zac is better than he has any right to be in a film of this caliber, with dramatic acting chops that drew me in from the opening scene. Ryan Kiera as the titular Firestarter is very good as well, pulling off a wide range of emotions in a believable, organic manner, something that child actors usually have a difficult time doing; put it like this: I wasn't embarrassed watching her performance. What was I embarrassed by? The rest of the movie.

"Firestarter" is not a good movie, and in fact, it's borderline embarrassing that this movie managed to get a theatrical release. I don't want to spend time rehashing what I stated above, so I'll just summarize for the sake of posterity: The movie constantly looks gray and dull and lifeless; every other actor that isn't Zac or Ryan Kiera isn't even worth paying attention to when they're on screen; and yes, the special effects look just as bad, if not worse, than they looked in the trailer. With a simultaneous release on Peacock, watching this at home will not make you hate your life and question every decision you've ever made as watching this in a theatre will make you do. All of that said, however, I'm in a slight predicament as I write this review, because I found this movie kind of entertaining!

With a fantastic synth soundtrack by John Carpenter, two engaging performances by the actors mentioned above, and a handful of unique and fiery deaths, "Firestarter" somehow succeeds in making this generic mess fun and watchable - there's just something inherently entertaining about watching a trashy b-movie, which is exactly what this feels like. And while I'm not sure that's the vibe they were going for, I can't deny that, in spite of all of the many faults I mentioned above, I found myself having a good time. The cheesy special effects (the cat, oh god, the cat), the horrific and gratuitously gory kills, and the twisted coming of age story featuring a little girl who can burn people alive all combined to make the perfect cocktail of the so bad it's good movie that "Firestarter" is.

In summary, this is not a quality film, but it's most likely one you can have some fun with. By no means should you watch this in theaters, but if you're having a couple buds over for some pizza and brews, throw this on and let the comedy commence.

Memory
(2022)

You're better off forgetting this movie was released
I don't know how many times I can express my love for Liam Neeson - the words, "I love Liam Neeson" have probably left my mouth more often than the times I have expressed love toward my own parents. Nowadays, however, my self-proclaimed adoration toward the star feels less like genuine admiration and more like a desperate attempt to convince myself I am still a fan of his. Because, even after the simultaneous physical and mental pain I have endured while watching his recent films, including "The Marksman," "Blacklight," "The Ice Road," and "Honest Thief," I still find myself at the theatre opening weekend every time a new Neeson movie is released, knowing the movie will not be good, but hoping against hope that it might be. Spoiler alert: "Memory" isn't good.

It's astonishing to me that the caliber of filmmakers, actors, and actresses on display in "Memory" have turned over a product that seems more like a money-laundering scheme than a real film. Is this the same Martin Campbell that directed "Casino Royale" and "Goldeneye," two of the best action movies of all time? The same Martin Campbell that also recently made "The Foreigner" and "The Protege," two movies that - while not perfect - still managed to be slick and stylish with a handful of excellent action sequences? Doesn't this movie star three of the best actors working today: Liam Neeson, Guy Pearce, and Monica Bellucci? With all this talent in front of and behind the camera, where did "Memory" go wrong?

With the intriguing premise of having Neeson play a hitman who is battling Alzheimer's just as much as he is battling flesh and blood humans, "Memory" commits a cardinal sin of doing absolutely nothing interesting with this unique concept. You'd think such a plot would be ripe for opportunity, and it is. Campbell and crew instead just decide to do nothing with it. A film portraying an assassin with memory loss is reduced to the most generic depictions of the affliction - Liam fails to recall where he left his car keys; Liam wakes up not remembering where he is, and then questions someone, asking them if he was in a specific place all night; Liam draws a blank on where he left a specific item. A crippling, dehumanizing disease such as Alzheimer's is reduced to bargain-bin generalities that are as predictable as they are boring; even an ounce of creativity would've been appreciated.

Because of this shocking lack of innovation, the story "Memory" decides to tell just isn't that interesting. IMDb describes the plot as: "An assassin-for-hire finds that he's become a target after he refuses to complete a job for a dangerous criminal organization." Sure, it's something we've seen done before, but I'll give "Memory" credit where credit is due, as there are a few twists along the way that I didn't expect. However, the hook of having the main character be someone who suffers from memory loss is practically tossed out the window to instead make room for storytelling that is on par with direct-to-DVD geezer-teasers. If you love watching scene after scene of people sitting in rooms having horrendously boring conversations about catching criminals, and not watching said people actually take action toward catching said criminals, then you're going to love this movie because it has been tailor made for you. With only a spattering of action sequences, "Memory" devolves into a talkie that is only somewhat well-acted, and somewhat well-written. Liam and Guy bring their A-game, as always - you'd be hard pressed to find either of them give a noticeably bad performance. Everyone else? Borderline embarrassing. Wooden dialogue, stilted acting, and just flat-out bad performances plague this movie; at almost every turn I found myself cringing in my seat, my body heat rising from the second hand embarrassment. Not convinced? I'll give you ten dollars if you see this movie and don't have a seizure from how hilariously awful the pigeon poop line is.

But alas, if you're going to see "Memory," you are certainly a fan of Liam Neeson action films, and want to go watch him do what he does best. Does this movie deliver in terms of action? Somewhat. The opening action scene is cool, but it's not really action-heavy or even that visually interesting - it just kind of happens while being neither uninteresting or entertaining. And this theme continues throughout virtually every depiction of violence in this movie. Sure, it's always cool to watch a hitman kill people, but I'd also like to see some creativity at play, some tension being built, some suspense bubbling beneath the surface; you don't get that here. Action comes and then quickly goes almost as fast as it arrived, with little fanfare, almost as if the filmmakers found it tedious to shoot. There is one genuinely entertaining action sequence that takes place in a parking garage that includes fists being thrown and guns being fired - that said, I noticed that, in addition to it looking bland from a visual perspective, the editing was jarring in a few places, cutting suddenly from angle to angle without narrative cohesion.

And speaking of how this movie looks, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the visual flair that "Memory" employs, or in this case, the lack thereof. This film looks incredibly dull, with no flair or style to speak of; if you would've told me this was filmed to be sent directly to streaming, I'd believe you. This was the most shocking aspect of the movie to me, as Martin Campbell typically delivers a stylish picture. However, whether from disinterest or a lack of adequate quality control, "Memory" is about as interesting visually as a newspaper that you've already read: You know what you're getting into when you sit down to look at it - there are no surprises.

Complaints aside, I didn't hate this movie. The little action it did have captivated my attention when it was on screen, and it's always fun to see Liam being Liam on the big screen. Slight twists and turns had me genuinely shocked, holding my engagement just enough for me to actively see how the story ended. All of that said, at its core, "Memory" is a boring, poorly made film. Virtually every aspect, from the visuals to the storytelling, is generic to the extreme, with little to no genre innovation. The unique premise is not utilized at all, and the action is so sparse that you'll most likely forget you're watching an action film. If you happen to see this movie on streaming one night, I imagine you won't feel like you've wasted time, but I can say with certainty that "Memory" is not a film you need to see at the cinema.

The Northman
(2022)

The technical quality of "The Northman" doesn't carry over in its storytelling
I was looking forward to "The Northman" due to a variety of different reasons.... or, if I'm being honest, just one: Anya Taylor-Joy. The talented, gorgeous seductress she is, once I learned that she would play a starring role in this film, I knew I had to see it on the largest screen possible. Unfortunately, the theatre I went to had an unfortunately small screen that certainly detracted from my viewing experience; maybe this was a strategic move, however, on the part of the studio, as now I will be going to see this movie again at a different cinema, preferably one with a bigger silver screen. And as I am so willing to go pay to see this movie again, surely I must have loved it.... right? Wrong - and don't call me Shirley.

"The Northman" is no doubt overhyped. Directed by Robert Eggers, who has made "The Witch" (which I adore) and "The Lighthouse" (which I haven't yet seen), "The Northman" is his third feature, one that was making a name for itself before it was even released due to how well-received his previous two movies were. In all honesty, it seems like people were ready to love this without even having seen it yet, and I believe that, because of this excitement, people (critics included) are having a difficult time looking at this movie objectively - because with all there is to appreciate, there is also an equal amount to criticize.

Anya Taylor-Joy is perfection, as always - she's not just beautiful, but she is proving her range as an actress in each and every role she chooses. Yes, she may have been my reason for buying a ticket to this, but I was equally as impressed with virtually everyone in here. Alexander Skarsgård is one of my favorite actors, and he was very effective as a monstrous brooding brute. Ethan Hawke and Nicole Kidman also do well with what they have; in short, the acting is good - that is, when the script allows it to be. Because, even though the actors and actresses are clearly committed to their parts, the script is full of borderline embarrassing dialogue. Conversations have no substance to them, with people speaking as if they've never spoken before. Many lines are simplistic to the extreme, almost as if they were written by a mediocre fan fiction writer. You can almost look past it due to the clear competence of the performers, but my near constant eye rolls had me wishing for a better screenplay.

If you've seen the trailer for this, you already know the movie looks incredible - and it does. My eyes were constantly glued to the screen, soaking up the scenery. Similarly, my ears found themselves honed in on the soundtrack; basically a star in and of itself, the score here booms through the theatre sound systems. Ominous and engrossing, the soundtrack is nearly constant, seeping everything in a sense of horror and unease - and it's effective (and so loud that, even if you find yourself bored, you won't be able to fall asleep). Visually and audibly, "The Northman" is 100% worth the price of admission. From a plot and story perspective, however, you'll find it lacking.

"The Northman" has a simplistic story - perhaps too simplistic for its own good. Following a young Viking prince on his quest to avenge his father's murder, you'd think that Eggers would have something unique up his sleeve. I assumed that he'd either fill this movie with great action and have this be his entry into blockbuster filmmaking, or if not that, at the least attempt to throw a wrench in what is otherwise a traditional revenge movie. Alas, he does neither! "The Northman" does not have enough action to qualify as a satisfying action movie (granted, the action is filmed well, but is surprisingly tame and not as bloody as I expected or wanted) nor does it have enough plot twists to switch things up from average revenge fare. The movie meanders, barely picking up any steam except for the occasional burst of violence. You'll spend a lot of time watching characters engage in uninteresting conversations that could've been interesting with better dialogue. You'll see psychedelic dream sequences that are unique the first time, and then quickly overplayed by the second, third, fourth, and fifth time. The story lacks focus; so sure, while you'll see a visual feast of Norse culture that never really leads anywhere, you'll also find yourself asking whether you're watching a revenge movie or a historically accurate portrayal of 900 A. D. life.

In many ways "The Northman" delivers. It's great to look at (and not just because of Anya Taylor-Joy), with truly immersive world building that draws viewers in with overwhelming sights and sounds. This is a brutal film, one that's not afraid to show Norse culture as it was. This is also a film that has a shocking lack of direction. While I would never say I was bored or disengaged, I can say I found myself slightly confused at the way the movie plodded along; for a movie that's over two hours, not much happens, and when things do happen, it isn't very interesting. I was disappointed in "The Northman," but even so, cannot deny the quality of its technical aspects - I only wish that quality carried over in the storytelling.

Ambulance
(2022)

A long, but exciting, action film
Michael Bay is known for making big-budget, high-concept action films characterized by fast cutting, stylistic cinematography and visuals, and extensive use of special effects, including frequent depictions of explosions (thanks to Wikipedia for that amazing description). So, you may be surprised to hear that his latest film, "Ambulance," is a low-budget, small-scale action film - albeit, one that is also characterized by fast cutting, stylistic cinematography and visuals, and extensive use of special effects, including frequent depictions of explosions.

Here's the thing - if you're going to see a Michael Bay movie, you pretty much know what you're getting into; this is doubly true if you're walking into "Ambulance" after watching its trailer, which explicitly spells out what type of movie you are going to get. If, after all of that, you still decide to see this, and don't like it, then you had no business buying a ticket for this in the first place.

From the frantic direction to the remarkably entertaining unhinged performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, "Ambulance" is balls to the wall, high octane insanity from beginning to end; basically a two hour car chase, Bay has a little something for everyone in here: There are kinetic shootouts taking place on city streets, bank robberies gone awry, medical procedures, booby traps, and I could go on. Bay throws everything and the kitchen sink at the audience, resulting in an action film that never lets up.

For me, the main draw to see this movie was Jake Gyllenhaal - playing what is basically someone who suffers from a severe ADD diagnosis, Jake is introduced in this movie with an energy level that is at an 11 out of 10, and it stays that way until the credits roll. I mean, I don't think I've ever seen anyone having more fun in a role, ever, and his energy was infectious. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays Jake's brother in this movie, and he gave a more restrained performance, which contrasted nicely against Jake's insanity. I was impressed by both of their performances, considering that many actors would not have had the clear commitment both of them portrayed. Which actor impressed me the most? Eiza González. She was the heart of the film, with many touching moments that pulled at my heartstrings; she's also extremely beautiful.

What didn't I like? Honestly, as much as I enjoyed Bay's commitment to capturing footage using drones, I would've liked to see the camera remain at least a little bit steady. You see, the camera literally never stops moving, ever, at any point; while this was admittedly unique, after an hour and a half of watching a camera zip and zoom under tables and buildings and street corners, it gets a bit exhausting. Also, this movie is way too long - if this was a 90 minute movie, I can easily see this being an 8 or a 9 out of 10. However, because this movie is over two hours long, you will definitely find yourself feeling restless and eager for the credits to roll.

Overall though, I had a really good time with "Ambulance." It has compelling performances and a lot of fantastic action that I think you'll regret not watching on the big screen. If you're at all curious as to what Bay has in store with this, I'd recommend for you to give it a go - you may not love it, but you'll definitely have some fun with it.

Morbius
(2022)

Unremarkable, but watchable
"Morbius" isn't an awful film - it's just one that feels like it should've been released in 2004. And in fact, if you told me that this movie was actually filmed in 2004 and was delayed 18 years, finally being released in 2022, I'd believe you. In every way, "Morbius" is unremarkable; after watching, my basic thought process was: "Well, that was certainly a movie." If "standard and generic superhero film" had a definition, "Morbius" would be it. This is just a flat, emotionless, corporate produced product that has only one thing in mind: the almighty dollar. The thing is, it wasn't unentertaining!

While "Morbius" is forgettable in almost every way, it can serve as a quick, if unfulfilling, cinematic adventure. Yes, this movie is sanitized in order to maintain a PG-13 rating; yes, you can sense the studio meddling that results in a choppy, borderline incomprehensible plot; and yes, you better believe that the direction is as safe and sterile as grandma's home cooking. But if you put that aside (and drink copious amounts of alcohol before and during this cinematic experience), there is some fun to be had here.

Jared Leto is actually great in the role of Michael Morbius; where I find him to be a great actor who is constantly overacting, in here he is quite restrained. While I have no idea why he decided to play a vampire antihero as restrained as he did, I must say I appreciated it simply because I found it unexpected. Did anyone overact in this movie? Oh, you better believe it! Matt Smith's Milo chews up the scenery, spits it out, and gnaws on it again in an unrestrained performance, complete with a minute long dance sequence. It's just so ridiculous, but it's a lot of fun.

"Morbius," of course, has some vampire action in it - you know, something for the kids. And when I say for the kids, I mean that literally - "Morbius" is the most bloodless vampire movie you've ever seen, but it's not all bad. The action is sterile, but it's fun to look at with its distinct visual flair that only Daniel Espinosa could bring to the table (that's just a joke - literally any other director could've filmed these action scenes, but with that said, they were still cool to watch). There's slicing, dicing, and sucking (get your head out of the gutter, pervert), but all of it is without the slightest hint of blood or gore. Is that disappointing? Of course. But does it ruin the action scenes? Not at all.

Okay - I don't want to write anymore! So I'll end by saying that "Morbius" is the most ehhh superhero movie I've ever seen. There's nothing remarkable about it, but there's also nothing overly negative in it. Everything about this film is supremely generic, but it is also very watchable. If you have 90 minutes to kill and are in the mood to watch some vampire violence, you could do a whole lot worse.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
(2022)

A visual feast, but emotionally hollow
Without checking my IMDb scores for the previous "Fantastic Beasts" films, I remember myself not being too impressed with them; while I fully plan on rewatching them right after I finish writing this review, to the best of my recollection, I am not a fan of the first two movies in this new Wizarding World series. While I recall the first movie being somewhat zany and enjoyable, I vividly remember falling asleep repeatedly while attempting to watch "The Crimes of Grindelwald" during its opening night. As such, I remember very little of both "Where to Find Them" and "Crimes of Grindelwald" - admittedly, a rewatch of both movies may have been beneficial before diving into "The Secrets of Dumbledore." However, my mother wanted to see a movie with me, and I figured nothing says mother-son bonding time better than a trip to the theatre to see a bunch of wizards and witches casting spells at each other. Enter "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" - and consider me shocked when I say that I found myself consistently entertained.

"The Secrets of Dumbledore" certainly requires one to be familiar with the first two movies - if you aren't, you'll be lost. Truth be told, I was slightly confused as to the who and why since it has been so long since I've watched the other films. That said, I almost immediately was entranced. For one, Mads Mikkelsen adds an absurd amount of charisma as Grindelwald, and with a riveting opening scene containing him and Jude Law's Dumbledore, you're going to find yourself hard pressed not to be engaged. The chemistry between these two characters is palpable, if not fully explored. It's not a spoiler to say that the movie immediately reveals Dumbledore and Grindelwald as ex-lovers, a choice I was completely on board with. However, instead of coming across as genuinely progressive, the movie comes across as spineless due to the fact that all references to a homosexual romantic relationship take place in a few sentences that can be easily cut (and have been easily cut) for foreign releases. Because of that, there is a shocking lack of romantic tension between these two characters, tension that could have added a lot of dramatic heft. Complaints aside, both Law and Mikkelsen are great in their roles, and this movie is worth watching for their quiet, but pronounced, charisma.

Across the board the acting is great, with the standout being Dan Fogler. He was almost too entertaining, with an unmistakable energy that practically carried the film. Our hero, Newt - played by Eddie Redmayne - is fine. He is very charming in an awkward sort of way, and his knowledge of fantastic beasts (and where to find them) does lead to some very fun scenes, with one sequence in particular that had me giggling like a schoolgirl. From a pure performance perspective, "The Secrets of Dumbledore" delivers. But how is the story?

This is where I imagine the division of audiences will begin. On one hand, it is fun to be back in a world full of magic and witches and warlocks. On the other hand, a plot that revolves around an election will no doubt be hard for some people to stomach. I never found myself specifically bored or falling asleep like I did during "Crimes of Grindelwald," but I can imagine that many children, and most adults, may find themselves nodding off. You see, I am biased because of how big a fan I am of Mads - I stayed awake and engaged because I couldn't wait to see what he would do next on screen. The average audience member will obviously not be as big of a fan of Mikkelsen as I am. All of that said, I can see the average audience member having a difficult time staying interested in a story that focuses on a Wizarding World election.

It's hard to understand why the writers decided that this type of a plot would be the right move for this film; a political thriller set in the Harry Potter universe isn't what most people are asking for. While I actually enjoyed this bizarre take, I know that a lot of people may not. This movie is also over two hours long - and for a large majority of the running time, you're not getting wizard on wizard action. Yes, there are a few exciting and visually stunning action scenes, but there are not that many. So, you'll be privy to many sequences of characters having conversations with each other. While I found myself staying interested due to the great acting, and not to mention the exquisite set and costume design (it was all just so magical), I know that many people may want more from their Harry Potter movies - and make no mistake, people still consider these to be Harry Potter movies.

No doubt a massive improvement over the first two movies, "The Secrets of Dumbledore" can manage to entertain; if you temper your expectations and know what you're getting into, I do think that you'll find yourself having some fun - at the least, it is always entertaining to immerse yourself in the spectacle of sights and sounds that is this world of magic and mayhem. However, without the emotional hook that the original Potter films had, "Fantastic Beasts" rings hollow.

The Outfit
(2022)

Thrilling minimalism
What makes "The Outfit" so good is its ability to thrill through its minimalism. Taking place entirely in one location, with only a handful of actors and actresses, the film isn't afraid of taking risks. And in my opinion, the risks paid off.

I found myself almost immediately entranced by "The Outfit" because of the clear craftsmanship and quality that was taking place both in front of and behind the camera. Opening with a rather unique scene of narration from Mark Rylance, who plays Leonard - the cutter (not a tailor), I immediately knew I'd be in for something different. And I was. A nice little gangster picture, "The Outfit" utilizes sharp, engaging dialogue and tense, stressful situations to draw viewers in, creating a tense drama that is consistently entertaining.

Mark Rylance is so good as the unassuming cutter (not a tailor) who is thrust into a night of mystery and violence. Taking place during the 1950s in Chicago, Leonard finds himself acquaintances with Chicago's finest - the mobsters who are running the city. When, one night, two of them basically kick down the door of his shop in order to hide from an apparent attack, he unwillingly becomes part of a plot that involves FBI informants, rival gangs, and double crossing. Could the informant be one of the gangsters who break into this shop? Is he putting himself at risk by assisting in protecting the gangsters? And at the end of the night, will his kindness be returned with nothing more than a bullet?

"The Outfit" keeps you on your toes by keeping you guessing - it also has good dialogue that lends itself to character building and further mystery. As characters converse, you'll find your opinions about them change; you'll think someone is in on something, and then during another conversation or chance encounter, you'll start to think that, maybe, said character isn't the mastermind you thought they were. I was constantly riveted by the dialogue, and kept on the edge of my seat by the incredible scenes of suspense and drama that followed. Now, I know you're wondering one specific thing: is "The Outfit" an action movie. It is not - however, there is some action in it. Most of the battles in this movie take place verbally, but there are still scenes of violence that are quite thrilling.

So, with all my praise, why only a 7 out of 10? Simply put, while I liked this movie - a lot - I didn't quite love it. Maybe my opinion will change upon rewatches, but I can tell you now that, regardless, "The Outfit" was a fine movie that I hope gets the attention it deserves. If you enjoy gangster movies, well-written thrillers, or just small dramas, definitely give this a go.

X
(2022)

Simultaneously silly, sexy, scary, and revolting
I've come to think of film production company A24 as The Asylum of art-house films. Where The Asylum focuses on producing low-budget, direct-to-video films that use film titles and scripts very similar to those of current blockbusters in order to lure customers (shouts out to Wikipedia for that beautifully succinct synopsis), A24 also produces movies that - on first glance - look very similar to generic genre films; you don't have to look very far to find the proof of that. Films like "Hereditary," "Midsommar," and "It Comes At Night" all had trailers that marketed the films as scary movies that appealed to mass audiences. Those with some semblance of familiarity of A24's track record would know that the above mentioned films would have more up their sleeve, while others may find themselves taken by surprise by how "different" the movies are when compared to more mainstream fare. "X" is no different. With a trailer that, while stylistic, advertises itself as nothing more than just another slasher, "X" entices customers with an accurate premise, only to pull the rug from out under them once they are seated in the theatre.

What I like most about A24 is its conviction to add an insane level of quality to what should be nothing more than a disposable Saturday night watch. "X" advertises itself as a grimy, bloody, slasher movie - and it is - but it's one that prides itself on its high production value. "X" is a slasher that actually cares about its story and its characters; remarkably, it is a horror film that works just as well when it's purely being a drama. Following a crew of filmmakers who are decidedly set on making an "artistic" adult movie, "X" is intent on character-building. With all the greed, jealousy, and lustfulness that you might expect from a group of young adults who enjoy making love with each other on camera for money, I was pleasantly surprised that I started to enjoy this movie purely on its own storytelling merits, before the real horror even began.

With eye-candy all around in the form of Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, and Brittany Snow (as well as Kid Cudi, Martin Henderson, and Owen Campbell - if you're into that sort of thing), what impressed me most about "X" is that, not only did director Ti West pack his movie full of people who can actually act, but he also has crafted characters that are fully fleshed out and feel like real people. Unlike your typical slasher, here characters actually make smart decisions and are not just stupid for the sake of being stupid. And this works twofold by drawing viewers into the story before the horror begins, and then amplifying it once it does.

With ample care being taken in character, script, plot, and production value (and not to mention the rocking soundtrack), you can only imagine how much care was also taken in the kills. Yes, Ti West will be sure to gross you out here, because there is blood, guts, and gore aplenty, and all of it wrapped around a unique visual flair and editing style that ups the entertainment value and differentiates this movie from other slashers. There is creativity here, with people dying in unpredictable and uncomfortable ways; I definitely found myself cringing at many of the deaths. So if you enjoy bloody violence, you'll definitely find a lot to like here.

If I had any complaints about this movie, which I do, it's that I found the tension building to be slightly lacking. You see, I quite enjoy slashers that have long, drawn out scenes of people trying to escape their murderers ("Scream," for example), and this movie didn't really have that. While I understand why exactly "X" could not have such scenes, it did make the killings slightly lackluster - as in, character goes to place, then they swiftly get killed in said place, and end scene. While the kills themselves are creative, there is a lack of creativity in the build up to those kills. Similarly, I did find the motivation of the killer(s) to be somewhat unclear. I mean, I understand why they were doing what they were doing, but I don't really think the motivation was all that believable. Also, I found the ending to be rather abrupt and not very climactic or fulfilling. All of that said, "X" remained to be extremely entertaining.

"X" won't be for everyone - when the movie ended, a middle-aged man turned to his date and said, "That was the weirdest movie I have ever seen." A couple sat next to me, and basically sprinted out of the theatre as soon as the credits rolled. However, its almost maddening attention to quality and detail elevates it above other, similar, slasher movies, making this one very memorable horror film.

The Batman
(2022)

Slow, brooding, occasionally exciting, but always entertaining.
Taking notes from 2019's "Joker," the newest iteration of Batman, which is aptly titled, "The Batman," is a dark, brooding character study that feels less like a superhero film and more of a David Fincher psychological crime drama. Even going as far as to open with a scene of brutal murder, "The Batman" is unlike any other live action film that has previously depicted the caped crusader. And with that comes positives and negatives.

Batman is by far my favorite superhero - and in this movie, he does not disappoint. Robert Pattinson play a moody, emo, young-adult Bruce Wayne who is obviously not well-adjusted to the world. Sure, he may be a billionaire, but he is no playboy or philanthropist. Instead, this film's Bruce Wayne is a reclusive introvert who spends most of his time prowling the streets at night for his next targets. Yes, Batman is not seeking out to necessarily save people but instead to violently brutalize thugs while telling them that his name is "Vengeance" - this leads to a fantastic introduction to Batman's character where he engages in hand to hand combat with a group of thugs, showing absolutely no mercy. It's clear that Bruce/Batman has a lot of pent up aggression; but unlike Affleck's Batman who utilized his raw strength to beat enemies to a pulp, Pattinson is still green. Having been The Dark Knight for only two years, Pattinson portrays a more vulnerable, less careful superhero, one who is getting hurt almost as much as he hurts others. However, instead of packing this film with high-octane fight sequences, "The Batman" aims to thrill through its depiction of a noir murder mystery.

Paul Dano plays The Riddler, who is keen on picking off Gotham's high profile politicians and law enforcement officials. When the mayor of Gotham is found murdered, Batman must put his patented detective skills to work to figure out who is doing the killing, and why. Due to this change in tone that is so unlike any other Batman movie we've had before, "The Batman" has a very methodical, borderline slow-moving pace to it. Combine that with the three-hour long runtime, and you have a recipe for either disaster, or triumph. The long runtime is definitely what is going to turn people off from the film. A three hour superhero movie certainly isn't the norm, and both times I saw this film in theatres, I could definitely pick up on the antsyness of the audience. That said, even with such a long runtime, the movie's pacing is practically perfect. There is always something happening or about to happen, with an action beat occurring every 20 minutes or so. That said, because the movie has such a serious, brooding tone, the film never necessarily feels like it's picking up.

It's clear that director Matt Reeves wanted this movie to forego all traditional superhero tropes, and instead cater to slow-burn, adult thrillers. While that can be effective, and is for a majority of the film, in my opinion the slow-burn almost added a level of stagnation to the movie due to the fact that the tone is relentless and constant throughout all three hours of the film. For "The Batman's" entirety, the film almost goes out of its way to deny its audience from any high-octane thrills or spectacular action set pieces. Even with the, admittedly, breathtaking car chase that has been featured in virtually every trailer for this movie, even that has a sort of slow-moving, "artistic" feel to it because of the fact that Matt Reeves decides to show most of the chase through the point of view of who Batman is chasing. Because of that, you don't get the gorgeous wide shots that you do in, for example, "The Dark Knight's" car chase set piece. Instead, in "The Batman," the chase takes place mostly in the cockpit of the vehicles, not allowing you to see the chase in all its glory. Fight sequences are filmed similarly, in that there is almost always something that slightly obscures the action - a scene that immediately comes to mind is a hallway fight that is completely light-less except for occasional bursts of muzzle flair - you may have seen this in the trailer! Yes, it looks beautiful, but the beauty does take away from the intensity of the action.

I also had a problem with this movie's villain. While Paul Dano is one of the best actors working today, it is glaringly obvious that his Riddler takes inspiration from another villain who enjoys wearing clown makeup. Additionally, "The Batman" lacked the emotional hook that Nolan's movies contained. A common criticism of this film is that there was a lack of emotional resonance, and I agree. I love Batman, obviously, which kept me engaged in the movie, but besides that I never necessarily felt connected to any of the characters. All these negatives aside, "The Batman," does offer a compelling, endlessly watchable Batman adventure. There is a lot to like, and even love, here. Pattinson portrays one of my favorite iterations of both Bruce and Batman, and Matt Reeves packs this film with gorgeous, if relatively unexciting, action sequences. Paul Dano's Riddler has many memorable sequences - I just wish he was in the film more than he is.

"The Batman" won't be everyone's cup of tea. It's long, it's slow, and it's seriousness and darkness doesn't make for the most thrilling movie. However, if you're at all, and in any way, a fan of Batman, you are going to at least like this movie. This is not my favorite Batman movie, but it is one that I am going to rewatch an endless amount of times because, well, it entertained me. And really, that's all I ask for in a movie these days.

Cyrano
(2021)

Beautiful, dramatic, heartbreaking
I was expecting to not enjoy this movie, to be quite honest with you; I forced myself to leave the house to watch this, and because I got a little too messed up on gin and vodka martinis the other night, I also forced myself to watch this film sober, without even a movie theatre wine to ease myself into the experience. I was fully expecting to fall asleep or begin to start nodding off - lo and behold, I instead found myself unexpectedly enthralled, with "Cyrano" being one of the most enjoyable theatre experiences I've had so far in 2022.

Peter Dinklage shines as Cyrano, a verbose, intricate man whose way with words has made a name for himself. A poet, a performer, and a singer - by all intents and purposes, Cyrano should be the talk of town; with talent like his, you'd think every man would want to be him, and every woman would want him. The issue? Cyrano is very, very short, which takes a massive toll on his self confidence. It doesn't help that he is in love with the beautiful Roxanne, played by Haley Bennett. With the both of them seemingly perfect for each other, Cyrano's short stature holds him back from professing his love, which enables newcomer Christian, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr., to catch Roxanne's eye. Enter a sort of love triangle where Cyrano helps the borderline illiterate Christian seduce Roxanne through the power of poetry and love letters.

"Cyrano" is a beautiful, dramatic, and heartbreaking story, where literally every actor is bringing their A-game. Kelvin, Haley, and Peter all get their time to shine, with many sequences that showcase their range. One scene with Peter and Haley in a bakery is so emotionally complex, with Peter especially giving an enthralling performance through facial expressions and eye contact; another scene with all three actors (the balcony scene) is completely show stealing, with everyone oozing emotional resonance. From a purely dramatic perspective, "Cyrano" is totally engaging - which may or may not inhibit the musical aspect, depending on your personal taste.

I for one am a fan of musicals, so when the singing kicked in, I was 100% on board; however, I have read reviews where others wished the film played it straight, without any scenes of sing and dance, and I understand that as well. That being said, if you enjoy musicals, then there is a whole lot to like here. While none of the songs were particularly memorable (i.e., you most likely will not be listening to this movie's soundtrack when you're done watching it), every song fit perfectly into the drama of the storytelling. One song titled, "Wherever I Fall" had me practically sobbing in my seat, while others such as "Someone to Say" and "I Need More" had me smiling like an idiot because of how much I was enjoying both the voices of the singers (seriously, everyone in this movie sings extremely well) and the choreography of the dance moves.

From soldiers doing ballet to an extremely seductive scene involving Roxanne reading love letters, director Joe Wright knows how to make his movies look breathtaking. In fact, the choreography was so magnificent and fun to watch that practically my only real complaint about this film was that there wasn't more of it. From the scenes of dance to the scenes of swordplay, it was all framed, shot, and executed virtually perfectly that I am disappointed there weren't more scenes of grandiose spectacle.

Regardless, I had a wonderful, emotional experience with "Cyrano," one that made traveling to the theatre in extremely cold weather worth it. This is a beautiful romance film, one that warns of pridefulness and not allowing oneself to be open and vulnerable to love. The performances were outstanding (Ben Mendelsohn, whom I forgot to mention previously, was great as well), the songs added dramatic heft, and the plot is just endlessly romantic. I would highly recommend this movie, and will definitely be adding it to my Blu-Ray collection.

Eight for Silver
(2021)

No bark, or bite
"The Cursed," or previously known as "Eight for Silver," is the newest film in the dying genre of werewolf movies. And it's a "ruff" one, har har. I've spent the last two hours trying to think of an opening for this review, and that's what it was; believe me, I'm as disappointed as you are, but not as disappointed as you will be if you go watch "The Cursed."

Annoyance and anger are the two primary emotions I am feeling at this moment, not necessarily because "The Cursed" is a bad movie but because it seems to almost purposefully and systematically sabotage itself, especially since it starts so promisingly. With a surprising opening scene akin to "1917," this horror film begins by portraying the horrors of war. It's a brief sequence, but it's effective in its restraint. And, it looks absolutely incredible, as does a large majority of this film. From a visual perspective, "The Cursed" is a 9 out of 10; from stunning vistas to breathtaking wide shots and long takes, I haven't been this simultaneously impressed from a visual perspective and disappointed from a storytelling viewpoint since "A Cure for Wellness." Shortly after the gripping opening, there is an absolutely enthralling scene of genocide, for lack of a better word (perhaps extermination is a more apt description) - taking place entirely in one long, wide shot, with the swelling, haunting score playing in the background, this movie almost immediately had me under its trance. Unfortunately, after those two scenes, the movie switched gears and became, basically, a prescription strength Ambien.

"The Cursed" is confusing. With such clear competency behind the camera, bizarre visual choices threaten to induce a serious case of whiplash. Through and through, the film looks fantastic - so when it doesn't, it is all the more jarring. Some scenes have a weird, ugly Vaseline sheen on them that will make you think you're watching an Asylum picture. Also, certain sequences of werewolf action are filmed with some of the worst shaky cam I've scene since "Taken 3," and I'm not even joking; at points the camera is shaking so heavily, and with such ferocity, that I wouldn't be surprised if they hired a real epileptic as cameraman. When it comes to editing, there is a large amount of fade and cut to blacks; while this isn't necessarily a negative, it became very noticeable, and thus, distracting, as practically every five minutes the movie would employ this editing technique - it's completely overused.

The quality and care of the cinematography is juxtaposed by numerous silly looking visuals and special effects. For example, when the werewolves show up, you're going to start to wish that they didn't because of how unconvincing they look. The CGI is poor, and to be blunt, they don't look scary (or even cool or unique). There is also just some cheesy looking special effects throughout, such as when one character puts on a pair of silver teeth; the movie makes an attempt to show said character act unhinged and possessed, but it just looks goofy, and in fact, people in my audience laughed.

I could go on and on about the visuals, so let's make a shift to storytelling. The story of "The Cursed" is simple enough - a werewolf curse plagues a town, and a man is sent in to deal with it (that's the long and short of it, anyhow). The trouble is, "The Cursed" moves at such a snail's pace that you will literally not care about what's happening, why it's happening, or who it's happening to. This movie is so unbelievably slow, filled with such horrendously boring conversations, that I nodded off more than I have in any movie in recent history. Another thing that took me out of the movie were the massive, and I mean astronomical, mental gymnastics that characters had to do to get to some, potentially correct, plot conclusions. For example, after finding the set of silver teeth, one character inexplicably, without explanation, believes that the silver used in the teeth is the exact same silver that was given to Judas when he betrayed Christ. What? Where did that come from? At first I thought maybe I fell asleep and missed an explanation, but toward the end of the film another character reiterates that they believe the silver is Judas' blood money. It's such a stupid, unnecessary plot point that goes exactly nowhere.

And while I'm complaining, I'd also like to say that the random scene of nudity rubbed me the wrong way. While I enjoy the female form as much as anyone, there is a completely meaningless scene where the camera lingers on the side profile of a naked woman. This scene takes up about 60 seconds or more of screen time, and serves no point; it could've absolutely been removed entirely from the film, just like the four or five dream sequences that plague this movie. Why are horror films still including dream sequences? No one likes them, they aren't interesting, and unless you're James Wan, they aren't going to be done well - and all of that is true here. There are an absurd number of boring, predictable, useless dream sequences that drive the story to a halt, depleting what little momentum the movie had going for it.

I think I'm done writing at this point; I'm hungry, tired, and sober - a horrible combination. The gist is that this movie is so disappointing because of how much competence there is behind it, but a movie can't stand on good visuals alone. "The Cursed" suffers from cheap looking special effects, poor, slow pacing, and a contrived, uninteresting plot. In conclusion, watch "Cursed" with Christina Ricci instead.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(2022)

"He's wearing her face"
The "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" franchise is unique in that it, arguably, has only one good film in its series - that being the original 1974 film. A classic in its own right, "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" demonstrated to audiences that blood and gore isn't needed to instill fear. Foregoing this idea in the later films, the series was rebooted in 2003 with a remake that I genuinely enjoy; with more blood and gore, but no less frights, I felt like the film did an adequate job of revitalizing the franchise - but, judging but the communal IMDb score, most do not agree. In 2005, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," was released, serving as a prequel to the series. And while it delivers on all of the chainsaw action anyone could ever want, I found the movie to be exceedingly grotesque and nihilistic, with its violence a little too sadistic for my taste. Let's not even talk about "Texas Chainsaw 3D," and let's move on to the 2017 prequel "Leatherface;" with its story-driven horror, I once again found myself a fan of this franchise. Enter "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" 2022.

Oh boy. Well, at least it's only 80 minutes, am I right? Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself, because really, this film isn't all bad - it's just that a large majority of it is. But let's begin with the positives, and then explain some negatives. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" looks good from a visual perspective; there's some actual competence behind the camera here, and they didn't skimp out when it comes to the cinematography. The issue here is that, with such a striking looking film, you'd at least expect some interesting looking murders. Alas, you do not get that. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" has some incredibly lame, tame, and cheap looking kills - the exact opposite of what I want from a film about a chainsaw wielding serial killer. Yes, there is blood and gore, but it looks cheap and unconvincing, which is disappointing when it's clear that genuine care was taken with some of the visuals.

The incredible Elsie Fisher stars - you may recognize her from "Eighth Grade," which was no doubt one of the best movies of 2018. Here she gives a fine performance, one that is enhanced by adding an interesting backstory to her character, Lila. A school shooting survivor, Lila carries that trauma with her, both emotionally as well as physically, with a visible scar near her chest. It's a unique dynamic, one that is barely explored and virtually forgotten about as soon as it is introduced. You see a flashback here and there, but this backstory does little to enhance the story except for maybe add some tension when Lila finally picks up a gun(?). And if that's the case, what message are the filmmakers even going for? It's an interesting touch that's made confusing by the lack of utilization.

Let's talk plot: Following a group of idealistic young friends who plan on converting a seemingly abandoned town into a liberal utopia, the film introduces a bunch of new characters while also bringing back Sally, the girl who survives the original massacre. Sally, originally played by Marilyn Burns and now portrayed by Olwen Fouéré, is out on a journey of revenge, wanting to enact vengeance on Leatherface for the slaying of her friends ("Halloween" 2018, anybody?). And with these two separate plot elements introduced, as you can imagine, none of them get enough time to breathe. On one hand you have the group of uninteresting young adults (not including Lila, who is legitimately relatable and interesting) who you desperately want to see massacred due to the nonexistent character development (and of course, the movie does not deliver when it comes to kills). On the other hand, you have Sally who is seemingly on a warpath headed toward Leatherface, which is the much more interesting plot point that, due to the very short length of the film, does not get enough build up to be meaningful. Why not just have the film follow Sally the entire time? That seems to be the obvious, and smarter, choice.

With unimpressive gore, zero meaningful character development, and a rushed plot, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" continues the TCM tradition of poor sequels (or reboots, or requels, or whatever the kids are calling them nowadays). There is literally nothing memorable about this movie besides how shockingly unmemorable it actually is. While it was very nice to see Elsie Fisher back, her character was painfully underutilized to the point where it was almost disrespectful. In conclusion, this is a very disposable movie, one that can be compared to fast food - you can consume it without any trouble, but it will immediately leave your mind as soon as you're finished.

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