It’s something that was unthinkable only a few years ago: I’ve found myself getting tired of seeing all these superhero films being released.
Back when Guardians of the Galaxy and the first Dr. Strange movie were released in close proximity, I saw them and… I didn’t like either.
Something in me broke, to be honest, and while I have caught a Marvel movie here and there, I haven’t been seeking them out as I did before. Further, while I have the final two Avengers films, I haven’t found the time or inclination to see them. The last Marvel film I saw was Spider-Man: Far From Home and… I really didn’t like it much at all.
I’ve seen many of the DC hero films but have a few I have that I haven’t watched either (Shazam! and Wonder Woman 84).
So maybe I’m getting a little burnt out, as I said above, with the genre yet when The Batman was in production and once it was released, I was curious to catch it. Then I heard it was 3… hours… long... and I just couldn’t see myself going into a theater and sitting there for that long, regardless of how much I loved the character (he’s easily my favorite super hero).
Anyway, the film was released to theaters, did very well, then was released to HBO Max and, in the comfort of my house, I finally gave it a go. For those living in a cave, here’s the movie’s trailer:
The Batman features Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Andy Serkis as his reliable butler Alfred, Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon, Zoe Kravitz as Selena Kane/Catwoman, and, in a fascinating turn, Colin Farrell as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin.
Given the film’s length, I figured I’d see it over the course of two days, one day for one half, the other for the finale. But as it turned out, the film moves quite well and, despite my fears, never felt drawn out or too damn long.
The story features a mysterious new villain, The Riddler (Paul Dano), who has taken upon himself to kill very high level governmental officials in Gotham while drawing Batman into his mysterious and grim “game”.
Before the movie’s release, director Matt Reeves noted he wanted to show us a Batman who was a “detective” and in this case, I’m pleased to say he gives this to us. In the villain, we have a man who lays out a string of clues as to his future actions and victims and Batman is there, with his “right hand man” Commissioner Gordon trying to figure them out.
It is a very good film, certainly a higher tier comic book film, and the characters and setting are well done. If there is a criticism to level against The Batman it is what I wrote above: We’ve seen much of this before, whether it be in other superhero films -or specifically other recent Batman films- and video games. By virtue of this fact alone, it’s impossible to view The Batman as anything but another interpretation of the familiar character and his world.
Still, it’s a worthy trip to take because the film is so well made and, dare I say it, even if you feel more than a little tired of superhero films in general.
For a few years now I’ve noticed rumors appearing on the internet about Bruce Willis’ health. Specifically, his mental health.
An “A” level actor whose films once topped the box office, of late he has been appearing in Video on Demand works where, further rumors had it, he would appear to film for one or two days of work at a staggering million dollars per day.
Many of these VOD films featured Bruce Willis in what amounted to cameo roles, often doing little but sitting at a bar or in a car or something similar, saying his lines and whatever “dialogue” with other actors was made up using film tricks, cuts and close ups and, often, the appearnace the other actors’ work was filmed later on, when Willis was long gone.
There were snickers about his “work” ethics, of Willis “phoning it in” and not giving a shit anymore. Of taking the money and running but now, with the news released yesterday of Mr. Willis suffering from aphasia and “stepping away” from acting (you can read the full article here, from CNN), the jokes have abruptly stopped and an outpouring of sympathy has followed.
Perhaps, some wonder, Mr. Willis was cashing in on those roles because he knew his mental deterioration meant he only had so much time left to build up a proper nest egg for his family. Others also noted the rumors and stories on Wilis being a (to put it politely) handful on sets was maybe a manifestation of the anger and confusion he had early on in the progression of his disease.
I suppose its all possible.
What I take away from this is the sad realization of just how frail a human body is, and how people who are “normal” can find themselves deteriorating and, ultimately, not being able to function as they once did.
Now that the news of his retirement from acting has come out, it seems more of the stories about Bruce Willis’ deterioration on sets is also coming out. The following article, by Ron Dicker and presented on Huffingtonpost.com, notes…
Truly it is a sad thing to read and find out how at times Mr. Willis was confused and didn’t even seem to understand exactly what he was doing on certain sets.
More often than not I’ve enjoyed Mr. Willis’ acting. I first noticed him way, waaaaaayyyyy back in 1984 in the episode “No Exit” of Miami Vice. He played that episode’s (the 7th one aired during the first season of the show!) bad guy, and he was damn nasty in the role as a wife beating scumbag…
He would then get the co-starring role in the very popular TV show Moonlighting before moving on into films. His first couple of films, Blind Date (1987) and Sunset (1988), didn’t do all that well, but a little film named Die Hard (1988) was right around the corner.
I hope Mr. Willis’ sunset years will be peaceful and comfortable. It seems like he has a large and loving family and it feels like he’s hopefully in good hands.
Of late, I’ve not taken much of an interest in watching the Academy Awards. Granted, because of COVID the last couple of years have been very strained regarding the awards and, for that matter, the release of films.
But last night’s awards… ho boy…
What’s left to say? Will Smith didn’t like Chris Rock’s joke and, frankly, I’m not in Smith’s shoes so I don’t know how badly that joke landed given what his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, has dealt with regarding her alopecea. Then again, there are those that are thinking -because Will Smith was shown laughing at the joke originally- that maybe Jada made some comment and got his goat up.
Chris Rock’s joke, that he couldn’t wait to see Jada in G. I. Jane 2, obviously referenced her baldness, which is in part due to that alopecea and…
…look, again, I’m not in Will Smith’s shoes. I would never condone violence and, it seemed later in the program when Will Smith actually won the freaking Academy Award, he was clearly having second thoughts about his outburst… though in all his blubbering and apologies, he didn’t apologize to, you know, the guy he hit.
I feel for Chris Rock, of course, the victim of the violence. His joke might have been inappropriate and even dumb/insulting, but come on… that’s all it was. A bad joke, I grant you. An insensitive joke, absolutely.
What should have been a great night for Will Smith, to win the Academy Award, was instead marred by this outburst. No charges were pressed by Chris Rock and, hopefully, the two will make their peace, though reports are the Academy Awards are going to investigate this situation.
I know there’s a sense of “the show must go on,” but perhaps in this case maybe it would have been better to get security there. Not to say Will Smith was capable of doing something worse, but who knows.
What a night.
POSTSCRIPT: Saw this on Reddit… the reactions of various stars…
It’s always interesting to see, over time, how certain movies which were once popular fade away in interest while others become better liked or even achieve a certain cult status. Big hits of yesterday sometimes receive far more critical second consideration while some which were at best modest successes receive second and third -and much more positive- looks.
So it is with the Phillip Kaufman (The Right Stuff, The Unbearable Lightness of Being) directed 1978 film The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This film, the first remake of the Don Siegel classic cold war paranoia film of the same name released in 1956 (there is at least one more, perhaps two other remakes which have followed, I do believe).
The plot is essentially the same as the original film: Space spores come to earth and, while people sleep, the spores create pods which replicate the sleeping individual while sucking their life-force from them. When all is done, what is left behind is a ”pod person” (I suppose that’s where the expression comes from, no?) who looks just like the original person, but who shows odd emotional displays and interacts with other ”pod people” to further the goal of replicating the people around them.
In the original film, the action was limited to a rather smallish American city, if memory serves (its been a very long time since I’ve seen that film, which means it may be time to give it another look!) while in this remake the story takes place in San Francisco, hardly a ”small” city even then!
Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) plays a lab tech who works for the city and who discovers a strange bud/flower she can’t quite identify in and around the parks she frequents. That night, while sleeping, her boyfriend has the bud in a glass of water on the nightstand beside the bed.
When Elizabeth wakes up, she finds her boyfriend already dressed and cleaning up broken glass and water from the rug… the bud she found has tumbled from the nightstand and her boyfriend is acting very oddly.
In work, Elizabeth tells Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) her co-worker and a health department head, the strangeness of her boyfriend’s actions. He suggests they go see Dr. David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy), a psychiatrist who is having a book release party that night and that he may help her with whatever is troubling her.
At the party they meet up with Jack Bellichec (a very early role for Jeff Goldblum) who is a frustrated poet who can’t seem to have the same success with his books as Kibner does and is agitated by this.
Dr. Kibner, Elizabeth finds, is dealing with a woman who claims her husband isn’t her husband but an impostor. Elizabeth clearly feels the same about her boyfriend and, afterwards, when talking to Dr. Kibner, he tells her there seems to be some kind of psychological virus going on and there are many people he’s seen who are talking about impostors around them.
I won’t get into too many more details about the plot and quickly offer a high recommendation to anyone interested in seeing this film. It has aged beautifully and is quite suspenseful and even shocking at times. The pace, I found, was also good and the acting by everyone strong.
Getting Leonard Nimoy, who at that time was probably so very typecast as Mr. Spock, to play the role of a psychiatrist was a stroke of genius. He came in with so many expectations and… well, I won’t get into SPOILERS as I said before.
What I liked the most about the film was the way it subverted certain expectations. Again, I don’t want to get into SPOILERS but I love the fate of Brooke Adams’ Elizabeth. It’s a shocker in the end. I love the way we never get a solid grasp on Donald Sutherland’s Matthew.
Is he, to put it bluntly, one of those bureaucratic pricks that seems to live to give others headaches? Our first brush with him it appears he’s just that, checking out a French restaurant and giving them a hard time because of a condiment he finds in their soup, which he claims is a rat turd and they say is a kaper.
Later on, when he returns to his office, Matthew gleefully says he will shut the restaurant down and, intriguingly, the movie never really tells us if Matthew was right or if he was just being a jerk.
The relationship between Matthew and Elizabeth is also presented in a naturalistic way and we’re never spoon fed all the full details. They are clearly very close friends and there does seem to be a spark between them but, for most of the film anyway, Matthew seems to be nothing more than a concerned friend and doesn’t force his way between Elizabeth and her boyfriend. Further, when things start to go sideways, this potentially irritating, possibly angry/petulant bureaucrat becomes a heroic figure and tries his best to not only save his friends, but also solve the mystery of the impostors and save humanity itself.
Yes, I wound up really loving the film even though when I first saw it many, many years ago I felt it was good but not necessarily terrific.
I’ve certainly changed my mind since then!
A very easy recommendation here. The 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers very much deserves its current re-evaluation and is a top tier suspense/horror film.
A couple of fascinating notes: Early in the film there’s a scene where a priest is on a swing. He glares at Elizabeth and looks really creepy. That priest is played by none other than Robert Duvall in a quite literally seconds long cameo without any dialogue! Later in the film, when Elizabeth and Matthew are being taken by taxi, the taxi driver is played by Don Siegel, the man who famously directed the original 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (and, more recently at that point, Dirty Harry!). Finally, there’s a brief sequence early in the film where a man pounds on Matthew’s car and yells almost incoherently about the threat the invaders pose. That man is played by Kevin McCarthy, who was Dr. Miles Bennell (as opposed to Matthew Bennell in this film), the protagonist of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Not to spoil the article, but the three films he’s referring to are The Power of the Dog, Don’t Look Up, and Nightmare Alley.
Full disclosure: I have seen none of these films, though I had the opportunity, thanks to the various streaming services, to see the lot of ’em.
But what Abdul-Jabbar writes I find fascinating. Don’t Look Up certainly has its fans… and detractors, and the most common criticisms I found were reflected in what was written in Abdul-Jabbar’s article. I’m hot and cold on director Guillermo Del Toro and it seemed like Nightmare Alley was also a film people were split on. I love the visuals of all of Del Toro’s films -the man certainly knows how to film a scene!- but the stories he tells can be underwhelming, at least to me. Further to this, Del Toro has a tendency to make every scene/sequence look like something big and climactic and, unfortunately, by the time we reach the movie’s end, all those highs dilute the strength of the climax.
As for The Power of the Dog, that seems to be yet another film that has its fans and detractors. Those who don’t like the film really don’t like it, while those who do are big fans.
Again, I haven’t seen any of these films, despite having the opportunity to do so with each, and I don’t know if I ever will. I have so many films I want to catch up on and so little time!
Regardless, if you’ve seen the films -or even if you haven’t- the article and the insights provided by Mr. Abdul-Jabbar are fascinating.
Many, many years ago and after two films, I became a huge fan of director James Cameron. The two films? The Terminator and Aliens.
When news came out that his next film would feature underwater action/intrigue, I was so there, looking forward to an Aliens-esq action film but set deep underwater.
When the movie came out, I recall one TV critic, now forgotten, who said that watching this new James Cameron directed film, The Abyss, was like watching a runner in a competition having the run of their lives. They’re in first place, far ahead of everyone, and then, just feet away from the finish line, they stumble and fall on their face.
I don’t think I need to draw a picture here with regard to the intriguing, eerie, but ultimately disappointing -at least with respect to its conclusion- Rebecca Hall starring The Night House.
Rebecca Hall is, for the most part, the whole show here, and she’s damn good playing Beth, a woman who, we find in the movie’s opening minutes, has lost her husband and is returning from his funeral. There are others in the movie, of course, but she is front and center through the film and there’s nothing to fault in her performance.
Beth lives in a beautiful lake house her husband built and, it becomes very clear, his death was a shock… especially once we find out it was by suicide.
I don’t want to offer too many SPOILERS from this point on, but suffice to say Beth’s questions regarding her husband’s suicide start to eat away at her. She has visions, perhaps spectral in nature, and wonders if her husband is trying to communicate with her.
The film, during the first two acts, is simply terrific and had me wondering where it was going, just as Beth was investigating her late husband’s last moments leading to his death.
But that ending…
For a film that presented itself in such a sure footed way, it sadly got silly by its ending and, again because I don’t want to get into SPOILERS, I don’t want to give it all away. Suffice to say after plenty of fascinating psychological intrigue and questions about what’s real and what isn’t, things get a little too concrete in the finale and this makes things far less interesting versus maintaining an eerie and unexplained vibe.
I have ideas as to where the story should have gone, but I suppose that’s the nature of my thought process, and it felt like this was a script that needed a little more work, if only in that ending.
So I’m put into a weird predicament. For some 2/3rds of the film, The Night House is terrific, gripping, suspenseful, and intriguing.
I loved what I was seeing.
But that last 1/3rd of the film really let me down and its a tough call to recommend the film based on this alone.
I suppose I would still recommend the film. Perhaps others may not find the ending quite as problematic as I did. Just beware you may find yourself let down in the end.
If one day you and I should meet and talk and you ask me as an author which writer do I feel is my all time favorite, I might well tell you its Raymond Chandler.
Raymond Chandler was a terrific author and his books, in my opinion, are great works. He’s best known for his Phillip Marlowe novels, many of which were made into movies. Perhaps most famous of those movie adaptations is the Bogart/Bacall The Big Sleep. There was another version made years later featuring Robert Mitchum. There’s the first person point of view The Lady in the Lake. There’s Robert Mitchum again in Farewell My Lovely. There’s the quirky Robert Altman directed, Elliot Gould starring The Long Goodbye. There are a few movies that adapted his novels but didn’t use the Chandler titles, such as the James Gardner starring (and featuring Bruce Lee in a small, but extremely memorable role) Marlowe, an adaptation of The Little Sister. Then there’s what I feel is the very best adaptation of his novels, which also happens to be the first, the terrific Murder, My Sweet (1944), the first adaptation of Farewell My Lovely,
Raymond Chandler was wooed by Hollywood in and around the time his novels were first being adapted in the 1940’s and he wrote the screenplay to the classic film noir Double Indemnity. Flush off the success of that film, he was hired to write the script to another film, the result of which was The Blue Dahlia.
Featuring the powerhouse (at the time) pairing of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, the film is a pretty neat but ultimately flawed work which features just enough of Raymond Chandler’s terrific dialogue to make it worth a look, if you’re a fan of his like I am.
Here’s the movie’s trailer:
Alan Ladd plays Johnny Morrison, a veteran of the Pacific theater who returns home with two comrades in arms, George Copeland (Hugh Beaumont) and Buzz Wanchek (William Bendix). From the movie’s opening segment we realize Buzz isn’t all there: He sustained a head wound in the Pacific during the war and is capable of erupting at the least provocation.
They return to California and Johnny leaves his friends to go back to his wife wife Helen, only to discover she’s having a noisy party filled with questionable people in her bungalow. Included and most prominent in the party is Eddie Harwood (Howard Da Silva), the owner of the infamous Blue Dahlia club, who may well be a gangster and is most certainly Helen’s current boyfriend. Because of the movie’s age and the censorship of the times, this is revealed in subtle rather than too obvious way, but viewers should get the hint.
The party ends prematurely and Johnny confronts Helen. He wants to try to repair their marriage but Helen is a very broken woman, and this is revealed plainly when the argument turns to their son, who died very young.
Johnny leaves Helen and, later, she’s found dead.
The movie’s plot thus kicks in: Who killed Helen Morrison? The finger of suspicion is on Johnny, but as viewers we know he didn’t do it. So who did?
The Blue Dahlia is a solid enough film noir but, as I noted above, is something of a flawed work.
Why? Because the plot has some whoppers that are simply too difficult to accept, perhaps the biggest being the waaaaaaaaayyyyyy too coincidental meeting between Ladd’s Morrison and Veronica Lake’s Joyce Harwood. That’s right, Lake plays the estranged wife of Eddie Harwood and the fact that they just happen to meet the way they do and she just happens to be married to the #1 suspect -in Johnny Morrison’s mind- in Helen Morrison’s murder strains credulity to the point of snapping it… though to be fair there is a point where Johnny Morrison wonders about their meeting and whether it was coincidental after all.
Unfortunately, despite whatever suspicion his character mentions, nothing is made of it beyond that one statement and I can’t help but wonder if perhaps Raymond Chandler’s script was changed between page and filming as was, famously, the reveal of who the killer was.
Yes, it is well known the original identity of Helen Morrison’s killer was not who was revealed at the movie’s end. Worse, the way the killer is revealed -and the way the original Raymond Chandler killer is exonorated- don’t make a heck of a lot of sense but neither is it anything that totally destroys the movie.
If it sounds like I’m really down on this film… well, its not entirely true. The Blue Dahlia is a perfectly enjoyable, if at times illogical, film noir and its neat to see Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake co-starring in another vehicle together, even if the film isn’t quite up there with their two best features which, IMHO, are The Glass Key and This Gun For Hire.
It’s a pity those changes to the script were made and I suspect had the movie followed Chandler’s script a little closer, it would have been a better work.
Still, if you’re into this type of film, its a no brainer to spend some time with Ladd and Lake and savor the dialogue of Raymond Chandler.
Way, waaaaaaaay back in the 1970’s and when I was first getting into the various movies and TV shows which would impress me, one stood out above all the others: The original Star Trek.
While I thrilled to the adventures of James West in The Wild, Wild West or Colonel Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man or laughed hysterically to the misadventures of Agents 86 and 99 in Get Smart, it was Star Trek that blew my very young mind.
The show quite literally could be anything. There were episodes which were filled with suspense and even horror. There were episodes which were grand adventures. There were episodes that were hilarious comedies. And yes, there were episodes that were… something, especially during the less successful third and final season.
Yet the show captured my imagination like few others and even now, despite its age and mostly inferior effects, I love it. Yes, I know they “remastered” the effects but I kinda prefer seeing the original episodes with their original effects, for better or worse.
The success of Star Wars in 1977, I strongly suspect, opened the door for the studios to want to make sci-fi films like it and, they hoped, cash in on this. It wasn’t too surprising, then, that the cult favorite Star Trek would get a second look and a movie greenlighted. It would be directed by veteran Robert Wise, whose career began in the early 1940’s (directing, uncredited, additional scenes for the Orson Wells follow up to Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons) and who had in his resume such impressive works as West Side Story (the original, natch), The Day The Earth Stood Still (again, the original), The Haunting, The Sound of Music, and The Andromeda Strain.
Truthfully, he was an inspired choice to direct Star Trek: The Motion Picture -or any picture, for that matter- given his works in so many different genres and styles.
Here’s the movie’s original trailer:
Alas, when it was released in 1979, I recall the reactions to it were mostly negative. More than one critic made fun of the film’s name, re-dubbing the movie Star Trek: The Motionless Picture, and many felt it was too slow going and didn’t really have much of a payoff.
What was learned over time was that Robert Wise and company were on a very tight -too tight- deadline and were rushed into releasing the film to theaters by December of 1979 to try to take advantage of the vacation time. Worse, when the film was shown on TV more scenes were added to it, sometimes with incomplete effects, and it was quite clear the film as it was released to theaters was, at best, a not quite complete work in progress.
Many years later and in 2001 a “Director’s Cut” of the film, supervised by Mr. Wise, would be released and I felt at the time that it was a much “smoother” work which made the movie move much better than the theatrical cut. Unfortunately, that edition was released just before the advent of high definition video and, since then, it hasn’t been available except for the original DVD. That will change as a new, 4K edition of this version of the film is set to be released very soon.
It was that news which got me curious to revisit Star Trek: The Motion Picture and, as I was set to do some flying (its become my life of late), I took my VUDU digital copy of the theatrical cut of the film and loaded it up to my iPad and, once in flight, watched the theatrical cut of the film for the first time in many, many years.
And I must say: The movie worked a lot better than I remembered, though I’m still curious to revisit the Director’s Cut (I do have the original DVD but would rather wait to see the new HD version).
Even more interesting is that it occurred to me that of all the characters shown on screen, TV or movies, William Shatner’s Captain Kirk is probably the only one who has been shown through almost all stages of life.
Sorry for the mild deviation in reviewing the film, but its fascinating to me that in the original TV show you had the young, clever, brash Captain Kirk. He was the adventurer, the risk taker, yet clever enough to find intelligent ways, especially with the help of Spock and Dr. McCoy, out of danger. He could fight, he could love. He was young and full of energy.
The Captain Kirk we see in The Motion Picture is older but still young enough to have many of the elements that made his younger self tick present. He takes over the Enterprise and steps on toes but is smart enough to realize he isn’t infallible and does take others’ advice. This is indeed an older Kirk, but a Kirk who could still kick ass and romance the ladies, I suppose, though in the course of this film he isn’t shown to do either.
For the next film, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, we have a Captain Kirk who realizes he’s getting old and doesn’t like it one bit. He tries to fight age and feels melancholy about losing that youthful energy but, by the end of the film, has accepted that he has moved on into a new stage of his life.
In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the last to feature the original cast together, we have a Captain Kirk who has accepted he’s old and no longer looks back longingly to how he was when he was young.
Again, its a fascinating succession, from youth to older to older still and missing one’s youth to old and accepting it. I suppose one could add Star Trek Generations to this list to show his passing, but the execution (pardon the pun) of this was so terrible, IMHO, that I don’t really view the film as canon.
Anyway, returning to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, this film could well be the one that’s most like the original series. In fact, more than a few people noted the movie’s story bears more than a passing similarity to the original series’ episode The Changeling. Here’s the trailer for that episode:
In The Changeling, the crew of the Enterprise encounters a robot named NOMAD which tries to understand these humans, who it feels are an infestation on the ship. In STTMP, we have a machine named V’ger who has a similar confusion regarding the ”carbon based units” aboard the machine, and the danger winds up being similar.
Watching the film and as I said above, I found myself surprisingly involved in it. No, its not perfect. I feel like despite the movie’s long runtime (this theatrical cut clocks in at 2 hours and 12 minutes) it didn’t focus nearly enough on the relationship between the three leads (Kirk, Spock, McCoy), and gave very short shrift to the ancillary characters (Uhura, Scotty, Chekhov, and Sulu).
It would have been nice to see them interact a little -lot!- more.
Worse, the film introduces two new characters in Stephen Collins’ Captain Decker and Persis Khambatta’s Ilea who, while not terrible, are also given much less to do than one would have liked.
And yes, the film doesn’t feature all that much ”action”, mostly the actors looking in wonder/mystified by what was happening before them (ie, in their own imagination as this would later involve effects work!).
And, not to knock someone for something he’s been knocked for too many times, but the film also features what is perhaps the nadir of William Shatner’s Kirk acting, his incredibly wooden reaction to two people dying in a transporter malfunction (go to 1:05 approximately)…
But setting aside the ”bad”, one can then focus on the good. The film features some terrific effects, especially in the Enterprise itself. The music is spectacular. And it’s a freaking blast to see a still fairly youngish cast interact with each other and deal with a mystery -and tension involved in this- which is fairly well handled.
The film may not soar or have the intense action that can take your breath away, but it is a great way to rejoin old friends.
I highly recommend the theatrical cut of the film, warts and all, to any and all Star Trek fans.
And I really look forward to seeing the remastered Director’s Cut…!
There are films you see that stick with you a lifetime, for better or worse. Films that touch your soul or blow you away so completely you can’t help but remember them. There are films that go the exact opposite way, and maybe are so awful to you that you can’t help but remember them, even if it is for all the wrong reasons. Still others are mediocre and forgettable, neither terribly good nor terribly bad yet don’t have much impact on you.
There are still others that are perfectly enjoyable the moment you see them -good even!- yet do not linger in your mind. Disposable entertainment, I suppose, which don’t offer much beyond what enjoyment you get from them at that moment.
Which brings us to Death On The Nile, the second -and much delayed- Kenneth Branagh directed and starring murder mystery featuring acclaimed author Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.
I enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express (2017), Mr. Branagh’s first go at Christie’s books, though I wouldn’t say it totally captivated me. Branagh was decent in the titular role though, from photographs presented before the film’s release, his mustache seemed awfully overdone and, physically, he just didn’t seem to me to have Poirot’s darker and dumpier “look”.
Yet the film was fine, I felt, and I was looking forward to Death On The Nile. Because of COVID, the film, like many others made in the past couple of years, had a very long delay before being released. During that time, unfortunately, a few of the actors involved in the production had certain personal… issues… which may have created considerable headaches to the movie’s producers. Of course, I’m referring to Armie Hammer (the issues around him are truly bizarre), Russel Brand (of late he seems to have become a COVID “truther”), and Letitia Wright (who had made some news regarding vaccines and COVID as well).
Anyway, Agatha Christie’s book was adapted before in 1978 and featured a murderer’s row of great actors (including Peter Ustinov in the Poirot role) but I honestly didn’t recall all that much of the film other than the ending was rather hard to grasp for my younger -perhaps too young- mind. Here’s that version’s trailer:
This time around the story was relatively easy to follow, involving Gal (Wonder Woman) Gadot’s Uber-rich (and sexually loose) Linette Ridgeway becoming involved with and marrying Armie Hammer’s Simon Doyle despite the fact that he was first engaged to Ridgeway’s long time friend, Emma Makey’s Jaqueline de Bellford and essentially stole him from her.
Jaqueline, we find, keeps showing up at events and parties Linette and Simon are at, and this creeps out the newlyweds out. While they try to party in Egypt for their honeymoon, she again shows up and the two decide to try to ditch her by taking a private cruise down the Nile accompanied only by their closest friends. Hercule Poirot is there as well and, we’ll find, for good reasons, but is also recruited by Linette because she fears something will happen to her.
Well, they didn’t call the story Death On The Nile for nothing, baby.
Here’s the new 2022 version’s trailer:
I don’t want to get into too many spoilers here but what immediately struck me about watching Death On The Nile is that it’s a subtle variation on Christie’s two better known novels: And Then There Were None and Murder On The Orient Express.
In the case of Death On The Nile, instead of a train going through a snowy landscape or being stuck on an island, you have your characters on a boat traveling the Nile. You have a cast of suspicious characters, all of whom had the potential to be the one who killed our ill-fated victim, and you have Poirot watching and analyzing everything before coming to his conclusion.
Death On The Nile does feature more victims than Murder On The Orient Express, and Branagh both as director and actor appears more comfortable in his dual roles, delivering what I felt was a satisfying tale. It was a little slow at times and perhaps a little silly (there’s an opening bit which tells us why Poirot has that ridiculous -at least in the movie version- mustache which is, as far as I know, an invention of this film and nothing Agatha Christie ever did in her novels). There are a couple of sequences that perhaps could have been trimmed here and there and, alas, despite having some very good actors involved, there are a few who don’t have all that much to do but look shocked or surprised or appear to be having fun partying 1937 style.
Which brings me to what I mentioned waaaaay up there about the different types of films, both great, terrible, and… disposable.
Death On The Nile is, unfortunately, a film that falls in the later category. It is a perfectly enjoyable work, in my opinion, yet one that doesn’t linger very long on the mind.
I literally saw the film only a couple of days ago -the first film I have gone to see in a theater since COVID began!- and today, a few days later and with time on my hands to write a blog entry, it quite literally took me a few moments to remember that was the film I had just seen…!
I don’t believe I’m losing my mind (though considering all the family and I have been through in the recent past it’s a wonder we haven’t) but it just goes to show how little this film impacted me beyond the enjoyment I had watching it.
Still, I do recommend the film, especially to those who enjoyed Murder On The Orient Express. It is a well done work which features some nice scenery (albeit much is CGI) and a murder mystery that is satisfying in its resolution.
I’m sure just about everyone knows about this film. Still, for those few who don’t, here’s the trailer:
Written and directed by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), The Suicide Squad can be viewed as a sequel to the 2016 David Ayer directed film in that several cast members return for this “new” mission.
Prominent among them is Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) while Idris Elba plays Bloodsport, a character who in most ways (at least in this movie version) appears to be a substitute for Will Smith’s Deadshot. (Note: Both Deadshot and Bloodsport are indeed DC comic characters but, at least IMHO, there was little attempt to make Bloodsport all that different from the screen version of Deadshot).
Anyway, there’s another “suicide” mission for them to engage in, involving a coup in the fictional island of Corto Maltese (for extreme comic book fans, the island nation was first referenced in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight comics and the name was based on a popular -and IMHO quite excellent- European comic book of the same name written and illustrated by Hugo Pratt)…
The original Suicide Squad film was mostly derided. It was heavily tampered with by the studio (director David Ayer claims there is a “Ayer Cut” of the film in existence, but unlike Zack Snyder, he doesn’t appear to have the fanbase necessary to get this movie released, as opposed to the recent release of Snyder’s Justice League). Nonetheless, the film did introduce the world to Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and I suppose did well enough for Warners to green light James Gunn’s version of the film.
The film is quite violent but for the most part humorous, not taking the multiple -and often quite graphic- deaths all that seriously and… I dunno. I had problems with Mr. Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy because he did something similar there, trying to inject humor when the body count is incredibly high and its something that has rubbed me the wrong way about his works.
That’s just me, though.
The film worked in spurts, introducing a mostly new group of “villains” on their mission.
Perhaps most prominent among the mostly new cast is John Cena’s Peacemaker, who as most out there know went on to appear in a HBO Max series featuring his character. Sadly, the character isn’t anything like the original Charlton Comics incarnation of the character…
Having said that, the reality is that the original version of Peacemaker lasted only a few issues before being cancelled and since DC comics bought the Charlton characters they’ve had him appear as more of a lunatic, which I suppose is what Gunn sorta/kinda was going for. I’m a few episodes into the HBO Max Peacemaker series and I have to say -SPOILERS!- I like it more overall than The Suicide Squad film. Further, Cena’s Peacemaker is much different in the show versus what he was in the movie, where he was basically a one-note moron who said a few inappropriate things before revealing what he was about in the movie’s climax.
I’ve written a lot and I suppose the bottom line for me is the movie is a decent enough time killer. Funny in spots, excessively bloody at times, but entertaining enough even if it never totally “wowed” me.
However, there is one element of the movie that affected me in a very negative way and… it’s quite personal.
The movie’s climax involves a lot of buildings being destroyed and falling to the ground and, while The Suicide Squad is far from the first film to feature such destruction (see the Godzilla films, for instance), it was the first such film I saw after what happened at Champlain Towers and the loss of my parents.
I don’t want to keep delving into this particular tragedy but in watching those last minutes of The Suicide Squad, I started feeling uncomfortable. Anxious, in fact. And I realized right away watching this destruction was taking me back to that tragedy. In a way, it was like getting a minor case of PTSD and… I didn’t like it.
Again, I know this is unique to me and I doubt many others will feel this.
But it is a scar I bear and one that, clearly, is a long way from healing.