Category Archives: Movies

Nostalgia… Part Two

Posting a few of my recent eBay purchases yesterday has opened a flood of nostalgia and… I’m kinda in the mood to talk about things that influenced me.

I’ve written about this before but not very recently, so what the heck…

There are a few monumental experiences I had as a young man which led me into wanting to create my own works. Some of the experiences are vague now with the passage of the years but some remain incredibly strong.

Way, waaaaaay back in/around 1971, when I was no more than five or so years old, I happened to catch this TV movie when it premiered…

The movie, for those who haven’t seen it, features Dennis Weaver as an “everyman” (his character’s name is -wait for it- David Mann) who heads out to some business function or another and, along the way and on a mostly deserted road, encounters a truck.

What follows is some of the most suspenseful material I’ve ever seen in a “mere” TV movie, as the truck keeps appearing before Mann and his intentions turn decidedly homicidal.

I saw the film way back then and it really stuck with me. Years would pass and sometime in the 1980’s, full decade later, I happened to catch the film on TV again… and told my friends they needed to see it.

What I didn’t know back then in the Stone Age of pre-internet times was that this film was directed by one Steven Spielberg and it was, after several TV show episodes, his first full on directed movie.

It was, I realized then, thematically very similar to Spielberg’s first HUGE theatrical release, Jaws. Both films feature protagonists who are chased by a very menacing creature, one a truck, the other a shark. In fact, it is my understanding the producers of Jaws decided to give Spielberg the job because they realized Duel featured the same type of suspense they hoped to achieve.

Here’s the thing though: I saw the film exactly once back in/around 1971. Why, of all the things that I saw back then (and I’ll get into them in future entries) did that one stick with me?

It wouldn’t be until years later and a proper bells and whistles DVD was released of Duel that the answer came to me. Mr. Spielberg, clearly relishing revisiting his first big success, was interviewed as a bonus feature on the DVD and he got into the process of making the film.

One of the things he said about this really stuck with me and explained why such a young man as I was way back then appreciated and understood that this was a story being told to me with a beginning, middle, and end.

You see, Mr. Spielberg originally intended the film to be “silent”. Not in the sense of having no sound, mind you. He used the sound of engines and tires squealing and the crunching of metal on metal very effectively.

No, what Mr. Spielberg was talking about was that he originally intended the film to have no dialogue at all. Effectively, the action and movement, the cuts and reactions of Mr. Weaver were originally all that were intended to be shown.

Universal Studios, however, had no interest in doing this and thus there are bits of dialogue here and there in the film and verbal “reactions” by Mr. Weaver’s character to the situation he’s in…

…which for the most part and in my humble opinion don’t add much to the film.

The fact is that Mr. Spielberg’s original vision is mostly there to be seen and some, perhaps even most of the dialogue we do get could have been excised and the story told wouldn’t have been impacted much.

And there, I realized, was why the very young me not only could follow the story being told here, but actually understood it. I’d seen other films in/around that time (I have a particular memory of seeing Papillon in a theater) but none of the films I saw really stood out quite like Duel did for me and I strongly suspect its because the film was essentially told through pictures and therefore was easy for a young man like me to “get.”

Watching Duel was but the first step in my lifelong passion for films and I find it so interesting it would be a Steven Spielberg film -though one I wasn’t aware until much later he directed- that would be the gateway to that passion!

Goldfinger (1964) a (ludicrously) belated review

Way, waaay back when Dr. No, the first James Bond movie, was released in 1962, it was a hit and launched the then new action/secret agent genre. A year later and in 1963, Sean Connery returned to the role for From Russia With Love. And a year after that, he would return for the third time in what many consider the best of the early Bond films, Goldfinger.

For those living in a cave the last few decades, the movie’s trailer:

This was the Bond movie that first really pushed the idea of spectacle and it was mostly done by giving Bond a tricked out car, the famous silver Aston Martin DB5 and its many gadgets…

This weekend and for whatever reason, our local iPic theater was playing Goldfinger and we decide to give it a look. I’ve seen the film several times before but not recently so I was curious how I would react to seeing it again, this time on the big screen, and if it would show its age.

Well, I won’t keep you in suspense here: I felt the film did show its age. But having said that, it was expected.

Considering the way “spectacle” films are nowadays, Goldfinger comes off as at times almost tame in its bigger action sequences yet the story is what makes the film sing.

For Goldfinger is a film that puts you in bond’s shoes regarding what the villain is up to… and often Bond -and the viewer- don’t know quite what the hell is going on.

The movie starts with Bond finishing off a mission before heading to Miami Beach and brushing against Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe, quite good as the spoiled yet devious titular villain). Goldfinger, we find, has somehow been smuggling (you guessed it) gold from country to country, taking advantage of the exchange rates to make out like a bandit… and England isn’t too happy about that. They’ve tried to figure out how he does it but so far haven’t and Bond, afterwards, is assigned to figure out what he’s up to.

I’ve skipped a few details because I don’t want to get into SPOILERS but suffice to say Bond winds up finding himself in great danger the closer he gets to Goldfinger. More importantly, he realizes Goldfinger has some kind of sinister master plan in the works and must use his wits to stay alive long enough to both figure that plan out and thwart it.

Again, the action sequences may be lacking to modern audiences but the general excitement, and mystery, regarding Goldfinger is the engine that keeps this film going. The cast, beyond Connery’s Bond and Frobe’s Goldfinger, is also to die for. The almost ethereally beautiful Shirley Eaton has a small role at the start of the film as Jill Masterson. Honor Blackman is cool and sexy as (don’t know how they got away with it) Pussy Galore. And then there’s Harold Sakata as Oddjob, the first -and perhaps the best!- of the very fearsome henchmen Bond faces during his decades of adventures.

So while as an action film Goldfinger may not thrill quite as it did when first released and if you can forgive one sequence many modern eyes view as “rapey”, recommending Goldfinger is a no-brainer.

Especially if you can see it in a theater!

Fear Is The Key (1972) a (ridiculously belated) review

So as I was flying to go see my daughter, I had the time to see a film in my vast (and sadly mostly unwatched) digital movie library. The film I chose to see is the 1972 thriller starring Barry Newman and based on an Alistair MacLean book, Fear Is The Key.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

I’m a fan of Alastair MacLean’s works. There have been some really, really good films made of them, including The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, and Ice Station Zebra.

There have been clunkers as well and this one, I have to admit, I was unaware of until it was pointed out recently to me.

So I purchased a digital copy of the film and, on the flight to my daughter, I watched it.

And it proved to be an enjoyable, if somewhat low budget and (especially those who are familiar with the works of MacLean) somewhat predictable thriller.

Here’s the thing about MacLean’s stories (SPOILERS FOLLOW): Often things are not quite what they seem. The stories are often pulpy action romps featuring “professional” men’s men and full blooded women who may -or may not- have their own agendas.

Thus the opening act of Fear is the Key didn’t really “fool” me and while it was very exciting I kinda knew we were being fed a bit of misdirection.

Again, I’m trying not to be too SPOILERY here so I’ll just leave it at that!

What follows is a fascinating story involving the search for …something… deep on the ocean floor and a lead character played by Barry Newman whom we’re not entirely sure what he’s about.

One could say some of the action at the very start of the film was excessive but I thought it was entertaining enough to kick start the film wonderfully before settling into a more of a thriller.

Again, I don’t want to get too SPOILERY but if you’re into MacLean’s works and adaptations into film, this is a nice one to add to the list. It may not quite be up there with the trifecta of Guns of Navarone or Where Eagles Dare or Ice Station Zebra (IMHO the three best of the best ones) but its a great way to spend an afternoon… or in my case, a flight!

Superhero fatigue…?

Last Friday the latest Marvel Comics Universe film, The Marvels, was released and its opening box office numbers were, to put it kindly, quite abysmal.

I wasn’t shocked, frankly.

This is the 33rd MCU film and while the movies released recently haven’t had the super (pardon the pun) success of the films released during the MCU’s golden age, neither did they appear to be “flops”. That seems to have changed with this film.

There are those who say it isn’t about superhero fatigue but I’m firmly of the belief it is just that.

Of late, the DC movies, including Black Adam, The Flash, and Shazam! Fury of the Gods didn’t have spectacular box office numbers. I found it interesting how many comic book nerds (of which I am one!) gloated that the DCU films were such a dumpster fire and how they were doing so badly… yet The Marvels has underperformed even those films.

Which brings me back to the idea there may be some kind of superhero fatigue going on.

Let’s face it, the movie industry is still trying to get its legs. COVID really messed up the way movies were both made and released and once people got used to not going to theaters and seeing things via streaming and in the comfort of their homes, things certainly had at least the possibility of changing.

I’ve noted this before: The older I get the more I realize just how things can change and radically from one moment to the other. I’ve lived through many different music eras and have seen styles come and go -and return! I’ve also seen how the digital industry has changed my own shopping habits. Things change and sometimes we do not go back to how it was before.

The MCU films have been a truly staggering success. A lot of money has been made since Iron Man was first released in 2008 and the success of superhero films has been something a comic book fan like myself has enjoyed.

However, even a comic book fan like myself can get tired of things… especially when it feels like we’re getting retreads of concepts and stories.

Frankly, I’ve been bored with the MCU since the dual release of the first Dr. Strange film as well as the first Guardians of the Galaxy. The later was a huge success but when I saw the film it didn’t work for me at all. Dr. Strange, I felt, was little more than a reworked Iron Man, only with magic instead of the Military Industrial Complex.

And shock yourself: I have yet to see the final two Avengers films.

This is coming from someone who feels Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my second favorite superhero film of all time. (To those curious, my favorite remains the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve Superman)

Now, I do wonder if maybe things can turn around and people give these types of movies another go. There’s no reason to think they don’t but I do feel like maybe it’s time to stomp on the brakes a little and perhaps not flood the market with so much superhero stuff, both in movies and on TV.

Either way, it is what it is and it wouldn’t surprise me if a few months down the road Hollywood discovers something else that’s a big success for them… not unlike the recent Barbie and Oppenheimer releases.

Dead Reckoning (1947) an (insanely belated) review

Film noir arguably first began with features released in the 1930’s. Influenced at least visually by the stark -and very stylish!- black and white imagery coming out of some of the great German films, one could look at Fritz Lang’s M (1931) as a prototype of what became the film noir crime feature. The US remake of the film, released in 1951 and also titled M, was a surprisingly good remake and if one doesn’t consider the Lang film noir, there is little doubt the American version is noir through and through.

One of the biggest stars of the noir movement is Humphrey Bogart. He would appear in several noir films, perhaps most famous of them being The Maltese Falcon (1941). Dead Reckoning is another fascinating Bogart starring noir and feels an awful lot like a lighter version of The Big Sleep (1946), which starred Bogart and Lauren Bacall and which was released the year before Dead Reckoning.

The Big Sleep was based on Raymond Chandler’s classic first Phillip Marlowe novel and benefitted tremendously from the charisma between the two stars (who would marry). Dead Reckoning, unfortunately, doesn’t have quite that literary backbone to prop it’s story up though I thought Lizabeth Scott did a great job as the love interest/possible femme fatale (a role very similar to that of Bacall’s in The Big Sleep). In fact, so similar is Scott to Bacall that there’s at least one sequence where she’s dressed so similarly to something I recall seeing Bacall in that I actually thought they snuck her into the movie somehow…!

Anyway, this would be Scott’s first “big” role and she did well with it. Bogie was also quite good and displayed his usual charisma… though I admit it felt like he wasn’t doing too much heavy lifting in the role. He did well but it wasn’t Bogie in Casablanca or The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon… but it was Bogie and that alone is sometimes good enough!

The story? Bogie and an army buddy are escorted post haste following the end of WWII from their hospital (they were injured in combat but to look at both of them they seem mighty healthy to me!) to receive a Congressional Medal of Honor. Bogie says it was all his partner’s actions and that he was just there for the ride, but when his partner realizes he will be photographed and become a media darling, he bails.

Bogie searches for him and tries to unravel the mystery of why his friend would suddenly want to disappear from the face of the earth and that leads him to his partner’s real name and home town… and a mysterious murder which he may have committed and an old flame (guess who) who may or may not hold secrets of her own along with a casino owner who has ties with then modern (now old time) mobsters.

What secrets will Bogie uncover and whodunnit?

Watch and find out!

Anyway, I recommend the film to anyone interested in delving into 40’s era film noir. It’s a decent film that certainly tries hard to fit into the Chandler mode and, while it doesn’t quite reach that lofty level, it is an entertaining work.

Yes indeed.


Ok, I can’t stop there. But to talk more about this film I’m going to have to get into SPOILERS so… you’ve been warned!

Still there?

Ok, here goes.

Sometimes it feels like the writer in me is ruining all manner of entertainment that involves a story being told. For example, when I reviewed Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny a few days back, I noted that the film felt like it had a story that was being worked on as the film was being made. How else to explain odd bits like Antonio Banderas in what amounts to an almost wordless cameo role and one of the main characters seeming to be originally written as perhaps a femme fatale (just scroll to the previous review and it will all be clear!).

Watching Dead Reckoning, I felt those same issues rearing their head.

Again, I enjoyed the film and felt it was worth recommending even though it felt like the film’s makers were endeavoring to imitate a Raymond Chandler type story and not quite hitting the mark.

The story, as I noted, involves Bogie and his partner being transported like royalty to Washington to receive, they find along the way, a Congressional Medal of Honor for their valor in the battlefield. Bogie’s partner bails because clearly he does not want his face all over the papers and Bogie becomes a detective and pursues his friend, whom he finds had an alias and might have been responsible for a murder in his hometown and before he enlisted and got away from the U.S.

This is all interesting stuff but the main point of the film is to get Bogie and Scott together. Scott’s character, it turns out, was the murdered man’s wife and Bogie’s friend’s supposed girlfriend. Scott’s character later clarifies that he loved her but she never quite loved him. Bogie’s friend’s fate, too, is revealed shortly after Bogie begins the investigation and suddenly there’s more skullduggery going on in the quaint town…!

Anyway, the film soon introduces us to a few characters, including a casino owner with mob ties and his henchman as well as a Police Detective who is always one step behind Bogie.

But the crux of the movie’s plot is the question of whether Scott’s character is a “good girl” or secretly a “femme fatale”.

Based on the way the film unfolded, I felt those behind the cameras had no clue which way to go there and, in the end, flipped a coin to determine whether she was good or bad.

The fact is within the film there is no real logic about Scott’s character and the shifts regarding her grow rather silly. When first introduced Bogie is highly suspicious of her and is constantly “testing” her to see if she is good or bad. She seems to pass the tests… that is until something happens that arouses Bogie’s suspicions and we’re off to the next set piece and the next “is she or isn’t she?” setup.

Towards the later stages of the film Bogie’s character seems convinced she is bad and has him accuse her of this or “prove” she isn’t. Bogie’s character forces her to call the police and tell them what really happened a few years back with regard to her husband’s murder. She admits to shooting him but claims it was in self-defense and that the shady casino owner is holding the murder weapon over her head for blackmail and… sheesh. She tearfully picks up the phone, calls the police, and is about to make her confession when Bogie hangs the phone up.

He says something to the effect that he had to push her to the limits to prove she was good, the implication being that she’d good.

Only problem is that the film still has some fifteen or so minutes to go and we wind up (I told you there were SPOILERS!) finding out that Bogie’s character isn’t a very good detective because -suprise and holy whiplash!- the final minutes prove she’s indeed a femme fatale.

Her comeuppance is a car crash leaves her on the verge of dying but still looking awfully beautiful in the hospital bed. Bogie gets to see her that one last time and says nice things to her as she passes away.

Yeah, the writer in me felt the conclusion was a last minute invention and almost certainly tacked on.

It is what it is…!

Oh, and one very fascinating thing about this 1947 film: Bogie’s character is a paratrooper and he talks about saying “Geronimo” before jumping out of the airplane.

The other characters in the film are oblivious to this term and I found it incredibly fascinating that at this point in time, again 1947, the “Geronimo” followed by jumping out of an airplane was something seemingly not known by the general public.

Perhaps this movie was the one that made the public aware of this?

I wonder.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) a (mildly) belated review…

First, sorry for the dearth of posts. Been incredibly busy of late with all kinds of things and, if I’m being honest here, I don’t know if in the next few months I’ll be able to post like I did when I was really cooking. I’ll keep trying, though…!

Now, on to the latest, and we have to assume last, Indiana Jones film featuring Harrison Ford. Here’s the movie’s trailer:

When it was announced Harrison Ford would return one more time to play what is probably his most iconic role (even above his Han Solo from Star Wars, IMHO of course!) there was excitement, at least from me.

I still recall going to see the original Raiders Of The Lost Ark (before it was retitled to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) back when it was originally released back in 1981. It’s hard to recall today, but both Harrison Ford and director Steve Spielberg were not the icons they would become. I firmly believe this movie made Harrison Ford an upper tier actor, which he held for decades and, it seems, only now in his twilight years is relinquishing.

But Steven Spielberg, also, wasn’t as huge a name at that time, either. Sure, he had the hit releases in Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but he had just released 1941 which was a box office and critical failure. But the release of Raiders, followed by the mega-hit E.T. The Extra-Terrestial the next year, erased any worry he might be a flash in the pan.

There were three Indiana Jones films that followed the first, and in my opinion none of them were as good as the original. Temple of Doom proved too grim and claustrophobic. The Last Crusade is beloved by many fans but though I feel it has some great sequences, I can’t say I like it as much as others do. Still, I feel it is the second best of the Indiana Jones films, and that includes the one I’m about to talk about. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls I felt also had some really good sequences but boy did it have issues with its concluding act. Audiences, however, seemed really turned off by it and, especially, the infamous “nuking the fridge” sequence in the opening act.

Which brings us to Dial of Destiny. Steven Spielberg, who perhaps after four Indiana Jones films had had enough of that particular genre, bowed out and for the first time someone else directing an Indiana Jones film: James Mangold. He’s been a generally good director in my opinion, with some of his most recent films being Ford vs. Ferrari and Logan.

At the very least, and given the theme of Logan dealing with an hero dealing with his twilight years, it appeared the franchise was in good enough hands.

I wanted to see Dial of Destiny in theaters when it was released and even after some of the early reviews were mixed. But, as is unfortunately too usual these days, I simply didn’t find the time to see the film. The film wound up doing very badly at the box office and was one of the bigger flops of the year.

Reviews were generally mixed, as they were early on. There were those who liked the film quite a bit and felt it was a good conclusion to the Indiana Jones saga even though Last Crusade and Crystal Skulls both attempted to be concluding stories. Hell, Last Crusade even had Indiana Jones and his father (played by Sean Connery) quite literally riding off into the sunset!

So, finally, let’s get to Dial of Destiny

I’ll try not to get into too many SPOILERS but there will be a few here and there and I’ll try to point them out as best as I can.

The movie begins with an extended sequence featuring a younger Indiana Jones on a mission behind Nazi lines. The “de-aging” of Harrison Ford is pretty good for most of the sequences but not spectacular. Hollywood is getting better at the process but there’s still improvement to be made.

The sequence is ok but watching the CGI action effects makes me realize how much I miss the practical effects presented in Raiders. Unfortunately, using these CGI effects seems to make directors go “bolder” with the action sequences but frankly they become cartoonish and not very believable. There’s a bit with Indy riding a motorcycle where this was a little too obvious. There clearly was no motorcycle, no actual Harrison Ford, and the scenery around them was also CGI.

It’s becoming tougher for me to be invested in these action scenes when they’re so clearly computer generated bits.

Anyway, we’re introduced to Indy’s partner Basil Shaw and the two are seeking to retrieve the legendary Spear of Destiny (not to be confused with the Dial of Destiny) which Hitler feels has some mystical power which will, in these waning days of WWII, lead to victory.

In the course of trying to retrieve this relic, Indy and Shaw realize the relic is fake but there is a very real one -or rather one-half of one- among the looted goods: The Dial of Destiny. Another character, Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), also realizes this is the real deal but at the end of the sequence, Indy and Shaw have the device and we fast forward to…

New York, 1969.

A very old Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford was around 79 when filming this movie. He is now 81) awakens to find the news of the first Moon landing but he doesn’t care all that much. He’s grumpy and his life is apparently unwinding as we get a glimpse of divorce papers between Marion and he.

He goes to the University for his final lecture before retiring and there a mysterious woman seems to know much of the material he’s lecturing. She also knows about the Dial of Destiny and its maker, Archemides.

Indy heads to a bar after the retirement party, not too keen about his stage in life, and the mystery woman shows up. She states she’s Helena Shaw, daughter of his one-time partner Basil. She also states that she wants to find where Indy and her father threw away the half of the device, which she states they did in a river shortly after they recovered it.

This part of the film, I have to say, shows me that the movie’s script was a work in progress and I‘ll get into that in a moment.

The bottom line is that Indy and Helena wind up forming a very uneasy alliance and travel around the world in search of the second half of the Dial of Destiny while on the run from Dr. Voller, who is still around and determined to get the device.

What does he seek? Is Helena good or bad? Will Indy triumph in the end?

Well, what do you think?! 😉

What we have her is a decent enough action film that unfortunately and as I stated above relies on perhaps too many CGI stunts that simply look like in the real world they could never work.

But the movie’s biggest flaw is that I’m convinced the film was being worked on from a story standpoint up to the very end.

How else to explain the appearance of Antonio Banderas in a role that, frankly, any other actor could have done? He literally has five minutes of screen time and barely says anything memorable before he’s gone. Mads Mikkelson’s Dr. Voller is about as one note as you can get. He is this understated villain who is simply there and never gets any powerful scene to strut his stuff, so to speak.

But perhaps the biggest artifact to find which proves the story was a work in progress is the character of Helena.

When first introduced and as I mentioned above, she tells Indy about how they tossed Dial into a river and Indy asks her if she remembers the last time they were together. I’m convinced at one point Helena’s character was a fake and not the real Helena Shaw and Indy’s question -and a subsequent flashback- proves that she wasn’t the daughter. Shaw’s daughter would know the Dial of Destiny was in her father’s possession well after the war and not thrown away into any river at War’s end.

Therefore, I feel her character was originally a cohort of Dr. Voller but the decision was made to make her a rascal rather than an outright villain and someone who would eventually go over to the side of good.

Anyway, it is what it is. Dial of Destiny is far from terrible but, unfortunately, not much more than decent. I recommend it with reservations but do feel most Indy fans will have a good time with the movie.

I will say this much, though: The final sequence was very sweet and a good way to say goodbye to this movie hero.

Barbie and Oppenheimer (2023)

It’s something of a relief, in a time where it seems all films are either underperforming or outright bombing, that these two films are doing gangbusters in their release.

I have yet to see either of them and have to admit Oppenheimer doesn’t intrigue me all that much… though I am a fan of Christopher Nolan’s movies, but Barbie, at least based on the trailers, sure does look like a blast.

Either way and after potentially bigger releases like Flash, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and, yes, the latest Mission: Impossible film seem to have weak openings/legs, its nice to finally get a pair of movies released that seem to have caught the attention of movie goers. This feels like a pre-COVID release box office and its a nice thing to see.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 (2023), a (right on time) review

Released this past weekend, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 is the latest in the Tom Cruise-starring Mission: Impossible films, the first of which was released way back in 1996. The franchise remains quite healthy and, if anything, seems to be finding its proper niche in the world of your James Bond-Ian type films.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

I’m a fan of the series for the most part and have enjoyed almost all the releases, including this one. It is a slickly made film that never seems to slow down but like some of the other features, it works best when you put your mind into neutral and simply accept what’s being played before you and enjoy the earnestness -and at times hair-raising stunts- Tom Cruise does.

Despite a strong ensemble cast, Cruise as Ethan Hunt is the show… usually… in each of these movie but often we’re given some great scenes with the other actors. Alas, in the case of Dead Reckoning Part 1, unfortunately Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rahmes, Vanessa Kirby, and Simon Pegg this time around don’t have a ton of stuff to do. Perhaps Ms. Ferguson fares the best and Simon Pegg the worst (while he gets one exciting scene early on in an airport -no spoilers- he’s otherwise doing not all that much but following Hunt around).

Someone who does get to appear before the camera quite a bit is newcomer to the series Haley Atwell as Grace, a master thief that has gotten in over her head and whom Ethan Hunt is constantly after.

The movie is long, clocking in at two hours and forty three minutes, but the plot is, alas, somewhat underwhelming.

In the movie’s opening minutes we follow a Russian submarine on what will turn out to be its last run. It carries within it a sophisticated artificial intelligence program activated by a pair of interlocking keys. Something goes very wrong and the submarine is sunk and, a short time later, it appears the artificial intelligence is all over the world and is intent on getting the interlocking keys… along with seemingly all intelligence agencies.

Here’s the bad: After we get this setup, the movie goes from scene to scene as Hunt and his team -but mostly Hunt and Grace- get the key, lose the key, lose each other, find each other, get the key and lose the key again, and on and on to the end.

It pains me to say this but that’s what this film boils down to: Who has the key and what crazy ass stunt does Ethan Hunt have to do to try to get it back.

Again, though: At least there’s a great deal of skill in the telling of this admittedly undernourished story and things are exciting as they progress but you’ll forgive me if I’m not as impressed with the story as I wanted to be.

As a writer, and one who has dealt with the idea of artificial intelligence, perhaps I’m a little down on this because I’ve been there and done that, but it feels like the meat of the story was being held back for Dead Reckoning Part 2, which hopefully gets done soon. I don’t know how the current SAG writers and actors strike will impact the making of this film but I imagine like many other works out there, even those in mid-production, they will shut down until those issues are resolved.

Either way, I still recommend this film. It’s a fun, at times preposterous action/adventure film which will entertain you… provided you don’t think to hard about how little plot there actually is.

So, recommended.

I do have a couple of ideas as to where the next film might go and, for the heck of it, I’ll get into them. I could be totally off but here come my thoughts.

After, of course, some…


Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1, as I mentioned above, involves the hunt for a key that supposedly will unlock a powerful artificial intelligence computer within a sunken Russian submarine.

The thing that struck me, however, was that it appeared the artificial intelligence was behind the attack on the submarine itself, which resulted in its sinking.

However, we come to find the A.I. is already spread out through the world and doing all kinds of things, including trying to find that key and a way into the submarine’s computer programming. It is stated this is so that it can get the main programming, I guess, which might deactivate it.

Or does it?

I couldn’t help but think, once the film was done, that the whole attack on the submarine didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why attack itself? And why do so in such a half-assed way that resulted in the sub -and the program- being potentially intact on the sea floor and ready to be recovered? How exactly did the keys get recovered from the bodies of the submariners and how did they get split up to where two different parties had them (this too is explained in the course of the film… the bodies somehow left the sub and floated to the surface/ice and were there and recovered afterwards).

It just… I dunno. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. That the submarine could be knocked out in such a way that the bodies got out so nicely?

If the screenwriters leave it at that, it will leave me with some rather massive things to simply accept.

However… what if there are two artificial intelligence programs out there, fighting against each other? Perhaps one is a United States A.I., the other the Russian one.

What if one of the A.I.s was the one that sabotaged the Russian submarine and got it to attack itself as shown in the opening minutes of the film? What if the other A.I. was the one that managed to get the corpses out, so that its masters could retrieve the key… and then fight off the other A.I. that was responsible for the attack?

I’m obviously just spitballing here but that would be a fascinating twist to find in the second film… if it is something that’s coming.

We’ll see!

Time marches on…

The older I get, the more I realize that change is almost always in the air and what might excite people at one point in time doesn’t necessarily do so at another.

I’m old enough (cough-gasp) to remember when disco music was king. Saturday Night Fever came out and The Bee Gees were it, man.

And then, just like that, suddenly chants of “disco sucks” rang through the air. Perhaps it was the mega-flop that was The Bee Gees starring Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie…

… but either way, suddenly disco was verboten and anyone who liked the music was deemed out of it (I had a high school professor at the time who thought the reason disco music fell out of favor so harshly and quickly was because adults/parents liked the music as well and started showing up at clubs playing the music. Youngsters were loath to hang out with their parents or anyone older then their generation and thus they abandoned the genre completely).

Over the past couple of weeks two films that perhaps in other times might have been hits, The Flash and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny were released and look to be pretty big box office flops.

Times, alas, aren’t normal yet. COVID decimated the movie theater experience and while the threat of catching it seems to be gone with better treatments and (yes) vaccines, it seems audiences are reluctant to return to theaters like they did before.

In part it may be due to streaming services which have become a go-to for people seeking such things. In part it may be a general tiredness regarding superhero films and/or sequels to very old films (sadly, that’s what the Indiana Jones franchise is at this point).

I don’t know the reason but the bottom line is that with some very few exceptions, “big” film releases have seemingly fallen on hard times at movie theaters.

I do wonder, I must say, what happens next.

Yes, the latest Avatar and Top Gun did good business. Perhaps Barbie and Oppenheimer and the next Mission: Impossible do well also.

But the reality is the movie studios, despite some very questionable accounting practices, seem to be hurting with many of their new releases and they really should think hard and long about what they’re going to invest in.

Things have obviously changed and time marches on as it inevitably does and, as I stated above, what worked before doesn’t necessarily work now.

Warner Brothers has hired James Gunn to oversee the new DC “universe” of films and, frankly, I wonder if maybe they invested in him precisely at the moment when superhero film fatigue might be a thing.

Maybe, maybe not.

Either way, studios need to tread carefully in this Post-COVID movie release reality.

The Flash (2023)

Haven’t seen it, thus no review, but it is a topic worth writing about… at least to me.

The Flash movie has been through some …uh… challenges, hasn’t it? It was first announced way back in, I believe, 2014 and went through several different creative teams before finally being made.

Unfortunately, star Ezra Miller went through some challenges of his own, running afoul of the law in different parts of the country and seeming to really -how do I put this kindly?- go out of his mind. There are accusations involving assault, disorderly conduct. He’s had restraining orders filed against him, he…

You know, if you’re curious, People Magazine offers…

A Timeline of Ezra Miller’s Recent Controversies

Either way, in the past year or so before the release of The Flash film, even his most vociferous critics have to admit he’s been keeping a low profile following issuing a public apology and hasn’t gotten himself into any new scrapes with the law.

Between that time and now, the first trailers for The Flash film were released and, I have to admit, they impressed the hell out of me…

It seemed to impress many on the internet as well. I found people who were blown away by the trailer and eager to see it. Then came postings by the likes of James Gunn and Tom Cruise who saw the film early and talked about it being great. It got a little silly, I admit, as people started posting bogus “reviews” by famous people who stated they loved the film.

Still, there was every reason to believe it would do well in spite of Ezra Miller’s controversies. At the very least, people wanted to see Michael Keaton return to the Batman role, no?


To say the film, now two weeks from being released, has underperformed is hardly an exaggeration. Its limping towards maybe making a little north of $90 million in domestic box office during its run (not a great figure at all) and its draw has sharply diminished since its first weak release, falling a precipitous 70 plus percent from week one to two.

I’m still curious to see the film, but I can’t help but wonder what confluence of elements took what seemed like a sure-fire box office success and instead made it look like a failure.

There are likely many elements that came into play, and perhaps one or two or a combination of them all led to this.

The first thing to consider is the most obvious: Perhaps people aren’t that willing to help a movie that stars an actor as controversial as Ezra Miller is. I think that one requires no elaboration.

The second thing is perhaps the DC movies are still viewed far more critically and for a variety of reasons. The Zack Snyder films were mercilessly panned (I’ve noted before my feelings regarding his films, in particular Batman vs. Superman, but suffice it to say there is a history here!). The DC “universe” of characters is about to be rebooted by James Gunn and, perhaps, people aren’t all that interested in seeing stories involving “dead end” versions of characters.

There’s also the reality that on the CW network they’ve had many years of The Flash TV show and, again perhaps, people simply had their fill of the character and weren’t quite as willing to spend another couple of hours with him.

I also feel there is this: The Flash’s trailer gave us so many wonderful surprises, including Micheal Keaton and Ben Affleck and a certain Super character… that perhaps audiences’ anticipation of the film centered on what surprises there were to be found.

Unfortunately, the day the film was released pretty much all those surprises were posted on websites like TikTok or YouTube and suddenly any surprises audiences were going to have were eliminated. While one would hope people would see a film above and beyond what “surprises” it offers, the reality is that maybe a combination of not really wanting to see Ezra Miller or having their hunger sated with the Flash TV show meant the surprises were pretty much all people were interested in and when they were revealed… what was the point of going?

There’s also this potent possible combination: Superhero fatigue and/or the fact that cinemas are still struggling post-COVID to get the audiences back.

I feel superhero fatigue is a very real thing and, frankly, by this point maybe it should be. There are an awful lot of superhero films being released (and that’s not counting the TV shows!) and perhaps people are starting to get bored of these works.

Regarding the later point about cinemas post-COVID, there have been exceptions. The Tom Cruise Top Gun sequel did spectacularly at the box office and there have been films here and there that have performed well. But in general it does appear that Hollywood is struggling to get people back to wanting to see films in theaters.

This has been exasperated by the many streaming services out there. The Black Adam film, for example, didn’t do all that well and it showed up relatively quickly on HBO Max (now called Max). Why bother going to the theater to see a film if you know it will show up very soon in a streaming service? My understanding is The Flash will be released to digital media next month so, again, why bother going to the theater to see it if you just wait a couple of months and see it in the comfort of your home?

Regardless of whether one, two, or all these elements were at play, the bottom line is The Flash movie appears to be a big time underperformer.

Did it deserve this fate?

Since I haven’t yet seen it, I don’t know. But I do worry about the future of cinema.

Nothing is written in stone and what might once have been a tried and true form of entertainment might well disappear with the passage of time and changing tastes.