Tag Archives: Movie Reviews

Man That’s Brutal…

Back when I was very, very young, I stumbled upon this book…

Written by Harry and Michael Medved (Michael would go on to become yet another –yawn– of those pants-on-fire conservative commentator/extremists), the book was a hilarious look at some of the worst films which, to that date, had been released.

At least according to the Medved brothers.

The book was popular enough to merit a sequel…

…and it too was quite humorous.

I have to admit, though, over the years and as I’ve become a writer, I’ve grown to be… uncomfortable… with books like this, even though I can’t deny the humor of lambasting works which are so bad they deserve the treatment.

Why?

Because I’ve been on the proverbial “other side” and know that creating a work, any work, requires considerable effort and time and I know now that nobody sets out to make something truly awful… even if when all is said and done that’s what is indeed created.

Having said that and while I feel bad for those who worked to make something and failed, perhaps miserably so, it’s still undeniably funny to read a post ripping said project to pieces…

Which brings us to the matter at hand, Steven Lloyd Wilson’s review of the Bruce Willis film Survive The Game, another of Mr. Willis’ seemingly endless VOD releases he’s participated in.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

I’ve read here and there that Mr. Willis has gotten to the point in his career where he takes on these types of films because a) they involve no more than one day’s worth of work and he’s quite strict about leaving when his time is up (so the film’s makers often have him in a single room/set saying his lines, often without co-stars present all that much) and b) he’s paid for that one day’s worth of work somewhere in the range of one million dollars.

There are many such films listed on Mr. Willis’ IMDb page (check them out here). Currently he has an astonishing 13 films listed on his resume for 2021 alone and all of them, near as I can tell, are similar low budget VOD features like the one above.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s Mr. Steven Lloyd Wilson’s review of Survive The Game. It’s quite hilarious, in my humble opinion…

Is “Survive The Game” Part of “A Christmas Story” Cinematic Universe?

Give it a click. It’s worth the laughs, if not actually sitting down to watch the film!

The Case of the Curious Bride (1935) a (Ridiculously Belated, Your Honor!) Review

Despite its formulaic episodes, I happen to love the Raymond Burr Perry Mason TV show. Based on the very popular (and also formulaic!) novels by Erie Stanley Gardner, who could pump out a book a week it seemed, there was something grandly entertaining about seeing Raymond Burr’s Perry interact with a usually fascinating all star cast and solve a murder his client seemed to absolutely do and there was simply no way around it.

However, there were a series of Perry Mason films made well before Raymond Burr took to the television role and The Case of the Curious Bride is one of them.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

One day while going over the latest movies offered on TCM, I spotted this film. Now, I haven’t seen a single non-Raymond Burr Perry Mason feature but this one really got my curiosity and for one reason and one reason only: It had a very early appearance of one Errol Flynn.

Don’t recognize the name? Welp, he was a very big action star, featured in such films as The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, and Captain Blood. He was primarily known as a very handsome swashbuckler, and his personal ilfe… ho boy, that must have been something (he would die at the very young age of 50 in 1959, his hard living, hard drinking, and sexual adventures/misadventures having sapped the life out of him by that point).

But I was fascinated by the idea of seeing a very young, pre-fame Errol Flynn in a Perry Mason movie. Yeah, I was damned curious to see this!

Alas…

If you’re interested in seeing this film solely for Errol Flynn, be prepared to see him for a grand total of maybe two minutes (or less) of screen time. In fact, he doesn’t say a single line and shows up in a flashback toward the end of the film where its revealed how exactly he died.

Yep, he’s the film’s murder victim.

Having said that, The Case of the Curious Bride nonetheless proved to be a fun, if ultimately frivolous, mystery film. Warren William plays a decidedly theatrical Perry Mason, a man with food on his mind (!) who gets involved in a case involving an old female friend of his (played by Margaret Lindsay) who is now married but who had previously been married and -she thought- widowed. Only it turns out her previous husband is alive and blackmailing her (the role seemed to fit Errol Flynn to a tee, given his reputation outside the studio!).

Anyway, Perry, Della Street (a delightful Claire Dodd, who inhabits the role almost as well as Barbara Hale would in the Raymond Burr TV show), and personal P. I. “Sudsy” Drake (Allen Jenkins, putting on the ham in a big way… I much prefer William Hooper’s more serious Paul Drake from the TV show) get themselves chin deep in the case and figure out, by the end, whodunnit while their client comes very close to the electric chair.

Another element beyond the cameo by Errol Flynn that makes the movie notable is that it was directed by one Michael Curtiz, a workhorse of a director who, a few years later, directed this one little and almost forgotten film called Casablanca. He also directed several of the best known Errol Flynn films, including the aforementioned The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Yes, The Case of the Curious Bride isn’t a film destined to be remembered or admired but it is a fun little mystery with the added bonus of having two fascinating minutes featuring a pre-famous Errol Flynn directed by what would be one of his bigger collaborators in Michael Curtiz.

For those who find that alone fascinating, the movie is an easy recommendation.

The Thing (1982) A (Very) Belated Review

I’m a big fan of director/writer John Carpenter. One of my all time favorite films is the original Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), and feel Escape From New York (1981) is one of the most fascinating, original story concepts to make it to the screen.

The Thing, released in 1982, is considered by many John Carpenter fans to be his all time best film. Sadly, like too many of Mr. Carpenter’s films, it didn’t do well at the box office. In fact, it flopped, pretty hard, and audiences and critics weren’t all that impressed by it… at the time.

1982 was a wonderful year for movie releases (don’t believe me? Check it out here).

There are a wealth of great features released that year, but the biggest smash hit was Steve Spielberg’s E. T. The Extraterrestrial. There was also the release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, perhaps the best of all the Star Trek films.

These two sci-fi classics were generally feel good films (even with the sad events at the end of STII). They were audience pleasers, through and through, and they did extremely well with audiences.

Which may explain why two other prominent science fiction films, Blade Runner and The Thing, didn’t do quite so well.

Both Blade Runner and The Thing presented more morose, not so crowd pleasant stories. In the case of Blade Runner, there was little action and plenty of self-introspection along with sticky questions regarding humanity. Sure, it presented a visually spectacular futuristic L.A., but one where people were down and out and audiences had little to actually cheer about.

With The Thing, we had a out-and-out horror story with some very gruesome effects and an ending which (MILD SPOILERS) is far from upbeat.

Yet if you’ve clicked on the list I presented of 1982 films, you’ll find both The Thing and Blade Runner at the top of the list, critically, and some of the bigger box-office successes lower.

Time has been kind to both movies.

Anyway, I have The Thing in multiple formats and recently upped the digital copy quality to UHD and decided to give the movie another look. It had been years since I’d seen it start to end, and I was curious how I’d feel about it.

Because unlike many, I feel the film has some pretty serious flaws.

Don’t get me wrong: I think its overall a pretty damn good film and the special effects, even for today, are jaw dropping. But I felt the film wasn’t as suspenseful as Assault on Precinct 13 or as clever as Escape From New York.

Seeing the film again, I wondered: Would my opinion change?

Alas, it didn’t.

Again: I think the film is quite good and deserves all the lavish praise its gotten.

However, by leaning so heavily into the at times superb grotesque effects and presenting characters who, IMHO, were pretty one note, the film to me failed to create a more suspenseful mood.

For example, the very first time we see the Thing in action, he’s with the other dogs in the kennel. The scene is a wonder of practical effects, but I wonder if it might have been more effective, a la Jaws, to hint at what grotesque things are happening through the dogs barking and moving about and us hearing these strange ripping sounds. We could have had everything there with a more shadowy presentation, leaving the first “big” showcase of the Thing being the “heart attack” scene.

But that’s just me and I know there are those who love all the effects work.

As for the characters, the “hero” of the piece, Kurt Russell’s MacReady, is the hero by virtue of the fact that he’s Kurt freaking Russell and I didn’t feel there was a sense that he was necessarily more competent than the others. True he’s in the middle of all the major set-pieces (as he should be!), but that just further showed how the others were mostly window dressing and/or victims to be. Keith David’s Childs, for example, the secondary protagonist of the piece, in the end does very little in the film but because he’s one of the “survivors” (maybe!) at the end, he’s raised in importance in retrospect.

I know it sounds like I’m sour on the film, but I’m truly trying to present the reasons why I feel that the film is quite good, it doesn’t -for me- rise to the level of some of Carpenter’s greater works (all IMHO!)

In the end, my opinion of The Thing remained roughly the same upon watching it again after several years. If I were to put the film on a star system, it would easily merit 3 stars out of 4.

At least for me, The Thing doesn’t quite hit the suspenseful highs of some other Carpenter films.

And that, of course, is just me.

Malignant (2021) A (Almost Right On Time) Review

Continuing my adventures with HBO Max, yesterday I looked around and found the movie Malignant available to stream.

Directed and from a story co-written by James Wan (Saw, Aquaman, The Conjuring), it focuses on Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis) who -after a brief intro to events at some strange psychiatric facility that occurred in the past, 1993- arrives home late one night tired and, from appearances, experiencing considerable pain because of her pregnancy. She heads to her bedroom where her deadbeat husband is watching TV and they eventually get into an argument.

She’s been pregnant, it seems, multiple times and each has resulted in some problem and no child. The husband, a nasty piece of work, shows little sympathy for her and they get into an argument. He slams her against the wall and she hits the back of her head. Blood flows and, in horror, the husband rushes downstairs to the kitchen to get her something to stop the bleeding.

Madison locks him out of her room and he is unable to get back in. She eventually goes to sleep on the bed while he sleeps on the couch downstairs.

However, he is awoken by strange sounds and attacked… and killed in a very vicious manner.

Who did him in? And who is the crazed killer who seems to have been unleashed that night?

And what does that have to do with the brief intro of events from a psychiatric hospital in 1993?

The answers come, eventually, and they are wild.

However…

Malignant is one of those films that I suspect people will either like or hate. It presents its scares in a straightforward manner but the story itself is beyond silly when all is said and done, a film that might have benefitted from more humor a la Evil Dead 2.

On the other hand, I found the plot to be somewhat reminiscent of early David Cronenberg, specifically his 1979 film The Brood. Mind you, I’m not saying the films have similar plots, more like similar thematic ideas and body horror.

Once I finished up Malignant, I couldn’t help but wonder what a more serious -and stronger- horror film it could have been had it toned down some of the silliness (there’s a scene toward the movie’s climax involving a prison cell then the entire police department which is… yeah… silly) and focused more on making this body horror film.

Still, for what it is, Malignant is not terrible by any means and is often entertaining enough despite some of the sillier elements.

I recommend this film to people who are fans of James Wan but, again, expect a more silly horror feature rather than a more serious one.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) a (Mildly) Belated Review

By now, most people with a passing interest in this film know the story. Zack Snyder makes Man of Steel (2013) it does good business -despite some controversy regarding the film’s ending- follows it up with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which gets, for the most part, annihilated by critics but which proves to be a far better film than the theatrical cut (imposed by the studio, no doubt) would have you believe when the extended version is released to home video…

Warner Brothers, worried about the critical reaction of BvS and Suicide Squad (the first one), get really nervous. Meanwhile, Snyder is directing -and finishes all principle photography- of Justice League, the third film in his DC arc, but the death by suicide of his adopted daughter causes him to abandon the project. Joss Whedon steps in, reworks the film, and when Justice League is released to theaters, it does weak business while creating a backlash for many who viewed that film as a very inferior work compared to what Snyder was bringing to his DC films previously.

Petitions were made and Warner Brothers was harassed with a “release the Snyder cut” of Justice League campaign. Some scoffed at the notion that there existed such a cut while others, such as myself, felt the film was completed, at least with regard to the main cast’s work, but that to finish the film off properly likely required considerable CGI work and that involved considerable money to be invested.

Would Warner Brothers be willing to spend such cold hard cash?

Truthfully, I wondered. Estimates ranged from the movie needing 50 to a whopping 100 million dollars to be completed, and that seemed like a really tall order for a studio to invest in, given the original film didn’t do all that well to begin with.

But then… opportunity appeared in the form of HBO Max.

Last year studios began their move toward creating their own streaming services and Warners did so with their HBO Max service. The trick with any new service, though, is to get people interested in using/paying for it. Someone at Warners realized they had a very unique opportunity here: They could complete the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League and use that film’s premiere as an HBO Max “exclusive” to get people interested in the service.

Thus, Zack Snyder was able to finish off his version of Justice League and, to boot, was even able to add a couple of minutes of extra new footage at the movie’s end.

The movie was released and, somewhat incredibly considering how negative the critics were to BvS, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was very well received. Audiences too seemed to have far warmer feelings toward this film, though there remained those who felt the movie was long and dull.

As I mentioned in my last post, I switched/updated my TV/cable service and was given HBO Max free for a year. Finally and several months after its original release, I was able to see Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

And I must say… it was quite good.

At four hours long, this is the DC pantheon of heroes by way of King Arthur (those who noticed such things probably saw what was playing in the theater at the beginning of BvSExcalibur!), grand and immersive and allowing viewers a taste of each and every character while building up the threat to Earth, via Steppenwolf and, in the background, his master, the New Gods’ uber-villain Darkseid.

ZSJL is a film that gives viewers a wonderful, in my opinion, view of this world and builds a great amount of suspense while doing so.

Having said that, its not without its flaws. The movie’s climax, in particular, made the (MINOR SPOILS!) returning Superman seems way too powerful when he confronted Steppenwolf and essentially kicked his ass without too much difficulty.

Further, I’ve noted some people say this film, and Joss Whedon’s theatrical cut, feature the same basic plot and that’s all… ho hum.

To this, though, I would say that while the two films feature the same essential plot, its all in the way its told that makes Snyders’ version all that much better. Thus Whedon’s cut was never going to be a complete reworking of Snyder’s Justice League. Instead, what he offered was a simplification of the story with some added humorous bits, some of which worked (Aquaman accidentally sitting on Wonder Woman’s magic lasso) and some of which absolutely did not (Flash falling on Wonder Woman, his hands on her breasts… a grotesque bit of “humor” that should have been dumped well before it was made).

In the end, the only new bit I felt Whedon added to the movie which I miss is the one at the very end of his version of the film, where Superman and the Flash race to see who is quicker. That bit, I felt, was really good.

Otherwise, though, my advice regarding Joss Whedon’s version of Justice League is the same advice I gave regarding the theatrical cut of BvS: Throw it away and forget it ever existed.

Highly recommended.

Reminiscence (2021) A (Right On Time!) Review

Given the COVID era, “new” movies are being released in odd ways. Tenet, for example, was released to theaters before quickly being streamed. I suppose there was money to be made doing the streaming thing because several films have been released “simultaneously” to steaming and the theaters.

I haven’t seen many -actually none– of the streamed features because until yesterday, I didn’t have any of the various streaming services dedicated to movie releases.

So yesterday I updated my current TV/cable service and, in the process, was given a free year of HBO Max. Suddenly, I was able to dip my toe into the new movie scene and discovered that Reminiscence was available for a few days more (the simultaneous streaming ain’t forever, folks!) and so I gave it a shot.

For those unfamiliar with the movie, here’s the trailer:

Reminiscence features Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, and Thadiwe Newton and was written and directed by Lisa Joy. Mrs. Joy is married to Jonathan Nolan, the brother of famed director Christopher Nolan, and, like her spouse, is a well established screenwriter who was involved in, among others, the HBO series Westworld.

With such well regarded talent involved, I figured the film had to be at the very least intriguing. There was, however, one other element that made me curious to see the film: It was filmed in and around Miami and Miami Beach and I knew about it when, just around the time COVID was becoming a thing, staff from the movie came around our business on Miami Beach to have us sign a waiver for some scenes they were going to film on a nearby building’s roof.

(The scene, if you’re curious, involves Hugh Jackman romancing Rebecca Ferguson while on said rooftop).

Anyway, Reminiscence is set in a near future where global warming has caused the sea levels to rise and Miami and Miami Beach are inundated. Hugh Jackman and Thandiwe Newton play “memory” detectives, people who delve into other people’s memories. At times they do this for the police when they’re trying to get information from someone who may not be willing or able to give it.

On the side, they offer their memory services to people who want to …uh… reminisce about something that occurred in their lives, be it for the sake of nostalgia or anything else.

Both our protagonists are presented as generally good souls, allowing some people to use their services for free while eeking out their existence.

And then, one day, appears Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) with a very dubious request: She says she lost her keys and would like our protagonists to do a memory search to find where she left them.

Now, let me stop right there: She arrives into this business which delves into people’s memories to just find some… missing keys??!?

I have to say, this bit really kills me. What a seriously weird misstep in an otherwise reasonably well thought out/written story. It just seems so damn ordinary –trivial– to get a story going but that’s what we’re given.

Nick Bannister (Jackman) is of course instantly attracted to Mae and they romance for a few months and then… she vanishes.

No explanation, no words.

What follows is Bannister using his memory machine as he increasingly desperately attempts to figure out what has became of her.

I won’t get into too many more details but suffice to say there is plenty of stuff revealed in the course of the movie, including sorting out Mae’s ultimate moral compass.

There is plenty of neat stuff to be found and some truly poetic lines but sadly the film ultimately left me dissatisfied.

To begin, as good as the actors are, I found it hard to see beyond who they were. I’ll try not to get into too many spoilers, but I never felt the characters -possibly because of the actors involved- would surprise me. By the end of the film, lo and behold, they did not. They were what I thought they were and there was no hidden layers to them.

Further, the mystery, which could have been intriguing as hell, winds up being not quite as gripping and emotionally involving as it should be. In this it felt like the fault lies in the way the film was presented, which ultimately falls on Lisa Joy’s direction. There is a lack of urgency and gritty darkness to grip us as viewers… and that’s a real shame because the elements were there.

In the end, I came away from Reminiscence feeling it was an average film with some good ideas but which lacked the emotional punch needed to pull me as a viewer along.

Its a shame. What could and should have been a movie right up my alley winds up being one I can’t recommend.

Borderline (1980) a (Ridiculously) Belated Review

I’m a big fan of the late actor Charles Bronson. He may not have had the greatest range, but he was a hard working actor who seemed determined to keep working through his entire life.

A while back, and just for the heck of it, I looked up all the films he was in in through the decade of the 1970’s (ie, 1970 through 1979) and was stunned to find he was in an astonishing 24 films during those nine years, most of which he starred in!

Not all of them were great, but a surprising number are, IMHO, watchable, and I even listed some I really enjoyed (you can read that original post here).

But, IMHO, things changed once we reached 1980. By that point, Bronson was approaching his 60th year and, frankly, wasn’t looking quite as spry as he was before. Worse for him, the quality of the movies he was in started to lag, sometimes -especially with the grindhouse-like Cannon Films- into seemingly countless repeats of his Death Wish role and roles similar to that.

In looking over his filmography, its interesting to see that the shift from decent/quality films to lesser works does seem to fall in the year 1980, when Charles Bronson starred in a “mere” two films, the Casablanca (!) like Cabo Blanco and Borderline, the film I’m reviewing here.

At this moment, the film is available in its entirety on YouTube, and I’ve provided a link to it here:

I saw Borderline many years before and, frankly, I had very few memories of it, if any. I recalled Bronson was playing a Border patrol cop and dealing with a problem that seems to be a constant: The flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. from Mexico.

What was somewhat surprising about seeing the film is that it truly seems to try to show sympathy for those who are illegally crossing, pointing out that they do so because jobs -menial though they may be- are offered and that there are rich folks in the U.S. who willingly take them on… even while they wash their hands about what they’re doing.

Borderline specifically focuses on Bronson and his overwhelmed group and how they have to deal with one particular human smuggling operation and one particularly nasty smuggler, played by Ed Harris in what as his first theatrical movie role (he had appeared in TV shows prior to this film and had a extremely small cameo/extra role in Coma). Here, he’s the one Bronson is after, though their confrontation winds up being one of the very few “action” sequences in the film.

Indeed, the film plays itself out mostly in a tame way. Bronson and his boys are dealing -as nicely as possible- with the illegal immigrants while Harris’s character treats them like cattle and, when nearly caught by one of Bronson’s deputies (played in a very small role by Wilford Brimley), blood is shed, Bronson decides to focus on finding and apprehending this particular human smuggling organization.

What follows is Bronson going deep undercover and seeing the smuggling operation first hand -as an illegal immigrant!- but truthfully its all presented in such a laid back manner that one never gets terribly worked up or feels any particular suspense.

The big showdown at the end of the film between Bronson’s Deputy and Harris’ smuggler seems out of place in this film, as if a decision was made to give us an action climax, but it simply isn’t all that exciting, either.

Perhaps in its time, the film played out far better, but when viewed some forty plus years later, it feels like a sedate TV movie.

While not awful, its difficult to recommend Borderline to anyone but fellow Bronson fans like me.

Army of the Dead (2021) a (Right On Time!) Review… Now With Bonus Comments!

Have to say… I was looking forward to seeing this film.

While I’m one of those nut-cases that defended -and continue to defend- Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman despite so many hate-hate-hating the film, I kinda loved it, especially in its Extended/Director’s Cut (truly, that version made the theatrical cut unnecessary).

Having said that, I’m not a Zack Snyder uber-fan. In total and before seeing the above film, I’ve seen a grand total of two of his films start to end: Dawn of the Dead and Batman v Superman. I’m well aware of his other films, including Man of Steel, the film that led to BvS, as well as the very recently released Zack Snyder’s Justice League, his version of the infamous film which has received quite good reviews. I intend to see that later film as soon as possible.

Regardless, I was a little more curious to see Army of the Dead and, voila!, that’s what I’ve done.

Army of the Dead, a Netflix exclusive film, was released yesterday and I wound up seeing it in two sittings. It is a long film and, frankly, with one hour of it left yesterday, my poor (increasingly) old body wasn’t up to catching the full thing as night was closing in and I was very tired.

Lest you think otherwise, though, I would have sat through the whole thing if I had the energy.

It was quite good!

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

Army of the Dead brings director Zack Snyder back to the “zombie” genre he had so much success with in his first feature film, the remake of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

I recall when word came out that he was remaking it people thought it sacrilege: How could anyone dare to remake what is probably the all time best zombie film ever made? (I know, I know… there are those who think Night of the Living Dead, George Romero’s first zombie film, is his best… I think it, along with Day of the Dead, are both incredibly good, but Dawn IMHO is his very best)

Incredibly, Zack Snyder and screenwriter James Gunn (yes, the very same James Gunn that would go on to make Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming Suicide Squad film) did the near impossible: Create a film that touches upon George Romero’s classic -at least with regard to the movie’s setting- yet goes down its own fascinating path.

And that opening sequence…!

Fast forward to yesterday and, as I said, Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead is released and once again we’re back to those darn zombies.

First though: Army of the Dead (let’s call it AotD from now on, ok?) is not a direct sequel to Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead.

While it does feature zombies, the cause of their appearance and the setting is vastly different from the end of the world scenario presented in Dawn of the Dead.

AotD’s plot goes like this: Las Vegas gets a zombie infection, is closed off (a la Escape From New York) and, maybe a few years later (or a little less), a very rich Japanese businessman approaches Scott Ward (Dave Bautista, quite good) one of the “heroes” of the Las Vegas evacuation who helped save many others, including a VIP right as it was closing off, to “break into” Las Vegas (again, a la Escape From New York) to get to a vault in one of the city’s buildings and steal back some 200 million dollars in it. He stands to claim $50 million of it and split it however he wants with his crew.

Tempting though the offer is, Ward, who turns out to be suffering PTSD from the events of the evacuation of Las Vegas and has nightmares and visions, including the death of his wife, of that time, isn’t willing to say yes right away. Though he’s working in a greasy hamburger joint and is estranged from his daughter and could use the money, it takes him a full day to agree to the job and gets his old crew together for it.

But Ward is no amateur: He knows there’s more here than meets the eye and doesn’t trust his employer at all.

Among the old group he gets together are Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera), Vanderhoe (Omari Hardwick), safecracker Dieter (Mathias Shweighofer), and helicopter pilot Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro). But as the group is about to leave, they’re thrown a curve: the billionaire who hired them insists one of his security men, Martin (Garrett Dillahunt), accompany them.

Further complicating things a little later on is that Ward needs his estranged daughter, Kate’s (Ella Purnell) help to get them into Las Vegas because she’s a volunteer at a shelter just outside the city and that, in turns, leads them to Lilly the Coyote (Nora Amezeder) who knows just how to do this but may not have the group’s best intentions in mind.

Each and every one of the actors are damn good in their respective roles and a further note should be made regarding the ingenuity of Zack Snyder with regard to Tig Notaro’s role.

For those unaware, the film was completely shot with comedian Chris D’Elia in the helicopter pilot role. However, after the filming was complete serious sexual misconduct accusations were leveled against Mr. D’Elia and Zack Snyder chose to scrub the comedian from the film. He was digitally replaced, in post production, with Tig Notaro (you can read more about that here).

While the end product isn’t completely seamless, it is damn close and Notaro’s interactions with the cast -which she never had!- work an incredible 99% of the time. In fact, there was only one occasion where I felt it was obvious she and the others weren’t acting against each other and that was the very first scene where Ward and Maria Cruz meet and recruit Notaro’s Marianne Peters. That was the one, and only scene, where it felt obvious their performances were pierced together.

Incredible end result, truly!

So the various characters eventually make their moves and more intrigue forces compromises -I won’t spoil everything!- to their group. Once they do make their entry into Las Vegas, the zombie plague they expected to find isn’t quite what many thought it would be and the zombies may not be completely brainless murderers after all.

AotD, to its great credit, doesn’t fully take itself seriously. There’s plenty of tongue in cheek elements and humorous interplay along with the serious -and at times gory- elements. The last hour/climax of the film, in particular, left me pretty breathless but that worked so well because the buildup made me care for what happened to the various characters in the end.

Still, there were little things here and there that annoyed me, particularly Mr. Snyder’s use of out of focus frames here and there. I know he gets a lot of grief for using too much slow motion -he really didn’t do so here- but this time around he seemed enamored with doing these hazy out of focus shots and, at times, they were perhaps a little too much.

The film is also quite long, clocking in at 2 and a half hours and maybe some might consider that a little too much. There’s a CODA as well that, for me, maybe was better left either on the cutting room floor or after the credits rather than in the film proper.

But that’s just me!

Regardless, if you’re in the mood for some good action/suspense and aren’t too burned out with the zombie genre, AotD is a perfect time killer.

Recommended.

POSTSCRIPT:

I’ve been intrigued to see the various comments from people regarding this film, mostly very negative.

Over on rottentomatoes.com, Army of the Dead is currently earning a very good 70% positive among critics and a 76% positive among audiences.

And yet… I see plenty of online posts in the various blogs and places I visit with people quite literally wondering why anyone would like the film.

One of the bigger criticisms I see involves the character of Martin who joins the team at the last minute and works for the billionaire who hired them originally. To everyone -including the members of the team- he clearly has an agenda of his own, and later in the film we find out that the money the billionaire claims to want to recover is not as important as getting the head/blood of one of the uber-zombies.

Later in the film he, along with the “Coyote”, capture the female uber-zombie and he decapitates her, taking her head with him at that point.

However, these people point out, early in the film they first encounter the female zombie and her companion, and he could have captured her then and taken off, leaving the others to get the money on their own.

I suppose… but…

This was early in the film and Martin had yet to have any interaction with the Coyote character and, like everyone else, wasn’t as sure of the so-called “lay of the land” within Las Vegas. Because of that, attacking her at that point might have resulted in a really big attack on them.

So, yes, I can see why he didn’t act at that point and it wasn’t such a huge plot hole to me as some feel it is.

Regardless, there are those who feel the film was terrible even without this particular issue. They feel the film was either too slow or too long. Both criticisms, IMHO, are certainly valid to these individuals. The film is 2 and 1/2 hours long and I can certainly see people becoming anxious for it to move along. For me, this too wasn’t such a big bother.

Another criticism is that the movie’s ending is too much of a downer, that (SPOILERS!!!!!) all these characters die out so quickly at the very end.

This I kinda don’t understand.

Zombie films, especially those by George Romero, tend to end on a very downbeat nature and with most of the main cast annihilated. Thus, people we’ve come to like generally tend to not make it to the end. Further, this is also a heist film, and if you’ve seen many of them, they don’t always follow the lighthearted pattern of an Ocean’s 11 (the original or remake). In fact, more often than not these films are about not only the heist, but the disintegration of the team after said heist. Often, characters are double crossed or captured and/or killed before they can spend their ill-gotten gains.

I’m talking about films like The Anderson Tapes or The Killing or The Brinks Job.

So, again, not much of an issue for me.

Elsewhere, I found it interesting when I interacted with someone over on i09.com and s/he noted that perhaps because we are dealing with a Zack Snyder film, there is a certain amount of baggage inherent in people’s reaction to it, not unlike they have a certain reaction to the works of J. J. Abrams or Michael Bay.

It seems to me this may be a valid issue, at least with some people’s reactions out there, but I doubt it has to do with the vast majority of the negative reviews I spotted.

Understand: To me, people’s opinions are just that. What may work for me may not for you and vice versa and therefore I take people’s criticisms at face value and try not to look beyond it at possible agendas that may -or may not!- be there.

Still, its intriguing how many people had a very negative reaction to what I thought was a decent action/suspense film!

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), A (Mildly) Belated *Sorta* Review…

Well…

Spider-Man: Far From Home. The second Tom Holland starring Spider-Man film.

Very popular among both audiences and critics where, according to rottentomatoes.com, it boasting an incredible 90% positive for the critics and 95% positive to audiences.

Which means that a miniscule 10% of professional critics didn’t like the film and, of the audiences that showed their opinions, only 5% didn’t like it.

Man, sometimes it feels lonely being in the minority.

But before I get into that, here’s the movie’s trailer:

Now the reason this is a Sorta review is because I didn’t see the entire film.

I know, I know… how can you review it if you didn’t see the whole damn thing?

Welp, here’s the thing:

A few months ago I tried very hard to watch the film start to end and the opening 40-50 minutes were so godawful to me that I simply couldn’t watch them without shutting it off.

Multiple times.

I would watch, say, 10 minutes before it proved too much for me and off the movie went. Then, perhaps even the very next another day, I’d try again, this time going through another 10-15 minutes before -once again- shutting it off. I did this in total some three or four days more or less in a row and, to put it bluntly: That first half of the movie proved almost completely unwatchable to me.

The plot goes like this: Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) class is going on a European field trip and Parker is hoping to express his love to “MJ” (Zendaya) while his friends and rivals and two teachers chaperoning them all have their own adventures.

Slowly, oh so very slowly, it is revealed there’s a danger in Europe and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) wants Spider-Man to look into it while he tries to advance his romantic life and “enjoy” the field trip.

Turns out there’s a new super-powered being, Quentin Beck aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) who claims to come from another world that was destroyed by this threat coming to Earth.

But, for those familiar with the comic book character, its pretty obvious there’s much more to him than meets the eye.

It was, again in my opinion, painful to watch. The humor was beyond obvious and groan-inducing. The set up toward the danger moved along at a snail’s pace.

Those opening scenes proved simply too much for me and, after 3-4 attempts at getting through the first hour of the film, I gave up and thought that was that.

Not everything works for you as a viewer and, while I have absolutely nothing against the vast number of people who loved the film (good for you!), I just couldn’t do it.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago.

While flipping through the channels I found one of them showing Spider-Man: Far From Home and it was, I’m assuming, from roughly the point where Spider-Man first realizes Mysterio is actually a villain and the web-slinger has his first major fight against him.

While the sour feelings I had toward the film’s first half lingered, I nonetheless decided to watch and…

…it wasn’t bad.

Not at all!

So I kept watching, catching roughly the last 40 plus minutes of the film and found that section was pretty exciting stuff with some really great CGI effects.

Ladies and gentlemen: I really liked what I saw!

…but…

It didn’t diminish my very negative feelings toward the film’s first acts.

Though I haven’t seen the entire film (there are probably some 20 or so minutes of the middle section I have yet to see), I find myself with some really contradictory feelings about Spider-Man: Far From Home.

The first parts are and IMHO remain absolutely dreadful. The conclusion, on the other hand, is quite exciting and very much worth catching.

Perhaps this is the first review where I’ll say: If you’re like me and are interested in seeing the film and find the first parts not to your liking, then fast forward the film and watch its conclusion.

That part is quite good!

Omega Doom (1996) A (Apocalyptically Belated) Review

Ah, Rutger Hauer.

Probably one of the bigger influences on my creative works through the 1980’s. The character of B’taav, the Independent who is one of the protagonists in my Corrosive Knights series, was based on Rutger Hauer and French actor Jean Marais

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I loved his appearances -brief yet stunning as it was- in Blade Runner, which will probably be viewed as his seminal role. But he was so great in The Hitcher, Ladyhawke, and Nighthawks.

He was also great, IMHO, in lesser films like Wanted: Dead or Alive and Split Second.

If you go over to Mr. Hauer’s IMDb page, you’ll find a massive 175 acting credits to his name. Looking over the many works he did post 2000, it was clear that though he remained quite active and in demand, his greatest days were behind him before he passed away in 2019.

The reality, sadly, is that even in the later 1980’s Mr. Hauer was beginning to appear in lower budgeted films, some of which were …uh… questionable in quality.

In 1996 he appeared in the film Omega Doom, which some consider the absolute nadir of Mr. Hauer’s starring films. Here’s the movie’s trailer:

Let me start by saying until yesterday I never saw this film. Further to that, my understanding is that the film is related, perhaps obliquely, to the 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme film Cyborg. This is because the movie’s director, Albert Pyun, was behind both films as well as a few others set in the Cyborg universe.

Anyway, let’s get this out of the way: The film is quite terrible.

It features a meandering plot which directly lifts -or rips off, depending on how kind you want to be about it- Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars.

The plot is that in a post-apocalyptic world, the sole survivors are robots that were built to destroy humans. The robots have formed their own “tribes” and fight against each other but one robot, Hauer’s Omega Doom (yeah, that’s the character’s name!) sustained an injury to his head which made him lose his original murderous programming. He’s effectively become a “good guy” who roams the apocalyptic world and happens to stumble upon a small town which has two robot sides -who would normally be fighting against each other- living in a weird uneasy truce. There’s also a bartender and a robot “head” being kicked around.

Omega Doom enters this town and, like Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars, he will work both sides against each other. But the story is presented almost incoherently and at the end two prominent characters introduced early on simply disappear, never to be seen again.

What happened?

Further, the movie’s effects are mostly amateurish at best and downright embarrassing at worst. Oddly enough, I would have been more forgiving had the film been released in the 1980’s rather than 1996.

…and yet…

The acting in the film is actually pretty damn good. Much better than one would think.

Then there’s Rutger freaking Hauer.

He’s very good in a role that, as I mentioned before, is essentially a re-tread of Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo and Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars. Don’t get me wrong: He doesn’t necessarily goes outside his comfort zone yet he’s got his charisma going and is an intriguing presence.

As I also mentioned, most of the small cast around Mr. Hauer are pretty damn good as well.

Anna Katarina is very sympathetic as the Bartender who wishes all the violence would stop. Likewise, Norbert Weisser is fun as the “Head”, a decapitated robot head that is battered around but is helped by Hauer’s Omega Doom.

The other actors -and there aren’t that many!- playing the various villains are also quite good.

One can’t help but wonder if the film had a better budget and stronger effects along with a more polished script this movie might have a far better reputation than it does.

As it stands, though, I can’t recommend Omega Doom to anyone out there other than big fans -like me- of Rutger Hauer.