Tag Archives: Movie Reviews

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.

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!

Greyhound (2020) a (mildly) belated review

If you’ve got the Apple TV+ streaming service, you can see Greyhound, a Tom Hanks starring and written (yes, he was the screenwriter!) film, which was never released to theaters. A victim of COVID, no doubt.

Here’s the pretty damn exciting -to me anyway- trailer:

Watching this once again as I’m typing, I remember my initial excitement upon seeing it and the eagerness I had to see the film proper. The subject matter intrigued me and the effects looked pretty damn good.

Alas, I didn’t have the Apple TV+ service and frankly have enough streaming services as it is. I don’t have the free time to watch so much damn TV nor was I interested in spending yet more money on another streaming service.

Besides, the film was bound to make it to other formats before long, no?


Three years passed and it appears Apple is intent on keeping this movie within its streaming umbrella. I don’t believe either a physical or digital copy of the film is available for purchase.

So it appeared I’d have to wait a while to see the film. However, a few months back I upgraded my cell phone and included in the upgrade was the Apple TV+ streaming service for free.

It would take me a few months from when I got it to finally find the free time but I searched the service and finally got around to watching Greyhound.

Was it as impressive as the trailer made it seem? Was it worth the long wait?


Everything that was good about the film is encapsulated in that trailer. There are good effects and some damn good action sequences which revolve around Hank’s Captain Crause leading the Greyhound, a destroyer escort leading a convoy of supply ships across the Atlantic during World War II while facing off against a “wolfpack” of German submarines.

Here’s the problem, though: That’s pretty much all the film is, one action sequence after another with minimal characterization.

The camera almost exclusively follows Tom Hank’s character and everyone else is relegated to the background. For some reason the film opens with Hank’s character meeting up with Elisabeth Shue’s Evelyn, his wife or girlfriend and then leaving her for the command. Ms. Shue is in the film for something like two minutes, if that.

That and the fact that he’s a religious man who prays before meals and (MILD SPOILERS) prays after everything is over are pretty much all we get in terms of depth (no pun intended) of character.

Otherwise the movie’s dialogue consists of variations of “Hard right rudder!” or “Hard to starboard” while other more minor characters echo Hank’s command.

So while we have minimal characterization and technojargon for dialogue (for the most part), the film does admittedly deliver some thrills with the many battles between Greyhound and the nefarious wolfpack, who very improbably actually radio Greyhound and taunt them while attacking.

I would ultimately recommend this film but with the caveat that it is for those who want to see some exciting high sea action sequences but aren’t put off by a film that has near zero actual characterization.

Greyhound is a decent work but compared to something like Das Boot, it could’a been better.

Black Adam (2022) a (mildly) belated review

There’s been more hoopla -it seems- about the behind the scenes stuff regarding Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam than there is about the movie itself.

You’ve had the surprise of Henry Cavill’s cameo as Superman at the movie’s end… something which delighted quite a few fans out there, even those who may not be big fans of Zack Snyder’s DC movies yet feel Cavill makes a great Superman. Then you had the disappointment -to those very same fans- when it turned out new DC Universe showrunner James Gunn stated Cavill would not return to the character after all.

There was the strange review situation, where professional reviews of the film were quite dismal yet the regular audiences were far more forgiving (at this date and on Rottentomatoes.com, the movie stands at a really, really low 39% positive among those critics and yet a very high 88% positive among audiences)

Then, when the movie was released, it seemed to do quite well in theaters but petered out relatively quickly. I suspect the film in the end did very well but not well enough for DC to push Mr. Gunn into a potential sequel or force him to use Cavill again. Mr. Johnson entered into that particular fray stating the film’s box office was quite healthy and his statements seemed rather defensive, even if I couldn’t blame him. He’s clearly someone who has pride in what he does and will defend it.

I was interested in seeing the film when it was originally released but, as is often the case for me, it was difficult to find the time to go to a theater to see the film. I also, I have to admit, had my eye on HBOMax and wondered just how long after the movie’s theatrical release I’d have to wait before it was streaming on that service.

In the end, I didn’t see the film in theaters but did catch it a few weeks back on HBOMax. I honestly don’t know if it’s still available to be seen there as of today.

So… what did I think about the film?

Was it as bad as the critics said? Did they miss something that general audiences found?

Avert your eyes, gentle reader, because what I’m about to state may cause some of you to faint…

I felt Black Adam was about as good a superhero film as Dr. Strange In The Multitude of Madness.

Yes, I said it.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Sam Raimi is a director who is in his own class and his direction of the Dr. Strange film was crisp and has his characteristic fun -and wild- elements which you cannot find in the Jaume Collet-Serra (whose previous directed films include The Shallows, Orphan, and Jungle Cruise) Black Adam.

However, I felt Dr. Strange’s story was, despite some really neat elements (particularly the alternate Marvel Universe and its heroes) quite toothless. It felt like the studio imposed the story and had Raimi tone down what could have been a truly fascinating horror/superhero hybrid. It felt to me like Raimi was in a strait jacket, making a good film when he could have made a batshit crazy great one, had he been allowed to do so.

So it was that I felt Black Adam was also one of those types of films. It wasn’t terrible IMHO, but it also felt like it was ticking off the boxes and trying to be all things to all audiences. I suppose, based on those Rottentomatoes.com scores, it achieved that much.

But it could -and more importantly should– have been more.

There were all kinds of fascinating elements in it. In Dr. Strange, as I mentioned, the highlight was seeing the alternate universe Marvel heroes. In Black Adam, the equivalent was seeing The Justice Society and, specifically, Hawkman and Dr. Fate, two characters I’ve always loved from the comics and was pleased to see come to life.

Pierce Brosnan was simply a delight as the weary Dr. Fate and seemed to have a blast in the movie. He was easily the movie’s standout.

Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam, alas, is presented as far more one note through the film. I get it: Unlike the comic books, where he was for many years an outright villain, here he’s a hero who is supposed to skirt the edge of being one. He kills, and quite a bit, but the movie -again like Dr. Strange– tries to soften the blow of his actions with humor or quick cuts which dampen what should be rougher stuff for audiences to chew on. As with Dr. Strange, I couldn’t help but wonder what a more no-holds-barred R rated version of this film might have been.

So the bottom line for me is that Black Adam is another reasonably successful superhero studio product. There are some really great effects and some of the action presented is quite wild but the film, in the end, feels like you’re having a Big Mac.

Go to any McDonalds in the United States and order a Big Mac and they’ll all taste the same even as they will help you get you past your hunger. Sure, they’re calories and they’re relatively cheap and you get served quick but it’s not necessarily a gourmet -or memorable- meal.

Recommended, with that caveat.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022) a (very mildly) belated review

Back in 2019 -truly a lifetime ago, given all that’s happened to myself and the world at large!- I went out to the movie theater for the very last time before COVID hit hard to see the film Knives Out.

The film, directed and written by Rian Johnson, was a murder mystery featuring Daniel Craig playing Benoit Blanc, the “world’s greatest detective” dealing with a shifty/suspicious family whose benefactor was apparently murdered.

I never saw the whole film, alas, as I received a call somewhere half-way through the film and was forced to deal with a business problem. As a result of the call I missed some 10 minutes or so of the movie and the call and situation left me so fucking bitter I decided it wasn’t in much of a mood to see the rest of the film. So I sat in the lobby and waited for the movie to finish so I could rejoin the group I went with and head out.

I never did bother to see the rest of the film, the bitterness of the situation still being there, despite eventually purchasing the film and considering watching it through.

Anyway, COVID hit and it wouldn’t be until Murder on the Nile -another murder mystery film!- a couple of years later until I once again went to a theater.

When I heard about Glass Onion, I was curious. Despite everything that happened, I enjoyed what I saw of Knives Out and was curious to see the sequel. Netfix bought up the rights to the production and future Rian Johnson/Blanc movies and, after a very brief theatrical release, the film was shuffled onto Netflix’s streaming service where I got to see it uninterrupted.

Glass Onion involves a quirky billionaire named Miles Bron (no doubt an amalgam of such real life billionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs) quite well played by Edward Norton who invites his closest friends (played by, among others, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, and Madeline Cline) to his beautiful island retreat to participate in a murder mystery.

The set up of Glass Onion takes pretty freely from what is arguably Agatha Christie’s best novel, And Then There Were None, and has our diverse cast isolated on this island where the “game” of murder becomes a very real thing after a while.

Like Knives Out, though, the matter isn’t a totally grim affair. There is plenty of humor and outrageous sequences and while there is suspense, one never feels this film is an out and outright thriller like it could have been.

I enjoyed it for what it was, a sugary confection without too many deeper layers. The mystery itself is pretty dopey if you spend too much time thinking about it and involves some things which simply wouldn’t happen in real life. I won’t get into SPOILERS but suffice to say these are pretty pulpy and silly as well.

If you roll with it, you’ll have fun with Glass Onion.

If you don’t…

I’m kinda on the fence here. To some degree I could accept a lot that was expected of the viewers but there were points where things were just a little too crazed.

Some have criticized the movie for having our detective know things that he shouldn’t. However, I think they’re wrong. The things he didn’t witness firsthand it was clear he was told about so that wasn’t such a big thing.


You know, I do want to talk about them but I don’t want to SPOIL things for others so I’ll get to it in a bit.

Before I do, let me offer this conclusion: Glass Onion is a fun film that, while at times outrageous, doesn’t kill you with the silliness. It’s worth a look and I do ultimately recommend it.

Now then…



Ok… still there? Well, you have been warned!

The film involves, as we will soon find, a group of very diverse individuals who all have a connection to Edward Norton’s Bron but who clearly do not necessarily like him very much. He is a puppetmaster, of sorts, and their success was something that came through him.

Worse, it appears one of the guests who arrives turned on him. She, we will learn, had a brilliant idea and Bron appeared to have taken it from her. The idea is a McGuffin. We’re never quite sure what exactly this was though it seems like it might have been some kind of website like a Facebook which was then stripped from her control.

Anyway, her arrival at this party causes all the others to react. See, they all know that she created the billion dollar idea that Bron took but they are so tied into him and his money they dare not cross him.

Then, later on, it turns out the character is actually dead, having been murdered just before the party but whose murder still hasn’t reached the news. And it turns out she has a twin sister who is the one taking her place and who has asked Blanc to come to this party… he was not, you see, invited to come in the first place!

My issues with Glass Onion lie entirely in the paragraph I wrote above.

That’s an awful lot of stuff to accept at face value and I suspect those who enjoy the film likely will be ok with this while those who don’t like the film will find at least some of what I wrote above hard to accept.

I’m truly on the fence here. The idea of a person dying/being murdered yet they are able to keep this from the news is… tough to accept. Worse still is accepting the character has a twin sister who conveniently is able then to take her place/appear at this island party. Even tougher is understanding how she was invited to this party in the first place given what seems a bad relationship with the host and even harder still is how Blanc gets to the party despite not being invited… yet our host accepts his being there without much protest.

I mean, wouldn’t there be some kind of security at the docks before being sent to the island? Because if Blanc could get to the island and no one particularly cared, then what was to stop a whole gaggle of other uninvited people from going there?

It… defies logic, truly.

Yet I stand by what I said: Glass Onion is nonetheless an enjoyable though sugary confection. It will, at the least, entertain you.

For the second time: Recommended!

Barbarian (2022) a (almost right on time!) review

Heard a lot of good things about this film when it was released in August and, thanks to the speedy move from theaters to streaming, I managed to catch Barbarian a few days ago.

Here’s the trailer:

Barbarian is an intriguing horror film whose plot is probably best left for viewers to discover, so I won’t get too into what happens.

I will say this much (and you can see some of it in the trailer above) we start with Tess (Georgina Campbell, quite good) showing up at a home she rented through Airbnb only to discover another person, Kieth (Bill Skarsgård, also quite good) is already there renting it. His rental was through another agency and it looks like a simple screw up, though Tess is rightfully uncomfortable with the whole situation and takes a while before warming up -with plenty of guards up- to Kieth.

I’ll not say more, except that the home carries a very scary history and plenty of deep secrets, all of which will be revealed in the end.

I liked the film but will fault it on its tone. It’s kinda all over the place, at times outright horror while at other times seems to be emulating the crazed horror/comedy stylings of an Evil Dead 2. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but it does make the film feel at times off kilter and unfocused, like it is either not sure where it was going with some of its elements and/or parts of its tone were made up as they went along.

There is also a lot of misdirection, of characters who seem like they might play a larger role in the story but don’t and things that are done which seem like they might be important but aren’t (there’s a Checkov’s gun-like artifact you can spot in the trailer above which has absolutely no payoff and I can’t help but wonder if maybe as the film was being edited down that payoff element was ultimately cut).

Still, Barbarian is ultimately a very entertaining horror/comedy hybrid and while not all of its parts may mesh perfectly well, it is ultimately worth the wild ride.


Confess, Fletch (2022) a (almost right on time!) review

The character of I. M. Fletcher, ie “Fletch” first appeared in the 1974 novel by Gregory MacDonald of the same name and was sucessful enough to span plenty of novel sequels and prequels (you can read more about the books here). In 1985 Chevy Chase appeared in a film version of the first novel, also titled Fletch

The movie did well enough that a sequel, Fletch Lives, also starring Chevy Chase, was released in 1989. While many hold the original film in high esteem, there was, IMHO, a pretty big drop off in quality with Fletch Lives, which I felt was a far sillier film than the first.

Anyway and regardless, people have fond memories of the books and/or the movies and for years I kept reading here and there that another Fletch film would be made. For a while, it was Kevin Smith (Clerks) who was tied to such a film and, if memory serves, Ben Affleck taking the role in a new movie was talked about.

It never materialized.

However, this year I was surprised to see the release of Confess, Fletch, featuring Jon Hamm in the titular role and directed by Greg Mottola (Adventureland, Superbad)…

Seeing as we’re still in the process of emerging from the COVID pandemic, movies releases are still scattershot, with some films simultaneously appearing in theaters and streaming/VOD at the same time and, in the case of Confess, Fletch, it appeared the same happened. I caught the film using the VOD system for VUDU because I heard good things about it and was a fan of that original Chevy Chase film and thought the idea of Jon Hamm taking on the titular role might prove good.

So… was it?

Here’s the thing: There are films that are good. There are films that are bad. There are also films that are perfectly fine yet don’t necessarily blow you over.

I’d place Confess, Fletch squarely in that category.

There is nothing at all wrong with the film. It’s well acted, has some good laughs, and the mystery is decent if not on the level of, say, an Agatha Christie.

However, it is also a film that seems to reach a certain level of quality and remains there throughout the runtime. There are no big shocks or surprises and, perhaps the film’s biggest “sin”, there is no really spectacular climax.

I mention this in particular because I feel the most successful films have that going for them: They start at zero and gradually -or perhaps not so gradually!- move up and up. The climax of the best films should be where the suspense or horror or comedy should be at its highest and the resolution should leave audiences pleased to have spent their time watching the film.

Alas, Confess, Fletch never quite reaches that point. Again, the film is perfectly fine through its runtime. I very much recommend it!

But I can’t come out and say the film was spectacular or a “must see”. It unfortunately never hits that second or third gear in its climax, instead flowing at a regular pace through its end.

Jon Hamm makes for a good but very different from Chevy Chase version of Fletch. He’s not quite as comedic as Chevy Chase’s version and there’s less of a sense that we’re watching a comedic movie. Further to that, an effort is made to “modernize” the character into this day and era where journalism isn’t quite what it used to be. It is also my understanding Jon Hamm used some of his salary for this role to pay to complete the film and I think that’s incredibly admirable.

Again, the bottom line is that I would recommend the film but caution people to not expect incredible fireworks here. The film is a pleasant time killer and enjoyable as is, but not necessarily a film of the ages… then again, how many are?

Recommended with that caveat!

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) a (abracadabra… mildly belated you are!) review

Been flying around and this film was available to be seen on my way back home. I’m a fan of director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Darkman, etc.) though of late not such a huge fan of the MCU films out there (a shame, truly… while I wouldn’t say the films are “bad”, I find the scripts/storylines tend to blur into each other and carry fewer and fewer surprises. Still, I wish I could like them like others!).

Anyway, with Raimi involved, I was curious as to how this film would turn out.


It wasn’t bad at all!

Having said that, it felt like it could’a been so much more. Here’s the movie’s trailer though for those who haven’t seen the film and know nothing about it, it might be better not to see it and I’ll explain why in a second:

My general burnout toward the Marvel films goes back to the one-two punch release of Guardians of the Galaxy and the first Dr. Strange film, both of which I felt were lacking story-wise (in the case of GoTG, I genuinely don’t understand what others saw in that film… I really didn’t like it at all!).

As with all film, though, I tried to wipe any preconceptions from my mind and sat back and watched the film and, as I said, I generally enjoyed it.

The story focuses on America Chavez, a young latina who has the ability to move through the “multi-verse”. As the movie opens, she and an alternate universe Dr. Strange are running for their lives from someone/something that wants to take America’s power from her.

The end result of this chase has America appear in “our” Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) universe, where he is dealing with romantic heartbreak (his superheroics cause him to lose his love to another).

Once America shows up, though, that is set aside and Dr. Strange fights off the creatures who are following America through the universes and trying to steal her power… which will result, of course, in her death.

Dr. Strange and Wong rebuff the attack and hide America away. Then, Dr. Strange sets out to find the source of this danger to the young girl, and finds it to be coming from a surprising character in the MCU.

The above trailer, unfortunately, hints strongly as to who the “villain” of this piece is and, going into the film, I kinda knew already as well and I’m sad that I did.

That should have been kept as a surprise!

Having said that, this is where the film both triumphs and, alas, fails a bit as well. As the movie went along, I couldn’t help but feel that Sam Raimi was being throttled down and held back in terms of what he wanted to show. I mean, this is the guy who went all out with the Evil Dead films and the thought of seeing him showing the vast, unvarnished darkness of the villain in this piece… it could have been something.

If he had been allowed to do so!

Still, the film is far from a disappointment. It worked for me much more than the previous Dr. Strange film and other Marvel works I’ve seen of late.

I can’t say it changed my opinion of the MCU films in general, though. They remain generally disposable entertainment, things you don’t think much of once you’ve seen them, though thankfully all the smarmy “jokey” dialogue was also held back quite a bit.

All in all, I recommend Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It’s a fine time killer even if one can’t help but wonder what might have been… had Sam Raimi been given a more free hand!

Alien: The Director’s Cut (2003) a (chestbursting) review

Back in 2003 Fox Studios released on BluRay the Alien Quadrilogy, the four films (up to that point) in the Alien franchise. Included were Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992), and Alien: Resurrection (1997).

However, to make the set truly a ”must buy” for fans, included were “Director’s” or ”Alternative” cuts of each of the four films. Thus, fans got to see David Fincher’s rough cut assembly of Alien 3 (his experience making the film was supposedly quite sour and he rejected the theatrical cut due to his many clashes with the studios. This rough cut assembly may be the closest we’ll have to Fincher’s original vision of the film) along with the version of Aliens which incorporates scenes cut from the Cameron film.

Perhaps the most curious extra feature was the ”Director’s Cut” of the original Alien

Now, for those who read ”Director’s Cut” and think this is the preferred version of the film the Director (in this case, Ridley Scott) wanted, rid yourself of that notion right away.

The fact is the ”Director’s Cut” of Alien was purely made as a promo for the Alien Quadrilogy release. It boasts some alternate ”takes” of certain scenes but truly has the same story… only not as well told, IMHO, as it was in the theatrical cut.

In fact, Ridley Scott himself said the truest version of the film remains the theatrical cut and that this ”Director’s Cut” was an exercise/lark and nothing more.

In fact, I would go so far as to say there is really only one sequence worth checking out in this ”Director’s Cut” and that’s this one…

The scene is, IMHO, a potent one. We realize Dallas, the ship’s Captain, is not dead and, further to this, we get the whole mythology of the Alien creature spelled out. Specifically, how the creature procreates using “live” subjects.

So… why was the sequence cut from the theatrical version of Alien?

Timing, as it were.

The sequence occurs during the film’s climax, when (SPOILERS FOR THE VERY FEW WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THIS TERRIFIC FILM YET) Ripley is the last survivor and is running for her life. She’s quite literally set the ship on self-destruct and is running against the ticking time bomb.

Unfortunately, the cocoon sequence takes what is a thrilling, high tension sequence and quite literally slows it almost to a stop. We have Ripley walking slowly on, taking in the sight and processing what she’s seeing, then we realize we have Dallas still alive but obviously not well, then she kills him after he begs her to.

Again, great scene but it completely stopped the flow of the movie at that point and, IMHO, it was wise to remove it.

Is the “Director’s Cut” of Alien worth checking out?

I have to say, for the casual film goer I would stick with the theatrical cut and, if you’re curious, the bit I posted above. Watching the “Director’s Cut”, while intriguing, truthfully doesn’t add that much to the film’s experience. If anything, it shows Ridley Scott used the very best material he had and wisely chose to exclude what was a good scene because it simply didn’t work where it lay.

Therefore, recommended only to those who are fans of the film and want to see some more/alternate material.