The Verdict On Honest Thief: Is It Worth Watching??

With so many big tent pole movies getting shoved off to be released god knows when or reduced to a measly direct to streaming service, my local theater could only offer re-showings of classic films or whatever slim pickings were left to put up. Usually, I know about movies years in advance due to my diligent research but lesser, small-sized films tend to slip through my radar and I end up not knowing much about them when they come out. This year, I barely knew anything about the majority of the movies being released; to the point, I didn’t even watch their trailers and decided to roll the dice and go in blind without knowing anything about the film. “Honest Thief” was my first experiment with that and thankfully, it proved to pay off in the end.

Tom Dolan (Liam Neeson) goes by the name “The In and Out bandit.” Over the course of several years, Tom has successfully stolen 9 million dollars from small-time banks and has never been caught or identified. But now he’s decided to turn himself into the FBI. He’s found love in Annie (Kate Walsh) and wishes to confess and be an honest man spending the rest of his free life with her once he’s released from prison. Unfortunately, things get complicated when he tries to turn himself over to two FBI agents (Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos) and they end up double-crossing him and trying to kill him so they can keep the full 9 million for themselves. Now Tom is on the run with the FBI thinking he’s fleeing from FBI custody and has to prove his name before he and Annie end up locked up or worse.

Some people go into films with high expectations and some go in with very low expectations, and then you get the people who have zero expectations and just plan to walk in and see what happens without even knowing what the movie is about. Normally that latter strategy is one I avoid as I feel it’s important to know what I’m putting my money into before committing to it. “Honest Thief” feels like another run of the mill Neeson lead action flick where he runs around being a middle-aged badass; proving to be a modern Stallone/Schwarzenegger style star when most of those guys were pulling back when they were Neeson’s age. In some ways, this film is pretty predictable for Neeson’s standard fare, but with slim to zero expectations, I found myself really enjoying this film even though there wasn’t anything truly special here.

Similar to how Disney’s “The Mandalorian” approaches storytelling, they take a very simple bare-bones concept and make it work with its stellar characters, writing, and action sequences. “Honest Thief” is by no means on “Mandalorian’s” level but the same principle stands: sometimes simple works and that can make for an entertaining film without being overly complicated. Once Neeson goes to turn himself in, everything goes up in the air and the film launches into a tense, continuously amped up thriller that manages to remain low key but still gripping and surprising. Nothing is grand or outrageously wild but the gravitas and emotional weight of Neeson’s story and performance carry the heart and weight of the film effortlessly.

It was a cat and mouse game juggling different lives and characters; constantly keeping you guessing when the other shoe will drop and how it will play out. The chemistry with the FBI agents felt natural, chaotic, and understandable; they played off each other and Neeson well. Though some characters (and most of the people who’ve seen the film) trivialize the aspect of someone turning their lives around for love, I found this to be a very sweet and simple, honest, and effective motivator for the events that played out. I’m genuinely pleased to see people still acknowledging that love is not a cliché but a meaningful component of our lives and stories. Kate Walsh was adorable and I loved her onscreen, my biggest problem comes from her romance with Neeson felt rushed and I don’t feel she or Robert Patrick got enough respectable screen time.

Overall, “Honest Thief” was a pleasant surprise I was happy to be blindsided by. A lot of how it plays out is by the numbers and certain areas get rushed where they should have taken their time, but the quality of the tension, action, and pace kept the movie from being anything but boring. Neeson kills it as always; never delivers a bad performance, Courtney makes a great villain and the simple but sweet story works just enough to make this an enjoyable experience despite the bumps along the way.

I give “Honest Thief” 2 ½ stars out of 4.

The Verdict On Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Is It Worth Watching??

2020 has been a miserable, horrible year and one section that has been struck with countless complications and delays in the movie industry. With so many big titles sidelined to streaming services or just getting outright pushed back further and further, there have been very few pieces of cinematic scraps for theatergoers to appreciate and attend. The world needed a pick me up and bad. Luckily for us and much to our surprise, Sacha Baron Cohen had secretly filmed and completed a sequel to his polarizing persona, Borat; entitled “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Very few knew this film had been made and its release on Amazon Prime took everyone by surprise. Despite his crass signature brand of humor, Cohen’s resurrection of his iconic 2006 role may be just the comedic shot in the arms everyone quarantined at home needed.

This time around, Borat returns to America with his daughter Tutar Sagdiyev (Maria Bakalova) in hopes of offering her as a “marriage gift/proposal” to Mike Pence in order to improve his image with his homeland country of Kazakhstan. What transpires is Borat’s return to the public eye and learning to adjust and foster his unique brand of comedy/public exploration skills in a world ravaged by a pandemic, a presidential house rife with controversy and all around; trying to bring a few smiles and laughs in a movie that no one asked for, but turns out, we all actually needed.

“Borat,” much like Cohen’s specific brand of humor, is an acquired taste, to say the least. His polarizing characters have generated controversy and comedy alike and this new film is no exception to either. While most of the gross-out nudity and sexual humor from the first film is still present, it’s been toned down quite a bit and successfully uses it without relying on shock value to deliver the brunt of the gags. Most of the “story” relies on hitting on-point political and social issues that have been dominating our society since Trump became president, and have since escalated in wake of the all-consuming pandemic crisis. Never have the jokes hit more perfectly nor have they felt so deliciously well-timed than in this gloriously immature sequel. To even speak or describe most of the film’s side-splitting jokes would ruin the punchline and dampen the enjoyable experience for anyone curious to give this film a much-needed look.

Even one of the most well-known characteristics of the character of Borat (mocking/fearing the Jewish community) is given a serious and more respectful lens by the film’s end, which is something I was not expecting in the slightest. The standout scene-stealer is actually not Cohen himself but his “daughter.” A newcomer to the scene who has remarkable comedic timing and creates an absurd and amusingly occasionally touching dynamic with Cohen in some of the most unusual daughter-father bonding moments. But really, it’s the wild reaction and ugliness in certain circles that Cohen exposes that really amplifies the humor and awareness in our society; even during times as stressful as these does this prove how effective humor can be.

My only slight criticism would be the slight feeling of having the father/daughter issue being forced for the sake of making a cohesive story seem sensible. The original Borat film made no effort to disguise the film as anything else than Cohen in a costume and weird accent obtaining wild reactions on tape. Even when the original film did try and craft a story, it was always and rightfully sidelined for the physical and adult humor you expect and hope to see. At times the story elements can feel so absurd (as intended) that their earnest take on it works to the film’s advantage, but sometimes, it drags on too long and lingers a bit more than it needs to be. You should always stick to your talents and not strive to be something else, especially when you’re making a mockumentary parody film from a character from over 15 years ago.

Overall, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is an early Christmas present that the world can and should enjoy if you happen to have the means of seeing it. All of the flaws and fumbles of the original film have been toned down or updated with far better, more on point relevant humor that perfectly encapsulates people’s collective thoughts regarding this year’s disastrous turnout. It hits practically every mark, reflecting so much back at us through an ingeniously crafted comedic lens and even manages to grow and expand beyond the limitations of its predecessor. The sappy family story didn’t need as much attention as it thought it did but it’s a minor gripe at best. Love Cohen, hate him, trash his movies; whatever you want, this one is no joke.

I give “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” 3 stars out of 4.

Editorial credit: Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

The Verdict On “The Wretched”: Is It Worth Watching??

Monster movies tend to stick to the old tried and true beasts of horror lore: vampires, zombies, demons, ghosts, and even a werewolf every now and then. But the one featured creature you rarely see addressed these days are witches. Now I’m not talking about broomstick flying, cackling witches who flaunt spells like spitballs and carry black cats, I’m talking old school; truly horrific and gruesome witches who feast on children and give you proper nightmares like the rest of those aforementioned Halloween horrors do. With a very brief plot description and an unusual looking poster, I wasn’t sure what “The Wretched” had to offer or what kind of setting or take on witches it would attempt. What I discovered was that there truly was more to this gruesome witch tale than I (and I think a lot of other people) gave it credit.

Struggling to deal with his parents’ divorce, Ben (John Paul Howard) goes to live/work with his dad (Jamison Jones) at the boat docks and tries to figure out how he’s going to deal with it. But things get complicated when he comes across a 1,000-year-old witch who murders a woman (Zarah Mahler) and then wears her skin like a suit. Now children are disappearing from the area and no one seems to remember them or know who they are. Ben and his new friend Mallory (Piper Curda) have to dig deeper and uncover the truth about this witch in order to save many lives and break whatever spell she has on this town and its people before it’s too late for the kids.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this movie, I expected less thrills, more slow-burn kind of stuff, and an older period setting with a more disturbing looking (albeit still traditional) kind of witch. I was pleasantly surprised to see “The Wretched” clearly has more to offer than you’d expect. Starting things off with a gruesome and chilling opening sequence, “The Wretched” displays inventiveness in utilizing the witch’s powers, how it moves, what it can do, and even keeps you guessing how many there actually might be. No jump scares are used here, just a good old fashioned creepy atmosphere and palpable tension that keeps you on the edge of your seat. You never know when or in what way the witch will appear and that keeps the surprises coming at you when you least expect it. I was definitely hooked on this.

Despite the horrific notion of witches murdering/eating people (especially young children), the film never gets too bloody and barf-inducing you want to stop watching but it leaves you with enough visible and unseen horrors that just the sounds and implications are enough to make your face cringe. The backstory is never fully explored and honestly, it doesn’t need to be. Were given enough to put the pieces together ourselves and it helps aid in the unpredictability in this witch’s powers and how she could appear next time you see her. In a way, this movie comes off as a more supernatural version of “Disturbia” or “Secret Window”; following the evil in question through the eyes of a curious teenager who keeps digging where he shouldn’t.

Sadly as a protagonist, Ben falls flat because well…he is flat. His uneasy feelings due to his parents’ divorce and his rebellious attitude don’t come off as interesting or even that sincere. He’s just kind of there personality-wise and while he has moments with Mallory (the most charming and delightful character in the movie I might add), he’s just not enough of a person to be engaging. The film’s pacing and abundance of surprising developments do more for the film than the cast ever does, though Zarah Mahler deserves recognition for doing a perfect 180 and turning into an absolutely terrifying and intimidating possessed victim. But back to the pacing, the film just moves along at a solid pace; never lingering too long or rushing off too quickly. Ben doesn’t do stupid cliché horror movie victim mistakes, he tries to play this wisely and even his father proves not all parents in horror films are disbelieving idiots and plays a significant role in wrapping things up in the climax.

Overall, “The Wretched” is a fresh bucket of blood for Halloween horror fans to sink their teeth into. Its lead character isn’t particularly deep and I feel our leading lady is criminally underused, but the scares are effective and chilling, the monster’s design and execution is superb and it kept me legitimately hooked and surprised from start until finish and I cannot recall the last time a had that level of investment in a horror movie. This is worth a watch, maybe even a couple of watches; definitely something different.

I give “The Wretched” 2 ½ stars out of 4.

The Verdict On “The New Mutants”: Is It Worth Watching??

Rating: 3/5 Stars

It’s taken a long time for the much-troubled film “The New Mutants” to finally emerge into the spotlight. This film has had a multitude of major problems affecting every aspect of the film, from its script, tone, rating, release date to even where it was going to be released (either in theaters or on Disney+). When Disney bought Fox, they acquired the X-men cinematic universe rights, and “New Mutants” was still being made during the buyout. Disney executives were worried the horror aspect of the film wouldn’t fit their “House of Mouse” image, not to mention the fact Disney already had their doubts after seeing the disastrous response to Fox’s last X-men entry, “Dark Phoenix.” Still, for better or worse, Josh Boone’s film finally got released into theaters so let’s see if the wait was worth it for Fox’s true final film in their extinct X-men series.

The story follows a young girl named Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt), a mutant whose home is ravaged by a strange tornado. She wakes up after the disaster to find herself in a mental health facility run by Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga). The facility specializes in housing mutants and providing treatment and care until they have better control under their abilities. There’s Illyana Rasputin/Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie/Cannonball (Sam Guthrie), Roberto da Costa/Hot Spot (Henry Zaga), and Rahne Sinclair/Wulfsbane (Maisie Williams). They all have troubled pasts and trauma dealing with their powers activation, but now, they’re experiencing vivid nightmares and realistic hallucinations that are pushing them to the edge of sanity. Now the teens suspect this facility isn’t a care center but a prison and they have to find a way out together.

With X-men films becoming a dying breed, it’s only natural they’d have to try something experimental if they wanted to keep the brand fresh and alive. One would expect with such a lengthy amount of work and extensive adjustments put into the film it would either be a colossal failure or a well-earned success. Unfortunately, “The New Mutants” never goes too far outside of just being a pretty decent, acceptable film; never pushing as far as it could have nor perfecting the good it already has established into anything greater. The horror spin on the superhero world is a slowly expanding trend that provides the amplest opportunities for a fresh reinvention. “New Mutants” never goes too scary or dark as one would hope but it still offers some genuinely creepy and disturbing visuals that prove there’s something here that could have been expanded upon.

The mental health facility provides some interesting interactions between our mutant stars; creating unique dynamics and problems that are clarified by the horrific but well-executed nightmare sequences. You always get the sense something is going on with everyone here but it’s teased enough to keep the mystery compelling and engaging so you want to see how it all plays out. Moonstar’s “problem” is easily the most unique out of all of them and while giving it away would be spoiling the finale, let’s just say when you find out the truth you’re either going to shake your head in irritated confusion or roll with the punches and applaud the creativity. The cast plays well together but most of them don’t really stand out as well as you’d hope. X-men films are packed with mutant stars all vying for the spotlight but in this smaller environment, very few draw much attention outside of an occasional good scene here or there.

Except for Anna-Taylor Joy, she truly shines as the most “head case” mutant cases. Her personality and stance exude confrontation and abrasiveness, but there is a wild vulnerability to her that makes her more aggressive traits come off as charming rather than intolerable. An additional round of applause should go to “Game of Thrones” star Maisie Williams for introducing an unexpectedly sweet romantic element that is a welcomed addition to the narrative if a bit weakly executed. Overall, “The New Mutants” is a decent, enjoyable film to watch here and there which is a lot more I can say for some other high profile movies that were supposed to “be a big deal,” but with all of its production troubles, I guess I was hoping for a better end result than this. It’s bizarre, it’s different, its dark and tries new things but it’s also clearly holding back and with X-men’s continuity being reorganized into Marvel’s much bigger sandbox universe, it’s a shame “The New Mutants” couldn’t do more or amount to more than just an acceptable film.

The Verdict On “Bill and Ted: Face the Music”: Is It Worth Watching??

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Like many beloved film series, there are often talks of sequels and continuations that never get off the ground; even to films that came out over 30 years ago. “Bill and Ted” have been around since the late 80’s and talks of a third one have been circulating since “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” came out in 1991. But due to an inability to nail down the right script and Keanu Reeves skyrocketing popularity and a busy schedule, it seemed like a third entry would never take off. Imagine everyone’s surprise that in a world cornered off by a deadly virus, the movie finally got made and ultimately ended up being the movie the world needs now more than ever. It may sound odd but “Bill and Ted: Face the music” is exactly the pick me up we needed.

Despite being told during their time-traveling adventures that their music would one day unite and save the world, Bill and Ted (Alex Frost and Keanu Reeves) have yet to write the song that would fulfill their prophesized destiny and it’s weighing heavily on them and on their marriages. When Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of their old friend Rufus (the late great George Carlin) visits Bill and Ted, she tells them they have to create the ultimate song tonight or all of reality will be destroyed. Bill and Ted head into the future to see if their future selves wrote the song they can bring back to the present. Meanwhile, the daughters of Bill and Ted, Billie and Thea (Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving) wish to help their fathers and venture off on their own time-traveling journey; collecting famous musicians throughout history to aid in writing the song that will harmonize the world.

To be perfectly honest, I was never a big “Bill and Ted” fan when they first came out. I loved the sequel more than I did the first film and even then, this wasn’t a series I found myself being deeply drawn towards. “Face the music” is not just a cheaply crapped out sequel from a franchise past its time, no, this film is a clear love letter and a celebration of everything the actors, characters, writers, and fans adore about the series and best of all, it presents everything with universal appeal. If you’re a die-hard fan or a casual fan, this film is loaded with great callbacks, nods to the previous films, and the majority of the original cast from the past 2 films and it’s a true delight to see. But even if you’re new to the series or only decide to watch just this film, the humor works in a wonderfully weird way that you can still enjoy it without knowing its history.

Reeves and Frost settle back into their roles with absolutely no difficulty, it’s like putting on an old pair of shoes and remembering everything you loved about them at that moment. They truly feel like the Bill and Ted fans knew all grown up and struggling to adapt. As goofy as they can be and these movies are, the themes of failing to live up to expectations, not accepting change; they’re all very relatable themes that every generation can understand and I love that universal connection. One of the weirder aspects of this film (which is saying something in a film series about a time-traveling phone booth) is watching Reeves and Frost create newer and more unusual variations of their characters through the future timelines they visit. Most of their humor relies on this gimmick and while it can be hilarious at times, other times it feels overplayed.

But fortunately, there is so much more than just our titular heroes: their daughters Billie and Thea are the true secret stars and dual beating hearts of this film. They’re adorable, funny, have immaculate chemistry together, and prove to be more than just goofy female variants of our main band boys. It’s a true delight seeing William Sadler back as Death and new inclusions like Dennis the robot are worth the price of admission alone. There’s just a consistent sense of fun with this film and it’s infectious, you can feel it in the writing, the performances, and the humor and this is exactly the kind of palate cleanser we need in a year as disastrous and depressing as 2020. Never has there ever been a more relevant time for the words “be excellent to each other” than right here, right now.

Overall, “Bill and Ted: Face the Music” is just a blast from the past (literally and figuratively). It captures the heart and hilarity of the series and updates it for today’s era at a time when this kind of message and this kind of movie is needed most. “Face the music” delights fans both new and old with a message and charm to lift our spirits and remind us there are still fun and good times ahead and that it is okay to just have fun with the world again,

The Verdict On The Devil All The Time: Is It Worth Watching??

Rating: 1/5 Stars

Netflix movies have something of a bad rap. While their TV shows are praised and frequently top people’s best TV series lists each year, their movies seemed to be hit or miss with stellar casts and viral marketing failing to make up for the poor and often forgettable quality of Netflix’s original films. Some have said in today’s pandemic panic-induced new world that streaming original films and films on video on demand are the way of the future beyond cinema chains and drive-in theater experiences. As someone who adores going to the movies and watching good movies, I truly hope streaming does not become the de-facto format of watching movies and I hope films like “The Devil all the time” do NOT become an indication of what all good movies will be like.

The film is an erratically structured narrative; twisting the lives of multiple characters from different families, couples, groups, and points in time between the end of World War 2 and the 1960s; set primarily in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia. There’s Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård), a tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, there’s Carl and Sandy Henderson (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough), a husband-and-wife team of serial killers, there’s the spider-handling preacher Roy (Harry Melling) and his guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore (Pokey LaFarge), running from the law. And there’s also Arvin (Tom Holland), son of Willard who intersects several of these people and others as he struggles to deal with the violent, unstable, and suffocating twists and turns of life.

Trying to write down the details of this film’s plot proves just as challenging and problematic as it is verbally speaking it to another person. The film supposedly plays out as someone telling you a story (complete with narration from the author of the book this film is adapted from) but much like the characters, no part of the story being told makes much sense and instead, feels like an exhausting amount of brutality and misguided religious symbolism mixed up together in a heaping helping of ugliness that can’t stick a single thing together sensibly throughout its entire 2 and a half hour running time. “The Devil all the time” jumps around its timelines and events with no heads up or explanation, mudding the timeline and leaping through sections of people’s lives with little to no care or concern for the development of its cast.

The film basically plays out like this: we meet someone, something horrific happens, it’s related to God somehow, then ANOTHER horrific thing happens, more cryptic religious noise; then we meet someone new, rinse, wash and repeat. Every perception and use of God or religion spearheads someone doing something insanely sick and twisted and it gets more messed up; escalating the depravity or delusion with no sense or believability whatsoever. Like Roy for example, he’s so jacked up on God, he lets spiders bite his face in Church, then gets an infection that somehow makes him crazy, then he takes his wife out and kills her and believes he can resurrect her, only to run into serial killers who randomly want people to take photos with them before killing them, make sense? Don’t worry; it’s not going to anytime soon!

That’s the real tragedy here though, nothing makes sense. Brutality and twisted mentalities populate nearly every character’s mindset and the reason each time is the same: God made me do it. The tragedy hits especially hard because this film is beautifully shot and framed like a true work of art. It’s gorgeous to look at and it makes the most vacant fields of Southern land look 10 times more extravagant. Speaking of extravagant, this cast is clearly doing their best to work with the material and they are serving commendable performances; despite this story’s warped, wacked out narrative failing to make sense of its own purpose or point.

With the likes of Tom Holland, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Bill Skarsgård and Robert Pattinson, “The Devil all the time” should have been much more than what it actually is and that is a mangled, muddied, dark soaked story that drowns itself in its own misery that spreads to viewers like sickness with little hope, rhyme, reason or even common sense to balance it all out. “The Devil all the time” takes too long to tell a story and even longer to figure out when or what story it’s trying to tell. This film is difficult to watch and stomach outside of its cast and cinematography, but neither one is strong enough to make any sense of its own messy structure, purpose, or why I should endure another minute of this film ever again.

Sonic the Hedgehog Review: Warm And Surprisingly Spot-On Funny

Screenshot from Paramount Pictures

Rating: 4/5 stars

When it comes to movies, I always do my research before shelling out 10$ to go see it in the theaters. I like to know who’s in it, what’s involved and to get an idea of what I’m getting myself into. Trailers can sometimes make or break a film and determine right away if it’s going to earn their cash. When the first trailer for “Sonic” came out, people were instantly horrified at the bizarre (and frankly, flat out ugly) design for the titular SEGA mascot. The film was met with instant scorn and hatred from the internet and forced the studio to spend thousands of dollars to go back and fix Sonic’s design; making him look less “realistic” and more towards his traditional design. The change was greeted warmly by fans but…what about the rest of the movie?

The story leads our speedy blue hero, Sonic (Ben Schwartz) arriving on Earth to escape dangerous forces trying to steal his speed powers from his home dimension. After living in isolation Green Hill city and secretly watching local cop Tom (James Marsden), Sonic’s existence eventually alters the attention of the government. They dispatch Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to capture and study the otherworldly hedgehog. Now Sonic and Tom embark on a road trip to escape Robotnik, get Sonic back home and enjoy life on Earth one last time before his time runs out.

When I first heard this was a combo CGI/live-action blended film, I was deeply worried we were going to get another unwatchable heap of dumbed-down, brain dead garbage like the live-action “Alvin and Chipmunks” movies or the “Garfield” films. Thankfully, “Sonic” proved this film as more going for it than just a shiny, updated new design for the Blue blur. This story is about family and friendship; first and foremost. That may sound like a cheesy, sappy kinda message you’d expect to be beaten over the head within any typical kids film, but here, it treats Sonic more like someone longing to connect rather than relying on typical fish-out-of-water jokes. There is a connection being made here and it’s working on the cast as well as the audience.

Having Sonic be lonely and longing to connect with someone creates a warmth and a sense of purpose that feels very real and touching without playing it up for laughs or making it too serious to stomach. I’ve seen many incarnations of the iconic speedy hedgehog and this is by far the most likable and, more importantly, the least obnoxious. The humor goes hand in hand with the film’s values and morals and relies on the strength of the character’s bonds rather than overloading it with Easter eggs and in-game references. “Sonic” manages to strike the near-impossible perfect balance of quality storytelling and effective hat-tipping to please all audiences.

Schwartz is the perfect voice for Sonic. His youthful energy and quick-witted one-liners make him likable enough that, no matter how long he’s on-screen, he never wears out his welcome. I adored his relationship with Tom and felt Marsden was a great companion for Sonic’s juvenile antics to work off of. But as everyone has no doubt already announced on every media platform, Jim Carrey is the real core of the film as Dr. Robotnik. Carrey is back in top form; cranking out the zaniness and gold comedic timing he hasn’t whipped out since “Batman Forever.” He’s energetic, funny, fully commits to the eccentricities Sonic’s nemesis is known for and never EVER misses a beat. There’s never a dull moment or disappointing scene with him in it and I greatly look forward to seeing what he will do with Robotnik next when sequel time comes.

Overall, if I had any negative points with “Sonic” it’s that I feel there were missed opportunities with the government’s involvement in trying to catch Sonic. They vanished as quickly as they came and it felt like some more could have been done there. However, the warmth and surprisingly spot-on humor more than makes up for whatever the film lacks. Marsden and Schwartz make a top-notch duo, the fun and humor work with many ages on many levels and Jim Carrey is back in full force and he makes it impossible not to have fun when he’s around. “Sonic” is a prime example of how quality video game movies can be and here’s hoping that will continue into a franchise with many sequels to come.

The Invisible Man Review: A Fresh Take On An Old Classic

Screenshot from Universal Pictures 

Rating: 4 ½ stars out of 5 stars

At one point, sharing cinematic universes were all the rage thanks to the successful formula perfected by Marvel studios. Universal Studios wished to have their own “Dark Universe” with remaking classic Universal monsters and bringing them together in an “Avengers” like story. After the colossal failure of Tom Cruises’ “The Mummy,” the “Dark Universe” concept was scrapped and all other Universal monster films were either killed on the spot or morphed/reworked into something completely different/original, like with what Guillermo Del Toro did with his award-winning masterful piece of work, “The Shape of Water.”

“Saw” director Leigh Whannell also made a significant turnaround with his new take on “The Invisible Man.” This time, the focus is not on the titular monster but rather on one of his victims: Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) barely manages to escape her barbaric ex-boyfriend Adrian (Oliver-Jackson Cohen) and go into hiding. Two weeks later, she received word he’s committed suicide and left his entire billion-dollar estate to her provided she remains mentally competent. Things seem to be go better for her until she starts noticing odd events, strange instances leading her to one disturbing and horrifying conclusion: Adrian isn’t dead, and worst of all, he’s found a way to disappear completely and is back in her life with no one believing her.

While clearly being fueled and influenced by the “MeToo” movement in the narrative and structure of the film, “The Invisible Man” rarely skews off into implausible territory and keeps everything from the emotions, the relationships, and even the science to a fairly intense lens of reality. Cecilia’s story is entirely relatable and cleverly uses that victim perspective to make the story connect on levels no other take on the “Invisible Man” story has ever managed to accomplish. This is very much her story and that paranoid sense of being followed manages to be amplified brilliantly by simple camera shots of basic landscapes and environment. Every hallway, front lawn or parking lot becomes a potential death trap with a faceless enemy looming out there.

This is a fresh take on an old classic that anyone can sit down and understand through its excellent filmmaking and simple but effective story cues surrounding the concept. Elizabeth Moss truly exemplifies the longing for power sensation after feeling so powerless for so long and striving to conquer her fears and her enemy. You feel every shiver across her spine, every disturbing sound possibly signaling his presence, so much is said in the most silent of scenes. The family that takes Cecilia in contributes to the dangers and risks this unseen threat is presenting. Even when the titular character is making a move, it’s carefully planned and calculated and feels very natural and dangerously realistic to how someone with this power would act.

I think the best thing to commend this film is its unpredictability. While some of the supporting cast fall into predictable roles and lack any real growth in comparison to Cecilia, the movie has some “blink and you’ll miss it” shocker moments that will leave your jaws firmly planted on the floor; all without the use of jump scares I might add. The secret behind the “Invisible Man” is quite a clever one (no spoilers obviously) and is actually something I could see being a real possibility with today’s technological advancements. It seems the collapse of the “Dark Universe” project has ultimately been for the best. It’s given directors creative opportunities to recreate these monsters in new and exciting ways through top quality films.

Overall, “The Invisible Man” is a masterfully sculpted horror-thriller that invokes the essence of a supernatural threat but modernizes it for today’s day and age with relatable subtext, moral messaging and empathic motivations. The simplest pan shot creates incredible tension every time and Elizabeth Moss embodies everything flawlessly from start to finish. This is how you update a Universal monster character and THIS is how you make a great film.

The Verdict On In The Tall Grass: Is It Worth Watching??

Rating: 1 ½ out of 4 stars

One of the advantages of streaming services like “Netflix” and “Hulu” is they can provide smaller budget adaptations to certain films or stories big-budget Hollywood studios like Warner Bros. wouldn’t think twice about. Stephen King had great success with his story “Gerald’s Game” being adapted to a film on Netflix. Unfortunately, Netflix tried to strike gold again but ended up with a freshly polished turd that doesn’t work, doesn’t make sense and doesn’t do Stephen King, the director, the cast and Netflix any justice whatsoever. This is the creepy, winding, confusing Stephen King adaptation of his novella story, “In the Tall Grass.”

Siblings Becky and Cal DeMuth (Laysla De Oliveira and Avery Whitted) are on a road trip when they are stopped by a young boy calling out for help inside a field of tall grass. When they go inside to investigate, they can’t find the boy and also discover they can’t find their way out of the grass fields. A sinister force lurks in the seemingly endless grassy fields, warping reality, confusing the people inside and turning things around to the point people start losing their minds and turning on each other. Now they must escape this unavoidable prison and return to the outside world before they become a part of these grassy fields forever and ever.

I never heard of this story by King before, let alone read it so I can’t really say how accurate it is or isn’t. I will say though that if this film is an accurate adaptation of the novella, then the quality issues of this film clearly started with the ludicrously off-putting source material. “In the tall grass” has a simple yet eerie premise that (typical of King’s work) combines simplicity with supernatural themes seamlessly. While films landlocked in one central location for the duration of the story (Phone Booth, The Shallows) can be tense, engaging thrillers, “In the tall grass” feels like it’s already worn out its welcome about 15 minutes into the film. Even with all the twists and disturbing turns, the characters experience while in the fields, it all starts to look and feel the same and the horror and confusion end up becoming sluggish and even annoying.

Even once the story gets to the “supernatural setting is turning people against each other” angle, another common trope of King’s work, things only get even more confusing and poses more questions than it answers (and those they do answer are done quite poorly). There are some images and sequences that really crank up the absurdity and weirdness of the film’s mysterious threat, effective and unusual at times but don’t stay long enough to linger in your mind. The cast is a serviceable one, decent at times and dismal at others with only a very small window of talent being displayed. That window I spoke of gravitates almost exclusively around Patrick Wilson, who plays the father of the boy who called people into the grass. His talent is being wasted on this film. He’s clearly giving A+ effort in a D- film and it’s a commendable effort.

Harrison Gilbertson is the only other person who actually tries, he does a good enough job and I greatly enjoyed learning more about his character; though can’t say the same for anyone or anything else that happens. The content in the film borderlines mind-bending to outright uncomfortable, almost to the point of wanting to turn it off and re-watch “The Office” for the thousandth time. It’s creepy and eerie at times with its fairly decent camerawork and soundtrack, but it never lives up to its full frightening or even comprehensible potential. It’s a weird film that doesn’t know what it’s trying to present or if it does, it’s doing in the most asinine and mind-numbing way; just like the last act of “Arrival.”

“In the tall grass” could have been more chilling, more effective and more cerebral but it falls short every time on every front. Patrick Wilson is literally carrying the whole movie and the rest of the story can’t keep it together long enough for the movie to make sense or for you, the viewer, to care if it does or doesn’t. Just go watch “Gerald’s Game” or “The Mist” movie, Hell. Even “Silver Bullet” has more entertainment value than this film does.

Gentlemen Movie Review: Highly Entertaining But Borderlines Offensive

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Nothing is as mesmerizing as a Guy Ritchie movie.

His recipe consists of fast-paced dialogue, a spritz of the black comedy and marinated in metaphors and embellishments of cinematic genius. The movie “Gentlemen” has been marked as Ritchie’s return to his signature cockney crime genres such as Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barriers and it definitely did not disappoint.

Told from the perspective of Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a selfish and conniving private investigator who was hired by newspaper mogul to trail multi-millionaire British expatriate, Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConahey) who owns a marijuana empire, through sheer tyranny, violence, and coercion. Word got out that Pearson is going to retire from his criminal career and plans to liquidate his weed farm to potential buyers including; Jewish – American billionaire, Matthew Berger and British- Chinese mobster, Dry Eye (Henry Golding). However, instead of relaying the information to and cooperating with the newspaper, Fletcher goes to the belly of the beast and decides to blackmail Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), who is the resident’s right-hand man of Mickey Pearson.

With Fletcher being an unreliable narrator, he hopes to exploit Mickey Pearson’s empire and his criminal activities through writing a movie script, called BUSH, which he is planning to sell to Miramax studios if he does not get his money. A very meta-reference about the film within a film, distributed by the said studio.

The movie is entertaining nonetheless, with nonsensical dialogue that borderlines offensive which makes viewers laugh nervously to every unpredictable turn of events. Every actors’ performance in this movie is hilarious and over the top. Hugh Grant who usually is typecast as the polished English gentlemen has been subverted into a grimey, calculating and obnoxious private investigator who has ill-intentions. Hugh Grant completely disappears into the character and leaves slightly amused about the actor/character conceit. The same with Henry Golding, the actor who played Nick Young in Crazy Rich Asians – he turned into a two-faced, arrogant gangster who had the audacity to rip off Pearson.

 Much of the movie itself is a colossal conceit, which says a lot about the title of the film, “The Gentlemen,’ meant to be an ironic nod to the character’s unruly, destructive and violent personalities. Although with the black comedy, there were some distasteful jokes such as Raymond and Coach pronouncing an Asian name as a pseudo – swear word or Jewish billionaire speaking in a ‘stereotypically gay’ way- having a lisp.

After decades of directing films that are huge franchises such as Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur, and more significant projects, Ritchie finally gives his fans want they wanted in the Gentlemen. A chaotically organised, nonsensical movie filled with never-ending hypotheticals and lightning-fast dialogue for two straight hours that makes you want to watch it over and over again.