The Verdict On The Courier: Is It Worth Your Time And Money??

There are some actors who are so talented, they can make any bad movie or bad line come off as natural and impressive and it’s not a quality every actor possesses. Sometimes an actor can carry a whole movie on their own and even though you don’t want one person to carry the whole production, it’s nice knowing their talent can take you quite a bit of distance. Benedict Cumberbatch is definitely talented enough to carry a film by himself, I have never seen him give a bad performance before and today’s film is no exception. However, the entertainment and investment in a film also depend largely on how the rest of the content flows, and that brings us to the contradictory conundrum problem of how to view/rate a movie like “The Courier.”

Set during the upcoming threat of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in the shadow of the Cold War a letter from Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) an agency of the Soviet Union received by M16 stating the concern of Penkovsky about world safety and his anxiety about nuclear war, So Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan) a CIA Agent reached out to MI6 Agent Dickie Franks (Angus Wright), who recruited British salesman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) to be their spy and uncover information that can stop the Cuban Missile Crisis before it’s too late; based on a true story.

I’m always iffy about true story films and even more so about ones based on my least favorite genre of film: war stories. Granted, “The Courier” is a spy movie at heart and while all of its heavy-handed dialogue and dramatic political tension may engage others, it only served to alienate and bore me as the movie drudged on and on. I mean no disrespect to anyone who worked on this film or the real-life people and events it’s based on, but no matter how many dramatic music cues, close-ups or theatrical gestures the characters make; some things just aren’t that thrilling and don’t translate interestingly enough to film. At no point did I care much about what anyone was saying or doing. More than half the movie was just a bunch of shifty people walking in shadows in trench coats and having supposedly serious conversations in dramatic fashions.

I know very little about how authentic or accurate Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Greville Wynne was but I can certainly say he played the role with masterful effort and class. In a lot of ways, it felt like I was watching his character/role from “Black Mass” expanded into the leading role (even though they are obviously completely different roles.) The problem is, as great as he is, it wasn’t enough to alleviate the cloud of dull dust that had settled on every other minor and major supporting character. It looks beautiful, it’s shot very well and framed excellently…but it doesn’t help if everything that is being framed is exhaustingly boring. Nothing really happens, just a lot of deep conversations about being a spy, risks spies are exposed to and it just keeps dragging on and on with little variation.

I can’t help but feel if I would have understood things faster and clearer if I just read a history book and find out what happened in a condensed fashion instead of watching this. Least then it would have been over faster and I would have gotten the accurate story (not sure how accurate any of this film is.) I understand Hollywood’s need to spice things up with flare and all that, but there are only so many times you can have someone talk intensely about the same subject for 2 hours straight before it feels tiresome and you lost whatever fragment of interest you had left. I can’t even remember anything that really happened in the movie or anyone’s name outside of Cumberbatch. I remember it was shot well and I remember it was about the Cuban Missile Crisis but that’s about it.

Overall, “The Courier” just can’t keep up with the thematic edge it’s framing this information around; it’s just not that interesting. Cumberbatch is, as always, a delight to watch and the cinematography is admirably well done. But what good is a movie if you can’t remember it a few hours after seeing it? That’s the problem I have with “The Courier.” I remember the history and I remember Benedict Cumberbatch but anything and anyone else in the film quickly fades away into afterthoughts not worth revisiting. The star power of Cumberbatch cannot turn a boring film into an exciting one and I hope the portrayals here were accurate to real-life because otherwise, I honestly don’t know what else this movie has going for it.

Rating: I give “The Courier” 2 stars out of 4.

The Verdict On Wrath Of Man: Is It Worth Your Time And Money??

Jason Statham has made a name for himself; well, two names actually. On the one hand, he’s a freshly bruised face to the action movie genre and knows how to put his physical skills to the test in explosion fashion (The Transporter trilogy, Safe). On the other hand, he’s also dabbled in the wackier, stranger side of action films that make little sense; except an excuse for him to do some crazy stuff on screen and somehow make it stupid and equally entertaining with ease (The Crank films, Hobbs and Shaw). “Wrath of Man” definitely skews more towards the former despite the flashy presentation and editing work (thanks to “Sherlock Holmes” director, Guy Ritchie). In some ways, it’s a typical Jason Statham movie and in some ways, it’s not typical at all…but in a good way.

Our story follows the mysterious one-man army known simply as H (Jason Statham). He’s recently started working as an armored car driver at a cash truck company in Los Angeles. His co-workers and would-be robbers learn painfully and quickly how dangerous H can be and that he is far more than a mere truck driver. H nearly died in a shootout years earlier that cost him the life of his son. Now he’s using the armored car job to lure criminals out in hopes of finding the people responsible for killing his son and making them pay with their lives.

Jason Statham has this habit of always playing himself (or an exaggerated badass version of himself) in all his movies; it’s the same role every time essentially. However, it’s a role he does well and there’s hardly been a single film he’s starred in that didn’t deliver on the action side of things. “Wrath of Man” is a different breed of film for Statham and his unique set of physical talents as it takes him on a much darker ride than most people are used to. Much like “Safe,” Statham is put into a harsher, more violent, and grim story/situation that kind of sucker punches you out of nowhere. To say too much more about the story would delve too deeply into spoiler territories and there is much within the plot that can be easily spoiled if one is not careful.

I think a lot of people write Statham off as a one-note action star that can’t branch out into many other fields/genres and I think that’s an unfair and inaccurate depiction. “Wrath of Man” proves he is capable of handling and taking on much more than people give him credit for. Guy Ritchie is known for this stylistic sense of flare and distinct action sequences; his work always carries that distinctive edge that makes a Guy Ritchie movie feel like a Guy Ritchie movie. The story here jumps around erratically; using a similar mixed-up narrative that Quentin Tarantino is known for. It works more than it fails in this film’s case but it does make you stop and wonder where this scene fits in the timeline if you’re seeing it for the first time.

The only downside with Ritchie’s narrative style here is that it ends up making the film feel longer than it actually is and that is not a good thing to have. Usually, the longer a film feels the worse the experience is even though that is not the case here. Perhaps if some cues or signs indicating when and where this scene was happening could have helped clear up a few of those misunderstandings, but these are minor gripes at best. There’s also a great yet underrated supporting cast to talk about with the likes of Josh Hartnett, Scott Eastwood, and Eddie Marsan filling in some deeply interesting supporting roles. Again, can’t say too much without giving away too much. Rest assured this is definitely not an action movie I would call predictable.

If anything comes from “Wrath of Man” beyond box office bucks, I hope this gives directors and producers a new sense of appreciation and foresight when hiring Jason Statham for roles meatier than just a generic bad-ass kicking guy with a new name/film/location, etc. This film clearly shows he can go dark and badass without missing a beat and is capable of much more with the right amount of artistic direction. “Wrath of Man” doesn’t always know what its timeline is or its tone but it knows how to make excellent use of Statham’s skills that other films have not and I hope this trend continues because this is a side of him I don’t think anyone can get sick of.

Rating: 2 ½ stars out of 4

The Verdict On Nobody: Is It Worth Your Time And Money??

Many people remember Bob Odenkirk from his time on the hit AMC show “Better Call Saul.” Me, personally, I never saw that show or “Breaking Bad” and always remembered him as that voice in “Incredibles 2” and not much else. The idea of him as a badass action star didn’t carry much shock value to it so I didn’t have high or many expectations for this new action vehicle for him. Granted, I didn’t think Liam Neeson was much of an action star and he’s become one of today’s leading action stars ever since he starred in “Taken.” “Nobody” does for Odenkirk what “Taken” did for Neeson and it does so in spectacular fashion. This is more than just another action flick, this is something that takes you by surprise and blows you away.

Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is an ordinary, everyday average guy who works a boring job, comes off as bland and dull to his family, and lives the same day over and over without complaining once. Things change when robbers break into his house. After failing to stop the robbery, he blows off steam beating on punks harassing a woman on a public bus. One of the punks is the younger brother of a crazed Russian mafia boss (Aleksey Serebryakov) who comes after Mansell for injuring his family. However, he learns the hard way that Mansell isn’t an ordinary guy. Mansell has a destructive set of lethal skills and the fighting awaken dark secrets and strengths Mansell hasn’t used in years; doing everything he can to protect his family.

There is something to be said about the fine art of simplicity. Not everything has to be excessively complicated, loaded with political stakes, or be a metaphor for some deep meaningful issue. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one and that perfectly sums up “Nobody”, it may be simple but it’s the best at what it does. The story is a dime a dozen: an old retired badass cop/warrior/FBI agent etc. gets dragged back into the ghoulish game when something threatens his peaceful life and innocent family. What works so well here is the fact Odenkirk truly is cemented as nobody. The narrative hammers in his mundane, daily routines and low opinions from his family perfectly; so much so that you join the characters in the film in their collective surprise and gasp when he busts out the skills and fights through horde after horde of thugs.

“Nobody” is a gritty, very human, and family-themed action film that grounds its character and its fight scenes in reality. Never going too bombastic but never allowing any standoff to feel like it’s too low-key either. Every piece, performance, and executed sequence plays out perfectly; I never once felt an ounce of disappointment from start to finish. Odenkirk probably delivers the best performance of his career here. He truly embodies the character and his fighting skills feel perfectly natural for someone like him so every scene feels that much more sincere and genuinely intense. There’s a subtle, subdued sense of authority and power in his voice that makes his return to form feel that more natural when the fighting really starts.

This isn’t a cheese-fest like say “Commando” or “True Lies,” this is a gritty, bloody knuckled bullet fest that relies on authenticity and gravitas to compliment the violent shootouts; no cheesy one-liners required. I especially loved the supporting cast like Christopher Lloyd, RZA, Connie Nielson, and Michael Ironside. They didn’t feel like stand-ins, they knew how to be just as memorable and Lloyd is in one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie towards the end. The only thing that could have benefitted from a little additional polish was Odenkirk’s family. We see just enough of them to understand his awkward relationship with them but not enough to feel like they were worth giving up his old career/lifestyle. They weren’t badly written or portrayed; they just needed a tad bit more exposure to remind us what Odenkirk is fighting for.

Overall, “Nobody” is a crack shot of a film that hits nearly every mark and level with little to no difficulty. Odenkirk was born for this role and he’s created a new action hero icon that could deliver more top-notch films if he decided to run with it. The story is simple but powerfully effective, the action sequences are unforgettable and the supporting cast just rounds up every last bit of excellence and smashes it all together in flawless fashion. This is one of the best films I’ve seen this year and a must-own for me. I recommend a rental at the very least because this is the surprise hit you don’t want to miss out on.

Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 4

The Verdict On Godzilla vs. Kong: Is It Worth Your Time And Money??

Screenshot from Warner Bros. Pictures’ YouTube Channel

Decades ago, these two gigantic monstrous creatures battled it out in an epic crossover film and left fans starved for years and years to see them duke it out in an updated cinematic slugfest. Warner Bros had found new success by rebooting Godzilla and King Kong by starting their own cinematic monster universe. All the previous 3 films had built up to this moment when Kong and Godzilla would meet and fight and update the legendary clash of titans with today’s modern technology and effects. Despite speed bumps here and there and the last Godzilla film, “King of the Monsters” being the most financially disappointing; Warner Bros and horror director Adam Wingard brought their last hurrah to life and closed out their ‘Monsterverse’ with the grandest of grand finales in the Godzilla, long believed to be the protector of the human world, has been lashing out at a tech company and destroying anything and anyone in his way; seemingly without rhyme or reason. A researcher and a Titan expert (Alexander Skarsgård and Rebecca Hall) are tasked with bringing King Kong from Skull Island to the mainland in hopes of returning him home to the fabled home of the titans ‘Hidden earth’ before Godzilla finds him and starts an epic battle that will decimate everything. When the two titans clash, questions are answered and new mysteries discovered. A research team discovers a dark secret that could prove to be even worse than Godzilla or Kong and must be stopped before all of humanity falls to the Titan’s path of destruction.

I had high hopes for this battle. Crossover monster fight films are a rare genre but one that I enjoy when it comes up (Freddy vs. Jason, Alien vs. Predator, etc). However, I also had high hopes for the second r4eboot of Godzilla when Warner Bros first announced they were doing another American Godzilla film and in both cases, I was sorely disappointed. “Godzilla vs. Kong” is, in a way, everything you hoped from a film like this but it’s also everything that is horribly wrong with this whole ‘Monsterverse’ amplified over 9000. Make no mistake, this is a fight focused movie so you expect the fighting to be pretty epic and grandiose, and it is. When Godzilla and Kong do throw down it lives up to your expectations, the environment and creativity behind their bombastic brawling is a spectacle to enjoy on every possible level.

The trouble is, you still have to wade your way through some substandard human characters spouting jacked-up exposition gibberish as they gawk and watch the monsters fight. Everyone is here for the monsters, not the human characters, that is painfully clear from the beginning and it never gets any better. People don’t feel like people in this film, they act like 3rd rate clichés who serve no purpose except to explain what is happening or why it’s happening. There’s no depth or humanity to any one of these so-called characters. I don’t remember anyone’s name or what they were like or even what their motive was, nor do I care. It also doesn’t help that they are written in a way where they talk about such absurdly stupid concepts like having a dragon skull operate a robot or energy sources in hidden kingdoms inside of Earth in such a serious and dramatic way.

The film overcomplicates the simplest things, as if having two giant animals beat the crap out of each other wasn’t compelling enough. The original film from the 1970’s simplified things in such a way that it made sense but it also didn’t take itself too seriously and admitted how silly things could and should get. There was never a need to make Godzilla and Kong species natural rivals, the film just extends itself to create explanations that come off as stupid rather than logical. If there’s one thing the original monster movies got it’s that less is more. You don’t need epic reasons or anything sensible like that, just a decent, tolerable cast and two monsters fighting and boom: you got yourself a good time. But this, this failed attempt to replicate and escalate the magic of the original film just proves that you don’t always need everything explained. Sometimes you just want to see two monsters fight and sadly, “Godzilla vs. Kong” clearly never understood that.

Rating: 2 stars out of 4 

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.