“Countdown” Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Money??

Movie

Screenshot from Movie Coverage

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Movies, as well-intended or crafted as they can be, often rely on simple elements or gimmicks to rack in the audiences and those gimmicks come in all kinds of different styles: big-name actors, clever concepts, gore, special effects, brand recognition; etc. Horror movies have often relied on gimmicks to deliver a monster/ghost story or slasher flick that delivers something unique enough to make people want to see it. Having a movie about a killer phone app like “Countdown” sounds silly, absurd and pretty dumb just on face value alone. However, while this movie isn’t anything truly great it IS something new…it’s just that most people won’t believe it.

Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail) an aspiring nurse who meets a patient who informs her there is an app that supposedly tells you exactly how long you have left to live. Naturally, she doesn’t believe the app really work, Quinn’s patient dies and she learns the danger is real and her countdown time says she will die in 3 days. Now she must unravel the secret behind this deadly app, find out where it came from and most importantly, find out how to stop it before her time runs out and she meets her destined fate as another victim to this bizarre phone app.

This is one of the few instances where I come across a movie I know next to nothing about, and by that I mean I saw barely any trailers, clips or even advertisement whatsoever. I was taking a risk on a movie that sounded dead on arrival with such desperate attention-seeking story about a phone app that essentially kills you. However, the more I watched the movie the more I learned this wasn’t anything quite that hokey and that there was actual thought put into the movie’s story; such as establishing rules, mythology and how this app’s functions play out with the characters.

Unlike “The Ring” where everyone who watches a cursed videotape dies, “Countdown” doesn’t automatically give everyone who downloads it a short-lived life clock. Some people download it and say they will live another 40 years, others download it and it says they will die in 24 hours. There is a system and demonic lore to this concept, which is already light years more fleshed out than I expected this movie to ever be. The cast tries everything from exploring phone technicians and even demonic exorcists to free themselves of their rapidly approaching deaths and it provides ample and effective tension to go along with the bone-chilling scares that follow.

The demon figure itself is actually scary and even gave me a few frights here and there. Unfortunately, the cast doesn’t carry enough thought and background padding like the story received. Everyone in here plays dime-a-dozen roles, relying on tired old clichés about whiny siblings, inappropriate male figures and the same old backstory you’ve heard and seen done better a million times. “Countdown” works better as a mystery thriller than a thought-provoking perspective on fate, destiny and changing your future or even as a horror movie sometimes. You’re more interested in learning the ins and outs of this app’s origins and functions than you are the cast it’s terrorizing.

The cast is just too weak and generic. You don’t care who dies or who doesn’t because no one feels like a real person and no one is acting like they are a real person either. The buildup and payoff overall do serve a satisfying enough purpose even when the cast and the film’s flimsy attempt at humor fails at almost every chance it has. While the plot’s material leaves it wide open for sequels, I can’t for the life of me seeing the need to go see another one and feel all that could be said and done here was already over and done with.

Overall, “Countdown” has a bland cast with weakly written characters and average level acting. You don’t care or invest enough to be emotionally involved in their fates. The plot and the overall story behind the killer phone app is more interesting and thought out than expected and in the end, I feel that makes the movie decent enough to give a watch. It may sound dumb but “Countdown” has more brains behind it than I think most people give it credit for.

“Doctor Sleep” Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Money??

doctorsleep

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Of all of Stephen King’s adapted works, none was as impactful and iconic as Stanley Kubrik’s creative approach to “The Shining.” Though heavily different from King’s original source material, Kubrik’s inventive filmmaking style and Jack Nicholson’s unforgettable performance cemented the movie in cinematic history and still holds up to this day. The idea of a sequel (book or film form) sounds like an absurd and impossible task to accomplish, however, Mike Flanagan who had stellar success directing “Oculus,” “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” and Netflix’s “Haunting of Hill House” TV series; proves to be up to the task of adapting King’s spinoff/sequel to “The Shining” entitled “Doctor Sleep.”

Set decades after the horrific events of the Overlook hotel incident, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) had suffered from alcoholism, depression and horrific nightmares of the ghosts that still haunt him (literally and figuratively). He travels around trying to find purpose in his life and finds a new talent using his “shining” powers helping dying patients in a hospital. He stumbles across a group of beings who siphon the shining off kids as “steam” in order to live forever. When a young girl (Kyliegh Curran) possesses the strongest shining Danny has ever sense, Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) leads the immortals after the girl and now Danny has to use his gifts to save her life and stop the evil before it takes more young lives.

Following Danny’s life, after “The Shining” is not only an interesting story approach, it’s also the most sensible considering how the original film ended. What’s surprisingly satisfying about “Doctor Sleep” is how it crafts its own story and fleshes out its own characters so well that even with the earmarks of “The Shining” being present during its 2 and a half hour running time; it never feels boring or like it’s relying too much on callbacks for its core material. Both Danny and Rose get equal amounts of screen time; alternating back and forth between the two and learning more and more about their lives, their beliefs and how they use their powers for themselves and towards others. Everyone gets a chance to shine (pun intended) and the world and story building feels stronger/better for it.

Ewan McGregor isn’t my first choice for playing an adult Danny Torrance but he clearly proves he was the BEST choice. McGregor beautifully displays the broken, aching misery that someone like Danny would naturally experience considering what happened to him. You feel for his struggle and applaud his noble acts to help others even while struggling to help himself; both of which are presented in raw, intense performances from McGregor throughout the film. Ferguson plays a delightfully charismatic and wicked villain as Rose the Hat. She truly feels like a real life King character brought to life with her mannerisms and twisted motivations. Her group serves as excellent villains and provides a variety of intense and terrifying challenges to our heroes.

The callbacks to “The Shining” mostly work, but at times they do fail to feel like a properly connected sequel should when the film makes the unfortunate mistake of re-creating key scenes from “The Shining” with different actors. Sometimes it’s not really noticeable like with the excellent casting of Carl Lumbly as Dick Hallorahn and Alex Essoe as Wendy Torrance, other times (like Jack Torrance essentially), it’s hard not to cringe a little at the poor imitation. I will say though the film’s climax brings the story full circle back to the Overlook Hotel in a sequence that is chilling, intense, horrific and satisfying on every possible level. I won’t say how everything plays out but I will say that whether you are a fan of the film or the book, this movie’s grand finale will please people all across the board.

Overall, aside from a few weak imitations of key “Shining” scenes, “Doctor Sleep” is a masterfully crafted successor that manages to stand on its own two legs; using its connections to the previous film as winks and clever nods rather than leaning on them like crutches. McGregor and Ferguson are perfectly portrayed, written and developed along with everyone else involved. This is a worthy continuation of King’s story and manages to be its own beast without leeching off the original’s coattails. It’s a lengthy sequel but one that definitely does the books and the film justice and of course, quality.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Money??

TERMINATO

Rating: 1/4 Stars

Much as people balk and groan at the thought of seeing sequels or new installments to decade-old franchises, I love seeing film series I grew up and adored coming back after so many years and continuing a story with a new take. However, many people seem to agree (myself included) that James Cameron’s epic sci-fi series “The Terminator” should have stopped pumping out future films a long, LONG time ago. Many believe “T2: Judgement Day” is the last true and respected Terminator sequel made and everything else sucked afterward (I strongly disagree on “T3: Rise of the Machines” however). Now Cameron is back to produce this latest (and hopefully last) ditch effort to revitalize the franchise with “Terminator: Dark Fate.”

20 years after Judgement delayed was stopped, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) has lost her way and struggles to find a new path now that the world is finally free from the technological terror of Skynet…or is it? In Mexico City, a young girl named Dani (Natalia Reyes) is attacked by a twin pair of deadly terminator machines called Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) who seeks to kill her for something she will do in the future to aid humanity. A mysterious cyborg woman named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) also comes from the future to protect Dani. Now along with a still-spry Sarah Connor and an old T-800 unit (Arnold Schwarzenegger), they must all work together to stop a new dark future from coming and save humanity once again from the threat of machines.

If there ever was a movie franchise that perfectly embodied the “beating the dead horse” metaphor, it’s Terminator. After the last disastrous effort to restart the franchise with a new trilogy of films with “Terminator Genisys”, people were hopeful Cameron’s involvement along with classic stars Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger coming back would mean a return to the film’s quality roots which have been dead and dormant since “T2.” Turns out they were wrong, they were VERY wrong! Ignoring the events of every Terminator movie except the first two, “Dark Fate” is a lazy, weakly cobbled together hot mess that copies tropes, ideas, and clichés from every single previous Terminator movie (including the bad ones).

“Dark Fate” is essentially a poor man’s clean slate that tries to start a new storyline to keep expanding the lore by ripping off every movie that came before it; sacrificing all originality and creativity. The first 5 minutes of the movie is the most shocking and infuriating part of the entire film and if you’re anything like me, it’ll be impossible to really get into the rest of the movie after seeing it. This film doesn’t feel like a worthy successor to any of the previous Terminator movies; it feels more insulting than anything else. For example, Skynet is written out and a new software-based menace called Legion emerges as the new big bad, with Dani as the ‘new’ John Connor and Grace as the ‘new’ T-800 protector role.

The only things that work here are a few action sequences and (unsurprisingly), Hamilton and Arnold back as Sarah Connor and the T-800 unit. Their attitude, awkward chemistry and bad ass images really bring back that nostalgic thrill back to the good old days of quality Terminator movies. They slipped back into their roles seamlessly and have every bit of sharp wit, gravitas and intensity they’ve become immortalized for. Sadly, everyone else falls pitifully short. Dani is a sad substitute for John, having no personality, memorable lines or even much of an impressive future role to play in the new timeline. Mackenzie Davis’s Grace tries her best but suffers from weak writing and weak conceptualization (basically, she’s a knock off of Sam Worthington’s character from “Terminator Salvation”…and she needs insulin shots to survive).

Even the new Terminator robot, Rev-9, offers nothing new and just copies the same powers and abilities the T-000 had in “T2” and the powers of the TX from “T3.” Overall, “Dark Fate” has nothing going for it, even with Cameron, Hamilton, and Arnold all being attached to it. Everything this movie has to offer has been seen and done before and better in the previous Terminator films. The story and characters are insulting, weakly written and prove that the Terminator franchise needs to stay dead and buried and not come back until someone in the absurdly far future knows how to salvage this mess.