ENOLA HOLMES (2020) – Story of Sherlock Holmes’ Younger Sister Charming But Dull

1

ENOLA HOLMES aka Ferndell

ENOLA HOLMES (2020), the new Netflix movie about Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister, features a wonderfully spirited performance by Millie Bobby Brown in the title role.

Brown brings so much energy and charm to the character that she single-handedly carries this movie, and she has to, because sadly, the rest of this feature, from the directing, writing, and acting, is all rather dull. Painfully so.

Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown), whose name spelled backwards is “Alone,” has been raised by her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter). But one day, shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Enola awakes to discover her mother has disappeared. When her two brothers, Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill), who is now known as the world’s greatest detective, arrive, Enola hopes they will help her find her mother, but when they appear less than interested in doing so, Enola decides to take the case on her own.

Complicating matters is Mycroft wants Enola enrolled in a proper women’s school, and when she she leaves in search of her mother, he uses his resources to find her and bring her back. Meanwhile, Enola meets the dashing young Lord Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) who’s embroiled in a mystery of his own, and when it becomes clear that his life is in danger, Enola sets out to help him as well. The game is afoot!

Too bad it wasn’t a more interesting game.

As I said, Millie Bobby Brown is absolutely wonderful in the lead role. She exudes charm and charisma as Enola, and her spirited performance is infectious. Combined with her lively voice-over narration and her frequent addresses to the audience as she looks directly into the camera, make her performance here a clear winner. By far, Brown is the best part of this movie.

While I still prefer Brown’s work as the character Eleven on the Netflix’ series STRANGER THINGS (2016-2021), that doesn’t take away from her outstanding performance in ENOLA HOLMES.

Sadly, she just doesn’t get much support from anyone else in the cast, which is surprising, considering the talent inolved here. But a lot of this falls on screenwriter Jack Thorne, whose screenplay is based on the novel by Nancy Springer, because he simply didn’t give these folks much to do or much of interest to say.

Henry Cavill, who’s been playing Superman in the recent DC films, is okay as Sherlock Holmes. He definitely has a presence, but the character is largely in the background, and as such, it’s one of the more subdued and least effective characterizations of the famous literary detective as you’re ever going to find.

Sam Claflin, another talented actor, has a bit more to do as the cantankeous Mycroft Holmes, but at the end of the day, he doesn’t do much either. Claflin was much more memorable in the underrated Hammer Film THE QUIET ONES (2014) and the World War II comedy-drama THEIR FINEST (2016).

Louis Partridge as Lord Tewkesbury shares some nice chemistry with Brown’s Enola, and I really enjoyed Helena Bonham Carter as Enola’s mother Eudoria, but she’s not in the movie much since the character disappears early on.

As I said, Jack Thorne’s screenplay was somewhat of a disappointment. He goes all in with Enola’s character, and she is the one character in the story that works. The dialogue for everyone else is ho hum, and the plot I thought was a snooze. The story I was most interested in— what happened to Enola’s mother— often took a back seat to the political intrigue surrounding Tewkesbury’s predicament and Mycroft’s efforts to force Enola to attend the women’s school.

Director Harry Bradbeer keeps everything light and lively until the final thirty minutes when things get a bit darker, which incidentally, was my favorite part of the movie. The film looks great but sadly lacks that innovative touch which might have made it really memorable.

I thought eveything about ENOLA HOLMES was pretty standard and not very exciting, with the one big exception being Millie Bobby Brown’s performance.

She’s the reason to see this one and the reason why it is even worth a look. The rest, especially if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, is sadly lacking.

It’s all rather dull and….elementary.

—END—

Books by Michael Arruda:

DARK CORNERS, Michael Arruda’s second short story collection, contains ten tales of horror, six reprints and four stories original to this collection.

Dark Corners cover (1)

Waiting for you in Dark Corners are tales of vampires, monsters, werewolves, demonic circus animals, and eternal darkness. Be prepared to be both frightened and entertained. You never know what you will find lurking in dark corners.

Ebook: $3.99. Available at http://www.crossroadspress.com and at Amazon.com.  Print on demand version available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1949914437.

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

How far would you go to save your family? Would you change the course of time? That’s the decision facing Adam Cabral in this mind-bending science fiction adventure by Michael Arruda.

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.crossroadpress.com. Print version:  $18.00. Includes postage! Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

Michael Arruda reviews horror movies throughout history, from the silent classics of the 1920s, Universal horror from the 1930s-40s, Hammer Films of the 1950s-70s, all the way through the instant classics of today. If you like to read about horror movies, this is the book for you!

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.crossroadpress.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Includes postage. Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, first short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For_the_love_of_Horror- original cover

Print cover

For the Love of Horror cover (3)

Ebook cover

 

Michael Arruda’s first short story collection, featuring a wraparound story which links all the tales together, asks the question: can you have a relationship when your partner is surrounded by the supernatural? If you thought normal relationships were difficult, wait to you read about what the folks in these stories have to deal with. For the love of horror!

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.crossroadpress.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Includes postage. Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

CENTIGRADE (2020) – Drama About Couple Trapped in Snowbound Car Exceedingly Quiet

1

centigrade

CENTIGRADE (2020) is a curious drama based on a true story of an author and her husband who were trapped in their car underneath ice and snow on a frozen road in Norway.

The film is also billed as a thriller, but this is only because the concept of two people trapped in their car underneath ice and snow is a life-threatening experience. The film itself is strictly a drama, with no attempt to sensationalize the events. For a story like this, it’s exceedingly quiet.

Still, I somewhat enjoyed this one, even as the script presented other problems, which get in the way of the film’s realism.

CENTIGRADE opens with author Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez) and her husband Matt (Vincent Piazza) waking up in their car after pulling over onto the side of the road during a dangerous ice storm. They awake to find their car buried under a wall of snow and ice. The car won’t start, and they have no cell phone service. Naomi wants to break a window and dig their way out, but Matt wants to stay in the car, which he says is safer and will help keep them warm, and that is what they decide to do.

And thus begins their odyssey, stuck in their car, at first for hours, but then… for days… and days. With nothing to do but talk to each other and get on each other’s nerves. Oh, and by the way. Naomi is pregnant and about to have her baby.

And that’s the plot of CENTIGRADE.

The film opens strong. The conflict is present immediately at the outset. The problem with CENTIGRADE is it doesn’t really go anywhere from there. It remains pretty much one note throughout, and the longer it goes on this way, the less effective the story becomes.

For example, I really expected Naomi and Matt to really have a hard time being together in close quarters in a perilous situation, and they do bicker, but it never becomes full blown arguing. I mean, they have their disagreements, but like the rest of the movie, in terms of story arc, nothing much really happens to keep the viewer interested.

The story also has other struggles. Early on when Naomi has to pee, Matt suggests she pee into a towel. It works. But as the days turn into weeks, how are these two going to the bathroom? How many towels do they have? And there are some things that towels are not going to be good for in the bathroom department. The film never addresses this.

They light candles in their car to see, which I thought was odd. The film also doesn’t address how they never run out of oxygen. Nor do they look like two people stuck in a car for weeks. They look too neat. And then there’s the birth scene. One of the easiest births you’ll ever see, and then the baby joins them in their car. What are these folks eating? I mean, they have some food, but enough for weeks? Not sure about that.

I also found it difficult to imagine they’re not wanting to escape. How long does it take before you realize no one is coming to find you? It’s time to get the hell out and take your chances! Not here. They just sit in that damn car.

All this being said, for the most part, I enjoyed CENTIGRADE. I enjoyed the performances by Genesis Rogriguez and Vincent Piazza as Naomi and Matt. They did seem like a married couple, and their conversations were definitely realistic. The problem is, sometimes in a movie you want more than realistic. You want a reason to keep watching. This film doesn’t really give its audience that. I stuck with it because I enjoyed the characters, and they seemed like real people.

But the story didn’t always seem real, as the screenplay by Daley Nixon and director Brendan Walsh didn’t really do a good job with the details.

And while director Brendan Walsh does capture the sense of icy coldness throughout, I thought the feeling of claustrophobia of being stuck in one’s car for so long in a life threatening situation which should have been there, weirdly was not. I didn’t get the sense that these folks feared every day for their lives or were about to flip out at the idea of being trapped in their car. They just sort of continue their quiet talking throughout.

If you’re looking for an intense thriller, CENTIGRADE is not that movie. Instead, it’s a quiet talky drama about a married couple who find themselves trapped in a vehicle under snow and ice. As I said at the outset, it’s a curious story, one that was intriguing enough to hold my interest for its 98 minute running time, but since I was expecting this one to get more intense as it went along, ultimately by film’s end since it didn’t, it was something of a disappointment.

The best parts really are the understated performances by the two actors here, Genesis Rodriguez and Vincent Piazza. They are what kept me watching.

If you know beforehand that CENTIGRADE is a rather quiet drama, you may like this one. Otherwise, you may find yourself giving it the cold shoulder.

—END—

 

THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN (2020) – Inferior Sequel One of the Worst Movies of the Year

1
THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN

When they’re together, Jenna Ortega and Judah Lewis are the best part of THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN (2020), an inferior sequel that is one of the worst movies of the year.

Sometimes a movie is so bad there just isn’t much to say about it.

THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN (2020) is one of these movies.

The only reason I watched it is I really liked the first movie, THE BABYSITTER (2017), a lively comedy horror flick, lifted by the spirited performance of Samara Weaving as the demonic babysitter. Now, knowing that Weaving wasn’t the focus of the sequel, I really wasn’t that into seeing THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN, although I took solace in knowing that nearly everyone else involved in the first movie was back for this second one. So I did hold out a little bit of hope…..

Silly me.

THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN takes place two years after the events of THE BABYSITTER, and young Cole (Judah Lewis) is suffering in high school because no one believes his story that he was attacked by a demons two years earlier. He says he feels like Sarah Connor in TERMINATOR 2, one of the many geeky film references in the film, just like there were in the first movie. However, this time the magic of film geekdom is completely ineffective. Students pick on Cole, and his parents want to enroll him in a psychiatric high school.

So, Cole turns to his good friend Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind), and these two have had a crush on each other since the first movie, but she’s seeing someone else, of course. Nonetheless, she invites Cole to a lakeside party, and he agrees to go, and it’s there where the devil worshipping teens and their demon friends try once again to use Cole’s blood as part of a demonic blood sacrifice.

Blah, blah, blah.

THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN lost me within the first five minutes of the movie, which made the next hour and thirty five minutes extremely painful to sit through. And the main reason it lost me is the script is dreadful. The plot is absolutely ridiculous and has no basis in reality, and worse, the jokes simply aren’t funny. Which is completely opposite from the first movie. Of course, THE BABYSITTER was written by Brian Duffield. Here we have all new writers, as the screenplay was written by Dan Lagana, Brad Morris, Jimmy Warden, and director McG. It’s sad that four writers worked on this and the film is still god-awful.

If you’re going to tell a story that is so far from reality, you’d best have a very funny script. And that simply isn’t the case here.

As Cole, Judah Lewis was almost as memorable as Samara Weaving in the first movie, but part of that movie’s charm was the way those two characters interacted. That’s all gone here in the sequel, and Cole just isn’t all that interesting this time around.

In a small role in THE BABYSITTER, Emily Alyn Lind was very good as Melanie, the girl next door who had a crush on Cole and had his back. Things start out well this time around as well, but then the plot throws a curve involving Melanie that makes absolutely no sense and pretty much ruins the character.

The devil worshipping teens from the first movie return here, now as demons, but all they do is try to rehash the magic from the first movie but fail miserably at it.

Things do get a little better for a time when new teen Phoebe (Jenna Ortega) gets more screen time as she and Cole team up to battle the demons, and the two characters share some nice scenes together, but since the rest of the movie is so bad, their scenes don’t really carry much weight.

Director McG who imbued the first film with flashy style and creative direction, making a very amusing horror comedy, does none of that here in the sequel. The jokes don’t work, the horror doesn’t work, and the characters are ridiculously unrealistic.

Samara Weaving does show up at the end again as Bee, the babysitter, in time to be a part of one of the most ludicrous plot twists I’ve seen in some time.

Not only is THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN  a terrible sequel, it’s flat out one of the worst movies I’ve seen this year.

It’s not even about a babysitter. Bee was the babysitter in the first movie, and she was the main character. Here, she shows up for the final few minutes.

Simply put, you do not want to waste any time on THE BABYSITTER:KILLER QUEEN. It’s the type of movie that gives sequels a bad name.

—END—

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: THE MAD MONSTER (1942)

2

mad monster poster 2

THE MAD MONSTER (1942) is a Grade Z horror pic worth watching because it stars everyone’s favorite Grade Z horror movie mad scientist George Zucco and future Frankenstein Monster Glenn Strange here playing a serum-induced werewolf.

And if that’s not enough, the film features tropical almost prehistoric looking jungle forests. Does the story take place in the Amazon? Nope. It’s just the view outside the mad scientist’s humble home, somewhere in swampy small town America, although it looks more like swampy small town Skull Island!

The screenplay by Fred Myton tells a straightforward story, especially for a low budget film from the 1940s. Mad scientist Dr. Cameron (George Zucco) is miffed that his fellow scientists scoffed at his work, and so not only does he seek to prove them wrong, but he also seeks vengeance against them. His experiments involve injecting the essence of different animals into humans, sort of a Dr. Moreau style of thinking, or DNA mixing, ahead of its time. Of course, the film doesn’t even attempt to get any of the science right.

Dr. Cameron injects his hulk of a gardener Petro (Glenn Strange) with the essence of a wolf, turning him in effect into a werewolf, and he sends him off to kill all his doubting scientist colleagues! Meanwhile, Cameron’s beautiful daughter Lenora (Anne Nagel) tries to stand by her father, but her hardnosed boyfriend reporter Tom (Johnny Downs) isn’t having any of it and sets out to prove that her father is a murderer.

As Dr. Cameron, George Zucco is as demented as expected. Zucco could play a madman in his sleep, and he portrayed one so often in the movies that he probably did! Zucco also enjoyed the recurring role of Egyptian high priest Andoheb in several of the Universal MUMMY movies. He also played Professor Bruno Lampini, a bit part in Universal’s HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944). He only has a couple of lines in that one, but he makes the most of them. Here, he is as villainous and as insane as you want your mad scientist to be. And he seems to be enjoying every minute of it.

Glenn Strange, who would go on to play the Frankenstein Monster in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945), and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), plays a werewolf here. It’s been said, and it’s true, that Strange bears a strong resemblance to Lon Chaney Jr. Chaney, of course, played a werewolf in the now classic THE WOLF MAN (1941), but Strange’s performance here captures none of Chaney’s work in THE WOLF MAN. However, it does borrow from another Chaney role, that of Lennie in John Steinbeck’s OF MICE AND MEN (1939). When he’s not a werewolf, Strange’s Petro talks, looks, and acts like Chaney’s Lennie.

It’s interesting to note that Strange’s werewolf here is created by scientific means. This is significant because in the Universal werewolf movies the werewolf was created by supernatural circumstances. Lycanthropy was shared by the bite of other werewolves. This is so in both the Lon Chaney Jr. werewolf movies and THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935). Two werewolf movies from the 1950s, THE WEREWOLF (1956), and I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957) are generally credited as being the first werewolf movies to feature these creatures as being created by mad scientists, but THE MAD MONSTER did it first a good fifteen years earlier.

As werewolves go, Glenn Strange’s creature in this movie is meh. The make-up is so-so, but what did you expect from a grade z horror picture? Still, with Strange’s considerable bulk, the creature looks menacing. However, Strange completely lacks the animal ferocity which Lon Chaney Jr. brought to his wolf man role.

That being said, credit director Sam Newfield for setting up some frightening scenes in this one, like having Strange sitting with his head down next to one of the unsuspecting scientists, and the audience knows that when he looks up, he will have changed into the murderous beast! There’s also a neat scene where Strange transforms in the back seat of a car, and the sequence where the werewolf snatches a young child from her bedroom window and then kills her is downright disturbing. While the action in these scenes takes place off camera, the set-up allows one’s imagination to take over.

Of course, at the end of the day, THE MAD MONSTER really isn’t scary. Mostly because Strange’s werewolf isn’t all that horrifying. While he’s certainly creepy to behold as he lumbers through the bizarre tropical swamp, he’s a little too slow to instill fear. The creature’s speed here is more reminiscent of another Lon Chaney Jr. creation, Kharis, the Mummy.

In another “strange” occurrence, Glenn Strange isn’t the only actor with the name Strange in this movie. Robert Strange plays one of the other scientists. No relation.

THE MAD MONSTER in the title may seem to refer to the monster played by Glenn Strange, but his werewolf is not that angry or insane. Now, George Zucco’s scientist Dr. Cameron is certainly angry and insane! So, my money is on Dr. Cameron as being the MAD MONSTER in the title.

Either way, you have two great horror actors, George Zucco and Glenn Strange, in one very low budget horror movie, the perfect combination for some late-night September horror movie viewing.

—END—

 

 

 

 

 

YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT (2020) – Dark Drama Starring Kevin Bacon & Amanda Seyfried Doesn’t Tell Much of a Story

0

you should have left

YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT (2020), the latest movie by prolific screenwriter David Koepp, who also directed, is much more a dark drama than a horror movie, as the genre stuff is all rather subdued.

Theo (Kevin Bacon) and his much younger wife Susanna (Amanda Seyfried) decide to vacation with their six year-old daughter Ella (Avery Essex) at a luxurious rental home in the Welsh countryside. And they decided they needed this getaway because things have been tense at home. Theo is dealing with events from his past, as years ago he was the subject of a high profile trial in which he was accused of murdering his wife. He was found innocent of the charges, but whenever he is recognized people seem to think he is guilty. Susanna is a very busy actress, and her schedule and frequent use of her phone stokes up feelings of jealousy in Theo.

It doesn’t take them long to discover that there’s something not quite right about the house. They all suffer vivid nightmares while there, Theo discovers seemingly endless hallways, and the dimensions of the house aren’t right, as rooms are larger on the inside than on the outside. Soon, Theo realizes that it’s almost as if the house summoned them, that it’s speaking to him and to his violent past, and that this violence may not yet be over.

As I said, YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT is much more a dark drama than a horror movie, and that’s because the horror elements never really take off. Early on, I found the story very intriguing. The dynamic of Theo’s and Susanna’s relationship held my interest, and once they get to the house, the stage is set for some weird stuff to start happening. But as this one progresses, not a lot happens. There are long scenes of Theo wandering through dark hallways, lots of hints and innuendos, but it takes forever for anything to really happen, and when it does, it’s subued and frankly, disappointing.

And that’s because the main mystery isn’t really all that impressive, and so when answers are revealed, it’s like, shoulder shrug. Okay. Well, tell me something I didn’t already suspect.

The screenplay by David Koepp, based on the novel by Daniel Kehlmann, works best early on when it is establishing the mystery. The story stalls midway through, and then the conclusion just doesn’t have any teeth. As I said, Koepp has lots of screenplays under his belt, including major films like INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008), SPIDER-MAN (2002), and JURASSIC PARK (1993). However, he’s also one of the writers involved in the Tom Cruise version of THE MUMMY (2017). I think he should try having his name removed from that disaster.

Koepp also directed YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT, and even though I didn’t feel the story held up, he does create some creepy scenes, a couple in particular involving mirrors. There’s also some sinister shadow use, and so visually, the film does have its moments, but none of them come together enough to lift this one to higher heights. Koepp also directed SECRET WINDOW (2004), the thriller starring Johnny Depp, based on the Stephen King novel.

Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried are both very good in the lead roles, although they don’t really generate much chemistry together, which is probably by design, since their marriage is in trouble. Bacon is cold and introspective as Theo, and you really do get the feeling he’s hiding something deep inside about his past. It’s been a little while since I’ve seen Bacon in a movie, and the last two times he played a federal law enforcement officer, in PATRIOTS DAY (2016) and BLACK MASS (2015).

Amanda Seyfried is excellent as the busy actress who seems to love her husband. Seyfried is no stranger to thrillers, having starred in GONE (2012), RED RIDING HOOD (2011), and CHLOE (2009).

In a key scene that serves as a snapshot of their relationship, Theo tries to visit his wife on set, but it’s a closed set, and he’s denied entrance, and so he has to wait outside. The scene is a sex scene, and he’s forced to listen to his wife act out having an orgasm multiple times. Afterwards she laughs it off. Theo stews.

And young Avery Essex is sufficiently cute and innocent as Ella, the young daughter stuck in the mess created by her parents. This is another weakness of the movie, however. Things really are never that messy. For the most part, their family life seems pretty good, and later, when Ella’s life is threatened, again, it’s all rather subdued. The film never becomes horrifying.

There were parts of this one that reminded me a little bit of the Daniel Craig horror movie DREAM HOUSE (2011), another haunted house thriller about a father harboring a deep dark secret. It was a film I didn’t like all that much. And I can’t say that I liked YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT all that much either.

YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT doesn’t really have much of a story to tell, and that’s its biggest problem. The acting is there, the creepy house is there, and the potential is there, but without much of a story, there simply isn’t much of a payoff.

This one may grab you if you’re in the right frame of mind, but it was much too subdued and predictable for my liking.

You should have left? Maybe you shouldn’t have started.

—END—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WRONG MISSY (2020) – Netflix Movie Showcases Comedic Talent of Lauren Lapkus

1

wrong missy

Sometimes movie trailers do work.

The trailer for THE WRONG MISSY (2020), a new Netflix comedy starring David Spade and Lauren Lapkus, was pretty darn funny, and so even though this film opened to mediocre reviews, I decided to check it out.

I’m glad I did. While no classic, THE WRONG MISSY made me laugh.

Its plot is fairly simple. Tim Morris (David Spade) is back on the dating scene after his fiance Julia (Sarah Chalke) broke off their engagement and instead hooked up with one of Tim’s co-workers. Ouch! 

After having one of the worst blind dates ever, with an absolutely nutty and rather frightening woman named Missy (Lauren Lapkus), a night that ends with Tim falling out a bathroom window, dislocating his foot, only to have Missy aggressively snap it back into place, Tim decides to call it quits on the dating scene. But then he literally bumps into a woman named Melissa (Molly Sims) at the airport, they eventually have a conversation and learn that they have nearly everything in common. It’s a match made in heaven.

Afterwards, they keep in touch by text, and when it’s time for the big firm retreat in Hawaii, one in which Tim hopes to impress his boss so he can earn a big promotion, he decides to text Melissa to invite her along, and when she agrees, he is overjoyed. But as he waits for her on the plane, he is horrified to see Missy show up instead, and he realizes at that moment that he sent the text to Missy not Melissa.

Oops!

Hence, the wrong Missy! What follows is nonstop madcap shenanigans by Missy during the retreat, which at first threaten to derail Tim’s promotion, but later, as Tim warms up to her, he sees that there is more to Missy than he first thought.

As I said, THE WRONG MISSY isn’t destined to become a comedy classic. Its story is fairly predictable, but it does provide a lot of good laughs.

I’ve never been much of a David Spade fan. I really enjoyed him way back in the day on the TV series JUST SHOOT ME (1997-2003), but his various film performances over the years have been largely hit or miss, and he’s a performer who I can enjoy when I watch him, but I’ve yet to really be interested in seeking out his projects. Here, in THE WRONG MISSY, he largely plays things straight, and that works well. His sarcastic wit is rather subdued in this movie. As a straight man to Lauren Lapkus, he’s very good.

And it’s Lauren Lapkus who carries this movie and is the reason to see this one. Her off the charts energy and humor is infectious. She has no boundaries, and in the hands of another performer, this may have become obnoxious, but she manages to somehow keep Missy very human and flawed, in spite of her zany behavior. In fact, even though she is hilariously funny throughout, some of her best scenes are her more serious ones, like when she tells Tim that he literally saved her life with his text, that she was on the verge of committing suicide, thinking her life had no meaning.

Lapkus has appeared in a lot of TV shows and movies, including her role as Susan in ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (2013-2019).

It was also nice to see Sarah Chalke in a supporting role as Julia. I remember Chalke fondly from another classic TV series back in the day, SCRUBS (2001-2010).

Writers Chris Pappas and Kevin Barnett keep the jokes fast and furious. Some of the humor that works really well include Tim’s texting woes, in scenes where he struggles over sending a text, and then anxiously awaits a response.

Most of the humor comes from Lauren Lapkus’ insane performance, and she doesn’t disappoint. Some of the more memorable scenes include her engaging in a shouting match with some children, to which she responds immediately aftewards, “I love kids! I really want to have kids!”  and her fall from a cliff is laugh out loud slapstick at its best.

Director Tyler Spindel keeps this one moving. Its quick pace is a plus, as the film never drags.

Good movie comedies are hard to come by these days. THE WRONG MISSY is decent enough and it made me laugh, which is a good thing. It’s on par with a few other competent comedies I’ve reviewed this year, films like DESPERADOS (2020) , THE HALF OF IT (2020) , and THE LOVEBIRDS (2020).

While I continue to be nonplussed about David Spade…. if he’s in a movie, I’ll see it but I won’t rush out to see it yesterday…. I will rush out to see the next movie featuring Lauren Lapkus. She’s a talent to watch, and she is absolutely hilarious here in THE WRONG MISSY, a movie she pretty much carries on her own.

For Lapkus fans, THE WRONG MISSY is the right call.

I look forward to seeing her next project.

—END—

 

 

 

 

UNKNOWN ORIGINS (2020) – Strange Hybrid of Superhero/Serial Killer Movie Doesn’t Really Work

1

unknown origins

Before I get to the review, a bit of reality: Christopher Nolan, one of my favorite filmmakers working today, released his latest movie this weekend to theaters, TENET (2020). I really want to see it. However, here in the United States, things are still so bad with COVID-19, that to go to a movie theater now would be a very risky endeavor. And so, I passed and will continue to pass until things improve. Sadly, this may be a while yet. Most medical experts agree that things will get worse before they get better, due largely to the poor choices being made regarding masks and social distancing by so many in the country, thanks in large part to the completely incompetent and reckless leadership— lack of leadership really— of the Trump administration. And so, for the foreseeable future, I will continue to review movies accessed at home, rather than at the theater.

And now on to our review:

A couple of weeks back, I reviewed PROJECT POWER (2020), a superhero movie about a pill that gives people superpowers, a different and not overly successful tweak to the superhero genre. Up today it’s UNKNOWN ORIGINS (2020), which adds a tweak of its own: a serial killer who bases his murders on superhero origin stories. Yup, a superhero serial killer movie. A strange hybrid indeed.

UNKNOWN ORIGINS, which hails from Spain, and is now available on Netflix, tells the story of police detective David Valentin (Javier Rey) working his first case, and it’s a doozy: a serial killer who displays his victims in elaborate situations which seem to have no connection, that is until retired detective Cosme (Antonio Resines) notices a superhero connection while looking at some of the evidence upon David’s request. And Cosme is familiar with superheroes because his son Jorge (Brays Efe) who runs a comic book store is a complete geek on the subject and has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things superheroes.

Norma (Veronica Echegui), the idiosyncratic head of homicide, decides to hire Jorge as a consultant and immediately makes him David’s partner on the case. Jorge’s first contribution is that he informs them that the murders are all based on superhero origin stories. As the murders continue, it’s up to this oddball duo to find and stop the mysterious serial killer.

As I said, UNKNOWN ORIGINS is a weird hybrid of superhero and serial killer. The trailer on Netflix definitely highlighted the comedic aspects of the movie, and so when I sat down to watch this one, I expected it to be a lighthearted farce, perhaps even a spoof, but that’s not how this one plays out at all.

It begins all rather dark, as the serial killer aspects are lurid and disturbing. The opening segments have R-rated serial killer movie written all over them. But then things take a comedic turn once Jorge and David are paired together, a strange juxtaposition after the serious opening. But the film never becomes a full-fledged comedy either. Instead, it gravitates towards the straight superhero tale, and this is where the film falters the most, with an almost ridiculous plot point of David becoming less a cop and more a superhero.

At the end of the day, even though this one is full of potential, the story just didn’t work for me, and as such, I didn’t enjoy the screenplay by director David Galan Galindo and Fernando Navarro as much as I thought I would. The comedy is way too subdued, and the same can be said for the darker serial killer parts. The film starts off creepily enough but then pulls back. For a while, it looked like this one would have a WATCHMEN (2009) or KICK-ASS (2010) feel, but UNKNOWN ORIGINS is never as tight or as consistent as those movies.

And I thought the supehero stuff towards the end didn’t work at all. It’s supposed to be a homage to superheroes, particularly Batman, but it just didn’t work. The number one reason is I didn’t believe any of it, which goes back to the writing. Jorge is a believable character, and his character remains consistent. However, David hates superheroes, and so to believe he undergoes a transformation where he actually agrees to become a supehero, that just didn’t work for me.

And sadly, the poorest written character is the female lead, Norma. She’s the least believable character in the movie, and her romance with David is one of the most forced and least believable screen romances I’ve seen in a while.

Also, the twist here, where we learn the killer’s secret identity, is the same exact one I saw last week in the serial killer film THE SILENCING (2020).

Director David Galan Galindo scores highest when working darkest, but unfortunately, this only occurs in the film’s early moments which are actually quite creepy. The bulk of the movie is about superheroes and their need to exist, and that part to me never won me over.

And the comedy never really takes off either, which is too bad because the two main characters do share some chemistry. David has a Clint Eastwood vibe about him, and there’s a lot of Zach Galifianakis in Brays Efe’s portrayal of Jorge. So, imagine a buddy cop movie starring a young Clint Eastwood and Zach Galifianakis and you get the idea, and for parts of this movie, this chemistry really works, but it never becomes a dominant part of the tale.

I enjoyed both Bray Efe’s and Javier Rey’s performances, Efe in particular. And while I said Rey’s performance reminded me of a young Clint Eastwood, he’s also dressed like Chris Noth used to be on the classic TV show LAW AND ORDER. In fact, there’s a line in the film where Norma chastizes him for dressing like a 90s TV cop.

Speaking of Norma, while Veronica Echegui delivers a spirited performance, the role was my least favorite in the film, mostly because she was the least believable.

And Antonio Resines adds fine support as the not-so-retired cop Cosme.

UNKNOWN ORIGINS also suffers from two other major problems. It doesn’t have a strong hero, nor does it have a strong villain. Technically, David and Jorge are the heroes, but in the framework of the story, the hero is supposed to be the superhero which David becomes, and this doesn’t happen until the end of the movie. And by the way his superhero costume is rather lame. Likewise, the identity of the killer is not revealed until the end either, and so for the majority of the film he operates in the shadows.

If you’re in the right frame of mind, you might enjoy UNKNOWN ORIGINS. Its heart is in the right place, as it gets all the geeky references right and tries really hard to be a love letter to superheroes, but I found the tone and feel of this one to be all over the place and never consistent or believable enough to really win me over.

It tries hard, but at the end of the day, it’s just too superficial to become a major part of superhero movie lore.

—END—

Books by Michael Arruda:

DARK CORNERS, Michael Arruda’s second short story collection, contains ten tales of horror, six reprints and four stories original to this collection.

Dark Corners cover (1)

Waiting for you in Dark Corners are tales of vampires, monsters, werewolves, demonic circus animals, and eternal darkness. Be prepared to be both frightened and entertained. You never know what you will find lurking in dark corners.

Ebook: $3.99. Available at http://www.crossroadspress.com and at Amazon.com.  Print on demand version available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1949914437.

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

How far would you go to save your family? Would you change the course of time? That’s the decision facing Adam Cabral in this mind-bending science fiction adventure by Michael Arruda.

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.crossroadpress.com. Print version:  $18.00. Includes postage! Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

Michael Arruda reviews horror movies throughout history, from the silent classics of the 1920s, Universal horror from the 1930s-40s, Hammer Films of the 1950s-70s, all the way through the instant classics of today. If you like to read about horror movies, this is the book for you!

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.crossroadpress.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Includes postage. Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, first short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For_the_love_of_Horror- original cover

Print cover

For the Love of Horror cover (3)

Ebook cover

 

Michael Arruda’s first short story collection, featuring a wraparound story which links all the tales together, asks the question: can you have a relationship when your partner is surrounded by the supernatural? If you thought normal relationships were difficult, wait to you read about what the folks in these stories have to deal with. For the love of horror!

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.crossroadpress.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Includes postage. Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOVIE LISTS: CHADWICK BOSEMAN Movies

0

chadwick boseman

Chadwick Boseman tragically passed away this past Friday, August 28, 2020 after a four year battle with colon cancer. He was 43.

Boseman was a very talented actor, most famous for playing the lead in Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER (2018), which happens to be my all-time favorite Marvel superhero movie, and second all-time favorite superhero movie ever, behind only Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT (2008).

My favorite part of BLACK PANTHER and what makes it so special is that it transcends the super hero genre. It says more about race relations and the plight of the African American male and race in general and does a better job of it than most movies made with that singular purpose in mind. It features two knock-out performances, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, and Michael B. Jordan as his nemesis Erik Killmonger, but the lines between hero and villain in this movie have never been more gray. The argument can be made that the most sympathetic character in the movie is Killmonger. However, Black Panther retains the upper hand, not because of superior might, but because he undergoes a transformation which allows him to accept and understand Killmonger’s plight and source of anger.

The performances by Boseman and Jordan are both brilliant.

It’s always sad when artists pass away so young, but in this particular case, it’s very sad that an actor with as much talent and potential as Boseman will not grace the big screen any longer.

Here now is a partial list of Boseman’s 34 screen credits:

THE EXPRESS (2008) – Floyd Little – after appearing on TV for several years, Boseman debuts on the big screen in this drama about college football player Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman trophy.

42 (2013)- Jackie Robinson- the first time I saw Boseman in a movie was here in 42, where he played Jackie Robinson. And while I enjoyed Boseman well enough, I have to admit Harrison Ford left more of a lasting impression for his exceptional performance as Branch Rickey.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016) – Black Panther- first appearance as Black Panther in this superior Marvel superhero adventure, which plays more like an AVENGERS movie since so many of the Marvel characters appear in this one.

MARSHALL (2017) – Thurgood Marshall- Boseman plays the title role in this bio pic of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.

BLACK PANTHER (2018) – Black Panther- Boseman stars in Black Panther’s first standalone movie, in what for me is the best Marvel superhero movie yet. Superior action sequences, amazing photography and color schemes throughout, brilliant acting by Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, and the best part, a story about race that transcends the superhero genre. I would argue that when teaching race relations, this movie is must see viewing.

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)- Black Panther- Third time playing Black Panther is the most tragic, as he is part of Marvel’s bold decision to have the villain, Thanos, win, at the expense of many of Marvel’s most beloved superheroes, Black Panther among them, who perish in one of the darkest endings of any superhero movie. The sold out audience I saw it with groaned aloud throughout the final few minutes.

AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019) – Black Panther- All’s well that ends well. Yep, through some time manipulation by the brilliant Doctor Strange, the tragic conclusion of INFINITY WAR is reversed. Sort of. But enought to satisfy fans, many of whom cite this movie as their favorite AVENGERS film. I still prefer the dark INFINITY WAR, as I still think its ending was one of the boldest filmmaking decisions in many years.

21 BRIDGES (2019) – Andre Davis- Boseman plays a NYPD police detective in search of cop killers in a movie that is ultimately done in by an inferior script, as the plot becomes contrived and convoluted by film’s end.

DA 5 BLOODS (2020) – Stormin’ Norman- Spike Lee’s superior film— my favorite Lee film in years— about four African American vets who return to Vietnam years later to reclaim the remains of their fallens squad leader. Boseman plays that leader, and so his scenes are all in flashback, but as always, he’s excellent in the role. Lee also made the curious decision to feature the same four actors in the flashbacks, so they all appear old alongside the younger Boseman, effectively highlighting the notion that Boseman was never allowed the oppotunity to grow old, now a sad example, where art imitated life.

While DA 5 BLOODS is Boseman’s final movie that has been released, he was working on a couple of other film projects before his death, and so it’s possible we will see him again on screen, posthumously.

Chadwick Boseman was an extremely talented actor, and if you have not seen his movies, you definitely should. His presence on screen will definitely be missed.

Chadwick Boseman

November 29, 1976- August 28, 2020

As always, thank you for reading.

—Michael