BLACK CRAB (2022) – War Action Thriller Exciting and Cinematic


BLACK CRAB (2022), a new Netflix original movie which hails from Sweden, is a slick, stylized war action thriller about a secret mission in which a small group of soldiers must make their way behind enemy lines across a frozen body of salt water to get top secret materials to their base on the other side.

The story takes place in the near future, but its bleak scenes of war violence amid an unnamed European landscape and its story of the brutality of war, definitely benefits from the real-life current war in Ukraine which is playing out each night on news stations across the world. The film’s points, even though the story is set in the future, resonate that much louder in this current setting of an unprovoked brutal attack on a sovereign nation.

While the plot often borders on the ridiculous, it makes for grand cinema and some truly exciting and suspenseful film sequences,

The film opens with a woman Caroline Edh (Noomi Rapace) in a car with her daughter when the road is attacked by an unnamed military force. Vehicles are blown up, and soldiers on the ground abduct Edh’s daughter. The story then jumps ahead in time, and we see that Edh is now a rebel soldier in an unnamed country fighting the unnamed invading enemy.

Edh is selected for a top-secret mission. Her side is losing the war, and unless they can get some top-secret materials to their base on the other side of a body of salt water, they will ultimately lose the conflict. Fortunately, this body of water is now frozen. Unfortunately, it’s too thin for vehicles to drive over, and too thick for boats to get through. The solution? A group of soldiers will ice skate— yup, you heard that right, ice skate across the thin ice under the cover of darkness, braving both the elements and their enemies in helicopters who will be flying above trying to shoot them dead. Edh and her fellow soldiers have been chosen for this mission because of their ability to ice skate quickly.

Edh correctly calls this a suicide mission, but the superior officer takes her aside and tells her that they have found her missing daughter, and that she is at the base across the frozen water. If Edh gets there with the secret information, she will be reunited with her daughter, hence giving Edh more motivation than anyone else to make it across the ice.

And that’s the story told in BLACK CRAB. As I said, some of it is ridiculous. Ice skating across a frozen body of salt water? Yeah, it sounds like a suicide mission. More importantly, it sounds like a failed mission! But I guess desperate times call for desperate measures. I just wasn’t completely convinced that this wasn’t anything more than a plot contrivance to film some cool scenes.

And that by far is the best part of BLACK CRAB. Writer/director Adam Berg fills this one with lots of cool visuals and exciting action sequences. There’s one moment where Edh and her fellow soldiers suddenly find themselves skating over a graveyard of frozen human corpses just underneath the ice, either from a capsized lifeboat or some other brazen attack, that makes for a particularly creepy sequence.

The action scenes are topnotch. Helicopters zoom by trying to pick off the skaters, there are several hard-hitting explosive firefights, and more than one thrilling sequence involving hand grenades.

The screenplay by Berg and Pelle Radstrom, based on a novel by Jerker Virdborg, definitely sets the stage for lots of excitement, even if not all of it makes the most sense. The plot thickens and gets better when the skaters discover just what it is they are bringing to their base across the ice. The overall theme of the movie besides war is hell, is that you can’t trust anyone on either side. Indeed, the skaters do not trust each other at all, but as their situation grows more dire, and as the body count among them grows, they throw all that suspicion aside and trust each other in order to survive. This part of the story works well.

The skaters all have different personalities, yet we don’t really get to know any of them all that well, other than Edh.

I like Noomi Rapace a lot. She is intense here as Caroline Edh and very believable as the relentless soldier who will do anything to get across that ice to be reunited with her abducted daughter. I first saw Rapace in the original THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO (2009). She has also starred in PROMETHEUS (2012) and the underrated thriller DEAD MAN DOWN (2013). Her performance here in BLACK CRAB goes a long way towards making this movie a watchable thriller.

The rest of the cast is commendable. Jakob Oftebro who plays Nylund, one of the characters Edh trusts the least at first, until circumstances bring them together, does have a Brad Pitt-type vibe going on throughout this movie.

I really enjoyed BLACK CRAB. As I said, its wartime plot and images of bombed European cities benefits from the current war in Ukraine, as points the film makes resonate deeper than they might have otherwise. It comes off less as futuristic fiction and more like real life drama. It has the style and grittiness of an action thriller like ATOMIC BLONDE (2017), only it takes place in the near future rather than during the Cold War.

It also joins a recent set of movies with plots about traveling over ice. We just saw the historical adventure AGAINST THE ICE (2022) which told the true story of a treacherous expedition into Greenland. And last year Liam Neeson and some friends traversed THE ICE ROAD (2021) in northern Canada in tractor trailers as part of a rescue mission to free trapped miners. Of the three, I enjoyed BLACK CRAB the most.

And it features an effective electronic music score by Dead People. It’s the type of score that would have been right at home in a John Carpenter film of yesteryear.

As I said, the film is available on Netflix, in both its original Swedish language with English subtitles, or dubbed in English. I prefer the original Swedish language version with subtitles.

BLACK CRAB is an intense and surprisingly cinematic adventure that not only provides its audience with a hard-hitting thrill ride but also has a few things to say about the futility of war. In any age.


WINDFALL (2022) – New Netflix Thriller Intriguing But Slow


WINDFALL (2022), a new thriller now available on Netflix, is enjoyable in the subtlest of ways.

Had it been less subtle and more thrilling, I would have liked this one more.

WINDFALL is the story of a man (Jason Segel) who breaks into a luxurious empty home of a rich CEO, ostensibly just to know what it’s like to live like a king. But when the CEO (Jesse Plemons) and his young wife (Lily Collins) return home early, the man is discovered, and to protect himself, he takes the couple hostage. While they offer him money and invite him to take whatever he wants, and once he leaves, they will forget they ever saw him, he doesn’t trust them. And so he doesn’t leave.

In the ensuing conversation, they decide on the amount of money it would take for the man to leave them and disappear off the grid. The CEO arranges for the cash to be delivered, but it won’t arrive until the following evening, and so they settle in together, with the man keeping the couple hostage. Things grow more complicated when the gardener (Omar Leyva) arrives, and the tension builds as the bizarre hostage situation continues to play out.

The strength of this wannabe Hitchcock thriller is its screenplay by writer/director Charlie McDowell which scores higher with its intriguing dialogue than with its overall story arc. The conversations are wildly interesting and definitely help build the tension.

When it becomes clear the man— and all the characters here remain nameless— doesn’t really want to kill them, the CEO and his wife basically ask him what it would take to get him to leave, and they agree that it would be an amount of money that would safely enable him to disappear. He gives them a ballpark figure, and they nearly laugh him out of the room, as the figure is way too low. When he then goes sky high, the CEO reminds him of just how heavy that much cash will be to lug around. After more conversation, they finally arrive at an amount. There are other such conversations just like this one, which are equally as compelling.

The CEO asks his wife to get close to the man to try to win his confidence, and she does, but she also really does seem to strongly dislike her husband, and so the things she tells the man seem true, and there is doubt as to whether she is following her husband’s instructions or is up to something else.

The three main actors here are all excellent. I’ve never been a big fan of Jason Segel. He didn’t do much for me in either THE MUPPETS (2011) or SEX TAPE (2014). This is the first serious role I’ve seen Segel play, and he’s very good. It’s easily the best performance I’ve seen him deliver. He makes the man sympathetic, as he despises the CEO because of the way he treats his workers, but he’s not a hardened criminal, and so at the end of the day he doesn’t really want to kill anyone. Yet, he is just obscure enough so that the audience— nor the CEO or his wife—doesn’t truly know if he is violent or not. He certainly makes the case that even though he doesn’t want to kill anyone, he would.

I am a big fan of Jesse Plemons, who seems to be everywhere these days. We just saw him in THE POWER OF THE DOG (2021) in which he’s nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He’s memorable and different in nearly every movie he’s in, including THE IRISHMAN (2019). VICE (2018), and GAME NIGHT (2018) to name just a few. And of course, he was unforgettable as Todd in the last season of BREAKING BAD (2012-2013). Here, he’s sufficiently despicable as the unlikable CEO.

Lily Collins is excellent as the unhappy wife who seems just as uncomfortable with her husband as she is being held hostage by the stranger. I first noticed Collins in last year’s MANK (2021) in which she played Herman Mankiewicz’ secretary Rita Alexander. Starring opposite Gary Oldman, she was terrific. She was also in TOLKIEN (2019). Collins is the daughter of singer Phil Collins.

Director/writer Charlie McDowell has crafted a neat little thriller, but the problem with this one is the pace is…. oh….so….slow. You could get up and make yourself a sandwich and not miss anything. Heck you could pop your own popcorn and the three main characters would still be sitting in the living room discussing the situation.

And the film’s climax, when it finally does arrive, is just okay. It’s nothing earth shattering, and unfortunately isn’t as thrilling or satisfying as it should be, considering what happens.

At the end of the day, WINDFALL is a minor little thriller that will entertain for a while with its intriguing dialogue, and its unconventional hostage situation also has merit, but sadly, the payoff for this one just isn’t there.

What feels like a Hitchcock thriller for a time fades into something far less reminiscent of the Master of Suspense.


WEST SIDE STORY (2021) – Spielberg’s Remake on Par with 1961 Original


I finally caught up with Steven Spielberg’s remake of WEST SIDE STORY (2021) the other day, as it is now streaming on Disney Plus.

I generally liked it.

A lot.

Is it better than the 1961 original? That’s a tough one. In some ways it is, but in others it isn’t. I certainly enjoyed Spielberg’s take on the musical and watching the story unfold through his directorial eye, and I also enjoyed some of the changes made, including replacing Doc with his wife, played here by Rita Moreno. At the end of the day, I think it’s fair to say the two versions are equally as good, and since the 1961 WEST SIDE STORY is one of the best movie musicals ever filmed, that places this version in high company.

The plot of WEST SIDE STORY is loosely based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, except it was updated to take place in the 1950s, and rather than the rival Capulets and Montagues, the musical had rival street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. Spielberg’s version keeps the action in the 1950s. The Jets are made up of young American hoodlums, while the Sharks hail from Puerto Rico.

Instead of Romeo, we have Tony (Ansel Elgort), the once proud leader of the Jets, who after spending a year in jail after nearly killing a boy in a fight, has seen the error in his ways and is trying his best to keep away from his former Jet buddies. In place of Juliet, there’s Maria (Rachel Zegler), whose brother Bernardo (David Alvarez) is the leader of the Jets. Tony and Maria meet at a dance and instantly fall in love, and also quickly realize that they shouldn’t be falling in love because they both belong to opposite sides which are intent on beating up the other. However, they can’t resist, and when Tony agrees to go to the big rumble hoping to stop it and make peace, things instead go horribly wrong and tragedy ensues.

I will say here that as much as I have always loved WEST SIDE STORY, in terms of plot, it pales in comparison to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The characters aren’t fleshed out as well, the divide between the Jets and Sharks is not as intense as the one between the Capulets and Montagues, and the ensuing tragedy is not as horrific. I’m not pointing this out as a knock on WEST SIDE STORY, but rather to give a nod to the superiority of the source material. Romeo and Juliet ends in a blood bath. WEST SIDE STORY ends with a song.

And it’s the songs, the music and the dancing that makes WEST SIDE STORY what it is, and on that note, Spielberg’s version does not disappoint. All the songs are here and are beautifully realized. The choreography is excellent, differing slightly from the 1961 version. There’s an elegance and grace here among the Jets and Sharks’ dance numbers that highlights strength yet isn’t quite as fiercely violent as the 1961 choreography. There’s an energy in the 1961 dance numbers that isn’t quite present here in the 2021 version, which doesn’t make the new film inferior, but different. The choreography has a confidence about it that allows it to do its own thing, apart from its 1961 predecessor. This being said, it doesn’t so much put a new stamp on the material as it does a nuanced tweaking.

I particularly enjoyed the songs “America,” “Cool,” “Tonight,” and “I Feel Pretty,” as these four are examples where the new version improved on the original. Just small things, like having Tony sing “Cool” to Riff really worked.

The screenplay by Tony Kushner, based on the stage play by Arthur Laurents, is excellent. Both the Jets and the Sharks gain sympathy for being youths without a home, as their neighborhood is in the process of being demolished, making way for new homes for wealthier residents. The Sharks are seen in an even more favorable light as they are viewed as protectors of their Puerta Rican neighborhood from the vandalism shown it by the Jets.

The creation of a new character, Valentina, the widow of original character, Doc, works exceedingly well. It certainly helps that Valentina is played by Rita Moreno, who starred in the 1961 version as Anita. The 81-year-old singer/actress is exceptional.

The dialogue is superb, and many of the scenes work better than in the 1961 predecessor. The attempted rape of Anita, for example, is handled with much needed outrage and disgust which wasn’t the case in the ’61 film. While it was played in ’61 as a violent attack on Anita, just how awful such an act was never came through. It does here.

One of the issues I’ve always had with the 1961 WEST SIDE STORY is I never was nuts about the two leads. Natalie Wood was okay as Maria, but she wasn’t Latino, and Richard Beymer never really worked for me as Tony. Strangely, Spielberg’s WEST SIDE STORY runs into similar problems, but not with Rachel Zegler, who plays Maria. Zegler is really good, and I enjoyed her performance throughout.

But, Ansel Elgort as Tony is a different matter. At times I liked him, but there were other times when his performance wasn’t doing it for me. Early on, Elgort’s take on the brooding, introspective Tony works really well, but later, when he and Maria meet, he never seems to move beyond the introspective persona. In short, I never really felt the passion he was supposed to be feeling for Maria. Elgort has starred in the DIVERGENT series, and he was okay as the lead in BABY DRIVER (2017), but he isn’t much more than okay here as Tony. I was underwhelmed.

As such, Zegler and Elgort really don’t have much chemistry going on, as they don’t exactly set off fireworks together when on screen, and this definitely works against the film. You have this epic love story between Maria and Tony, but your actors aren’t feeling it. That’s a problem.

My two favorite performances were actually David Alvarez as Bernado and Mike Faist as Riff. Both these actors brought their characters to life and filled them with emotion and passion, something that was noticeably absent from Elgort’s interpretation of Tony.

Ariana DeBose is very good as Anita, and Corey Stoll as Lieutenant Schrank and Brian d’Arcy James as Officer Krupke both stand out as well. Likewise, Josh Andres Rivera makes for a thoughtful yet confused Chino, an interpretation that I much preferred over his 1961 counterpart.

And Iris Menas is notable as Anybodys, another character who was helped by an updated screenplay, as gender issues are spoken of head on here in a way they were only hinted at back in 1961.

Rita Moreno seals the deal with her portrayal of new character Valentina.

And kudos to Steven Spielberg. At 75 years-old, he continues to be an inspiring filmmaker. WEST SIDE STORY, in spite of the lack of passion between its two leads, is still an entertaining and moving musical.

I also enjoyed some of the direct nods in the screenplay given to the source material, Romeo and Juliet. Lieutenant Schrank speaks of keeping the peace, a direct reference to his counterpart, the Prince, in Shakespeare’s play. And when Maria kisses him first, Tony is surprised and apologizes that in such things he goes by the book, which is a reference to Juliet telling Romeo that he kisses “by the book.”

At the end of the day, Steven Spielberg’s WEST SIDE STORY is both a successful remake and an enjoyable musical in its own right. While it’s far from perfect, it does update the story—even though it still takes place in the 1950s— to modern day sensibilities, and as such is a refreshing take on a love story between two people from very opposite sides of the tracks, although in this version, we see that those tracks really aren’t as opposite as folks back then believed.


LUCY AND DESI (2022) – Documentary by Amy Poehler Chronicles Moving Love Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz


LUCY AND DESI (2022), a new Amazon Prime original documentary directed by Amy Poehler, is filled with poignant moments as it chronicles the love story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, showing how they struggled to balance the demands of show business with their family life, a struggle that ultimately led to their divorce, but one that never stopped them from loving each other.

LUCY AND DESI makes for a nice companion piece to BEING THE RICARDOS (2021), Aaron Sorkin’s movie chronicling one of the most stressful weeks in the lives of the famous TV couple, starring Nicole Kidman as Lucy and Javier Bardem as Desi. I actually enjoyed LUCY AND DESI more than I did BEING THE RICARDOS, but this might be an unfair comparison, because LUCY AND DESI features the real Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in tons of archive footage both in character and behind the scenes, and that’s something that is simply hard to beat. As such, LUCY AND DESI is a heck of a documentary.

The film basically is the love story between Lucy and Desi. We see how they first meet, how well they worked together on I LOVE LUCY (1951-1957), how things eventually fell apart, and how they continued to be in each other’s lives long after their marriage had ended. In fact, the point is made that after they divorced, they actually got along better.

There are many fascinating tidbits and revelations made in this film, from the pushback they received from producers who did not want to cast Desi in I LOVE LUCY because they didn’t want a Cuban lead, but a generic white American, to the genesis for the plot line of the series which featured Desi’s Ricky Ricardo who was in show business but really wanted out, and his wife Lucy, who was not in show business, but really wanted in.

In real life, it was Lucy who loved to perform, and Desi who had a knack for the business side of things. It was Desi who built DesiLu Productions and turned it into one of television’s largest production companies. But it was also incredibly grueling work and wore him down to the point where he eventually because of failing health and drinking, just had to quit. Lucy would buy out the company from him, but since her interests were never in business, she eventually sold the company to Paramount.

Lucy and Desi’s daughter Lucie Arnaz, who is interviewed throughout the documentary, makes the poignant point that what Lucy and Desi really wanted in their lives was the perfect combination of show business and family life. They gave the world I LOVE LUCY, and so as Lucie Arnaz explains, the world got this perfect combination in the form of an everlasting TV show, but Lucy and Desi never got to enjoy it in real life, as their marriage ended in divorce. Whereas they succeeded creatively, giving the world the gift of I LOVE LUCY, they failed personally. They couldn’t live out what they had created in the fictional world of television.

Other notable points include Desi’s early life in Cuba, and how in the U.S., after fleeing the Cuban revolution and arriving here penniless as a refuge, he was always looking to recapture what he lost in his home country, that feeling of home, but sadly was never able to. And how Lucy and Ethel, as played by Vivian Vance, were shown as active women who were constantly plotting together and taking the lead in the storylines over their husbands, which was something unheard of in 1950s TV shows. Furthermore, Lucy’s second show, THE LUCY SHOW (1962-1968), broke new ground by having Lucy and Vivian Vance play two single moms raising children on their own.

We also see how Lucy helped many performers get their starts, including Carol Burnett, who appears in interviews and speaks of how generous Lucy was to her, and how she still thinks of Lucy nearly every day.

LUCY AND DESI is also filled with tons of archival footage of both Lucy and Desi, including famous clips from I LOVE LUCY. And one of the most memorable moments comes right near the end, after the film takes us through Desi’s final days, as he is sick with lung cancer, and we hear as told by Lucie Arnaz, how Lucy and Desi spoke on the phone, and how they told each other they loved each other, and how Lucy was the last person other than Lucie Arnaz who was with Desi when he died, to speak to him. Desi Arnaz died in 1986 from lung cancer. He was only 69 years old.

But the moment comes from footage from the Kennedy Center Awards in 1986, where Robert Stack reads a posthumous statement from Desi Arnaz in which he gives all the credit for the success of I LOVE LUCY to Lucy, and says I LOVE LUCY was never just a title. The audience then turns and gives an emotional Lucille Ball a standing ovation.

Lucy would pass three years later in 1989 at the age of 77.

LUCY AND DESI was written by Mark Monroe who provides a solid framework for the telling of the story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

Amy Poehler, known of course for her comic performances on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and on PARKS AND RECREATION (2009-2015), also directed and starred in one of my favorite movies from last year, MOXIE (2021). Poehler succeeds once again behind the camera and does exceptional work here directing LUCY AND DESI.

And it’s an important story to tell because I LOVE LUCY is not only one of the all-time best, if not the best television comedy series ever, but also one of the biggest influencers. It was the first show to use a live studio audience, the first to use film, and utilized a three-camera system developed by Desi Arnaz. It was also successful because Desi hired the best people and was comfortable delegating work out to these people, like acclaimed cinematographer Karl Freund. It featured a Latin male in the lead, two strong female characters, allowed Lucy to be pregnant in a storyline which was unheard of in the 1950s, and featured the amazing physical comedic talents of Lucille Ball, who unlike most beautiful actresses, was unafraid to make herself look ugly or foolish to get a laugh.

I still remember when Lucille Ball passed away in 1989, it was a big deal, both in my family and in the national media. Lucille Ball is easily one of the biggest stars of her generation, and she did it mostly in the smaller medium of television rather than film, which is also a testament to her talent, and she has lived on, cementing her place with the other entertainment greats in film and television history. And one of the reasons she achieved this success, was the tireless efforts of her husband Desi Arnaz, whose business sense provided I LOVE LUCY with the best people to create the show, giving Lucy her vehicle to finally display her talents to the world.

The story of Lucy and Desi is one that needs to be told, of how two people very much in love created a cultural and entertainment phenomenon with the TV show I LOVE LUCY, but sadly, they were unable to survive the pressures of doing so and eventually divorced. They both remarried and stayed married longer to their second spouses than they were with each other, but they never stopped loving each other and were there for each other until the end.

LUCY AND DESI is a tale of dreams, of hard work, of love, and the costs of trying to balance them, and how unlike in television, where happy endings abound, in reality, people are human, and stress often takes its toll, as it did with Lucy and Desi, but people are also resilient, and Lucy and Desi carried on, and they loved each to the last.

Indeed, I LOVE LUCY was never just a title. It’s also an everlasting love letter from Desi to Lucy, one that we are all invited to read.


THE ADAM PROJECT (2022) – Ryan Reynolds Time Travel Tale Will Make You Laugh and Cry


THE ADAM PROJECT (2022), a new Netflix time travel movie starring Ryan Reynolds, is marketed as witty, feel good, and exciting. It scores high on the first two categories, as it will make you laugh, and better yet, will tug at your heartstrings and you may even shed a few tears, but in terms of excitement, it’s rather lame.

That’s because the villains in this sci fi adventure are the least developed and the least interesting parts of this movie, and whenever our heroes break out into battle against the stormtrooper-like fighter drones from the future, the film plummets several notches, as we’re forced to watch dull video game style fight scenes that while they look fine are inferior to the quality of the rest of the movie.

The gimmick in THE ADAM PROJECT is that time travelling pilot from the future Adam (Ryan Reynolds) travels back in time where he meets his 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell), and the two team up to save the future. Specifically, older Adam is trying to both save his wife Laura (Zoe Saldana) who has also travelled back in time on a mission of her own, and to prevent some bad people from manipulating the timeline. Along the way, older Adam helps younger Adam deal with his emotional issues stemming from the recent death of their father, including helping him treat their mom (Jennifer Garner) better, and also helping him deal with bullies. On the flip side, younger Adam can’t help but be impressed by his older self and can’t stop interrogating him with nonstop questions about both time travel in general and his future experiences.

But the man who holds the key to solving the time travel conundrum, is the man who invented it, which happens to be their deceased dad (Mark Ruffalo), and so the two Adams travel back in time again, this time together, to meet their dad before he dies and seek his help in putting the fractured timeline back together.

I like time travel stories just as much as the next person… heck, I even wrote a novel, Time Frame.… time for a shameless plug!… which if I must say so is much more ambitious in scope than the events described in this movie. The time travel story told here in THE ADAM PROJECT is a decent one. I’ve seen better, and I’ve seen worse.

But the best part of THE ADAM PROJECT is the story of the relationship between the two Adams and their dad, and to a lesser extent, their mom. The film soars when at long last the two Adams meet their dad and discuss not only the time travel concerns, the ones involving the less interesting plot of villains manipulating the future, but their own complicated family relationship. The scene where the three play catch is one of the best sequences in the movie, an emotional tender scene that packs a wallop. There are other scenes like this as well, like when young Adam remembers his older self’s advice and hugs his mom, and it’s here where the film is at its best.

The movie is equally as effective with its humor, as Ryan Reynolds and young Walker Scobell share great chemistry and timing, playing off each other effortlessly. The script is full of very funny dialogue.

Sure, we’ve seen Ryan Reynolds do this a gazillion times, but he does it well, and once more he’s funny, entertaining, and a lot of fun to watch here as older Adam. No, it’s not Deadpool caliber humor, but it’s a heck of a lot better than last year’s RED NOTICE (2021), a Netflix film in which Reynolds was paired with Dwayne Johnson where the humor did not work.

Walker Scobell is excellent as young Adam. He captures a lot of Ryan Reynolds’ mannerisms and delivery, and the two actors really play well off each other.

And then you have Mark Ruffalo as their father Louis Reed, Jennifer Garner as their mom Ellie, and Zoe Saldana as older Adam’s wife Laura, who are all superb in their roles, especially Ruffalo, who gets to enjoy some of the best scenes in the movie.

Catherine Keener plays the villain, Maya Sorian, and unfortunately, she is stuck in the least interesting part of the film.

The screenplay by Jonathan Tropper, T.S. Nowlin, and Jennifer Flackett works best when operating outside the action realm of good guys saving the world from bad guys. That part of the story is meh and definitely in the “been there, seen that” category. It handles the time travel elements well enough, and then really shines with its family storyline dealing with the relationships between both Adams and their mom and dad, especially their dad. This part of the film is the best part by far. And the banter between young Adam and old Adam is very funny throughout, which is also a nice plus.

Veteran director Shawn Levy helmed THE ADAM PROJECT. Levy has directed such films as REAL STEEL (2011), DATE NIGHT (2010), NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (2006), and the Steve Martin remake of THE PINK PANTHER (2006), to name just a few. I did not like most of these movies, and THE ADAM PROJECT is better than any of these films. In fact, of all the movies I’ve seen that Levy has directed, THE ADAM PROJECT just might be my favorite.

In terms of time travel, while it’s not a classic like George Pal’s version of H.G. Wells’ THE TIME MACHINE (1960) or Nicholas Meyer’s TIME AFTER TIME (1979), or even the various episodes of the many STAR TREK series and movies, which all had more to say on the subject than THE ADAM PROJECT, it still does a decent job with the topic. It’s not too out there, most of it makes sense, and the film doesn’t take itself too seriously and definitely has fun with it.

I liked THE ADAM PROJECT well enough. It has a moving story and sharp humor, and it’s also a showcase for Ryan Reynolds, so if you’re a fan, you’ll love this one.

Even if you’re not a fan, chances are you’ll have a good… time.


AGAINST THE ICE (2022) – Tale of 1909 Greenland Exploration is Satisfying Historical Drama


AGAINST THE ICE (2022), a new Netflix movie which hails from Iceland and Denmark, is a solid, deliberately paced historical drama based on the true story of two men braving the icy wilderness of Greenland as they try to lay claim of the territory for Denmark.

It’s 1909, and explorer Ejnar Mikkelsen (Nikolaj Costner-Waldau) is leading an expedition into Greenland to disprove the United States’ claims that Greenland is not one piece of land, and that its northern tip is separated by a body of water. The Americans have been trying to claim this northern land as its own. If Mikkelsen can prove that this is not true, that it is only one large piece of land, then Greenland in its entirety would belong to Denmark.

His most trusted explorer injured, Captain Mikkelsen seeks a volunteer to accompany him on the treacherous journey to the north of Greenland, but the only crew member who is willing to do so is the inexperienced Iver Iversen (Joe Cole) who’s a mechanic by trade and not an explorer. With no other options, Mikkelsen and Iversen set out with two dog sleds and promise to return to the ice bound ship and its crew in six months.

It’s a harrowing journey, and the two men both rely on each other and learn from each other, as Mikkelsen provides the determined unrelenting leadership to keep them going, while Iversen proves adept at fixing things both mechanical and psychological, as his upbeat attitude and humor keeps things sane. And it’s a journey that becomes much longer than expected when they return to their ship and discover they have been abandoned.

AGAINST THE ICE is a solid, well-made movie that remains rooted in drama rather than adventure and thrills. Everything is rather low key, which works in a way, as the tone of the film captures the tone of the two men, especially Mikkelsen. Director Peter Flinth isn’t going to win any Oscars here. His direction is rather pedestrian, but it works. It’s never all that intense, and it’s definitely a PG-13 style movie rather than an R rated one. Things like the removal of frost-bitten toes, the execution of sled dogs for meat, and a vicious polar bear attack are all handled peripherally, and none of these sequences are as horrific as they could have been.

The icy scenery is beautiful to behold, and it helps that the film used minimal CGI effects and was largely shot on location in Iceland and Greenland. Forgive this horror writer, but when the movie opens and we see an ice bound ship in which the crew spies a mysterious stranger approaching on a dog sled from across the ice, I couldn’t help but think I was watching the opening to a new version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Likewise, with all the snow and ice blowing around, I half expected to see Kurt Russell and friends arrive from John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982)!

Nikolaj Costner-Waldau stars as Ejnar Mikkelsen, and he plays the explorer as a man who is both coldly determined yet responsible. He pushes the expedition to the limits, but he rarely puts Iverson’s life in danger. Costner-Waldau turns things up a notch later when Mikkelsen struggles to keep his mind together and begins to hallucinate about the woman he’s left behind. Costner-Waldau is known for his portrayal of Jaime Lannister on the TV series GAME OF THRONES (2011-2019).

Joe Cole is equally as good as Iver Iversen, the man who at the beginning of the movie talks about how he’d rather be working on the Titanic, an amazing new ship that will never sink. Of course, at that time, the Titanic hadn’t sunk yet, which sets up one of the more humorous lines in the movie, when after their ordeal, Iversen tells Mikkelsen that the Titanic went and sunk, meaning he made the right choice by joining the captain on his journey.

I enjoyed these two characters a lot, and aside from the topnotch snowy photography, the performances by Nikolaj Costner-Waldau and Joe Cole are the best parts of the movie.

The rest of the cast is fine. Charles Dance shows up briefly to add some distinguished authority as the Danish leader who wants to finance a rescue mission because he knows its value but continually resists the requests for one since the costs are so high. Incidentally, Dance played the father of Costner-Waldau’s character on GAME OF THRONES.

In addition to playing the lead role, Nikolaj Costner-Waldau also co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Derrick, based on a book by Ejnar Mikkelsen. So, yes, Mikkelsen was not only an explorer but also an author. The script is a good one. It tells its story without any frills, doesn’t sensationalize any of the proceedings, but also doesn’t strive to really draw in its audience in any other way than the straight telling of its narrative.

I enjoyed AGAINST THE ICE, but it definitely plays more like a TV movie than a theatrical release. Still, its story of two men’s journey into the icy wilderness of Greenland held my interest throughout, even if the most satisfying emotional moment in the story doesn’t come until the film’s final minutes.

All in all, AGAINST THE ICE is a satisfying historical drama that tells a worthwhile tale of determination and perseverance.

Just don’t be surprised if while watching it you find yourself reaching for that extra blanket and perhaps even a hat and gloves. Brr!




For the first time ever, starring in the same movie together, on the big screen, it’s Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing!

The movie? SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN (1970).

Imagine being able to make that claim. Now imagine botching things so badly, making a movie so awful, that barely anyone today even knows this film exists, let alone that it starred Price, Lee, and Cushing.


Years ago, when I first watched SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN, I hated it. And why shouldn’t I have? The movie boasts Price, Lee, and Cushing, but they are hardly in this one at all. The film runs 95 minutes, and the total screen time for all three actors combined is just about 20 minutes! Price is in the film the most, and his character has the biggest connection to the main plot. He and Lee do share one brief scene together, right near the end, but Lee is hardly in the film, and Cushing has only one brief scene.

Then there’s the plot, which makes so little sense it’s ridiculous. Vincent Price is on record in later interviews as saying he never understood the script. He’s not alone.

For someone who was used to Hammer Films which gave Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee the signature roles of their careers, and the Roger Corman Edgar Allan Poe films which starred Vincent Price and largely defined Price’s career, to sit down and watch something like SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN was an insult. What. A. Waste.

But hold the negative review! Why? Because a funny thing has happened over the years.

SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN, has… dare I say it?… aged well.

There’s something unique about the time period between 1965 and 1975, which places SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN smack dab in the middle, where life wasn’t the way it was before or since, and the arts during that decade were different, and so looking at a film like SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN today, it stands out because it is so unlike the structured Hammer Films and Roger Corman movies which came before it. It’s very similar to how Hammer’s own DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) has aged so well. There’s a newfound appreciation for the oddball groovy style of both these movies that didn’t exist before.

So, I gotta say, watching SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN here in 2022, I…. oh boy… actually really liked this movie!

Okay. It still has its ridiculous plot. And Price, Lee, and Cushing are nowhere to be found for the most part, but knowing this going in, and knowing that they’re just going to show up briefly and add what they do to the insanity of this wild, wild plot, is kind of a fun thing.

So, about that plot. Ready? There are multiple storylines going on, and none of them are laid out all that clearly, but that’s okay, because it’s 1970, and that’s how things were. The main plot is about a vampire killer on the streets of London who sexually assaults women and then drains them of blood. He’s also incredibly powerful and would have fit in quite nicely in THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) universe in Las Vegas giving Darren McGavin’s Carl Kolchak a hard time. It’s also interesting to note that the superhuman vampire who outmuscles squads of police officers and scales the side of a massive hill a la Spiderman predates THE NIGHT STALKER by two years!

Here, his name is Keith, and he’s played by Michael Gothard, who would go on to play another strong silent killer in the Roger Moore James Bond flick FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981). Hot on this killer’s trail is Detective Bellaver (Alfred Marks) and his squad of Scotland Yard’s finest, and if there’s anyone who is at all close to being a main character here, it’s Bellaver. Alfred Marks delivers a strong performance as the wise-cracking no-nonsense detective who seems like he would be at home having his own 1970s cop TV show. Tonight it’s BELLAVER, followed by COLUMBO at 9 and KOJAK at 10. He gets some of the best lines in the movie, and he’s actually really, really good. Unfortunately, he’s not Price, Lee, or Cushing, but he is still really, really, good.

Meanwhile, in an undisclosed fascist country, which resembles Nazi Germany, a crackpot of a leader Konratz (Marshall Jones) is busy killing off all his superiors so that he can become top dog on the food chain. He seems to possess a supernatural power for killing.

Then there’s Dr. Browning (Vincent Price) who in his secluded mansion is performing mysterious experiments involving removing the limbs of his patients while they’re still alive, and a la Dr. Frankenstein creating beings piece by piece who have not yet lived.

What do these three plots have in common? Nothing! Actually, that’s not true. They are tied together, and before this one ends, the film does attempt to make sense of it all, and it largely succeeds, although you have to scratch your head for nearly 90 minutes wondering what the f*ck is going on??? But, it seems our maniac friend Konratz is hiring the good Dr. Browning to create superhumans for him, one of which, Keith, has been on the loose in London draining women of their blood.

Far out man. Like, groovy!

And SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN is far out. Like waaay far out. Like past Neptune far out!

For Price, Lee, and Cushing fans, Price fares the best and actually has a few good lines, and of the three horror icons is the only one who gets to really strut his stuff on screen, even if it’s only briefly. Christopher Lee spends his time as Fremont, a top man in the British government, talking on the phone and looking worried. He does show up at the end and has the pleasure of delivering the final plot twist, as if this unstructured script really needs another direction! And, sadly, Peter Cushing has only one scene, to be a victim, done in by the overly ambitious Konratz.

The crazy far out script was written by Christopher Wicking, who also wrote the screenplay for Hammer’s last Mummy movie, BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1972), which is also kind of far out, as well as the screenplay for TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER (1976), Hammer’s last horror movie until 2008, which is really far, far out! So, he has lots of experience with this kind of thing.

Gordon Hessler directed SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN. Hessler also directed Vincent Price and Christopher Lee in THE OBLONG BOX (1969), a film I like much more than SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN. Probably Hessler’s best movie would be THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1973), featuring the special effects of Ray Harryhausen.

In spite of its ludicrous and choppy plot, SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN does enjoy some neat scenes. There are a couple of really well-done police chases, featuring Detective Bellaver and his Scotland yard crew in hot pursuit of the vampiric Keith. Whenever Vincent Price is onscreen, he provides a vibe in the movie that only Price can, and it’s a shame he’s not the actor who is anchoring this one.

Christopher Matthews as a young doctor snooping around on his own trying to learn the secret of what Price’s Dr. Browning is up to also enjoys some quality scenes. Matthews played Paul in SCARS OF DRACULA (1970), the most violent of the Christopher Lee Dracula films, and he was one of the better parts of that one, until he makes the mistake of discovering Dracula’s coffin.

Unfortunately, the plot involving Konratz and his fascist cronies stands out like a convoluted contrived plot device that seems phony and out of place. It’s the weakest part of the movie. Interestingly enough, in the novel The Disoriented Man by Peter Saxon, on which the screenplay is based, it was a group of aliens who were hiring out Dr. Browning’s handiwork, not dictators in the making. Aliens might have made more sense.

But if it’s sense you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong place. You won’t find any in SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN.

You also won’t find much of Price, Lee, or Cushing. Sadly, they would appear all together in only one more movie, HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983), which while giving them much more screen time and plenty of scenes together, isn’t any better of a movie than SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN.

But SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN has aged rather well. It’s still a convoluted confusing mess, but somehow with the passage of time it’s become more fun.

This winter, if you’re looking to liven things up a bit, check out SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN.

You’ll be screaming all right, loudly, at your TV, but not for the reasons you expect.