Today’s Picture of the Day comes from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981), John Carpenter’s classic action thriller which made Kurt Russell an action movie hero.
I’ve chosen this picture mostly because, and I think this is true for most of John Carpenter’s films, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK has only gotten better with time. Like a lot of his other films in his early career, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK was not critically acclaimed. With the exception of HALLOWEEN (1978), critics gave Carpenter’s work a hard time. There was very little love for this movie upon its initial release in 1981.
It also didn’t wow the masses, as it was made on a smaller budget than most of big budget action films of the time, and it looks it, and back then with its cheaper look it struggled to connect strongly with audiences of the time. On a purely action movie level, it was not able to compete with the likes of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), for example.
But over the years, it has aged well, in spite of its “futuristic” science fiction plot— the action takes place in the “future” of 1997. Wow, that came and went quickly.
It has aged well because what was considered a “cheap” look in 1981, now looks artistic and special. I love the way New York City looks in this movie. The set design is dark and bleak, perfect for this story.
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK is probably most famous for being the movie which changed Kurt Russell’s career, turned him from a child star in Disney films to bonefied action hero. It actually did more than that, as Russell took on all sorts of movie roles and pretty much became a household name after this film. Russell doesn’t disappoint. He’s terrific in this movie.
He almost didn’t get the part, as the producers didn’t feel he had the tough guy status to pull it off. Carpenter wrote the part with Clint Eastwood in mind, and Russell admits he played it as an homage to Eastwood. His performance works perfectly.
Russell plays Snake Plissken, a convict who is tasked with sneaking into the Manhattan Island maximum security prison and rescuing the abducted President of the United States, and unless he can get in and out in twenty-four hours, the authorities will kill him. The world which Carpenter creates inside that Manhattan prison, and the bizarre characters residing there, are the stuff of nightmares. It’s fabulous movie making.
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK also features a tremendous cast besides Russell. There’s Adrienne Barbeau, pictured above with Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, Season Hubley, and Jamie Lee Curtis provided both the voice of the computer and the opening voice-over narration.
Of course, my favorite part of this movie is the amazing score by John Carpenter. It’s one of his best. Then again, you can say that about nearly every film score he wrote.
About the only thing that still doesn’t work for me in this movie is the casting of Donald Pleasence as the President of the United States. I love Donald Pleasence, but he’s miscast here.
If you haven’t checked out ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK recently, do yourself a favor and give it a fresh viewing. It’s already considered a classic of the genre, a superb science fiction action movie from the glory days of John Carpenter’s early career, but it wasn’t always considered that way. It has stood the test of time, and what I am saying today is, that not only that, but it has gotten even better in recent years.
There’s an imagination and spirit in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK that is present from start to finish, and it’s largely because of the talent of writer/director John Carpenter.
The GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies have been the most offbeat and fun of the Marvel movies, and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3, the third installment in this series, is no exception.
Even with a serious plot— a race against time to save Rocket’s life— the movie contains enough shenanigans and quirky conversations to keep this most recent installment a lighthearted affair.
The biggest reason for this consistency is that all three films were written and directed by James Gunn, who has quite the interesting resume, as he has achieved success with comedies, superhero films, and horror movies. He even worked for Marvel’s rival DC, and created a movie I liked every bit as much as the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movie, THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021), which was my favorite superhero movie that year. He is a master at writing witty, snappy, and flat-out funny dialogue.
I had a blast watching GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3, even with its serious plot. When Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is injured with a life-threatening wound, the Guardians, our friendly neighborhood protectors of the universe, discover that they cannot treat him, that his body has been encrypted with a suicide device if he is tampered with, which leads the Guardians to a search for Rocket’s origins so they can learn how to diffuse the device and save his life.
Through a series of flashbacks, we learn Rocket’s origin story, and it’s not a pretty picture. He was created in a lab by a cold-hearted scientist known as The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), who would have felt right at home on the set of STRANGER THINGS experimenting on the likes of Eleven, only his experiments are far worse. Rocket spends his youth with his closest friends, animals who have also been experimented on, and they dream of the day when they will be free from their cages, but freeing them is not part of The High Evolutionary’s plan. All these years later, The High Evolutionary is still at it, creating worlds and destroying them when he’s not happy with the result. He is also obsessed with capturing Rocket again, as Rocket was his most successful experiment, and so he welcomes the news that the Guardians are on their way to him to learn the secret of saving their friend.
And that’s the main plot of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3, which really is secondary to watching the Guardians interact on screen.
It’s been a tough time for Star Lord aka Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) as he’s still lamenting the loss of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who’s not dead, but since returning to life after the Thanos purge, has lost all her memories and does not remember being in love with him. Chris Pratt has always been fun in the Peter Quill role, and he’s just as fun here in Vol. 3.
In fact, you can say the same for the rest of the characters as well. Dave Bautista as Drax gives probably my favorite performance in the movie. Drax gets the best lines and for my money is the funniest character in the series. Pom Klementieff is enjoyable as Mantis, and she and Drax share many fun scenes together.
Karen Gillan gets more screen time as Nebula, and we get to know her character more in this installment. Vin Diesel voices Groot, and he gets his share of moments. And Bradley Cooper gets more serious scenes this time around in the very dark story of Rocket’s origins.
Chukwudi Iwuji is okay as The High Evolutionary. He’s more sinister early on. By film’s end, he becomes a more traditional mad scientist, and the character ends up being less menacing than we was at the beginning of the movie.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 provides a good mix of laughs and drama. I laughed a lot, as did the very large movie audience I saw it with— which is a very good thing, by the way. It seems more and more movies these days I’m watching in near empty theaters.—. And it does this even as its plot covers themes like ruthless experiments on animals, mindless destruction of entire planets, the rescue of children, and in the film’s final reel a rescue of a myriad of animals which resembles something out of Noah’s Ark.
The one thing I wasn’t crazy about in this movie is we don’t really get to see the Guardians together all that much. They’re all involved in their separate mini adventures as they attempt to rescue Rocket. And when finally, they are reunited at film’s end, we’re met with the news that some of the Guardians are going their separate ways. As Rocket complains, “We’re breaking up?” Indeed, they are, as the film previews what the next variation of Guardians will look like, while others are going off on solo and smaller group projects. I’m all about evolving, but I also enjoy revisiting successful stories, and the present group of Guardians, certainly had not worn out their welcome yet.
Also, in typical Marvel movie fashion, there are scenes after the end credits, including one at the very end, so if you want to see it, you’ll have to wait till all the credits have rolled.
My favorite GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movie remains the first one from 2014, but I enjoyed this third installment more than the second film in the series, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017).
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 is nothing new, but that’s not a bad thing. The characters here are all fun and quirky, and their interactions make for an enjoyable two and a half hours at the movies. It’s all well-written and directed by James Gunn, and it looks amazing as well, filled with bright stunning and colorful visuals throughout.
And oh yeah. It features a worthy soundtrack of tunes which would make Peter Quill proud.
I give GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 three stars.
If you like action movies, chances are you’re going to love AKA (2023), a new action thriller from France which premiered on Netflix this weekend.
I gotta say, one of my favorite parts about Netflix these days is their promotion of international films. There are a lot of movies premiering on the streaming service that aren’t available at theaters, and in recent months they have showcased some outstanding movies from countries like Thailand, South Korea, and Norway, to cite just a few.
Their latest is AKA, an action flick from France about a special ops agent named Adam (Alban Lenoir) who is called in to infiltrate a mobster’s organization in order to learn the whereabouts of a terrorist in hiding who is intent on wreaking havoc in France. The terrorist is friends with the mobster, and the French government knows the mobster is hiding him. Adam’s mission is to find the terrorist and eliminate him.
Adam is reminiscent of Jason Bourne, only without the memory loss. He’s a killing machine, and it doesn’t take him long to win over the mobster, Victor Pastore (Eric Cantona) and be invited to join his security team. Adam also connects with Victor’s young son, who looks up to Adam, and Adam is sympathetic to children because as a youth some horrible things happened to his brother, and Adam murdered the man responsible, an event which led to Adam being recruited by the French government at a very young age.
The story told in AKA is really secondary. Adam’s search for the terrorist is mildly interesting, and towards the end, there is one twist too many, but none of this affects the quality of the movie all that much, because what makes this one so entertaining are its action scenes.
The movie opens in dramatic fashion as we see Adam single-handedly “rescue” a female hostage in the middle east, taking out an army of guards, but rather than free her, he shoots her dead. He’s a cold-blooded killer and pretty much unstoppable. He’s also a good guy, and as the movie goes along his loyalties are aimed more towards good people than his superiors. The action sequences are second to none, and well done by director Morgan S. Dalibert.
Alban Lenoir is quite good in the lead as Adam, the unstoppable assassin. He’s got a quiet Arnold Schwarzenegger vibe going throughout. He’s in most of the movie, and he is able to drive this one along. Lenoir also reminded me a little bit of Alan Ritchson, who plays Jack Reacher on the excellent TV show REACHER (2022). He effortlessly makes Adam a larger-than-life action hero.
The entire cast in this one is commendable, and there are fine performances by everyone involved.
Lenoir also co-wrote the screenplay with director Morgan S. Dalibert. As I said, the story told in this one plays second fiddle to the action sequences, but it’s still a decent story which held my interest throughout. The dialogue is strong, the characters well-defined, and other than a “one-twist-too many” ending which falls into the government is really a bunch of crooked bastards category, it’s a good script. It supports the action well.
As a result, I had fun with AKA, and I give it an enthusiastic three stars.
65 (2023), a new science fiction adventure starring Adam Driver as a space pilot who crash lands on Earth 65 million years ago smack in the middle of some menacing dinosaurs, has a fun premise, but then does nothing with it.
65 is the story of Mills (Adam Driver), a pilot who is about to leave on a two-year mission which will pay him well, money he needs to treat his ailing daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman). But enroute, the ship is struck by a meteor and crash lands on an unknown planet, which happens to be Earth in the age of the dinosaurs. There is only one other survivor besides Mills, a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), and so, thinking of his own daughter, Mills vows to get her back home. The specifics of that endeavor include climbing a mountain to reach the ship’s escape pod, which is on the mountaintop because Mills’ ship split in two and that’s where the half with the pod landed. In their way, a jungle filled with hungry dinosaurs.
And oh, by the way. This is also the day when the catastrophic meteor strike which wiped out the dinosaurs is about to occur. So, if Mills and Koa don’t get off the planet, they will be pulverized by the doomsday meteor blast.
There are a lot of thought-provoking roads this movie could have taken. Sadly, however, there just isn’t much that is thought-provoking about this film.
Let’s start with the characters. Mills and his people come from a planet different than Earth, and yet they all look human, and they speak English. But they are about to crash land on Earth during a time before humans existed, and so, I thought, might there be some PROMETHEUS (2012) ideas floating around, that perhaps these folks would somehow become the parents of the human race? But that’s not what this movie is about. And I know, in the STAR WARS universe, they look human too, but STAR WARS is also more fantasy/adventure than science fiction. So, why is it worse here in 65 than in the STAR WARS movies? It’s not. It’s just that in a standalone film about aliens who crash land on Earth who look and act exactly like humans, well that stands out a little more here, and not in a good way.
The screenplay by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, both of whom also directed the movie, struggles from the outset with this exciting premise. The plot here seems like a no brainer for suspense and excitement, yet the film labors to generate any, especially at the beginning. The ship crashes, and Mills is alone for a while trying to figure out what happened, and all I could think about is, we the audience know what happened: they crashed on Earth in a place full of dinosaurs! Had this ship contained a group of people who were alive, we could see them all dealing with these dinosaurs immediately! Instead, the script makes the dubious decision to kill everyone on board in the crash, except for Mills (and then later Koa when he discovers her alive), and so when Mills looks about the jungle, you know he’s not going to be killed because the movie would then be over after about ten minutes, and so there’s no suspense and no excitement.
The screenplay also struggles with time. At the beginning of the movie, it’s stated that Mills will be gone for two years. Yet, on the trip, everyone is in stasis, which seems odd for a mission that will have them back home in two years. It’s not like they’re traveling for decades. But I can buy that perhaps they were saving on food and other things, so it would make sense for them to be asleep for the voyage. However, after the crash Mills learns news about his daughter, and while it’s not specifically stated, it just seems like more than two years have passed since he left.
The movie also employs some of what I like to call LOST IN SPACE logic. Now, I love the original 1960s science fiction TV show LOST IN SPACE (1965-68) and I’m a big fan, but the logic on that show was always silly, and science was never at the forefront of their scripts, unlike STAR TREK. Here, you have Mills sending out distress calls to his home planet, and he seems to believe they will send help immediately. One, he’s on an uncharted planet, so they don’t even know where it is, and two, he must be far from home. What kind of ships do they have? Can they navigate worm holes? Does he really expect them to just show up and rescue them? Apparently, he does. Which makes little sense.
Then, he believes that the escape pod/ship will save them. Yes, it will get them off the planet, but then what? What about fuel? Food? And where are they going to go once they’re flying in space? No one here is asking these questions. It’s all very lazy writing.
The movie isn’t interested in any of these things, but it is interested in dinosaurs. So, how are the dinosaurs in this movie? Not bad. There are some decent sequences here, my favorite involving a T-Rex towards the end of the movie. But a lot of the scenes are derivative of stuff we’ve already seen in the JURASSIC PARK movies. In short, the dinosaurs here are decent, but they don’t make or break this movie.
Screenwriters Beck and Woods also worked on the screenplays for THE QUIET PLACE movies, which told much better stories than the one told here in 65. THE QUIET PLACE movies took an interesting premise and ran with it. 65 takes a neat premise and drops the ball.
The acting, however, is fine. Adam Driver is really good as Mills, and he turns in an athletic, driven performance as he will stop at nothing to get Koa home. Driver’s performance, as expected, is one of the better parts of the movie.
Ariana Greenblatt is also excellent as Koa, but the sad truth is there’s not a whole lot for either of these two actors to do other than react to scary dinosaurs.
My favorite part of 65 is that they used the same sound effects from the Martian machines in the classic 1953 WAR OF THE WORLDS for Mills’ ship’s warning system. It was fun to hear it on the big screen, even if only for a few seconds.
65 is pure fluff, but not very thought-provoking or exciting fluff. Its tale of dinosaurs attacking people who have crash-landed on Earth 65 million years ago could have been intense and exciting, but it’s not. It’s superficial and sadly mediocre.
But because I like dinosaurs… and who doesn’t?… I give it two stars.
It’s no secret that Marvel has been in a slump since its much-heralded AVENGERS finale, AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019). Since that movie, Marvel has suffered through some missteps, misfires, and mediocrity. However, their recent sequel BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER (2022) was a terrific movie, a perfect testament to both the late Chadwick Boseman and to the Black Panther character. Heck, it even earned a well-deserved Best Picture nomination!
Now comes ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA (2023), Marvel’s latest superhero movie and their third Ant-Man flick. I’ve always enjoyed the ANT-MAN movies, and this third installment is no exception. ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA is high quality entertainment and adventure, enjoyable throughout, and probably the most ambitious ANT-MAN movie yet, as the story takes place inside the quantum world.
Not that ambitious is necessarily better.
I still yearn for an old-fashioned superhero movie where the hero is fighting a supervillain in the here and now, but nowadays we’ve got stories involving the multiverse, the quantum realm, time travel, gods, and faraway worlds across time and space. Yep, superhero tales are becoming more entrenched in the world of science fiction and fantasy. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. It’s just a more difficult thing to get right. You need exceptional writing to pull off these kinds of stories, otherwise you’re left with just striking visuals and no story. The good news is that the writing is up to snuff here in this third ANT-MAN movie.
So is the cast. Marvel superhero movies almost always sport fantastic casts, as they feature A-list actors in both lead and supporting roles. With the ANT-MAN films, it starts with Paul Rudd in the lead role. He’s made it his own, and he carries the fine supporting cast on his back for this fun adventure.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA is a family affair. Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), his now teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), his girlfriend Hope Van Dyne aka The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), her father and brilliant scientist Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and her mother, another brilliant scientist Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) are all having dinner when Cassie reveals that she’s been dabbling with the quantum realm herself, and she has developed a method of mapping out the entire quantum world. To do so, she’s been sending a beacon there to retrieve information. When Janet hears about this, she demands Cassie turn it off immediately. But before Cassie can do so, Janet’s worst fears are confirmed, and the five are pulled into the quantum world.
There, they discover a remarkable world of bizarre living creatures and civilizations which, of course, are at war because of a certain being who rules the realm with an iron fist, and he does so because he is intent on escaping the quantum realm and is building a war machine to help him do just that. It turns out that Janet knew all this already because during the thirty years that she spent in the quantum realm, she had met this ruler, but the whole experience had been so horrible for her she wasn’t able to tell her family.
The ruler is Kang (Jonathan Majors), and before Janet left, she had stopped him from leaving, because she believed he was too dangerous, and now that she’s back, Kang not only still wants to escape, but wants vengeance against Janet and her family.
Kang the Conqueror describes himself as master of the multiverse, as a being who understands, controls, and manipulates time. Yet, in spite of this, he still needs Ant-Man to get his power core for him so he can escape. Which had me scratching my head, because if he’s so powerful, why does he need Ant-Man’s help retrieving his much-needed power core? Couldn’t he do it himself?Hmm, not so all-powerful, are you Kang? Apparently, he is, as he’s going to be the focus of the next AVENGERS movie.
Anyway, that’s the plot of ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. As plots go, it’s okay. Honestly, I’m growing weary of stories about rebels and fights against oppressors, which we see all the time in STAR WARS and in the AVATAR movies. But that doesn’t stop this movie from being entertaining.
It has a fun script by Jeff Loveness which features just the right amount of well-timed humor without becoming entrenched in full blown and misplaced silliness. The laughs were genuine.
As I said earlier, Paul Rudd has owned the role of Ant-Man and made it his own. He’s the perfect ordinary guy— actually, he used to be a thief— who had no business becoming a superhero, yet he did. He embodies the recurring theme in the story that life doesn’t make sense, and that you just have to roll with the punches.
As good as Rudd is in the role, he’s actually outshined a bit by some of the other players in this one. Kathryn Newton brings a tremendous youthful energy to the role of Lang’s daughter, Cassie. It’s Newton’s first time playing the role, and she’s awesome.
And on the other side of the age spectrum, Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer add class and experience to their roles as married scientists Dr. Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne. Douglas has been in all three ANT-MAN movies, and his supporting presence has been a constant. He has a few memorable bits here. Pfeiffer joined the ANT-MAN cast in the second movie, and she’s a joy to watch here in the third ANT-MAN adventure. And when she shows off her fighting skills and takes on the bad guys, it brings back memories of her Catwoman days in BATMAN RETURNS (1992), still the screen’s finest Catwoman performance to date.
Marvel has also been on a roll with its villains of late. I thought Tenoch Huerta’s Namor in WAKANDA FOREVER was one of the better Marvel villains in recent memory, and Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror is equally as impressive. Majors definitely gives Kang a Thanos-type vibe, as he’s the sad and somber all-powerful villain who is capable of instilling so much harm and damage to the universe. I’ll be looking forward to seeing Kang in future Marvel movies.
Jonathan Majors is an impressive actor who has made his mark in recent movies such as in Spike Lee’s DA 5 BLOODS (2020) and in the western THE HARDER THEY FALL (2021) which pitted him against a gunslinger played by Idris Elba. He will also be starring opposite Michael B. Jordan in CREED III (2023) due out on March 3.
Evangeline Lilly returns for the third time as Hope Van Dyne/aka The Wasp, but even though her character’s name is featured in the title of this movie, her character seems to take a back seat to young Kathryn Newton’s Cassie character here. Heck, Cassie even has her own suit!
Bill Murray shows up in a glorified cameo as Lord Krylar, Janet’s former lover in the quantum realm. While Murray is fine, his scene is most memorable for giving Michael Douglas some of his best moments as he plays off Murray’s Lord Krylar, jealous that his wife had a relationship with the man.
Director Peyton Reed creates a memorable quantum world that is a visual feast for the eyes. Reed has directed all three ANT-MAN movies, and he does a fine job here. Of course, he’s also bailed out by the script, which gives this one a story and decent characters in order to prevent it from being just a visual experience. Technology in films has reached superior levels, where it is possible to create unknown worlds and bring them to life in ways that they seem real. And as long as the film has a decent script to go along with it, I have no problem with it. ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA has such a script.
It also has two post credit scenes, one in the middle and one at the end, so if you’re interested in the hints Marvel likes to give regarding their future movies, you might want to stay till the end.
I had a good time with ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. I enjoyed the visuals, the action, the characters, and the frequently funny dialogue. It also features a heck of a villain.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA is another excellent Marvel superhero movie, their second in a row. Here’s hoping their slump is over.
I give it three stars.
Four stars – Perfect, Top of the line
Three and a half stars- Excellent
Three stars – Very Good
Two and a half stars – Good
Two Stars – Fair
One and a half stars – Pretty Weak
One star- Poor
Zero stars – Awful
If you enjoy my reviews, you might enjoy my latest horror novel, DEMON AT THE DOOR, available at the link below:
It’s time now for a look back at the 10 worst movies I saw in 2022.
Here we go:
10. ORPHAN: FIRST KILL – this prequel to ORPHAN (2009), a horror movie I liked a lot, really isn’t all that bad; it’s just not all that good. It was fun to see Isabelle Fuhrman reprising the role of the dangerous “little girl” Esther, especially since Fuhrman’s no longer a “little girl” in real life, which meant the use of some forced perspective and a body double. This one has a brand-new plot twist, but overall, simply doesn’t work all that well. Two stars.
9. MONSTROUS – tepid horror movie starring Christina Ricci as a mom who flees with her seven-year-old son from an abusive husband. She moves into a new house and unfortunately, she has to deal with a supernatural presence there. Not awful by any means, but also simply not a lot going on here. Twist at end is predictable. Two stars.
8. THE BUBBLE – This comedy by writer/director Judd Apatow takes a fun concept— a group of actors stuck together at a hotel when their movie production shuts down because of a pandemic— and does little with it. More silly than funny, with just a few good laughs here and there. Two stars.
7. BLONDE – for me, the most disappointing movie from 2022. This Netflix film features an Oscar-nominated performance by one of my favorite actors, Ana de Armas, as Marilyn Monroe. Ana de Armas is indeed terrific, but the story is based on “imaginings” of Monroe’s life, as the screenplay is based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, and so events unfold here in Monroe’s life that simply didn’t happen. There’s a brutal scene, for example, showing JFK treating her horribly, yet it didn’t happen. I just found the story elements here head-scratchers. Andrew Dominik’s direction doesn’t help, as this nearly three-hour movie is clunky and uneven. Onr and a half stars.
6. WHITE NOISE – Weird, confusing movie with a script in which nobody seems to make sense when they talk. Funny premise and interesting cast led by Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig are wasted in this unfunny story about a family who for one third of the movie are faced with a seemingly apocalyptic event, but this “event” wraps up neat and tidy long before this one ends. And then the film goes on about something else. One and a half stars.
5. DAY SHIFT – pretty awful horror comedy starring Jamie Foxx as a modern day vampire hunter. Not funny, not scary, and action scenes don’t wow. Dave Franco plays one of the more pathetic characters I’ve seen in a movie in years. Pretty forgettable stuff. One and a half stars.
4.CHOOSE OR DIE – horror movie starring Asa Butterfield about an evil video game from the 1980s which can alter reality, and it uses this power to force its player to make horrific choices, to harm people around them or die themselves, hence the title, Choose or die. Sounds better than it is. Very little of what happens makes sense, and the horror scenes aren’t as scary as they should be. Most inspiring bit in the movie is the casting of Robert Englund as himself, as he provides the voice on the promos for the video game. Sadly, Englund doesn’t actually appear in the movie. One star.
3. VIOLENT NIGHT -David Harbour playing Santa Claus in a Santa Claus action/comedy. What’s not to like? Actually, a lot of things, mostly a story that features some of the most unlikable characters in a movie I’ve seen in years, and we’re supposed to care about these people when they find themselves held hostage by a baddie who goes by the name of Scrooge? A disgruntled Santa decides to save the day. While Harbour is very good, and John Leguizamo is even better as the villain, mostly because he plays things straight, the film ends up being a cross between HOME ALONE and DIE HARD, with very unfavorable results. One star.
2.BARBARIAN – some folks really liked this horror movie. I wasn’t one of them. It’s not an anthology film, but its one plot is divided into three segments. The first one starring Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgard is by far the best, and so the film gets off to a very scary start, but things change in the second segment starring Justin Long, as the entire tone of the film shifts to something much lighter and offbeat, and then for the third and final segment, which wraps everything up, things fall completely apart. You really have to suspend disbelief to buy into some of the plot points here. One star.
1. UNCHARTED – My pick for the worst movie of the year is the film I enjoyed the least. This silly action-adventure comedy pairs Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg as fellow treasure hunters seeking treasure. The script is ludicrous, the inane banter nonstop, and the plot, well everything these two knuckleheads do works, and so there’s no adversity or conflict, just banter, banter, and more banter. Have I said there was banter in this movie? One long snooze of a movie. Unless, of course, you like… banter. One star.
There you have it. My list of the 10 Worst Films from 2022. Overall, 2022 wasn’t really a bad year for movies. There were far more movies that I liked than I disliked this year,
Okay, let’s get back to 2023! See you at the movies!
Another year of movies has come and gone, and all things considered, it was a darn good year for celluloid.
I returned to the movie theaters this past year, after keeping away since spring 2020 due to the pandemic. I still wear a mask in the theater, except when eating popcorn, of course, and I’m usually the only one in the theater wearing a mask, but that’s okay. I have no problem wearing a mask in public places. If it was good enough for the Phantom of the Opera, it’s good enough for me!
Anyway, I returned to seeing theatrical releases in July, and so I pretty much saw films in the theater for half the year, and streaming releases the other half. An interesting thing happened during the pandemic. By watching movies at home, I discovered that streaming platforms like Netflix and Prime Video offer a lot of quality original movies, so much so, that I’ve now fully incorporated their offerings into my movie selection process. Sure, they offer duds as well, but so do the movie theaters.
I saw approximately 75 new movies this year, and the list below comprises my ten favorites of 2022. I am always amazed by the number of new movies that are released each year, which is a good thing, but there are so many that I know that you and me don’t see all the same movies, and so there are bound to be movies that you loved this year that I simply didn’t see. But of the ones I did see, here are my Top 10:
10. BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER – it’s been a rough stretch for Marvel. Even as a big Marvel fan, I’ve been disappointed with most of their recent movies of late. Not so with this superior BLACK PANTHER sequel. It pays respectful homage to late actor Chadwick Boseman and to the Black Panther character, while telling a compelling story, featuring a formidable villain, and nicely setting up the future of the Black Panther superhero. Three and a half stars.
9. BABYLON – I loved this tale of early Hollywood by writer/director Damien Chazelle, starring Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt. The movie has a lot to say, but my favorite part was its take on fans’ relationships to movies, how important movies are to people, and how film really is high art, and it says all this in the raucous, bawdy, unpredictable and unforgiving world of 1920s Hollywood. Three and a half stars.
8. THE WONDER – It was a great year for period pieces, and several of them made it into my top 10 list. THE WONDER is one of them. This Netflix original period piece thriller stars Florence Pugh as an English nurse sent to the Irish Midlands in 1862 to observe and either validate or disprove the claim that a healthy young girl has gone months without food, an event the locals are calling a religious miracle. Florence Pugh is one of the best actresses working today, and so her presence alone lifts this movie, but THE WONDER has more to offer. Where this story ultimately goes speaks to both the hypocrisy of religion, and faith in humanity. Three and a half stars.
7. THE MENU – a delightfully dark comedic thriller starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes about a select group of rich guests traveling to a private island to partake in an extravagant meal prepared by a team of chefs led by one of the world’s finest chefs, played by Fiennes, who just happens to have an agenda which he enacts on these folks, who mostly deserve the comeuppance he has planned for them. Like Florence Pugh, Anya Taylor-Joy is also one of the best actresses working today, and while there is a lot to like about this delicious thriller, her performance is the best part. Three and half stars.
6. THE PALE BLUE EYE – Another Netflix original, and another period piece. Written and directed by Scott Cooper, THE PALE BLUE EYE tells the story of a serial killer loose at West Point Academy in 1830 who likes to cut out the hearts of the young cadets there. Disenchanted detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is called in to solve the case, and he receives help from a young cadet there named Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling). Beautifully shot, exquisitely written, and well-acted by a veteran cast, led by Melling in a phenomenal performance as Edgar Allan Poe, and by Christian Bale as the weary, somber detective with secrets of his own. Three and a half stars.
5. THE BANSHEES OF INERSHERIN – certainly one of the more unusual movies I saw this year, and another period piece, as it takes place in 1923 on an island off the coast of Ireland. Receiving lots of hype, deservedly so, but erroneously marketed as a comedy, this tale of a man named Padraic, played by Colin Farrell, who out of the blue is told one day by his best friend that he no longer likes him as a person and that he doesn’t want to spend any more time with him, ever, starts off light and humorous but grows increasingly dark as it goes along, building to a very somber conclusion. This one is offbeat to be sure, but you can’t beat the dialogue or the acting. Colin Farrell is superb as Padraic, the man who begins to question his very existence and being, when he is faced with an absolute and unforgiving rejection by a man who he thought was his best friend. Three and a half stars.
4. EMILY THE CRIMINAL – I loved this small market thriller starring Aubrey Plaza as a young woman struggling to pay off her college debt and pay her bills with one thankless low paying job after another, and when she says yes to taking part in an illegal credit card scheme, because it will pay her a quick $200, she finds that the criminals treat her better than her employers. The scams certainly pay her better, and as she discovers she has a talent for this sort of thing, she agrees to take on bigger scams, which earn her more money but also become much more dangerous. This is a tight, hard-hitting thriller with no fat on its bones. Much more satisfying than many of the big budget Hollywood releases and features an exceptional performance by Plaza. Three and a half stars.
3. ELVIS- I love writer/director Baz Luhrmann’s visual style, and he’s at the top of his game here with ELVIS, a glitzy rocking extravaganza of a bio pic of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Featuring an energetic and uncanny performance by Austin Butler as Elvis, and Tom Hanks as Presley’s slimy self-serving manager, Colonel Tom Parker, ELVIS is a visual and musical tour de force. Don’t expect a deep insightful look into the inner mind and soul of Elvis Presley. This movie doesn’t go there. Instead, it plays out like an Elvis performance in Las Vegas, which artistically speaking, is a perfect way to tell Elvis’ story. Three and a haf stars.
2. LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER – Another Netflix original, and yes, another period piece. This latest film version of the D.H. Lawrence novel, scores so highly for me because of the way it honestly and unabashedly features sex in its story, something that Hollywood movies these days strangely shy away from. LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER is the story of Lady Connie Chatterley (Emma Corrin) who’s stuck in a loveless marriage with rich Clifford Chatterley (Matthew Duckett), and when she meets and falls in love with the gamekeeper on their estate, Oliver (Jack O’Connell), she realizes that he’s the love of her life, and she decides that in spite of the odds against her– she’s married, and Oliver is of a different social status than her— she will not conform to social norms and instead will do whatever it takes to ensure her happiness and a future life with Oliver. Wonderfully filmed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, and perfectly capturing the World War I English countryside, LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER features fine performances by all involved, but the most captivating part of this one is the way de Clermont-Tonnerre films the story’s love scenes, as they are boldly realistic and passionate, showing physical love in a way that most other films these days don’t have the guts to do. Four stars.
1. EMERGENCY – My favorite movie of 2022 was this Amazon Prime original film which received very little attention this year. I liked it because it speaks to race relations here in 2022 in a way that is far more natural and effective than most, and it does it largely on a comedic platform. EMERGENCY tells the story of two black college friends, Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) and Sean (R J Cyler) who before a night of partying discover an unconscious white girl on the floor of their apartment. When Kunle attempts to call 911, Sean stops him, telling him that the police will never believe that they— two black men– had nothing to do with how an unconscious white girl ended up on their apartment floor. So, instead, they decide to take her to the hospital, and so they embark on an odyssey of an adventure trying to transport this girl across town to the hospital, while the girl’s sister and her friends try to find her, and what can go wrong, does go wrong in this comedic drama that will have you both laughing and trembling. The scene late in the movie where the police confront Kunle, and pull guns on him, is nail-bitingly tense. EMERGENCY offers a fresh and funny premise— yes, officers, this girl really did just appear on our apartment floor unconscious, and we really have no idea how she got here or who she is— thrusts it into the racially charged environment of our current culture and delivers it all in a tremendously thought-provoking and satisfying package. Directed by Carey Williams and written by K.D. Davila. EMERGENCY is my pick for the best movie of 2022.
And there you have it, my picks for the Top 10 movies of 2022. It was a great year for movies. Now it’s on to 2023!
As always, thanks for reading.
Four stars- Excellent
Three stars- Very Good
Two stars- Fair
One star- Poor
Zero Stars- Awful
And coming soon, my Top 10 List for the Worst movies of 2022. Look for it soon right here in these pages!
That’s the time in between the first movie AVATAR (2009), and its sequel AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER (2022) which just opened in theaters this weekend. I loved AVATAR. I remember being blown away by its 3D effects, which were the best I had ever seen at that point, and its story wasn’t half bad either.
But thirteen years? Why should I care about a sequel to a movie I barely remember? This has been my mindset leading up to the release of this sequel, but truth be told, I am only half serious, and that’s because I know the answer to that question. The reason I still care about this sequel is because it’s being made by James Cameron.
Cameron of course has directed a long line of innovative movie hits, including THE TERMINATOR (1984), ALIENS (1986), TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991), TITANIC (1997), and AVATAR. Cameron’s movies are always visually impressive, and sometimes, as was the case with the 3D technology in AVATAR, groundbreaking. So, while I poke fun at the gap of years between the two movies, I still was interested in seeing this sequel.
Speaking of which, let’s get down to business. Is AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER any good? Well, of course it is! The real question is, just how good is it?
Visually speaking, it’s tremendously good! This is a movie that is nearly one hundred percent animated, using motion-capture and CGI effects throughout, on the fictional planet of Pandora. It’s a visual treat for the senses. The film is beautiful to look at.
My favorite part, though, is actually the characters, who though animated, come to life through their expressions and mannerisms. You really believe the characters you are watching are real.
Now, I wasn’t able to see AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER in 3D this time around, and that was just fine with me. I mean, a movie shouldn’t need 3D technology to make it a success. It has to stand on its own. As such, even in 2D, the effects here hold up.
The story in AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER takes place several years after the events of the first movie, and we find Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) living with his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) among her forest people, and as such they now have a family, two sons and two daughters. We find out that the villainous Quaritch (Stephen Lang) who Jake and Neytiri killed at the end of the first movie, has been cloned in the form of the indigenous people of Pandora, as have a bunch of other military soldiers.
The Sky People— people from Earth— continue their military mission to conquer the natives of Pandora because Earth is dying, and humans need a new place to live. The mission has been going badly because the native animals in the forest attack and kill the soldiers before they can even reach the native peoples they want to conquer. So, the thinking is, these new soldiers created to look like Pandorans will get by the animals because they will be perceived as natural to the environment. And Quaritch has an added mission, which is to find and kill Jake.
When Jake realizes they are coming for him, he moves his family away, and they relocate far away in a new community with the ocean people who primarily function underwater. But, as expected, Quaritch and his soldiers eventually track Jake down, setting the stage for a climactic battle.
As stories go, the one told in AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER is okay. The big picture stuff is all rather simplified, the evil soldiers who don’t care about the environment, the animals, and ultimately the people there, vs. Jake and his people who care about all these things. It’s simplified, but it makes its points, and it works.
The story works even better when it focuses on family, and I’m tempted to say that AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER is more about Jake’s and Neytiri’s children, but that would be an unfair assessment, because it’s also about Jake and Neytiri. But a bulk of this movie is about the children, who range in age from young adult, to teen, to school age, and their stories are every bit as interesting as the adult stories, especially their relationship with the children of the ocean people, and with the animals, especially the sea creatures. That all worked for me, and so when you get to the film’s conclusion, and all these folks are in harm’s way, it makes for some very exciting and emotional storytelling.
The screenplay by James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver works best when it creates these characters and allows the audience to get to know them and care for them. It doesn’t work as well when it comes to the nuts and bolts of storytelling. The film gets off to a sluggish start as little or no effort is made to connect events unfolding to the previous movie, and for me, it took a good twenty minutes before I started to settle in and feel like this movie was going somewhere.
The movie runs three hours and twelve minutes, which is an incredibly long running time, but honestly, it held my attention, and so the running time itself isn’t an issue. However, after sitting through a movie for three hours, you expect a finite conclusion, and AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER doesn’t really give us one. The major conflict between Jake and Quaritch isn’t resolved, and questions about Jake’s and Neytiri’s oldest daughter’s powers and heritage are left unanswered. Movie audiences deserve a finite conclusion, even if more movies are planned.
There are also some lapses of logic. It struck me as naive that the ocean people accept Jake and his family without realizing that doing so would threaten their own family, knowing that the Sky People are actively searching for Jake. Jake tells them as much when he explains why they fled their homeland. And at the end of the movie, Jake declares that with his newfound family, the ocean people having accepted them, that this is their new home, and their days of running are over. It’s better to stand firm and defend one’s home than run away, which begs the question, where was this attitude at the beginning of the movie?
It’s difficult to talk about the actors in this one because we never really see their human likenesses, but in terms of voice work, they all do superb jobs. Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, and many others all lend their voices and do great work. A lot has been made about Kate Winslet doing her own underwater diving and holding her breath for a record time, and while this is impressive, it’s weird to think about, because you don’t really see Kate Winslet underwater. I mean you do, but it’s her as an Avatar character. It’s just weird to think about. There’s a part of me that hopes this isn’t the future of movies, where you will have actors involved who are unrecognizable because the technology has completely changed the way they look.
Edie Falco appears in human form as General Ardmore, and she was fun to watch as she was one of the few characters allowed to talk down to Quaritch, but she’s only in the movie during its first half.
I enjoyed AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER quite a bit. However, this movie cost between $350-$400 million to make, and when you see the effects, you’ll understand why. And yes, admittedly, the visuals in this movie blew me away. But a movie is more than just visuals. There’s story, characters, themes, dialogue, and emotion. Now, AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER gets most of these right as well, or at least the characters and the emotion part. The story is as I said earlier rather simplified.
So, what’s my point? Simply this. A $350-$400-million-dollar budget doesn’t guarantee the best movie of the year, meaning there were plenty of other movies I’ve seen this year that I liked better than this one. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful that Cameron made this movie, but that’s a ton of money, and it will be interesting to see if this film makes enough money to turn a profit.
At the end of the day, I liked AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER a lot. Its visuals, especially the world it creates, is second to none. It also has a lot of likable characters and tells an emotional story. But it still plays like a sequel, or at least one small part in a bigger story arc that is set to continue with more AVATAR movies. Which for me is the biggest knock against AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. It’s just not a standalone movie. $350-$400 million dollars is a lot of money for just one chapter in a story.
Bet you like the sound of that. And I bet you can’t hear those lines without hearing the signature James Bond theme playing immediately afterwards.
That’s one of the many on-target points made in THE SOUND OF 007 (2022), a new documentary by director Mat Whitecross that is now available on Prime Video, which chronicles the stories behind the iconic music in the James Bond movies.
The point that the music to these films is every bit as important as the James Bond character, the actors who played Bond, the action, and the overall adventures in each movie, is both true and pretty much unique to this film series. While other film series have notable and recognizable music— the STAR WARS franchise for example— more has been done with the Bond music, and it’s difficult to think of the movies and the character without the iconic theme.
THE SOUND OF 007 explains the origin of that signature theme, and tells the story how producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hired Monty Norman to write the music for their first Bond movie, DR. NO (1962), and Norman, who till this day still receives sole credit for the James Bond theme, wrote many of the Jamaican songs for the movie, including the catchy “Underneath the Mango Tree,” but he was struggling with the overall music score, so Broccoli and Saltzman hired John Barry, and Barry took what Norman had started and tweaked it, and thanks to the efforts of the two, an iconic theme song was born, and the rest, as they say, is history.
THE SOUND OF 007 does its best to cover the music to all the James Bond movies, but there are so many, and so the film struggles to do justice to them all, and so I’m sure there will be certain fans who will be disappointed that their favorite score wasn’t given ample time in this documentary. But the film has its heart in the right place and does a decent job in its 90-minute running time covering most of the music in the James Bond movies.
It addresses multiple fronts: the actual scores, the theme songs, which became an entity in and of itself, and the process of hiring performers to sing these theme songs, which the film explains, for the producers, became almost as important as hiring the right actor to play Bond himself.
This process really started in GOLDFINGER (1964), which really is the quintessential James Bond movie of the 1960s Sean Connery era. Everything in this movie works, including the music, and it pretty much defined James Bond for a generation. GOLDFINGER was the first Bond movie where composer John Barry was allowed to also write the theme song, and when Barry chose Shirley Bassey to sing the song, it became a huge hit. Barry also incorporated elements of the theme song into the score for the film, a first for a James Bond movie.
THE SOUND OF 007 contains a lot of fun anecdotes. When Shirley Bassey asked John Barry what the song “Goldfinger” was about, since he really didn’t know, all he could tell her was it was about the villain in the movie, so think of the villain. Other anecdotes include Tom Jones nearly passing out when singing and holding the incredibly long note on the song “Thunderball,” Barry telling Bassey to think of the male sex organ when singing “Diamonds Are Forever,” and Michael Caine, who was John Barry’s roommate in 1964, telling a story of how he was kept awake all night by Barry playing the piano, and when he awoke the next morning and asked Barry what he was playing, he answered his new song, “Goldfinger,” and he played it for Caine; so Caine said he was the first person ever to hear “Goldfinger.” And he heard it all night.
The film talks about how the Bond music changed over the years, how Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” was the first rock song to be a James Bond theme song, and how Bill Conti’s score to FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981) was the first score to use disco elements. The film makes the point that the James Bond music followed the trends of the time, and so the music changed with the different periods in history, taking on different sounds in the 1960s, 70s, 80s. 90, and 2000s.
The movie spends a lot of time on the music to the latest Bond movie, NO TIME TO DIE (2021), both on the theme song by Billie Eilish, and the film’s score by Hans Zimmer. While this makes sense since this is the latest Bond movie, I found these stories the least interesting in the documentary. I mean, they were fine, but they didn’t deserve nearly a third of the screen time of this movie. There’s a lot of other James Bond movie music that was barely mentioned here and could have been covered rather than spending so much time on NO TIME TO DIE, films like THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974), which has a great theme song which wasn’t even mentioned, although singer Lulu, who sang the song, is interviewed, but not about her song, and Madonna’s “Die Another Day,” which also wasn’t covered.
But other than this, THE SOUND OF 007 is an excellent documentary and does a very good job covering its subject. Its coverage on composer John Barry is the film’s best part, and every James Bond movie fan needs to know the story behind the Bond movies’ most famous composer. It also does a nice job with the rationale behind the controversial scoring to Daniel Craig’s first James Bond movie, CASINO ROYALE (2006), in which the James Bond theme isn’t played until just before the end credits. I enjoyed this portion of the documentary because this decision in CASINO ROYALE has always been one that I really liked, and it was fun to listen to composer David Arnold explain the reasoning and tell the story of how emotional it was to finally blast that theme song just at the right moment in the movie, and as a fan of CASINO ROYALE, I have to say I completely agree with what Arnold did with the music in that film. It works tremendously well.
All in all, I really enjoyed THE SOUND OF 007. If you’re a fan of the James Bond movies, you will enjoy this one too. And even if you’re not a fan, it’s worth a look, as its stories of how John Barry in particular used some innovative methods to create his film scores, are both interesting and informative for all movie buffs and scholars.
This very short movie, which runs only 55 minutes and is a standalone film, not an episode of a TV series, is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s also a horror movie. Based on Marvel’s Legion of Monsters comic series, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT is being billed as an action, adventure, horror comedy.
Talk about your vegetable soup!
Anyway, I’d been hearing a lot of good things about this one, mostly from horror fans, who have been saying WEREWOLF BY NIGHT reminded them a lot of the classic black and white Universal monster movies. Sadly, I didn’t see or feel that connection. The only similarity I saw between the two was they were both shot in black and white. For me, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, which premiered on Disney Plus and is now streaming there, plays like a Disney/Marvel family friendly hybrid with a few mild and tame horror elements thrown in. While I appreciated the visual elements of this movie, I was basically unimpressed with just about everything else.
Indeed, the best part about WEREWOLF BY NIGHT and the main reason to see this one is the work by director and music composer Michael Giacchino. Giacchino is one of my favorite film composers working today, and he has composed a ton of memorable movie music scores, including music for THE BATMAN (2022) and THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER (2022). He has written the scores for other Marvel superhero movies, for the recent JURASSIC PARK films, for the recent PLANET OF THE APES series, for the recent STAR TREK movies, and on and on! Two of my favorite Giacchino scores were in horror films, the Hammer vampire movie LET ME IN (2010), and one of the all-time best giant monster movies, CLOVERFIELD (2008). His very memorable theme in CLOVERFIELD doesn’t appear until the end credits, but it’s worth the wait. He also wrote a pretty memorable score for ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016).
So, yeah, he’s scored a few movies.
WEREWOLF BY NIGHT is Michael Giacchino’s directorial debut, and it’s a good one. Visually, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT is a real treat to watch. The black and white photography is atmospheric and effective, and Giacchino even includes a la STRANGER THINGS the grainy look of film, even inserting the infamous cigarette burns— the little dot in the upper half of the frame– which used to appear in all movies to alert projectionists that it was time to start the next reel. Of course, there’s no need for those anymore since today’s movies are all digital. Giacchino does use some color, most notably for the very red bloodstone, which is integral to the movie’s plot.
Oh yes. The plot.
It’s pretty standard and also at 55 minutes pretty quick.
Basically, a group of infamous monster hunters gather at the castle of the recently deceased Ulysses Bloodstone, the most famous monster hunter of them all. These hunters are all tasked with hunting a very dangerous creature, and the one who slays the beast, will inherit the glowing red bloodstone, which will give its owner the power and right to be the master monster hunter. Blah, blah, blah.
The two main characters are Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal), a hunter who isn’t quite who he says he is, and Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly), the estranged daughter of the deceased, and these two form a pact during the hunt to work together so Elsa can get the bloodstone, and Jack can get what he really wants.
Things don’t go as planned, and during the film’s second half, the werewolf element finally emerges.
Since this is based on the Marvel comic by Gerry Conway, the screenplay by Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron pretty much tells an action-adventure story. While the horror elements are there, they are downplayed. The film also contains some witty snappy dialogue which Marvel superhero movie fans have come to expect.
But since I am also a huge fan of werewolf movies, I have to say that the werewolf stuff— both the actual werewolf and all of the werewolf sequences in this movie— was a bit of a letdown. I wasn’t impressed with the actual werewolf, and the scenes were just meh. The biggest problem I had with the werewolf scenes comes down to the movie’s plot, about hunters trying to slay a beast, which isn’t even the werewolf, by the way. The story is all rather mediocre.
But Giacchino’s work behind the camera is definitely not mediocre, nor is his music score, and it was fun to watch how he integrated the music with his film direction. The timing was impeccable.
I enjoyed watching WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, even though I found its story to be something of a snooze, and as such, and I for one was glad it was only 55 minutes long.