My favorite part about TROLL (2022), a new giant monster movie from Norway now streaming on Netflix, is that it pays homage to the monster movies of yesteryear and gets nearly everything right about the subgenre, even as it tells a story about a giant troll.
It gets that right too, since trolls are a part of Norwegian folklore, and so the fantasy here is grounded in mythology.
TROLL also has a fabulous script by Espen Aukan, based on a story by director Roar Uthaug. It takes its monster plot seriously, while keeping the script lively and at times light, and includes references to Godzilla and King Kong. It also didn’t hurt to have a couple of characters be STAR TREK fans, and so some of the conversations are peppered with STAR TREK references that actually have bearing on the plot. So, for this STAR TREK fan, that was a lot of fun.
In short, I enjoyed TROLL more than some of the recent bigger budget GODZILLA and KING KONG movies of late.
TROLL tells the story of scientist Nora Tidemann (Ine Marie Wilmann) who is called in as a government advisor when there is an “incident” following a construction crew’s blasting of a major tunnel and there are what appear to be giant footprints in the ground leading away from the area. She is quick to point out the obvious, that they are looking at footprints, and while she can’t say what made them, she does tell the skeptical government officials that they should be looking for a creature of considerable size.
It turns out that what made them is a troll, and to help her with this situation, Nora turns to her estranged father Tobias (Gard B. Eidsvold) who is an expert on the subject but because of his intense belief in trolls has been labeled as somewhat of a crackpot. Tobias is only too happy to learn that proof of what he has been saying all his life has finally materialized, and while the government is only interested in destroying the troll, Nora and Tobias would prefer to learn more about it.
Nora gains more credence when traditional weapons fail against the troll, and her and Tobias’ expertise are again requested. Nora also gains two allies, government advisor and self-described STAR TREK geek Andreas (Kim Falck) and military captain Kris (Mads Sjogard Pettersen) both of whom come to respect Nora and value her insight on the threat.
The script nails all these characters, and everyone in this movie acts like real people, including the government officials. TROLL is not a giant monster movie where the characters are all cardboard and boring. They’re three dimensional and interesting.
And the actors all do standup jobs with their roles.
The special effects are excellent. The troll looks authentic and frightening. Director Roar Uthaug crafts some impressive giant monster scenes, some intense, some frightening, and others flat out exciting.
The back story for the troll also gives the creature plenty of sympathy. An intriguing subtext is the troll’s disdain for Christians, and the film almost takes a daring step to frame Christianity as a villain here, which would have been a gutsy and refreshing call, but the film stops short of completely developing this theme. There’s one scene in particular where a soldier is praying, and the troll can smell his blood, and that’s the soldier he targets and kills, but other than this, the topic is muted.
TROLL is available on Netflix in an English language version or in its original Norwegian language with English subtitles, which is how I saw it. Always go with the original language. As good as dubbing can sometimes be, the acting is always more natural in the original language.
If you like giant monster movies, especially those that take their subject matter seriously and know their cinematic history, you’ll love TROLL.
Welcome back to IN THE SHADOWS, the column where we look at character actors in the movies, especially horror movies.
Up today, it’s Elisha Cook, Jr., one of the most recognizable character actors of all time. Small in stature, he often portrayed intense oftentimes frightened characters, especially in his horror movies. One of my favorite Cook performances in a genre film was in HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959), in which he co-starred with Vincent Price as the terrified Watson Pritchard, the one man in the movie who believed ghosts were haunting the house. Cook also enjoyed a memorable moment in THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) when he falls asleep in the back of Kolchak’s car, scaring the living daylight out of the reporter (Darren McGavin) when he bolts upright in the back seat!
Here now is a partial look at some of Elisha Cook, Jr.’s impressive 220 screen credits:
HER UNBORN CHILD (1930)- Stewart Kennedy – Cook’s first screen credit is in this 1930 love story drama.
STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR (1940) – Joe Briggs – co-stars in this film noir with Peter Lorre. Often cited as the first film noir movie ever.
THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) – Wilmer Cook – one of my favorite Elisha Cook Jr. roles is in this classic film noir by John Huston starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade. Cook plays the enforcer for Mr. Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet), who Bogart’s Sam Spade torments throughout, at one point slapping him around and eventually turning Gutman against him. Cook is wound up and intense throughout. Also starring Peter Lorre and Mary Astor. One of my favorite movies of all time.
A-HAUNTING WE WILL GO (1942) – Frank Lucas- supporting role in this Laurel and Hardy spooky comedy.
THE BIG SLEEP (1946) – Harry Jones – reunited with Humphrey Bogart, with Bogart this time playing Philip Marlowe. Directed by Howard Hawks and written by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman, this one is so complex that even after subsequent viewings it’s still difficult to figure out who did what to whom, and why! Bogart famously married co-star Lauren Bacall shortly after this movie.
SHANE (1953) – Stonewall Torrey – supporting role in this classic Alan Ladd western. His character is dramatically slain by the villainous gunslinger played by Jack Palance.
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (1954)- “Semi-Private Eye” – Homer Garrity – plays private detective Homer Garrity hired by Lois Lane to prove that Clark Kent is really Superman in this episode of the George Reeves Superman TV series.
THE KILLING (1956)- George Peatty – supporting role in this film noir thriller directed by a young Stanley Kubrick.
VOODOO ISLAND (1957) – Martin Schuyler – zombie horror movie starring Boris Karloff, notable for featuring the screen debut of Adam West. Holy horror movie, Batman!
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) – Watson Pritchard – one of my favorite Elisha Cook, Jr. roles is in this William Castle horror movie starring Vincent Price as a cold, calculating husband who along with his equally manipulative wife plan a party in a haunted house where the guests are each paid a large sum of money if they remain in the house all night. And they have no choice once they agree, because they are all locked inside until dawn. Cook plays the one man there who believes in ghosts, and spends most of his time drinking and warning the others that they are all doomed. One of the earlier horror movies to employ jump scares, and the scene with the old woman who appears out of nowhere in the basement is a classic.
BLACK ZOO (1963) – Joe – horror movie starring the Hammer ham himself, Michael Gough, playing a character who uses his zoo animals to kill his enemies. Of course!
THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963) – Peter Smith – reunited with Vincent Price in this horror movie directed by Roger Corman based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft. Cook plays a frightened townsperson who is a yes-man to a tougher townsperson played by Leo Gordon, and they lead the villagers in attempts to oust Vincent Price’s Charles Dexter Ward from their community fearing that he is a menace to their community. And they’re right! Also stars Lon Chaney Jr., in a rare paring with Vincent Price. One of my favorite Roger Corman/Vincent Price movies.
ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) – Mr. Nicklas – part of the terrific cast in Roman Polanski’s classic horror movie which also stars Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Maurice Evans, and Ralph Bellamy.
THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) – Mickey Crawford – plays an informant for Darren McGavin’s Carl Kolchak in this groundbreaking vampire movie written by Richard Matheson. Cook provides one of the better jump scares in the movie as noted above.
BLACULA (1972) – Sam – Cook appears in back-to-back vampire movies, this one featuring a commanding performance by William Marshall in the lead role in this underrated horror movie which is actually very good.
THE BLACK BIRD (1975) – Wilmer Cook – Cook reprises his role from THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) in this comedy about the son of Sam Spade, played by George Segal.
SALEM’S LOT (1979) – Gordon ‘Weasel’ Phillips – this TV movie adaptation of Stephen King’s vampire novel starring David Soul and James Mason is considered by many fans and critics as one of the two greatest vampire TV movies ever made, along with THE NIGHT STALKER. Elisha Cook Jr. appeared in both these movies!
MAGNUM, P.I. (1980-1988) – Francis “Ice Pick” Hofstetler – Cook’s final screen appearances were on the popular TV series, MAGNUM, P.I., in which he appeared in 13 episodes.
Elisha Cook Jr. appeared in tons of TV shows over the years, including GUNSMOKE, THE WILD WILD WEST, STAR TREK, BATMAN, THE ODD COUPLE, and STARSKY AND HUTCH, to name just a few.
I hope you enjoyed this partial list of Elisha Cook Jr.’s career. He was a character actor who starred in many genre films, some, like ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE NIGHT STALKER, are some of the more important ones ever made.
Join me again next time for another edition of IN THE SHADOWS, where we look at the careers of character actors in the movies, especially horror movies.
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.
Welcome back to MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES, that column where we look at memorable quotes from the movies. Today we’re doing something a little different. Rather than look at quotes from one movie, we’re going to look at quotes from one character, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, in the six original STAR TREK movies, in honor of the actor who played her, Nichelle Nichols, who passed away this past weekend on July 30, 2022.
Nichols played the character Lieutenant Uhura in the original STAR TREK TV series (1966-1969), and that’s really where she had her best moments. But she also played the character in the six STAR TREK movies which featured the original cast.
In honor of Nichelle Nichols, here’s a look now at some of her lines of dialogue from those movies;
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (1979)
The first time the STAR TREK cast appeared on the big screen was in this thought-provoking special effects-laden film directed by Robert Wise which was considered somewhat of a misfire in 1979 but has stood the test of time and has only gotten better with age. Part of the fun during the first third of the movie was seeing all the show’s characters make their big screen debuts. This next conversation between Kirk (William Shatner) and Uhura was the set-up for Dr. McCoy’s (DeForest Kelley) first big screen appearance. Let’s listen:
UHURA: Captain, our final six replacements are ready to beam aboard, but one of them is refusing to step into the transporter.
KIRK: Oh! I’ll make sure he beams up!
And of course, Dr. McCoy would beam up shortly thereafter, complaining about having to have his molecules disassembled and reassembled.
When Kirk is given full command of the Enterprise again, it’s Uhura who puts it all in perspective:
SULU: He wanted her back. He got her.
ENSIGN: And Captain Decker? He’s been with this ship every minute of her refitting.
UHURA: Ensign, the possibilities of our returning from this mission in one piece may… have just doubled.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982)
Unlike STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, its sequel STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN was both a critical and commercial success, and more importantly, a huge hit with fans, who felt at the time that it retained the flavor the original show, something that had been lacking in the first movie. It certainly set the stage for the remaining films in the series, as they all borrowed heavily from the look and feel of this one, rather than the first film.
In STAR TREK II, it’s Uhura who brings Kirk the news of a pending reunion with a former love.
UHURA: Bridge to Admiral Kirk.
KIRK: Kirk here.
UHURA: Sir, there’s a message coming in for you from station Regula One. Doctor Carol Marcus.
KIRK: I’ll take it in my quarters, Uhura.
MCCOY: Never rains, but it pours.
One of the themes in STAR TREK II is aging, as getting older and feeling older are in the forefront of Kirk’s mind, as seen here in this scene in which Uhura gets to ponder the situation.
MCCOY: Admiral, wouldn’t it be easier to put an experienced crew back on the ship?
KIRK: Galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young, Doctor. (Exits)
UHURA: Now what is that supposed to mean?
STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1983)
Uhura gets to enjoy some of her finer STAR TREK movie moments here in STAR TREK III, like in this scene where she completely overwhelms a young Star Fleet officer as she helps Kirk, McCoy and Sulu (George Takei) escape to search for Spock.
OFFICER: Look at you. You’re a twenty-year space veteran, yet you pick the worst duty station in town. I mean, look at this place. This is the hind end of space.
UHURA: Peace and quiet appeals to me, Lieutenant.
OFFICER; Well, maybe that’s okay for someone like you, whose career is winding down. But me, I need some excitement, some adventure… maybe even just a surprise or two.
UHURA: Well, you know what they say, Lieutenant. Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.
(KIRK, MCCOY and SULU enter the transporter room)
KIRK: Uhura, is everything ready?
UHURA: Step into my parlor, gentlemen.
OFFICER: That’s Admiral Kirk, my God!
UHURA: Very good for you, Lieutenant.
OFFICER: But it’s damned irregular. No destination points, no encoded IDs.
UHURA: All true.
OFFICER: So what are we gonna do about it?
UHURA: I’m not gonna do anything about it. You’re gonna sit in the closet.
OFFICER: The closet? Have you lost your sense of reality?
UHURA: This isn’t reality. (Aims phaser at him) This is fantasy. You wanted adventure, how’s this? The old adrenaline going, huh? Good boy. Now get in the closet.
OFFICER: All right…
UHURA: Go on.
OFFICER: I’ll just get in the closet. All right! Damn! (Enters closet and shuts door)
MCCOY: I’m glad you’re on our side!
KIRK: (points to closet): Are you sure you can handle…?
UHURA: Oh, I’ll have “Mr. Adventure” eating out of my hand, sir. And I’ll see all of you at the rendezvous.
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986)
Clearly the most humorous of the STAR TREK movies, featuring a plot which saw the crew time travel back to 1986 San Francisco, STAR TREK IV featured comical bits with most of the characters, and Uhura was no exception, as in this scene when she, Chekov (Walter Koenig), and Sulu are on the streets of San Francisco trying to get directions to the Alameda naval base.
CHEKOV: Please, please – We’re looking for the naval base in Alameda. Can you tell us where the nuclear wessels are?
PASSERBY: Oh, I don’t know if I know the answer to that. I think it’s across the Bay. In Alameda!
CHEKOV: That’s what I said – Alameda, I know that.
UHURA (frustrated): But where is Alameda?
STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER (1989)
The weakest of the STAR TREK movies tried to recapture the playful humor from the previous installment but largely failed. In this sequence, Sulu and Chekov embarrassingly pretend they can’t hear Uhura on their communicators.
UHURA: Is there a problem, gentlemen?
(Sulu and Chekov are lost in the woods)
SULU: Uh, yes. We’ve been caught in a… we’ve been caught in a blizzard.
(Chekov blows on the communicator, pretending that it’s wind)
CHEKOV: And we can’t see a thing. Request you direct us to the coordinates.
UHURA: My visual says sunny skies and seventy degrees.
CHEKOV: Sulu, look. The sun’s come out. It’s a miracle.
UHURA: Don’t worry, fellas. Your secret’s safe with me. I’ll send a shuttlecraft to pick you up.
Uhura also arrives in person to summon Kirk, Spock, and McCoy from shore leave back to the Enterprise.
UHURA: Captain, we’ve received important orders from Starfleet Command.
KIRK: Why didn’t you just beep my communicator?
UHURA: You “forgot” to take it with you.
KIRK: Oh… I wonder why I did that?
STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (1991)
The final film in the original film series is one of the better ones, as it’s exciting, humorous, and provides a poignant send-off for all the characters.
In a humorous moment, Uhura speaks with Spock (Leonard Nimoy) about the whereabouts of Kirk and McCoy.
UHURA: You understand, we have lost all contact with the Captain and Dr. McCoy.
SPOCK: Yes, at the moment, they are surrounded by a magnetic shield. However, if I know the Captain, by this time, he is deep into planning his escape.
(Cut to Kirk fighting and losing to an alien twice his size.)
Uhura also gets a key moment in the film’s conclusion, as the Enterprise crew is battling a cloaked Klingon vessel.
SPOCK: Gas. Gas, Captain. Under impulse power, she expends fuel like any other vessel. We call it plasma, but whatever the Klingon designation, it is merely ionized gas.
UHURA: Well, what about all that equipment we’re carrying to catalog gaseous anomalies? Well, the thing’s gotta have a tailpipe.
And Uhura is there on the bridge for the crew’s final ,moments on the big screen.
UHURA: Captain, I have orders from Starfleet Command. We’re to put back to space dock immediately to be decommissioned.
SPOCK: If I were human, I believe my response would be… “go to hell.” If I were human.
CHEKOV: Course heading, Captain?
KIRK: Second star to the right and straight on till morning.
I hope you enjoyed this MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES column where we looked at quotes spoken by Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura in the six STAR TREK movies, and I hope you will join me again next time when we look at more memorable quotes from another classic movie.
So, THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER (2022) opens and in the first scene we see a thin bald humanoid on a barren desert landscape, and for a split-second my mind flashes back some thirty some odd years to the opening of STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER (1989) which opened in a similar way. I chuckle and quickly dismiss the memory, but then a funny thing happened over the course of the next two hours.
THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER, the latest Marvel superhero movie and the fourth Thor movie, goes full throttle with the humor, most of it silly, and sadly, most of it misfiring, which once more reminded me of that STAR TREK movie of old, STAR TREK V, which is generally considered to be the weakest in the original STAR TREK movie series. STAR TREK V followed the immensely popular and successful STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986) which had a superior script and at times was laugh out loud funny. STAR TREK V tried to recapture this formula, but with a far lesser script, its humor didn’t really work, and the film suffered from a bad case of the sillies which sadly didn’t translate into laughter.
THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER also suffers from a bad case of the sillies.
The bald humanoid in the opening scene is Gorr (Christian Bale) who, after watching his young daughter die, gets to meet their god, only to be disappointed when he learns from this god that his and his daughter’s life means nothing to the gods. When Gorr denounces the god, the deity tries to kill him, but an all-powerful dark sword reaches out to Gorr, and he uses it to slay the god. Not only this, but Gorr decides to make it his life’s goal to kill all the gods in the universe.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still hanging out with the Guardians of the Galaxy, busily saving different planets and civilizations from disaster, but when he receives a distress call from Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) who’s running the new Asgard on Earth, he leaves his guardian friends and returns to Earth with his rock buddy Korg (Taika Waititi). There they learn that Gorr is in town, and he’s taking no prisoners.
Thor also learns that the love of his life, the woman who he has not been able to forget, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has changed her look a bit: she’s now wielding his old hammer and dressed in fighting garb, and she calls herself The Mighty Thor. While he’s impressed, he’s also confused, but it turns out that Jane has cancer, and she doesn’t have much time left, and so when she felt the hammer reaching out to her, she accepted it, hoping that perhaps it could restore her to health. And while it does give her great strength and the ability to fly, it’s not doing anything to rid her of the cancer.
Gorr wants Thor’s new hammer, Stormbreaker, to use it to access unlimited power in the universe to destroy all the gods, and when he manages to steal it away from Thor, it’s up to our heroes, Thor, Jane, and Valkyrie to chase Gorr to the ends of the universe to get it back and save the gods.
I’ve said this before, but I’m just not a big fan of fantasy plots in superhero movies, and the Marvel films have increasingly gone this route, being more about witches, evil spells, gods, and a whole host of other things that are so far outside any sense of reality. So, the plot here in THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER did nothing for me. In fact, I was quite bored. I did like the theme of the uselessness of gods, of how they really don’t help humanity all that much, and much of what Gorr has to say in this movie makes a lot of sense, but the film downplays this theme.
The rule of the day in THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER is silly humor, and unfortunately, it just isn’t all that sharp. I saw this is in a fairly crowded theater, and it was a fairly quiet theater. No loud laughter, cheers, groans, just silence. Even after the two post-credit scenes, the audience departed quietly. No chatter, no buzz, no excitement.
It’s no surprise that humor is a huge part of this movie, since it was written and directed by Taika Waititi, a very funny guy who wrote and directed one of my favorite movies from 2019, JOJO RABBIT (2019). Waititi also directed the previous Thor movie, THOR: RAGNAROK (2017), a film I enjoyed more than THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER, mostly because the humor in that movie worked better.
Here, it’s one misfire after another, from Jane’s constant search for a catch phrase, which was more sad than funny, to Thor’s banter with the Guardians of the Galaxy, which for the most part fell flat. Speaking of whom, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and friends are completely wasted in a glorified group cameo that has nothing at all to do with the rest of the movie. Unlike the appearance of the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in THOR: RAGNAROK, who was integral to the plot of that movie, the Guardians of the Galaxy here in this movie have no importance whatsoever other than to exchange some quips with Thor before they disappear for the rest of the proceedings.
Then there’s the screaming goats— yes, you heard that right. Screaming goats—, two animals which Thor receives as gifts early in the film. For some reason, they can’t stop screaming, this horrendous high-pitched wail. They do this nonstop throughout the movie whenever they show up. It’s supposed to be funny. It’s not.
The humor reaches its lowest point when Russell Crowe shows up as Zeus, in one of the most unfunny tries-too-hard-to-be-funny scenes in the history of the MCU.
So, the humor is a complete disaster. The screenplay which Waititi co-wrote with Jennifer Kaytin-Robinson struggles to get laughs, and also doesn’t really have much of a story to tell. The whole thing just felt muddled from beginning to end.
The other theme that is prevalent in the movie is love, as the love story between Thor and Jane makes up a huge chunk of the film, and for the most part, I like these two characters and their story is interesting, but sadly, it’s not much of a love story. We have barely seen them on screen together, and when he have, it’s not like they were steaming up the theater. And the overall theme, that love is the reason for everything, as Thor tells Gorr at the end of the movie, and that it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, largely falls flat. It all just seemed superficial.
Chris Hemsworth has never looked better as Thor. He’s in super shape, and he looks like he’s as powerful as the character he is playing. But the forced humor in the script doesn’t do him any favors, and gone are the days when his awkwardness with humanity would be funny, simply because he’s no longer awkward and that source of humor no longer exists.
Natalie Portman largely hams it up as The Mighty Thor, and while she may have been having a good time in the movie, it doesn’t translate all that well to her character. Her best scenes are when she is Jane, dealing with her cancer.
Tessa Thompson fares better as Valkyrie. She has a more natural story arc throughout the movie, and Thompson makes her formidable, and she’s very comfortable playing this exceedingly strong female superhero.
But the most intriguing performance and perhaps the best in the movie belongs to Christian Bale as Gorr. Yes, the Dark Knight is now a dark villain! Bale is now the second movie Batman to play a villain in a Marvel movie, as Michael Keaton played the villainous Adrian Toomes in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017). Playing Batman must be good practice because both these actors, Keaton and Bale, have been some of the best Marvel villains yet!
In Bale’s case, he doesn’t fare quite as well as Keaton did in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING for the simple reason that unfortunately his Gorr isn’t in the movie very much. But when he is, Bale is very, very good. He looks as if his character from THE FIGHTER (2010), boxer Dicky Eklund, donned some silver make-up and gained some superpowers! Gorr’s story is certainly the most intriguing in the movie, how he felt slighted by the gods, how they didn’t save his daughter, and so he has decided to take them all down, in the interest of making the universe a better place to live. There are times when it’s difficult to argue with that logic.
But like I said, as good as Bale was as Gorr, he’s not in the movie much. Instead, there’s plenty of Thor and Jane/aka The Mighty Thor, and gods, and silliness, and more silliness, and a pair of screaming goats.
I saw THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER in IMAX, and I can’t say that it added a whole lot to the movie experience. It was a bit louder, yes, the screen a bit larger, but the film did not have any element in its story which IMAX enhanced, unlike another Christian Bale movie from a few years back, FORD V FERRARI (2019), in which he co-starred with Matt Damon (who has a cameo here too by the way playing an actor who plays Loki on stage) in which IMAX made the racing car scenes even more authentic, and I really felt as if I were in those cars with the actors.
Marvel is officially in a slump. Since AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019), they have really struggled to reclaim their mojo, and other than SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (2021) haven’t made a film that I’ve truly enjoyed since.
THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER means well but is a misfire from start to finish. Whatever seriousness its story wants to project is lost in humor that doesn’t work and in a plot that suffers from a very bad case of the sillies.
It simply tries too hard to be funny, so much so, that for the most part, the audience forgot to laugh.
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.
Remember the famous tagline from ALIEN (1979), In space no one can hear you scream?
Well, the tagline for AD ASTRA (2019), the new science fiction movie by writer/director James Gray, and starring Brad Pitt as an astronaut searching for his missing father on a mission to save the Earth, should be In space no one can hear you snore.
Yep, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few moviegoers found themselves dozing during this one.
And that’s because AD ASTRA is as cold as space and just as devoid of emotion. Now, admittedly, this is on purpose, since the main character prides himself on his lack of emotion and detachment from others, all in the name of remaining focused on his missions, and this is definitely a main theme in the movie, that this type of thinking takes a toll on human relationships. But it also takes a toll on the human audience’s patience.
Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) became an astronaut to follow in his father’s footsteps. His father, H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) is remembered as the most famous astronaut of all time, as he led one mission after another in search of extraterrestrial life, and his final mission took him to the far reaches of space where he was never heard from again.
But now strange energy surges are threatening Earth, and Roy’s superiors inform him (without really showing him any proof, by the way) that they believe his father is still alive, and that he’s responsible for these deadly energy surges. They believe Clifford McBride has become deranged, and they also believe that Roy will be able to reach his father in ways they can’t and convince him to stop. Seriously, this came across as such a flimsy excuse for a mission that I almost laughed out loud. I mean, they’re going to send an astronaut halfway across the solar system because he might be able to convince his dad to stop, when it still hasn’t been 100% established that his father is responsible in the first place? Ludicrous.
Anyway, Roy agrees, or as he says, what choice did I have? See, the space agency in this movie is one of those— repeat after me–– evil companies!—- that show up often in movies as sort of a de facto villain. If you don’t do what we want, Roy, you won’t be coming back. That sort of thing.
On his way to find his father, Roy has plenty of time to reflect on his life, especially on how his focus on his career has affected his relationships— his wife, for instance, has left him— and how he pretty much is alone.
And when the film talks about Roy’s journey discovering secrets that challenge the nature of human existence, that’s what it is really talking about: human interactions. That’s pretty much the theme of the movie. We can’t succeed alone. We need human interactions and relationships to be human. And the film seems to be making its point by subjecting us to two hours of Roy’s brooding journey as proof. See, this guy alone is a snooze.
AD ASTRA reminded me of an old episode of the classic STAR TREK TV show. I could just see Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beaming down from the Enterprise on a planet in search of the brilliant scientist who went missing and may now be deranged. In fact, there was an episode just like this. And it was much shorter and much more interesting than anything that happens here in AD ASTRA.
Speaking of STAR TREK, Brad Pitt shows about as much emotion in this one as Mr. Spock. Again, this is by design, but it makes for a long two hours. In fact, this one felt more like three hours in the theater. And Pitt’s stoic narration sounds like someone being forced to read the dictionary.
Pitt was much more enjoyable a few weeks back as stuntman Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s ONCE UPON A TIME— IN HOLLYWOOD (2019). I wouldn’t place AD ASTRA up there with Pitt’s better films.
And Pitt is pretty much it. Everyone else in this one is reduced to small supporting roles, including Donald Sutherland who plays a family friend, and Liv Tyler who plays Roy’s wife. In the supporting cast, Tommy Lee Jones probably fares the best, and that’s not saying much. He doesn’t show up till the end, but at least he has some emotional scenes.
The ending is pretty much the best part of the movie, but don’t expect anything mind-blowing a la INTERSTELLAR (2014) or ARRIVAL (2016). The ending here works on a much smaller scale, but it’s still satisfying, not just in a grandiose science fiction sort of way. It works because the father-son reunion is the first time the film really becomes emotional, and the scene where Roy reacts to his father’s decision is the best moment in the film. It’s the moment where Roy finally loses control and allows emotion to overtake him. And then later this allows him to see his life differently. Satisfying, yes, but not exactly awe-inspiring science fiction material.
Still, the point is well-taken, and it fits in with the general theme of the film.
The movie looks good, as the scenes in space are crisp and clean. Yet, like the story, the visuals don’t exactly awe or inspire. Probably the best sequence in the film, aside from the ending, is when the ship carrying Roy to the faraway space station makes a detour to answer a distress call. But even this scene is more subdued than it could have been.
Writer/director James Gray has made a competent yet cold space drama that could have used more drama. It’s all very robotic, and again, that seems to be the point, that the human race has lost its way in terms of human interactions. I get the message. But that didn’t make the film any more enjoyable. Gray also wrote and directed THE LOST CITY OF Z (2016), a biography adventure that also struggled with emotions. Maybe Gray should try his hand at a movie about Vulcans.
Ad astra, by the way, is a Latin phrase that means “to the stars.” And AD ASTRA the movie seems to be saying before we concentrate on the stars we might want to get ourselves in order here on Earth first.
So the other day I posted on my Facebook page that people of a certain age remember a thing known as “the Saturday morning cartoon,” that time when back in the day cartoons were on all morning on Saturdays.
I asked folks to name their favorites, and as many people responded, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic as I read all the old titles. I thought it would be fun to list all those titles in one place. So, here they are, a list of favorite Saturday morning cartoons/programs from a bygone era, as suggested by lots and lots of Facebook friends.
AMAZING CHAN AND THE CHAN CLAN
BEANY AND CECIL
BUGS BUNNY/ROAD RUNNER SHOW
DARK WING DUCK
DAVEY AND GOLIATH
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
ELEKTRA WOMAN AND DYNA GIRL
GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE
GODZILLA (70s)(WITH GODZUKI)
GODZILLA THE ANIMATED SERIES
HAIR BEAR BUNCH, THE
HONG KONG PHOOEY
JOHNNY SOKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT
JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS
KIMBA THE WHITE LION
LANCELOT LINK, SECRET CHIMP
LAND OF THE LOST
MILTON THE MONSTER
MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN
ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE
RUN JOE RUN
SIGMUND AND THE SEA MONSTERS
SPIDER-MAN AND FRIENDS
STAR TREK (animated)
TARZAN, LORD OF THE JUNGLE
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
TOM AND JERRY
WINNIE THE POOH
Hope you enjoyed the list. Now go eat some sugary cereal!
When this year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture, GREEN BOOK (2018) was first released, I remember thinking, gee, that title is awfully close to GREEN ROOM. I wouldn’t want to be that person who mistakenly chose to watch GREEN ROOM when they meant to watch GREEN BOOK. They’re two very different movies. The person making that mistake would be in for quite a shock.
GREEN ROOM is a violent, visceral thriller that got under my skin and provided me with 95 minutes of horrifically intense entertainment.
GREEN ROOM is the story of a punk rock band whose members agree to accept a gig at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar. Their performance doesn’t go all that well— no, they’re not attacked because they played bad music, but they do run afoul of murder when they walk into the green room and find two people standing over the body of a dead woman, a knife jammed into her head. Before they can react, they are locked in the room and held hostage by bouncers at the bar.
The bar’s owner Darcy (Patrick Stewart) arrives with a plan to make the crime go away, a plan that includes pinning the murder on the visiting band. This doesn’t sit well with the band, who decide to fight back, which is no easy task since they’re surrounded by people with weapons and vicious dogs who enjoy ripping people’s throats out.
What follows is a brutal and suspenseful tale of the band’s fight for survival against a horde of murderous neo-Nazis led by the level-headed Mr. Darcy.
I really enjoyed GREEN ROOM. I was hooked within the film’s first few minutes. Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier immediately captures the personality and mood of the punk rock band, known as The Ain’t Rights. The opening plays like a rock documentary, and once the band gets to the skinhead bar, things become sketchy first and then downright deadly.
And once that happens, once they discover the body of the murdered girl and get trapped inside the green room, all bets are off. What follows is an intense thrill ride that will give you sweaty palms for the remainder of the film.
GREEN ROOM features the late Anton Yelchin in the lead role as Pat, the band member who takes the lead in their fight for survival. In real life, Yelchin tragically died in a bizarre accident in which his Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled down his steep driveway and pinned him against a wall, killing him, on June 19, 2016. Yelchin was a tremendous talent and had already enjoyed enormous success in his young career, playing Chekov in the rebooted STAR TREK movies starring Chris Pine, and he played Charley Brewster in the remake of FRIGHT NIGHT (2011) and Kyle Reese in TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009).
Yelchin is excellent here as Pat. At first, he’s not the character you expect to become the leader, especially since early on he almost dies, but his resilient spirit grows as the story goes along.
Imogen Poots is also memorable as Amber, the young woman who’s found standing over the dead girl with the knife in her head. I like Poots a lot. Interestingly enough, she also starred in the remake of FRIGHT NIGHT as Amy.
Also in the cast is Joe Cole, who plays John Shelby on the TV show PEAKY BLINDERS (2013-17). I also enjoyed Macon Blair as Gabe, one of the bouncers who actually develops a conscious as the plot unfolds.
But for my money the best performance in GREEN ROOM belong to Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself, Patrick Stewart as club owner Darcy. Stewart, of course, played the Enterprise captain on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1987-1994) and in the four NEXT GENERATION STAR TREK movies. And, he’s set to reprise the role of Captain Picard in an upcoming Star Trek TV series which is as of yet untitled. Not to mention his portrayal of Professor Charles Xavier in the X-MEN movies, a role he played most recently in LOGAN (2017) with Hugh Jackman.
As Darcy in GREEN ROOM, Stewart is calm and cool, the complete opposite of everyone else in the movie. As such, Stewart makes Darcy a chilling adversary, someone who doesn’t think twice about the deadly decisions he makes. He’s cold, calculating, and ultimately a bad ass.
For me, watching Stewart was the best part of GREEN ROOM.
There are also some truly frightening scenes in this one, from hands being grotesquely mutilated to deathly choke holds, to murder with box cutters, to man-eating dogs. Gulp!
This is one movie you don’t want to watch on a full stomach. Yet, it is much more than just a gore fest. In fact, it’s not very gory at all. Most of the violence occurs in quick fashion in swiftly edited scenes, which only adds to the frenetic pace of the film.
Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier also creates sympathetic characters who you care about and want to see survive, feelings that are heightened by the fact that the chances of their survival are so slim.
GREEN ROOM is a first-rate thriller and horror movie. No, it’s not the one that won Best Picture—that’s GREEN BOOK— but it is the one that will leave you green with revulsion.
The photo op with Willam Shatner. That’s me on the left (yours truly, Michael Arruda), my son Jonny, William Shatner, and my son Lucas.
Yup, one of William Shatner’s iconic moments from the movie STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982), and we got to hear it twice, once in the movie and once live, roared by the man himself, William Shatner, in person, as part of William Shatner Live on Stage! an event which my two sons and I were fortunate to attend the other night at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, NH.
The event was comprised of two parts, the screening of STAR TREK II, and then Shatner’s appearance on stage.
It was fun to see STAR TREK II back on the big screen again. The last time that happened for me was probably in 1985 or so, when waaay back when I was in college, it was part of a film series at my dorm at Boston University. It was probably a 16 mm print. And while back in the day we college students were certainly Star Trek fans, the audience at the Capitol Center was jam-packed with enthusiastic and very vocal Star Trek fans which made watching the film even more rewarding.
Cheers erupted at each star’s name in the opening credits and on their initial appearances, as well as during their most memorable lines. The aforementioned cry of “Khan!!!” had the theater rocking.
Still, this Star Trek enthusiasm at the movies was hardly a first for me. I’m old enough to have seen the first film, STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE (1979) on the big screen and remember the audience cheering out loud at the actors’ names during the opening credits and during their initial appearances, since this was the first time we had seen these characters since the original 1960s TV show. I also remember waiting in a long line for tickets in Boston to see STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986) which probably received the most hype, all of it deserved, of any Star Trek film other than the first one.
It was fun to watch STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN to be sure, but the reason the auditorium was filled was not for the movie, but for the man, William Shatner who came out on stage after the film to be interviewed and answer pre-selected questions from the audience.
If you’ve seen Shatner speak when he’s not in character, you know he’s full of energy and is a gifted storyteller. Making this even more amazing is his age. He’s 87. You wouldn’t know it by the vigor he displayed on stage. He seemed considerably younger.
As I said, Shatner is a gifted storyteller, and he spoke for just under an hour after the movie, and it was a lively, humorous, and highly entertaining event. For me, the best part were his recollections and anecdotes from his time as Captain Kirk, and even though I had heard some of the stories before, as I’ve read the books he’s written on his Star Trek memories, they were still laugh out loud funny, like when he told the story of how he used to prank De Forest Kelley.
He also spoke of his friendship with Leonard Nimoy, and shared interesting tidbits on Star Trek, like how after every movie the studio would destroy the sets because they believed it would be the last movie in the series, but the films kept making money.
Shatner also spoke on his love of horses, motorcycle riding, race car driving, and his work on other shows, including BOSTON LEGAL (2004-2008), T.J. HOOKER (1982-1986), and THE TWILIGHT ZONE (1959-1964). He spoke of his friendship with James Spader, and used it as an example of how most showbiz friendships work, in that actors intend to stay in touch but usually don’t because they are so busy. As such, Shatner said as much as he enjoyed his friendship with Spader, he hasn’t seen him since the show ended. Shatner said this would have happened between him and Leonard Nimoy, but the films kept bringing them back together, enabling the two to establish a much longer friendship.
Shatner also spoke of his famous TWILIGHT ZONE episode, with the humorous anecdote of how his children used to ask him to show them “the look,” which was his frightened expression from that TWILIGHT ZONE episode, an expression he delighted the audience with by springing it on us at just the right time.
And, as I said, he bellowed out to us, “Khaaaann!!!” in person, which once more produced thunderous applause.
My sons and I had purchased the special VIP ticket, which enabled us to go back stage afterwards for a special photo-op with Mr. Shatner (see photo above.) By the size of the line, I would say that at least half of the audience had also purchased these tickets.
It was a special moment to be sure. Yeah, it lasted only a couple of seconds, but to be able to stand next to William Shatner, say hello and thank him, and have him respond, that’s special. I was so caught up in the moment I can’t honestly remember what he said in response, but it was gracious and warm, and it was a gratifying moment.
I was fortunate enough to have met James Doohan who played Scotty on STAR TREK back in 1986 when he visited Boston University, and so I’m happy to have met two members of the original Starship Enterprise.
I know, it’s just a TV show, and William Shatner is just an actor, a celebrity.
But STAR TREK is more than just a show, for so many reasons, and the biggest is its positive view of the future, and William Shatner with his iconic portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk had a lot to do with shaping that view.
For so many of us, STAR TREK is a major part of our lives, not only as a form of entertainment, but as way of thinking and seeing the future, an open-mindedness and acceptance that sadly does not always exist in the real world today.
But let’s not get too deep here.
The bottom line is seeing William Shatner live on stage was a good time, and honestly I’m amazed at how good Shatner looked and how much energy he had throughout the interview.
It was certainly a night I won’t forget any time soon.