Freaky

There have been a ton of body swap movies over the year, and even several with the word “freaky” in the movie title. However, this version from Blumhouse is a slice above the rest with a new and original idea that takes Freaky to a new level.

Millie (Kathryn Newton) is a high school student who has been having a tough time sine her father died a year ago. Her mother (Katie Finneran) is smothering her, she is being bullied on a regular basis at school and her police officer sister (Dana Drori) has little time for her.

Everything changed when local urban legend The Butcher (Vince Vaughn) returned to the town and started murdering young people. The Butcher and Millie crossed paths and The Butcher stabbed her with a knife. However, the knife was special, an old Aztec artifact, causing the two of them to switch consciousness.

Of course, we have seen the idea of the body switch many times and the jokes about the characters perplexity and disorientation over the unfamiliar body they found themselves trapped within. There was the expected jokes about Millie and the penis that she now found herself with.

Still, the fact that one of the body switchers is a serial killer tweaks the story enough to freshen up the concept. The biggest issue I had with the story was that it would have helped make things easier if Millie (in The Butcher’s body) would have gone to her sister the cop for help. She was able to convince her two best friends, Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich), and her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton) that the switch had happened. Shouldn’t her sister be easier to convince? They did not spend enough time showing the fractured relationship of the sisters to make me believe that this wouldn’t be the first thing she did.

Yet, I was able to get past that and a few other plot points that required some serious suspension of disbelief mainly because of how awesome Vince Vaughn was and how much charisma he had with these other kids. And Kathryn Newton played an epic bad ass killer. She does a tremendous job when she has The Butcher inhabiting her body. You believe that this was a different character, right down to the way she moved or looked at people. The characters were all a hoot and they helped move the movie past some of the more ridiculousness of the plot.

The is some strong humor involved here and a lot of gory kills. Some of the kills, in particular the one where Cameron from Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, Alan Ruck, who plays a teacher at Millie’s school, is killed.

I was excited to see this on Vudu today and it was certainly a fun time. The film moved quickly and worked quite a bit. Freaky took an old trope and gave it a new spin with several engaging performances.

3.75 stars

Black Beauty (2020)

Disney + brought back one of the classic animal tales for a live action movie on their streaming service. Black Beauty was a novel from Anna Sewell in 1877. It became arguably the most well-known and beloved horse story ever. It had been adapted into several formats over the years prior to the arrival of this new film. Directed and adapted by Ashley Avis, this feels like the perfect kind of IP for Disney +.

Unfortunately, I found this version of Black Beauty to be overtly melodramatic and silly.

The wild stallion was caught and brought to John Manly’s (Iain Glen) Birtwick Stables. The horse seemed to be unbreakable. When John’s niece Jo (Mackenzie Foy) comes to stay with him after her parents died, she created a bond with the horse and named her Beauty.

The film started off immediately causing me to check out when I realized that there was a voice over by Kate Winslet and she was supposed to be the thoughts of the horse. I felt like I was in a Disneynature movie. The voice spoke like a human and told the story. What Beauty knew was never really explained nor did it matter that a horse would not know the vocabulary required. This did not start the film off well for me.

Then there was so much melodrama involved in the movie that I could barely stand it. Just about every type of plot contrivance that could appear, does. There is the fire, the mean girls, the money problems, the injured horse, the horse out saving people’s lives etc. There was just too many of these masquerading as plot. It was also quite manipulative film as there was no doubt that they were trying to play on the audience’s emotions. It all felt pretty fake to me.

While I found Mackenzie Foy a lovely presence on film, her character was not developed to the point it could have been. The early part of the movie tried to give Jo some character traits, but it was all surface area. She just became the kind hearted girl who bonded with the horse.

The film looked good and was shot well. I think it was too long and needed more of a edit.

This again may be a decent family film to entertain the children, but I did not enjoy it much.

2.35 stars

Run

Sarah Paulson has been one of the most consistently good actresses that we have had over the last several years. Her work in American Horror Story, The People vs. OJ and several other projects have shown her as a powerhouse.

So seeing her as one of the main leads of Hulu’s movie Run, I was expecting her typical level of high quality. Yet, she took it to a new height.

The film begins showing us that Diane (Sarah Paulson) had just given birth to a premature baby girl and the doctors and nurses worked desperately to save the newborn. The look at the baby told us that she was going to face a tough life.

Fast forward seventeen years and Diane has home schooled her daughter Chloe (Kiera Allen) and Chloe was expecting letters from college. Everything seemed to be idyllic in this home and that whatever health issues Chloe had were being managed with love.

However, as one of Chloe’s medications were changed, she begins to be suspicious that her mom had an ulterior motive and that she had a deep secret.

Run does an exceptional job of creating tension and anxiety during the runtime of this thriller. You feel anxious and confused as Chloe does everything in her power to discover the truth. The film shows how capable the young woman was despite her paralysis and her list of other ailments. Kiera Allen is excellent playing the confusion and the apprehension Chloe is feeling. You can see the conflict within her as she discovers more and more about her suspicions.

Sarah Paulson is unbelievable. She take this character into so many directions and you see how obsessive she can be. The steps she takes are wild and shocking, but you can see where they come from inside the psyche of the woman.

However, poor Mailman Tom (Pat Healy). His kindness and strength of character should have been rewarded.

One problem I have is the same one I have with a lot of these kind of movies. The title is so nondescript or generic that a great film like this suffers from it. The title should be something that immediately resonates with the audience and that will forever remain in your head. The title Run does not even have that much of a significance to this movie.

I was on the edge of my seat for Run and it worked extremely well. There were amazing performances and a story that kept building throughout. Sarah Paulson continues to show that she is exceptional and that she can carry off any role you give her.

4 stars

Uncle Frank

Uncle Frank is a film written and directed by Alan Ball and debuted on Amazon Prime this weekend. It boasts a top line performance from Paul Bettany.

Frank (Paul Bettany) is part of a larger family filled with dysfunction in 1973 South Carolina. So much so that Frank had to get out, making his way to Manhattan. Living there for years, Frank’s niece Beth (Sophia Lillis) came as well. When she arrived, she discovered Frank’s deep, hidden secret. He was gay.

He had also been living with another man, Wally (Peter Macdissi), for years. He was desperately trying to keep the truth from his family, afraid of what they might think. However, when Frank’s verbally abusive father (Stephen Root) dies, he and Beth struggled to return for the funeral.

The movie has some solid performances and some really good character work, but everything is dominated by Paul Bettany. Frank has so much baggage from his life and unresolved pain from his self-discovery of his orientation and Bettany dominates every scene. You can see how he has never truly dealt with the tragedy in his past, all connected to his father, so when his father dies, it brings up a massive personal reaction.

The relationship between Frank and Wally is sweet and real. The fears that they faced as a gay couple in the early seventies were real and potentially dangerous and their attempts to shield who they were is a sad fact of life. We see this played out in some powerful scenes between them. Frank’s issues have led to him having a drinking problem which only compounds his deep-seeded pain.

Sophia Lillis does a great job too. At first, the film feels as if she would have been our main protagonist, but it does seem as if she takes a supporting role to that of Paul Bettany for most of the movie.

Uncle Frank is a good movie, though it may not be as strong as the performance given by several of the actors, in particular Paul Bettany. It is a worthwhile watch though.

3.8 stars

Fatman

So far, Christmas movies for 2020 are 0-2.

The Christmas Chronicle 2 was not good. Then, tonight, I watched the most surreal, bizarre Christmas movie I have seen in quite a while. It was if Santa Claus was mixed between Rambo and Fargo.

Fatman starred Mel f-n Gibson as Chris Cringle, the oddest Santa Claus you have ever seen. While you have seen Bad Santas in the past, never have they actually been THE Santa Claus. Mel is.

Just the idea of Mel Gibson as Santa Claus is enough to challenge the credibility of the film. You have to look past a lot of Gibson’s life and choices over the last decade or so to put yourself into the proper mindset to accept him as St. Nick. However, the film does an admirable job of spinning the character into a different type of Santa that we have ever seen. There was just enough of the mythos included to keep the general concept in tact, but the limits were absolutely pushed in Fatman.

The story is razor thin, but there are some fun moments peppered in. Just enough to make you wonder if this could become one of those cult classics eventually. Something that is considered terrible but still entertains groups of fans because it is so weird.

Walter Goggins played Skinny Man, the assassin sent by Billy (Chance Hurstfield) to kill the Fatman. Apparently, the young boy Billy was mad at Santa for leaving him coal, Goggins had minimal motivation for his mission as well. Neither villain stood out. Goggins felt like he was right out of the pages of a new Fargo script, except less developed. He was as quirky of a killer as you are going to find though.

There was an interesting subplot with Chris making an agreement with the United States government to have his elves work on creating military technology. The need for money and how the world was weighing on Chris was a fascinating take on the character, but it was not developed past the surface level because the film had to become a revenge flick. I have to say that the final scene with Chris and Billy was earned and entertaining.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste played Ruth, who was (despite never being called) Chris’s Mrs. Claus. I liked her a lot and their relationship was another positive in the film. Her performance brought more to the role despite not having a ton to do.

While I would not recommend this movie, I cannot deny that there are some moments in the film that appeal to the baser instincts of the holiday and that, if you approach it with the correct way of thinking, it could be worth a watch.

2.5 stars

The Christmas Chronicle 2

In 2018, there was a Netflix original film starring Kurt Russell as Santa Claus called The Christmas Chronicle. It was a surprisingly fun time and quite an enjoyable story. So when I heard that Russell would be reprising his role as St. Nicholas, I was excited.

In fact, it was even cooler because Russell’s real life mate, Goldie Hawn, who had made a cameo at the end of the original film as Mrs. Claus, would be more involved in the story for the sequel. It was more good news.

I then saw a review of the film from critic Dan Murrell who enjoyed it. With Netflix doing great this year with their original movies, I was sure that this would be another success.

Oh how wrong I was.

I did not like The Christmas Chronicles 2. It started off in trouble and never was able to pick up steam. It was simply a dull and repetitive film that felt more like an ABC Family Christmas movie than a major Netflix release.

We return to Kate (Darby Camp), who was part of the original movie, but her life had taken some unfortunate turns. She was in Cancun for Christmas with her mom (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and her new boyfriend (Tyrese Gibson). Her mother’s relationship was becoming serious and Kate was not happy, especially with his son Jack (Jahzir Bruno) along too.

Kate was so unhappy that she decided to run away back to Boston. Unfortunately for her, disgruntled elf Belsnickel (Julian Dennison) was planning on using Kate as a means to return to Santa’s Village after he had been cast out years ago. Belsnickel wound up kidnapping Kat and Jack and leaving them to freeze at the North Pole.

Santa Claus was able to save the kids and brought them back to the village, but Belsnickel tagged along, continuing his plan of chaos in an attempt to ruin Christmas for everyone.

Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn were great and they were clearly the best part of the movie. You could see their chemistry with one another and their magic could have potentially saved the story. However, the film then quickly split the story into two parts and separated Russell and Hawn to their own adventures.

The beginning twenty minutes were painful as we set up Kate as a brat and got to the point where she was ready to run away. This was a slow drudge of a beginning that took me out of the film immediately.

The one point that made me smile was a rocking musical number from Kurt Russell and Darlene Love set in a stranded airport at Christmas time. Unfortunately, it was also set in the past, bringing up some of the more unnecessary time travel elements of the story.

I also have to say that I thought most of the CGI appeared to be cheap and of a lower quality than I expected. The elves in particular were not at the level that one would expect in 2020.

Overall, I was really disappointed with this sequel. I had no expectations of the original and ended up enjoying that tremendously. I had high expectations here and found this to be a joyless drudge.

2.1 stars

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

There really are not that many major Thanksgiving movies. Compared to the other holidays, Thanksgiving does not have nearly enough representation. Historically, the most well-known and one of the most beloved Thanksgiving movies was starring Steve Martin and John Candy and it was called Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

This was a movie that I had actually never seen until tonight.

Neal Page (Steve Martin) was trying to get home to his family for Thanksgiving, but it seemed as if the fates were conspiring against him. It started when Del Griffith (John Candy) stole his taxi and only went downhill from there.

Neal met up with Del, the shower curtain ring salesman, at the airport and they wind up trying to find their way back to Chicago. However, Neal was finding that the trip with Del was more than he could handle.

The comedic timing of this movie was beautifully executed and there was remarkable chemistry between Steve Martin and John Candy. Both men showed their extremely strong comedic skills. Candy’s character was a lovable, annoying oaf that would get on Martin’s last nerve.

While you could understand the frustration Martin would show towards Candy, you wanted him to not be so mean. Candy reveal a lot of depth to this apparently surface character. This was not just one of those annoying characters that have been used through the years. Candy’s Del Griffith was more than what you could see, and that depth took this movie to a different level.

The writing was sharp. The dialogue flowed. The movie is funny. You would wonder what else these two men could have happen to them.

John Hughes is the director of this film and you can certainly get the feel of him in this.

The reactions of Steve Martin are just perfect here. You can relate to him and, yet, you don’t blame the extremely likable Candy. The pairing worked so well that despite the movie being a little predictable, you go along with it. The strength of these two make the film what it is.

I will say that I was just a little disappointed with the ending of the film, simply because I wanted to know something more about what happened to them (in particular, Del). It is a minor complaint, but I did want more when the credits started to roll.

This is definitely a classic Thanksgiving movie and I am glad that I finally had the chance to watch it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

His House

Netflix has had a great 2020 for original films.

This has been a narrative I have been stating over the last few weeks as I not only see the films from Netflix that are being released now, but also catch up on some of the true winners that I may have missed along the way. The entertainment from Netflix during this pandemic has been remarkable valuable.

His House is a film that came out at the end of October that I had not seen. This would have made an excellent Halloween watch, but pre-Thanksgiving turned out good too.

Two refugees from war torn Sudan escape the country and find their way into the United Kingdom, seeking asylum. However, after being placed in a broken down home during their probationary period, darkness from their past lives and their harrowing journey to escape Sudan returned to provide a frightening challenge.

His House is the feature film debut for writer/director Remi Weekes. Weekes brings a air of terrifying ambiance and creates an unsettling mood for the viewers. He provided a exceptional horror film that is deeper than the typical surface level horror film.

The film deals not only with the horrors found in the genre of haunted house films, but it dives deeper into an examination of the lives and the experiences faced by refugees. There is also a depth of grief and guilt being processed by our two main characters.

Speaking of the two main characters, Sope Dirisu, who played Bol Majur, and Wunmi Mosaku, who played his wife Rial Majur, are fantastic. Their pain and loss weighing against the hope of finding a new beginning in a new land. Former Dr. Who star Matt Smith appears as well as the pair’s case worker.

The film delivers some very creepy moments and genuine scary images. It is shot beautifully and Remi Weekes deserves credit for bringing such a momentous film for his first time out. His House is one more winner from Netflix this year.

4.5 stars

The Impossible (2012)

The Impossible is directed by J.A. Bayona and features Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, along with a younger pre-Spider-Man Tom Holland in a true survival tale set during the terrible tsunami that struck Thailand in 2004.

Henry Bennett (Ewan McGregor) and his family were on vacation in Thailand when the massive wave struck the beach resort that they were staying at. Henry and his two youngest sons were together but his wife Maria (Naomi Watts) and oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) were separated from them. Maria was injured badly and Lucas struggled to keep her as safe as he could.

Honestly, the reunion between the family members is one of the most satisfying, most emotional moments you could hope for in a major motion picture. It gets me every time.

The Impossible really highlights how strong of a young actor Tom Holland was and it was clear that the kid was going to have himself a bright future in the world of cinema. While the Web-Head action was still several years away, Holland’s character here showed definite signs of being heroic. Holland was a clear standout here and carried most of the emotional baggage of the film, having to change between feelings instantly.

Naomi Watts received an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for her gritty, dirty and desperate performance as Maria. The vulnerability she showed in the role and her remarkable connection with Tom Holland provided some of the film’s best scenes.

There are some criticisms of the film for choosing to highlight the terrible Indian Ocean tsunami and to focus on a white British family, but I think that is stretching things a bit. There were some great moments that showed the strength of the local people of Thailand and how they raised up to help their fellow humans.

Based on the true story of Maria Belón, The Impossible was a powerful film. Admittedly, the title of the movie is not as equally powerful, leaning toward the side of generic. Fortunately, there is not much else generic of The Impossible.

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Charles Dickens was one of the great writers in British literature writing such classics as A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, and A Tale of Two Cities. Many of his works have been adapted into movies and shows. The novel David Copperfield has been no exception. The latest version of the adaptation is a full movie is called The Personal History of David Copperfield.

The film follows the life of David Copperfield (Dev Patel) from his birth to the success of his writing focusing on a group of eccentric characters he met along the way.

I found this movie to be remarkably entertaining, funnier than I expected it to be, and filled with tremendous performances. The characters are a hoot and everything blended together seamlessly.

The cast is stellar. Dev Patel makes a wonderful titular character and he plays off the weirdness of the others around him perfectly. Tilda Swinton is masterful as his Aunt Betsey from the first moment she was on screen at his birth. Swinton is utterly hilarious throughout, from the desire for David to have been born a boy to the obsession with donkeys. Swinton gave one of the best supporting performances of the year so far.

Hugh Laurie and Peter Capaldi were fantastic as well in two similar, yet distinct characters. The whole kite bit in the story with Laurie was beautifully written and acted. Ben Whishaw as the little creep Uriah Heep provided a necessary foil for the entourage. The alcohol-obsessed Mr. Wickfield (Benedict Wong) was comedic gold. Rosalind Eleazar is one of the more interesting appearing stars of the film and had some great chemistry with Patel and Wong. Aneurin Barnard’s Steerforth was a major piece to the film, including one of the more emotional moments, but I did find this character somewhat inconsistent.

There were some moments that I was confused because of the sheer number of characters involved in David Copperfield’s life. There were a few that did not stand out as much as the ones that I have already mentioned and only served as a distraction.

The film looked marvelous and it was truly funny and filled with wit. I had not expected to enjoy this as much as I did, but it was a enjoyable ride all through.

4.1 stars

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Typically, I do not like starting with anything Christmas until after the Thanksgiving holiday. People just keep making the Christmas holiday celebration earlier and earlier.

That includes the movie community as well, as Netflix dropped this musical, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey a few weeks ago. I ignored it for a while, but I saw a very high Rotten Tomatoes score for it, which I had not expected. I know Netflix has been having some great movies this year, so I decided that it would be a good addition to my queue.

Brilliant young girl Journey (Madalen Mills) arrived at her eccentric grandfather’s business with a hope. Her grandfather was Jeronicus Jingle (Forest Whitaker), one of the great inventors of all-time, but an inventor who had lost his way after an old apprentice Gustafson (Keegan-Michael Key) had betrayed him years before, stealing his book of inventions.

Due to the betrayal, Jeronicus had lost the the magic and he had succumb to depression. The special ability that led him to becoming the greatest toymaker in the world deserted him.

Jingle Jangle was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The message of the movie was strong and I liked most of the performances from the actors. The music was good too. I was very much reminded of The Greatest Showman with the music and the choreography of the film, and while I did not like The Greatest Showman overall as a movie, I did think the music was extraordinary.

However, the film did feel too long and it seemed to take forever to get into the heart of the story. I felt as if the film was losing me early and I could see someone claiming that the movie was dull, especially the first half.

To be fair, the second half of the movie picked up the pace considerably and there was a pretty cool scene with Journey and her grandfather’s current apprentice Edison (Kieron L. Dyer) escaping from Gustafson’s factory. There was some early thought while watching this movie that I would fall into the minority of critics who did not like the movie, but the second half of the film did grab my attention considerably more than the first half.

I do believe that this movie would have benefitted from dropping some of the scenes in the film, but Forest Whitaker was wonderful, Keegan-Michael Key makes a solid villain and the young lead Madalen Mills is charming and powerful in her role. No doubt the performances and the music carry this film along.

3.3 stars

Come Play

At one point, I had considered heading to the theater to see this film. It seemed intriguing and I like a good little horror film. Key word in that phrase though was good, and Come Play does not reach that level of quality.

Oliver (Azhy Robertson) was a little boy with Autism who had been having plenty of troubles at school. Non-verbal, Oliver required the use of a phone to help him communicate. Oliver’s parents, Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) and Marty (John Gallagher Jr.), were having issues in their relationship and battled over the amount of time each other spent with Oliver.

The problems facing Oliver allowed the young boy to be a target of a monster from a nearby dimension that is unable to interact with this world, except through the screens of phones, iPads and TV screens, using the electricity to jump around- being used as doors.

The monster’s name is Larry.

No… really.

And poor Larry was lonely. He just wanted a friend.

Honestly, while there were some parts of the premise of Come Play were decent and had potential to be more, it fails in the execution. There are really dumb things that happen.

Azhy Robertson does a decent job as the main kid, but I did not buy his as Autistic. It felt like the film was using Autism as a way to have the kid isolated. It seemed as if Oliver was only sort of Autistic, kind of a film version of the disorder. He was a likable actor though.

This film also has a strange connection to Spongebob Squarepants. The cartoon seemed to be the one thing that could calm Oliver and the theme of the show was a major piece of the story. Not sure if the producers of the movie had some kind of connection to Spongebob, but it was a weird piece of the movie.

In the end, Come Play had some effective jump scares and a somewhat scary looking monster…Larry, that is… (Larry made me think of Flukeman from X-Files days) but any positives the film may have had were spoiled with the way the plot developed and the choices of the characters. Not even Spongebob could save this movie.

2.4 stars

The Goonies (1985)

Nostalgia can be a powerful feeling.

I was in the mood to watch the 1985 classic, The Goonies this morning so I had to go searching for it on the streaming services. I finally had to resort to renting it on Vudu… and it was worth every penny.

There is such a magical feel to the great film, where a group of kids find a pirate treasure map and go searching for the “rich stuff” to prevent their homes from being foreclosed upon by the wealthy businessman. During their search, the kids have to avoid the dangerous Fratellis, who are involved in, among other things, a counterfeiting plot.

The film had that 1980s Spielberg magic (as Spielberg wrote and produced the film) with it being directed by Richard Donner.

The Goonies is so successful, in large part, to the wonderful cast of young actors involved in the movie. Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Ke Huy Quan, Kerri Green and Martha Plimpton embodied their roles in the film and brought a fantastic group ensemble aura to out heroic protagonists. The Fratellis were cheesy and over-the-top in the perfect way for the villains of this film, bringing personality and a real sense of menace to the plot. Anne Ramsey, Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano have amazing chemistry with one another, bringing both a comedic element and a sense of dread to the Fratellis.

Then, former football star John Matuszak as the oft-abused Sloth provided the proper addition of heart to the cast, an innocence that surpassed even the Goonies themselves.

While the story may be silly, the combination of these actors really sold the tale they were telling. There was so much heart and youthful energy that The Goonies emanated magic and family feeling. It says that anything can be accomplished with bravery and dedication. Goonies truly never die.

The Outpost

I was discussing some films with one of my 7th grade literacy students and he brought up The Outpost, from Netflix. It was a film that I had never heard of before and so I thought I would look into it.

He had told me it was a war film that took place in Afghanistan. While I have never been a huge fan of war films, my student raved about the film. Typically, 7th graders’ film opinions do not match up with my own, but the info I found on The Outpost looked intriguing so I decided to place it on my queue.

Tonight, I found the time to watch the film, and he was right. It was a really tense and anxiety-filled film based on a true series of events that show just how devastating and horrific war can be.

The Outpost did not have a distinguished throughline of a narrative for the movie outside of the life in an outpost named Camp Keating, a camp situated in a valley, surrounded by mountains. The Taliban was all around them and made a regular occurrence of shooting at them. The Americans attempted to keep a peace by negotiating (and paying off) local village elders, but the trust between them was sketchy at best.

As we see a continual parade of new leaders at the camp, everyone was on edge. Eventually, the Taliban launched an attack on the camp and the soldiers desperately tried to survive.

While there was a strong cast, the characterization of the men involved was not the main focus of the film. Outside of the powerful performance of Caleb Landry Jones as SPC Ty Carter, many of the soldiers were surface level. The characters were not the main thrust of the film. It is to show the horrors of war and the danger that these men faced every day.

The film does just enough development to make these men relatable and keeps the audience rooting for them.

The action scenes in The Outpost was brutal and realistic. The fear and struggles of the soldiers was patently apparent as they were desperate to keep alive so they could return to their loved ones. While the film did not glorify the gore, it did not hide from it either. The brutality was essential to the story that was being told and each moment of violence had purpose.

Netflix has been having a solid year, which is great considering how down the national theaters have been because of the virus. Netflix has given us two of my top films of the year, Da 5 Bloods and The Trial of the Chicago 7, as well as excellent films as The Old Guard, the animated Over the Moon, Enola Holmes, Extraction, I’m Thinking of Ending Things and the horrifying documentary The Social Dilemma. While this could be considered a tough watch, The Outpost should be added to this successful list of films showing how the streaming service has taken the step to becoming a major player in movies.

4 stars

Let Him Go

I have not been to a theater for several months. I decided to go out today to see the new Kevin Costner/Diane Lane movie, Let Him Go. So I put on my best mask and headed to Cinemark.

The movie was good. I would not call it great, but it was worth the watch.

After losing their son in a horse riding accident, George (Kevin Costner) and Margaret (Diane Lane) Blackledge discovered that their daughter-in-law Lorna (Kayli Carter), who was now remarried, took their grandson and disappeared with her new husband Donnie (Will Brittain).

Worse yet, it was just after Margaret had witnessed Donnie striking both Lorna and the little boy.

The grandparents went after them, with the idea of bringing their grandson back with them.

The film does a solid job of ratcheting up the intensity of the moments. The film starts slowly, but it builds very efficiently toward the third act, which created a seriously tense situation. The pacing was well done and the initial slow build helped the feel of the seriousness of the situation.

Kevin Costner was good, but we have seen him play this kind of part many other times. However, Diane Lane was the standout of the movie. She brought a power to her performance and was easily the strongest part of the film.

Yet, there was a lack of character development among all the characters, even Costner and Lane, that kept me from completely investing in the emotional stakes that they were facing. I never felt as if I understood the characters well enough to know why they were doing something or how they may react. That led me to question a lot of the motives on display in the film.

Worst of all, the characters in the family known as the Weboy family, which included formerly Oscar nominated Lesley Manville and Jeffrey Donovan, were so one-note that they came off cartoonish much of the time and that was disappointing because I think it could have turned around these character with just a little bit of development. They are definitely menacing and anxiety-creating, but the film could have been so much more compelling with a more developed crew. The acting was certainly there.

We get almost nothing between Lorna and Donnie so we have no understanding for her plight. We can imagine what was there, but the film rarely gives us more than a surface level reason.

Because of that, the strong third act felt as if it was missing something. I was connected because I like Kevin Costner or Diane Lane instead of caring about their characters.

As I said, the third act was very tense and was filled with violence. I believe that this could have been so much more rewarding than it was. Still, there are really good performances for what we had and the third act is definitely anxiety-filled. While I wanted more, Let Him Go was a decent time.

3 stars