Alone (2020)

Alone Movie Poster Teases Tense New Surivival Thriller | Collider

One of the small independent films that showed up this weekend on Vudu was called Alone, and, at the time, Vudu said it had 100% on the Tomatometer. That is an impressive feat, so, despite the uninspiring title, it caught my interest.

It was an enjoyably intense and anxiety-filled thriller worth the time and the rental fee.

Jessica (Jules Willcox), trying to escape a tragedy in her personal life, took off in her car. Along the way, she had a series of encounters with a man (Marc Menchaca), who at first looked to be following her on the road, but turned out to be considerably more sinister than that.

The film shows Jessica’s desperation to survive, first from the confines of the man’s prison and then in the wilds of the forest of the Pacific Northwest. It builds suspense throughout the movie and it had me rooting for Jessica.

However, it did place her in situations that made me want to scream at her. She seemed like a smart woman, but she kept putting herself in the way of danger when I could see other choices. That always frustrates me at times, but, fortunately, Alone does not go too far with the poor choices. They had her do things that was somewhat understandable, that someone traumatized might make.

Marc Menchaca was extremely creepy and menacing as the man. We never got a reason why he was doing what he was doing, but we did get a glimpse behind the curtain into his real life, which was fascinating. The film played with some themes, but never dove deeply into any of them. It stuck with the basic cat-and-mouse survival game. The film works in that vein, but it may have missed a chance to elevate the story to a higher plane.

When researching this after the fact, it was weird to see how many movies in 2020 that had been titled “Alone.” I found three for sure and that goes to show how this movie’s title was a missed for sure.

3.4 stars 

Antebellum

New Official Trailer & New Poster for 'Antebellum' Out Now – Black Girl  Nerds

Found this film on Vudu yesterday and I was excited to see it. I had found this interesting when seeing the trailers before the global pandemic and the content seems to be right in line with the current issues facing the nation.

Unfortunately, despite a premise filled with potential and intrigue, Antebellum failed to cash in on it and left me feeling underwhelmed.

The film, which boasts a prospective twist in the movie, truly spoiled that for anyone who had seen that aforementioned trailer. It was a major spoiler for what could have been a truly mind blowing moment.

Successful author Veronica Henley (Janelle Monáe) finds herself in a nightmarish reality, showing what life was like on plantations for slaves. This world seems to be more than what it appears, however.

Seriously, one of the main issues this film faces is the set up and execution of the film’s main framing device. It makes no sense and does not even give the audience an idea of what is happening or how it may be happening. When the entire second half of the film depends on it, you can’t just cast it off as unimportant. There has to be some kind of clear message about the situation you are in.

Janelle Monáe is excellent here though. She certainly throws herself into the role, despite the fact that I believe much of the script let her down. There were some imagery that showed the horrors of slavery but the overall narrative just did not come together as the film may had hoped.

In the end, Antebellum is an exercise of good ideas versus poor execution. The performances in the film are solid to outstanding, but the overall concept is just not pulled together to make the story comprehensible. The final act is just ridiculous and not worthy of the set up.

2.5 stars 

The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time (film) - Wikipedia

I did not know anything about this movie until I happened to see it on a casual glance at Netflix. There was Tom Holland starring in this unfamiliar movie. So I was excited to watch it and on the first opportunity, I did.

I have to say, I found it disappointing.

There are a group of characters in this movie, with Tom Holland’s Arvin Russell being the main protagonist, probably. There are a series of characters, all unlikable and rotten, who the film follows. Robert Pattinson plays a scumbag preacher taking advantage of the young and impressionable girls of the area. A husband and wife (Jason Clarke, Riley Keough) who are serial killers, picking up hitchhikers and killing them. There is a sheriff (Sebastian Stan) who is crooked and in the pocket of a local criminal.

Arvin has a terribly dark past with his father and mother and ends up with other family members. Arvin is shown to be vicious at times, but, perhaps, deep down a good person. At least, he can justify the behavior he showed.

The worst part of the film, for me, was the voice over that told this story. The entire time, I kept picturing the Dukes of Hazzard with Waylon Jennings telling us what those Duke Boys were up to. It was distracting and felt tonally off key. There were a couple of times when I nearly laughed because of the narrating and I do not expect that laughter was the intended purpose.

The cast was very good. Tom Holland was great here. I never thought of him as Peter Parker, and, for me, that is a major bonus. Sebastian Stan was solid too, as I did not even recognize him until later. Bill Skarsgård was creepy as overtly religious father to young Arvin (Michael Banks Repeta).

Robert Pattinson was a bit too much over the top for me. His performance of the slimy preacher felt a little forced and too unrealistic for me.

The story is very dark and violent. While that alone is not a bad thing, this story feels so disjointed that, when it does eventually come together, it felt forced. It jumps all over the place and the narration does not bring it together effectively.

I did enjoy the performances and some of the characters were darkly effective, but The Devil All the Time has enough other drawbacks to make it a mixed bag.

2.8 stars 

Words on Bathroom Walls

Words on Bathroom Walls Movie Poster - IMP Awards

Mental health challenges can be a difficult subject to delve into in a coming of age movie. However, the latest YA novel film adaptation does a very good job of doing just that.

Words on Bathroom Walls is the story of high school senior Adam (Charlie Plummer), who after a violent incident in chemistry class, is diagnosed with schizophrenia and the illness plays havoc with his life. Expelled from his school, Adam winds up at a Catholic school with the understanding that he would remain on his medication.

While at the school, he comes in contact with the school valedictorian Maya (Taylor Russell) and they form a connection. Maya, outspoken and intelligent, has a secret of her own. Adam keeps his schizophrenia under wraps to the best of his ability, but, when the medication starts to cause side effects that were affecting his life, Adam stopped taking them.

During the film, Adam’s “voices” were being shown through delusions of three, in particular, people only Adam could see. The Bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian), Joaquin (Devon Bostick) and Rebecca (AnnaSophia Robb) are only seen by Adam, but they seem to be trying to give him support in the only way they can. There is also a disembodied voice that only Adam can hear and tended toward the darker mindset.

I thought this was a very effective way to show these voices in Adam’s head without stigmatizing them and showing Adam as someone who is not human. Many times, mental illness is shown as evil or uncontrolled and it makes the characters unrelatable. Adam is very much relatable and you feel for his struggles. As he continues to sink deeper into his mental illness, you worry desperately that the movie is setting up the stage for something tragic to happen.

The film does an excellent job of showing that there is not a “cure” for this kind of mental illness and that it is not just going to go away magically at the end of the film.

There are some excellent performances here. Charlie Plummer is exceptional as Adam. He carries this movie with his understated and challenging work. Taylor Russell is another young actress who I think has a bright future as a star in this business. She commands her screen time and plays brilliantly off of Plummer. These two characters have a massive role to play and their chemistry exceeds the expectation.

Another performance that was very wonderful here was Walton Goggins, who plays the recent step father of Adam. Goggins has several layers to play and his work is subtle and really provides an excellent pay off. Andy Garcia is here too is a cool supporting role as Father Patrick, who bonds with Adam inside the confessional.

There are some powerful moments in Words on Bathroom Walls that brought a tear to my eyes. You form a connection with these characters and you want there to be a chance that they make it out of the darkness. Mental illness has such a stigma in our world that this film does a magnificent job of showing that we should look a little deeper before we judge the people afflicted.

4 stars 

The Babysitter: Killer Queen

Poster for The Babysitter: Killer Queen | Flicks.com.au

A few years ago, there was a Netflix movie called The Babysitter, and it was enjoyable and unexpected. I found out that the new film, The Babysitter: Killer Queen was a direct sequel to that film and I was looking forward to watching it.

This film is nowhere near as fun or enjoyable as the original.

The sequel takes a huge step backwards with the story and with the humor. I will say that there were some ideas and some concepts that were interesting, but they were buried under too much junk to really take them seriously.

Our hero Cole (Judah Lewis), two years after surviving the Satanic blood cult that had tried to kill him, had been having plenty of problems, starting with people thinking he was crazy. He had told everybody about the shocking events of that night with his babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving) and nobody believed him. They thought he had had a psychotic break, and the people in Cole’s life, such as his dad (Ken Marino) and his mom (Leslie Bibb), were hoping to get him back on the right track. They were preparing to have him taken to a psychiatrist resort of some sort, but he discovered that.

With this knowledge, Cole decided to join the girl Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind) who was there with him that night two years ago. They went to a trip to the lake with a bunch of other kids for a wild party.

Unfortunately for Cole, that night’s darkness was not finished with him yet. He teams up with new girl Phoebe (Jenna Ortega) to try and survive the night.

There are parts of this that I really enjoyed. I thought Phoebe and her story was interesting, and Jenna Ortega was stunning. I found her to be completely compelling and I believe she has future star written all over her.

However, the humor of this horror/comedy falls flat way too many times. The whole storyline with Ken Marino and Chris Wylde (Melanie’s father) was some of the worst, most tone-deaf aspects of this movie. It made me dislike both characters a lot and thus brought the emotional impact at the end down considerably.

The campy tone of the movie went just too far and hurt what could have been a much more engaging film. There were so many ridiculous moments and situations that I spent more time rolling my eyes than anything else.

I do believe that there could have been a funny and thrilling horror flick somewhere in here. I thought the ending was decent, if not predictable. The returning demons from the original film had their moments and could have been more effective with the tone just a little bit more serious.

I was disappointed with the film, considering how much I liked the first one. Still, keep an eye on Jenna Ortega, because she could be something special.

2.4 stars 

Z

Z (2019) movie posters

When a horror movie can take a silly concept and make it terrifying, then it certainly has done its job. Z works on all levels as a horror movie despite a couple of moments when the film nearly went off the rails into ridiculousness.

Josh Parsons (Jett Klyne) is a sad and lonely 8-year old boy despite having both parents with him. His mother Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy) and father Kevin (Sean Rogerson) do not seem shaken when Josh starts communicating with an imaginary friend named Z.

“He’ll grow out of it” is the general idea, however, Elizabeth starts realizing slowly that there appears to be more to this imaginary friend than Josh’s imagination.

Josh’s behaviors become more mean and violent. Elizabeth starts seeing things around the house. When Josh draws a creepy picture of Z on his bedroom wall, things begin to escalate even more.

Eventually, Elizabeth discovers a surprising twist that connects Z to her own past, and she begins to understand the level of insidiousness at work here.

Z is a solid horror film that has a short run time and is paced well. There are some general horror tropes that exist here and the film does not try to subvert these at all. Still they work pretty effectively in the film. It is a good example of how a film’s use of tropes can work if it is smartly done.

As I said earlier, the film teetered between creepiness and ridiculousness and there were a couple of scenes where the movie was in danger of falling off the cliff and into the abyss of stupidity. Fortunately, the film was able to maintain itself and not drop into parody.

The one time when we got a real glimpse of Z, however, was a fail. The quick glimpse was not an effective use of special effects and made the monster look ineffectual. It was considerably creepier when the film only used the drawing on the wall as its imagery of Z and they should have left it at that. Luckily, this was the sole spot where Z made his actual presence known and the unknown was much more scary than the actual shot.

The performances were all really good though Keegan Connor Tracy may take her third act performance a bit over the top. The young kid does a sufficiently creepy job of portraying this weird kid. The arrival of Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie) hinted at a different way to look at the movie, but that was not explored enough to truly give it analysis. It has some intriguing themes though that work with this picture.

It is a quick watch and, produced by Shudder, it has that scary vibe to it. It avoided the potential crash it was heading for and turned out to be an enjoyable addition to the horror films of 2020.

3.75 stars 

Come to Daddy

Come to Daddy (film) - Wikipedia

Elijah Wood is Frodo Baggins no more.

Now, he is man of privileged Norval Greenwood, who arrived at a cabin on the outskirts of the woods responding to a letter from his father. Norval has not seen his father for years, having had his father desert his mother and him when he was but a child.

The letter offered Norval knowledge of where his father was living and asked if he would come and see him.

When Norval arrived, he discovered something that was unexpected. His father was a jerk.

More than just a jerk, his father was violent and vicious. He was abusive and posed a threat to him.

This started a downward spiral for Norval, placing him right in the middle of a violent nightmare.

This was just a lot of fun. Dark comedy/horror aspects really made this script pop and there were moments of pure, unadulterated shock. Gorey and violent, the plot continued along winding up in places where you just did not expect it to go.

The story was original and downright funny. There were many moments where I was laughing out loud and several moments where I was laughing through gritted teeth. Other times I was reviling in shock.

Is it silly. Absolutely. It may not be a film for everyone, but I had a dang good time watching it and I did not guess anything that was going to happen.

4 stars 

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020) - IMDb

Charlie Kaufman, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, has his newest film, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, released on Netflix this weekend and it is not a film that you just put on in the background as you are doing other things. In fact, this is a movie that demands your attention and, even then, there may be plenty of moments in this surreal fantasy that you look at and wonder “What the heck is going on.”

On the surface, it appeared that Lucy (Jessie Buckley) is on her way with her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) through a beginning snowstorm, to go meet his parents at his childhood farm. As the trip begins, it is clear that Lucy is having second thoughts about the trip and that she has been considering about ending things with him.

The conversation in the car on the way to the parents’ house is strained, though we see some flashes of what appeared to be the connection that must have originally brought the couple together.

However, once they arrive at the farm, things truly begin to take some bizarre turns, including a story from Jake’s youth about finding pigs dead with maggots eating their underbellies. Some of the verbal imagery included here makes one feel uneasy and the constant mentioning that life on the farm “isn’t always pretty.”

From there, Jake and Lucy have the single most awkward and uncomfortable dinner ever on the big screen with Jake’s mother (Toni Collette) and father (David Thewlis). I was legitimately on edge during this entire dinner, especially when Jake’s mother indicated everything on the table was from the farm (including the giant ham they were eating… you know, pigs and maggots).

The dream-like nature of the entire situation elevated from this point on as we see both Toni Collette and David Thewlis entering the scenes at different ages, some times young and enthusiastic and other times feeble and decrepit. It is here where you know that something even more odd than what we have received up to this point is going on.

During this time, we see random scenes of a janitor (Guy Boyd) at a school, mopping the floor, watching the ending of a cheesy film by Robert Zemeckis and more. These scenes feel out of place among the story that is going on, but little do we know that this will eventually develop into more.

I don’t want to go into more of the plot synopsis in fear of giving away spoilers, which is difficult because there is such a surreal feel to everything that you are not clear on what is happening. As I said, this requires a keen eye to see the machinations of the script and the developments of the characters.

The performances here are wonderful, Both Jessie Buckley and Jessie Plemons show such a range of emotions and keep you off-balance about exactly what is going on. Toni Collette and David Thewlis are transcendent here with their oddity level performances. You can’t take your eyes off either of these actors when they are on screen.

The ending sequence is something that is going to stick with you for awhile, especially as you try to determine the significance of the different allusions and the actual result of the situation. Yes, there is an animated pig.

This is not your typical popcorn flick and I daresay that it is not even your typical psychological thriller/indie art house film. This has more to it and dives deep into the psyche of the main character, even when it is not 100% sure which character that truly is. This is based on a novel of the same name by Iain Reid.

Trippy, engaging, thought-provoking, and as uncomfortable as a movie could be, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a film that you weigh on your mind for a long time after finishing it. I can understand if this is not a film for everybody, but I found it fascinating.

4.4 stars 

Mulan (2020)

 

Amazon.com: Mulan 2020 Poster 27x40 Original D/S Movie Poster: Posters &  Prints

The most recent Disney live-action remake is the classic tale of Mulan. Mulan had a troubled release as it was scheduled to be released just a week or so after the pandemic caused the closing of theaters everywhere. In fact, there were some critic shows prior to the delays.

Then, Disney announced the September 4th release of the film as a premium release on Disney + instead of in theaters.

Mulan (Yifei Liu) is a young girl who, to save her father Zhou (Tzi Ma), joins the Chinese army to protect against an attacking horde, pretending to be a male.

The start of this version of Mulan was just terrible. The first 10-15 minutes of the film really made me worried that this was going to be a total waste of time. There was already a question about the necessity of the remake in the first place, but the beginning of this looked terrible. The choreography was silly. The scenes were childish and ignorant. The scenes with the child Mulan could only be liked by 5 year-olds. It started dead in its tracks.

Fortunately, once Mulan aged and took her father’s place, heading off to the be trained with the other warriors, the film picked up considerably. It stopped being a film whose demographic was toddlers and became a violent story of warriors.

Now, the shape shifting witch Xian Lang (Gong Li) was not very impressive during fight scenes. They all looks too clunky and unreal. I liked how the character developed during the film, but the fights were just not good.

As I said, once Mulan made her way to the camp for the training, the film improved dramatically. The fights were better. The story improved. I was ready to rip the crap out of this after the first 15 minutes of the film, but the remainder of the film was so much better that I’m going to end up recommending it.

And one of my personal favorite moment was the cameo from Melinda May herself, Ming-Na Wen, at the end of the film. Ming-Na Wen voiced Mulan in the original animated film so it was awesome to see Agent May (of Agents of SHIELD) make her short appearance.

The second and third acts made dramatic improvements to the film that save it from being a huge flop. The live-action Mulan is worth the watch.

3 stars 

Tenet

Amazon.com: Tenet Original Movie Poster 27x40 Advance 2 Sided Robert  Pattinson Christopher Nolan: Posters & Prints

The long anticipated new film from Christopher Nolan has finally reached theaters after being delayed multiple times because of the COVID-19 virus.  I know a lot of people who love Nolan and his oeuvre of acclaimed films.  I have not found them to be nearly as engaging as most.  I did not like Inception.  The final act of Interstellar really wrecked a film that I had been enjoying, The Dark Knight Rises has so many problems that it simply cannot stand up to the previous Batman films.  Dunkirk’s sound issues attacked by body and threatened to make me physically ill.

Let’s just say the track record has not been stellar for me when it comes to Nolan.

Because of all of this, I approached Tenet with apprehension.  Unfortunately, that apprehension became reality after watching Tenet tonight.  I will take its place among the other films I listed above. 

In Tenet, a man known only as the Protagonist (John David Washington) is recruited by an agency to prevent a Russian oligarch Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) from finding a certain MacGuffin.  It turns out that some people are able to move backwards in time with a ability called inversion.  

I’m not going into the plot any more for two reasons.  One, because I do not want to spoil anything from the movie and two, because the plot is so needlessly complicated and convoluted that it would take me pages to explain it with any general success.  Lets just leave it at Tenet is a spy movie with wonky time travel elements to it.

Much like all of those movies that I mentioned earlier, Tenet is a masterpiece of technical marvel.  Some of the shots are amazing and the visuals are awe-inspiring.  There is no doubt that Christopher Nolan is a master director when it comes to this.  It is a shame that he does not seem to have the same precision of skill when it comes to characters.

The fact is that there are no characters in this story that I cared about at all.  I knew nothing about John David Washington’s character and I found little reason to care.  None of the other characters connected to me either.  The film wants me to care about Elizabeth Debicki’s Kat and the connection between her and the Protagonist, but I did not see it.  Robert Pattinson showed up as Neil and I liked him, but I knew nothing about him.  

Don’t misunderstand.  All of their performances were strong.  There was just nothing to them.

I found the first hour or hour and a half of the film to be, at times, dull.  It was difficult to follow and I was paying as close of attention as I could.  The third, however, did really pick up and had some intriguing situations and the story seemed to tie together and it almost pulled it up for me.  Unfortunately, it was just too late.  However, the last half hour to 45 minutes was the strongest part of Tenet for me.

And what the heck was up with that soundtrack?  It was loud and obtrusive, making it difficult many times to hear the dialogue.  The sounds behind so many scenes were not even music.  It was noise, literally.  It was distracting me many times and even caused a throbbing in my head.  After Dunkirk, I have to believe that Nolan intends to make audience members uncomfortable with the music and sound editing to keep them on edge.  I was certainly bothered by it.

There was some tremendous action scenes and they were captured heavily using practical effects.  There is a hallway fight scene that is just extremely well done and should be admired.  Some of the backwards shots are expertly done.  If I would have cared about anybody involved, I may have been even more impressed with them.

Time travel movies are, many times, already difficult to understand and this did not make the ideas any easier.  

Perhaps this is a film that I would perceive better after a second or third time watching it, but I do not expect for that to happen.  

2.7 stars 

Get Duked!

Get Duked! - Wikipedia

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is programme for youth in Scotland founded in 1956 by Prince Phillip. Part of the programme includes a survival section where the group is left out in the Highlands of Scotland. Sounds like a good topic for satire.

Enter the black comedy, Get Duked! from rookie director Ninian Doff. Get Duked! is very funny and full of stoner jokes, hip hop and some truly wild satire.

Three loser friends are given the “opportunity” to enter the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben) and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) get teamed up with straight-laced volunteer Ian (Samuel Bottomley) and dropped into the wild with substitute teacher Mr. Carlyle (Jonathan Aris). However, the truth of what was ahead of the four boys was stranger than they ever believed.

It turned out that there were a couple of aristocrats (Eddie Izzard & Georgie Glen) hunting these boys for sport.

There are some really laugh out loud moments here. There is a distinct feel of British/United Kingdom type of humor here so if you are a fan of Monty Python or Mr. bean, this will be right up your path. There is a tone of absurdist humor peppered through he film, but it does not completely delve into parody.

The film weaves together some ridiculous situations into a great comedy with some excellent action and tense moments. I will say that I thought that the film did start a little slowly, but when it picked up, it picked up dramatically. As I was watching the ending of the film, I could see what was going to happen, but, when what I thought about DID happen, it was tremendously funny.

I watched Get Duked! on Amazon Prime today and I had a really good time doing it. In a weekend where there are a lot of new options both in the theaters and on streaming, Get Duked! is worth your time.

3.8 stars

Bill & Ted Face the Music

Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) - IMDb

After almost 30 years, the bodacious bros return to unite the world and save reality with one song, this time for sure.  Bill & Ted Face the Music is the third installment in the Bill & Ted franchise and, even after all of these years, this film captures the silliness and joyousness of the original two films.

I just watched Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey this past summer during the quarantine.  I watched them with the expressed purpose of preparing for this release.  I enjoyed the revelry of the films, which seemed to be unafraid to go out of its way to be ridiculous.

Bill & Ted Face the Music is right in step with the first two films despite picking up the action with older versions of Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves).  We see Bill & Ted still pretty much in the same situation as when we left them.  Little had changed for the duo, except their band, The Wyld Stallyns, had seen better days.

When the future came calling once again, Bill & Ted began their travels through time and space to attempt to find the song that fulfill their destiny and unite the world and preserve the timeline.

We had Bill & Ted’s daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) joining the search, as they, along with Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of Rufus (the late George Carlin) from the future, who returned to take the mentor role of her father, traversed through time to recruit the ultimate band to play the song.

Some of the scenes are really funny.  Others are totally silly.  None of them are flops though.  The return of Death (William Sadler), who was a standout in Bogus Journey, was welcomed, though I might have liked more interaction between Death and Bill & Ted.

I like the idea of music being able to be what unites us all and the message of unity and togetherness is a welcome one in our current time of divisiveness.

If you are a fan of Bill & Ted, this will be a welcome addition to the canon.  It is fun and engaging in its world of folly.  It is not a cinematic classic, but it is a good time with a movie.  Be excellent to each other.!

3.5 stars

The New Mutants

The New Mutants' Movie Poster Released

I returned to the theater for the first time since March tonight.

I went back to see the long delayed and seemingly curse film, The New Mutants.  Based loosely on the “Demon Bear” storyline from the 1984 New Mutants comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, Josh Boone directed this movie…literally years ago.

Few movies of this size of fan following, (do not doubt that, in the world of comics, this is one of the iconic story arcs in the mutant world) have had the amount of chaos and drama behind the scenes as The New Mutants.  The film has been delayed numerous times, with the first trailers dropping in 2016.

The film had been delayed three years, and it got to a point where there were some moments when I thought that the movie was more of a urban legend, a myth, than an actual physical cinema experience.  Even when they said that The New Mutants was being released on August 28th, I doubted it.  I was unsure that it was ever actually going to be released in theaters.

It is the strangest of situations.  When first announced, I was very middling on The New Mutants.  I liked these characters, but I was not looking forward to it.  However, after the constant delays and the weirdness surrounding the film, I found myself anticipating this movie more than almost any other.

So when the reviews came out the last few days and they were a resounding “meh”, I was sad.  Perhaps that was a good thing, because it was able to manage my expectations, which had become unwieldy for sure, and I came out of it having had a great time.

Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt), after her Native American reservation was destroyed by, what was claimed to be, a tornado, found herself in a specific hospital, being overlooked by Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga).  Dr. Reyes told Dani that she was a mutant and that her powers needed to be controlled.

Dani met four other mutants at this hospital, all with their own life struggles.  Rahne (Maisie Williams) can change into a wolf, Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy) has a real negative attitude, Roberto (Henry Zaga) is a wealthy, arrogant kid, and Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton) is a young man from Kentucky whose father died in the coal mines.

The young teens brought plenty of angst along with them, but it seemed as if the hospital had some frightening aspects to it as well.

There is an argument that could be made that the teen angst and the horror parts of this film did not blend together effectively, and I could see why some would make that argument.  While those elements were clunky at times, this did not distract from my enjoyment of the film.  I thought the young actors did a good job with their characters and their performances.  I knew more about these characters from my background with the comic books so I found the performances richer because of it.

I do think that there was too much exposition among the New Mutants detailing their pasts.  It was simply too many of them that were just telling their back story to the audience.  Plus, because they kept jumping to another character, it felt, at times, disjointed.  However, my own knowledge made this less offensive as many others who may not be as fluent in the world of the New Mutants.

I thought the CGI here was very well done.  The Demon Bear had some moments where it looked off, but most of the CGI was decent.  I liked the look of many of the horror characters in the hospital.  The smiling creatures were very reminiscent of the Gentlemen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and they made a cameo in the movie) and they were frightening.

I enjoyed the use of the mutants powers and they were visually impressive.  Illyana’s Soulsword, the look of Sunspot, the use of Cannonball’s burst… all looked really good.

I found myself invested in the third act of the film and I was surprised in that fact.  And SPOILER the use of the name Essex Corporation (which is connected with Mr. Sinister) was a cool Easter egg for the comic fans out there.  END OF SPOILER.

The current Tomatometer has The New Mutants at 17% and that is way too low.  I will admit that I came in to the movie after hearing negative reviews from Dan Murrell and Chris Stuckmann and that helped bring my expectations down, allowing me to enjoy this more than I thought I would.  Certainly, when comparing The New Mutants to other X-Men FOX films, it is much better than many of them.  It is considerably better than Dark Phoenix, X-Men: Apocalypse and X-Men: Origins.  I’d put it ahead of X3 as well (maybe even The Wolverine).  I am pleased that it proved to be real and that it finally got released.

And it was great to go to a theater once again.  When will I head back again?

3.6 stars

The Vanished

The Vanished Trailer & Poster Starring Thomas Jane, Anne Heche ...

I saw the synopsis of this movie, The Vanished, and it sounded interesting.  So I found it on Vudu today and decided to watch it.

It was original and unexpected for sure.

A seemingly happy family head out to a camping trip in their RV, singing songs and preparing to go fishing.  Paul (Thomas Jane) and Wendy (Anne Heche), with their little daughter Taylor (Sadie Heim), arrive at the trailer camp park, coming across some questionable looking individuals.

As Paul was preparing to head out fishing with his daughter, he is distracted by an attractive woman (Aleksei Archer) who is from a nearby camper.  When Wendy gets back from the store, they realize that Taylor has disappeared.

Panicked, Paul and Wendy get the local sheriff (Jason Patric) involved in search of the woods and the lake for their missing daughter.

There were several red herrings presented to the audience as the police and Paul and Wendy desperately searched for the missing little girl.  The film does a good job of creating an uncertainty of what happened to her.  Jane and Heche do a good job here, but, it was strange because the two of them seemed to be inconsistent with their characters.  They were reacting in strange manners and you could tell that they were keeping something that we did not know.

One minute, Heche was acting strange.  Next minute, Jane was doing something weird.

They were not the only characters who were acting in odd ways.  Sheriff Baker had something going on here too.  I am not sure that we ever effectively discovered what his deal was.  Alex Haydon’s character Alex is another one that has some kind of mysterious underscore to his role.

I do not want to spoil anything, but the ending of the movie is wild and may feel to some that it comes out of nowhere.  I could see where some people may find the ending of this movie a cheat, but I must admit that I kind of enjoyed it.

There are some uneven aspects to the movie, especially the portrayals of the two main characters.  There are tense moments and you are never sure what has happened.  I thought this was better than I expected.  I saw the low Rotten Tomatoes score connected to this film but I thought it was better than that.

3.4 stars 

Chemical Hearts

Chemical Hearts Poster - TV Fanatic

Chemical Hearts is on Amazon Prime this weekend and it brings a healthy dose of teenage angst and melodrama to the screen.

Riverdale’s Lili Reinhart is transfer student Grace, whose mysterious style draws the attention of senior Henry (Austin Abrams).  Both teens are named co-editor of the high school paper and brings them into each other’s orbit.  Henry discovers that Grace has a tragic past that continues to cause her anguish.

Admittedly, there is not a lot original here.  We have seen other movies handle most of this subject matter.  However, the two leads, Abrams and Reinhart, have a ton of chemistry and bring a distinct rooting quality to the pairing.  Both actors do a fine job and carry much of the story and the script on their shoulders.

The pacing of this film is excellent.  The film has a short 93 minutes, but nothing feels wasted.  There are some side characters that do not receive much development and play a part in the final scene.  That did not feel earned.

Overall, Chemical Hearts is a good, albeit, familiar movie with two excellent young actors in the lead roles.  The success of this movie is squarely on their shoulders and they handle the melodrama of the script in a fine manner.

3.3 stars