A CIA agent (John David Washington) commits suicide during a mission gone awry, but finds himself mysteriously revived and now working for an organization known as Tenet. “The Protagonist”, as he is now known, is tasked with stopping Russian businessman Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) from using a mysterious device to cause a global catastrophe. Both aiding and impeding his mission is futuristic technology that can alter the flow of time for objects and people alike.
Film is written and directed by Christopher Nolan and is basically a James Bond movie with a science fiction twist. There are some very clever ideas here and it is a very interesting spin on the traditional globe-trotting spy thriller with it’s time travel elements. There are some spectacular action scenes and some sumptuous locations as “The Protagonist” tries to stop Sator from basically destroying the world, like any good Bond villain tries to do. The time hopping objects and having characters from different points in time encountering themselves is all done well, but, to be honest, it does start to get a bit tiresome by the last act…especially with a 150 minute running time. Still, Nolan directs this expertly and keeps control of something that could have been a mess, though the real stars here are the editors on this sometimes too ambitious for it’s own good project. The cast also perform well with Washington being a solid hero, Branagh an effective villain and Robert Pattinson once again doing fine work as The Protagonist’s handler Neil. Definitely worth watching, though requires steady attention or it might loose you.
MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! OK, so there aren’t a lot of horror films set on Turkey Day, but here’s a few, even if they aren’t all classics. Grindhouse for the obvious reason of enjoying Eli Roth’s legendary faux trailer and Galaxy of Terroris a personal addition, because I saw it on Thanksgiving night, 11/26/1981 at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. Have a happy and be safe! Gobble, gobble!
Exorcismus is the story of teen Emma (Sophie Vavasseur) who feels she might be suffering from a demonic influence. She seeks help from her uncle, a young priest (Stephen Billington), whose last exorcism claimed the life of a young girl.
Possession horror follows all the routines and uses all the cliche’s for this type of flick and that might be OK if director Manuel Carballo used them well and added some life to them. But, Exorcismus is a by-the-numbers exorcism flick, as written by David Muñoz, that makes no attempt to freshen the familiar story elements up, or use them inventively. The actors are also performing by-the-numbers and none of them seem to really be into their roles. In fact, the whole flick is filmed in a rather deadpan tone that really sabotages the story. You’d think an instance of demonic possession would evoke some strong emotions from somebody involved, but Carballo evokes none from his characters. And said characters act quite foolishly at times, such as letting the possessed Emma roam free and out of their sight between attacks…which anyone who watches this stuff knows, is asking for trouble. When comes time for the traditional possession sequences, we get exactly what we expect from such a scenario and nothing we haven’t seen before. Carballo tries to be somewhat stylish, telling small details of the story in flashbacks, as the story progresses, but none of it is all that interesting. A small plus is the film uses no CGI and very minimal make-up or FX to portray the events, it’s just sad that the events aren’t all that effectively pulled off…and no, adding FX wouldn’t have helped and a final act plot twist only briefly adds some originality, before falling back to the clichés for a silly climax. Genre favorite Doug Bradley shows up in a cameo as a priest and for a non-Pinhead paycheck.
Drive has a delightfully 80s vibe to it. It reminds one of Michael Mann’s neon drenched crime thriller Thief, but with the out of nowhere blood-soaked violence of David Lynch. Even Cliff Martinez’s sscore evokes Tangerine Dream, who created Thief’s haunting music, among many other film scores during that era. Like that James Caan headlined flick, Drive is also based on a book and involves a man on the wrong side of the law getting into trouble when trying to do good. Despite what appears to be obvious influences, director Nicolas Winding Refn has created his own work from Hossein Amini’s screenplay based on James Sallis’ book of the same name. Drive may evoke but, it never copies. The story finds a mysterious stunt driver, who moonlights as a getaway car driver, getting into trouble with local mobsters when trying to protect his pretty neighbor from the mistakes of her ex-con husband. It is a moody atmospheric piece with sudden jolts of intense action and bone crunching violence. It also has a top notch cast.
Ryan Gosling superbly plays the man known only as Driver with equal parts mystery, menace and heart. This is a bad dude when provoked, but you have no trouble believing he truly cares for Irene and her son.The supporting cast is also excellent with Carey Mulligan as the sweet young woman who seems to fall for the bad guy every time. Albert Brooks is intense and sleazy as a Jewish mobster, who can be quite vicious when he wants to be. Rounding out the cast is the awesome Ron Perlman as Brook’s crude and temperamental partner and Bryan Cranston as Driver’s mentor, a sad man who just can’t seem to avoid getting involved with the wrong people.
Drive is definitely a film that might befuddle the average movie goer, who were weened on Michael Bay and music videos. It uses it’s sumptuously filmed visual style to create a mood and it’s characters to convey emotions. There is no unnecessary exposition to explain how character’s feel, they show it and Refn let’s us, the viewer, experience it for ourselves without explaining it to us like children. When he needs to, he hits us with action and it serves a purpose to move the story along. When he jolts us with the gruesome violence, it’s an extension of a character’s emotional state. Bad and desperate people do bad and desperate things. Our anit-hero Driver seems to have an inner rage that’s never explained and his character is all the more richer for that added mysterious dark side. Drive is something today’s average movie going audience is rarely exposed to…something called cinema! Highly recommended for those who want more then just a movie.
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Blumhouse’s latest is a slasher twist on the classic body switch scenario. While the town of Blissfield is being stalked by a serial killer, misfit high school teen Millie (Kathryn Newton) has her own problems to deal with. She is still mourning the death of her father, her mother (Katie Finneran) has turned to drinking, her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton) doesn’t even notice her and she is not exactly the most popular girl in school. The paths of she and The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) are fated to cross and when they do, the use of an ancient Aztec dagger, procured from a previous victim, causes Millie and her attacker to switch bodies. Now, on Friday the 13th, of all days, Millie, in the Butcher’s body, has till midnight to fix things before the switch becomes permanent. She has to convince her best friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) that it’s really her, avoid her cop sister (Dana Drori) and stop The Butcher, who is using Millie’s body to stalk new prey in her high school’s very halls. It’s going to be a freaky Friday the 13th indeed!
Flick is directed by Christopher Landon from his script with Michael Kennedy. Landon is responsible for writing a number of Paranormal Activity sequels and directing that series’ The Marked Ones installment, as well as, directing and writing the fun Happy Death Day movies. It’s an entertaining mash-up of slasher meets Freaky Friday, though not quite the energetic fun that was his previous slasher meets Groundhog Day flicks. It is a lot more gruesome than Happy Death Day, though, and earns it’s “R” rating, while still being filled with some fun dialogue and generous movie references. The script is fairly clever with getting the Aztec dagger “La Dola” into The Butcher’s hands quickly, to get the story rolling, and using web savvy teens to give us the exposition we and Millie need, as to how the dagger works and what needs to be done. This sets in motion the race to regain possession of La Dola, before midnight passes and Millie is trapped forever in the body of a middle aged murderer…which The Butcher realizes may not be a bad thing. The film only falters a little when a few sentimental dialogue scenes go on for a bit too long and the filmmaker’s desire to be politically correct becomes a little too obvious in spots. The last act could have been a bit punchier, too, with it’s teen filled party in a warehouse setting. Otherwise, it’s a fun slasher/high school flick homage with some witty banter, some bloody carnage and a hip sense of humor.
The flick wouldn’t have worked nearly as well, if it wasn’t for our two leads having a blast playing each other’s parts. Kathryn Newton is very good, first as the awkward, likable and sympathetic Millie, and then as the sadistic serial killer. Newton is very successful at oozing evil and malice from within a high school girl’s veneer and has a threatening presence despite being a very pretty young girl. It’s Vince Vaughn, however, that really has a chance to take the ball and run with it as Millie in The Butcher’s body. Vaughn is hilarious as the awkward high school girl in the body of a middle aged serial killer and his mannerisms and body language are just as funny as his line delivery. He is even very threatening when he is The Blissfield Butcher back in his own body, in case you forgot he was a sadistic killer. Supporting cast is solid, too. Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich as Nyla and the flamboyantly gay Josh are a fun duo. They play off Vaughn very well and have some amusing dialogue and comic bits as they race to help get Millie back in her own body. Katie Finneran is good as Millie’s lonely, mourning mother, as is Dana Drori as Millie’s tough, sarcastic cop sister. Uriah Shelton is likable as Millie’s crush, Booker, who is dragged into this mess and Ferris Bueller star Alan Ruck appears as a harsh wood shop teacher.
Overall, this flick was fun and was a nice mash-up of two types of film’s one wouldn’t immediately think of mixing up. The cast are really good, especially our body swopping leads, who have a blast playing each other. It can be gruesome, but is very witty and clever as well. It does drag in a few parts, due to some lengthy attempts at adding some sentimentality to the proceedings, but otherwise is an entertaining homage, though not quite the infectious fun of Landon’s Happy Death Day flicks…which Landon recently conceded take place in the same universe. Freaky Death Day someday maybe?
Rated 3 (out of 4) chainsaws which pretty Kathryn Newton wields quite well.
Lingering aka Hotel Lake finds Yoo-mi (Se-yeong Lee) taking charge of her little sister Yoon Ji‑yoo (So-yi Park) after the death of their mother. She doesn’t plan to do that for long, as she returns to an old lakeside hotel run by her mother’s friend Gyeong-seon (Ji-Young Park) to leave her sister with the woman known to them since childhood as “Auntie.” Upon arrival, things are not as they seem, as strange events begin to occur and soon Yoo-mi starts to believe she and her younger sibling may be in danger. What follows is an unraveling mystery of both the human and the supernatural kind with Yoo-mi and her little sister caught in the middle.
Korean horror is written and directed by Yoon Een-Kyoung and is a disappointingly mediocre supernatural thriller. It has some nice atmosphere, the cinematography by Hyeong-bin Lee is quite sumptuous and the locations are quite spooky. Se-yeong Lee makes a solid heroine as Yoo-mi and Ji-Young Park is good as “Auntie” Gyeong-seon. It’s just the story is predictable and the haunting elements are routine. We know something isn’t right at this beautiful old hotel and that there is something Auntie is not telling us. We also never quite trust the almost too gracious and agreeable Gyeong-seon from the start, which makes later reveals more of the “I thought so!” kind. Still it has some effective moments and there are some gruesome make-up FX and abundant bloodshed in the second half, when Yoo-mi starts to unravel the hidden secrets of Auntie and this haunted hotel. Not a bad movie, but not especially memorable either. Streaming on Shudder for those interested.