Movie Reviews 2019

Knives Out (PG-13)

In case you missed a few of the other movies in this none-too-subtle Hollywood brainwashing campaign of showing cynical, uber-rich white people who were given everything and have no real skills or integrity yet rule the world like they own it, here’s yet another one. And painted with a 2019 brush, the Hollywood writers needed to come up with a way for a Spanish woman (with an illegal alien mother, no less) to be the hero of honesty and integrity. That will surely enlighten the world to the TRUTH!

I can just hear white guy Daniel Craig mentioning to the Knives Out casting group that he’s already working with a Spanish Actress named Ana de Armas in his upcoming Bond film – a franchise where they are working overtime to replace 007 with a minority figure, preferably a woman of color in the next few years. 

Daniel really likes Ana. “What a coincidence that we need a sexy Spanish woman for my NEXT film, too?” Upon hearing this second-in-a-row happenstance, I’m guessing Ana’s real-life boyfriend immediately becomes suspicious.

The Hollywood writers work overtime here to spin a yarn so convoluted Daniel Craig probably said, “And I thought Bond films were complicated!”

It takes over two-hours to tell the overly complicated tale, but the basic story is that Christopher Plummer’s character suddenly dies (either a murder or suicide) and every one of the bad white people family members are immediately considered suspects. And let’s be very clear, they are all really bad white people. This movie is over two hours of showing us just how bad they are. Despicable.

Note that a whopping 2/3rds of the Hollywood movie audience is outside the US. Those foreign audiences have no idea what the US is really like. They only see the movies. Keep that in mind as you see the constant parade of films like this and the ramifications. 

The white cast of despicable people is top shelf:
Daniel Craig
Chris Evans
Jamie Lee Curtis
Michael Shannon
Don Johnson
Christopher Plummer
And more!

We also get the Hollywood requisite Nazi regime reminder dialogue (never forget!) where the family constantly brings up the fact that one of their sons is a Nazi. And references to Hitler. And the Holocaust. You know, the things we all chat about when white families get together behind closed doors.

It’s the Hollywood brass behind their closed doors that are ruining today’s movies with their constant Political Correctness and WWII reminders. It’s beyond annoying.

– Wait for Rental (if you can’t help yourself)


Bluebird (NR)

Here’s a film that will likely fly under the radar for most people. Especially folks like me that don’t consider themselves “country music fans.” 

Bluebird is really a documentary about a tiny restaurant/club located in a strip mall that opened up back in 1982 and is still open in its original condition. If that’s not enough, basically every country singer/songwriter you can name has played there. Some were even discovered and signed after their performance at The Bluebird Cafe. It’s an amazing story.

Now and then we get a movie that anyone would enjoy. Especially if you’ve spent any time in clubs with live bands in your past. They take the time to cover every component of the venue. The doormen. The food and waitstaff. Bartenders, managers. We see the long lines of hopeful musicians for the AM tryouts for a chance to get on stage – to play one song. It’s fascinating from a lot of different angles. 

Located in Nashville – there can be some real surprises on that stage on any given night. Whether you’re a Taylor Swift fan or, like me, couldn’t care less, she sure knows how to brighten up a room. It’s impressive stuff. 

Bluebird went straight to rental. It’s in-depth, intimate and better than you imagine it could be. 

– Wait for Rental


Frozen II
Frozen II (PG)
They’re baaack. Just look at them. If only Disney had given them something worth coming back for.

I saw the original Frozen movie on a seat-back TV screen during my endless flight to Thailand and I have to admit, I understand why it broke all records (at the time) for animated films. The story was engaging, the characters were well-developed and the songs were catchy as hell. So catchy, I found myself flipping it back on an hour later and rewatching most of it.

Six years later Disney has released what I would call a dud. Not that it won’t make a gazillion dollars anyway. But if you saw the first one, you can totally skip the second one.

First of all, the story is a whole lot of hooey. I’ll bet it’s even worse for kids. Disney figured out the good-storytelling formulas decades ago. What’s going on?

And then there’s the songs. Like all the top animated releases, it’s a musical. The songs aren’t catchy and go nowhere (where’s Phil Collins when you need him?) It’s hard to believe that no one in the Disney empire had the guts to raise their hand during the years of production and ask, “Is it just me, or do all these songs suck?”

Yeah, they suck. I don’t remember any of them, and I just left the theater. But I do remember sitting in my seat thinking to myself that all the songs they were singing were lame. That’s a problem for any musical.

The house lights will remain off while the credits roll. There is more animation coming if you sit through the credits. I don’t know how many tens of thousands of people it took to make this film, but I think each of them also thanked their extended family members in the credits. The endless credits are so long we get to listen to the songs that suck – again. A bunch of them in a row. And once those songs that suck finish, still the credits run on.

Do not waste your time for the 10 seconds of added cartoons at the end. Unless your legs are asleep, get up and leave once the credits start. Don’t be a bigger sucker than you were when you bought your ticket for this turkey.
– Avoid!


The Cave 2019
The Cave (NR)
This 2019 release directed by Tom Waller is about the famous Thai incident where a young soccer team got trapped for two weeks in a remote flooded cave. Filmed in Chiang Rai, Thailand (and Ireland) it’s not the usual Hollywood fare.

For the most part it’s a direct re-creation of the actual events. Some of the characters are played by the actual participants in real life. The Western rescue divers, for instance. Maybe that makes for less professional acting, or perhaps makes it feel more like a documentary. Whichever side you find yourself on, there is no doubt the film correctly captures and illustrates:
The red tape in Thailand.
The unwavering warmth of the Thai people.
The skill and dedication of Westerners when help is needed.

There are moments of unintended hilarity when they show a Chinese dive instructor flying in from China to school the world-class Western cave divers from the US, UK and Ireland on their breathing apparatus. Too funny! Thailand dares not ever leave their biggest tourist market feeling left out in any way.

But the rest of the story follows the events the way they unfolded from both inside and outside the cave. It’s intense once they start the painstaking evacuation of the kids one by one. It would be unbelievably intense for anyone who didn’t follow the story and doesn’t know the eventual outcome.

It’s a Netflix production, so outside of Thailand movie theater showings, I expect it will be playing on Netflix within minutes.
– Wait for Rental


Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep (R)
Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson star in the sequel (of sorts) to the Stephen King classic movie, The Shining. At least we have the little boy who likes to ride in hotel hallways on his Big Wheel toy (Danny, now all grown up and played by Ewan McGregor). And we still have The Overlook Hotel, so we can revisit some unnecessary flashbacks. More on the flashbacks in a bit.

Grown-up Danny’s life is a bit of a mess. He’s basically an alcoholic bum. But he retains the mental powers that he had when he was a little kid in that crazy hotel. This sequel dives deeper into that discovery.

We also have the 2019, Hollywood mandated mixed-marriage family of high achievers with the angel-like middle school child (already with her eye on Harvard) who has similar mysterious mental powers like Danny (think ESP on steroids) but her powers are like nothing anyone has ever seen! She’s Special (with a capital “S”).

So now we need a villain for these two protagonist mentalists to battle against. Enter Rebecca Ferguson and her flea-bitten clan of RV traveling baddies. I know what you’re thinking. This doesn’t sound like The Shining at all! And you’re right. But it all circles back . . . eventually. And the flashbacks keep reminding you that it’s somehow connected.

If you saw the original blockbuster film from 1980, the quick refresher glances we get of the classic areas of that scary hotel bring back those scenes in all their glory – in your mind. Instantly. Once you see the iconic elevator doors, you think, “Blood! A river of blood!” There’s no need to replay the actual scenes from the original movie to jog our memory. We’re not dumb ponies. And if you haven’t seen the original, the flashbacks carry no weight because there’s no context for any of them.

It matters because this is a 2 1/2 hour movie (3 hours of sitting including the trailers/commercials). The movie could have used another edit session, with the flashbacks the first to go.

But that doesn’t mean Doctor Sleep is ineffective. It works. And it works whether or not you have seen (or liked) the 1980 original. And it’s because the acting and camera-work is solid. Camera tripods are actually used for most of the shots. Imagine that? No shaky-cam footage. Interesting camera angles. Long scenes of interesting dialog delivered professionally.

Real moviemaking. Stands out like a sore thumb.

Add to that the hard R rating. It’s earned. Rebecca Ferguson is both easy on the eyes as a friendly lure, and at the flick of a switch, a monster like you rarely see in today’s films. There’s a scene that is causing a stir in the American “children are precious flowers” camp. Serial killers will be rewinding and replaying the scene for hours until they pass out from lack of food. It’s evil and brutal. The Shining was an in-your-face, gritty film too. Stanley Kubrick was that kind of director. I’d like to think he’d not only approve of the risky murder scene in this film, but applaud the use of it to illustrate what’s actually at stake here.

It’s not scary in the same way Jack Nicholson had you squirming in your seat as he slowly went completely nuts. It’s a different kind of horror, which is OK. And really evil. Which, if you like horror movies, is OK, too.
– See it on the Big Screen


Hoax
Hoax (R)
Now and then a low budget horror movie is released that doesn’t suck. This 2019 movie went straight to rental. If this was still the 1970’s, it would have played in theaters and drive-ins across America and people would have enjoyed it. If you remember those days fondly, this might be for you.

The tale starts like so many others. Teens around a campfire deep in the mountains tell tales to scare one another. Bigfoot is the story told on this night. Just as most scary movies started back in the old days, the kids meet a quick end. Then the opening credits start.

The rest of the story follows a film crew and support staff on the hunt to get to the bottom of what really happened in the woods with those poor kids. Was Bigfoot really involved?

It’s low budget so of course you get the paint-by-numbers horror-show characters. Women that can’t keep their mouths shut when walking through the woods with danger lurking all around. Modern-day flashlights that are dropped on cue after a slight trip and then strangely stop working as if dropped from 100 stories onto concrete. Even worse, guns dropped and lost to the darkness.

They could have inserted a Butterfinger Candy Ad into the film, except it’s not a comedy. In fact it’s downright grisly where needed. Like 1970’s scary movie grisly.

What saves the movie and separates it from most in this genre is where they go with it. Most horror movies (and Stephen King) struggle to come up with a decent ending. This one pays off.

So, if horror is your thing – pretend you went back in time and act like you just parked your car on a gravel spot in front of the drive-in screen. Then sit back and give this one a chance.
– Wait for Rental


TERMINATOR - DARK FATE
Terminator: Dark Fate (R)
They’re at it again, apparently for the last time. Although The Who, Kiss, Judas Priest and Cher have taught us to be skeptical about farewell anything.

We live in an age of recasting women to remake all the traditionally male movie roles of the past. (5 ft 3 inch, 110 pound Natalie Portman is getting her Thor costume polished up. For real, a 2021 movie release. LOL) So it’s no surprise that the roles used in the 1991 blockbuster T2 story have been politically corrected to comply with the 2019 rules of all entertainment. This is basically an estrogen-filled T2 remake.

Where John Connor was deemed the savior of the world, now it’s a Mexican women’s turn to do it. Claire Danes took a turn as a deadly female Terminator in T3, but now we rehash it with Mackenzie Davis as the female (good) Terminator. She’s really a combination of human with Terminator parts, which I guess means she could star in the ABC show Mixed-ish.

As I mentioned in my 2003 review of T3, there is zero reason to send a militarized female Terminator back in time unless you are using her sexuality as a weapon, as the Russians have done to great efficacy with their female spies over the decades. They don’t use the Russian tactics here.

Interestingly, this latest female Terminator gets exhausted after fighting for a stint and needs to take long breaks to recover. She even has to ask a male Terminator to open a locked security door because she physically can’t do it. So at least they added some realism to the plot. (Anyone who doubts the large chasm between the sexes need only watch any Olympics or thumb through a Guinness Book of World Records for a biology reality check).

Then there’s Arnold. And it’s weird.

Without revealing spoilers, giving Arnold Schwarzenegger a Spanish family with a young Spanish boy was a gutsy call given his past real life infidelity with his hired Guatemalan maid. If only they could have cast his real son in the part!

As far as the movie itself, they sure spent truckloads of money on the effects. But it’s beyond silly when people exhaustively explain to deaf ears that Terminators are coming and will cause destruction when they arrive here – after we just watched scores of inexplicably crushed and maimed police and civilians and THEN a hundred cars terminated in a long Hollywood-like demolition derby for scores of highway miles many hours earlier. The news is somehow silent about the whole thing? No one believes any of this mayhem nonsense they are being warned about?

How is that possible? Have you seen the news lately? If a toddler gets shot we hear about it for a week. Wouldn’t this be a Breaking News story worldwide? Did they think it was just some blue sky tornado that caused that mayhem from hell never before seen anywhere on Earth?

If you are just looking for an exciting end of summer movie where new Terminators drop in for a fight, this is for you. Let’s just hope it really is the Farewell Terminator Tour.
– Wait for Rental


Official Secrets
Official Secrets (R)
Kira Knightly does a terrific job as Katharine Gun, a real life British intelligence specialist who leaked a document that incriminated the American and British Governments in their plan to sway U.N. support for the invasion of Iraq based on bogus intel. It’s based on the true story of how a British newspaper brazenly ran the story, ahead of the war, and then immediately backed off of it along with every other news organization in the world. Then the U.K. authorities went after the leaker of the original damning document.

If you enjoyed the movies All the President’s Men, Erin Brockovich or Spotlight, here’s another enlightening drama to add to your list of head-shaking moments in history. We never learn from any of the well-documented mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feed our minds at the movies now and then anyway. Not every movie should consist of actors wearing tights and brightly colored capes.

Since this government investigative story took place in the U.K., I’d be willing to bet few Americans know the outcome of this whistleblower saga. Americans were too busy with distractions from 50 Cent, American Idol or whatever Christina Aguilera was up to back in 2003. Pitiful but true. And it’s best if you don’t brush up on this story before seeing the film version of it. Knowing the ending before seeing movies can spoil the tension.

Just know that as the war raged on in Iraq, court was pending in the U.K. with a lot of nerves frazzled.

Again, if any of the above films about troubling times in history resonated with you, this one is a must see.

Note – How on earth this film received an R rating vs a PG-13 is beyond me.
– Wait for Rental


Joker
Joker (R)
I fell for it. There. I admit it.

“Any publicity is good publicity,” and the so-called carnage they are selling everyone to hype up this movie is just that. Hype. The body count is mighty low and there’s a lot of distance between the action.

What we mostly get here is a long cigarette commercial starring a mental case clown named Arthur Fleck (a chain-smoking Joaquin Phoenix) who then goes off his meds. The tobacco industry is currently enjoying a resurgence of smoking scenes in the movies. Never more than this one. Endless smoking.

Casting Joaquin Phoenix as a kook is hardly a stretch. Like casting Charles Manson. Think Manson could play a crazy person pretty well? A sure bet.

Not only did Phoenix’s infamous appearance on Letterman back in Feb. 2009 call into question his sanity, but you’d be hard-pressed to find ANY normal interviews of him. So, giving Phoenix a lot of rope and letting him go crazy on a project like this could be like watching a train wreck live. Throw around the “carnage” word with warnings to the public and who doesn’t want to see it?

In the film, with or without his clown make-up, Fleck carries a laminated wallet-sized medical card that explains his often offensive tick of sudden outbursts of uncontrollable laughter. Sometimes it works and he’s let off the hook for his lung-emptying bouts that can end with sick sounding coughs. Other times he’s victimized. Phoenix’s massive weight loss for this role certainly adds to the believability that he’s a sick loner just scraping by. But whenever Phoenix speaks in his normal voice he’s still the pansy, little boy-loving, Roman emperor character he played in Gladiator.

Taking the role that Halle Berry or Thandie Newton would usually fill, half-black actress Zazie Beetz plays the love interest who lives on the same floor as Arthur in the decrepit apartment building. Even by Hollywood standards their inconceivable instant relationship will have you shaking your head for forty minutes before you shake your head even more after new info is revealed.

Unlike every other Batman-based Joker villain you’ve ever seen (all the way back to the original 1966 TV show) Phoenix plays this dark with no sense of humor whatsoever under the makeup. It hurts the story. Even Jaws had some levity going on with the lead characters. Viewers want some curves in the road now and then. Here they only deliver a straight drive down Gotham’s Depression Avenue with some occasional (not enough) payback violence to keep it somewhat interesting.

If you’re a big Joaquin Phoenix fan (gotta be at least ten or twenty of them in the world) you’ll likely love his sickly portrayal of a nicotine addicted Joker character. Everyone else – don’t fall for it.
– Wait for Rental


Rambo Last
Rambo: Last Blood (R)
Like a package of Oreos, you know exactly what you’re going to get when you dive into a Rambo movie. A pinch of mumbling dialogue mixed with gallons of rage. Once you trigger his anger, his foes start dropping like flies.

This time it’s a Mexican cartel who lights Rambo’s fuse. People will mention similarities to the Taken line of movies. Don’t fall for that. Just because someone close to him is taken it’s a weak analogy because Rambo: Last Blood is far more harsh and hardcore from all angles. It’s not the fun thinking man’s story that Liam Neeson puts together as he employs his Very Particular Set of Skills. Furthermore, the word xenophobia is being thrown around when people talk about this movie. That’s nonsense. Like we’ve seen in countless movies in the past, he’s up against a ruthless Mexican drug/sex kidnapping cartel. That’s a far cry from xenophobia. With the endless labels being thrown around in today’s world, we may end up with nothing but Disney movies being shown in U.S. theaters.

If you liked any of Stallone’s previous bloodletting adventures, here’s one more for you to savor before the 73-year-old actor retires to his rocking chair.

One final note. I’ve never seen a worse subtitle job in any movie outside of the Chinese kung fu flicks of the 70’s and 80’s. The Spanish to English subtitles are simply atrocious at times.
– Wait for Rental


Freaks
Freaks (R)
Emile Hirsch stars in this “hide from the dangerous outside world” thriller. Hirsch looks and acts so much like Jack Black that I was impressed at how serious Black can act when he’s not hamming it up in a movie like this. Looking up the info afterward I see it was Hirsch, not Black. A quick Internet search shows I’m not alone in noticing the doppelgänger similarity of those two guys.

Amanda Crew and Grace Park also star. Far fewer agree with me that Amanda Crew resembles the more famous Jessica Biel. But they could be sisters if not twins.

Bruce Dern (who doesn’t look like anyone else) also stars in the film along with a 10-year-old (Lexi Kolker) that can really act.

To describe the movie would undermine the clever journey it takes you on. Some movies are like that. Even reading the movie description or god forbid, watching the trailer, reveals too much. For full enjoyment, the less you know the better. If you enjoyed guessing whether or not danger really did lurk outside the bunker in 10 Cloverfield Lane, this one is equally interesting, but with more blood (thus the R rating) and a ton more twists.

If you fear people will ruin the storyline, see it in the theater. Otherwise . . .
– Wait for Rental


American Dreamer
American Dreamer (R)
If you’ve ever seen Jim Gaffigan’s comedy on stage you know he’s incredibly funny. And like Seinfeld, Gaffigan works clean (little to no foul language). That’s really hard to do. He’s also been acting for decades.

In American Dreamer he has to get out of his comfort zone. He’s not allowed to be funny in this movie. At all. The language around him onscreen is about as toxic as you’ve heard since the black thug movies of the 80’s and early 90’s. Dare I say shocking. But that’s how some cultures speak to one another on a daily basis.

Gaffigan plays a down on his luck Uber driver named Cam (“Hail” Driver Service in this film). When I say down on his luck I’m talking down to his last $200 with alimony and child support payments overdue and living in a cheap motel room. He lost his software job due to downsizing (maybe) but has “issues” beyond that. And driving people around by App doesn’t pay well. Gaffigan sells the defeated, downtrodden guy as well as anyone as you watch his life spiral downward right before your eyes.

The good news, bad news is that Cam has a regular black customer named Mazz that texts him day and night for rides around his territory. Mazz is a ruthless drug dealer. A character straight out of a city like St. Louis, Baltimore or Detroit. Salty. Ruthless. Realistic. Maybe more than some viewers can handle. It’s their world, not ours. If you saw the Tom Cruise movie Collateral, it’s a little similar but with the white and black roles reversed. Instead of Cruise taking out high-level targets in the gleaming city, we instead take the low road into Mazz’s world in the hood. This movie is far more brutal than Cruise’s version.

The violence is reflective of the cities listed above. Cam finds himself in this mix, desperate for cash, with a high level drug dealer in his back seat multiple times a day. Cash is king in the drug business. So Cam conjures up a plan. It’s not a well thought out plan, but that’s why Cam is where he is. Some would argue that it’s not Cam’s fault that he’s at the end of his rope. Those P.C. folks should probably steer clear of this film.

Cam decides to kidnap the drug dealer’s young son and demand a ransom. That’s as much as you need to know going into this movie. It’s tense as hell and well acted by everyone. You’ll cringe, your stomach will knot and you’ll hold your breath at times. Cam won’t make the same decisions you would given the different situations, but that’s why Cam is where he is.

If you’re a Gaffigan fan and want to see his (literally) serious acting chops in a tense story, this one’s for you – if you can handle the reality of how people really live on the other side of the tracks.

{This movie went straight to video}
– Wait for Rental


Ad Astra
Ad Astra (PG-13)
Astronaut Brad Pitt is sent into space to save the solar system in Ad Astra, the 2001 A Space Odyssey wannabe of 2019. It also stars Liv Tyler (don’t blink or you’ll miss her scene), Tommy Lee Jones (Pitt’s astronaut father), and for some reason, Donald Southerland (as if he’s still relevant).

Astronaut Pitt’s claim to fame is that his heart rate never climbs, no matter the calamity in front of him or what bad news is dropped on him. He’s as steady as a humming refrigerator – all the time. I suppose that’s a plus. We see wildly outlandish, cartoonish examples of this to show us his “talent of calm.”

The biggest problem with directing one of the biggest stars in the world to remain CALM all the time is that it’s boring as hell to watch for two hours. People working in cubicles at the office are calm all day. I don’t want to watch two hours of that either. Telling Pitt to remain stoic like a monk for an entire film strips him of his arsenal of acting weapons. It’s dumb. Like casting Jessica Alba as an invisible woman. Which really happened.

Sure, there are occasional rushes of excitement. (For us, not him. Stoic.) You’ve no doubt seen the long preview clip of the lunar rovers giving chase and colliding on the surface of the moon. If not, go to YouTube and you can watch the entire long scene, over and over.

There. You’ve just seen the highlight of Ad Astra. The whole scene. Uncut. I kid you not.

To expose all the ridiculous science would take too long. Neptune, at best, is over 2 billion miles away – if it is currently on the same side of the Sun as Earth. It took the Voyager spacecraft 12 years to get there. Pitt does it in just over two months. He got to Mars in 19 days. A 9 month journey, at best, in real life. This isn’t a Trek film. The screen shows us the timeline of the story is “the near future.” I know today’s schools are shunning science but surely the audience has been exposed to some knowledge along the way.

Hopping a ride on a massive, interplanetary NASA rocket literally seconds before the ballistic engines from hell blast to liftoff is a trick no other film would attempt. Even if the stars wore red capes. Here, it’s as easy as running to the rocket (underneath the rocket!) opening the unlocked double-secret hatch (easy, like it’s the unlocked rear door of a Camry) into the solid rocket boosters where magically he’s instantly in the crew cabin at the top. It’s insulting to be shown that.

By the end of the ride to Neptune (if you didn’t nod off in your seat) you’ll be hoping against all odds that the ending has something clever up its sleeve. It doesn’t. And the ensuing asinine cartoon science completes its circle to the credits.
– Wait for HBO


Depraved
Depraved (R)
Yet another stab at Mary Shelley’s story about a crafty scientist bringing random dead body parts together to form a new living person. This time the story takes place in present day gritty New Jersey. Actually kind of fitting. It would be hard(er) to imagine this ugly story taking place in Springfield, Illinois.

The filmmakers stretch the tiny budget pretty far in the make-up department. Kudos to the team that transformed the actor playing The Monster into a scar-ridden piecemeal of parts. Nicely done. Believable.

The title can be taken multiple ways, but most viewers would probably say it describes the two driven men behind the monster’s creation. One is a brilliant x-military field medic and the other a young genius chemist who has seemingly perfected a reanimating drug. Yeah, they ARE depraved. But I’d add every man and conniving woman anywhere near this circle of wealthy people. A step-on-everybody, ignore-all-rules group of untouchables. A terrible group of human beings all over the screen – except for one small character, on the sidelines. For a mere six minutes of the movie.

The monster (well acted by unknown Alex Breaux) goes out on his own one night and stumbles across a girl sitting alone in a dive bar. Her name is Shelley (no doubt a nod to the originator of the Frankenstein tale). Shelley (played by Addison Timlin) is the sole bright light of the film and steals the show with her only scene inside and outside the Jersey tavern. In a dark movie full of selfish, awful people (to their core) her clever, authentic bar dialog shows a glimmer of hope for humanity. It’s one of those film highlights where you rewind the movie once it finishes to rewatch that scene again.

One pet peeve of mine – Add Depraved to the list of movies that would have you believe it’s relatively easy to dig a deep grave in the woods big enough for multiple bodies. Have any Hollywood writers actually used a shovel? Perhaps in this case these pink-finger rich folks have access to a Life Fitness Grave Digger Pro Workout Machine to prepare themselves for such an event in their lives. Who knows.

Furthermore, who has a matching pair of digging shovels in their garage? Two snow shovels, sure. But two hole digging shovels? What would be the point? Once finished with the despicable deed, these two amateur grave diggers arrive unannounced at a home minutes later showing no signs of sweat, dirt or exhaustion whatsoever.

Uh-huh.

Overall these characters are simply too unlikable to recommend this modern take on the Frankenstein story. They’re in it for the wrong reasons. But if you see the title pop up on your all-you-can-eat streaming plan or come across it on HBO, don’t skip the 6 minute bar scene showing us the opposite of depraved.
– Wait for HBO


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (R)
Again, another shot used in the theatrical trailers but cut from the movie. (See photo of Manson above.)

When you are the Director, Producer and Screenwriter of a movie you pretty much get to do anything and everything you want. In this latest creation, Quentin Tarantino indulges himself to the nines in his 9th movie out of a planned 10-film-career total. Unfortunately, this one’s a misfire. Here’s why.

The acting is great, as we would expect with an all-star cast and plenty of Hollywood budget. Unfortunately the writing is not as crisp, sharp and succinct as we have come to expect from a Tarantino film. The stories seem to meander. And the driving! Ohhhh, the driving!

I like nostalgic music from the past as much as anyone, but one of the biggest sins of filmmaking is to show long scenes of people just driving down the road with their highly paid actor mouths shut. If there’s no dialogue going on to propel the story forward in some fashion, it gets old. Quickly. It doesn’t matter the vintage of the cool car or how awesome that hit was – back in the day. Don’t show us long stretches of people driving long distances with the radio on, cruising down the road as if headed to Safeway.

Plenty of that here. Throughout the movie.

Seeing hippies again was interesting. Been a long time since I thought about hippies. Well over a decade – at least. Margaret Qualley does an outstanding job portraying a hippy. And there’s a nicely done, tense stretch of story with Brad Pitt visiting the Manson compound – full of hippies. But the Hollywood storyline backdrop, behind the scenes, 50’/60’s era Western Cowboy stuff was a weak bookend to that first half of the movie. Tarantino must love that stuff. Martin Scorsese no doubt loves it too. Most non-directors – not so much. A little goes a long way.

We get a lot of that here.

Anyone older than a millinial knows the Sharon Tate story. Ugly. But awfully interesting too. Because in involves a guy named Charlie.

Sharon Tate was a bit before my time. The image portrayed in this movie (by Margot Robbie) is quite spellbinding. It’s the strength of the movie because everyone in the theater knows that Sharon’s going to have midnight visitors a few days from now. Creepy.

Tarantino paints dread as well as anyone, and he drags out the doom in a way that shows his well-honed skills. But we’ve already figured out his twist. It’s anticlimactic even when the midnight visit finally arrives and we get the bloody, horrific mayhem as Tarantino loves to deliver it.

The problem is that you won’t want to watch this movie twice. Very unusual for a Tarantino film. And for a some QT fans, you might be disappointed that you sat through it once.

But you probably will anyway.
– Wait for Rental


It Part Two (2)
It: Chapter Two (R)
It’s twenty-seven years later and the clown-killing kids from Derry are all grown up. Only one of the kids stayed in town, so when things get wacky in Derry again, he has to call all the others to return to their hometown to make things right. Round two of the showdown with the bulbous-headed clown!

With so much time passing the director seems to think we all need to be brought up to speed on every-single-character of the self-proclaimed “Losers’ Club.” Which is silly. There was only one previous movie to see. They were kids and now they are played by completely different actor adults. This isn’t Star Trek where the audience grew up watching iconic actors onscreen.

Thus the nearly three-hour running time. And it feels like it.

The film takes the tedious time to show us what became of these grown up folks. Just your everyday professions, like your neighbors! Or not:
Stand-Up Comedian
Best-Selling Novelist
Successful Fashion Designer
Architect (What is this, the Brady Bunch Show?)
Risk Assessment Manager (The only statistically likely profession)
And then we have Mike, the only black person in the movie (who stayed behind in Derry) who doesn’t seem to have a job. But that’s ok because it gives Mike endless time (decades in fact) to doodle in his notebook on ways to defeat Pennywise the Clown. Fear not – Mike’s REALLY smart!

Interestingly, the employed folks conveniently have jobs that apparently allow them to just pack-up and leave work and families behind for days, without any notice, to drive back to their old hometown. Ahhh, Hollywood writers.

The tiny little town of Derry has most of the sensitive minority topics covered. The blatant LGBTXYZ couples with men smooching in public at a carnival, an inexplicable, long scene in a Jewish temple, a mental case in a nuthouse, a stutterer trying his best to spit out information, and TWO inhaler-dependent asthmatics, which has to be an onscreen record even for horror movies. The left-out handicapped groups might be picketing the theaters in NY and LA.

As with the first film covering the first half of King’s novel (I didn’t like the first movie either) Pennywise the Clown is (still) not very scary. It would be the Achilles heel of the movie if not for the length being the worst of it. The clown does kill people here but the returning gang seems to have a bit of Teflon coating to them. And although they seem to suffer from a strange amnesia about how they defeated Pennywise the first time, WE didn’t forget. Pennywise is not hard to defeat. (Mike recalls everything but does a really poor job of bringing them all up to speed – even with decades to prepare).

At one point this clown-posse reunion group finds themselves in a Chinese Restaurant where all hell breaks loose on the table in front of them. Without giving too much away, it’s the craziest out-of-this-world table display of hell you could imagine. Though everyone in the room has a modern smartphone in their pocket, not one of them films any of the crazy things happening all around them to immediately post on YouTube. As anyone on earth knows, that’s no doubt the least plausible scene in any movie this year.

Much later, as you go on the lengthy journey with each (most) of the stronger characters, your butt starts to get numb in your chair. Their search for a token from their past seems silly. When you have to follow each character around town in a linear fashion, it takes forever. It’s one thing to read the thousand+ page novel – over numerous sittings. It’s another to sit through the entire second half of this saga in one go.

As the film slowly grinds toward the final act, every member of the gang has a bright flashlight as they descend into the bowels of Derry to face Pennywise. Just like 27 years ago. But when it’s time to reverse and run for their lives back out of the bowels of Derry, no flashlights are necessary? Thanks to sudden movie set lighting I suppose? Who knows. Who even cares at that point? Everyone’s just hoping for the movie theater lights to ramp up.

If any one of these losers had remembered facing down Pennywise the first time (like Mike supposedly does, but doesn’t?) the story would have taken 20 minutes.

What a mess.

Note – The scene from the trailer (see photo above) was apparently cut from the final film.
– Wait for Rental


Itsy
Itsy Bitsy (NR)
Ah, spiders. Such an easy creature to get audiences everywhere on the edge of their seats. Or so it would seem. But in practice, it’s hard to pull off.

The 1957 B&W movie The Incredible Shrinking Man probably did it best with simple forced perspective camera effects that cost nothing to produce. The spider scenes were exceptionally effective.* 60 years later the mega-budget CGI guys can’t equal it. How’s that possible?

* Since they stopped making cardboard matchboxes, I assume any shrunken people today are immediately eaten. Very sad.

This low-budget movie (7 million. Yep, low by today’s standards) tries to tingle our innate fears with a spider the size of a collie. Not fuzzy wuzzy like a tarantula. Shiny and black like a black widow spider. Somehow scarier that way . . . if only it moved like a real spider.

That’s the rub. We’ve all seen them. Like collies, spiders move in distinct ways. The 1957 movie featured a real spider that was filmed to make it appear really big. It looked real because it WAS real. Fake spiders, no matter the size, look like fake spiders. You’re not innately scared of fake spiders. You’re programmed to laugh at them.

People move in distinct ways too. And behave in very familiar patterns. If the person sitting across from you on the subway looks out the window and casually blinks only one eye at a time before blinking the other, they’re either crazy or an alien pretending to be a human. Easy to spot!

The folks in this film were the same fake movie people we see in too many horror movies.

When was the last time you went up into the attic at nighttime without any source of light?

Exactly. What would be the point?

And again with the girls falling down when trying to get away from trouble. Check!

People drop their large, easily grip-able flashlights? Check! Don’t they always?

Flashlight conks out for no reason. Check! (Note to budding directors: Flashlight batteries die slowly with a long dimming action. Since like, forever).

The actor has to point the flashlight upward directly into their own eyes when it’s working fine. Check! What would be the point? Only in movies, but yeah, they do that too.

Aliens pretending to be humans.

That would have actually been a better movie than the plan of scaring us with hokey mechanical spiders driven by a hokey script.

The terrible mother of two is heavily addicted to oxycodone. Trendy! That’s the only believable thing you’ll see here.

Lame.
– Avoid!


Yesterday Movie
Yesterday (PG-13)
Unknown actor Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik, a struggling UK cover song guitarist/singer who plays to pitifully small crowds in pitifully small venues. Nothing unusual about that real world problem that’s plagued musicians and bands for a hundred years. But he’s finally fed-up and decides to give up his musical career.

Ellie, his best friend since childhood (played by Lily James – the waitress in the film Baby Driver) pleads with him as his manager to continue his musical passion. To no avail. He gets out of her car, jumps on his bicycle and heads for home.

As the trailers reveal (along with way too much of the story) the power goes out worldwide and he’s hit by a bus at the exact moment to rewrite history (don’t ask) before the power comes back on twelve seconds later. When he regains consciousness in his hospital bed, a few things are missing. His two front teeth, for a start. Which, out of character for him, he doesn’t jokingly immediately sing out, “All I want For Christmas . . .” with Christmas spirit. (That was a total whiff by the director.) Also missing are the Beatles. He spends the rest of the movie singing their globally forgotten songs. Other things in history are inexplicably missing as well, which does add a nice touch to the story. And it begs the question: You need permission from a company to show their products on-screen. (M&Ms Candy refused permission for use in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, so they used Reese’s Pieces instead.) Is that rule true for products mentioned but NOT shown because the product was erased from history?

If you could Imagine (pun intended) a writer telling you the seed of a story where the Beatles were suddenly erased from history and from everyone’s mind – except for one musical guy, how would he go about reproducing all those classic songs for a new worldwide audience? If it was you, could you remember all the words with no surviving Beatles record jackets or Internet info on the subject available? Orchestrate the arrangements? It would certainly be easier than recreating the Yes hit catalog from scratch.

Regardless, if ten writers were given that rich thread to run with you’d have ten very different stories. Some much better than this one. But this attempt isn’t awful. And it makes you think about a lot of other iconic items if they suddenly disappeared. Could you reinvent the light bulb? Or the telephone? Rediscover penicillin? Interesting stuff. Probably much harder than you think.

It’s obviously easy on the ears to hear Beatles classic songs performed on the big screen. Whether or not Beatles songs would really resonate and be instant hits with today’s Rap-loving youth is debatable. I suspect a reincarnated Beethoven would struggle to reintroduce his lost hit masterpieces as well.

Ed Sheeran plays himself throughout and he’s a good sport about the whole thing.

Kathryn McKinnon plays the LA Record Producer who takes over Jack’s path to stardom. If you’ve seen only two of her hundreds of SNL sketches you know her one-trick-pony, over-the-top shtick all too well. She only has one character in her arsenal of acting – a wide-eyed, toothy grin face, delivering her lines though a clinched jaw. That’s all she’s got. Not a fan.

The Hollywood ending will likely leave you rolling your eyes, but we’re used to that. It’s an interesting concept just the same.

Note: The scene from the trailer (photo above) where Jack appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden and “makes up” a song for the other guest sitting beside him (sexy Ana De Armas) was cut from the film due to storyline reasons. As were her other scenes. Perhaps a Director’s Cut with the (more realistic) rock star life storyline will be in the offering for Ana De Armas fans.
– Wait for Rental


Hide & Seek
Ready or Not (R)
Samara Weaving stars as the hunted bride (that could be the alternate working title for the film) in a mansion filled with uber-rich folks who made their fortune from their board game empire. The twist is that they also believe their founder from the distant past made a deal with the devil, so there’s a ritual that needs to take place every time someone marries and enters the family.

The new member-of-the-family-by-marriage is summoned out of the blue to the fancy secluded Game Room, behind closed doors around a large table with the rest of the immediate family. Butlers and maids are left outside the room.

Here, the new bride draws a card from a magical wooden box. Whatever is written on the card, that’s the game the group will play. Chess? Gin Rummy? It’s all “on the table” or “in the cards” so to speak. (How a large group would play a game of chess or checkers against her isn’t explained.)

Sometimes . . . though rarely, the game of Hide and Seek comes up. Lucky her!

That usually benign childhood game becomes quite a challenge when it turns out all your in-laws not only want to find you, but kill you before dawn. If they fail, everyone in the family dies – goes the legend.

It’s a black comedy or horror comedy in this case. It certainly is grisly in spots which earns its hard R rating. But if you know the comedy thread going in, it helps. Since they didn’t explain the we’re going to kill you, house rules before sending her off to hide, still wearing her long white wedding dress, Weaving plays the whole Hide and Seek in the Mansion game like it’s a total joke much as Emma Stone would play the same role. The two actresses look similar and have similar mannerisms.

Once she “gets it” that this game is no joke, she quickly goes into defense mode. Though you think it will be another of the hundred “only one woman will survive” killer on the loose films you’ve seen, Weaving doesn’t turn into a skilled killer on steroids. Her spoiled rich pursuers are as inept as you might imagine in real life. (Think Paris Hilton’s family with old-timey weapons in hand).

It works, and it’s a fun roller coaster ride with scary sections and breaks for giggles. And the finale will likely surprise you.
– See it on the Big Screen


Angel Has Fallen
Angel Has Fallen (R)
I don’t get the director’s use of a payphone in 2019, but it’s fun to see a working one again.

Morgan Freeman plays himself (that’s not a bad thing) in his 800th film (at least is seems like it), this time as the President of the United States – again. Gerard Butler plays the flawed Secret Service Agent on tap to become the new Director of the Secret Service.

But then things go awry in a big way (wonderfully captured and presented on the big screen and reason enough for a theater visit). Suddenly everyone from the FBI to the blond newscasters think Butler is the traitor on the inside who tried to kill The President. So Butler spends the rest of the movie trying to set things straight.

Yeah, we’ve seen that played out too many times to count. But the high body count from explosive charges is what sets this apart from the others. If that’s your thing (no one has to know!) better to see this in a large theater than home on your flatscreen. A movie with explosions that’s not shown in 3D? A round of applause for that!

The rest of the cast is OK. The usual token characters that check most of the boxes necessary to tell a tale in today’s America. But it’s Butler and Freeman that keep you interested throughout.

Star power matters!

The story runs on about 10 minutes too long, but it’s still worth a movie ticket.
– See it on the Big Screen


Crawl
Crawl (R)
A college swimmer (Kaya Scodelario) drives into Florida and easily bypasses a roadblock keeping everyone out after evacuation warnings for a hurricane coming ashore – like now. I’ve never lived in Florida but I think skirting a roadblock right in front of the police is unlikely. But it’s the least unlikely thing in this mess of a thriller/horror movie.

Kaya Scodelario has a long string of horrible films behind her. Not a Jessica Alba endless list of terrible movies, but it looks like she’s putting in the effort to catch up to Alba’s world record of Longest Filmography of Films that Suck. How on earth the reviewers gave this movie a pass is beyond me.

Eventually, with her little dog in tow she finds her dad injured in the crawl space below his Florida home. This crawl space also features a huge water overflow pipe running to it that resembles the huge culvert pipes under city streets. Big, like the one Sean Connery climbed out of in Diamonds Are Forever after shorting out the robot welding machine. This Florida one even has an expansive Hollywood set attached to it for Kaya to fiddle around in that’s much larger than the house above it. (See photo above)

Anyway, as the trailers give away, the culvert lets some nasty alligators into their crawl space. Big ones like you rarely see outside of theaters. One of them makes the ground shake as he marches forward toward her. That’s not scary. That’s stupid.

Alligators are predators. No matter how big, they don’t stomp their feet as they walk around. They’re stealthy. Elephants and giraffes are stealthy too. Even with their monstrous weight, you wouldn’t hear them coming up behind you. It’s unlikely meat eating dinosaurs stomped around either. It’s silly on all levels.

Then the storm surge arrives and the crawl space they are trapped in starts filling with water. We know she’s a swimmer. Above average for sure. But humans can’t even out-swim a box jelly fish much less an alligator.

And then there’s the bites.

First hers: Note to budding directors. Nobody covers their mouth or bites on their fist to keep themselves quiet when in peril. Either you keep your mouth shut or you whimper/scream. The hand does nothing.

The Gator: Apparently from the scenes here, a monster alligator can quickly bite you into pieces fit for the Safeway meat case, or . . . they can just gently grip you with their Chihuahua-strength jaws where you can then just kick them off your arm or leg, and oddly your appendage won’t come off in their mouth!

I wasn’t aware of that. Good to know.

This father/daughter team is mauled more than once (the father even has a compound fractured leg going on). But no matter, with the sea water flowing like a river around them they don’t bleed out and look none the worse for wear in most shots. Hell, even with an arm chewed completely off, people are pretty darn chipper in that house. Must be the adrenalin.

At least in this movie she’s actually horrified by the crawl space spiderwebs and the spiders that live in them. That’s the only thing they got right.

I call this a thriller/horror movie as there is little to be surprised/scared about. The gore (for everyone except the father/daughter superheroes) is gnarly-graphic in a Jaws fashion. And some of the storm shots are cool. So if that stuff entices you, this delivers on those themes.

– Wait for HBO


_DSF4402.RAF
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (PG-13)
Scary Stories is a period piece set in 1969 when drive-in theaters and Walkie-talkies were in their heyday, kids were drafted off to Vietnam and younger kids liked to “hang out” all night in a way that would be called “free range kids” today. You know, the good ol’ days.

Except these kids are more brazen than they would really be without a Hollywood script driving them. They break into an old, abandoned, real life haunted house on Halloween night (using crude lock-picking skills that would never work on anything but handcuffs) and then brush large, sticky spiderwebs away with their bare hands – and then walk right through them.

Only one of the kids was the least bit fazed by these massive spiderwebs. That’s the least believable part of the movie. And that includes a cornfield scarecrow coming to life. It’s a little known fact that when early cavemen accidentally walked though a spiderweb they would run for up to a mile to stand under a waterfall to wash themselves off.

Anyway, back to the review. The acting is solid, the director is competent and the story would be fine if it was a weekly TV show starring these kids. The problem with the movie is that it’s not scary. And that’s the kiss of death for a horror movie. There’s no other reason to attend.
– Avoid!


Tresspassers
Trespassers (R)
Two couples rent a weekend Mojave desert, multi-million dollar secluded home fit for a king, even down to the built-in high-end German Miele appliances. Unfortunately these aren’t the well behaved folks that even an Airbnb renter would accept in their home. There’s also the unexpected guests on the horizon, and these guests are of the opinion that it’s machete night at the million dollar party house.

Both couples have colossal issues with their relationships, both as couples and as friends. It’s a party you would immediately excuse yourself from to be literally anywhere else. But since it’s a movie, we’re stuck in the house with them.

Hawaii born actress Janel Parrish plays “Estelle” (pictured above, with miles of wasteland between her ears). Estelle has an abusive boyfriend who is off the charts annoying to everyone around him. She accepts his constant verbal and physical abuse, as far too many women do, and it’s painful as hell to watch. As if that’s not enough, her character is so unlikable and dumb that everyone watching the movie, as well as anyone stuck in a house of death with her, would pray that the killers would silence her next.

90 to 109 is considered an average IQ range. An IQ < 20 = “Profound Mental Retardation.” Though none of these folks were by any means bright, by the time I was forced to study this Estelle character at length, scene after painful scene, I suspect Estelle’s IQ score to be a 5. Only because she can feed herself. I’ve never seen a dumber character portrayed onscreen in my life. She was so despicable and annoying I was tempted to stop watching the movie and hovered my finger over the Stop button on the remote more than once. Furthermore, I’m not one to talk to the screen during movies but when Estelle’s turn came to face the killers I felt like saying, “Give me the machete! I’ll do it!”

The other issue with the movie is that the killers don’t show up until the last act. You KNOW they are coming. It’s the whole premise of the film. Unfortunately, spending 57 uncomfortable minutes cooped up with these socially inept victims is the most horrifying part of the ordeal.
– Avoid!


Anna

Anna 8
Anna (R)
Another in the long line of female agents that are easy on the eyes but hard on their foes.

Some would cite the Tomb Raider computer game (with toon Lara Croft) as the spark for such themes, but that software hit was released in 1996. That’s five years after the waif killer in heels French film La Femme Nikita hit theaters and video stores in 1991. The film was written and directed by Luc Besson and later remade scene by scene into the American version called Point of No Return starring Bridget Fonda in 1993. So you could point to Luc Besson as literally inventing the genre we see so prominently in theaters and TV for the last couple of decades.

Continuing his passion, he also wrote & directed The Fifth Element and Lucy. Anna is his latest delivery to the silver screen.

It’s not as smart as Red Sparrow but as these stories go, it works. The guy knows how to write this narrow alley of moviemaking, which goes like this – Girl gets into trouble with the cops and is given an ultimatum. Join the Russian world of spies or die.

Yeah, we’ve seen it before. But we all saw Taken, and still lined up for the sequels with the same plot. (Luc Besson co-wrote Taken too. I know, crazy right?)

Although maybe one too many flashbacks going on in this one, some all too predictable, they were effective enough in making the story more interesting for the viewer. And of course in 2019 we have the requisite lesbian scenes to appease the LGBTXYZ gang of protesters. The men, strangely enough, don’t kiss in this one. There goes any chance for an Oscar nomination.

Most of the audience is probably planted in their seats to watch model turned actress Sasha Luss take charge of the weaponry and mayhem. Believing a Victoria Secret Model could take out a restaurant full of professional bodyguards using her hand-to-hand combat skills is right up there with belief in Jurassic period dinosaur parks. Your mileage may vary. But I’ve been entertained watching clothes tumble around in a laundromat. And if they ever made glass front dishwashers I’d never leave the house.

Killer-assassin-believability aside, Sasha Luss proves she really can act, so we can expect more films from her in the near term.

If there is a reason to wait for rental, it’s this . . . Like peanut butter goes great with jelly, thick Russian accents go great with subtitles.
– See it on the Big Screen


ANNABELLE
Annabelle: Comes Home (R)
Will the horror film stereotypes never end? I’ve watched the Olympics for most of my life. Yeah, women sometimes stubble and fall when they run, but it’s rare. And if I see one more onscreen character who needs an asthma inhaler to get through the day I’m going to scream, even if the movie isn’t actually scary.

As I’ve said many times before in my reviews over the years, cell phones are a plague for today’s horror writers as it’s too easy to call in the cavalry (or capture images of the impossible but scary stuff chasing you) if you have the latest tech in your pocket. If you want to purge cell phones from your script you need to set the story back at least a few decades. As they do here. I wish they had added the usual superimposed subtitle, “1972” or whatever date on the screen during the first scene to leave no doubt of the period for the viewers. Overseas moviegoers are the biggest consumers of Hollywood movies today, and they might not make that connection from the early 70’s American music and Dating Game Show on the console color TV. A tiny percentage of the American target audience of horror movies has any idea what the Dating Game Show even was, much less when it aired.

The vintage car we see (the only car we see) could be driven by collectors today. With so many antiques in this kooky family American home, only North Americans would be able to nail the date of when this story actually takes place.

But without modern tech in their pockets, our terrified victims are pretty much on their own in this story.

It’s the familiar horror movie babysitter story where the parents drive away and the pretty babysitter has no idea that hell awaits her, and THIS time it’s not the ornery kid. The parents who own this particular house are friendly neighborhood demonologists who hunt down, collect and isolate evil objects . . . in their basement, of course. Of the creepy objects, none is more important than the scary looking doll that’s locked in a glass case with a big sign that practically screams, “Don’t Open This Glass Case!”

As with the other 83 horror babysitter movies you’ve seen written by lazy, overpaid Hollywood writers, a friend and boyfriend happen to show up too even though that’s not what the babysitter (or the parents) wanted.

If I was in charge: “If you want more than a nickel for your story, write me something original!”

If you think that “Don’t Open This” note will keep out a teenager you haven’t seen many horror movies and probably don’t remember being a teenager. The case doesn’t stay locked very long. I will admit in THIS story the teenager at least has a valid reason to snoop around a room of spiritual objects.

There is tension in spades. Like 80 minutes of tension. It’s the payoffs that are largely missing. Like an adult repeatedly showing his closed hand to a child saying, “Guess what I have for you?” Only to open their hand and say, “Oh, nothing . . .”

Everyone prefers a payoff over a tease. The setup was great and the potential was there for this R-rated story. And it’s a shame because the finale after the scares is exceptionally well done in a typical Hollywood way. Asian movies (whether horror, action or drama) typically end with everyone dead, including the hero. Especially the hero.

But because this movie is all loud German Shepherd barks with a puny Pekinese bite, it’s only suitable for rental.
– Wait for Rental


Assimilate
Assimilate (NR)
Body Snatchers 2.0, the 2019 version. And that’s a good thing. If the Body Snatcher theme interests you, then you’ve been waiting for this.

Most horror movies shy away from cell phone use in the storyline simply because cell phones make it too easy for helpless people to call in the cavalry. But here, this straight-to-video movie not only embraces it but makes smartphones and uploading videos to the internet the focus of the story. I must admit, it’s a refreshing twist.

A couple high school guys decide to wear tiny cameras on their shirts (under their collars no less . . . and everyone immediately notices their tiny cameras, which is funny) to record the daily adventures of their boring podunk town that no one would want to live in. Then they post the boring footage online to see how it goes, just like real kids today. And their life is about as boring (normal) as you’d expect.

Then people in the town start acting “off” as we’ve seen in movies before and only these two guys (and of course their school love interest) seem to notice.

This low-budget independent film has no star power but they can really act. The shoestring cost special effects and camerawork are well done as well. I’m not saying the kids always make the sanest of choices when facing peril, and all the door hinges in the movie could use a spritz of WD-40. But isn’t that what horror movies are all about?

Unlike most of the cheap scary movies we sit though, they actually came up with a smart way to end it. So stay with it until the credits start.
– Wait for Rental


Poison Rose
The Poison Rose (R)
This straight-to-video throwback detective story stars John Travolta, Morgan Freeman, Brendan Fraser and Robert Patrick (the bad Terminator in Terminator II).

You basically have a small Texas town with corruption aplenty and the seasoned actors take sides to try to see who can outsmart the other half after an apparent murder takes place on a football field.

They do what they can with the script but it’s not a spellbinding whodunnit. A few clicks down from an episode of Murder She Wrote.

There was a time when cigarette companies subsidized the movie industry and every actor smoked. Then a reversal happened and smoking was frowned upon in the movies and on TV. Now it’s back with a vengeance, especially in this period piece set in 1978. It’s odd to see so much smoking outside of Europe.

John Travolta & Kelly Preston’s real life daughter is in this movie. She has her mother’s beautiful face, voice and mannerisms. That’s sure a plus. On the flip-side she can’t act.

Missteps:
The streets are always wet as if it just rained but Travolta has a convertible with the top perpetually down, even when parked overnight. I know directors like the sheen and lighting of wet streets at night, but then lose the convertibles.

Travolta has a six shot revolver and routinely get 8+ shots out of it in every gun battle. Math may not be the director’s strong suit.

The music is overbearing but since it’s supposed to be a 70s theme, perhaps that was intentional.

A lot of big actors in this. If you have Netflix and are struggling to find something to watch, this won’t be the worst movie you’ll see in 30 days. That’s the only endorsement I can give it.
– Wait for Rental


Wick 3
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (R)
If you saw the other two John Wick movies then you’ll see this one too. That’s just the way it is. We love/hate genres and are attracted accordingly. You know if this film is for you or not. And it delivers – just like the other two did.

Breaking down the fight scenes:
There’s too much Kung Fu fighting here for my taste, but with the new Chinese market in play it makes sense. The Chinese have always loved their “fight one at a time” Kung Fu fighting.

The gunplay is cool but there’s a lot of wasted ammo on guys that are already incapacitated. How many times do you really need to shoot a non-comic book guy in the head? Every time I saw Wick struggle to reload in time I wondered if he had the flu back when he was a kid in Fight Training and missed his “Ammo Conservation” classes.

If you twist someone’s arm enough that audible shredding of tendons is heard, the foe can’t use that arm anymore. Since they continue to use their snapped limbs and no one is wearing a Marvel costume we have to assume the foes here to be of the cartoon family. That takes away from the movie.

The use of horses as a weapon was well done. The use of attack dogs (via Halle Barry’s character) is OK but it clearly shows the shortcomings of dogs as weapons in a firefight situation. Once engaged on a target they just instinctively hold on and shake their prey to keep them immobilized. Meanwhile Wick and Halle take out waves of targets in the room every few seconds. A CGI set of dogs that can attack multiple shooters in sequence (like their assassin owner) has to be on the Hollywood drawing board.

You can’t clank motorcycles together at speed like you can with cars. The physics just isn’t the same. It’s hard enough to pull that off with cars!

You can’t walk in a blistering desert, in a business suit, over numerous distant dunes, over 24 hours – without water – and live. Not even a sunburn! C’mon man.

I know they have to up the ante with each film, especially when going up against the Marvel juggernaut. But the Marvel characters wear masks and capes. I just wish the John Wick franchise would keep that in mind.
– See it on the Big Screen


Teen Spirit
Teen Spirit (PG-13)
It’s an underhand softball toss of a movie. A young-audience, friendly tale about a farm girl named Violet (Elle Fanning) living on the Isle of Man with dreams of becoming a singer. When auditions for a national singing competition (think Idol or The Voice) comes to her podunk island, she wants in. But she needs help. Enter “manager” (Zlatko Burić).

In real life he’s an aging Croatian actor with a thick accent. Between the two stars I don’t know which one of them has dirtier hair. If you see the movie you’ll understand exactly what I’m saying.

Here Mr. Burić mostly plays the comedy relief and a bit of a singing coach in a smattering of scenes. But there’s much less actual vocal coaching going on here than in any single episode of The Voice. More on that later. Unlike the 264 previous high school movies over the past decade, these school kids pick on each other in more realistic ways. Meaning, not very much and with little real malice. That’s refreshing. Overall it would be a fun enough ride to see how she places in the final contest.

The problem is that they portray the contest as if a high school was putting it on. It’s a national TV show for god’s sake. They’re a business, with a lot riding on the viewership numbers each week. They live and die based on compelling TV. Ratings! That’s where this movie really comes up short.

With network TV (in this case shown in multiple European countries) there’s too much on the line to goof around. None of these singing competition shows allow room for error. In reality, the young impressionable contestants are sequestered. There are no wild drinking parties at the hotel bar that would incapacitate one of the finalists. It’s not an Aerosmith documentary. These types of talent shows depend on the contestants being on top of their game and the producers of these shows want to control the story as much as possible.

And no show would allow non-union amateur bar bands (friends from back home) to play live on national TV as the entire backing band for an Idol finalist. They’d choke! It’s not a “band” contest show. The producers would (and do) leave as little to chance as possible. Audiences want polished professional performances, especially at the finale.

When you sign up to perform on these national talent shows you have to sign a contract with The Network. NBC and their partner record company “own” you while you are on the show and they own the rights to your performed music as well. There is zero poaching of talent by competing record companies who send menacing security straight out of the Secret Service Academy to your room to escort you to another room where competing labels try to twist your arm to sign a contract with them first. Silly! And it insults our intelligence. The Network keeps your focus on the prize. Only if you lose the contest are you legally released and able to do things on your own afterward.

They missed the specifics so badly it was hard to take any of it seriously. But as a small town girl wants to hit the big time story, it’s OK in a made-for-television kind of way.
– Wait for Rental


Silver Lake
Under the Silver Lake (R)
For those that remember the crazy storyline of the 1984 Brian de Palma movie Body Double with Melanie Griffith, here’s a similar wacky story (think LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms AND Peyote combined) to keep you guessing and shaking your head as sultry women and odd men do crazy L.A. things throughout. At least there’s no shaky-cam!

Don’t even bother reading the description of this “Hard R” movie as it really makes no difference. The tightest (real) synopsis I can give is that a young man meets a woman for only a few hours and then begins looking for her all over Los Angeles after she almost immediately disappears without a trace and is assumed dead.

If the Cohen Brothers, David Lynch or Quentin Tarantino did movie reviews they’d say something along the lines of, “Wow, that movie is whacked!”

It’s not awful. Dare I say, it’s actually pretty entertaining. But it’s eccentric as hell. As an L.A. chick would say, “Like, TOTALLY eccentric.”

Rent it if you saw Body Double and really liked it at the time.
– Wait for Rental


Pet Sematary
Pet Sematary (R)
The great Stephen King horror novel is once again turned into a movie. It follows the storyline of the 1989 original film adaptation, but with some changes. None of them for the better. If you’re a horror movie fan and you live in the Western world, you’ve seen the original. Although not a stellar movie, the original was still scary. At least back when it was released.

Due to the current obsessive belief that little children are to be (over)protected like rare orchids on the brink of extinction, the writers, feeling the pressures of today’s world, decided the speeding tractor-trailer should run over the ten-year-old sister instead of the three-year-old brother, because . . . as a society, once you get a few more years on you we care so much less about you. Or something like that. But this switcheroo decision causes problems.

Since three-year-olds are terrible actors (more on Amy Seimetz in a minute) the little boy actor is in just a few short scenes. Like the cat on the set, there’s only so much you can do with non-actors. With only six main characters in the movie (including the cat) we’re only left with two that can act (John Lithgow and Jason Clarke) once you put the daughter in a coffin. That can’t be overstated. If you bury the tiny tyke instead (as the book did) the moviegoer doesn’t loose a believable onscreen actor.

Amy Seimetz plays the mother and she’s not believable in any of her scenes. She’s just mechanically reading her lines as typed on the page. First-take stuff. She’s been in a ton of movies so I assume she just phoned it in for this one.

Once the daughter comes back from the dead and has more screen-time (thank goodness – fewer scenes for the cat to hiss at the camera and Amy Seimetz to phone it in) they take the story in a totally different and silly direction that is not only less scary and thought provoking than King’s novel, but beyond ridiculous.

This is an example suitable for framing: Skip the movie versions of this tale and read King’s Pet Sematary instead.

* Twin boys were used for this role as is usually the case with tiny actors in Hollywood TV and Films. (If you have identical twin babies, Hollywood is interested!) There are strict rules about the number of hours you can work tots, even babies. Since either tot can have a cranky day and neither can act, you need two that look alike for a chance to get anything done.
– Avoid!


Head Hunter 1
Head Hunter (NR)
A distraught father back in medieval times goes out head hunting for trolls and monsters roaming his land after his daughter is murdered. This is a low budget movie (filmed in “PaleVision”) that doesn’t even bother showing us the battles. Instead we just see the heads of the losers that this warrior brings back to his wooden hut as trophies. He forces their still bloody heads onto thick wooden spikes he has on the interior wall. Much like hunters do with their deer heads sans the taxidermy step.

As we all know, even with a drafty hut, a dripping wall of recently beheaded putrid skulls will not only draw a hut-full of flies, followed by cute little maggots, but the smell would quickly drive out even the most medieval of humans.

This hermit has a wooden window shutter that opens and slams all day and all night even if nary a long hair on his head nor the wee branches around him move one bit from any wind. “Slam. Squeak, slam. Squeak, slam.” So easy to fix! Perhaps his childhood friends called him Procrastinating Paxton but we’re not privy to his past. But you’ll sure wonder why anyone would put up with such a blatant nuisance. Only a lazy scriptwriter would allow such a plot device to continue for more than a day.

This medieval warrior (we’ll go ahead and call him Paxton going forward) deploys steel bear traps around his medieval hut. He must have a time machine in a hidden shed because steel traps were invented over 100 years after the end of the medieval era. If he really was the first man on earth to build one we should call him Patent Pending Paxton.

Paxton also manages to concoct a magic mud ointment that when applied, hurts like the devil but repairs severe wounds that would normally be fatal. He needs to slather it on like sunscreen after quite a few head hunting battles, often barely trudging home to his hut before he bleeds to death. Perhaps it’s armchair quarterbacking, but that’s something you should probably carry with you instead of leaving it at home when you run off to battles.

At the 45 minute mark things really go off the rails. It’s then that the movie turns into a B-horror movie along the lines of the Re-Animator films. Sure, that goo heals deep wounds, “But wait!” as the TV ads would tout, “There’s more!”

Any boxer or wrestler (or people over ten) will laugh out loud at the difference in mass between portly, powerful Paxton and his re-animated enemy. It’s beyond silly.

The whole movie ends up as a big fat nothing-burger.
– Avoid!


Never Grow Old
Never Grow Old (R)
John Cusack is always convincing, even in this deeply flawed, dark movie.

It’s 1849 and we’re introduced to an Irish undertaker, his pretty French wife and their two young playful children all living in a Little House on the Prairie type of spread just east of California (just over “those” mountains). It’s a muddy little town and times are tough.

This is especially painful because this God-fearing, Christian town (population of 50 according to the number attending the mandatory church service) has also abolished liquor, gambling and closed the whore house. So business is down, as the preacher admits.

In the end we’re left watching a sad little isolated town in the West with a wimpy sheriff and trio of bad guys riding into town. Seems like the same old story, right? But wait, here we get interesting twists on that theme. A mass murdering Christian preacher! Huh? Yep! And when the body count rises, it’s good to be an Irish undertaker. His hidden box of coins starts filling up nicely. Now you’ve got a story.

Unfortunately, as this western moves along the problems start to mount (no pun intended).

This is another Fantasy Film where they meld today’s idealism into past history in the hopes that no one will notice. Done enough times, no one will. Unlike the Westerns of old (even the Clint Eastwood westerns or the Gun Smoke and Bonanza TV shows) this is not the least bit historically accurate. We see these 1800 era women routinely talking down to men, a prostitute in a brothel shooting a paying customer in cold blood and even a pregnant woman in this podunk town just east of California threatening to leave her husband (she’s already packing a suitcase) to “head back east” with their two small children (a six-month journey through Indian country) – written as if she’s walking out of her 2019 suburban home to drive off in her minivan to her mother’s house across town. C’mon man. In real life the husband would just laugh and reach for a whisky or saunter out to the front porch to sit and smoke a cigar. This Hollywood revisionist nonsense is hilarious.

The 1849 podunk town conversation would really go something like this: “Well, I reckon you’ll be raped and scalped by the end of the week. If not you’ll surely freeze to death on the way East when the snows arrive in two months, so you oughta leave the kids here. You gonna hunt for food along the way? Never been hunting in your life, so that should be entertaining.”

Only thing missing was her red, white & blue cape and gold shield. But that movie was playing in the theater next-door. You can’t throw sassy Roseanne Barr quips into a 1800’s period piece.

It’s also another in an endless line of Hollywood movies where multiple well-armed people simply can’t pull the trigger, and they suffer mightily because of it.

Note: Everybody in farm houses and log cabins in the 1800s were well armed and not at all reluctant to shoot their guns. As much as Hollywood would like you to believe otherwise, there was no anti-gun sentiment in the 1800s.

And as any gun owner knows, you can’t shoot a large caliber revolver in a small cave and expect to hear for a week.

Again, John Cusack can act and he makes a hell of a villain here. But if you stayed awake for at least a handful of history classes in high school (or you’ve seen more than three episodes of The History Channel) you’ll be wondering how we politically corrected our way totally off the tracks when it comes to telling a tale of the Old West.
– Wait for Rental


Iceman
Iceman (NR)
This story is based (as loosely as any story – ever) on Ötzi, the “Iceman” that was discovered frozen in the Alps in 1991. Turns out he died 5,300 years ago but was amazingly preserved in the ice. So what was his life like way back then? Sounds like a great idea for a movie!

“This is his story,” is how the film begins.

It’s similar to Quest for Fire except Iceman can be like watching paint dry at times. With the right editor the story could be told in 30 minutes. Like Quest for Fire, there are no subtitles for the limited Copper Age caveman chatter. And you’ve never seen a drama based on more conjecture than this one.

Their wild guess is that at one point while away hunting in the frozen wilderness, his little village was wiped out by other tribal bad guys. Every man woman and child, except for a constantly crying newborn. Talk about bad luck! This is 5,200 years before cars and an additional 50 years before child car seats. So off on foot he goes towing a goat and carrying a newborn that cries a lot.

I’d be searching for the highest cliff to jump off, but this guy had the original human Rambo gene, so he marches off for vengeance – carrying a crying baby. He’s also angry that they stole his mysterious wooden box.

There are parallels of the double-secret, stolen mysterious briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Every time that wooden box is opened the viewer is left with a bad viewing angle and wonders why everybody is in awe of what’s inside. Except in this movie we do eventually see what’s in that crazy box.

Overall it’s an unsatisfying adventure.

Search “Ötzion” and Wikipedia will give you more insight (entertainment) on the discovery and lengthy research of this guy’s body. It also reveals the fact that getting an arrow (or bullet) in the shoulder will usually kill you, even with today’s medical attention. Just because Hollywood has used the shoulder wound plot device since the Gunsmoke days, typically a shot in the shoulder is curtains.
– Avoid!


Cold Pursuit
Cold Pursuit (R)
Liam Neeson is taking care of business again after his son is killed by a drug kingpin. He doesn’t mention his “special skills” on this ride because this movie is a direct copy of a Norwegian film titled In Order of Disappearance. That was a good movie too.

Note that the American version features a lot of dark humor. If you know that up front, whether it works for you or not, it will help you enjoy it.

Liam plays a snow plow driver in Denver. Once he starts hunting down the bad guys one by one, in the biggest snow plow you’ve ever seen, he’s able to get around and do it as if the town is only 2 square miles – regardless of the weather. The scenery is nothing short of spectacular. It’s Denver! OMG amounts of snow and majestic mountains.

For the P.C. crowd out there, this movie will rub you the wrong way so steer clear. Curry loving Indians and Indians who wore feathers in the past are both roasted. Blacks too. Filthy rich white people who ski too! Notice not every group is roasted. There ARE groups that no one dares touch.

The beating and killing is satisfyingly ruthless, which is why 95% of the audience is planted in the seats to watch a Liam Neeson film. Or old Charles Bronson films. You know if this is for you or not.
– Wait for Rental


Hole in the Ground
The Hole in the Ground (R)
Here’s another in a long line of body snatcher themed stories. Is it really her son or not? They do have a massive meteor crater sized hole in the woods near their house, except it’s creepier. And her son knows it’s there. And now he’s a bit . . . off.

Add to that the creepy neighbor lady who spills the beans, but she’s insane. Or is she? Now the mother has the seeds of doubt about the boy’s authenticity. And like any mother, she resists connecting the ugly dots as long as possible. You rarely hear a mother tell the news crew, “Yeah, I can believe my son strangled 14 women over 5 years.”

It’s an engaging if slow paced movie. But pretty darn effective.

The thick Irish accents may be tricky at times without the English subtitles enabled.
– Wait for Rental


MS-13
We All Die Young (R)
Jean-Claude Van Damme is back again in another action packed movie. This time it’s the MS-13 gangs from Central America that play the bad guys. And in this one, Van Damme has no lines because he conveniently lost his voicebox in the war in Afghanistan. He also has a drug problem which puts him in the MS-13’s neighborhood. A neighborhood we are shown over and over to be within sight of the White House.

So while people are beat up in the struggling neighborhood we are beat over the head with the repeated image of this neighborhood within site of the White House.

It’s a raw movie with Van Damme only sporadically in the story. Think “Death Wish” from 1974, if Charles Bronson was only in the beginning, middle and end. All the adults can act. The MS-13 gang tats look legit (all over their faces and necks). One Spanish kid (lead) can act too, but his younger brother can’t. It hurts the story.

In the last act when gunfire breaks out, people at a wedding run around the backyard like chickens for 10 minutes. No kidding. Around and around and around the yard, just like chickens. For 10 minutes.

So in the end what we have here is a heavy handed movie about the MS-13, opiate addiction, homeless veterans and the proximity of it all near the White House. Must EVERY non-independent movie made today have a P.C. thread to it?

If you start watching it on TV you’ll want to see it through to the end. And that’s where you should watch it. On TV.
– Wait for HBO


Changeover
The Changeover (NR)
What we have here is a creepy little independent film from New Zealand that’s just quirky enough to make you feel like you haven’t seen this story before. Not easy to pull off in the horror genre.

It’s not scary in a way that makes you jump in your seat. Instead it’s pure evil because it involves a man putting a terrible spell on a little boy in a horrible yet simple, painless way that you know immediately is wrong. His older sister knows something is wrong at the same time the audience sees it. Boom – too late. It’s over. Simple. Painless. Awful. You don’t why it’s awful but you just know that it is. And you’ll feel it in your stomach, just as his sister does. Her little brother doesn’t feel a thing . . . yet.

The ensuing puzzle is well acted and although there is a silly scene in the middle with a set of car keys, it’s a professionally directed movie with a wacky road to its conclusion.

This one went straight to rental.
– Rent it


Alita
Alita: Battle Angel (PG13)
Mention the name James Cameron and you think of movies like The Terminator and Avatar in 3D. For nearly twenty years Cameron wanted to make this Alita movie but he had to wait for the movie tech to catch up with the story. We’ve come a long way since those Roger Rabbit live actor/cartoon mixed movies became a thing. Alas, once the tech caught up, Cameron was too busy with the Avatar trilogy to tackle it.

So he let Robert Rodriguez direct it instead (with Cameron as producer). Rodriguez has directed such films as Planet Terror, Sin City, From Dust to Dawn, etc. This would be considered one of his least eccentric films and certainly his highest budget.

It’s available in 3D but unless you’re drinking that Kool-Aid for kids 3D nonsense, save your money and see it in 2D. 3D is unnecessary for this film.

You do however need to keep in mind that this entire story is based on a Japanese comic book series. Doing so will help with your adult-sized suspension of belief. That and the knowledge that this takes place hundreds of years from now. Just look how far we’ve come tech-wise since the 70’s!

Now that we’ve tackled the tech end of it, the storyline goes like this:
Dr. Ido finds a human head in a massive rubbish heap located in Iron City below the floating, wealthy sky-city of Zalem. Apparently her head was dropped down from Zalem among all the other discarded trash. That makes her a trashy girl. (I couldn’t resist). Dr. Ido just happens to be a specialist in the art of melding human flesh to robotics. So after reassembling her severed head with the intact brain (don’t ask) to a cool robotic body, he names her Alita.

It seems a large percentage of the human population, at least on the ground in Iron City, are missing a lot of limbs. Why that is is never covered. Perhaps if I had read a stack of Alita manga comics for a couple weeks beforehand I would know the “obvious” answer. (Not happening).

Either way, it doesn’t hurt the story that so many people have artificial limbs. The tech is so good, and the new prosthetics so darn cool, you’d hardly qualify for a handicap sticker on your plates.

But it turns out that trashy Alita (sorry) has some real talent in the whoop-ass department. Think War-Department-Talent by way of long extinct forbidden tech. So she’s every biker gang’s dream girl. Interestingly enough, a biker kid does indeed take to her. There are some nice scenes between them as well as a couple corny ones.

Then there’s a futuristic version of the “other futuristic” Rollerball game – if Terminators (or Transformers) played Rollerball. They call it “Motorball” here to avoid visits from grinning lawyers, but let’s not kid ourselves. I was glad they didn’t overdo the robots-fighting-robots-playing-Rollerball aspect for too long, but it works well enough here. The superstar winner of that sport gets to live in luxury in the sky-city of Zalem. There’s also that crime element in Iron City that needs to be cleaned up. So plenty here for the writers to play with.

All in all it’s a fun two-hour ride that sure exploits the latest tech in moviemaking. We can’t be more than ten years away from human movie stars looking at unemployment. Who needs to pay Tom Cruise 70 million to do a movie if human-realistic animated characters can be created for far less?

No one’s more excited about that idea than the ugly Harvey Weinstein’s of the world.
– See it on the Big Screen


Dont Come Back From Moon
Don’t Come Back from the Moon (NR)
The photo above pretty much sums up the movie. Where do I even begin?

The premise is that the father figures leave town and never come back. I’m surprised the actors stuck around.

At the 20 minute mark the cameraman has finally consumed enough beer that he has become totally wasted and can no longer hold the camera still. At times he’s so drunk he can’t even keep the subject in the frame. Disastrous shaking.

In one scene a kid tries to catch an elusive pigeon that’s flying around in an abandoned house. I was thinking to myself that the actor would likely have an easier time capturing a wild bird than catching that darting camera filming the scenes.

The director also incorporates long MTV style montage shots to fill the monotonous time.

The Moon metaphor used in the story is weak.

Though the movie is set in today’s world, the kids watch an old black and white TV at home all day. In the U.S.? That’s just silly.

This movie is an empty box of crackers.
– AVOID!


The Bouncer
The Bouncer (R)
John-Claude Van Damme.

He’s back in a French film with English subtitles. Here he plays a bouncer with seemingly no past. After accidentally causing a serious injury to an important club client (something I’m sure bouncers all over the world deal with all-too often) this incident lands him into deep trouble with the local police. By digging into his past they are able to turn him into a snitch, reappoint him as a bouncer in a strip club and tell him to root out a counterfeiting operation that’s going on behind the scenes.

A slow burn to be sure. But don’t let the idea of subtitles push you away from this dark, gritty tale. The dialog is sparse. You’re not supposed to talk a lot in shady underworld circles. Your waking hours are mostly running on a need to know basis. But Van Damme is perfect for the role and there’s enough steady tension, subdued throbbing techno music and underworld action to keep you thoroughly interested throughout.

One final note. For all the budding screenwriters out there, let’s be very clear. Hotel maids don’t leave their master room keys on their unattended service carts in the hallways. C’mon man!
– Wait for Rental


Rust Creek
Rust Creek (R)
A story about an 18-year-old girl headed to distant job interview who apparently has never seen a movie thriller or TV show in her life. She doesn’t know what lye is when told “it’s lye” or what a meth lab in the woods might look like. Sheltered would be an understatement. We know she wasn’t home-schooled so that’s not the excuse.

And like any millinial, she’s never seen a paper road map in her life but conveniently finds one covering her area in the glove box in 2019 after her GPS fails her. Uh-huh.

So with little knowledge about such things she runs away from two backwater thugs (think Deliverance-Town) into the woods and struggles as you might expect. Having zero knowledge about how damn noisy helicopters are doesn’t help matters as she yells up at a distant one as if the crew could possibly hear a cry for help below the trees a mile away. I can only hope that scene is far-fetched.

Lucky for her a “woodsy hermit” (think meth lab guy, not Ted Kaczynski) comes to her aid and the cat and mouse game begins between the woodsy hermit and the Deliverance-Town hillbillies.

If you start watching it you’ll be compelled to finish it. It’s that kind of movie. But do it from your comfy sofa.
– Wait for Rental


End of 2019 Movies.

Go to 2018 Movie Reviews