Movie Reviews 2021

Nobody (R)

Don’t read the synopsis or watch the trailers for this action/comedy.

There, I said it. I hope the action comedy hint doesn’t give too much of the story away. I struggled with putting that in there.

Nobody is derivative of other action movies. Movies like, well, I can’t tell you because it will give too much away. But it’s just like those, and you’ll like it just as much as you liked the other ones. 

The good guy is a family man, like the guy living next door to you. But when robbers come into his home and wake everyone up, he’s a weakling and does nothing. His family (wife and two kids) are not impressed with his weakness. That’s not really true. His cute little daughter still likes him. But after thinking about the incident, he snaps, just like, you know, that guy, and others like him. Not in a Marvel comic way. No capes, make-up or silly hats. More like the guys in the better movies we’ve all seen throughout our lives.

And there’s a really bad guy and he has a bad ass girl that works for him and she has a couple great lines, just like that movie – the one you liked. This bad guy really shows off just how bad he is, so we’re like, this guy is really tough! Just like in that great movie years ago. No doubt he’s coming for the good guy, like the other movies.

There are scenes in the city involving other bad ass guys too, just like the other movies. But how can Mr. Nobody turn his life around so quickly, and without a cape? I don’t want to say because it will give too much away. Just enjoy the ride instead.

It stars Bob Odenkirk of “Better Call Saul” fame. It’s more believable that it’s him instead of say, Danny Devito. Christopher Lloyd plays his old father. And just when you thought Christopher Lloyd was a blast from the past, Michael Ironside (a star back in 1983 in David Cronenberg’s Scanners film, and don’t forget Total Recall) is back on the screen. Always a kick to see Ironside. 

Since it’s not a horror flick none of the kids have a medical condition, which is mighty refreshing. The only quibble I have is when watching Mr. Nobody roll out the garbage cans in the AM, just missing the garbage collectors every single time. He’s infuriated every time. His wife’s perturbed too. But it’s not 1980. We all own a smartphone that can do amazing things. Like, “Siri, remind me to take out the garbage every Sunday night at 9 PM.” 

Boom. It’s just that easy. You’ll never forget crap like that again. 

Other than that, you’ll enjoy this one in the theater. Just like you enjoyed, you know, the other good ones.

Note that there is one extra scene after a couple screens of credits. It’s worth waiting for. Then you can leave.  

– See it on the Big Screen


The Oak Room (NR)

A guy walks into a bar…

Lots of jokes start out that way. This is a Canadian story about a guy walking into a bar at closing time during a snowstorm. Multiple bars. Different guy walks in. Multiple stories. 

Kudos to the pro cinematography. 

Unfortunately the lead has a cartoony speech impediment. It’s not believable. It comes off as an act, which is off-putting. So there’s that demerit. But it probably ticks the handicapped box which Hollywood likes. 

Various stories are told in two different bars. Lengthy, tremendously engaging stories – with limp, disappointing endings. Had Quentin Tarantino written the screenplay the stories might have been similar, but would’ve had outlandishly engaging endings. Tarantino has that flair. Here, playwright Peter Genoway doesn’t share that skill.

Some of the stories are later revisited and have a payoff. And the final reveal is pretty impressive. But the previous duds sure take the wind out of the sails. Whether or not the final payoff is enough to warrant watching the film is debatable. 

If you’re bored but not sleepy and are itching to watch a new movie, it’s OK. Just don’t watch the trailer beforehand.

– Wait for Rental   


The Toll (R)

An awkward Uber driver picks up a woman at the airport and drives her a long way toward her destination down a rural road in the new movie, The Toll. They end up in a crazy world that makes no sense with their phones and car disabled. His world. The world of the Toll Man.

More psychological than downright scary, the creepy scenes in the woods will keep you guessing right up until the last five minutes. It’s also gore-free. Even so, it’s a worthy low-budget horror entry worth renting if you’re struggling to find something to watch.

– Wait for Rental   


As Long As We Both Shall Live (NR)

A guy named Malcom loses his wife (distant car accident) and struggles to move on for over a year. Prescription pills and booze only dull the pain so much. But then he meets Nya, a bubbly extravert who manages to bring some joy back into his life. 

But his dead wife starts showing up now and then and she’s disappointed that Malcom has moved on from her. So that throws some cold water on the new relationship.

This is billed as a horror movie. It’s not really a horror movie in any sense. Sure, a dead wife shows up now and again, which we can all agree would be unsettling at first. But a dead husband (Patrick Swayze) showed up in the 1990 hit Ghost and it was never billed as a horror movie. Because that’s not a horror movie, either. 

The reason his dead wife shows up makes sense by the end of the movie. You won’t immediately know why, which is a plus for this script. The rest of it is a mess. 

The casting of the three leads (husband, wife and rebound girlfriend) is terrific if you’re selecting based solely on Hollywood good looks. Acting, not so much. And like the Mozambique school system, there’s no chemistry offered here. Everyone is painfully wooden. Worse than a 70’s soap opera episode. One-take stuff. Even Paul Sovino who has been constantly employed as an actor since 1970 is surprisingly weak in this. So I’ll blame budding director Ali Askari for the poor attempt at what could have been a decent movie in the hands of a skilled veteran.

Some key (no pun intended) misfires:
If your assistant in your home removes your house key from your key ring (a key ring that normally only has two keys on it, your car key and house key) would you really not notice that you suddenly only have one key on your ring until your assistant calls you hours later to tell you that you can’t get into your house tonight because you don’t have the key? Malcom’s not a janitor. Only a child under 7 would believe this feeble trick would work. 

The bed used in the master bedroom has leather components and amateur hour microphone placement that makes the bed sound like someone is twisting an inflatable mattress in a nearby tent whenever anyone moves on it. A porn director would stop filming and have that insanely distracting bed removed from the set. That bed belongs in a horror movie. Or in a city dump. I laughed every time a scene was set in that bedroom. You will too. 

If it’s Wednesday night and you’ve totally exhausted your Netflix/Amazon Prime Wish List, there are worse movies you could sit through. But I’ll bet if you spend an extra ten minutes searching around, there are better ones to watch than this. Perhaps Ghost.

– Wait for HBO  


Adverse (R)

Mickey Rourke is a seedy money lender in the bowels of some industrial city where the inhabitants seem unable to ever pay their loans back. So he’s a busy guy. He doesn’t break legs or any of the usual warning measures, he just directs his lowlife thugs to kill the unfortunate borrowers. He does this nonsensical thing because the writer/director/star Brian A. Metcalf thinks that makes sense. Metcalf plays a lowlife thug, and he doesn’t pull that off well either. I’m not sure what Brian A. Metcalf is good at. Maybe he’s still trying to figure that out, too. 

Metcalf has had a short career with a dismal handful of complete duds. How on earth losers like this continue to get money for films is beyond me.

Lead star Thomas Ian Nicholas (co-producer) has been in dozens of terrible movies. He still can’t act. Kate Katzman is awful as well. Mickey Rourke plays himself, as in all of his movies. But that’s OK. A lot of actors are just themselves in movies. Lou Diamond Phillips is Ok in this because he’s had a lot of practice. He’s been in a handful of movies every single year since the 80’s. For real.  

No one has any good dialogue to deliver. (Thanks, Metcalf.) You’ve seen worse acting before but not since you sat though that terrible high school play when you were fourteen. 

In the end the good guy takes his favorite weapon, a tire iron no less, into  a warehouse/factory full of endless rooms some of which have one chair and a tiny table for one. Why any room has such a setup is woefully unclear. Some rooms have no chair at all. But each room has one or two bad guys who simply wait in that room with nothing to do or are leaning down at that moment to do a line of coke on their tiny wooden table. The good guy walks through the building and takes out each of these actor props (nine of them) one after the other as if they are simply waiting for their turn to be bopped in the head by a crowbar with little resistance. Pitiful. Pitiful idea, pitifully written, pitifully choreographed, pitifully executed (no pun intended) and pitifully acted. 

Brian A. Metcalf has been added to my “Directors to Avoid” movie watch list which includes: 
M. Night Shyamalan
Marcia Kimpton
Robert Eggers
Ari Aster

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice…

– Avoid!  


Son (NR)

A mother takes extreme measures to save her young boy when he becomes desperately ill in the new horror film Son.

It all starts when she walks into his bedroom late one night to find his bed surrounded by eight cult-looking strangers. Then the bedroom door forcefully closes and she can’t get into his room again. So she runs, screaming the whole way to the house across the street where she bangs on the door until they wake up and tells them to call the police. Why anyone in real life would do that instead of using their own much closer phone is anyone’s guess. Perhaps to allow the cult members to leave unseen? (Said the lazy Hollywood writer). 

The police arrive and find her story to be of the imaginary type.

The next day as the boy quickly declines health-wise in a graphic Exorcist film kind of way right before everyone’s eyes, the story really starts to take off and it takes some crazy turns that leave you guessing about the outcome. As the detectives try to piece this whole thing together, you’ll be doing the same. 

The kid’s not a believable actor yet which hurts the overall effort but everyone else does a fine job. It probably came down to which child actor could spit the most blood from their mouth. He obviously won. Acting-secondary. Overall it’s a better than average horror flick.

– Wait for Rental  


The Marksman (PG-13)

Liam Neeson is back with a particular set of skills, even if he doesn’t actually use that line much anymore. He doesn’t have to. Everyone in the theater knows why they bought a ticket to see this.

Neeson plays a down on his luck cattle rancher who spent all of his savings on his wife’s cancer treatments. After her death the mortgage payments stopped happening and we see the visit from the bank. Foreclosure is 90 days away. We are shown a short scene where Neeson shows off his ex-Marine sharpshooting skills. Ah, cool. That should come in handy down the road.  

The ranch sits right on the Mexican border so he sees a lot of illegals trying to cross. His usual MO is to use his portable radio to report the location so the Border Patrol can intercept those trying to cross. But one day he comes across a woman with her young son who have just slipped though a hole in the border fence with the drug cartel hot on their tail.

After some menacing chitchat between Neeson and the tattooed cartel thugs standing on their side of the fence they exchange gunfire. Neeson takes off with the two Mexicans in his truck and is asked by the dying (shot) mother to get her son to her family in Chicago.

Since this kid is not American he doesn’t suffer from the usual asthma or diabetes plot device, which is new. But once Neeson starts to flee from the cartel it quickly turns into a paint-by-numbers Hollywood road trip from Arizona to Chicago where the kid does dumb kid things and the drug cartel guys keep finding them so quickly numerous times along the way you’d think the whole movie was shot in a shopping mall. “There they are!”

As just one example. You know how many hotel/motel parking lots you’d have to investigate from front to back to locate someone driving hours ahead of you on an interstate highway with an Exit every mile or so going to both sides of the highway? Thousands of places they could stop. Including rest stops. I suspect that with Neeson paying cash and hiding the truck at night (per the script) the odds would quickly jump to one in a million that they could be located. James Rockford, Mannix, Cannon, McCloud and Barnaby Jones would all be mighty impressed with the detective skills of this Mexican drug cartel. Luck alone wouldn’t be enough.

Ah, but Neeson showed off his ex-Marine sharpshooting skills earlier. So regardless, we’re still interested. 

Like every action picture ever, it’s all too easy to flip a moving car, even a tire blowout will do it. (Not!) And surviving in such a wreck with the vehicle tumbling over and over is easy! (Not!) Luckily (for lazy Hollywood writers) physics isn’t really a thing in movies. This one’s not Marvel bad. What is? But still silly. I long for the days of Mad Max (1979), when wrecking a car at speed left the occupants as meat puppets. Just like in real life. Physics. Why must everyone walk out of such crashes today, angry and ready to fight on like Terminators?

By the end there are easily eight pages of legal charges to rack up against Neeson, and the kid is still an illegal alien hiding out in Chicago. But that’s hardly a concern here. After you kill a few guys you might as well go all Rambo, right?

In the end there’s a bit less sharpshooting than you paid to see. But if you liked most of the growing list of Liam Neeson’s Charles Bronson-style of movies, you’ll probably enjoy this one about as well. 

– Wait for Rental  


Let Him Go (R)

Kevin Costner is believable in westerns. Here he takes another crack at it as retired sheriff George Blackledge who raises his family in rural Montana in the early 1960’s with his wife Margaret (played by Diane Lane). Early on on the film, tragedy strikes and they lose their son in a horseback riding accident leaving behind his own wife and baby. 

After their son’s death, the daughter-in-law remarries a man that turns out to be abusive to both the daughter-in-law and the Blackledge’s young grandson. Margaret witnesses this and is beyond shocked. 

When the newlywed couple immediately flees the state without notice, Margaret is ready to track them down and save their grandson from certain long-term abuse. But there’s a wrinkle. The new husband is part of the notorious Weboy family of scoundrels who live in the rural Dakotas. Tracking them down will certainly lead to trouble. But that’s hardly issue for Margaret who’s ready to do whatever it takes to bring her grandson back to Montana where they can raise him themselves. George Blackledge, reluctant at first, decides to go with her and see what can be done.

As far as the movie itself, the already dead son closes his open eyes just before Costner goes to manually close them, but that’s about the only bad acting going on here. Though it’s a slow burn, the acting is off-the charts. Diane Lane has had a long line of awful movies but holy cow is she good in this. There’s a lot of screen time between Diane Lane and Kevin Costner and it’s refreshing to watch them work. They just don’t make movies like this anymore.

There’s no machine-gun delivery of zippy dialogue and “hip” banter between characters like 99% of today’s films. The dialogue is believable. It sounds like real people conversing with one another, a lot of it frank and tense in tone – but civilized. It’s the old school method of running the camera and letting the scene play out while the pros do what they’ve trained their whole lives to do.

The entire cast is simply terrific and the story plenty engaging. I do have a real pet peeve with characters failing to use the loaded gun in their hand (with horrible outcomes because of it). But Hollywood is anti-gun for civilians, so they don’t dare show us what great defensive weapons guns really are against obvious threatening villains. 

For sure, the last ten minutes is over-the-top. But it’s worth the ride anyway because this a movie written and directed the way movies used to be done in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. And god is it refreshing.

– Wait for Rental  


The Reckoning (NR)

I have always enjoyed witchcraft movies. At least the idea of them since most are a letdown. So I was intrigued by this one that was directed by Neil Marshall who directed the very effective 2006 horror film The Descent. This film was also released during a worldwide movie drought of epic proportions. If they re-released Jaws or The Exorcist in movie theaters this month, I’d pay to see them again on the big screen with a crowd.   

But that didn’t happen… so instead I took a plunge on this witch flick. 

As the film starts we are informed the story takes place in “1665 England, the year of the Great Plague.” Through a series of quick flashbacks we watch as a husband gets tricked into drinking out of an afflicted man’s cup at a tavern and quickly succumbs to the Black Death. So we’ve immediately established that tomfoolery goes back at least to the 1600’s. 

In a series of quick flashbacks, the man’s wife (played by actress Charlotte Kirk who currently lives with director Neil Marshall in Los Angeles) kneads bread dough in the kitchen with her newborn daughter in a crib nearby. A chore all women did in the 1600’s. Then a snippet flashback of later that night after the tainted sip at the bar where the husband examines the growing sores on his body (it would take days for symptoms to really show up, but OK).

So her husband quickly dies and the mother and daughter are luckily left plague-free. As in too many films, this woman, who doesn’t farm but kneads a lot of dough to build muscles, is able to dig a human-sized grave beside the house, by herself, in the pouring rain that has turned everything to heavy shovelful after shovelful of saturated soil and mud. 

OK.

Soon the owner of her land comes on horseback to tell her she still needs to pay the monthly rent. He reminds her that she doesn’t know how to farm the land to earn any money. (She doesn’t tell him that she can knead dough and dig graves like a bad-ass). Since she’s obviously in a bad position and he finds her attractive he offers a rent extension period for sexual favors, then tries to take them forcefully. She hits him over the head and points a shotgun at him so he retreats.

With the combination of hurt pride combined with the fact that the mother and child were oddly unaffected by the black plague brought into their home, the landowner and town barflies suddenly decide she must be a witch. The landowner likes they way things suddenly turned out. 

She’s taken into custody and as with all witches of the time, they try to force a confession out of her through the use of medieval torture. As torture scenes go, it’s soft R stuff. Nothing like the Saw movies or even The Descent. 

We then watch an OK actress go through the slow process of refusing to confess and she starts seeing visions. The printed plot and trailers will have you believe it’s a revenge movie (a profitable genre for Hollywood) with the possibility she really is a witch. What a cool plot twist if true!

So we sit through the series of dream sequences and jump scares between the scenes of torture that are enough to keep you engaged long enough for the payoff where her tormentors are sure to get their comeuppance.  

Now to the million dollar question – is she really a witch? Was this one of those times when they got lucky and really did capture and punish the real thing?

I don’t want to ruin the movie, but here’s more on the lead actress Charlotte Kirk. Per a quick Internet query, in real life, since 2012 when she arrived in NY from her home of London, Kirk “had quickly amassed quite a collection of industry beaus.” (Which is the nice way of saying she tried to sleep her way to the top). Not the career path most parents would teach their daughters.

Her Wikipedia page is truly wicked. Then there’s the Vanity Fair Magazine article from October 2020 with quite a storyline including names – even a billionaire, the Australian casino magnate James Packer. Lots of leaked text messages show her to be a cunning blackmailer. Miss Kurk has made millions of dollars in court decisions getting multiple major movie mogul veterans fired and leaving wrecked marriages in her wake. A living homewrecker/career wrecker actress. Too many instances to be coincidental. Yet she’s made very little money by actually acting.

So if you ask the Hollywood folks, yeah, she just might be a witch after all.

– Wait for HBO


MONSTERS OF MAN (R)

A wide mix of characters (just some of them shown above) play a team of Doctors Without Boarders that get lost in the Cambodian jungle in this low budget thriller. It’s one thing to get lost in a jungle full of land mines and crawling with gun-toting heroin dealers. But throw in some hunter/killer robots and you’ve got quite a survival story on your hands. Some locals try their best to help out.

The US military drops 4 of their new metal tech “monsters” into Cambodia, the drug trafficking haven of the Golden Triangle. It’s suppose to just be a test of how well the bots can perform in hard jungle terrain. Unfortunately, much to the disappointment of the military, some obviously non-Cambodian US citizens (doctors) accidentally become aware of the existence of these top secret metal battle bots. 

The orders from the military brass – reprogram the bots. Kill everyone nearby. 

But wait! There’s a retired US Navy Seal living among the “natives” in that jungle. So there’s that fly in the ointment element we’ve all seen a hundred times before. But he’s not the problem with the script/storyline. It’s virtually everyone else. A big cast of everyone else.  

But before we get to that, let me be clear that the filmmakers got two elements right. The robots are on a level that makes the film enjoyable from a technical aspect. Really well-done. Really cool. The second surprising thing is the fact that the kill shots are so realistic it’s downright shocking. And there are a lot of kill shots. 

In real life when you’re hit with gunfire from an automatic weapon it causes catastrophic injuries. It’s the velocity of the projectile that causes the most damage. The impacts here drop people like a sack of potatoes. There’s no silly wiggling around for show. Bam, your chest is hit with a thud, the gore exits your back and you drop lifeless to the ground where you stand. People who are sitting on the dirt are struck so hard with a round that they are instantly slammed backward flat to the ground as if struck by a passing car. I haven’t seen such realistic wartime damage since the beachhead scene in Saving Private Ryan.

If you’re entertained by such attention to detail (no judging!) these guys deserve your support with a movie rental. 

That said . . .

This thing is a treasure trove of clichéd cheap movie moments which makes it painful for long stretches of time. I won’t even delve into the three behind the scenes tech programmers from the tech company who built these machines for the military. That would be a separate page of head-shaking moments in itself. So let’s stick to the miserable fools in the jungle.  

Everyone who runs in this movie (man, woman, old, little tyke), like “Ring Around the Rosie” they all fall down. It’s like watching an MS Olympics. Whether or not they were going for the record for most falls in a movie, I think this is surely the winner.

Besides the Navy Seal, nobody (man, woman, old, little tyke) can stay quiet or keep their mouth shut. Every adult whimpers like a four-year-old. Everybody makes noise, runs, gets hurt and screams out in pain. Then runs again. With robots (that possess great hearing) right on their tail.

Instead of running and hiding in the dense miles of jungle, they hide and cower in flimsy, easy to shoot through huts, over, and over, and over again. And again they whimper like small children while inside so the robots can easily hear them and shoot through the fabric-like structures. Then the hapless idiots run out the back of the flimsy huts again. Just like before.

I can’t speak for the women, but are we to believe that of the male doctors in the Doctors Without Borders group, who have chosen to travel the world to remote areas, none have ever played paintball? Seems far-fetched. It’s obvious none of the characters has even heard of the game hide-and-seek.

We have women constantly shouting out into the jungle for their missing comrades while killer robots, who have already wiped-out half of them right in front of their eyes in gory detail, are in hot pursuit. The Navy Seal is like, “Seriously?” And the woman is like, “What??”  

We have yet another woman on film shouting upward from the jungle floor at a random roaring plane overhead as if they could somehow hear her. Sigh.

We have yet another woman not finishing the job when she has her pursuer down and temporarily incapacitated. Go on, break his ankle or knee with that iron pipe. But no. She runs away. Kind of. So he recovers and kills her with his knife. Slowly. Methodically. He bleeds her out. 

A Cambodian woman is shot through the gut with a high powered automatic weapon. The exit wound is three fingers wide and just to the right of her spine. Lots of important muscles in the stomach and lower back. The Doctors Without Borders gang administers some bandages and when she’s asked, “Can you walk?” She answers, “Yes, slowly.” 

Ha! Either the Doctors Without Borders medical team just came off the Starship Enterprise or the US military would like to get their hands on whatever she’s smoking. 

One guy loses his hearing when a robot shoots an automatic weapon right near his head. So he’s rightfully deaf for an hour of the movie. But after a landmine blows off the lower half of his body he’s still alive and suddenly can hear again to tell everybody goodbye one by one. If I was the actor playing that scene I would have to do at least one take where I told my girlfriend, “The good news is, I got my hearing back! The bad news is that the bottom half of my body has been blown off.”

Alas, it’s not a comedy. Perhaps it should have been. There are a lot more moving parts to it than I covered, so if you’re game, it’s 2h 11m of action. Having seen it, it might be more enjoyable if you make believe the movie title is Stupid People Must Die, and root for the high-tech military robots. They’re really good at their job.

– Wait for HBO


Don’t Tell a Soul (R)

Two brothers living in a bleak industrial town break into an old woman’s house and steal a tin that contains $12,000 in cash. As they flee the house they run into an area security guard who chases them into the woods. While on the chase, the security guard falls into a deep man-made hole. 

The brothers decide to keep moving and forget about the guy in the hole. After all, he can implicate them for the break-in and theft. There’s also the need for the money because their mother is suffering from lung cancer. Bills to pay. So let him rot. Or not. 

There are quite a few moving parts to the story, some of which are shockers. Which is probably the biggest reason for seeing this movie quickly, if at all. A lot of spoilers if the people around you start talking about it. It’s not perfect, but it’s a serviceable film – if that storyline above seems intriguing. 

A large part of the film hinges on the older brother being a total tyrant over his younger sibling. Painful to watch but perfectly played by both actors. The mother is simply too frail to intervene, so the abuse only gets worse. Those that are ultra-sensitive to scenes of family abuse should probably take a pass. 

Then there’s the guy in the hole who was fortunate to only break his ankle. Enough to keep him imprisoned without help, but surprisingly alive.

The younger brother with a conscience goes back and starts giving the security guy food and water to at least sustain him while the kid wrangles with his guilty conscience, which puts him directly in the line of fire with his out of control brother. The cat and mouse dialogue between all the characters is tense, well written and will keep you engaged. The younger brother is absolutely naïve, but so are a lot of kids his age. 

There are holes in the plot bigger than the one the guy falls into, but there are enough surprising twists and turns to keep you guessing the whole way. Unless your co-workers spill the beans first. 

This film went straight-to-video.

– Wait for Rental


End of 2021 Movies.

Go to 2020 Movie Reviews