Movie Reviews 2021

Settlers (NR)

It should have been longer.

That’s what I was thinking as the credits rolled.

Settlers shows us the life of a family living on Mars. Mother, father and daughter. Not as depressing as it really would be if they were living on Mars (the place would be hellish for humans) but it’s movie. And life on Mars is still pretty awful in this particular movie case as well, but they make the best of it. Think Little House on the Red Planet Prairie and you’ll get the idea. 

But soon they have scary visitors at their compound and the dynamic between the characters is what carries the film along. The actors are stellar regardless of the less than stellar script.  

You’ll have 50 questions as you watch it – very few of which will be answered. How they are able to breathe and such is somewhat answered so don’t spend too much time thinking about that elephant in the room.

We have the tired issue of a kid not listening to her parents and doing dumb kid things, but that’s par for the course. The ending is unsatisfying and I can’t help but to wonder if the issues could have been fixed with an additional 15 minutes of added exposition, bringing it up to a more satisfying 2 hr runtime.

Sofia Boutella stars as the mother and she does a great job in this story. I can’t believe I’ve never seen her in anything else. Looks like she also played the mummy (no pun intended) in Tom Cruise’s The Mummy. Never saw that. She’s originally a dancer by trade. You might want to check out Michael Jackson’s Hollywood Tonight video to see her skills from the past.

It’s a better than average straight-to-video movie. But with a little more time and storyline it could have been so much better.

– Wait for Rental 


There is No Evil (NR)

I struggled to find the right thumbnail for this review. It’s that kind of movie. So I edited the theatrical movie poster image to what it should have shown. 

Have you ever been curious about life on the ground in Iran? Like North Korea, most people envision a scary place that Americans would consider too risky to visit. For good reason. Thus, out of sight, out of mind. 

But Iran is a large country with breathtaking scenery and long in tradition. A filmmaker’s dream. This movie is even more impressive since it was secretly filmed by an Iranian filmmaker that was previously jailed and forbidden by the Iranian government from making any more movies of any kind. 

There is no Evil has already won various film awards and has wide critical acclaim. Deservedly so. Once completed the film was smuggled out of Iran. That alone should entice you to see it. (It’s critical of the regime). I’m surprised the director could find such great actors in Iran willing to be seen in such a film. 

You’ll need patience to watch it for two and a half hours, but you’ll be rewarded for your time. And you’ll get a rare glimpse into multiple facets of the Iranian world.

There are four stories in all, each culminating in a thrilling and/or worrisome climax. You’re not supposed to know where each of the stories is headed so not watching any trailers or reading any commercial synopsis will greatly help your enjoyment of the film.

At the start, we spend 30 minutes watching people do mundane things like going to work, driving home, driving to pick up their wife, driving to the bank, driving to pick up their kid, grocery shopping, going to sleep. 

Life in Iran. Probably not something any Westerner has seen before. Probably not like what you’ve previously envisioned either.

The acting is stellar and very natural. The scenes, beautifully shot. Remember back in the 1980s and 1990s when movies were shot on steady tripods with a concentrated effort to frame each scene properly? This is a masterclass on that.

It’s not the 2021 (cat chasing a laser pointer dot) Hollywood template movie. You’ll likely become antsy. You may start to look at your phone or decide to give up on it. Don’t. Think of yourself sitting on the porch of a rental house in a seaside town in the off-season. Relax and people-watch for a while. You’re simply being prepared for what’s to come. 

Mundane people in life might have a job that shocks you. They may do things that shock you. You don’t see them, really, as they go about their daily lives in public. 

If you start the movie, you’ll want to finish it. You need to finish it. 

The film could have also been called, Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover. It’s not a Spider-Man movie, but in its own way, it’s still a roller-coaster of a story. 

– Now streaming on most platforms. In Persian with professional, clearly written English subtitles. (Avoid any trailers ahead of watching)

– Wait for Rental


Méander (NR)

A woman lets a stranger pick her up on the side of the road only to figure out he’s a serial killer. After being knocked unconscious she wakes up with a high-tech looking timer device on her wrist and has to navigate through a series of steel tunnels each with their own death/escape puzzles. Like something out of the Saw line of movies.

This film stars no one of importance and plays like a French independent film, though mostly in English. If you’re super claustrophobic it might be a tough go to watch what she literally goes through. (But it’s not really a plumbing pipe like the movie poster depicts.)

Immediate problems crop up for the film. The driver claims the nearest gas station where she can make a call is 6 miles ahead. A long way on foot for sure but only about a 6 minute drive. The sun is just starting to set when she gets into the truck but 6 minutes later we see him driving her in total darkness. Math is a bitch. It’s not cloud cover either because you’ll see stars.  

Then there’s the acting. Just as a porn star moans simply because she’s told to do it, this French actress seems to do the same thing. Then her overacting deteriorates to the point that she pulls herself along for a mere 10 feet and then breathes like she just ran 2 miles. It’s not revealed to us if she suffers from asthma (thankfully). 

She knows there’s a noisy timer on her wrist for each section with impending death hot on her heels, over and over, and yet she still meanders through the tunnels. (Thus the title?)

If there was a “Survival Olympics” she’d come in dead last. At least there’s no dumb scene with the woman falling down while being pursued – because she’s belly crawling the entire time.

Then it turns into a TV episode of Ninja Warrior where she has to carefully cross over a pool of acid. 

But just as you’re getting bored of the whole puzzle-tunnel thing there’s a surprise at the 40 minute mark that you won’t see coming, no matter how hard you try. They did a terrific job for once of hiding that crazy nugget in all the trailers. 

Unfortunately, even with the crazy plot twist, the ending will still leave you wanting.

– Wait for Rental


Till Death (R) 

Megan Fox stars as the wife of a rich lawyer who finds herself handcuffed to his dead body in Till Death, a movie that got great reviews for the opening. Not sure how that happened. 

The first third of the film shows us their dead marriage (no pun intended) as the husband tries to make the best of it on their anniversary night out. About as much fun to watch as it would be if you were sitting at the table with the depressed couple all night. You’d quickly excuse yourself if you could. Megan Fox smiles exactly once in the entire film. Yeah, it’s that gloomy. 

Once she finds herself cuffed to his corpse the writers try their best to stretch out the ordeal of her dragging his dead body all over the house and yard until we need a new diversion to keep us interested. So the writers have the black guy she’s been cheating with show up at the remote cabin on the lake soon followed by a couple bad white guys who are there to steal diamonds from the wall safe. So it becomes a Tarantino wannabe film (minus the clever writing and skillful direction) where apparently the last person standing wins. 

Whether or not you find it satisfying or full of absurdity and plot holes is up to you.

I think the first thing people would do if they got blood and brain fragments blown onto their face would be to wipe their face. Number 1 on the list. Before anything else. Apparently Hollywood script writers wouldn’t do that. Why Megan Fox wouldn’t wipe her husband’s skull gore off her face is inexplicable. 

The post-production GCI breath vapor they added to the “frigid” air only works 1/10th of the time. Either use it or don’t, guys. Don’t just use it for three breaths and call it a day. We’re going to notice that crap.

As usual, women in films never finish the job once they get a villain down. The movie would have been half the runtime had she finished what she started, multiple times. And why does every villain outside of the Halloween franchise possess Michael Myers self-healing powers too? That can’t be right. 

Fox is so damn noisy throughout the whole movie while trying to hide that you’d think the script was written for a ten-year-old girl.

The villains can’t seem to track a person in newly fallen snow. Are they supposed to be ten-year-old boys?

In my book it’s a failed mission. But if you’re a Fox fan and you liked any of her previous (numerous) turkeys you’ll probably like this one enough for a rental.

– Wait for Rental


A Quiet Place Part II (PG-13) 

Much the same as the first film, this family from the Island of Misfit Toys makes their way through a world where monsters instantly and viciously attack when any sound is made. To the point that people whisper to each other in a way that makes you long for subtitles.  

This one starts with a flashback of the world just prior to the alien invasion. Cut to a baseball field where we see the same family as Part I with a deaf daughter and their retarded son who is inept at everything and has frequent panic attacks. He’s failing miserably at bat and we’re shown that he generally struggles in life. As he’s about to strike out, something appears in the sky. The only redeeming quality of this Part II is that we (kind of) get a backstory of how these aliens got to Earth. It’s mighty thin, but at least we get to see a short scene of the arrival. It’s also overplayed.

We’ve all seen footage of meteors racing through the atmosphere. Even a pretty recent (well-documented) one in Russia that was recorded on countless dash cams and security cameras. Modern people simply watch the objects as they burn up during entry, or more likely film it to show their friends later or post on YouTube. We do that because we’re not cave people who have never seen anything race across the sky before. 

Everyone in this movie sees the distant meteor and immediately panics (like ancient people) and sprints to their vehicles. Why and where they think they are going is anyone’s guess. Then the monsters come (too quickly based on the fiery object racing into the distance, but whatever). And that’s the best part of this film. This flashback lasts about 10 minutes total. After that, you can do something else.

The rest of the movie is the same old nonsense that should frustrate grown-up viewers. We see the mother from Part I still carrying her newborn baby (in a world where any noise, like crying, immediately gets everyone killed) with her deaf daughter and retarded son, all walking barefoot in wooded areas and along old railroad tracks that are unfit for bare feet. Misfit Toys. (We don’t yet know what handicap the baby will grow up with. I’m guessing blind as that would add to their long list of absurd issues as he bumps into things. Maybe that will be revealed in Part III).

It’s silly that anyone would walk barefoot in the worst topography for modern feet. As dumb as running from dinosaurs in high heels – in the jungle (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom). And every one of their footsteps crunch just a little as they slowly and (sometimes) carefully walk in the wilderness. Just the same as if they wore Nikes to protect their feet. All the other survivors are wearing sneakers or boots. Because footwear is just as quiet as bare feet on any surface. We know Indians knew a thing or two about stealth. And we also know Indians wore moccasins. They wore footwear because Indians weren’t dumb. 

Yes, this family’s feet immediately bleed. And yes, they limp a lot due to the fact that they have shunned footwear of any kind as they walk for miles at a time. Misfit Toys. Unless you enjoy watching hapless idiots do one dumb thing after another, it’s here that you should be reminded to stop watching because you already saw the alien arrival scene that explains how it all happened – kind of. 

As I established in my Part I film review back in 2018 (and in real life) even normal kids are dumb and don’t behave. They won’t do what you tell them to do so the’ll put themselves and anyone around them in constant peril. Even more so if one of them can’t hear when she makes noise and the other kid is retarded. But Hollywood is under pressure to include handicapped people in all movies. The Academy will no longer consider any movie for awards if it doesn’t conform to this new inclusive mandate. So add this one to the constant stream of such movies.

They even school the movie audience on the best way to communicate with deaf people, emphasizing that we need to speak slowly and enunciate carefully to help them lip-read. I’m guessing the odds of that Hollywood lesson tidbit coming in handy would be astronomically low as I’ve never in my life been in a situation where I needed to converse with a deaf person. With the advent of smart phones, it would be even less of an obstacle as long as the deaf person also possessed thumbs and we could type out what we wanted to say to one another. I don’t even want to guess the astronomical odds of running into a deaf person without thumbs.

At one point the retarded son steps into a bear trap. You can imagine the shock, pain and lengthy horrific screams that come out of his mouth (see photo above). If you have an IQ higher than a turnip you know you have two solid choices. Run away and leave him to save your baby, deaf daughter and yourself, or immediately knock him out with a solid punch to the jaw to shut him up. Letting him scream like a wild banshie endlessly would be death for everyone around. After all, that’s the entire premise of this movie franchise and why they are supposedly walking around for the rest of their lives in bruised and bloodied bare feet! For this scene, the script keeps the monsters at bay for some inexplicable reason giving them ample time to undo his ankle and scramble to safety. Beyond silly. His screams are as long and loud as a 21-gun salute. In every other scene the monsters pounce within seconds of a noise.

Then, just hours after having his leg in a bear trap, he’s limping around on it (yeah, ok) because he refuses to listen to his mother and decides instead to leave the baby alone and wander around in an industrial complex that he’s completely unfamiliar with. This leads to predictable catastrophe because he’s a panic-stricken Misfit Toy that you would never leave alone in a world full of monsters, much less with your newborn baby, much less in a world where he and the baby would quickly be eaten while you’re away. The whole thing is simply asinine. 

The deaf daughter gets into all kinds of trouble and never listens to anyone. She has to be saved multiple times. Which makes sense since she has the massive handicap of hearing loss. But since she’s handicapped, she’s really the only person who can come up with a plan and outsmart man and alien beast alike (much like the first movie). We need to be reminded of that. Handicapped people are super special. Just shy of Marvel Comic Heroes. If it weren’t for handicapped people figuring out everything for us throughout history we would likely have all perished thousands of years ago. Or so Hollywood would have us believe in movie after movie.

As I said in my review of Part I of this franchise, in the real world, this family would be the first to be eaten. They’d be the appetizer. And you’d want to be as far from them as possible to keep from becoming the main course! 

I think it’s garbage.

– Wait for HBO  


New Order (R) 

This is the 2020 movie with this title, directed by Michel Franco – in Spanish with English subtitles.

What would it be like if the world crumbled around you. We watch lots of movies about that, and enjoy them. From the Poseidon Adventure, imagining ourselves on a cruise ship that is suddenly sinking, to Towering Inferno where we imagine what it would be like to be trapped in a burning skyscraper. We even like to see aliens and asteroids destroying earth.

So there’s no reason we wouldn’t enjoy watching a more realistic version of that. What would we do if the whole country we were living in suddenly took up arms against the classes? Here’s your chance to see how that would likely play out (as it has in some countries in our lifetime). 

The movie starts with an extravagant wedding party like something you would see in the Hamptons in the US. This would be the millionaire club Mexican version of that scene. But there are reports of unrest in the city so the security team for the party is nervous.

Suddenly the unrest shows up to the party. It’s vicious. More vicious than you imagine in your head while reading this. Hard to watch but probably more realistic than we’d like to admit.

When even the maids and kitchen help immediately join in against the rich owners it makes you question whether it would really be possible that every one of the rich people in that large group are awful people and deserve the treatment they get. Including a bullet to the head. I find it impossible to believe that every member of every rich family is an awful person. At some point I’d like to believe even the servants would want to protect a chosen few of the well-off people they know or at least warn them in advance of the coming attack.

I’m a foreigner living in Thailand and I’m 100% sure if things went bad like this movie portrays I would be quickly whisked away and hidden by a handful of local Thais who would protect me until things normalized. I find it hard to believe that Mexico would be any different.

But this story depicts a darker tone than even that. Basically the whole country of Mexico suddenly succumbs to the idea of fleecing the rich, including the military. With no police or military protection life becomes unfathomable. If you’re the targeted group and you’re not hidden away, you’re helpless to stop what’s coming for you. 

Things go downhill quickly in this story. Like the “out of nowhere” Tet Offensive in Vietnam with shades of Mainland China’s Great Leap Backward, when the “have nots” suddenly and viciously attack the “haves” in life. It’s shocking stuff and the director shows you just how suddenly things can change from normal life to total chaos. It feeds on itself. Cambodia (the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Communist Party leader Pol Pot) also comes to mind. When politics suddenly goes off the rails, well, you have to see it to believe the tragedy that follows. This would be the modern version of that horror.

This is no date movie and it doesn’t have a feel good ending. Those don’t happen in real-life chaotic events. It’s purposely a heavy dose of reality and will stay with you for a long time after the credits roll.

If you watch movies like The Purge, you owe it to yourself to see New Order. It’s a hell of a lot more realistic and will have a much bigger impact on your life. 

– Wait for Rental


The Dry (R)

Here’s an Australian cop movie that’s the opposite of Mad Max. This is set in the scenic wide-open plains of the (fictionally-named) Kiewarra Region of Australia. It’s been 324 days since it rained so the farmers are getting desperate. But this is not a story about climate or drought. It’s about a murder-suicide in this tight-knit town. Or it might instead be the horrific slaughter of three family members, depending on who you believe. 

Actor Eric Bana (the one on the left in the photo) plays the Australian Federal cop who comes back to this hometown to attend the funeral as an adult after leaving suddenly as a kid when he was suspected of covering up a murder investigation. Now he’s suddenly pulled into this murder investigation in the same town. Figure the odds. Only in books and movies. 

Just know ahead of time that this is a mighty slow burn of a story. Police work is tedious and this reflects that reality. It’s methodical detective work without the usual Hollywood/Australian car chases and scenes full of adrenaline. Throughout the 2 hour runtime we’re also shown frequent flashbacks to help us piece together the backstory of this Aussie detective and various townsfolk. We see them as they were back when he lived there as a kid, and how they all turned out. It’s interesting enough to keep you guessing. He seems to be the only one who left this dusty place.

There are plenty of interesting twists and turns in the final 20 minutes – all the way to the end. A lot of relationships and facts to unpack. It works – if you make it to the end.

So if you feel well-rested and you’re ready for a deep dive into this slow-paced Australian town full of secrets, I think it’s worthy of a rental. 

– Wait for Rental


Riders of Justice (NR)

From Denmark (with moviemaking help from Sweden) comes the latest revenge movie, Riders of Justice. 

A tough soldier named Markus returns home to care for his daughter after his wife dies tragically. When Markus suspects foul-play (the cops don’t) he exacts revenge on those he feels are responsible. That’s all you need to know. Don’t read the official movie synopsis, and the trailer gives way too much away, so avoid it for a better viewing experience. 

The bottom line is that if you enjoy revenge movies, it delivers.

More spoiler-free film insight:
The movie starts out like a straight ahead serious Hollywood story. But it’s billed as a dark comedy. They hold off on the comedy flavor for a while and slowly mix it into the batter. Comedy is tough. If you’re a Danish comedian it would be tough to tour successfully in the US comedy clubs. For sure, US comedians struggle to get any laughs in Japan. Cultures are big part of what makes “things” funny – to that culture. 

Some of it works here. Some of it seems off. We have a group of Poindexters that pontificate about odds and coincidences. Do such guys exist? Sure. Your mileage on such a script tangent may vary. Just know that it does manage to take us down a road less traveled in the revenge theme. I just went with it.

There’s a crazy scene that screams Quentin Tarantino and at about the one hour mark it starts to become an uneven film. But it’s a formula we haven’t seen before. That’s saying something. It’s almost as if they switched directors a third of the way in. I prefer the first direction but I admit it’s an interesting overall formula. The revenge scenes are very satisfying, which is really what you’re paying to see anyway.

The police seem to be awol but it’s not presented in Baltimore, Maryland. Perhaps in Denmark the police are somewhat scarce and slow to respond to crazy goings-on. If you just go with it it works fine for a rental.

There’s also a strange scene where a train passenger throws his food and drink into a trash can while inside the train passenger car. No way. Not only is eating and drinking discouraged on public transportation, but putting a smelly trash can near passengers would simply not happen. Then there’s that whole bomb concern where the bad guy could deposit a bomb in the trash and then get off. ANYTHING left behind on a train is immediately reported and inspected. Trash cans aren’t even on train platforms since 9/11.

(In Danish with English subtitles or dubbed in English)

– Wait for Rental


Hunted (NR)

Eve has to survive a kidnapping in Hunted, the new thriller from Finland. The less you know and the fewer photos or peeks at the trailer the better. Just know that the initial kidnapping is slicker than you expect. 

Eve’s story starts out on the wrong foot when she purposely leaves her cellphone home when she heads out to a bar in the middle of the night. Most people over the last decade or so would drive all the way back home from work to retrieve a forgotten cell phone, and their boss would understand. But Eve does the unthinkable anyway.

Her night very quickly goes south and it’s a roller coaster of a ride for the viewing audience. Finland seems to have competent (if unknown) actors and filmmaking skills, and the foreign scenery eye-candy flavor is a plus (unless you’re from Finland).

There is enough brutality here that it would be a solid “R” if rated, but more of an enjoyable Friday the 13th level than the much more disturbing/shocking, I Spit on Your Grave or Deliverance films.

Unfortunately the usual horror movie problems abound here and they mount up quickly:

You can’t tape someone’s mouth shut with a piece of duct tape. Go ahead, try it on yourself. It doesn’t work. You can tape a crocodile’s mouth shut with duct tape, but not people.

For the umpteenth time, cigarettes don’t burn hot enough to light gasoline.

When you burn an overturned car in the middle of the road it draws a lot of attention. Mostly with cops and fire departments. Once you start that blaze the clock starts ticking. And it’s a short clock before help arrives.

A stun gun/taser cannot render the victim unconscious, nor are they designed to accomplish such an extreme outcome. 

Unless you’re a highly trained Navy Seal I don’t think you could survive a falling plunge into a fast-flowing cold river with your hands bound behind your back while fully clothed. You’d drown.

If you’re cold in the woods at night and a full grown deer magically allows you to lay upon it for warmth, you’d be quickly covered in a seething mass of ticks. Deer are tick-magnets, covered from head to tail with nasty, hungry ticks.

One can only assume kids in Finland play hide and seek. But Eve struggles to hide herself with a nice head start in an endless forest – at night. She’s still horribly lost in the woods in the daytime yet seems utterly oblivious to her surroundings. Perhaps they cut out the scene where she also left her glasses at home when heading out to the bar?

The paintball scene is simply too bizarre to even cover here.

The biggest takeaway of the movie is that every-single-character is totally inept. A ton of inept characters:
Kidnapped woman
Kidnappers
Convenience store clerk
Mother and son campers
Painball stooges
Security guard 
Guard dog 
Real estate agent and prospective buyers

In the case of half of them, it obviously makes the movie longer. But when every onscreen character is a bumbling fool it paints a dim picture of Finnish society.

The ending is laughably unsatisfying but dare I say, they stuffed this movie with a lot of storyline and a pacing that keeps you engaged throughout. Lots of twists and turns. It’s just too bad they dumbed everyone down so hard in the script to get there.

– Wait for Rental   


The Unthinkable (NR)

This is a Swedish film (English subtitles) about an existential attack on their country. From what, we don’t know for over an hour. But whatever it is it’s pretty darn destructive and causes people to go crazy on the roads. 

It starts out in 2005 back when everyone had wired phones in their house and then skips ahead to the cell phone days. But that added convenience doesn’t help much because the power and tech comes crumbling down when “it” happens to Sweden.

That’s not a terrible theme, but unfortunately it’s a depressing story throughout, showing us downtrodden people who always seem to be left wanting for more in life. It would seem the Swedes lack a Hollywood storyline touch to their moviemaking. We need someone or something to root for. Instead we’re left just feeling sorry for everyone on-screen from start to finish. The cynical side of me wonders if the Unthinkable happening to them is just the kick in the ass these characters needed to get out of their dull, hum-drum lives.

By the halfway point it’s a mess of a movie as everything falls apart around them including the script that’s showing it all to us. It’s a little better than watching paint dry, but not much.

– Avoid!   


The Columnist (NR)

Now and again we all stumble on a very strange movie. This is one of those.

It’s a subtitled, professionally shot and well-acted film from the Netherlands about a woman writer named Femke Boot who becomes obsessed with the online commenters that write exceedingly hateful comments about her and her articles. To be sure, the comments are awful. A lot of that on the internet these days, especially YouTube and the various social media platforms. But she decides enough is enough. So Femke hunts down her online tormentors and becomes a serial killer.

I can see how such a pitch could be green-lit for production. Especially in today’s world with social platforms getting heat for their content oversight and with a female lead doing the killing. Unfortunately the plot isn’t very well-stitched together.

When hunting down an online bully that’s tormenting you it’s a hell of a lot easier to locate that person within the tiny constraints of the Netherlands than say locating their address in Nebraska when you live in Florida. So the movie is somewhat plausible by its setting. But just as it’s easier to find someone in that tiny nation, it’s also easier to get caught when killing a bunch of people in broad daylight in such a place. Especially when she’s so inept at the whole killer routine. 

It’s all a bit too easy. A women writer, who’s terrible at being a killer (writer-to-violent-killer is not really a transferable skill) would struggle to kill one full grown man much less a slew of them. See the domestic bliss photo above? She’s not a Russian trained Nikita killing machine from the wrong side of the tracks. She’s a pink-fingered, compulsive nail-biting typist who writes books and columns and then suddenly kills men with nary a scratch or bruise afterward.     

Furthermore, for a professional writer who has surely read a lot, they go hand in hand, she’s the least careful serial killer in history. I won’t go into details as it would ruin the movie if you see it. But you will agree – she’s the least careful serial killer in history.

OK, so maybe it’s billed as an implausible dark comedy. But at no time are the scenes played “funny.” Femke is fed up. She’s distant with her family. She’s laser-focused on the internet trolls and her unwavering need to confront and then kill them. Mostly just kill them. And then cut off their middle finger as a souvenir.

I was left shaking my head. But I’m a guy. Maybe it went over my head as I shook it. Your mileage may vary.

– Wait for HBO


Initiation (aka Init!ation) (R)

Another entry in the genre of, Masked Slasher Terrorizes College Campus. This one is better than most of the recent attempts.

It’s interesting to watch older movies that were filmed before cell phones became ubiquitous in our lives. It may be equally interesting decades from now when we look back at movies like Initiation that not only embrace it but accentuate the constant, if not incessant use of cellphones. Will these scenes make future viewers cringe at the vintage tech we were glued to – all the time? No doubt. 

Since this movie takes place on a college campus, texting is a huge part of this movie’s DNA, as it should be in today’s world. And the filmmakers do a great job of cleverly superimposing the messages on the screen for us to follow (in a way we haven’t seen before). There are times where the “dialogue” is nothing more than extended conversations back and forth by text. It works here.

The main theme is one of fraternities and sororities doing their age-old college thing with a modern take on possible drunken rape issues. One girl passes out in a locked bedroom with two frat guys. After the fact, she and her close girlfriends try to ascertain whether she was violated or not. The frat guys use the “!” punctuation mark next to a girl’s online photo to indicate the girl has been “used.” But even though that “!” is used on the movie poster title, it’s just a footnote of the overall plot going on here. (More of a * than a !) Remove the 15 seconds combined usage and any mention of the “!” texting plot device and the movie is exactly the same. 

It’s been four decades since I was in college but the script and acting seems to show these young college boys and girls acting and talking/texting in very realistic ways. Rare in these films. And as campus slasher films go, it’s more intriguing than you think with a long build of the set-up, much like the slower paced films of the late 70’s through the 80’s. Then the killings start. They’re brutal in nature. The R rating is earned, so if you’re in it for the kills, it’s a winner. But as usual with horror movies, there are issues. 

I know it’s boring and no one wants to watch it, but for those that didn’t go to college, just know we rarely see anybody actually attend class in these movies nor is any amount of homework or studying done. In reality, that’s how most of your time at college is spent. Otherwise you flunk out and can’t stay in college to enjoy the parties and fun in between.

When running from a killer after dark through a closed campus building, the girls open a door to a lab classroom filled with high-end Apple desktop computers on every desk. Not only is the classroom door not locked but the keyhole of the commercial door lock is on the inside of the room. Dumb on so many levels including emergency fire egress. So not only are the girls unable to lock the killer out, but the university would be unable to keep that fortune of computers from being constantly stolen.

As with all of these movies, four-year-olds are better at hide and seek than any women we see here running and hiding for their lives. But that’s par for the course. At least none of them fall down. 

The last 15 minutes are pretty darn intense. But once the killer’s identity is revealed you’ll realize the last five minutes of their reign of terror makes no sense whatsoever.

– Wait for Rental   


Percy vs Goliath (PG-13)

Christopher Walken stars as Percy Schmeiser, the real life farmer who went up against Monsanto Corporation after Monsanto found their genetically engineered and patented crops on Percy’s farm even though Farmer Percy neither paid for nor wanted their seeds on his land. Regardless, he’s using their technologically developed seeds and therefore, per the law, has to pay for it. 

It’s a complicated case as many know. There are two sides to the story and Monsanto did spend billions in R&D to engineer crops to withstand everything from drought to pests. But as this movie shows, even seeds that were blown onto his property literally taint his fields and this case. It’s simply too easy to accidentally get their technology onto your land. 

One of the weaknesses of the film is that it’s Monsanto Canada he’s dealing with in this lawsuit. Not the big bad US conglomerate. So it lacks that certain intense US courtroom drama. Like having the case tried in Bermuda.

The other thing that hurts this case is that, no doubt true to life, Farmer Percy is a bore. His wife is a bore. His lawyer (who walks with a cane, per the latest push for handicapped people in movies) is a bore. It’s so close to reality (other than the forced handicap part) that it plays more like a PBS docudrama than a Hollywood movie.

Maybe that’s a good thing? However, I’m not sure it’s worth your “entertainment” dollars unless this case is super interesting to you. Percy does drag it out all the way to the Supreme Court. The Canadian Supreme Court. How underwhelming.

All I can think of is… Bermuda.

– Wait for HBO (or PBS)


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