Movie Reviews 2021

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