Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — My Review — SPOILER WARNING













I have seen ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, and here are my brief, SPOILERY thoughts on it, after a spoiler wall. Do not continue reading if you don’t want the movie spoiled for you.

Okay, here goes. Spoilers beyond this point . . .
They saved Sharon Tate! That made me very happy. It’s what I was hoping for going into the movie, and I knew it was possible after Inglorious Basterds. But QT did it, and even got some retroactive “revenge” on several members of the Manson Family, which was very satisfying. Thank you, QT.

I’ve seen some people complain that Margot Robbie didn’t have much to do in the movie. I don’t understand that complaint, unless you don’t know the story of the Manson murders. Every second Margot Robbie/Sharon Tate was on the screen was vital — it’s where the menace was. We know her fate, and getting to know her and love her, even a little, built the threat even more. That’s where the tension in the movie came from. All Margot had to do was be lovable, and she succeeded.

And Once Upon a Time in Hollywood needed that tension, because most of the rest of the movie is very laid back. QT wants us to revel in 1960s Hollywood, and he does a terrific job of evoking that time and place. The movie doesn’t have much actual plot to speak of, and a large chunk of it is simply a day in the life of its three principal characters.

None of the characters drive the plot forward, and, like I said, there is very little plot to drive. This is a ticking time-bomb movie where the characters involved don’t know there’s a bomb. But the audience does, and that’s where the tension is. We can bask in the ’60s goodness and still be on the edges of our seats — a very interesting approach to film-making.

And they saved Sharon Tate and her friends, and brought blood vengeance to the Manson Family. All in all, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a very good time at the movies, and one that isn’t a reboot or sequel or based on an existing franchise. Recommended.

To see what others have to say about it, here’s the link to the Rotten Tomatoes page for the movie.




1980s horror movie roundup — The Nest and The Intruder

The Nest movie

The Nest

Horror movie report:

Last night I did a double feature of THE NEST and THE INTRUDER, two 1980s horror movies that I’d somehow missed. The 1980s were the golden age of horror. So how do these two stack up?

Pretty well, actually

THE NEST is a surprisingly well-written, professionally made movie aimed at a theatrical audience. Nice pacing, good acting and an overall decent time at the movies, even if the threat of the film is only extremely vicious cockroaches. Also notable for having a strong female co-lead that is always off having her own adventures and being an effective protagonist without having to wait for the Age of Woke-ness to liberate her. Amazing.

Overall, a fairly well-made and watchable horror movie, I don’t care what Rotten Tomatoes says. Nothing to write home about, but if you’re a horror fan you might want to check it out.

Don’t let the cover fool you, though. There are no giant cockroaches terrorizing ladies in bikinis. Also no bikinis.

THE INTRUDER is another film from the same era. I was lured into watching it because Amazon told me it starred Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi. Well, not so fast, Amazon. Bruce is barely in the movie, and Sam has a bit part.

This movie feels more like a direct-to-video number, and it has a very small budget — most of which goes to the gore in the second half of the movie. A group of teens are trapped in a small supermarket with a psycho, and the bodies pile up quickly. Not much in the way of character development or plot, but the director makes up for it by trying to live up to his actor, Sam Raimi. I’ve got to give him credit for trying to make bold, fun stylistic choices, even if they don’t always work, and I have to wonder if Sam spent a little time behind the camera on this one.

A total waste of Bruce, though.

However, it was nice to see the actor who played the redneck from Evil Dead II get some screentime. He should have been in more movies.

Overall, not a great movie, definitely the lesser of the two, but well-paced and with some attempt at style.

What should I watch next? I just did Sleepaway Camp 2 the other day (with one crossover actress from The Intruder, interestingly). Tempted to check out Sleepaway Camp 3. So far the series hasn’t been impressive, but somehow it’s fun to see the subpar version of Friday the 13th. It elevates the Friday series to see all the things it does right that Sleepaway does wrong (atmosphere, characterization, plot progression — not normally things I associate with Friday the 13th, but with a similar setting and plot, it’s hard not to compare and contrast).



Marvel Phase Four — My thoughts on the newest phase of the MCU

Marvel Phase Four lineup

Marvel Phase Four

Interesting. We’re getting more Thor before more Guardians. Does that mean the Guardians will be in Thor, since they were last seen together? Love that He-Man-esque font for Thor. Not sure about “Love and Thunder”, and I’m not thrilled at the idea of Natalie Portman coming back and becoming Lady Thor. Maybe she’ll surprise me, but she hasn’t been the best thing about those movies, to put it nicely. Still, I love Ragnorak and it’s the same director, so I’m hoping a trailer can get me more interested.

I don’t know much about the Eternals or Shang-Chi, and if Black Widow is a prequel I’m not going to be that excited. If Blade isn’t rated R, my interest in that is going to be pretty low, too, and I’m not sure if Mahershala Ali can sell the physicality of the character the way Wesley Snipes could. But he’s a talented actor, and I look forward to seeing what he does with the role. Most of the rest are TV shows, and I’m curious but not excited about any of them.

Which leaves Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness as the only one of the new Marvel movies I’m really looking forward to, at least as things stand now. New information (like, that Black Widow isn’t a prequel) or a good trailer could spark my excitement for one or more of the others, but that’s my temperature at the moment. And I love that title — “Multiverse of Madness”. That’s badass. Also interesting that they’re going with the multiverse idea after teasing that and throwing it out in the latest Spider-Man.

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts on the new Marvel lineup. For more discussion on it, check out i09.com’s coverage.



Child’s Play … is okay. My short no-spoilers review of the new Chucky movie.

Chucky Child's Play


I have seen the new Child’s Play movie, and here are my brief, NO SPOILERS thoughts.

Child’s Play 2019 a solid movie. If you like horror movies, you’ll probably like this one. It keeps some of the tone of the original, but adds in some new notes all its own.

In the new incarnation of Chucky, the filmmakers have taken out the supernatural elements from the original and simply made Chucky a homicidal AI doll that can control other technology, too, a la the Terminator in T3. None of that isĀ a spoiler, since that’s established in the prologue for this movie.

I prefer the more supernatural take on Chucky, with a fully-formed evil madman possessing the doll, instead of a blank-slate AI that grows more evil as it goes, but it’s a well-made movie for what it is, and I had a good time at the theater.

Generally recommended for horror fans. I would rate it a B-, with a sliding scale for horror.

Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 60, both in Critical Reviews and in Audience Reviews.


My review of the movie “Us” by Jordan Peele (MILD SPOILERS)

US the movie

US the movie

Jordan Peele’s second horror movie, Us, dropped this last weekend, and it’s making quite a splash. But is it good?

I quite enjoyed his first movie, GET OUT, even though I found it somewhat racist and unnecessarily focused on divisive politics. Just the same, it was a taut, well-constructed, highly atmospheric film.

US let me down. I’d hoped for the same level of quality as GET OUT, but unfortunately US is a bit of a mess. It can’t quite strike a consistent tone, the pacing is off, and the tacked on scientific explanation at the end proves that sometimes less is more. The best episodes of Twilight Zone were the ones where they didn’t try to explain what you just watched.

And if you are going to explain things, action must follow that explanation. You don’t have a strange story, then an explanation at the end, and that’s it. Something must follow that explanation. It must go somewhere. Otherwise it feels like the filmmaker simply justifying the movie.

But that’s pretty much what we get in US, followed by what might be the most telegraphed reveal of all time.

The actors uniformly do a great job, the atmosphere is taut, until a few misplaced jokes are fired out, and the film contains some fun, original ideas. Bonus points for that.

Bottom line: for horror fans, US delivers a taut, original narrative, so it’s definitely worth a watch. But the execution is muddled and the whole is not as satisfying as GET OUT. C+

Looks like that’s about where the audience score for Rotten Tomatoes is. Never trust the critics, especially for a movie that has been politicized, as US has.


The Alita: Battle Angel movie rocks! My review

Alita Battle Angel

Battle Angel Alita poster

I saw ALITA BATTLE ANGEL recently, and here are my brief NO SPOILERS thoughts.

Alita Battle Angel is a blast. A extremely fun, well-made movie, put together by the unlikely duo of Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron (who I would describe as opposites in their approach to filmmaking, one fast and loose, one meticulous and slow). But somehow it works.

I’m a big fan of the original manga,and I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. For years it looked like James Cameron himself might make it, but that didn’t happen. And you know what? That’s okay. The movie we got is quite good, and he did at least co-write it, so the movie has the benefit of his strong narrative underpinnings.

Alita herself is well-realized and is a fantastic character. They do such a good job making her awesome that any other defects in the movie sort of melt away, much like the Marvel movies in their approach to heroes.

Is it perfect? No, there are flaws here and there, as there are in any movie, and the ending sets up a sequel that we might never get. But the movie is good enough that you’ll want that sequel. At least I do.

Which brings up an interesting point. Right now the critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes is in the 50s. The audience score is in the 90s. Trust the audience score. So why do the critics judge Alita so harshly? Why is it that the critics have become less and less reliable lately?

Look at Last Jedi, which had the opposite situation — an overwhelmingly positive critical response but an audience score in the 40s. That particular situation had to do with politics. Does this one — that is, Alita? Or, to put it another way, does Alita’s complete lack of a political agenda hurt it with the critics?

It’s the only explanation I can come up with, because it’s a damn fun movie. Better than Aquaman, which I quite liked.

I saw it in IMAX 3D, which is definitely the best way to watch this movie.

Highly recommended!




About that Lord of the Rings TV series Amazon is working on . . .

Interesting! That Amazon Lord of the Rings TV series will focus on Numenor and the Second Age. This is actually a pretty cool idea. Sauron himself will almost certainly be a character. I would bet that the series focuses on him slowly corrupting Numenor. Also, the emergence of a resistance against him.

Numenor is also a confined location, and it could be shot mostly on sets, so it wouldn’t prove quite as expensive as shooting in New Zealand on location (if they went that route).

Tolkien wrote an unfinished love story about characters in Numenor. It touches on broader events, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the two proud lovers of that story are characters, or at least inspire characters.

Other characters, ancestors of Aragorn, develop a resistance to Sauron later in the timeline. I would expect the series to be set then.

I will miss traveling through Middle-Earth, though. That is part of the appeal of the saga, so hopefully we will see some of Arnor and Gondor, too. And that would be in keeping with the timeline.

What do you think?


My review of Captain Marvel

Capt Marvel movie

I saw CAPTAIN MARVEL recently, and here are my brief NO SPOILERS thoughts on it.

All the Marvel movies have been entertaining, and this one is no exception. It has a fast-moving plot, multiple space aliens, and a character trying to find her way.

But is it good? Well, it’s okay. It’s definitely a mid or lower-tier Marvel movie. The friend I saw it with ranked it around the tier of Ant Man and the Wasp, and I would have to agree with that. The difference that makes AMatW superior, in my opinion, is that they nailed the character of Ant Man in that movie.

They didn’t do so well with Captain Marvel, the character. Marvel (the studio) has always been very good at building their heroes, often to the detriment of their villains, but it works, and it’s created some very memorable franchises (or sub-franchises?). Perhaps a different actress could have elevated the material and really brought Captain Marvel to life in a big way, but Brie Larson, while fine, just doesn’t have that ability. And the writing does her no favors.

The other big problem with her development is Sam Jackson. He’s just too good. He’s so effortlessly charismatic that he steals every scene, but if you’re going to have a star of that caliber serve as a supporting lead (and much of this film is a buddy movie, so he gets a lot of screentime) you need to have your lead be equally as engaging. John Travolta could do it. Brie Larson can’t. And unfortunately Sam Jackson has more chemistry with the cat than with her.

But, again, I don’t want to blame Brie too much. Her political preaching may be annoying, but if I waited for actors that I agreed with to come along I would never see a movie. So I can let that go. Her performance is pretty meh, but the writing that informs it is even worse. This is the one time I can think of that the Marvel creative team really let a main character down, and it’s a shame.

What about the rest of the movie? Well, it’s fast and zippy until a certain plot twist halfway in, and that plot twist felt more like a comment on modern day politics than an attempt at good storytelling (hint: it has something to do with immigration). After that point the plot mechanics become somewhat clunky, and the last act is muddled because of it. Ronan the Accuser is totally wasted, and in fact he’s made into a joke to build up Capt. Marvel’s character more — not a great move on the part of the writers.

Also, there’s some continuity problems this movie creates, since it’s set before most of the other movies.

And don’t get me started on how Nick Fury loses his eye. Sigh.

Anyway, I could go on, but I don’t dislike the movie enough to savage it, and I don’t like it enough to really recommend it. If you’re a Marvel completist, you’ll see this movie, and you won’t have a bad time at the theater. Sam Jackson and the cat are great, and there’s some cool alien stuff. There are some politics, and I do feel that they somewhat derail the movie, and the whole thing feels kind of messy, but with a different writer and director I would be interested to see the further adventures of Carol Danvers in a future movie, hopefully in space.

If you want a pro-female action movie to go see this weekend, I would highly recommend the far, far better ALITA BATTLE ANGEL.

Have you seen Captain Marvel? What did you think?


My thoughts on Stranger Things Season 2


Stranger Things Season 2

Stranger Things Season 2

I love this show. I just finished Season 2, and here are my brief yet rambling thoughts on it. Very minor spoilers ahead.

Season Two did the impossible — it was a perfect continuation of the mood and flavor of Season 1. It picks up a year after Season One ended, but certain cliffhangery elements from that first season are just now reaching critical mass. And then things get crazy.

Stranger Things is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket. It’s just a wonderful show all around — great characters, great atmosphere, terrific pacing and filmmaking. And it really does feel more like a film in some wasy than a television show. They’ve taken elements from some of the great 80s properties and creators — King, Speilberg, Carpenter, Lynch — blended them all together and added something new, and the result is awesome.

Stranger Things raises the bar for serialized television entertainment. The mind reels to think of the possibility of getting an eight-episode-season of the Star Wars TV show at this level of quality. (!!)

MINOR SPOILERS, addressing The Lost Sister: Eleven is back, and she kicks ass. The showrunners opt not to give us the reuninon between Eleven and Mike that we want to see right away, however, instead sending Eleven off on her own quest after a few episodes. That particular episode seems to be divisive among fans, and I get it, but I also understand why the showrunners felt it necessary. Eleven needed to come to the fork in the road in her own life and make a choice. The main problem with the Lost Sister (that particular episode) is that none of the new characters are likeable. I would argue that that was the point, that if Eight and her gang had been people we wanted to see more of than Eleven would have been tempted to make another choice. However, I will say that I think the events of that episode could have been streamlined and intercut with events back in Hawkins. But one slightly jarring episode is a minor complaint for an otherwise amazing piece of entertainment.

That controversy aside, wow! What a terrific season. I love that we even get a touch of Lovecraft in Season 2. Perhaps the Mind Flayer isn’t a Lovecraftian horror, but it certainly seems to be very similar. If the Duffer brothers can establish its place in a larger pantheon, we’ll have full-on Lovecraft here (well, almost; there won’t be as much dread, because the world is not doomed and the universe is not quite as hostile . . . yet), and I couldn’t be happier.

Anyway, I’m tempted to rewatch the season already. I loved it, and I can’t wait for Season Three.

What are your thoughts?