Last Night in Soho — My brief review (NO SPOILERS)

Last Night in Soho

Last Night in Soho

I finally got around to seeing “Last Night in Soho”, Edgar Wright’s latest film.
     I quite liked it, although I’m still not sure what it was. Even while I was watching it, I couldn’t help try to place “Last Night in Soho” in a genre, but it is truly a movie that cannot be categorized. It’s not quite a ghost movie, not quite a drama, not quite a horror movie, but it has elements of all of them. A supernatural drama, perhaps?
     A very well-done, atmospheric film about a country girl that moves to the big city and then . . . well, things happen. Leave it at that. It has very interesting, at times almost languid pacing that might frustrate some viewers, but in the days of Save the Cat I found that quite refreshing.
     Still, I have to say that “Last Night in Soho” it not quite as sharp and punchy as Wright’s other movies–but that’s not what this movie is going for. At any rate, it’s certainly one of his most memorable movies, and it should go down as a minor cult classic of some . . . ah, undefinable genre.
     Final thoughts on “Last Night in Soho”: Recommended! But it’s not for everyone.

The Book of Boba Fett: My No-Spoilers Review of Episode 1

Boba Fett

Book of Boba Fett

My brief, NO SPOILERS thoughts on the first episode of THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT, the new Star Wars TV show form Disney +.
Just saw the first episode. Solid and fun. Feels very Mandalorian-ish, which makes sense, since it’s the same creative team and is a direct spin-off. I thought the pilot for Mando was better, with a clearer direction for where the series was going, and an emotional hook. Boba Fett doesn’t really have that yet.
Also, some things don’t really make sense to me, like why the king of the planet only has three bodyguards, but overall I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to the next installment. Excellent CGI (even if the practical effects weren’t as good — seriously, why do the Gomorrean guards from ROTJ look better than the ones they make these days?), including a nice, if very conveniently-placed Harryhausen-esque monster.
Good if not great, but good Star Wars is still better than almost anything else in my, er, book. Recommended for fans of The Mandalorian, but if you didn’t like Mando you’re unlikely to enjoy Boba Fett. Hoping things become more engaging in the second installment. B+

Color Out of Space — My NO SPOILERS review of the movie based on the story by H. P. Lovecraft

Color Out of Space

Color Out of Space


I saw “Color Out of Space” last night, and here are my brief NO SPOILERS thoughts on it.

“Dagon” has some competition, finally. Until now Stuart Gordon’s “Dagon” had been, to my mind, the best movie based on a story by H. P. Lovecraft that was truly Lovecraftian (unlike Re-Animator, which is fun but it’s really just HPL doing a riff on Mary Shelley and isn’t particularly Lovecraftian, despite being written by Lovecraft). “Dagon” is fun, gory and has a great atmosphere that is able to maintain a sustained Lovecraftian mood through much of the movie. It is very low-budget and rough around the edges, though.

Enter “Color Out of Space”. I wasn’t really expecting much from a a movie directed by an essentially retired B-movie director and starring Nicholas Cage, with an appearance by Tommy Chong, of all people (not the first name you think of when you think of Lovecraft).

But it works. “Color Out of Space” is a well-done, tense, atmospheric piece of filmmaking that takes great liberties with the source material but also largely stays true to it. The acting is good, even Cage’s, and he never goes Full Cage until the end, when it calls for it.

The movie never really reaches that Lovecraftian feeling of utter cosmic horror and dread until the climax, and in this I feel that “Dagon” may still be superior (if a much less polished movie). “Dagon” maintains that Lovecraftian vibe through a lot of its running time, only losing it during a torture scene that probably didn’t need to be there.

I’ll have to do some thinking on it in the days to come as to which is the better Lovecraftian experience. “Color Out of Space” is certainly the more “professional” of the two–the A-movie to “Dagon”‘s B-movie. But I’m not sure if it’s the better Lovecraftian experience, since it only reaches that point near the end.

Either way, I recommend the movie to fans of horror and certainly to Lovecraftians.

The critics seem to like it, too.


Another Idea For Rey’s Parentage

(Guest article by Matthew W. Quinn)

One of the great mysteries of the Star Wars “sequel trilogy” is the parentage of heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley). All she remembers is that her parents left her on the isolated world of Jakku and fled, and she has been waiting for many years for their return. That they’re not coming back is something she learned to accept in The Force Awakens, but her desire to learn more about them is part of The Last Jedi. There the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) claims they were vagrants who sold her for beer money and she’s “nothing,” but given the fact he’s a wannabe Sith Lord, he might not be the most trustworthy source.

The following discussion contains spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker, so be ye warned…

The new movie reveals that her parents weren’t really “nobodies” after all – her father was the fugitive son of none other than Emperor Palpatine. Although some fans had noticed that Rey’s lightsaber technique resembles Palpatine’s from Revenge of the Sith, the fact she’s Palpatine’s granddaughter raises a lot more questions than it solves.

For starters, if Palpatine had a son, why isn’t he ever referenced in the original trilogy or the prequels? The son of the Senator from Naboo might not attract a lot of attention, but as the Hunter Biden-Ukraine situation shows, the son of the Supreme Chancellor definitely would. And when said chancellor makes himself Emperor, said son is a logical candidate for succession if Palpatine dies. And given how Darth Vader is the Sith Apprentice to Palpatine’s Sith Master, he probably expects to be Palpatine’s successor. Palpatine having a child at all isn’t some minor bit of trivia, but something that realistically would have come up earlier. This is a Chekhov’s Gun that should have been revealed before it was fired or, to put it in cruder TVTropes terms, an Ass Pull.

I will concede that one positive result of the Palpatine connection is the character moment it gives Leia. In The Rise of Skywalker, Leia trains Rey in the Jedi techniques she herself had learned from Luke, even though, according to Luke’s shade, she knew Rey was Palpatine’s granddaughter. This reflects well on Leia that she will not condemn someone for their ancestor’s crimes, especially given how the revelation she was Vader’s daughter ended her political career in the new-canon novel Bloodline. However, her not being a massive hypocrite is a relatively low bar to jump.

It’s easy to criticize without offering solutions. Here’s an idea for Rey’s parentage that allows for the Palpatine connection, gives Leia an even better character moment, and gives Rey conflict about whether or not she’s somehow tainted or prone to the Dark Side.

Rey isn’t Palpatine’s granddaughter. She’s actually his gender-flipped clone or another type of being created from his DNA — either way, some kind of Sith science project. The cult that raised Palpatine from the dead created her, perhaps as an alternative body or some kind of blood sacrifice to revive him. Rey’s “parents” weren’t really her parents, but scientists from the project who had become attached to her and bolted, leaving her on Jakku while they fled in a different direction as a distraction. Unfortunately, they were killed in some kind of starship accident (and so the cultists assumed Rey was dead too) and so Rey was abandoned. Kylo Ren finds this out from his dealings with Palpatine’s cult or perhaps some kind of independent espionage on his part. This would explain why she flees to Ach-To and destroys the stolen TIE fighter to strand herself there — she views herself as tainted, something the shade of Luke has to talk her out of. Having an evil man as the grandfather you never knew doesn’t make you have visions of ruling from the Sith Throne and cause you to strand yourself in the middle of nowhere, but thinking you’re some kind of Sith science project intended to help revive the most evil and reviled man in galactic history just might.

This also gives Leia an even better character moment. Given all the crap she’s gotten due to being Darth Vader’s daughter, she doesn’t seem like the sort who would mistrust or mistreat someone due to their parentage. But Rey as a clone of Palpatine is a completely different matter — given how clones are treated as expendable cannon fodder during the prequel era, people might fear Leia would not view Rey as human, much like how droids are treated as property despite being clearly thinking beings. Furthermore, in this scenario Rey isn’t a blood relative of her greatest enemy who never knew her grandfather but is some kind of Sith black magic spinoff of him. The fact Leia judges Rey on the content of her character and views her as an ally (and given all the hugging possibly the daughter she never had) rather than a monster or potential threat shows even better Leia’s kindness and wisdom.

Matthew W. Quinn is the author of the Lovecraftian horror novel The Thing in the Woods and the horror-comedy novella Little People, Big Guns. His military fantasy novel Battle for the Wastelands, which Jack blurbed, is available HERE on Amazon.


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — My Review (SPOILERS)

Rise of Skywalker

Rise of Skywalker

Yikes. So that’s how they ended the trilogy. I refuse to call Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker the last movie in the Skywalker Saga, because that was Return of the Jedi, and it was a perfect ending, plus or minus a few Ewoks.

The last movie in the Disney Trilogy is a mess. I knew as soon as I heard Palpatine was coming back that it would be, and I wasn’t wrong. JJ Abrams set up the trilogy well in FA, even if it was completely the wrong way to go about it (you need to evolve the universe, Lucasfilm, and honor what has come before, not reboot/remake A New Hope). But Force Awakens was fun, and could have functioned as a tonally light starter to a more serious, interesting trilogy.

Instead, Rian Johnson turned his entry in the series into a platform for political propaganda and a display case for bad storytelling devices, and it was a tonal nightmare, too. It seriously opened with a your-mama joke and a cell phone gag, then proceeded to destroy the epic, mythic hero the series had been built around.

Just as bad, Last Jedi dropped the plots set up in Force Awakens, and even eliminated the villain. So Rise of Skywalker was never going to be a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, because the trilogy was toast as soon as Rian Johnson was through with it.

But it didn’t have to be this bad. They wipe C3-PO’s mind in order to decode a dagger, which they’ve lost, because he’s the only one that has memorized its inscription … but then they instantly find the dagger.

They try to turn Po into Han Solo. They actually retcon him as a smuggler that “goes good” and joins the rebellion. He did have one funny moment at the end, though, waggling his eyebrows at that lady in the helmet. Seriously, that was her only defining characteristic.

They misuse Finn, again, but at least he comes out better in this one than he did in Last Jedi. He still doesn’t fulfill the potential he had in Force Awakens.

Kylo is still the most interesting character, but they don’t do much with him here. He gets a decent end.

Rey comes out the best, probably. They actually give her a little character arc. But like everything else, it’s too little, too late, and making her a Palpatine doesn’t answer how she was able to use her Force abilities. Luke was also descended from a powerful Force user, but he couldn’t do anything with it until he was trained. And don’t get me started on her deciding to become a moisture farmer and calling herself a Skywalker.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a mess, but it’s not offensively awful like the Last Jedi, and there are some fun practical effects, some nice aliens and cool Star Wars-y bits of tech.

Sadly I never connected with the movie, and was never “in” the movie. I kept on waiting to be emotionally engaged, but it never hooked me.

Some questions: Why did projecting his mere image through the Force kill Luke Skywalker, but Rey and Kylo Ren could exchange entire physical objects through the Force without breaking a sweat? Why did Palpatine task Kylo with killing Rey if he wanted Rey to kill him? And why, after Rey did do that, did he not go through with his plan to possess her? Why was there an inscription on the dagger? For what purpose? Why did Rey know to extend the little do-dad on it at just the right moment, and stand in just the right spot?

This movie just made no sense, from top to bottom. Its heart was in the right place, though (or close enough), and I appreciate that. I just wish its head had been in the right place, too.

It really does feel like just a bunch of random stuff that happens. Also, how many times can Rey and Kylo be in an evil throne room just when the rebel fleet is engaged in battle with the evil fleet?

Also, why was the Emperor hanging out building a giant fleet and developing tens of thousands of Sith followers, without actually doing anything with that power? If he was never dead, why did he ever stop running the Empire? Why did the war end?

Another thing In the final battle, the rebels destroyed the ships of the Emperor. That’s it. The First Order, which had conquered the galaxy at that point, is presumably still out there ruling it. The Emperor’s new fleet was just a bonus for them, but they’d already won, so it was unnecessary. In other words, despite the big battle at the end, the bad guys still won, and some First Order general is still out there somewhere, ruling the galaxy with an iron fist. I don’t think this was intentional or a set-up for future movies. I’m absolutely sure this was simply the result of terrible, terrible writing. Seriously bad writing. I’m a writer of epic fantasy and science fiction, and I am professionally insulted by the storytelling of this movie.

Why . . .(throwing up hands). This movie is profoundly stupid. Last Jedi was an affront and an abomination to Star Wars. Rise of Skywalker is simply an embarrassment. A huge, ridiculous, loud embarrassment.

I still don’t consider the new trilogy canon, and I might never see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker again. Maybe a fan edit to see if it can be fixed. That would help if they release some deleted scenes.

I recommend this only to Star Wars completionists, although some people seem to like it.

This movie makes no sense. None.

At least there wasn’t a your-mama joke.



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’s coverage.