Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A Reel Preview: The Year in Film 2022 - Episode XII

The final month of the year has arrived, and 2022 is possibly saving the best for last. Here now are the notable theatrical releases for the packed month of December…




EMANCIPATION – Will Smith runs back into the spotlight, this time playing a runaway slave in 1863. Ben Foster co-stars, and Antoine Fuqua (THE EQUALIZER), directs. 



EMPIRE OF LIGHT – Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (1917, SKYFALL), helms this love story taking place around an English movie theatre in the 1980’s. It stars Olivia Colman, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, and Michael Ward. 



THE WHALE – Brendan Fraser (THE MUMMY), returns to big-time cinema by playing a severely overweight man trying to re-connect with his daughter. Darren Aronofsky (BLACK SWAN), directs. 



AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER – James Cameron returns with his long-overdue sequel to his 2009 Oscar-winner and all-time box office champion, AVATAR. Set a decade after the events of the first film, THE WAY OF WATER follows the Sully family as they face a new threat to their planet. It stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet, and Stephen Lang. 



BABYLON – Oscar-darling director Damien Chazelle (LA LA LAND, FIRST MAN, WHIPLASH), brings us this comedy-drama taking place in 1920’s Hollywood. The ensemble cast includes Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Tobey Maguire, Samara Weaving, Olivia Wilde, Katherine Waterston, Flea, and Eric Roberts. 



I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY – Naomi Ackie plays the late great singer Whitney Houston in this biopic. Stanley Tucci co-stars, and it is directed by Kasi Lemmons (HARRIET). 



A MAN CALLED OTTO – Tom Hanks takes a shot at playing a grumpy old man in this dark comedy about a widowed man looking to commit suicide, only to have his efforts interrupted by new neighbors. Marc Forster (MONSTER’S BALL, FINDING NEVERLAND), directs. 



THE PALE BLUE EYE – Scott Cooper (CRAZY HEART), directs this gothic mystery about a veteran detective investigating murders at the U.S. Military Academy in 1830. The cast includes Christian Bale, Gillian Anderson, Toby Jones, Timothy Spall, and Robert Duvall.



PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH – This spin-off to the long-dormant SHREK franchise has Antonio Banderas reprising his role as the swashbuckling Puss-in-Boots. The voiceover cast includes Salma Hayek, Florence Pugh, and Olivia Colman. 



VIOLENT NIGHT – David Harbour (TV’s STRANGER THINGS), plays Santa Claus as he battles mercenaries who attacked the estate of a wealthy family. 





Next month, Reel Speak previews the first month of 2023. 

Monday, November 28, 2022


In 2019, writer and director Rian Johnson delighted the world with his whodunit mystery KNIVES OUT, which also introduced James Bond actor Daniel Craig as master detective Benoit Blanc. Here in 2022, Blanc returns for yet another case, this time in GLASS ONION. 


Blanc (Craig), is invited to the remote island home of billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), who has invited his old friends and business partners (Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom, Jr., Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Jessica Henwick, and Madelyn Cline), for a weekend highlighted by a murder-mystery game. 


Once again written and directed by Rian Johnson, GLASS ONION is a fun, twisting and turning mystery that never goes exactly where we expect it. Inspired by the great mystery writers such as Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, GLASS ONION never once has a scene that isn’t raising questions or keeping us guessing. The spark of it all is Miles, who has a long and sometimes troubled past with his group of invitees, which range from estranged business partners, co-workers, social media stars, supermodels, and personal assistants. The intricate game he has set up eventually goes awry, which turns everyone on the remote island a suspect, as they all have a motive and opportunity. 


While Johnson is keeping us guessing with unexpected events and whopper twists, he is also lampooning current society, taking shots at social media clowns, CEO’s who are actually morons, right down to the lengths that a human being would stoop down to in order to keep their status right where it is. It’s done in a clever manner that is never preachy and doesn’t derail the mystery at hand. Johnson, never one to let the audience get ahead of him, even draws attention to the obvious metaphor of the film’s title; letting us know that the characters are well aware of the layers of mystery being peeled back one piece at a time. 


Filmed on location in an actual Greek island, GLASS ONION looks gorgeous. Pacing is brisk despite long monologues and extended flashbacks, and the run time of 139 minutes flies by. Despite bad things happening the film is very funny, and every cast member seems like they are having a blast. 


Daniel Craig once again shines as Blanc. He’s a delight, and the character isn’t drawn as invincible but certainly formidable. Dave Bautista is a blast, and the show is nearly stolen by Janelle Monae. 


GLASS ONION may not earn a cultural status like its predecessor did, as the concept is no longer new for audiences, but as a film it shines brighter than KNIVES OUT, and makes us hope that Johnson and Craig will send Blanc on many more adventures. This is one onion worth cutting into. 



Monday, November 14, 2022


Horror movies are not for everyone. Not everybody likes to watch a movie with blood and guts, scary guys, creatures from the deep, or the terrifying strange and unusual. The genre has a way of segregating movie fans, but at the same time has produced some of the greatest films of all time, such as JAWS, HALLOWEEN, and THE EXORCIST…to name just a few. But even if only two out of ten people love the horror, the genre has built more than a legion of fans to earn its own place on the convention circuit, and this past weekend (November 11-13), this Blogger was pleased to attend Monster-Mania Con; the semi-annual Philadelphia Horror Film & Memorabilia Convention. 


Officially labeled as Monster-Mania 52 (their 52nd convention, as they host this event across other venues across the east coast), the convention was a showcase for all things creepy and kooky. The vendor floor was packed with vendors selling their scary goods; from good old fashioned masks, autographed memorabilia, comics, action figures, to home-made items ranging from art-prints, clothing, glassware, candles, and even food items like horror-themed hot sauces. Not unlike SPACEBALLS, there was an item for every major scary movie. There was HALLOWEEN the Wine Glass, JAWS the Action Figures, BETELGEUSE the knee-socks, and HELLRAISER the T-Shirt…just to name a few. Also on hand for purchase were vintage horror action figures going back to the seventies, along with the modern Lego’s and Funko’s. 


The biggest draw of the event was the guest list. Leading the way was Robert Englund, who originated the role of Freddy Krueger in the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series. Englund was joined by co-star Heather Langenkamp, along with several cast members from the third entry in the franchise, DREAM WARRIORS. Other guests included Corey Taylor from horror-rock group Slipknot, David Morrissey from TV’S THE WALKING DEAD, along with cast-members from MONSTER SQUAD and TERRIFIER. 


This Blogger took advantage of the guest list to meet three icons from horror. The first was Tyler Mane. Mane is most famous for playing Sabertooth in X-MEN, and also donned the mask of Michael Myers in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN from 2007. Mane was a cool cat, and comes off as one of those guys you just want to have a beer with and chat movies. 


Next up was the delightful Danielle Harris. Harris earned her reputation as one of the best child actors ever after her role in HALLOWEEN 4 and again in HALLOWEEN 5. She played a different character in Zombie’s HALLOWEEN, and has also appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. She is also the co-host of the Talk Scary to Me podcast (with her HALLOWEEN co-star Scout Taylor-Compton). Harris was also very cool, and despite the long lines behind us, took all the time in the world to chat. 


Last but certainly not least was Susan Backlinie, who famously played Chrissie, the very first victim in Steven Spielberg’s JAWS. As the very first swimmer to meet the shark, it was Backlinie’ horrific screams that scared audiences out of the water for decades. Backlinie was also a delight, and also made sure you felt welcome. 


Despite the horror theme, Monster-Mania still worked as a family event. While there were not many kids being towed around, there was nothing about the event that would earn an R-rating. Everything for big-screen horror was there; from Freddy to Michael to Gomez & Morticia. It was scary, but fun…and offered something for everyone.

Friday, November 11, 2022


WAKANDA FOREVER, the sequel to the 2018 smash-hit and Oscar winner BLACK PANTHER, and the 30th (!) film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), is a film with a massive hole to fill. In 2020, rising star and new cultural icon Chadwick Boseman passed away from cancer, leaving the MCU and its fans with one less hero. For Marvel Studios and director Ryan Coogler (who also helmed BLACK PANTHER), the task is nearly too big to overcome. 


A year after the passing of King T’Challa, the country of Wakanda, which is the source of the energy-absorbing element Vibranium, is under threat. Countries of the world are seeking the power, as is a new threat from under sea…led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta). Without their king, the defense of Wakanda is left to Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), and Shuri (Letitia Wright), who is still in mourning. 


In broad strokes, WAKANDA FOREVER is perfectly balanced. It plays out on a world-wide scale while staying intimate with the grief of the characters. While the world battles for Vibranium, Ramonda and Shuri battle with their emotions and the future; who will protect and lead their beloved country during a time when everything seems to be coming down on top of them? By far, it’s the heaviest-feeling MCU film to date. 


For the first time, we have an MCU film that feels overburdened with universe-building. Marvel knows it’s fans and what they expect, and setting up a larger universe has been part of the game since IRON MAN first took flight way back in 2008. This time, it feels like too much. Namor and his underwater army and kingdom gets a ton of backstory and mythology (unavoidable, it’s fine), and he plays out not so much a villain as a man trying for the betterment of his people. Other elements, such a genius college student (a wonderful Dominique Thorne), and CIA fuckery (led by Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus), feel like they could have been left on the cutting-room floor and are just a distraction every time they have a scene. 


Coogler is playing with themes of grief and colonization, and pulls them off very well. The storyline of big white countries wanting the shiny objects from colored countries resonates not just in modern optics but throughout history. The film is at its strongest when it is focusing on characters dealing with their grief; T’Challa’s absence hangs over those scenes and it can be felt like a weighted blanket. Masterfully done. The action scenes are staged and executed very well, the film looks amazing, and Ludwig Goranssoon’s score is excellent. 


Also excellent is the acting. Angela Bassett dominates every scene, and Letitia Wright carries the emotional heft very well. Tenoch Huerta has a commanding screen presence. Martin Freeman is his usual charming self but he exists to just provide information dumps, and where his character winds up at the end is just weird. 


Despite its bumps, WAKANDA FOREVER does find a way to offer a satisfying and emotional closure by way of a mid-credits scene (slight spoiler: nothing at the end), that wraps the film and secures the future of the Black Panther in a tear-jerking wallop. It makes up for the overstuffed feel and sends us out the door feeling all right. WAKANDA FOREVER is a unique film in the MCU, and is needed to be seen for some sense of closure…even if the attempts to fill those holes don’t always stick…which is exactly how grief works. 




Wednesday, November 9, 2022



“Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts this year…”


This month marks the 20th anniversary of HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS. 


Directed by Chris Columbus and the second film in the HARRY POTTER film franchise, and based on the second book in the series by J.K. Rowling, CHAMBER OF SECRETS followed Harry Potter and his friends in their second year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as they try to solve the mystery of a chamber that has been opened on school grounds, releasing a monster that petrifies students. 


Filming for CHAMBER OF SECRETS began only three days after the release of the first film, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE in 2001. The returning cast included Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, along with Emma Watson and Rupert Grint as his best friends. Kenneth Branagh would join the cast as a new professor. Other returning cast members included Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Julie Walters, and Tom Felon…among others. Richard Harris would reprise his role as Professor Dumbledore for the final time. John Williams would return to provide the score. 


Upon release, CHAMBER OF SECRETS would be a critical and commercial hit. It would finish as the second-highest grossing film of 2002, behind THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS. It would be nominated for several awards, including the BAFTA Award for Best Production Design, Sound, and Visual Effects. 




Twenty years after release, CHAMBER OF SECRETS is often regarded as one of the lower-tier entries into the franchise, with its long running time (161 minutes, longest in the series), and dated visual effects (some early CGI was cartoonishly bad). But with its darker atmosphere and eerie sequences involving giant spiders and a diary that talks back…it set a tone for what was to come in the movies ahead. Long-term, it has that back-to-school vibe going on, along with holiday elements (Halloween and Christmas), which makes it perfect fall and holiday viewing. It also introduced elements that would become iconic in HARRY POTTER lore, including a flying car, the Whomping Willow, the Sword of Gryffindor, Dobby the elf, Fawkes the phoenix, and other hints and places that would pay off years later. As the film that would be the last of Harry and his friends as true children, it would be the bridge that would send them into the more serious world of adulthood and into darker days…


“Funny, the damage a silly little book can do…”

Monday, November 7, 2022

A Reel Opinion: Superman Returns and Beyond

Superhero movies tend to hijack all the cinematic headlines these days, and in the last couple of weeks, the most super of them all landed when actor Henry Cavill announced he would be returning to the role of Superman in an as-yet untitled and un-dated film. The announcement came just after Cavill’s return to the cape in a short cameo in BLACK ADAM (read Reel Speak’s review HERE), and his first flight in full since JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017), and the JUSTICE LEAGUE mulligan from 2021. Cavill first took flight as Superman in MAN OF STEEL (2013), and faced off against The Bat in BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016). 


The news brought a lot of grins to fans, and those grins grew even wider when Cavill stated that the character would be an “enormously joyful Superman”, which would finally be a return to the roots of the character. Since the character first debuted in 1938, Superman has been the gold standard for all superheroes; to inspire, to be the symbol of good, and always be a beacon of hope. This was embraced in TV shows and taken to even greater heights in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978), with Christopher Reeve in the cape; a film that set a standard for comic book films that still stands today. 


Those Superman roots were obliterated in Cavill’s first outing as the character in Zack Snyder’s MAN OF STEEL, which portrayed him as a miserable, moping, slog. It wasn’t just a departure from the comic roots, but it made for a main character that no one could find a reason to care about, cheer for, or overcome. The film would end with Superman murdering his nemesis, which was a shocking move that fans still debate today. The question of Superman murdering was one thing, but the bigger issue was that it was un-earned and meant little; for the whole movie Supes was unhappy about everything…and after the kill he had even more reason to be unhappy. All this was compounded in DAWN OF JUSTICE, and even though the first version of JUSTICE LEAGUE cheered his sourpuss up a little bit, that was quickly erased in the second version of the film four years later. 


Today, with the apparent effort to take Supes back to his roots, the stage is set for DC Comics and parent studio Warner Bros. to finally make strides in the superhero cinematic war; a war that DC has been losing to Marvel in a rout that has never been close in the last 14 years. Superman from the get-go has been the ultimate superhero, and deserves such a presence on the big screen. With rival Marvel now moved on to lower-tier characters, the opportunity is there to make Superman super again. And as he should be for fans: hope. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

A Reel Preview: The Year in Film 2022 - Episode XI

The cool, glorious winds of Autumn are in full gust, with this month bringing in Oscar contenders, the return of a legendary director, and a final farewell to a hero. Here now is a preview of what will be falling into theatres for the month of November…



THE WONDER – This Netflix production will have a two-week cinema run before going to streaming. Florence Pugh plays a nurse in 1862 Ireland, sent to look after a young girl who has not eaten in months. 



BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER – The 30th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), serving as a sequel to the mega-hit BLACK PANTHER from 2018. With the late great Chadwick Boseman now gone, WAKANDA FOREVER picks up the pieces of their former king’s reign while facing a new threat. Ryan Coogler, who directed the first film and the CREED films, returns to direct. The cast includes Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, and Martin Freeman. 



BONES AND ALL – A coming-of-age romantic cannibal film, directed by Luca Guadagnino, who brought us CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017). Timothee Chalmet (DUNE), and Taylor Russell play cannibalistic lovers who travel across Reagan-era America. 



SHE SAID – The true story of the journalistic work that exposed the story of Harvey Weinstein’s sex crimes. It stars Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, and Ashley Judd. 




THE MENU – In this black comedy, a young couple travels to an exclusive restaurant where the chef takes his menu items very seriously. It stars Nicholas Hoult, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Ralph Fiennes. 



DEVOTION – A true story based on the heroics of two Korean war fighter pilots. It stars Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell. 



THE FABELMANS – Steven Spielberg returns with this coming-of-age drama that is loosely based on his own childhood. Michele Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, and Judd Hirsch lead the way. 



GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY – Rain Johnson returns to direct this sequel to his 2019 whodunit smash hit. The cast includes Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, and Dave Bautista. 



STRANGE WORLD – Walt Disney Animation Studios brings us this adventure about a family exploring a strange planet. The voice cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid. 



WHITE NOISE – A college professor deals with a cataclysmic event in his small hometown. It is directed by Noah Baumbach, director of MARRIAGE STORY from 2019. The cast includes Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, and Don Cheadle. 




Next month, Reel Speak previews the final month of the year. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

A Reel Opinion: Ranking the HALLOWEEN Films

Halloween is nearly upon us, a time for ghosts, goblins, candy, pumpkins, and most especially, horror movies. The papa of them all is John Carpenter’s towering HALLOWEEN from 1978, when the world was introduced to the shape of Michael Myers; the hulking, masked, silent killer with a kitchen knife. The franchise has lurked along for nearly 45 years, enduring several different lines of continuity, reboots, and remakes. With the release of HALLOWEEN ENDS this month, (read Reel Speak’s review HERE), the talk has moved to the best and worst of the 13-film series, which brings us to Reel Speak’s Ranking of the HALLOWEEN Films. 


Which are the ones to watch on Halloween Night, and which ones should be avoided? Let’s take a stab at it…






Scream Queen and horror icon Jamie Lee Curtis is disposed of in the first half-hour to make way for a bunch of nobodies that no one cared about. One of many bizarre decisions in a movie that treated Michael Myers more as a joke than a threat. 





This heap of nonsense was the second chapter in the new trilogy that ignored all sequels after the 1978 film. Nothing made sense in this, including an entire town (with trained medical professionals), switching to crazed riot-mode in a blink. The film also made a big deal about returning survivors from Michael’s previous attacks, only to slaughter them anyway. Bafflingly bad. 





The grand finale to the new trilogy that made us sit through six hours before the long-awaited final showdown between Laurie and Michael after 40 years of fear and hate…a showdown that resulted in a whimper and not a bang. In a head-scratching move, ENDS put Michael on the bench for most of the film, and then the final boss fight was just a messy, choppy, un-emotional dud.  




10. HALLOWEEN II (2009)

Rob Zombie’s sequel to his 2007 remake went into the supernatural. Although this was not uncommon for the franchise, in this follow-up it just came off as weird and nonsensical. More like a series of abstract images than an actual story. 





The sixth overall film in the franchise concludes a trilogy that centered on Jamie Lloyd, Laurie’s daughter, and also dove into the source behind Michael’s immortality. The script was convoluted, the kills were dull, and despite an alternate cut that was released later and earned a cult following…just never makes sense. And sadly, Donald Pleasance, who played Dr. Loomis since 1978, has his final screen appearance here. 





The first film in the series to get into mystical energies; establishing a psychic link between Michael and his niece Jamie, along with a cult that embraces the masked killer. These two elements were not embraced by fans and didn’t seem to fit into what we loved about Michael: brute strength driven by evil. 


7. HALLOWEEN (2018)

The first of the new, modern trilogy that promised the final round between Laurie and Michael. Ignoring all sequels after the 1978 film, this had a promising start with Laurie preparing for war and protecting and her daughter and granddaughter. The buildup was immense, and then fell apart in the last five minutes when we realized the promised end-all bloodbath was just being punted down the road. Deceiving and un-satisfying. 





The original idea behind the HALLOWEEN movies was to do a series of films unconnected to each other, which brought us this creeper that does not involve Michael, whose popularity after two films was so immense that SEASON OF THE WITCH suffered from it. But there is still a lot to love here. It’s creepy, its imagery has lasted the test of time, and the concept of controlling or killing people through technology was a tad ahead of its time. 





The first HALLOWEEN movie that (sigh), ignored all sequels, and traded off Laurie’s daughter in favor of a teenage son.  Jamie Lee Curtis reprised her role as Laurie for the first time in 17 years, and the addition of her son (Josh Hartnett, in his first film), added some weight. There’s not too much to this one in terms of plot, but as a HALLOWEEN movie it has the right spirit…and it told a final-resolution story quicker and more efficient than the new trilogy did. 





Danielle Harris has her HALLOWEEN debut as Laurie’s daughter and Michael’s niece, and proves herself as one of the most underrated child actors of our time. This is also a simple film, but the scares really work, and it handles the mob mentality of Haddonfield much better than KILLS did. It also has one of the most shocking endings in the entire series. 




3. HALLOWEEN II (1981)

Taking place minutes after the events of the 1978 film, this one always felt like an extended epilogue more than an actual movie, but even with that in mind it works very well. It also introduced the story element of Laurie and Michael being related…a plot thread that the series would hold onto for decades. 


2. HALLOWEEN (2007)

When doing a straight-up remake, filmmakers can either go shot-for-shot, or put their own spin on things. Rob Zombie goes for both here, giving Michael a fleshed-out backstory while staying true to the original film. Scout Taylor-Compton steps into the role of Laurie Strode nicely, Tyler Mane (Sabertooth from X-MEN), puts on the mask of Michael, and veteran actor Malcolm McDowell takes the role of Dr. Loomis. It’s a balance of remake and origin story, with brutal horror and surprising emotion. 



1. HALLOWEEN (1978)


The grand-daddy of all slasher films that has yet to be topped by any sequel, remake, or reboot. John Carpenter crafts a masterpiece of tension and fear, while Jamie Lee Curtis re-invents the Scream Queen. From the moment the chilling piano-theme starts, to when the shape of Michael appears, hairs are raised and that feeling of an approaching dread hangs thick in the October air. It has been rightfully credited with launching the slasher genre that dominated most of 1980’s horror and the “final girl” trope that thrillers still latch onto. When the jack-o-lanterns are lit and the leaves fall, this is the film that always comes to mind first. 


  1. HALLOWEEN (1978)
  2. HALLOWEEN (2007)
  7. HALLOWEEN (2018)
  10. HALLOWEEN II (2009)

Friday, October 21, 2022

A Reel Review: BLACK ADAM

The films based on the super-characters of DC Comics are now operating on three different lines of continuity. There is the universe THE BATMAN (2022), occupies, the universe JOKER (2019), laughs in, and the universe that launched in 2013 with MAN OF STEEL. The latter line has had its share of hits and misses, ranging from critical flops, bombs, divisiveness, internal strife, and re-do’s, all resulting in the longest train wreck in cinema. This year, DC pins all their hopes on a little-known hero known as BLACK ADAM. 


In the occupied city of Kahndaq, archeologist Adrianna (Sarah Shahi), and her son Amon (Bodhi Sabongul), search for a mystical crown they believe will help liberate their people. They wind up awakening Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson), a superhero who has been asleep for thousands of years. Adam’s awakening draws the attention of the Justice Society, which includes Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo). 


Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (who guided Johnson on JUNGLE CRUISE), BLACK ADAM is a superhero origin story that stuffs in a ton of story and characters. Oddly enough, the plot is very thin, but is overburdened with one thing or another. There’s business with the military-occupied city, the magic crown, a mystical element that provides great power, powers of the gods, and the underworld rising up with their walking dead to take over the world. It’s a messy web of things to remember, and it is never streamlined enough to make sense. 


Things get even more messy with the presence of the stupid Justice Society. This foursome is already present in this universe, and we are thrown into their existence quickly and bluntly with zero explanation; it feels like we missed four movies of backstory with these characters that were never made. The film asks us to root for them and have emotion when they fight and fall, but it just isn’t there. They seem to be in the film just to give Adam something to fight (which he does, over and over with repetitive plot beats), and to teach him how to be a hero…which is something that nearly any one of the many characters could have done. The Society could easily be cut out of the film and would not change a thing. 


BLACK ADAM is presented by way of endless CGI; there probably isn’t a single shot in the film that doesn’t have a computer-generated effect or enhancement. Most of it looks phony. There’s also a lot of placement of actors’ heads on CGI bodies which just looks bizarre. Action sequences are done on a large scale, and the film does beg to be seen on the biggest screen possible. The battles are over-edited with way too many cuts, and most of it just comes off as noise. BLACK ADAM has a few good laughs and moments, but not many of them. 


Acting is okay. Dwayne Johnson puts away his usual charm and plays the part like a statue; stone-cold with zero emotion. Pierce Brosnan is as elegant as ever but it’s hard to believe he understands the endless universe-hopping jargon he has to plow through. Aldis Hodge plays the part of Hawkman (who looks awesome, at least), as an overzealous Dudley-do-right and just comes off as annoying. 


The finale of BLACK ADAM is a noisy affair with the underworld and its leader unleashing the walking dead (which seem powerless, as even kids are able to kill them with clubs), capped off with a very cool end-credit cameo (best part of the movie). Overall, BLACK ADAM is super-flawed film with too much crammed in. Long-time readers of DC Comic books may appreciate it more, but no one should be required to do homework before any movie. This is a noisy, bewildering mess, just like any endless trainwreck. 





Wednesday, October 19, 2022


The HALLOWEEN franchise, which started way back in 1978, has a long and convoluted history, with several reboots, remakes, and broken lines of continuity. In 2018, director David Gordon Green’s HALLOWEEN ignored all sequels and only followed-up the initial 1978 film, with a promised final showdown between horror icons Laurie Strode and the hulking, kitchen-knife wielding Michael Myers. That final showdown was punted down the road for the shitty HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021), and now it’s off into 2022 for HALLOWEEN ENDS. 

Four years have passed since the events of HALLOWEEN KILLS, and the masked Michael Myers has vanished. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), has settled in normal domestic living with her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). Allyson falls for Corey (Rohan Campbell), a tortured young man once accused of murder who stumbles upon Michael’s hiding place and becomes his virtual pupil…

Directed by David Gordon Green and penned by four writers (including Danny McBride), ENDS is a film that is less concerned with Michael Myers or Laurie and more with the environment. Over the years, the once quiet town of Haddonfield has become a haven for mean jerks, bullies, crooked doctors, shock jocks, and drunk assholes who stalk women at every turn. All of this pushes Corey to his breaking point, and when he finds Michael, he becomes his avatar and starts doing his own revenge killing. It’s odd and bold, and gives ENDS such an identity that it barely feels like a HALLOWEEN film. Aside from the ending, the story in ENDS feels like it may have been better off as the middle chapter. 

Credit to the director and his writers for breaking the old HALLOWEEN mold, but it results in is an unfun and unscary movie. Michael and his knife and mask don’t appear until after an hour has passed, and the time prior to that is just dull. The film has very little scares for a horror movie (a serious problem), and characters just do things for the sake of moving the overcomplicated plot forward. Characters as a whole are all over the place. When we see Laurie in the first film of this trilogy, she is living in a fortress while Michael is locked away. Here, she is living in a picture-perfect gingerbread house while Michael is on the loose. No sense. Allyson’s romance with Corey comes out of nowhere, and Michael can’t decide if he's a wounded old man or invincible. It’s a complete mess. 

ENDS looks great, has a small amount of gore, and the score is excellent. Tension just isn’t there aside from a very good opening sequence, and the film has just the right amount of nostalgic throwbacks. 

The best part of the film is the acting, as the entire cast is excellent.  Jamie Lee Curtis is tough while grieving, and Andi Matichak matches her well. The real star here is Rohan Campbell, who really stretches his acting muscles. 

After two and half movies, we finally get that big final showdown between Laurie and Michael, and although the location for the big last fight is proper (a kitchen. Ha. Ha.) the battle is too quick, shot in the dark, and sloppily edited…and is not worth the long wait of 40-plus years. When it does end, there is no doubt that this is indeed the wrap for this particular line of continuity, and there isn’t a sense of satisfaction as much as a relief.