Greetings! Have you ever wondered if a movie's worth blowing the money on to see at the theater or what to add next to your NetFlix queue? Then you've come to the right place! Enjoy!

"Bedazzled" Blu-ray Review

 As the back half of our Brendan Fraser double-feature after Encino Man we popped in the barebones Blu-ray of Bedazzled, the 2000 remake of a 1967 Peter Cook-Dudley Moore film which comedy snobs swear by, but I (along with most people) haven't seen. But, hoo boy, I've seen the heck out of this version for two reasons: Elizabeth Hurley.

 Fraser plays Elliot, a walking advertisement for why some dorks deserve to be alone and miserable (and I say this as a lifelong dork). Absolutely inept and a desperate try-hard, his co-workers can't stand him and his attempts to glom onto their activities. He pines for Alison (Frances O'Connor) who works at his San Francisco tech company, but doesn't know he exists even after he makes a sad attempt to strike up a conversation at a bar.  

After striking out, he mutters to himself, "I'd give anything to have that girl in my life," and that is the cue for the Devil (Hurley) to make her presence known to Elliot and to offer him a simple bargain: Seven wishes in exchange for his soul. Elliot is initially reluctant, but with little going for him in his life and desperate to be with his dream girl, he signs and wishes that he be married to Alison and to be a very rich and powerful man.

 The Devil grants his wish, but as with all subsequent wishes, Elliot discovers that the Devil has used any vagaries in the wish to insert whammies which make the wish meaningless beginning with Elliot discovering Alison hates him, is cheating on him, and he is a Colombian drug kingpin that competitors want to kill. Whoopsie! Hijnks ensue!

 What Bedazzled does best is give Fraser plenty of room to play as he transforms into each of his wish personnas while giving Elliot an arc as he matures from the loser he was to the better-balanced man he becomes. It also works by giving Hurley a great showcase to.....hang on, a quick side note.....

Hey, Hugh Grant. Yeah, you, Hugh. One question as asked my Jay Leno: WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!?!?!?? Dude, really?

OK, where was I? Oh yeah, for some reason Hurley has made over 25 movies and for 99% of movie watchers, the only two they could name are Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Bedazzled which is odd considering how good she is at combining a knowing plummy English elegance packed into an absolute smoke show of a bod which gets showcased quite well in various sexy outfits here. This Devil is having a ball being bad.

All of which makes Elliot's obsession with Alison kind of odd to me as she's reasonably attractive, but nothing you'd stay up all night trying to Google every detail or photo you could find over. Now Hurley, ow chihuaua! If I was Elliot, I'd say, "Keep the other six wishes. I just need the one where I am your personal love slave forever." (That she looks just as hot now at 57 years old, constantly posting thirst trap bikini photos on Instagram implies either a picture in an attic somewhere or her own deal with the Devil.)

While Fraser is fun and Hurley gets the nethers a'tingling, the letdown on why this isn't one for the ages is due to a somewhat bland script by director Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Analyze This), Peter Tolan (Rescue Me, The Larry Sanders Show), and Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H, Tootsie) which doesn't really reach for the laughs and relies on Fraser and Hurley - have I mentioned how hawt she is? - to bring it to life.

 On the Blu-ray technical front, the transfer is clean if somewhat lacking in contrast (maybe I'm too used to 4K HDR content these days) and the audio is serviceable, but nothing special. Surprisingly, there are absolutely zero extras on the disc, not even a trailer. The DVD release had two commentary tracks and a handful of featurettes, so bad form, Anchor Bay!

Pleasantly amusing with a versatile performance from Brendan Fraser and muy caliente hotness and sass from Elizabeth Hurley, Bedazzled is worth a watch, but this Blu-ray doesn't rate a buy.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable.

"Encino Man" Review

In honor of Brendan Fraser's triumphant career comeback, winning the Best Actor for The Whale last night, we decided a double-feature of Fraser's earlier hits was needed. So ahead of Bedazzled came his 2nd movie role ever, Encino Man, which was designed to be a star vehicle for Pauly Shore (riding on his MTV show Totally Pauly "Weasel" schtick), but in reality and in retrospect was a first glimpse at what Fraser's thespian chops were.

 We meet best friends Dave (Sean Astin, pre-Rudy, but post-Goonies) and Stoney (Shore) as Dave single-handedly is digging a swimming pool in his Encino home's backyard. He feels like a loser as the girl he's sweet on, Robyn (Megan Ward), is going with a brutish jock, Matt (Michael DeLuise), and wants to know how he can get the girl and get known in his school.

The answers come when an earthquake uncovers a huge block of ice in the pool with a frozen caveman inside (Fraser) who eventually thaws out and runs amok in Dave's home. Needing to explain this new arrival to his parents, they clean him up, dress him like a surf bum, name him Link (as in missing), and present Link as an exchange student from Estonia that they must've forgotten they'd agreed to take in. They register him in school and the hijinks begin with Link becoming more popular than Dave which leads to friction, breakup, makeup, and a triumphant group dance at the prom at the end.

 What's fascinating to notice in what most people put down as one of those dumb Pauly Shore movies like Son-in-Law and Bio-Dome which wore out his welcome even faster is that - after realizing that Robin Tunney and Rose McGowan have bit parts as classmates and Astin's Goonies castmate Ke Huy Quan as the Computer Club leader would have his career going into a deep freeze for 20 years only thawing in time to also win an Oscar last night for Everything Everywhere All At Once - is how unnecessarily nuanced and subtle Fraser's performance was.

As an unfrozen caveman thawed into the modern world which was meant to be a dumb Pauly Shore teen comedy (like a discount Wayne's World), it would've been easy for the rookie actor, making his leading role debut, to play Link as a cartoon, especially when one of the gags (as shown in the trailer) is that Stoney teaches Link his catchphrases. But Fraser instead imbues Link with the necessary bewilderment while underpinning the goofy slapstick with genuine pathos as a man alone in a strange world. This really gets illustrated when a field trip to a natural history museum with exhibits of extinct beasts and how cavemen lived hits Link hard at just how displaced he's become. (Don't worry though, in the end it works out for him.)

 While Encino Man is a passable teen comedy for which one's enjoyment may be predicated on how much of Shore's noise one can tolerate, it's definitely worth a watch to see how perhaps you can tell who might be Oscar-caliber talent in the most unlikely forum.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable. (Not on any services at this writing.)

"Hunted" Review

 The whole "Evil Rich People Hunting Noble Poor People For Sport" genre is beyond played out. Originating as a 1924 short story "The Most Dangerous Game" it has been adapted into at least 20 movies according to Wikipedia including the Rutger Hauer hunts Ice-T version, Surviving the Game (1994), to the unfairly lost in the world-ending beginning of the Hot Fad Plague plannedemic in 2020, The Hunt, starring Betty Gilpin as a badass redneck woman fighting evil rich liberals hunting her and others, it's as stock tropey as it gets.

Which is why I'm not going to expend much effort in reviewing the generically-named Hunted, which sets the story in England with a cast almost completely foreign (no pun) to American audiences with the exception perhaps of Samantha Bond - who was a regular on Downton Abbey and was Moneypenny in the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films - and portrays the matriarch conducting the hunt of four young people who were robbing her estate. Lessons need to be taught, order must be maintained, blah-blah-woof-woof, let the hunt begin. Place your bets as to who will survive and whether there will be any gnarly kills. 

 The only real differentiating factors in this telling is that the group was stealing to put one of them through college debt-free and were tasked by a crooked art broker to procure specific items and they don't just randomly steal or loot and the ending which isn't quite what you'd expect though it's not that big a deal.

 With characters that barely fill two dimensions and a too familiar plot that still drags for a 94-minute runtime, you are better off skipping Hunted (viewed on Amazon Prime) and hunting down The Hunt (currently free with ads on Amazon's Freevee service). 

Score: 4/10. Skip it.

"Tár" 4K Review

Despite sounding like a sequel to the homicidal-tire-on-a-rampage cult horror flick Rubber, Tár is the latest example of what I call an Emperor's New Movie; a film which garners overwhelming critical acclaim and multiple Oscar nominations despite being generally terrible. There's a reason so many normal people say they don't listen to critics and movies like Tár are why. 

It's also why my annual Oscars Death March - where I try to catch as many of the top nominees so as to better judge the collective malpractice of the Academy Awards - is less and less enjoyable as the Academy races further away from representing actual excellence, much less popular tastes. It doesn't matter that token nominations get handed out to box office monsters like Top Gun: Maverick or Avatar: The Way of Water when the Academy fully intends to fete dreck like Tár.

 Cate Blanchett stars as the titular Lydia Tár, an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner, protege of Leonard Bernstein, first female chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, plus a zillion more accomplishments we are bombarded with during a Basil Exposition infodump in the guise of a staged New Yorker interview. She's married to her concertmaster, Sharon (Nina Hoss), and self-described father of Petra (Mila Bogojevic), who they adopted. She is for sure an Ur-Girlboss.

For two excruciatingly tedious hours we see her prattle on endlessly about stuff and whatnot while those around her wince at her soft thoughtlessness. Blink-or-miss-it hints of a story involving a young woman Tár mentored who committed suicide appear as often as her being awakened by mysterious sounds in the night which go away when she opens the refrigerator. (I'm not making this up.) 

Finally, a semblance of a plot erupts as a baldly decontextualized video of comments she made during a Julliard masterclass appears and she is sued for prompting the woman's suicide, her personal life and professional career implodes and she ends up in a humiliating gig. The end. Wait, what?

 Imagine going to a symphony performance expecting a program of several pieces. The orchestra spends the first half-hour tuning up, just droning on that A note while little snatches of something that sounds like the program flit by. Then the conductor proceeds to rush the orchestra through a medley of the entire program in about 10 minutes, never completing a movement or giving a chance for the audience to grasp what's happening. Then the orchestra stands and bows while the critics who didn't have to pay for their tickets leap to their feet, howling their approval while dropping their pants and jerking off in appreciation. That's what Tár is like.

I haven't seen writer-director Todd Field's other Academy Award-nominated films, In The Bedroom and Little Children, both of which garnered Best Picture and acting nominations, but he's got the number of the awards and critical establishments who were drooling for 16 years for this movie. Terrance Malick is like Takashi Miike (who has made as many as five feature films in one year) in comparison. But the wild overpraise is like hearing a starving man say that the Taco Bell you gave him was the finest meal ever cooked. 

Just as with Infinity Pool the night before, I was questioning whether I was utterly incapable of grasping the meaning of the film or whether there was nothing to grasp and everyone else was just pretending to "get it" like with The Emperor's New Clothes or the belief in 2001 that The Strokes were going to save rock & roll, another thing that didn't exist. 

As I perused the rambling proclamations of the critics, all I could see were the drugs talking or the need to cram their personal ideologies or the collective wokeism into their verdicts. Some said it was about power; others that it was a commentary on sexism and the patriarchy which is weird because Lydia rejects those premises.

 I can't recall what the last movie I saw that took so long to tell so little story and to botch the telling of it. After finishing slogging through it - I took a couple of lengthy breaks to work on my computer - I went to see what the herd animal critics had to say and they must hand out some pretty awesome hallucinogens to the critics to spawn such collective shared delusions of depth and grandeur to such an sterile and devoid plot. "If this would have had a male protagonist, it would've been a cliche, but because it's a woman..." is not the insight they think it is; it's confirmation of its vacuity. 

With the exception of one scene, Tár is a 2h 37m exhibition of how to not tell a compelling story, how not to convey emotions, how not to make a point. There's a difference between being subtle and being obtuse and Fields gets it wrong every time. He sets up Lydia as this amazeballs person - an icon in her field - and then proceeds to demolish her life without ever showing the moments where she's laid low. Why did the cancel her? Don't know. 

Was it the fabricated smear video (more on this in a moment) or the suicide of the mentee? Both? Neither? It's never made clear. Why does her marriage collapse in the end when she's never shown doing anything to violate what seemed distant and chilly already? /shrug emoji Is Lydia a deliberate monster or merely aloof and callous in her interpersonal relationships? Pomegranate. And if that answer makes no sense to you, it's just me keeping in line with the way Fields expects us to fill in all the blanks he felt unnecessary to fill in himself as if he was crunched for time after wasting the majority of the runtime doing nothing.

For example, we're told Lydia has all the big awards, but none of them are every shown. She has a cabinet filled with pencils for her scoring, but no shelf or mantle for her Oscar? Her main apartment is an icy concrete bunker which would be mistaken for a parking structure if not for all the expensive furniture and the nine-foot grand piano. Relationships all feel distant, but we're never shown why. A late sequence where she returns to her childhood home and encounters a relative (brother?) gives a taste at how much she reinvented herself, but all it does is make one wish Fields had cared enough to actually tell the story of who Lydia Tar (screw the accent) really is.

There is one fascinating scene about a half-hour in which felt like it could've really mattered except Fields had a million other absolutely nothings he wanted to focus on instead. Lydia is teaching a masterclass at Julliard and gets into a discussion with a student conductor in front of the class about connecting with music and asks the student about his views on Bach. His reply that as a BIPOC pansexual something or other that he feels a white cisgendered male who fathered 20 children wasn't worthy of considering rightfully infuriates Lydia. She tries to reason with the snowflake and poses the question how would he like his music to be judged solely on his pigmentation or humping partner preferences (I'm paraphrasing) and he simply picks up his coat and bag and stalks off, pronouncing her "a [eff]ing bitch."

Shot in a single 10-1/2 minute-long Steadicam shot, it's one of those One Good Scenes that pop up in otherwise terrible movies. There is a sizable herd of fans for No Country For Old Men, but that was also Oscar-winning trash except for the coin toss scene at the gas station which comes down to one great line about how the quarter has been traveling for many years to arrive at this point for its role in determining a man's life or death. Great stuff, but you don't give a freaking Oscar to a bad movie because of a clever line, dammit! 

And you don't kid yourself into believing Tár is good because one scene wasn't completely empty, especially when it doesn't really matter in the end. Also, we can see the whole auditorium in the scene and no one was filming this conflict, so when the video arrives 90 minutes later, it's truly from out of nowhere.

Cate Blanchett's performance is supposedly highly favored to earn her a third Oscar and if there's any factor in the bamboozling of the critics that's not the drugs it's that she manages to spew the endless monologues Fields shoves into her mouth in a manner which almost hints this is a real person. But to say Blanchett is good is as redundant as saying LeBron James is a whiny little bitch who can't speak out against Communist China's human rights abuses, including the use of child slave labor to make his $200 kicks, because there's too much money to be made in being complicit. She's very good, but it means nothing. (Give the Oscar to Michelle Yeoh. She's worthy and needs the boost more.)

What's ultimately most frustrating about Tár is not the overwhelming undeserved hype it has received, but the fact that in the rushed last half-hour, there are plenty of seeds of what could've been a fascinating character study about the tragedy of hubris and the corrosive effects that wokeism and the need to burn witches for hurting the po' widdle feewings of emotional hemophiliacs like Mx. Bipoc teh Pansexual. 

But Fields had no stomach to tackle such a powder keg topic. So we're left with the lengthy cinematic equivalent of one of those big expensive coffee table art books that has to be dusted, but no one ever wants to pick up and look through.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

When you watch this trailer, note how it's nothing but impressionistic mood moments and critical hosannas and that you have no idea what it's actually about. That's because there's not much story to put into a trailer, is there?

"Monster Party" Blu-ray Review

 While poking around Dollar Tree (which is now $1.25 Tree thanks to Bidenflation) I came across a Blu-ray for Monster Party (not to be confused with Party Monster, Monsters Inc. or The Spy Who Loved Me) which had an above-average cast of name actors and a decent hook of a logline, so I decided to gamble the buck (and a quarter). I should've bought something else.

The plot is simple: A trio of young burglars - lovers Casper (Sam Strike) and Iris (Virginia Gardener, Fall), and their friend Dodge (Brandon Michael Hall) - decide to rob a Malibu mansion in hopes of scoring enough money for Iris's impending baby and to help free Casper's father from a brutal strip club owner/loan shark. 

They pose as cater waiters for a dinner party hosted by the the Dawson family - father Patrick (Julian McMahon), mother Roxanne (Robin Tunney), daughter Alexis (Erin Moriarty, The Boys), and son Elliot (Kian Lawley) - and their guests, a bunch of obnoxious dudebros and Milo (Lance Reddick), a distinguished gentleman who seems to hold great stature with the group. 

As dinner begins, Roxanne and the others begin to give testimonials about how they are addicts, but that they've been sober for years. If you've read the back of the case you know what their addiction is: MURDER! (Dun-dun-DUHN!!!) What happens when hapless burglars try to rip off a house full of psycho killers? 

While the premise and cast sounded promising the execution is dull and lacking. To say the characters, such as they are, are two-dimensional would be an insult to cartoon characters. Everyone either looks bored or bored as they don't have anything interesting to play or say and the direction is rudimentary and beyond the rented mansion, it looks cheap. 

It's a shame because the setup could've been mined for some killer kills and clever conversations, but writer-director Chris von Hoffmann simply has no idea how to execute the Sam Raimi-esque comedic Grand Guignol splatterfest he imagined he was making. This movie came out in 2018 and neither I or my horror fan girlfriend had ever heard of it. This is why and why the Blu-ray was selling for a dollar (and a quarter). 

As for the disc itself, while the DTS-MA: HD audio track was active and booming, the video quality was subpar. Colors were off, whether by some misguided color grading strategy or not knowing how to properly light and shoot a film, and fine detail was seriously lacking to the point I actually brought up my player's info screen to verify I didn't get a DVD in a Blu-ray case.

As for extras, there aren't any. Not even the trailer, which actually makes it look like a promising film, thus proving what I've always said that film trailers are the most evolved form of false advertising possible. 

Looking around I'm surprised to see how many horror fans actually enjoyed this mess, presumably because horror fans are cheap dates (FWIW, my g/f liked it more than I did, but she isn't writing this), though there is one approximately 20-second-long bit that is absolutely BONKERS, but that doesn't absolve the rest of Monster Party's failings.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

"Sick" Review

 It's rare in the horror genre for a screenwriter to attain marquee status. Usually it's directors like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Tobe Hoober, or James Wan who get top dog attention as no one really gives much thought to who typed up the scripts for these maniac-killing-teenager flicks. 

The exception is Kevin Williamson who wrote Scream, Scream 2, Scream 4, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty and also created The Vampire Diaries, The Following and Dawson's Creek, which made a horror icon of James Van Der Beek. (I mean, you've seen that cryface meme of him, right? Nightmare fuel!) So when the Peacock Original horror movie Sick popped up advertising Williamson's script, it was worth taking a peek.

Set in April 2020, Sick occurs in the world of the Hot Fad Plague when panic was at its initial peak with empty store shelves and freakouts about face diapers and arbitrary social distancing. We meet Tyler (Joel Courtney), a young man at a supermarket. While waiting in line, he receives texts messages and photos from someone clearly stalking him. When he gets home, a black-clad killer kills him and we go to the title card. Not exactly Drew Barrymore being quizzed on scary movies before the title card, but OK.

Then we meet college girls Parker (Gideon Adlon) and Miri (Bethlehem Million) as they're loading Parker's Range Rover to head to her family's cabin by the lake to ride out quarantine as school is shut down. And by cabin I mean massive mansion-sized log cabin which apparently is used once a year by her father and his friends, but otherwise is passing up on a ton of AirB&B money. The nearest neighbors are miles away, so what could possibly go wrong with two girls alone in the country with a killer on the loose?

The red herring comes in the form of DJ (Dylan Sprayberry), Parker's sorta boyfriend, though she had made it clear they weren't exclusive. He knew she'd be up at the lake because she'd posted it on Instagram which means anyone would be able to find her if they followed her and that's exactly what happens when the killer arrives. Why is he there and who will survive and be the Final Girl?

While movies have been made about the Hot Fad Plague lockdowns, either explicitly (the awful 2021 romantic heist flick Locked Down) or tangentially (the awful 2022 non-mystery caper flick Glass Onion), Sick may be the first movie where the Wuhan virus is literally the motive for murder. It's interesting - considering how while many sane people who follow REAL science have moved on from the Hot Fad Plague, there is still a massive cult of people who live in abject terror of a bad flu bug, wearing face diapers while walking outdoors or driving alone in their cars, terrorized by a media who went all in with the agenda and has never let up - that a movie probably written in 2021 and filmed in early 2022 would openly mock the paranoia of those early days when people wiped down their groceries with bleach wipes and would leave a bleeding screaming girl begging for help standing outside a car because she lacks a face diaper.

Sick is the epitome of a low-budget, lean and mean, slasher flick with a small cast of barely-knowns, basically one location, and an emphasis on dialog and cat-and-mouse game tactics over elaborate kills, not that it doesn't deliver some here. While the ultimate rationale of of why these girls are being hunted is irrational, that's kind of the point I think Williamson is making. And at a fairly taut 83 minutes (which could've been trimmed a little more in my opinion), it doesn't overstay its welcome.

As for audio-visuals, the Dolby Vision contributes little as the budget cinematography is dim and surround effects are limited to an echoey wood block on the score in my left ear. No home theater demo material here.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on Peacock.

"Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" 4K Review

 In my review for Knives Out I noted that writer-director Ruin Johnson had snagged over $400 million for the rights to the two sequels, which for a movie that grossed $312 million globally (albeit made on a slim $40M budget made it a smash hit) really threw any pretense at profitability to the winds. My Netflix bill is the highest of all streaming services at $20 per month because they've been tossing ridonkulous sums for forgettable fare like Red Notice and The Gray Man, both of which I defy you, dear reader, to name most of the stars of without Googling. So as Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery plopped onto the top of Netflix's chart, it's time to see whether Johnson delivered Netflix their money's worth.

 Set in the early days of the Hot Fad Plague lockdowns in May 2020, Glass Onion opens with five seemingly unrelated people - tech corporation Alpha lead scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.); scandal plagued fashion designer Birdie (Kate Hudson); Twitch streamer/men's rights activist Duke (Dave Bautista); Governor of Connecticut Claire (Kathryn Hahn); and Andi (Janelle Monae) - receiving elaborate puzzle boxes from Miles Bron (Edward Norton) which when solved, reveal an invitation to come join Miles at his Greek Island estate to solve his "murder." While the first four friends got together on a group call to solve the puzzle, Andi just smashed hers open with a hammer. 

As the guests arrive at the dock - with Birdie also bringing her suffering assistant, Peg (Jessica Henwick), and Duke bringing girlfriend, Whiskey (Madelyn Kline) - they are surprised to see an extra person in attendance, the world-renowned master detective (named after a font by a lazy, stupid hack writer), Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). Upon arriving at the island to be greeted by Miles, he seems taken aback by the presence of Andi and Blanc, but welcomes them.

While lounging around the pool, the cause for the consternation appears to be due to Andi being Miles' former partner at Alpha, but had been forced out by Miles with the assistance of the others, many of whom have their own closet skeletons like Birdie, who was discovered using child labor to produce her clothes because she thought that sweat shops made sweat pants. 

At dinner, Blanc completely spoils Miles' planned murder mystery weekend by explaining the entire thing before anything had happened. With Plan A wiped out, Miles figures oh well, let's just get drunk and party for the weekend like old friends. It's all fun and games until a guest suddenly drops dead after drinking from Miles' glass. Did someone try to kill Miles and who killed another guest during the confusion when the lights go out? Good thing Blanc is on the scene!

Except it doesn't really matter because in a manner which is meant to copy his structure in Knives Out where the audience got looped into what really happened, after about an hour of character introductions and then thwarted fake murder, but a couple of real murders, the story resets to explain just how Blanc was drawn into the case and what is really going on and that's when Glass Onion reveals that, just like its metaphorical namesake, now matter how many layers you think there are to the tale, in the middle is absolutely nothing as you will see by the end of the movie. 

I'm genuinely shocked at how many supposedly knowledgeable critics have placed this dreck on their top films of 2022 lists. It's a testament to just how terrible screenwriting has become where claptrap like this is heralded as witty and clever. It's not. It's the definition of people who imagine themselves to be smart are actually, in the words of Blanc, all dumb. 

While Johnson switched up the usual Agatha Christie pastiche in Knives Out by showing the audience the truth behind the death of Christopher Plummer's character and how Blanc solved the mystery, he completely whiffs by having Blanc in on most of the major secrets before landing on the island. He knows why he's there and how he was invited and what he's looking for; this time it's the audience who is in the dark. But if the point of watching mystery movies is to see if you can solve the crime before the star detective can, you don't have a chance with Glass Onion because there's not really a mystery at the core of the mystery movie. 

No, what Johnson and company imagine they're doing is making some sort of cultural statement about the venality and genuine evil of wealthy people which is rather ironic when you think about it. Watching pampered millionaire elitists vogue at being pampered millionaire elitists - who are just the WORST, amirite? - as if they're making some profound class war point doesn't work when the characters are just cartoons, flat and dimensionless. Pretty much every character can be summed up in a few words. The closest to a cutting observation Johnson makes is for Birdie to show up for the boat wearing a face diaper made of fishnet because GET IT?!?

At the center of the whole story is Miles who is meant to be an amalgam of Elon Musk (I'm sure those horrified that Musk has exposed what a tool of government fascism Twitter had served as are projecting their feels here), Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and every other tech mogul, but with the dirty little secret that he is actually an idiot who only succeeded by stealing from a black woman (yay, wokeness!) is belied by the fact that no one as stupid as Miles' is portrayed as being could've kept the front up for so long as to build a fortune and has only survived because the rest of their gang went along for their own self interests as if they couldn't have survived taking him down. 

And the less said about the brain-dead finale which serves better as a metaphor for the act of cultural vandalism Johnson made called Star Wars: The Last Jedi than the point stated, the better. Seriously.

This Is Spinal Tap wisely observed that there's a fine line between stupid and clever, but it definitely helps to not be so stupid as to think you're being clever when you're not. Ruin Johnson has always been a wildly overrated marginal talent - watch Looper sometime and try to figure out why no one noticed the paradox that occurs at the end which would've mooted the entire story - and while you can't fault the clown for taking the money and running, imagine what 20 genuinely talented filmmakers could've made with the money Netflix is pouring down this hole. You know the saying about fooling someone once versus twice. Why would anyone expect this weak joke to get any better when the third telling comes around in a couple of years?

While there are some fun performances and lines scattered throughout Glass Onion, it's complete failure at being a mystery, a farce, or a commentary render it a too long, too thin experience. As noted before, you will waste your time peeling what appears to be empty and find that it was empty.

As for the Dolby Vision and Atmos aspects, it looks nice and sounds OK, but nothing that makes you feel great for spending a lot on a snazzy home theater. If you're on the $14 Netflix plan, you'll be fine if you choose to waste your time on this.

Score: 4/10. Skip it. 


"Violent Night" Review

 It's debatable whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but after all the movies described as "Die Hard on a plane/boat/bus" (Passenger 57, Under Seige, and Speed, respectively) for the past 35 years, we finally get our Die Hard with Santa, Violent Night

David Harbour (Stranger Things) is not-so-jolly St. Nick. When we meet him, he's getting drunk in a pub, disillusioned by how greedy kids are and how Christmas has lost its meaning. After taking off from the pub roof and puking on the poor barmaid who'd followed him, he heads to America where he eventually lands on the roof of the estate of the Lightstone estate.

The Lightstones are one of those wealthy families who put the diss in dysfunctional. The matriarch, Gertrude (Beverly D'Angelo), is a cruel woman who emotional abuses her adult children - Jason (Alex Hassel, Vicious from the disastrous live-action Cowboy Bebop) and Alva (Edie Patterson) - by dangling her fortune over them. Alva wants to take over as CEO of the family business and her boyfriend, Morgan Steel (Cam Gigandet), hopes she'll produce an action film starring him. Jason just wants to win back his estranged wife, Linda (Alexis Louder), and make his daughter, Trudy (Leah Brady), happy. Trudy is a sweetheart compared to Alva's Justin Bieber-ish social media influencer/streamer brat son, Bert (Alexander Elliot).

 The interpersonal squabbles of the rich and aimless become secondary to the arrival of John Leguizamo's "Ebenezer Scrooge" and his henchmen, many of whom were posing as staff for the Christmas party event, to rob Gertrude of the $300 million in her basement safe. As little as Santa really wants to get involved, he decides that Trudy's belief in Christmas is enough to inspire him to get his murder on and fight the Hans Gruber Scrooge gang and we learn a little about Santa's origins, at least this version of him.

 Violent Night is a pip because it mashes up Die Hard, The Ref (a sadly forgotten Denis Leary film co-starring Keven Spacey and Judy Davis as a bickering couple whose crappy family's Christmas is interrupted by Leary's burglar) and those R-rated Home Alone videos on YouTube where VFX artists provide graphic renditions of the injuries the Wet Bandits should've suffered from Kevin's attacks. The kills are visceral, but in an amusing Evil Dead 2 sense, and Harbour and the cast have fun with the material.

While it will never receive the classic status afforded other Christmas-set movies, Violent Night is a lot more fun than watching the universe kicking George Bailey in the junk repeatedly. Watch Santa kick some junk instead!

Score: 8/10. Catch it on cable. (As of 1/21/23 it's on Peacock)

"Knives Out" 4K Review

After taking a huge streaming runny brown dump on the Star Wars franchise with his act of cultural vandalism, The Last Jedi, which torpedoed the Disney sequels and set the most valuable IP in media ablaze, writer-director Ruin Johnson (yeah, his real name is Rian, but culture vandals don't get to demand a damn thing) followed up with Knives Out, his spin on an Agatha Christie-style whodunnit, garnering an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay (whut?) and a mind-blowing $450 MILLION(!!!!) deal from Netflix for two sequels. 

 With the first sequeal, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, about to plop onto the streamer this weekend after a one-week theatrical run a month ago, it was time to finally watch the original movie. We had tried to watch it when it came out on video, but my girlfriend wanted out in less than five minutes in due to Ruin's overly hyperactive crosscutting style and overly arch dialog. However, once you get past that hump, it settles down to spin a decent yarn, though it's not as great as hyped.

 Events begin with the discovery of the body of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer in his last performance), the 85-year-old mystery novel author who'd amassed great wealth, but ended up apparently dead by suicide, having slit his own throat in his attic study. A week later, ahead of the memorial, his children - son Walt (Michael Shannon), with wife Donna (Riki Lindhome); daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), with husband Richard (Don Johnson) and son Ransom (Chris Evans); and widowed daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette); along with their irrelevant teenage children - gather at the mansion where he died for additional questioning from local police detectives (LaKeith Stanfield and Noah Egan) and consulting private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig with a syrupy Southern accent) whose invitation to investigate what appears to be a open and shut case of suicide is a mystery in itself.

 As the interviews quickly proceed, with the subjects' versions of what happened the night of Harlan's death cutting against the audience seeing what actually happened, we learn that there was more diss than fun in this dysfunctional family with the old man clearly intending to cut his family off from the lavish financial support he'd provided and they'd grown to feel entitled to. But while all of them could be suspected of murdering the patriarch, all the physical evidence supports the suicide ruling. 

The mystery intensifies when the reading of Harlan's will, which he'd changed only a week before his death, leaves his entire estate - the house, the $60 million in savings, and his publishing house and catalog of works - to Marta (Ana de Armas), his personal nurse and, more relevantly, a kind friend to an old man whose family were a bunch of spoiled leeches. Marta is so decent that she literally cannot lie without vomiting. Naturally, the entire family suspects her of being a naughty nurse and presses her to renounce the inheritance.

 What Knives Out does to freshen up what could've been just a Christie pastiche is show us what actually precipitated Harlan's demise very early on and how it plays against the accounts the family members related. While the mystery that the characters think is happening is explained to us, there are still ancillary mysteries such as who wanted Blanc to look into the death.

While the cast is stacked with top shelf names, the protagonist is actually Marta as nearly everything revolves around her and it's a different sort of role for de Armas, who cools down her usual hotness here. Craig is having a ball with his accent - which gets called "Foghorn Leghorn" at one point - like he did in Logan Lucky, and while Blanc is a Hercule Poirot copypaste, there's potential as evidenced by his returning in Glass Onion. Chris Evans also has fun with his Trustafarian jerk turn; it pairs nicely with his performance in Netflix's The Gray Man. The others are game, but mostly limited to being personalities more than characters.

 Despite being on Prime Video seemingly forever, Knives Out wasn't there or anywhere to watch - not even Netflix who you'd think would want the first film in a very expensive series they've financed for their subscribers - so I had to go with a 4K HDR copy I'd *obtained* and the clarity and color was sharp, but it's not really necessary for this type of film; HD is sufficient.

While Ruin Johnson deserves to be eaten by an alligator for what he did to Star Wars and his previous film, Looper, was a paradox-laden misfire, Knives Out is an acceptably entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. It's a testament to how mediocre screenwriting these days is that it snagged an Oscar nomination despite begging more than a few questions in how certain events played out and ending with a literal 1-in-1000 deus ex machina situation, but just as Dirkflix is able to fairly appraise Jennifer Lawrence's acting even as she become a delusional toxic harridan (even before she claimed to be  the First Female Action Heroine), the fact that Ruin ruined Star Wars doesn't mean this slight caper should be slighted.

Score: 7.5/10. Catch it on cable. 

"Moonage Daydream" Blu-ray Review

January 11, 2016 was a day I dreaded for a long time. As more and more of my girlfriend's musical idols had passed away in previous years including all of the Ramones and Joe Strummer, I knew one day her biggest idol, David Bowie, would inevitably return to his home planet and that Monday was the day the news broke that he'd passed the day before from liver cancer, merely two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his final album, Blackstar. That was a rough phone call to make.

After Bowie's return to his homeworld, his estate gave filmmaker Brett Morgan (The Kid Stays in the Picture, Cobain: Montage of Heck) access to five million(!) items including painting, drawings, films, journals, etc. and officially blessed a documentary to be made with them. After five years of work comes Moonage Daydream, which completely fails as a documentary while excelling as a superfan's wet dream.

We'd intended to see it at the theater during its limited run, but word of mouth and some reviews gave us pause, calling it the cinematic version of those "Laser Pink Floyd" shows planetariums and museums would put on for stoners to trip out to the groovy lights while music blasted. Did we want to pay money for some weird meaningless trip? Eventually we decided to wait for home video and me being a good boyfriend bought the Blu-ray for her for about what a trip to the show would've run us. 

So how is it? Well, I watched it with her and a friend, both of whom are Bowie superfans. They both enjoyed it immensely because they are superfans and the wealth of new footage like Jeff Beck's appearance during the Ziggy Stardust concert which he had cut, BUT they agreed with my take that this is strictly a superfans only film because anyone who doesn't know what they're looking at will have no idea what they're looking at.

Eschewing the usual talking head format where people who knew the subject share their perspectives on the topic, Morgan has assembled a kaleidoscopic melange of images, unearthed performances and interviews, movie clips, and snippets of interviews where Bowie's unreliable narration - he frequently revised his legends over time - and Morgan's editing attempt to contextualize, recontextualize, interpret, and deconstruct his long and prolific career.

There are no training wheels for neophyte fans here. No one will go into Moonage Daydream who isn't part of the Bowie's Biggest Boosters club and emerge evangelized like how my seeing Stop Making Sense made me want to hear more Talking Heads beyond the handful of tunes I knew going in. There are no captions for where or when footage comes from, no guidance for the unbaptized. If documentaries like Edgar Wright's The Sparks Brothers suffer from "and then this happened and then this happened" linearity, Moonage Daydream is the opposite which demands of viewers to know his life very well already then shows you the deleted scenes from that knowledge.

As far as the Blu-ray presentation goes, the wildly divergent source materials make for uneven video simply due to old 16mm or television tapes making for crunchy images. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master audio track however is loud and clear and really gives the surround channels a workout. My receiver's Neural:X upmatrixing gave a psuedo-Atmos effect that compensates for the Atmos mix being reserved for the Region B UK release.  

On the extras front, there ain't any other than the film's trailer. No commentary, no deleted scenes, nada. Considering the mountains of material Morgan had to cull from, this is a disappointment.

 Too often I wonder who the intended audience of some films are and this applies to Moonage Daydream as well. Bowie had fans of varying levels of intensity for five decades, but this film seems only for the hardest of hardcore aficionados. If your interest peaked with 1983's Let's Dance and you vaguely remember that there was some song talking about Major Tom being a junkie or us being heroes, then this is NOT the movie for you. At all. 

Instead go watch the documentaries David Bowie - Five Years which came out in 2013 and covered his post-Ziggy reinventions and David Bowie: The Last Five Years which was released posthumously in 2017 and covered his surprise unretirement and final two albums, The Next Day and Blackstar as well as the stage show Lazarus based on the latter. You'll actually learn a lot from those.

But if you're an uber-super-duper-mega-hardest core fanatic about all things Bowie, you'll find stuff to enjoy here and its sensory overload presentation almost makes repeat viewings necessary. Freak out, indeed.

Score: 6/10. Skip it if you're a casual Bowie listener; catch it on cable if you're a more in-depth fan; buy it if you're a mega-fan.

"Smile" Review

 I'm not a big horror movie fan; it's more the girlfriend's thing. It just doesn't interest me much and what I've seen lately like the last two Halloween debacles hasn't improved its standing in my eyes. But after she tapped out of Black Adam after about two minutes, we were looking for something to watch and the horror sleeper hit of 2022, Smile ($214M global gross for a $17M budget, though that seems high for what it is), was available. 

Smile had a brilliant viral marketing campaign where they placed actors behind home plate at baseball games who sat their smiling weirdly and generally freaking out audiences. "What's the deal with those smiling people?!?" was all the buzz and it hyped up the opening weekend attendance, but why did it have legs? So I decided to take one for the team and see what's popular with the masses and two hours later, I have to say the masses just need to start mailing their cash to me because they have no taste in movies.

Smile is about Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon, daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick), a overworked psychiatrist whose encounter with a disturbed woman (Caitlin Stasey) whose art history professor had committed suicide with a hammer(!!) in front of her ends with the woman freaking out and slicing her throat while creepily smiling.

In the aftermath, Rose begins to have hallucinations of....something threatening her, sometimes horrific apparitions, sometimes people she knows who are telling her she's going to die (rude!) and smiling at her. Her fiance (Jessie T. Usher) and boss (Kal Penn) think she's losing her marbles, but her ex-boyfriend and cop, Joel (Kyle Gallner), helps her investigate which leads to the discovery that the woman and her professor were the latest links in a chain of gruesome suicides where each victim was a witness to a previous suicide. Will Rose be able to break the chain?

There are multiple problems with Smile beyond the fact its core premise is a mashup of It Follows and The Ring. With few exceptions the performances are all subpar and Bacon is particularly one-note, though she's not given much to do by the thin script by writer-director Parker Finn expanding from his short film Laura Can't Sleep. Speaking of expanding, clocking in at nearly two hours it's easily a half-hour too long which is lethal considering how little is done with the time. 

Rather than set Rose up as a fairly balanced woman and establish a baseline to decline from, we instead are introduced to a woman already not in a great place so her descent doesn't seem as steep as we're meant to feel. The rush to get that inciting suicide in puts everything subsequent in its shadow so it's all rushed up front than slows down massively. Almost every plot twist is predictable and even the jump scares are telegraphed. The unsatisfactory ending clearly intended to set up a sequel which no one will care about makes it all a waste of viewers time.

Afterwards I asked the missus whether all horror movies are this stupid and she said pretty much, though this was supposedly better than the heavily hyped Barbarian, which she found underwhelming. As for Smile, my verdict is is 🙁.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

"Slumberland" 4K Review

 As the culture wars poison everything that used to be fun in the world, the disconnect between what critics and the unwashed masses enjoy or dislike seems to be growing farther apart as movies that critics applaud because they tickle their woke spots have vastly more negative ratings from viewers (who are dismissed as "toxic trolls review bombing out of bigotry"; the all-purpose excuse for bad movies these days) and vice versa as critics hate on movies for the crime of just being entertaining and the rabble enjoy being entertained.

Such as it goes with this weekend's Big Netflix Movie, Slumberland, starring Jason Momoa in a family-friendly adaptation of the classic comic Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, which I haven't read and whose critic fans really hate this movie for not being as good as. Looking now, post viewing, I see it's showing a 35% Rotten Tomatoes score from critics an 88% from fans. Since there's no political aspect to it, those excuses don't fly - it's just that critics are jaded miserable folks who want every movie to be kale? Pretty much. ("Aren't you a critic, Dirk?" you may ask? Shut up and read.) Since the missus loves her some Momo, I was roped into watching it, too.

 Slumberland opens with a prologue introducing us to Nemo (Marlow Barkley) who lives with her father, Peter (Kyle Chandler), in a lighthouse. He is a kind man who dotes on his daughter, telling her fantastical bedtime stories of his wild outlaw adventures in his younger single days with a partner named Flip, so you know he's not long for this world and movie and, yep, that emergency call he went out on the boat for during a storm kills him.

Since Nemo's mother died when she was a baby (because this always works for Disney), her sole relative is her uncle Philip (Chris O'Dowd), a wealthy doorknob salesman who has a nice large apartment that is sterile and cold-feeling. He was long-estranged from his brother (for reasons that are explained over time) and very awkward about this new responsibility - he has to Google "how to raise a child" - but he enrolls her in a posh prep school and genuinely tries to caretake her. 

Sad and lonely in this new life, Nemo falls asleep one night and is awakened when her stuffed pig, named Pig (because creativity is dead), comes to life as does her bed which smashes out her high window and walks her down the street (to the notice of no one) and then swims her to the lighthouse. (She seems weirdly chill about the whole situation, too.)

Upon arrival, she finds the lighthouse ransacked and discovers Flip (Momoa, playing it like a kiddie version of Beetlejuice), a wild satyr-like fellow with ram's horns and twitchy ears and feet, who is searching for a map of the world of dreams where he hopes to find magic pearls that can grant wishes. He demands she give it to him, but she has no idea what he's talking about. Luckily, the next night Pig unearths the map from a storage box from the lighthouse and she returns to Slumberland demanding to team up with Flip on the quest so she can get a pearl to bring back her father.

 So the odd couple proceed to trek through other people's fantastical CGI-enhanced dreams, seeking doors to the next dream that leads to their goal, all while being chased by "dream cop" (because calling them Dream Police would require paying Cheap Trick) Agent Green (Weruche Opia in a giant Pam Grier Afro wig) who wants to lock up Flip for general miscreant behavior.

 While a tad long at two hours even, Slumberland is an enjoyable fantasy lark filled with bright visuals, some occasionally above-average humor, and anchored by good performances from its three leads. Barkley avoids the annoying precocious brat trap; O'Dowd balances his deeply repressed psyche and eventual evolution (though I figured out his twist long before the movie got around to it); and Momoa is clearly having a blast as Flip with his dad bod gut and wacky antics.

Director Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games sequels, I Am Legend, Constantine) brings visual panache and whimsy to proceedings and manages to balance the elements of grief, adventure, comedy, and sadness without getting too kiddie, too adult, too dark and scary, or too slight and silly. Glancing at other reviews, it appears other critics wanted it to be more like The Sandman than Candyland, because heaven forbid children get a break from having liberal doom, gloom, misery, and confusion pounded into them.

 While Slumberland is likely for many to be another one of Netflix's endless parade of streamed and forgotten movies like that one with The Rock and Deadpool and Wonder Woman doing something or the other one from the Avengers directors with Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling trying to kill each other for some reason which cost over $400 million combined to produce, it's a fine enough escape from the sad realities of the world today to a place made for mindless fun. 

For the home theater enthusiast, it's a good showcase of Dolby Vision and Atmos audio which really make the colors pop and the milieu aurally surround you from all directions. Netflix sucks because they're the only service that limits 4K content to their most expensive ($20) plan when every other service includes it gratis, but at least you can see what you're paying for.

Score: 7/10. Watch it.

"Bullet Train" 4K Review

 Movies like Bullet Train are why I don't go to the movies anymore. When the trailer dropped with its use of a Japanese-language cover of "Staying Alive", it looked like a splashy comedic action romp with plenty of stars led by Brad Pitt as colorful criminals on a Japanese bullet train; a good reason to leave the house and pay money for some entertainment. Sadly, it's a muddled mess which thinks it's far funnier than it is and wastes the time of everyone involved, most importantly the audience's.

 It opens with a concerned Japanese father (Andrew Koji) at his injured son's hospital bedside. His father (Hiroyuki Sanada) arrives, chastising him for not protecting his grandson. We then jump to Pitt's character, Ladybug (an ironic moniker because bad luck seems to follow him around), bumbling his way through the streets of Tokyo while babbling to his handler, Maria (a mostly unseen Sandra Bullock), about how he's working on being more positive and less violent in his criminal activities. This is is first job back after an unspecified hiatus and he got it because the initial hire had to drop out.

 His task is to steal a metal briefcase with a train sticker on the handle. While he figures it's going to be difficult to find on a train full of people, it's actually super easy, barely an inconvenience, as it's just sitting in the open with the other luggage. All he needs to do is get off the train. Of course, that can't happen or else the movie would be over in 15 minutes, so we're forced to hang out with all the other supposedly colorful characters.

There's Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), who is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine and views it as the key to evaluating people, and his brother Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), whose briefcase it was as they escort home the wayward son (Logan Lerman) of a crime boss charmingly known as White Death (Michael Shannon). Then there is the Prince (Joey King), who has the Japanese father hostage as she seems to be running her own caper while presenting as a harmless young woman. Other assassins come and go so rapidly as to wonder why they went through the trouble of setting them up with backstories. 

The fundamental problem with Bullet Train is that the script by rookie scribe Zak Olkewicz (from a novel by Kôtarô Isaka) feels like one the flood of post-Pulp Fiction Tarantino wannabe gangster flicks in the 1990s where everyone spoke in pop culture references and were supposedly wonderfully eccentric personalities, but were just annoyingly shallow caricatures. The babbling of Lemon and Tangerine in the beginning almost made me turn it off because it was so trite. Just because Tarantino was able to make chattering about the meaning of Madonna's "Like A Virgin" interesting doesn't mean anyone can prattle on about pop culture. Unless you're QT (or Kevin Smith), don't. Just. Don't.

Compounding the weak script is that director David Leitch has a problem with managing tone and story which has plagued all his previous work. His official directorial debut after being uncredited co-director on the seminal John Wick (though the fact credited director Chad Stahelski has helmed all the John Wick sequels without him speaks volumes) was Atomic Blonde, which despite some kickass action scenes (e.g. the staircase fight oner) had story structure issues and one too many endings. His sophomore effort, Deadpool 2, attempted to amp up the elements of the first film, but ended up with a smaller result plagued by tone issues that made it seem mean and less fun. 

And I'd completely forgotten he'd directed the forgettable Furry Fastness spinoff, Hobbs and Shaw, which botched the basics of buddy action movies and allowed the messy story to grind to a halt repeatedly to shove in lazy cameos, which happens in Bullet Train as well. It doesn't matter if the fights are well choreographed when the story in between the action is mishandled and it's pretty clear he needs to stick to second unit/fight scene direction for he doesn't know how to tell a tonally balanced story.

 Bullet Train sadly isn't an outlier from Hollyweird these days, but another typical example that writing is a dead letter and that relying on even Brad Pitt's scruffy star power isn't enough, especially when his character is mostly passively drifting along the plot's convoluted stream, not a protagonist with agency. With the incredibly short windows between theatrical and streaming video releases - it released in early August 2022 and hit streaming in late-September - there's little urgency to rush to the theaters to see movies because it's not as if watching people fight on a train needs the big screen that silly dinosaur epics can somewhat justify (even those ceased being smart after the initial Jurassic Park). 

Bullet Train was advertised as dumb fun and only delivered half of its promise and it wasn't the "fun" part.

Score: 3.5/10. Skip it.

"Lou" 4K Review

 This week's Netflix Move of the Week is Lou, a taut, if slight, thriller which manages to use good performances to paper over a very predictable story. It's also answers the question, why does Liam Neeson get all the old grizzled badass parts and why not a woman?

Allison Janey (6'0" tall, 63 years old) stars as Lou (short for Lou), a crotchety old woman with a Dark Secret Past who lives on an island off the coast of Washington in the mid-1980s. Everyone in town knows her and she seems to get away with a lot like the Sheriff Matt Craven) not busting her for the out-of-season deer in her pickup truck bed. On her way home, she stops at a trailer she rents to a young widow, Hannah (Jurnee Smollett; yes, Juicy Smooyah's sister), and her daughter, Vee (Ridley Asha Bateman), to hassle them for the late rent and because the kid is running around without paying attention almost gets run over by Lou's truck.

That night, with a major storm blowing in, Hannah's ex-husband, Phillip (Logan Marshall-Green), whom was presumed dead in an explosion months earlier, something she was hiding from her daughter, reappears to kill a guy friend of Hannah's and kidnap Vee while Hannah was trying to restore power to her trailer. Frantic, she runs to Lou's house, interrupting her planned suicide - wait, what?!? - and after her boobytrapped truck explodes, she's clearly in the mood to track down the kidnapping bomber. Good thing she's got a certain set of skills for such a quest.

 It's a testament to the lean performances of the cast that Lou manages to be an effective story that only falls apart when you think about, which becomes more difficult as time passes because it's not especially memorable. Why does the movie open showing Lou burning papers and film, then back up to earlier that day, eventually repeating the opening? Don't know. But I was able to figure out pretty much every plot turn at the beginning of the SECOND act, so it was just a matter of waiting to be proven right.

 While predictable and forgettable, Lou is watchable and is a bit better than I've made it sound. I'm just not going to break a heavy sweat belaboring light entertainment. 

Score: 7/10. Catch it on Netflix

"Fall" Review

 Sometime in the 1980s the term "high concept" came forth to describe movies whose premises could be succinctly stated in a sentence or less. Movies like Die Hard (NYC cop is at an LA Christmas party when terrorists attack and he has to fight back despite being  wildly outnumbered) even became shorthand for higher concept knockoffs like Under Siege (Die Hard on a battleship), Passenger 57 (Die Hard on a plane), and Speed (Die Hard on a bus). 

So it's going to make for a super fast review synopsis of the high concept plot of Fall since the whole plot is a year after her husband plummets to his death in a rock climbing accident, grieving young widow Becky (Grace Caroline Currey, Shazam!) is cajoled by her bestie Hunter (Virginia Gardener, Marvel's Runaways series), who was present for the accident, to climb an abandoned TV tower out in the Mojave Desert to scatter his ashes. After they reach the peak of the rusty dilapidated tower, the ladder for the final 300-foot segment collapses, stranding them on a small platform with no cell phone signal and only 50 feet of rope to work with. Thus begins their battle for survival.

 What makes Fall so effective isn't the particular plot beats - one detail was so obvious my girlfriend and I called it immediately (thankfully, they don't drag it out when it comes up), but another event was a genuine surprise - or that despite being cute young women, they're clever enough to try to work their way out of their dire predicament (yes, that sounds sexist, but isn't my intention), but in the way their climb and stranding is visualized with a combination of visual effects and clever shooting of shorter segments (if you can call still being 100 feet up "shorter") of the tower constructed atop a mountain top to allow the natural heights to provide the backdrop. The lighting is clearly outdoors and not on a studio greenscreen or virtual LED Magic Room (as I call ILM's StageCraft tech) volume and it really makes the viewer sweat especially if they're not fond of heights.

 Overall, the movie runs a tad long and the bad breaks that befall them to extend their suffering range from infuriating to so predictable as to not be effective, but I never stop wondering how the heck they were going to beat the inexorable forces of gravity and vultures trying to kill them. Even if it's too preposterous for your tastes, Gardener's thirst trap vlogger getup provides additional eye candy for those so inclined.

 More effective than it really should've been, you should catch this Fall.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable.

"Grease" 4K Review

 Olivia Newton-John passed away today at age 73, most likely from cancer which had dogged her for years. This meant one of two options for tonight's movie and despite it also being the 42nd anniversary of the release of Xanadu, we decided to go with her first movie, 1978's Grease, mostly because it's been forever since I've seen it, I've seen Xanadu many more times including within the past few years, and I've had an unwatched 4K digital copy in my iTunes account for a couple of years now.

For those unaware of what a Grease is, it's the 1978 adaptation of the 1971 musical about life in 1958 at Rydell High, presumably a school for people with severe learning disabilities judging by the fact the average age for students looks to be around 30 years old. The previous summer at the beach 29-year-old Australian Sandy (ONJ) met and fell and love with 23-year-old Danny (John Travolta), a transfer student from 1977 Brooklyn where he was a disco king, but unknown to her now leads a greaser clique called the T-Birds at school. 

At summer's end, Sandy was to be deported back to the land Down Under and feared she'd never see Danny again, but lucky for her cradle-robbing self (and for the movie to happen) she ends up at Rydell where she's immediately befriended by The Lizzies Pink Ladies (no Jeffs gang?) lead by husky-voiced 33-year-old Rizzo (Stockard Channing) who is getting hot and bothered with 27-year-old T-Bird Kenickie (Jeff Conaway, who had played Danny on Broadway, but hadn't starred in Saturday Night Fever), a dim bulb who would probably end up a cab driver and inspire a really good all-female Scottish band nearly 40 years later.

When the lovers are reunited, Danny blows her off, acting like he's too cool for a future star of Xanadu. Oh, he still loves her, but needs to front for his gang of Three Stooges rejects. She tries to date a dumb jock (a bleached-blonde Lorenzo Lamas, star of Body Rock!) which inspires Danny to try and play various sportball games because he's not willing to let his greaseball Droogs know he's sweet on her but is willing to go all jock to impress her? Whut?

I'm goofing on the movie because there's nothing I'll say that will make you like/love/hate it any more/less than you do already. I remember seeing it when it came out and I'd probably seen it once or twice in the ensuing 44 years, but there was a lot I didn't recall like how leisurely-paced it was, how long the dance contest show scene ran, the car race at Thunder Road which looks less like New Jersey and a lot like the L.A. River. Pre-MTV musicals were a different beast and it's interesting to see what little details were layered into the edges of scenes.

But ignoring that you need a crane to suspend your disbelief at the cast nearly qualifying for AARP playing high schoolers, the greater problem engaging with Grease in the 21st Century is that we're too removed from an nostalgia artifact made for a specific audience at a specific time referencing an era that wasn't too far in the past then.

The 1970s were when Boomers started to get misty about their teen lives in the late-Fifties/early-Sixties. American Graffiti came out in 1973 to tell a story about 1962; Happy Days debuted just four months later (but was actually based on a pilot which predated George Lucas' film and was why he cast Ron Howard, not the other way around) and was set in the 1950s. Perhaps it was the post-Vietnam desire for simpler times before war and Boomer hippies ruined everything.

To put it in perspective, watching Grease in 2022 is like people in 2066 watching a 2022 movie based on a 2015 musical (like Hamilton) set in 2002 (not like Hamilton). Would it make any cultural sense in a manner that would resonate with audiences waaaaay down the line? Watching Grease reminds me of watching Happy Days back in my pre-teen days; the soundtrack album was in heavy rotation along with various KISS, ELO records and first The Cars album. 

But the thin writing - we really don't get any real depth to the characters, though the cast fleshes them out - and static presentation doesn't really age well. Director Randall Kleiser hadn't made a feature before, but was recommended by Travolta after being directed in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble by him.

The 4K Dolby Vision transfer is super clean, bright and colorful, sourced from the original negative, but also suffers from source softness due to having to run soft focus to mask the ages of the elderly cast and use a 2nd generation print when the neg was damaged. Audio is also source-limited in its dynamics, no Atmos remix here (the physical disc does get one, though), but also clear. 

I didn't check out the extras, but if I do this will be updated.

If you're a fan of Grease, then you'll enjoy this 4K version; if you're so-so on it or have never seen it, it's currently streaming on Paramount+.

Score: 6/10. Buy it if you're a fan; catch on cable otherwise.

"Prey" 4K Review

 When is a Predator movie not a Predator movie? Don't know, because while it lacks the official Predator branding that the six other Predator movies have had (four Predator, two Alien vs Predator), Prey is most definitely a Predator movie which makes one wonder why they didn't tag it as such? Is it because other than the seminal original the sequels have been varying levels of mediocre to sucktastic and the brand is viewed with the same respect as Sharknado movies? 

And the fact this is getting dumped straight to Hulu long after movie theaters have returned to doing good business after two years of the Hot Fad Plague can't be a good sign, can it? Surprisingly though, Prey is a respectable although flawed entry into the series.

 Set in 1719 on the Northern Plains of what will become America, Prey is the story of Naru (Amber Midthunder, The Ice Road), a young Comanche woman who wants to be taken seriously by her tribe as a hunter, but isn't because, you know, the patriarchy and stuff. While hunting with the boys, she is knocked out after an encounter with a mountain lion. Undaunted, she heads out by herself to explore the source of the flashing lights she saw during her lion showdown which may be connected to the "thunderbird" she saw obscured by clouds the day before.

Of course what she doesn't know is that it was the spaceship dropping off a Predator (Dane DiLiegro, a 6' 9" former NCAA basketball star) and that the big bear chasing her isn't the worst of her problems. Eventually the boys from the tribe show up as well as boorish caricatured French trappers setting the stage for battle between flint-tipped spears and arrows, primitive muskets, and a giant alien with heat vision, all sorts of shields, blades, and laser-guided projectiles, who can turn invisible for good measure. Will Naru and her canine companion be able to survive this hunt? Duh.

Mercifully, the plague of wokeness that has ruined entertainment in recent years doesn't trip up Prey. While I joked about the patriarchy above, the dismissiveness of the male warriors is practical; when you're hunting things that can hunt you back, strength matters. But the script cleverly sets up how Naru's smarts make up for her size, especially her knowledge of "medicine" and how it helps level the playing field against the Predator's tech. Astute viewers will predict how it will end based on previous scenes, but it's better than just pulling abilities and tactics out of a hat. Even the one-note portrayal of the French isn't too grating especially when you see what they've been doing - they're grade-A a-holes.

While the scenery of Alberta is beautifully captured by cinematographer Jeff Cutter (who previously shot co-writer/director Dan Trachtenberg's 10 Cloverfield Lane) and Trachtenberg stages the action clearly enough, Prey makes a fundamental storytelling mistake that the original classic did in letting on that there's a monster loose.

If you haven't seen the OG Predator in a while, the very first shot of the movie is a spaceship approaching Earth and dropping something from orbit. Once in the jungle and the story is building, we see POV shots of "PredatorVision" and hints something is out there, but if not for that spoiler out of the gate, we wouldn't have known. How cool would that reveal have been? Same with Prey: We're constantly cutting away from Naru to show Big P hunting various wildlife, meaning we're just waiting for the inevitable crossing of paths (which the trailer spoils). 

Still, it's surprising that they didn't try to put this out in the theaters to make a little money. It's definitely a Major Motion Picture grade production, not a made-for-TV cheapie. Midthunder is a spunky, appealing protagonist (she's like Native American Aubrey Plaza) and some of the kills are ouchy enough, so think of it as catching it after missing it at the show.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on Hulu. 

"Last Night In Soho" 4K Review

 I've said it before and I'm saying it again: Edgar Wright can't write. Without a good co-writer or source material, he makes lackluster unfocused films. This first revealed itself with Baby Driver and is confirmed by Last Night In Soho, which was a box office flop and even Wright's fans rank in the basement.

Thomasin McKenzie (Old, Jojo Rabbit) stars as Ellie, a quiet girl from a small English town who is obsessed with Sixties pop culture and dreams of being a fashion designer; a dream which may come true when she's accepted to a London design school. Not used to life in the big city and feeling out of place amongst the partying and her screwing mean girl roommate, she immediately decamps from the dorms to a bedroom rented out by an old woman, Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg, in her final performance).

 The first night there, when she goes to sleep she dreams she is transported back to 1965 and watches a glamorous young woman named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen's Gambit and seemingly everything these days) as she seeks to become a singer. She makes the acquaintance of Jack (Matt Smith, Doctor Who) who gets her an audition at another club.

Inspired by Sandie, Ellie bleaches her hair blonde and begins to recreate the dress she saw Sandie wearing and begins to buy vintage clothes to ape her style. But as she continues time-traveling in her dreams she discovers Sandie's life isn't the high-living fantasy that it initially seemed. Then there's the problem of all the terrifying apparitions that are appearing to her in her waking hours, causing her to appear to be losing her mind to her classmates. And what's the deal with the creepy old man played by Terrance Stamp (the OG General Zod in Superman II) who is so obviously not the threat the movie tries to make us think he is?

What the trailers for Last Night In Soho hid was the ghost story angle of the plot, which made it an unexpected pleasant surprise for my horror fan girlfriend who loved it (9/10 score). But my problem wasn't the tonal switcheroo, but the unclear perspective in the way Wright tells his story. Is Ellie becoming Sandie or merely observing her? That first night Sandie makes out with Jack and he gives her a hickey and Ellie has the same hickey, but other times Ellie is clearly watching from the crowd what happens to Sandie, though there are many shots of them seeing each other in the mirror or them swapping places in scenes. And while Taylor-Joy is the current hot young thang and brings her otherwordly beauty (meaning she looks like an alien with those wide-set eyes), she is woefully miscast for the purpose she serves in the plot. (Not saying she's bad, but to explain why would spoil the ending.)

Despite slick visuals and solid performances all around, Last Night In Soho doesn't work because there is so little to work with as far as the characters. All we know about Ellie is that her mother killed herself when she was young, she was raised by her grandma, she's hung up on Sixties tunes and fashion, and she's shy. Her confidence and designs are copies of Sandie, not development of her own talents. As the specters close in, she's reacting, not attacking. And Sandie is just a MacGuffin, not a person. Her hopes and dreams are limited and her fate is merely witnessed. 

Wright co-wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (mysteriously Oscar-nominated for 1917 which wasn't much of a character piece either) and she's no Simon Pegg either. The whole purpose of the movie was to scratch Wright's itch to recreate 1965 London and play cool old tunes including the original version of Naked Eye's "Always Something There To Remind Me," not so much to tell a compelling or interesting story. 

The 4K HDR image wasn't called upon much, but when the wet neon-soaked streets are featured, it provides a nice pop in you've got the home theater for it.

Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable, barely. (Currently on HBO Max)

"Interceptor" 4K Review

 This week's disposable Netflix movie of the week was Interceptor, starring Elsa Pataky (Furry Fastness 5-8 and also Mrs. Chris Hemsworth) as an Army captain assigned to a floating missile defense platform in the Pacific Ocean. One of two sites which can shoot down ICBMs from Russia - the other located in Alaska - they are apparently the mainland's only defense against attacks because we don't have any continental defenses? OK, sure, let's go with that. 

Unfortunately, she has arrived on the same day that traitorous American soldiers have taken the Alaska base, killed their comrades, and destroyed the controls for the interceptor missiles and Russian radicals have stolen 16 nuclear missiles and aimed them at America. She realizes about five seconds too late that the Alaska attack was an inside job, but is able to barricade herself and two soldiers in the command room. As the bad guys, led by Luke Bracey (no idea who this is), begin cutting their way through the blast doors while SEAL teams race to get to the platfom via helicopter but will arrive too late unless she slows them further, the race is on to save America.

The premise is your standard "Die Hard on a..." template, so whether Interceptor rises or falls comes down to the details and execution and for the most part it whiffs across the board. The problems start immediately with multiple references to something that happened to Pataky in her past, eventually revealed as her being sexually harassed by a popular General when she got her dream assignment at the Pentagon and then having her career ruined for #MeTooing him, banished to this super important defense installation and not some garbage deployment in a place with uncomfortable living conditions.

The next big problem is the villain and his plan. He's supposedly a crazy sociopath who held important gigs (because the Army puts loose canon's in important places?) and his years of scheming and recruiting traitors and allies in Russia isn't to hold America ransom for whatever reasons, but to nuke the majority of the population for the "crime" of America no longer representing her founding ideals and after almost everyone is dead, rebuilding from the ruins a better America. Yep, that seems workable. (It's also notable that while Cincinnati and St. Louis are marked for destruction, Detroit isn't. I guess contra to X's "New World" and Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing In The Street" you can forget the Motor City.)

The weaksauce virtue signaling continues with one of the command room soldiers being queried by Bracey if he was tired of being profiled as a terrorist for being Hindu. What? Was this script left over from 20 years ago when post-9/11 some Hindus were given grief by dumbasses who couldn't tell the difference between them and Muslims? No one has bothered the Hindus in forever, but according to the script written by two Australian guys who have written better things in the past - novelist-turned-writer/director Matthew Reilly and Stuart Beattie (Collateral) - America is still super bigoted. (The fact that pretty much the entire cast except Spaniard Pataky is Australian may be a factor in this weird concept of Americans.)  Of course, this soldier (Mayen Mehta) gets a moment to prove how super-patriotic he is, you bigots!

So the whole plot is kinda naff and the 1h 39m runtime is padded with endless monolouging, how's the rest of it. Enh, it's semi-adequate. Pataky seems a plausible action chick, relying on techique to overcome the brute strength of larger men she's fighting, and when she gets shot in the arm, they don't pretend she still can use it. Her bigger problem is her performance is wooden and mistakes monotone for strength. The rest of the cast nails their American accents which makes her Spanish accent even odder even with the explanation for it.

Shot on a low budget with only a few sets and a ton of imperceptible CGI enhancement, Interceptor could've been a respectable popcorn thriller, but it's too padded and too predictable to quite reach its modest goals. As far as the Dolby Vision and Atmos presentations, except for some bright lights and heavy bass on the soundtrack, they don't add much to the presentation. 

Score: 4/10. Catch it on Netflix if you're bored.

"Memory" Review

 Memory is forgettable. That's it. That's the review. Try the veal!

OK, a bit more then. Memory is a remake of a 2003 Belgian movie called The Memory of the Killer about an aging assassin dealing with rapidly onrushing Alzheimer's. Liam Neeson, everyone's favorite AARP tough guy now that Clint Eastwood is over 90, stars as Alex, a man with a special set of skills (whoops, wrong franchise) which begin and end with killing. While he's still able to fulfill his contracts while pushing 70, he's becoming forgetful and though he wants to retire, he's given the usual One More Job Which Will Test His Conscience.

Despite whacking his first target with impunity, he balks at killing a 13-year-old girl who was being sex trafficked by her father. When she ends up dead anyway, he seeks to avenge her while being pursued by FBI Agent Guy Pearce who had killed her father during a bust gone bad. The convoluted plot involves sex trafficking of minors held in the El Paso ICE detention facility and Very Important People would be fine if anyone who knows about these escapades ended up dead. 

While there is some promise in the premise and I recall hearing that the original is a good movie (I own the DVD, but haven't watched it), Neeson seems forgotten half the time as other threads of the spaghetti logic plot are followed. He growls a lot and kicks ass a few times, but it's getting tired and old, sort of like Neeson at 69. 

Frankly, the most fascinating detail about Memory was its cast, specifically that barring the handful of Mexican/Hispanic actors, everyone I looked up wasn't American. Neeson (Irish), Pearce (Australian), an aging-badly Monica Bellucci (Italian), Ray Stephenson (Irish), Pearce's partner Taj Nawal (looks Indian, is British), his angry cliche superior Ray Fearon (black, is English), even the DOJ guy is Belgian, I think and down the line, not a single American played any of these American characters. Must've been some condition of the financing, but it's weird; you'd never be allowed to make a movie in England with an all-American cast.

 Slow, unsatisfying, and all puns intended, feel free to forget about Memory.

 Score: 3/10. Skip it.  

"The Wedding Singer" Review

I've written before about how I've boycotted every Adam Sandler movie since 1998's The Wedding Singer with only two exceptions: 2009's Funny People (which I broke boycott for because I was - note was - a Judd Apatow fan, but resulted in adding him to the boycott list) and 2019's Uncut Gems, which I only decided to watch after seeing his hilarious Independent Spirit Awards acceptance speech after he'd been snubbed for an Oscar nomination. But as I look at his IMDB page now, I realize that I didn't stop being a fan; I never was an Adam Sandler fan. 

Not counting his bit parts or cameos in pal's films or animated work (the Hotel Transylvania series), I just realized I have only seen FOUR of his nearly 40 feature films: the above-mentioned trio plus Airheads. I liked him on Saturday Night Live, but it appears I have never had much interest in his movies. My girlfriend has seen multiples more of his movies than I have and has been on me to give 2011's  Just Go With It a chance for a decade now, but my boycott has been too firm. But now that I look at things, is it really a boycott when you were never really a customer in the first place?

 Needing a comedy the other night, the missus and I watched The Wedding Singer, the first of his three collaborations with Drew Barrymore (the others being 2004's 50 First Dates and 2014's Blended) which was also the last of his movies before my boycott was triggered by the Big Daddy trailer. It's a testament to how triggering that trailer was because The Wedding Singer is a sweet and funny example of late-20th Century rom-coms and comedies in general. 

Sandler is the titular singer, Robbie, whose motley wedding band is inexplicably in demand, though it is New Jersey. Opening at a reception where we see his limited vocal (but more impressive people) gifts, we're also introduced to the new waitress Julia (Barrymore), the new-in-town cousin of Holly (Christine Taylor), who is also a waitress at the wedding hall and is a bit of a tramp. Robbie's own wedding to Linda (Angela Featherstone) is coming up in a week and Julia has been engaged for years to an aloof rich jerk, Glenn (Matthew Glave), who has been reluctant to set a date.

 When Linda doesn't show up for the wedding because while she fell for Robbie when he was in a rock band she couldn't imagine being happy being married to just a wedding singer, Robbie is crushed, leading to a hilarious meltdown at a subsequent gig. (Why a wedding band even has "Love Stinks" in the set list is unexplained.) Meanwhile Julia finally get Glenn to set a date, but he's clearly not into it.

Since Robbie knows all the local wedding businesses and how to wrangle bargains, he helps Julia plan her wedding since Glenn's too busy making big bond trader money in NYC. Naturally, they seem to be perfect for each other though they don't realize it because this is a rom-com after all. While on a double-date with Glenn and Julia while he's with Holly, Robbie learns what a weasel Glenn is, but how do you tell a girl her man's a rat? And what to do if your ex comes back around? Will these two crazy kids be able to find love and grow old together? (Spoiler: It ends in a murder-suicide. Just kidding! Duh!)

There are a handful of memorable classic bits and everyone is fine and funny in their performances. I'd forgotten it was set in 1985 and who the big cameos were and while it's very predictable in its story beats, it doesn't overstay its welcome at 97 minutes long. (You hear that, Apatow? Comedies shouldn't rival Lord of the Rings movies for runtime!) My girlfriend was snarking that Barrymore looked like a child, but she looks at least 14 which is impressive considering she was 22 when shooting this. 

As for Sandler, the seeds for my boycott are visible here. While it works here for the character, it showcases my knock on him that he had exactly two gears for "acting": the meek quiet baby-voiced mode and the LOUD BELLOWING JOCK GOON mode. I had missed Happy Gilmore, but was aware of the second mode, but it was the moment in the Big Daddy trailer where he's screaming for a Happy Meal that I noped out of wanting to see anything he was in for another decade. Robbie is mostly a Mode #1 performance, but he edges into restrained Mode #2 territory, but it works because it's limited. But I can see why I flipped on him. 

Was I wrong to write him off so completely? Probably not. Maybe I'll finally give Just Go With It a look since I've already warned the missus that if it sucked she'd be finding out what domestic violence is like. (Not sure if I'm kidding here.) But at least The Wedding Singer is a movie of Sandler's that I'm cool with having seen. Now concerning Funny People, I need to pay Judd Apatow a visit and have to pick up an axe handle somewhere on the trip.

Score: 6.5/10.  

Note how they give away the whole plot and some big gags in the trailer and also Sandler's baby voice to bellow schtick.

"The VelociPastor" Review

After the dour The Batman, we were looking for something lighter when almost immediately Peacock offered up The VelociPastor which has this as its official blurb: "After losing his parents, a priest travels to China, where he inherits a mysterious ability that allows him to turn into a dinosaur. At first horrified by this new power, a prostitute convinces him to use it to fight crime. And ninjas."Alrightee then! A brief 70-minutes later we can say that it definitely has what it advertised on the tin, except more so for it's both a B-movie AND a straight-faced parody of zero-budget B-movies. 

It announces its intentions right out of the gate as Father Doug (Greg Cohan) is shown waving to his parents standing by their car and then an off-camera boom occurs, Doug looks horrified, then they cut back to an empty frame of the street with the notation "VFX CAR ON FIRE." Three times. After fellow priest Father Stewart (Daniel Steere who should be first pick for a John Bolton biopic) consoles him, "So your parents died, Doug. It's what parents do. They die on you," he decides to go to China which we know is China because a big title card screaming "CHINA" is put up and Doug says, "China." No stock footage of the Great Wall; just their say-so. 

While there he encounters a dying Chinese woman who hands him a tooth which scratches his hand. Suddenly he's back in his parish bed, haunted by nightmares with no idea how he got there. He quickly finds out why when he saves a hooker (Alyssa Kampinski) who was being mugged in the park. By turning into a dinosaur. And eating the mugger. Hijinks ensue!

Made for a reported $11,000, writer-director Brendan Steere manages to make it look like at least half as much on the screen. With a cast marginally better than the "actors" in Clerks - though to be fair Cohan and Kampinski are good enough that they have 25-35 IMDB credits each, albeit mostly playing SWAT #3, Woman, and Reporter #2 - The VelociPastor successfully balances the tightrope between mocking cheap genre movies and simply being a bad cheap genre movie. 

It's got enough intentional laughs and doesn't overstay its welcome - take that, Judd Apatow. Some of the gags are so subtle I suspect people dissing it in IMDB user reviews didn't get what they were watching. For example, during the opening credits Doug is shown driving with obvious rear projection screen footage, but that's not the joke - what cracked me up was that they were shining lights on the car to simulate passing streetlights when the background footage is broad daylight. Don't worry though, there are plenty of obvious gags like the whooshing sound effects over the ninja army - all two of them in their homemade ninja costumes - training exercises and the backstory of what drove Father Stewart to the priesthood is Airplane-grade nutty.

I'm genuinely surprised Steere has no credits after this 2018 film. I don't mean to make it sound like he's the next Sam Raimi or even Kevin Smith, but considering how much money gets wasted making direct-to-video dreck and paying stars like poor Bruce Willis a million bucks for a couple of days "work" repeating lines fed to him by earpiece so they can put his face on the poster implying he's the star, why can't someone toss Steere the price of a luxury car to make some more mild entertainment?

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable. (It's currently on Amazon Prime, the free tier of Peacock, the ad-supported area of Vudu and others.)

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