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!

"Retribution" Review

 Oh look, it's AARP action hero Liam Neeson in another thriller where he probably growls most of the time. This time it's something called Retribution that the missus wanted to watch, so let's see what this is about.

It opens with a literal bang as a car explodes on the road. We then meet Neeson's Matt Turner, a financier in Berlin as he's hitting a punching bag to show he's a kickass senior citizen. He gets a call from his partner Anders (Matthew Modine, whose photo is in every dictionary next to "punchable face") asking Matt to call a skittish client about losses his account is taking.

Distracted by this task, his annoyed wife Heather (Embeth Davidtz, who sounds like a character from Dune) asks him to take their squabbling bratty children - Zach (Jack Champion, Tarzan Boy from Avatar 2) and Emily (Lilly Aspell) - to school. He reluctantly accedes and off they go. After making his business call to calm the client, a phone starts ringing. It's not his or the kids, but a bashed up burner phone stashed in his glove box.

Answering it, he's greeted by a menacing disguised voice telling him there's a bomb under his seat with a pressure plate that will detonate it if he or the kids leave the car with a cell phone backup trigger. The voice is accusing him of malfeasance while Matt pleads for his children's lives. Directed to go from place to place, the cops rapidly believe Matt is the bomber and pursue him.

 As premises go, it's a tad familiar and frankly, I guessed who the villain was immediately because it was both so random and so obvious. Director Nimrod Antal (Predators) working from a script that is the 3rd remake of a Spanish film does an adequate job keeping things tense, but there are a few too many leaps in logic with the omniscient mastermind both seeming to know what's going on and the cops being patronizingly stupid.

At a short hour-and-a-half, this would fall into the "mindless fluff to watch on cable on a rainy Saturday" category, but while competently executed, it's just too insubstantial to wholly recommend.

Score: 5/10. Skip it.

"Hush" Review

 Just finished watching Mike Flanigan's Midnight Mass series on Netflix and in reading about the production discovered that while he was trying to develop it into a novel or film, he had made it a book within the movie Hush, which starred and was co-written by his wife Kate Siegel, who stars in his projects. Despite not currently available to stream anywhere, I *obtained* a copy to check out.

 Siegel stars as Maddie, a deaf-mute author who lives alone in a rural wooded area. One night a mysterious masked man (John Gallagher Jr.) lays siege to her home, cutting her power & taking her cellphone, isolating her from contacting anyone. Armed with a crossbow, she can't just outrun him, so how will she survive?

That's pretty much it. Who is this stalker? Don't know. Why is he targeting her? Looks like mere chance as he was chasing his previous victim to her door. It's a lean story set in one house which probably made horror producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse fame eager to greenlight the project other than it being mostly a night shoot.

 Seigel is effective especially considering she doesn't have any dialog other than one scene where her interior monologue is dramatized; she communicates solely through sign language. Gallagher is adequate in a one-note role and fans of Midnight Mass will enjoy brief appearances of Michael Trucco and Samatha Sloyan as Maddie's neighbors. The direction is taut and atmospheric considering the limited room to work.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable. (Not on available on any streaming service at the moment, however it appears someone posted it on the tube of you site. Ahem.)

"Absolut Warhola" DVD Review

 I'm going to save you 80 minutes of your life in case you are an Andy Warhol fan and are looking at this DVD of Absolut Warhola, the 2001 German-Polish documentary where director Stanislaw Mucha and his tiny crew journey to the eastern Slovakia town of Miková where Warhol's parents were from to interview surviving relatives, mostly cousins, whom he never met, though he sent them his works.

  • There's lots of aimless driving trying to even find Miková. There is also aimless hunting for mushrooms while pointing out long tapped oil wells in the woods.
  • A 90-year-old women heats water for coffee and it takes forever to heat and we get to see almost every minute of the process.
  • Babushkas seem to be the uniform for women.
  • There's a "Warhol doppelganger" who goes around and supposedly is meant to fool and/or delight the impoverished townspeople, but they don't get the joke.
  • His family refuses to believe he was gay and that the reason radical feminist terrorist Valerie Solanas shot him was because he refused to marry her.
  • The Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art is in neighboring Medzilaborce and is in such poor shape that the roof leaks and the museum director openly asks for donations and gives out the bank account information. (I looked up the museum's website and they closed in March 2023 for massive renovations and hope to reopen by late-2024, so I guess the begging worked and only took nearly a quarter century.) They have a good selection of works that Warhol donated.
  • The local Gypsy population hates the museum because they aren't allowed to enter, supposedly due to racism. When asked about this, the museum director denies that it's racism, but that they don't bathe, smell bad, and damage and steal things and if they want to visit, just take a bath and don't steal things. 
  • This one guy likes to play his trumpet and we get to see him honking away several times at length.
  • One cousin relates a story about Warhol sending a suitcase full of art. They used it to "make trumpets" for the children and stored the rest in the attic. When a flood damaged the case, they threw it all away. 
  • They thought life was better under "socialism" meaning the Communist dictatorship because you could sleep in the park without being robbed.

The only thing that made this bearable was heckling it with the missus. The filmmakers don't even show a map to let us know where these boondocks locales are.

On the technical front, it's a non-anamorphic letterboxed presentation meaning on a current widescreen TV there will be bars on all sides. The quality of the 16mm photography is as blah as the landscapes. Audio is stereo and clear enough, but since it's just talking with subtitles, it's functional at best.

The only extra other than some trailers for other films is a brief "making of" piece which consists of video of the crew goofing off for a few minutes. It manages to be even less interesting than the feature.

Sometimes documentaries are meant for only the hardest core fans of a subject like Moonage Daydream was for David Bowie, but there are limits to irony, folks, and a tedious 80 minutes about people who never met Warhol who live in a place he never visited and barely associated with beyond sending some art is well past that line. What's next, a lengthy expedition to visit the distant cousins of the neighbors of the family who emigrated to America in the late-19th Century and whose descendant became the favorite drug dealer of 1980s Sunset Strip metal bands?

Score: 2/10. Skip it.


In case you don't believe me, I see someone posted the whole thing a few weeks ago. 

"WHAM!" Review

 The British pop duo Wham! (with the explanation point, as Deadpool explained) has a reputation slightly above Rick Astley's, mostly thought of "that silly pop thing George Michael was in before he went solo." The saxophone riff from "Careless Whisper" became the basis for the "Sexy Sax Man" prank videos which themselves were parodied by Saturday Night Live. So what can a Netflix documentary do to rehabilitate their image four decades later? Plenty.

 WHAM! is a tightly-focused recounting of how 12-year-old Andrew Ridgely befriended the new boy in school, Georgios Panayiotou - who rapidly gained the nickname "Yog" which stuck for life - in 1975 and they became besties who started writing songs together, formed WHAM! in 1981, and after some shaky early efforts, caught a break and then rocketed to the top of the charts, becoming global pop stars before deciding to split to free Michael to go solo after less than five years.

Bolstered by the archivist quality scrapbooks kept by Ridgely's mother tracing her son's career, WHAM! buzzes through their meteoric career with very few distractions. Even Michael's closeted status is handled matter of factly as an element of his and Ridgely's friendship with archived audio narration from Michael discussing how being a teen girl's pinup idol meant coming out publicly would be bad for business in the 1980s. It's also refreshing that no new interview footage or "music experts" opining about the group and it's meaning are loaded on top to tell us What It All Meant. It's just the duo and selected close family and associates contemporaneously telling their story.

 What WHAM! does best is correct the record for most people that Ridgely was just a lucky sod who rode Michaels' coattails until he was shaken off. I'd known that it was Ridgely who helped a young, shy, pudgy Cypriot boy get a sense of style and nurtured his musical growth, but because Michael blossomed like a nuclear blast during WHAM!'s brief run then released what was almost a greatest hits record with his debut, Faith (which had six of its nine tracks become hit singles), while Ridgely's musical career was effectively over with WHAM!'s end, his contribution to forming the group has gone mostly unappreciated.

Because WHAM! is intended to begin and end with the group itself, other than a title card mentioning how many records Michael sold as a solo artist, not much more of their lives or that their backup singers, Pepsi and Shirley, went on to UK pop stardom themselves is mentioned. Even Michael's death in 2016 is reserved for a post credits memorium.

So break out your neon leg warmers and big text message t-shirts and flashback to the Eighties for pure pop fizz.

Score: 8/10. Catch it on Netflix

"Wake Up Punk" Review

Why would anyone make a documentary about someone burning old clothes? They would when the clothes were the vintage creations of legendary fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and the arsonist is her son by notorious rock & roll swindler Malcolm McLaren, Joseph Corré, who with her blessing torched an estimated £6,000,000 worth of his punk rock memorabilia archive on a barge on the River Thames. Thus the aimless meandering documentary Wake Up Punk.

Combining footage of Westwood discussing the origins of the pieces that would be put to the torch with weird Oliver Twist-esque scenes of Dickensian ragamuffins discussing politics, there is an air of irony deficiency as a wealthy child of privilege - Corré also co-founded the Agent Provocateur lingerie line - and his mother try to pretend that burning the past will create a better future when there is no future really to be made from mindless destruction of the Old Ways. 

Also, it's pretty darn ironic that they are protesting the ManBearPig hoax and demanding "green energy" (which never includes nuclear for some reason) by SETTING A BUNCH OF STUFF ON FIRE AND RELEASING SMOKE AND CO2!!!! Save the planet, my arse. As opinionated loudmouth Henry Rollins remarked on the event, "Corré and Westwood might think they have taught everyone a lesson in what punk’s all about, but all they did was show off their massive egos and how much they’ve lost the plot. Maybe it was something else, too. Perhaps it was an emotional response to the fact that McLaren cut Corré out of his will. It doesn’t matter now. It’s yesterday’s garbage. Ooh, how punk." Well said, Hank.

 Unless you already know the history of the Sex Pistols, Westwood and McLaren, you won't really learn much from Wake Up Punk other than self-important people seek to make themselves important. The documentary also fails on the most basic level because it wasn't until I looked up Corré's Wikipedia page that I learned this burning took place in 2016. The film is dated 2022 and must've been completed ahead of Westwood's death in December that year for there's no acknowledgement of her passing.

Score: 4/10. Skip it.

"Nefarious" Review

 Movies about demonic possession predate disco and are an evergreen topic because, prior to the society's current plunge into utter depravity, who doesn't want to see good triumph over evil? (Nowadays, too many people ask whether evil is really so bad?) "The Devil made me do it" is a well-worn phrase and also a stock trope where an innocent is possessed and used to commit evil deeds. But what if the demonic possessor wanted some credit for his puppeteering? That's the premise of the unique faith-based film Nefarious, which looks like one thing on the surface, but has something else on its mind.

Psychiatrist Dr. James Martin (Jordan Belfi, Entourage) has been summoned to an Oklahoma prison to evaluate whether condemned prisoner Edward Wayne Brady (Sean Patrick Flannery, The Boondock Saints) is competent to be executed. The previous shrink has jumped off his office building, so the case has passed to Martin who has to make his determination quickly as Brady is slated for execution that evening.

 After some chit-chat, the prisoner gets down to it: He's actually a demon named Nefarious and he used Brady as a puppet to commit murders, but now wants to be executed, presumably to move on to another host. (The rules aren't made clear.) He challenges Martin, telling him that by the end of the day he will commit three murders. This launches a battle of wits and will between the atheist doctor and the man who claims to be a demon and seems to have an outsized knowledge of the newly-arrived doc's life.

 What's different about Nefarious, the demon and movie, is that its theme isn't so much what will happen to the poor schlub that got possessed, but whether people are as enlightened and free as they've convinced themselves they are. Nefarious isn't a crossroads demon offering riches in return for souls; he's a prideful jerk who wants the meatbags to know that they've been Hell's bitches for a long long time and it's time to rub humanity's nose in it and he's literally written a book bragging about it that he wants Martin to publish.

 While Martin scoffs at Nefarious's "three murders" challenge, the way the film explicates the premise may be a problem for some viewers; if one believes life is only valuable when it's convenient or easy, then one will have difficulty with the assertions of the movie. Which is precisely the point. Society has become very comfortable with all sorts of horrible things that would've been unthinkable not that long ago, but this demolition of morality has been sold as freedom from pesky rules which sap the fun from the party. 

When Martin rattles off all the supposed progress society has made with the usual liberal pieties about being on the right side of history and holding the moral high ground, Nefarious fires back with how few high school graduates read at a sixth grade level, black athletes making fortunes then cry about racism, and how there are tens of millions of slaves in the world today that no one seems too bothered about.

 As a low-budget two-hander, Nefarious rides on the sturdy performances of Flannery and Belfi. Flannery's is the showier role as he oscillates between the personas of the arrogant Nefarious and his terrified meat puppet host Edward and while he almost leans too much on twitches and ticks, he doesn't make a cartoon of the demon. It's a well-modulated performance that gets the points across. 

But the more impressive performance is Belfi's because he's got an arc to navigate as he walks in disbelieving in many things and ends up gutted and haunted by what he's experienced. Instead of tritely having Martin end up racing to a church to offer his life in service of Jesus and living happily ever after, he ends up in a more ambiguously gray area and not looking particularly enthused about it.

Co-writers/directors Chuck Konzelman & Cary Solomon (God's Not Dead series, Unplanned) working from conservative talker Steve Deace's novel, A Nefarious Plot (which was structurally inspired by C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters), have crafted an uneven tale which wavers between moments of hard-hitting subtlety to preachy soapboxing little different from liberal movies where characters start spouting talking points from pamphlets. 

 On the subtle side, as in the novel, Nefarious refuses to call God or Jesus by name, referring to them as "the Enemy" and "the Carpenter" as his rage at God choosing to love mankind over the fallen rebellious angels simmers. His taunting of Martin's utilitarian view of life works at first - there's a great aside about how "hate speech" was something even the demons didn't think of - but egregiously the script sets up a major whammy of a beat for Martin halfway through the story which is never addressed again, even in the epilogue scene when you'd figure it'd come up. Why make such a big deal and then nevermind it? What purpose did it serve? Instead they handwave it away along with the dossier on Martin that appears near the end.

I haven't finished reading the source novel yet, but its format of a demon general of Hell boasting of how he'd engineered humanity's collapse was going to be a challenge to adapt - there are no movie adaptations of The Screwtape Letters either, though it has been mounted as a stage play - but the manner they transform it into a prequel to the novel dilutes things in an attempt to set up a Nefarious Cinematic Universe franchise. This really trips up the film in its third act as they dwell way too much on the run-up to the execution, introduce a plot device that makes no rational sense, and hinges the penultimate scene upon the presence of a gun in an area of the prison where cell phones wouldn't have been permitted. The final moment before the credits is eye-rollingly bad as they threaten future stories with the worst buddy duo ever.

 The response to Nefarious has sadly broken down along the usual tribal lines with those already sold on its unspoken message calling for revival wildly overpraising a well-intentioned and mostly successful film as deserving all the Oscars. Those fully committed to their lifestyles of nihilistic hedonism bashed it as a false flag operation, a film that sells itself as a demonic horror flick but is actually a "Jesus movie with Glenn Beck showing up" as an unhinged dogpile of a Reddit thread shrieked when it was in theaters.

While selling Nefarious as one thing to lure in those who really need to hear another perspective on how to live may've seemed clever in the planning, the box office told a different story, ironically because the usual faith-based film crowd were frightened off by its R-rating (despite having zero curse words, nudity or gore, though the execution scene was needlessly grisly; The Green Mile did it far more tastefully) when that same audience watches The Passion of the Christ (which makes Nefarious look like a Teletubbies episode) every Good Friday; and the heathen got wise to the bait and switch immediately because you mustn't allow your fellow sinners to have their consciences pricked, can you?

 Trying to point out sin to the sinners in hopes of their turning away from it is always an uphill fight because sin is fun. They aren't selling Heaven in the beer and perfume ads, are they? While the performances of Flannery and Belfi elevate the material to a higher plane, a lack of grace and clumsy plotting of the script prevent Nefarious from completely achieving its laudable goals. But when it's not misfiring, it's some riveting and provocative stuff and worth a watch.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable. (Currently only available for PVOD rental; purchases and physical media coming later)

"Extraction 2" 4K Review

One of the few above-average Netflix original productions was 2020's Extraction. Directed by former stuntman Sam Hargrave (who doubled Chris Evans' Captain America), he brought the same philosophy for shooting action as the John Wick series, eschewing shaky cam and edit fu for elaborately choreographed sequences filmed wide and long to show the performers actually executing the combat moves. 

The centerpiece of the otherwise forgettable story was a 14-minute-long oner (pronounced "one-ner"; an extended uninterrupted shot, sometimes pieced together from many separate takes masked by whip pans or other distractions) consisting of car chases and close-quarters combat through the streets of Bangladesh, much filmed by Hargrave himself, strapped to the front of chase vehicles, operating the camera.

The movie ended with a gravely-wounded Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) tumbling off a bridge into a river, presumably a watery grave, but a coda implied that he'd survived. Well, duh, considering Rake is back in action for Extraction 2 which opens with his fall into the river, his being recovered and flown to Dubai (why?) for a lengthy, against the odds, recovery which leaves him walking with a cane and an arm in a sling.

One day he comes home to the rural Austrian Alps cabin he'd been set up with to find Alcott (Idris Elba) waiting for him with a job to do. Rake protests that he's retired, but the job is from his ex-wife, Mia (Olga Kurylenko, who I didn't even recognize), and involves extracting her sister Ketevan Radiani (Tinatin Dalakishvili) and her children Sandro (Andro Japaridze) and Nina (Mariam & Marta Kovziashvili) from the prison in Georgia (the one by Russia, not the one by Florida) where they're being held with her husband, a Major Crime Kingpin whose brother continues to run things on the outside. 

So after a couple minute montage of training to fully recuperate, Rake heads off on the mission assisted by associates Nik Khan (Golshifteh Farahani) and her brother Yaz (Adam Bessa) from the first movie. What seems to be going smoothly rapidly goes off the rails for the dumbest reason leading to the aforementioned oner which begins in the bowels of the prison with mild hand-to-hand combat to a prison yard riot to a wild car chase ending up on a speeding train. While a sophisticated viewer will be able to discern where the seams are in wild ride - same as with the feature-length WWI gimmick movie 1917 - it's still an impressive feat and the centerpiece of the film.

Which is sort of the problem because while there are a couple of other major set pieces afterwards, the movie has blown the bulk of its load in the first hour. Afterwards, there's a lot of downtime for processing feelings and hating on the stupidity of Sandro. If you thought the kid from the first Extraction was a moron, you'll be screaming at your TV at the dumb things this dumb kid does which gets a lot of people killed in the process. Twerp.

 Screenwriter Joe Russo, who co-directed four massive Marvel movies including the final Avengers films is a good director, but based on his two Extraction scripts and the already-forgotten Netflix actioner The Gray Man, he's a mediocre writer. We don't need elaborate, sometimes too elaborate, mythologies like the John Wick series has developed, but to describe the non-action parts as inconsequential and skeletal almost implies too much heft to them. Most action flicks have borderline irrelevant plots which merely exist as a clothesline to hang the action from, but unfamiliar actors playing cartoonish people acting aggressively stupidly isn't great even by the low standards of the genre.

 Hemsworth is solid portraying the angst-ridden Rake as far as the material gives him something to act and Farahani needs to make more American films. But the real star is Hargraves who takes inspiration from fellow stuntmen turned directors Chad Stahelski (the John Wick series) and David Leitch (Deadpool 2, Bullet Train, Atomic Blonde) to reinvent and expand the style of action filmmaking, steering it away from the shaky cam/edit fu noise Paul Greengrass unleashed with the Bourne sequels back towards a form more related to old musicals and swashbuckler pictures.

While the stakes aren't as high due to Extraction 3 having already been ordered by Netflix and the story and characters are disposable, Extraction 2 is a respectable sugar fix of down and dirty action filmmaking without preaching or scolding.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on Netflix.

"Reality" Review

 The Max (formerly Hobo Max) Original movie Reality is an odd movie - a recreation of the serving of a FBI search warrant in 2017 on the unlikely-named Reality Winner, a former Air Force translator working for a national security contractor in Georgia. Sounds exciting, no? No, it's not. Based on the transcript of a recording by one of the agents, the big selling point is all the dialogue is directly taken from what was actually said. While this may imply added verisimilitude, in actuality it illustrates how "natural dialog" is wildly different from how people actually speak, which is banally.

 Sydney Sweeney (Euphoria, The White Lotus) stars as Winner, who arrives at her Augusta home to find a pair of FBI agents (Marchánt Davis and Josh Hamilton) waiting for her. After a lot of awkward, weird conversation about securing her dog and cat and whether she has any weapons (a pink AR-15 and a Glock), she's held outside as FBI agents toss her house looking for something. She seems oddly unconcerned, not demanding what the heck is this all about, but chatting emptily about her CrossFit training and hopes to deploy to Afghanistan to utilize her Pasto translation skills.

Eventually they go inside to a bleak unfurnished spare room with nothing but a dog crate in it, no furniture to sit on, where the purpose for the search finally comes into view: They know she accessed, printed and leaked a secret document to the press (its subject and who it was sent to is redacted, but we learn it's about Russian election interference in 2016 and was sent to The Intercept) and they gradually wear her down to admit that she did it, not to "be a Snowden" - referring to the notorious NSA who exposed the shenanigans US intelligence agencies were up to - but that she was angry about the Bad Orange Man being President, though she doesn't explicitly say that.

Ultimately, she is hauled away in handcuffs and the movie ends with cards explaining that she caught a five year sentence for violating the Espionage Act while all the "secrets" she was sent to slam for were eventually exposed to the public, the implication being that she was a martyr for truth while the Bad Orange Man was bad and orange and Putin's Puppet and ORANGE MAN BAD! 

The problem with this veiled thesis which is intended to give Trump Derangement Syndrone-afflicted audiences thrills down their legs is that a couple of weeks prior to its debut the Durham Report confirmed unequivocally that there was absolutely zero collusion between the Bad Orange Man and the Ruskies, the entire predicate for years of investigations and denunciations of the Bad Orange Man as a treasonous Russian asset was a lie funded by Hillary Clinton then weaponized by the highest levels of our government and law enforcement agencies to hamstring and ultimately overthrow a duly-elected President because the Deep State believes only Democrats are entitled to rule. (I only learned of this movie when seeing some liberal on Twitter soiling himself over how unfair it was for this noble #Resistance fighter to be jailed for a single document when the Bad Orange Man had stolen hundreds to sell to Russia and the Saudis, which are more lies these people tell themselves to cope with Hillary being a terrible candidate.)

 But setting aside the specious thesis of the film, Reality is weighed down by its core conceit of all the dialog being exactly what was said by Winner and the agents (Free Band Name!) because beyond being able to claim that nothing was invented for dramatic purpose, all it accomplishes is that real people talk in circles about nothing interesting. I guess it's of passing note that real FBI agents don't talk like they're portrayed on TV shows, but who cares? The mic drop moment of The Social Network was when Mark Zuckerberg snarls during a deposition, "If your clients had invented Facebook, they would've invented Facebook." Was that taken from an actual transcript or was it an invention of Aaron Sorkin, who won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, probably for that line alone? I don't know, probably the latter, but sometimes drama requires creative license. 

The other purpose of Reality is to provide Sweeney a showcase to alter her current sexy cherry bomb image garnered from her role as the always crying and naked Cassie on Euphoria or the super naked lead in Amazon Prime's The Voyeurs which has made her a Reddit fave. This is done by putting her in a shapeless large shirt and giving her a "no makeup" look, but she does fine with what isn't much of a role, limited to what is on the tape, conveying her reaction to finally getting hip to the fact the FBI already know the answers to their questions.

 Co-writer and director Tina Satter, who originally wrote a stage version of this transcript, does what she can to make the very banal happenings not put the audience to sleep. When redacted content in the transcript occurs, she visualizes it by the image glitching and the speaker vanishing. She also intercuts photos from the real Reality's social media and FBI photos to illustrate references which also blurs the line between fact and recreation, but other than reminding use that actresses are more attractive than normal people, they add little.

With little insights to provide for an crime which barely merits a footnote's asterisk in history and told in a fashion which makes it even less compelling when you know what really happened, Reality struggles to avoid reality, so it's not a winner, but a DNF.

Score: 4/10. Skip it.

"Sisu" Review

Sisu is a Finnish concept that doesn't directly translate as a word, but means an extraordinary determination in the face of extreme adversity, and courage that is presented typically in situations where success is unlikely. It is also the title of an awesome Finnish movie whose plot can be translated to "John Wick + Rambo versus Nazis during WWII."

Set in 1944 as the war is winding down; Finland has signed a treaty with Russia to cease aggression if they'll get their former German allies out of there. As the Nazis leave they destroy everything - roads, bridges, towns - on their way. The are the Bad Guys.

Far away from the fighting we meet Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila), an old man prospecting for gold in the wilds of Lapland with only the company of his horse and dog. Bombers fly overhead and he can see the flashes and sounds of war in the distance, but he ignores them. One day his efforts are rewarded as he hits a rich vein of gold. He loads his bags with the haul and heads for civilization to cash in his score.

On the way he passes a platoon of Germans led by SS officer Helldorf (Aksel Hennie) and while some side eye glances are exchanged, they don't bother the old man. He's not as fortunate when he encounters a small group of soldiers down the road. They stop and search him and when they discover the gold, prepare to execute him. Big mistake. Aatami swiftly and brutally kills them all and takes off, but the sound of gunfire carried to the platoon and Helldorf turns them around to investigate. 

Upon finding the carnage and a gold nugget, he sets off after the man who killed his men, both to punish and to get the gold because he knows the war is lost for the Fatherland and he is likely headed for a noose, but that gold could buy him out of that fate. He chases Aatami into a mine field and with a bunch of soldiers and a tank versus one old man, he figures the odds should be in their favor. They are not in their favor. They are basically outnumbered. Whoops!

 I'm not going to deny you the joys of this over-the-top grindhouse murderfest by detailing the plot further. (The trailer gives away too much in my opinion.) But suffice to say it's Many Nazis vs One Old Man, trying to get his gold and him killing the everloving bejeebers out of them. The hilariously brutal kills ride the line between gory realism and Evil Dead-level preposterous, but never get revolting. Besides, they're Nazis. They're the baddies and deserve unpleasant fates.

The only German who gets a shred of character development is Helldorf due to his motivation not of just rapacious greed, but mercenary self-interest; he needs that gold to buy his life, so even when ordered by his commanders to stop chasing Aatami because he is a nearly-mythical warrior, as revealed by his dog tag which they retrieve, he sees no way out.

 As for Aatami, he's like the answer to what if Liam Neeson was even older and more grizzled and seemingly unkillable? He experiences injuries which should hobble or kill mere mortals, but just soldiers on. He's not a freak of nature like a Schwarzenegger, but the embodiment of the titualar sisu, he is fueled by determination and a simple refusal to die. This works due to Tommila's glowering performance which is virtually dialogue-free. Much as been made about how few words Keanu Reeves spoke in John Wick: Chapter Four (reportedly fewer than 700 in a nearly three-hour movie), but Aatami literally says NOTHING until the last 10 seconds of the film and in the English translation amounts to only TEN words. (Despite being a Finnish production, everyone speaks English until the final scenes for some reason and due to a glitch in the subtitles, the very last line didn't display for me. Not cool. Had to look it up.)

 Writer-director Jalmari Helander and cinematographer Kjell Lagerroos team up to make the barren Lapland tundra a character itself, a landscape of foreboding dark beauty pocked by scorched ruins left in the Nazis wake.

The lean and extremely mean 91-minute runtime also doesn't allow the story to bog down unnecessarily. It's kill or be killed (horribly) and if you're not adverse to gonzo kills in a stripped down tale not burdened with the complicated mythology of the John Wick universe, then Sisu is for you.

Score: 8.5/10. Catch it on cable.

"The Mother" 4K Review

 For nearly two weeks the Writer's Guild of America has been on strike against the studios protesting the egregiously poor pay for writers, especially TV show scribes, in this current world of streaming service focused content. While I generally have antipathy towards unions, they have legit grievances which I hope are addressed. 

That said, after watching Netflix's latest original Big Deal Movie with Big Name Star, if you told me that writers don't deserve a penny when they type up forgettable, formulaic time wasters like The Mother, you wouldn't get any argument from me. And when I looked up who was responsible for this dreck, I was genuinely shocked. More on that later. 

Jennifer Lopez stars as The Mother, the never-named protagonist (just like the lead of Christopher Nolan's career-worst Tenet) who we meet as she's being interrogated in a safe house by the FBI concerning her involvement, romantically and business-wise, with two Very Bad Guys involved in arms trafficking. As one red shirt agent blusters at her, you know that [PEW!], yep, he just got shot. The house is under attack by bad guys who kill all the agents but one, Cruise (Omari Hardwick), whose life Mother saves.

Trapped upstairs she improvises a bomb and hides in the shower where she is found by Adrian (Joseph Fiennes), who after some figurative mustache twirling stabs her in her very pregnant belly, which we see for the first time. Whoa! He is a Very Bad Guy. Then the bomb goes off, setting the bathroom on fire and burning him.

Mother wakes up in the hospital, her baby alive and unharmed, but the FBI SAIC (Edie Falco, playing the same character as she did in Avatar: The Way of Water) is unhappy with Mother getting her agents killed and after rattling off some Basil Exposition infodump to let us know Mother was an ace Army sniper during the war, correctly notes that the daughter would be a walking bullseye to Adrian, who was mysteriously removed before the authorities arrived, and Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), so she demands Mother sever her parental rights so the girl can go into Witness Relocation with an adopted family. 

She agrees, but demands Cruise make sure she has a good life and family and to let her know on her birthdays that she's still OK. She then travels to Alaska where old war buddy Jons (Paul Raci) sets her up with a cabin in the woods where she stays for 12 years with no mentioned employment until one day the birthday update arrives with word from Cruise that some of Hector's henchmen were busted in Mexico and they had a photo of her daughter, named Zoe (Lucy Paez), with them so they've apparently found her.

Mother and Cruise stake out the park where Zoe and her adoptive mother, Sonya (Yvonne Senat Jones), are with Mother on sniper overwatch duty and Hector's men do show up and grab Zoe despite Mother shooting several. After narrowly escaping the goons and the cops, Mother and Cruise head to Cuba to find henchmen Tarantula (Jesse Garcia), who was at the snatch, rough him up and find out where she's being held. A quick raid later, they rescue Zoe who lashes out at Mother, but is happy to see Cruise.

However, on the long trip back to her parents - why they have to drive many many hours when there are international airports within several hours of anywhere is another unexplained mystery - very pale Zoe looks at very J.Lo Mother and realizes that she's her birth mother, which Mother denies, leaving her with Cruise to finish returning her.

Before they get home their SUV is t-boned at an intersection in the middle of farmland by Adrian and his goons. How did they know he'd be there at that exact moment and why didn't Cruise see the approaching cars across the barren fields? Don't know. Luckily, Mother shows up on a motorcycle she conjured from somewhere and rescues Zoe, getting away from the scene. She takes her up to her Alaskan cabin for some melodrama and training montages to teach Zoe the Way of the Warrior for the inevitable Final Showdown with Adrian's army.

It's hard to know where to begin with such an empty and formulaic waste of time as The Mother. It's getting to be a stock snark that Netflix is burning tons of money making supposedly theatrical-caliber movies for their home subscribers only to have them come and go like a fast food meal. (Seriously, have you rewatched Red Notice or The Gray Man or 6 Underground? Do you even remember what those were about?) But the rote Mad Libs structure of the story which doesn't break any old ground much less new is all the less comprehensible when looking up the IMDBs of the writers.

As the end credits rolled, I noted that three different writers were credited - not co-writers, but three different people wrote, then rewrote, then re-rewrote this thing into something that would get a C-minus grade from a community college screenwriting course. 

So who were these hacks? The story and thus original screenwriter was Misha Green, creator of the much-hyped Lovecraft Country. Next at bat was Andrea Berloff, Oscar-nominated co-writer of Straight Out of Compton. Whut? Batting last to strike out was Peter Craig, just Oscar-nominated for co-writing Top Gun: Maverick (a bad nomination) and previous writer of The Batman, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2, and Mr. J.Lo's The Town

These are not obviously untalented writers, but if you'd told me ChatGPT had vomited this script up, I would've believed you. A major sticking point in the WGA strike negotiations is the use of AI to create work for revision or to use AI to revise human writing, but if this is what humans of renown are typing up, then perhaps we should let SkyNet do it. Perhaps it'd be more creative in it's regurgitation of previous writing.

Director Niki Caro, who's last film was the unneeded lackluster live-action remake of Mulan, must've had far better 2nd unit directors handling the action on that because in the John Wick era action flicks, the sequences in The Mother are haphazard, shaky-cam and edit-fu slop Hollyweird still can't outgrow. With no substantive story or characters, there's little to direct.

Lopez is one of the select group of actresses who can turn the hat trick of beauty, talent, and plausibility as an ass-kicker (along with Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron) and she looks great at 51 (when it was filmed), but again with nothing to play, she can only simmer with angst against Paez's bratty kid. Only Raci (Oscar nominated for The Sound of Metal) really makes something of nothing, but is helped by looking like an old boot.

On the audio-visual front, paying for the premium tier gets you Dolby Vision and Atmos sound and you're missing nothing much if you've got the general HD tier. Audio is nothing special with no atmospherics and the visuals only show off HDR mildly in a couple of spots. 

Blah in every way that's not J.Lo's slammin' bod, The Mother is as generic and forgettable as its title.

Score: 4/10. Skip it.

"65" 4K Review

 The writing-directing team of Scott Beck & Bryan Woods had their breakout moment with their original script for A Quiet Place, which was rewritten and directed by John Krasinski into a growing franchise. However, after watching their leap into Big Time Directing with 65 I can't help but wonder just how much Krasinki's contributions made to making A Quiet Place the gem it was because 65 fails due to a mindless predictable trope-laden script.

 After clumsy title cards explaining that long before human history began there was an advanced planet called Somaris which explored space, we meet Mills (Adam Driver) on the beach with his wife, Alya (Nika King), as he conveniently explains that he's only taking on a two-year-long space mission to make enough money to treat their daughter Nevine's (Chloe Coleman) unspecified medical condition. (How an advanced spacefaring civilization doesn't have equally advanced medical technology and/or a socialized health care system that provides "free" care is only the beginning for the questions 65 will beg.)

 During his voyage, the ship encounters an unexpected asteroid field which strikes the ship (because the ship had no capability to steer around obstacles itself or have shields like in Passengers?) causing it to crash on an uncharted planet, losing all of its cryosleep chambers (Pitch Black did this crash better) in the process. What is this world? As the title card helpfully explains, it's Earth. 65 million years ago. Dun dun DUHN!!!!

Mills, who was not in a cryo capsule (so he was awake and alone while the human cargo slept?) discovers everyone is dead and sends a second distress message cancelling his request for rescue because what's the point? He's about to commit suicide when he changes his mind which is helpful as he discovers that one capsule survived along with its occupant. He locates it in the swamp his part of the ship crashed and finds a young girl inside it. 

He checks the manifest and learns her name is Koa (Ariana Greenblat) and sends a third distress call requesting pickup (unseen are the people at Space Command saying make up your mind, bro) and estimates her age as being about nine (because they didn't have a birthdate on the paperwork?) which if you're thinking that makes her a surrogate daughter figure for Mills like Newt was for Ripley in Aliens then you're keeping up on the Obviousfest 65 is.

 Convenient to their predicament is the discovery that the other half of the ship with an escape pod capable of escaping Earth's gravity survived on a mountain. Convenient for drama is that Koa doesn't speak Mills' language and his translator gizmo is broken, so he has to resort to speaking louder and slower for her to understand that they need to hike 10 miles to the escape pod. And, oh yeah, there are a whole lot of dinosaurs in their way who want to eat them AND the asteroid that killed all the dinosaurs 65 million years ago is on its way, too! Better move faster than that leisurely pace you're on, folks!

No one expects a movie about an astronaut and a child on a planet of hungry dinosaurs to be much more than pulpy escapism, but 65 is especially burdened by too-familiar elements from better movies and being so predictable that almost every "surprise" was telegraphed well ahead of its arrival. Situations felt contrived, not organic, and the list of "Wait, what?" question begs just keeps piling up like how does the scalding power of the geysers not really seem to be a threat to Mills and Koa and how does the climatic battle between T. Rexes and their escape ship not result in catastrophic damage that would prevent their escape. And no, the "it's not supposed to be Shakespeare" excuse is not acceptable. 

Driver's performance is adequate, but he's wasted here; there's nothing that any competent actor couldn't have delivered and it's not like he's elevating the threadbare material. Greenblat's Koa is annoying and constantly doing dumb stuff, but that's the script, not her fault. The visual effects are top-notch despite the movie's SyFy Channel intellectual level and Beck and Woods do a competent job staging the action and plus points for shooting on locations in Louisiana and Oregon rather than doing it virtually on soundstages, but they not able to rise above their rote script. Perhaps they should've had Krasinski punch it up.

The movie's 4K HDR presentation is fine with sharp details and black levels, but the naturalistic cinematography doesn't present many opportunities for visual showoffery. Audio was clear with good surround usage, but again nothing to write home about. 

While a brief 90 minutes long, 65 simply doesn't do enough to fill it's runtime with much that we haven't seen done better elsewhere before.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

"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 by 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.

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