REVIEW: Barbarian (2022)

Bill Skarsgård as the mysterious ‘Keith’ in BARBARIAN — PHOTO: 20th Century Studios.

Direction and Screenplay by Zach Cregger.

Zach Cregger’s Barbarian, one of the most entertaining surprise hits of the year, follows Tess Marshall (played by Georgina Campbell), as she arrives at a remote house that she has booked, only to find out that someone else, Keith (played by Bill Skarsgård), is already staying there due to the house having been double-booked. When Tess finds out that there isn’t really an open motel close by, she has to decide if she feels comfortable staying at the house with this total stranger. What she doesn’t know is that the house isn’t exactly what it seems.

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REVIEW: Black Adam (2022)

Dwayne Johnson is BLACK ADAM — PHOTO: Warner Bros.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Jungle Cruise) — Screenplay by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani.

Does anyone really know what Warner Bros. Discovery and DC Comics are doing with their immensely popular comic book characters on the big screen? Half the time it sounds like they want to copy what Disney and Marvel are doing, and the other half it sounds like they want to do a little bit of everything. That latter suggestion is unfocused but it is also a little bit exciting that they are prepared to do anything. That we can get a deeply gritty Halloween-set Batman film and a more brightly colored tongue-in-cheek superhero comedy for all ages in Shazam! with DC Comics is good fun, but I’m not sure fans, general audiences, or the higher-ups are on the same page. Some fans want a patient build-up in the vein of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, some want a return to Nolan-esque grittiness, and others are desperate for Zack Snyder’s vision for the DC universe to live on. Time will tell if they can have it all, but, in trying to appeal to the most amount of people, Jaume Collet-Serra’s underdeveloped Black Adam raises some eyebrows, as it feels very much like a film that has been tinkered with by higher-ups so much over the years that it has gone stale, which is a shame since Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson has been waiting for 15 years to make his mark as the titular antihero.

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REVIEW: Halloween Ends (2022)

Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode eventually goes toe-to-toe with Michael Myers one last time in David Gordon Green’s HALLOWEEN ENDS — PHOTO: Universal Pictures.

Directed by David Gordon Green — Screenplay by Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green.

Do bankable film franchises really end? These days it really doesn’t feel like it. Horror franchises, like other genre franchises, can be brought back to life again and again and again. Heck, these days reboots can just ignore several films that came before and chose to only acknowledge one or two films in the franchise, and audiences will still accept it. So, well, regardless of what happens in this film, does anyone truly believe that Halloween will really end? This skepticism is coming from a guy who thought this franchise probably should’ve ended with Steve Miner’s Halloween H20, which I liked. Honestly, I would’ve been fine with them ending it after the 2018 reboot.

Because let’s be honest, this — 2018, Halloween Kills, and this film — shouldn’t have been a trilogy. It should’ve just been that one ‘Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode a la Sarah Connor’ film to end the franchise with a bad-ass one-on-one confrontation. But then some higher-up probably wanted more, and so we got a pretty awful and aimless middle part, in Halloween Kills, and now, with Halloween Ends, a really messy conclusion that both wants to live up to the promise of the 2018 film and try something new. It doesn’t completely work, but I admire the attempt.

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REVIEW: Halloween Kills (2021)

Jamie Lee Curtis in HALLOWEEN KILLS — PHOTO: Universal Pictures.

Directed by David Gordon Green — Screenplay by Scott Teems, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green.

On October 31st, 2022, people all around the world will be celebrating Halloween, the favorite holiday for all horror fans, but if you choose to believe the marketing for the latest film in the franchise named after the aforementioned spooky holiday, Halloween ended last weekend when David Gordon Green’s Halloween Ends (which I have yet to see), the last film in his Michael Myers-focused trilogy, was released. I certainly have my doubts about whether or not they’ll actually let the dust settle on John Carpenter’s stories horror franchise.

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REVIEW: She-Hulk: Attorney at Law – Season One (2022)

(L-R): Mark Ruffalo as Smart Hulk / Bruce Banner and Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer “Jen” Walters/She-Hulk in Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Show Created by Jessica Gao — Directed by Kat Coiro and Anu Valia.

The first Disney+ Marvel Cinematic Universe series, WandaVision, was released in early 2021. Now, in October of 2022, Marvel Studios has fully released eight different Marvel series on the Disney streamer. While I’ve enjoyed watching all of them, I really do think that many of them would’ve been better as films, as these shows — like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — still swear by the classic Marvel template. Honestly, I think only WandaVision, Loki, What If…?, and Ms. Marvel were right to be made into series rather than films. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, however, is the kind of story that feels appropriate for the streamer as a series. It doesn’t take the overarching Marvel storylines all that seriously and, even though I’m a fan of the MCU, that feels really refreshing.

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REVIEW: Grimcutty (2022)

The titular monster attacks Asha (Sara Wolfkind) in John Ross’ GRIMCUTTY — PHOTO: Disney/HULU.

Directed by John Ross — Screenplay by John Ross.

A couple of days ago, I noticed that a new horror film had been released on Disney+ (on Hulu in the U.S.), and, since it was a title that I had heard absolutely nothing about, I was somewhat puzzled. Where had this been hiding, why did Disney/Hulu acquire it, and why are they now releasing it without any fanfare? I assumed that it was a bad sign, just like how January has previously been known as a bit of a dumping ground for movie releases. I was right. I take no pleasure in writing highly negative reviews, but I think this is a big miss. It is an ineffective and quite bland horror film with no staying power, even though its general interest in how parents want to control what their children see online is an interesting premise for a horror film. 

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REVIEW: Werewolf By Night (2022)

Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell in Marvel Studios’ WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Directed by Michael Giacchino — Screenplay by Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron.

Since the launch of Disney+, Marvel Studios has pumped out a plethora of straight-to-streaming series. It has, honestly, been a little bit overwhelming at times, and not all of the shows are equally good. One of the things that excited me about this streaming service, and the potential for Marvel Studios on it, was the general idea that this gave Marvel an opportunity to break from their formula and try new things. To give examples, Marvel has done that somewhat with Ms Marvel but also with She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, which is this sitcom that doesn’t take the overall universe as seriously as most of the Marvel films do. With Werewolf By Night, Marvel Studios has released their first so-called ‘special presentation.’ This is essentially a Halloween special just like how we know a Christmas special is coming down the line from James Gunn and the Guardians of the Galaxy cast. And think outside of the box they certainly have, as Marvel Studios have hired their frequent composer Michael Giacchino to direct for them on the streaming service. and this special presentation proves that if they need a director for a future feature-length theatrical project, then Michael Giacchino could very well be their guy. Werewolf by Night is surprisingly good.

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REVIEW: Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (2022)

Donald Sutherland in John Lee Hancock’s Mr. Harrigan’s Phone — PHOTO: Netflix.

Directed by John Lee Hancock — Screenplay by John Lee Hancock.

At the time of writing, we are now in October, which means that, for a lot of people, it’s time to focus on horror and Halloween. Streamers such as Netflix have to cater to that crowd, and one of the ways that they are doing that this year is by releasing yet another Stephen King adaptation. Netflix has actually been a pretty decent home for these adaptations, as it has previously released such King adaptations as In The Tall Grass, 1922, and Gerald’s Game, with the last one being easily the best of the Netflix-King films. Like In the Tall Grass and 1922, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is based on one of King’s novellas, and, like those other two films, while there are things I really like about the film, I think there are a couple of things about it that make it difficult to recommend to general horror fans.

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REVIEW: Holy Spider (2022)

Zar Amir Ebrahimi in Ali Abbasi’s HOLY SPIDER — PHOTO: TriArt Film / Camera Film.

Directed by Ali Abbasi — Screenplay by Ali Abbasi & Afshin Kamran Bahrami.

In 2022, only a select few films are as timely as Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider. For weeks, people have protested in the streets of Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, after she died in police custody allegedly due to police brutality. As far as I understand it, she was apprehended by the country’s morality police for not wearing the hijab in accordance with their government’s standards, and witness accounts claim that she was then tortured and beaten to death. In Iran, some women are even taking off their hijabs and burning them on bonfires.

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REVIEW: Triangle of Sadness (2022)

Woody Harrelson (right) plays a drunken American captain of a yacht that’s about to be bought by a wealthy Russian capitalist (played by Zlatko Burić) in Ruben Östlund’s TRIANGLE OF SADNESS — PHOTO: NEON / SF Studios..

Directed by Ruben Östlund (The Square) — Screenplay by Ruben Östlund.

Alongside the Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier (Oslo 31. August) and the Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Druk), the Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund is one of the very best Scandinavian filmmakers working right now. Östlund has been working as a filmmaker for more than a decade, but I think it’s fair to say that it is with his 2014 effort, Force Majeure, that he had his true international breakthrough. Including his latest film, Östlund’s last three films have all received awards at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. With Triangle of Sadness, the Swede is now a two-time Palme d’Or winner (winning his first one for the utterly hilarious The Square from 2017). Having swapped the square out in favor of a triangle (the title refers to an area between your eyebrows and your nose bridge that can be ‘fixed’ with botox), Östlund has managed to keep his satirical writing equally sharp and at times outright hilarious. Triangle of Sadness is one of the best films of the year.

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