Law Abiding Citizen 2 in Development: The Question is WHY?

Village Roadshow is heading back to prison to free Law Abiding Citizen 2, but I’m curious who is patiently awaiting this sequel?

Variety is reporting that Village Roadshow is teaming up with Rivulet Films to develop the sequel to the 2009 thriller that starred Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler. The original film grossed $126 million on a budget of $53 million, so it may have turned a slight profit (with theaters taking half the gross and an unknown marketing budget), but it recently sparked a resurgence when it debuted on Netflix, entering their Top 10 list of most-watched movies & shows. Variety reports that screenwriter Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium, Point Break 2015) will return, but not much else is known about the project during this early stage.

I remember very little of the first film outside of my disappointment upon viewing it, so I had to do a little research to freshen my mind on the plot details. Clyde, the “villain” of the film, played by Butler, dies at the end, and I cannot recall any other threats, so I’m curious where the film’s sequel would take us or if this is an ill-advised attempt to cash in any IP that Village Roadshow can.

With the uncertain box office profitability of the first film and the 26% Rotten Tomatoes score, I guess I just don’t understand this play, but maybe there’s an idea that’s been gestating for 13 years. All that aside, I have been very mixed with the current slate of Wimmer’s screenplays (the screenwriter recently wrote and directed a new Children of the Corn film back in late 2020 that has yet to see a release, which doesn’t bode well).

Looks like we’ll be adopting a Wait-and-See policy on Law Abiding Citizen 2, but the question is…

Are you interested in seeing a follow-up to Law Abiding Citizen? Do you even remember the first film? Let me know and drop a comment with your thoughts on this new project!

-Kyle A. Goethe

Shortbus is Too Much for Amazon Video!

It appears that streaming giant Amazon Video cannot handle the “offensive content” contained in John Cameron Mitchell’s 2006 film Shortbus.

The critically acclaimed controversial film Shortbus has finally hit streamers across the landscape after previously being unavailable, and though you can now find a copy of it on Google Play, VUDU, and Apple TV, Mitchell’s film has not appeared on Amazon Video, and we are now learning a bit more about why it’s missing.

Indiewire has reported that Amazon’s official reasoning for the exclusion comes down to “captions are out of sync” and “offensive content.” It should be noted that the subtitles are fine on every other service, and the error response that Oscilloscope Laboratories, who submitted the film to Prime Video, actually received reads: “We aren’t making your title available on Prime Video as it violates our Content Policy Guidelines.”

Oscilloscope’s president, Dan Berger, stated, “There’s no shortage of dicks readily available on Amazon.” He’s not wrong. There’s a sizable number of films on Amazon Video that featured unsimulated sex scenes in their productions and finished products, and I’ve noted several below (some of these are even featured for free as part of Prime Video):

  • Double Face (1969)
  • Cry Uncle! (1971)
  • Score (1974)
  • Female Vampire (1975)
  • Blue Movie (1978)
  • Romance (1999)
  • Sex and Lucia (2001)
  • 8mm 2 (2005)
  • Lust, Caution (2007)
  • Otto; or Up with Dead People (2008)
  • Gutterballs (2008)
  • Enter the Void (2009)
  • The Band (2009)
  • Dogtooth (2009)
  • Stranger by the Lake (2013)
  • Wetlands (2013)
  • Pasolini (2014)
  • A Thought of Ecstacy (2017)

Now, it should be noted that Amazon is a business, and a business is allowed to have principles around what they want to market and sell and what they do not, but it strikes me that they used the excuse of subtitles for this film when their statement about content that violates their Guidelines should suffice.

But that also doesn’t solve the question pertaining to the amount of other films with the same type of CONTENT that should flag the same part of their GUIDELINES. Why is Shortbus excluded from the servce but you can easily watch Blue Movie or Lust, Caution or Wetlands without issue? Is it because Shortbus is incredible well-known for its unsimulated sex? That would’nt surprise me as the service also excludes the notable Nymphoniac Part 1 & Part 2 which featured the same. Or is there another reason we aren’t privy to? Is Amazon Prime excluding because it caters to the LGBTQIA+ group? I’m not saying that I believe that, as I haven’t seen many of the films from the above list that Amazon does service, but I’m just asking questions to figure out why Shortbus would be out when so many other films are not.

I don’t think we can figure out the answers to this mystery at this time, but hopefully the company will provide more clarity to their decision to help readers and fans of Shortbus understand the reasoning behind their decision.

Shortbus is currently available at most other digital services.

So what do you think about Amazon Video’s exclusion of Shortbus? Will you be checking out the film at another digital retailer? Let me know with a comment below!

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2022oscardeathrace] Dune (2021)

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley-Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem

Screenplay: Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth

155 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures {Original Score)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Cinematography
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

IMDb Top 250: #196 (as of 2/6/2022)

It felt like Dune would never come. After a failed adaptation by Alejandro Jodorowsky and mixed reception to both David Lynch’s 1984 film and a television miniseries from the early 2000s, Denis Villeneuve’s two-part take on the dense and believed-to-be-unfilmable novel finally arrived in 2020, or at least that was the plan before COVID caused it to be shelved for a year and finally unleashed in October 2021, when theaters were still quite wavery. Even with the impressive trailers and Villeneuve at the helm, it seemed like a box-office bomb waiting to happen, but critical reception and box office receipts were positive indeed. I read the Dune novel last year in anticipation for the film, and I would argue that we were right to trust Villeneuve all along.

Thousands of years in the future, the planet of Arrakis, also known as Dune, has its control shifted to the House Atreides, led by Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina). The Atreides family shift their residence to Arrakis, a planet full of heat, sand, and the most valuable commodity in the known universe, Spice, and they begin to put together the pieces left by the brutal House Harkonnen, who previously held leadership over Arrakis. As the Duke settles into his role on Arrakis, he comes to suspect that he is playing into a trap, where danger lurks from any angle, and the Harkonnens are perhaps not willing to give up Dune so easily.

There was a social media joke a few years back as Dune began its lengthy casting process. So-and-so has been added to the cast of Dune. The joke was funny, and I took part, but it also wasn’t wrong to say that this movie was assembling one of the largest and most extensive group of performers in recent memory. It becomes more interesting when you see the finished film and that realization that even bit part players in the narrative, like Zendaya (Malcolm & Marie) as the Fremen Chani or Dave Bautista (Riddick) as the towering Glossu Rabban Harkonnen, are cast as if they were the lead character of the film. Now, many of these smaller roles will be filled out in the upcoming sequel where they play a much more substantial role, but that just shows the dedication to the source material and to Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) in the director’s chair. The performances are all excellent, there isn’t a bad apple in the bunch, but I was primarily taken with Josh Brolin (Avengers: Endgame) as Gurney Halleck, the weapons master for House Atreides, and Jason Momoa (Aquaman) as Duncan Idaho, Swordmaster and soldier to House Atreides. Brolin gets one great interaction with Leto’s son Paul (Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name) where he acts as Paul’s trainer for the day and explains the very danger that he and House Atreides is wandering into on Arrakis. It’s an excellent sequence that builds mythology, outlines stakes and delivers complex ideas from the novel in a matter of minutes, and Momoa’s Idaho almost acts as the heart and soul of the film through his older-brother-type relationship to Paul, and it’s obvious that Momoa is having the time of his life here, able to balance the more playful aspects of Duncan’s character with the emotional beats of his friendship to the Duke’s son.

We’re this far in and I’ve barely mentioned our protagonist, Paul. That’s because there is so much plot around all the other characters and Paul is more our viewfinder into the narrative. He’s there, being tugged through the narrative and mostly reacting to the situation he finds himself in rather than driving the narrative forward much. Chalamet’s performance is subdued, much like Paul in the novel, but when he does burst forth, he is memorable and excellent as the Duke’s son, who has no interest in leadership, as he expresses early on in an exchange with his father on the Atreides homeworld of Caladan. On the other side of things, Paul also has to deal with his mother’s lineage as a Bene Gesserit, a religious and political sisterhood gifted with superhuman abilities. Paul’s mother, Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson, The Greatest Showman) broke a code of her people to only sire girls when she gave the Duke a son, and now Paul has to contend with an ancient prophecy laid forth by the Bene Gesserit that speaks of a male born more powerful than any other Bene Gesserit. It’s safe to say that Paul is pulled in multiple directions throughout the narrative and his contention with that leaves him a little lost looking for a path as his family is tested all around him, and Chalamet never strays from that teenage confusion as life tugs one along the path.

The other notable performance is our primary antagonist, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard, Good Will Hunting), who combines excellent, awards-worthy makeup effects to a truly diabolical performance. Given the three previous interpretations of the character and the version in the pages of Herbert’s book, I didn’t really know how Skarsgard was going to go about playing the Baron, and he once again surprised with his subdued, methodical voicework and the way his simple gestures like wiping the sweat from his head seemed to work in tandem with his gluttonous physical makeup. His is a character who has never been denied his most basic urges, to the point where he needs gravity support to move his body around. The Baron is a menacing villain who oozes with flair in a very understated way, allowing for the physicality of a character who moves little, says little, and still gives a lot.

Denis Villeneuve referred to Dune many times as his Star Wars. It was the tale he always wanted to tell, and the translation from the book is rather incredible. Herbert’s novel has frequently been discussed as an unfilmable book (even though it has been adapted multiple times, many have looked to those adaptations as further proof). Villeneuve tackles it in a different way, using the script (which he co-wrote with Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth) to maneuver heavy chunks of exposition into dialogue without feeling exposition-heavy. Explanations for the Fremen, the Spice, and Sandworms, the Bene Gesserit, all of it comes out through simple interactions that rarely, if at all, felt clunky.

Sound and music also aid the film immensely and add to the flavor of the words at play on this cosmic chessboard. Hans Zimmer opted out of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet to score Dune, and his scoring has a grainy, gritty coldness that fits the planetary obstacles of Arrakis excellently. Then you have the expert sound work that feels reminiscent of the kind of sound creation and utilization that the original Star Wars crafted. Along with that comes some terrific language-creation by linguistics expert David J. Peterson, who previously crafted Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones. Peterson worked on the Fremen language, furthering that expansive world flavor.

The film’s faults are minimal, but they are there. Villeneuve’s epic has an equally epic run time, but I’m not so sure it needed it. I’m still fairly certain that Dune could’ve been a very long single film. Having read the novel, this first half is really closer to a first 75%. The pacing at times is felt throughout this first half as well. In addition to that, this first film ends in an unusual place in the narrative, and that ending feels abrupt when an ending earlier in the narrative might have worked a bit better. That being said, we won’t have those answers until we see Dune: Part Two, which has been greenlit and will likely drop in 2023.

That’s another element, and again, this is more movie politics than actual movie discussion, but the fact that I first saw Dune without that confirmation of a second film left me uncertain leaving the theater. Now, we have confirmation of a follow-up film, but the way Villeneuve chooses to end the film meant that, had we not gotten a sequel confirmation, the first film’s ending would have left it very difficult to revisit. Now, this is all nitpicking, but let me make a comparison. We knew this film was not going to be filmed back-to-back with the sequel, so I would look at it alongside another recent lengthy adaptation, Andy Muschietti’s It films. The first It was shot as a standalone movie because there was no greenlit sequel. Had It: Chapter Two not been released, the first film ended in a place where it could be left alone. Dune: Part One does not have that luxury. I felt way more compelled to revisit this first movie knowing that the story will see a conclusion. That being said, Part One’s ending feels like an odd place to end, and it also feels like the editing did nothing to give this first film any slight closure that could have held the narrative over for the possible sequel to pick up.

Dune is an excellent and epic new world to explore for sci-fi fans and moviegoers alike. This first film was masterfully directed by Denis Villeneuve, and the finished film feels reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s King Kong, a passion project this filmmaker has waited his life to create and bestow with a vision. While Villeneuve’s film is indeed finished, the story’s temporary finish is a little clunky, but every single element in control leading to that “conclusion” is incredible, and shockingly more and more watchable every time I revisit it. Dune is one of the best films of the year, a visual and intellectual achievement that deserves to be seen. See it however you can.

4.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, click here.

Kyle’s Most Anticipated Movies of 2022!

Now that we firmly have 2021 in the rearview mirror, let’s look forward to the movies of 2022, which still shockingly contain some movies originally scheduled for 2020 and 2021. Shockingly, the movies on last year’s most anticipated all actually came out, so let’s hope that by me placing these films on the list that I’m sending good omens their way.

Either way, we’ll celebrate the (possible) films of 2022 that I’m most excited to see. It’s almost as good as actually seeing them.

Just a couple notes, as always:

  • These films are my Most Anticipated, not what I think will end up on my Top Ten of the year come next January. In fact, only 2 films from last year’s list made it to the Top Ten, and that seems fair.
  • There always tend to be a lot of blockbusters on these lists, but that’s because their production schedules are much longer, and their recognizability is easier to connect to. That’s just the way it works, but my favorite films of this year might even be ones I haven’t heard of at the current moment. Big movies get big attention earlier than little ones, so take that as you will.

NOTE: THIS IS NOT A COUNTDOWN. IT’S JUST A LIST AND THE FILMS ARE IN ORDER OF (TENTATIVE) RELEASE DATE.

We’ve waited long enough, let’s dive in…

Scream

  • Okay, yes, this movie is already out and I’ve already seen it, but before I had seen it, it had made it to my Most Anticipated list due to the trailers and the early reviews from colleagues with similar tastes to mine. I loved the idea that Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett had moved from Ready of Not to this franchise, as that film also had a satirical viewpoint and a serious horror tinge. I was excited to see our core cast of characters return to usher in some new Ghostface fodder, and the screenplay by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) and Guy Busick also interested me as they might bring in some new flavor to the franchise. How did it turn out? You’ll find out soon enough.

The Batman

  • There are a few interesting DC projects coming in 2022, but I’m not picking this one because it’s Batman. I love Batman, but I’m selecting The Batman because of Matt Reeves. I’ve been a big fan of Reeves ever since Cloverfield, one of the best found-footage films ever. He also surprised me with his vampire remake Let Me In and then blew me away with TWO incredible Planet of the Apes movies, redefining genre and franchise filmmaking with the once-thought unlikeliest of IP properties. The trailers look great, seeing Batman as an unhinged detective seems like a great idea, and the dynamic with Selina Kyle looks exciting and tense, but if I were to pick one character that won me over, it’s Paul Dano’s Riddler, seemingly modeled after the Zodiac killer. There’s nothing here that doesn’t work for me, though I was sad to hear that this will be disconnected from the Batman character of the DCEU (it could’ve made a hell of a prequel, one would assume), but in Matt Reeves I trust.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

  • See, they won’t all be franchise films! A few years back, the filmmakers collectively known as Daniels released Swiss Army Man, one of the most baffling films of the decade or, perhaps, ever, featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse. Now, flash forward to 2022, where they (FINALLY) have a new movie, this one starring Michelle Yeoh as a Chinese immigrant who learns that she has an infinite number of alternate lives spread across a multiverse and she will need them all to save the world. Yeah, that’s a movie, and it’s happening. Every time I see this trailer, I am just enamored with all the What-The-Hell-Is-Happening that is racing from the screen to my brain. I’ve purposely not been looking up more info on this film as I just want to experience it as soon as possible, as Daniels have a very interesting visual flair that looks to be a part of this new feature as well. Check out the first trailer if you need to know more.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

  • Okay, so yes, even I can admit that The Crimes of Grindelwald was a bit of a letdown. In fact, the last Fantastic Beasts is my least favorite movie in the Wizarding World, not something you want as you expand your world and franchise, but it does seem like Warner Bros is righting the ship. Steve Kloves, screenwriter of seven Harry Potter films, stepped in to co-write the screenplay, and I have faith that David Yates can learn from the mistakes of the predecessor, this being his seventh film in the franchise as well. Even at its worst, The Crimes of Grindelwald certainly expanded upon the world in ways that even fans of the Harry Potter books did not see coming, and there are still a lot of great elements at play throughout the film, and the first trailer for The Secrets of Dumbledore seems quite exciting, so I will have faith in this new installment.

The Northman

  • Robert Eggers has done some truly impressive work with both The VVitch and The Lighthouse, both films that have further improved themselves with each rewatch. The VVitch is a regular Halloween season pick at my home, and The Lighthouse is a year-round rotation. The Northman’s first trailer showcased an impressive world and an even more impressive cast. The film looks to be Eggers’s most ambitious film to date, one that combines the mysticism and horror of his two previous outings into a bloody, violent tale of revenge. With the underrated Alexander Skarsgard in the lead and a well-rounded supporting cast including Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, and freaking Bjork all adds up to a very interesting project.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

  • I limited myself to one MCU pick and, even though Thor: Love and Thunder is mighty interesting, I kind of know the flavor I’ll be getting with that one, but Sam Raimi returning to the world of superhero cinema and going all in on what is being reported as an MCU horror film (let’s be fair, though, this is still a Disney production) is very interesting. Now, I’m praying that this film doesn’t end up a cameo nightmare. Spider-Man: No Way Home utilized its nostalgia to its benefit, but it came very close to toppling under its own fan service. I want a Doctor Strange movie that is focused on Strange, Wanda, and the Multiverse itself, not on cheap cameos and appearances of non-canon characters. I trust that Sam Raimi found something worth his return to the subgenre, and the idea of Baron Mordo returning, the potential of a villainous Scarlet Witch, and some alternate evil Doctor Strange could work very well in the favor of this movie. As much as I enjoyed the original Doctor Strange, it didn’t fully embrace the bonkers madness of the title, so I want to see what a more confident follow-up can do now that the first film set the character in motion.

Salem’s Lot

  • 2022 also has a few interesting Stephen King adaptations incoming. While the new take on Firestarter certainly seems like a winner, I’m limiting myself to one here, and Salem’s Lot is one of my favorite King novels. I enjoyed Tobe Hooper’s original miniseries but the budget wasn’t there. The 2006 miniseries adaptation is often forgotten in the discussion, but I rather enjoyed that version as well, even if it had to forego some of that sweet, sweet gore to satisfy networks. Ah, but this year, Gary Dauberman (who penned the It movies as well as some Annabelle films and directed Annabelle Comes Home) is helming this new adaptation, produced by James Wan. Now, not everything penned by Dauberman has been gold, and not everything produced by Wan has fully worked, but even the chance that this new version of the classic vampire tale works has be all giddy. Bring it on, and bring on that sweet, sweet gore.

Mission: Impossible 7

  • There’s only been one bad Mission: Impossible film, and that was over two decades ago! Not only that, but the franchise has taken on bigger and more epic action set pieces without sacrificing what made the more-restrained original so much fun. M:I works because of the team dynamic, and even though the team has had some shuffling, the series has always evolved for the sake of elevating the action above the general fare. Say what you will about the truly-unhinged Tom Cruise, but the man knows how to execute the good bit of no-holds-barred intensity, and especially following up on Fallout, seeing this M:I 7 as the first of a planned two-parter only adds to the level of high-octane eagerness I feel for the next Ethan Hunt mission, no matter how impossible it may seem.

Halloween Ends

Halloween Kills might be my favorite Halloween film since the original. After multiple viewings, including the Extended Cut, that seems to be the case. It’s a movie that made the 2018 Halloween film better by how it followed through, and if Halloween Ends can bring the story home in a satisfying way, that’ll just mean the world to this horror fanboy. I grew up with Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Chucky. Well, Freddy and Jason have been dormant for over a decade, and Chucky is doing well on his own path from home video releases to television but seeing a movie on the big screen from one of these horror juggernauts will always excite me.

Avatar 2

Lastly, we come to Avatar 2, a movie that probably should’ve come out years ago. People like to dunk on Avatar, but it became the highest-grossing movie of all time and kept that record for 10 years (and continues to fight for dominance with Avengers: Endgame even now), and it was a theatrical experience unlike any other. Don’t bother bringing your comparisons to Dances with Wolves and Fern Gully and Pocahontas because I’ve heard them all before. We tend to forget that every story has been told a thousand times before; it’s all in how to tell you, and James Cameron told it very uniquely, conjuring up not only an epic world with loads of mythology but also crafting the technology with which to do it. I firmly believe it became popular to hate on this movie purely because of its box office prowess and its Best Picture nomination, and while the film has its imperfections, I loved the world and the awe that unfolded before me. As far as Avatar 2 goes, I have come to learn in my years not to doubt James Cameron. He’s a director that has consistently tested himself and improved his skills, and every new film he conquers leads to further advancements in filmmaking. So bring it on, Avatar 2, let’s see this single finally become a franchise.

So there you have it. Hopefully we will end up seeing all of these hit theaters at some point in 2022, as long as we stay vigilant and safe. 2021 was a solid year to return to the cinema, and 2022 looks to be just as great. Comment below with the films you are most excited to see in 2022, and let’s have a great year in movies.

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle’s Ten Worst Films of 2021

I debated a bit about doing a Worst Films list this year. I avoided it last year, mainly because I only saw 30 movies from 2020 by the end of the year. 2020 sucked enough as it was, and I just didn’t feel like piling on, and I wasn’t sure I’d bring it back, but I was convinced by another critic who said that part of discussing the movies you love means being able to discuss the movies you didn’t love.

Making a movie is hard. It’s really hard. I’m sure if I made a movie every year, it would show up on the bottom list of at least one person. Film is subjective.

We’re going to break down the worst films of last year, to me. I’m going to showcase the movies that just didn’t work for me and try to explain what about them didn’t work. The best kind of criticism is constructive, so let’s get started on the movies that failed to connect with me as a film fan.

Just a few notes, once again, because we have to say this or someone will inevitable Not Get It:

  • I didn’t see every movie that came out in 2021. I saw a considerable number, but movies escape and, to be honest, I didn’t go out of my way to see movies that were not well-reviewed by my peers or movies that I didn’t have an interest in.
  • This is my personal list. You may have liked some of these movies. I just didn’t. Subjectivity is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? If you disagree with one of my picks, drop a comment defending the movie. I love the discussion.
  • I still have not seen The Emoji Movie from 2017. Deal with it.

Let’s get started…

  1. Space Jam: A New Legacy
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy makes a great argument for why the first film is actually pretty great. The original Michael Jordan-led Space Jam is fun and nostalgic but not a great film by any stretch. It just has that lighting-in-a-bottle weirdness that fused a popular NBA star with the Looney Tunes and somehow made it watchable. Seeing this long-awaited sequel just showcases all the ways that the original film surprisingly works. A New Legacy is one of those films that just makes you scratch your head more than anything. It’s a piece of studio-created 115-minute merchandising reel that just shows off a lot of IP, but does nothing interesting with them, and the IP sidelines the Looney Tunes, almost like WB didn’t have faith in them to begin with. Add to that a LeBron James in the lead role with zero charisma (something that Jordan had in abundance) and the film just bores. Also, the actual basketball has no tension or stakes because there are all these Style Points where players get extra points for looking cool. The fact that Warner Bros is the ultimate enemy here is really funny though, as A New Legacy lit up the studio before The Matrix Resurrections stepped in to finish the job. I haven’t even mentioned the weird IP characters in the crowd. When you have someone who isn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the Mr. Freeze that is from Batman & Robin in the crowd, who is that for? Wouldn’t WB own the rights to his portrayal of the character within their Serververse? I mean, the logistics of the in-universe logic are head-scratching, and who was the target audience for putting the nuns from Ken Russell’s The Devils in this film? WB won’t even release The Devils, yet they’ll put reference to it in a family film. I’m just so confused by it all.
  1. Night of the Animated Dead
  • I had a lot of faith in this one. It had the Warner Bros Animation stamp of approval (and the animated DC stuff is quite good), and it was a new stylized retelling of a classic horror zombie film. I’m just frustrated by the budgetary choices on this one. They mostly reused George A. Romero’s classic script about a group of people holed up in a farmhouse as the dead rise to devour the living, so no money spent there. So why spend money getting recognizable names to do the voice and spend literally pennies to actually animate the damned thing? This is one of the ugliest-looking movies. Perhaps the point of the film was a meta-commentary on zombies because the finished product is a soulless cash-grab. I kind of love that Night of the Living Dead is in the public domain so that anyone can go in and do their take on the timeless story, but the poster sells a style that the movie cannot deliver, and there isn’t a notable win in any place throughout the film. Mostly, I’m mad I spent 10 bucks to see it. This is one that could’ve been so much more.
  1. Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin
  • Cash-grab might be one of the themes for this list. The idea of the Paranormal Activity franchise returning seemed like a really great thing. Saw returned this year as well, so it’s only natural to bring back the other powerhouse horror franchise from the 2000s. They even had Christopher Landon writing the script and William Eubank (Underwater) directing, so the pieces looked in place. It also had a new setting with new characters but seemed, at least on the surface, to have some surprising connections to the original mythos. Alas, this didn’t happen. Next of Kin was Paranormal Activity in-name-only, a found-footage film that frequently ignores the rules of found-footage with a lackluster plot, uninspired characters, and an ending that falls flat, but more than that, I was hoping this film would have some way of further expanding on the mythology that fans have come to love, but Next of Kin doesn’t really do anything with its run time that would merit remembering. I…was…bored. Not a great sign for a horror movie, and Next of Kin is probably the worst of its franchise.
  1. The Ice Road
  • Jonathan Hensleigh has written some great movies, and he even directed one in 2004’s The Punisher, but this is a far cry from those films. The Ice Road, a Netflix film, is one of the many Liam Neeson-led action movies that, in recent years, almost seem to just run together into an amorphous blob of terribility. Don’t get me wrong, I pride myself on being one of the first to openly praise the excellent revenge-action film Taken, the first Neeson action film of this ilk, and I stand by it (and the second one isn’t all that bad either), but it’s been more than ten years since that film, and the mileage that has been made out of this type of movie has sputtered and come to a stop. These are paycheck movies, and The Ice Road, which started out promising, just became another throwaway. I hadn’t seen an action movie about Ice Road Truckers, and with Laurence Fishburne in tow, I felt like I was set up for something good, but then the film takes a slippery turn into absurdity with a weird betrayal heist subplot that takes over the entire movie and completely lost me. This was an all-around disappointment.
  1. Cry Macho
  • This is starting to feel like a Warner Bros hit job but let me explain. I didn’t go to the theater for the first 5 months of the year, and I don’t search out bad movies, but I didn’t want to miss out on theatrical-at-home with HBO Max. WB released some incredible movies last year, but they released some crap as well, and I couldn’t put off watching them or they would disappear from the service, so I watched them. I watched them all, and the one that was the toughest to get through (though not the worst one of all, as you’ll soon find) was Clint Eastwood’s newest film Cry Macho. This one appeared out of nowhere, with little fanfare and there’s a reason for that. It’s horrible. Eastwood had kind of sworn off Westerns after Unforgiven, a Western that deconstructed the aging cowboy archetype, and he should not have returned. This is a boring, slogging movie that doesn’t amount to anything worth conversing about. Eastwood’s Mike is a former rodeo star bringing his ex-boss’s son back from Mexico, and it felt like the worst parts of Eastwood’s recent fare mixed with a half-assed Rambo: Last Blood sequel, and none of it works. Normally, I can see what Eastwood is trying to do with his lesser movies, but I’m at a loss here. There’s a reason no one is talking about Cry Macho.
  1. Reminiscence
  • Reminiscence could’ve been great. It had an interesting concept, a unique plot device that could lead us to interesting narrative choices, and a nicely stacked cast of strong performers, but Reminiscence, the first feature from writer Lisa Joy, trips over itself throughout the entirety of the run time. This machine that uses memories could’ve been used to tell us a story through memories, but instead, we get a lackluster plot that became more groanworthy with every new reveal. I get that Hugh Jackman’s Nick Bannister is supposed to be a noir hero, but his voice-over didn’t add anything. I get that he’s an addict, but his addiction to Rebecca Ferguson’s Mae (an understandable addiction if there ever was one) goes nowhere interesting. There are a lot of Nolan-esque ideas at play here, but Joy doesn’t use them well, and the problems stem from an uneven and bland script, unfortunately. I got wasted-potential vibes similar to Transcendence here, but that film was more watchable in its convolutions.
  1. Clifford the Big Red Dog
  • Here’s an IP all the kids were clamoring for. Sorry to say, Clifford just might not be viable right now. Add to that, a creative team that constructed a silly narrative based on getting just three things right: he’s a dog, he’s big, and he’s red. They got that right, too, but nothing else. The narrative places our villain as a guy who is looking to solve world hunger, so obviously he’s the bad guy, and we get saddled with an uninteresting niece/uncle relationship that’s without laughs and without heart in equal measure. To top it all off, the most boring element of the whole film is Clifford. He had no personality, no character, and I know it is weird to get all mad at a dog, but Clifford should feel like a character in his own movie. They had an opportunity to use that Dog’s Purpose/Dog’s Journey/Dog’s Way Home technique of dog inner-monologue quite nicely here, but they didn’t, and the movie ended up a dud. Stick to Martin Short’s Clifford, a true classic.
  1. Zola
  • There are quite a few people that feel very different than I on the subject of Zola. I’ve seen it on “Best Of” lists a few times this year from a few people I tend to be in agreement with. The nicest thing I can say is that it’s a little bonkers and definitely a unique vision for a director, but for me, very little actually worked in this movie. I really liked Colman Domingo and a few other smaller characters peppered throughout, but this movie bored me and, to be frank, annoyed the shit out of me at times as well. I can’t say much more than that, but if this director comes out with another film, I’ll give it a try. When it comes to the story of Zola, the tweet thread is much faster read and a whole lot better.
  1. Tom & Jerry
  • The last, and certainly the worst, of the WB travesties of 2021 on this list, Tom & Jerry was just another attempt at taking IP that kids are less familiar with today and throwing CGI versions of them into real life. I didn’t have a lot of expectations for this one, but with Chloe Grace Moretz as the lead human, I felt like maybe there was something unexpected at play here. Turns out, I was wrong. Tom & Jerry is just another one of these movies where the humans are given too much to do and none of it is entertaining while, at the same time, we have CG blobs causing generic havoc in a given location.
  1. Outside the Wire
  • All the other movies on this list are ones that I could sit through if my wife or family or friends wanted to watch. Outside the Wire, a Netflix movie you probably haven’t heard of, is one I can’t even recall anything good about. This was, if I remember correctly, the first 2021 film I saw last year, and I was bored to tears. I had to pause multiple times to get up and walk away because what I was subjected to was just plain boring. Nothing internally offensive here, just a boring movie that wastes a solid enough premise and an interesting cast on a movie that seems to have a checklist of cliches and plot contrivances, seemingly trying to accomplish them all in one sitting. I’m sorry to say that Outside the Wire is my least-favorite movie of the year.

So there you have it. These are my least-favorite movies of the year. Thank goodness that’s over. Now, let’s get onto better things.

What were you least favorite movies of 2021? Let me know down in the comments!

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (2022)

Director: Derek Drymon, Jennifer Kuska
Cast: Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Brian Hull, Kathryn Hahn, Jim Gaffigan, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Fran Drescher, Brad Abrell, Asher Blinkoff
Screenplay: Amos Vernon, Nunzio Randazzo, Genndy Tartakovsky
98 mins. Rated PG for some action and rude humor including cartoon nudity.

I’ve spent the last week binging everything Hotel Transylvania. Prior to a week ago, I hadn’t seen a single film in the franchise, but when I learned that my first press screening of the year would be Transformania, I immediately began watching these films. I watched all three original films, all three short films, and a few episodes of the television series to get into the right realm to see this fourth, and reportedly final (for now) installment of the franchise. See, I do my research.

Dracula (Brian Hull, Pup Star Rescue Dogs) is preparing to retire and hand off the ownership of Hotel Transylvania to his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez, Monte Carlo, TV’s Only Murders in the Building), but he fears that her husband Johnny (Andy Samberg, America: The Motion Picture, TV’s Saturday Night Live) will ruin his beloved hotel with his HUMAN alternatives, he inadvertently convinces Johnny to use a Monsterfication Ray to turn himself into a monster. The ray also turns Drac and his buddies into humans as well. Now, they have to fix the Monsterfication Ray and turn everyone back to normal before Johnny’s monster transformation becomes irreversible.

It’s nice to see all of these characters grow and interact with one another. One of the things that I loved while watching these films over the last week was seeing this steadily growing ensemble work with one another for the sake of hijinks. I think my favorite of the group is the third film, so seeing Drac’s relationship with Ericka (Kathryn Hahn, Afternoon Delight, TV’s WandaVision) continue beyond that film was really nice and seeing that she still has memories of her time as a monster slayer helped to bridge the films nicely to its roots. So often, we get characters that turn good in one film and then become perfect little angels like their past didn’t matter, and here, Ericka’s past definitely mattered, but she’s able to use her skills for a more noble purpose. It was also awesome to see Jim Gaffigan (Chappaquiddick, Luca) return as Van Helsing, a character I found to be captivating and funny from the previous film. Here, he’s living in seclusion and has a purpose in the narrative that, again, ties to his franchise roots (though why he never considered using the Monsterfication Ray to just turn monsters back into humans instead of killing them makes me ponder).

The only missing character that I notably missed is Drac’s father, voiced by Mel Brooks. Never a large role in the franchise, he’s always a welcome inclusion, and it would’ve been fun to see him, a former human-killing hateful vampire, turned into a human. I also noticed the lack of Adam Sandler in the role of Dracula (I didn’t miss Kevin James because Frankenstein just never had a lot to do in the series). While Brian Hull does a great Adam-Sandler-as-Dracula impression, I could tell he wasn’t the same Drac, and it was notable here.

Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kuska take over directing duties from Genndy Tartakovsky, who made the first three films (and contributed to the story and script for this installment). Their directing is much more frenetic. There’s a lot going on in the frame here, and some of it is unnecessary. I can call out the opening of the film set at the hotel party. There is so much plot jammed into this beginning, and then there’s a lot of unsuccessful visual gags here as well. It doesn’t completely derail the film, but moments of the film, specifically in the handling of Johnny, gets really annoying. There’s a chase scene at the party where Johnny yells out Mavis’s name perhaps a hundred times in a five-minute sequence, and it becomes really frustrating, and headache-producing, to listen to.

Part of that falls down to the screenplay as well, co-written by Tartakovsky along with Amos Vernon and Nunzio Randazzo. There’s an excellent idea at play here that goes back to the central themes of the first movie (whereas the sequels expanded on other elements of the characters). The concept and story work pretty well, but some of the dialogue is tell-don’t-show or characters saying aloud what’s obviously happening on screen. There’s some humor that’s mined from the central premise, but it’s more hit-and-miss than the other films.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania has had five different release dates since Sony originally placed it in October 2021. The Delta variant launched this film all over the back half of last year before it rested as an Amazon Original in January, and the finished movie is probably the weakest installment of the franchise thus far, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching. If you’ve enjoyed the previous three films, then this one should be an enjoyable, though slightly less so, time in front of the television. If you didn’t like the Hotel Transylvania franchise to this point, then this one won’t sway you. I liked it but seeing it in such quick succession with the other films only highlights its flaws more.

3/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle’s Top Ten Films of 2021

Well, last year was…a little better…right?

Hello again, everyone! We’ve reached the end of 2021 and it’s time, just like every year, to discuss the best in movies from last year. 2021 was an overall improvement of a year, and I also happened to see a lot more movies in 2021 than the year prior. In 2020, I think I saw 30 movies. 2021 was a lot closer to 90.

More than anything else, 2021 was the year I got to go back to the movies. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure that would happen. This year, the theaters reopened (and had movies to show), and I got vaccinated. To be honest, it was tough for me to even consider going to the movies again once they reopened until I was vaccinated. That’s not me preaching to any of you; it’s more me saying that I didn’t think I could lose myself in the movie without thinking of COVID.

That means I missed seeing theater-worthy movies like Godzilla vs. Kong, but I was finally convinced it was time to return to the cinema for Spiral: From the Book of Saw was released. Saw was such an important franchise for me, I couldn’t miss it.

Yes, I finally went back to the theater in June, and I haven’t looked back. It’s been a really solid element in my mental health to be back at the cinema (I’ve stated many times that the theater has been a place of solace for me when the world becomes too much to handle). I’m not alone in this regard, as audiences flocked back to the theaters back in the 30s in the height of the Great Depression. Well, 2020 and its sequel were rather Greatly Depressing, and I used the theater as a tool. Great movies or terrible ones, it really didn’t matter.

All of that is a long way of telling you that I saw a great many movies, and I feel better talking my Top Ten Films of 2021. So let’s not waste any further time and get right into it.

Now, in order to properly begin, we have to state the obligatory forewarnings:

  • I did not see every film released in 2021. In fact, there are still a few films released very quietly in 2021 that many reviewers have not been able to see, like The Tragedy of Macbeth and Cyrano, and I am unable to include those films in my list. If you know of a film that belongs on this list but you don’t see it, it just means I didn’t see it…that, or it doesn’t belong on my list.
  • On that note, this is my subjective list, not yours, and not objective whatsoever. They are MY personal picks for best of the year. These are the films that spoke to me as a filmgoer. There are better made films that came out in 2021, and there are some films on this list that did not get Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and quite a few that will miss the Academy’s selection process for Oscar-worthiness. They are MY picks and mine alone, so don’t be upset if a film is on your list that isn’t on mine. That’s the beauty of art and entertainment: we don’t have to love the same things to make them worthy.
  • Along with all that, I crave discussion, dissection, and (respectful) disagreements. So let me know by commenting below with your Top Ten Movies of 2021 (or just a list of favorites, especially if they aren’t on my list). I’d love to see what you loved last year.

Alright, without further adieu…

  1. The Sparks Brothers

-In less than 2 1/2 hours, Edgar Wright turned me, someone who had heard one Sparks song but couldn’t even connect it to the band, into a lifelong fan who spent his entire summer listening to the band as if he was trying to play catchup for time lost. His documentary is equal parts biography, concert film, and fever dream, and it all seems to work quite well. It’s also an incredibly watchable film, an entertaining instruction manual on first watch and a celebration of the band for those viewers who had discovered the incredibly prolific but under-appreciated musicians.

  1. Spencer

-Who would’ve guessed that the Princess Diana movie starring Kristen Stewart would end up being a horror-thriller Christmas film? Well, okay, it isn’t so exact as that, but this is a Christmas-set “biopic” that is less concerned with the details and minutiae of a life’s timeline and more set on a story that captures the character and person that Princess Diana was. Set during the last holiday season of her time involved with the royal family, the film sees Diana breaking apart at the seams while she struggles to maintain a strong face for the sake of the Crown. She’s there for her children, the one piece of her life in this world that still has good in it. I also have to credit the incredible performance of Kristen Stewart as Diana, a piece of acting prowess that captures her spirit and soul more than her mannerisms and speech patterns, but I was completely lost in her performance and never once doubted that I was seeing Diana on the screen. I would also be remiss if I did not mention the unsung actor from the film, Sean Harris as McGrady, the Royal Head Chef, and one of the best scenes of the year, in which McGrady confesses how the staff really feels about Diana, and don’t forget the single best needle-drop of the year as the film comes to a close.

  1. The Last Duel

-Ridley Scott dropped two bangers in 2021, and one of them ended up on this list. I didn’t have the highest hopes for The Last Duel because, for me, Ridley Scott can get a little divisive. Every film he makes, the film gods flip a coin. As bonkers as House of Gucci ended up, The Last Duel is an elegant and intense view at altered perspectives done in the style of Rashomon. I have minor faults with a few elements in the overall film, and I argue that “kids-on-their-phone” is so old man and silly. The reason that The Last Duel underperformed is that we are in the middle of a pandemic and many filmgoers are forced to make choices of what they want to watch. Several great films slipped between the cracks this year, and a movie that portrays a rape (not once, but twice, mind you) may not be the type of film that audiences wanted this year. That’s one of the factors why a film like Spider-Man: No Way Home did so well this year while bleaker fare like Nightmare Alley and The Last Duel struggled to find a presence. Beyond all that, though, the film is fantastic. It’s a tough sell to do a film that covers a painful and intense event from multiple viewpoints. You have to keep the film fresh while essentially telling the same story. Scott’s film teases us with the titular duel and then presents these views in a captivating way, and each retelling sought to alter the narrative in interesting ways.

  1. Dune

-I try not to hinge my thoughts on one film based upon another, but it’s nearly impossible to do so in the case of Dune, or Dune: Chapter One, or whatever it will eventually be called. We knew going into this film that it would be an adaptation of the first half of Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction novel, but we also went into it knowing that the second half of this story was uncertain. It’s a lot of baggage to carry for a single film, and that’s not even diving into the quality of the film itself. Well, Denis Villeneuve surprised us all yet again by turning the oft-believed-unfilmable novel into a science fiction masterpiece on the level of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. Well, potentially one day, but it’s a beautiful and elegant masterpiece of cinema nonetheless, but it needs to be stated that this is the first half, and it carries a level of understanding. Dune was not filmed back-to-back with its sequel like Back to the Future II & III or The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions or even the previously mentioned epic production of The Lord of the Rings. Dune was also not handled like the recent 2-part It adaptation. With that film, had we not gotten It: Chapter Two, the first film would stand on its own. Dune: Chapter One hinges on that sequel more than any other two-parter that I can recall. Had that sequel not been announced, I’m not sure this film would be on this list, but it was announced, and it will (likely) happen. With all that, I can’t wait to see this story come to an end and rewatch the first film a bunch when it drops on home video.

  1. The Suicide Squad

-Okay, I trust James Gunn to make a solid and entertaining film, and I trust the recent moves of the DCEU (overall, I’ve been positive on most of the universe, but the recent stuff has been the best), but I didn’t expect nearly as entertaining a time as I got with The Suicide Squad. Early reviews were very positive, and when I finally caught the film at a press screening, I was initially worried the hype was too hyped. Nope, this is an excellent time at the movies, a mean-spirited and bonkers action film that has shades of gritty 70s action pictures. Essentially, Gunn has made a big-budget Troma film, and you can tell he’s having the time of his life with his characters. A more stacked cast than his previous Marvel films, he’s able to give each of his “Squad” a moment to shine. By shine, I’m referring to debauchery or sin, but you get what I mean. The Suicide Squad is a wild ride of entertainment that, dare I say it, is damn beautiful and makes me excited for Peacemaker later this month.

  1. Candyman

Candyman was the last new movie I saw in 2021, and I’m surprised to see it on this list. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the original film quite a bit, but I did not expect the hit on this legacy sequel just waiting for me to watch it. A little context for you: I’m big on franchises and I don’t like the idea of the legacy sequel (it feels lazy and oftentimes falls into the same pitfalls as the films it ignores), and the only reason I waited on Candyman 2021 was that I hadn’t watched Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh and Candyman: Day of the Dead, so last week, I binged the whole franchise, and I must say, this newest film is the best film in the series by a stretch. The clever screenplay, co-written by Jordan Peele, paired with the picture-perfect directing from Nia DeCosta (I can see why she was so quickly snatched up by Marvel). It’s a legacy sequel that chooses to build on the mythology in a way that doesn’t retcon anything that came before but instead decides to add and validate what came before while challenging the history of the series at large. It’s gorgeous, haunting, and thought-provoking to the very ambitious ending.

  1. Halloween Kills

-This is the part when everyone stops reading, so let me remind you that this is a subjective list, and I would be wrong not to put Halloween Kills on the list. I’ve said it before, but Halloween is my all-time favorite horror film, and I have a special place in my heart for the rest of the franchise, convoluted and deeply-flawed though they may be. For Halloween 2018, I was interested but, as stated above, I don’t like the retcon aspect. All that being said, I get why the rest of this franchise was retconned, as most audiences did not keep up with the mythology as much as I did, and trying to make sense of it all would’ve been a bit of work. Also, Laurie Strode was dead in the previous films. Well, I saw Halloween 2018, and it is easily the best-made film since the original, but I felt like it was more of a Greatest Hits album of Halloween, sending up a mashup of great scenes and references from the other non-canon entries, but really not doing a whole lot to distance itself. Well, I revisited Halloween 2018 right before Kills came out, in what amounted to a quick trilogy binge (1978/2018/Kills). Halloween Kills, while being less-polished than David Gordon Green’s previous film, is all the better for its ambition. Sure, it does tread some of the same waters and ideas, but it uses them in a wholly different way. Here, we see Haddonfield as a real town full of interesting characters (I love that many of the background characters of 2018 show up again in Kills), and it’s a town dealing with its trauma in an unhealthy way. This sequel speaks to the question of how we react to fear, and it pushes the Halloween story into delightfully bloody new directions while making its predecessor much better and more palatable as a chapter in Green’s story.

  1. The Green Knight

The Green Knight was a movie that almost seemed to not want me to watch it. It didn’t have a lengthy run at my local theater, and the weekend my wife and I had planned to see it ended up with me self-quarantining and getting tested for COVID because I was very sick. I ended up being negative but by the time I ended up feeling better, we didn’t have a free night to see it, so we missed its theatrical run. Thankfully, I ended up with a 4k copy of it, and I was actually able to watch it. Also thankfully, the movie is excellent. The way The Green Knight takes the classic fable and legend and reconfigures it to fit David Lowery’s filmmaking sensibilities and give us a Gawain who is essentially a hopeful hero without any heroic skills, a leader who only takes the killshot because he can, a man who cannot take responsibility for his actions and flees at the sight of danger. It’s also a technically stunning piece of medieval fantasy with terrific performances and a haunting visual aesthetic. If you missed it like I did, rectify that immediately.

  1. Belfast

-There’s an argument out there that Belfast is not as hard-hitting and serious as the events it is depicting require, and I can understand it. The reason the film works for me is that it’s not about those events specifically; it’s about the family at the center of it, specifically young Buddy (played by newcomer Jude Hill). Seeing these traumatic events through the eyes of a child was something very effective for me. For Buddy, everything going on in his world is strained through the filter of his family, and that’s all he wants. He wants things to go back to normal, he wants to stay in Belfast, he wants his life to go in the direction it has been up to now. That’s his reckoning in the film, and it’s a small story against a big backdrop, and it was a joyful (as joyful as it could be, given the surrounding political unrest of the time) coming-of-age story that I want to share with my family, friends, everyone.

  1. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

-No, I’m not a Marvel fanboy saying it is better than everything ever made without discussion ever. The last time I had a Marvel film on my Top Ten, it was back in 2011 and it was Thor. If you look at my list, there’s a good number of acclaimed films in Oscar contention as well as some really entertaining popcorn movies. Shang-Chi is the best of both worlds, and if there were to be a superhero film in the Best Picture race, it would be Shang-Chi. The film has an important cultural touchstone, and it showcases a terrific starring turn from Simu Liu as the titular hero, but the film has so much more. It has a terrific friend/potential love interest in Awkwafina, and it has one of the MCU’s best villains in real Mandarin Xu Wenwu. The film has loads of excellently-choreographed action, nods to wuxia, and it plays off one of the MCU’s best arcs in the Mandarin, especially with how the character ties to Iron Man 3. I even find the finale to be much more than a CG mess that most superhero fare gets lost in. Shang-Chi ends with a bang, but it is character-driven all the way through. Gosh, I can’t wait for a sequel to this film. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is all-around excellent, and it’s my favorite movie of 2021.

There you have it. My Top Ten Films of 2021. I’ve said my piece, now it’s time to say yours. What are your favorite movies of last year? Leave your favorites below! See you next year.

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] The King’s Man (2021)

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Harris Dickinson, Djimon Hounsou, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander(3), Daniel Bruhl, Charles Dance
Screenplay: Matthew Vaughn, Karl Gajdusek
131 mins. Rated R for sequences of strong/bloody violence, language, and some sexual material.

The Kingsman film franchise kind of came out of nowhere. I remember not being even remotely aware of the first film at all, including its release window, and then a number of reviewers and pundits that I tend to align with were praising The Secret Service’s blend of old and new spy tropes alongside director Matthew Vaughn’s (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) unique style and violent sensibilities. After seeing it, I really enjoyed how self-aware the over-the-topness of the world depicted in Vaughn’s adaptation completely contrasted with other action franchises at the time, though I was still surprised to hear of a follow-up in The Golden Circle. Though that sequel did not share the same praise of the original, I was of a rare sort that put it on the same level, embracing the slowly-expanding realm of oddities that slithered throughout the burgeoning franchise. Where would this series go next? Surely The King’s Man was even less expected than The Golden Circle. My excitement built with each viewing of that first trailer (and it played a lot, if you went to the theaters as often as I did), so how did the finished film go? Well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, mostly positive, with great action and an inconsistent tone.

Set in the early 1900s, The King’s Man follows The Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel, No Time to Die) and his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson, Beach Rats, The Souvenir: Part II) as they try to make a positive impact on WWI. The Duke, knowing of UK’s leadership failures and the willingness to send young soldiers to die for a war started by old men, builds an underground network of spies in order to stop a cabal from further toppling the governments of the East into chaos.

I’ve read a few other interpretations of The King’s Man remarking that the film is too focused on being a prequel that it doesn’t provide a stellar story, and I couldn’t disagree more. I actually found that the film spends too little time on the forming of the Kingsman that, at times, it feels like one of the later Hellraiser sequels that wasn’t a Hellraiser movie until someone attached 10 minutes of Pinhead in order to shoehorn it into the franchise. Now, the quality of The King’s Man is streets ahead of those later Hellraiser films, but I almost wondered if Vaughn had formed this idea for a WWI spy film before realizing he could make it a Kingsman prequel. Outside of the final 10-minute stinger at the end of the film and a few references to the shop and Statesman bourbon, the film does very little to link itself to the franchise at large, which is kind of the point of this film’s existence. Now, that isn’t to say that The King’s Man is a bad movie, it just felt like those first two Star Wars prequels, where everyone kept wondering when Anakin would turn to the dark side.

Where the film succeeds is in Vaughn’s understanding of action, and The King’s Man does feature perhaps the single most entertaining action set piece of 2021. The action hits and it hits hard. I don’t have a fault with the film’s action or its visuals or the characters. Vaughn has a knack for making this kind of spectacle filmmaking which really looks dazzling, especially on the big screen. His narrative tows the believability-line just enough to make it fit within his larger franchise narrative even if the story does not.

The King’s Man has a bevy of interesting characters to take away, most notably Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man, Official Secrets) as Grigori Rasputin, a member of our secret villain’s collective. There’s a reason why Ifans is featured so heavily in the trailer despite not being as prominent in the finished film, and that’s because he owns the screen every single time he re-enters the narrative. He’s a disturbing and sick individual who chews the scenery with such glee and also capably performs (in that costume, no less) through some solid fight sequences.

I also really liked Fiennes’s take on Oxford, as he’s very much a father who recognizes the dangers of young men fighting the wars of old men, and he sees the indoctrination of his son Conrad. Knowing that the only way to keep his son out of war is to recruit him to the dangerous underground organization he’s been building seems to suggest an understanding of what is needed to do the right thing the right way. I like that he tows the line of being a father/mentor and an equal to his son, and it makes the back-and-forth of their relationship quite captivating.

The film’s biggest struggle throughout all of this is the wildly-inconsistent tone. While the first two Kingsman films seem to comfortably rest on the James Bond archetype of Roger Moore’s performance, with action and heart and comedy seemingly married in the right recipe. With this prequel, the film has moments where the inconsistencies of the tone almost seem to add to the twists and turns of the narrative, but that would be giving it too much credit. The problem, for me, is that I didn’t know from one minute to another if the scene I was watching was supposed to be aiming for comedy or serious, and the latter won out far too often. It just seems to miss out on what was so fun for the other films due to its reliance on overly-serious elements that occasionally lost me.

The King’s Man is a mildly-successful piece of entertainment that doesn’t get everything right and loses a bit of the fun of the previous entries, but a strong lead performance and an exciting selection of action set pieces keep the film enjoyable throughout its more mixed aspects. I still recommend this one to fans of the franchise but temper your expectations if it’s the comedy of the franchise that worked for you.

3/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

  • For my review of Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, click here.

Unboxing the Hammer Horror 8-Film Collection!

If you haven’t been around the GOAT Film Reviews YouTube channel, you’ve been missing out on some added entertainment. I’ve been unboxing a number of my packaged-up collections, so if you like deep diving into physical media, join me over on the GOAT Film Reviews YouTube channel and check out the various series that I have over there.

The newest unboxing episode is all about Hammer. I’ve already opened up the Mill Creek collection of Hammer films released by Columbia pictures, but this week, I’m breaking into my set of Universal’s Hammer Horror. Hammer would make deals for distribution with a good number of American distributors like Universal and Columbia, and even Warner Bros., so when it came time to drop these films on Home Video, the sets are a little jumbled up with movies For example, the Hammer Frankenstein Films are spread across several studios, and so to get the all, I had to pick up all the sets. It’s a little wonky and it looks silly on the shelf, but it works well enough.

Come along and check out my unboxing of Hammer Horror’s 8 Film Collection from Universal, and while you’re there, don’t forget to Like the video, Comment which film in the set is the best, and Subscribe to the channel!

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle & Nick on Film: Things To Do in Denver When You’re Dead (1995)

Hey, there’s a new episode of Kyle & Nick on Film. Today, we’re discussing Things To Do in Denver When You’re Dead, a film commonly referred to as the first and most notable ripoff of Quentin Tarantino, though there’s contention as to when this film started production.

The film stars Andy Garcia and Christopher Lloyd, and it’s based around a number of quirky characters all involved in a crime gone wrong. It’s easy to see the way this film seems to take on a lot of Tarantino-esque elements, and we break down whether we think the film has any real merit on its own. Give the episode a watch and let us know what you think of Things To Do in Denver When You’re Dead.

-Kyle A. Goethe

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑