My Policeman (2022)

Director: Michael Grandage
Cast: Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, Gina McKee, Linus Roache, David Dawson, Rupert Everett
Screenplay: Ron Nyswaner
113 mins. Rated R for sexual content.

As we close out 2022, I’ve been trying to catch all the movies that passed me by throughout the year, especially the ones that ended up on streaming, as my focus tends to shift toward the theatrical (for I am, myself, rather theatrical). I recently caught half of the Harry Styles (Dunkirk) output with Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, so I figured it was time to take on the other half with My Policeman over on Amazon Prime.

Marion (Gina McKee, Phantom Thread, Atonement) and her husband Tom (Linus Roache, Batman Begins, Mandy) have taken in their ailing friend Patrick (Rupert Everett, Shrek 2, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) following a stroke. Marion finds that Patrick seems to want no help from her with his feeding and care, and he frequently asks to see Tom, who has been absent from Patrick’s side since he arrived. As time goes on, she remembers back to her courtship with Tom, the beginnings of their friendship with Patrick, and the dangerous secret that destroyed all three of them: the hidden romance between Tom and Patrick as young men.

My Policeman is a film set in two alternating time periods. There is the more current time of older Tom, Marion, and Patrick, and the flashbacks with the younger actors: Styles, Emma Corrin (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Misbehaviour) and David Dawson (All the Old Knives). The portion of the film featuring the older actors is the stronger of the two, where an actor like Linus Roache makes the absolute most of a smaller amount of screen time as Older Tom. His is a man of significant regrets, riddled with a lifetime of indecision and understandable pain. The sequences where he reckons with his past are the most engaging, if few and far between, and the mystery of what drove these three lives apart becomes a driving force in the narrative. All three Older character performances are quite good (although underutilized).

The screenplay, from Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia, The Painted Veil), does not reinvent storytelling, but it’s a tight narrative that touches on familiar topics with elegance. Director Michael Grandage (Genius, Red) took it and developed that screenplay into a workable albeit pedestrian final product. Again, there’s no reinvention to the film, nothing stylistic to set it apart from any number of other similar films, but MOST of the performances make the film worth checking out.

But we simply must discuss Harry Styles here. I honestly feel like I’m piling on the Harry Styles hate train, but I’m not one to slam artists and performers without constructive criticism. I liked Styles in Dunkirk (it was a small role, but he was fine with what was requested of him) and I can’t really call out such a small cameo in Eternals when it had so many other issues with its post-credit scenes, but his work in both Don’t Worry Darling and My Policeman show an utter lack of experience as an actor. He seems to work in only two functions: completely lackadaisical and shouting emotional wreck. That’s not me saying he can’t improve. I used to have real struggles with Channing Tatum, but he took the time to learn the craft and choose the right roles for his skill set, and now I look forward to seeing him in films. The idea that Harry Styles should co-lead two films without more than a handful of film credits to his name just because he (reportedly) memorized the film script for My Policeman is frustrating. I think he has the ability to act and improve the skill, but he needs to put forth an effort before he returns to leading narrative features or popping back into the MCU. His work is perhaps all the more weak here because he shares a character with an actor who can do so much more with so much less screen time.

My Policeman has one leading performance dragging down a well-acted narrative that is perhaps a little too simplistic for some viewers, but I found enough here to recommend it. It’s still the better of the Harry-Styles-plays-a-bad-husband cinematic universe from this year. Thankfully, there are some great performances from Linus Roache, Emma Corrin, and David Dawson that elevate the material. Check the film out on Amazon Prime.

3/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 25 – Lot 36 (2022)

Director: Guillermo Navarro
Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, Sebastian Roche, Demetrius Grosse, Elpidia Carrillo
Screenplay: Regina Corrado, Guillermo del Toro
45 mins. Rated TV-MA.

This week, the first installments of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities has premiered. The series or short features is, in many ways, a spiritual successor to Night Gallery and Masters of Horror, and I’m very glad to see a return of the anthology host in del Toro. Our first story is based on an idea crafted by del Toro himself, and it’s a strong start.

Nick Appleton (Tim Blake Nelson, Nightmare Alley, The Incredible Hulk) is a veteran looking to pay off his many debts by purchasing expired storage lockers and selling off the contents. When he buys up Lot 36, a rental that’s been owned for decades by an eccentric loner who has recently passed away. As he starts pawning off items, he begins to learn that the items in this storage locker have a demonic and monstrous origin.

The screenplay, from Regina Corrado and del Toro, does a great job at crafting interesting characters. Our leads aren’t all that likable, but Corrado and del Toro are able to imbue them with an understanding for their shitty attitudes and actions. Especially with the character of Nick, the screenplay is used to elevate the subtext around racism through fear, misdirected aggression, and the abandoning of veterans.

Sebastian Roche (The Adventures of Tintin, 6 Underground) is another standout here with such a small screen presence. Ever since his role on TV’s Fringe, I’ve been surprised by how much exposition Roche can give without ever getting bogged down in it.

Perhaps the only flaw of Lot 36 is that it just kind of ends right when it gets ramped up. We hit a moment when the narrative officially opens up and tells us what’s happening, and then about 3 minutes of intensity, and then the story is over. I felt like there was a lot of solid buildup and not enough payoff.

Lot 36 is a solid start to the Cabinet of Curiosities, promising great things ahead for this promising anthology. While the feature’s finale moves a little too fast, this is still an entertaining and engrossing tale full of style.

3.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Armageddon Time (2022)

Twin Cities Film Festival coverage

Director: James Gray
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb, Anthony Hopkins
Screenplay: James Gray
115 mins. Rated R.

I was a big fan of We Own the Night, an early James Gray (The Immigrant) film from about 15 years back, and I was rather disappointed by Ad Astra, his most recent film, so I didn’t know what to expect from Armageddon Time. It’s a even split when director’s make a semi-autobiographical film of their lives, some of them being subtle and nuanced and others being heavy-handed and overly-melodramatic, but the cast of Armageddon Time really brought me in.

Set in the heavily-divided America of the 1980s, Armageddon Time is the story of a young boy, Paul Graff (Banks Repeta, The Black Phone, Uncle Frank) as he tries to traverse a world that is changing before his very eyes. As the school year starts, Paul’s looking for companionship, and he strikes up a friendship with the troublesome Johnny (Jaylin Webb, Till), one of the only black students who has been pre-judged by his teacher to be incapable of teaching. Johnny’s a target, and Paul’s parents don’t want him to be hanging out with one of the black boys. His grandfather Aaron (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, Thor: Ragnarok) has a different perspective, having lived through many of the atrocities of the World Wars, seeing his Jewish heritage being seen as “other,” and he invites Paul to protect those that society has deemed unworthy. With the push-and-pull of this era at his backdrop, Paul struggles with his place in the world.

There are a lot of elements at play in Armageddon Time, but the one theme that jumped out at me is the idea of otherness that has pervaded many a time period, including the pivotal 1980s. They way that Gray juxtaposes the otherness of Black America with Paul’s family, who have seemingly cast aside the otherness of Jewish America that was still alive at the time (as well as in the past and, sadly, even today), is well-executed. Gray even uses the politics of the day well, showing an interview with Ronald Reagan discussing homosexuality as an apocalyptic problem, extending the range of otherness outside of race to showcase how many Americans were “others” at the time.

It would be easy to get lost in the shuffle with so many characters and a more subtle through-line in place for Armageddon Time, but the performances were what held together and elevated the material to an altogether captivating piece of cinema. I could call out practically any actor as a win here, but I want to focus on the opposing spectrum created by Jeremy Strong (The Big Short, The Trial of the Chicago 7) as Paul’s father Irving and Hopkins as Paul’s grandfather Aaron. While Irving is a stern father who cannot control his son no matter how many beatings he administers, Aaron takes a gentler, more focused parental role. There’s a central scene in the middle of the film (it’s the scene everyone seems to reference, but I’ll do so as well) in which Aaron is helping his grandson launch off a model rocket. Aaron’s soft but deft way of conversing with his grandson echoes the film’s central message of dealing with racists and those who build their lives around hatred: “Fuck ‘em.” It’s the duality of these competing messages that create the compelling back-and-forth for Paul, and it’s the eventuality of Paul’s struggle to do right by those he loves that ultimately make for a fulfilling drama.

Armageddon Time is a movie that weighs on the soul for some time after the final credits run. It’s one that only gains strength as its complex narrative web pulls at the audience. While the narrative occasionally stumbles in finding its footing, it’s one of Gray’s more accessible films, and one of his best.

3.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

  • For my review of James Gray’s Ad Astra, click here.

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 18 – Speak No Evil (2022)

Director: Christian Tafdrup
Cast: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huet, Karina Smulders, Liva Forsberg, Marius Damslev
Screenplay: Christian Tafdrup, Mads Tafdrup
97 mins. Not Rated.

In a year filled with great and intense new horror films, Speak No Evil is one that’s been bubbling just under the surface. Released to Shudder, it’s been a word-of-mouth film that’s been referred to as “the one that moves slow and awkward before going HOLY SHIT!” I’ll avoid the major spoilers, and we’ll break it down today.

Bjorn (Morten Burian, Loving Adults, Sons of Denmark) and his family are vacationing in Tuscany when when they meet a Dutch family also on holiday. They strike up a rapport and have a lot of fun together, and when they get him, they receive an invite out to stay with the Dutch family at their farm home in the Netherlands for the weekend. They decide to take them up on the offer, with Bjorn not wanting to upset anyone. Upon arrival, they discover that cultural differences aren’t the only thing that the two families disagree on. As the weekend develops, they find that they’ve arrived in a very dangerous and deadly place.

Director Christian Tafdrup (Parents, A Horrible Woman) seems hell-bent on crafting one of the most awkward films of all time. As the tension and dread build up, Tafdrup keeps cultivating anxiety that was almost too unbearable at times. His direction, combined with the excellent editing of the film by Nicolaj Monberg (Cold Pursuit, Riders of Justice) constantly keeps the narrative compelling while assaulting with all manner of discomfort.

Morten Burian is brilliant as Bjorn, a husband who just wants to make everyone happy, and as his wife Louise (Sidsel Siem Koch, Itsi Bitsi, The Day We Died) gets more and more frustrated, he just tries to keep the peace. As the situation becomes more concerning, he just looks the other way, trying to see the best in others. Even up to the ending, his inability to create conflict may just be his undoing.

I would say that the film unravels a bit as it nears the ending. I think I understand what Tafdrup is getting at with the final scenes, but it strained credulity. Bjorn and Louise’s reaction to what’s happening to them isn’t convincing at all, which only sought to frustrate me as a viewer that invested time into Tafdrup’s film. It isn’t enough to derail the film, but there were character choices that I didn’t believe in. I didn’t have a lot of problems with lack of clear answers, but I couldn’t get past some of the characters.

Speak No Evil is surely an unforgettable movie and another very interesting installment in 2022’s Horror Catalog. It’s got a wholly unique structure less-focused on horror but always building toward the horrific, and when it’s unleashed, Tafdrup’s film goes some shocking places.

3.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Till (2022)

Twin Cities Film Festival coverage

Director: Chinonye Chukwu
Cast: Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hill, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett, Whoopi Goldberg
Screenplay: Michael Reilly Keith Beauchamp, Chinonye Chukwu
130 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic content involving racism, strong disturbing images and racial slurs.

The opening film of the Twin Cities Film Festival, Till is not the type of film you get excited to see. I knew going in that it would not be an easy watch. In fact, my wife, who accompanied me to the screening, wasn’t even sure she could sit through it, but we both came to the agreement that the film’s central theme is about seeing what happened to Emmett, and we felt it was appropriate to do so here.

In 1955, Mamie Till (Danielle Deadwyler, The Harder They Fall, Gifted) sends her son Emmett (Jalyn Hill, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The House with a Clock in its Walls) to visit family in the southern state of Mississippi, where life is even harder for Black Americans than it is in Chicago, where they live. Emmett has not been raised to fear White Americans in the way his cousins have down south. Emmett would never return home alive. Instead of letting her grief consume her, Mamie makes a radical decision: to display her dead son, untouched, for everyone to see what has happened to him in the name of racial hatred. This leads her to pursue conviction for the White men responsible.

Going into this film, it was well-known that Director Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency, alaskaLand) would not be showing the actual lynching on screen, and I heard some rumblings about whether or not showing it would be necessary to the narrative. I recall going back to the 2020 unrest here in Minneapolis due to the murder of a Black man at the hands of police officers, and a common thread I recall hearing involved the fact that Black Americans are always forced to see racial violence on television or in real life, on an almost daily basis. That swayed me into the idea that the film would not need to display the scene itself, but I still needed to see how Chukwu would handle the narrative around that, and she does an amazing job of surrounding the event itself with powerful and hard-to-watch moments, but her decision to focus on reactions to the events creates a larger emphasis on character which drives the narrative through most of the film.

With Chukwu focusing on characters and reactions, the film becomes an acting showcase for the incredible turn by Danielle Deadwyler. I’ve seen some of her work, but I wasn’t extremely aware of her talents until seeing her carry a lot of the emotional weight in the film. A movie like this, with so much inherent history, trauma, and emotional grief, might not have worked without a stellar lead, and it thankfully has one. Let me be clear by saying that film has a stacked cast, including Frankie Faison (The Silence of the Lambs, Do the Right Thing) as Mamie’s father, who travels with her to Mississippi to give testimony, and Whoopi Goldberg (The Lion King, Toy Story 3) as Mamie’s mother Alma, who views her daughter the same way Mamie views Emmett. If you can take your eyes off of Deadwyler’s devastating portrayal, you can see that Till is full of great performances, but she creates a gravitational pull with every moment.

Credit should be given to Jalyn Hill as Emmett. While he does not have a lot of screentime, it’s important to have his presence be felt throughout the entire film. Hill’s limited time in the film needs to remind us as viewers that the love for her son is more important to Mamie than the need for vengeance. I kept thinking how potentially traumatizing the role would be for a young actor to take on, and he provides joyful memories of Emmett’s life that drive Mamie forward.

The opening of the film is where the bulk of Hill’s performance is, and while Chukwu doesn’t come out and say it, the earlier portion of the film seems to indicate a dreamlike quality, with the heavier elements of the score coming into play and Deadwyler’s minute expressions indicate a surreal quality, as if she’s looking back at her time with her son. It’s never confirmed, but that’s how I interpreted this opening act.

The screenplay is based on 27 years of research conducted by co-screenwriter Keith Beauchamp, research that actually led to the reopening of the case back in 2004. I think their decision to shy away from a more complex story structure and just move chronologically from Point A to Point B works to their benefit. I’ll be real here and say that I don’t remember ever hearing about the story of Emmett Till in my school experience. I had read some articles online as an adult, and I remember the incredible short film My Nephew Emmett from a few years back that made me want to research the story even more, but I have to conclude that, unfortunately, not everyone knows this story. While the structure of the film feels simplistic, it increases the accessibility of this narrative to those that need to be educated on the life of Mamie and Emmett.

It all goes back to the story’s central theme of being seen. Mamie understood that Americans will never acknowledge the horrors and atrocities put upon the Black community unless they witness it for themselves. In that way, Till is a movie that craves to be seen, if only to put yourself into the shoes of those who knew and loved Emmett Till. I’ve referred to films like this as Shoes Movies because I’ll never fully understand what it is like to be Mamie, but for 130 minutes, I can walk in her shoes and understand a little bit more. I grew up watching movies about people who looked like me, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s become more fascinating to view the lives of people who don’t share my race, my gender, my sexual orientation, if only to further develop myself as a human. Till provided a little more insight in that journey.

Till is a movie that rests on incredible performances and the camera knows that focusing on reactions and strong physical acting, including extended takes that allow Deadwyler and the rest of the cast shine. It contains some of the year’s best performances and will be one of the more-talked-about movies this year.

4.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 17 – Halloween Ends (2022)

Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Will Patton, Rohan Campbell, Kyle Richards
Screenplay: Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
111 mins. Rated R for bloody horror violence and gore, language throughout and some sexual references.

It’s been 44 years since the world has been introduced to Michael Myers. In that time, we’ve had multiple timelines, retcons, and various mythologies, and in 2018, that was wiped clean (in a move I don’t generally agree with) when director David Gordon Green (Stronger, Our Brand Is Crisis) entered with a new take, a direct sequel to the 1978 original, bringing back a new iteration of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, True Lies, Trading Places) and streamlining the narrative for general audiences and the uninitiated viewer. Now, the final film in Green’s trilogy has arrived, Halloween Ends. For this lifelong Halloween fan, the expectations were high, and can Green’s finale stick the landing?

Four years after Michael Myers rampaged through Haddonfield, leaving numerous bodies in his wake, including Laurie Strode’s own daughter, the town has never truly recovered. Laurie has believed that, while Michael has not been seen since, his presence has poisoned the town, leading to murder, suicide, and a Haddonfield that is slowly consuming itself with hatred. Laurie has done everything in her power to get over the anger of the past, purchasing a new home for her and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak, Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List, Son), and trying out normalcy for once. When she sees another young man, Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell, The Professor, Operation Christmas Drop), struggling to live life in a town that sees him as another damaged soul, she takes a liking, introducing him to her granddaughter and trying to get him on the right path. It seems like Haddonfield might just heal, but unknown to its residents, Michael Myers is still in the town, just biding his time, ready to return.

As always, Jamie Lee Curtis is incredible in the role of Laurie Strode. She’s officially been in more installments of this franchise than Donald Pleasance, and with this newest trilogy, she’s truly gotten the spotlight to shine. This is as much, probably more, her story as it is Michael’s. This final chapter spends more time seeing her struggle to get right in her own mind than it does watching Myers hack-and-slashing. I particularly liked seeing her having fun, or trying, as Laurie, joking with Lindsay Wallace (Kyle Richards, Eaten Alive, The Car) or flirting with Frank Hawkins (Will Patton, Minari, After Hours). She’s a fully fleshed-out character in Green’s films.

The town of Haddonfield continues to be presented as a town in grief, stuck in trauma, but a fully-realized home to many captivating characters. When I talked about Halloween Kills, I discussed how real the town had felt, as Green had several background characters in Halloween 2018 return in Kills and fill out the town. That’s something that has lacked in just about any of the other sequels in this franchise. That continues, to a smaller extent, in Halloween Ends. That includes the rather inspired turns by Patton and Richards, who both continued to shine in this installment.

As a fan of Opening Credits, I have to celebrate the absolute perfection of this entire trilogy’s credit sequences. Having the 2018 Halloween showing a rotten pumpkin reforming, Green is telling us that we’re going all the way back to the beginning. In Halloween Kills, we get a number of Jack-o-Lanterns flying at us, symbolizing the mob mentality of Haddonfield, and with Halloween Ends (using a Blue Halloween III font), we get a series of Jack-o-Lanterns bursting through each other, as Green shows up how evil begets evil in this town, a theme for the finale.

Halloween Ends succeeds at looking back at the iconography of the entire series and playing it, sometimes as an expectation, other times like a subversion meant to showcase how far we’ve come on this journey, and how, while some things change, some things remain the same. The use of cues like “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and certain visuals from the original film, like Michael’s sitting up behind Laurie, are excellently pursued and make their mark. The same can be said of the opening scene, one that plays to its subversions while also pushing the narrative forward. Even the marketing (I only watched the first teaser) subverts expectations in a clever way.

Green and his co-writers, Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, and Danny McBride, certainly swing for the fences with this final installment. It could have been an easy assignment, getting Laurie and Michael back together for one more throwdown, but they elected to take a different path, for better and worse. I’ll give credit where it’s due, Green and his team accomplish two tasks that most of the other sequels were too afraid to go for (I can’t get into either story point in a non-spoiler review), and that’s impressive. There’re two paths that the narrative takes, one of them the obvious continuance of the Laurie and Michael thread. That plot is disregarded for a while in favor of the new story path. I’m fine with that, but by the time it gets back around to this main path, so much time has been afforded to the alternate path and so little is focused on the Laurie and Michael story, leaving it as a bit of an afterthought. I really admire the new path, but I wish we’d had a more interesting story for Michael’s return to the narrative.

James Jude Courtney (Far and Away, When a Man Loves a Woman) again knocks it out of the park as The Shape/Michael Myers, and my hope is that he continues on with the role in the next reboot, but I feel that the film under-utilizes Myers. Going back to my earlier statement, I actually really like the other direction they go in, but I wish that Michael was more of a physical presence running concurrently to it. It’s interesting how light on violence the end product is, most of it cutting away outside of one or two really grisly moments, and I think that The Shape could have done more outside the inevitable.

I’m happy that a film called Halloween Ends has an actual ending to the saga of Laurie and Michael with a definitive closure, though I won’t go into any detail on that. The Ends in Halloween Ends is conclusive, and I’m happy that each of Green’s films have a cohesiveness but end up being very different films. I think a lot of us viewers tend to review films based on our expectations, critiquing based on the film we wanted and not the film we got (though if you hate the movie, I can understand). On rewatch my opinion hasn’t changed on the positives or the negatives, but here’s hoping the rumors of an extended cut are true, because I’d love more time in this world. This final (until the inevitable reboot) chapter won’t work for some, but I rather liked it, flaws and all.

3.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of John Carpenter’s Halloween, click here.
For my review of David Gordon Green’s Pineapple Express, click here.
For my review of David Gordon Green’s Your Highness, 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

[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

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