Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein (2019)

Director: Daniel Gray Longino

Cast: David Harbour, Kate Berlant, Alex Ozerov, Mary Woronov, Alfred Molina, Heather Lawless, Marion Van Cuyck

Screenplay: John Levenstein

32 mins. Rated TV-14.

 

I came across Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein on Netflix during a random searching, and I had to watch it. I’m a sucker for mockumentaries and short form comedy, so this was an easy choice.

David Harbour III (a fictional version of David Harbour of Revolutionary Road and Hellboy) is on the search to discover the mystery behind his father, David Harbour Jr., and the play that obsessed him. That play is Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein. By recreating his father’s office and visiting with his father’s agent and the play’s producer, David deconstructs the convoluted and extremely confusing video footage of the play while attempting not to drive himself insane in the process.

The short film is made by David Harbour’s performance. He plays a fictionalized version of himself as well as playing his father, in an Orson Welles-esque role, and the film works because of him. There’s a lot of strange comedy to the film, and that comes from a bonkers screenplay from John Levenstein (Illegally Yours, TV’s Kroll Show).

It’s simple to say that I’ve watched this short twice and still couldn’t completely unravel the confusion in its many layers, from the confusion between who is playing Dr. Frankenstein and who is playing the Monster in the play, to which lines in the play are actually in the play versus which lines are monologues about acting forcibly added in to elevate his father’s pride. It’s watching the story and letting yourself by unraveled by it that makes it funny, though not something that I would call classically comical. It’s a stupid short film but it is worth watching at least once.

Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein is not great cinema, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. I enjoyed it for what it was and I think the run time is perfect as it would have made a terrible feature, but I cannot begin to explain how it all fits together, and that’s kind of the point. Give it a try yourself and see what you can make of it.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Hellboy (2019)

Director: Neil Marshall

Cast: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Thomas Haden Church

Screenplay: Andrew Cosby

120 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore throughout, and language.

 

So when it was announced that the next Hellboy film would not be a follow-up to the tremendous first two films with Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman, I was initially upset, but I let it pass because it seemed like there was nothing that could be done about it. I got more excited about the prospect of a reboot when David Harbour (Revolutionary Road, TV’s Stranger Things) was cast as the new Hellboy and Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Tales of Halloween) would be directing. It all seemed like it was coming together rather nicely, and I even liked the vibe of the trailers. It appeared that everything was going to come out all right for this new iteration of Hellboy. Then, I saw it.

Back during the Dark Ages, the evil Blood Queen Vivian Nimue (Milla Jovovich, The Fifth Element, Future World) unleashed a plague of death and destruction until she was stopped, dismembered, and buried by King Arthur and his knights. Now, in present day, the Baba Yaga is attempting to bring Nimue back to life. It’s up to the B.P.R.D. and its demonic agent, Hellboy, to stop Nimue once and for all. But what if Hellboy is exactly what the Blood Queen wants?

Hellboy is, at times, almost nonsensical. There’s a lot of mythology and story jammed into this movie, and just about none of it is entertaining at all. Characters do things to drive the plot without any real reason for any of it. They just do things. Things just happen. Characters provide exposition that drags on and on. What angers me the most is that the film is bad and forgettable and oh so boring. It’s disappointing because this is what we got instead of a true sequel to a good franchise. I know I don’t like to compare films to each other, but this was such a major step down from what fans wanted.

On the plus side, I liked David Harbour’s work as Hellboy. He plays him very differently than I expected, with Hellboy having an existential crisis about his place in the world, and for that part, he works quite well. His Hellboy is one struggling to find good within his inherently evil framework. It’s a sad and solitary journey. I also thought Jovovich did a good job as the Blood Queen, but her character is written so one-note that it’s hard to find anything identifiable with her villainous persona outside of I’M A VILLAIN AND I DO VILLAIN THINGS.

It’s obvious that screenwriter Andrew Cosby is most well-known for TV’s Eureka because this feels like a pilot to a series instead of a full beginning-middle-end movie. Everything in the film is a setup for what comes next. Hell, I wrote in my social media review that the post-credits scenes are better than the move that preceded them. The film ends on a note that says “Won’t the sequel be fun, right?” instead of just giving that film here. Del Toro did a great job setting up the Hellboy origin story in his films, and Marshall’s film runs through it pretty quick, so we don’t need all this setup for a better sequel we will likely not see.

Hellboy’s production was littered with rumors of behind-the-scenes problems, so it’s no surprise the film is littered with story-problems and pacing issues. I can’t believe how bored I was with this movie. I thought if there was one positive I would leave the theater with, it would at least be a fun movie. It was not a fun movie. Leave this one dead and buried and get me Guillermo del Toro.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of the anthology film Tales of Halloween, click here.

Ed Skrein Joins Hellboy Reboot

Hey everyone,

Just a little news to report today as Ed Skrein from Deadpool (and also the first iteration of Dario from Game of Thrones) has joined the cast of the Hellboy reboot. The film, directed by Neil Marshall, has already assembled a pretty stellar cast in Ian McShane, Milla Jovovich, and David K. Harbour. Skrein will play Major Ben Daimio, a fan favorite character introduced thirteen years ago when the first Hellboy film was coming together. Daimio has never been put to film.

I didn’t read a lot of the B.P.R.D. and Hellboy comics but it appears that Daimio is a soldier who was killed but brought back to life as a were-jaguar. In any other character breakdown, that might be strange, but it seems par for the course here. It sounds like Daimio is an Asian-American, though, so I worry about cries of whitewashing hurting this casting.

I personally believe an actor should play a role because he can perform it, but I also think this possible controversy is going to hurt the film. I love Skrein in Deadpool even though I felt he was miscast in Game of Thrones and was happy he left the project.

All in all, I’m starting to get excited for Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, even though I’m very sad to see Guillermo del Toro’s vision for a Hellboy III completely disappear because of it. I get it, it was probably never going to happen, but it still breaks my heart. However, the reboot is chugging along rather nicely, and as more of the pieces fall into place, I’m finding myself more and more interesting in how this whole thing will come together, and Skrein is a definite win for the film.

What do you think? Are you excited for Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen? Do you like the addition of Ed Skrein to the cast? If not, who would you put in the role of Ben Daimio? Let me know/drop a comment below!

Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen is aiming for a 2018 release date.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Harry Potter Day] Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Director: David Yates

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Ron Perlman, Colin Farrell

Screenplay: J.K. Rowling

133 mins. Rated PG-13 for some fantasy action violence.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Costume Design
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design

 

Today, to honor the 19th Anniversary of The Battle of Hogwarts, we look back at the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a film that exists in the Wizarding World Cinematic Universe (yep, that happened) but takes place decades before Harry Potter was even born.

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything, Jupiter Ascending) has arrived in 1926 New York with a mysterious case full of amazing and exotic creatures, but when a tiny mix-up with aspiring baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler, TV’s Secrets and Lies, Kung Fu Panda) causes several of his fantastic beasts to be released upon the No-Maj (America’s term for Muggles) society. Now, it is up to Newt, Kowalski, and ex-auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston, Inherent Vice, Steve Jobs) to retrieve the missing creatures before they are discovered by the non-magical citizens of New York City.

There are many things to love about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but I have to start with the performances. Eddie Redmayne absolutely disappears within his role as Newt and becomes the magi-zoologist with apparent ease, and his foil in Kowalski is expertly lovable and comedic due to Fogler’s performance. I was also blown away by Ezra Miller’s (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Suicide Squad) work as Credence Barebone, the adopted son of a religious zealot being manipulated by the sinister Auror Percival Graves (Colin Farrell, Phone Booth, Solace). There’s also some nice supporting work from Samantha Morton (TV’s Harlots, John Carter), Jon Voight (TV’s Ray Donovan, Mission: Impossible), and Ron Perlman (TV’s Hand of God, Hellboy).

The collaboration between screenwriter J.K. Rowling and director David Yates (The Legend of Tarzan, The Girl in the Café), who has now directed five films in this franchise, is electric to say the least. Yates has an understanding of how to treat the fans, and Rowling’s decision to use creatures hinted at in the books and previous films to further enhance the experience is something to dazzle at. For me, getting to see an actual Bowtruckle and Nifler, two creatures mentioned in novels but never put to film, was very exciting.

I also would like to point out the excellent score in the film, courtesy of James Newton Howard. Howard is one of my favorite working film composers, and his work here is some of his best. When you compare the score of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to, say, something like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, it is clear to see where one score outdid the other. Howard’s music entices us with callbacks to the original music, and when it does, it’s pitch perfect, but at the same time, he creates a plethora of new music to further guide this franchise into the future.

As for issues, I felt like the New Salem Philanthropic Society felt a little rushed in their exposition. I would like to know more about them but they don’t get the full exposition needed to really consider them a threat. The same thing with Jon Voight’s character, Henry Shaw, and the secondary plot thread with him doesn’t really go anywhere. Finally, as for the twist (if you can call it that), it’s a little easy to spot, and I feel like there was a better way to do what was done at the end of the film. Thankfully, these problems only affect secondary characters and our main characters are more or less unaffected by them.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an exquisite and sophisticated return to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Thanks to some clever callbacks to creatures and major plot points of the franchise like the Deathly Hallows, the film feels new but also honors what came before. It’s a clever film that will have something for everyone, as long as they are a Harry Potter fan. I don’t think this new entry will win over any new fans, but anyone who has taken the ride this long shouldn’t have any trouble going around again.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Chris Columbus’ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, click here.

[Early Review] American Pastoral (2016)

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Director: Ewan McGregor

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning, Rupert Evans, Valorie Curry

Screenplay: John Romano

126 mins. Rated R for some strong sexual material, language and brief violent images.

 

I was blessed to have seen American Pastoral last night with a friend. Not a film that I had heard much news from, I was aware of the novel written by Philip Roth. I hadn’t read it, but I’d heard good things. So with American Pastoral the film, I was more intrigued by Ewan McGregor’s directing debut. Nowadays, many actors are finding themselves as successful or more behind the camera, and I was interested by McGregor’s choice to start here.

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Seymour “Swede” Levov (McGregor) had always been remembered as the star athlete from high school, the man who married high school sweetheart and beauty queen Dawn (Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind, Noah), a man who seemingly had the perfect life. But as Swede’s brother Jerry (Rupert Evans, Hellboy, The Boy) recalls, things changed pretty quickly for Levov not long after starting a family. As his daughter Merry (Dakota Fanning, War of the Worlds, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2) matured, she began to think more radically and hang out with a more dangerous crowd, a decision that would tear the Swede’s world apart.

American Pastoral almost holds it all together. Almost. It starts with a great performance from McGregor, and as the film progresses, you can see hints of genius, but they are muddled down with inexperience. The entire first act of the film is strangely unhinged. It starts with a poorly hewn together framing device featuring David Strathairn asking about the Swede at a high school reunion. The framing device isn’t unnecessary, but it isn’t done well. It features Strathairn as a writer relaying through voiceover and it feels so Lifetime Channel-y. That leads into the first act where it feels like people are reading from cue cards. It isn’t until the plot’s true inciting incident where the film comes together, and from there, it does get better, but everything before comes off a little too perfect.

The performances get better as the film progresses, but I have to point out the solid supporting work from Peter Riegert and Uzo Aduba as Swede’s father and his top employee, respectively. Valorie Curry (TV’s The Following, Blair Witch) is also enchantingly disturbed as a woman with connections to Merry’s radical group.

The cinematography and editing make the film a little too plain, not something exciting and powerful, which is how the story should feel. This is difficult subject material, and there are many times when the film is full of pain, but the film doesn’t convey it well to the audience. The issue of the makeup effects too looks bad, particularly around Rupert Evans in the present-day scenes.

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Sadly, American Pastoral shows signs of greatness, but there just isn’t enough of it, as the film dances around in monotony and sinks in uninspired bliss. Ewan McGregor and Dakota Fanning shine in their performances, but it isn’t enough to push this film over the finish line.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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