Review of “Border”

Tina (Eva Melander) is a border guard at a harbor where a ferry docks, making sure no one is bringing contraband into Sweden. Tina has an amazing sense of smell. She can smell emotions coming from people. Whether it’s guilt, fear, panic or shame, Tina can smell it. Tina is a unique looking person with a heavy brow ridge, broad nose and ruddy skin. She has a similar appearance to an artist impression of Neanderthals. Tina lives in a small house in the woods with a man named Roland (Jorgen Thorsson). He raises and trains dogs and those dogs don’t like Tina, barking at her constantly. While at work, Tina senses a man has contraband and her fellow guard finds a memory card containing child pornography. The suspect won’t give any details about where the child porn was made police don’t know where to look. They approach Tina to use her sense of smell to find and shut down the operation. Back at the harbor, a man walks through customs that looks similar to Tina. His name is Vore (Eero Milonoff) and he tells Tina he is visiting the city for a few days and staying at a hostel. Tina’s father (Sten Ljunggren) is in a nursing home and is showing signs of dementia. He has told Tina she suffers with a chromosomal defect, explaining her appearance and sense of smell. Tina looks for Vore at the hostel and brings him home to live in a small guest house behind her home. Vore makes Roland and Tina’s neighbors feel uneasy. Vore suggests Tina does not have any genetic defect at all and hints he knows more about her than she does, but he is slow to give her information. Tina has always felt like an outsider, but Vore makes her feel like she’s part of something bigger; but is she also part of something darker.

“Border” is a Swedish film with subtitles. I know having to read while watching your movies is a deal breaker for many of you, but I would ask that you give “Border” a chance. It is truly unlike anything you’ve seen in the movies this year and possibly ever.

Eva Melander plays the role of Tina, the lonely and unconventional-looking woman border guard with the unusual sense of smell. Melander put on a great deal of weight and endured four hour daily prosthetic makeup applications to play the part. Buried under the latex brow, nose and cheeks plus the artificial teeth, Melander must have found a freedom to portray Tina as an otherworldly person. There a raw, animal-like personae Tina radiates throughout the film that leads the audience to believe she has been resurrected from prehistoric DNA found in Neanderthal bones recovered from a cave. Her sense of smell suggests something even more bizarre. Her animal nature really pops when she catches a scent of someone that’s done something wrong. Her upper lip twitches and her eyes become fixed on her target. She’s on the hunt and nothing will shake her off.

Melander’s performance is subtle while also mesmerizing. There’s a sadness and sense of acceptance of her lonely life that Melander emits through her performance. We don’t need to be told Tina is lonely because we see it in her posture and her dead eyes. The only time Tina shows much life is when she is at work and picks up a scent. It’s a shockingly great performance that doesn’t bowl you over with over-the-top emotional displays and lots of shouting. That isn’t to say there aren’t emotions and loud voices conveyed by Tina. As she becomes aware of her true existence, she lets her father know just how angry she is. She tells her roommate to get out in terms that make it clear she’s serious. By the time these events occur, you are completely on board with how she feels and the choices she makes. Melander is amazing in the role and should win every award for which she is nominated.

Eero Milonoff is Vore. He is even more animalistic in the role than Melander. Vore knows who he is and is proud of his heritage. He has a chip on his shoulder and his every action is in service to get his revenge on those he blames for hurting him. Milonoff as Vore has a smile that reeks of evil and probably also of maggots as he is shown picking them off a tree and eating them. Vore is a predator, but he also loves Tina. He wants to show Tina the world she’s been missing because she’s trying to fit in with normal society. Vore wants her to accept she isn’t like everyone else and never will be. He will go to unusual lengths to try and open her eyes to a world she’s never known and get her to join him in it.

Milonoff also had to go through long makeup sessions each day to become Vore. Being covered and almost consumed by a mask probably forced Milonoff to tap into some hidden part of himself, allowing him to find malevolence and a lack of compassion. Vore is involved in some awful things and will go to any length to protect himself, but he will also show compassion and tenderness to Tina. Milonoff plays a horrendous character but manages to be somewhat sympathetic. It is a difficult balancing act that only tips to one side when the full scope of his depravity is exposed. And even then, we want there to be some sort of resolution that allows Vore and Tina to be together. This is more to relieve her loneliness than to benefit him. Milonoff gives a masterful performance as a terrible creature.

“Border” is rated R for some sexual content, graphic nudity, a bloody violent image, and language. The film contains one of the most bizarre sex scenes ever. I can’t say much more about it since it’s a spoiler but, be prepared as you’ll never forget it. We see Tina fully nude on a couple of occasions. There’s a murder victim shown with a significant gash on his head and a great deal of blood around him. Foul language is scattered and mild.

“Border” is a slow burn that requires the viewers patience. It takes its time building its world in the first half then spends the second half destroying it while also blowing the minds of everyone watching. It also isn’t your typical Hollywood blockbuster, or mega-star drama, or action movie or anything else you’ve seen before. It’s worth the time and effort to see it at an arthouse theater or to wait for it on one of the streaming rental platforms. It is a unique experience in amazing storytelling and the art of a couple of surprises. Take a chance and see it. I loved it.

“Border” gets five stars.

This week, I’ll be reviewing “Mule” for WIMZ.com.

Also coming out this week:

Mortal Engines—

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse—

Listen for the latest news in TV, streaming and movies on The Fractured Frame, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “The Possession of Hannah Grace”

Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell) is a former cop who froze when an armed suspect killed her partner. To deal with her grief and guilt, Megan abuses drugs and alcohol, losing her job as a cop and leading to the end of her relationship with fellow cop Andrew Kurtz (Grey Damon). After going to AA, Megan is clean and restarting her life. Her AA sponsor Lisa Roberts (Stana Katic) is a nurse at a hospital. A job opens in the hospital’s morgue for an overnight attendant and Lisa suggests Megan apply for it. Megan gets the job and will be working alone, checking in corpses from both the hospital and those delivered to the morgue by ambulance services. She photographs the body, takes their fingerprints running them through a system to verify their identities, and stores them in cabinets to wait for pickup by a funeral home or be incinerated. A body brought in appears to have been partially burned and has deep cuts to the neck and torso. The corpse’ eyes are open with one brown eye and one very bright blue eye. The camera and fingerprint reader both malfunction when Megan tries to check the body in. The cabinet door where the body is stored keeps popping open. Megan is also having hallucinations she initially believes is related to her stress and recovery; however, that may not be the case. Megan learns the body is Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson), a young woman that died during an exorcism three months earlier. The body shows no signs of decay and, according to the EMT that brought her in, the wounds on her neck and torso and the burns are all new. A strange man sneaks into the morgue and tries to incinerate the body but is stopped by Megan and a couple of hospital security guards. This corpse is seeing almost as much action after death as it did in life; but there’s still some kick left in the old meat bag and by the end of the night there will be more bodies on ice in the hospital’s basement.

“The Possession of Hannah Grace” is just ok. The trailer for the film is far more intriguing and terrifying than the full movie. With a running time of only 86 minutes, you’ll leave the theater thinking it was much longer. Aside from a couple of scares and a creepy demon-controlled corpse, “The Possession of Hannah Grace” is only slightly better than what gets parodied on “MST3K.”

The first troubling bit about the movie is nitpicky on my part. I’m more than willing to admit that in advance. This hospital in Boston, a major American city, has only one person working overnight intake in its morgue. That makes absolutely no sense. If you have access to the Discovery Life channel, you may have seen a reality show filming the doctors and nurses in a Boston emergency room. The ER was constantly getting new patients with varying complaints (I understand a day or multiple days was compressed into an hour of television) at all hours of the day and night and not everyone survived. That was just one part of the hospital. I am certain more than one person would need to be on duty in the morgue 24 hours a day. Also, this morgue was taking bodies delivered by ambulance services that didn’t come from the hospital. That doesn’t seem right. If a crime victim is found dead the corpse is transported to the city or county morgue, not a local hospital. Again, I know this is me thinking too much about the minor details, but I found it distracting through the whole film.

There is also the clunky nature of how the relationships between the main character and a couple of others is handled. Megan and Andrew’s relationship ended before the movie starts. While we don’t know how long they’ve been broken up, it can’t have been too long as we find out Megan has been sober for about 68 days and her behavior while using led to their split. There is enough passive-aggressiveness on both sides that shows they were never a good couple, despite her substance abuse. Neither comes off as a quality person until the plot demands some selflessness from both of them. Their past relationship and the fallout from it seem like a bit of filler material thrown in to pad a short running time.

The same can be said for Megan and Lisa’s interactions. Lisa is Megan’s AA sponsor and is properly supportive in helping Megan get a job and starting to return to sober society. It’s when things start to get weird that the relationship takes an odd turn. Finding a bottle of pills next to Megan’s purse, Lisa becomes the grand inquisitor, questioning and mildly berating Megan. Megan isn’t using the pills and explains it’s a comfort device, like a former smoker keeping a last cigarette. Her tone immediately shifts from interrogator to disappointed mom and claims to trust her in a way that says, “I don’t trust you.” None of the person-to-person dialog in the film feels natural or would ever happen in real life.

The best part of “The Possession of Hannah Grace” is the creepy corpse that won’t stay still and never blinks; but even that has some confounding weirdness to it. The demon possessing Hannah Grace is supposed to be so powerful it cannot be exorcised, but it apparently can only do one trick: Making people levitate. Everyone we see it kill during the film dies in roughly the same way. The demon raises the victim off the ground then they are moved back and forth, up and down, until they are either impaled on something or they are taken off screen to die. There are a few exceptions, but the M.O. is pretty much the same. As demons go, this one is pretty dull. There are plenty of sharp implements in the morgue that could have flown up from their trays and drawers and been used to stab victims to death. One assumes a demon has some power over fire and can spontaneously generate it, or pull it from a source like the incinerator, and burn some people alive. While we do see a victim’s neck broken telekinetically, this demon is apparently on the lower end of the power ratings in Hell.

“The Possession of Hannah Grace” is rated R for gruesome images and terror throughout. Terror might be a strong term to use for what happens in the film. If you’ve been in an underground bunker for the last 50 years then yes, it might be terrifying. A priest is shown impaled through the head. Hannah’s corpse is shown partially burned with deep lacerations on the neck and the torso. Despite the rating, I don’t recall any foul language.

There was an interesting story thread that, like most of the script, was left hanging with no resolution or suggestion of a continuation. The demon seems to spare Megan. She could have been one of the earliest victims, but she survives. There’s one scene where it even seems to caress Megan. That dangling plot point could have been explored in a much better movie. We’ll probably never know if there’s some reason why Megan was spared as the film is doing only so-so box office and a sequel is very unlikely. That fine, as “The Possession of Hannah Grace” isn’t a story I need to see continue.

“The Possession of Hannah Grace” gets two stars out of five.

There are no new movies coming out in wide release this week. I may see some current art house releases like Melissa McCarthy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” or the Swedish sci-fi/thriller “Border.” Perhaps I’ll check out some of the wide releases I haven’t seen like “Creed II” or “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” The world is my oyster and I’m going to slurp it up…then immediately regret the decision.

Listen to The Fractured Frame for movie, TV and streaming news. It’s available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Ralph Breaks the Internet”

After Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) creates a new race track in her video game Sugar Rush, Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman) is trying it out for the first time. The human playing the game thinks it’s malfunctioning and accidentally breaks off the steering wheel. When arcade owner Mr. Litwak (voiced by Ed O’Neill) tries to reattach the wheel it breaks. Kids in the arcade check the internet on their phones and find a new replacement part on eBay that costs $200.00. Mr. Litwak thinks this is too much to pay and decides to unplug the game, leaving Vanellope and all the characters in the game homeless. Mr. Litwak has recently installed a wireless router in the arcade, providing wifi access to the internet. Ralph and Vanellope decide to go on the internet and get the part needed to repair Sugar Rush. Entering the World Wide Web, Ralph and Vanellope discover social media, an MMORPG called Slaughter Race and its lead character Shank (voiced by Gal Gadot), a search engine called KnowsMore (voiced by Alan Tudyk), video sharing site BuzzzVideo and its algorithm Yesss (voiced by Taraji P. Henson), pop-up ads and even the dark internet. The trip outside the arcade opens Vanellope’s eyes to the potential of something more than Sugar Rush while it strains her friendship with Ralph.

“Ralph Breaks the Internet” does much of what “Wreck-It Ralph” did in being a nostalgic look at old school cabinet video games while also opening the world to the internet. There is plenty the audience will recognize of the internet in the film. Familiar names like Google, eBay, Snapchat and Twitter get ample screen time while other well-known websites, I assume they didn’t allow their names to be used, are referenced with similar sounding names and similar looking logos. The personification of pop-up ads, search engines, video-viewing likes and even viruses turns something we know about and use everyday into something we can visualize. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” brings to life the good and bad of the web while also telling a story of friendship that works for children told in a way that also entertains adults.

The voice cast of the film is terrific with much of the original film’s voices returning. John C. Reilly gives the oversized and under-brained Ralph a personality that is both grating and charming. Ralph always means well but doesn’t give as much thought to his plans as he should. His love for Vanellope leads him to make selfish mistakes that endanger her and their friendship. Reilly sells Ralph’s desperation and his insecurity in his voice acting and makes clear he still has a great deal to learn about being a good friend.

Sarah Silverman’s Vanellope is a sweet and enthusiastic character that runs counter to what we see of the real Silverman and in her standup. Vanellope loves Ralph and is thrilled to go on adventures in the other arcade video games with him, but as the movie progresses and the two venture onto the web, her eyes are opened to the bigger digital world and the possibilities it holds. Vanellope still cares for Ralph but she also wants more for herself. It’s like that old song about keeping the kids on the farm after they’ve seen Paris. Silverman’s high-pitched squeaky voice suits the look of her character perfectly. The actress’ smart aleck personality shines through and it adds to her vocal performance.

Another standout is Gal Gadot as the video game character Shank. Shank is tough and ruthless but has a streak of kindness in her. Shank appears to be designed to resemble Gadot and perhaps that combination is what makes the character so appealing. Shank takes on a mentoring role for Vanellope, giving her a sounding board to work out her confusion over her future. Godot’s warm voice, with a hint of her Israeli accent, makes these scenes with Vanellope that much more effective. If there’s a third “Ralph” film I hope Shank plays a big part in the story.

A big part of the marketing for “Ralph Breaks the Internet” was the appearance of all the Disney princesses. While it isn’t a huge part of the story it does provide a pivot point, sending Vanellope down a road of self-discovery. The gathering of princesses, old and new with the original voice actresses when available, is about as meta a moment as has ever been on film. That it happens in a Disney film is nothing short of a miracle. The scene calls out commonly used tropes in Disney films regarding female characters: They are frequently kidnapped, the focus of some sort of pursuit or persecution and most of them are orphans or lost a parent at a young age. The scene is played for laughs, and it works, but perhaps this signals a shift in how women are portrayed in Disney and Pixar films. Moana and Merida haven’t fallen into the common stereotype. While I’m probably giving the scene too much thought, it was enjoyable seeing all the princesses on screen together and not having to complete some epic quest.

“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is rated PG for some action and rude humor. The action usually involves a character falling from a tall building. One character is nearly crushed and there is a car chase in Slaughter Race that puts a couple of characters in peril. There are other moments when a character faces being wiped out of existence. Rude humor consists mostly of references to “butts” and one use of the word “fart.”

“Ralph Breaks the Internet” manages to tell a story that is interesting to both children and the adults that brought them to the theater. There are laughs that also transcend generations. While seeing this film will be more likely to have an audience member marvel loudly at the presence of Anna from “Frozen,” it’s a small price to pay for a movie that is so colorful, so funny, so entertaining, so emotional and so good.

“Ralph Breaks the Internet” gets five stars.

There’s only one new movie opening this week. Why a horror movie is opening the week after Thanksgiving is anyone’s guess, but I will probably see and review it. It does look creepy.

The Possession of Hannah Grace—

Listen to The Fractured Frame for the latest news in movies, TV and streaming. It’s available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @movimanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Widows”

A crew of armed robbers led by Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) conduct big money heists in and around Chicago. They are very good at what they do, but one night their luck runs out. A shootout in a garage with police causes an explosion of compressed gas canisters, killing Rawlings and his three accomplices. Rawlings wife Veronica (Viola Davis) is left to grieve her loss, but she also has a much bigger problem. The target of Rawlings last job was gangster turned aspiring politician Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry). Rawlings and his crew stole $2-million and Manning wants it back to use in his campaign for a seat on the Chicago Board of Aldermen. Manning give Veronica one month to come up with the money or he’ll kill her. Manning’s opponent for the seat is Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), the son of long-time alderman Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall). Jack is reluctantly following in his father’s footsteps but is just as corrupt and bigoted as him. Manning and Mulligan are in a tight race and that $2-million could be important in the final push to election day. Rawlings kept a notebook of all his jobs, including his next one that has a potential take of $5-million. Veronica recruits the widows of Harry’s crew: Linda Perelli (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice Gunner (Elizabeth Debicki). The fourth widow Amanda Nunn (Carrie Coon) has a newborn baby and doesn’t want to be involved in the plan. Each woman has their strengths and weaknesses and Veronica is the leader despite rubbing her partners the wrong way. A fourth woman, Belle (Cynthia Erivo), who babysits for Linda and works at a hair salon that’s being shaken down by Jack Mulligan, joins the crew as a driver. The group of inexperienced robbers have just a few days left before the one-month deadline passes and must learn to work together as a team to pull off a complicated plan to save their lives.

“Widows” is a smart heist movie. It shows us almost all the parts of the plan but holds just enough back to allow for a few surprises. The film also drops personal nuggets about the main relationship in the story, between Harry and Veronica, that are mysteries at first. As the film moves along, we get explanations to these mysteries and reasons for moments of drama and sadness. Director Steve McQueen has taken what could have been a very average crime flick and turned it into a relationship drama between the four women and the ghosts of their husbands. The amazing thing is it works no matter what part of the story is the highlight at any given moment.

Viola Davis gives a masterpiece of a performance as Veronica. The grieving widow shows us flashbacks to better times with her and Harry. We also get a look at their darkest time during the loss of their son. It’s a tough and intense performance that was likely emotionally tiring for Davis. She is called upon to cry approximately a dozen times throughout the film. Veronica rarely smiles when she’s on screen. The one time she does, it looks like it takes all the strength she has. Davis is a warrior and a leader as Veronica. She isn’t always the most likable character, but her motivations are understandable. She is under the gun, literally, and has a plan in place to get Manning his money. She can’t waste time with weakness, mistakes and stupidity. Despite her own inexperience as a thief, Veronica must put on a brave face. In quiet times alone in her home, Veronica can barely get out of bed, but somehow finds the strength to lead her crew. While this may not be the kind of film that gets Oscar recognition, Davis deserves serious consideration for best actress.

The rest of the supporting cast is excellent. A standout is Daniel Kaluuya as Jatemme Manning, the brother and bloodthirsty enforcer for Jamal Manning. He has a crazy look in his eye all the time. He gets in people’s faces to intimidate them and is quick to pull the trigger. Kaluuya doesn’t have many lines in the film, but his character doesn’t need many to get his point across. A simple wave, smile and wink have the opposite of those gestures usual meanings when Kaluuya’s character uses them. He’s a bully but can also back up his threats by carrying them out. You may have loved his character in “Get Out,” but you won’t be a big fan of Jatemme Manning in “Widows.”

The story of “Widows” doesn’t stick to one topic. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker that might have been a problem; however, Steve McQueen handles the various topics in the film with an even hand and laser focus. While the heist planning and execution is the focus, the story veers into politics and the corruption Chicago is famous for. The family dynasty at risk, the kickbacks, the payoffs, the quid pro quo, all is on display in the film. Embedded in the corruption is racism and misogyny. Davis delivers a line about no one believing the women have the balls to pull off the job and she’s right. Mulligan uses a group of women business owners as a prop during a campaign appearance but doesn’t let them speak. Mulligan has a female assistant that is frequently referred to in derogatory terms or ogled like a piece of meat. A couple of the wives are used and abused by their husbands. One of the wives becomes an escort to make ends meet. While her client appears to be a decent guy that can afford to pay for her company, he winds up treating her more as an employee than a partner. It’s a movie with many messages and most of them are powerful men suck.

“Widows” is rated R for some sexual content/nudity, language throughout and violence. There is a brief sex scene that shows a man’s bare backside and a woman’s breasts. There are some bloody shootings and a scene where stabbing is used as torture. There is also a scene showing the aftermath of domestic abuse. A mother slaps her adult daughter. Foul language is common.

“Widows” doesn’t waste time trying to convince us anyone in the film is a good guy or a bad guy. The real villains wear suits and the women commit a crime to save their lives. There is no black and white in “Widows” only varying shades of grey. It’s a tense film with the looming dread of death hanging over all the characters. Who lives and dies is always in doubt. While you may question whether a group of inexperienced people could pull off such a complicated robbery, you will be thrilled by all the planning, details and the execution. It’s a fantastic film and you should see it.

“Widows” gets five stars.

The holiday weekend sees most releases opening on Wednesday. I’ll see at least one of the following:

Creed 2—

Green Book—

Ralph Breaks the Internet—

Robin Hood—

The Front Runner—

Listen to The Fractured Frame for the latest news in TV, movies and streaming available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Overlord”

It’s the hours before D-Day during World War II and American paratroopers, led by explosives expert Cpl. Ford (Wyatt Russell), are sent to destroy a Nazi radio tower behind enemy lines in German-controlled France. Destroying the tower will disrupt Nazi communications and allow air cover for the hundreds of thousands of allied troops coming ashore at Normandy. The plane carrying the paratroops flies into heavy anti-aircraft fire and is coming apart before everyone can jump. A few of the soldiers survive and meet up on the ground: Ford, Pvt. Boyce (Jovan Adepo), Tibbet (John Magaro), Chase (Iain De Caestecker) and Dawson (Jacob Anderson). Dawson steps on a landmine, reducing their number to four. While walking through the forest to get to town, the Americans run into Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), a resident in the village. Unsure if she’s a Nazi sympathizer at first, Chloe quickly proves she is not and houses the Americans in her home with her ailing aunt and little brother Paul (Gianny Taufer). The radio tower is on the grounds of a church with dozens of Nazi troops stationed there. Chloe says there’s more going on at the church besides communications. Nazi doctors are conducting horrible experiments on both the living and the dead, trying to create super soldiers to ensure victory and a thousand-year Reich. Chloe’s aunt was a subject of those experiments and she’s now covered in blisters and her breathing is labored and wet. Commanding the Nazi base is Captain Wafner (Pilou Asbaek), a cruel overseer that uses threats of sending Paul to the church to force sexual favors from Chloe. Sent out to retrieve Tibbet and Chase on a recon mission, Boyce accidently gets inside the Nazi base. There he sees the radio room, but also finds the lab where the experiments are carried out and puts a syringe filled with a reddish fluid in his pocket. He also finds Rosenfeld (Dominic Applewhite), a fellow paratrooper who was captured as soon as he hit the ground. Boyce and Rosenfeld manage to get back to the house and Boyce tells everyone what he’s seen. Ford wants everyone focused on the mission and they are running out of time to bring down the tower. Boyce believes they should destroy the lab as well.

“Overlord” is a bit of revisionist history wrapped up in an exciting action/war/monster movie. It attaches a flight of fancy to an all-too-real moment in one of the darkest periods in modern world history. Quentin Tarantino did something similar with his assassination of Hitler storyline in “Inglorious Basterds.” Produced by JJ Abrams and his production company Bad Robot, “Overlord” was thought to be a third sequel to “Cloverfield,” but this proved to be just a rumor. What isn’t a rumor is that “Overlord” is a fun, gory, action-filled adventure that as a whole is better than some of its parts.

The story in “Overlord” is fanciful but the most believable thing about the movie. If a classified Defense Department document was released that proved American intelligence had discovered such a Nazi program after the war, would anyone seriously question its veracity? No, they wouldn’t, as the Nazis were an amoral group that would cross any line, defy any border of decency, to further their twisted agenda. There are documented medical experiments conducted at the concentration camps by Dr. Mengele and others that have no merit at all and are best described as atrocities and crimes against humanity. Believing these criminals would take the next steps to try to create undead super soldiers isn’t that big a leap.

The film makes the mistake of giving a mysterious reason for the experiments succeeding: There’s something in the ground of this French village that provides the spark to reanimate corpses. It is never named or explained but is referred to on a couple of occasions. Nazi evil ingenuity and lack of decency are the only reasons needed for the experiments. A magical element or chemical actually takes the Nazis off the hook a bit as any military would likely conduct similar research if they had access to a reanimation elixir.

The film also plays with historical accuracy by putting a couple of African-American soldiers amongst the paratroopers and has an African-American in command, Sgt. Eldson (Bokeem Woodbine), of the mixed-race squad. During most of American history, African-American soldiers were in segregated units. They served together under the command of African-American officers, often in support roles such as truck drivers. Their barracks, training, church attendance, canteens and even marching in parades, were segregated from white soldiers. They were subject to racial epithets and abuse from soldier and officer alike. Why anyone would put their lives at risk to fight for a country that treated them so badly is a mystery to me, but they did fight with honor and distinction. Perhaps “Overlord” would have been a better movie if the entire group of soldiers was African-American and, despite the doubts of the white commanders back in relative safety on a base, the group prevailed and wiped out the Nazis. I understand the desire to present the story in a colorblind way; however, from the moment Boyce appears on screen and doesn’t face racially-based verbal abuse, it took me out of the movie for a time. Even the Nazis don’t make a comment about Boyce. Again, I understand this isn’t a Spike Lee movie, but I think it’s something that should have been acknowledged.

Despite its shortcomings, “Overlord” is a very fun and exciting movie. Any film that kills Nazis is okay by me. I also liked the look of the lab where the experiments were carried out. It looks very medical while also looking very medieval. The overall design of the lab is a mixture of hospital and torture chamber. The monster design is a bit all over the road as we primarily see the experiments’ failures, but near the end of the film, a couple of successes show up. One transformation from dead to undead is spectacular as boils begin popping up, the veins in the arms grow and change color, the eyes turn red and the head snaps back to the point where its laying upside down on the body’s back. There are more details about this transformation that I’ll leave out, but it is an amazing bit of practical and digital special effects. There may be a bit too much chitchat between the protagonists as they debate what they are going to do next. Time seems to be slipping away as they must destroy the radio tower before the invasion begins at 6 am and don’t have a plan until they stumble into one by mistake. Once they begin the mission, the accelerator is pushed to the floor and things don’t slow down until just before the credits roll.

“Overlord” is rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing images, language, and brief sexual content. The violence is sometimes graphic and other times mundane. There are shootings with blood spray, beatings that leave faces bloody and, in real life, would lead to broken jaws. Gunshot wounds that leave gaping holes in faces are seen a couple of times. Various bodies show damage ranging from ripped out necks and large holes in torsos. A couple of characters are blow up by explosives. There’s a great deal of gore so if that bothers you, don’t see the movie. There’s a scene where the German officer begins raping Chloe. There’s no nudity but his actions are graphic. There’s a second brief scene of an attempted rape. Foul language is common.

“Overlord” works in the end because everyone hates Nazis (well, almost everyone) and wants to see their plans for world domination fail. It also meshes well with the idea that Germany would, at this time, conduct experiments to create soldiers out of corpses as they had no decency or respect for either the living or the dead. There’s plenty of action, likable characters, a much-hated villain, a cute little kid and the fate of the free world on the line. Despite a few missteps, “Overlord” delivers an enjoyable adventure with copious amounts of core.

“Overlord” gets four stars out of five.

This week’s films run the gamut from the wizarding world to cute orphans to tough widows. I’ll review at least one of the following:

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald—

Instant Family—

Widows—

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Review of “Hunter Killer”

Commander Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) has just been put in command of the nuclear submarine USS Arkansas. This is his first command and the higher ups are nervous about having someone inexperienced in charge of a submarine armed with nuclear missiles; especially right now. Things have grown more tense with Russia and one of our nuclear subs, the USS Tampa Bay, has gone missing 40 miles off the coast of Russia in the Tamarin Sea. It was trailing a Russian sub when an explosion sends it to the bottom. The Tampa Bay was then hit by a torpedo and sunk as well. Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) is visiting one of his country’s naval bases when Defense Minister Dimitri Durov (Mikhail Gorevoy) takes him hostage in the beginning of a coup. Durov intends to start a war with the United States to reestablish Russia as a world power to be feared and respected. A SEAL team led by Lt. Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens) is sent to observe the base and beams video of the coup back to Washington. Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common) and NSA senior analyst Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini) suggest the SEAL team rescue Zakarin and get him to safety on board the Arkansas. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman) thinks the only realistic response is to gather American forces and prepare to face the Russians. Even the slightest mistake could plunge humanity into World War III.

“Hunter Killer” is the designation given to submarines that hunt other submarines. They carry out other duties, but their primary mission is to look for enemy subs and destroy them. We get a bit of the dangerous cat-and-mouse game these subs play as “Hunter Killer” starts. It seems like a frequently tense but also usually dull way to serve your nation. Since this is a movie, the action is ladled on thick and heavy from the beginning. As long as you don’t think too much about it, the movie is a fun nautical and political action/thriller; however, give it one second of scrutiny and the film falls apart from the weight of its own silliness.

The most realistic thing about “Hunter Killer” is the possibility of a Russian president being overthrown in a coup. It nearly happened to Russia’s first popularly elected president Boris Yeltsin in 1993. A struggling economy, widespread corruption and some unconstitutional orders from Yeltsin led to an armed uprising to depose him. Military coups happen all over the world, so the possibility of something similar happening in Russia isn’t farfetched. That’s about the only thing in the film that doesn’t make you wonder.

There are several strange choices made by the filmmakers as they created the world of “Hunter Killer.” First, the likelihood a SEAL team could get close enough to a Russian naval base to be able to see anything of importance is minimal. The fjord that leads to the base is filled with acoustic sensors and mines, but there seems to be very little security in the water right in front of the base. There are also only a few surveillance cameras keeping an eye on the outside of the building, allowing our SEAL team to walk up unnoticed, even giving them time to stop and have a conversation with someone that might be willing to help.

Did you know submarines can turn on a dime? I didn’t either, but in “Hunter Killer” they can! Commander Glass plays chicken with sunken submarines and underwater cliff walls, turning just in time to save his ship and crew. I don’t know anything about the handling capabilities of a submarine, but I don’t think it’s capable of performing tight turns and quick evasive maneuvers as shown in the film.

The unlikely nature of most of the story is offset by a very likable cast and a fast-moving plot. Since most of the characters are never in the same scene at the same time, each group must anchor their parts of the story. If any of the story arcs were populated by someone miscast or just plain annoying, then it would likely have caused the movie to lose its only strength.

Gerard Butler leads a cast of mostly unknown actors playing the submariners in one prong of the story. Butler has the stoic look of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He makes a honest and heartfelt announcement to the crew before they get underway, telling them he isn’t an Annapolis graduate, but a hard-working sailor that worked his way up the ranks to command the Arkansas. Butler plays the role as a father figure, trying to guide his men without being too hands on. Glass done all their jobs and could probably do some of them better, but he also knows his crew is well trained and prepared for whatever comes their way. They are heading into uncharted waters, so to speak, and failure likely means their deaths and the beginning of World War III. Butler purses his lips in times of quiet stress as many people do. He’s an “every man” trying to make the right decisions to complete his mission and avoid starting a war. Butler is like the perfect TV dad in charge of a warship. I enjoyed his performance.

Another group with their own story is the SEAL team. Toby Stephens plays the tough-as-nails leader of the team. With two veteran SEALs and a rookie that is the focus of much of Lt. Beaman’s ire for his training shortfalls, the team will be disavowed should they be captured. The leave any identifying personal belongings on the plane before they jump into a thunderstorm, something we learned in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” was a bad idea. Despite the constant ribbing of the rookie, Beaman likes and respects his men and knows they are the best trained and most competent team of commandos in the world. Stephens embodies Beaman, wearing the uniform like a second skin. They may not have been real SEALs but these four guys certainly looked and moved like what I would believe is a SEAL team. I would have liked for the film to show us more of them.

Finally, there’s the bureaucrats in Washington making decisions for the rest of the world. Common is Rear Admiral Fisk, playing the role with a quiet confidence we see him exhibit in most of his acting roles. Linda Cardellini is the NSA senior analyst Jayne Norquist, sharing information and intelligence with Admiral Fisk and working to both find out what’s happening with the Russians and how to deal with the consequences. Norquist is a confident woman, sure of herself and her abilities. Cardellini isn’t given much to do except deliver information to guys in uniform, but she makes the most of her limited screen time. Gary Oldman is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Charles Donnegan, a man that likes to be in charge and is certain of his decisions. Oldman is probably the least served by the script that paints Donnegan as a man afraid of new ideas that quickly falls back on what he’s comfortable with when dealing with a challenge. A scene where Donnegan yells at Fisk when something tragic appears to have happened is a textbook example of scenery chewing from Oldman. The level of histrionics in his performance is almost laughable. I felt a bit bad for Oldman for having to put on such a display.

“Hunter Killer” is rated R for violence and some language. There are some beatings, stabbings and shootings in the film. There are some headshots with accompanying blood splatter. There is also a scene where a sailor is trapped in rising water under a torpedo. Foul language is scattered but includes some instances of the “F-bomb.”

With everything that’s wrong with “Hunter Killer,” I couldn’t help but like the film. The story moves at a quick pace and doesn’t feel like its running time of two hours. There is enough action and peril to keep your mind off the unlikelier aspects of the story. The characters are for the most part likable and, aside from the Russian bad guys, seem to be fairly grounded. All this combined to keep me interested in what would happen next, which characters were going to die and if our heroes could pull off an impossible rescue. In other words, the movie was entertaining, and I can’t ask for much more than that.

“Hunter Killer” gets four stars out of five.

This week I’ll be reviewing “Bohemian Rhapsody” for WIMZ.com.

Other films coming out this week that, if I have time, I may see and review are:

Nobody’s Fool (NSFW)—

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms—

Suspiria—

Listen to The Fractured Frame for the latest in movie, TV and streaming news available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Halloween 2018”

It’s been 40 years since the murderous rampage that wiped out the family and some friends of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). The person responsible for the carnage, Michael Myers (Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) has been locked up in a mental hospital ever since. His physician Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) has agreed to a allow a couple of podcasters, Dana Haines and Aaron Korey (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall), to talk with Michael. Michael is about to be transferred to a more secure, and less therapeutic, prison and the podcasters want to see if he will speak to them. Dr. Sartain, who took over after the death of Michael’s original psychiatrist Dr. Loomis, tells them Michael can speak but he chooses not to. The podcasters hold up Michael’s mask and get a mild reaction from him, but the other patients begin screaming and howling. Since the attack, Laurie has been preparing herself for the day she feels is inevitable: When Michael escapes and comes for her. Her obsession with security has driven away two husbands and alienated her daughter Karen (Judy Greer). The two women rarely speak. Karen’s daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) is in high school and would like to have a closer relationship with her grandmother. The tension between Laurie and Karen makes that difficult. While Michael is being transferred on a bus with several other mental patients, the bus crashes in a ditch and Michael escapes. Sheriff’s deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton) responds to the scene and finds several dead bodies. He soon learns that Michael Myers was on the bus and is unaccounted for. Michael tracks down the Dana and Aaron, kills them and gets his mask back. It’s Halloween night and Michael Myers is on the hunt for more victims and to finish up some 40 year old business.

This sequel to the original 1978 “Halloween” ignores all the sequels from “Halloween II” through “Halloween: Resurrection” and both the Rob Zombie-directed “Halloween” films. The film is a love letter to John Carpenter’s original slasher classic. Carpenter was involved in this movie’s creation and he provided the soundtrack built around his original score. It isn’t the most imaginative horror movie ever made but it is a loving tribute to the original film and to its knife-wielding antagonist as well as the damsel that is no longer in distress.

Written by Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley and David Gordon Green, and directed by Green, this film tells much the same story in much the same way as the original. Michael is an unstoppable killing machine that just can’t quite seal the deal with Laurie. Last time, she would escape by the skin of her teeth. This time, she still just barely escapes but causes more damage than their last meeting. The subject matter is treated as deadly serious in the script but there are moments of levity and a few characters that are strictly for comic relief. It makes this slasher film a bit more entertaining in between gruesome and gory deaths.

Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode is a far more complicated character than her teen scream queen of 40 years ago. Laurie tells Michael’s doctor that she has prayed every day for him to escape so she could kill him. She has turned her home into a fort with an arsenal of weapons, metal security doors that drop from the ceiling and a hidden access to her basement that works on hydraulics. She uses mannequins in her backyard for target practice, has floodlights on her roof that turn day to night and half a dozen locks on her doors to keep her safe. Curtis is a ball of anger and rage and she dominates the screen in ever scene she’s in. Her long grey hair is a symbol of her decades of worry and fear. She is the embodiment of PTSD. Laurie has run off (or worn out) two husbands and lost custody of her daughter at age 12 due to her obsession with preparedness. While she didn’t die at the point of Michael’s blade she has paid a high price for surviving and is hoping for some payback.

The rest of the cast performs their underwritten and underutilized parts as well as could be expected. Andi Matichak is given the most to do as the granddaughter of Laurie Strode. I believe Matichak’s Allyson is being set up as the next obsession of Michael Myers in future sequels. She is given a largely time-wasting subplot involving a boyfriend and a school Halloween dance. This is mostly just an excuse for her to lose her phone, making it impossible for her mother and grandmother to get in touch with her when the Michael hits the fan. Matichak isn’t a great actress but she gives an acceptable performance when she’s asked to look fearful and to scream.

The story of “Halloween” is a bit meandering with several side trips that eventually are made relevant by having a character show up that ties things together. We all know the point of this exercise is for Michael to kill people in gory ways. There are some nasty kills that I’m sure required the special effects shop to work overtime to pull off convincingly. There are also some kills that I found troubling: Namely the death of a preteen boy. Michael strangles then breaks the boy’s neck. This death felt especially gratuitous in a film filled with gratuitous violence. Perhaps the boy’s accidently shooting another character when he was startled is supposed to make it okay for him to be killed by Michael. Another scene in the film shows Michael walking past a crib containing a crying baby. Michael looks at the child and walks past, leaving the infant alone. Is there a line that even Michael won’t cross or was this a choice by the writers fearing the audience would turn against the movie if he killed a baby? Another child, older than the baby but younger than the murdered boy, manages to escape from Michael. We get to know this kid a little bit as he’s being babysat by one of Allyson’s friends. Why does this kid get to live but the first one has to die? The film seems a bit inconsistent with its victim selection. If you’re an adult, you’re fair game. If you’re a teenager, you’re fair game. If you’re 13 and carry a rifle, you’re fair game. Younger than that and you might be safe. It seems a bit arbitrary, especially since Michael is such an indiscriminate killer.

The movie also falls back on the tried and true teenage victim attributes: Sexual exploration, alcohol consumption and weed use virtually guarantee you will die at the hands of Michael Myers. Only one character shown drinking and kissing a sexily-costumed young woman that isn’t his girlfriend survives the night. I suppose if he’d been smoking weed and completed the Devil’s Triangle his fate would have been sealed as well. Many of the victims in slasher films of the 1970’s and 1980’s was participating in these activities as their killers approached. Perhaps Carpenter and others were trying to sneak a morality lesson into their works; but I believe the writers of this film were probably just trying to pay homage to the original “Halloween.”

“Halloween” is rated R for horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity. There are several gory murders including a head being stomped flat, a jaw that appears to have been partially ripped off, a decapitated head with a flashlight stuck in it, various strangling’s, shootings and neck breakings. We see one kid smoking a joint and there is also underage drinking. We see one young woman topless as she’s murdered. Foul language is scattered.

There are many scenes in this film that will remind fans of the 1978 classic. There are tributes dropped in here and there that those with sharp eyes and good memories will find nostalgic. The whole movie is a tribute to that first film as it essentially tells the same story with a few tweaks and twists thrown in to freshen it up a bit. It isn’t scary as we’ve seen all this before. It isn’t original for the same reason. However, it is a well-done homage that is proud of how much it loves that which it is honoring.

“Halloween 2018” gets four stars out of five.

This week there are three new films and I guarantee I’ll see at least one of them and review it.

Hunter Killer—

Indivisible—

Johnny English Strikes Again—

Listen to The Fractured Frame for the latest in TV, streaming and movie news available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.