Review of “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It”

I usually go to the theater closest to my house. There used to be two, each from a different chain, but when the mall closed the theater there closed as well. I like the remaining theater (I’m a member of their loyalty club and subscription service) although it could use some updating and maybe add their version of IMAX. They are continuing their reduced times for certain films. For instance, if it’s R-rated or an adult drama, the first show won’t be until 4 pm. Kids films and big-budget blockbusters get showings starting at 1 pm. Unless it was in the “Star Wars” or “Avengers” universe, most pre-pandemic matinees were usually not very crowded but still had showings starting at noon or one. Since my choice for this week’s viewing was not until 4 pm at my closer location, I decided to drive across town (probably in the 15-to-20-mile range) and see a 2:15 pm showing of “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.” Was it worth the time, travel and gas to see the latest installment in the questionable history of ghost hunters and demon fighters Ed and Lorraine Warren?

The Warrens (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) are assisting a Catholic priest in the exorcism of 8-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard). Also on hand are the boys’ parents, his sister Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook) and Debbie’s boyfriend Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor). Things become far more dangerous when the possessed boy jumps on Ed Warren and causes him to have a heart attack. Arne grabs the boy and tells the demon to leave David alone and take him. The demon accepts the offer and invades Arne. Ed witnesses this but his heart attack leaves him unconscious. A few days later, Arne and Debbie, who live in an apartment over a dog kennel owned by Bruno Sauls (Ronnie Gene Blevins), are discussing running away and getting married when the demon fully possesses Arne and he kills Bruno, stabbing him 22 times. Ed Warren has had heart surgery and is well enough to tell Lorraine what his saw. They go to Arne’s lawyer and try to convince her to plead diminished capacity due to demon possession. Under the Glatzel’s house, Lorraine finds a witch’s totem made from an animal skull used to pass on curses. The skull is like ones used by a satanic cult called the Disciples of the Ram, a cult that has committed murders in the area. A former Catholic priest, Father Kastner (John Noble) helped the police investigate the cult and the Warrens visit him for his advice. Arne is looking at the death penalty if he’s convicted so the Warren’s are hoping to find a connection between the cult murders and Arne’s crime to convince the court of his possession.

I’ve seen several, but not all of the “Conjuring” franchise. Oddly, the last film I watch from the series was the original “The Conjuring.” It was a well-crafted, tightly constructed haunted house horror flick that hit most of the right notes. It’s no wonder it kicked off an entire franchise with numerous spinoffs and sizable box office success. But as usually happens with high-performance machines, things break down over time. Perhaps people get complacent and expect the dollars to roll in and the audiences to buy tickets no matter what kind of product gets released. Maybe the creators are tired and hand off their duties to others of lesser skill. It could be viewers have grown weary of the hocus pocus and paranormal adventures of the Warrens. I think it is perhaps more of the first two than the latter as “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” is still the winner of its opening weekend at the box office despite being the weakest entry in the “Conjuring” trilogy.

The film is far more scattered than the first two entries. Ed and Lorraine travel from location to location, eating up a great deal of time with shots of the car travelling down various roads. There are incidents that occur in different places, from the possession/exorcism to the murder committed by Arne, to an investigation of a similar murder in another town, etc., etc. This spreading around of the action never lets the film build any real tension. While it certainly tries to convince the audience of terrible things to come when those terrible things happen, they aren’t that bad. Certainly, the murder of Bruno is a horrific thing, but it isn’t shown as it happens. Another murder is shown as Lorraine sees it in a vision, hence again indirectly. Moving from a haunted house to a traveling curse does this film and the franchise no favors.

Another thing I found troubling about the film is the story doesn’t follow its own rules. Without giving too much away, to complete the curse at the center of the plot, there must be three deaths: The murder of a child, a death by suicide and the killing of a man of God…at least, I think. The story doesn’t make these rules completely clear, so I suppose it makes sense that it doesn’t follow it closely. There are four deaths that are shown, directly and indirectly, on screen and that should be more than enough to satisfy the curse, yet it doesn’t, and I don’t know why. That troubles me, and it troubles me that it troubles me as it’s a dumb horror film trying too hard to make us believe the Warrens were legitimate.

The film begins with the ubiquitous “Based on a True Story” panel as the movie kicks off. In the least restrictive use of the term, it is, but there are numerous and substantial changes and additions to the story far too numerous to get into here. The books and TV shows inspired by these “true” events have generated a few lawsuits between the participants and the Warrens. The real David Glatzel claimed in one such lawsuit the Warrens had concocted the possession to exploit the family and his mental illness. I could not find how that lawsuit turned out. And the Warrens were accused of making up possessions and hauntings in the past, such as the famous Amityville case. For what it’s worth, the real Arne and Debbie, who got married after Arne served five years of a 10 to 20 years sentence for manslaughter, both claim everything the Warrens said was the truth. All these films must be taken not just with a grain of salt, but an entire salt mine.

The only bright spot in this film are the leads, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. They have a comfortable chemistry befitting a long-married couple that have been through some strange things. The movie adds a bit of flashback to their first date that becomes an important plot point later. Farmiga and Wilson treat all the paranormal silliness with the gravitas that makes the good installments of these movies better than they should be and the lesser chapters bearable.

“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” is rated R for terror, violence and some disturbing images. I’m not sure why it got an R rating as the film has very little gore and only one truly disturbing image, that of the reanimated corpse of a post-autopsy fat man. We also see a throat slashed, an attempted suicide by wrist cutting, the sounds of bones cracking as a possessed person contorts and the first stab of a murder. There is no foul language I recall.

The entire “Conjuring” universe of films has grossed close to $2 billion and this eighth film in the franchise is likely to push it over the top with more installments on the way. What I fear may happen to this franchise is what appears to be going in this film. The storytelling is getting messy. There are very few good scares. And the biggest sin of all, this movie is dull. I love a good horror movie. I like to be scared and squirm in my seat, feeling my heartbeat race as I fear the next bump in the darkened theater. I got none of that with this film. Pay Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson whatever it takes to keep them coming back as they are the only things good in this installment.

“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” gets two stars out of five.

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Review of “A Quiet Place Part II”

There aren’t many things back to absolute normal yet. The theater chain closest to my home just announced customers that are fully vaxxed can go maskless to see a movie. They ask unvaxxed people to continue wearing a mask. They aren’t requiring proof of vaccination to go without a mask, so anyone could come in without a mask whether they have been vaccinated or not. As I sat in a theater, fully vaccinated since mid-April, with maybe half a dozen people watching “A Quiet Place Part II,” I wore my mask when I wasn’t enjoying my overpriced popcorn and soft drink. I’m fully trained to protect others despite my vaccination status and until this damnable plague is completely over, I will continue to wear a mask. I’m not being brave like the characters in “A Quiet Place Part II,” I’m actually trying to avoid catching a summer cold which is almost as bad as being attacked by the alien creatures in this movie.

After a flashback to the first day of the alien invasion, Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) and her children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and her infant son, set off toward the smoke from a signal fire near where they live after the death of her husband Lee (John Krasinski). Approaching an industrial area, Evelyn trips a homemade alarm made from cans and bottles. The family runs to avoid the approaching aliens that hunt their prey by sound. Marcus steps in a bear trap and the pain causes him to scream. Evelyn pries open the jaws, freeing Marcus, and they continue running as the alien’s approach. Entering a building, they are grabbed by Emmett (Cillian Murphy) and guided to a disused boiler where they can hide, and their voices will be hidden. Emmett tells the Abbotts they cannot stay as there isn’t enough food or water. Regan puts a set of headphones plugged in to a radio on Marcus and scans the dial using the white noise of static to calm him. She crosses a station that is playing music, something that hasn’t happened since the invasion, and Marcus stops her. Regan tracks the signal to a small station set on an island just offshore. Regan gets the idea to take her cochlear implant to the station and create the feedback she discovered could disorient the aliens and broadcast it across the area. She tells Marcus of her plan, but he says Evelyn wouldn’t allow it. Leaving in the middle of the night, Regan sets out on her own. Evelyn begs Emmett to go look for Regan and bring her back.

Writer/director John Krasinski has delivered a quality follow up to his 2017 “A Quiet Place.” The alien invasion/family drama/post-apocalyptic thriller was the kind of film that kept audiences silent which is a rare feat in this age where people feel comfortable talking back to the screen. “A Quiet Place Part II” doesn’t have quite the same silencing effect on the audience and it doesn’t need to. While there are similarities between the two stories, there’s more of a feel of adventure, a road trip quality that makes this a different experience.

This time, the family is split up with Regan on a journey to find the radio station, Evelyn making a trip into town to find antibiotics and oxygen bottles at the drugstore, and Marcus left at the factory to rest his injured leg and keep an eye on the baby. All three experience different adventures and emotional journeys. The most fulfilling is Regan and Emmett.

Fulfilling in the way all the characters grow and learn. Emmett is broken by the experience of the invasion and the losses he suffered in its aftermath. He is satisfied to hunker down in the abandoned factory, hiding in the boiler when aliens approach and living is relative safety. He wants the Abbott family gone as quickly as possible to return to his solitary existence and not be faced with losing anyone else. Chasing down Regan at the pleading behest of Evelyn, Emmett begins to realize how much of his humanity he’s abandoned for the illusion of safety. He has become selfish in his isolation and is challenged by Regan’s stubborn determination to reach the coast, find a boat and broadcast feedback, giving the survivors a chance to fight back.

Millicent Simmonds delivers another standout performance as Regan. Her expressiveness and fierceness burst from her hands and eyes as she delivers stinging opinions about Emmett cowardice and how he doesn’t measure up to her late father. While Emmett doesn’t understand sign language, we see her words via subtitles, something Emmett is lucky he lacks access to. This young actress deserves more roles as her presence is magnetic in every scene.

The movie is exciting and tense throughout, but I do have one nit to pick. Whenever an encounter with an alien is shown, the action slows to a crawl as the characters approach either an escape or a kill. They move extremely slowly, cautiously, as if trying to drag out the interaction. I don’t want to give anything away, but during the final showdown, the humans move as if in slow motion. There would seem to be an urgency to ending the confrontation and reducing the chance of more aliens using their echolocation to track down their prey. Instead, we get drawn out movements, lingering looks and lots of opportunities for something to go wrong. I’d like to believe it’s the characters being in some degree of shock due to the unbelievable circumstances they are in, but in reality, it’s Krasinski trying to build up the tension. If there’s anything I dislike about “A Quiet Place Part II,” it’s that.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is rated PG-13 for terror, violence and bloody/disturbing images. We see the beginnings of the invasion with people be swept aside by the aliens as if they were small toys. The injury sustained by Marcus and one inflicted on Evelyn late in the film are a bit gruesome, but not too bloody. We see various corpses that are in different states of decay. When the aliens are killed, their heads tend to explode in bloody messes.

Aside from dragging out the endings, “A Quiet Place Part II” does a great job of continuing the story of the Abbott family and adding Cillian Murphy’s Emmett. The small-town folks confronted by a seemingly unstoppable alien invasion is full of possibilities for more spinoff stories and at least one more film. If done correctly, we could get a tense but rousing finale to Krasinski’s trilogy.

“A Quiet Place Part II” gets four stars out of five.

Subscribe, rate, review and download my podcast Comedy Tragedy Marriage. Each week my wife and I take turns picking a movie to watch, watch it together, then discuss why we love it, like it or hate it. Find it wherever you get podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan.

Review of “Spiral: From the Book of Saw”

The slow return to normalcy continues. The CDC announced fully vaccinated people could go without masks while numerous communities lifted their mask requirements. Some privately owned businesses continue to require masks in order to receive service. Former child star, now proudly conservative adult, actor Rick Schroder filmed an encounter with a Costco employee, complaining about having to wear a mask inside the store. I don’t like wearing masks any more than Mr. Schroder does. They are hot and cause my face under the mask to sweat. They also fog up my glasses with each exhale. I can’t wait to put all mine in a drawer and never think of them again. However, we are nowhere near a fully vaccinated population with many questioning the safety, efficacy and even need for it. The likelihood of a variant form of COVID-19 developing that’s vaccine resistant grows with each day a big chunk of the public doesn’t vaccinate. And Mr. Schroder ignores the fact there are other rules he must follow to be allowed to do business with a Costco. For instance, they likely have a “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” rule. Does he believe he can walk around the big box store with his now likely saggy body on full display? Doesn’t that trample his freedoms? A privately held business can make rules about customer conduct and choose not to do business with anyone that violates or ignores those rules. For instance, the theater I went to this week to see “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” required I wear a mask unless I was eating and drinking. Considering the quality of this film, they maybe should have required a blindfold as well.

Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) turned in a dirty cop several years ago and ever since, his fellow officers have considered him an untrustworthy rat. They ignored his calls for backup leading to his being shot. His father was at the time also the Chief of Police, Captain Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson). His father is now retired, but Zeke is still in a squad room surrounded by coworkers that don’t trust him, hence he can’t trust them. Det. Marv Boswick (Dan Petronijevic) is chasing a purse snatching suspect in the sewers when he’s abducted. He wakes up with a device clamped to his tongue as he hangs over a subway train track. A television plays a recording telling Boswick he has a choice to make: He can either be hit by the train due to arrive in two minutes, or he can jump from the small platform on which he is standing and rip out his lying tongue and probably survive. Making the choice too late, both options occur. Zeke is called to the scene along with his new partner, rookie Det. William Schenk (Max Minghella). When they return to the precinct, a box is delivered to Zeke with a zip drive featuring the same voice as the recording played for Boswick, featuring the image of a spiral painted on the side of the courthouse. When officers arrive, there’s another box containing Boswick’s tongue and his badge. The theory that it’s a Jigsaw copycat is quickly developed and this time the killer is going for dirty cops, many of whom have a direct connection to Zeke.

“Spiral: From the Book of Saw” is the ninth film in the horror series. Original “Saw” star Tobin Bell only appears in a photograph and is otherwise not in the movie. Anytime a film series reaches nine installments, it is likely to have dropped off in quality, however many were excited when this sequel was announced with Chris Rock as the lead actor and heavily involved in its development. While most of the original creators of the franchise were not involved in this film, it was viewed as a legitimate effort to reinvigorate the series that began in 2004 and put out a new installment every year through 2010 before taking a seven year break. 2017’s “Jigsaw” was a big commercial success and “Spiral…” seemed to be a sure fire hit when it was announced. And yet, it struck me as amateurish, jumbled, poorly structured and oddly shot.

Chris Rock gives it his all to make “Spiral…” something special and entertaining, but his performance is one of the big failures of the film for me. Rock is either low key to the point of asleep or hyper like he’s on stage performing for a standup audience. There’s very little in the middle. The script Rock is given doesn’t help as he’s either hurling insults at the cops he doesn’t trust or yelling at Capt. Angie Garza (Marisol Nichols) about not being able to trust the other cops in his squad. Rock appears to be “winging it” with his performance for returning director Darren Lynn Bousman who helmed “Saw II-IV.”

The traps in “Spiral…” seem uninspired. Dangling by your tongue and having your fingers pulled off, to name just two, sound awful and probably would be horrific to experience, but Jigsaw in the first film constructed much more elaborate torture devices that required less hardware. In “Saw,” the traps and “games” were mostly psychological. The victim had to make a choice that was both physically and emotionally devastating. And even if they survived, there was a price to pay. As the traps became more elaborate and the damage more gory, they lost their emotional punch. And one of the torture traps in “Spiral…” seems both silly and non lethal. It involves glass recycling. Good for the Earth but apparently bad for your health. Perhaps I prefer my serial killers to be more hands-on and not require a mechanical engineering degree.

“Spiral: From the Book of Saw” is rated R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, pervasive language, some sexual references and brief drug use. The aftermath of the traps is gory and seeing them in action might sicken an easily turned stomach. Horror veterans will be unaffected. With both Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson in the cast, the F-bombs fly at a high frequency. Both the drug use and sexual references are brief. There are some shootings shown.

“Spiral: From the Book of Saw” is hoped to revive one of the most profitable movie franchises in history. None of the films cost more than $20 million to produce and all have returned a minimum of six times their production budget at the box office. That means this installment needs to gross $120 million in ticket sales, VOD rentals/purchases and DVD/Blu Ray sales. I’m kind of doubting that’s possible given the pandemic and the glut of streaming options available to keep us entertained in our homes. While I’m not a huge “Saw” franchise fan, I always hope I’m putting my money down on an entertaining film. Hardcore fans might find much to love in this latest entry. For me, it was not quite torture, but not much fun either.

“Spiral: From the Book of Saw” gets two stars out of five.

Subscribe, review and download my podcast Comedy Tragedy Marriage. Each week my wife and I take turns picking a movie to watch, watch it together, then discuss why we love it, like it or hate it. Find it wherever you get podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan.

I’m Back with a Review of “The Courier”

Is it just me or is it weird doing normal-ish things? I add the “ish” due to wearing a mask when I’m inside a building or with a group (I have received both doses of Pfizer’s vaccine but I’m still wearing a mask), but I did something I hadn’t done since last September: I went to a movie at a theater. We are still in the time of the novel coronavirus as the theater I was in had a ground total of four people in it and the lobby was virtually deserted when I entered aside from a few workers and a couple of patrons. It felt both odd and good to be back in a theater again and I’m thankful I didn’t risk my health for a bad film.

It’s 1960, the Cold War is heating up and Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a British businessman always looking for the possibility of new contacts leading to new business. He connects parts suppliers with factories and is pretty good at his job, even working in Eastern Bloc countries in the recent past. He enjoys glad-handing and drinking with this fellow businessmen at various bars and clubs. His wife Sheila (Jessie Buckley) is a stay-at-home mother, taking care of their young son Andrew (Keir Hills), but she doesn’t give Greville too long a leash as he has strayed in the past. In Moscow, after hearing a speech from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, promising the nuclear destruction of the West, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), the head of the Soviet Committee for Scientific Research, gets an American student to deliver a message to the US embassy. That message gets to CIA officer Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan) who sets up a meeting with her MI6 counterpart Dickie Franks (Angus Wright) looking for a way to tap into Penkovsky’s access to Soviet nuclear secrets. Sending an agent is deemed too risky, but a civilian with business ties to Eastern Bloc countries wouldn’t raise as much suspicion amongst the Soviet secret police, the KGB. Franks and Donovan set up a lunch meeting with Wynne and broach the subject without being too obvious they’re asking him to work undercover behind the Iron Curtain. Despite their subtlety, Wynne quickly figures out they’re asking him to spy. Initially hesitant and fearing for his safety as well as that of his family, Wynne agrees. Franks and Donovan assure Wynne the danger is minimal as he will be acting not as a spy, but as a courier for whatever secrets Penkovsky gives him.

“The Courier” is a tour de force acting performance from Benedict Cumberbatch. His work alone makes the film worth your time and money. Cumberbatch is both subtle and electric as the reluctant spy. The scene where he is asked to become an operative without directly being asked plays out entirely on his face. You can practically hear the gears in his brain grinding as he figures out he’s being approached to risk his life for his country and the world and how incredulous he considers the idea. Cumberbatch is always good but this performance should be considered for awards season next year. Likely it will be forgotten among all the films to come as the virus becomes less of a concern (get vaccinated everyone and don’t take medical advice from Joe Rogan) but I hope the studio makes a push to get him in consideration when the time comes.

The movie overall is pretty good but is mired in Cold War espionage conventions. The secret passing of small packages containing government secrets is done again and again. There’s not much discussion about the history of tensions between East and West, just that there are tensions. While someone my age is familiar with the Cold War, younger viewers will likely be befuddled about what’s going on.

All the supporting characters aren’t given much to do other than deliver exposition. Jessie Buckley is severely under utilized as Wynne’s wife. Her character is only properly used in a scene late in the film. Brosnahan and Wright don’t get much better treatment as they are used merely to drop in the “spy speak” along with their cohorts. Only Merab Ninidze as the provider of Soviet state secrets is given a meaty role as one might expect. Ninidze’s Penkovsky is a dreamer, hoping for a better life for his family when they eventually defect to America. Penkovsky is taking the bigger risk of two as he has seen first hand how traitors to the Soviet Union are dealt with.

That makes his and Wynne’s ultimate fates all the more crushing as the pair develop a friendship that goes beyond their mutual need of each other. The two men on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain find they are far more alike than their governments would like you to believe. Both are married with a small child (Penkovsky and his wife have a young girl), both hope for a world for their children better than the one in which they currently live, both men smoke and drink too much and enjoy the benefits of their work. They are practically the same person but for the governments under which they live.

“The Courier” is rated PG-13 for violence, partial nudity, brief strong language, and smoking throughout. The violence is limited to a scene of a person being shot in the head in front of a crowd (there’s no blood or gore) and scenes inside a Russian gulag. It’s the early 1960’s so smoking is as common as vodka. The nudity is of a male character who is stripped after being arrested. There is no frontal nudity. Foul language is scattered and mild.

“The Courier” is based on the true story of Greville Wynne and his work for MI6 and the CIA in providing early warning for Soviet missiles being installed in Cuba. Wynne spent 18 months in a Soviet prison before being released in exchange for a Russian spy held in the west. Documentary footage at the end of the film shows the real Wynne after he returned home. In this film he seemed chipper and happy, almost unfazed by his ordeal at the hands of the KGB. Perhaps is was the adrenaline of being reunited with his family that lifted his spirits. As shown in “The Courier,” Wynne had little hope of seeing freedom ever again. I hope we all get free from this virus and the damper it has put on our lives since early 2020. I think seeing someone who made a true sacrifice in an effort to save his family, his country and the world should put having to wear a mask and get a couple of vaccine injections into perspective.

“The Courier” get four stars out of five.

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Review of “Tenet”

A CIA operative known only as the Protagonist (John David Washington) is given a case to prevent a third world war. Working with another agent, Neil (Robert Pattinson), he must infiltrate the operation of Russian oligarch Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) by going through his art dealer wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki). The war the agents are trying to prevent is one that won’t be fought with conventional or nuclear weapons; this war will be fought using the flow of time. Someone has figured out a way to control entropy, changing the normal order of cause and effect. If a government or terrorist group could observe the events of the future, they could counter any efforts to stop their plans. The past, present and future are at stake.

Trying to explain the story of “Tenet” is like teaching a squid how to write. It’s complicated, messy and I don’t think I have the intelligence to grasp it all. Writer and director Christopher Nolan has crafted a bizarre and labyrinthian story of technology, power and greed with the fate of the world in the balance. I won’t be surprised if audiences are deeply divided in their opinions on the film with some thinking it’s a masterpiece while others find it taxing and incoherent. Both will be correct. Much like cause and effect are reversed in the film, feelings about it will also travel in both directions. While struggled as I watched the movie and the alternating passage of time, sometimes occurring simultaneously, I felt the door to a level of understanding crack ever so slightly as the events played out. I happen to be one that thinks “Tenet” is brilliant.

That doesn’t mean it is flawless. The dialog can be dense when characters are discussing the finer points of entropy and how the rules of one person traveling in one direction while the rest of the world is moving in another. And perhaps it was the speaker set up in the theater, but I had a hard time understanding what characters were saying from scene to scene. Maybe it was the ambient background noise on the soundtrack mixed with the various accents, but some of the dialog was garbled and lost to me.

Otherwise, the movie is also unbearably loud. The action scenes with guns, explosions and car crashes left my ears ringing. I would have chocked that up to my individual theater, but I’ve seen other viewers post how near deafening the volume is. This appears to be a deliberate choice by Nolan and the studio to crank up the sound and beat the audience into aural submission. If you have especially sensitive hearing or suffer from hearing loss, you may want to bring ear protection just in case.

Have you ever had a TV show suggested to you and the suggester says, “It really gets good by episode 3,” or “The second season is where it takes off”? That’s kind of how “Tenet” is. Things won’t make much sense in the early scenes, and you’ll wonder if Nolan has let you down with a subpar effort. However, visuals you’ll find confounding will make more sense as you go through the story. By the end, scattered and random events early will finally become clear. Nolan has made a movie that is the epitome of the conspiracy theorist cork board with pictures, headlines and random pieces of paper covered in scribbles connected with push pins and red string.

While the story takes some time to make sense, the performances will hold your interest until your brain catches up. While the film is filled with characters, our four main players dominate the screen and ably so. John David Washington keeps his character’s emotions in check, just as a seasoned CIA operative would. While he’s facing an unprecedented situation, Washington’s Protagonist rolls with it. While some may criticize his performance as dull, I found his ever in control operative to be a source of calm in a temporal storm.

Debicki, Pattinson and Branagh provide all the emotion for the film. Debicki’s Kat is a woman in a loveless marriage to a cold and cruel man holding their son as leverage over her. Her flares of anger and pain ring so true they caused me to wince. Pattinson provides a bit of comic relief as Neil. Allowed to speak with his British accent, Pattinson’s Neil is droll and a tiny bit condescending while also being a master of understatement. Neil is the Protagonists fixer, gofer and sounding board. His role is to give the CIA operative the tools and materials he needs to do the job. Providing a laugh along the way is a bonus. Branagh’s Sator is a fairly standard villain but provides flashes of the madness and cruelty that make him rise above. Branagh slinks through some scenes like a python approaching his prey. In other scenes he’s brash and big like a bull elephant charging through the African plains. While the role doesn’t provide much meat on the bone, Branagh strips it clean and makes a meal from the part.

“Tenet” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references and brief strong language. There are fights, shootings and crashes of various types throughout the film. Gore is kept to a minimum even during a scene of torture. A 747 is crashed into a building. A couple of people are shot at close range. A person is beaten to death with an unusual object. Foul language is scattered and mild except for one F-Bomb.

The action scenes in “Tenet” are unconventional but thrilling. Some of them happen in regular time while others are going backwards. Some scenes have some of the characters traveling in one direction while others in the same scene are going backwards. Nolan filmed the actors doing the scenes forward and backward so he could splice the two together as seamlessly as possible. For the most part it works, but sometimes people are clearly running backward and then had the film reversed and vice versa. Those moments are rare and don’t ruin what is otherwise a very good film. I would have liked a clearer understanding of what’s causing the reversal of time and would also have liked a better reason for why the bad guys wanted to fulfill their ultimate goal. That said, “Tenet” is a brain-breaking sci-fi/action/thriller that, if you’re comfortable heading to the theater, should be seen on the big screen. Just remember to wear your mask.

“Tenet” gets four stars out of five.

Release schedules are still thin so my return to reviewing may be erratic for the foreseeable future.

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “The Hunt”

Twelve people, including Crystal (Betty Gilpin), Gary (Ethan Suplee), Don (Wayne Duvall) and Big Red (Kate Nowlin), wake up in a field. They’re all from different parts of the country and don’t know how they got there. Soon, they are being shot at by a group of wealthy liberal Social Justice Warriors. Some of them escape the field and find a small roadside gas station and convenience store run by Ma and Pop (Amy Madigan and Reed Birney) who tell the group they are in Arkansas. When Crystal finds the store, she suspects there’s more to the kindly old couple than meets the eye and kills them both. Crystal also discovers she’s not in Arkansas and realizes she is a target of rich people that hunt humans for sport on an estate called The Manor. The Manor has been the subject of internet rumors since it was first exposed by an email hack. The leader of the hunters is Athena (Hilary Swank), a powerful and ruthless businessperson looking to exact revenge on those she feels have slighted her. But what could these 12 random people, unknown to each other from around the country, have done to Athena and her friends.

Originally scheduled for a late September 2019 release, “The Hunt” was pulled from the schedule by the distributor, Universal Studios, following mass shootings that occurred in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Once the subject matter of the film, a battle to the death between wealthy liberals and working-class conservatives, became known, Fox News and President Trump trashed the movie, making assumptions it would belittle conservatives and cram the liberal agenda down audiences’ throats. As with most things discussed with no knowledge, they got it exactly wrong. “The Hunt” should thrill fans of the President, as it shows the “wealthy elite” as brain dead and concerned more about labels and gendering than the plight of everyday Americans. It also shows them as bloodthirsty and intolerant while conservatives are shown to be susceptible to the conspiracy theories of people like Alex Jones and diehard supporters of the Second Amendment and strong boarders. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a tweet from the President or one of his sons extolling the virtues of “The Hunt” as more of a documentary than a fictional film. It’s a shame COVID-19 has depressed movie going as “The Hunt” is a fun and gory satire on America’s current political divide and the dangers of extremism on both sides.

“The Hunt” features a powerhouse performance from Betty Gilpin. Playing a confident and prepared woman who is no one’s victim, Gilpin exudes confidence and power in every frame. Crystal is wary and distrusting of everything she sees once she wakes up in the field. Keeping herself separated from the others, she survives the initial attack and forges her own path. I believe it’s an example of how everyone should navigate the current political minefield by not accepting everything said by pundits, vloggers, bloggers and podcasters as pure, unvarnished truth. She casts a wary and skeptical eye on everyone presenting themselves as allies, not taking what they say at face value. Crystal represents the reasonable but skeptical consumer of information: Listening attentively, but not believing it all. We should all try to be our own “Crystal.”

Most of the ire from the film’s perspective is aimed at the liberals. They fret over labels and gendering of groups. They select a person for death because he’s a big game hunter, ignoring their own hypocrisy. They don’t choose a black conservative because of the optics, even though they are the only ones that will know. It’s a cascade of jokes at the expense of the liberal elite with one of them saying, “White people, we’re the f***ing worst.”

Conservatives don’t escape the critical eye as those with numerous guns, anti-immigrant beliefs and the racially intolerant being mocked. Actually, they aren’t mocked, they are allowed to express their thoughts and the audience is allowed to decide if they are laughably ignorant or not. It’s a remarkably fair examination of ideas from both sides. My opinion on both sides is they are too extreme in both directions to be allowed to run the country unfettered. But that’s just me. You might need to risk leaving your home to see the film for yourself and make up your own mind.

Part of the marketing for “The Hunt” is the tagline, “The Most Talked About Movie of the Year is One That No One’s Actually Seen.” It’s a brilliant use of the controversy surrounding the film to sell it. If not for the fear of contracting COVID-19 it might have worked beautifully. It also speaks to the failure of our clickbait-driven social media world. A salacious headline for a link to a far less controversial article will be read a million times, while the article itself may only be read half a million times. The link will be shared or retweeted by the ignorant half a million with an angry comment declaring a government agency, celebrity or other entity is preparing to wipe us all out or wants to kill and eat babies when the story is far more tame and reasonable. Mark Twain once said that a lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on. Only he didn’t. The quote likely came far earlier from Jonathon Swift. See, you need to question everything you read and the motivations from everyone from whom you hear it. Even me.

“The Hunt” is rated R for strong bloody violence, and language throughout. Heads explode, bodies explode, people are impaled on various items including arrows and spikes in the ground. One person is beaten severely with a pipe. A pig is shot to death. A Cuisinart is used as a deadly weapon. A pen is jammed on one person’s neck. A high heel is used to stab someone in the eye. There are numerous other violent and gory deaths. Foul language is common but not overwhelming.

“The Hunt” has had the worst timing of any film in modern history. First its release was delayed due to two mass shootings that attracted the ire of those that blame such things on popular media like video games and movies despite evidence to the contrary. Then COVID-19 became a serious threat with a death rate five times higher than the seasonal flu a week or so before the film’s rescheduled release. While the movie has a less than original story arc, like horror films featuring a “last girl,” “The Hunt” approaches the toxic political climate with equal doses of humor and exaggeration. Liberals and conservatives alike should find things to love and hate in the film and, to me, that means it must be doing something right, annoying good people on both sides.

“The Hunt” gets four blood-soaked stars out of five.

Because of the COVID-19 threat, there isn’t a new wide release scheduled until April 10. Whether I’ll watch some films that have been out a few weeks, watch some original releases on the streaming services, or just stay home, I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know when I figure it out. Stay safe, wash your hands, don’t go to work if you’re sick, don’t hoard supplies and be good to each other. For more information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Onward”

The world used to be filled with magic and magical creatures, like unicorns, faeries, sprites, dragons and more. Learning magic was difficult, so technology like electric lights, telephones and appliances began to replace spells. Now the world looks very much like our own, but there’s still magic if you know where to look. Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland) and his older brother Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt) are elves living with their mother Laurel (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) live in a comfortable house in the community of New Mushroomton. Ian and Barley’s father Wilden (voiced by Kyle Bornheimer) got sick and died while Laurel was expecting Ian, so he never met him. Having just turned 16, Ian is smart but shy. He’s scared of many things including learning to drive and talking to other students at his high school. Laurel brings a wrapped package down from the attic and presents it to both Ian and Barley, saying it’s a gift from their dad. Opening it, the boys find a wizard’s staff, magical phoenix gem and a letter from Wilden. The letter contains a spell that will allow Wilden to be brought back to life for one day. Barley tries dozens of times to cast the spell, but nothing happens. The boys give up, but Ian begins saying the spell out loud and the staff begins to glow. He grabs it and finishes the spell and a beam of energy shoots out from the phoenix gem. Barley walks in to see what the commotion is and finds the staff and stone is rebuilding his father from the shoes up. The exertion of casting the spell is pushing Ian backwards across the room. Barley tries to help and grabs the staff, but the gem explodes, ending the spell prematurely. The boys discover their father is only half recreated with his body ending at the waist. He can walk around and is able to communicate with taps but cannot talk, see and hear. The boys attach a retractable leash to Wilden to keep him with them. Barley decides they must go on a quest to find another phoenix stone, but they will face challenges, both personal and magical, that tests their relationship.

“Onward” is a very typical Disney/Pixar animated film. Perhaps too typical. While there are the usual beautiful visuals and relatable humor, “Onward” isn’t anything special. It’s well done and has great voice work but offers no surprises. It is in no way bad, but it isn’t great as we expect from the geniuses at Pixar. It’s fine.

Watching “Onward” I kept waiting for “The Moment.” It’s the scene, the character, the joke that would put the film over the top. To put the movie on the level of “Toy Story,” “The Incredibles,” and “Inside Out.” That scene doesn’t exist. “Onward” does beat on your tear ducts with overt sentimentality, squeezing out drops with scenes of emotional discovery and pure manipulation. I’m not saying those tears aren’t earned, but they feel cheap this time.

“Onward” is playing it safe. I would guess there’s a book in their headquarters that sets forth how a Pixar movie’s story is to be designed. There must be a sweet protagonist that doubts themselves at the beginning of the film, a quest or problem that presents itself to challenge the protagonists status quo, a buddy or sidekick that, wanted or not, accompanies the protagonist on this journey into a world that is also outside the hero’s comfort zone, a disagreement between the two that causes the dissolution of or strain on the relationship, an event that brings to two back together, leading to the eventual end of the adventure, either successful or unsuccessful, that causes the protagonist to realize he was looking for resolution in the wrong place and learning a valuable lesson about life. Almost every Pixar movie follows a story structure similar to this. There are of course variations to this formula and those variations are what makes Pixar movies much better than most other kid’s films. However, “Onward” follows this design so closely, it never transcends its genre. It hits all the expected beats with the precision of an atomic clock, but it never tries to syncopate the rhythm and find joy in the unexpected.

“Onward” does something I’m learning to hate in movies: Bringing a dead parent back to life. This emotional trick is usually done via dream sequences, visitation while a character is suffering a medical crisis, or other unlikely way for a grown child to visit a deceased mom or dad. As I get older, I find this to be a cheap and manipulative storytelling device. I lost my dad in 2000 and my mom less than a year later. It was devastating to go from having both parents alive to both gone in less than 11 months. While I have fond memories of my folks, and my siblings and I share happy stories about them during those unfortunately rare times we are all together, I have never had a dream where I felt like I was visiting with them in the flesh. I haven’t bumped my head or had a disease that put me in a coma, and they came to help me realize it wasn’t my time yet. Their ghosts haven’t appeared to me in the middle of the night to warn me about some danger or just to say hi. When their bodies succumbed to the diseases that took their lives, that was it. They were gone and all I had were memories. There is no magic to bring them back, even for just a day. Using this device to tell children a story of learning to find your true self, in my opinion, borders on cruelty.

There is no fault to be found in the voice work of Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer or the rest of the voice cast. They clearly understand the passion and emotion they need to convey as they tell this story. There are some moments when you’ll wish these performances were in a better Pixar movie. I’d love to see Octavia Spencer’s Corey get her own spinoff film about the life of the Manticore before civilization tamed the wild beast. Perhaps the pixies that forgot how to fly and formed a biker gang could get a short. There’s plenty of material in “Onward” that could be built upon for other projects.

“Onward” is rated PG for action/peril and some mild thematic elements. There are various chases, encounters with dangerous beasts and physical challenges throughout the film. There is also the concept of the loss of a parent. There is no foul language.

Despite my reservations about “Onward,” I liked the movie. It moves quickly, doesn’t waste much time setting up the situation, watching the bottom-half-dad walking around with a stuffed top half creates some laughs, Tom Holland and Chris Pratt give great vocal performances and there are some truly beautiful visuals throughout the film. Perhaps I’m spoiled by Pixar’s consistent excellence, but I expected more from this film. It follows a well-worn formula but doesn’t add anything to the mix. It’s a very good film, but not when compared to Pixar’s other efforts. It’s fine but I wanted it to be more.

“Onward” gets four stars out of five.

Three new films open this week. I’ll see and review at lease one of the following:

Bloodshot—

The Hunt—

I Still Believe—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “The Invisible Man”

Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) has recently escaped an abusive relationship from Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Adrian nearly caught Cecilia, but her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) picked her up and drove her away to safety. Living with her cop friend James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his soon-to-leave-for-college daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), Cecilia is afraid to walk outside fearing Adrian will find her. That fear finally dissipates when Emily tells her Adrian has died by suicide. Cecilia receives a letter from Adrian’s lawyer and brother Tom (Michael Dorman) that she is Adrian’s heir. At a meeting in his office, Tom informs Cecilia she is inheriting $5 million, distributed in monthly $100,000 payments, as long as she doesn’t violate any of the will’s stipulations. If she is charged with a violent crime and/or she’s found mentally incompetent, she will forfeit the money. Unconcerned about the conditions, Cecilia sets up a college fund for Sydney as a thank you to her and James for housing and protecting her. But soon, Cecilia feels like she’s being watched. Her portfolio of architecture drawings disappears, and she is drugged, causing her to pass out at a job interview, among other odd occurrences. She begins to believe Adrian isn’t dead and is somehow responsible. Her sister, James and Tom all believe she is losing her mind, but Cecilia knows there’s something more.

In 2017, Universal Studios had big plans for its classic monsters. Hugely popular in the 1930’s and later decades, Dracula, Wolfman, Gill Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Mummy and Invisible Man had series of financially successful B-movies, but in recent times were largely unused, with the exception of occasional one-off’s. Then the Dark Universe was announced with a lineup of A-list actors like Johnny Depp, Russell Crowe, and Javier Bardem, scheduled to star in origin, but interconnected, movies then form a monster team-up. The first of these films was “The Mummy” starring the current superstar of superstars, Tom Cruise. The film was critically panned, and audiences largely stayed home. It grossed over $400 million worldwide but, on a budget of nearly $200 million, it likely cost Universal tens of millions in losses. The Dark Universe had a wooden stake driven through its heart. Now, Universal has changed course and is producing smaller, standalone films with its classic monsters, the first of which is “The Invisible Man.” If this film is any indication, Universal may eventually have the Dark Universe they dreamed of.

“The Invisible Man” isn’t some globetrotting blockbuster adventure like “The Mummy,” but a small and simple story of a woman trying to escape a controlling, manipulative and abusive man. It’s something audiences can sadly relate to more than an international spy slapping on a high-tech suit or drinking a magic formula and turning invisible. It’s a story of power, control, money and sex. It’s a #MeToo horror story with a bit of razzmatazz thrown in. Bullies can be invisible on the Internet, wielding their words like a cudgel, threatening death, financial ruin and sexual exploitation while maintaining their own anonymity behind a screenname and avatar. While “The Invisible Man” is more hands-on in his efforts to harm and manipulate, the effects are just as devastating.

Elisabeth Moss is so very good as Cecilia. Her PTSD in the immediate aftermath of leaving Adrian is heartbreaking as she cannot leave her friend’s house. She keeps her eyes down, her body is a tight coil of fear waiting to spring out of danger’s way. When she sees a jogger wearing a dark sweat suit with his hoody up and dark sunglasses hiding his eyes, she runs away fearing it is her abuser. Once she believes he’s dead, Cecilia is once again subjected to fearing for her safety and sanity as she is attacked again and again. Moss can deliver a frantic and tortured performance like few others. Her work on Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has earned her both Golden Globe and Emmy Awards for her acting. She was also a standout on the AMC show “Madmen.” Moss is a powerhouse in the role of Cecilia, and I hope her work doesn’t get ignored during next awards season because the film came out early in the year, and because it’s a genre film. Her performance is deserving of consideration.

Writer/director Leigh Whannell has designed a tight and fast-paced tale of psychological revenge and physical escape. It’s a masterclass in economical film making. Whannell’s script doesn’t waste one moment on unnecessary dialog or meaningless sentimentality. It is a relentless film that rarely takes its foot off the gas. Even quiet moments are fraught with unending tension. From the opening scene until the surprising ending, the audience is never sure what’s about to happen but knows something eventually will. I found myself looking in the background for objects to move or footprints to appear, sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. No matter what, you expect something to happen and that makes the tension more excruciating. Whannell wisely keeps the audience guessing about the next surprise and doesn’t tip his hand with cheap tricks. All the fear generated by the film is earned and it’s exhausting.

“The Invisible Man” is rated R for some strong bloody violence, and language. There are numerous shootings, and most have some blood spray. We briefly see a picture of Adrian’s suicide, also bloody. Two necks are slit and there is a great deal of blood from those. An invisible assailant picks up Cecilia and threatens her with a knife. There are a couple of fights between visible and invisible combatants. One character is beaten bloody. A young woman is threatened and thrown around. Foul language is surprisingly rare.

Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions is one of the producers of “The Invisible Man.” Blum is known for his low-budget and obscenely profitable films including “Get Out,” “Paranormal Activity,” “Insidious,” “The Purge,” and many, many more films and franchises in the horror genre. “The Invisible Man” had a production budget of $7 million, and an estimated opening weekend domestic gross of $29 million. Depending on pre-release promotion, the film has probably already turned a profit and will continue to ring up revenue for Universal and Blumhouse. It is yet another example of how genre films don’t need to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at the screen when some well-done sleight of hand can produce the same if not better results. Of course, that won’t stop the next budget-busting blockbuster from nearly bankrupting a studio (James Cameron, I’m talking to you), but it should be yet another lesson to producers that bigger isn’t always better.

“The Invisible Man” gets five fully visible stars.

This week, four new films hope you vote with your dollars for the next leader of the box office. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Emma—

First Cow—

Onward—

The Way Back—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Brahms: The Boy 2”

While Sean (Owain Yeoman) was working late on a project, his wife Liza (Katie Holmes) and son Jude (Christopher Convery) are attacked in their London flat during a home invasion. Liza suffers a concussion and Jude is so traumatized he stops speaking, communicating by writing message on a pad he wears around his neck. The family decides they need to take a break from the city and rent a guest house on the Heelshire property. The Heelshire home has been vacant since the murders that took place there a few years earlier. A speculator bought the house and attempted to turn it into luxury condos, but various delays caused him to abandon the project. While the family is strolling through the woods, Jude is drawn away from his parents toward a patch of ground with a porcelain hand sticking up from the dirt. Digging in the soft ground, Jude finds an antique doll that he calls Brahms. Liza cleans up Brahms and he becomes Jude’s constant companion. During another walk with Liza, Jude finds a box with clothes for the doll. They also meet Joseph (Ralph Ineson) and his dog, a German Sheppard named Oz. Joseph describes himself as a caretaker of the grounds. Oz growls at Brahms and Jude. Strange events occur in the vacation home with a TV turning itself on, unexplained footsteps and voices, and Liza’s nightmares involving Brahms. Is there more to this doll than just a creepy dead stare?

“Brahms: The Boy 2” is a sequel to the financially successful but critically derided “The Boy” from 2016. Both films heavily feature a lifelike antique doll and the odd events that occur in its vicinity. I hadn’t seen “The Boy” prior to its sequel, but out of curiosity, I rented it after I watched the follow up. While both films share the same director and writer, I was shocked at how the creative team seemed to have forgotten what happened in the first film while making the second. And aside from that, the sequel is painfully dull and doesn’t follow its own rules.

“Brahms: The Boy 2” implies the child of the married couple is already a little twisted before meeting the doll as he enjoys scaring his mother. In the opening scene, Katie Holmes’ Liza walks in their home and Jude can be seen in the openings between the stairs. It’s that classic horror movie scene where the victim walks in the room and the villain is slightly out of focus in the background, then walks out of the shot. In this instance, this sets up Jude frightening his mother, something he was taught to do by his father. Jude takes an abundance of joy in scaring his mother and that’s supposed to set up the audience for what’s to come. However, the film doesn’t work that hard to frighten us for the rest of the scant 86-minute run time. The only other time the audience might feel a surge of adrenalin is when Joseph’s dog barks when we meet he and Oz for the first time. No other moment in the film comes close to providing any sort of thrill after that.

Precious little happens in “Brahms: The Boy 2.” After the home invasion in the opening minutes and a child being impaled on a sharp stick midway or so, there isn’t much going on in the film. Katie Holmes struggles mightily to look concerned, confused and frightened by all the nothingness going on around her. It’s a losing battle. Holmes and the rest of the cast are trying to swim upstream with both hands and one leg tied behind their backs. All they can do is flop around as artistically as possible. It’s not pretty to watch.

If you haven’t seen “The Boy” and plan to, you will want to skip this paragraph as there will be spoilers for the 2016 original. You’ve been warned. Ready?

SPOILERS

In the final act of “The Boy,” we learn Brahms, the actual child of the Heelshires, survived the fire that was thought to have killed him and was living in the walls of the home wearing a porcelain mask similar to the doll. Actions that appeared to be done by the doll, or a spirit living in the doll, were done by the now nearly 30-year-old Brahms. There was nothing supernatural about the strange events. In “Brahms: The Boy 2,” the living Brahms is nowhere to be found and everything happening around the doll may be supernatural. Scenes from the first film are repurposed for the sequel while also retconning the story to make it fit. The way this film ends it makes it appear there is something else that channels the otherworldly forces at work. The film’s writer, Stacey Menear, apparently doesn’t mind changing or ignoring the rules of her own creation for the sake of expediency. Retconning is common in long-running genre franchises. Major and minor tweaks to the history of “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and the “X-Men” franchises don’t seem to have hurt the desire of audiences to keep watching their favorite characters. Sometimes there is online fanboy outrage, but people keep buying tickets and the world keeps turning. However, when you are only two films into what is hoped to be an ongoing series, you can’t be taking an eraser to your too brief history.

“Brahms: The Boy 2” is rated PG-13 for terror, violence, disturbing images and thematic elements. Terror, not so much. We see hot candle wax thrown in a character’s face. A character is hit in the head with the butt of a shotgun. A woman is attacked in her home by two masked men. She fights back but is struck in the head and knocked unconscious. We see a boy bullying Jude about his mental issues after the attack. A child is shown impaled on a sharp stick. The carcass of a dead animal is shown in the forest. Disturbing images are shown in Liza’s dreams.

Maybe the writer was out of ideas. Maybe the deadline crept up and the creative team played word association games to get the script done (the release date was moved back twice). Maybe the studio wanted to get another inexpensive film in the same universe out in theaters hoping no one would care it wasn’t very good. “Brahms: The Boy 2” is worse than not very good, it’s boring. It’s less than 90 minutes long but feels like more than two hours. I give a film the benefit of the doubt if I get the impression the makers actually tried, but this pitiful sequel feels like those in charge gave up and slapped some scenes together so they could move on to the next project. They fulfilled their contractual obligations, cashed their checks and the audience be damned. I know movies are mostly about making money, but they should also be about not insulting the paying audience. On that front, the makers of “Brahms: The Boy 2” failed miserably.

“Brahms: The Boy 2” gets one dim star out of five.

Only one new film is opening in wide release this week, but there some interesting arthouse films that I might need to see as well. I’ll review at least one of the following:

The Assistant—

The Invisible Man—

The Lodge—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Link to “Fantasy Island” Review

Click below to see my WIMZ.com review of “Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island.”

https://wimz.com/blogs/stan-movie-man/1723/review-of-blumhouses-fantasy-island/

Opening this week is a horror sequel and the fifth time this classic book has been made into a movie. I’ll see at least one of the following:

Brahms: The Boy 2–

The Call of the Wild–

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.