Tell me of a lost, secret, world-changing technology hidden within mystery inside an enigma wrapped in a riddle at the center of a vast, murderous conspiracy and I’m there. Adding the name Tesla is just icing on the cake. Written by and starring Greg Stuhr (I’ve never heard of him either), it involves a sleazy PI and (you guessed it) a beautiful mystery woman who gets him involved in the conspiracy. A poorly crafted screenplay and a poor choice to play the PI who needs more than Stuhr brings to the role to carry the film. Still, it managed to engage me despite the coincidences and improbabilities. (You might not be so lucky.) The script could have cut the foot chases and spent more time tightening the plot.
This was intense. Hard to believe all those gators (except for an occasional animatronic head or tail) were CGI. Very realistic. Although there’s some gore, I’d classify Crawl as a terror film rather than a horror film. The predators are in their element and you’re out of yours, so the fear and suspense ratchet up again and again. Well done.
Pickup on South Street
First time I’ve seen this 1953 film and I like it a lot. Never been much of a Widmark fan but he’s fine as the anti-hero pickpocket. Thelma Ritter steals every scene she’s in, and Jean Peters makes the most of a poorly developed role. A good remark about Widmark’s character: “He’s got something decent trying to crawl out of him.” The maguffin is a strip of microfilm with industrial secrets that the “commies” have stolen. Widmark picks the wrong pocket and off we go.
I found this Amazon Prime adaptation so much better than the comic books. The casting is superb. I mean, who knew Karl Urban (Bones on the Trek reboot) could command the screen like he does as Butcher. And Erin Moriarty as Starlight is the picture of innocence. I’ve read a dozen-plus issues of the comic and it’s sleazy and prurient in its pandering to fanboys. Showrunner Eric Kripke has given extra attention to the supes and made it all more character based (without backing off on the violence). I’m feeling vibes from Alan Moore’s Miracleman and will def be back for season 2.
MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944)
This was in my noir queue but is more of an espionage thriller than a crime story. Ray Milland and Marjorie Reynolds (later in “The Life of Riley”) star, Fritz Lang directs. The film deviates from Graham Greene’s novel to make it more cinematic. The plot kicks off with Milland inadvertently winning a prize at a fair that someone else was supposed to win, thus involving him with Nazi spies operating in Britain. If you’re fan of deep-focus cinematography, Lang shows it off here in abundance. A well-paced, engaging film.
A rather dull flick where you sit around waiting for the big reveal that you sussed out in the first ten minutes but you’re hoping it’s not that because it’s too obvious. I didn’t think Glenn Close was any better in this than in a dozen other roles (frankly, she wasn’t given a lot to work with). In its favor I can say it’s a lot better than Roma. FF=1
Not sure what to make of this one. It’s a mess but an interesting mess. A visually engaging noir =Nashville= in a future skid-row underworld hospital which seems to operate under the same rules as John Wick’s Continental Hotel. Jodie Foster is deliberately unglamorous and it looks like Jeff Goldblum was hired for one day of shooting. Sofia Boutella is her usual alluring self, and Dave Bautista is Drax. The peripeteia is a contrived groaner. There’s nothing and no one you haven’t seen before but you’ve never seen them all gathered in the same place. FF=1
PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN
I found the story fascinating, and it explained many of the kinks in the early Wonder Woman comics (the author was into bondage, lived in a menage a trois, and released all his fantasies onto the page), but it simply didn’t gel as a film. (I hate to be one of those annoying anachronism nerds, but they annoy me. In a 1920s scene, Marston says he was in the OSS during WW1, but the OSS wasn’t formed until WW2 was underway. Such a simple fact check.) FF=1
The less said about this, the better (for those who haven’t seen it). I will say it’s crazy, it’s over the top, it’s got twists I didn’t see coming, and even some comic relief. Not your average horror film and well, well, well worth seeing.
DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)
Longtime Ditko fan though I may be, I never got into this comic book. Strange was a total-Ditko creation. Stan Lee came on later. I loved the art but found the stories hokey. Did like this film, though. Some of the effects are mindbending. Cumberbatch brings the right amounts of suavity and arrogance to the character and the pacing kept my finger off the FF button (well, except for the fight scenes). Ditko should have got credit for some of the art direction as well.