I was surprised by how much I liked this. It reminded me of Besson’s Lucy except that was all Johanssen’s film whereas Florence Pugh and David Harbour do their best to steal the show here. The de rigueur MCU action scenes are as boring and formulaic as ever but the family scenes, especially the banter, are a highlight. The humor works well to leaven the underlying atrocity of the Widow program. FF=2
(Netflix) The good news: Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a great job in the title role. The bad news: You’ve seen it all before. Think John Wick in Japan crossed with the noir classic D.O.A. MEW has the chops but needs a better script to let her reach the level of badassery she showed as Nikki Swango in Fargo season 3.
Well, this was fun. Written by John Wick’s creator and you can tell. No slack in its jam-packed running time. I love Hutch’s wrist tattoo: unsuited 2 and 7 playing cards. When you see that in Texas hold ’em, you fold immediately. It’s never explained, but in one scene, a threatening tough guy spots it, says “Thank you for your service,” and gets the hell outa there. Nuff said. FF=0
(Amazon) – While “Jolt” owes a lot to Luc Besson, this owes a huge debt to “John Wick” re: the diner standing in for The Continental Hotel and the action choreography. The humor bordered on stupid and I found the neon palette of the cinematography off-putting. But I confess to being engaged. FF=2
BLOOD RED SKY
(Netflix) – this is unabashedly Draculas (by Crouch, Konrath, Strand, and myself) on a plane, right down to the fiery finale. The 2-hour running time stretches the story a bit much, and a little humor would have been welcome amid the tons of action and gore. FF=2
(Netflix) Not bad but utterly predictable. As soon as the trucks and drivers set out on their rescue mission, you know exactly who’s gonna live and who ain’t. Also predictable (considering it’s about trucks) is that it will devolve into a series of chase scenes (which I FF’d through). FF=3
THE TOMORROW WAR
(Prime Video) Lots of echoes here: “Alien,” “The Thing from Another World,” etc., but that’s fine. The aliens are suitably horrific. We know Chris Pratt has action chops, but he was surprisingly effective as a loving father too. Some nice twists and I especially liked the Arctic finale. FF=1
(Prime Video) I can’t see how this film would exist without Luc Besson (I’m thinking of “Lucy” and “Anna” to which this owes a huge debt). I didn’t recognize Kate Beckinsale but did recognize Stanley Tucci and Bobby Cannavale. Lots of action (I’ve no regrets watching it) but it lacks Besson’s patented touch of insanity. FF=1
I caught a piece of this while surfing and decided to rent the DVD (again) because the snippet I saw looked pretty good. Glad I did. This is a well-done thriller. I’d forgotten how well done. (Well, it’s been almost 30 years.) The pacing is excellent, pulling you painlessly through the 2-1/2-hour running time. Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, and Ed Harris, Wilford Brimley, Holly Hunter — even Gary Busey — are perfect for their roles.
Back in the day, when I was a new member of SFWA, we issued the SFWA Handbook, and in it we advised all SF writers to avoid the “space western.” It might be popular on TV (Star Trek was called “Wagon Train in space”) but the genre’s print editors weren’t interested.
It’s still popular on TV as evidenced by the acclaim for The Mandalorian on Disney+. John Favreau, the writer and showrunner, has dipped into both the western bounty-hunter genre and the Japanese ronin films for inspiration. The title character is a masked bounty hunter who does a good imitation of Clint Eastwood’s voice and wears a cape instead of a serape.
In the first three of the eight episodes we’re treated to a saloon shootout, some alien bronco busting, a desert town shootout, and the successful capture of the objective: a fifty year-old alien child you have no recourse but to call “Baby Yoda” (he’s not) who is terminally cute. By the end of chapter 3 the Mandalorian has decided to take the child under his wing, which lands a price on his head and sets all the other bounty hunters after him. (John Wick, anyone?) I watched him stride along with the floating basinet beside him and said, “Lone Wolf and Cub.” My daughter and grandson were watching with me but had no idea what I was talking about.
Episode 4 is a cut-down version of The Magnificent 7 (or Seven Samurai). I say “cut down” because there are only two gunslingers (The Magnificent Duo?) – the Mandalorian and the hot but very scary Gina Carano. I could go on but I won’t. I must, however, mention the arrival of Gus Fring in the guise of Mof Gideon, and the very cool salute to the finale of The Wild Bunch in episode 8.
I’m not complaining about the homages (?) because I had fun identifying them, but going forward I hope for more original plotting. I do see a problem with the Mandalorian religion forbidding him to show his face to another human being. It’s a big drawback in that it’s so distancing. This character is carrying the series but the helmet makes it very difficult to engage with him. Even old Mount Rushmore Eastwood gave us something as the Man with No Name (he could do a lot with a squint).