Review by Dan Skip Allen
Mike Lombardi is most famous for his role in the FX original series Rescue Me about firefighters in New York. The Retaliators is a far cry from his days on that show. The title says it all. It's a revenge thriller with a horror twist that is quite horrific indeed.
Lombardi plays a father who is also a pastor. He has a nice family: a wife and two daughters. He is quite protective of them. When he finally finds it in himself to let his oldest daughter go to a party on Christmas Eve, it will be the biggest mistake in his life. His daughter gets killed by a mad man and he ends up going down a rabbit hole of revenge-fueled violence and blood.
A local New Jersey cop helps him try to uncover what happened to his daughter and whose responsible. He turns out to have a secret of his own. His lust for revenge sets him on a different path than the pastor. It's not what anybody would have expected. The pastor gets in a little over his head when he has to confront a makeshift prison filled with blood-crazed killers. He is in a fight for survival.
The directors and writers have created a world of nasty no good characters in this film: a crazy biker gang, the revenge-filled pastor, and the detective who's not necessarily on the right side of the law. All of these wide characters surround the innocence of various teenage girls. It's a mix for an absolute bloodbath that is right for the Halloween season.
The film features music from some pretty big names in the rock n roll/metal genre, such as Jacoby Shaddix from Papa Roach, Tommy Lee from Motley Crue, Sixx AM, and Five Finger Death Punch. All of these singers and members in these bands also feature prominently in the film in smaller but important roles. It's nice to see some of my favorites get the movie treatment, even if it's not a very good movie.
The dialogue in the film isn't anything special to write home about and the acting isn't the best either. This film is just a bunch of B-horror movie violence with a couple of stories that come together to make an overall script. The violence is pretty solid for a horror movie as well. The problem with this film is we've seen it before to some extent. It's just a little too excessive and over the top.
The Retaliators debuted at the 2021 edition of Screamfest, which runs October 12-21.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
National Geographic Documentary Films have done various kinds of nonfiction films in the past, from animal docs to adventure docs. This time they are doing a real-life rescue doc. This is a life and death situation that they are filming. This situation was all over the news and the whole world was watching. The filmmakers, directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, are the same people that made Free Solo, the Academy Award-Winning doc from 2018.
The film takes place in Mai Sai, Thailand. It's about the Tham Luang cave rescue. A Thai soccer team consisting of 12 boys and their coach go exploring in a cave system and get stuck there due to flooding waters that start to fill up the cave system. They were there for 20 hours before anybody even noticed they were gone. The ages of the boys range from 11-16 years. Thai authorities bring in the Thai Navy Seals and Vern Unsworth, a consultant on cave exploration in Thailand.
The authorities reached out to the world's best cave divers to come in and help during this difficult situation. These were normal guys that cave-dived on the weekends. One was an electrician, another a doctor, but they all jumped at the chance to help when called upon. Once they arrived, they went right to work, trying to figure out how to rescue these boys and their coach. The first step was to see if they were still alive. That was a feat in and of itself. The Thai Navy seals were a bit suspicious about the rescue and backed out to the third chamber. They wouldn't go any further. So it was up to the British divers to figure out how to save these young people and their coach.
This whole cave system had a claustrophobic nature to it. The waters were swiftly filling up the system because this was monsoon season in Thailand. This made this rescue an uncertain circumstance because the cave will fill up with water and everybody will die. This film is a life and death drama before the eyes of everybody and it was done masterfully. The camera work was exquisitely pieced together. The editing was superb. The talking heads ranging from a wife of a Thai Marine to the actual British divers brought a serious yet somber nature to every word they spoke.
The filmmakers added some interesting touches to the film to add information to the viewers. Animatics helped to give the people watching a better view of the cave system and how the various rescue scenarios were going to unfold. This was a very good idea as far as the filming of this situation goes. Mixing all these different techniques helped make this film one of the best docs of this year and a sure-fire contender for the Academy Award nomination come awards season.
Great documentaries keep the viewers engaged throughout due to the story and of those depicted within the said film. This was a film about the survival of young people and it was all over the world's stage on various news outlets. The actual footage from the rescue was used superbly by the filmmakers. The Rescue was about the harrowing rescue that captured the world's attention and it lived up to the actual situation.
The Rescue hits theaters on October 8.
THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE -- A Horror Film That Deals in Familiarity but Stays Fresh and Original
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Home invasion films and teen horror films are popular genres within horror. Both of them tend to be pretty formulaic. Combining these two subgenres of the horror genre can be an interesting way to write/direct a movie. Netflix is in the horror game this month leading into Halloween. There's Someone Inside Your House is another one of their original horror movies for October.
Sydney Park plays a young girl who moved to Nebraska from Hawaii to live with her ailing grandmother. She hangs with the odd kids in school that pretty much run the gambit of all possible races, religious backgrounds, and sexual orientations. When some murders start to happen of kids that are standouts in sports and academics, she and her friends are caught in the middle. Evidence left at the crime scenes makes things more confusing for authorities to uncover the truth.
All of these kids in this rural area of Nebraska have secrets they keep and are trying to hide from their friends and family members. This community of seemingly regular high school kids has more to be ashamed of than any of them can fathom. Can anybody figure out the connection to the killer before they all die? That is the question. Produced by James Wan and Shawn Levy, their horror backgrounds have nurtured this straightforward horror film that combined multiple subgenres of horror.
This film has the usual horror movie tropes such as the weird kid that everyone thinks is the killer. It has family members that have motives to kill the kids as well. Law enforcement officers are no closer to finding the truth than they are at looking at their own suspicious family members for the killings. Nebraska and high school are the two perfect settings for this murder mystery.
The cast is full of relative nobodies but they are adequate in portraying the various roles they've been cast in. Director Patrick Brice has dabbled in the horror genre before with Creep and its sequel. He has the sensibilities to steer this film in the direction it needs to go. The camera work is also very professional as well. He adds nice editing to keep the scenes fast and fresh.
This has a score that keeps the viewers on their feet as well, especially during the more violent scenes. It creates a somber, dark tone that is needed in this kind of setting of the film. The script is pretty much straight to the punch but also weaves in the details of the various teens' secrets and backstories. This can be a bit misleading at times but brings out the truth of the motivations of who these kids really are.
Despite this film treading familiar ground, it has a very modern and up-to-date feel to it. It takes horror tropes and subgenres and combines them to create an interesting genre picture all its own. Lead by producers Wan and Levy, Brice and company keep the viewers guessing right up until the final knife blow is struck. As a horror fan that doesn't get surprised by anything I see in horror movies, this film was a pleasant surprise. Netflix is knocking it out of the park with their horror-themed month of films and mini-series.
There's Someone Inside Your House streams on Netflix beginning October 6.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
To say that the Western genre is full of classics would be an understatement. High Noon, Once Upon a Time in the West, and various Clint Eastwood films including Unforgiven are all among some of the best films ever made. That said, Westerns have been a little hit and miss in the last two decades. Old Henry is a hit by anybody's standards.
Tim Blake Nelson plays the lead character. He's a farmer in the midwest with a teenage son who, like most teenagers, thinks he knows everything. While out riding on his land, he finds an injured man lying in a creek bed and a bag of cash. The father and son take the man back to their house to help nurse him back to health. They eventually get him healthy and ask him about who he is. The thing is he's not that trustworthy because men come looking for him.
Nelson has had a very fascinating career. He's actually been in a few Westerns before this one. Mostly he plays villains though. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the film that was his breakout role. He was hilarious in that Coen Brothers film. Recently he was in Just Mercy and he did great in a small role in that film. He has even been in a couple of comic book movies. Maybe his character will come back from The Incredible Hulk. Henry, though, is the best character he ever played.
Old Henry has that Lone Wolf and Cub feeling to it. It reminds me of a few Clint Eastwood films as well as the Christian Bale/Russell Crowe version of 3:10 to Yuma. This old grizzled man mentors a young man. We've seen this before in films. The thing is it's so spot on once again. Nelson is perfect in this role. He even has some secrets that come out by the end of the film. Secrets that even I didn't see coming. I usually snuff out movie secrets because I see so many movies.
With all heroes must also come a villain. And Stephen Dorff plays that baddie in this film. He's a bit subdued but violent when he needs to be. We've seen better villains in westerns in the past. This film isn't about the bad guys, though. It's about Henry and his relationship with his son and the man they saved. The bad guys are a necessary evil of the film. They are there for the violence to take its shape for lack of a better word.
Old Henry treads similar ground to a lot of Westerns in the past. The thing that sets this film apart from the others is the performance by Tim Blake Nelson. He gave the performance of his career in the role. The setting and backdrop were pretty cool as well. The director did a very good job fleshing out the characters and their secrets. That helped keep the story flowing nicely even though it was a pretty short film. It flew by in a good way.
Old Henry hits theaters and VOD on October 1.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
HBO hit the jackpot when David Chase came to them with the idea of a gang boss who has everyday problems and family issues. The show won many, many awards for its cast, and the producers, directors, and writers. It ushered in a new era in television watching. It may have coined the phrase appointment TV, where everybody tunes in each week without fail to see the next episode and talk about it at work the next day at the water cooler.
When Chase came back to them with the idea of a prequel movie to show how all these characters became who they were in The Sopranos, of course, they jumped on the idea. It was a no-brainer to greenlight a movie based on these widely popular characters that have been gone from the public consciousness for about a decade or so. Chase's career after The Sopranos is a bit spotty, but he knows this world and those within it very vividly.
The Many Saints of Newark takes place in the tumultuous times of the late '60s and early '70s when the country was at a turning point. This era was a powder keg. The film focuses on a character not seen in the show Richard "Dickie" Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola, The Art of Self Defense), the uncle of young Anthony "Tony" Soprano (Michael Gandolfini and William Ludwig). Other prominent actors playing roles in the film are Ray Liotta, Leslie Odom Jr., Cory Stoll, Vera Farmiga, and Jon Bernthal. They play various family members and acquaintances as well as enemies in the film. Besides being a coming-of-age story for young Tony, it's also a true-to-life gangster picture.
Chase set the stage for the show perfectly, introducing many of the characters we already know from the show as well as ones we hadn't been introduced to yet but heard about on the show. It was the perfect way to bring older viewers who were already familiar with the characters back into the fold. The problem is if you weren't familiar with the show, it would be a little confusing. That's where the actual gangster plot comes in. The film stands on its own in that aspect. It's a very engaging gangster film and Dickie is a worthwhile lead character.
(L-r) COREY STOLL as Junior Soprano, unnamed extra, VERA FARMIGA as Livia Soprano, JON BERNTHAL as Johnny Soprano, MICHAEL GANDOLFINI as Teenage Tony Soprano, GABRIELLA PIAZZA as Joanne Moltisanti and ALESSANDRO NIVOLA as Dickie Moltisanti in New Line Cinema and Home Box Office’s mob drama “THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Barry Wetcher.
The film has a narrator to bring the viewers into the world once again or for the first time. A crane shot moves the camera over a graveyard and various characters speak as it passes their tombstones. It finally settles on the gravestone of Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli). From this point on, he narrates the film. This is an effective method of explaining what's going on for the viewers who aren't familiar with this world or its characters.
Chase weaved in subplots for those long-time fans of the show. Those were moments that made me happy because I liked how these characters were left so we then can see them picked up on the show. Especially young Tony and Junior Soprano. Their arcs in the film were very satisfying indeed. Seeing where Chase left them off almost made me want to go home and start watching the show from the very beginning once again. This was a very satisfying ending to the film.
The production value of the film was great. I felt like I was back in that period with the clothes, cars, and hairstyles the women wore. The storefronts were right out of the period as well. It reminded me of other classic gangster films such as Goodfellas.
I always worry when my hype for a film outweighs the actual product that comes out. The anticipation of this film was worth the wait, though. For me, it brought me back into the world of these characters and created a new enthusiasm for these new characters. This movie comes full circle and I can't be happier. That being said, it's a little too niche for casual viewers. They should be able to follow it through, even if they probably won't know all the stuff big fans will know.
The Many Saints of Newark hits theaters and HBO Max on October 1.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Documentaries about various subject matter need to give a lot of information and show the viewer a side of the subject that is interesting and or fascinating. The Most Beautiful Boy in the World does just that. It focuses on a gentleman by the name of Björn Andresen, a celebrity in his own time
Director Luchino Visconti is looking for a very specific boy, not a girl, to star in his latest feature film back in the late '60s early '70s called Death in Venice. It eventually came out in 1971 in theaters. A Swedish boy, Björn Andresen, who's the narrator of the film, catches the eye of Visconti. He was dubbed the most beautiful boy in the world by the press and media at the time. He was just what Visconti was looking for. So Visconti started work on Death in Venice based on the Thomas Mann story of the same name.,
Visconti filmed most of the scenes at the Lido Hotel Des Bains. Dirk Bogarde played the crippled composer who admired Tadzio, Andresen's character in the film. Andresen also had a governess on set, Miriam Sambol. Born didn't get a lot of direction from Visconti except go, stop, turn around and smile. Visconti finished the film relatively quickly and it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival that summer. This was the beginning of the craziness for Andresen in his career.
Andresen and his girlfriend Jessica travel around and visit various people from his past: a manga artist from Japan, a musician, an old friend of his mother's, and his daughter. The talking heads bring a lot of context to the story, along with archival footage of old childhood videos inner spliced throughout the film. This all helped delve deeper into his life. These interviews and super 8 videos explained a lot about his life which help break up the story of the film from earlier.
This doc had a lot going for it. From the aspect of Andresen being discovered and put into a movie which helped him develop acting and singing careers to the talking heads that provided context on his life past and present, this man was a very complex individual. As a result of his stardom and tragedies in his life, he would never be that innocent young teenager again. I am going to watch Death in Venice as a result of seeing this film. That's for sure.
The Most Beautiful Boy in the World hits theaters on September 24.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Netflix has doubled down on director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Doctor Sleep, Gerald's Game). He has quite the resume of shows and movies in his young career. Midnight Mass is the latest show from him, right on time, about a month away from Halloween. People are looking for new and interesting material to watch around Halloween. This is that. It'll get all of those horror juices flowing for sure.
The series takes place on a sleepy island called Crockett Island, known as the Crock-Pot, a place where all different kinds of people from different walks of life and religious background live and worship together. The show focuses on a new young priest (Hamish Linklater) that comes to town. He brings miracles in the form of healing the old and crippled. This causes the small community to enamor him, looking for some salvation in a hard time.
This series pulls on popular horror and fantasy tropes we all love and admire. Religion has played a part in a lot of movies and shows in the past. It's something that's not always understood as far as the mythical and supernatural. God is misused to create a feeling of belonging yet ends up being a vessel for evil and wrongdoing. The title says it all, as well as the episode names, pulled from the books of the Bible. That's only half of it though. All the mysteries involving the characters play a part in making this show entertaining and right for the masses on Netflix. Flanagan knows his audience.
Flanagan's frequent collaborators, The Newton Brothers, once again do the score for this series as well. They make the music very haunting and atmospheric. The soundtrack kicks in with some amazing songs right when they are needed. One song in particular from Neil Diamond is spot on and perfectly placed. Many others are chosen very well for the series. A good soundtrack can transport the viewers into the world of the show or film. This one does just that.
The production value on this series was pretty good as well. There are quite a few scenes with blood spillage and fire damage toward the end of the film. The setting was cool because it was a small village on an island and suffixes for this production. The catholic church iconography was well done as well. Flanagan and company kept this story light and beautiful until it wasn't. It is definitely different from the dark and dank settings from some of his previous work on Netflix. I felt this drew me into the story quite nicely
Based on Flanagan's track record, people should give Netflix and Midnight Mass a chance. This series has very good acting from its huge cast. It develops its characters very well to make us care about what happens to them. The horror tropes are well thought out using the tried and true theory of religion as its backdrop. Priests have made good villains in many movies in the past and do so here as well. Netflix has marketed this show perfectly and it's coming out at the right time. The audiences seeking new and interesting spooky fare will enjoy this show with familiar horror concepts.
Midnight Mass hits Netflix on September 24. All seven episodes reviewed.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
It's hard to say what's funny and not funny because every person has their own standards. Lady of the Manor was meant to be a funny take on southern life and history. The problem is these characters in the film aren't in the least funny, let alone entertaining.
Melanie Lynskey plays a lazy woman who doesn't have anything going for her in life. Sure she's got a job but shortly loses it due to her incompetence. She has a fluke encounter with a well-to-do young man played by Ryan Phillipe. He offers her a job at his family's historical manor as a host of a tour. He has some ulterior sexual motives though. She starts to see the real scam behind the man with a little help from a local history professor played by Justin Long and the ghost of the woman she's portraying as the tour host.
Long also directed the film with his brother Christian and enlisted help from some friends of his in various roles, including Judy Greer as the ghost and Louis Guzmán as an empathetic wise-cracking bartender. Long tries to make this a funny historically-driven story, but most of the jokes fall short. This film just has a bunch of contrivances in the script. It asks the viewers to have quite the suspension of disbelief in the events that occur.
Filmed locally where I'm from in Florida, Lady in the Manor has some nice sights. It's got the feeling of a southern story. The accents and locations are on point. That's some good production value. The costumes and hair and makeup are strong as well. Other than the contrivances in the script, the historical aspects are quite interesting.
Like a lot of comedies these days, this film relies on cheap laughs from toilet humor. Two, in particular, are when Lynskey's character asks to go into another room so she can fart in private, but there is a man in the room. And the other is when she's barring her sole to Guzman's bartender and he says he had other customers and the camera pans around and there is nobody in the bar. Cheap laughs that don't work in the overall context of the story.
Lady of the Manor is a film that didn't need to be made. It's not funny other than two cheap laughs it got from toilet humor. The story is full of contrivances and the acting isn't very good from Long's friends he enlisted to be in this bad history lesson. If Long wants to direct another film, he should find better material than this.
Lady of the Manor is now in theaters and on VOD.
Review by Sean Boelman
Eastwood gets the audience into the world he's creating right off of the bat with a little country music, an old Chevy truck driving down a dirt road, and horses running around in their pasture. We're instantly put into the world he created for Cry Macho. It's right out of his playbook.
In the world of cinema, some names define various genres such as Scorsese and Coppola are synonymous with gangster pictures, Steven Spielberg is known for fantasy/sci-fi films, and Hitchcock is the master of thrillers. In that same discussion, Clint Eastwood is associated with the Western genre. He is known for films such as The "Man with No Name Trilogy", Unforgiven, Pale Rider, and The Outlaw Josey Wales. When he does a Western, it's kind of a big deal.
Cry Macho is considered a neo-Western set in the modern day and adopting themes from today, even though it does have feelings of the past from the little towns in Mexico to old cars and so forth. Even though it's set in the modern day, the lone wolf trope still works. Also the rescuer theme as well. Clint's character fits into all of these categories. That's what makes him appealing to mass audiences. People can relate to him on that level.
Eastwood's character is a ranch hand, but he was an old rodeo star in his younger days. His backer (Dwight Yoakam) decides to strong-arm him into going to Mexico because he owes him a favor for the past where he bankrolled him and his career. He says his son is in Mexico and his crazy wife won't let him go. He needs him to go down there and get the kid and bring him back. He has ulterior motives, though. And the old cowboy is having more problems than he thought getting the kid and getting him back into the States.
Eastwood adapts the book of the same name with a script from Nick Schenk and N. Richard Nash. They are pretty straightforward with the themes in the book. Eastwood plays on his persona perfectly. The lone wolf routine is right up his alley. Even though he came out on record as saying he wasn't going to act again, he couldn't resist getting back in the saddle again for this sweet story of an old man who rescues a young teen from a tough life in Mexico. Along the way, they both make friends they'll never forget and create an amazing friendship themselves.
Eastwood's directorial style is one of a very distinct nature. Whatever he's been doing since directing Play Misty For Me back in the 1970s, it's been working. He's won a few Oscars for his work in the last few decades. One last movie on his resume couldn't hurt his impeccable reputation with viewers or his compatriots. This makes him one of the best directors ever. Acting is just a bonus for him, but he still can make people go out and see his films. In the case of Cry Macho, it's also on HBO Max, so they can watch it in the comfort of their own homes.
Cry Macho reinforces the legacy Eastwood has created for himself, whether it be acting or directing. He is a living legend. He rarely makes a bad film. The heart and sweetness he imbues into Cry Macho reminded me of Gran Torino to some extent. This is right out of Eastwood's playbook from where I was sitting watching it. It's another solid outing for him.
Cry Macho hits theaters and HBO Max on September 17.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Universal Pictures has had its fair share of movie franchises over the years. The Fast and the Furious and Jurassic Park series are two of the most popular franchises in their history. But decades before these franchises came out, Universal was famous for its classic monsters such as Dracula, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and Gil-Man (The Creature From the Black Lagoon). But Frankenstein is considered their most popular monster, and one of the reasons why is Boris Karloff's performance.
Karloff's career is that of a varied actor with many ups and downs in it. The ups of course are the Frankenstein films and a few of the other horror films he's famous for such as The Black Cat and the narration of the animated classic The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. That said, he also did a lot of television work and a bunch of other campy low-rent horror films he had various smaller roles in.
Karloff had a very long career and many people in the business were inspired by him and his career as well as some of the weird and off-the-wall characters he portrayed. The film has some notable people such as Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth), film critic Leonard Maltin, Joe Dante (The Howling), and John Landis (An American Werewolf in London). They were all waxing poetic about Karloff and his career.
Karloff had an interesting relationship with Bela Lugosi (Dracula) They were always going for the same types of roles. This made people believe they had a rivalry with one another. The thing is they worked together a few times and we're actually friends off-camera. This is one of those things that gets blown out of proportion over the years. The real feud Karloff had was with his Frankenstein director James Whale.
Some of their feud was depicted in the 1998 film Gods and Monsters, but this film really goes into more of the problems the two had with one another. Whale put Karloff through the wringer on Frankenstein films because of some comments he made about how Whale was on set. In one instance, Whale forced Karloff to carry a real man up a flight of steps many times, resulting in the beginning of Karloff's chronic back problems.
His back issues would lead to the end of his career. He had to start wearing a brace on his leg as well. This hampered his career near the end. He was a constant professional, though. His personal life was a bit different, though having married five times, he could hardly make a woman happy because of his constant work ethic. He did have one daughter though, Sara Karloff, who takes care of her father's legacy.
Great docs have to bring the viewer into the life or subject they are depicting on screen. This one does just that. It talks about Karloff's career in-depth and the talking heads go into much more detail about this legendary actor. The filmmakers effectively depict this man and his storied career and all its ups and downs. I was very enthralled by so much of the detail the film goes into. This was a very fascinating look into this man's long life.
Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster hits theaters on September 17.