THE LOST CITY adventure movie mini-review

The lost screenplay. The whole time Loretta (Sandra Bullock), Alan (Channing Tatum), and Abigail (Daniel Radcliffe) are searching for the legendary fire crown on a mysterious, obscure volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic (that simultaneously is developed enough to have an airport and tourism economy), I was left wondering if the writers and director lost the screenplay, and just made it up as they went along. Clearly this film is an attempt to reimagine the adventure-romance classic Romancing the Stone, but lacks nearly everything that makes the aforementioned one of the best written screenplays of all time. What The Lost City does have is undeniable chemistry between all of our lead and supporting cast. And it’s this chemistry that will keep you from completely tuning out. A screenplay with a well-paced, structured story and well-developed characters can always have the funny bumped-up; whereas a screenplay that is a laugh-a-minute has a much more difficult time bumping up the plot and characters. Unfortunately, the latter is a more accurate description of this movie better suited for direct-to-streaming than a theatrical run. When the funny is rooted in bit or gag-based humor, it simply can’t sustain a movie’s energy and entertainment value. The release date is also puzzling. Since this movie is a romance of sorts, it would have made more sense to release in February for Valentine’s Day. Nothing is left to subtext…it’s all right there on the surface, requiring nothing of the audience. Furthermore, so little is required of the actors that all look like they are completely bored with the story and phoning-in performances. Interestingly, the best-developed character in the movie is Alan (Tatum), and that’s not saying much. Believe it or not, there IS a good movie (on the level of Romancing the Stone) in there somewhere–the characters and story are thoughtful and fun–but the poorly written screenplay holds the movie back from the potential that was clearly there.

Ryan teaches Film Studies and Digital Citizenship at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

Follow him on Twitter: RLTerry1

A Quiet Place Part 2 Review

The less quiet sequel exchanges atmospheric horror for increased action and thrills.

For the conversation with me and Minorities Report Pod, click HERE.

Picking up where the first one left audiences, A Quiet Place Part 2 is bigger, louder, and delivers more monsters than Part 1. While you won’t be living with the same level of tension that you had in the first one, the sequel offers plenty of gripping action sequences and those eerily quiet moments where your neighbor’s Reese’s Pieces bag cracking may make you jump in your seat.

This movie is certainly making waves in the box office, and has many claiming “cinema is back.” Well, back would imply that it went away, which would be incorrect; cinemas started reopening last July. Anyway. What I can agree with is that it is the first new theatrical release to receive an incredibly warm welcome by those that have been attending the cinema since last July and those that are just now returning. In many ways, this movie could be considered event cinema because of the response from audiences during previews last Thursday through the holiday weekend (speaking of which, I hope you had a meaningful, enjoyable Memorial Day weekend).

Before picking up where you left off in the first movie, you will witness the first day that the aliens arrived. Following the events at home, the Abbott family now face the terrors of the outside world. Forced to venture into the unknown, they realize the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats lurking beyond the sand path. Along the way, they meet other survivors, but things are not at all what they seem.

There is no debate that A Quiet Place Part 2 is an excellently made movie. From the set design to the acting to the technical elements, everything works very well. And talk about audio design and engineering! The approach Krasinki took to place us in the shoes of Regan was brilliant. While it by no means was to illustrate an accurate portrait of what it must be like to be deaf, it was true to the world that we are in, in the film. Those moments that we are not hearing what Regan isn’t hearing, are certainly some of the most unnerving and frightening moments in the film. While I take issue with the story sacrificing atmospheric and methodical horror for more action, thrills, and monsters, I cannot deny that even the writing is solid, for the story Krasinki desired to tell, that is.

But what is it? Is it still a horror movie? And that is why I am writing my review. To tackle that very question. I could write about how well everything was executed, but you’ve heard all that as this film has been very well received, by in large, by audiences and critics alike.

After I watched it, I was left with a feeling of meh, and I couldn’t quite figure out why. It wasn’t the film’s technical execution, it wasn’t the performances, it wasn’t the direction, per se, so what was it? And after I saw an analogy using Alien:Aliens and Terminator:Terminator2, it hit me. A Quiet Place Part 2 isn’t horror (no matter what you’ve heard);. In fact, it’s less horror than Aliens is.

Why is this even important? Does it impact the quality of the film? No. But it’s important to talk about because the first installment was horror and the sequel was billed as a horror movie. What we have here is a bait’n switch. The experience of a cinematic work can (albeit not always) be impacted by the expectations you have for a particular film. I was all geared up for a first-run horror film in the cinema; but what I got was a family drama with a hefty amount of action and some horror-adjacency.

It was brought up on the Minorities Report Pod episode I guested on to review this movie that this switch from horror to action may have been unavoidable because the monsters are no longer unfamiliar to us; therefore, the tools that worked for horror are no longer applicable. While I can understand where that argument is coming from, simply because we are now familiar with the aliens/monsters, that doesn’t mean the film needed to leave the prestige of horror behind for something more attractive to mass audiences. Many horror sequels continue to be horror even as we become more familiar with the world and characters. Examples: Annabelle Creation, SCRE4M, ANOES: Dream Warriors, Conjuring 2, Halloween H20 and H40, The Babysitter: Killer Queen, and the list could go on.

During the live Q&A with Krasinski and J.J. Abrams after the film screening I was in, Abrams stated, “it shouldn’t be thought of as a horror movie, because it’s so much more.” Wow. Just wow. Abrams has to gaul to suggest that if a film is too good, if it is rich with social commentary and character development, that it can’t possibly be a horror film. This is completely untrue. Horror films are far more truthful than any direct drama. These are the films, over the century, that are still being studied today. Many of the greatest films of all time are horror, and they are great because they still have so much to teach us about ourselves and society.

Through the horror film, we can better understand just how complex life really is and even what it means to be human. Topics such as gender roles, parenting, sexuality, faith, religion, government, the family can all be best explored through the horror film. While Krasinski does include some great social commentary that is well-executed, I got on my little soap box because Abrams is wrong in his opinion on why A Quiet Place Part 2 has to be more than a horror film.

While it is not horror, A Quiet Place Part 2 is an accessible family drama/action movie with some heartwarming character moments, and some occasional horror-adjacency. It’s certainly an exciting film that is action-packed from beginning to end. There may not be anything particularly memorable about this movie, save the exceptional audio engineering and the bear trap, but you are sure to enjoy this lean film. Krasinski stated that his career as a writer/director was heavily influenced by Hitchcock. And while Krasinski has yet to master the art of suspense with a camera, he does show a commitment to one of Hitch’s rules for filmmaking, “start each scene as close to the end [of the scene] as possible.” In other words, Krasinski does an excellent job of trimming the fat, leaving audiences with an action-packed, thrill ride for just over 90-minutes.

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Ryan teaches screenwriting and film studies at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with or meet him in the theme parks!

Follow him on Twitter: RLTerry1

“I See You” (2019) Movie Review

See this spellbinding enigma! I See You is a beautifully and cleverly crafted horror-adjacent psychological thriller that combines the horror of a People Under the Stairs urban legend with the police procedural stylings of SE7EN and Along Came a Spider with Lynchian influences. An official selection at last year’s South By Southwest Film Festival, this movie is now included with Amazon Prime and available on other streaming services. Even since movie theatres had to close in the wake of COVID-19, I have been struggling to identify films to watch for purposes of a formal review. While selecting rewatches and select new watches for pure entertaining and passing the time has also been a struggle, I meet with a paralyzing indecisive quandary when browsing VOD selections for a film to review. Perhaps I am in the minority on this, but I depend on theatrical releases for structural, filter, and priority purposes. But after not releasing a new article last week, I knew that I needed to watch and review something. At the recommendation of a friend of my sister’s, I checked out I See You, and I am glad that I did! Starting out in a very Lynchian fashion with sweeping birds eye view camera shots over a sleepy, yet affluent hamlet, the seemingly supernatural tedious first act gives way to terrifying reality told through an enigmatic nonlinear narrative device in the second and third acts. To get into plot specifics would deprive you of the thrill of a first-time watch, but don’t believe everything you think you see in the film. Playing around with points of view, trauma, and the breakdown of a family, this film delivers the twists and turns you desire from a psychological thriller while concurrently delivering a depiction of what happens when trauma festers in the mind and soul without a constructive way of resolving it. In retrospect, some of the logic of the plot doesn’t quite make sense, and there are some elements that you simply have to chalk up to the suspension of disbelief. But the rollercoaster of a showdown finishes in a brilliant crescendo that feels like something that Wes Craven and David Lynch would have written together.

Strange occurrences plague Greg (Jon Tenney), a small town detective, and his family as he investigates the disappearance of a young boy whom appears to be the victim of a copycat serial killer. With the specter of a man sent to prison that may have been innocent, Greg is also dealing with the recent affair of his wife Jackie (Helen Hunt) and the unbridled anger exhibited by his son Connor (Judah Lewis) over his mother’s affair.

The nonlinear plot of I See You employs Hitchcockian misdirection with subjective vantage points and audience expectations versus reality. Quite the brilliant combination for a psychological thriller. After the diegetic catalyst of a young boy being violently ripped from his bicycle–literally thrown into the air–sets the melancholy, ominous tone for the movie, the first and second acts of the film tell the same story, but from two different perspectives. The malevolent force witnessed in the opening scene seems to follow audiences to the unnerving confines of the Harper house that is spatially large, but an ominous presence takes the palatial house and makes it feel like a prison. In retrospect, the breadcrumbs are all too obvious; however, many of these conspicuous clues go unregistered by the audience because of the more exciting prospect of a supernatural force at work. I appreciate how the main action and subplot compliment the themes of reconnecting with estranged family members, guilt, resentment, and trauma. Moreover, the search for the missing boy parallels Jackie’s search for her estranged son whilst dealing with her ideal family image hiding dark secrets.

During the first act, we receive a great deal of exposition; fortunately, the subplot backstory of Jackie’s transgression (which we learn is a recent affair for which she is genuinely remorseful) is delivered primarily through dramatic character reaction and supplemented with dialogue. While the familial drama provides a tantalizing subplot, it’s the search for the missing boy believed to be the victim of a sadistic pedophillial copy cat serial killer that is the main action plot of the film. And the backstory for the action plot is creatively delivered through the police procedural headed by Greg. We learn everything that we need to know in order to understand the plot in the first few scenes. While some of what we learn is intentionally designed to misdirect our attention–think of it as a magician focusing our attention on his right hand while it’s the left hand that is creating the magic–it is still valuable information that will all come together in the end. After the big reveal in the epilogue, everything that unfolded throughout the movie becomes even more sinister.

Over all, you’ll find strong performances by the three lead cast. The top-billed Helen Hunt, while starting out as the central character, quickly becomes a chief supporting character to Tenney and Lewis. However, she delivers the strongest performance out of the three. Not that the other two do not command the screen, Lewis is able to showcase his acting chops that provide evidence that he is shaping up to be a diverse actor capable of the young adult comedy of The Babysitter and the shocking anger of his character in this film. Screenwriter Devon Graye and director Adam Randall demonstrate an outstanding comprehension of story craft that simultaneously embraces horror/thriller tropes and subverting the genre expectations. Creatively expressing the story for the screen is the stylistic cinematography that effortlessly switches modes from subjective to objective without disorienting the audience. The editor takes a page out of the David Fincher color pallet and technique to showcase the neo-noir tone of the film. Editing is one of the most undervalued technical elements in a film–undervalued by the general public–because the best editing is the kind that doesn’t become a spectacle but supports the narrative by communicating the plot and emotion of the story. Communicating the unsettling tone and shocking moments in the film is first-time composer William Arcane. From the writing to acting to the technical elements, this film provides a highly entertaining, and at times terrifying, story!

I See You may not be for everyone, but the intended audience will definitely enjoy it! The types of people that will enjoy this most are those whom already enjoy the non-supernatural Lynch, Craven, Hitchcock, and Craven movies. With the nonlinear storytelling, there was such a possibility of failing in the execution, but director Randall crafts an excellent thriller that will have you wanting to rewatch it to see all the clues you missed before. Even though it is definitely rewatchable once, I do not feel that it is the kind of movie that will be continually rewatchable through the years. However, it is certainly a solid selection for your enjoyment, especially if psychological thrillers are your thing.

Ryan teaches screenwriting at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in the Tampa area, feel free to catch a movie with him!

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“Sonic the Hedgehog” movie mini review

Formulaic and forgettable. SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog is the latest video game movie (VGM) adaptation to race into theatres. After the #FilmTwitter campaign last year to redesign the Sonic character, Sonic emerges an excellent animated design that feels like an extension of his video game self. Unfortunately, this outcry from the public to redesign the nightmarish version that we saw last year caused Sonic’s animation/effects studio to go bankrupt. But hey, the public got a much better Sonic, so I guess it was worth it…right??? That is certainly debatable. I hope that every one of those artists and technicians were able to find jobs with other animation/effects studios. While I feel that this is simply another moderately funny paint-by-the-numbers VGM, after speaking with those that have kids in their lives, apparently it hits the target audience very well. In fact, Reel Spoilers‘s host Kevin R Brackett‘s son Ryan exclaimed, “this is the best thing ever.” While I did not find anything particularly memorable in the movie, it is clear to me that I perhaps did not approach the movie with the eyes and desires of a child. However, I did play SEGA and Sonic growing up, so I do fall within the group that should appreciate the nostalgia of Sonic the Hedgehog. Whereas I was not engaged by Jim Carrey’s Robotnik, others seem to find his performance hilariously entertaining. It was fun to see such a comedic icon on the screen again, but the performance didn’t do much for me. Kevin and his son both thought Carrey’s Robotnik was fantastic! And I know they have a solid taste in movies, so there must be something in this movie that I clearly missed. Maybe I went into the auditorium with the wrong mindset, so please take that into consideration when deciding whether or not to see this movie. Regardless if you have kids, nieces, nephews, or not, I definitely recommend NOT seeing this movie alone. I think this is one of those movies that is best experienced with a friend.

Ryan teaches screenwriting at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! You can catch Ryan most weeks at Studio Movie Grill Tampa, so if you’re in the area, feel free to catch a movie with him!

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Twitter: RLTerry1

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“Terminator: Dark Fate” action movie review

Linda Hamilton is back! And that’s all you really need to know about Terminator: Dark Fate. Her return highlights what was missing in the sequels that followed the critically acclaimed and immensely popular Terminator 2: Judgement Day that inspired the former attraction T2-3D at Universal Studios Florida. While this action movie clearly seeks to impress you with its phenomenal visual effects, it also goes back to the gritty character driven plot that made the first two Terminator movies works incredibly well and give them that punch that we expect out of these movies. With the return of Hamilton’s Sarah Connor and Arnold, in the role that made him a household name, this movie uses nostalgia–not as a way to live in the past and look back at the good ol’ days–but to move forward. No mistaking it, this movie is filled with adrenaline pumping action from start to finish; but the plot is very much grounded in what made the first two so successful: the characters. Despite having so many futuristic elements, Dark Fate’s storytelling is grounded in a science-fiction that never feels completely out of this world. One might even say that the plot is very much grounded in a plausible reality. When this franchise faced eternal damnation in its own judgement day after several flops, Sarah Connor returns to save the franchise from its own extinction. With Cameron providing a vision for this installment, it is the perfect blend of tentpole plot devices and progressive storytelling. Terminator: Dark Fate erases the previous three movies to fit in nicely after T2:3D.

In Mexico City, a newly modified liquid Terminator — the Rev-9 model — arrives from the future to kill a young factory worker named Dani Ramos. Also sent back in time is Grace, a hybrid cyborg human who must protect Ramos from the seemingly indestructible robotic assassin. But the two women soon find some much-needed help from a pair of unexpected allies — seasoned warrior Sarah Connor and the T-800 Terminator. (IMDb)

It should come of no surprise that the number one reason to watch this movie is for the bold, bad ass return of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor! Her mantra may as well be “have bazooka, will travel.” Even though we witnessed the moment she stepped out of the SUV and onto the highway in the trailer, that moment still packs a punch when you watch it in the movie. Although it’s Davis character of Grace that is sent from the future to protect Dani, it really is Hamilton whom saves this movie and the franchise. Both Davis and Hamilton complement one another very well, each adding that special something that this franchise desperately needed. And that something is great, memorable characters. Not only do we have our two intimidating protectors, we also have a new “Sarah/John Connor” character in Natalia Reyes that will steel your heart. Even though Reyes’ Dani is our central character, it is Hamilton and Davis that have the lion’s share of the screentime. And it’s a good thing to, because it is their chemistry that holds this movie together and grounds it in that same abrasive banter that makes the first two movies so endearing. And yes, Connor has some great one-liners, including the franchise’s best-known line “I’ll be back.” Her entrance will undoubtedly evoke uncontrollable cheering throughout the audience for both her character and the actor herself.

The first two movies had extremely well-developed and executed plots, and then the plots and characters went off the rails. Thankfully, under the guidance of Cameron (whom has a co-writer credit), the plot of Dark Fate goes back to its roots of spending a sufficient amount of time setting up the story that is about to unfold. One of the magical parts of screenwriting is the ability to get away with just about anything–and it be believable–if you set it up early enough in the story. From the moment the movie opens, the central conflict in the plot is already being setup for major deliveries later on in the story. Not only do we hop in the wayback machine to a late 90s Sarah and John Connor, we witness that preventing judgment day did not completely protect the Connors from tragedy. Judgment day appears to be “starting all over” to quote the former T2-3D attraction. Although the overall goal of the plot is to stop Judgment Day from happening in the future, there is a secondary goal for both Connor and Grace. That is to protect Grace because she is the key to stopping the malevolent AI in the future. Not because she is a “Mother Mary” figure (much like Sarah was in the original) whom will give birth to the one who would save the world from the machines, but because Dani is to give birth to her own sense of agency that will cause her to become the leader of the resistance.

The strongest kind of conflict, in a plot, is derived from character relationships. Well developed and setup character conflict provides a near endless supply of drama that will carry the action and subtext of the movie. And the conflict meter reads off the charts between Connor and a particular T-800 (played by the definitive Terminator Schwarzenegger) because of a tragedy that befell Connor in the late 90s. Before you think that this T-800 is still hunting down Terminators from the future, this one can tell you any and everything you need to know about drapery. He’s gone and bought the metaphoric house with a picket fence, got married, and has a kid. Even though he’s demonstrably turned from his CyberDyne ways, Connor has a longtime grudge against this model, and she isn’t afraid to show it–and loudly. While Connor wants to kill him, Dani concludes that she cannot save the world without his help. Watching Connor and Carl (Arnold’s T-800) passionately bicker and verbally fight sounds like it may be there simply for the sake of nostalgia, but it lays the groundwork for how they will be forced to work together during the second and third acts of the movie. It may be grounded in T-1 and T-2, but this conflict moves the story forward. In a sense, these two characters provide the perfect balance between human and machine that was largely missing from the three movies that followed Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

If you’re a fan of the first two Terminators and the former attraction at Universal Studios Florida, then this movie is for you. Yes, it’s also for general audiences, but it’d specifically made for the longtime fans of the franchise that was, up to this point, doomed for extinction. Its got it all: action, a thrilling plot, endearing characters, beautiful visuals, and a memorable score (duh duh duh, duh-duh, duh duh duh, duh-duh). But more than for any other reason, you want to watch this movie to see our combat boot wearing, rock launcher carrying, no nonsense Sarah Connor as can only be played by Linda Hamilton.

Ryan teaches screenwriting at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! You can catch Ryan most weeks at Studio Movie Grill Tampa, so if you’re in the area, feel free to catch a movie with him!

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Twitter: RLTerry1

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