Sufficiently entertaining. SHAZAM! Fury of the Gods starts and ends well, but the middle wanders aimlessly with the only goal to inflate runtime. After the explosive first act, the second act mostly serves as filler material to augment the narrative by making it about twenty to thirty minutes longer than it needed to be. Fortunately, the third act delivers a climatic showdown, which greatly aids in the audience experience. But the movie struggles narratively between the inciting incident (at the beginning) and the showdown at the end. Clearly, there was a good superhero movie in there, but it gets lost during the meandering developmental stage. To the movie’s credit, though, it’s the enthusiastic cast that ultimately saves the audience from complete disengagement. This is especially true with Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu, playing our villains, and Jack Dylan Grazer in his well-played comedic relief. While it’s not terribly memorable superhero movie, neither is it a bad movie.
Bestowed with the powers of the gods, Billy Batson and his fellow foster kids are still learning how to juggle teenage life with their adult superhero alter egos. When a vengeful trio of ancient gods arrives on Earth in search of the magic stolen from them long ago, Shazam and his allies get thrust into a battle for their superpowers, their lives, and the fate of the world.
If you have not seen the trailer, DON’T. While I have not seen the trailer myself, I’ve read that the BIG cameo at the end of the movie is spoiled. So, do yourself a favor and do NOT watch the trailer. As I stated in the beginning, it is sufficiently entertaining; moreover, I honestly enjoyed myself more than I thought I would for a movie aimed at kids and young teens. When I say aimed at kids and young teens, I do not use that as a pejorative or as a tool to belittle the movie. In fact, I am glad to see that there is a superhero movie that is aimed at kids. Seems like the majority of superhero movies nowadays are inappropriate for developing minds. It pleases me that we have a movie here that is suitable for the whole family.
Ghostface takes Manhattan. Mostly forgettable, S6REAM is neither bad enough nor good enough to be remembered. This forgettable installment in the SCREAM franchise is written by the brilliant Ready or Not’s James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, but you wouldn’t know it from the contrived, clunky plot the two screenwriters developed. More violence does not a great horror movie make; the amped violence is employed as a tool to compensate for the vapid storytelling. Overstuffed with characters and lacking in any real suspense or thoughtful plotting, SCREAM VI is what happens when stories are dumbed down for TikTok attention spans and those that eat up YouTube trash. The Ready or Not duo should have spent more time understanding why Kevin Williamson’s excellent original screenplay works rather than creating some insipid fan fiction featuring the iconic Ghostface. Suffice it to say, SCREAM 6 is enjoyable enough for legacy fans, but remaining invested in this movie will undoubtedly prove to be an exercise in tolerance for the absurd.
Four survivors of the Ghostface murders, leave Woodsboro behind for a fresh start in New York City. However, they soon find themselves in a fight for their lives when a new killer embarks on a bloody rampage.
The SCREAM franchise is famous for its (usually) thoughtful social commentary on the horror genre (more specifically, the slasher); by extension, these meta observations are applicable to society in general. Scream VI provides commentary on franchises and (to my delight, as a film professor) film studies! In fact, Samara Weaving’s character is a film studies professor with an expertise in horror (just like me!). What’s ironic is that for all the knowledge the screenwriters demonstrate in a critical analysis of tropes or patterns of a horror franchise, this movie fails to provide anything meaningful to add to the conversation.
The detrimental problem in this lack of anything new is that the movie loses any kind of real thrill; moreover, it loses any ability to resonate with audiences because of failing to tap into those most primal fears at the bedrock of horror. The very tropes the movie highlights are the very tropes that form obstacles that the movie never overcomes. Furthermore, the problematic screenwriting feels like a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy rather than anything innovative. It doesn’t redefine what it means to be a franchise, it falls victim to the same parasitic infection innate in most franchises.
One promise the movie’s publicity makes—and fulfills—is the amped up violence, both in terms of body count and level of trauma. And there are most certainly going to be those that use the violence as a barometer for satisfaction in watching the film. This is a flawed evaluation method because it has little to nothing to do with the actual storytelling methodology nor quality. Due to the exponentially increased violence, the pacing of the movie is in high gear the whole time, leaving little to no room for emotional resets or breathing room to build suspense or any tangible tension. S6REAM is a lackluster offspring of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s desperately trying to evoke an affection for the legacy property.
Because of the overstuffed cast, there is little time to develop any level of empathy for the characters. The only characters to have any real agency are Gale Weathers and Samantha Carpenter. Even Kirby’s character (whom gets a highly anticipated return) is lacking in dimension or growth arc. Other problems in casting include Jena Ortega whom I cannot take seriously as a final girl because she may as well be Rey from Star Wars for all her invincibility and lack of flaws. I never felt once that her life was in any real danger. An important quality for a final girl is strength, failure, and resilience. Tara is lacking in all these important qualities.
Scream VI (and the predestined Scream 7) may prove to be the nails in the coffin for the slasher. It will take a screenwriter(s) or director that cares about going back to the roots and building upon the soul of legacy properties or the tropes to breathe life into the former screen king of the horror genre. In other words, screenwriters and directors that care about story integrity.
Whimsical and creepy. Jon Wright’s Unwelcome is a dark fantasy steeped in Irish folklore, but with a sinister spin. While the first act is a bit clunky, after the intense prologue that is, once the second act kicks into gear, the movie delivers on thrills and kills—and cheers for practical effects!! Fellow Trekkies will also enjoy the cameo from Star Trek’s Chief O’Brien.
A couple escape their urban nightmare to the tranquility of rural Ireland, only to hear stories of mysterious creatures who live in the gnarled, ancient woods at the foot of their garden. As warned by their new neighbors, the creatures come when called to help souls in dire need of rescue, but it’s crucial to remember that there’s always a dear price to pay for their aid.
Unwelcome draws audiences in with its immersive atmosphere and chilling mythos, but falters in pacing. After a gripping prologue, the first act struggles to find its footing to keep the pacing suitable for the rest of the setup. Often times this screenwriting problem occurs when the writer and/or director attempts to add greater gravitas to the story than is required or needed. Moreover, there is time spent with side characters and establishing setting that delays the transition to the development stage of the story, which would have benefitted the overall pacing of this quasi-methodical horror film. Once audiences are launched into the second act, the remainder of the film unfolds nicely.
Even though this is in-part a dark fantasy, when the kills hit, they hit! Wright (along with cowriter Mark Stay) strike a fantastic balance between horror and fantasy, simultaneously satisfying the expectations for both. While the kills may not be inordinately creative, they are sufficiently entertaining. By relying on practical effects, the experience of the film increases in dimension significantly. And I’m not just talking about the kills, but the excellent puppetry, makeup effects, and prosthetics of the little people. Over all, Unwelcome is a decent horror film that deserves a watch if you enjoy folklore-based stories that are familiar yet still find ways of surprising you.
Heart pounding! Michael B. Jordan’s CREED III is an excellent, gripping motion picture! Quite possibly the best in the now-trilogy. Moreover, it is the first Best Picture contender in 2023. Reminds us that movies that focus on simple plots with complex characters are often times make for the best stories. The tertiary installment in the Creed series is a revenge story on the backdrop of the power the past can have over us if we fail to face it in the ring. This moving story is certain to stir up the feels! Ryan and Keenan Coogler’s story paired with Jordan’s directing and the iconic Sylvester Stallone’s producing combine to craft a story that is both visually and emotionally driven. Add in the A-list cast, and Creed III becomes one film that you do not want to miss seeing on the big screen, and preferably in a premium format. Audiences will feel as though they are in both the boxing ring that we can see and the psychological fighting ring that we must feel. Like with the previous Creed (and even Rocky movies), it’s not about the boxing, it’s not about the athletics, it’s about the characters; however, the setting and backdrop of a boxing match and physical endurance training is the conduit through which the story unfolds. While some critics have negatively reacted to the simple plot, need I remind my contemporaries that conventional storytelling is never to be undervalued. For it is when the plot is accessible that the complexities of character dynamics and thoughtful subplots work in tandem to support excellence in storytelling.
Still dominating the boxing world, Adonis Creed is thriving in his career and family life. When Damian, a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy resurfaces after serving time in prison, he’s eager to prove that he deserves his shot in the ring. The face-off between former friends is more than just a fight. To settle the score, Adonis must put his future on the line to battle Damian — a fighter who has nothing to lose.
Five years removed from Creed II, I was wondering if this next installment would be on par with the previous two outstanding movies, and suffice it to say, it most definitely is. In fact, I may even go onto say that this is my favorite of the series. And why is that? It’s the characters. Yes, most of the characters are ones with which we are already familiar, but the addition of an old, estranged friend of Adonis’ is the injection of emotional and physiological complexities that this film needed to force our hero of Adonis Creed to continue to grow as a person, a father, and as a professional. His Journey parallels Damian’s (Dame) journey as they are both fighting the demons of their respective pasts. Each of them express or deal with their pasts in their own ways, yielding vastly different results. And it is the divergent path both these fighters took after a fateful encounter one night that set Adonis on the path to forget the past and Dame on a self-destructive past that would lead him to seeking revenge on the man he claims lived his life.
While the outside-action story is expressed through a boxing match and simple revenge plot, the inside-emotional story concerns itself with a greater degree of introspection as expressed through the respective emotional journeys and fights with the past. Suffice it to say, Adonis and Dane are two sides of the same coin. Both characters react to the events of the past divergently. Wherein the audience will relate most is the idea of battling the past to move on, and failing to confront the past, no matter how painful, can lead to being held prisoner of past events that fester as time goes on.
Each of us has a past that we either tried to escape or allow to define us; either way, that gives the past immense power over our lives and decisions, even affecting those around us. The action plot of the boxing match is a manifestation or personification, if you will, of the battle raging inside both Adonis and Dame. Adonis expressed this influence of the past through a facade of overcoming and resillence, while Dame expressed this influence though unforgiveness (which is like you drinking poison hoping it’ll harm the other person) and resentment. Through the catharsis of the boxing match, Adonis and Dame confront the past with both links and separates the estranged friends.
Creed III is exciting and well-paced. Audiences will be on the edge of their seats as the story unfolds. Yes, there are moments of predicability, as this is a type of story that has been told before, but don’t allow that to dissuade you from making your way to the movie theatre to catch this future best picture contender. Are aspects of this story cliche (or paint by numbers), yes; however, as Patrick DeWitt reminds us in The French Exit through the timeless Michelle Pfeiffer, never forget that a cliche is “a story so fine and thrilling that it’s grown old in its hopeful retelling.” And Creed III is certainly thrilling!
Healing and uplifting. Jesus Revolution is a biographical drama that simultaneously depicts the past whilst critiquing the present. Based on a true story about the radical search for truth, comes a motion picture that is simultaneously concerned with critiquing our present world as much as it is depicting historical events. Through exploring the past, the journey’s true value is not merely a better understanding of the past, but the impact on our present world. The real power of this motion picture is the ability for it to use a story from the past as a provocative lens through which to understand the current state of affairs in both popular culture and the Church.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Greg Laurie and a sea of young people descend on sunny Southern California to redefine truth through all means of liberation. Inadvertently, Laurie meets a charismatic street preacher and a pastor who open the doors to a church to a stream of wandering youth. What unfolds is a counterculture movement that becomes the greatest spiritual awakening in American history.
Directors Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle demonstrate that they are just as concerned about the story itself as they are the methodology of crafting a film. Moreover, Jesus Revolution is the first faith-based film (that isn’t a sword and sandal epic) to take itself seriously as a motion picture. Believe me, I was as shocked as critic to find that the cinematography and editing are quite good! Not to mention the excellent lead cast. Cowriting the screenplay with Erwin is the central figure in the film Greg Laurie. Which does give me pause, because individuals writing a biographical drama based on them or major events in which they were a central figure often leads to a lack of authenticity. However, the screenplay is helped by Erwin and Jon Gunn, which is probably why the film feels as honest as it does.
The variety of characters portrayed in the film gives audiences someone with whom to connect. Which isn’t to say that the character with whom you connect is always a positive reaction; perhaps the character with whom you connect is one that is more concerned with ritual, image, and piety than with people and relationships. At the end of the day, this is a film about radical love, and how we need to concern ourselves with not what divides us but with what brings us together.
The biggest draw in the cast is Frasier himself! Kelsey Grammer plays Chuck Smith, the pastor of a dying church, whom is confronted with his own prejudgments about young people and hippie culture. It takes the radical street preacher Lonnie Frisbee and his skeptical-of-Christianity daughter to transform his world view. While Grammer is not the central character in Jesus Revolution, he is the one that you may be coming to see, especially with the highly anticipated revival of his smash hit Frasier. Suffice it to say, Grammer is the best actor in the movie, but he is surrounded by a solid lead cast that shows that faith-based films can deliver quality performances. Through candid arguments and authentic portrayals of raw conflict and reactions, this character-driven motion picture will hold up a mirror to your face and ask you which of these characters you are.
Both the cinematography and editing are on point. There are some absolutely gorgeous shot sequences and even some stylistic editing choices that exponentially increase the quality of this picture compared to most other faith-based films. Where most faith-based films fail is in the ART and SCIENCE of what it takes to craft a compelling picture. More than an objective eye to capture the outside-action plot, the camera is used in the same way an author uses a pen to write a novel. In cinematic terms we call this the camera stylo. There is certainly an auteur quality to this film that is just as concerned with how the story is being presented, and not just what is being presented to audiences.
What I appreciate more than the technical achievement of the film is the fact it doesn’t shy away from how awful christians can be to one another and to outsiders. One thing this faith-based film is not, is an echo chamber for those that already believe. The film is sure to make some people feel uncomfortable; and you know what, it’s not non-believers that this film seeks to make the most uncomfortable (although there is certainly a proselytizing message in the film), the those that are made the most uncomfortable with themselves are judgey christians that care way more about their club than for a hurting world in search for truth and in need of the kind of radical love that Jesus was all about.