Archive for 2023

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy, Superhero with tags on March 19, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

2019’s Shazam! was about children who metamorphosized into superpowered grownups. The chronicle was charming because the developments were fresh and new. Billy Batson (Asher Angel) was introduced as an orphaned teenager that received the abilities of the ancient gods from the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou). Whenever the teen yelled “Shazam!” he transformed into a muscular hero (Zachary Levi) in a red bodysuit with a lightning bolt on his chest. He possessed strength, courage, and speed, but his brain remained as a child. He was still fraught with feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. He was aided by his adoptive siblings, with whom he shared the powers of a magical staff. They likewise became superheroes.

The “kids” are a powerful team of crime fighters in this sequel. They must face off against natural disasters in Philadelphia, like saving people on a collapsing bridge in the opening setpiece. However, their mission is complicated when confronted by the Daughters of Atlas. These villains include Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu). The sisters want to harness the power of the Wizard’s staff for themselves.

That would be enough story, but there’s so much more. Billy has turned 18. He’s concerned about aging out of the foster system. Billy is now an adult, and he looks it. He’s not the only one. Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) — his more mature and academically minded sister — has aged so much that she is portrayed by the same actress in her adult form. Meanwhile, Billy’s foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) falls for Anne (Rachel Zegler), a mysterious new girl at school who may not be all she seems. Together Freddy and Anne radiate a flicker of chemistry that I enjoyed.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film is unbearably stuffed with gags. Sure, the first picture was light-hearted. That made it a refreshing change in a DC Extended Universe previously known for Zack Snyder’s gloomy worldview (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Justice League). Here the wisecracks are so relentless it’s oppressive. I never laughed. A series of jokes fashioned around multicolored candies are nothing more than a shameless advertisement for that product. Furthermore, Zachary Levi’s mugging performance is so tedious. The actor has dialed up the doofiness considerably. The actor smirks, sneers, grimaces, and giggles, contorting his face like never before.

Shazam is more than a manchild; he’s a complete doofus. And he blathers incessantly — rarely pausing for a breath. The rapid-fire cadence of words spewing from his mouth so fast you fear the chatterbox might pass out. His inane quips include the Fast & Furious franchise when speaking about family. Ugh! Do you ever think anything you don’t say? At one point, Billy uses a sentient pen to draft a negotiation letter. The enchanted stylus includes all the random thoughts he speaks out loud. When Helen Mirren, as Hespera, recites the letter for all to hear, it is admittedly an amusing bit. Ok, so I chuckled there.

The worst superhero movies take a simple idea and make it confusing, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is more! More people! More special effects! More plot! It has more everything but charm. It is an explosion of computer graphics and chaos masquerading as a narrative. When the Daughters of Atlas command a mythical dragon, the manifestation is so disconnected from anything resembling a logical development that it doesn’t even seem like a real threat. Explosions occur, and buildings fall. This is an exhausting display of destruction that happens to feature beloved personalities from the first movie. They do a bunch of stuff. Very little of which is interesting.



Posted in Action, Adventure, Drama with tags on March 16, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Random thought: Did anyone else watch the 1970s TV series Land of the Lost during its original run? Just me? Ok.

So I can sum up the entire plot of 65 in 10 words. “An astronaut crashes upon an unknown world and finds dinosaurs.” There are a few more details — but not much. Screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods write and direct. The team also penned A Quiet Place. However, this movie solidifies the ongoing suspicion that director John Krasinski’s contribution to that script was significant. The opening crawl informs us that before the onset of homo sapiens, other civilizations across the universe (which implausibly look like humans, too) have engaged in intergalactic travel. Mills (Adam Driver) — a pilot — and his wife Alya (Nika King) live on the planet Somaris. They have a daughter named Nevine (Chloe Coleman), who suffers from an illness. The money he earns from this two-year expedition will be enough to treat her. 

Planet of the Apes understood the power of a reveal. The twist that would have made this chronicle interesting is foolishly disclosed in the first 20 minutes. The mysterious environment upon which Mills crash lands is Earth during the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago. That’s the explanation for the terrible title. His ship has been split in half. The space pods that offer an escape are resting unharmed at the top of a mountain. Sadly the other passengers on board have been killed. Then he discovers a lone survivor — a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) cryogenically frozen in a chamber.  

The story is about a trek to a mountain. This is a picture that rests on the interactions between Mills and Koa. The “Grumpy Dad-Adopted Daughter” dynamic is so very hot right now. Nearly 30 years ago, the trope gained popularity with 1994’s The Professional. It has continued with 2017’s Logan and the Netflix show The Witcher. The Last of Us on HBO is a current example. However, here the child speaks an entirely different language. They have difficulty communicating, which conveniently alleviates the scribes from writing anything of substance. This characteristic renders their discussions incredibly dull. I understand her presence. She reminds him of his daughter, but nothing is done with that idea. Oh yeah, along the way they encounter some dinosaurs. This component is practically an afterthought. 

If there’s anything positive to say — and there is — it’s that the atmosphere is visually impressive. Dinosaurs are inherently exciting. It’s why the Jurassic Park franchise has a worldwide gross of $6 billion. I will admit the special effects are amazing. There are some potent scares — augmented by loud, jarring sounds. However, more is needed to sustain this film. Even at a concise 93 minutes, there isn’t enough to support this picture’s paltry amount of narrative developments.

The stop motion animation in Sid and Marty Krofft’s Saturday morning serial Land of the Lost was nothing to brag about, but at least the story was compelling. It’s available on the TV app ReDiscover Television. If you need to satiate your “father-daughter surrounded by dinosaurs” fix, watch that instead.


Creed III

Posted in Drama, Sports with tags on March 4, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In this continuation, Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has been retired for three years. He’s living a life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills. His singer-songwriter wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) is a hotshot music producer. Together they are raising their young daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent), who was born deaf. Donnie runs his gym Delphi Boxing Academy and trains his protégé, world champion Felix “El Guerrero” Chavez (José Benavidez Jr.). Out of the past emerges a childhood friend named Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors). Dame was an aspiring boxer. However, a shared indiscretion in their youth saw Dame locked up in prison for 18 years (he had a prior criminal record). Donnie managed to run away and escape punishment. Now released, Dame expresses his dream of a title shot against the world champion. Plus, he feels his friend owes him one. Donnie refuses at first. Then guilt weighs on him, so he gives in. Dame and Chavez go at it in the ring. Now, what are the odds that the former friends will eventually go toe to toe too?

Creed III is still part of the Rocky franchise. In that sense, this is Rocky 9 or Rocky IX if using the traditional nomenclature. However, actor Sylvester Stallone is nowhere to be found for the first time. His absence is never explained. Although he is alluded to when Dame says to Donnie, “If Apollo Creed can take a chance on some underdog, why can’t you?” Dame is a menacing presence, and as portrayed by Jonathan Majors, he is a suitable villain with experiences that serves this narrative well.

There’s tension between the two sides. You have this raw individual fresh out of jail hungry for glory vs. a wealthy and famous success thriving in contented prosperity. Clubber Lang, er uh, I mean Dame, taunts that his buddy has gone soft and is a coward. The setup bears more than a passing resemblance to Rocky III. The account even includes the death of a beloved figure and yet another training montage. The screenplay by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin won’t win any awards for innovation.

But I’ll defend the picture. You don’t come to these movies for originality. It’s about personalities. There’s enough dramatic weight to these interactions to hold our interest. A cloud of vengeance hangs over Creed III. The screenplay frames fighting as a double-edged sword that can infect your being or turn you into a celebrity. Dame believes Donnie was handed the life that was meant for him. That anger fuels a rage that has morphed into a boxer out for revenge. He’s clearly gone down a very dark path.

I was absorbed by their history together. Michael B. Jordan — making his directorial debut — and Jonathan Majors are compelling entertainers that sell these stock characters. That’s so key in a story like this. There are several subplots. Donnie and Bianca’s daughter Amara is developing a thirst for fighting. The child smacks a classmate right in the face for ripping her artwork. Amara’s parents argue over how to channel this desire. I spy a future reboot entitled Amara Creed on the horizon. More importantly, the brawls deliver. The climatic tournament at Dodger Stadium is a visual display of pugilistic prowess. At one point, the audience disappears, and it’s just two boxers alone, one-on-one, in the ring. The bout is exceptionally well choreographed. And ultimately, this is why you come to a boxing movie.


2023 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Part 3 of 3)

Posted in Drama, Shorts with tags on February 28, 2023 by Mark Hobin

The 2023 Academy Award-nominated short films have been playing in theaters since February 17. ShortsTV has made the nominees in all three categories (animated, live-action, documentary) available to audiences every year since 2006. Visit the website here to learn more about the participating cinemas and how to purchase tickets. See them before the upcoming Oscars ceremony on Sunday, March 12.


The entries in this category briefed me about nature and human nature. Tales of misery often dominate this award. This year is more positive. Even the negative efforts have a silver lining. The best documentary shorts give us everything we need to know in 40 minutes or less and do it impartially. These accomplish that goal with varying results. I instinctively resist heavy-handed narratives, but a documentary should have a point of view. Thankfully there isn’t a clinker in the group as they are all interesting.

I’ve ranked these shorts in order for their ability to captivate.

INDIA / 41 MINS / 2022
Director: Kartiki Gonsalves

Bomman and Bellie are members of the Kattunayakar Tribe, a forest community that resides in the Mudumalai Forest Reserve in Tamil Nadu, India. They are elephant caregivers who rehabilitate injured, abandoned, and orphaned baby elephants. Their lives intersect when carrying out the duties of their life’s passion. They successfully raise two baby elephants, Raghu and Ammu, and become husband and wife in the process. It’s that last part that clinched it for me. The tender presentation of these majestic animals was enough, but adding the human drama of love to this portrait just puts it over the top. Yes, it’s manipulative but so what? The most feel-good entry of the program. My pick for what WILL WIN and SHOULD WIN.

UK / 25 MINS / 2022
Directors: Evgenia Arbugaeva, Maxim Arbugaev

The setting is on the Kara Sea coastline on the Yamal Peninsula in Russia. A lonely scientist waits patiently in a ramshackle hut on a remote beach. He’s there to witness a historical gathering of walruses that temporarily leave the water between foraging periods. Stunning cinematography highlights a breathtaking reveal. But don’t get too enamored by all the beautiful wildlife on display. There is a nefarious explanation for what we are witnessing. Not surprisingly, this phenomenon is blamed on climate change. Shrinking ice is the reason. Yet another reminder that human beings are the most dangerous threat to our ecosystem. I assume the conservationist-minded people who made this documentary are not being reprimanded.

USA / 30 MINS / 2022
Directors: Joshua Seftel

Islamophobia is the theme. Richard “Mac” McKinney is US Marine consumed with rage. After 25 years of military service that comprised multiple tours in Somalia and the Middle East, he has returned home to Muncie, Indiana. However, his hatred for Muslims persists. So much so that he plans to construct an improvised explosive device (IED) and set it off at the Islamic Center in town. His wife Dana and stepdaughter Emily are unaware of his intentions. The story takes an unexpected turn when he meets Afghan refugees Bibi Bahrami and her husband Dr. Saber Bahrami, as well as their fellow believers, which includes Muncie native Jomo Williams. What could have been a very dark story ultimately incorporates kindness and rehabilitation. That people can undergo a true conversion for the better is a powerful testament. However, the unsettling idea that if the Muslims hadn’t approached Mac in just the right way, they would be dead still lingers well after the happy ending.

USA / 39 MINS / 2022
Directors: Anne Alvergue, Debra McClutchy

Martha Mitchell was the wife of John N. Mitchell, United States Attorney General under President Richard Nixon. She became a whistleblower of sorts when her public comments and phone calls became a thorn in the side of the Nixon administration. She complains of allegedly being held captive in a California hotel. The portrait elevates the outspoken woman as a hero whose sanity was publicly and unfairly questioned at the time. This heavily relies upon having prior knowledge of the politics of this era. For example, what made Watergate such a scandal is never satisfactorily explained to the uninformed. It’s been over half a century. The opinion that Watergate was a bad thing is neither unique nor revelatory. Rather superficial at 39 minutes but a breezy watch of how Watergate affected this one wealthy socialite.

USA / 29 MINS / 2022
Director: Jay Rosenblatt

Director Jay Rosenblatt interviews his daughter every year on her birthday until age 18. Watching someone age before our eyes is inherently compelling. The edited compilation is acceptable, but I suspect the presentation would be mildly fascinating with almost any child. To truly transcend requires a director to ask cogent questions. It’s not happening here, folks. “What are dreams?” and “What is power?” are emblematic of the queries. The answers predictably change over time but not in any meaningful way. Social media is filled with viral videos of parents who feature their kids. Much of what I see is more riveting than this. Either more parents should submit their work for Oscar consideration, or Jay Rosenblatt is lucky. The filmmaker was recognized in this category last year for When We Were Bullies. That didn’t win, and I doubt this will either. Kudos for getting nominated again, though. Perhaps his next movie should be entitled How do you get an Oscar nomination?


Cocaine Bear

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Thriller with tags on February 25, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In 1985 a 175-pound (79-kilogram) American black bear overdosed on cocaine. It all began when a drug lord named Andrew C. Thornton II was trafficking narcotics from Colombia into the United States. He dropped a load of 40 plastic containers of cocaine over Georgia’s Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. The cargo was too heavy for his light twin-engine plane. Thornton also evacuated and died soon after when his parachute failed to open. On December 23, authorities in Georgia discovered the body of a black bear that had eaten the stimulant. The total amount consumed was 75 pounds (34 kilograms), valued at 2 million dollars. Those are the facts, and this is his story.

Ok, so the film has taken some liberties. The animal did not kill anyone and died immediately after ingesting the drug. However, that would not make an exciting movie. This is a silly comedy mixed with severe gore. The screenwriters have fabricated a tale out of whole cloth. The bear goes on a rampage and ends up killing many people in gruesome ways. That’s it. The chronicle is half-baked.

Cocaine Bear is the chronicle of a beast that goes on a coke-fueled frenzy. She — yes, the mammal is female — has a craving for more of that addictive white powder. The bear will mercilessly kill any human in her sights. The narrative is inherently a comedy first, so you are invited to laugh, with horror being a close second. In that capacity, it unapologetically offers vivid grindhouse violence — a severed leg here, a decapitated head there. One poor soul is subject to a literal stomach churning where his intestines are ripped out of his abdomen. The simple idea is mined continuously to the point of exhaustion. I longed for a twist, plot development, or anything that might break up the monotony. The picture is a mere 95 minutes and still feels too long.

What “bear-ly” saves this B movie is a colorful cast. The starry ensemble includes Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) as a drug kingpin named Syd in one of his last performances. His underlings are his grief-stricken son, played by Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story), and O’Shea Jackson Jr (Straight Outta Compton) as Syd’s second-in-command. Keri Russell (TV’s Felicity) is a nurse and the mom of a young girl portrayed by Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project). Christian Convery (TV’s Sweet Tooth) is memorable as her little friend. Margo Martindale (August: Osage County) is a park ranger who applies perfume to incur the affection of a wildlife inspector, played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson (TV’s Modern Family). Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Da 5 Bloods) is the policeman assigned to the case. Other actors depict teen ruffians, hikers, law enforcement, and ambulance workers. They all contribute.

Cocaine Bear is this generation’s Snakes on a Plane. It’s a passable time-filler — amusing in the moment and forgettable the next day. If the title is enough to make you chuckle, then see it. If not, steer clear. The saga will be “un-bear-able.”


2023 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Part 2 of 3)

Posted in Drama, Shorts with tags on February 22, 2023 by Mark Hobin

The 2023 Academy Award-nominated short films have been playing in theaters since February 17. ShortsTV has made the nominees in all three categories (animated, live-action, documentary) available to audiences every year since 2006. Visit the website here to learn more about the participating cinemas and how to purchase tickets. See them before the upcoming Oscars ceremony on Sunday, March 12.


This year the live-action short nominees will give viewers a tour of the world. An international selection that doesn’t include the U.S. If one thing unites all of these entries, it’s that human relationships are fraught with tension. The finest of these stories ends on an uplifting note. There may be hope for us after all. The less satisfying ones conclude that people are inherently evil.

I’ve ranked these shorts in order from best to least favorite. There was a wide variation in my enjoyment of the films in this category.

IRELAND / 23 MINS /2022
Directors: Tom Berkeley, Ross White

The double-meaning title is slang for when you duck out of a party without bidding farewell to anyone. Two brothers come together to mourn their recently deceased mother. Elder brother Turlough (Seamus O’Hara) attempts to get affairs in order. He also hopes to find a relative who can look after his younger brother Lorcan (James Martin), who has Down Syndrome. Their parish priest (Paddy Jenkins) informs the duo that their mom had a bucket list. Lorcan convinces his reluctant brother to finish every item to honor her passing.

A warm-hearted Irish saga is a real audience pleaser full of cultural humor. It’s hard not to compare this darkly comedic tale about male bonds in rural Ireland with a certain pessimistic Best Picture contender. The vast difference between the philosophical worldviews of these two pictures couldn’t be more disparate. This wholesome, poignant yarn is the anti-Banshees of Inisherin. My pick for what SHOULD WIN

ITALY, USA/ 37 MINS / 2022
Director: Alice Rohrwacher

“Let them eat cake.” A group of young girls at a Catholic boarding school in Italy yearn for a playful childhood. This is Mussolini-era Fascist Italy, and resources are scarce. “The pupils” are bound by strict moral teaching. One of the girls named Serafina (Melissa Falasconi) appears to be the odd one out. While the sisters seem somewhat lenient, Mother Superior (Alba Rohrwacher) is anything but. A radio in the background broadcasts news of WWII but also music. The girls must wash their mouths with soap after singing the lyrics of “Ba Ba Baciami Piccina,” which means “Kiss me, baby.”

The longest short of the program is set in motion about halfway through when a wealthy woman visits the orphanage. She seeks the orphan girls’ prayers for her philandering husband. To strengthen their resolve, she bakes them a decadent cake she claims has 70 eggs. The dessert becomes the focus of an important decision. This account features a cast of adorable children and celebrates their innocence and anarchic spirit. Although it is advent season which is the period leading up to Christmas, this is not typical holiday fare. The tone is tongue-in-cheek. Produced by Alfonso Cuarón and distributed by Disney+. My pick for what WILL WIN.

NORWAY / 15 MINS / 2020
Director: Eirik Tveiten

On a cold winter night in December, Ebba (Sigrid Kandal Husjord) waits for the tram. While the conductor is on break, she enters the empty train to keep warm. In an attempt to close the door, Ebba pushes random buttons and inadvertently starts the tram. Then a group of various people boards the train. The narrative stars a little person and what develops when a transgender woman is harassed on the bus. Ebba struggles with what to do. The most concise contender begins on a whimsical note of light comedy and morphs awkwardly into a serious drama. That combination has made this the most polarizing of the shorts. It ultimately course corrects into a supportive tale.

Director: Cyrus Neshvad

First comes marriage, then comes love? An Iranian teenager (Nawelle Ewad) has arrived at Luxembourg Airport. Her suitcase is sitting at the carousel. Yet she fears the man (Sarkaw Gorany) waiting beyond the gate. The dialogue is minimal and offers little situational particulars. The lack of details feeds into our apprehension, just the presentation of two strangers and mounting anxiety. She makes the life-changing decision to remove her head covering and leave.

Without question a controversial practice that is a cultural and religious institution for some. This predictably takes the traditional belief that arranged marriages are bad and something to escape. Although in this case, the couple hasn’t met, and we know little about them. This portrait takes the stereotypical point of view and ticks all the boxes for a Western (read U.S.) audience. This complex subject deserves more than a cursory 17-minute condemnation.

DENMARK / 16 MINS / 2022
Director: Anders Walter

In Greenland, a young girl named Pipaluk (Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann) is distraught by the disappearance of her sister Ivalu (Nivi Larsen). Father seems to be less concerned. What is going on? Tragic story highlights gorgeous cinematography of outdoor scenery, and that’s about all to recommend. Stories about suffering children (sexual abuse, suicide, etc.) are so commonplace in this category that the drama requires significant art or innovation to surpass the inherent cliché. The “big reveal” is predictable, given it’s artlessly telegraphed at the beginning. Based on a graphic novel by Illustrator Lars Horneman and author Morten Dürr.


Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy, Superhero with tags on February 18, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I feel like a newbie whenever I watch the latest superhero release. As a critic, I’ve seen every chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Yet I can never remember who did what to whom because I see so many movies, and comic book adaptations are a tiny part of that. My perspective is good news if you are a casual moviegoer and simply want an entertaining picture. Bad news if you’re a comic book aesthete who demands that a sequel correctly address the happenings and characters of the previous installment.

Phase 5 of the MCU kicks off with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. For those keeping track, it’s the 31st film of the franchise and the 3rd one to feature Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) as the central hero. Paul Rudd brings the carefree charm we’ve come to expect. He’s such a likable guy. I realize that every mention of Baskin Robbins is a shameless product placement, but Rudd sells it as comedy. I was amused. However, despite the title, neither Ant-Man nor the Wasp (Evangeline Lily) conveys the impression of being the star. There are a plethora of individuals that populate this sci-fi conflict in space. The story is a random assortment of events that feature a large cast. It’s overflowing with personalities.

Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) is the real star of the tale because every major development involves her in some way. As the original Wasp, she was lost in the Quantum Realm for 30 years. Janet foolishly downplays her bad experiences there to family and friends. Even her husband Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is unaware of specifics. Meanwhile, Scott Lang’s daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) believes the universe in the Multiverse holds secrets to helping the world. Unfortunately, her experimental communication device indirectly gets everyone sucked through a portal. Now Cassie, her father Scott/Ant-Man, his girlfriend Hope/Wasp, and Hope’s parents Janet & Hank are all trapped in the Quantum Realm. They must find a way to escape. Let the fun begin!

Quantumania is a movie at odds with itself. Director Peyton Reed and screenwriter Jeff Loveness (Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Rick and Morty) fluctuate between two extremes: giving the audience serious stakes vs. buoyant fun. At its core, Quantumania is a silly space opera. When it leans heavily into camp characters, it’s a kicky blast. The dimension is a veritable Mos Eisley Cantina expanded to an entire planet. There’s William Jackson Harper as a reluctant mind-reader, martial artist Katy O’Brian as a fierce freedom fighter, and David Dastmalchian who voices a pink CGI slime creature named Veb. Oh, and I have yet to reveal the bad guys.

We are presented with three, count ’em, THREE separate villains. We discover that Janet van Dyne previously met a mysterious fellow named Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) in the Quantum Realm. He ultimately turns out to be the chief antagonist. Thespians Michelle Pfeiffer and Jonathan Majors are acting in a different — more somber — film than everyone else. They’re solemn, slightly dour, and full of self-importance. Before we meet Kang, however, we are introduced to a couple of secondary scoundrels that behave like his goofy minions. Bill Murray is a hoot as Lord Krylar, a wealthy and pompous governor that claims to have had a romantic tryst with Janet. There’s also MODOK (Corey Stoll), which stands for “Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing.” The salvaged identity of Darren Cross/Yellowjacket possesses tiny arms and legs that sprout out of a huge misshapen head. His appearance is a visual gag every time he appears. Those two rogues are hilarious and add to the absurdity.

Quantumania is a fun, lighthearted popcorn flick. I’ll concede the narrative doesn’t feel as weighty, especially arriving on the heels of Wakanda Forever. But not every movie has to be a political statement. The saga includes everything you’ve come to expect from a Marvel release. It’s hard to tell where art direction, production design, and special effects begin and end, but kudos to them all. I liked the weird alien world. It looks like a 1970s album cover illustrated by Roger Dean. There are also epic action sequences, lively dialogue, and good triumphing over evil. If each MCU phase can be considered a 6-course dinner, this is the appetizer, not an entrée. Quantumania is tuna tartare in sesame ginger sauce served before the main course of pan-seared scallops with capers and brown butter. It may not be the central dish, but it is a satisfying starter.


Knock at the Cabin

Posted in Horror, Mystery, Thriller with tags on February 3, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Knock at the Cabin is director M. Night Shyamalan’s take on the home invasion thriller. But given the filmmaker’s modus operandi, you know this isn’t going to be a straightforward horror movie. Rest assured an existential conundrum will arise to imbue the account with perceived weight.

Thankfully the story is efficient and gets started right away. A little girl (Kristen Cui) is vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods with her two thirty-something dads, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge). 7-year-old Wen is alone when approached in the forest by a large man covered in tattoos named Leonard (Dave Bautista). He’s a soft-spoken guy who articulates in hushed tones. Dave Bautista is a hulking 6′ 4″ professional ex-wrestler. Still, he is believable as the second-grade teacher he professes to be, exhibiting a nuance and calm that makes his gently fanatical character seem even more frightening and unhinged. His sensitive performance is the MVP of this picture,

The situation will grow more horrifying. At first, Leonard seems friendly as he and Wen make small talk. However, when three additional people, two women (Nikki Amuka-Bird & Abby Quinn) and another man (Rupert Grint), emerge from the forest with homemade weapons, Wen’s ease turns to fear. She runs back to the cabin to notify her dads. They shut the windows and bolt the doors, but the visitors break in. A struggle ensues, and Eric gets a concussion. The intruders tie Andrew and Eric up. They inform the family they’re not there to cause them harm but to deliver a dire message.

What follows is a “What would you do?” scenario. The ethical parable could’ve been a succinct Twilight Zone episode. Nevertheless., M. Night Shyamalan, along with co-writers Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman, manage to adapt Paul G. Tremblay’s novel The Cabin at the End of the World into a 100-minute cinematic feature. Although they’ve changed the source material by removing a fatal development and rendering the ending less ambiguous. The cinematography by Jarin Blaschke (The Lighthouse) and Lowell A. Meyer (Greener Grass) is filled with conspicuous Dutch angles and closeups that emphasize the intensity of their predicament. The ominous score by Icelandic composer Herdís Stefánsdóttir (The Hate U Give) further complements that feeling of dread. It looks and sounds terrific.

Knock at the Cabin could’ve been worse, and by that, I mean even longer. Brevity is an asset, and as such, the saga doesn’t have time to be dull. The movie’s best scenes are flashbacks. A visit with the parents, adopting daughter Wen, and a conversation in a bar are more compelling than what transpires in the cabin. The details flesh out Eric and Andrew’s life together and highlight challenges in their life. They’ve experienced intolerance in the past. Is their current plight just another — albeit more extreme — example?

This apocalyptic tale could have been better. There’s not much to chew on besides a vague pseudo-spiritual narrative that fails to explicitly mention God or religion. However, that is the realm we’re playing in, no matter how hard these screenwriters try to skirt the issue. 18th-century revivalist preacher Jonathan Edwards spoke of a vengeful creator. Conversely, anyone possessing even a shred of faith that God is inherently loving will find this pessimistic take at odds with those views. It’s a pretty intense R-rated film. Murder is more than a threat. That young Wen is a witness to violent deeds makes them a lot more unsettling than if they had occurred without her present. Meanwhile, M. Night Shyamalan still finds humor in the depravity by inserting himself in yet another Hitchcock-style cameo. I laughed at his incongruous presence, although it felt inappropriate given the seriousness of everything else.