The Girl Caught in the Spider’s Web Review

Lisbet Solander is back to hack into the lives of men who abuse women. This time she is hired to hack into the NSA to retrieve a program called Firewall that the programmer claims was being used for unintended purposes. Lisbet obtains the program by out hacking another hacker with the NSA. Now he is chasing her. A mysterious group then breaks into her place and steals the program from her. It has the capability of taking over missile systems around the globe. Now she must figure out who took the program, how to get it back, and how to avoid the NSA and the authorities while doing so.

The series of books was taken over by a new author and this is the first movie based off of that author’s work. In fitting reboot style they also employed a new cast with mixed results. Foy is an upgrade on the title character, but a lot of the more minor characters were downgraded. The story in this one is more action oriented and cinematic, but glosses over the technical aspects of Lisbet’s occupation. Instead of the nuanced and twisting storylines of the first 3 books and the movies based off them, this one is a much more straightforward tale.

The Girl Caught in the Spider’s Web ends up being a decent action movie with some light entertainment value. It doesn’t live up to the other films in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series though. It is a new direction for the franchise, but it feels like at least one step in the wrong direction.

Overlord Review

Paratroopers are being flown into Nazi occupied France as part of the initial invasion on D Day. Their Mission is to take out a radio tower that is jamming communications in the area. The tower is set up in a church in the middle of a small town. Only a few survive the original insertion with the anti-aircraft gunfire ripping their plane to shreds. When they arrive at the Nazi base they find another disturbing reason to complete the mission.

Overlord tries very hard to present itself as a B movie grindhouse treat. Similar to Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror it has zombies and a vague military angle, but even though the presentation is pure grindhouse, this is no grade B film. The script, acting, special effects, etc. are all that of a true Hollywood A level film. This turns what could have been a great mash up guilty pleasure kind of film into something a bit less than what it could have been. The problem is that it takes itself too seriously. All of the opportunities where the film could have gone over the top in true grindhouse fashion, it instead presents them with an ominous sense of gravity. This turns the film into a straight horror/action film.

I did enjoy this film as it is very well done for a Nazi/zombie horror flick. The opening scene where they are flying in is worth the price of admission by itself. Overlord is an intense and visceral ride that all fans of horror should enjoy. If only the filmmakers hadn’t been afraid to let the film go bigger and bolder, then it could have been a true classic.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

Bohemian Rhapsody follows the life and times of Farrokh Bulsara, otherwise known as Freddie Mercury. A struggling band loses their lead singer and a stranger comes to them and asks if they would consider him. He shows them that he has some vocal talent, so they give him a shot. Once on stage this strange shy boy turns into something else, a rock icon. His internal struggle leads him through many trials that test the bond he has with Queen, his family.

Rami Malek’s performance in this film is amazing and possibly award-worthy. It is hard for anyone to fill the shoes of the enigmatic Freddie Mercury. Unfortunately the script writers for this biopic used a metric ton of sanitizer on the story of his life. I expected much more from this film in terms of Mercury’s life. Instead it is more a love letter to the band known as Queen while trying to gloss over much of Mercury’s life. I would have thoroughly enjoyed seeing Rami tackle more of the struggles in the rock icon’s life. Instead we get what amounts to several music videos pasted together with some story in between.

While I wouldn’t consider this anything close to a definitive history of Queen, it does touch on quite a bit of the band’s past which can be quite entertaining. What makes this movie is the larger than life icon Freddie Mercury and the other worldly performance of Rami Malek. I can’t imagine anyone else doing justice to Mercury after seeing this movie. Queen fans should feel satisfied with this film as they get the broad strokes right and capture what made the band special even though they couldn’t cram everything into the 2 hour and 15 minute run time.

Nobody’s Fool Review

Danica has her life figured out. She has a great job, good friends, and a boyfriend who says all of the right things. The problem is that she hasn’t ever met him in person. Their entire relationship has consisted of phone conversations and text messages. Insert her sister, Tanya, who just got out of jail. She decides to get to the bottom of things with this mystery man. It turns out that he may be catfishing her and isn’t actually the man he seems like in their conversations. The mission of revenge commences.

Tiffany Haddish makes this movie by sheer force of will. She is all the way over the top with her reactions, but somehow she manages to make it feel like that is normal. Without her this would be a ho hum run of the mill Tyler Perry film. There are some nice twists in the story that are a hallmark of Tyler Perry scripts. The issue I have with most Tyler Perry films is that the side characters are almost always more interesting than the main characters. This one is no different. I was rooting for anyone other than Danica and Charlie. Another hallmark is the character with a dark past that has learned and grown who inserts all of the wisdom needed to push the film forward. It all ends up feeling very by the numbers.

Even though it is a typical Tyler Perry film, it is one of his better ones. Letting Haddish run rampant throughout the film makes the bland main characters tolerable. In the end this is an entertaining film. If you enjoy the Tyler Perry formula then you will enjoy this one. I must admit that his films are not usually my cup of tea, I feel like they would be more at home on the Hallmark channel, but this one was a pleasant surprise for me. I enjoyed it for what it was, a light bit of entertainment.

Johnny English Strikes Again Review

A terrorist cyber attack reveals all of the active undercover operatives that England has. They need to plug the hole, but have no one to go undercover that hasn’t been discovered. They decide to recruit former spies to bring them back into the game. That includes Johnny English who just happens to be teaching grade school kids the trade. Through his incompetence he hits all the other recruits with a concussion grenade, leaving him as the only option.

This new sequel that no one asked for is just as mildly entertaining as the first two films in the series. The Bond spoof has been overdone and many of the gags used in this film have as well. Rowan Atkinson is still a master of physical Brittish-style comedy. The only reason it retains its charm is the 7 year gap since the second film in the series. The script is filled with silliness, but feels timid in comparison to the first two films. Perhaps it is Atkinson’s age, or perhaps it is due to the unoriginal script.

Fans of Johnny English will enjoy it for what it is, but it is lacking some of the charm and laughs of the first two films in the series. Still, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and Rowan Atkinson still has it although maybe not with the same vigor. If you enjoy his style of humor then this is another enjoyable adventure for the Bond spoof series. I thought the premise was better executed in Spy with Melissa McCarthy, but for a light bit of fun you could do worse.

Hunter Killer Review

An American sub is playing games by following a Russian sub that has no idea they are being followed in the arctic. Then there is an explosion on the Russian sub. The Americans move to investigate, but realize too late that an enemy is above. They are sunk along with the Russian sub. Captain Joe Glass, not to be confused with Glass Joe from the Punchout! video game series, is sent in to investigate. A coup at the top of the Russian government is responsible for the predicament and Joe must navigate some rough waters to get to the bottom of things and try to rescue the captured Russian president.

As an action film Hunter Killer is rather dull and doesn’t present anything we haven’t seen before. It promotes the gentle machismo that Joe Glass represents. This ideal of being right all the time because Joe is not part of the intellectual elite and uses his instincts and ego to get others to do what he wants because…  a thinly veiled right wing agenda? So much of the script doesn’t make sense. If not for Gerard Butler the under water scenes would be unwatchable. Even then the mutual respect his character has for the Russian sub captain and the leader of the Navy Seals is overdone, like dumping a whole can of paint on a stamp. Why would you dump a can of paint on a stamp? You’re over doing it, and it doesn’t make sense.

Even Gerard’s decent performance can’t save this script. If you can shut off your brain and ignore the story then this can be an enjoyable action film. I am just not wired that way. The parts outside of the sub are decent enough, but the film relies too much on Gerard. Those scenes amplify the poor script and bad acting that surrounds him on the sub. Gerard really needed Oldman and/or Common on the sub with him to trade lines with.

Halloween Review

Michael Myers is a serial killer that has been terrorizing his sister Laurie Strode for decades. The series has been going for 40 years, so there is a lot of lore in the story that I could bring up, but I want to talk about the most recent one. Laurie has spent the past 20 years since the events of H20 preparing for her inevitable next confrontation with Michael. She hopes for him to escape, so she could end the cycle. A pair of investigative journalists from overseas obtain the original mask that Michael used and go to visit him. It triggers Michael to give a slight reaction. He is set to be transferred from the mental healthcare maximum security facility to a normal prison the next day. Within the course of the transfer he escapes to terrorize once again.

This film harkens back to the time of the original Halloween slasher films. Fans of those Halloween classics will enjoy this new entry to the series. Jamie Lee Curtis does a great job as Laurie Strode which is such a complex character to play. She is vulnerable yet strong, brave yet deathly afraid. Judy Greer does a good job as the daughter, and is responsible for the best sequence in the film right at the end. Myers is his usual stalking self that is capable of scaring and surprising his victims through stealth and his uncanny ability to show up behind them.

If you enjoy slasher films or want a dose of nostalgia for the 80’s Halloween movies then this one is for you. It will go down as being a worthy conclusion to the tale, but I could see them potentially opening it up for another sequel. If this film makes enough money then you know they will make another although I don’t see how they could come up with a better ending.

The Hate U Give Review

Starr lives in a run down black neighborhood that has a grocery store, a barber shop, and a barbecue place… Oh and a Wal-Mart 30 minutes away. Her parents don’t want her and her brothers to fall into the trap that they see their peers falling into. They send her to a prep school that has mostly white students. One weekend she is at a party where a fight breaks out. Shots are fired and she runs with a childhood friend. They get pulled over by the police for seemingly no reason. Her friend is belligerent and gets pulled out of the vehicle. Then the police officer shoots him a few moments later.

The pure emotion of this film can be felt as you go. The importance of the message in this film cannot be overstated. There is so much that this film gets right that it is hard to say anything bad about it. The problems come from how many issues are tackled by the film. There isn’t enough time to properly address them all. It nails the broad strokes though which are the main highlights. Another issue is how some of the fights seem to bubble up without sufficient buildup, but I think that has more to do with there not being enough time to do it. The movie could have easily been another hour longer and still had more material it could go through.

The Hate U Give is a realistic film based on real issues that we are facing today. It captures the raw emotion and frustration that is felt in many communities. Ultimately this is a sad film that tries to present a bit of hope at the end. I would recommend this to anyone that cares about social issues and the plight of poor communities in the United States.

Bad Times at the El Royale Review

Four strangers check into an old hotel on the border of California and Nevada. One is a traveling vacuum salesman who is on the lookout for potential new clients. An old priest who enjoys music and drink is another. The third is a singer who has a show in Reno the next day, but can’t afford a hotel there. The last is a mystery who signs in using some colorful language that can’t be her real name. Each one has a unique secret that thrusts them together in a struggle to survive. What they don’t know is that the hotel and the proprietor have their own secrets to tell.

Labelled as a thriller it doesn’t really have the feel of a thriller. All of the twists and turns in the story are due to the strangers interfering with each other’s story. Each visitor’s story is pretty straightforward. The cast does a great job within the box they are placed. The 2nd act of the film takes a page from several other movies where each scene is seen through the eyes of a different character with each revealing more information to the audience. The third act abandons this method to wrap up the remaining loose threads. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite catch them all. The more laborious parts of the film are broken up with music. The majority of the music is older Motown hits which I enjoyed very much.

In the end Bad Times feels a lot like Tarantino’s classic films with vibrant characters that have interesting stories, but without a lot of the clever verbiage or long winded self-indulgence. I know that it wasn’t directed by Tarantino, but it uses many of his best techniques in storytelling. I enjoyed this film for what it was, but I was hoping for more. That is what I get for watching the previews that do a good job of hyping the film. It is a very good, but not great, film.

The Importance of Reading

Hello everyone! Today I want to profess my love for dead tattooed trees again. The written word has been one of the most important inventions in history, and some of the greatest inventions in history have been in relation to words. Pencils, pens, the printing press, paper, PEZ dispensers, computers, the internet, social media, and on and on. Each of these important inventions all help spread ideas and thoughts using written words, but each takes a different form and has many uses. You can read for knowledge, to connect with others, for pleasure, or for many other reasons. I want to address how important reading for pleasure is.

No matter what you like to read for pleasure, it is a good time to reset things. You don’t have to worry about what is going on in your life. You can relax and not think too much. Just lose yourself in what you are reading. On the other hand you can also use that time to collect your thoughts without the pressure of having to do anything else with them at the moment. Are the Titans in Attack on Titan representative of the top 1%? Do dogs have existential crises? Does Godzilla ever regret… anything? I do a lot of reading during my lunch break at work which is the perfect time to take a second to relax before having to deal with all of the day job things.

The book is almost always better than the movie. I know it is more convenient to go see the movie and doesn’t require the time investment that a book does. A movie cannot cram all of the content from the book into the 90-120 minutes of a feature film. They are two drastically different forms of media with the written word relying more on the reader’s imagination. This being an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. An advantage because it personalizes the story for the reader as they can consume the characters and construct them as they want in their mind. It is a disadvantage because it requires the reader to think about a scene where a movie allows them to focus on other aspects of the story. I can count on one hand how many movies I have seen that were better than the book. Forrest Gump being first and foremost on the list. However, the number of books that are better than the movie would be a more difficult number to calculate.

Books push ideas. No matter what you read there are always ideas within a book to captivate your mind. Sometimes it is speculation on where we are going with Science Fiction. Many times science fact is figured out later, but they are pushed by the ideas in science fiction. That sense of “what if” that pushes our curiosity and makes us question what might be possible. Sometimes the idea is social in nature questioning why things area certain way and suggesting a better direction. For non-fiction or historical stories it helps to see the successes and mistakes, so we can repeat the success and avoid the mistakes of the past. These are the kinds of ideas that can push us forward into a more positive future. They can inspire us to create new and exciting things, like Pikachu hats that shoot lasers. Seriously, I need one of those.

Stories also provide social opportunities. Every time I am walking with a book in my hands someone asks me what I am reading and if it is any good. Even people who don’t read are curious about what secret knowledge you may have received from the mystic dead tree scribblings. Talk about it with your friends and family! Join a book club! Join my book club! Seriously…. join my book club. We’re reading Only Ever Yours by Louise O’neill. We will be talking about it all month on Goodreads: