Movie Review: Spiderhead (2022)

Spiderhead, Spiderhead, is a head on a Spider’s neck. Though it is, also a, brand new film, on Netflix. Look ooouuuut… it is a Spiderheeeeeaaaad.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Spiderhead”.

The near future, convicts are given the opportunity to reduce their sentences by taking part in some medical experiments involving emotion-altering drugs. One such convict is Jeff (Miles Teller), who soon starts to question these experiments, and their charismatic creator (Chris Hemsworth). I love this premise, it’s open to so much interesting shit. It sets itself up to be a really intriguing suspense thriller and potential mindbender. And while I didn’t hate the execution of the narrative in the movie, I did feel that it was a little undercooked. What we get works just fine, even though it never reaches the heights of its potential. I wasn’t bored, I didn’t dislike any of it, but it plays things a bit too safe to fully engage.

The characters in this are alright. Again, the script is a little undercooked and plays things safe, so they never reach the depths that they potentially could. But I also didn’t find them utterly uninteresting, just underdeveloped. But what really saves them from being walking flatlines are the actors, all of whom do a solid job here. Miles Teller is really good in the lead role. Jurnee Smollett is great as Teller’s friend inside this odd facility. And then there’s Chris Hemsworth, who is by far the best part of the movie. He is clearly having a ball playing this shady, yet highly charismatic and outwardly friendly dude. He plays it really well, and he clearly has that glint in his eye that says “I am having so much fun right now!”, which makes his performance even more enjoyable for me. The supporting cast is solid too, containing people like Nathan Jones, Tess Haubrich, Mark Paguio, Angie Milliken, Charles Parnell, and more, all delivering solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Joseph Trapanese, and it was fine. It’s this low-key, synth-based score that works fine within its respective scenes. It doesn’t really stick out that much, but it also doesn’t ruin any scene. It’s fine. There’s also a good amount of licensed songs used throughout, and I think they work really well for their respective scenes, they feel well integrated into the storytelling.

Based on a short story by George Saunders, “Spiderhead” was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, with Joseph Kosinski handling directing duties. And I will say, Kosinski does a damn good job directing this. His direction is slick, but never feels too perfect or glossy. One thing I really like about his directing is his usage of space. He gives the actors plenty of space to work in, while still making it feel confined and intimate, really benefitting the thriller vibes the story goes for. Really, Kosinski’s style really helps elevate this and make it a bit more watchable. And on a sidenote, the dude’s certainly having one hell of a summer ain’t he? He’s got this out on Netflix right now, but he’s also got the new “Top Gun” out in cinemas, which people seem to really like. So you know… good for him for finding work!

This movie just came out, so exact numbers can and will change somewhat. But at the time of writing it’s gotten quite a mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 52% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 55/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.7/10.

While it admittedly doesn’t live up to its potential, I still found “Spiderhead” to be a decently enjoyable little thriller. It has an okay story, okay characters, great performances, good music, and really good direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Spiderhead” is a 6.32/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Spiderhead” is now completed.

Can’t wait for the sequel, Scorpionbutt.

Some British TV Shows That I Like

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Oh hey there, how are you? I hope you’re doing well. Anyhow, I realized it’d been a while since I did some list-based content on this here blog. So I thought, “Why not make a list of stuff for once?”. And as I racked my brain for a topic to cover, it finally hit me… like a tea kettle dropped from a balcony. I talk a lot on this blog about how I love British TV, but besides regular reviews, I’ve never gone out of my way to just list a bunch of personal favorites… so I guess I could do that.

Let it be known that these are in no particular order. These are just various titles that I have a personal fondness for that I wanted to shout out. Who knows, maybe you’ll check out one or two you hadn’t heard of before. So let’s get into it.

Line of Duty (2012-2021)

This show follows the members of AC-12, an anti-corruption unit within the UK police, as they solve cases of potential corruption. If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’d already know that this is a show I LOVE. Gripping personal drama, intense thriller narratives that put me so far on the edge of my seat that I started floating in the air, and amazing performances make this one of my favorite shows. We’re talking top 10 of all time here.

Friday Night Dinner (2011-2020)

“Friday Night Dinner” is a comedy series about the Goodman family as they meet every Friday for dinner. However, what should just be a nice, quiet family dinner quickly turns into chaos in one form of another. From their own bickering, to enigmatic neighbors, to crazy relatives, there is never a quiet Friday in the Goodman house. I only started watching this one a few years back after asking some friends about it, and boy, am I glad I did. It’s a deliriously funny, brilliantly performed, and endlessly watchable comedy that just clicked with me from the get-go. MVP in this series is Paul Ritter (may he rest in peace) as Martin, the oddball patriarch of the family. Just sheer brilliance in every delivery and mannerism. That said, everyone in this show is absolutely superb and I love it.

Shetland (2013-still going)

Based on a series of novels by Ann Cleaves, “Shetland” is about DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) as he, along with his colleagues, solve murders on Shetland, all while also dealing with their own personal drama from time to time. Does this at the offset sound like every police show ever? Yes, kinda. But “Shetland” manages to stand out thanks to its well-rounded characters, relatively unique setting, engaging plotlines, and spectacular cast. It’s just one of the better police dramas available at the moment.

Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)

Of course I had to include this show. The 12 episodes comedy series about hotel owner Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his employees is a classic that goes on reruns over and over, and for good reason. Nearly 50 years since its inception, and it’s still making people (myself included) laugh. Don’t think I need to explain much more why this is here.

Peaky Blinders (2013-2022)

Much like with “Line of Duty” before it, if you’ve followed me for an extended period of time, then you’d know about my affection for this show. A gangster drama set in  early 1900s Birmingham, following Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and his family as they try to stay afloat amid political evolution and gang uprisings. Unpredictable, suspenseful, emotionally rich, masterfully performed, stunningly shot… what else do I need to say? It’s one of the most popular dramas of the last decade. If you’re one of the four people who somehow haven’t seen it yet… then what are you doing? GO!

Black Books (2000-2004)

“Black Books” follows Bernard Black (Dylan Moran), a drunken, cynical man who runs a bookshop. And we get to see how he, his employee Manny (Bill Bailey), and his “friend” Fran (Tamsin Greig) get into various misadventures. Now, it’s been a few years since last I watched this, but I still have such fond memories of “Black Books”, so I just had to mention it here. It’s a really funny comedy series about some people who aren’t very good.

Primeval (2007-2011)

Oh hey look, it’s Douglas Henshall again! Anyhow, “Primeval” is a sci-fi series about strange time portals (known in the show as anomalies) opening across the UK, unleashing all sorts of  prehistoric (and future) creatures, leading to Professor Nick Cutter (Henshall) along with his team having to capture these creatures and bring ’em back to their own time. I caught this on a random whim, just flipping through channels years ago, and being a lover of both sci-fi AND dinosaurs, of course I got instantly hooked. Revisiting a few years later, and I still really liked it. It’s a fun adventure series with a great cast, fun time travel adventures, surprisingly good CG for a mid-to-late 2000s tv show, and, as previously mentioned… dinosaurs. Really can’t wait to revisit this.

Endeavour (2012-still going)

Set in the 1960s, the show follows Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) as he, along with his partner Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), solve various murders in and around Oxford. History lesson: Once upon a time there was a tv show called “Inspector Morse”, and this is a prequel to that. And while I never watched that original series, I can still say that I love “Endeavour”. Each episode is a sprawling 90 minute narrative, showing Morse, Thursday, and the other people in their department working tirelessly to solve the various crimes, all while they have to deal with their own personal situations. “Endeavour” is another one of those police dramas that manages to somehow be a cut above the rest, partly due to the intricate plots, but mainly due to the absolutely phenomenal cast. There’s not a weak link here, and it leads to a lot of spectacular performances that elevate the already solid writing.

Pointless (2009-still going)

Up until this point we’ve basically only talked about scripted television, so I thought we’d wrap up this post with something a bit different. “Pointless” is a game show hosted by Alexander Armstrong and, up until recently, Richard Osman, and is all about contestants trying to score as few points as possible by finding the most obscure answer in questions polled from 100 people. These questions can range from all sorts of topics, including films, music, geography, food, and fucking anything. It’s entertaining to watch for a few different reasons. First off, I love quiz shows, as I can sort of get involved from the safety of my own home to test my knowledge. But then there’s also the angle of trying to guess which of the answers might have the lowest score to it, partly due to my love of puzzles in general, but also because UK people are really unpredictable in their knowledge, often leading to frankly baffling results. But another reason why I love it are the two hosts, Armstrong and Osman, they are an absolute delight together, which makes it a shame that Osman has decided to step away from the show (though I respect his decision and wish him the best). Either way, “Pointless” is super fun to watch.

So those were some British shows that I love. I don’t know what else to say, I had fun talking about positive things for a bit… felt nice.
Anyhow, have a good one.

Movie Review: Hotel Artemis (2018)

At last, first review of the year not featuring a movie starring Ghostface. Don’t get me wrong, I loved going through the “Scream” movies, but a bit of variety doesn’t hurt, you know. So with that out of the way, let’s do this.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries, let’s check in at… “Hotel Artemis”.

Los Angeles, 2028. The city has been torn to shreds by constant riots. In the middle of this chaos is Artemis, a hotel/hospital dedicated to treating criminals, run by a woman known as The Nurse (Jodie Foster). And we follow her on what might be the most hectic night in the establishment’s history. I mostly enjoyed the story here. When it focuses on the lean, colorful contained thriller aspect, it’s a lot of fun. Where it does falter though is when it tries to go for a more serious tone, developing the backstories of the characters. Wanting to add more nuance and emotional depth to the narrative isn’t an inherently bad thing, but the writing isn’t really strong enough for it to feel successful, which does make those sections feel like a bit of a drag. Luckily, those parts aren’t the main focus of the movie, so for the most part it’s an enjoyable story… bar those select few sections, I mean.

The characters in this are decent, all stand out enough from each other, and work well for the story. But what does elevate them beyond just being passable are the actors. Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sophia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Charlie Day, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Zachary Quinto, and more appear in this movie, and there’s not a weak link within the cast.

The score for the movie was composed by Cliff Martinez, and I think he did an okay job with it. As with most of his work, it’s based heavily in synths, and I think it fits with the neon-soaked, dingy style of the movie. It’s not Martinez’s best or most memorable score, but it worked fine for the movie. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and they work well in their respective scenes.

“Hotel Artemis” was written and directed by Drew Pearce, and I think he did a pretty good job. His style does have this fun, almost comic book-ish charm that really keeps each scene feeling fun and charming. His action scenes are also pretty well handled. Not perfect, but they’re generally well made and fun. What also adds to the overall quality of the craft is the cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung, which is beautiful and really adds to the feel of the movie, making each scene even more engaging.

This movie’s not been super well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 58% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 58/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.1/10.

While it does falter a bit when trying to be more serious, “Hotel Artemis” is an enjoyable contained thriller. It has a pretty good story, okay characters, great performances, okay music, good directing, and great cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Hotel Artemis” is a 7.23/10. So while it is flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth renting.

My review of “Hotel Artemis” is now completed.

Welcome to the Hotel Artemis, such a dingy place, such a dingy place…

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Hello there, hope you’re having a good weekend. Only a few days until “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is released, which means it’s time for me to cover the second (and final) movie in the previous reboot. So let’s go!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”.

Peter Parker’s (Andrew Garfield) life is a bit of a hectic one, trying to balance being Spider-Man with being a regular New York teenager. But this is going to get way tougher when a series of new villains emerge and start causing chaos. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a curious case of occasional good ideas getting absolutely crushed by the overabundance of superfluous plot threads. First is the Peter/Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) romance, fine. Then there’s the introduction of Electro (Jamie Foxx), fine. But then there’s also the backstory involving Peter’s parents. And a plot involving Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan). And then there’s a few more threads throughout. There’s so much shit going on that it really messes with the pacing. First act is fine, and even has some great shit going on. But as the film goes on, it just becomes an overstuffed, underdeveloped, sluggish mess that is hard to engage with. There are moments of quality in the storytelling, but the overall narrative is just… ugh.

The characters in this are a mixed bag. Our two leads, Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, they’re both charming, fun, engaging, and just overall a great pair, with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone both delivering top notch performances. Next we have Max Dillon/Electro, who is at first set up as our main villain. His characterization is bizarre, and I don’t completely get why they wrote him the way they did. And Jamie Foxx… it’s a mixed bag of a performance. On occasion I do enjoy it, but it often just didn’t click with me. Dane Dehaan as Harry Osborn? Decent performance, undercooked writing. Paul Giamatti as Aleksei Sytsevich? Unnecessary, but very amusing. I’ll at least say that the rest of the supporting cast is solid, featuring people like Sally Field, Colme Feore, Marton Csokas, Felicity Jones, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, and more.

The score for the movie was composed by Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, Junkie XL, Johnny Marr, Steve Mazzaro, and Andrew Kawczynski… FUCK, that’s a lot of composers. But they acted as sort of a supergroup to make the music for this, and I think it mostly paid off. It’s an interesting mix of styles and genres, making for a unique and slightly eclectic score that I thoroughly enjoyed hearing throughout the movie. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and they are a bit of a mixed bag. Some work pretty well, some less so.

As with the first one, “Amazing Spider-Man 2” was directed by Marc Webb (HA!), and I think he did a solid job. Despite the script being a complete mess, Webb’s direction is sound, flowing beautifully and bringing some nice energy to proceedings. It especially shines in action scenes, which are all generally quite enjoyable. And that’s something I can say, on the technical side of things, this movie is solid.

This movie has gotten some very mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 52% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 53/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.5/10.

Despite a lackluster and overly messy script, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” still has enough bright spots in it to keep it from total failure. It has some good story moments, it has a few good characters, the performances are (mostly) great, the music is really good, and the direction is really solid. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a 6.23/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth a rental.

My review of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is now completed.

*thwip*

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

If you’ve been following me for a few years, you might remember that back when “Spider-Man: Far From Home” came out in 2019, I reviewed all of the Sam Raimi-directed webhead movies. Well, now that we’re getting “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in a few weeks I thought it was a good time to finally talk about the two “Amazing” movies. So today I’ll be reviewing the first one, and then the sequel in like a week. Sound good? Then let’s get into it!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Amazing Spider-Man”.

After he gets bitten by a genetically modified spider, high school student Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) starts developing spider-like powers… wait a minute, this is how I kicked off my review of the 2002 “Spider-Man” (absolute hack). But yeah, since this is a reboot, it kind of does have a similar setup to what has come before. But despite this, “Amazing Spider-Man” manages to still stand on its own two feet, largely thanks to a slightly more serious and subdued tone. For the first two acts, I genuinely found myself really invested in the storytelling , it’s an enjoyable and emotionally resonant take on a very familiar setup. It does start stumbling towards the last act however, largely due to the villain of this. Again, early scenes of the character getting introduced are really strong… but the further we go on, the more he loses the compelling drama and just sort of devolves into generic villain, which does affect the drama of the narrative a bit. There are still some really good moments in this final act, and even the weaker elements aren’t outright terrible, but it is enough to bring the overall product down for me a little. Again, on the whole it’s a strong story, even though it does stumble a little towards the end.

The characters in this are all pretty solid, generally I find most of them quite compelling. Peter Parker in this isn’t the überdork he’s been in a few other adaptations, but he still carries some of that awkward charm that the character needs, and it’s all beautifully brought to life by Andrew Garfield giving a fantastic performance. Then we have Gwen Stacy, a smart, clever, and fun young woman who also acts as a love interest for Peter, and she’s great, with Emma Stone killing it in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Rhys Ifans, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary, and more, all delivering really solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by James Horner, and it was great. Some nicely inspiring and heroic brass, some more somber and emotional pieces, some tense bits involving strings, synths, and some other goodies… it’s just a damn solid score. Horner never missed when he was still around, and this is just further proof of it.

Based on various Marvel Comics, “The Amazing Spider-Man” was directed by Marc Webb, who I swear was chosen for the pun alone. Joking aside (for now), I think he did a damn good job. The direction of this movie has this way of feeling very grounded while still bringing some of the energy of superhero comics to life. But there are also a select few bits that are directed and edited with a bit of a horror vibe, and I really dig it. So on the whole, it’s just a really well crafted film.

This movie has gotten mixed to positive reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 72% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 66/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.9/10.

While it does stumble in parts, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is still a damn good retelling of the wall-crawler’s origin. It has a really good story, really good characters, great performances, great music, and really solid direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Amazing Spider-Man” is an 8.45/10. So while flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth buying.

My review of “The Amazing Spider-Man” is now completed.

Well, that’s that for today. *Thwip*.

Guest Post: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Hello there, friends, I hope you’re having a great day. Once again, I get to take a slight break today (slight bits of editing and image searching doesn’t count as work, shut up), and lean back as my wonderful and amazing friend Mary gives us a third (and final) guest post for this Month of Spooks. So without further ado, let’s see what she has to say about “Bride of Frankenstein”.

Four years after audiences were delighted and horrified by Boris Karloff’s first outing as the Monster in James Whale’s Frankenstein, the director followed it up with a sequel. In this, he promised to find the lab-made man a bride. Whale was not interested in directing a sequel and Universal toyed with the idea of pursuing one without him, until he was finally persuaded to come on board.

The horror sequel drifts even further from Mary Shelley’s source material and – sadly – from the tone and emotion conveyed in the original movie. Nevertheless, it introduced audiences to a female horror icon, complete with startled eyebrows and lightning bolt hair.

The title credits roll and, whilst Karloff is given top billing this time, the actor playing the Bride is simply left as a question mark as a way to build suspense and keep your interest.

In a similar vein to having Frankenstein introduced by a bow-tied MC, Whale opens his sequel with a conversation between Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon), Percy Shelly (Douglas Walton) and, of course, Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester in a dual role). Mary insists that having her Monster die in a flaming windmill was not the ending she had in mind for her story – there are flashbacks to the original movie here in case you had forgotten what happened. Instead, she had planned for … cue wavy screen transition into the start of our new movie. It’s extremely twee and rather out of place.

The score is far more lively this time around, with sweeping violins and thunderous percussion in almost every scene. The expressionist inspired shadow techniques are once again prominent here – but only for the male characters in their laboratory. The females tend to get that soft focus close-up effect that makes everyone’s face look like a glowing moon.

Colin Clive is relegated to a relatively minor role in this sequel, owing to a broken leg (you’ll notice he’s sitting in most of his scenes) and his ongoing battle with alcoholism (making him increasingly unreliable on set). Valerie Hobson replaces Mae Clarke as the love interest, Elizabeth, and is given about as much to do as her predecessor.

Two new characters are introduced in prominent roles. The first is quite possibly the most annoying character to ever grace the screen. Minnie the maid (Una O’Connor) is seen – and heard – long before Henry or the Monster. She’s a gossip, scuttling around, over enunciating her Estuary vowels. Prepare to roll your eyes every time she appears on screen. Part of this is the poor, two dimensional “maid roles”, the other part of this is terrible overacting.

In contrast, we have the nefarious Doctor Pretorious, brought to life with a maniacal laugh by Ernest Thesiger. He is shot most beautifully, practically from his ankles to create a looming sense of doom and lit like something from The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. He takes on his own quest for creating new life, goading Henry back into the lab once more to stitch together some other poor soul. Thesiger barely blinks in the role and has a rich, deep Vincent Price-esque voice, making him the perfect villain of the piece.

Karloff has a far more to do in this film and we get to see even more of the Monster’s tenderness. The scenes with the blind violinist (O.P Heggie) are so touching. The violinist the only character to befriend him because he literally cannot see that he is a “monster”. The scene where he tucks him in for the night – resulting in a tear rolling down the Monster’s cheek – is a bit overdone, but rather sweet.

And, as the exclamation point on the promotional materials promised, we get to hear the Monster speak, giving the famous “Alone … Bad … Friend … Good” line. Karloff is alleged to have argued with the studios as he didn’t want the Monster to speak at all, but he was clearly overruled. And he was right – it turns the Monster into almost a comedy figure as he chomps away on bread and cigars, pointing out the new words he has learned.

Rather disappointingly, in a film called The Bride of Frankenstein, we do not get to see this ravishing creation for any longer than five minutes – and not until the very end of the film, either. It’s a shame that what could have been a very early prominent female horror role is reduced to nothing more than a gimmick for the finale of a film dominated by men and their desires. That being said, Lanchester looks truly resplendent in the role. Although she is not given too much to do, her jolting head movements, hissing and startled eyes convey all that they need to – she does not want to be there.

In fact, the gender politics are more prevalent than ever, here. Female characters are seen to be gossips or hysterical; fainters or screamers. It is the men who are brave and strong; daring and scientific. Yes, it’s the 1930s but it all feels a bit two dimensional. No female character is given any depth or, quite frankly, anything to do that doesn’t involve a male.

This definitely feels like one of these sequels that almost didn’t need to be made. It does look and feel relatively similar to the original, but tonally it’s all over the place, veering wildly from comedy maids to cackling villains. It’s clearly trying to capitalise on the popularity of the Monster by giving him more screen time but, in doing so, it almost changes the way you perceive him.

However, Karloff is once again excellent in the role and – despite the brevity of her screen time – Elsa Lanchester makes for a fantastic woman of horror.

Written by Mary Palmer

Guest Post: Frankenstein (1931)

Hey there, friends, hope you’re doing well on this spooky October day. So today we’re doing something a little different. For once, you’re not putting up with my terrible opinion(s). No, instead this piece is written by my dear friend Mary, who is the first proper guest writer we’ve had on the blog, so that’s exciting. Anyhow, I won’t dawdle any longer.
Let’s just sit back and enjoy as Mary takes us through the 1931 classic “Frankenstein.

Frankenstein is one of the most culturally impactful monster movies released by Universal Studios. The appearance of the Monster and the notion of a “creator” has influenced everything from TV comedies (such as The Munsters); to fantasy cinema (such as Edward Scissorhands); to sci-fi horror (such as Ex Machina). It’s not just about the flat top head and the neck bolts, it’s about our desire to understand life and, most crucially, what makes us human.
The Monster made his first outing in 1931, in a movie directed by James Whale, who went on to direct The Invisible Man and The Bride of Frankenstein as part of Universal’s original horror canon. The very image of the Monster that we see to date is influenced specifically by this movie, and not the Mary Shelley novel on which it is – very loosely – based.

The film opens with a bow-tied Master of Ceremonies warning the viewers that what they are about to see is both disturbing and horrifying. The feels like an unusual move for a horror movie but, perhaps, back in 1931 it was deemed necessary before introducing the Monster to movie-goers who had never seen such a character before. The cast list roles up, with every player’s name listed apart from the actor playing the Monster. It’s a neat little marketing hook.

Centring around Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and his lab assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye), Whale’s adaptation of the gothic horror novel really homes in on the titular character’s God complex and his quest to create new life without the aid of a higher being. A mix up at the university sees Fritz steal an “abnormal, criminal” brain – as opposed to a “normal, good” one – and thus the Monster is born. Boris Karloff – who had been a farm hand and a truck driver as well as a bit part player – brings the Monster to life in his first outing in the role.

The use of light and shadow throughout is straight out of German expressionist films. The creeping shadows up the spiral staircases are straight out of Nosferatu. It feels dreamy in its grandiose at times – the sheer scale of the windmill laboratory or the wedding celebrations – and often tapers this with close ups so tight you can see the stage make up. The only thing that prevents all of this from truly drawing you in is often the furniture and backdrops. At times, it looks like most pieces could be knocked over with a strong cough and you can see the paint brush marks on the “clouds” or “village” in the background. It feels cheap in contrast to the spiraling violins and ominous organ music accompanying it.

However, it’s not all corny. Colin Clive is excellent as Henry Frankenstein, his desperate cries of “Now I know what it feels like to BE God!” neatly summing up everything you need to know about his character. He believes himself to be a man of science; a discoverer; a creator. Yet he’s also bound by social expectations of marriage and children. Clive does well at conveying this conflict. In such a short run time, he is probably one of the most nuanced characters and, as such, you’re able to flit between empathising with and condoning his actions.

But it’s Boris Karloff you’re really here to see. The “big reveal” is teased, slowly, and he doesn’t actually appear until just around the halfway mark. His Monster is misunderstood – trying to make sense of his place in the world, acting on impulse and frightened by human behaviour. This all-but non-verbal performance is incredible to watch. The child like joy he expresses upon seeing flowers float is so sad. The close ups of his tear-filled eyes and curious expression are stunning. His appearance was achieved through practical hair and make-up effects, as well as having Karloff remove his dental bridgework to create a sunken in face.

Dwight Frye is good in his short amount of screen time as Fritz – a lab assistant who has no doubt faced his share of cruelty (owing to his own appearance) and, yet, it is he who treats the Monster the worst. Frederick Kerr, as Baron Frankenstein, is supposed to bring some comic relief but is just rather annoying. Mae Clarke, as Elizabeth, doesn’t really have much to do other than scream or look doe-eyed but, hey, it was the 1930s. That’s what blondes did in pictures, right?

What’s so interesting watching the movie now is the themes and imagery it throws up. Just years after the movie’s release, all across Europe, many were being rounded up and driven out as people became afraid of “the other”. Windows were smashed and fires were set then, too. What right to we have to say who lives and who dies? And, of course, it asks the question “What makes us human?”. Are the braying mob, bullish and jeering, any better than the Monster? Where is their humanity?

Frankenstein feels more like a melodrama-come-morality tale, as opposed to a horror (even if it does introduce us to the Monster for the first of many outings). The surprisingly nuanced performance from Boris Karloff is what makes this movie really worth watching. And, despite the ropey sets and even ropier acting, it is a classic and absolutely worth checking out this spooky season … just don’t expect to be too spooked, despite the pre-film “warning”.

Written by Mary Palmer

Series Review: Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness – Season 1 (2021)

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the CG-animated “Resident Evil” movies, with “Resident Evil: Damnation” being my favorite of the bunch. So when it was announced that we were getting a new animated series for the franchise, I got excited. And now it’s here, on Netflix, and I watched the entire thing. So let’s talk about it.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness”.

A few years after the outbreak in Raccoon City, we once again meet up Leon Kennedy (Nick Apostolides) and Claire Redfield (Stephanie Panisello) as they’ve moved on to new positions in the world. And we follow them as they look into strange goings on involving bioweapons and horrific drawings, leading them down a dangerous path of horrors and conspiracies. So yeah, the setup treads familiar ground if you’re a fan of this franchise, which is fine, as long as it’s handled in an interesting and enjoyable way. Sadly, that’s not quite what’s going on here. I’m not saying that it’s outright poor, I didn’t dislike the story here. But it’s done in such a dry way, lacking the personality and unique charisma that makes “Resident Evil” into what it is. There is no real suspense, there’s not much (if any) excitement in how it could pan out, there’s not really any sense of fun, and at no point does it feel like it needed to be a “Resident Evil” story. On the whole, it’s a passable thriller narrative for a rainy Sunday, but sadly I never got truly invested in it.

The characters in this are… fine? Much like the case of the story, they lack a lot of personality. Leon is neither the naive optimist of “Resident Evil 2” or the snarky legend of “Resident Evil 4”, he’s just kind of a quiet tough guy who never shows much sign of any charisma.  Nick Apostolides does a good job with the performance, but it just feels slightly underwhelming when the material he has to work with is so… plain. Claire comes close at times of showing off some of the determined charm that I loved in “Resident Evil 2”, but never quiiiiite gets to go the distance on it. At least I can say that Stephanie Panisello does a good job with her performance. The other charaters… again, very plain, doesn’t get much, if any interesting development. They’re just kinda there. At least I can say that the supporting cast, featuring people like Ray Chase, Jona Xiao, Billy Kametz, Brad Venable, and more, all do very well in the roles.

The score for this series was composed by Yugo Kanno, and I think he did a good job with it. It doesn’t necessarily do much to stand out, but it has enough nice little action, horror, and drama flourishes throughout to at least give the show an enjoyable enough soundscape.

Based on the “Resident Evil” game franchise published by Capcom, “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness” was created by Hiroyuki Kobayashi, with Eiichiro Hasumi handling direction. And now comes the part where I can finally pile praise upon the show. This show has some spectacular animation. Going for this sort of semi-realistic style can be a gamble, but I think they pulled it off. Character movement is fluid and natural, making me believe each action that happens. And the sheer amount of detail they managed to put in the show is absolutely insane. Individual hairs on characters’ heads, creasing in fabrics, subtle details in metal, there’s just a ridiculous amount of detail in everything throughout this show, which is just mindboggling to me. How can you pull this level of detail off? But yeah, this show is really well animated.

Keep in mind that the show just came out, so these ratings will change over time (not on this blog though, I’m too lazy to edit shit as time goes on). On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 56% positive rating. On Metacritic it currently has no rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.3/10.

So yeah, despite my excitement for it, “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness” isn’t quite as enjoyable as I had hoped, with its biggest weakness being a lack of personality and identity. It has an okay plot, mediocre characters, good performances, good music, and terrific animation and direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness” is a 6.20/10. So while very flawed, it can at least be worth a watch.

My review of “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness” is now completed.

Well, damn…

Movie Review: The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)

While I miss going to the cinema, it’s nice that I still can experience brand new movies from the safety of my own home. And this one comes to us straight from Netflix.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Mitchells vs. The Machines”.

Going on what is meant to be a family bonding road trip, the dysfunctional Mitchell family find themselves caught in the middle of a robot apocalypse, and must do everything they can to survive and possibly also save the world. So yeah, this movie blends a lot of familiar elements into its story. There’s the whole dysfunctional family angle, the misunderstood teenager, there’s a road trip comedy, there’s robots trying to take over, there’s social commentary on modern tech… yeah, this soup has a lot of ingredients. And they all come together quite well to make for a highly enjoyable narrative. Yes, it really doesn’t do much new, but that’s okay, because it handles its familiar ideas in really fun, easily digestible ways. It also helps that it seldom lets anything outstay its welcome, thanks to a crackling pace. But it does also know to slow down when there needs to be a bit of character drama. It’s basically a good, well paced story that I highly enjoyed.

The characters in this are all charming, colorful, and highly entertaining. They all have some quirk to them that is used in fun ways throughout the movie, and it also at times makes for some interesting character dynamics when needed. I don’t really wanna say too much more, as I feel the characters and their unique charms are best left experienced, so let’s just mention some of the actors in this, all of which are great in their respective roles. You got Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Michael Rianda, Eric André, Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, and many more.

The score for the movie was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, and I think it’s great. It’s very energetic and fun, fitting the fast pace of the movie. I also think the heavy use of synths add a lot to it, complementing both the robot uprising and the bouncy family adventure. There’s also a few licensed songs used here, and they work fine.

“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” was written and directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, and I think they did a terrific job with it. This movie has this really energetic and snappy direction that really helps keep any moment from getting stale, and which makes action scenes an absolute joy to behold. Speaking of beholding, holy crap, this animation in this is spectacular. It is of course 3D/CG in its basis, but it also seems to incorporate elements of cel-shading, some traditional 2D animation, and even a few other styles at a few points that I won’t spoil. But yeah, it makes for animation that really pops off the screen lingers in the viewer’s (AKA my) mind. The movie is also insanely funny, there’s so many jokes here I laughed really hard at. There were also a few I didn’t really enjoy, but thanks to the movie’s fast pace they didn’t really outstay their welcome, so the overall experience remained very positive.

This movie just came out, so ratings might change over time (I will however not change anything, for I am lazy). On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 80/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is an insanely fun and hilarious family film that I highly enjoyed. It has a really good story, great characters, great performances, great music, fantastic direction/animation, and hilarious comedy. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is a 9.67/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is now completed.

It’s been a while since I laughed so much that it made me cough. Good on ya, movie.

Movie Review: Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020)

If you’ve followed my blog for an extended amount of time, then you’re probably aware that I have a certain fondness for animated movies based on DC superhero comics. I tend to watch them all, and review a lot of them. And today we’re doing just that. So here we go!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War”!

After the Justice League fails to defeat the alien despot Darkseid (Tony Todd), the world turns into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. And with the League basically gone at this point, it’s up to a ragtag gang of remaining heroes and villains to team up to make one final attempt at stopping the alien dictator. So this is basically the big, “everything looks dire” finale to this specific universe of animated films. And you can really feel that the crew of this movie are taking a big swing at giving us an emotionally satisfying finale to this universe that they’ve kept going since 2014. And I think they succeeded quite well. For only having a 90 minute runtime, they manage to get a lot of stuff in there without making any of it feel forced. As the title implies, we get to see a little more of the Dark League, especially since John Constantine (Matt Ryan) more or less acts as the main character here. We get the Suicide Squad involved, we get payoffs from the Teen Titans stuff from other movies. They somehow manage to involve payoffs from pretty much all branches of this movie universe, and it all works marvelously… for me as a fan who’s followed these films for years, at least. I felt satisfied with this wrap-up. It’s dark, it’s exciting, it’s fun, and it even got me a little emotional. It’s just a solid narrative.

The characters in this are colorful, fun, and surprisingly nuanced. We both get to see the personalities we’ve come to know (and mostly love) over the years as they are, but we also get to see a surprising amount of nuance and character development throughout that really made me care for them all much more. And since this is the big finale, they bring in the big guns on the cast. A lot of recognizable names, and all giving top notch voice performances. Matt Ryan, Jason O’Mara, Roger Cross, Tony Todd, Camilla Luddington, Jerry O’Connell, Taissa Farmiga, Stuart Allan, Ray Chase,Liam McIntyre, Rainn Wilson, and more all deliver their talents wonderfully.

As with a lot of the previous DC animated movies, the score for this one was composed by Frederik Wiedmann. And as per usual he knocked it out of the park. Of course he gives us the familiar superhero brass, but he also gives us a fair bit of somber pieces as well to really show how desperate the entire situation is for our heroes. And really, Wiedmann has never failed before, but this is still somehow his best work for this series.

Based on various comics from DC, “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War” was directed by Matt Peters and Christina Sotta. And I think they did a terrific job. As with the story, you can tell that they were going all out on the directiong/animation on this one. Because out of all the movies in this animated universe, this is the best looking one. The animation is crisp, and everything flows beautifully. And this makes action scenes an absolute blast to watch. They also went all out on violence in this. People die… and not in nice ways. And that helps add some extra impact to fights. So yeah, the crew killed it.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10.

I know some of you don’t care for these movies, but for me “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War” was a satisfying and exciting finale to this specific run of DC animated features. It has a really good story, great characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War” is a 9.78/10. Which of course means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War” is now completed.

I’m really gonna miss looking forward to new movies in this series.