Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Nerd Notes: August 2022

The fifth entry in the main Predator series, or the seventh overall if you count the two AvP movies, Prey has been hailed by some as the best Predator since the original. I say that it's just Another Good Predator Movie. Apparently some viewers have not been as keen on some of the previous Predator installments as I have and to them Prey feels like a big comeback but I didn't watch Prey thinking that the Predator series was in need of rehabilitation or redemption. Sure, some entries have been better than others but I've never been flat out unhappy with any of 'em (not even the AvP's) and so, for me, Prey simply continues the series' winning streak. I loved it, I thought it kicked ass, but I didn't feel that it necessarily ran circles around the rest. That some others did is cool, I love to see the enthusiasm, I'm just here to say that for some of us, this has been a consistently solid franchise all along. Still, Prey was top notch and I'm all for anything that increases the odds of more Predator movies being made. I just hope that the next one goes to the big screen, where Predator belongs. 

Bullet Train got a so-so reaction from critics but I really dug it. I'm not quite sure what critics wanted out of this that they didn't get but, for me, this was exactly the kind of violent, darkly funny, over the top action movie that I was hoping it would be. Admittedly, there was probably zero chance that I wouldn't like this. There has never been a movie set primarily on a train that I haven't enjoyed. Whether it be The Lady Vanishes or Silver Streak or Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, I just have a thing for train movies and Bullet Train is yet one more entry in that sub-genre that I can say I loved. This just felt like perfect late summer action fare to me.  

You could say that this horror/action/comedy could have been better, could have aimed a little higher, but on the other hand, Day Shift is still a lot of fun. So it isn't particularly great, so what? To be fair, I would say the same thing about Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood. If you give me a vampire movie, I'm ready to like it and I will give it a lot of leeway. I went into Day Shift expecting to see Jamie Foxx do some vampire killing and I got a generous helping of that with veteran stuntman turned director J.J. Perry delivering some truly impressive action. It didn't have to do anything more to satisfy me. Bonus points, though, for the soundtrack loaded with old-school '90s rap. I was already firmly on Day Shift's side but having Ice-T's "Body Count" blare as the heroes ride into a climatic battle really clinched the deal. If this ends up being a franchise, I'm game to watch more. 

With certain types of genre films, I don't think it makes for an especially strong recommendation when you have to frame your praise for them by saying they become more interesting after you mull them over. When your immediate reaction as the end credits roll is along the lines of "I really admire what they were going for!" it says that you've got a lukewarm movie on your hands, not a crowd pleaser. You could say that this is a clever satire that mercilessly skewers contemporary attitudes and certain personality types and you'd be right. It definitely does do that. But on the other hand, I don't think it's wrong for people who showed up expecting a slasher movie to want something more along the lines of what they paid to see. I'm not sure that pulling the rug out from under your audience is always 100% the right move. Sometimes it is but not always. I did like Bodies Bodies Bodies and I do acknowledge its cleverness but I also wouldn't begrudge anybody who felt slightly (or a lot) ripped off by it. 

I am a sucker for Nature Attacks movies so I was sold on seeing Beast right from the start. Sadly, the film itself is more Bust than Beast with minimal tension and scares. When I go into a movie like this, I'm not expecting Jaws or The Birds but I do think it's reasonable to think that I might be getting something as satisfying as Anaconda or Crawl. Beast starts off well enough in establishing its premise but once it's past the setting the stage portion of the movie and the characters are put in peril, the situations they're called upon to survive never feel particularly nail biting. No matter how much its CGI lion snarls and attacks, Beast remains a tepid time, with none of the down and dirty B-movie gusto it needed in order to succeed. 

Absolutely better than it had any right to be. It isn't better or even on par with the original but that's fine. It's still a trashy good time. This didn't have to be a masterpiece, it just had to be fun and it more than succeeds on that level. I would have bet against this movie being any good and I'm ecstatic to be proven wrong. Taking this down a notch, though, is a climatic death that needed to be punched up more. It's a moment that needed to be way bigger with Esther having a more direct hand in it but instead it just kind of plays out with a tired shrug. It doesn't deal a fatal blow to First Kill but for a movie that otherwise hits all the right exploitation film notes, it does cause it to stumble just as it's about to cross the finish line. Still, First Kill successfully establishes Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) as a true, franchisable horror icon, rather than just an intriguing one-off character, and it makes the prospect of further installments look extremely inviting. Team Esther all the way! 

If Samaritan had come out in the the mid-to-late '90s, it would have been a big theatrical release and have been totally at home in that time. In 2022, it has a nice throwback feel. With its more street level, gritty take on the superhero genre, it's like Stallone's version of Unbreakable, complete with its own M. Night Shyamalan twist. This film's twist, however, will be obvious to most viewers very early on. Like, almost instantaneously. I don't think that detracts from its entertainment value one bit, though. No one is watching this movie expecting to be challenged. They're watching it to see Stallone refrain from destroying deserving fools for as long as he can until his hand is finally forced. The third act superhero action here is very satisfying, with Stallone's character getting to do plenty of cool shit, like plow through walls. I don't know if Stallone has more Samaritan movies in mind but whether he tries to make a franchise out of this or if it's a one and done affair, it's a solidly entertaining B action movie.  

This seems to be getting slagged but for me it was the most pleasant surprise of the summer. I get that it isn't for everyone and I acknowledge that it does have legitimate flaws but all that said, it scratched a particular itch for me and I fully enjoyed it. Gothic horror movies have been out of style for so long, I found it so refreshing to get this one and to have it be as lavishly mounted as it is. It looks beautiful and it has the kind of scenes and moments that we just don't get in modern horror movies any more, like the sight of an imperiled heroine in their nightgown walking through the dark hallways of a Gothic mansion as they pass by billowing curtains. The Invitation embraces its old-fashioned frights while giving them an appealing modern sheen. As much as some will wave this off as too tepid or generic, I feel like it's really going to be embraced by certain fans as a fun throwback to a style of horror they associate with many happy and formative movie memories.

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