My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Turning to Shudder in lieu of joining the weekend masses to see The Batman, I watched Darkman for the first time. Yes, it’s a long overdue viewing. When I was a child, I remember tuning in on TV for the scene when Neeson raises Raimi’s brother from the pothole onto the busy city street. It disturbed me and left a lasting impression. Ironically, I think it’s still the best thing in this movie.
Though it might be Raimi’s first studio movie, his eccentric signature is all over it with wide-lens POV shots, expressionistic camera moves, and plenty of B-movie fun. I can see the Universal monster movie influence (apparently one of his inspirations) and admire Raimi for creating his own character when unable to option Batman or The Shadow. Some Hollywood creatives should take a page from that book these days instead of rebooting everything.
However, the film only half works. It’s better in its first half than its second when Darkman becomes more of an action hero. The movie works while following Neeson through his recovery and experiments to return himself to normal. It’s dark, brooding, and weird. His first couple kills (like the one mentioned before) are clever. And then the movie derails into something more fantastical, ending with some of the most absurd action sequences of the era. Raimi starts to lean towards his goofy side, the same one that made Army of Darkness more of an adventure film than a horror movie. I’ve always preferred the director on a smaller scale, working with a limited canvas like the lone cabin in Evil Dead 2 or the isolated world of A Simple Plan. Though I admire the ambition, the tone and execution of the finale totally lost me.
Watched on Shudder.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
The cover has lingered in my periphery for years. I even started it months ago, watched five minutes, and decided to come back to it later. Well, I must have returned at the right time because Trancers is one of the most enjoyable genre movie experiences I’ve had in a while.
Thomerson is a revelation. A lot of actors play at the tough detective role but he is truly hard-boiled. It’s too bad he wasn’t around in the glory days of Film Noir because I have no doubt he would been a great Marlowe, Sam Spade, or Mike Hammer. With just a hint of humor that he never lets get out of hand, Thomerson grounds the movie with a level of grit that transforms this Charles Band creation into something more than just another B-movie.
The story is solid and though it may be reflective of other sci-fi films that came before and after, the well-developed characters distract from these comparisons. Joining Thomerson as Deth, Helen Hunt brings a depth to her underwritten female lead, actually making us believe that these two unlikely lovers would connect in such a short time. All the supporting players add great color to this familiar yet fresh sci-fi world.
Overall, I really dig Trancers and can’t wait to watch the sequels. On a final note, I was so bummed to learn that Legendary owns the rights to Trancers because I would love to join Band in a resurrection of this property!
Watched on Tubi.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses (2022)
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
First off, I didn’t know that Netflix released short films. I added this to my list because of the WWII setting and was surprised when I clicked play to see the fourteen minute runtime. It would great to see the streaming service do more with shorter from cinema.
As for the film itself, I admire the intention and there certainly is a great need for telling stories like this one. However, I feel that its short runtime was far too focused on the chase and less on the historical situation. The characters and world are set up too quickly before we’re thrown into action. The danger doesn’t play with much strength because we don’t know our lead well enough.
The most effective part of the film are the statistics written on screen at the very end. I feel that someway the film that comes before could have been just as powerful.
Watched on Netflix.
King of the Underdogs (2017)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Every week, I’m trying to look at one non-fiction work about a film or film director. This one about the filmmaker behind Rocky and The Karate Kid has been on my radar for a while. I probably hesitated to watch it because I’m not as big of fan of those movies as most of my generation. If you are, I highly recommend this documentary.
Still, I was touched by Avildsen’s story. As a fellow filmmaker, I could relate to aspects of his journey, especially the criticism over the stubbornness of his creative vision. Though the editing of this documentary feels sometimes disjointed and isn’t as well put together as the one I recently watched about Larry Cohen (a must see!), it certainly proves that Avildsen is a filmmaker worthy of recognition and further study.
Watched on Tubi.