Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Fishy Is As Fishy Does: The Lake (2023) Review

Director: Lee Thongkham

Notable Cast: Theerapat Sajakul, Sushar Manaying, Vithaya Pansringarm, Supansa Wedkama, Wanmai Chatborrirak, Thanachat Tullayachat, Ren Youxan, Su Qiucheng


"What is more cruel than the monster is the lie...the lie that a group of people made to cover up their own failure so that everything remains peaceful. But there was never true peace."


The quote above is delivered via a voiceover narrative that bookends the Thai blockbuster The Lake. While I am normally one to roll my eyes at these kinds of storytelling choices, it’s one that lingered with me well into the credits and the Thai pop song that adored them. Was this by-the-numbers monster flick one that had far more depth under its surface than I gave it credit for while watching it?


Yeah, there is more depth than expected. The brilliance (and perhaps the biggest obstacle) of The Lake is that this monster flick, which steals fully from other monster movies in both concept and execution, is way better than it ever should be. It is monster madness that somehow manages to pop in some incredibly heartfelt moments and some odd moments of existential crisis that elevate the experience. All while it delivers some fun bigger-than-life fish monster mayhem. 


Monday, March 27, 2023

A Man with a Cause: John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) Review

Director: Chad Stahelski

Notable Cast: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgard, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Clancy Brown, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror


At one point leading into the final portion of John Wick: Chapter 4, Clancy Brown’s Harbinger warns the big bad of the film, The Marquis - played with a seething and conniving performance by Bill Skarsgard, that a man’s ambition should never exceed his worth. The moment is one to indicate that, despite the villain’s endless amount of resources and skilled killers, The Marquis is still over his head in trying to kill John Wick. Yet it’s also the same warning that echoed my worries for this fourth entry.


Would the ambitions of the John Wick franchise eventually exceed its worth?


With John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, one could see the ambitions for building the globe trotting world start to stretch to the point of excess. Not that the film is inherently bad, nay, but it is one where some of the choices for plot and narrative felt the strain.


With John Wick: Chapter 4, the series addresses those (including an opening sequence that neatly ties an open thread with a bullet point of finality) and then proceeds to grow the series in scope while going back to the thematic and narrative points about the character that made this franchise explode with audiences. It’s a cinematic magic trick of epic proportions. It balances its emotional parallels for the character while simultaneously giving the viewer the biggest and most ambitious entry yet. If the ambitions were exceeding the worth, Chapter 4 grows the worth to match those ambitions. The results are glorious and punctuated with the viciousness of a napalm loaded shotgun blast.


Monday, March 20, 2023

Ghostface Takes Stabhattan: Scream VI (2023) Review

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Notable Cast: Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Courteney Cox, Hayden Panettiere, Dermot Mulroney, Liana Liberato, Jack Champion, Devyn Nekoda, Josh Segarra, Samara Weaving


The meta-commentary that has always been provided within the Scream franchise found new life with Scream 2022 when it was released… let me check my notes, uh, yep, last year. The attack on the “requel” - or which can also be labeled as the “legacy sequel” - was smart in playing on the freshly minted tropes, particularly for slashers, and suddenly this horror franchise had legs and momentum under it once again. In the rather insane way that the Scream films have evolved, it was the next step to bring it to the current state of horror. 


Although Scream VI tries out a few “new” ideas by taking the sequel and planting it in Montreal New York and attacking modern horror franchise continuations, it’s one that mostly sticks to its knives when it comes to delivering a Scream sequel. Although it hardly reaches the cleverness or seemingly invested writing of the fifth entry, it does happen to deliver quite a bit of slasher entertainment as it ramps up the brutality and cutting slasher chase sequences that maximize its Montreal New York setting. 


Friday, March 17, 2023

Focus and Control: Creed III (2023) Review

Director: Michael B. Jordan

Notable Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Phylicia Rashad, Mila Davis-Kent, Jose Benavidez Jr, Selenis Leyva, Florian Munteanu 


One step. One punch. One round at a time. 


This mantra from the first Creed makes a brief appearance in the final act of Creed III. It’s a smooth callback to the original and it’s a small reminder of just how far this sub-series within the Rocky franchise has come in three films. Yes, it’s a phrase that has stuck with me since the first film, but hearing Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed mutter it under his breath prior to the big final match was a stark reminder of why this series has had potency in recent years. For a franchise with almost 50 years of material, Creed III is tackling legacy in such a smart way that even bringing back the mantra as thematic is potent. 


However, the problem that plagued the previous sequel was that the Creed series was still living in the shadow of its past. Creed II was less a sequel to its predecessor and more of a sequel to Rocky IV. Fun, yes, but it’s a problem that Creed III needed to address. Creed needed to step out from the shadows of the past and into the future, both as a character and as a film series. 


This is the first reason why Creed III finds success. The series attempts to alter the course by pulling as far away from Rocky as possible. Yes, Rocky’s mantra makes an appearance and Sly Stallone’s Italian Stallion is mentioned briefly, but this entry is making the intelligent maneuver of leaning away from Rocky’s lore as a basis and finding its own lore to create. Although it is still hard to beat the coming-of-age and rise to glory of the original Creed, Creed III is a large step up from its predecessor and finds an incredible balance of entertainment, heart, and a new vision for the franchise's future. 


Thursday, March 16, 2023

Stab for Stab: Psycho (1998) Review [Scream Factory]

Director: Gus Van Sant

Notable Cast: Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Viggo Mortensen, Robert Forster


I originally saw the 1998 Psycho remake with my family when we rented it as a new release on VHS. I was a mere 15 years old at that time and had seen/owned the first 3 Psycho films on VHS. Upon viewing it, my family found it completely pointless and I remember disliking it myself. Being a teenager, sometimes your opinion can be influenced by the views of your family so when I picked up the original Psycho Tetralogy on Blu-ray (with the snazzy Scream Factory issues), I decided to pull the trigger and purchase the lambasted Gus Van Sant remake to see if my opinion was still the same 25 years later. Perhaps I could see the film in a new light through the filter of time and perhaps see some artistic integrity I initially missed. Welp, I can honestly say 25 years later, I still find it a completely pointless film.