Tag Archives: sequel

Halloween Kills

[2.5 stars]

Buckets of blood? Check. Surprises and jumps? Close enough. Story? Well…not so much.

David Gordon Green’s second installment of the new Halloween trilogy is not so much a movie as it is a commentary on society and reflections on the franchise going back to 1978. There isn’t even any teen angst or hijinks. It is almost all from the perspective of the survivors (guilty and not) of the previous films. While the previous film capitalized on that and flipped the script in nice ways, this one is simply out of control and can in no way stand on its own.

Perhaps the real issue is that Green knew he had three films. This installment is simply a bridge to the third and (promised) unexpected finale. But if you don’t know the series and haven’t seen the lead-in story, you’d be lost. This movie picks up literally from the moment the last ended. But it has no real purpose. No rich stories to latch onto and care about (it tries, but fails). It is violent as hell on all sides, and that is its biggest mistake.

For the statement that Green wanted to make, Meyers should have had the lowest, or even zero, bodies added to his list. All of the death should have come purely from the chaos he inspired. That would have made a statement. As it is we simply go from death to death, one squishy over-the-top moment to the next. And while I can enjoy a good splatter film, this just didn’t engage me.

I am, without proof, hopeful that next year’s Halloween Ends will justify this middling release. But we’ll have to wait to see. For now, whether you see this now or later is entirely up to you.

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Ted Lasso (series 2)

[3.5 stars]

Topping the first season of this show was going to be unlikely at best. No matter how good the writing might stay, the element of total surprise was gone. And, in fact, after the success of the first round, the show tried a bit too hard to compete with itself.

This second series is funny, and there are some utterly brilliant moments. But it is also scattered, jumping between individual tales in a way that is less smooth and which doesn’t build on itself as the first round did. Of course, they also went into this season knowing they already had a third on order where they could expand on everything they’ve set up. So, perhaps, they took advantage of that to explore different styles and characters so they can pay it all off next round?

However you parse it out, the “weaponized optimism” of Ted Lasso continues to entertain. And despite any faults, it’s a welcoming world with enough reality to keep it from rotting your teeth. And a few truly hysterical moments that will drop you off your couch.

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Godzilla: Singular Point

[3 stars]

Who would have thought they could find a new Godzilla tale to tell rather than remake after remake (however clever)? Singular Point is an amusingly complex tale of hyperspace, quantum physics, cryptology…and Kaiju. What more can you want in an entertaining anime? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it does have fun getting there and trying to explain it. And it has the one of the best weapon names every put forth in this genre.

I will admit that I watched the first episode and walked away for several weeks. There was something intriguing there, but I was worried it was going to just devolve into silly, overdone tropes. After I came back, they proved those assumptions very wrong. This is a very different tale of Godzilla, and a very different sort of battle for the planet.

This first series is fairly self-contained. If you watch through the final credits, there is a coda that opens it up for a follow-on story. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but given this last round, I’d give them a chance to pull me back in again.

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Motherland: Fort Salem (series 2)

[ 3 stars]

I can’t say the first series of this show did more than intrigue me. The ideas were interesting, if illogically constructed at times, and the writing spotty, at best. But they had gathered a good bunch of talent and there was an inkling of complexity that brought me back for series 2.

Fortunately they upped their game in this second round and reworked some of their logic (without apology) to create a topical and suspenseful story. The writing still isn’t perfect, but the character development expanded considerably and several mysteries are explained. However, to be honest, the writing still has some real problems, including a “surprise ending” that is anything but. However, there is also plenty to chomp on and commit to.

When the usual offerings on the use of magic are something more soapy like Discovery of Witches, this more action-and-suspense oriented storyline is welcome. Like Warrior Nun it also puts women at the center of power and story. Of course, like that it’s also referencing a clear threat of patriarchy, but that’s unavoidable. And, fortunately, it is all subtext rather than direct.

If you haven’t tried the show out yet, give a crack. The improvements in the second series give me hope for the upcoming third, which promises to be full of even more action and intrigue.

Cruella

[4 stars]

Oh, what a wonderfully unexpectedly deep and dark confection. And from Disney no less. Who knew they could do psychopaths and still keep it all PG? To be fair, Emma Thompson’s (Last Christmas) Baroness is more a psychopath while Emma Stone’s (Zombieland: Double Tap) Cruella is really a sociopath, but why split dog hairs? Both performances are nearly flawless.

There is something for everyone in this story: mystery, surprises, fashion, music (seriously, a heck of a soundtrack from the 60s-80s), snark, heists, and cuteness (even if mostly CGI’d). However, it is a bit dark for the wee ones, so it is more of a 3 quadrant flick rather than a full family affair.

Part of the real brilliance of this story is that it not only provides a backstory for one of Disney’s more heinous criminals (from the kid’s stories) but it also builds out the origin of the henchmen Jasper and Horace in the guise of Joel Fry (benjamin) and Paul Walter Hauser (Songbird) respectively.

The story also manages to shim up with everything we already knew about 101 Dalmatians in a quite wonderful, if rather forced, way.

If I have any real criticisms on the execution of the story by director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) it was around the critical shift for Stone’s arc. There is a moment (it is obvious), that she is forever forged as the criminal we grew up to fear. But, sadly, it isn’t crisp visually. It’s a story beat but we don’t really see the final transformation. The movie quickly sweeps on and you forgive it, but it’s the one element that I felt he missed amidst the opulent cinematography and framing that carried the swift and biting comedy along. It really is a dark and wonderful surprise of a film.

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The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf

[3 stars]

It’s been a while since Witcher came on the scene. And we’re still awaiting December’s launch of the next season. In the meantime, we’ve got this surprisingly entertaining animated movie to provide some background and to give us a new story. And while the script attempts to make this work as a standalone story, it is probably best viewed after seeing the first season of the show rather than as an entry point.

There is some nice voice talent carrying along the tale and filling out the complicated world. Theo James (Divergent Series: Allegiant), Mary McDonnell (The Closer), and Lara Pulver (Legacy: Black Ops) are the ones that rise to the top. Each of them has some wonderfully subtle moments to navigate and depths to expose.

Nightmare of the Wolf is definitely not aimed at kids. For all intents, and even in structure, it’s very much of the Witcher brand and approach. Expect blood, betrayal, sex, and innuendo. And, of course, a lot of fighting, death, and violence. But the chaos and story builds to a final point and, sadly, much of it feels disturbingly relevant to the real world and its current state. Yet it remains entertaining and intriguing…and definitely whets the appetite for the upcoming continuation of the live action show.

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Baptiste (series 2)

[3 stars]

The first round of this spin-off mystery was satisfying but left our title character in a dark place. Tchéky Karyo returns in a second round to wrap-up his story in this evil and bitter little confection to more properly send off his weary detective. Which isn’t to say that the way isn’t open for more stories at the end, but it rounds out his arc very nicely and wouldn’t be harmed by being left alone from here on out.

But, that said, he has at least one more missing person to find. And Fiona Shaw (Ammonite) joins Karyo to drive the story as an immensely flawed and broken human. Her missteps are often frustrating, but they are at least consistent. The story itself is both timely and profoundly disturbing. Told primarily in French, English, and Hungarian, we navigate the rising tide of the far right in Hungary as the backdrop to this case.

Joining the main duo, the Hungarian actors Dorka Gryllus, Gabriella Hámori, Miklós Béres and the well-known English character actor Ace Bhatti provide background and side plots.

Baptiste lives in a world of trafficking, hate, drugs, and loss. If it weren’t that challenging, anyone could do what he does. But at what cost? And that is the crux of this second series. What has he sacrificed and what can he recover of his life with Anastasia Hille (Pembrokeshire Murders) after the last case and because of this current? This is the focus of the latest six episodes and, with some minorly frustrating choices, it navigates it all quite well.

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War of the Worlds (series 2)

[3 stars]

The first series of this reimagining was interesting, but ended on a rather obvious set of possibilities…that takes most of the second season for the characters to realize. And while some of that is fair, as we know more than they do in many cases, other aspects should have been obvious to them almost immediately.

The entire cast returns for this continuation. But life is cheaper now that there are fewer humans; there isn’t as much fodder to deflect attacks. In other words, blood will be spilled.

This second season also wraps up the story comfortably…with an opening to continue. And continue it will as the third season is due next year. Where they will take it, I have no idea. Well, I have some idea, but it could just get silly and exhausting and drawn out given that some of the logic is questionable as it stands.

On the other hand, Howard Overman is a writer I trust enough to give it a shot. He has a way of finding the truth in situations that spin out of control. War of the Worlds isn’t his best dialogue work…and it’s all a bit too unrelentingly dark and without humor. He works best when allowed to include the whole of human emotion and reaction. But it isn’t unengaging and the take on the theme is fresh enough to draw you along through this season’s resolution. I suspect, however, that it will be the third season that really pulls this all together with a punch, not unlike aspects of his earlier Misfits which had nice three and five season arcs that you wouldn’t have spotted as they initially unrolled.

I do appreciate the feeling of near completion in this second season. Whether that was done to hedge against an unknown renewal or part of the plan, I can’t say. However, it balances a need to know and the potential for continuation in a deft way. Only the third season will show if it is also fair.

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Biohackers (series 2)

[3 stars]

At the end of the first series of Biohackers you’d have been pushed to believe they could find a way to reinstate the level of mystery and misdirection they’d accomplished in the follow-on. All the big stuff had been revealed, yes? Well, no. But in a more clever way they reset it all within the first few moments of the new series. The first episode remakes everything we expect and has you hooked again as completely as you were in first round.

What follows in the remaining episodes is a complete unwinding and resolution to the tale that began with our intrepid Mia, Luna Wedler, fighting again for her identity and answers to some serious questions. Jessica Schwarz returns as well, in all her cold, literal glory, as well as the housemates and male counterparts for Wedler. But new to the plot are a couple of interestingly played power brokers. Thomas Kretschmann (Hitman: Agent 47) is by far the most nuanced, while Benno Fürmann (Babylon Berlin) simply goes for the creep factor.

This isn’t a second series you can just jump into. If you have an interest, pick up the first series before you consider this one. The relationships and setup are integral to everything else that occurs. The series are relatively short (6 eps each) so they are also pretty compact and fully of forward movement to keep you engaged. While the series is left with options for moving forward, the second season wraps up the main plots and, should it be the end, satisfyingly closes the book on the mysteries and characters.

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The Suicide Squad

[4 stars]

Now, let us first admit making a better Suicide Squad than last time was a fairly low bar. But James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) went beyond doing it better, he found the balance. Margot Robbie’s (Birds of Prey) Harley Quinn certainly plays a central role again, but she doesn’t bulldoze the entire story this time. Everyone on the crew can not only hold their own, but each also has their own story for us to follow.

So let’s talk story for a moment. There is a sub-genre of genre fiction called “gonzo.” Basically it means anything goes. If there is a gonzo-style director out there that can really pull it off in a popular delivery it’s Gunn. He has no shame and he has few limits on his imagination. And Suicide Squad as a base for a story was made for him.

And that’s the heart of it all. Gunn found the story. With Idris Elba (Legacy: Black Ops) at the core and the primary support of Daniela Melchior, David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man), and digitally hysterical Sylvester Stallone (Animal Crackers) the crew blasts its way through challenge after situation. And the returning and nicely altered characters for Joel Kinnaman (Altered Carbon) and Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) add some unexpected aspects to it all. There also are plenty of other fun performances, including a bevy of cameo gifts Gunn gave to his old Guardian’s crew, not to mention an odd opportunity for Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who).

The only weak spot in the cast for me was John Cena (Bumblebee). Yes he was intended to be a big douche bag (per the script), but his byplay with Elba never really works. They don’t connect or repel one another in any visceral way, only in a lightly and predictably comic exchange. If there is a place Gunn fell short, it was that casting and that relationship.

But the ride, overall, as predictable as it is at times, is unrelenting and full of great moments as well as an overall arc. And, yes, there are also two tags during the credits that clearly help set up a sequel. If Gunn were to tackle that, I’d definitely be back, but I’m sort of hoping that they just leave this silly and wonderful little gem as a standalone. Whether you see this on large or small screen (and I saw it on small quite happily) you should see this if you’re a fan of comic anti-heroes. It’s a fast 2.25 hours and it will leave you smiling.

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