Shine Harder (Doctor Sleep, 2019)

Doctor_Sleep_PosterI have not read Doctor Sleep, the follow up to King’s the Shining.  So, when it was announced as a film, I was not particularly excited.  I did not know how they planned to approach it.  As a sequel to the Kubrick film? As an adaption of the book?

It turns out? A little of both.  But does it work?

The film opens in 1980, where we are introduced to Rose the Hat.  She leads a cult that devours “the Steam” of psychic children, keeping the cult young and giving them power.

Danny has grown into a man trying to drown his his power and guilt in drugs and alcohol. Having locked the ghosts of the Overlook away over the years, through training from Dick Hallorann. After he winds up in a small town, he meets Billy Freeman.  We also meet young Abra Stone, a powerful young girl of immense ability. As the years pass, Dan Torrance has found himself taking a role in a hospice as an orderly, but also the bringer of comfort to the dying. His “shine” allows him to help the dying overcome their fear. Abra is strong enough that she begins to communicate with the sober Dan.

This power also brings her to the attention of  Rose and her cult.  And so Dan finds himself working to protect Abra and stop the cult.

So, does it work? Yes.  Very well.  Flanagan manages to weave the source materials together so that this feels like a relative of the Kubrick movie.  He infuses iconic visual moments in a way that is not merely copying another’s work.

The performances are really good, selling the more fantastic elements.  It is a lot of fun getting to see the possibility of the powers of the “shining” that are hinted at previously.  The main cult members are pretty intriguing, and really, the film ends with a hope that makes it a nice companion piece to the Shining.

Flanagan is proving himself a trusted horror director and Doctor Sleep is a great addition to what I hope is a long and fruitful career.

You Know Ethan (Mission: Impossible: Fallout, 2018)

Mission_Impossible_Fallout_PosterThe Mission Impossible franchise is kind of…well, a weird one. I thought the first one was okay…but the second film was a mess. J.J. Abrams streamlined things a bit and made an improvement with the third film.  Brad Bird and Christopher McQuarrie directed the fourth and fifth installments…and these turned out to be the most entertaining films of the franchise.  With the sixth film, Fallout, McQuarrie is the first director to return to the franchise.

The actions of the previous film have had an impact on the world terrorism scene. Ethan, Luthor and Benji lost weapons grade plutonium on a mission, and their attempt at cleanup ends up being overseen by the CIA who assign their top agent and assassin Walker to join the IMF. Angela Bassett’s Erika Sloane states that the IMF is like a scalpel, but she prefers a hammer.

Full of twists and turns, McQuarrie keeps the action going and strives to avoid being to predictable, though some of the tropes of the franchise seem unavoidable. Nobody stops the  secret weapon five minutes before the countdown will end…because where is the drama in that?

Cruise does not show any signs of quitting, and he manages to keep up a convincing performance as an action hero within the franchise. Hunt is portrayed as the guy who has the small picture in mind allowing his higher ups focus on the bigger picture.  Two different characters inform Ethan that he pretty much cares about the individual lives so they don’t have to.

Cruise, Rhames and Pegg have good comedic chemistry and play well together as a team.  He and Rebecca Ferguson have a good tension, but thankfully, Ilsa continues to have an agency beyond a potential love interest.  The film manages to make every character feel pretty important, and saving the day falls on all of their shoulders.

I really enjoyed the film…but here is my one caveat regarding the Mission:Impossible Franchise. I have enjoyed the films…but find them hard to remember. I remember I liked them.  I just do not really remember much about them later. I wonder if Fallout will continue this trend.

The Myth, the Legend… (Hercules, 2014)

Hercules_2014_PosterThe film begins by detailing the great legends of Hercules.  As a child he defeats snakes sent by a jealous Hera. He fought the Hydra.  He defeated the Erymanthian Boar.  The Nemean Lion.  We discover this is a tale being told to some pirates about to kill a young man. Hercules walks into the camp, and before the lead pirate’s eyes, dispatches his crew.  We the audience realize he is not doing it alone. Hiding among the camp are a skilled team. It turns out that Hercules has a bunch of super friends that help feed the legend of an unbeatable warrior. And they are really just mercenaries.

While celebrating their latest victory, they are approached by Ergenia, daughter of Lord Cotys. She is asking for help to protect their home from a local warlord and promises the team their weight in gold. After agreeing, Hercules and his Amazing Friends help Cotys defeat the Warlord.  But they soon find they may have aligned themselves with the wrong people.

Hard to believe there were two Hercules films in 2014, but here we are.  This film is all about playing with the myth.  The film never confirms whether Hercules is truly a demigod or if the gods are even real.  At the same time, it never truly denies it either.  In fact, the film pretty much ends on a “Who knows???” kind of note.

There is also a mystery, as rumors of Hercules having killed his own wife and children dog him.  He was cast out of the kingdom of King Eurystheus for this and it is what led to his life as a mercenary. All of this plays around with the idea of myths and legends versus “the Truth”. This is another “all new tale”, though it tries to supplant those old tales of Hercules as the true story we never new.

Based on a graphic novel, I am somewhat relieved it did not go the route of 300 or Sin City. Or even it’s competition, the Legend of Hercules.  The action scenes are not heavily stylized.

The film seems to be relying entirely on Johnson’s charisma to sell the film.  The actions sequences are competent, but not especially memorable.  The element of the fantastic is blunted by the attempt to be coy about it’s place in reality versus fantasy. Even the best characters rely on great actors giving stock performances.  This is especially true of Ian McShane’s Amphiaraus, the wise drunk.

This is certainly one of Ratner’s better films…but frankly, that is not saying much.  Nothing really saves this from being disappointing at best.

You Take the Good, Take the Bad (Life, 2017)

life_2017_posterA sci-fi thriller set aboard the International Space-station, Life is a competent film.  The effects are good enough to allow for suspension of disbelief.  The cast  is quite likeable.  The story is uncomplicated.

A research team discovers a life form in soil samples from Mars.  Eventually, the life form grows and as often happens, it gets free and starts killing people.  The scientists must find a way to keep the creature from reaching earth and…well, not die.

It might sound like I disliked Life.  But actually?  I enjoyed it just fine.  I never got bored and liked the characters.  But it was not nearly as risky, even the ending feels like an attempt to feel edgier than it is.

Again, I enjoyed the film, but it won’t be joining the pantheon of Sci-Fi monster movie classics.  But it was okay.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑