I think because I have never been a big horror movie person I have a ton of blind spots in that genre including the Universal monster movies. This is why I really wanted to include Frankenstein 1931 in my blind spot this year. Strangely I have seen Young Frankensteinwhich is a parody of this film but not seen the original. I have also read the book several times and seen the Kenneth Branagh version from 1994 (and I’ve seen Frankenweenie!). Now I have seen the1931 film and I loved it! It’s an extremely well made film with several scenes that really got to me.
Frankenstein 1931 is directed by James Whale and stars Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster. It’s a simple story and at 71 minutes it doesn’t waste much time. Dr Frankenstein creates a monster and that monster is misunderstood and mayhem results.
The film starts off with the iconic image of lightning bringing the monster to life. We of course get the doctor calling out ‘It’s alive! It’s alive’. I love the black and white in these scenes and the way director Whale uses light and shadow to create mood. They are scenes so often parodied they lose some of their impact but if you think about what it must have been like to see for the first time it is very exciting.
Karloff is great as the monster. He plays it almost like a zombie unaware of what he is doing but with just enough alertness to be cognizant of his actions. The most tragic scene is when he is playing with a girl named Maria and in the game he drowns the girl. That scene combined with the farmer bringing his dead little girl into the town is so sad. Devastating.
Like I said, Frankenstein 1931 is not a long movie so its elements are simple. However, I found it effective and very well made. It’s violent, tragic and exciting all at the same time and it has something to say about playing God and how we treat things we don’t understand. Is it a monster just because we are unfamiliar with it? Maybe? Maybe not?
I did think the film ended rather abruptly and I wanted a little bit more. I suppose I will need to watch the sequels one of these days.
So it’s that time again where I catch up on all the films I’ve been watching with a bunch of mini-reviews! Sorry I couldn’t do longer reviews but if you have any questions or would like more of my thoughts just ask in the comments section!
My Little Pony: A New Generation
I was actually a fan of the MLP: Friendship is Magic and enjoyed the MLP movie based on that series. Now we have a new series with an introductory movie, My Little Pony: A New Generation. This is technically a sequel to Friendship is Magic (and we get a little intro from the FIM characters) but it is new characters with a new style and it is thoroughly charming.
In this story, Equestria has been divided into 3 lands with 3 different pony kinds- earth, pegasi and unicorns. One day a new unicorn named Izzy comes into town and they have to work to overcome prejudice and restore the unicorn magic. I love the bright and cheerful animation and the message is important and perfect for the whole family. It’s a great start to the new series
8 out of 10
Whenever I see a movie from A24 I know I’m in for something different. The distributor prides itself on procuring strange eclectic films. Most of their films I enjoy like The Farewell, Minari and more. Others like The Souvenir or The Last Black Man in Francisco I did not care for. (or C’mon C’mon reviewed below is A24)
Now there is the movie Lamb, and I was actually looking forward to the film because the trailer looked like a fun horror movie. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver and was instead a pretentious dull marriage in crisis drama.
The trailer is one of the most deceptive I’ve seen in a long time because Lamb is not scary in the slightest. In fact, every time they showed the human lamb baby it looked so ridiculous it took me out of the movie. It was too goofy, and I honestly thought it was plain stupid.
4 out of 10
Diana: The Musical
You all know I am a sucker when it comes to musicals. I famously went fresh on much maligned recent film adaptations of Cats and Dear Evan Hansen. So when I say a musical is terrible it’s really bad. Such is the case with the recent Diana: the Musical.
Everything about this filming of the new Broadway show about Princess Diana’s life is a complete mess. Maybe the costumes can be praised but the lyrics, music, book, casting, staging is all laughably bad. It’s almost worth recommending for the ‘so bad it’s good’ elements, but I can’t do that to you. I feel bad for whomever invested in the Broadway show starting in December because this thing is going to tank badly. I can’t imagine it lasting outside the previews…It’s so bad.
1 out of 10
I saw C’mon C’mon as part of this year’s NYFF59 and director Mike Mills was there to present it to the crowd. The film is thin on plot but its characters are endearing enough to make it all work.
It tells the story of a man named Johnny who is asked to take care of his nephew Jesse while the child’s parents are dealing with medical care. At first he doesn’t know how to parent but over time he and Jesse become very close. As an aunt I can relate to the bond between Johnny and Jesse and the beautiful black and white photography gives the film a grounded, authentic feel.
It is slow moving and the interruptions with documentary subjects waxing philosophical didn’t always work but still a sweet movie worth a few hours of your time.
7 out of 10
Returning to Reims
My second movie at NYFF59 is a very unusual documentary called Returning to Reims. This film takes clips from movies, interviews, and selections from director Didier Eribon’s memoir to tell a history of labor struggles in France. Normally such a subject would be dry but the approach was unique enough to keep me engaged. I think it would have worked better as a documentary short but still I’m glad I saw it.
6 out of 10
Muppets Haunted Mansion
I don’t know if I mention it enough on this blog but I love The Muppets. I even have Muppet May every year over on my youtube channel. That said, the franchise has had a rocky road the last few years. I did not enjoy Muppets Most Wanted and the various TV series have not been good.
Now we have a new film for Disney Plus with Muppets Haunted Mansion. Fortunately it is the best project the franchise has made in a long time. I really enjoyed all the homages to the attraction (which is my favorite at Disneyland). Will Arnett is a lot of fun as the host to a great party Gonzo and Pepe are attending. We also get the adorable image of Piggy and Kermit dressed up as each other.
The only thing I didn’t like was a plot-line with Taraji P. Henson and Pepe getting married. It’s not that funny and took up a lot of the runtime I wish had been given to the rest of the Muppets.
Still, it’s definitely worth a watch especially for Disney parks and Muppets fans. It’s a gift from the Muppets for this Halloween season.
6 out of 10
The Baby-Sitters Club Season 2
I loved the first season of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix. It was so well written and cast and felt like an authentic portrayal of teens today.
Now we have season 2 and I loved it all over again. I loved the books growing up and even had my own babysitting club as a tween with my friends. This show so captures the experience of being a teen girl with the insecurities, joys and struggles. But you don’t need to be a teen girl to enjoy the series. If you like good writing and authentic storytelling you will like this show. It’s fantastic.
Particularly great this season is the story for Claudia who faces a great loss. It honestly made me quite emotional. Trust me on this one- you should watch it!
10 out of 10
Have you seen any of these films/shows? What have you been watching? Share in the comment sections.
A couple of years ago my book club chose to read Frank Herbert’s 1965 scifi novel Dune for one of our summer selections. The whole point of book club is to get me out of my reading comfort zone so I dove in hoping to enjoy it…and I did not. It was a beast of exposition and ambling plot that went nowhere. None of us but one enjoyed the book and I hoped to never hear about Dune again.
Then of course the movie was announced directed by auteur Denis Villeneuve and of course it was delayed last year due to the pandemic. I feel like I have been hearing about this movie for ages. First the endless casting announcements and then trailers and other publicity as it became delayed. The hype for most was building to a promise I knew the film would not be able to meet- ‘the next Lord of the Rings‘ or ‘Star Wars‘ and I knew from the book that’s not what Dune is unless they strayed far away from the source material.
Today we finally arrived at the big screening day and I had moderated expectations, which is what I recommend for each of you. Don’t go in expecting to hate it- that’s idiotic but expect a well made scifi movie and that’s what you will get.
That’s right. I did actually enjoy Dune despite my dislike of the book. I don’t love it and it has its issues but it’s about the best you could do in making a Dune movie and what more can you ask of filmmakers?
The strengths are in the visual effects and production/sound design. The acting is also all competent and they keep the story moving fairly well- far better than the book or some of Villeneuve’s other scifi films.
My problems with the film is in the character development. Timothee Chalamet does a good job with Paul but the character is flat and doesn’t grow in the way we need for this type of Chosen One story. In addition, none of the side characters stand out or are particularly memorable (no Samwise or Han Solo types in the bunch). It also has no comic relief or lighthearted moments to allow the audience to breathe away from the action.
As I said, the visual effects are strong but in the last third of the film there are a lot of night scenes obfuscated with sand storms. I know this is partly intentional as the story has become darker but it lost some of its visual flair to a muddy sameness by the end.
I know many will disagree with me, but I also was underwhelmed by the Hans Zimmer score. I thought it was bland and missing the dynamic theme we need in such an epic story.
After I see a film I always ask ‘did it succeed in doing what it’s trying to do?’ and I think with Dune the answer is yes. Sure I had some critiques but for a very difficult novel to put on film they did a good job and certainly fans of the source material will love it. When you get a chance to see it let me know what you think!
It’s always disappointing as a critic when you recommend a film and then the sequels don’t live up to the original film. I feel like saying ‘I was pulling for you!’. This year it happened with Bigfoot Family which was a lame follow-up to the surprise The Son of Bigfoot. Now it has happened again with The Addams Family 2 which is a sequel to the first The Addams Family, which I actually enjoyed back in 2019.
The reason I liked the original The Addams Family is it kept me laughing throughout. I also felt the animation did a good job capturing the spirit of the Addams characters with a tremendous voice cast.
Unfortunately this sequel does nothing to improve upon the original (which wasn’t perfect despite my recommendation) and fails to provide the laughs needed to enjoy the film. They try but most of the jokes feel repetitive and lacking in any creativity. It all felt very bland.
We still have the great voice cast with Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Bette Middler and more. The problem is they are trapped in a boring road trip movie with the overprotective father Gomez fixating on his rebellious daughter Wednesday. You have Bill Hader as Cyrus Strange who is a decent villain but it all feels like the same movie we just saw in Hotel Transylvania with Drac and Mavis or even Tim and Tabitha in the most recent The Boss Baby 2.
There’s nothing harmful about The Addams Family 2 but there are so many better animated films your kids will enjoy more and that you can watch as a family. I would honestly recommend the recent Paw Patrol: The Movie more or My Little Pony: A New Generation. Both of those films were much better as far as story, heart, and creativity. If you want to watch an Addams Family movie watch the films from the live action films from the 90s or the original from 2019. That will give you a much better experience than this bland laugh-less sequel.
When I saw the original Venom movie I had mixed feelings but my big takeaway was the “humor worked for me” and then I added “I’d be open to a sequel where they could iron out the bugs”. Now we have a sequel and in my opinion they have done just that. The humor is still great and the problems with the supplementary characters and the sluggish pacing have been addressed. I walked away from Venom: Let There Be Carnage having been thoroughly entertained. Other people seem to be having different responses and that’s fine. I can only share my experience.
Sometimes I like a movie that’s just plain weird and both of the Venom movies fit that description. The buddy relationship between Venom and Eddie is bizarre, random and hilarious. I was laughing throughout- and so was most of the audience in my critics screening. Eddie trying to keep Venom happy which usually means he says funny, inappropriate and strange things. Tom Hardy is great as Eddie/Venom and it’s fun to see an actor of his caliber arguing with himself over chickens and what not. If my Grandma was alive she’d describe it as a hoot and I’d agree with her.
The rest of the movie is fairly standard but well done with Woody Harrelson playing Carnage. He always does a good job playing manic insane villains. Naomi Harris plays his love interest Shriek and she’s fine. They aren’t especially memorable but they do the job they need to do to get to the action and Venom/Eddie plotline going.
Much has been talked about the 97 minute runtime. I loved it. I was never bored. It never got bogged down in exposition. It was clean, concise and on its way. I found the pacing very refreshing. It’s actually simple. If you want to watch a weird movie about a very odd couple and have some laughs check out Venom: Let There Be Carnage. I sure enjoyed it and I bet you will too. If you are expecting a Shakespearean comicbook movie you probably won’t like it but if you want a kooky good time you will or at least I sure did.