The French Dispatch

This latest effort from indie darling Wes Anderson is full of his signatures. If you like his signatures this movie will be a dream come true. If you don’t like him it will be disjointed, off putting, and boring. Sadly I fall into the second camp.

Wes Anderson is an acclaimed independent filmmaker with hits like The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. He is most well known for his kitschy sense of style and the intricate details of his production design. This design and attention to detail is on full display in the French Dispatch. The film follows a fictional monthly news publication run by an eccentric editor and an even more eccentric staff of writers. The movie is broken up into stories written by the staff the cover an artist in prison, a student uprising in Paris, and a kidnapping of police commissioner’s son. Each segment is full of Anderson’s unique costumes and set design and is technically very impressive.

He does have a mastery of style. He shoots characters and action at 90 degree angles. He moves his camera on an axis that creates a distinct style in every moment. There’s no mistaking the film for anyone else’s work. It is fun to see a director’s vision expressed in such a unique way. I respect his attention to detail and his one of a kind aesthetic.

There are moments of technical brilliance here as when the walls open up in a cafe to reveal the world beyond the characters. When the black and white artist in prison segment flashes to full bright color to encompass the power of the artist’s work. And when the chase sequence at the end of the kidnapping story is told in animation. These are delightful flights of technical fancy that are a lot of fun to see.

I have two problems with the movie. One is a problem with Wes Anderson the filmmaker and one is a problem with this movie specifically. The first is the way Anderson handles emotion. He feels like an alien who doesn’t understand the way people feel. His characters state their emotions with robotic, matter of factness that feels detached and off putting. I never believe in his characters. They become collections of ticks and ideas stating feelings as if they were reading an instruction manual. It is very unnatural. I understand that it fits in with the verisimilitude of the films, but it keeps me at a distance. It prevents me from fully engaging with the narratives. I can never invest in the stories because I feel I am being held at arms length.

The problem with this movie specifically is that only one of the three major stories works. The artist in prison is a wonderful little piece of oddity and eccentricity. It follows Benicio del Toro as a tortured artist who murdered two men in a fit of pique. He finds his artistic voice in prison in the form of a muse. The female prison guard who is willing to pose nude form him. She is played by the alluring and wonderful Lea Seydoux. This story has humor and heart and a strong forward momentum. The other narratives don’t. The other two stories just fall flat due to muddled conflict and confusing thematics that never fully come together. He’s one for three in this movie, and that’s not enough for me.

Like I said, if you love his work, you’ll love this. If you are skeptical of his films, just skip it. This one will not convert any Wes Anderson detractors to his side. It’s a great Anderson film, but not a great film. Not my cup of tea. B-

Belfast

This is a beautiful little memory. It is a collection of moments that made up this boys childhood. It has some gorgeous and conspicuous cinematography that showcases a deeply compelling time and place. I loved it.

Shot in lovely black and white, the film follows a family that is living during a very rough time in Ireland known colloquially as “the troubles.” It was a time of social turmoil and conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted from the late 60’s through the late 90’s. It was a time of political violence based on years of social and political issues that bubbled over and resulted in blood in the streets.

The movie doesn’t focus on the reasons or the machinations of the conflict. It follows Buddy, played by the adorable newcomer Jude Hill, he is a nine year old boy just trying to live his life while his father, played by Jamie Dornan, is off working for long stretches, and his Ma, Played by Caitriona Balfe, is left at home trying to care for two young boys in the midst of violence and chaos.

The film was written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, and it is somewhat autobiographical. He grew up in Ireland during the chaos and his family history mirrors the trajectory of the characters. He has called it his most personal film and that really comes through in every frame. The movie is shot from a boys perspective and feels like a memory.

The movie is shot in black and white with some absolutely gorgeously composed shots that utilize the frame is a really unique way. He uses deep focus and steady long shots to give the viewer the opportunity to explore the frame with their eyes. It is a really beautifully shot movie. I would love to watch it again just to get to spend some more time in these images. Some of the shots are a little bit showy. Do we really need the extreme Dutch angle and the stark contrast to get the point across? No, but I’ll give it a pass.

The movie stumbles for me at the climax. It feels like a Hollywood climax that doesn’t entirely fit with the grounded and realistic tone of the rest of the movie. It pulled me out just when the movie needed me to buy in fully.

That said the movie is full of wonderful little moments. Buddy asks his Grandpa, played by Ciaran Hinds, for advice on asking a cute girl out. Grandpa gets as involved in the romance as Buddy is. It’s nice and sweet and feels true. When Grandma, played by the incomparable Judy Dench, takes Buddy to the movies is a joy. The final moments of the movie pack such a subtle and emotional punch that it brought me to tears.

Is it perfect? No. Did it work its magic on me? Completely. I loved it flaws and all. I highly recommend it if you can find it in a theater. I recommend it if you can find it online. It’s a wonderful little movie. It’s my cup of tea. A

Tick, Tick… Boom!

This Netflix musical has a stunning lead performance and a surprisingly solid vision behind the camera that enliven the narrative and carries the movie through some slow patches.

In 1990, Jonathan Larson was a waiter at a diner and an aspiring composer of Broadway musicals. He was years away from his musical smash Rent and theater immortality. He wrote a little show called Tick, Tick… Boom! about life as a struggling artist. Larson called it a “rock monologue” it was a new style of theater for the new age. After his tragic death, Larson’s friend reached out to David Auburn, a Pulitzer winning playwright in his own right, to rework Tick, Tick…Boom! as a new show including Larson’s life and journey. This new show captured the imagination of a young musical theater student named Lin Manuel Miranda who would go on to his own form of musical theater legacy in the form of Hamilton. Miranda produced and directed this movie adaptation of Larson’s work.

The history is interesting to me and enriches the viewing experience. The movie is about the artistic process and how ideas form into plays and musicals which capture the imagination. The movie features the real life relationship between Stephen Sondheim and Jonathan Larson, and the movie was made by a director who was inspired by the real life Larson’s work.

The backstory of the show also informs how well Miranda handles the material. It’s clearly made by someone who’s been working on and thinking about this show for years. It has a strong vision and a clear voice behind the camera that elevates the material and enhances every frame. It is an adaptation that succeeds at fully translating the stage show to the screen. The two mediums operate in very different veins and this movie understands that better than most.

It’s a strong adaptation that features an incredible lead performance from Andrew Garfield. He gives a fully committed performance doing his own singing and dancing. He seems to disappear into Larson leaving all traces of his past roles and Spider-man fame behind. His charisma and charm carries this movie. He’s supported by a wonderful cast of Broadway and musical theater alums that bring their a-game.

The one problem I have with the movie is the pacing in the middle section. It’s a problem on a bone deep level. The core of the script is the problem, and the film covers for it but can’t overcome it. The story follows Jonathan Larson as he prepares to show his latest musical work. He feels the show is missing a big finish song to cap off the piece, but he’s experiencing writers block and can’t come up with a song that will work. This brings the narrative moments screeching to a halt as our protagonist is hindered. He can’t move forward and neither can the narrative momentum. We’re all just stuck waiting for him to write something. My attention waned in the middle because of this. Once we got past this hurdle I was treated to a gorgeous conclusion, but that second was rough.

It has wonderful musical numbers. It is full of great performances. It has solid direction. I really enjoyed the movie, but it’s not an A+ for me. It is absolutely my cup of tea, and I think if you have any interest in theater or the artistic process you will enjoy it too. A-

Malignant

Oh my goodness! What a bonkers movie! This movie is absolutely bananas. It is absolutely nuts, and I kind of love it for all its absurdities.

It was impossible to miss the ubiquitous trailers for this movie touting, “a new vision of terror from James Wan.” I wasn’t super excited to check this one out. I love horror, and I’m a fan of Wan’s work, but the trailers did nothing for me.

I checked out the first ten minutes on my laptop on HBO Max, and I was deeply disappointed. I thought it was terrible. So with trepidation I walked into the theater last night to watch it for real. I credit the theater experience with vastly improving those first ten minutes. What seemed hammy and overblown felt right at home in the theater.

So what is this movie? Well according to the trailers it is about a woman named Maddie who is haunted by a malevolent force from her past named Gabriel. She thinks he’s the devil. In the past he whispered evil things to her. As an adult he shows her the murders he commits. It’s directed by James Wan. The trailers want to make sure you know that he is behind it.

That’s everything I knew about the movie before I saw it. As such I was delightfully surprised by every twist and turn the movie unfolded. It was so much fun as the movie got steadily weirder and more off the wall or really off the ceiling. I struggle with movies like this. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I want to talk about how crazy it is. I’m going to include a spoiler section after the review proper to lay out just how wild this movie gets.

The movie is directed by James Wan. He directed the first two Conjuring and Insidious films. He’s pretty much responsible for the horror renaissance we’re seeing in my opinion. He’s a master at building tension and setting up a scare. He has a great eye for fear. He uses every tool in the box for this movie. Unsettling backstories, atmospheric lighting, a great setting, and a sudden jolting camera move to really drive the jump home.

He goes over board here. He is really playing with his tools here and seeing how far he can push things. There are more obvious jump scare setups here than in his previous work, but when they’re this well done it’s hard to begrudge a good jump.

The tone however feels very weird at times. The movie has an offbeat sense of humor that is employed at odd moments. I’m not always sure if what I’m laughing at is supposed to be funny. A great example of this is a scene with a very minor revelation that builds like a massive soap opera reveal moment then we cut away and never really address the fallout from that revelation. Is it supposed to be funny? Why the melodramatic buildup if it’s not big news to anybody?

The dialogue is terrible. It’s screenwriter 101 terrible. There’s clumsy exposition, big declarations, and just plain awkward character work. At one point a scientist shouts to another “it’s like he’s drinking electricity!” Like I just said, is it supposed to be funny? I don’t know, but it is.

What saved this movie is the strength of the direction and how wild and crazy the story gets. The plot really goes to some unbelievable places, and I was delighted. It was so much fun to see something so bonkers. I had a lot of fun with it in spite of its glaring flaws. And even now as I think about it’s flaws I find them charming rather than grating.

So is this my cup of tea? Yes! Will it be yours? That’s tough to say. Know that it’s ridiculous. See it in a theater. Watch it with friends. These will give you the best chance to enjoy this movie. B+

Okay, spoilers!!! If you’re going to watch this movie turn back now!

If you have seen it or don’t care to check it out, read on…

So the movie follows Maddie a woman whose life is haunted by a dark evil presence called Gabriel. After her husband bashes her head against a wall he’s killed by Gabriel. Maddie starts seeing Gabriel kill the doctors who tortured him years ago. Maddie reaches out to the police to report the murders. They uncover the truth Maddie has been haunted by Gabriel her whole life, but she blocked the memories.

Just then, one of Gabriel’s victims breaks free and falls through the ceiling if Maddie’s house right on top of the cops. what?! They arrest Maddie. Meanwhile Maddie’s sister finds the medical facility where Maddie was kept as a child. She finds the old vhs tapes of her treatment. Maddie had a twin brother who was a parasitic teratoma. They were essentially Siamese twins who shared one brain. Gabriel was a parasite who would whisper evil thoughts to her. They surgically removed most of Gabriel, but left a chunk of him in Maddie’s head. After her husband bashed her head against a wall he unleashed Gabriel.

So Gabriel literally breaks open her skull, pushes his own gross face out enough to see and controls her body in order to kill his victims. This means that for the rest of the movie Maddie runs around backwards killing people in reverse. It’s so freaking bizarre!!! I’ve never seen anything like this movie before! It’s so strange and amazing! I had an absolute hoot with this absurd premise. I loved it.

The Suicide Squad (2021)

Violent, bloody, hilarious, and surprisingly heartwarming, this film is light years ahead of its predecessor. I really enjoyed this one and encourage you to check it out while you can.

Written and directed by James Gunn, this film is weird kind of sequel to Suicide Squad from 2016 directed by David Ayer and bunch of studio idiots. The studio idiots apparently backed off on this movie and it shows. The film is infinitely better in every respect than that earlier film.

The story follows a team of super powered villains who trade their services for time off their prison sentences. They are sent to a remote Central American island to destroy a scientific facility that may be conducting extra terrestrial experiments that could destroy the world. They aren’t expected to survive.

James Gunn was clearly taking notes in screenwriting 101 when they covered character writing. He deftly weaves together a group of disparate personalities that can come into conflict and agreement in surprising ways. They all have well defined arcs and journeys that make the whole adventure feel worthwhile. Even the supporting characters with one or two lines feel fleshed out.

The main team is made up of Idris Elba as Bloodsport, a super assassin who essentially wear a Swiss Army Knife for a suit. He is bad tempered and bitter. But he’s also deeply charming and cares much more than he wants to let on.

Daniela Melchior is quite a surprise as Ratcatcher 2. Her father was Ratcatcher 1, and the three characters have fun with her name. She has such expressive and powerful eyes. She gives every moment real weight. She also has a cute rat sidekick and can sleep through anything.

There’s John Cena as Peacekeeper. He’s the most extreme version of a patriot superhero. He’ll kill any number of people to keep the peace. John Cena can be an amazing performer when he has a good director. Earlier this year he was in F9, and he was terrible. A block of wood with google eyes could have done a better job. But here he’s really good. He’s funny. He’s frightening. He’s charming and intimidating.

Damien Dastmalchian plays Polka Dot Man. The weirdest member of the team. He has several moments of sheer lunacy that I really love. But I don’t want to spoil anything about his character, so I’ll leave him there.

Returning from the original film are Joel Kinnamen as Rick Flagg, and he’s finally an interesting character. Margot Tobbie once again embodies the wild antics of Harley Quinn. Both performers do great work here and it’s a joy when they are on screen.

Sylvester Stallone plays an 8 foot tall half man half shark with a limited vocabulary. That fact alone sold me on the movie, and he doesn’t disappoint.

The film embraces the comic book world while real sing grounded. It is brutally violent with extremely graphic blood and guts. All in all it’s a really fun time that is carried by the strength of its characters.

I’ve seen it twice once on HBO Max and once in theaters. The theater experience was more fun for sure. but either way it’s worth checking out. It’ll be leaving both soon. Give it a look before it goes.

It’s my cup of tea. A-

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

This martial arts super hero spectacle is a lot of fun and surprisingly effective at times while being overly stuffed in other moments.

The plot is full to bursting with ideas and storylines. There are a ton of characters and worlds to explore. The best parts of the film involve Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu, his best friend Katy, played by Awkwafina, and his father Xu Wenwu, played by Tony Leung. His father uses ten magic rings to run a massive and ancient criminal empire. He trained Shang to be the greatest fighter in the world. Shang escaped his father and found a normal life, but his peace is shattered by a group of assassins sent by his father.

From there it gets rather silly and overstuffed with magic realms and ancient evils and so many side characters. I really enjoyed the characters and the worlds explored are really interesting, but I feel our lead gets a little lost. It felt to me that Shang-Chi was part of an ensemble rather than the lead of his own movie.

That said this movie is really fun. Honestly I had a great time with this movie. There’s a thrilling Kung fu fight on a bus that is really well choreographed and shot in a fun way.

They balance the drama of the family dynamics with the fun comedy quips really nicely. The movie takes turns with the humor and the drama instead of awkwardly mashing them together like in some other films. This is helped by some great dramatic work by Tony Leung and some fantastic comic moments from Awkwafina. There’s another comedic character whose presence is kind of a surprise. I’m sure the spoilers are out, but if you don’t know who shows up it’s a delightful moment when they arrive.

The action scenes felt very different to me than usual Marvel action. They are very grounded in choreography rather than cgi. Now I’m sure cgi was used to enhance the moments, but the early fights have a tactile kinetic quality that was a lot of fun to see.

My favorite moments are the quiet character moments. Shang and Katy talking about his mom. The movie has a big cgi showdown that is elevated by the pauses in fighting that Tony Leung and Simu Liu have. Tony Leung’s entire backstory is fascinating to see and the way he plays it is impeccable as ever. There’s also a really fun and relatable scene in a bar between Shang, Katy and their much more successful friends. These are the moments that really make the movie for me.

This movie was a really fun ride. I had a great time with it, and I think you will too. Its not so heavy into the Marvel universe that it won’t be accessible to those uninitiated in the MCU. It’s a really fun action adventure fantasy. It’s worth your time.

It’s my cup of tea. B+

Candyman (2021)

A movie with a lot on its mind, this strong horror film combines social commentary and slow burn suspense to incredible effect.

This is a kind of sequel to the 1992 horror film of the same name. This is one of the most interesting sequels I’ve seen because although it hits all the notes of a sequel it never feels like a sequel. It tells its own story and has its own intentions.

The story follows a struggling painter named Anthony, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. He and his girlfriend a successful art curator, played by Teyonah Paris, have just moved into a new apartment that was built on top of the bulldozed remains the Cabrini-Green housing projects. Cabrini-Green was a famous low income housing area that started with the best of intentions but due to lack of funding, aggressive policing, and rampant poverty lead to a crime infested area that was eventually shut down and destroyed. Only to be rebuilt as high rises for the well off.

This is a horror film that is as much about gentrification as it is about scaring the pants off it’s audience. The horror and social commentary come together really neatly in the form of Candyman. In the film, Candyman is an urban legend. If you say his name five times in the mirror, he’ll appear behind you and kill you. It’s a spooky game teenagers play during slumber parties. Or maybe it’s more…. Yeah it’s more. That question was central to the original film. This movie takes the idea of Candyman and expands on him tying him into the violence and the memory of that violence committed in a contain neighborhood.

This is Nia De Costa’s second film and her first horror. She nails it. She employs my favorite horror tactic. She fills every frame with something to notice and be afraid of. For instance some morons play the game and after saying Candyman five times a figure can be seen lurking in every mirror and reflective surface in the room. Sometimes it’s just the corner of the frame. Sometimes you don’t notice it until he moves. I love that kind of thing.

She sets the tone right off the bat with the opening credits. I normally find opening credits to be something to fast forward through on my way to the movie. These are awesome. They are set to a haunting soundscape of music and elementally frightening sounds. And they are made up of shots of Chicago buildings and landmarks disappearing into a cloudy foggy sky, but shot in the most unnerving way. It might give you vertigo.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is great. Teyonnah Parris is fantastic. Colman Domingo is always wonderful and here he’s particularly effective.

There’s so much to like here, but it does feel uneven. I think there’s too much going on in the way of themes De Costa is trying to carry. Some elements don’t fit evenly and some moments seem to fall through. There’s also a couple of horror moments that are shockingly effective in the moment, but don’t serve the narrative as strongly as I think they could. My final complaint is that the ending feels abrupt. The more I think about it the more it works, but I think it might be disappointing to some viewers.

It’s creepy, unsettling, and gruesome. It really worked for me. It’s s strong film from De Costa, and one I’ll add to my annual Halloween viewing.

It’s my cup of tea A-

Space Jam: A New Legacy

This is one of the worst products I’ve seen, and I call it a product instead of a movie because it serves as less of a narrative film and more of a corporate ad for other products Warner Bros. Has on offer.

Space Jam follows NBA superstar LeBron James and his fictional son Dom played by Cedric Joe. Dom wants to make video games, but LeBron wants him to buckle down and practice basketball. When LeBron criticizes an computer algorithm’s idea, that computer algorithm, played by Don Cheadle, abducts LeBron and Dom and forces them to play basketball to determine the fate of humanity.

It is such a stupid plot. I mean seriously, this is insultingly dumb. But it’s a kids movie. I’m going to look at it as a kid might look at it. Would this have entertained ten year old me?

It would not have entertained me, but it would have distracted me. There are so many flashing lights, kinetic movement, and chaotic edits that it would have held my attention for its full runtime.

The problems with the movie would have been apparent to me even as a kid. The biggest problem being that the movie is overstuffed to the point that it becomes just a melange of color and noise. No element stands out. It’s just a blur.

And it’s a blur to the point that the Looney Tunes, the charming hilarious characters that I grew up on, the reason I turned on this movie in the first place, they end up as little more than background noise. They are stripped of their personalities and characteristics. Bugs Bunny isn’t a wise cracking scamp. He’s just a generic animated bunny. Daffy Duck is sidelined. Granny is changed into a Kung fu Matrix ripoff, and Tasmanian Devil isn’t even in the movie! Even if he is, his appearance is so brief that he doesn’t make an impact.

The father son dynamic is generic and predictable. And LeBron James is terrible in this movie. Even ten year old me would have cringed hard at his performance. Which is a shame because he can be really good. He’s fantastic in Trainwreck, but here he sounds like a robot trying to mimic human speech and emotion.

The story takes a break about thirty minutes in for an extended Warner Bros. Commercial. LeBron and Bugs travel the Warner-verse to assemble a basketball team. This really just amounts to a series of cameos from various intellectual properties that Warner’s happens to own like Harry Potter, Batman, Superman, Game if Thrones, and The Matrix. These aren’t funny. They’re just there to play a big game of “remember this?” it’s cynically playing on our nostalgia in order to trick us into thinking we’re having a good time.

Now, ten year old me would have really enjoyed seeing Daffy Duck dressed as Superman, but ten year old me wouldn’t have understood Grannie in the Matrix. The Matrix is a 22 year old R rated film, how many kids today are going to understand the parody? It’s not a clever enough parody to entertain the adults and it’s such an old reference that it plays about as well as curdled milk. The whole movie feels this way. It’s not made for kids, but it’s not good enough to entertain adults. They’re just hoping nostalgia will carry them through.

I’ve gone on long enough. If it’s not clear this thing is crap. It’s total garbage. Don’t waste your time on it. Don’t waste your kids brain power with it. It’s a soulless cynical attempt to forklift the money out of your wallet.

Don’t watch this. It’s not my cup of tea. F

The fact that Don Cheadle is in this crap a few weeks after No Sudden move is a scathing indictment of how Hollywood works. A good movie gets quietly dumped on a streaming service, while this piece of crap gets a billion dollar ad campaign. Poor Don Cheadle has to walk the line between both.

Gunpowder Milkshake

This film combines a fantastic aesthetic, fun action, and loads of charm to elevate this female action extravaganza.

Karen Gillan stars as Sam a super assassin with abandonment issues who works for a seedy organization called The Firm. In the opening moments a job goes wrong and she’s sent on an easy mission to make amends with the big bosses.

This easy job turns out to be very complicated when a kidnapped daughter touches a nerve in Sam and sends her down a path of violent redemption as she tries to protect the little girl.

The film is going to be hit with comparisons to John Wick. These comparisons are not unfounded. Both feature super assassins, a shady world that exists right underneath our own, and excessive gun play. This movie is more than just lady John Wick though.

For starters it has a sense of humor and a playfulness that John Wick lacks. Gillan’s character is put in some pretty outrageous situations in which she has to fight off goons. There’s a great bit where henchmen are trying to tough while high on laughing gas. Gillan has to fight with limited use of her arms. And a mini gun inside a minivan makes for a very fun moment.

It also has a lot of heart. Sam is a wounded woman trying to come to terms with her mother abandoning her when she was young. The story of mother and daughter reconciliation told through massive slow mo violence is fun.

The big sell for me is the insane amount of charisma on display from the cast. Gillan brings a steely eyed glint that belies her deeper wounds. She has a deadpan charm that carries the film well. Lena Headey gets to be something other than the villainous queen in game of thrones. Angela Basset, Michele Yeoh, and Carla Gugino play three very weird librarians. And Ralph Ineson is wonderful as the villain. He has an impossibly deep grisly voice. He gives a speech about being a stranger in his own house that could have gone on for an hour. I just love listening to him talk.

The storytelling is however a little muddy and unclear. We are thrown into the action, and never really given a chance to find our bearings. There are times when it felt to me like I was watching the sequel instead of a stand-alone piece. The ending doesn’t feel entirely satisfying which makes me wonder if they’re going for a sequel. I wouldn’t mind. I would definitely spend another two hours with these characters.

All in all it has Great style, a beautiful color palette, good action, a sense of humor, and charm all hanging on a pretty thin storyline. For me that was enough. It was a really fun ride, and I would check it out again.

It was my cup of tea. A-

Fear Street Part Two: 1978

A gory and well executed follow up just premiered on Netflix. It has strong characters a deep lore, and wild bloody horror violence. If that sounds like your cup of tea then you might have as much as I did.

Picking up immediately following the first film, this sequel follows Deena and her brother Josh trying to lift the witch’s curse that has laid over their town of Shadyside for hundreds of years. They seek out the sole survivor of the witch’s last attack which happened in the summer of ‘78.

The survivor is played by Gillian Anderson. She is a traumatized recluse who reluctantly tells her story to these desperate kids. The film flashes back to her story of that fateful summer night at summer camp.

One thing I really appreciate about both of these movies is the strong character work. These movies do a great job of making me genuinely care about these people. Sadie Sink is very charming as the rebellious Ziggy. Newcomer Emily Rudd is great as Cindy, the good girl trying to hide her past. Ted Sutherland does a nice job as a kid struggling to carry a legacy. I like these characters. I love the performers.

They’re a lot more active than the classic slasher film victims. They are trying to solve the mystery of the curse. They are trying to survive. They are fighting off evil forces. They aren’t just running around in their underwear waiting to get killed.

Speaking of getting killed, good grief people get killed in this movie!!!!! The violence is gruesome, brutal, and gnarly. The killers weapon of choice in this film is an axe, and yeesh the things an axe can do to a person are on full display here. This movie doesn’t cut away when the murderer swings his axe. The movie shows us in full detail exactly where the axe lands and what it does. Technically the special effects on display are fantastic. As for audience enjoyment, your mileage may vary. If you’re squeamish you won’t appreciate this. I had a good time with it. The violence ups the danger because we know that none of these characters are safe.

I liked this one more. It has more scares in it. It has more genuine tension buildup. It has a nice escalation to the finale. It also deepens the method behind this evil witch and her curse. I find myself drawn into this story more and more. I’m excited to find out how it concludes next week.

This installment doesn’t have the same stylization or wild filmmaking energy as the first. It settles in for a more classically styled horror extravaganza. It has solid editing and camera work, but doesn’t over indulge in the neon soaked quick cuts of the first film.

My other issue is the tone. Some of the film feels like it was written for kids. The inter town conflict can feel a little over the top in an after school special kind of way, and this young adult feeling can clash with the sex, drugs, and violence of the rest of the film. it’s not a huge issue or a deal breaker. It just threw me off a few times.

Overall I think this is a stronger follow up to the first and a great lead into the final part of the trilogy coming out next week. Again, why are they releasing these in July and not during October? I don’t know. But I am enjoying it.

It is my cup of tea. A-