Tag Archives: Netflix

Uncharted (2022)

I really like the Uncharted game series; for a while, it was probably what kept me buying new Playstations, and you can see that they have not released one lately by my lack of a PS5.

So when they made a movie based on the series, and starring Peter Parker in the role of Nathan Drake, I naturally ran right out and was skeptical, because video game movies are always bad. Always.[1] Also, for a variety of reasons it has been difficult for me to go to movie theaters of late. But Uncharted (the movie this time) landed on Netflix just a few months after release, unexpectedly, and here we are.

So, how was it? The thing about the Uncharted games is, most of gameplay is shooting (or maybe sneaking past, but it’s basically not possible) bad guys or navigating tombs and cliffs and things that involve narrow ledges and contorting jumps and indescribable upper body strength. All of the treasure hunting and decoding and knowledge and the like comes in dialogue while the game is being played or else in cutscenes. Which means that the series is in fact eminently suited to a movie adaptation.

And… they did alright, you know? It was weird seeing someone quite so young in the role[2], but all the treasures and legends and maps and weird secret keys and the like just work for me, you know? I watched National Treasure, for god’s sake, and this is maybe less over the top insane than that, but also more sincere, mostly on the (surprisingly buff!) shoulders of Tom Holland playing a young, not yet entirely jaded Drake. I had fun, and if there’s a sequel as the movie strongly, strongly implied there will be, I will make a point of watching it too. Maybe sooner, even.

[1] Not always.
[2] The movie character Nathan Drake was 25, whereas the game character has always coded as mid-30s to me.

Dark Skies (2013)

During the first maybe 10 minutes of Dark Skies, I thought I was watching someone’s take on E.T. as a horror movie, and man, I really want to see that now that I’ve thought of it.[1] But by the time I’d seen three different scenes of stuff in Keri Russell’s house stacked weirdly or moved around when nobody could possibly have done it and then her husband decided to install security cameras, I knew I was watching someone’s take on Paranormal Activity as an aliens movie instead, and for whatever reason, that’s not nearly as interesting of a premise.

It was fine, though, other than the teen drama bits, which seriously did not fit the tone of anything else going on. I think if you remove the neighbor teen love interest, you lose ten minutes of footage and change nothing at all about the movie. That’s never a good sign, you know?

Also: there were never any especially dark skies, so I guess it was a metaphor.

[1] …or make it? That would also be cool. I guess step one is a script, although realistically I shouldn’t let that stop me. Except, there’s a pretty strong case to be made that Stranger Things already partially did this, which will stop me, so, nevermind.

Truth or Dare (2017)

IMDb says the version of Truth or Dare I just watched was a TV movie. And now that I’m thinking about it, like, maybe it was? Most of the violence was reactions or cutaway, and I honestly do not remember the language levels, though also I’m not sure if made for cable counts as what they consider “TV movies”. There are just a lot of layers here.

And then, on top of that, the Happy Death Day people did a remake the next year that was theatrical. Man, why didn’t I just see that one instead?

Anyway, this implies that I was unhappy with the truths and/or dares that the movie provided. And, nah, it was fine. Maybe a little too deep in the gross-out mutilation angles, but…. it’s like, I can imagine this having turned into a franchise the way Final Destination did. A bunch of college kids rather than high school kids, but either way: they’ve gotten mixed up in something outside their control, and now they have to find a way to survive something that very much wants them not to. We’ve seen it dozens of times before, but have we seen it with people who immediately rule out anything sexy in a goldurn game of truth or dare[1], can’t figure out how to rob a gas station, and accidentally miscount the number of body parts they have to sever?

I think we perhaps have not.

[1] If there’s anything that makes me dislike the movie, this was it. Either play the game or don’t, but, come on.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Somebody[1] watched Halloween (the recent one, not the first one) and thought to themselves, hey, if they can bring back Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, I can bring back Sally and Leatherface.

You know, I could nearly have stopped the review right there?

So there are these Austin[2] hipsters with far more money than anyone should have at the age when they could be aptly described as hipsters, who have decided to buy up all the main street property in a tiny town that happens to be where a certain massacre occurred in the early ’70s, a massacre with one survivor, a massacre that has never been solved, a massacre that at least tangentially included a chainsaw.

You know the one.

Since Austin hipsters are the new Austin college kids, you can of course imagine that this is going to be very triggering for that one fellow who never got caught, and him being triggered is going to be very triggering for the survivor I mentioned. And from there, well, I think the script to Texas Chainsaw Massacre writes itself, you know?

I guess the main thing is, all these psycho killers are getting way too old to a) still be psycho killers and especially b) shrug off that many gunshot wounds. Your Jasons and your Freddies are explicitly supernatural, so they get a pass, but these guys? I’m not sure I buy it. Plus, there was something a little bit wrong about bringing back Sally, but not as Marilyn Burns, may she rest in peace.

I wonder if Tobe Hooper would have signed off on this.

[1] and by “somebody”, I mean Kim Henkel
[2] Or maybe somewhere else? It’s weird to have someone talk about it being a 7 hour drive to somewhere near Austin, but also they are big city folks with their big city ways, because Austin is either much closer to or much farther from anywhere that could be described as a big city. But if they meant 7 hours from Austin, I simultaneously salute their understanding of Texas while rolling my eyes at their conception of where the original Chainsaw happened. No matter how I look at it, you can tell I’m overthinking things.

Circle (2015)

Outside of it showing up on one of the random tabs of movies that Netflix wants me to endlessly scroll through, I have never heard of Circle. And yet, whatever the description said and / or the Netflixised movie poster looked like was sufficient for me to add it to my queue. And now, an unknown number of years later, here we are.

So, as to what it actually is? It’s a weird amalgam of 12 Angry Men[1] and Survivor[2], with lightning bolts. See, there are dozens of people who wake up standing on white circles in a black room, and also they themselves are arranged in a circle[3]. And then they start dying. And then they start realizing why they are dying, and start bargaining to live longer.

The movie proceeds in real time, and could have been a play or a single take, except for all the special effects involved making that seem like sheer misery for everyone involved. It has no payoff as to what is going on or why or what happens next, but if you are in it simply for the human drama of seeing who will do or say what, a microcosm of people trapped under glass like ants, going about their lives (if their lives were spent weighing morality versus survival), then it works pretty well!

I both liked it and would not especially recommend it. I semi-wonder if watching a second time knowing the outcomes would make me walk away with a different take, but that’s not going to happen.

[1] the 1957 movie, or take your pick as to a newer version or stage version instead.
[2] the reality show
[3] Imaginative Titles R Us

The Green Inferno

Eli Roth has a favorite type of movie to make, I think, and it is this: young people go somewhere that they should not have gone, and pay the price. Sometimes it’s a cabin, sometimes it’s Eastern Europe, sometimes it’s the beach[1], sometimes it’s the rainforest.

The Green Inferno is an homage to Italian cannibal cinema, and judging by when I saw Cannibal Holocaust last year on Joe Bob, it’s a pretty successful homage at that. I know I spent a lot of time wincing, and it’s hard to say how much was due to memories of the source material rather than this one. See, these college students have gone to Peru to stop some bulldozer-style exploitation of mother earth, with chains and cellphones and the internet, and that’s all fine and good, but what happens if circumstances arise and they find themselves hanging out with the very people they were ostensibly down there to save from encroaching modernity?

It’s hard to tell where the line between homage to past exploitation and actual exploitation lies, but focus on the characters kept me from thinking this was just done for the sake of a cheap buck at the expense of indigenous peoples. There was sequel bait, and I’m really torn between wanting to see the sequel and thinking that the genre has been capstoned and should stay safely dead and buried.

[1] Except Eli Roth wasn’t actually involved in Turistas. Well that’s weird.

Elizabeth Harvest

You know the old story of maybe, um, Blackbeard? Bluebeard? Somebeard, anyway, and he marries a young beautiful wife, and tells her “here’s my awesome house, I’ll be out pirating (let’s say) a lot, but this house is yours to wander to your heart’s content, EXCEPT don’t go in this one room. Okay? Cool.”, which is itself basically a retelling of the Garden of Eden? Both are fable-complexity statements on human nature, but for some reason dressed up in misogyny.

Enter Elizabeth Harvest, which is a pretty boilerplate retelling of the Somebeard version, except without the explicit piracy links. At least, it seems that way until Elizabeth goes into the forbidden room on literally her first day alone, maybe ten minutes into the movie. This is the point at which it becomes clear that a different and more complex tale is being told, with more twists in the offing than a Texan rattlesnake metaphor.

Eagle-eyed readers will note my use of the rarely-seen (outside of direct to premium cable movies from the ’90s) erotic thriller tag. I did not expect to ever break that one out, but while this movie doesn’t quite follow the standard template that all such movies hew to, I still think it is the most correct choice here. Horror for sure doesn’t cut it, and unmodified thriller misses an essential piece of the flavor on display.

Fear Street: Part Three – 1666

A movie trilogy if 15 days. What a concept! …although truth be told, if it were something I cared more about, I’m pretty sure I’d want it to be slower than this? I hate using things up this fast, perhaps.

The good news is, 1666 was the best of them, at least from a trilogy perspective. (1978 will remain my favorite as standalone.) Usually the end of a series is a little bit of a let down, because you know what’s going on and are just looking for the beats to get hit at the right moments, in the right ways, and they almost never are exactly what you think they should be, even though you have the broad strokes correct. But in this case, I really didn’t know what was coming, and the plot points came together in a way that made perfect sense and retroactively corrected perceived flaws in the prior entries.

As a standalone, it was… fine? The 1666 part of the movie was good, but not quite what I wanted, possibly because the 17th Century horror genre is not really broadly explored enough to warrant an homage, as such. Or maybe it was written a little too modernly? Either way, it was excellent at telling a compelling origin story and fixing a lot of minor problems I had been having with the series as a whole, like I said. And the “let’s resolve the original issue” part of the movie was maybe a little too easy and maybe a little too silly, but it was both of these in exactly the right ways, especially the all too brief Battle Royale scene.

Will not rewatch or actively recommend, will watch future sequels in the unlikely event that they exist.

Fear Street: Part Two – 1978

As a sequel to Fear Street 1994, the middle entry of the trilogy is perfectly serviceable. There’s a good five to ten minutes of material in a nearly two hour movie that advances the overall plot of the Fear Street series, and, okay, that doesn’t actually sound very good, does it?

But if you view the connective trilogy tissue as 5-10 minutes of digression from a 1970s summer camp horror flick, well then, that’s not very much digression at all, now is it? And I appreciate the movies from that perspective. As much as 1994 was a slick Scream homage[1], 1978 is… well, okay, also pretty slick, at least visually, but let that go. It’s an homage to the murder as a morality play days of the late ’70s and early ’80s when most of the people who got killed were horny teens who “deserved” it. And you could tell they just wanted a good excuse to go to that particular retro well.

If they’d wanted to movie about murders in the 1950s, or 1930s, or even earlier, instead? That is not well-traveled ground, and the premise super allows for it. But what they picked was the genre’s bread-and-butter, and while on the one hand: lazy!, on the other hand, I liked it better as a movie versus the first one, even though it did so little with the advancing that overall plot thing as I’ve mentioned.

Still gonna watch the third movie, yep.

[1] Minus the whodunnit aspect. We already have known all along that the creepy 17th Century witch done it.

Fear Street: Part One – 1994

As I sit waiting for Office 365 to install on my work machine, I find myself with time[1] to squeeze in the first review of the Fear Street trilogy, which I watched last night. This is good, because I’m out to the theater tonight, and if I don’t review now, I’ll be behind.

So, 1994. Man did they spend a long time establishing it was 1994. Hey, look, B Daltons and Software Etcs still exist! Check out these dozen in a row 30 second clips of songs you will remember from the ’90s and probably won’t look up to see if they had actually been released by 1994 or not! In the midst of all that, we learn that rich people Sunnyvale has a rivalry with poor people who also murder each other a lot Shadyside, across the lake. We also learn that the murders are happening again, in a scene that was so reminiscent of Scream that before the guy dressed all in black robes with a white face mask does some murders with a knife by basically punching the knife in as far as it will go[2], I had already said, “hey, that ringing phone is using the Scream ringtone[, from when Drew Barrymore got offed in the iconic opening scene]!”

Just saying they are going for an aesthetic here, and that aesthetic is: The ’90s!

The rest of the flick, once they stopped establishing and got on with plot and character development, was pretty okay. I actually felt a little bad when nominally disposable characters were in fact disposed, you know? And I care about how the trilogy turns out. As such things go, it’s not nothing.

[1] Or do I??? I mean, unless I finish first, I didn’t have time after all, and I don’t know the outcome yet[3]. Lucky I’m wasting the clock on this instead of, like, the movie review. Woo.
[2] My point is the ineffable quality of the violence was very Scream-like. If you know, you know.
[3] 30, maybe 36 hours later: I did not have enough time.