WarGames Review

Wargames was a pretty decent film. It’s always fun to see an A.I. decide to go off the deep end and take everyone down for the count. What do you do when it has truly gone mad right? I do think the kids hold it back a bit though especially when they don’t think of basic solutions to some of these issues. For example, the whole time I was waiting for the main guy to just type in “I surrender” or “I forfeit” and the game could possibly end that way.

The movie starts with a surprisingly serious scene as it appears Russia has fired some nukes at the USA. We see two guys getting the codes ready but at the last second one of them is unable to pull the trigger. His partner even prepares to shoot him over it. We then see that this was all a test but of course they failed it so now the government wants to make things more automatic. They put an A.I. known as Joshua in charge of the nukes but its actual name is something so long they abbreviate it to the WOPR.

We then cut to the actual main character of this, David. David is a computer whiz who likes to keep testing his limits. He is now at the level where he can even hack into the school systems to change his grades which is fortunate because he’s a bit of a slacker and has been consistently failing in his classes. That definitely can’t be allowed to stand and so he is now going to get an A in these classes. He decides to show off to his friend Jennifer and improves her grades as well. One day he hears about a game store opening up so he decides to hack their computers to play some games.

Instead he ends up hacking the government by mistake and challenges Joshua to a game of nuclear war. Their battle will be epic but David doesn’t really understand the rules and quickly grows bored. Of course to Joshua this is very real and he starts causing chaos. This sinks in when David sees this on the news and now he is in danger of being captured by the government. Can he find a way to turn Joshua off/end the game or is it curtains for him? His one hope may be to find the creator of Joshua, the legendary Falken.

So like I said, at no point does David think to just tell Joshua that he surrenders once he finds out that this is real. I feel like that would have been the best thing to do instead of asking things like “Are we still playing?”. He wastes his opportunities spectacularly and this ultimately ends up making things worse for everyone. If he had just made a basic move before then the whole film could have ended early. I also thought he didn’t do a great job explaining the government.

Not to place all the blame on his side, they were barely listening to him too. I loved all the scenes with the government though because that kind of thing is always up my alley. I was glad that the army general got to feel validated in how he kept saying that automation was a bad idea because it does always turn out that way in these films. With something as serious as nuclear weapons I think it’s fair to say that this should stay a manual process. There are ways tech can help of course but don’t give it full control.

As for Jennifer, she was a solid character. She at least tried to resist the urge to cheat initially even if it overpowered her in the end. Jennifer also didn’t give up as easily like when she suggested swimming back to town, only it turned out that David couldn’t swim. She was definitely a much better protagonist from the two although I wouldn’t say any were great or anything. It would have been cool if she stuck to her guns and decided to take her grade fair and square.

Then we have Falken who has basically written humanity off to be exterminated. Nice guy eh? I’m impressed that he was able to resign from his fairly important job in the army without a hassle but this isn’t a conspiracy movie or something like that so I suppose it tracks. By the end he helps out a bit in at least keeping the government from making the wrong move but it’s quite telling that initially he was just going to watch as humanity was wiped out. I did agree with him on at least one thing though. If a nuclear war happens you want to be at a primary target location so you are obliterated immediately instead of slowly through nuclear fallout.

As for the A.I. Joshua, the computer was pretty neat. I thought he did a good job of staying one step ahead of the humans at all time. At the end of the day he just wanted to play something fun and did request Chess a few times. David is the one who made sure that wasn’t possible. I don’t blame Joshua for not liking Tic Tac Toe though. It’s definitely not a game that’s fun to play after you figure out how not to lose.

WarGames is a film that tries to balance being aimed at kids while still having a grown up vibe at times. I would say it handles this pretty well too. I still say the very first scene was surprising in just how serious it was relative to the rest of the movie. Because of that you do wish that it could have just focused on the grownups the whole time. Personally I do think this would have made it the better experience in the end. The kids just tend to hold the experience back with these things.

Overall, WarGames is a good film. I was definitely entertained while watching it. Yes, some scenes may be a little unbelievable like David actually sneaking off of a government compound but the movie never gets silly or anything like that. By and large I can also see how this hacking would be possible since back then people just weren’t super tech savvy and I’m sure there were back doors everywhere. Even now it feels like nothing is secure with how each company constantly gets hacked. It’s always easier to attack than to defend after all and it’s also a better call for why you want your nukes fairly isolated. Just have detailed plans and avenues to get contact to the people in the silos.

Overall 6/10

Night Watch Review

Night Watch makes for a pretty interesting watch after Gaslight. After all it seems to be going in a similar direction but is it really leading up to the same conclusion? Well, part of the fun is in watching it get there. It is certainly better than both of the Gaslight films but I still wouldn’t call it very good or anything. It certainly goes a bit far in the ending and it’s one of those films that doesn’t have a particularly likable cast. Some clever dialogue and moments do keep it from being a bad film though so ultimately it would be right in the middle. “Mid” you could say.

The movie starts off with Ellen and her husband John having an ordinary night but then Ellen makes the mistake of heading near the window during a dark and stormy night. She happens to see a murder in the window next door and quickly calls him over but by the time John gets there the body is gone. They call the cops who do a thorough inspection of the house but find nothing there. The cops think Ellen may have been imagining it. After all, it was dark out and the house is a fair distance to be watching in those conditions but Ellen does not drop her claim. Perhaps the next door neighbor Mr. Appleby knows something about it. He has been planting quite a lot lately……

So at its core this is a classic murder mystery only you aren’t sure if Ellen is correct here. She is in a fragile mental state due to some things that happened in her past. The movie goes into it but she had a breakdown at one point so this could be some kind of projection there. It doesn’t help that she keeps calling the cops over and over again to the point where they start to complain to John. None of the searches turn anything up so it’s not like they have much evidence anyway. The film is the embodiment of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” when you think about it.

Inspector Walker is a fun character though. You have to give him credit for doing his due diligence because he does inspect the house multiple times. He certainly put in the effort even if it didn’t turn anything up. He even posted some guards to watch the place throughout the night. Even he has a breaking point with how often he has to go over to the same house. Perhaps arresting Ellen for a night for using up the police lines would have made some sense there. Not that you want to punish someone for reporting a crime but when it gets this excessive it has to be something that you consider right?

Now to Ellen’s defense, Mr. Appleby is certainly as suspicious as possible. I said that the cops never found anyone in the house but I should amend that to say that they found him there once. His excuse was that he was curious since Ellen kept claiming there was a murder. His other suspicious action was deciding to plant some new bushes/plants right after this supposed murder. Nothing wrong with gardening but the timing was certainly very interesting eh? He makes for a fun character. Someone who is rather defensive but who wouldn’t be when they’re a murder suspect.

John seems reasonable at first but gets gradually worse as the film goes on. He certainly acts like he’s making the right moves and defends Ellen in public but he is severely lacking in willpower. Lets just say that he makes all of the wrong choices which don’t bode well for him. You can say the same thing for Sarah who’s just not a very nice person. Since Ellen is surrounded by these characters who aren’t that great, it’s not particularly healthy for her recovery.

As for Ellen, well she is jumping at shadows after a point with how she keeps on calling the cops. At one point she apparently called over 10 times in one day which is really a whole lot. At that point since you know the police can’t do anything you’d think she would give it a rest. You aren’t likely to forget her as the lead though.

The climax gets surprisingly violent as mentioned earlier so you’ll want to watch out for that. The rest of the movie is really mild and laidback which is why this can come as a surprise. As for the twists at the end, well the film handles it really well. You definitely look back at the rest of the film in a different light and it all lands well. I would say I don’t think the plan will be as successful as the murderer expects though. This is something that only works for a short while, maybe a day at best. I think after that the cops will make a move and at that point someone’s going down. Now, whether they get the right person or not is really up to the viewer to decide.

I think they would pull it off though. Getting proof might be tougher but you have sufficient motive and things are very suspicious once they add it up. They may also get someone else who wasn’t in on the actual murder but knowing about it is almost as bad so game over there. It’s all head canon as the film ends early so you get to decide what happens next. It’s an open ending that works well enough. The film lives up to the suspenseful atmosphere it built up at the start.

Overall, Night Watch probably won’t play in quite the way that you expect and so in that way it really works as a solid mystery. It would be nice if we had more characters to really root for though. I liked the Inspector but he’s hardly the main character or even the main secondary one. I expect much like in a horror film they probably don’t want to make the characters too likable or you start to feel bad for everyone so it’s always a tight rope there. If you’re up for a suspenseful ride then this could be the ticket for you. It may have a bit of a slow build up near the middle but the film’s always doing enough to keep you interested for the ending.

Overall 5/10

What If…? Season 1 Review

Lets take a look at the latest in the series of MCU related TV shows. This one’s a bit different from the rest as it takes place outside of the normal universe although you could probably guess that from the title. The What If comics from back in the day were always a lot of fun. There’s a ton you can do with the concept to the point where there are really limitless possibilities. A single story can turn into 20. Any scene where you might have called for “plot hax” or something can now be rewritten so you can see how it “should” have ended. This show’s off to a good start, lets break down each episode.

The first episode is What If Peggy Carter became Captain America instead of Steve. In this case Steve ended up getting shot and was in no condition to continue the experiment so Peggy went in his stead. Can she still end the war and save the world? It’s a decent way to start off the season but at the same time the reason this was not very exciting is because it doesn’t feel much like a What If. Put it this way, Steve had no real combat experience and was rather scrawny before taking the serum. Carter knows how to fight and has kept in top shape.

After taking the serum they would more or less be equal and Peggy should actually be more skilled initially thanks to her combat experience. So completing the events of the movie is sort of a given. The show tries to add a bit of a change here with a random monster at the end which was fun but for all intents and purposes this is just the first film again. It’s a good story, just nothing that you haven’t already seen before.

Next up we have an episode that really goes out there. The Ravagers head to Earth and pick up T’Challa by mistake instead of Peter Quill. T’Challa ends up becoming the Star Lord and is rather good at it. He ends up being an accomplished Ravager and even ends up convincing Thanos not to snap half of the universe away and gets the guy to join the team. The Black Order is still on the loose though and they could do a lot of damage with the “Embers” so the team has to put a stop to this assuming they can trust Nebula.

Now this is what you would expect from a What If episode. By changing one thing you’ve changed a whole lot of other aspects. Thanos being a Guardian of the Galaxy is a good example of this. It’s fun seeing how T’Challa would work as a Ravager and the episode has quick pacing and a lot going on at all times. It’s an engaging story although it does have some power level issues.

Namely Thanos and this is not the only time he will be clowned in this series. I can’t believe for a moment that Thanos would be having any kind of trouble against these guys. He was actually losing against the Order and it’s like he just became a huge punching bag the instant he turned good. Remember that Thanos was casually beating the Hulk in Infinity War and that was without using any of the stones. Given that, there is no way he would be having any kind of trouble against the Order. This should have been an easy stomp. Still, power level issues aside this was quite solid.

The third episode is one of the highlights of the season as we get a true mystery episode. Someone is picking off members of the Avengers but the trick is that the Avengers haven’t actually formed yet. So someone knows who was going to be on the roster and is taking them out ahead of time. This ends up bringing in some attention from Asgard as well since Thor was one of the targets. Who could possibly be strong enough to defeat everyone?

This is a well written story in large part because I can actually buy a lot of this. At first you may be skeptical as to how this person could take down all of the Avengers and the episode has a pretty good explanation. At most you may just be skeptical with the Hulk. It’s a question of if the radiation and blood would be enough to break through and prevent this from happening or if the skin was strong enough to resist. In both cases I would say there is enough room for doubt where I would buy into it. I had no issues here which is impressive for this kind of story. The reveal at the end also makes sense.

Following that up is a Dr. Strange story. Basically he doesn’t go into a car crash initially and lives long enough to have a good relationship going with Christine. Well, one day she dies in a car crash and so Strange decides to become a magician to bring her back to life. Everyone warns him against this but he correctly decides to go back in time. The problem is that every attempt seems to end in failure so he has to find some way to save her life for good. What depths of power will it take to pull this off?

I definitely like this kind of story quite a lot where we see the lengths Strange will go in order to save Christine. Now where he crosses the line is when he starts to actually destroy other monsters to get stronger. There’s nothing wrong with altering time and going back to make things better as long as you aren’t hurting anyone. The moment time travel is established you don’t know if someone else has been messing with time so it’s all fair game. It does seem as though the universe is rigged as Strange tries to save her many times and I appreciate the effort. You really can’t give up and have to just keep trying until the end. The climax fight with the two Stranges was also a blast. I felt like this episode really fit a whole lot into it.

In the 5th episode we get the big Zombies episode. So what if the Wasp came back but she had the Zombie virus and quickly started transmitting it. Before long the Avengers are infected as well so there is just a small group of heroes left to fend them off. Either they will find the cure and save the world or the entire planet will be covered with zombies before long. It’s a solid thriller kind of episode. Now this one does feel a bit more iffy with how the heroes are infected though. Now granted there are a lot of ways to make the zombies do well here. The way it was shown just didn’t seem right.

So the Avengers fly in and land in the middle of a bridge only to be surrounded by zombies and quickly got slaughtered. There were thousands of zombies by this point so it was impossible to miss them. Why fly to the middle of the bridge? You either blast from afar or if you don’t want to hurt the zombies, then stay in the air. Going to the bridge was effectively a suicide mission. The twist ending I also have a hard time buying because I don’t see how a certain someone would get infected. Unless a bunch of other planets already got infected, I don’t see how Earth would have had time to tag this guy.

It was cool to see the last remnants of humanity banding together here. It was a good team up here and the end of the world always gives a good opportunity to see some team ups that you wouldn’t otherwise have. I’d say this is probably around the middle of the season. It doesn’t beat a few of the others that I’ve mentioned but still offered a good scenario. This is such a famous story that you almost feel like it could and should have been a multi parter though.

In episode 6, what if Killmonger was the one to save Tony from the events of Iron Man 1? This causes him to be promoted to a very high position and he convinces Iron Man to help him build a bunch of armors. The guy is surprisingly quite smart with tech here to the point of it maybe being too convenient. He then decides to slowly start taking control of the world. This one’s definitely quite out there which is good but I do feel like the characters got sloppy at times. There’s no way Killmonger should have made it out of the room once Tony knew what was up. I had a hard time believing he could beat the robot or that Tony’s room wouldn’t have some kind of evidence of what really happened.

Things certainly worked out quite well for Killmonger that’s for sure. It was a good episode although a bit on the unbelievable side to me. You know, come to think of it this has been a rough stretch for Iron Man, seems like he’s died quite a few times in this series. Surprisingly this is one of the only episodes where the twist ending actually gives the heroes some hope as opposed to almost all of the others where it ends with the villains getting ready to win.

Next up is the party Thor episode. What If Loki stayed as a frost giant so Thor grew up on his own and got super spoiled. He decides to throw a big party that’s so powerful it starts to destroy the planet. Fury is forced to call in Captain Marvel and the two have some big fights. It’s definitely the most light hearted episode to the point where you can call it a comedy. There’s more slapstick here, the characters are having fun and Thor’s mom even gets to have some hype.

It’s a nice enough episode. The fight with Thor and Marvel is absolutely the highlight and really why you will be watching this. It’s nice to see both characters blasting each other back and forth. I would say Thor definitely has the edge based on how the fight was going here since he was holding back the whole time and just having fun while Marvel was clearly going all out. Even with her best attacks Thor was just having fun the whole time which speaks to his skills. I think the episode would have benefited from being taken just a bit more seriously though. The next two episodes get quite serious though so I suppose this was a way to brace yourself for those parts.

In this case Ultron ended up getting the full download into Vision’s body and was able to quickly wipe the team out. He even one shotted Thanos (I had a hard time buying into that one) and then proceeded to take over the world. Black Widow and Hawkeye are the last lines of resistance against him and need to find some kind of way to take him down. It’s difficult because of how strong he has gotten though so they may need some unexpected help.

Part 1 is the best episode in the season so far. The fight scene between Ultron and the Watcher is really solid and I like how far the series went with it. We have reality breaking and Ultron even eat a universe at one point in one of the rare moments where we see what a universe buster can do in a practical setting. Now this does come back to haunt the show in part 2 with how powerful Ultron looks here but the whole thing is definitely very impressive. It also shows us what a threat Ultron is and why we will have to band the team together.

The final episode is really a big team up as we have reps from almost every episode show up to try and take Ultron down. It’s nice to see what reality’s final line of defense can do. The only one you can take seriously as a threat to Ultron at this point is Dr. Strange. I liked the show’s decision to have a magic barrier blocking all damage for the rest of the heroes since it at least gives a reason for why they don’t all get one shotted. I still don’t see why Ultron couldn’t just beat everyone a lot quicker though.

Keep in mind that he should be able to destroy the planet in an instant with no real effort that would have put most of the heroes in a bad spot. At one point he even ponders out loud why he is having so much trouble. I don’t know myself, Ultron was shown to be so powerful that he should have easily been crushing these guys. If you can get past the power level angle then you’ve still got a solid end here. It’s naturally fun to see all of the characters teaming up at the end like this.

And that wraps up season 1. There were definitely a lot of fun adventures here. They’re entertaining and the writing is on point here. I may have some power level issues mainly with Thanos in all of his appearances and Ultron at the end but the scenarios themselves are on point. I also like how each of the episodes have a twist ending at the ready. Usually you can assume that the heroes are doomed to be destroyed but if season 2 continues some of these scenarios then we’ll see how they get past them.

Personally I’d rather season 2 is completely filled with new scenarios though. Keep each one as a one and done because there are just so many slots that you don’t want to have to go back and revisit any with such a limited amount of episodes per season. Trust me when I say it would only take an hour or less to come up with a full 10 seasons worth of great scenarios so the more new ones you can do the better.

One thing I would like them to change for season 2 is the animation though. It’s well below average and just doesn’t look all that good. The art style is trying its best to look fairly realistic but as a result it doesn’t stand out and the colors are very faded except for some of the fight scenes. The fights can be quite solid but another style would really do the show some wonders. Give it a more traditional animation style like Spider-Man or the Avengers EMH show and then you’re in business.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Watcher keeps claiming that he won’t interfere during the pre episode narration in season 2 now that he has broken his vow. Hopefully he doesn’t so we can acknowledge that now he is ready to step in if things get too dangerous. I’ve never been much of a fan of the Watcher because of how slow he is to act. At least in this show he can fight rather well so I give him some props there. It is his best appearance in all of Marvel but he needs to start interfering to save these universes and then I would really start liking the guy.

Overall, Marvel’s What If is a solid show and it’s a great premise for a title. This is a good way to really bring up some fun scenarios that you couldn’t do in the main universe. As the seasons expand I like to imagine we can expand the character roster too and really get in some more characters like the X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc. If you’ve been curious to see how things could quickly go off the rails then you’ll want to check this out. Hopefully season 2 doesn’t take too long to come out.

Overall 7/10

The Girl on the Train Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative

In this film you quickly see the dangers of meddling in foreign affairs. Things escalate quite a bit with lies snowballing and everyone seeming rather suspect at different points. The film keeps a fast pace going as a thriller but by the end everyone’s so morally bankrupt that the adventure doesn’t exactly end at the highest level.

The movie starts by introducing us to Rachel. She hasn’t had a happy time of things and so she always rides the train back and forth for fun. Rachel has no job and this is just a way for her to pass the time by, not that her roommate knows this. Rachel always watches a couple from the train window and thinks about them constantly. Well, one day it appears that the wife is cheating on the husband with another man and so Rachel wants to do something about it. When the girl vanishes Rachel takes this as her opportunity to get into the case. Will this ultimately end up causing a lot of trouble?

There’s a lot going on here because you have several main characters. Additionally, Rachel is one of those characters who blacks out a whole lot and the film jumps from present to past to future so you’re always figuring out new details. As part of the film is a mystery I’ll mainly be avoiding direct twists. That said, I can still say straight off the gate that I wasn’t a fan of just about any character in the film.

First off you have Rachel who is much too obsessed with these neighbors. She basically lives her life through them and that’s pretty depressing when you think about it. Rachel is also wasting a ton of money by riding the trains every day and not actually doing anything with herself. This would at least not be so bad if she wasn’t constantly drinking but because of that you can’t trust everything she says.

There is a twist near the end that’s pretty shocking but also ends up hurting her character quite a lot. Lets just say that this kind of twist is almost never a positive for a character because I have a hard time believing that someone could be tricked so badly. Not to the level of detail we see with various flashbacks and such. It just makes Rachel look bad even if she isn’t one of the main antagonists. She also did quite a bit of instigating with Scott by lying and providing extra details. Rachel ended up making a big mess of the situation.

As I said, everyone is rather fishy though. Then you have Scott who is portrayed as being incredibly unstable and possessive. He will check his wife’s phone and personal belongings at all times. The guy is incredibly threatening so you can also see why it’s possible that she would have ran off. Of course, a big chunk of the film is determining if she ran off or if this was murder. Scott just doesn’t do anything to make himself appear even remotely sympathetic.

Then you have Megan who seemed to be cheating with everyone in the film. Whenever there was a scandal she was around and so when she vanishes that means there are a ton of suspects. Especially with how quickly she dashed out from her babysitting job with no forewarning. Megan also doesn’t pick up on the clues very easily. Look, if you’re already committing criminal or at least immortal acts with someone then you know they probably don’t have a whole lot of moral qualms. You should never under any circumstances go with them to the woods in the middle of nowhere with bad news/potential blackmail. Not unless you’ve got a gun or something because otherwise you’re putting yourself in a really rough patch here.

Then we’ve got Tom and that guy’s definitely quite antagonistic. As the film goes on your opinion of him will keep on dropping more and more. His façade of being just a nice joe keeps on slipping. That’s just how it is with all of these characters, they start out reasonable but then you learn that they’re cheaters, drunks, violent, etc.

Finally you have Anna and the main issues with the other characters extend to her as well. She can’t take any kind of moral high ground because she never had it to begin with. She started out fairly low on that ladder and just never stopped. Now, there are definitely some times where you will be agreeing with her over Rachel like when she caught the lead with her baby in a rather ominous fashion or when Rachel started haunting the place. Then when you learn the backstory behind this you’ll be shaking your head.

So The Girl on the Train’s issue is really that the characters are all really unlikable. You’ve even got a psychiatrist running around who doesn’t seem entirely innocent to me either but the guy’s role is small and he isn’t super important to the plot. This is just a case of a bunch of characters all being linked by the skeletons in their closet and all of these bones are coming out at once. It certainly puts all of the characters in a rather rough position.

While this is more of a dialogue based thriller, we do have a fairly violent climax. It almost seems a bit like the Snowman’s ending. The weapon isn’t quite as unconventional but it’s a similar effect. Certainly a painful way to go out. You get the feeling that all of the characters will have been traumatized by the time this is all over.

I usually take this time to comment on the romance but it goes without saying that each and every one of the romances in the film were not very good. Either they were founded on dubious circumstances or they ended up being rebounds. No matter how you slice it, I wouldn’t say that any of these romances were actually healthy ones.

Overall, The Girl on the Train isn’t a thriller that I would recommend. The writing isn’t bad but since I find the whole climax plot twist to be rather unbelievable, it does weaken some aspects of it. After all, the entire film rides on that plot twist. If the characters were better that could have gone a long way to helping the film. You want at least one person to root for after all and that could have done the trick.

Overall 3/10

Clear and Present Danger Review

Jack Ryan returns with this big sequel. Clear and Present Danger throws a pretty good story in with some fun fight scenes and a whole lot of characters moving around. It’s a very interesting film and one that should keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. I would definitely recommend checking it out.

The movie starts with some of the usual embezzlement going on. The drug cartels are growing a lot bolder now and this time they even murdered a friend of the president. That was a mistake though as he decides to take a harder look at the situation. He orders one of the higher ups in the army to take drastic measures and wipe these guys out. Cutter gets the message and sends John and his team on a mission. They have to wipe out Escobedo and his drug dealers fast.

Meanwhile Jack’s direct boss gets sick with cancer so Jack has been promoted. Cutter and Ritter don’t like this because Jack’s more of a by the books kind of guy. He’s not going to participate in these shady dealings but as their equal now it will be very difficult to hide things from him. So they have to play it cool while Jack does some sleuthing on his own. Technically all of them want to take Escobedo down. The issue is that Cutter’s group are illegally sending troops into the country while Jack is trying to find hard proof and use surveillance footage.

I like all of the political intrigue going on here. Everyone’s got their own agendas after all while Jack is really the only one just trying to do his job. You also can’t blame Jack for anything here. A lot of times I might say a character was slow on the uptake or missed obvious clues but I can’t say that in this case. I don’t think Jack really made any mistakes. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know so there’s no way for him to act on this information. In a big government agency like this it’s also hard to see how he would possibly be able to find that out so it’s good that he knew the computer guy.

Once Jack does know what is going on he is quick to get in on the action and help John’s team. So that was good and overall he’s a great main character. He really did his best at all times and at the end of the series he steps up and does the right thing even though it’ll likely end up with a big punishment for him as well. You can’t ask for more out of the lead.

John’s character was also engaging with his adventures over in enemy territory. He leads the troops well and ultimately he fought hard. Considering how well versed he was in combat and planning he maybe should have expected the government to cut him loose the way they did, but it’s hard to prepare for every eventuality.

As for the government guys, well one of the big ones is certainly Ritter. He helps out with a lot of the deals behind the stage and is the main one hiding information from Jack. Ritter’s been in the game a long while and knows exactly what to prepare in order to stay ahead of the curve. He did quite well in that position as he even got a note from his boss in writing so nothing could really stop him. He’s certainly an antagonist, but a resourceful one.

Then you have his boss Cutter who is just as corrupt. The guy gets his orders from the President and carries them out. The guy even makes a deal with a terrorist which is going to very large extremes without a doubt. A lot of his decisions were definitely pretty bad like abandoning the troops behind enemy lines. As Ritter’s superior, the buck ultimately ended with Cutter so he should take the blame for that.

The President isn’t off for free either. He knew exactly what was going on with all of the messages that he gave to Cutter. The guy was definitely ruling with his emotions throughout and did not do justice to his station. As the President he really needed to keep on ruling with a fair hand and not let personal politics come into play. If he had just done that and attacked the drug dealers in a different way, while going through official channels then things could have gone over better. Sure, he got the results he was hoping for but at a much higher price and the ends don’t justify the means here.

For the drug dealers there were two main ones. First is Cortez who is the smart guy in the room who always tries to manipulate both sides. I liked his confidence and he has really been around a lot as we learn that he was also the informant for other guys in the past. He has a lot of power and came really close to ruling everything. The other guy is Escobedo who isn’t as smart but he does do some due diligence. Ultimately he’s smarter than your average mob boss but was getting outmaneuvered for most of the film. If anything he just got lucky in one scene as he was nearly taken out of the picture.

We get some in-fighting among the villains which always makes for a fun scene. Ultimately the film really goes by in a flash. The writing is on point and we have a whole lot of likable characters throughout. Even the antagonists are at least interesting. You’re not rooting for them or anything but there is a lot of good banter as well as back and forth dialogue among the two factions.

There isn’t a whole lot of action for a while but in the climax we do get some gun fights. Jack actually gets to go front and center against some of these villains as well and proves his stuff. You feel bad for the soldiers who didn’t make it out though as it was a pretty rough situation to be in. Particularly the ones who are captured since if anything you’d rather just go out in an instant during the fire fight. This probably helped Jack’s resolve quite a bit.

Overall, This was a solid follow up to the previous Jack Ryan film I saw. I would even say that this one defeats the first. The political fighting between the characters made for a good sub plot and it was also nice to see the old school hacking when Jack got to the computer. He may not have gotten a whole lot out of that before being caught but it was a good attempt. This is a very well rounded thriller film that will keep you engaged both with the explosions but also just with the good dialogue throughout. The main morale here is when you’re in the CIA, FBI, or any of those orgs you have to definitely watch your back at all times.

Overall 7/10

What’s the Matter with Helen? Review

What’s the matter with Helen? Is one of those films where you know from the jump that it’s probably going to be bad. You’re hoping that maybe it’s still decent or something, but the odds aren’t in its favor. It goes for the usual extreme amounts of shock value the whole time and throws in some animal violence for good measure. The film may not be particularly long but you will be shaking your head the whole time without a doubt.

The movie starts with showing us Adelle and Helen who are the mothers of two kids who became murderers. The world is blaming them for not raising the kids properly and so they have to discard their old identities and go into hiding. Unfortunately, someone seems to have followed them. They get calls from a mysterious man who says that he will be murdering them later on. Helen is terrified of this and wants to just stay home in hiding with Adelle. Adelle isn’t taking this as seriously and says they should just move on with their lives. Both of them are rather extreme in their views but Adelle is taking it a little better.

So, Adelle is right in the sense that you should not live your life in fear. I’m totally cool with that but she takes it pretty far when she starts forgetting to close the door behind her. Now that’s just common sense, why would you forget to do that each night? It’s even worse when someone is threatening your life as well as your roommate’s. It’s a lack of common sense on Adelle’s part.

Still, at least Adelle is trying her best to move on. She started her romance with Lincoln rather quickly but that may have been another way of coping. If she married him and they move off somewhere, perhaps she will be truly safe. Towards the end of the movie she is a bit slow on the uptake though. Lets face it, Helen’s been quite unhinged for a while at this point. Adelle continues to turn her back to Helen though even when things don’t seem to be in a good spot. Rule number 1 of any film even if you’re not a horror title…don’t give your back to someone when they are standing right next to a conveniently placed butter knife.

Now for Helen….I’ve got a lot of issues for her. She starts turning crazy very early on in the film to the point where the movie may have tipped its hand a little too early. You’ll be tempted to think that there never was a phone call if Adelle hadn’t heard it. You’ll be considering how Helen could have faked the call or if she hired someone. Neither option makes a lot of sense though so then you have some potential here.

I forget the exact name of the movie, but it might have been the Crow. Basically the plot is that there’s a villain who has decided to rob a bank and next he is going to murder Vincent Price. If you’ve seen any old film you’ll know…you don’t just bump off someone like Price without a fight. What the murderer didn’t count on was the fact that Vincent was also a criminal and he turns the table in an instant. The would be victim has now become the villain himself. I still remember thinking that was a brilliant twist. It’s why Willie’s Wonderland always looked fun in that sense.

There are so many horror films where the villain is just an ordinary person and yet they’re murdering dozens and dozens of people. After a while you hope that there will be a film where this killer runs into the wrong house and has to deal with someone just as crazy. You probably can’t do this plot too often or it would get old but once in a while? Absolutely that’s an excellent twist and a good way to subvert expectations. Now this might seem to be unrelated but here’s what I’m getting at.

The film could have had a really interesting dynamic with the mysterious caller breaking into the house only to find that Helen isn’t some powerless old lady. That would have made for a great confrontation. Instead the film doesn’t go that route and it’s unfortunate. The route we do go through is pretty much exactly what you would expect from the very beginning of the film. Helen gradually goes more and more insane as she consistently raises the body count.

It’s not a cool kind of insane either so she’s not exactly a villain you could root for. No, she’s still crying a lot the whole time and isn’t intimidating in the slightest. She only claims victory against others who were not expecting a battle or animals who couldn’t possibly fight back. It’s not entertaining at all and is just annoying to see everyone go down so easily. The cast is also pretty small so it’s not like supporting characters could save her. Lincoln is probably the only other real character here and he’s just around for the romance. You shouldn’t be trying to romance a teacher the first time you meet so I didn’t have a great first impression on him.

To wrap this up, it’s a very classic horror type film. It gets rather violent as Helen imagines dead bodies in front of her and stabs people quite a lot. There’s a surprising amount of blood in these murders as well. Then you’ve got the animal violence which really comes out of nowhere and is pretty awful. The film doesn’t have any particularly good scenes to bring it back up either. There’s no line of dialogue that impressed me or a sub plot that was interesting. It’s a movie that flops from start to finish.

Overall, What’s the Matter with Helen is a film that I would highly advise staying away from. Just take a look at the poster so you know how the film will end and then you can save yourself the full experience. A slow decline into madness is the kind of plot that may be easy to show in a film but it’s hard to execute well. This one just went through the motions with no real soul and as a result it was doomed to fail.

Overall 1/10

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) Review

It’s time for the remake to the film I just reviewed. When you watch both of these films back to back you can really compare their strengths and see which one comes out on top. Ultimately I would say this one definitely beat the original. Both of them are solid and so I wouldn’t say the gap is big or anything but I was really able to get behind the remake. I felt like the main characters were stronger and with the added time you could do a lot more. Although ironically the villains have almost 0 development.

The film starts with Ben and Jo on vacation with their son Hank. They’ve had a pretty fun time of it so far and have a few more stops left. They nearly get into a fight with someone on the bus though when Hank steals something from a lady. They are saved by the intervention of a guy named Louis who is eager to know everything he can about Ben. He asks a ton of questions and every time Jo tries to ask him something the guy ignores or and asks Ben some more questions. Ben loves talking about himself so this is a fine set up for him. After telling Louis where they are staying, how long they will be staying and where they will go next, Louis leaves.

Jo warns Ben that he’s making some big mistakes with giving all the info away but Ben’s confident he’ll be okay. Louis ends up getting murdered but quickly tosses Ben a note. Ben thinks about telling the police but then he gets a call warning him not to tell them anything or Hank will die. Turns out that they swiped Hank away under the guise of a nice neighbor taking him home. Ben tries to gently break the news to Jo but she doesn’t take it very well. The two of them are going to need to try and track Hank down but it’ll be difficult since they aren’t exactly used to dealing with the underground. All they’ve got as a clue is a location from the note.

Like in the first film we get the return of the Church led by one of the villains. This time they aren’t worshipping the Sun though so it’s not quite as outlandish. It’s interesting because this could have been game set and match for the villains if there was any way to leave the Church without being noticed. Unfortunately for the heroes that isn’t exactly possible. In a small setting like that, everyone notices when you get up and the villains have a plan for everything. It was fun to see the various stare downs in there as well.

This time around we don’t get a big shootout climax. In fact, the climax is very low key with things happening quickly but quietly. The ending just sort of happens as we cut away from what would have presumably been the full climax. It’s a solid ending but I do think the first movie has the edge in that area. I was glad Ben went for the shove at one point since it’s always something I feel more heroes should do. Look, if you are being held at gun point and the guy is at your side instead of behind you, just quickly shove into him.

At that angle he can’t hit you in the head and a heart shot is unlikely. So now you’ve got him on the ground and even if you’re wounded perhaps you can hold him down until someone arrives to help. At the very least Hank is safe no matter what so you’ve accomplished your main objective. It’s certainly a whole lot better than just accepting your inevitable death. Because if you follow this guy into a car or a dark alley that’s all that awaits you. At least this way you have a chance.

Hank doesn’t do a whole lot in this film. He’s just a kid after all so he gets kidnapped and tricked but that’s about it. Jo’s a solid main heroine. I wish she wouldn’t panic quite as much when she learns about Hank going missing but after that initial scene she handles the rest of it pretty well. She was key in helping out at the opera as well as executing the big plan at the end involving her songs. She took a fairly large role in getting Hank to safety.

The same can be said for Ben who does his best to take on this criminal enterprise. He may not have experience but he’s got determination which is important. In this version of the film he’s with Jo a lot more while in the first film he was teaming up with the older fellow. The change makes sense since this way both parents get a sizable role here.

As mentioned before, the villains aren’t very memorable though. You have the old lady who starts to think that maybe she’s on the wrong side here. It’s way too late if you ask me though. She was completely fine with kidnapping the child and it was obvious what would happen to Hank in the end. Getting cold feet now doesn’t make her more heroic. The other villains are mainly just here as part of the story but don’t have a lot of character. At best you have the friend of the prime minister who had an interesting personality. He certainly doesn’t excuse failure a whole lot but as a political head he can’t go around shooting people either so he’s in a bit of a bind.

Overall, This was a pretty solid remake. The writing was very good as expected and I thought the characters were an improvement over the first film except that the villains were not memorable. The film had a little more humor than the first film and it all landed pretty well. One of the better gags was the main characters having to rush out all the time to the confusion of their friends and family who had gone over to have some fun with them. It wasn’t quite the house party they had in mind that’s for sure. I’d recommend checking this one out. Unless you want to compare both titles directly and just want to watch one, I would say this is the definitive version of the movie to check out.

Overall 7/10

The Skull Review

Whenever you have one of these old horror films with Peter Cushing you can expect a lot of drama and tension. He doesn’t scare easily from the villains but they do give it their best. Having a villain be an actual skull is definitely a bold move for sure. It’s not every day you have a skull floating around like this is some kind of Youtube fan video but it works rather well.

The movie starts with a guy running home because he finally got this skull he was going for. He’s so focused on the skull itself that he even tells his friend to go away after she went to the trouble of preparing for his arrival. When he tries melting the skull, it quickly takes him down for the count. It proceeds to mind control another guy to destroy the friend.

In the present, Christopher is competing in an auction with Matthew on a bunch of items. He ends up losing on a batch of evil looking dolls since Matthew overbid for them by a large sum. When asked why, the guy says he has no idea. Ah well, Christopher heads back home to his business of writing about the occult and accepting odd gifts from suspicious characters. This time the guy has brought him a skull belonging to the most dangerous murderer in existence. This could be the break Christopher has been looking for, but will it only bring him doom and despair? Only time will tell.

The film isn’t afraid to get rather crazy as well. At one point, a group of fake police show up and kidnap Christopher. They take him to a church where these guys are having a crazy ceremony and force him to play Russian Roulette several times. Fortunately luck is on his side so Christopher is able to escape and live another day. Things definitely could have been a whole lot worse for him so he should really consider himself fortunate.

Now, he does make some dicey moves like keeping the skull even once he knew it had been stolen. It seems like he’s not very particular about where he gets his objects from so long as it helps is research. So in that respect it’s not like he’s a hero or anything. Still, he is a fun character in large part due to how confident he is. Nothing shakes him in the slightest. Even as he sees multiple dead bodies he keeps it moving.

At one point he even notices that the Skull seems to keep being in a different place but he just rolls with it. The skull stares at him all night and Christopher doesn’t really care. In fact, they even have a staring contest at one point and you could argue that Christopher won that one. Of course, ultimately you get the feeling that he’s probably doomed but at least he put up a good fight.

As for the Skull, well it’s not very scary. You have doubts on if it is even alive for most of the film. It seems like it emits negative aura or something which is why anyone associated with the skull starts going around murdering people. You can make a strong case that this doesn’t have to mean that it’s sentient though, but that it’s cursed. Of course, all the stare downs do give the impression of it being alive of course.

Then by the climax it is clear as the skull is able to fly around with some retro special effects and even summon a book. So, I have to give the film kudos for making one of the most surreal villains of all time. Being unique doesn’t always mean good though. I’ll take most creatures over this guy but as a one time adventure it works well enough.

I would say how effective the film is will really depend on how much you enjoy the suspense. The characters are very slow to do much of anything. The movie is on slow burner mode the whole way through with only a few jump scares to break things up from time to time. The writing is really solid though which helps. It’s why a modern remake would have a hard time matching up to this one. At least here you get the solid dialogue between the characters and everyone talks in a rather distinguished way.

It would have been nice if Matthew had appeared more. A lot of the best scenes in the film are the dialogue scenes between him and Christopher. For example, the auction scene was handled really well. Both of these guys are rich and used to winning. So when it becomes a bit of a challenge none of them back down. They also seem to have a good working relationship when they aren’t competing. It’s part of what makes the climax rather emotional, or at least as emotional as this can get.

You can kind of tell how this film is going to play out from the start though. In these kinds of films where the villain relies on mental hypnosis to take the heroes down, they ultimately never end up standing tall against it. Without fail you can always count on the hero succumbing to the darkness which is unfortunate. Otherwise you can applaud their determination about not believing in such superstitions. It just falls flat once they actually lose to it.

Overall, The Skull is a pretty solid horror film from back in the day. The whole thing is built around a lot of suspense as each scene is played quite dramatically. The score is good with each tune underscoring how scared you’re supposed to be. Even Christopher’s character goes from being absolutely confident to slowly starting to feel some terror as he knows that the Skull cannot be beat. The very final scare scene is almost a bit humorous in how over the top it gets. So next time someone tries to give you a skull that is supposedly haunted and lets you know that it has also been stolen, you should probably stay on the side of the law and refuse it.

Overall 7/10

The Crawling Eye Review

This movie’s definitely a little interesting with the promotion. See, the name of “The Trollenberg Terror” sounds a little more hype to be honest and also doesn’t spoil the final boss too quickly. Although if the poster is the same then it doesn’t matter either way I guess. I decided to do a quick check and the Eye doesn’t appear until the final 17 minutes. Of that time I’d guess its screen time is probably more like 12 minutes or less when you factor in all the planning and the ending after him. To think people said Godzilla didn’t appear much in his films…

The movie starts with showing us a mountain climbing “accident” where one of the climbers quite literally lost his head. A lot of people don’t want to come to Trollenberg anymore and why should they right? Climbers are vanishing left and right and there is rarely even a trace of them. Now, that part was interesting since they explicitly say that people always vanish entirely so I guess the alien monster got sloppy on that one?
We then get our main characters Anne, Sarah, and Alan. Alan is a UN worker who has dealt with the occult before and it didn’t exactly go very well for him the last time. It was a very similar circumstance with clouds showing up and then people going missing. He gradually lets us know more about the last incident but conveniently always waits until events happen. For example, last time he also witnessed zombie survivors who tried to murder everyone but doesn’t tell anyone here until someone is nearly murdered.

Still, while he knows that this is real, he is hesitant to actually make a move due to the fact that last time there was no evidence. Then you have Sarah and her telepathic sister Anne. Anne feels some kind of urge to want to stay in Trollenberg. Unfortunately, she is a telepath who is quite susceptible to the alien’s attacks so she keeps trying to climb the mountain where she will be murdered. Fortunately, each of her attempts are always foiled or things would have gotten pretty dicey for her. I’m glad she is trying hard but you wish she could do better. In general that’s the issue with telepaths at times.

Throughout the movie she keeps on saying things like “Watch out!” “Stop!” and things like that. The problem is that her warnings are never very specific and if you listened to them then the heroes would never make a move against the villains. Additionally, she is trying to fight the enemies on her own so of course when she tries to climb the mountain then it makes the others think it can’t be that dangerous right? Even by the end of the film she just gets choked by one of the villains so her powers never end up helping. Sarah does her best to help Anne but doesn’t end up doing much in the film.

From the main characters I would say Alan is the best one. Put it this way, he didn’t want to try and tell people or the government about what was going on but only because when he did the last time he got burned for it. So at least he tried once and in this film he punches out the villains several times so you have to give him some credit there. He is also the one who comes up with the fire bombs plan which ended up being incredibly effective as well so there’s that.

As for the eye monster…well it doesn’t look great. Like I said, he barely even gets to appear and is defeated almost instantly. I have no doubts that he is actually very tough of course but….you just can’t go down that easily. Aside from the people he took out off screen he basically beat like 2-3 people max. That’s not a very impressive number. The monster’s yell is pretty intense though, it really has quite the voice so you’ll hear it for miles.

Part of the plot here is that the monster can mind control people for a limited time after murdering them. Of course…this only works if it doesn’t rip their heads off like the first guy so again I have to admit that the first scene just seems like it’s just there for shock value. The bodies all vanishing makes a lot more sense for what the villain is going for here. The humans look terrible though as two of them lose to a dead guy with an axe. The first guy you could give the excuse of being caught off guard but the second guy? I don’t think so….

The writing is pretty solid as you would expect for a retro film like this. It builds up the suspense pretty well and this could even feel like a Twilight Zone episode. You see the fog coming over to the mountain although probably due to budget reasons don’t expect to get a clear view of it. You may be reminded of The Fog horror films but just remember that this one came first so it actually had the initial idea. That’s what I like to see, it’s most impressive.

Aside from having low screen time though, the creature should have been buffed a little more though. The main characters should not be able to push it back with a single axe. That just looks pretty bad for it and one stick with some fire at the end of it should not be enough to do much of anything. Nah..I can’t buy that. It’s a giant monster, it should be causing massive damage right? If you ask me that makes the most sense so we should have had it completely crushing the mountain and storming the base. Of course the humans would be a little doomed of course.

Overall, The Crawling Eye is a good creature feature movie. Lets face it though, the movie would be even better if the monster had gotten to appear more of course but as it stands, it still made for a pretty interesting villain. What the film should have done was just reduce the amount of time put into the intro. The dialogue is all pretty compelling but we’re here for the monster. Alternately, extend the run time of the film by around 20 minutes which should cover you pretty well on that avenue and then also get you more time for the hype action.

Overall 7/10

Woman on the Run Review

Woman on the Run is a very old school noir title that makes for a good thriller. The film definitely feels like it ends rather quickly but the movie has fast pacing so something is always happening. You’ll also have to decide who you’re rooting for since in this case each character has a reason for why they’re either running or in pursuit.

The movie starts with Frank walking his dog when he witnesses someone trying to arrange a solid deal for himself. It clearly wasn’t the right move as the guy gets shot and Frank almost meets the same fate. The cops quickly show up and explain that this is relating to a mob investigation and the guy who died was going to be the big witness. They now want Frank to be the witness. When he askes if he will have any real protection they basically say no so he dashes out of there. Inspector Ferris is forced to ask Frank’s wife Eleanor for help but unfortunately the two are having a bit of a rocky time in their marriage and she is very uncooperative.

Despite her front with the cops, Eleanor is a little concerned particularly when she finds out that Frank has a relatively serious health condition and needs some pills as soon as possible. She heads out to find him only to be caught by a reporter named Danny. He decides to tag along with her since he really wants a scoop. Will they be able to find Frank before the cops do or are his days of running over?

First off, while I understand this is an important case for the police, I absolutely get why Frank would bolt. The fact of the matter is that he wouldn’t have much protection. If the case falls through or the guy doesn’t get convicted, they will hunt him down right away. Even if he is convicted, depending on the size of the mob they will certainly retaliate to send a message. In both scenarios Frank is taking an awfully big risk whereas if he escapes, as long as he stays out of touch until the trial is over then he’s set.

Escaping for so long would probably be tough nowadays but back then without cameras and such it wasn’t such a tough plan for him. What helps is that Frank has a lot of friends all over the city. It’s a case of Frank’s good deeds ultimately catching up to him here which worked out well. We don’t see him for most of the film but the guy’s a likable character. He’s got a quick wit as well and just does a good job of staying one step ahead of everyone.

Eleanor is really the main character here and she does a great job. She gets a lot of the best lines in the first half of the film as she constantly has something sarcastic to say about about Frank. It’s clear that she isn’t even trying to help solve the case either. She is very much a person who likes to do everything on her own and this is what leads to her own personal investigation. It also helps her understand Frank more and leads to a solid character arc there.

As for Inspector Ferris, he’s a good guy. He may have the rather unpleasant task of having to search for Frank right now but he seems like a good guy. Ferris is also thorough in his searching and does pick up on a lot of clues. The ones he doesn’t quite win are clues he couldn’t possible understand since they are based on experiences only Frank and Eleanor would know. Ferris also has good aim with his weapons and doesn’t freeze up under pressure. He’s someone that you will want to have in your corner.

Then there’s the reporter Danny. Well, he’s fairly clever in his own right but I can’t say I was a big fan of the guy. He was openly flirting with Eleanor quite early on despite the fact that she is married and has a hard time recovering from that. He does come in handy with helping get her through the plan to find Frank but that’s about it. He’s a crucial part to the story and it was nice having someone who was trying to compete with Eleanor intellectually but he doesn’t quite stack up against the other characters.

Where the film really shines here is with the writing. It’s a classic race against time with everyone trying to find Frank. The film isn’t doing anything wildly different or being super ambitious but the execution of the plot is quite strong so it really works out. The movie has no real weaknesses. Everything adds up and turns this into a great film. Each character comes out of this stronger. Frank was a little over the top with trying to be a perfectionist even if it meant bringing no money in so by the end you feel like he’ll be better with this. Eleanor didn’t always take the right message from things but wouldn’t actually talk about it and now I think she would be ready to have more of an open dialogue. I don’t think Ferris would really change but he doesn’t need to anyway since he already did well.

Overall, Woman on the Run is a great film. Sometimes it’s a simple film like this that can really shine because then everything is all on the writing and this film delivers. If you like a solid thriller then I’d recommend this film. Don’t expect a ton of big action scenes or things like that though as this is more of a low key adventure. We do have a real climax though but you shouldn’t be here for the fights in this case. It’s more about finding Frank and getting some answers out of him.

Overall 8/10