31 Days to Scare ~ Scream (2022) – First Look Trailer

Synopsis: Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past.

Release Date:  January 14, 2022

Thoughts: It’s been 10 years since we’ve heard that familiar voice on the phone calling the latest batch of doomed flavors of the month (quick…how many of the teenage cast members of Scream 4 are still a ‘thing’?) and so the return of Ghostface is being met with an expected marked frenzy.  Going the 2018 Halloween and 2020’s The Grudge route and leaving off any numerical suffix, 2022’s Scream is the first not to be directed by Wes Craven who passed away in 2015.  In the hands of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett (also known as Radio Silence, the team behind 2019’s Ready or Not), we’re back in Woodsboro for a new series of murders that tie into the events from a generation earlier. 

As excited as I am for this new installment, I almost wish I hadn’t watched the lengthy preview because…boy does it show a lot more than I wanted to see.  I know this cast is huge and the body count has the potential to be plentiful but seeing the fates of several characters (and perhaps a healthy bit of the opening) feels like we’re being served far too much before we’ve even sat down to eat.  Fingers crossed the twists make up for the trailer spoilers, but this is the last time I’ll watch any promo materials for the film before it is released.

Movie Review ~ Ghosts of War


The Facts
:

Synopsis: Five battle-hardened American soldiers assigned to hold a French Chateau near the end of World War II. However, they encounter a supernatural enemy far more terrifying than anything seen on the battlefield

Stars: Brenton Thwaites, Kyle Gallner, Theo Rossi, Alan Ritchson, Skylar Astin, Matthew Reese

Director: Eric Bress

Rated: R

Running Length: 94 minutes

TMMM Score: (5.5/10)

Review:  Looking at the movie releases over the years you begin to see the cycles of genre pics.  There was a time when war films were all the rage, then it was westerns, then horror films, then mysteries/noirs, then war films, then slasher films, then drama/art house films, then war films, then gross-out comedies, then war films, then horror films…are you spotting the pattern?  If there’s two genres that never seem to miss their cycle it’s war and horror and since war is so often equated with real-life horror it’s not totally an unexpected correlation.

It makes sense, then to see a movie like Ghosts of War emerge onto the spooky mist of streaming entertainment.  While I know it’s not the first movie to combine elements of horror into the mix of wartime, it’s the most recent attempt to add an extra dose of scares to what was already a horrific period of history.  The resulting film has its admirable moments but hinges on a disappointing late-breaking game changer, turning what had been an atmospheric ghost tale that thrived in its simplicity into something decidedly more complex and far less interesting.

In the midst of World War II, American soldiers Chirs (Brenton Thwaites, Oculus),  Tappert (Kyle Gallner, The Finest Hours),  Kirk (Theo Rossi, Cloverfield), Butchie (Alan Ritchson, The Wedding Ringer),  and Eugene (Skylar Astin, Pitch Perfect) are stationed far into the French countryside and soon cut off from their command.  Keeping watching over an expansive mansion previously used by Nazi commanders until they are relieved from duty, they aren’t in their dwelling one night before strange things begin to take place.  Visions of the dead, Morse code warnings, near miss accidents, and black magic calling cards begin to form a picture of what happened in the chateau before they arrived.

As the days move ahead the history of the house and its former owners comes into greater focus, with a found diary filling in the terrifying gaps of the story the bumps in the night are unable to tell.  Just when you think you’ve figured out where writer/director Eric Bress is taking you, he pulls the dusty rug out from under to reveal a twist that will either elevate the movie in your mind or sink it without reprieve.  Unfortunately for me (and the movie), it was a step I couldn’t take with the filmmakers and the final ten minutes faltered when they should have frightened.

Not to say it was smooth sailing until that point either.  Before the men get to the chateau, the film takes a bit to get going and we have to slog through our introductions that Bress makes feel heavy handed.  Even more than that, Bress seems intent to make the opening act particularly gruesome and unpleasant with off-putting violence.  Then there’s the case of a character that goes missing for a long stretch with no explanation.  I actually went back and watched a full twenty minutes of the movie again to make sure I didn’t miss a rationale and found none.  It’s these little things that make big impacts on the storytelling as a whole.

In the twist, Bress (who hasn’t directed a movie since 2004’s The Butterfly Effect) has something of interest but I just didn’t care for how it played into the storyline (not to mention the acting truly didn’t support this section) and that’s too bad because Ghosts of War isn’t a total wash.  There’s abut 45 minutes where the movie achieves a pleasant pace, blending decent scares (mostly of the jump variety) during the mystery solving by the soldiers.  Recommended as one of the more sturdy films of its kind, even if it starts of shaky and totally collapses at the end.

Movie Review ~ American Sniper

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Jonathan Groff, Kyle Gallner, Keir O’Donnell, Sammy Sheik, Jake McDorman

Director: Clint Eastwood

Rated: R

Running Length: 131 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (8.5/10)

Review: Including a spoiler alert here because while many are aware of elements about the subject of this film, I realize that some pieces may not be as well know. To avoid any angry claims I didn’t warn you…I just did.

There’s been a lot of brouhaha in the press about American Sniper and the life of the man the movie is based on. Chris Kyle was a United States Navy SEAL honorably discharged from the Navy in 2009 who went on to write his autobiography that recently Oscar nominated screenwriter Jason Hall based this movie on. Accumulating 160 confirmed kills over four tours of duty in the Iraq War, he was thought to be the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. It was only after he was gunned down in 2013 by another vet Kyle was helping cope with PTSD that the mysteries behind certain pieces of Kyle’s memoir started to come to light.

What you should know about the film is that while I haven’t read the source novel it was based off of, the disparities between Kyle’s account and what some would argue as the truth aren’t the focus of director Clint Eastwood’s latest film. I’m not going to speak to those that claim Kyle fabricated several sequences or events, I’m merely reporting out on the movie as it was presented to us. I did read an article recently detailing the false claims and I don’t recall any of these incidents being included in the movie.

Whether that was a conscious decision on Hall’s part, creative editing after the fact, or simply not the story Eastwood and star Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) wanted to tell is anyone’s guess. What I do know is that Eastwood’s film is an edge-of-your-seat experience anchored strongly by Cooper’s revelatory performance as Chris Kyle.

Arguably the most pro-American movie you’re likely to see in some time, the film bleeds red white and blue from frame one. It’s clearly established who the “good” guys and the “bad” guys are and Eastwood makes no apologies for injecting some politicized grandstanding throughout. I can’t say it really bothered me because it didn’t really stray into that insufferable right wing territory.

Bulked up and burly, Cooper transformed himself from the sinewy muscled look of previous projects to an impressive built Navy SEAL that’s 100% believable. With his Texan twang in full drawl his performance is the most flesh and blood in his already impressive career. Cooper may have been nominated for an Oscar twice before (for Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook) but his nomination for American Sniper is his most warranted. He’s never been better.

Unlike December’s Unbroken, American Sniper doesn’t shy away from showing the after effects of war on the men, women, children, and families of veterans after they return home. A decent chunk of the movie is devoted to showing Kyle’s adjustment to life with his wife Taya (a stellar Sienna Miller, Foxcatcher), and young children. Responsible for so many fatalities, the film looks (but doesn’t press) into the psyche of those that have to live with themselves long after their service to our country ends.

To round the film out there’s a through line arc of Kyle’s multiple run-ins with a stealth sniper and while these war torn sequences are impressively staged they start to feel like a part of an action film rather than a human drama which is really what American Sniper is at its core. It’s no wonder that directors like Steven Spielberg and David O. Russell circled this project at one time or another, there’s some meat to the script and the chance to explore not just the destructive side of war but the healing piece as well.

Eastwood struck out earlier in 2014 with the disastrous Jersey Boys so I was hoping he’d redeem himself with this film and it’s nice to report he found his footing with American Sniper. The 84 year old director’s laid-back style could easily have worked against the overall momentum of the film but it’s as breathless and engaging as any film he’s made before.

Nominated for 6 Academy Awards, American Sniper may not hit on the full scope of Chris Kyle’s life, but what’s told is a powerfully moving tale of service and sacrifice.