John Wick 4

Much like the title character, the film of John Wick 4 is bulletproof. No one is going to care that the physics in this film are nearly as wack as those in the “Fast and Furious” franchise. No one is going to care that hundreds of people dancing at a club will ignore multiple murders among them on the dance floor and keep dancing, until it is time for the lead character to make his escape. No one is going to wonder why every law enforcement agency in the world is ignoring the greatest serial killer on a spree in history. We want to see the damage that John Wick can do with a gun, a sword, hell even nunchucks. Let the mayhem commence and pass the popcorn. 

The original John Wick was a revenge story, centered around the theft of a car and the murder of a puppy. It had the advantages of being fresh, bloody and reminding us why we enjoyed Keanu Reeves in the first place. John Wick Chapter Two is a Universe building, action sequel that indulges our fetishes’ for cars and guns and lots of hand to hand death.   John Wick Chapter Three Parabellum does the best job of taking characters and giving them something to do, and giving us interesting characters, who are both opposed to Wick and allied with him. John Wick 4 extends the choregraphed mayhem effectively, but falls flat on creating new characters, with one major exception. In my ranking, this would be the weakest entry of the films, but that does not mean it is unworthy, it simply means that you need to keep a little perspective. 

Of the things that this film has going for it, the first would be the incredible stunt team. There are four or five sequences, where the technical level of excellence just keeps climbing. I thought that they had peaked with the scene at the Arc de Triomphe roundabout. The cars move in a ballet of collision and surprise. [Once again, the fact that anyone, much less our lead who has multiple hits, survives one of these moments is irrelevant]. Yet right behind that fantastic sequence is the best fight sequence of the film, and maybe the second best in the series. The stairs at the  Sacré-Cœur’s church are many and high, and John has to get by dozens of assailants, at least twice. Sure there is going to be plenty of CGI enhancement, but it looks so much more like a practical shoot than some other moments in the film, and that sells it even more. 

There are three significant new characters introduced in the film. The Marquis played by Bill Skarsgård, is an effete antagonist who is never very interesting and never feels threatening. Donnie Yen, a martial arts film legend, is on the other hand, compelling in almost every scene he is in, even when he is simply having something to eat while everyone else is getting their asses handed to the. Shamier Anderson is a character called a tracker, but he refers to himself as nobody. “Nobody” as a character idea is ok, but there is so much ambiguity about him that we never care that much about the resolution of his story, his dog on the other hand is awesome. 

The late Lance Reddick gets a nice tribute slide before the film plays, and his character is only in the movie for a brief amount of time. Lawrence Fishburne is in the movie because his character was in two previous movies and that’s about it. Hiroyuki Sanada, another martial arts star, plays a part very similar to his character in “Bullet Train“. I am always happy to see Clancy Brown in a movie, “Rawhide” is a welcome sight to this Blue Blaze Irregular. If the characters had gotten half the detail that is given to imagined culture of “The Table”, the nearly three hours that this film takes up might be a little more reasonable. We have to go down a rabbit hole of crime families, rituals, rivals, and “ancient ways”, just to get to the third act. And still most of this is rushed by so there can be another action sequence. John Wick 4 sometimes feels like a better version of “Shoot ‘Em Up”. It is better, but after a modestly paced openings few minutes, everyone can see the roller coaster highs and drops that are coming. 

I know this sounds like I am down on the film. This is a terrific action piece that will satisfy fans of the series, and I think the story arc is sufficiently closed for us. Keanu continues to generate good will with these movies, it just doesn’t feel fresh to me, and after having had three previous servings of the main course, it might have been nice to have a different entrée, rather than just putting a better sauce of the one we have already had. 

TCM Film Festival Dreams 2023

You always have to make some hard choices at a festival, because you can’t see everything. Amanda has a different agenda than me on Friday Morning, but otherwise, we will see most of these together. House of Wax may fall by the wayside if Allison can come down to the hotel on Friday night for late dinner. You will get plenty of updates here when the Festival begins.

KAMAD Throwback Thursdays 1975 “Rollerball”

Throwback Thursday #TBT

Throwback Thursday on the KAMAD site will be a regular occurrence in the next year. As a motivational project, to make sure I am working on something, even in a week where I don’t see a new film in a theater, I am going to post on movies from 1975. Along with 1984, this is one of my favorite years for movies and it is full of bittersweet memories as well. 1975 was my Senior Year in High School and my Freshman Year in College. The greatest film of the last 60 years came out in 1975, as well as dozens of great and not so great cinematic endeavors. Most of the films in this weekly series will have been seen in a theater in 1975, but there are several that I only caught up with later. I hope you all enjoy. 


This was one of the films from my original project back in 2010. I was writing about films from the summers of the 1970s, my formative years, and this movie came out the same week that “Jaws” hit the marketplace. In spite of mixed reviews, I suspect it would have been a big hit except that it was overshadowed by the competition. I chose the film this week because it was referenced in a television series I am currently streaming. “Daisy Jones and the Six” is a fictional look at a 70s era band, along the lines of Fleetwood Mac. Two of the band members are obsessed with “Rollerball”, actually calling it brilliant, and they are on their way to see it for the eighth time. That fictional enthusiasm was enough for me to go back and watch the film again for Throwback Thursday. 

When I went back to my original post, I was happy to see that it expressed my feelings about the film almost exactly as I was experiencing them this week. You should read that post here. The strength of the film is in the design of the game the movie is based on. The combination of roller derby, soccer and football plus the acceptance of violence that goes well beyond that in hockey and rugby, is a great show that will hypnotize the masses. The production design of the film starts off with a bang by showing off the track, the ball, the teams with their motorcycles and some futuristic fonts that seem to be realistic from the perspective of time. 

The color schemes of the teams are the only distinguishing element. I guess a logo might imply more choice than the proles are entitled to. The combination of the high tech track and the traditional fugue music sets an ominous tone that we will feel every time the game commences. I thought the teams individual struts on the track as they were entering also sets a martial tone and a sense of inevitable clash. 

Houston, the team that Johnathan E (James Caan) plays for, has the simple Houston stride, an in-line synchronized march that is direct, elegant and feels very determined. Other teams seem to have been more artistic, for example the Tokyo team has an arrow wedge that looks fearsome, and as they break out of the formation, they drop down to the center of the rink in a kamikaze style flourish.  The film comes to life the most in the three matches that we see. Of course as the rules are being changed to force Johnathan out of the game, the clashes become more elaborate, violent and ultimately deadly. 

Obviously, the script and the director were trying to say something about the dangers of corporate control over the world. Unfortunately, there are few places other than the game and Johnathan’s personal life, that we see the stilting effect of corporate decision making. There is a sequence where Johnathan attempts to discover how corporate decisions are made. His wife had been taken away from him in what he sees as an arbitrary action. He wants to know why. 

The computer system that has replaced all the books, is limited in access and intelligence. There are not really librarians, just clerks who try to direct people but have no ability to find information on their own. It’s as if Wikipedia had to be accessed through a human, who did not have any understanding of the information they control access to. Later in the film, Johnathan goes to Geneva, to the main data storage facility. If the director had spent less time at the idyllic party of drug addled executives, there might have been an opportunity to do some interesting exposition with the main computer “Zero”. A video of the corporate wars or a quick summary of the current social conditions might have made Johnathan’s individualism seem mor meaningful. Instead, there is a mildly amusing Ralph Richardson, playing word games with an A.I. that has a defective memory. It is a lost opportunity to do the thing the film purports to do. 

Early on there was a moment that I thought could be contrasted to the world of today in an interesting way. As the corporate anthem is being played before the first game, all the players are lined up obediently standing at attention, but Johnathan is clenching his fist and lightly pounding it against his leg. It is certainly not the act of defiance that kneeling on the sidelines or staying in the locker room for the anthem would have been. It sems the smallest act of individuality that could exist in the corporate world. 

Throughout the film, Director Norman Jewison uses classical music to set the mood, in a way that seems to deliberately invite comparison to  “Clockwork Orange.” The use of some interesting architecture in West Germany (at the time), which is modernistic in the way a futurist might have suggested does the same thing. 

As I said earlier, my original post expresses my feelings about this film perfectly, but I hope that the few extra note here made your visit worthwhile. 

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Frankly, they would have had to screw this up really badly for me to lose my enthusiasm for the character as created by the first film in the series. Fortunately, they not only failed to screw it up, they found a very reasonable approach to extending the story and then they cast some new characters that just tell you, the film is going to work. I can’t say it is perfection, but I can say I had a great time, and enjoyed the movie almost as much as the first film. “Fury of the Gods” turns out to be a blast and a worthy successor to Shazam!

In the original film, our young hero is struggling to find a family that he lost. The gut punch of his Mother’s brush off was one of the darker moments in an otherwise sunny story about a kid who gets superpowers. Billy this time is having a different crisis with family, he is struggling to hold on to the newly acquired group that has become his family, and to paraphrase Princess Leia, ” The more you tighten your grip… the more that will slip through your fingers.” A family of heroes working together is great, but each foster brother and sister needs to be their own person, and Billy gets frustrated as he tries to keep everyone together and antagonizes Freddy, his foster brother and best friend, and alienates Mary, who earned admission to Cal Tech but has sacrificed a dream for the core group of heroes. There is still fun to be had as we are learning of these troubles. The opening rescue on the bridge is only halfway successful and the Lair in the Rock of Eternity gets explored with some funny moments. Eugene’s quest to map all the doors that lead to and from the rock give us plenty to laugh at. One of the best reminders that we are dealing with children in the form of adult heroes, is the utilization of “Steve”, the magic pen that records their words on parchment, but does so literally and as a result we get to be reminded that these are kids. When Helen Mirren’s character, Hespera, reads the note out loud, it is a moment to relish.

Mirren and Lucy Liu as Kalypso, are the daughters of Atlas, one of the gods whose powers, the kids have been imbued with. Their desire to reclaim the powers and inflict punishment on the human race for taking the powers in the first place, becomes the driving force of the plot. It does get a bit convoluted when n additional McGuffin, “The Seed of Life” is introduced. It is relatively easy to follow the plot, but there are many permutations that result from this device. For example, the city of Philadelphia, gets encased in an impenetrable dome,  and a plethora of monsters from mythology get released on the town. One of the things I liked is that the production design between the two films remains consistent when the monsters are a part of the story. Yes, it is a CGI sellout in the last part of the film, but at least it is interesting. Oh, and Unicorns are terrifying not cute. The biggest laugh I had in the film comes when a product placement slogan gets used in a non-PG form by youngest sister Darla.

For the most part, the film is family friendly. The bad guys are easy to identify, the monsters are scary but the violence is not particularly explicit, and there are some fun family themes that run through the movie. When the foster parents get in on the action, there are also some heartwarming moments, including one that addresses Billy’s big fear about his new family, that he will lose them when he ages out of the system. However, there are some dark moments that might caution families a little bit to make sure their kids are prepared for some bad things that happen. A new character, who is supportive, friendly and easy for us to like by the way he connects with Freddy, is dispatched in an unpleasant manner and the tone seems at odds with the rest of the film. The climax of the film has a few moments of remorse and sadness, that you will find in a lot of films. We have an apparent loss that ultimately gets repaired, but for a few moments it feels more real than some of those Disney fake outs. 

Zach Levi is terrific as Shazam!, the hero at the center of the story. Asher Angel, who plays Billy, the kid version of the main hero, is appropriately angsty, but as he has gotten older, his immaturity will be a harder sell. Jack Dylan Green, who is Freddy, has to carry a pretty big emotional load for the film and he is clearly capable of doing so. I also thought that Rachel Zegler as Anne, was pretty effective as a love interest and as a fulcrum in the fight with Hespera and Kalypso. Djimon Hounsou returns as the wizard who gave the powers to Billy in the first place, and his interactions with Freddy during their time imprisoned by the sisters, was a lot of fun. To be honest, everyone here seems to know what this movie is and how to play their parts. The director David Sandberg, and the writing team, stick to the goal of the first film, let’s have fun with this and worry about how it all fits in with the DC Universe, some other time. We do get a couple of references to the world of heroes and meta humans, but they are mostly just for fun rather than trying to build a bigger story.

I think superhero/comic book burnout is a real thing. There is a point at which, the audience will stop caring about the overarching end of the world scenarios that keep coming up. If comic book movies are going to get through this period, it will be because of films like this and “Guardians of the Galaxy”, where the fun and laughter are at least as important as the plot, and are more important that the latest villain. I was happy to see a range of people in the audience for the show I went to. There were teens, families and older couples. A film that can cross a lot of sub groups and bring them together for two hours of fun in the dark, together, has got to have something going for it. 

KAMAD Throwback Thursdays 1975 “Shampoo”

Throwback Thursday #TBT

Throwback Thursday on the KAMAD site will be a regular occurrence in the next year. As a motivational project, to make sure I am working on something, even in a week where I don’t see a new film in a theater, I am going to post on movies from 1975. Along with 1984, this is one of my favorite years for movies and it is full of bittersweet memories as well. 1975 was my Senior Year in High School and my Freshman Year in College. The greatest film of the last 60 years came out in 1975, as well as dozens of great and not so great cinematic endeavors. Most of the films in this weekly series will have been seen in a theater in 1975, but there are several that I only caught up with later. I hope you all enjoy. 


This is a social satire from 1975, set on Election night 1968. In spite of the references to the events in the news, there is really no political content here. The satire is about social mores and behaviors, not about public policy and politicians. It starts out as a comedy, but the closer it gets to the end, it turns into a cautionary tragedy.

Warren Beatty plays a self absorbed hairdresser, probably modeled after real life celebrity hairdressers like Jay Sebring and Jon Peters. George seems to have chosen the profession because it gives him access to beautiful women while at the same time deflecting the attention of their husbands because after all, hairdressers are all gay right, so what’s to worry about.The comedic component comes in the form of all the love triangles that George ends up in. He has a girlfriend, who sort of dates a producer who might cast her in his latest movie. George is having an affair with the wife of a well known businessman, who is himself having an affair with Georges ex-girlfriend, who George still wants to be with. It never quite turns into a farce, but all of the figures do cross paths at some point and George can hardly catch his breath to keep up with his own libido.

Ther cast of this movie is stock full of well known players. In addition to Beatty, there is Lee Grant, Jack Warden, Goldie Hawn, and Julie Christie. The characters all fit some pretty easy stereotypes and the casting gives us a shorthand in their emotions. Hawn is a neurotic innocent, Grant is a clingy harpy and Christie is a conflicted ice queen. Jack Warden was nominated for supporting actor playing a businessman who is thoughtless of his family and mistress. You would almost assume that George is going to be some kind of hero. In the end, George is the one who after hurting everyone else, discovers that he is growing up a little late in life. 

Beatty plays George as a sexual Peter Pan, excited by all the women he meets, at least for a moment. He claims to care for Jill, his girlfriend, but he can’t be bothered to listen to her when she is trying to ask him about a career choice that could alter both their lives. Lee Grant’s Felicia is someone he can use and then dash off to meet another woman. Jill, the woman played by Christie, is someone George thinks he needs, but it is only coincidence that brings them back together. He nearly breaks up an opportunity for her to find the security she has always looked for, and his emotional manipulation leaves him and her devested in the end. The script, which Beatty co-wrote with screenwriting legend Robert Towne, has George constantly speaking in some scenes, but never paying attention to the people he is speaking to or even himself. George seems to have an attention deficit and his conversation skills and the speed with which he blazes past everyone else (except Warden’s Lester), might make you uncomfortable to watch. 

Carrie Fisher famously made her film debut in this movie as Lester and Felicia’s daughter, another woman that George does not have the sense to stay away from. It seems pretty obvious that he has enjoyed the libertine lifestyle for a number of years, as he has a loyal cotrie of admiring women pursuing his profession service as a stylist as well as his side work as lover. He feigns respect for Jill and he convinces himself that he really does love Jill, but those emotions just don’t ring true in the end.

There is an odd moment toward the climax off the story, when things start to fall apart for George and he goes to work to reassert some control in his life. He learns that the son of the shop owner has been killed. It is not clear if this is a moment that forces him to confront reality in his life or if it is another opportunity to deceive himself into seeing his place in the world as being special. The film seems to end abruptly, and we don’t get the coda scrawl that is so typical of movies in the last twenty years. 

I sa this film at the Garfield Theater on the corner of Garfield and Valley Blvd. My friend Art and I walked down from my house to the movie, after I had a blow-up with my little brother and a temper tantrum that probably scared my Mom. There was a lot of tension in our house and I can’t quite remember which side of a family tragedy this happened on. I just know I was embarrassed to lose it infront of my Mom and friend, and as usual, a movie was an escape for me from the realities of my own life. 

Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre

Either of the big names attached to this film would probably have been enough to get me into the theater for this. When you put the two of them together, it was impossible for me to resist. Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham collaborated two years ago on an action film released when people were still hiding from the pandemic, “Wrath of Man“. Also present in that film was Josh Harnett, twenty years ago “the next big thing” but still around doing yeoman service in a variety of projects. He is much better used in this movie than “Wrath”, but that does not mean that this is a better movie. 

Director Ritchie has a distinctive stle, that when he lets it fly, elevates the action films he makes to art. That is not the case with this movie, it is product. The non sequential story telling that marks his best films, is mostly missing here. There are a couple of flashbacks but they only offer exposition, they don’t drive the story or create surprises at all. The colorful characters that make movies like “The Gentlemen”, “lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” or “Snatch” so enjoyable, are missing. The lead character played by Statham is the usual badass, but other than his hard guy stare, there is nothing. A hint of some of his eccentricities is offered early on, and then none of them show up or get used to provide any entertainment. The villain, played by Hugh Grant, at least is a little interesting. Grant seems slightly miscast as a cold blooded killer, but completely right with the quirk that the script has given him. If only that were the main character, this could have been a lot more fun. 

The two members of Statham’s crew are Aubrey Plaza and  Bugzy Malone, who are given tropes to play but not really characters. Harnett as a dim witted Hollywood action star is better. He gets to lampoon the stuff going on in the story with his character’s plot line. There was fun to be had when he and Grant play off of one another, but otherwise the humor in this movie is very weak, which is strange because Ritchie’s films are often hysterical. The secondary villain has no character development at all which makes things less interesting in the climax. 

There are plenty of action beats but they rarely have any suspense to them. In most spy/heist/adventure films, there is a complication which comes up and requires  some improvisation on the part of our protagonists. Those complications are never anything that can’t be resolved by an action moment, and that is one of the reasons that the film feels so mechanical. We are just moving from one moment to the next, and all of the killing at the climax has very little suspense to i. This is not so much a John Wick one on one as it is a less polished series of deaths when Wick kills 60 enemies in three minutes. 

I did not dislike the film, but it is clear that it was not something the director felt passionately about. The actors are moved through their moments without much effort to make their characters more engaging. The action is standard for the most part, and there is not the usual humor (with maybe a couple of exceptions) that you get in a Guy Ritchie film. If you are not in a very demanding mood, you can enjoy this and then forget about it. 

Jesus Revolution

Normally, a film like this would be attended only by the faithful who have accepted the story as part of their own belief system. I can’t say that I share that faith, the evangelical movement that is depicted here passed me by, way back in the early seventies when I was just reaching my teen years. I was vividly aware of the “Jesus People” who roamed the streets sharing the good news that they wanted all to share. It was a compelling emotional movement that could perform miracles. I saw one example for myself. A neighbor that I knew as Fred, about the same age as me, was entrapped by a fascination with Nazi ideology.  He actually wore a swastika armband and brownshirt to school on occasion. Somewhere along his way, he became a convert to a different cause, and the adolescent dalliance with the horrible trappings of Nazism ended and a far more healthy relationship started. I have no idea what happened to him subsequently, but at school we sometimes called him Reverend Fred, because he was now one of the Jesus Freaks that had become so well known.

I did not know the history of this movement, but I had heard a couple of the names before. I did know there was a connection between the hippies and the Jesus people and this story clarifies it pretty effectively. My main reason for seeing the film was the presence of Kelsey Grammer as Pastor Chuck Smith. I have been a fan of his since his long time playing Frasier Crane on television. He has apparently made several of these faith based films, serving as a producer as well as acting in them. I thought his performance in this film was quite authentic. In the early stages of the story, he is understandably a skeptic, but the scenes where he and the street preacher Lonnie Frisbee, begin to connect were very well done. Later in the film, when Smith has doubts about the form of Frisbee’s evangelism, it is subtle nonverbal acting that allows Grammer to stay true to the character that has been created by him earlier in the film.

The actor who plays Lonnie Frisbee has starred in a series of crowdfunded television episodes that are delivered not in seasons but as they are completed. Johnathan Roumie portrays Jesus in “The Chosen”, but in this film he is a hippie adopting the supposed appearance of Christ, to better connect with the congregations he hopes to develop. Frisbee was by all accounts a very charismatic minister, and Roumie taps into that sort of personal projection very effectively. As I said, the early scenes between him and Kelsy Grammer are very strong. The dialogue is compelling but the sincerity of the voices is just the extra element that makes things work as well as they do. There are dark elements to Frisbee’s background that are only hinted at in this story, in large part because the true subject of the movie is Greg Laurie. 

Laurie is an evangelical author and the pastor of the Harvest Christian Fellowship, which is in essence, the heir to the Jesus Revolution of the title. He is also one of the screenwriters, so what we are seeing is an autobiographical film. If you have an open mind and are interested in how someone can come to their faith, this is a very good story to start with. As a conflicted high school student, Greg falls in with the hippies and the anti-social drug culture of the times. He is the embodiment of the type of soul that Frisbee has been talking with Pastor Smith about. Someone who seeks meaning through the counter-culture but can find that meaning through the Christian faith. Joel Courtney is playing the young adult version of Laurie, and it is his journey that forms the spine of the story, especially in the second half of the film. When I looked him up, I found that he had played the lead in one of my favorite films from a decade ago, “Super 8“. Movements are not usually created by a single individual, but they are shaped by individuals and sometimes directed into other channels. You don’t hear much these days about “Jesus Freaks” but clearly the roots of that movement have flowered into a culture that produces works like this film and helps structure the lives of the followers. 

The movie is conventionally told. It is shot in a professional manner and it looks like a well budgeted feature from a modern studio. The direction is efficient without any stylistic indulgences, which does help keep the focus on the story. I am not familiar with the Christian rock songs that are frequently used, but I was impressed with how well they merged with the pop songs from the era that also populate the film. As an outsider looking in, I felt I got a good sense of what had happened and how why the movement succeeded in creating a strong Christian community. Others may want to delve into issues of ministry and the conflicts that exist among the faithful, I simply was interested in the story of the movement, and I felt satisfied with the description I was given. 


Adam Driver is a rising star who has already been nominated for an Academy Award twice.  He has worked with Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee and Ridley Scott. His name is probably thrown into the mix anytime someone has a film project that requires a modern type leading man. So it is no surprise that he would be cast in this science fiction mashup that relies on the central character to hold a film together. The surprise is that he can’t quite do it alone. As almost everyone in the film business will tell you, the script is where it all starts. Casting can cover a lot of issues but it can’t replace a good script.

“65” is a simple adventure story, with two concepts powering it. First, it takes place in the past, although a futuristic past for planet Earth. Second, it is a parental redemption vehicle that wills us to identify with a grieving father as a surrogate, who is thrust into a circumstance to force him into action. Unfortunately, in spite of these fairly strong ideas, the script does nothing original for them. A stranded space jockey has to navigate a treacherous environment, to save himself and a young girl. That’s it, that is the entire depth of the story. Except for the fact they the two speak different languages, there are no dramatic twists, no memorable sequences of humor or developing warmth, all there is is the next action beat. 

When you are running away from dinosaurs, that should be plenty interesting for those only seeking an action film. There are a couple of sequences where it works, the best one is in an undergrounds series of crevices’ which allow some darkness and claustrophobia to enhance the moments, but mostly we get jump scares and cliches. The journey the two survivors of the crash are undertaking is relatively short, and it is to get to an escape vehicle that somehow managed to remain functional after the crash and the severe abuse it goes through at the climax of the picture.  The script adds a ticking countdown by turning this into another mashup, this time between Jurassic Park and Armageddon.   

The budget was sufficient to make the dinosaurs look real and the space craft to looks functional. There are little pieces of technology in the story but nothing that we have not seen before. The weapons are derivative of  a hundred other space operas and keep everything on a simple level. The prehistoric environment is the closest thing that the story comes up with that adds anything to the drama. Tar pits and geysers are about as creative as it gets. Those things make the journey only slightly more interesting, but I’m not sure there is a big improvement over the same concepts in films like “The Lost World”, “At the Earth’s Core”, and “The Land that Time Forgot”.  

If you are not too discriminating, you can get 90 minutes of mild entertainment out of “65”. You can also get the same amount of entertainment out of watching a couple of episodes of “CSI” or “Law and Order”.  They are perfectly fine, but not something you would leave the house for. That’s the same for this movie. Why would you leave the house for this? I can’t give you an answer except that the popcorn at the theater is probably better than what you can make at home. 

Scream VI (2023)

So far, I have not been disappointed with any of the “Scream” films. They are a great amalgam of horror, film tropes, meta analysis and comedy. The fact that these have managed to sustain themselves for twenty-five plus years is impressive. Watching each new version is also an opportunity to peek into the development process of the franchise because they put their thinking right in the script and invite everyone to appreciate and laugh at it. The movies have managed to stay this side of parody but to also enjoy some of the clear cutting that parody allows. 

The previous iteration of the films was a “requel” , a term I’d not heard before but is a perfect sniglet for the type of film we are seeing. These are not reboots where the series is starting over, and the two most recent films are not direct sequels to the original four films. What we are getting is an integration of new characters with the old (legacy) characters, and a new scenario that ties back to the previous story lines but usually in a circuitous manner. In this case, we need a link to the original series of murders and the deaths in the previous film. When the resolution comes, the tie in is just adequate enough to satisfy the desire for this universe of killings to all be interrelated. 

One way that the film subverts itself is in the opening. There is the traditional phone exchange and then a gruesome murder, but the the identity of the killer appears to be revealed. Will we be looking at this story with a completely different perspective for the remaining time? I won’t spoil things for you but I will say that the traditions of the tropes are respected, even as they are being mocked. I found that sequence very clever and enjoyable. The new cast, which may be referred to as the “core four”, then gets the front and center attention we are expecting. Jasmin Savoy Brown as Mindy, again gets to pontificate on the traditional tropes of a horror film, but then expand on the convoluted explanations that her character provided before. Everyone questions their role on the story, and people who are in on the joke (that’s you and me) get to laugh at the obviousness of some of the points and the cleverness with which we then get thrown off of the trail, and finally the realization that the film has stuck to it’s stated “rules” after all. 

Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega are back as the main characters of the Carpenter sisters. Big Sister Sam is trying to cope with and manage her heritage still and the trauma she has undergone. Younger sister Tara is trying to sublimate the trauma, and that forms the early conflict in the story. Once the more active pursuit of Ghostface starts however, those sibling issues get shunted aside for the horror tropes we are looking for. Courtney Cox returns as Gale Weathers, and there is a little contentiousness because of events that supposedly happened between the two films, but that goes away pretty quickly as well. 

I’m not ashamed to say that in most of the previous films, my first time through, I was fooled by the tricks and taken in by assumptions which lead to my surprise at the reveal. This was the first of the films where I saw what was going to happen, at least in part, before the final reel. In trying to play fair, the screenwriters gave one character a piece of dialogue which is a tell. If you are looking for it, you will probably see it as well. Everything won’t be explained, but you can connect the dots rapidly as the conclusion plays out. I don’t consider this a flaw in the film, just a moment of clarity that comes from having seen this form of story subterfuge play out before. 

David Arquette is missed but only because his character was well beloved. Mason Gooding as the fourth corner of the “core four”, clearly looks like he will be taking over many of the tropes that Deputy Dewey had in the previous films. There is a callback moment near the end which make me laugh really hard. Some characters just are too resilient. If you stick it out through the credits, there is one more joke and good laugh to be had, but be warned, it will be at your expense. 

KAMAD Throwback Thursdays 1975 “French Connection II”

Throwback Thursday #TBT

Throwback Thursday on the KAMAD site will be a regular occurrence in the next year. As a motivational project, to make sure I am working on something, even in a week where I don’t see a new film in a theater, I am going to post on movies from 1975. Along with 1984, this is one of my favorite years for movies and it is full of bittersweet memories as well. 1975 was my Senior Year in High School and my Freshman Year in College. The greatest film of the last 60 years came out in 1975, as well as dozens of great and not so great cinematic endeavors. Most of the films in this weekly series will have been seen in a theater in 1975, but there are several that I only caught up with later. I hope you all enjoy. 

French Connection II

After the huge success of “The French Connection”, someone figured there must be money to be made by doing a sequel, after all it worked for “The Godfather”. The original story in the French Connection was based on a non-fiction book about a huge drug bust. Obviously it was built up and goosed to make it more dramatic and exciting than watching guys watch cars for three nights in a row. The car chase in The French Connection is an elaboration that was not part of the real story. For French Connection II, they had to invent a whole new plot.

Popeye Doyle was a larger than life character that could be the focus of a new story and Gene Hackman had already won an Academy Award for playing him. The idea of a fish out of water plot, featuring a hard boiled detective from NYC, tring to maneuver the ways of French law enforcement was a good place to start. Probably the most memorable images of the film contain Hackman, wandering around Marseilles in his Hawaiian shirt and suit, with the pork pie hat on his head. The image in itself just screams “ugly American”.  In essence, that is what turns his character into a lure for the criminal organization headed by the character referred to as Frog 1 in the original film. When Alain Charnier spots Popeye in his hometown of operations, it triggers a reaction which the French Police and the NYC Brass had hoped for. The problem is that Popete was not in on the ploy and he becomes a pawn in the game, and one that is captured relatively easily. 

The main justification from a dramatic point of view for the film to exist, is to give Hackman some tasty scenes to chew on and let us relive the character. The interviews with suspects are of course compounded by the fact that Doyle does not speak French and his threats are not processed by the suspects or the interpreters very well. When he repeats the question from the first film,   “if he ever picked his feet in Poughkeepsie”, it does not resonate at all with the others and Doyle starts steaming like a kettle getting ready to boil over. Before that can happen however, the big plot twist comes up. After being taken by the criminals, he is tortured and questioned by being strung out on the heroin he is in pursuit of. This is the sequence that probably encouraged Hackman to reprise his role, because he gets to play high, beaten, frustrated and wrung out through the addiction and Cold Turkey that follows. He is very good in those scenes. 

Laying the groundwork for dozens of police procedurals over the next half century, there are several footchases in the film. There is usually a slight twist to them, such as the suspect is really a police informer, or there is a shootout rather than a suspect being tackled at the end. There is no chase as exciting as the one in the original, but there are a couple of solid action bits that help make up for that. Doyle, discovering the location where he was held and tortured, engages in some police sanctioned arson. I don’t know that it was believable, but it was satisfying to see him take some vengeance in this fashion. When the police discover the unloading of the blisters filled with heroin off of the ship in the dry dock. There is a shootout and an exciting sequence with water flowing down on the cops in a very dangerous circumstance.  The shootouts are staged adequately, but there are an awful lot of them, which makes the film feel a little more artificial that the original. Director John Frankenheimer was very good at action scenes and you will see that in many of his other films. 

The contentious relationship between Dole and his French counterpart Barthélémy, ended up working pretty well although it was oversold in the early part of the film. Ed Lauter is in the movie, as a U.S. General, tied in with Charnier, but outside of a couple of conversations, that plotline goes nowhere. Lauter is the only other American in the film and he feels like a weak red herring for us, which is too bad because I like him as a character actor very much but he gets nothing to do here. There is an interesting interlude during Doyle’s captivity with an Old Woman, which has a different payoff than you might expect, so there are a few good character moments in the film, but it is a much more action driven movie than I remembered.

Speaking of memory, I can’t quite recall the circumstances under which I saw this. When I looked at the release date of May 21, I immediately assumed I saw the movie with my two friends Dan Hasegawa and Art Franz. Art was scheduled to go into the army at the end of June, and we saw several films together before he headed off to bootcamp. Dan and I were both going to U.S.C. in the Fall, and we might have gone together after Art reported for duty. Forty Eight years later I’m afraid I’m fuzzy on the details. The movie was a moderate success and I recall liking it quite well, but not thinking it lived up to it’s predecessor. That’s also the way I feel about it now.