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What Are We Up To? 10/04/22

Choose love. Sit here.

Wounds (2019)

What’s it like to stare at something that never does anything?

In Wounds, the beleaguered Armie Hammer and his cast mates are largely solid in a noir-ish thriller that never quite gets off the ground, despite never entirely going down in flames.

In keeping with the metaphor, it just flies off into the fog and is never seen again.

Hammer stars as “Will”, impassive bartender at a run down pub in some haunted corner of New Orleans. One night, his burly friend Eric (Brad William Henke) gets into it with another patron and sustains an horrific wound across the face. A group of college students adjacent to the action are frightened away, and one of them leaves behind their phone.

Will retrieves it, and the next day begins receiving ghoulish messages from someone named Garrett (Alex Biglane).

Yes. With TWO T’s.

If that weren’t bad enough, Garrett’s messages include pictures of terrifying gore and cruelty. Broken teeth, severed body parts and lots of cockroaches suddenly become an everyday part of Will’s life. This is of particular significance to his girlfriend Carrie (Dakota Johnson), his ex-girlfriend Alicia (Zazie Beetz), and poor Eric, whose untreated lacerations are turning into a soupy mess.

I can forgive a lot of a horror film if I find the payoff suitable. There’s a lot of solid acting, ominous imagery and ingenious atmospheric tension in Wounds. But the ending – no spoilers – fails to land.

Thinks keep…happening. Scenes are set up and then unfold. There’s a smattering of dialog and a lot of screaming. But the story never feels like it’s moving forward. The result is a film that takes you in some very scary circles before ultimately fizzling out in an unsatisfying spasm of mild irony.

– Bruce Hall

Archer, Season 13

Archer is a shell of its former self, but I insist on watching it because the first three seasons were probably the most effective and hilarious James Bond parody I’d ever seen.

And then, things changed.

In one of the most successful blows terrorism has ever struck against the West, a certain group in the Middle East happened to share the same name as the spy organization depicted in Archer.

Forced to change, the show altered course forever. Some of the seasons since are good, and some are not so good. But the bits, gags and characters I initially fell in love with remain and they have yet to get entirely old.

But that’s because it works for me. And I am a depressing person.

There’s no reason for YOU to still be watching Archer unless you’ve been a fan from the beginning. There’s also no reason to start watching now if you haven’t watched before. I would suggest, if anything, you review the first few seasons and when the Change happens, walk away.

Will your life be as fulfilling as mine? I imagine so, probably.

But will you be as happy? Almost certainly more so.

Do what you want, I guess.

– Bruce Hall

The Final Girls (2015)

This week’s Time With Special Someone was spent absorbing The Final Girls, a film Rob suggested and I was deeply ashamed to have never heard of before. No, I’ve never been a horror guy but there’s more to it than that. 2015 is a bit of a cultural blind spot for me because life itself was kind of a mess then, and also Fury Road.

Nothing else mattered.

I’m glad I took Rob’s advice because not only was this a terrific movie, it was just the thing we needed for our weekly Cuddle and Watch People Die session. The process of developing an appreciation for another person just might be nurturing my appreciation for horrific paradox and graphic death.

It’s really been a wondrous time.

The Final Girls takes its premise from the well worn horror “slasher” movie trope that the last and most wholesome girl in the film must be the one to triumph over the villain. It’s not one-to-one satire, though; there’s a twist to the proceedings that culminate in simultaneously hilarious and baffling fashion.

The Final Girls isn’t just an ode to our favorite venerable slasher films. It’s a pseudo-vintage flick that takes the time and effort to be great. It’s not just trying to save money, it’s trying to make up for so many of the things we wish we’d seen in some of our most well loved “classics”

How many horror franchises get better with age?

Not many, if any.

But how many know how important it is go for broke on your first attempt and then go the hell away before you become tiresome and stale?

Almost none. Behold the probable winner of that imaginary competition.

– Bruce Hall


A troubling tale of friendship between a 75 year old drifter and a disturbingly young boy.

I wasn’t expecting much from Samaritan, the latest actioner from cinema icon Sylvester Stallone. Sly got into the superhero game a little late, having arguably aged out of the genre by the time he finally appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Same Story as the First One.

Having already experienced at least two career resurgences, Stallone may be in the midst of another with this surprisingly entertaining flight of fancy. If you’re turned off by the idea of a past his prime 80’s action star in a modestly (by today’s standards) budgeted late career bite at the blockbuster apple, think again.

Samaritan is a collaboration between an alphabet soup of producers and distributors including MGM, Paramount, United Artists, Amazon Studios and Sly Himself. It’s based on a graphic novel (because these days what isn’t?). It all feels a little “too big to fail” as a project. But it ultimately succeeds because it’s a fairly tight and compact snow-globe of a story, perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Or, lazy writers.

The hook of the story is that twin brothers Samaritan and Nemesis, one a hero and one a villain (guess which is which), fought for the soul of their hometown, Granite City, decades ago. It is thought that Nemesis perished while Samaritan, anguished over the death of his brother, retired to the shadows.

Did I mention…Nemesis had a signature weapon – an inexplicably nameless and powerful MacGuffin sledgehammer that also disappeared after the battle. Its possible location fuels most of the story. But first, let’s get back to the meat of the plot, which involves a super-weird thirteen year old boy becoming super best friends with a malappropriate old man.

The imaginatively named Sam (Javon Walton) is a nerdy, low income kid whose mother struggles to raise him right and make ends meet. He’s obsessed with the legends of Samaritan and believes his hero to still be alive. In a misguided effort to model heroic behavior, Sam gets mixed up with the wrong crowd – a comically evil gang of toughs led by a psychotic murderer named Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk from Game of Thrones).

Because he’s a dork, Sam runs afoul of his new friends quickly. He is saved from a surprisingly brutal beating by local sanitation worker Joe Smith (Sylvester Stallone). Despite having an equally unimaginative name and being extremely old, Joe makes no effort to hide his obvious supernatural abilities while dispatching Cyrus’ goons.

You can see where this is going. Sam becomes obsessed with Joe, who helpfully lives across the street. Joe also performs life’s most essential narrative functions directly in front of the window, and conveniently doesn’t believe in curtains.

This is that kind of movie, the one that wants to capitalize on a trend but put as little effort as possible into adding something new to it. Cyrus seeks to acquire Nemesis’ hammer, rule the city and lure Samaritan into the open. Sam, convinced that Joe is Samaritan, attempts to coax the reluctant old man out of seclusion.

Kicking and screaming.

Bonds are made, friendships are forged and important lessons are learned by all in what is a mostly harmless, largely family-friendly adventure. Samaritan wears its story on its sleeve, and the significant plot twist it does offer you’ll probably see coming a half hour into the story.

Predictability aside Samaritan is also, for the most part, a breezy ride that delivers far more than it requires. The visual effects are generally solid and there are more emotionally expressive moments than you’d expect in a film where the lead might be older than you and the person you love put together.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call this one of Sly’s defining works. But it’s a sturdy enough addition to what is already an undeniably historic career that you should accept it for what it is.

Don’t come for Sly. Come for the fairly pleasant time and the delightfully committed performances. Stay for the predictable, but unexpectedly poignant ending.

Samaritan is pretty good.

I expect to see my name next to that on a future Blu-Ray release.

– Bruce Hall

Criticult will return.

Bruce Hall View All

When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Bruce?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail."

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