Matt’s Movie Review Roundup

We’ve crossed from September to October and, unsurprisingly, the number of spooky season releases has increased. But the biggest horror I saw this week was a biopic about Marilyn Monroe. Check out all my reviews for the week below! If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.

Blonde (Netflix)
Ana de Armas, Bobby Canavale, Adrien Brody, and Julianne Nicholson
Synopsis: Based on the novel from Joyce Carol Oates, director Andrew Dominik brings the story of Marilyn Monroe to life. In this instance, the star is played by de Armas and much of the film seeks to focus on the horrific physical, mental and sexual abuses heaped on Marilyn/Norma Jean throughout her life that contributed to her decision to take her own life. It’s a nearly three-hour biopic, one that got slapped with an NC-17 rating due to the graphic portrayals of sex and sexual violence. It’s hard to say what the ultimate point of the film is, but it’s told in something of a stream of consciousness style that makes it feel less like a biopic and more like a fever dream turned nightmare. Ana de Armas gives her all to the role, but it’s in service of a story that’s grim and feels like a further exploitation of its subject. This was one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen this year and one of the worst. It’s in my Bottom 5 and I doubt it moves out.
Rating: Rated NC-17 for some sexual content.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever (Apple TV+)
Zac Efron, Bill Murray and Russell Crowe
Synopsis: Chickie Donohue (Efron) wanted to make a difference in the lives of his friends as they served their country in Vietnam. Distressed by the negative publicity and protests at home, Chickie decided to hop on a Merchant Marine vessel and head to Vietnam with a duffle back full of beer. Once in country, he decided to hop off the ship and travel through a war zone, finding his friends from back home and giving them a beer from back home in New York. It’s a wild story that seems unbelievable, but the fact it happens to be true helps keep it grounded. The film starts out as something of a comedy, setting up Chickie as a bit of a rudderless guy who likes to drink and party. But somewhere along the line, it becomes a bit more serious. Russell Crowe pops up as a grizzled journalist who helps paint the war—and coverage of the war—in a new light. Chickie’s own experiences also color his view, as he sees the suffering, confusion and the lack of results first-hand. The third act in particular is quite emotional, and features some of the best shots in the film. It is a film that drags at times, and the tonal shift almost makes it feel like two different stories. But Efron ties it together well enough and it’s enjoyable for what it is.
Rating: Rated R for language and some war violence.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hocus Pocus 2 (Disney+)
: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, Lilia Buckingham, Sam Richardson, Doug Jones, and Tony Hale
Synopsis: It’s been 29 years since we got our first taste of Hocus Pocus. It became a seasonal classic with a passionate fanbase, one that’s long been interested in returning to the world. On Friday, those fans got their wish as Disney+ released a long-awaited sequel. It begins with a flashback to learn a bit more about the Sanderson sisters before jumping to 2022, where Becca (Peak) and Izzie (Escobedo) are celebrating Becca’s 16th Birthday. As is their tradition, they head to the woods outside of town to cast a spell. It’s Halloween, the moon is full, and unbeknownst to them, Becca’s cousin Gilbert (Richardson) has outfitted them with a black candle. When they light it, the Sanderson sisters (Midler, Parker, and Najimy) return. Gilbert has long been a fan since seeing their last return as a boy. He’s hoping they’ll bring some fun to Salem, but he gets more than he bargained for. The sisters are bent on staying for good this time, and soon Becca and Izzie have to race to help their friend Cassie (Buckingham), whose family has a connection to the Sandersons, making her a target of their rage. This film has a lot of fun nods to the original and even ups its game in terms of musical numbers. Midler, Parker and Najimy still have fun in the roles and still have solid chemistry. I enjoyed Richardson and his humor, ditto for Hale. But what really helps this work is the next generation, Peak, Escobedo and Buckingham. They’re fun and help make this work. It’s dry at times and often follows the original formula too closely. Doubtless it will become a seasonal classic for fans while I thought it was a decent, if unspectacular follow up.
Rating: Rated PG for action, macabre/suggestive humor and some language.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Munsters (Netflix)
: Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Cassandra Peterson, Daniel Roebuck, Jorge Garcia, and Richard Brake
Synopsis: When you hear Rob Zombie is making a movie, it conjures a certain feel. Zombie made his name directing horror films—fairly graphic horror films. Many of them featured Moon Zombie in a starring role. That made it reasonable to wonder what kind of film we’d get here. I was pleasantly surprised with what I got. The original series upon which the film is based wasn’t grim, per se. It had a comedic quality. This film certainly has that, too. Zombie directs a film and story that’s not only fun but a fun homage to the original. It even has a fun cast—including Peterson, better known as Elvira, in a supporting role. I really like the principle cast here, with Roebuck as The Count and Phillips as Herman. The real star of the show for me was Moon Zombie as Lily. She had great time, a fun look and a fun performance here. In fact, this is kind of a romantic comedy. It was an enjoyable watch and a world where I wouldn’t mind seeing another installment, especially after the fun way this one wrapped up on Mockingbird Lane.
Rating: Rated PG for macabre and suggestive material, scary images and language.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism (Amazon Prime)
: Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, and Christopher Lowell
Synopsis: As we enter Spooky Season we’ve seen Amazon Prime deliver horror stories to bring in viewers. This feels like another addition to that long line of titles, this one taking the action back to 1988. There, Gretchen (Miller) and Abby (Fisher) are best friends. Gretchen is soon to move with her family, so they’re soaking up all the time they can together. That includes a night at a cabin with some girlfriends and a Ouija board. Predictably, things take a turn, and after than night Gretchen begins to act strangely—even doing things to their friends. Abby soon realizes her friend is possessed and turns to a member of a Christian boy band (Lowell) for help in performing an exorcism. It’s a wacky concept and this one is played for laughs as much as straight up scares. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really sink into either. It’s not fun enough to be a true comedy and not nearly frightening enough to be a horror film. It doesn’t do enough to connect to the characters, world or story, either. It ends up being a somewhat flat and uninspiring. Fisher and Miller are OK, with the later getting some fun sequences while being possessed. Overall, it’s a tepid watch.
Rating: Rated R for teen drug use, language, sexual references and some violence.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Smile (Theaters)
: Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Jessie T. Usher, Robin Weigert, Kal Penn, and Caitlin Stasey
Synopsis: There is a line in Seth Macfarlane’s film A Million Ways to Die in the West that talks about the kind of mentally unhinged person that could hold a smile for a sustained period. In that case, they were talking about the 30 seconds it took to capture a still photograph. Every time I see the trailer for Smile, or the viral marketing campaign that put smiling people in sports stadiums the last week, I think about that line. It has never rung truer. Finally, we got to see what the smiling was all about as the film opened on Friday. In the film, a therapist (Bacon) is confronted by a patient (Stasey) in distress. She claims an evil spirit is haunting her—smiling. She soon takes her life, leaving her doctor shaken. As Rose (Bacon) digs deeper, she finds her patient isn’t the only one—and there’s more truth to her story than it appeared. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know what’s going to happen here. In fact, a number of the jump sequences from the film are contained in the marketing, which has seemingly been everywhere for months. It’s not a particularly deep or hard to figure out concept. But writer/director Parker Finn handles it well. He might be a little too in love with drone shots but it is a decently put together film of this type. Bacon is fine in the lead role and the rest of the supporting cast does a decent job, all of them getting a turn to smile like a psycho. Of course, no one is more unsettling in that action than Stasey, whose face has filled the marketing campaign for the film. It’s not as clever and original as some other spooky season releases, but it delivers about what you’re expecting here.
Rating: Rated R for strong violent content and grisly images, and language.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.

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