Midnight Mass

Mike Flanagan, the creative force behind The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, returns with Midnight Mass, a new limited series on Netflix.  Similar to his two previous series, Midnight Mass is a combination of earnest performances, thoughtful, introspective dialog and stealth horror elements.  This time around, Flanagan has decided to de-emphasize the scary stuff, and the result is incredibly underwhelming, to the point where the series should have been titled Tedium.

Unlike his previous two series, Flanagan declines to scare us and instead spends nearly all of its run time on a) dialog that would feel right at home in a Philosophy 101 class and b) Catholic religious practices.  I think it is the first horror series that feels like it was written for NPR.  While the acting is fine, and there are a few disturbing scenes here and there, the overall effect I got from watching it was an overwhelming urge to check how much time was left.  The only thing scary about Midnight Mass is how boring and self-satisfied it is.  Not recommended.

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No Time To Die

For the record, I’m a casual Bond fan.  How casual?  Of all the actors who’ve played Bond, the only one where I’ve seen all of their performances in the role is Daniel Craig.  I’m nearly there with Pierce Brosnan, but I have yet to see Goldeneye.  I’ve only seen a couple of Roger Moore’s movies.  The only Sean Connery movie I’ve seen is Never Say Never Again.  I’ve never gotten round to watching From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or The Spy Who Loved Me.  Maybe I’ll get caught up after I’ve retired.  The 007 movie canon is definitely on my bucket list.

Since No Time To Die is Craig’s finale, I want to say that I really enjoyed his turn as Bond.  Craig’s entries have eschewed the desire to become live-action cartoons, an impression I’ve had with the movies that preceded him.  The raw physicality he brought to the part, coupled with an almost pathological desire to confront mayhem head-on, made even his lesser entries watchable (I’m looking at you, Quantum of Solace and Spectre).

So how does No Time To Die stack up with the previous four Craig entries?  I’d put it behind Casino Royale and Skyfall, but above Quantum of Solace and Spectre.  The pluses outweigh the minuses, but those minuses are difficult to ignore.  There is a great Bond movie in No Time To Die, but it treads water in the last act, and overstays its welcome by at least thirty minutes.  The movie is watchable and enjoyable, though, and as a grade I’d give it a solid B.  Recommended.

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Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is one of the best comic book movies I’ve seen.  There, I said it.  Damn me to hell, or force me to have breakfast with Venom.  How can I make this claim with a straight face?  Notice that I said “best comic book movie”.  Unlike the vast majority of superhero movies put out by Marvel and DC, Venom: Let There Be Carnage (a.k.a. Venom 2) isn’t striving to be taken seriously.  That doesn’t mean that the movie wasn’t created with skill, it certainly was.  Venom 2 has no pretenses about wanting to be mistaken for a great dramatic experience, filled with angst, paint, guilt and self-doubt intermixed with fistfights.  No, Venom 2 only wants to entertain you, and it succeeds so thoroughly I hope the other superhero movie factories take notes.  Highly Recommended.

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Malignant (long take)

Malignant is a combination of horror movie references, James Wan’s usual bag of tricks and other things that he likes thrown into a blender and pureed together.  The resulting mixture is slick and very entertaining, but not as engrossing as Wan’s previous horror movies.  The movie is a creepy funhouse, relying on paper-thin characters to drive the plot.  The movie works, and horror movie nerds will find it’s fanboy signalling endlessly entertaining, but the movie lacks the emotional connection that elevated The Conjuring to more than your average horror movie.  Recommended.

A detailed summary and analysis follow.  Spoilers abound.  You have been warned.

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