Batman: Death In The Family


Streaming: HBO MAX

This one was better than most! I really liked the approach to Batman: Death In The Family. There are four different short stories in this compellation of short films: Batman Under The Red Hood (2010), Sgt. Rock (2019), Adam Strange (2020), Death (2019). Each short film has redeeming qualities, but none more so than Death .

Oh what a gut punch this Death is! It genuinely had my nearing tears. Vincent, a struggling artist, meets a mysterious gothic girl who helps him reach his creative climax while also escorting him into understanding his death. Just so subtle and everything comes together with sad brilliance. Serious major credit.

Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010) is this rendition is shrunk down to 20 minutes but with well written voiceover narrating all the moments that make that story work. Bruce Wayne is explaining it to Clark Kent in a diner, and it’s proof that the man behind Batman is human. It is much easier to appreciate the full length version Batman: Under The Red Hood..

Sgt. Rock is a story I have never heard of before, so for those with no idea like me: “Just after recovering from losing his entire unit in battle, Sgt. Rock leads a special army of commandos against a Nazi secret research base.” The ending to Sgt. Rock is a bit predictable, but the satisfaction of the vampire killing the Nazis at the end is satisfying.

I think that Adam Strange took inspiration from Starship Troopers (1997). The bugs look the same and both are science fiction? I think those may be the only connections I can draw, but seriously the bugs are all the same. Adam Strange is the least memorable of the four shorts in this HBO streaming option.

Stanko Rating: B- (3.0/5 Stars)


Eastern Promises

Director: David Cronenberg
Writers: Steven Knight
Staring: Naomi Watts, Viggo Mortensen, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Vincent Cassel
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: September 21, 2007

Eastern Promises is DARK and I LOVE IT. This is not a movie for the faint of heart. Immediately the audience is introduced into a world of blood, betrayal and sadness. Throats being slit and a death during child birth are just the table setters for what is a morbid crime thriller.

Viggo Mortensen plays Nikolai, the driver for a highly ranked and respected Russian family. Nikolai is stoic, quiet and direct. As the movie unfolds he finds himself working towards the center of this family’s business. Befriending the belligerent Kirill (Vincent Cassel) and earning trust of his father Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), Nikolai’s actions (or lack there of) propel the story of Eastern Promises.

Mortensen is engulfing as Nikolai. A man of few words and little expression, Mortensen still finds a way to make the most boring character on paper the most interesting person in every seen. He brings an air of uneasiness and paranoia about him, which draws in Semyon and scarily intrigues Anna (Naomi Watts).

The most talked about scene in Eastern Promises is the bathhouse fight scene between Nikolai and a pair of mercenaries. The melee is revealing (literally), brutal, bloody and brilliant. It is not stylized. Director David Cronenberg rooted the violence in realism and that makes the deaths even more brutal to watch.

There is a major twist at the end of Eastern Promises that sheds new light on Nikolai and his motivations. While I’ll admit to not seeing it coming, it’s hard to get 100% behind. It makes Nikolai both a little more one dimensional but also more respectable and moral.

  • While Nikolai is the star of Eastern Promises, credit to Semyon for putting a nasty foot forward. When Mueller-Stahl uttered “So, you know where I am… and now I know where you are, Anna Ivanovna,” it was a perfect blend of grandfatherly gentleness and hidden menace.
  • Mortensen was on a bad guy appealing to the audience bender during this stretch with Eastern Promises and A History Of Violence (2005).
  • Mortensen was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Nikolai. He lost to Daniel Day Lewis for There Will Be Blood (2007), which may be the best acting ever by the best I have ever seen do it.
  • This is the best of the few David Cronenberg movies I have seen.

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)


Hamlet 2

Director: Andrew Fleming
Writers: Pam Brady, Andrew Fleming
Staring: Steve Coogan, Elisabeth Shue, Catherine Keener, Skylar Astin, Joseph Julian Soria
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: August 27, 2008

I was reminded about Hamlet 2 by Barstool’s “Lights, Camera, Barstool” podcast. Decided to take a look at it.

Hamlet 2 is all Andrew Fleming and Steve Coogan. The brains behind this crazy concept make a cult comedy the surprises with its somewhat high brow comedy. The screenplay does poke fun at the idea of concept artistic freedom and taking down the man. Hamlet 2 is like School Of Rock (2003) but on hardcore drugs.

  • “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” is a hilarious sequence and almost makes the entire movie worth it.
  • So, confession alert. I did not know that Elisabeth Shue was a big deal and a one-time Oscar nominee. I only knew her from The Boys and I liked her in that, but Hamlet 2 and its meta joke educated me.
  • Hamlet 2 was the first acting role for Skylar Astin.
  • Amy Poehler as Cricket Feldstein is a riot everytime she speaks. She is in the movie for three minutes, but still immenstly enjoyable.

Stanko Rating: B- (3.0/5 Stars)


Hercules

Director: Ron Clements
Writers: There are 18 writers credited on IMDB. WTF
Staring: Tate Donavan, Danny DeVito, James Woods, Susan Egan
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: June 27, 1997

What possessed Emma and I to watch Hercules? I have no idea.

Was I happy to do it? Yes, for the most part.

Hercules starts out grooving with a fantastic fast-paced musical introduction, however it ends with a fizzle. The climax of Hercules just doesn’t pack the same punch as I remember. After the battle on Mount Olympus (which is solid, not as cool as it could be), when Hercules goes down to the underworld, it was just a drag.

The best part of Hercules is Hades (James Woods). What an underrated Disney villain! Woods’ voice is iconic, the animation of his voice inflections is the strongest in the movie, and he is hilarious with his smarminess. Also it has to be said that his plan was clever as hell and only his contractually mandatory stupid minions messed it up.

Another underrated character from Hercules is Meg. Voiced by Susan Egan, there is no denying that Meg is sexy as hell. She is spunky and deceptive; the typical dangerous love interest in many a movie.

The most action packed and visually stunning part of Hercules is when he is battling the Lernaean Hydra. The animation seems to change drastically, but that doesn’t matter. It is Hercules coming out party and it was Hercules animation staff showing their most updated metal and technology.

  • 18 CREDITED WRITERS ON IMDB?? SAY WHAT?
  • Typing this little blurb out, I had no idea the sideshow characters were named Panic and Pain.
  • The voice actor of Zeus is Rip Torn. That’s his name. Rip Torn.
  • It is REALLY crazy how Disney-fied Hercules is. Honestly it is almost insulting.
  • I would watch a Game Of Thrones-esq show about ancient Greek gods. Gimme the adult version of their drama and messed up shit.

Stanko Rating: C+ (2.5/5 Stars)


The Mummy

Director: Stephen Sommers
Writers: Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Staring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: May 7, 1999

The Mummy is an absolute delight. This is a summer blockbuster action movie. This is what movies should strive to be.

The comedy in The Mummy is more uproarious than I remembered my first time watching it. John Hannah as Jonathan is wonderfully blissfully ignorant of everything around him, and Brandon Fraser is working his facial expressions on a Jim Carey level. Also, a quote that I will be using now in my every day life is when Rick O’Connell yells at Beni (Kevin J. O’Connor) “LOOKS TO ME LIKE YOU ARE ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE RIVER!”

On a personal note, I have always been a fan of Rachel Weisz and it may have started with The Mummy. I have to believe that her character of Evelyn Carnahan is based heavily off of Marion (Karen Allen) of Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981). A beautiful adventurous women who may be a bit in over her head but uses her smarts to succeed, all with a bit of spunk. I mean Marion is captured by the bad guys, and so is Evelyn.

The best think to say about The Mummy is that it is a high-brow comfort movie. It made me want to watch the sequel right away.

  • Fun fact, The Mummy was nominated for one Oscar: Best Sound.
  • Stephen Somers has had a directing down turn from this movie…The Mummy is the best movie he did, and since then the only two movies I’d rewatch are The Mummy Returns (2001) and Van Helsing (2004). I know that Van Helsing is not a good movie, but it is entertaining as heck.
  • I completely forgot about the Americans that O’Connoll and crew were racing against and eventually kind of working with. Just slipped my mind until this rewatch.
  • The heat check award for this movie has to go to Omid Djalili as Warden Gad Hassan. He was very funny in his short screen time. The scene of him getting casually teased by O’Connell with the whip had me chuckling.

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer

Directors: James Carroll, Tim Russell
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: 2021

A crazy story sure, but a crazy miniseries? I am not so sure.

Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer focuses on Richard Ramirez, the notorious serial killer in California that was eventually hunted down and brought to justice.

Maybe I am getting tired of serial killer documentary series? This four-episode Netflix special is fine, but it’s not something I’d recommend to friends.

  • Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer inspired me to watch Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel. I am enjoying this Cecil Hotel journey through two episodes, but I’ll admit it has some faults. I just think I enjoy it because it does not center around just one killer the entire time.
  • Richard Ramirez is creepy looking. Straight out of central casting.

Stanko Rating: C (2.5/5 Stars)


Psych 2: Lassie Comes Home

Director: Steve Franks
Writers: Steve Franks, Andy Berman, James Roday Rodriguez
Staring: James Roday Rodriguez, Dulé Hill, Maggie Lawson
Streaming: Peacock
Release Date: July 15, 2020

I loved Psych the show, and I am so happy the movies (both originals) live up to the atmosphere its predecessor created.

Listen, if you are going to watch Psych 2: Lassie Comes Home for a scintillating tale and mysterious story…well, go somewhere else. This movie is about Shawn (James Roday Rodriguez) and Gus (Dulé Hill) being hilarious with one another. Pure and simple.

If you liked this show, you’ll like this movie. If you haven’t seen the show. Watch it and get back to me.

  • The chemistry of Shawn and Gus in Psych reminds me a lot of JD and Turk from Scrubs. Just uncanny timing and charisma.
  • When James Roday Rodriguez made the joke about a new show on ABC that is a lot like This Is Us…well that made me laugh really hard.
  • Maggie Lawson is amazing. She has aged like fine wine.
  • The nickname running joke is hilarious every time!
  • I would watch a third Psych movie, no doubt.

Stanko Rating: B (4.0/5 Stars)


The Shining

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Stephen King, Diane Johnson
Staring: Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall, Danny Lloyd
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: June 13, 1980

All hail Stanley Kubrick. The Shining is a master of a thriller. I don’t care if it is a lot different than Stephen King’s book. This movie is riveting from start to finish.

The new thing I learned watching The Shining this time around is how Kubrick played with mirrors and reflections. If you look at when Jack Torrance is walking through The Overlook, there are moments there are reflections but then suddenly not. It is my theory theory that was Torrance himself doesn’t appear in the reflection, then the the evil of The Overlook has taken over the atmosphere and Jack’s mind.

The most underrated part of The Shining that I appreciated this time around was Jack Torrance talking with Lloyd at the bar. It is the flip being switched in the mania of the main character’s mind.

  • The soundtrack to this movie is remarkable. It is eerie as all hell. Anyone watching the movie gets the perfect introduction to the tone of The Shining from the opening credits.
  • Is anyone playing better at crazy that Jack Nicholson?
  • The Shining is a master of a slow burn. The first 30/45 minutes may draw some ire from viewers, but everything is worth it for the last 30 minutes.
  • Hedge mazes give me anxiety. Straight up would be terrified I’d never get out.
  • Was The Shining really not nominated for any Oscars?

Stanko Rating: A- (4.5/5 Stars)


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