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Harping On The New HALLOWEEN

Now playing everywhere:

HALLOWEEN (Dir. David Gordon Green, 2018)

If you follow film, you most likely know that the #1 movie at the box office is David Gordon Green’s new take on HALLOWEEN. Despite that it’s the 11th entry in the franchise, we’re supposed to forget all but the 1978 original and consider this to be its direct sequel. Driving home that point is that it’s mentioned early on that villain Michael Myers – you know, the homicidal maniac in the bleached Captain Kirk mask – only murdered five people in his one killing spree way back when.

Taking place 40 years later with Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her iconic role as Laurie Strode, we return to the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois where Myers, played by Nick Castle, is scheduled to be transferred to a maximum security prison on, wouldn’t you know it, Halloween day.

The day before Myers’ transfer, he is visited by a pair of investigative journalists (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) working on a true crime podcast. Hall, best known as Hugh of the Vale in Game of Thrones, takes out Myers’ mask to try to trigger a reaction (of course we never see Myers’ face – Hall is talking to his back), but all it does is make the other crazies in the yard have fits. It’s an effective opening, but it’s pretty silly if you think about it, so let’s not.

Let’s get to Curtis’ return as Laurie, who now has long scraggly mostly grey hair and calls herself a “basket case,” who the podcasters visit next. Laurie lives in a fenced in compound where she has a basement bunker filled with guns (canned goods and other necessities too), and she spends a lot of time performing target practice on various dummies scattered around her property.

We meet Laurie’s daughter, Karen, played by the always reliable Judy Greer, and her husband Ray (Toby Huss), and their daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who are all worried about grandma Laurie.

Unsurprisingly, the bus taking Myers to the new facility crashes which we don’t see – I can’t remember what the cause of the crash was, but I guess it doesn’t matter – and Myers escapes.

In one effective yet extremely implausible scene, the investigative podcasters played by Hall and Rees stop at a gas station that happens to be where Myers has just murdered the attendants and the mechanic and is still on the premises. It pays off in a riveting moment involving the screaming Rees crawling under the stalls in the restroom in a futile attempt to get away from Myers, but the whole sequence appears to exist mainly for the killer to retrieve his mask from the trunk of their car.

Myers kills more folks amid oblivious trick or treaters before making it to Laurie’s compound for the film’s climax, while Will Patton as Deputy Hawkins scrambles to catch him. For some reason it’s mentioned that Patton’s Hawkins was there the night of Myers’ original Halloween killing spree but I’m not sure why as it’s not like the actor was there or the character mattered much.

While not in the same class as the ’78 original, HALLOWEEN 2018 is a silly yet solid horror thriller, well scripted by director David Gordon Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride). Of course, Curtis owns the show but a shout-out should be given to Greer, who isn’t a household name but should be as she’s a terrific actress who’s been in tons of things including major franchises as JURASSIC WORLD, ANT-MAN, and PLANET OF THE APES. Greer’s Karen goes from being embarrassed by her mother to standing by her in the satisfyingly fiery finale and it’s a convincing turn.

After the first one and its 1981 sequel, I haven’t seen the rest of the nearly dozen movies that make up the HALLOWEEN franchise – I intentionally avoided the Rob Zombie remakes – so I think I was in a good place to enjoy this follow-up. Hardcore fans may have issues with it that I haven’t thought of, but it feels like a worthy addition to me.

More later…

Harping On The New HALLOWEEN

Now playing everywhere:

HALLOWEEN (Dir. David Gordon Green, 2018)

If you follow film, you most likely know that the #1 movie at the box office is David Gordon Green’s new take on HALLOWEEN. Despite that it’s the 11th entry in the franchise, we’re supposed to forget all but the 1978 original and consider this to be its direct sequel. Driving home that point is that it’s mentioned early on that villain Michael Myers – you know, the homicidal maniac in the bleached Captain Kirk mask – only murdered five people in his one killing spree way back when.

Taking place 40 years later with Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her iconic role as Laurie Strode, we return to the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois where Myers, played by Nick Castle, is scheduled to be transferred to a maximum security prison on, wouldn’t you know it, Halloween day.

The day before Myers’ transfer, he is visited by a pair of investigative journalists (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) working on a true crime podcast. Hall, best known as Hugh of the Vale in Game of Thrones, takes out Myers’ mask to try to trigger a reaction (of course we never see Myers’ face – Hall is talking to his back), but all it does is make the other crazies in the yard have fits. It’s an effective opening, but it’s pretty silly if you think about it, so let’s not.

Let’s get to Curtis’ return as Laurie, who now has long scraggly mostly grey hair and calls herself a “basket case,” who the podcasters visit next. Laurie lives in a fenced in compound where she has a basement bunker filled with guns (canned goods and other necessities too), and she spends a lot of time performing target practice on various dummies scattered around her property.

We meet Laurie’s daughter, Karen, played by the always reliable Judy Greer, and her husband Ray (Toby Huss), and their daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who are all worried about grandma Laurie.

Unsurprisingly, the bus taking Myers to the new facility crashes which we don’t see – I can’t remember what the cause of the crash was, but I guess it doesn’t matter – and Myers escapes.

In one effective yet extremely implausible scene, the investigative podcasters played by Hall and Rees stop at a gas station that happens to be where Myers has just murdered the attendants and the mechanic and is still on the premises. It pays off in a riveting moment involving the screaming Rees crawling under the stalls in the restroom in a futile attempt to get away from Myers, but the whole sequence appears to exist mainly for the killer to retrieve his mask from the trunk of their car.

Myers kills more folks amid oblivious trick or treaters before making it to Laurie’s compound for the film’s climax, while Will Patton as Deputy Hawkins scrambles to catch him. For some reason it’s mentioned that Patton’s Hawkins was there the night of Myers’ original Halloween killing spree but I’m not sure why as it’s not like the actor was there or the character mattered much.

While not in the same class as the ’78 original, HALLOWEEN 2018 is a silly yet solid horror thriller, well scripted by director David Gordon Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride). Of course, Curtis owns the show but a shout-out should be given to Greer, who isn’t a household name but should be as she’s a terrific actress who’s been in tons of things including major franchises as JURASSIC WORLD, ANT-MAN, and PLANET OF THE APES. Greer’s Karen goes from being embarrassed by her mother to standing by her in the satisfyingly fiery finale and it’s a convincing turn.

After the first one and its 1981 sequel, I haven’t seen the rest of the nearly dozen movies that make up the HALLOWEEN franchise – I intentionally avoided the Rob Zombie remakes – so I think I was in a good place to enjoy this follow-up. Hardcore fans may have issues with it that I haven’t thought of, but it feels like a worthy addition to me.

More later…

Lily Tomlin Delights & Deserves Oscar Buzz In GRANDMA

Now playing at indie art house near me:

GRANDMA (Dir. Paul Weitz, 2015)

Lily Tomlin’s first starring role on the big screen since 1988’s BIG BUSINESS is a pure delight. Tomlin plays Elle Reid, a no-nonsense 70-something aged lesbian poet, who we accompany through a day of helping her 18-year old granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) raise money for an abortion.

In the film’s opening scene, Tomlin’s Elle breaks up with her much younger girlfriend (Judy Greer), and we get a glimpse of the vulnerability under her tough veneer when we see her sobbing in the shower afterwards.

Then Garner’s Sage shows up, 10 weeks pregnant and cash poor, asking for help, but Elle is also broke, pointing out that she cut up her credit cards and made a wind chime out of the little pieces.

The two drive around Los Angeles in Elle’s rickety old ‘55 Dodge to try and gather the funds for the procedure scheduled for later that afternoon, starting with a stop at Sage’s loser boyfriend’s (Nat Wolff ) where Elle turns his own ice hockey stick against him because he refuses to pony up the dough.

Elle and Sage then hit up Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox as a tattoo artist that owes Elle money, they attempt to sell a stack of Elle’s first editions of feminist classics to Elizabeth Peña in one of her last roles as a crusty café owner, and make an ill-advised visit to one of Elle’s former lovers, Karl played Sam Elliot, who is still a bit bitter about the past.

Their last resort is to turn to Sage’s mother Judy (a perfectly prickly Marcia Gay Harden), a strict corporate lawyer-type, who both Elle and Sage are intimidated by (“I’ve been scared of your Ma since she was five years old,” Elle quips).

Written and directed by Paul Weitz (AMERICAN PIE, ABOUT A BOY), who previously worked with Tomlin on the Tina Fey/Paul Rudd rom com ADMISSION, GRANDMA is a punchy 79 minute comedy drama that has not one wasted moment. Tomlin carries the movie beautifully, delivering extremely amusing dry wise-cracks throughout, but her most affecting moments are when her character laughs to herself, remembering something her recently passed long-time partner, said or did. Tomlin’s portrayal of Elle is so lived-in that we don’t need any more back story than that to go by.

Tomlin’s co-stars also get a chance to shine. Garner, who’s had roles in PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, and on the FX show The Americans, brings a fragile yet determined presence to the coming-of-age arc of Sage. Elliot lets his trademark stoicism slide for one of his most nakedly emotional performances, and Greer, despite being in several big ass releases this last summer (ENTOURAGE, JURASSIC WORLD, ANT-MAN, and TOMORROWLAND) actually gets to have a substantial part here as Tomlin’s ex.


GRANDMA may be a small, low budget movie that was filmed in only 19 days for less than $1 million, but it boasts a big-time lead by Tomlin, which is deservedly stirring up Oscar buzz. That would be nice for her to at least get a nomination, but what I really hope it really stirs up is more leads for the lady. It’s incredibly obvious from this that there’s lots of fire left in her belly.

More later…