Ticket Please Logo 

By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing http://moviefone.com/

"COLD PURSUIT"
Credit is due to the people who put together the trailer for "Cold Pursuit." It made it look like this movie was going to be another Liam Neeson action flick, ala the "Taken" series, in which Neeson's character uses skills to outsmart his deadly adversaries.

While Neeson does some ass-kicking in "Cold Pursuit," he is hardly the cold, calculating killing machine he's been in previous films.

"Cold Pursuit" is directed by Hans Petter Moland and is a remake of "Kraftidioten," which he helmed in 2014. Frank Baldwin adapted the screenplay for this latest version, derived from the 2014 script by Kim Fupz Aakeson. The result is a clever, darkly humorous action movie, punctuated by a device of going to a black screen and naming the latest casualty as the body count mounts, including a checklist of about a dozen guys who die in a massvie gun battle.

Neeson is Nels Coxman (yes, there are quips throughout the movie about his last name), who is anything but his Bryan Mills character from the "Taken" movies. Nels makes his living by daily clearing snow from the main road leading into Kehoe, Colo., a ski resort not far from Denver. His efforts, which are vital to the city's economic survival, earn him a citizen of the year award. He lives far off the beaten path with his wife Grace (Laura Dern) and young adult son Kyle (Micheal Richardson).

Their blissful existence is torn apart when Kyle is found dead from a drug overdose. This essentially destroys the Coxman family. Grace grows despondent in her belief that she never really knew her son. Nels, meanwhile continues to deny Kyle was a druggie.

Turns out Nels is right. At the depth of his despair he learns that Kyle was unknowingly assisting a co-worker at the local airport who was helping import drugs into the area. But things go wrong and Kyle is killed as punishment while the co-worker survives, for a little while at least.

Nels hears about the killing from the co-worker and embarks on a path of revenge, hoping to move up the ladder to the big boss.

The big boss in this case is Trevor "Viking" Calcote (a scenery-chewing Tom Bateman), a seemingly respected businessman in Denver who engages in some very restrictive parenting  while dealing with child custody issues with his feisty ex-wife (Julia Jones) over their young son.

Nels tracks down and slays a couple of the lower -echelon employees of Viking's drug-peddling empire but soon runs out of leads. He turns to his brother Brock (William Forsythe), who has connections to the drug underworld. Reluctantly Brock feeds intelligence to Nels, knowing it might put a bullseye on his own back .

Meanwhile, Nels has triggered a turf war between Viking's kingdom and another drug cartel run by the local Native American group -- led by White Bull (Tom Jackson) -- shattering what had been a fragile co-existence. What Nels managed to do , without even trying, was something that would have made a team of Impossible Missions Force operatives of the old "Mission: Impossible" TV series proud -- puppeteering a destructive war between to rival and bad factions.

A key element of Baldwin's script is that it brings life to otherwise stoic underlings of the drug lord's staff. Usually these beefy guys are mute and seem only to be around to eventually get mowed down by the good guys in the inevitable gun battles. But in "Cold Pursuit," the action pauses here and there to allow some character development of these guys on the lower end of the payroll -- like one guy who laments over the crappy fate of his fantasy football team only to be told he drafts too many Cleveland Browns.

Similarly, the Native Americans are featured in scenes that develop their humanity despite their law-savaging business interests.

On the periphery is Emmy Rossum ("Shameless") as a local police officer, Kim Dash, who is positive there is rampant drug business in Kehoe, only to be told to look the other way. But she continues her investigation.

There is a Coen Brothers tone to this movie, the most obvious homage -- other than the dark humor -- being the bitter cold and snowy setting ala "Fargo."
Neeson is fine as Nels, who like some of the actor's other portrayals, has some flaws, and in this case really is overmatched when dealing with an organized crime faction.

The rest of the cast, particularly Forsythe, offers strong, often humorous support. One other standout is Elizabeth Thai as Ahn, a person Forsythe's Brock was contracted maim but instead becomes his lover, and ultimately holds power over Brock. She nearly upstages Forsythe, which is quite an accomplishment, and her role, as well as Rossum's Dash, help override Dern's thankless turn as Grace, who just gives up and bails out of the picture.

"COLD PURSUIT" Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/0phuNQQ_gHI


"THE PRODIGY"
An unnerving film, "The Prodigy" taps into that terror of seeing your child turn into something terrifying, demolishing the innocence and replacing it with something truly evil. Usually it's demonic possession, or the granddaddy of all fears of a child gone wrong -- being the AntiChrist.

"The Prodigy" explores another aspect of something invading a child that evolves into a horrifying force -- reincarnation.

Taylor Schilling ("Orange Is The New Black") is Sarah Blume, a woman who with husband John (Peter Mooney) become happy parents of a baby boy. Ominously, as the birth is taking place, a police shootout is ensuing elsewhere is which a man who apparently kidnapped and murdered young women is gunned down. 

Back at the Blume home, the child, Miles (Jackson Robert Scott), is showing signs of exceptional intelligence and has Heterochromia, a difference in coloration between both eyes  -- his right eye is brown and his left eye is blue. Unfortunately, Miles has trouble socially and the Blumes have him sent to a school for exceptional children.

Miles is a sweet little boy but soon starts engaging in scary behavior and afterwards claims to have no memory of what happened.

Naturally, Sarah seeks out experts and it is the one who presents the most outrageous suggestion -- reincarnation -- that Sarah begins to accept while John does not.

Sarah now must try to figure out how to liberate Miles from this horror. One specialist, Arthur Jacobson (Colm Feore), does offer a solution, but will it turn out to be effective?

The final moments of "The Prodigy" are truly chilling. This is horror at its best. You want a happy ending? Go somewhere else.

"THE PRODIGY" Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/BC4cyYRxjFk


"HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U"
In 2017, a movie came out that was pretty much a horror version of "Groundhog Day," a 1993 movie in which a weatherman (Bill Murray) finds himself trapped in living the same day over and over. This 2017 movie was called "Happy Death Day," and it was a big hit, totaling $122 million at the box office worldwide. Despite this success. director Christopher Landon has said there initially was no plans for a sequel. But then he got a brainstorm for a followup movie and pitched it to Jason Blum of Blumhouse productions, one of the leading forces behind horror films. Blum bought it immediately.

"Happy Death Day" centers around college student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), who wakes up one day in the bed of a male student, hung over and disoriented. The young man, Carter (Israel Broussard) is actually a gentleman who did not take advantage of Tree.

Tree makes it back to her sorority house dorm room and carries on with her day, which also happens to be her birthday. At the end of the day she is murdered by a stalker wearing an unnerving baby face mask of the school's mascot. And then she wakes up back in Carter's dorm room.

So the movie progresses as Tree has to die over and over again, each time gaining more information, until she finally learns who her killer is.

Aside from the usual twists of a horror/mystery, "Happy Death Day" has added depth as Tree in addition to gathering clues about her murder also gets opportunities for self-realization and evolves from a self-absorbed and sometimes cruel young woman who has disdain for people around her and who shuns her father's efforts to contact her, into a more caring and complete person. This allows the audience to discard their own antipathy for the character. 

And Rothe does a great job of turning Tree into an attractive person.

As Rothe explained in an interview with Horrorhound magazine, Tree had built up this hardened exterior but as the movie progresses the likable woman that was underneath gets to emerge.

Now, with "Happy Death Day 2U," Tree becomes a horror icon bad-ass, a la Laurie Strode ("Halloween"), Ellen Ripley ("Alien" franchise) and Nancy Thompson ("Nightmare on Elm Street" movies).

The original movie did leave some things unexplored, most notably how Tree got sucked into this time loop, as well as the electricity blackouts, so there were some ripe elements begging for a sequel.

Tree and Carter are now an item but things go awry when Carter's roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) experiences what Tree endured. Soon Tree finds herself again sucked into the time loop. Except this time there are some changes in what is going around her, most notably that Carter is in a hot relationship with another woman.

Ryan then reveals that he and two other nerdy students, Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Andrea "Dre" (Sarah Yarkin) are working on a lab project they call "Sissy," and whatever its designed function, apparently it was responsible for Tree getting sucked into the time loop. The project, however, has wreaked havoc and as Tree and the others try to break the time loop, they face the other prospect of the university shutting down the project and confiscating Sissy.

It turns out that although Tree is in the time loop, it is in a parallel universe, hence the differences in the characters and experiences around her. So Tree has to die more times while Ryan and his project partners try to find a way to break the time warp.

At least Tree gets to decide how to die this time and gets creative, adding some macabre humor in the death scenes. In the end, though, Tree has to make a decision as to which existence she will stay in once the loop stops. Each universe has good things but also forces some sacrifices.

Once again, Rothe is delightful as Tree and Broussard adds support for Carter, who is a bit different in the other universe. Vu, Sharma and Yarkin provide some humor as the three nerds who find themselves in the challenge of their lives.

Oh, and finally we get to see what Carter is looking for, down on his knees each morning at the other end of the dorm room the moment Tree is jolted awake.

This movie is a lot of fun, heightened by a capable and attractive cast. And Landon has said a third installment is planned. Viewers need to stick around when the credits role, as there is a Marvel-like teaser inserted there to give an indication where part three will be going. 

"HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U" Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/MT9MBytHuOI


"FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY"
Fans of professional wrestling should enjoy "Fighting With My Family," which chronicles woman wrestler Paige's rise from small-time performer in her native Horwich, England, to the apex of the profession, World Wrestling Entertainment.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson served as a co-producer and also plays himself in the movie.

Before she became Paige, Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh), is a second-generation wrestler, daughter of Ricky (Nick Frost) and Julia (Lena Headey) Knight. Her brother Zak (Jack Lowden), is a local fan favorite in Horwich. Saraya and Zak have sent a tape of their in-ring work to WWE in hopes of getting a chance to try out with the pro wrestling empire.

They do get a call, but it is Saraya who makes the cut, leaving Zak to grapple with being happy for his sister while distraught he was rejected.

The film takes on a boot camp flavor as Saraya works via the NXT program, sort of a minor league to WWE, to develop her skills.

Vince Vaughn is wonderful as Hutch, a composite character who serves as kind of a drill instructor, mentor, critic and eventually coach. He is tough but fair and candidly tells Saraya, after several weeks of training, that she should forget it and go home.

She does go home but it is brother Zak who serves as inspiration for her to go back to America and pursue her dream.

Pugh earned her salary, not only dramatically, but physically as she  absorbs the knocks and pain of wrestling. This film does show that pro wrestling is choreographed, but also grueling and risky.

Stephen Merchant wrote and directed "Fighting With My Family," using wit and heart in addition to insight on what goes on backstage at these glitzy wrestling shows.

Since Paige went on to become an iconic star in the advancement of women in pro wrestling, we know how this movie will end -- Saraya returns to NXT, assumes the Paige persona and gets featured in a debut, title-winning match on a Monday Night Raw presentation.

Unfortunately, Paige's career ended in 2018 when she suffered an injury during a match against Sasha Banks. So this movie is a nice salute to a woman who helped open opportunities for others in the field of entertainment.

"FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY" Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/G-gx3y4d4Rw

Return to DaBelly

2019   DaBelly Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.