BLACK FRIDAY (2021)

November 18, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. The horror-comedy genre boasts many movies that can be described as ‘a blast’ or ‘a wild ride’. Director Casey Tebo and writer Andy Greskoviak wisely jump on a topic that lends itself all too well to this genre: the whole mess we call Black Friday shopping. Ingeniously setting this in a toy store (“We Love Toys”), focusing on the stressed-out employees, and assembling what seems like the perfect cast, the filmmakers somehow come up short, due mostly to a paucity of effective one-liners and visual gags so necessary in a project like this.

Devon Sawa (FINAL DESTINATION, 2000) stars as Ken, the divorced father who is pained at having to drop his kids at his ex-wife’s house as he heads in for his Black Friday shift at the store. We are then introduced to others on the store staff, including Ivana Baquero (Ofelia in the Guillermo del Toro instant classic PAN’S LABYRINTH, 2006) as Marnie, Ryan Lee (SUPER 8, 2011) as germophobe Chris, Michael Jai White (SPAWN, 1997) as Archie the maintenance guy, and Stephen Peck as Bryan, the power-abusing Assistant Manager. Leading this group of misfits is the always-great Bruce Campbell (the EVIL DEAD franchise) as Jonathan, the Store Manager and corporate lackey.

In an early scene we hear a TV newscast that forewarns of an upcoming meteor event, and the science fiction element involves a gooey alien creature/substance that causes even more turmoil than the shortages of this year’s must-have toys. Shoppers are transformed into zombie-flesh-eating-alien-mutants, and the toy store staff teams up in an effort to stay alive. All of the actors do their part. Sawa is effective as the leader, while Baquero lends a strong female presence. White is the epitome of a nail-gun toting action hero, and Campbell delivers his comic force while donning a bow-tie and cardigan. The special effects work, and the only thing missing are searing and cutting quips and one-liners that would complete the picture.

ZOMBIELAND (2009), PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (2016), THE DEAD DON’T DIE (2019), READY OR NOT (2019), and the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy are all films in this genre that actually delivered what this one should have … what it teased. One Air Supply joke and a riff on corporate greed and out-of-control entitled holiday shoppers was a tremendous idea that would have benefitted from more humorous social commentary. It’s a letdown that may yet find a place the Midnight Movie slot.

Available in theaters and On Demand beginning November 19, 2021

WATCH THE TRAILER


SUPER 8

June 13, 2011

 Greetings again from the darkness. A nostalgic feeling generated by nostalgic filmmaking at the hands of JJ Abrams and classic Spielberg. Yes, I meant to use nostalgic twice … the film has a familiar feel to it, but also entirely new twists and effects. That’s what happens when the master (Steven Spielberg) and the star pupil (Abrams) unite.

Part of the nostalgia is that this is kind of a throwback to the blockbuster era that Spielberg helped create. There are bits and pieces of Jurassic Park, E.T., The Goonies, *Batteries not Included, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws. Spielberg has always had a nice feel for kids and emotions, and in this film the genius of Abrams’ script and special effects make for a spectacular combination.

 You know there is nothing more fun for these filmmakers than a story about smart, outcast kids obsessed with making a movie! Throw in the adolescent battle over the out-of-reach older girl, the somewhat demented kid who just loves explosions, the sensitive kid dealing with the death of his mother, the wise beyond her years girl who is a natural actress, and the chubby, driven boy with a camera … mix it up with a couple of clueless parents and the evil, secretive Air Force, a sci-fi element and you have quite the exciting small town Ohio drama with comedic elements and startling special effects.

Not going to say anything about the “surprise” that was hinted in the trailer, but what I will say is that the first hour of this movie was pure movie magic to me. Unfortunately, the second half was a slight let down, though certainly not horrible. I just enjoyed the pure human elements on display before it became just another …

 The film really rides on the shoulders of Elle Fanning (probably the last time I will reference her as Dakota’s little sis). Ms. Fanning has proved again that she may be the most talented of the acting sisters. She really has a feel for her scenes and clearly melts the heart of young Joe Lamb, played by newcomer Joel Courtney. Also excellent are Riley Griffiths as Charles the movie maker, and Ryan Lee as Cary the demolition “expert”. Joe’s dad is played by Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), but again, this film really belongs to the kids.

The film is rated PG-13 for some pretty intense scenes and some language that many prefer not to hear coming from kids. It’s too bad more films “like” this aren’t made, but that’s probably a factor of not many filmmakers being in the class of Spielberg and Abrams (Lost, Star Trek).

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you can sit back and enjoy a big ol’ blockbuster with a fun script and giant special effects

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you prefer high art that taxes the mind