Gangsters, anti-heroes, and spooky kooks make for a busy weekend at the movies

Usually October isn’t the biggest month for movie openings, but thanks to the coronavirus, neither the movie business nor the world has dealt with normalcy for going on a year and a half.

However, with three new films opening in local theaters this weekend, maybe it’s a sign that things are inching their way to a new normal?

Whether that’s true or just wishful thinking, there’s something new for almost every kind of movie fan in theaters this weekend.

The Many Saints of Newark

HBO Films

The unfortunate news for fans of “The Sopranos” is that the new feature film “The Many Saints of Newark” just doesn’t live up to the late HBO TV series.

How could it?

A two-hour Tony Soprano origin movie can’t be as textured and layered as the storytelling of six seasons of a high-quality drama that gaves you plenty of time to live with, love, and despise the characters that are featured.

The film is entertaining, but probably more so for fans of the TV series than those who have never watched or only did so infrequently.

Don’t get me wrong. The movie is clear, professionally made and can stand on its own, but much of the fun comes with piecing the story of Tony, his parents, family, friends and most importantly his mentor Dickie, a new character portrayed by Alessandro Nivola, together with what we know from the TV show.

Nivola is good as the charismatic Dickie who is idolized by his nephew Tony (Michael Gandolfini), but who isn’t the greatest influence on the young man who is intelligent but is lured into a life of crime that results in him gaining power as Newark’s prime mob boss but at a heavy cost. Dickie, while likable, can’t handle his business professionally and this leads to all manner of trouble.

Gandolfini is totally believable as young Tony, and the resemblance to his real-life father James, who played Tony in the TV series, more than sells the young man in the role.

I wouldn’t go so far to say that those who enjoyed the TV show should avoid the movie, but I do warn you to temper your expectations. I would go so far to say is that you wouldn’t be missing much if you do skip the movie.

If you have been planning to watch the series, but have not gotten around to it, I would suggest making you way through it before watching the movie. Even though the movie doesn’t live up to the series, I believe it would be a better experience if you can connect the dots than if not.

For those who’ve never watched the TV series and don’ care to, you’ll be able to watch the film and possibly enjoy it for what it is, a mid-level mob movie.

(R) 2 hrs.
Grade: C

Venom: Let Their Be Carnage

Marvel Entertainment

Director Andy Serkis delivers an action-packed sequel to the 2018 original that’s short, sweet, and too the point with his latest film “Venom: Let Their Be Carnage.”

Though the movie basically exists to pit anti-hero Venom against his even-more lethal spawn Carnage (Woody Harrelson) in several extravagant special-effects melees, the story by Kelly Marcel and star Tom Hardy delivers a good bit of heart, too, as reporter Eddie Brock and the space-alien parasite Venom not only grow to tolerate but also appreciate each other by the film’s end.

Of course, it’s the final showdown with Carnage that brings our symbiotic pair to the reality that they actually need each other.

Brock and Venom do split for a time, which leads to an amusing scene where Venom attends a Halloween-themed rave. Everyone at the party just assumes he’s wearing an awesome costume.

Carnage and his host Cletus Cassidy (Harrelson in a duel role) are horrifying scum, but Cassidy does have a heart despite the fact he is a serial killer. While in jail Cassidy bonds with Brock during an interview in more ways than one.

Cassidy sees Brock as contemporary but also as a means to and end. He wants to use Brock to reunite him with his mutant teenage crush, who has been institutionalized since they were both teens.

However, when Venom emerges from Brock and almost bites off Cassidy’s head during an interview, Cassidy retaliates by biting Brock and drawing blood. That blood, of course, infects Cassidy and gives birth to Carnage.

Harrelson is there to chew scenery as Cassidy and Carnage, and he chomps down hard. Hardy, who is known for mumbling his lines, is believable as the two entities in a somewhat spastic but still somehow endearing performance.

The action-packed film breezes by and offers a few chuckles with Michelle Williams returning as Ann, Brock’s ex. Her part is smallish, but as always, Williams makes the most of her scenes. Reid Scott plays Ann’s new fiancee, Dan, and squeezes a few memorable bits out of an even smaller role. Peggy Lu is also memorable as Mrs. Chen, a storekeeper, in a couple of scenes.

The film is artfully shot by Robert Richardson, a frequent Martin Scorsese collaborator. His work along with Serkis’ gives the film a cleaner, less muddy look than the original despite the fact both are CGI-fests.

The movie does contain a somewhat important mid-credit scene that appears to set the stage for something very interesting in a Marvel film that is opening in December.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 37 min.
Grade: C+

The Addams Family 2


“The Addams Family 2” is just what you would expect from the second installment of an animated series of films based on the kooky and spooky family that first came to popularity in a New Yorker comic strip in the late 1930s and gained a resurgence of popularity in the 1960s thanks to a popular TV show that went on to run in syndication for years.

The movie is funny and filled with puns and sight gags that will no doubt catch the attention of classic horror-movie fans. The references are plentiful and deep.

The villain, Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader) is a Vincent Price look-a-like, and one of his henchmen bares a striking resemblance to B-movie tough guy Rondo Hatton just to name two.

But films like “Jaws,” “The Island of Lost Souls” and “The Fly” are borrowed from as well as the lore of H.P. Lovecraft and even a fairly contemporary movie like “Tusk.” I had more fun picking out those references than following the actual story.

The crux of the movie is the identity crisis that’s being suffered by young Wednesday Addams (Chole Grace Moretz), and a scheme that makes her believe that Morticia (Charlize Theron) and Gomez Addams (Oscar Isaac) aren’t her real parents.

Wednesday’s uncertainty about her parentage coincides with a nation-wide road trip by the Addams, which is an updated homage of the 1970s Saturday morning “The Addams Family” cartoon.

Again, I had fun watching it because of the references that will probably be lost on those who aren’t horror-movie geeks like myself.

While the story and its moral are well-developed, and the animation is creepily lovely, it’s the type of movie that would be just as enjoyable watching on video or whichever streaming channel it goes to in a few months.

(PG) 1 hr. 32 min.
Grade: C

New in Local Theaters

Venom: Let Their Be Carnage (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 1 hr. 37 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback. Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Rogers Towne, Starlight, 112 Drive Inn

The Adams Family 2 (watch trailer) / (PG) 1 hr. 32 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback. Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Rogers Towne, Starlight

The Many Saints of Newark (watch trailer) / (R) 2 hrs. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback. Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Rogers Towne, Starlight

The Jesus Music (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 1 hr. 48 min. / Malco Razorback

Classic Corner – Dracula and Frankenstein Double Feature

In conjunction with Fathom Events, the Malco Razorback Cinema is getting into the Halloween mood already by reviving two classic monsters for a 1 p.m. Saturday double feature of Universal Pictures’ “Dracula” and “Frankenstein.” Both films are celebrating their 90th anniversary this year.

Dracula (1931)

Vampires have almost become ubiquitous in pop culture. From novels to movies to TV programs, we almost can’t turn around without bumping in to one kind of bloodsucker or the other.

While Bram Stoker wasn’t the first author to breath life into a vampire through prose, his 1897 novel “Dracula” practically codified the vampire lore in a work that has fed the imaginations of readers and filmgoers almost ever since.

In playing Stoker’s Prince of Darkness first on the stage and then in the 1931 Universal Pictures movie “Dracula,” Hungarian-born actor Bela Lugosi crafted an iconic image that’s as vital today as it was 90 years ago.

Whether Lugosi’s performance is imitated, mocked, or avoided, his Dracula remains in the forefront of every writer, director, or actor’s mind who attempts to place his stamp on the character.

Director Todd Browning’s film was supposed to star silent-film icon Lon Chaney, but the actor known as The Man of a Thousand Faces was diagnosed with cancer just as the film was to begin production. Lugosi stepped into the role. Though he knew very little English and spoke his lines phonetically in the film, Lugosi made history with his performance.

The movie itself is terribly dated and like most early talkies is rather stagey. Though quite atmospheric, the movie is unlikely to scare a modern audience.

However, Lugosi’s performance is still charismatic and effective. Dwight Frye, who played supporting characters in many other Universal horror films, is excellent as the bug-eating Renfield. His distinctive, staccato laugh made Frye’s mad henchmen memorable.

Frankenstein (1931)

Universal Studio’s 1931 adaption of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novel wasn’t the first time Frankenstein and his monster showed up on the silver screen, and it certainly wasn’t the last.

Thomas Edison actually produced the first Frankenstein flick way back in 1910, and just a few years ago 20th Century Fox unleashed “Victor Frankenstein,” which could be viewed as sort of a prequel to Universal’s original film.

However, director James Whale’s 1931 “Frankenstein” along with its 1935 sequel “The Bride of Frankenstein” are the best Frankenstein films because of the masterful performance of Boris Karloff as the misunderstood monster.

Whale’s direction and the set design on the two films sets a spookily atmospheric tone with its nods to German Expressionism.

Make-up artist Jack Pierce’s monster design is certainly iconic, but it is Karloff who breaths life into the character.

He brings a level of pathos and terror to the misbegotten creature that no other actor has achieved in a dozens of films since. Even the great Robert De Niro couldn’t escape Karloff’s shadow in Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 film “Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. “

Like Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler, Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine, and Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy, Karloff’s performance as the Frankenstein’s monster has stood the test of time.