(On Cable TV, January 2019) I ignored Odd Thomas for years, working from the conviction that it couldn’t be more than an average film if it had been adapted from a Dean Koontz novel. (I once read twenty-some Koontz novels in the span of a single year, and liked only one of them.) But as it turns out, this movie adaptation is something different from the usual Koontz. Introducing us to a small-town California psychic, this is a film that makes use of chatty protagonist narration, a fast-paced plot and some off-beat details to tell a story with a well-rounded execution from familiar elements. I suspect that much of the fluidity of the result comes from director Stephen Sommers, a capable sfx storyteller who had a few high-profile movies between 1998 and 2009 but seems to have been sidelined of the industry since then. The plot has something to do with preventing a mass shooting, but the way we get there is far more interesting than expected with plenty of humour, suspense, ingenious use of fantastic tropes and good actors in key roles. The late Anton Yelchin stars as Thomas, with an early role for Gugu Mbatha-Raw and a supporting turn from Willem Defoe. The hook is interesting, and while there is something slightly off about the overly cute banter as well as some of the individual moments along the way (including a far too dark romantic conclusion), the execution is generally above average and the film is a bit of an unassuming surprise. Even though it’s more of an underrated B-movie than anything else, I probably shouldn’t have waited so long to see it.
(Netflix Streaming, November 2016) While Green Room suffers from a slight case of over-hype, it’s not a fatal one. I’d been waiting a while, like many others, for a follow-up to writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s acclaimed Blue Ruin, and Green Room does have a lot of what made the first film so interesting: sharply observed details, a respectful look at the lower rungs of society and an often-upsetting use of realistic violence. As a punk band gets embroiled in the dirty dealings of a neo-Nazi club in the middle of nowhere, the stakes quickly get deadly as they are locked in the green room and their opponents plan what to do with them. As a genre exercise, Green Room is well accomplished: our heroes are inside, the enemies are outside and there’s no help around. Violent episodes punctuate the film, resulting in a dwindling cast and ever-more inventive story beats. It ends satisfactorily enough, even though the film doesn’t revolutionize anything. Anton Yelchin stars as the headliner of the punk band. Against him, Patrick Stewart is simply chilling as a neo-Nazi leader. Meanwhile, it’s always interesting to see Alia Shawkat have a good role for herself. Still, the star remains Saulnier, who moves his chessboard pieces with cleverness and cranks up a decent amount of suspense when it counts. Now that he has created even more anticipation for himself, what will his next movie bring?