A short review of “Patient Zero” (2018)

I’d be lying to you if I told you that “Patient Zero” (2018) is an especially good movie.  It isn’t.  It plays a lot like the classic “28 Days Later” (2002) would play if it were produced by the SyFy Channel, and by that I mean it generally is a poorly written, low-budget cheese-fest.  (This is one of those movies where even the score was kinda bad.)  Still, there were some hints of greatness hidden within this lackluster zombie movie — enough to save it from being a complete failure — and I would reluctantly rate it a 5 out of 10.  (Most other reviewers are not even that kind.)

First, it has some fine performers. These include two “Game of Thrones” actors who are always fun to watch — the mesmerizing Natalie Dormer and the consistently likable John Bradley.  (The latter seems to specialize in winning audiences over as the “hero’s-affable-friend” role.)  “Doctor Who” fans will of course recognize Matt Smith in the lead role.  But by far and away, they’re overshadowed by a fantastic performance by Stanley Tucci as the zombies’ surprisingly eloquent leader.  (More on that in a moment.)  Tucci is truly a great actor and he makes a perfectly menacing bad guy; his voice, diction and line delivery are goddam perfect.  His talent for voicing a magnetic, highly intelligent antagonist reminds me of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal of Negan on “The Walking Dead,” or one of the better “big bads” seen on “24” (2001 – 2014).

Second, there are some really clever ideas hiding under this thin, hasty script.  (I strongly get the sense that “Patient Zero” was a rush job for screenwriter Mike Le and director Vincent Newman.)  The hyper-kinetic zombies here are afflicted with “super-rabies” and are reminiscent of their ilk from “28 Days Later.”  But there is a truly intriguing plot conceit — their roars and screams are perfectly intelligible to Smith’s protagonist.  He speaks their “language” because he’s infected, but also mysteriously asymptomatic.  When he interrogates the zombies for the military, their interaction is filmed as normal dialogue (creating the opportunity for Tucci’s terrific turn here).  Then things get even more interesting when it’s demonstrated that the ostensibly mindless zombies are quite proficient at planning an attack.

I … might be treating this movie a bit charitably simply because I liked some of its ingredients.  Again, I don’t actually recommend it.  But your mileage may vary.

 

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A short review of “Bad Samaritan” (2018)

As I believe I may have mentioned, I have a love-hate relationship with David Tennant’s onscreen performances.  I find him inexplicably, positively grating whenever he plays a protagonist.  (See 2011’s “Fright Might” remake, or his cringe-inducing stint as “Doctor Who.”)  But it seems to me that the man is absolutely fantastic when he plays a bad guy.  (See his frightening and hilarious role as Kilgrave the first season of “Jessica Jones” in 2015.)

“Bad Samaritan” (2018) thankfully presents us with the latter Tennant.  He musters an intensity with his eyes and his voice that are incongruous counterpoints to his innocent-looking face, and this makes him a damned good antagonist in a thriller.  (He is a highly organized, sociopathic kidnapper in this film.  I don’t think that’s much of a spoiler, as all of the film’s marketing make it clear.)  He’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch — and listen to.

With that said, “Bad Samaritan” is an average movie — not altogether bad, but not awesomely good, either.  (I suppose I’d rate it a 7 out of 10.)  It benefits a lot from another very good actor in Robert Sheehan as its anti-heroic young protagonist.  (The plot setup here is interesting — a mild-mannered burglar discovers a psychopath’s captive while in his house, then struggles with how he can help the terrified victim of a far worse criminal than he is.)  The movie’s biggest sin seems to be that it borrows heavily from comparable genre-defining works from the likes of Thomas Harris and James Patterson.  But it’s still an enjoyable enough movie in its own right.

There’s someone else here that’s great fun to watch too — Kerry Condon as the kidnapee.  Her voice is amazing, and she’s a superb actress; I think she’s strong enough to carry another movie like this.  I just knew she looked familiar … it turns out she played Clara, the really weird woman that Rick found in the woods during Season 3 of “The Walking Dead.”  (He asks her the show’s signature “three questions.”)

She is also to voice of F.R.I.D.A.Y., Tony Stark’s on-board A.I. in several of Marvel’s “Avengers” movies.  Didn’t see that one coming.  Weird world.

 

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Blogging my only review of a “Doctor Who” episode. Because I’m a masochist.

And I enjoy the sheer antipathy that is inevitably inspired by any criticism of this show (or, God forbid, actor David Tennant).

No, seriously — I actually really liked the horrorish episode, “Blink,” with the weeping angels.  I’m running this for my old friend David Bozic, who, it turns out, is another devoted “Whovian.”

Here’s the review I did on Facebook maybe two years ago:

*****

Doctor Who generally isn’t my thing.  But I have friends who are really diehard … “Whovians?”  Is that what they call themselves? And Alex Tirado-Snyder finally talked me into watching a particularly good episode – Season 3’s “Blink.”

I wasn’t disappointed.  This is actually a great little horror story, and you can enjoy it even if you’re unacquainted with the bizarre (and poorly delineated, in my opinion) rules for this unique sci-fi universe.  It honestly reminds me of something that Stephen King might have written, albeit for a general tv audience.  I was genuinely creeped out by the story’s adversaries, which I won’t describe because of spoilers.  The repeated line of “Don’t blink!” along with the episode’s closing shots, were nice and frightening.

It’s also a damned cool time-travel story – if you’re patient and pay attention, you’ll see that it works.  Carey Mulligan is a really good actress in a lead guest role, and parts of the story (featuring characters displaced in time) are pretty poignant.  I’m not sure this episode really merits its Hugo Award, but it was still a good watch.  I’d recommend it.  Thanks, Alex.

It’s easy to see why this widely venerated show has such a devoted fanbase.  It’s fun and quirky and smart.  Still, I can’t say that this franchise is quite my thing.  I feel the same why about this as I do about Joss Whedon’s work.  I know it’s well made, but it’s too high-camp for me.  Also … I can’t explain this, but David Tennant just gets on my nerves.  I remember being turned off by him in his role in 2011’s “Fright Night” remake.  I don’t know why … is he too chipper?  Too manic?  Is there an androgynous quality about him that I find unsettling?  There’s something about him that suggests an overeager British schoolboy that won’t shut up and just won’t leave you alone.  Whatever.  I’m sure the problem is me.  He’s a very good actor, and of course he’s well suited for this role.

Postscript: I had a lot of fun with this story because it brought back something from my childhood.  In the long ago pre-internet days when I was 11 years old, the kids on the street would huddle under Jason Huhn’s porch on summer nights and tell ghost stories.  I made up a monster a little like the one in this story, and it scared my best friend Shawn because I portrayed him as the victim.  He tried to make me stop telling the story, but the other kids insisted I continue.  He got pretty agitated.  So I was kind of a jerk when I was a kid, too, sort of.

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