By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing
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
"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
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
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
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.
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
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.
"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
So the movie progresses as Tree has to die over and over again,
each time gaining more information, until she finally learns who her
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
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.
DEATH DAY 2U"
"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
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
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.