[REVIEW] ‘Hotel Transylvania: Transformania’ or A Sandler by Any Other Voice…

Most people who read my reviews know I am not the biggest fan of Adam Sandler’s comedies. I actually don’t mind him when he works on other people’s projects (Spanglish, Punch Drunk Love, etc) however most of his Happy Madison produced films I’ve loathed. Movies like The Ridiculous 6, Little Nicky, and That’s My Boy should barely be referred to as films.

Fortunately there has been one bright spot in Sandler’s career. Since 2012 the Hotel Transylvania movies have been pleasant, well animated romps with Sandler in the lead as Dracula and directed by the visionary Genndy Tartakovsky. Of course, I wish Genndy’s more ambitious projects like Primal could get the same attention but alas Hotel Transylvania will probably be what he is most remembered for. And I guess they are fun enough films.

I actually enjoyed Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation film the most. The 2nd one flirts with a bold message but then cops out at the end and the first is just ok fish out of water story. The 3rd is a vacation movie with the most humor and sparkling animation.

Now we have the 4th entry Hotel Transylvania: Transformania which has Genndy as only a screenwriter and Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon taking over as directors.

We also have Brian Hull taking over for the voice of Drac, which honestly he does a near flawless Sandler impression. It has got to be a weird thing to be Sandler and hear someone doing your voice so identically. Unfortunately Brad Abrell is not as adept at taking over for Kevin James in the voice of Frankenstein.

As far as the story it’s cute enough. Drac’s son-in-law Johnny (Andy Sandburg) stumbles upon Professor Van Helsing’s (Jim Gaffigan) ‘monsterfication ray’ and turns himself into a monster. Then Drac and the monsters get turned into humans. It’s a one-joke premise but executed with enough manic energy to be entertaining. I particularly enjoy any time Fran Drescher’s Eunice gets to shine (they don’t give her enough to do in this franchise but she’s always hilarious). David Spade also gets some good laughs as the Invisible Man who isn’t so invisible any more!

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is a good film to go to streaming. You can turn it on with the kids and have some laughs while folding laundry and getting things done. Maybe that’s a low bar but it’s a reality. It’s no masterpiece but it will have the whole family laughing and that’s important. I say give this scary hotel one more shot.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

 

[REVIEW] ‘Single Mother By Choice’ But COVID Not a Choice

So far this COVID experience has been difficult to transfer to media. Most shows and movies have chosen to ignore it in the guise of escapism but there have been a few standouts. Interesting enough 2 of my favorites focus on the female experience with Stop and Go and I’m Fine Thanks for Asking. Now we can another compelling entry with the new film on HBOMax Single Mother by Choice.

In 2019 Selina Ringel and her husband Dan Levy Dagerman decided to make  movie chronicling her pregnancy but make the character a SMBC or Single Mother By Choice. This is obviously where a woman becomes pregnant through a sperm donor and has the child without a partner.

Then COVID happened and the lockdown and the story changed. All of the sudden the expected loneliness became magnified and Selina’s vulnerability and yet strength all the more exposed.

Ringel said “The lockdown as a result of Covid-19 plays directly into this theme. My character gets exactly what she wished for, to take care of everything by herself, but at a whole other level than she imagined and the lonlieness that comes with that is unbearable.”

Obviously this film is shot on a small budget but I felt it really captured the highs and lows of being single in the lockdown. I worked from home so I didn’t think it would be that hard but it was, and I can only imagine if I had all that while being pregnant!

I almost wish it was a series so I could keep following mother and child. One of my favorite parts was when she is interviewing roommates- something I can relate with as I had to find new tenants for my basement apartment during the pandemic.

Also all the zoom chats and the googling information about COVID and the baby. At one point her doctor tells her ‘stay off of google” LOL. It’s an interesting dichotomy because at the same time she’s doing this bold confident thing she’s also never been more isolated and alone. She both realizes she can do it on her own and that she needs people all at the same time. I think we all can relate to that understanding over the last few years.

Selina says “It has been through doing some deep work on myself that I have realized that asking for help is a strength, I think it is important to start seeing vulnerability as a positive attribute.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Single Mother By Choice is a moving insightful look at the female experience in the era of COVID. Definitely worth a watch if you get a chance.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

My Best and Worst Movies of 2021

Hey everyone! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. I had a great time covering all the Christmas movies (125 watched and reviewed at Hallmarkies Podcast) and celebrated by going to Disneyland this week. While there I published my Best and Worst Movies of 2021 videos on youtube. Please check out the videos and give them a thumbs up. I would sure appreciate it!

Best of 2021

1. tick, tick…Boom

2. The Mitchells vs the Machines

3. Belle

4. Summer of Soul

5. Single All the Way

6. Us Again

7. Flee

8. Encanto

9. Cyrano

10. Together Together

11. Luca

12. Coda

13. West Side Story

14. Dream Horse

15. Free Guy

Worst of 2021

1. America: the Motion Picture

2. Earwig and the Witch

3. Home Sweet Home Alone

4. Taming the Garden

5. Boss Baby: Family Business

6. Diana: the Musical

7. F9

8. Charming

9. Bigfoot Family

10. Addams Family 2

Late entry: Matrix Resurrections

 

Let me know what your lists are and what you think of my picks! 

2022 Blind Spot Picks

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well and having a terrific Christmas Eve! Tomorrow I will not only be celebrating Christmas but I will be heading off to Disneyland for a trip. I have actually caught up with my podcast and am able to take almost a whole week off! Wow! I can’t wait. Make sure you follow me on instagram to get all of my travel and other updates!

Before I leave I wanted to announce my Blind Spot picks for 2022. This will be my 7th year of reviewing ‘blind spots’ each month. These are popular or critically praised films that for whatever reason I have not seen. I love having a variety of Oscar films, cult classics and indie darlings. Sometimes I don’t enjoy the picks (Beverly Hills Cop…) and then other times I love films I didn’t expect to enjoy (Halloween).

So without further ado here are my Blind Spot picks for 2022:

January

Clerks (1994) - IMDb

Clerks

With the Sundance Film Festival coming back in January (hopefully) it seems appropriate to check out one of the darlings of the festival, Kevin Smith’s Clerks. I know it is a pretty hard R so I haven’t seen it but I think you will find this year I am check off some more mature films in blind spot that I haven’t seen until now. Hopefully this indie comedy brings the laughs and I have a good time watching it.

February

About Time - Trailer - YouTube

About Time

I can see all of your shocked expressions now. Rachel, the rom-com girl has never seen About Time? It’s true! It’s not that I’ve been avoiding it. I’ve just never seen it for some reason. Now that will be solved because I will finally watch it for the February blind spot!

March

Shaun of the Dead is a near-perfect movie - Polygon

Shaun of the Dead

Again, because I didn’t watch many R rated movies in the past I have never seen Shaun of the Dead or any of the Cornetto trilogy. It’s only fairly recently I’ve started to get into horror comedy as a genre and I’ve enjoyed movies like Warm Bodies and Anna and the Apocalypse. So I bet I will enjoy Shaun of the Dead. We’ll see!

April

Logan' Review from Berlin Film Festival 2017 - Variety

Logan

Most people are probably shocked to find I have never see Logan. I don’t in general love violent movies but I think it is time for me to check this gritty superhero movie off of my list. I hope I like it as much as everyone else seems to.

May

Barry Lyndon

I don’t know a ton about Barry Lyndon, except it is a period piece from Stanley Kubrick based on the novel by William Thackerary. I love period pieces so that alone has me intrigued to see what Kubrick can bring to the genre. I hope it is a good one!

June

Mystic Pizza Is The Movie That Launched Julia Roberts' Career

Mystic Pizza

The beginning of summer seems like a great time to finally watch the 1988 film Mystic Pizza. It’s a film I’ve heard of for years because it introduced the world to Julia Roberts but I am intrigued to finally watch it because a Broadway show is coming based on the film.

July

Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou' Review: 2004 Movie – The Hollywood Reporter

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

I have seen most Wes Anderson films but I’ve never seen The Life Aquatic. I usually like his movies and I enjoy Bill Murray who is the star so hopefully it will be a fun time for me. What do you think of this quirky Anderson film?

August

In the Heat of the Night Soundtrack Music - Complete Song List | Tunefind

In the Heat of the Night

I love Norman Jewison as a director so it is surprising I have never seen his 1967 Best Picture winner In the Heat of the Night. This film stars Sidney Poitier and went on to influence countless police procedurals and crime dramas. Plus, it inspired the line ‘they call me Mr Tibbs!’.

September

Let's Go Crazy: Why Prince's 'Purple Rain' Is a Masterpiece - Rolling Stone

Purple Rain

Recently I was with a group of critics who were shocked to find out a friend had never seen Purple Rain. I didn’t admit to the group I have also never seen Purple Rain. Probably because I am not as familiar with the music of Prince as I should be. Nevertheless, let’s fix that in September and watch this music themed film classic!

October

How to Watch the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' Movies in Order - How to Watch the Freddy Krueger Films

A Nightmare on Elm Street

As you all know I’m a big of a horror movie wimp but I’ve been trying to do better lately. I’ve seen and enjoyed Scream, Halloween and other scary films. Now I am going to watch one of the classics of the genre- the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. Hopefully it won’t haunt me too much in my dreams!

November

The Lost Boys' Cast: Where Are They Now? - Biography

The Lost Boys

I’ve seen a lot of vampire movies but I’ve never seen the cult classic The Lost Boys. Directed by Joel Schumacher this should be a fun break for me in November when I am deep in Hallmark season of 2022. What do you think of this 80s favorite?

December

'Tangerine' Magnolia Pictures

TANGERINE

Back in 2015 an indie favorite was Sean Baker’s film Tangerine. He shot the film all on an Iphone and it starred trans actress Mya Taylor in the lead role. I didn’t know at the time it is set on Christmas Eve so it makes for the perfect December pick.

So there you have it! My Blind Spot picks for 2022. What do you think of these films? It should make for an eclectic and fun year catching up with these classics!

[REVIEW] ‘The Jesus Music’ or Glory Imperfect Music to God

Today is my day to celebrate the Erwin Brothers because I just reviewed their film American Underdog and now I am talking about their documentary The Jesus Music. As I said in that review Jon and Andrew Erwin are making films in the faith-based genre that nobody else is making. They may not be perfect but they are so much better than their contemporaries and that continues into the documentary format with The Jesus Music. This is a solid chronicling of the history of Jesus music from the 1960s to its current day.

Despite not growing up as a traditional Christian I still enjoyed the Jesus music of the 80s. I’ve always been a big Amy Grant fan. In fact, she was one of the few artists my Mother and I agreed on and enjoyed listening together. I also loved Michael W Smith and he was the first concert I ever went to with a friend of mine out at the county fair. Both of them feature heavily in the documentary as well as other artists I did not know like the heavy metal band Stryper.

The Jesus Music': Movie Review | CBN.com

I don’t think you have to be a follower to enjoy this documentary. As I said I am not a traditional Christian or an evangelical but I found it fascinating. It’s not afraid to be judgemental and call out the Christian audience and it showcases a wide variety of artists not just worship music.

Plus, the music is really good! It made me want to search out new artists and learn more about others song catalog. It’s also uses Kirk Franklin and other artists to talk about the diversity problem within the genre and that they could have embraced it from the beginning more than they did.

If you love Christian music you will love The Jesus Music. If you don’t you might still love it. It’s one of the best documentaries of the year!

8/10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘American Underdog’ or How to Inspire Right

One of the toughest genres to make a quality film in is the faith-based film. It is very difficult to portray conversion and a spiritual life in a way that doesn’t feel forced and cloying. However, the Erwin Bros, Andrew and Jon, are doing it about as well as can be done. I first noticed them in 2018 with I Can Only Imagine, which made a non-religious friend of mine weep, it was so good. And then I Still Believe released just before the pandemic that was another solid inspirational true story about musician Jeremy Camp. Now with their latest film American Underdog they are moving to sports to tell the story of come-from-behind football star Kurt Warner and they have another win!

There are a couple key aspects that make American Underdog work. First, the story is compelling and doesn’t try to start a ministry. What Kurt Warner accomplished coming from an undrafted status to winning Super Bowls as a quarterback is remarkable. He literally did go from stocking shelves at the supermarket to an MVP in the NFL. That kind of story doesn’t happen every day and is exciting.

American Underdog (2021) - IMDb

Second, the Erwin’s got quality actors for the film. We all know Zachary Levi is charismatic and likable but so is Anna Paquin who plays Warner’s girlfriend/wife. Dennis Quaid does strong work as coach Dick Vermeil in a small role and little Hayden Zaller is wonderful as Warner’s step-son Zack. The whole cast makes for a story that’s easy to find inspiring because we like the characters and we want to cheer for them.

Finally, for this kind of movie the script is relatively gritty and honest. For example, Kurt and Brenda live together for a long time before getting married. They also meet in a bar and characters get intoxicated on occasion. It’s not like you need these elements to make a story work but it’s also nice the filmmakers didn’t shy away from them to appease their Christian audience either. It makes the victory in the end all the more enjoyable when you see where they come from and what they have overcome.

This holiday season if you are looking for something that will make you stand up and cheer check out American Underdog. It’s a rousing crowd pleaser for the whole family!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

 

[REVIEW] The Matrix Resurrections or I Might Give Up on Modern Sci-fi

I walked into The Matrix Resurrections hopeful to find a story I enjoy and find entertaining. I walked out depressed and baffled. If this is modern sci-fi I want no part of it and I count myself a fan of the original film from 1999.

This was just a complete mess masquerading as meta sci-fi. No thank you!

Keanu Reeves: Why Matrix Resurrection is not a sequel, his Sandra Bullock crush and 2021 stories | Marca

As best as I can make out this tells the story of Neo trying to figure out the Matrix again and find his love Trinity (now introduced as Tiffany) with an aged Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith). Along the way he faces a duplicitous game mogul version of Smith (Jonathan Groff) and a psychiatrist villain played by Neil Patrick Harris.

The Matrix 4 Trailer's Nod to the Gross Bug Machine May Be a Vital Clue

I have never been the biggest sci-fi fan, but I used to at least understand the movies even if they were a little slow and more style over substance. Now they try to cram so much substance that they lose the story. I guess at least with The Matrix Resurrections I could understand the dialogue unlike the baffling Tenet from last year. Other people are either smarter than I am or they don’t care that the plots make no sense in these movies. I don’t know. I can only share my experience.

Also just because something goes meta and has a message doesn’t automatically make it good. It still has to tell a story that makes sense with characters that grow and change. Not the case here. Honestly movies like this make me feel I was too hard on Reminiscence because at least that had a coherent story with characters that transformed. It was a little boring, but I’d watch it a hundred times over whatever this was.

If you like The Matrix Resurrections more power to you. I hated practically every minute of it.

Now please can someone make a good sci-fi film please? I need it!

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ or No Spoilers=Short Review

It’s no big secret I was not a fan of the last Spider-Man movie in the MCU, Spider-Man: Far From Home. I didn’t like the set up with Tony giving Peter, a teenager, a weapon. I didn’t like the villain motivation being another grudge against Tony Stark and I really didn’t like the attempts at humor like Peter getting caught getting undressed by a woman and then using the weapon to almost kill a schoolmate he thought might expose him. Also the illusions made no sense practically when you think about it. It was bad. Very bad.

So my expectations were not high for the sequel No Way Home. Now I have seen the film and it is a definite improvement from the last film. However,all the ways I liked it better would be considered spoilers. All the things I didn’t like would also be considered spoilers. This makes this review difficult to write. I seriously can’t think of a movie harder to talk about without spoilers than this film.

What I will say is that at its core Spider-Man: No Way Home is a movie about friendship. It’s about schoolmate friendships, mentor/mentee friendships, friends you have nothing in common with, friends who are very similar, and friends that are your parental figures/family. Some friends you chose and some are chosen for you but that all has value.

The biggest downside to the film is a problem I’ve had with Disney for a long time. They are presenting a perfect world where nobody is evil or bad and everyone can be redeemed or ”cured” of their sociopathic or evil tendencies. That’s just not reality. I know it’s a superhero movie but one of the best things about superhero movies and comics is their ability to teach children the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. Now everything is either doom and gloom over at DC or no villains exist at Disney. I don’t love that. It is supposed to make everything more nuanced but it instead makes everything bland and devoid of personality.

There also is a lot of time in this movie with people in rooms talking. Sometimes that works, other times it feels over-rehearsed and careful when it is supposed to be natural and conversational. It does also lean on nostalgia a bit but I enjoyed that aspect.

It will be interesting to see what people think of Spider-man: No Way Home. It’s an unusual entry in the MCU but going in with low expectations I enjoyed it and appreciated Peter Parker and all his friends.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

There is a mid-credits and post-credit scene so stick around!

[REVIEW] ‘Impeachment: American Crime Story’ or When Women Are Weaponized

It almost seems like a waste of time to write about a show that ended a month and a half ago but it seemed like nobody was talking about the latest season of American Crime Story dubbed ACS: Impeachment. I really enjoyed it and wanted to say my peace about it.

Impeachment tells the story of the events that led up to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998. I actually didn’t think Clive Owen was very good as the president but it didn’t matter because the show is not about him. The show is all about women and how they were all manipulated by a system that still even with #metoo does the same things today.

Sarah Paulson is unbelievable as Linda Tripp. She not only transforms before us (I didn’t even realize it was her she looks so different until I looked up the cast list!). Linda is a fascinating character because she both believes she is doing the right thing and she also has a major chip on her shoulder which is manipulated by her publicist and the investigators to go beyond what she is comfortable with. Then once she goes there she’s too stubborn to admit what she did might be wrong. Of course, she is responsible for her behavior but she also was marginalized and underappreciated to the point where most of us would be tempted to lash out and gain some control over her situation. Taping those calls might seem more than a little tempting if we were in her shoes (job well done by the creators making me care about Linda Tripp).

Then we have Beanie Feldstein perfectly cast as Monica Lewinsky. She is responsible for her choices but also manipulated by the most powerful man in the world. Then the investigators who treat her like she is some kind of war criminal trying to get the confession they need to bring down the man they hate.

Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford) is manipulated by lawyers and her husband when all she wants is an apology. Hillary Clinton is manipulated by the press, her husband and his team to be the long-suffering wife who can clean up the messes her husband leaves behind. This would follow her until her own run for the presidency. She was seen as both not feminine enough and yet too weak to lead the country by many. Edie Falco is fantastic as Hillary and I bet a lot of people might see a new side to her if they watched this show, or at least I did.

It’s a tricky thing to tell a story where everyone watching knows the key events and outcome, but I was riveted each week by ACS: Impeachment. It wasn’t about the events taking place but about the lives of these fascinating women and the way the system used, abused and spit them out as casualties to its mean game. Bill Clinton could go on and give speeches and play golf when Lewinsky, Tripp and Jones’ lives would never be the same. Even the very friendship which helps women survive in tough times was weaponized by these people as a tool to take down people they disliked without care of the lives ruined.

I suppose some people are just tired of politics after the presidency we all experienced (even if you are pro-Trump you can’t deny it was exhausting) so maybe there wasn’t an appetite for a political-based story? If so, that’s a shame because this was riveting television. Riveting television that reminds us all what women face each day and how unfair the system can be as it takes us in, squeezes us dry and spits us out for the world to mock.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy