‘WONKA’ or It’s an Uneven Concoction But Worth Eating

Hey everyone! It’s no great secret that the internet loves hyperbole. Most movies are either total disasters or masterpieces these days and yet I am still surprised when I see that reaction to a movie I think is a decidedly mixed bag. This is how I felt about the new film Wonka. In fact, when I told a friend I had mixed feelings on it they responded ‘oh that’s too bad.’ Again, mixed feelings. I thought some things were fantastic in it and other aspects didn’t work for me. I’ll say it again- MIXED.

Let’s talk about the strengths first. My biggest takeaway with Wonka is I think I’m finally squarely on the  Timothée Chalamet hive. I’ve enjoyed him in films like Little Women and Call Me By Your Name but never been completely won over like I was here. He is charming with a wink in his eye that reminded me of Gene Wilder in the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. He always seems like a nicer person than the Wonka in that film but it is appropriate since this is a prequel and he hasn’t been as embittered by the world.

I also loved the musical sequences and have no idea why the studio is hiding the film’s greatest asset. Not a song to be found on youtube or in the marketing. It’s bizarre and speaks to a troubling trend in promoting musicals which can be seen in Wonka, The Color Purple, and the upcoming Mean Girls: The Musical. Barely any songs to be found in the trailers for musicals!

Most of the cast in Wonka is enchanting along with Chalamet including Calah Lane as a little orphan girl named Noodle,  Sally Hawkins as his mother, and Hugh Grant as the Oompa-Loompa. All together they kept me rooting for the characters and invested in their story.

As far as the downsides to the film I didn’t love the plot they chose involving Willy becoming an indentured servant to Olivia Colman’s Mrs Scrubbit. I know Roald Dahl stories always have horrible female antagonists but she wasn’t fun in an over-the-top way and it just wasn’t whimsical or ghoulishly entertaining. I also couldn’t stand a series of fat jokes and suits involving Keegan-Michael Key’s policeman character. I am not someone that requires body positivity in characters but it’s also not inherently funny to have someone get progressively more obese for laughs.

My other complaint is admittedly more of a nitpick: they didn’t make the chocolate look very tasty. Whenever Willy gave a character a chocolate or ate one himself it looked like hard plastic. I know you could say that about the original with the rivers of chocolate water but there were moments the candy looked good like when he eats the tulip cup or the mushroom with marshmallow in it.

I always thought this mushroom looked particularly good

I just wish the movie had been a little more escapist when it comes to the confections. It would have added to the whimsy of it all.

That said, Wonka is still a whimsical musical with a great leading performance that helps overcome any of its flaws. I will be curious once general audiences get to take a look at it. Will they be as enchanted as most critics seem to be or leave with a more bitter taste in their mouths? We will see. As for me it’s flawed but worth a taste!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Exmas or How to do the Holiday Hijinks Right

Today I want to give my quick thoughts on the latest Christmas comedy to hit Freevee app, which is a spinoff of Amazon prime. It is one of the many holiday films I am reviewing as part of Hallmarkies Podcast and one of my favorites of this initial batch for 2023. It’s interesting because usually the family shenanigans brand of holiday film isn’t my favorite (not a big fan of The Family Stone for instance) but this one stayed just grounded enough to be able to relate with and kept the characters likable enough to enjoy the experience.

In the movie Robbie Amell plays a man who after he tells his family he isn’t coming home for Christmas they invite his ex who they were close with to stay with them for the holidays. This all seems great until surprise Amell comes to visit after all and then must spend the holiday with his ex (who of course he still harbors feelings for since she dumped him.)

Some may find this to be an outlandish premise but I don’t. I could totally picture my parents inviting an ex they had grown close with to stay for the holidays if they had been reassured the child who dated them wasn’t coming. That’s a clever and funny premise to start the movie and the antics continue on from there.

Exmas wins because it has the energy of the old screwball comedies from the 50s and it never allows our leads to be too mean-spirited or judgmental. It’s always kept within a space where we believe them falling in love again by the end of the film. There are also a lot of funny family moments with everything from ice fishing to a hilarious sequence where they all accidently get high.

With everything going on in the world right now we can all use a good-hearted laugh and that’s what you get with Exmas. It’s romantic, funny and gives you all those holiday feels. I really enjoyed it.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Blind Spot 95: ‘A Fistful of Dollars’

This month’s blind spot is an interesting one because it’s not only checking off a classic film off of my watch list but it’s my introduction to an entire genre. It’s the first spaghetti western I’ve ever seen. I have never seen a film by director Sergio Leone, and I don’t believe any other westerns made by Italian directors. Today we are looking at perhaps the most famous spaghetti western- A Fistful of Dollars.

This movie is a pretty iconic one, a film I can recognize the famous scenes even though I hadn’t seen it. In particular the final duel where the Stranger has the metal plate on and the bullets bounce off I’d definitely seen before.

Clint Eastwood is perfect for this role of the Stranger with a brooding sense of coolness and confidence. This isn’t a nuanced performance but it works for the gravitas of the movie. It’s also only 99 minutes where today it would definitely be stretched out to an interminable runtime.

It is a very bloody movie with the Stranger becoming involved in a feud between 2 families in Mexico. I honestly started to lose track of who was taking revenge on who and for what reasons but it doesn’t matter because it’s not a movie you see for the plot. It’s all about these western duels and Eastwood’s charisma with a gun. His draw is so fast and he’s so quick with his pistol that it makes him a threat in any situation. You can certainly see why everyone is intimidated to go against him!

There’s not that much more to A Fistful of Dollars. If you want a bloody movie with a memorable star turn from Eastwood give it a watch. It also has the terrific music from Ennio Morricone, so that adds a layer of enjoyment. If it sounds like your kind of thing you’ll definitely enjoy it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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WISH or Can I Wish for Something Memorable? (Disney Movie 62)

Some that are  new to my writing might not know that my whole journey as a critic started with reviewing the Disney Canon. I had torn my ACL and needed something to occupy my time so leading up to Big Hero 6 I reviewed all the Disney animated classics. This is why my site was originally called 54Disneyreviews. Once I finished that project I enjoyed writing about film so much I decided to keep it up and eventually that expanded to youtube, podcasts etc and my whole life changed.

I mention this history only to say that an animated Disney musical that pays homage to 100 years of filmmaking should be right up my alley. This is what they promised to produce with their latest offering Wish but unfortunately what they have given us is something truly forgettable. Even today just a few days out from seeing it I am struggling to remember anything remarkable. That was not the case with other recent animated offerings. For example, I was humming “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” and thinking about some of the moments of that film for weeks after I saw it. I guess there was Strange World but it’s not a throwback princess musical that I should have loved!

I actually don’t think Wish is a terrible film. There is nothing offensive or woke about it so alarmists can calm down. It just wasn’t memorable or special. It honestly reminded me of the Disney renaissance copycat films made by other studios like a Swan Princess but I prefer that film over this. Someone in my comments accused me of hating on a film that I’m not in the ‘target demographic’ for but I don’t think that is it. I wouldn’t be surprised if kids end up feeling restless and disengaged from it. The story just isn’t there (I’d like to remind that person I enjoyed both Paw Patrol movies outside of my demographic.)

The main problem is with the screenplay. The heroine Asha lives in a city where subjects must give up their wishes to leader Magnifico who keeps them locked up so that he can grant wishes each month. Asha goes to Magnifico in hopes he will grant her Grandfather’s wish but it turns out he is a wish hoarder who controls his people rather than helping them. There’s also a troop of sidekicks, a Queen (who is probably the best character in the movie) and a talking goat.

Inside the wishes there are lots of nods to classic Disney films and unfortunately I found myself wishing I was watching one of them at all times. Even the songs, which are fine, had me wishing for other better songs of a similar vein. Ariana DeBose is a good singer and particularly “This Wish” is the standout which is why it’s the one song they’ve been using in the promos.

I do appreciate they made Magnifico a straight up bad guy and gave him a villain song “This is the Thanks I Get.” The Queen has a redemption arc, which like I said, works quite well but all the other sidekicks I found bland to outright annoying (especially Valentino. A little of him goes a LONG way.) For the most part I liked the 2D aesthetic to the animation and the design of the star character had a vintage appeal to it, so that was enjoyable.

And that’s all I really have to say about Wish. It’s a totally forgettable entry from Disney and a real missed opportunity to make their 100 year anniversary special. During the closing credits they have images of characters from those 100 years and while that was nice it only underscored how the film we had just saw wouldn’t be amongst those greats. I hate to say it but this one you can probably wait to watch on Disney Plus if you are curious.

5.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (Poor Things, Leo, Maestro, Napoleon, May December, All of Us Strangers, Trolls: Band Together, Down in Dallas Town)

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well and are keeping busy like I am. These last few weeks have been very intense with daily screenings (sometimes more) plus everything I’m trying to keep up with at Hallmarkies Podcast. Needless to say it has been overwhelming and I have a ton of movies to catch you all up on. In an ideal world I’d be able to do longer reviews on all of these films but there just isn’t time. So here goes:


Poor Things is the latest film from Yorgos Lanthimos and like all of his films it is definitely not going to be for everyone. It’s a new take on the Frankenstein story with Emma Stone in the monster role (this time a woman brought back from the dead with the brain of a baby) and the movie follows her through each stage of her development from childhood to puberty to sexual and political awakening etc.

One thing that can’t be debated is Stone gives a fearless performance here not holding back whether she is playing a baby or a prostitute servicing clients in Paris. The rest of the performances are fine but she is this movie. The rest of the production is very impressive from the costumes to the fish-eye emphasizing cinematography. Unfortunately the movie is also self-indulgent and far too long. I wish they had cut the entire Paris section, not because it is sexually explicit but because it is very repetitive and doesn’t tell us much we didn’t already learn about Bella in the previous segment on the boat.

Still, the film was interesting enough and Stone committed enough to the role to recommend to the right moviegoer. If you are up for something ambitious and challenging maybe give this one a shot.

7 out of 10 (this film is a hard R rating so buyer beware)

Smile Worthy


I have a feeling I might end up with an unpopular opinion about Maestro. It feels like this year’s The Fabelmans that everyone loved that I didn’t connect with. Indeed my main problem with both films is the same: authenticity. Like The Fabelmans, Maestro felt phony and inauthentic most of the time.

I can understand why Bradley Cooper chose to play Leonard Bernstein as a mannered, flamboyant character in parties and he and his wife Felicia putting on airs for their associates (mostly to hide his bisexuality and their open marriage.) What I don’t understand is why that needed to continue into their private conversations and interactions. I wanted them to be real for a few seconds and they rarely were.

There are nice moments of performance, particularly  a climatic one in a church and I enjoyed the way Bernstein’s music was used throughout but I left feeling frustrated with how shallow and one-note the screenplay was. No thanks

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy


Like a lot of Netflix films Leo ends up being a bit of a frustrating experience. There are some elements I really admire about it but the script is uneven at best.

First, what I like is that it shows the different it makes when parents and adults put down their judgmental caps and actually listen to children. Leo is a lizard that reveals to students he can talk when he thinks he is going to die. Each of the kids flourishes when they have someone in their lives who just listens to them.

The problem is the story really doesn’t work. Particularly when it comes to a substitute teacher that sometimes is a mean demon and other times we are expected to feel sorry for. Also the movie can’t decide whether to be a musical or not. Some songs are stopped mid-way through and we never hear the rest of the song and then other sequences are full-on from a musical.

This one is close but I can’t recommend it.

5.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy


When the first trailer for Napoleon came out some loudly complained they were painting a dictator in a heroic light. I, like many others, responded that there’s nothing wrong with making a movie about a flawed or even evil person depending on how it is done. Under the right hands a movie about Napoleon and his rise to power could be enlightening and fascinating. Unfortunately Ridley Scott was not such hands and he has given us a biopic of Napoleon that feels like 19th century propaganda rather than a serious exploration of a the impact of power on this general turned emperor.

I couldn’t believe how positive a portrayal of Napoleon this film is. The main conflict is not that his campaigns led to 3 million deaths as the ending card tells us but that he has to divorce his wife in order to produce an heir. The film spends so much time on his personal drama that you almost forget he is ruling people. Someone said ‘well he was a hero to the people.’ Unfortunately that is not a perspective demonstrated by Scott as they people are rarely heard from aside from a couple scenes with him and the soldiers.

The battle sequences are well staged although do not watch if you are sensitive to violence on horses. That scope of battle might be enough for some to enjoy Napoleon but it certainly wasn’t enough for me.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy


I have never been the biggest fan of the Trolls series. I like the aesthetic and some of the songs but the messaging always ends up feeling muddled and the characters annoying. I was hopeful the addition of NSYNC would help boost the latest entry Trolls Band Together but I think I actually liked it the least of the franchise. My main problem was Poppy and how relentlessly annoying she is. I know I’m not the target demographic for these films but oh my gosh she got on my nerves.

What is so grating about Poppy is she doesn’t listen. I’m fine with cheerful, upbeat characters but she steamrolls all around her including Branch until they give up and let her brand of music or way of doing things rule. I’ve always found it strange in these movies how freedom of expression is preached unless you do something differently than Poppy and then you need to change (Branch not wanting to dance in the first one, people liking rock music in the 2nd etc.)

I also felt the animation was strange in this one with some character designs not fitting in with the style of the movie. For example, the villains Velvet and Veneer looked like poorly rendered plastic rather than the textured characters of the Trolls worlds.

We are also promised things like Poppy’s sister and the NSYNC reunion that are delivered in an underwhelming fashion. I just couldn’t wait for it to be over.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy



May December is the latest from director Todd Haynes who even if his films don’t work usually makes interesting works of art that give me something to think about. Such is the case with May December. It unfortunately becomes muddled and can’t decide what it is trying to say but it is an interesting misfire with everyone trying their best to make it work.

In the film Natalie Portman plays an actress who is playing a Mary Kay Letourneau type person pursued a young man when he was only 15 but they maintained a relationship with each other just like in the Letourneau situation. As Portman’s character becomes more involved with the family the line between research and obsession becomes more murky.

Like I said, the problem with this film is it becomes muddled. It at times wants to be an erotic thriller but then at other times it wants to comment on them (even with the music it seeemd to want to be a Lifetime movie but then held such exposes in disdain.) It wanted to be about sexual predators, women, victims, children raised in toxic environments, acting, etc. Sadly none of these topics get explored in a satisfying way leaving me confused with what Haynes is trying to say and what I’m supposed to get from this confused commentary on modern society. Charles Melton is very good as the victim and husband.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy


Going into All of Us Strangers I admit my expectations were high. I have loved all of Andrew Haigh’s films to date, particularly Lean on Pete from 2017. While I did like some things about his latest entry I left feeling disappointed with the execution and story structure.

What I did like is the chemistry between Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott. It really shines and I could have had even more scenes with them together and less of Scott visiting his parents. Jamie Bell and Claire Foy play his parents (it makes sense within the story) and mostly I found their scenes repetitive and the big reveal obvious.

It’s not a terrible film by any means but not one I will remember like I’ve remembered Lean on Pete.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy


I love documentaries that take risks and try new things with the format. Such is the case with Down in Dallas Town a new documentary about the day JFK was assassinated and how it changed everything. What was particularly interesting is interviews with people who were there and one woman Mary Ann Moorman who took a photograph of shot that killed the president. She hadn’t been back for 50 years and her journey is moving.

Where the documentary is less effective in how it tries to bring the assassination into the current discussions on gun violence and especially homelessness. Some of the connections felt repetitive and a bit of a reach- like the filmmaker wanted to talk about the issues whether they really connected with the assassination or not.

Nevertheless, the elements with Moorman are insightful and provocatively enough to recommend.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it. Watching all these films was a ton of work! Sorry I wasn’t more positive but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.

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‘THE MARVELS’ or How Not Even a Singing Planet Can Make Me Like This Homework

Over the years as a film critic my relationship with superhero movies has been an interesting one. In many ways I’m a defender of the genre and find those who dismiss them as not being cinema to be absurd. However, the fandoms surrounding the popcorn films often make them hard to stand up for or engage with and this goes for both DC and Marvel. It also doesn’t help that the films, outside of animation, have been largely weak for a while now. Sure we get an occasional Guardians of the Galaxy vol 3 but most are underwhelming at best. The latest to join this club is The Marvels from the MCU. To say this film is a disjointed, confusing mess would be an understatement. It makes mixed entries like Thor: Love and Thunder look coherent and well done. If the combination of this and the very underwhelming latest Antman movie don’t give Marvel the wakeup call they need I don’t know what will.

I know some people complained about Dr Strange 2 being too tied to Wandavision and that was a concern I had, but I gave it a bit of a pass because Wandavision was in the heart of the pandemic when theaters were closed so most people attending MOM had probably seen it. Now we have The Marvels that requires heavy knowledge of the last Captain Marvel movie, Wandavision and Ms Marvel and I’m sorry but it really felt like homework this go-around. I wish someone had told me I needed to have seen all of this before watching the film and even if I had I still think I would be confused because of the choppy editing.

It is abundantly clear this movie was heavily influenced by reshoots. Characters are introduced and then we move away from them for a long while, plot points are scattered haphazardly without concern for flow or a coherent story. This is especially true with our villain, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), who I think we are supposed to sympathize with but the character arc is so choppy and the performance so bland that I was completely unmoved by her.

It’s a shame because the 3 leads do have a nice chemistry together and there are fun individual moments. Iman Vellani is particularly good as the Captain Marvel hype girl Ms Marvel. I don’t know why they didn’t have her team up with America Chavez from MOM. The two of them have similar energy and would be a good dynamic but she is cute.

I also died laughing at a scene involving cats and Cats if you get my drift. They even have a section where they go to a planet where everyone sings all the time. That should be right up my ally but it was so disconnected from the villain and the story it only mildly amused me. For some reason (I guess?) Captain Marvel needs to destroy the sun because of AI that she destroyed in the first movie. This caused genocide of a people and this involves Monica Rambeau for some reason. I was lost.

I am sure some will say ‘but Rachel it’s just a fun movie’ and I do have to give it credit for being short. Most comicbook movies are so bloated these days but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some coherence in story and character arcs in my ‘fun movies’ these days. There might have been a good movie buried somewhere in The Marvels but what I saw was a big mess. My Marvel ladies deserve much better than one of the worst movies the MCU has sadly ever produced (My advice stay home and watch Across the Spiderverse and TMNT instead.)

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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2 Wildly Different Holiday Films Both Fun: IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE, JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM Reviews

When I say I cover all things holiday over at Hallmarkies Podcast well I  mean what I say and today’s review is proof of this! Opening this week we have 2 wildly different Christmas themed movies but I enjoyed both and both take their holiday origins to spark creativity and joy in their own ways.



Before I give my review I had the opportunity to interview the director, Adam Anders, after I saw the film. He was also on the creative team behind Glee and High School Musical so it’s a fun interview. Give it a listen!

I wouldn’t be surprised if Journey to Bethlehem isn’t treated kindly by most critics. It takes creative swings that will definitely be divisive. I am more curious to see how the faith-based market responds to it, as it’s not typically a market that gets artistic visions or creative storytelling.

As for me, a non-traditional Christian and more importantly in this case lover of musicals I really enjoyed Journey to Bethlehem. They do a challenging thing taking a story we know well and injecting energy and passion into it and reminding us of themes within that typically don’t get emphasized.

For example, Mary and Joseph’s love story is amplified in the narrative. We sometimes forget how risky it was for Mary to be an unwed mother at that time and for Joseph to marry her despite her pregnancy was a bold move. This is true whether you believe in the divinity of her pregnancy or not.

They also have a lot of fun with Antonio Banderas’ take on Herod. It’s a great example of an actor who knows his job and brings it with just enough camp to sell the role. His song “Good to Be King” is a musical highlight and a ton of fun.

The rest of the music is what you would expect from a creator of Glee. It’s big and brassy and if you know me that’s what I love. My other favorite song is “The Ultimate Deception” where Joseph battles with an angel and devil telling him what he should do with Mary. It’s very clever and well sung by Milo Manheim (who has huge charisma here as well as in this year’s Prom Pact)

Some religious viewers will bristle at the modern interpretations to the story in Journey to Bethlehem but since I’m not a traditionalist I appreciate the risks they took. I also like energetic musicals with big spectacle and that’s what I got here. It’s fun and that’s hard to do with a story like this. It captures the warmth and hope of the Christmas story with a burst of creativity and music. Sign me up!

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy


Followers of my reviews know I’m not the biggest slasher fan but I have been trying to expand my palate in all genres in the last few years and I try to see all of the holiday films even if they are of the horror variety. When I saw the trailer for It’s a Wonderful Knife I figured it was either going to be super cringeworthy and cheap or a fun horror take on a story we know well. Fortunately after having seen the film I can say it is the latter. I’m so glad I enjoyed it because we are going to be doing a special episode of Hallmarkies Podcast on holiday horror in the next few weeks showcasing this film and my friend Lee from Drumdums youtube and Sean Chandler. They are horror experts so can speak to the movie’s quality within the genre but as a novice I had a lot of fun with it.

The movie takes the idea of alternate lives from It’s a Wonderful Life and adds a serial killer to the mix (I laugh just writing that!) It’s a pretty bloody movie but the plot is murders start happening in a small town and in desperation a teen wishes she’d never been born because she thinks she’s bad luck causing the murders.

Jane Widdop is likable as our grinchy lead. Justin Long is a favorite of mine and wonderful as the untrustworthy mayor and Joel McHale is terrific as Widdop’s father. Director Tyler MacIntyre creates eerie holiday tinged atmosphere and the tension builds with each murder.

The only thing that could have been improved is there aren’t very many nods or Easter eggs to the original film. They could have had more fun with that. Maybe name a character Potter or a bar named Martinis to pay homage? You don’t need to have seen the original film to enjoy this one and the movie isn’t as meta in that regard as I had hoped.

Still, if you are looking for a bloody good time this Christmas It’s a Wonderful Knife is a perfect choice. Give it a try. It just might surprise you!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Merry Christmas movie watching!

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Current Mini Reviews (The Killer, Rustin, Mars Express, What Happens Later)

Hey everyone! We are getting into the busy season both for my Christmas movie coverage at Hallmarkies Podcast and awards season for regular moviegoing. For this upcoming week I have a screening almost every night and in the case of tomorrow I could see 2 movies if I was interested in the new Hunger Games prequel. Crazy busy! Before all that starts I wanted to update on a few of the films I’ve seen lately:


I think one’s experience with The Killer will have a lot to do with expectations. If you are expecting a David Fincher masterpiece than you might be disappointed. If you are expecting a solid, well-crafted character piece you’ll be satisfied. Michael Fassbender gives a smoldering, near-solo performance as a hitman who’s plans go awry.

Fincher is definitely paying homage to film noir classics like Double Indemnity but the ever-present naration can be a bit  much. At times it even felt like self-parody it was so on-the-nose. Still, there are some great sequences like a fight mid-movie that is superbly staged.

With The Killer you have a slickly made film with a commanding lead performance but not one you need to rush out to see and fortunately you don’t have to because it’s for Netflix.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy


Also coming to Netflix we have the biopic Rustin based on the life of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. I have to admit this is a person I have never heard of so that’s on me and the film does a pretty good job introducing us to this enigmatic figure. Rustin is unique because not only did he do the groundwork coordinating the March on Washington in 1963 but he was an openly gay man at that time.

Colman Domingo gives an excellent performance as Rustin and the supporting cast is strong with a few exceptions (I’m talking to you Chris Rock.) I particularly enjoyed seeing Jeffrey Wright as Adam Clayton Powel Jr and Audra McDonald as Ella Baker. Da’Vine Joy Randolph puts in another wonderful performance after The Holdovers as Mahalia Jackson.

All that said, Rustin doesn’t do anything to elevate itself over the typical biopic but as I didn’t know anything about this person I was fine with it. Give it a watch when it comes to Netflix.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy


Unfortunately I was not able to attend the Animation is Film Festival in Los Angeles this year, but I did get to screen one of the films making its US Premiere there. It’s called Mars Express and is definitely something sci-fi and adult animation fans will want to keep on their radar.

It’s interesting because to see the similarities between this and the recently released The Creator (which I really enjoyed but most seemed underwhelmed by.) It’s hard to say what people will think of this sci-fi story, but I think its AI narrative is a little tighter and should be less problematic for viewers.

The animation from first time director  Jérémie Périn is stunning with a gritty yet immersive feel. It definitely takes inspiration from Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Blade Runner and more but the world he creates on Mars is unique enough to stand on its own. I particularly liked Aline as our lead character looking into the world of AI crime on Mars. I also loved the score as it gave the moody noir feel you want in a movie like this.

Mars Express is definitely one to keep an eye out for when it gets a mainstream release next year.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy


As the host of the Hallmarkies Podcast I am naturally a big fan of romantic comedies and for years we weren’t getting many of them in the theaters. This is why I was thrilled to see Meg Ryan not only coming out with a new movie (her first since 2015) but she directed and adapted the screenplay from a play. I’m a huge Meg Ryan fan and was excited to see her come back to the genre she hasn’t dabbled in since 2008. Now I have seen What Happens Later and it’s a mixed bag but I think worthy of a recommendation.

You can immediately tell this film is based on a play as it only as Ryan and David Duchovny are the only characters with vocal lines aside from an over-head voice. To be honest I thought for a while we were heading towards a twist that this was the afterlife and they had to reconcile their relationship before flying off to the spirit world (she’s even wearing white) but it doesn’t play out that way; although, there are surreal moments thrown in that make a person think this way (My friend Terry had the same feeling so I’m not alone.) I also felt like her character was a manifestation of the grown up Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which was interesting.

In the end What Happens Later comes down to the script. I’d say about 60% of the banter works and is charming. Duchovny and Ryan have nice chemistry and there are some sweet moments as they unravel their past. Unfortunately the other 40% feels very phony, contrived and the film definitely over-stays its welcome, having more endings than it should. Again, it’s a mixed bag but the stuff that works is pleasant enough for me to recommend. Hopefully this will inspire Ryan to make more rom-coms and keep the resurgence of the genre going. Welcome back Meg!

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it! Let me know what you have been watching and keep an eye on the site as we have a lot of screenings and reviews coming up!

If you like my writing and want to support what I do check out the patreon for some great perks here..

Blind Spot 94: Trick ‘R Treat

If you’ve followed my content for any amount of time you know I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror movies. Nevertheless, I try each year for blind spot to expand my palate and watch an iconic horror film I’ve missed. For the most part that has been a positive experience but I have to admit this year’s selection, Trick ‘R Treat was not one of those moments. It’s not just that the movie was too gory for my taste but its narrative is scattered with too many characters to become invested in thereby, making the scares less chilling than they would be for characters I know and love.

To begin with the trick-or-treater villain with the burlap pumpkin costume isn’t in the movie very much. If anything the villainous school principle Steven Wilkins is more of the villain of the piece but even he isn’t developed very well because the screenplay is constantly moving away from him.

Trick ‘R Treat takes a non-linear approach telling the story of a whole neighborhood that gets haunted on Halloween night. We start out with Emma and Henry in definitely the most gruesome scene of the film and then move over to Principal Wilkins and a boy Charlie who steals candy. Later we learn about a school bus accident where parents wanted to stage an ‘accident’ of their disabled children. Then there are 4 young women who are trying to get laid on Halloween but they have a secret they are ready to release on their dates. Finally we have Kreeg, a grumpy old man, who may have a connection to the bus accident from many years before.

There is definitely tons of gore in Trick ‘R Treat. It is without a doubt the most violent and disgusting film I’ve watched for Blind Spot but I imagine horror fans will enjoy that aspect and have fun with it. I’m a sympathetic puker and gagged at especially one key scene where a character throws up. Gross but I can also see some having fun with the grossness.

My problem was mainly the amount of characters and not being able to emotionally invest in any of them or their narratives. That’s what makes a horror movie scary is when we feel tied to the characters and don’t want anything bad to happen to them. This builds tension and makes the ride exciting. Trick ‘R Treat missed that in its over-crowded screenplay.

I’m not the best judge when it comes to horror and I know many love this movie so count me as an outlier opinion. It wasn’t my favorite and I’d probably never watch it again

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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