Blind Spot 66: Beverly Hills Cop

Recently I watched Eddie Murphy’s classic comedy Coming to America and really enjoyed it. It was genuinely funny and had a sweet romance to it. Naturally when looking at another one of his classics, Beverly Hills Cop, I wasn’t expecting a romance but I did expect it to be funny. Now I have seen it and…I didn’t laugh. Maybe I’m missing something but it seemed like an ordinary police procedural?

The film definitely earns its R rating with language and some strong violence for a comedy but the story is pretty bland. Murphy plays a Axel Foley a Detroit cop who travels to Beverly Hills to try and look into the murder of his friend shown at the beginning of the film. While there he meets various local cops including detectives Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Taggart (John Aston).

The case involves a drug ring led by villain Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff). It was all extremely obvious and by the numbers. What surprised me was how serious the movie took itself? I was expecting to laugh more and the jokes were hardly there. I guess something like Foley putting bananas in the officers car tailpipe is funny? I’m not sure why but they referred to that incident several times as a sign of Foley’s wild ways. Huh?

I guess you can enjoy it as a cop procedural and there is some chemistry between Murphy, Reinhold and Ashton but if that’s the strength of the movie I wish they’d given them a more interesting case. Maybe they do in the sequels?

A lot of 80s comedies fall flat but this one didn’t even seem to be making jokes so I evidently am missing something? It felt long and was under 2 hours. It just did nothing for me.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Cruella’: It’s Weird but Ok I Guess?

I know people like us as critics to be sure about our opinions. To come out of the gate with a confident ‘masterpiece’ or ‘garbage’ about every film. Indeed, I know some critics who seem to be able to always know how they feel with ease. However, in my case I often struggle weighing the pros and cons and trying to decide how I actually feel.

Cruella is one of those moments. Even as I am writing this review I’m not entirely sure what grade I am going to give it. Smile or frown worthy? Hmmm.

Part of the problem is Cruella is a very strange movie. To begin with it tells the backstory of one of Disney’s most notorious villains Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians. But it’s not really for children and it doesn’t try to humanize Cruella in the way that Maleficent did. They aren’t telling you that she actually had the best interest of the puppies in mind or something like that.

It’s basically a Devil Wears Prada story but with both characters being wicked or ending wicked. What I liked about is both Emma Thompson and Emma Stone are having a blast in their roles. It’s a battle of wits in who can be the most cutthroat and evil and that’s fun to watch.

The fashion is also absolutely stunning and guaranteed an Oscar nomination come Awards season. Both the costuming and the hair and makeup are outstanding and very memorable.

It is also fun to see a series of heists staged during the fashion shows/galas but I wish they had only had 2 instead of 3 because it started to feel repetitive after a while. The music, for the part, works (they spent a fortune on the soundtrack) although it can be sometimes a little too on the nose and obvious.

In general the movie is way too long at 134 minutes and like I said feels repetitive after a while. Some of the nods to the original film are fun and others are cringeworthily obvious. In the end, it had a hard time overcoming the bizarre premise for a children’s film.

See Cruella for the fun performances and the fashion. I would love to see it do well because we need hits at the box office but just as far as quality I’d wait and watch it on Disney Plus. At least they tried something different rather than a remake like The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast. Maybe that’s a low bar but there it is. It has fun moments and is a weird experiment from Disney. If it sounds like your jam check it out and let me know what you think

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy (Barely)

Current Mini Reviews

Hey everyone! Got a quick 3 mini reviews for you today.  I am making more of an effort to see live theater these days so I will probably be a bit pickier when it comes to new movies. You can find my live theater reviews on my personal blog here.

I will have a review of Cruella tomorrow and Spirit Untamed for you on Friday but for now here are 3 new movies I’ve seen but haven’t been able to review yet.

Demon Slayer- The Movie: Mugen Train

Some movies based on anime shows can stand alone others need more backstory. Demon Slayer is the latter. I wish I had seen the show before watching the movie but I still enjoyed the film and it has inspired me to watch the show. This film takes the demon slayers from the show and puts them on a train that is possessed by demons. As they travel on the train and fight the demons we get to learn more about each of the slayer’s backstories and lives. It’s emotional, intense, violent and beautiful. The animation is gorgeous and as I saw the dub it was well done.

There are times I was confused but for the most part I got what was going on. So if you don’t have time to watch the series I still think it is worth seeing for the animation alone. The series is available on Netflix for all interested.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Top End Wedding

The first third of this Australian wedding romcom is very chaotic and random and I wasn’t sure it was going to be my thing but once it gets to the actual wedding it really works and I was invested. Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) and Ned (Gwilym Lee) have such great chemistry and you are really rooting for this couple to succeed.

There are all kinds of shenanigans from difficult parents who have to be hunted down, bachelorette parties that get out of hand and a boss with Cruella hair. Like I said, some of it is a too much but the core is so heartwarming and sweet I couldn’t help but love it.

It ends in one of the most satisfying weddings in recent memory. 2 good people have found and committed to each other and isn’t that what it is all about? A rom-com win that will leave you cheering.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Here Today

Some movies just have bad timing. Here Today is one of those films. Directed and starring Billy Crystal it has the best of intentions and is trying to be a sweet film about a man getting dementia. The problem is we just had an Oscar winning film about a man with dementia that was far superior in The Father. It’s impossible to not compare the two and find this one lacking.

Tiffany Haddish costars with Crystal as his friend who helps him with his family and come to terms with his dementia.We also get flashbacks to him and his kids and ideal wife (Louisa Krause).

Some people might compare Here Today with a Hallmark movie but honestly I think it lays on the sentimentality even too thick for Hallmark. I appreciate what they were going for but it gets lost in the cliches and trite characters I had trouble relating too. It’s too well-meaning to be awful but it didn’t really work for me.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

So there you go. Did you get to see any of these films? Let me know what you thought!

[REVIEW] ‘In the Heights’ or You’re Not Taking Away Their Shot

Most of you who know me well know I absolutely love musicals. Whether it is animated musicals from Disney and other studios, original films like Sing Street or The Greatest Showman or Broadway adaptations like Hairspray or My Fair Lady I am down with musicals!

In fact, this summer I am making a goal to see and support as many local musical and theater productions as I can. I have already seen 9 since I was cleared after my vaccination with more to come. You can read my theater reviews on my other blog here.

With this being my summer of musicals It is such kismet that 2021 is fixing to be the best year for musicals at the movies ever. In both live action and animated films we have practically a musical film opening (or going to streaming) every month! This includes filmed musicals like Diana and Come From Away to animated films like Vivo and Encanto! I can’t wait!

The first up in the live action department is In the Heights. This is based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tony award winning musical of the same name and tells the story of Usnavi de la Vega (Anthony Ramos) who dreams of going back to the Dominican Republic and run a bar there. Meanwhile he is grinding it out running a bodega in Washington Heights with an array of friends and family in the rapidly changing area.

Gentrification is coming and even the beloved hair salon is being forced to move. There is Nina back from Stanford. Abuela Claudia who Mothers and Grandmothers the entire street. Usnavi’s cousin Sonny helps him at the bodega but he has his own share of troubles. Usnavi also has a crush on Vanessa who can’t wait to get out of Washington Heights.

In the Heights is directed by Jon M Chu who is at his best in these spectacle musicals. He made the Step Up movies entertaining to watch despite their somewhat flimsy plots and he made the best rom-com in a long while with Crazy Rich Asians. (We won’t talk about his abysmal Jen and the Holograms adaptation. Yikes…). With him at the helm, it should be no surprise that the big bombastic (people are literally dancing on the side of buildings) dance and musical sequences are where In the Heights shines. They are so much fun!

There is also a nice heart to the film. I saw the show years ago and really enjoyed it and the team has done a great job translating the energy and sense of community of the stage musical into this feature film. The whole cast has an effortless chemistry (including Miranda as Piraguero, the piragua guy or shaved ice salesman).

They manage to touch on important issues facing areas like Washington Heights in effective ways and juggle a lot of characters without it seeming cluttered or flimsy. Watching In the Heights will leave you smiling but also reflective on what we can do better as a society to support communities especially with minority populations.

The only real flaw in the film is for the non-musical buffs the 143 minute runtime may be a bit wearing. They could have definitely cut down a few numbers and made things tighter- even for a musical fan like myself it ran a bit long.

Nevertheless, I loved In the Heights. It’s an energetic burst of song and passion at the movies. It promises to be the movie event of the summer!

8 out of 10

[REVIEW] A Quiet Place Part II: Quiet Film Brings Big Thrills

Crafting an effective sequel is extremely difficult- especially in the world of the horror/thriller genre. It’s tough to avoid the temptation to repeat the successful film and if they try something new it can backfire and not please the fans of the original film. This trend is what makes the achievement of A Quiet Place Part II all the more remarkable. I really enjoyed the first film but this sequel is one of the best horror movies I’ve ever seen. The two films together may very well be my favorite story of the genre (and I’m not one for hyperbole).

What makes this film work so well is the characters and the atmosphere director John Krasinski creates. He takes characters we really care about and then puts them in situations of real peril. He also uses the quiet to create tone and suspense that had me literally jumping from my seat on several occasions. You could hear a pin drop in my theater we were all so invested!

A Quiet Place Part II brings back the Abbott family from the previous film (Krasinski in flashback). Emily Blunt is on the run leading her family to try and find some kind of safety. This is made more difficult by the fact she has a newborn and they like to cry last time I checked.

She also has her 2 other children Marcus played by Noah Jupe and Regan played wonderfully by Millicent Simmonds. She’s practically the lead in this film and she does a great job!

They eventually run into Cillian Murphy’s Emmett who reluctantly helps them. All the characters work and I was invested in their journeys.

I won’t say any more but I encourage you to see A Quiet Place Part II in the theater if you can. It’s the kind of movie that will be better when part of a shared group experience. I’m looking forward to seeing it again in a regular audience instead of a critics screening.

The only real flaw I had with the film is I still don’t love the design of the aliens. They look pretty generic and the film loses some of its family feel from the first by splitting up the characters for a majority, but I still liked the journey of the characters, so it’s not much of a loss.

It’s a fantastic film! Don’t miss it!

9.5 out of 10

[REVIEW] ‘Dream Horse’ or How to Win at a Comfort Movie

Whenever I review a film I always ask myself if the movie succeeded in doing what it set out to to do. In other words, if it an action movie is the action good? If it’s a tearjerker did it make me cry? If it is a comedy did it make me laugh? It’s always a satisfying experience when I can confidently answer yes: the movie in question successfully executed its premise.

One such example is the new movie Dream Horse. It sets out to be a heartwarming inspirational true story and it is such a film. I really enjoyed this sweet story of community and never losing hope.

Dream Horse arrives in theaters tomorrow May 19th and tells the true story of a group of Welsh small town residents that gather together in a ‘Dream Alliance’ to pool their earnings and bread and raise a racehorse appropriately named Dream.

Toni Collette plays Jan, the leader of the group, and she’s just what you want in this kind of role. She’s likable while also being just enough of a spitfire to keep it from being too saccharine. I also really enjoyed Owen Teale as her husband Brian. He isn’t too thrilled about the Dream Alliance idea at first, but falls in love with the horse despite himself. Dream Horse is absolutely a feel-good movie but it is not too glossy (granted I’m the Hallmark girl so what do I know?). It shows the tough situation of most of the townspeople and even the big investor Howard, played by Damian Lewis, is barely hanging on to his marriage because of risky investments he recently made.

Sure it’s predictable but it’s also heart warming and will make even the crustiest Scrooges cheer. Watch it with your whole family. They will love it!

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Dream Horse is available 5/19 in theaters and 6/11 digitally


[REVIEW] ‘Finding You’ or Do You Like Rom-coms?

Anyone who follows this site knows I am a huge fan of romantic comedies. I review Hallmark movies for a living after all! Therefore, it should be no surprise I am kinder on the genre than many other critics. A film can be full of the tropes of the genre and I’m fine with that because I like the genre and I like those tropes.

Such is the case with the new film Finding You. Some will say it’s predictable and cheesy and they would be right, but it is exactly those elements that won me over to the film. Finding You is one of those movies if you watch the trailer and it looks sweet and enjoyable than you will like it. If you watch it and think ‘oh no another romantic comedy’ than you will hate it.

Not that I just give a blank check to romantic comedies. They have to be done well and for the most part Finding You is. The biggest strength it has is Rose Reid in the lead. She is warm, charming and easy to root for. I especially loved her interactions with screen legend Vanessa Redgrave. That dynamic seriously elevated the film.

Jedidiah Goodacre was serviceable but felt a bit miscast as the hunky fantasy movie-star Beckett Rush, whom Reid’s Taylor meets while studying abroad in Ireland. Most of the dragons movie elements have to be taken with a grain of salt as you don’t even see a green screen anywhere- the visual effects are amazingly present on days of shooting. LOL

Tom Everett Scott does a good job as Beckett’s father. The whole film has a better cast than the script probably warrants but it makes it entertaining to watch.

There is also a degree of escapism in trotting all around Ireland as we are all anxious to get traveling again. Fans of the genre will be swept away in a sweet romance at the cinema!

At nearly 2 hours Finding You could have used a trim and the chemistry wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be. However, if you like rom-coms than you will enjoy the film. It’s nothing new but I still had a fun time watching it.

6 out of 10

Blind Spot 65: Bonnie and Clyde

Part of the purpose of the Blind Spot series is to challenge myself to watch classic films outside of my comfort zone. These are usually films I’ve heard great things about but have been hesitant to watch for one reason or another. 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde definitely fall into that description. A landmark of its time Bonnie and Clyde is a film that changed cinema with its grounded feel and shocking violence and sensuality.

Of course, Bonnie and Clyde tells the story of the outlaw couple in Depression Era America. Bonnie is played by Faye Dunaway and Clyde by Warren Beatty. Gene Hackman and Estelle Parson also play notable supporting roles (Parson won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress). Burnett Guffey also won an Oscar for the incredible cinematography.

The best thing about Bonnie and Clyde is its realism. Even though I know it plays fast and loose with the real story of the couple, when you are watching it feels real. It feels like what it might actually have been like stealing and scrounging for food and lodging- learning to dodge bullets along the way. Nothing feels clean or glossed up for the movies.

As you are watching you feel the exhaustion from the actors as if they were actually experiencing the events of the film. And by the time you get to its very graphic ending it is a relief for the chase is finally be over. I can see why critics like Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert were so drawn to such a visceral piece of work.

All that said, the film could do a better job in helping us to get to know Bonnie and Clyde as characters better. They are always kept at a distance and that’s a weakness in the script. Also, this type of violence just isn’t my cup of tea so I don’t picture myself ever watching Bonnie and Clyde ever again.

Still, I’m glad I saw it once to see a turning point in film and to broaden the scope of the films I have seen.

Have you seen Bonnie and Clyde? What did you think of this classic?

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘My True Fairytale’

Making movies is difficult and some films are enjoyable despite having a lot of problems. Sometimes you can dig deep and see what the director is going for and have a good experience in spite of or maybe even because of the flaws. This was my experience with director Dmitry Geland’s new film My True Fairytale.

Inspired by the tragic death of his teenage daughter in an accident, Geland tells a story about a young girl named Angie (Emma Kennedy) who is killed in a car crash and then becomes a superhero who helps her friends connect with their parents (and vice versa).

Some of Angie’s rescue attempts work better than others and at only 85 minutes all the stories feel a little rushed. My favorite is Angie helping her father (Darri Ingolfsson) connect with his girlfriend played by Taylor Cole. This was fun for me because I have interviewed Taylor and it was neat to see her in a more dramatic role away from Hallmark. I thought she did a good job in her scenes and I kind of wish the whole movie had been about them.

Speaking of Hallmark, I would not be surprised at all if this film gets picked up by the channel’s competitors either Lifetime or Uptv because the length is more of a TV movie length rather than a feature film. Plus, the themes and messages have the melodrama that works in a TV movie.

If you are looking for something with a big heart that comes from a true place I recommend My True Fairytale. It’s not perfect but especially teens and their families will relate to it and be inspired to improve their relationships. We can certainly all use a little magic in our lives to help us get along with our loved ones!

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy