[REVIEW] ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ or the Best Minions Sequel?

Anyone who has followed my reviews for any amount of time knows I am not the biggest fan of the Despicable Me franchise and in particular the gibberish-talking minions that took over the world in 2010. I even just did a podcast episode with my friend Stanford on how I think Megamind, which came out the same year with a similar story, is the better film.

I especially did not like the first Minions movie and found the screenplay to be off-putting and lazy. So suffice it to say I did not have much hope for the sequel Minions: The Rise of Gru and the fact I had to watch trailers for the film for 2 years did not do much to increase my enthusiasm.

Well, consider me surprised that I actually had a decent time with this film. (This is why I always try and keep my mind open to any film I sit down to watch.) I know it’s  damning with faint praise but it might be the best in the franchise since the original Despicable Me movie? It still has problems and I still find the minions to be annoying but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t laugh quite a bit in this zany adventure.

Minions Take an Airplane on a Wild Joy Ride in New Trailer For MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU — GeekTyrant

The minions at their best capture a the antics of a silent movie comedy. For example in this film there is a sequence where the 3 main minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob are flying a plane and it’s ridiculous but funny in a classic slapstick way (I think it is Bob that also gets stuck in the airplane toilet which is pretty funny.

Minions: The Rise of Gru' Review: A Delightfully Silly Sequel - Variety

They also spend big money on music for these movies and with this one set in 1976 they get a lot of humor off of famous song drops. One of my favorites is a funeral scene where the minions in a choir sing ”You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones. That was funny. Little Gru is also a big step up from Gru and Dru we got in Despicable Me 3.

Minions: The Rise Of Gru To Open Annecy Animation Fest In World Premiere – Deadline

Unfortunately there are some negatives to Minons: The Rise of Gru. The plot with the Vicious 6 drags and especially the action towards the end is bland. It feels like something we’ve seen a million times. I honestly just wanted it to get back to the slapstick laughs again. The animation is also fine but it doesn’t do anything to stand out or be visually special.

Also, this film is not helped by the fact it is so similar to the recently released The Bad Guys, from DreamWorks which is superior in every way. The animation in The Bad Guys is much better but also the script, story, characters and even the voice-work are better.

Perhaps Minions: The Rise of Gru is helped by extremely low expectations but I can’t deny that I laughed a fair amount. If you are a fan of the franchise you will enjoy this one and even if you are a skeptic like me it might win you over. At the least, I bet a lot of people will agree with me this is the best entry since the original Despicable Me film. Go figure!

6 out of 10

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Current Mini Reviews (The Black Phone, RISE, The Outfit, Love & Gelato, Trevor: the Musical)

Hey everyone! I am back with some more quick reviews for a lot of new films I’ve watched this week. There is quite a variety and a lot of good movies so let’s get started!

The Black Phone (2021) - IMDb

The Black Phone

I’m normally not a big horror gal, but I also try to have an open mind to every genre. My friends told me The Black Phone was more of a thriller than horror and so I decided to give it a shot, and turns out they were right. Not only is it a supernatural thriller but it’s a darn good one to boot!

Director Scott Derrickson takes a short story by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) and crafts it into a tight effective throwback thriller. Ethan Hawke plays “The Grabber” a masked man who abducts and murders children. We also see his latest victim Finney (Mason Thames) use a mysterious black phone to help him get free while his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) channels her dreams to find her brother.

The Black Phone has classic beats we’ve seen before but done effectively with great child performances. However, it also has surprises especially using the supernatural elements to bring in heart as we get more anxious for Finney with every passing moment. There’s even a couple jump scares that certainly got my upright attention!

Even if you don’t like horror movies this one might surprise you. It certainly did that for me. Check out The Black Phone and have a great time with a summer horror with heart and chills!

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Rise | Disney+ Originals


Next we have Rise on Disney Plus. This continues the grand tradition of Disney Sports movies with films like Miracle, Glory Road and McFarland USA. This time we are learning about the story of the 3 Nigerian-Greek brothers from the Antetokounmpo family. Evidently Giannis is the biggest star at the NBA (I don’t follow sports or basketball)

The film starts when the boys are young and is really about the entire family emigrating to Greece and starting basketball. They end up trying out for the NBA and all 3 playing with Giannis getting drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013.

At just under 2 hours, there are moments where Rise can drag but I appreciate it tells more than just one underdog sports story. It’s really a family and immigrant story more than anything else.  Yetide Badaki and Dayo Okeniyi are good as the boy’s parents and 3 acting newcomers as the boys, Uche Agada, Ral Agada, and Jaden Osimuwa, all hold their own and do a good job in their roles.

Rise doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it’s a heartfelt family story that should inspire just about anyone to go for their dreams!

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Review: 'The Outfit' features strong acting values and smart plotting | Datebook

The Outfit

Mob movies are often films I admire more than I like. The pacing tends to be sluggish and the characters not anything I connect with. Well, The Outfit is an exception to that rule! Now playing on Peacock, The Outfit is a well-crafted, engaging story that will keep you guessing until the very end.

The film tells the story of Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance), a tailor of high-end suits in 1950s Chicago. Burling is happy to make suits for the mob bosses who frequent his establishment and all he asks is that they keep him out of their goings-ons. I’m not always the biggest fan of Rylance but he is perfect for this role- that’s 2 wins for me from him this month with Phantom of the Open also being great!.

One night his shop becomes the place of intrigue when mob boss son Richie Boyle (Dylan O’Brien) and his cousin Francis (the fantastic Johnny Flynn) come in looking for an mob informant in their area. The script kept me guessing until the very end and the acting is all first rate. Dick Pope gives great style to the cinematography and the costumes are stunning by Zac Posen and Mark Bridges.

The Outfit is a definite hidden gem, which I highly recommend on Peacock.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Watch Love & Gelato | Netflix Official Site

Love & Gelato

Meanwhile over on Netflix we have the coming of age romantic flick Love & Gelato. Based on the book by Jenna Evans Welch, this is exactly the kind of light breezy escapism you expect from the title. If it sounds like something you will like than you probably will. If it sounds like a tooth ache than it’s probably not for you.

Susanna Skaggs plays Lina a young high school graduate who has lost her Mother and as a result is forced to go to Italy for a summer and experience the Mediterranean transformation her Mother did 20 years before. She even has her Mother’s diary to guide her through her experiences as she meets 2 hunky guys: slick Alesandro (Saul Nanni) and sweet Lorenzo (Tobia De Angelis).

Naturally Love & Gelato pays homage to classic romcoms like Roman Holiday and 3 Coins in the Fountain and it’s loaded with Italian vacation porn but sometimes in the summer we need that kind of escapism! If you are in the mood to be swept away to Rome with a story of young love check this one out.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Is Trevor: The Musical on Netflix? (Where to watch)

Trevor: The Musical

I’m not sure what I expected from Trevor: The Musical but I must own to being quite shocked by what I saw. It’s mostly shocked in a compelling way but it was not what I was expecting especially on Disney Plus. This is a very intense and quite brutal pro shot of a coming of age, coming out musical recorded at Stage 42 in New York City in October 2021.

Holden Hagelberger has a daunting role of Trevor (who would later go on to start The Trevor Project for LGTBQ youth) where he is required to go to very dark places and also be light and bouncy with his hero Diana Ross who appears frequently on stage as his musical muse. I would certainly want to talk to my child before watching a musical like this where bullying, suicide and abuse are depicted.

I’m not sure they get the balance between the intense and the fun right and none of the songs outside of the Diana Ross hits stand out but it’s hard to not admire its sheer guts. It could be the start of some good conversations but just make sure you know what you are getting into and that your children aren’t triggered by the intense moments depicted in the film.

I tell you one thing. It makes me want to take any bullied child out of school and kept where they can be safe and loved. It can be brutal out there.

(It’s kind of insane that people are complaining about a milisecond kiss in Lightyear when this is way bolder in its LGTBQ representation on Disney Plus. Not that we should be complaining about any of it…)

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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[REVIEW] ‘Coast’ and ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ or a lot of Teenage Struggles

Summer is alive and thriving and that means it is time to break free and live your teenage dreams. Two recent examples, a film and series, are worth checking out especially if you are going through those tumultuous years!

Here are 2 recommendaitons:

The Summer I Turned Pretty (TV Series 2022– ) - IMDb

The Summer I Turned Pretty

First up we have a new series on Amazon Prime where newcomer Lola Tung plays Isabel or Belly (reminded me of Baby in Dirty Dancing in a lot of ways). She evidently has had a magical year and gone from nerdy to pretty in that time. Now when she goes to her yearly summer home with a friend’s family full of hunky boys they all notice her in a new  way. It literally is the Summer she turned pretty.

The hunky boys in question include her long-time crush Conrad (Christopher Briney), dreamy blue-eyed Jeremiah (Gavin Casalengo) and kid who looks very similar Cam (David Iacono). All of these teens look like they are in college and behave like they are young adults but a show like this is escapism for teens, so I am fine with it. It’s nice when teens in shows behave in more authentic ways but there’s a place for aspirational characters in teen stories just like any other audience. Teens will love this sun-dripped romantic show.

The North Carolina beaches are gorgeous and the whole cast has a nice chemistry together that it works. If you are a fan of writer Jenny Han’s previous To All the Boys… series of movies you’ll enjoy this one. We are going to be covering it on Hallmarkies Podcast so make sure you are subscribed!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Coast (2021) - IMDb


In the world of movies we have an indie teen drama called Coast that is also worth checking out. This is set on the other side of the country on the California Central Coast and young Abby (Fátima Ptacek) hates living in the agriculture-based town of her Mother (Cristela Alonzo) and wants to stretch her wings. I much more relate to this feeling than the love woes of Pretty. I couldn’t wait to get out of my small town and experience the world when I was a teenager.

This need of hers is put to the test when she meets a boy named Dave (Kane Ritchotte) who is the lead singer for a punk band and he invites Abby to join his band. The relationship between Alonzo and Ptacek feels authentic without the theatrics you typically see in this kind of coming of age story. Even when Abby leaves her Mom is upset but she looks up at the sky and says a simple prayer her daughter will find her way back. Directors Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickart do a good job keeping scenes like this grounded and honest in and it makes the movie feel easy to relate with even if you aren’t a teen or into punk music.

It does feel derivative at times but it has the heart and the authentic performances to keep it going and make it a worthwhile indie to check out. You can rent it now on all the streaming sites. Oscar winner Melissa Leo has a memorable turn as a ornery hospital patient Alonzo takes care of.

7.5 out of 10

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Current Mini Reviews (The Phantom of the Open, Mr Malcolm’s List, Father of the Bride)

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. I have been a very busy this week but I hope you enjoyed my review of Elvis. I have a few more movies to catch you up on, mostly smaller releases that are hopefully finding their way into your theaters and streaming services in the next week or so.   So here goes!

Bridgerton Fans Will Love The First Trailer for Mr Malcolm's List

Mr Malcolm’s List

You all know I love me a good period piece romance so I was expecting to love Mr Malcolm’s List but must confess I did not. It probably should have been a clue when I did not enjoy the book so perhaps this story just isn’t for me but alas I was still hopeful I’d like the movie because of the great cast but it didn’t work for me.

The conflict resides around the entitled Mr Malcolm (Sope Dirisu) who has a list for what he wants in a wife. When Zawe Ashton’s Julia is found wanting of the list she starts a plan with her cousin Selina (Freida Pinto) to expose the list by crafting the perfect woman matching his list.

I’m not the biggest fan of the ‘liar reveal’ trope where 2 people have gotten to know each other but there is a lie happening and when it is exposed the lied to partner huffs and puffs about ‘how dare she lie to me.” Any sensible person can see she wasn’t lying about everything and a good chat could usually settle things.

This, however, could be ignored if I thought the couples involved had any chemistry, which they dont. In fact, the entire project felt belabored with the acting strained and artificial. I tried but just couldn’t get invested in any of the characters or the story. The costumes and hair are impressive but I need more than that in my period piece romances. Unfortunately an item on Mr Malcolm’s List is disappointment for this critic…

The trailer also makes it seem like Ashley Park has a large role when she’s barely in it making for another disappointment.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Phantom of the Open Review: A Feel-Good Movie About a Bad Golfer | IndieWire

The Phantom of the Open

If you follow me on social media you know I’m not the biggest sports person; however, I do like the occasional sports related film- especially if it is about an underdog. I love a movie that makes me want to cheer by the end for the unlikely hero. The Phantom of Open is such a film. It’s a charming movie about the world’s worst golfer and one the entire family will enjoy (it’s rated pg13 but I think it’s fine for younger kids personally).

Phantom tells the story of Maurice Flitcroft played by a delightful Mark Rylance, who manages to gain entry into the British Open for golf in 1976. He then shoots the worst round in Open history and became a bit of folk hero as a result. Think of him as the Tommy Wiseau of golf.

But really the golf is only the window-dressing for the actual story of Flitcroft and his family. His loving wife Jean is played by Sally Hawkins, who’s wonderful as usual. Then his disco dancing sons Gene and James are played by Jonah and Christian Lees with his more conflicted adopted son Michael (Jean’s son from a previous relationship whom he adopts) is played by Jake Davies. Everyone is great and it feels like a real family we are rooting for.

I am sure there will be someone who dislikes The Phantom of the Open and finds it too saccharine but not this critic. Writer Simon Farnaby has taken his Paddington 2 magic and made another heartwarming crowd-pleaser that I thoroughly enjoyed.

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Father of the Bride' Review: A Remake With a Cuban Twist - The New York Times

Father of the Bride

Some stories and tropes just work- no matter the era or actors attempting the project. Father of the Bride is one of those franchises. I love the films from the 50s and the 90s and to my delight I really enjoyed this new version from 2022. I was worried with it going to HBO Max it wouldn’t be well done but it executes all the elements I love about the previous films and adds its own flair and spark to the story. A real hidden gem.

This time around we have Andy Garcia as the titular father and the bride is Adria Arjona who comes home from working abroad engaged and ready to plan a quick wedding to her fiancé (who she proposed to!) Adam (Diego Boneta).

We then get all the madness of a hasty wedding with Chloe Fineman camping it up as the wedding planner. Of course things get over-the-top but that’s part of the fun of this franchise (I mean last time we had swans and a caterer named Honk). In between all the madness, however, they make the proceedings unique with Garcia and his wife Ingrid played by the great Gloria Estefan going through a divorce (such a better conflict than the fiancé buying a blender LOL).

The script also has some nuance in the family being Cuban but Sofia wanting to work for a non-profit in Mexico and her fiancé’s family being Mexican.

It maybe gets a little too silly with natural disasters and bridge collapses coming into play but by then I was invested enough in the people to enjoy myself. I think fans of romcoms and this series will enjoy this Father of the Bride. It’s sweet and endearing lark about family, love, and the madness of wedding planning. Who can’t relate to that?

7 out of 10

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[REVIEW] ‘Elvis’ or Baz’s Burning Love for Elvis Shines

Musical biopics have become so common these days that a director has to do something special to make his or her film stand out from the crowd. For example, the recent Elton John biopic Rocketman elevated it’s rags to rock n’ roll riches story with flights of fancy that enhanced each musical performance. In comparison Respect and Bohemian Rhapsody were saddled with clunky scripts that did nothing to bring any freshness to their subject matters of Aretha Franklin and Freddie Mercury respectively.

Fortunately the new movie Elvis has the style and panache of director Baz Luhrmann behind it which makes the film captivating even while acknowledging its more pedestrian elements.

Luhrmann tackles a lot in his retelling of the King of Rock and Roll’s life going from his time as a boy reveling at Black spirituals to his death in 1977. He also employs an unreliable narrator for the piece with Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, leading the piece played by Tom Hanks.

This is definitely one of Hanks’ slimiest roles and perhaps I have him too type-cast but I never quite bought Hanks in the role. It’s not a dealbreaker or anything but it felt like more of a caricature of a performance than a compelling character.

Austin Butler as Elvis is another story. He is absolutely captivating as the larger than life figure in pop culture. I wish the movie had taken the Walk the Line approach and focused on a small part of Elvis’ life but Butler is up for everything he is asked to do (which is a lot).

Elvis’ family has come out in support of the film and I can see why. It must have been an emotional experience to have seen your loved one portrayed with such grit and energy. If Butler isn’t up for an Oscar it will be a real shame as I found him to use the cliché to be a tour de force on screen.

For the most part the editing and flairs in direction Luhrmann uses to spice up the chain of events work especially when Elvis is on stage moving those hips (the movie comments a lot on women and how social morals stop us from experiencing pleasure so often. Elvis got that until he was required to be ”New Elvis” which he then rebelled from). Sometimes when Luhrmann used modern hip-hop music (as he is prone to do) it was distracting but over-all his style worked for me in the film and gave me something to pay attention to when the narrative was more by-the-numbers musical biopic.

A lot of time is spent on Elvis’ 68 Comeback Christmas Special where he featured the protest song “If I Can Dream.” I honestly think they could have ended the movie there and it would have been a triumphant and exciting end to the story but they go for the whole life approach and it’s mostly compelling.

There will be some who will complain Elvis is too basic but I disagree. I think Luhrmann brings a lot of personality to the production and Butler is outstanding in the lead. It’s worth seeing the film for those 2 reasons alone. One might say I couldn’t help falling in love with this film… (I couldn’t resist LOL).

7 out of 10

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[REVIEW] ‘Lightyear’ or Fun Space Movie About a Version of Buzz? I Guess?… (Pixar 47)

I learned something going to the latest Pixar movie Lightyear. (As a critic you need to keep learning, growing and expanding your idea of what makes a great film). I realized a film can have a very questionable concept and premise but if it is executed with enough panache and good spirits I don’t care. A talented filmmaker can take a convoluted and jumbled premise and make a compelling film. Likewise a poor filmmaker can take a simple premise and execute it into a big mess (Superman 4 comes to mind).

I have had many a Pixar devotee explain to me the concept of this movie. Evidently in the world of Toy Story there was a movie about a space ranger man named Buzz Lightyear (at first they said this was a true story in that world but that has clearly been abandoned given there are aliens and evil Emperor Zurg appears). This film was evidently the Star Wars of the Toy Story world and young Andy was a big fan (he was 6 at the start of the first film which is pretty young but we’ll go with it).

The Lightyear movie (which we get a title card to at the beginning saying this is the movie Andy watched) was so popular that like Ghostbusters and Robocop it spawned an animated series in 1995 (ala Saturday morning cartoons). Then the animated series inspired the doll which Andy got for his birthday and it proceeded to ruin Woody’s life. That’s why in this movie there aren’t many of the catchphrases or Tim Allen’s voice (Chris Evan’s plays Buzz here, which I still think it is weird because most animated series still use at least soundalikes for the live action characters).

Anyway, all that explanation helps us get started with the new movie Lightyear. I definitely think it is a risk to present a new version of a beloved character like Buzz (think Runaway Brain with its horror version of Mickey Mouse which upset many people), but my friends tell me it won’t be a problem for the average moviegoer so who knows? I guess we will see.

So after explaining all that nonsense how is the actual movie? To my somewhat skeptical surprise it was an enjoyable space adventure. As distracting as all the Toy Story connections are, the core story and characters are fun and the animation is terrific.

Lightyear: Disney Drops New Trailer For Buzz Lightyear Origin Film

The story takes Buzz Lightyear space ranger- human person, onto a distant planet where a group of explorers are trying to get back to their home planet. Buzz has a group of ranger friends including his best friend Alisha (Uzo Aduba) and a robotic cat named Sox (director Peter Sohn). We also get to know a pen-obsessed ranger Mo (Taika Waititi) and an older ranger named Darby Steel (Efren Ramirez).

I won’t give any more spoilers but Buzz goes on his adventures and the passage of time takes its toll on all of the characters. Similar to Up we get an emotional montage at the beginning involving one of the characters that is moving and lovely. We also have tons of fun with Sox who is destined to go down as one of the great Disney cats (I wrote a whole history of Disney cats a few years ago so I know!). Even if kids don’t get the convoluted concept they may like Sox enough to enjoy Lightyear regardless.

Sox the Robot Cat Is the Real Star of the New Lightyear Trailer - WDW Magazine

There are parts of the story in Lightyear I didn’t love. The villain felt strange and heavy-handed, which I didn’t care for. Also it’s only 105 minutes but it felt long in spots. I wasn’t with kids when I saw it but I can imagine especially young kids getting fidgety in sections.

Like I said, I went into this film skeptical. The trailers hadn’t impressed me, and I still think the concept is a reach. But the wizards at Pixar worked their magic and managed to win me over. I kind of wish it was an entirely new franchise without all the distractions but we’ll see how audiences respond. I recommend seeing it on the IMAX if possible. The animation is gorgeous and deserves as big a screen as it can be seen on (especially since the last 3 Pixar movies haven’t gotten that consideration it feels extra special).

7 out of 10

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Current Mini Reviews (A Perfect Pairing, Spring Awakening, The Valet, Fire Island, Good Luck to You Leo Grand)

Hey everyone! It’s been a while since I did a mini-review post so I have a whole bunch of new movies to tell you about.

Let’s not mess around and get reviewing!

A Perfect Pairing

Perfect Pairing Trailer Shows Victoria Justice, Adam Demos' Netflix Rom-Com

This was honestly disappointing. Aren’t most people expecting a dishy silly romance? Instead we got a movie that takes itself seriously with tons of dialogue about wine production, family labels and running a family business. Even Adam Demos (who is one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen) isn’t allowed to be a hunk wearing long sleeve shirts in most scenes. I know I shouldn’t expect much from these Netflix romcoms but this one was a snooze.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Spring Awakening: Those You’ve Known

Spring Awakening: Those You've Known' Debuts On HBO - Metro Weekly

All of my readers know I’m a huge Broadway buff and that’s really the only people who will enjoy this movie. Of course, Spring Awakening was a Broadway phenomenon in 2006 and it is fun to learn about the origins of the musical and some BTS details from its stars Jonathan Groff, John Gallagher Jr and Lea Michele (although I don’t know if it helps repair Michele’s deva image much). The only disappointment is the film was billed as a pro-shot of the reunion concert they did in 2021 and you don’t get as much of that event as I hoped. Theater nerds will enjoy this. Everyone else can skip it.

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Valet

Disney+ unveils the first images of

2022 has been an amazing year for romantic comedies (finally!) and The Valet is another surprisingly affecting entry! Eugenio Derbez plays a parking valet who through various contrivances has to pretend to date a celebrity played by Samara Weaving. I love fake relationship stories and Derbez is very winning in this role. It also plays out a little more messy than most rom-coms with platonic friendship being taken seriously, which I always appreciate. The tone is a bit uneven but I overall found it sweet with a nice emphasis on family and every individuals self worth no matter if they are a movie star or a valet.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Fire Island

Fire Island' Movie Review: Joel Kim Booster's Gay Rom-Com

Another rom-com for 2022 comes just in time for Pride Month with Fire Island. Screenwriter Joel Kim Booster has crafted a very loose interpretation of Pride and Prejudice with gay characters all going to New York’s Fire Island for a week of fun. The story is a little over-crowded making it hard to connect with the various couples as much as I wanted to but it is made with enough energy and joy that I enjoyed it. It is, however, very raunchy and definitely won’t be for everyone. Mature audiences only but a good time if you are up for it. Margaret Cho steals the movie as the ‘Mom’ figure to the party animal boys.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022) - IMDb

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and I held off on watching it there because of the subject matter. However, I had enough friends recommend it to me I decided to give it a watch, and I’m glad I did. Emma Thompson gives a brave performance in this ultimately endearing story of a retired teacher ordering an escort with the name of Leo Grande. Daryl McCormack is super charismatic as Leo and the dialogue between the 2 feels authentic and genuine. Anyone who has been sex-starved in their lives will understand where Thompson’s Nancy is coming from. She’s harsher than I hopefully would ever be (especially towards her kids) but her loneliness and desire for passion and connection is easy to relate with. Don’t we all want more of that in our lives? This film obviously has mature content but many will probably be surprised how sweet it is (as I was!).

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it! Have you gotten to see any of these movies? If so, what did you think?


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[REVIEW] ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ or Wait- What About Dinos and Humans Living Together?

Hi friends! Let me take you back to 1993. I was 12 and I stepped into a theater to see a Spielberg movie called Jurassic Park. The theater grows dark, the John Williams score begins and I get introduced to an island with special creatures. “Welcome to Jurassic Park!” John Hammond says and my mouth is agape right along with Dr Ellie Sattler and Dr Grant. I’ll never forget that moment. It’s when I realized movies could wow me in a way no other artform could. I saw the movie 7 times that summer and have adored it every time I’ve watched it throughout my life.

Now let’s move to 1997 The Lost World: Jurassic Park opens and I eagerly make my way to the theater. “This is going to be great!” I say to myself. But it wasn’t… I admit I haven’t rewatched this film in a long while but at the time it was the first movie to truly disappoint me. The characters were stupid and shrieky, the story wasn’t compelling. It broke my young movie-loving heart.

Unfortunately this pattern of disappointment would continue with each entry in this franchise. Each film somehow built up my anticipation- ‘maybe this is the one that will recapture the magic?’ only to be then stuffed with stupid characters, few scares and terrible dialogue. Maybe my expectations were too high but I have a low bar when it comes to creature scares movies- I liked 47 Meters Down, The Shallows, and Crawl. These movies are simple and create tension between man and beast- like the original Jurassic Park did. Is it too much to ask for this from the Jurassic Park sequels? Is it too much to ask for characters I care about facing off with beasts that are unpredictable and scary?

The latest entry in this franchise to disappoint me is Jurassic World Dominion. It’s supposedly the last of the Jurassic World trilogy but if it makes a billion dollars I’m sure we will see more from the Jurassic brand at a theater near you.

Spoiler warning for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom:

In the last film we are left with an intriguing idea for a movie (how they get there is stupid but these are Jurassic movies after all…). Clone little girl Maisie lets the dinosaurs out of their cages and into the human world. This could be fun! Then we got a short film in 2019 Battle at Big Rock that features humans dealing with dinosaurs as they are camping and living their lives. Yes! This has potential for a return to form for this franchise.

You can imagine my disappointment then when this new movie Jurassic World Dominion barely touches on this dynamic. Instead we get the convoluted story of an evil biotech firm creating giant locust to control the world’s agriculture production. This was so boring not even the return of our legacy characters of Grant, Sattler and Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm could save it.

Chris Pratt is charming as always as Owen but he’s not given much to do and he still has no chemistry with Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire (who continues to be such a frustratingly poorly written character). DeWanda Wise’s Kayla is charismatic but not given enough dialogue to get to know well or be invested in. And then we have Campbell Scott as a bit player from the original film Dr Lewis Dodgson (he even has the shaving cream can from the OG film…) now the evil head of the locust/dinosaur loving company.

There are some enjoyable sequences. My favorite was when Owen is racing through the streets of Malta with raptors chasing him. That was great and what was promised in the trailers and the short. But too quickly it moves to a research facility where we go long stretches with only a few dinosaurs and far too many locusts.. Everything becomes dull with scenes that are supposed to have tension that don’t. It’s always clear our characters aren’t in any real jeopardy especially if Owen can put out his hand and make any dinosaur do his bidding…

Of course it is fun for me to see Dr Sattler, Grant and Malcolm back but I would honestly rather see an interview of them all talking about the original film than what they get here to do. It’s so bland and not the least bit scary (or romantic).

Maybe some of the scores of people who loved the last 2 entries in this franchise will enjoy this but it didn’t even look that great? There are some impressive CGI sequences but some, like a scene where Claire parachutes to the ground, look cheap and sloppy. Another example is when Owen has a dinosaur strapped to his back that looks like a plastic toy. In my opinion, it can’t even be saved by awe and spectacle.

When you get to see Jurassic World Dominion let me know what you think. As for me, I’ll just watch the original and remember what it was like to be 12 and in love with the movies.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Blind Spot 78: Mystic Pizza

I like to have a good variety on this blind spot series. After all only watching prestige films would get boring. It is for that reason I decided to pick 1988’s romantic comedy-drama Mystic Pizza for my June blind spot selection. It’s a classic of the genre perhaps best remembered for introducing us all to Julia Roberts but for some reason I had never seen it until today.

I’m also really excited about the new musical version of the film just introduced last year at the Ogunquit Playhouse. I wonder if it will end up on Broadway eventually?

As for the movie I enjoyed the friendship between the 3 young women (Roberts, Lili Taylor, Annabeth Gish) working at Mystic Pizza (where the pizza has a magic combination of ingredients only known by owner Leona played by Conchata Ferrell). Each of the girls has different dreams with Kat (Gish) being the boldest wanting to get out of town and become an astrophysicist.

Where the movie was less interesting was in the various romances. They were all fine but very generic and I would have preferred it just be a movie about 3 friends. Jojo (Taylor) is struggling to commit with her fiancé Bill (Vincent D’Onofrio). Kat is falling for her married employer Tim (William Moses) and Daisy (Kat’s sister) is seeing rich kid with a Porsche Charles (Adam Storke).

Mystic Pizza streaming: where to watch movie online?

One odd aspect of the film I found distracting is Bill and Charles looked a lot alike to the point where I thought Jojo and Kat were dating the same person early on in the script. They even dressed the same with similar beige colored coats.

There is also a subplot with the pizza parlor struggling and a food critic coming to judge the pizza that was cute. All the women have nice chemistry and there are nice performances particularly from Gish.

In the end, Mystic Pizza is a pleasant watch, but I enjoyed it more when it was focused on the girls and less on the romance. I think it has the ingredients to make a good musical so it will be interesting to see where that goes.

What do you think of this film? Is it one you have nostalgia for? Would love to hear in the comments section

6 out of 10

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