Current Mini Reviews (Crawdads, 13 Lives, SuperPets, Vengeance)

Hi everyone! It’s time to catch up with new releases I’ve been watching. I wish I had time to write long reviews of all of these films but alas I do not. Let me know what you think of these films, and we can discuss more in the comments.

Here we go!

Where the Crawdads Sing

Where The Crawdads Sing: Release Date And Other Quick Things We Know About The Movie | Cinemablend

Knowing this film was coming out this summer I read the novel by Delia Owens and enjoyed it. Owens does a good job capturing the North Carolina marshes in the 1950s and creates a compelling character in Kya. Now in the film version director Olivia Newman captures those strengths of the novel. It’s beautifully shot and Daisy Edgar Jones is just what I pictured as Kya.

The movie leans more into the love triangle (Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson) than the book. It’s never really a doubt that she loves Tate most in the novel. Also Chase is more smarmy to begin with in the book and his murder trial is more of a focus.

Still, if you like romantic dramas you’ll enjoy Where the Crawdads Sing. It feels like a glossy version of what you might get on Lifetime channel but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Maybe an affection for the book helped but I definitely enjoyed this more than other critics

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Thirteen Lives: First look at Ron Howard movie filmed in Qld | The Courier Mail

Thirteen Lives

It’s always a weird thing when we get a feature film based on the documentary. I almost always prefer the documentary over the narrative film (see Won’t You Be My Neighbor). The latest offering is a remake of The Rescue about the 2018 boys cave rescue in Thailand called Thirteen Lives. Do I prefer the documentary? Absolutely. Is this a solid inspirational film? Yes it is.

Thirteen Lives is directed by Ron Howard and it’s full of impressive set pieces including everything that happens in the cave and the spectacle of the rescue. The cast is also solid with the likes of Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell and Joel Edgerton. My only problem with the cast is they are all a little too “movie starish” where the actual guys were underdogs who dove as a hobby and now their hobby everyone thought was weird is coming in handy.

Still, if you are looking for an inspirational watch this will do the job. It would be a great film to watch for family movie night and all be inspired together.

7 out of 10

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Vengeance (2022) - IMDb


There are times when I watch a debut film from a celebrity and I can tell they called in all of the favors they could. That is the new film Vengeance from director B.J. Novak. And I don’t necessarily mean this is a bad thing. It’s just a little jarring to be watching a low budget indie and see Ashton Kutcher, Dove Cameron and other stars pop up.

Vengeance will probably be sold on its comedy when a lot of the teasing of Texas and its homespun ways in the film falls flat. However, the more dramatic parts dealing with Novak’s relationship with a former girlfriend who passes away and the podcast he wants to make works well. Most of the time podcasting is horribly portrayed in movies but this felt reasonably authentic for a show like This American Life or even Serial at times.

Novak’s character Ben is the right amount of likable while also being quite judgmental and selfish. This helps draw the audience in and keep the narrative surprising. Vengeance isn’t a great film but it’s a solid indie that shows promise for Novak’s writing and directing.

6 out of 10

DC League of Super-Pets' review: Lighter take of Justice League - Los Angeles Times

DC League of Super-Pets

There are 2 ways to look at this new film from Warner Animation: First, it’s a superhero parody film about the animals of superheroes, or second, it’s a cute movie about pets feeling insecure in their roles and hoping to be adopted. The second part succeeds a lot more than the first part.

In fairness the bar has been set pretty high these days in regards to superhero parody films. Movies like Teen Titans Go to the Movies, Lego Batman, Megamind, The Incredibles and even Deadpool poke fun at the comicbook movie tropes so successfully that you have to be really funny to make much of an imprint. Unfortunately, Super-Pets isn’t that funny, particularly the villain guinea pig Lulu (Kate McKinnon) is grating and bland.

All that said the parts with the animals particularly the dogs Krypto (Dwayne Johnson) and Ace (Kevin Heart) are sweet and work well. Krypto is Super-man’s dog (the movie starts off pretty dark for a kids film with Krypton being destroyed and baby Kal-El and Krypto being sent to earth) and he starts to get upset when Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde) comes into the picture.

This needy dog/toy dynamic has been done a lot but that’s because it’s a story that works and anyone can relate with. Kids and pet-owners will enjoy this aspect of Super-Pets and for that reason I give it a mild recommendation. The animation also has a sleek comicbook style to it I enjoyed.

My advice go see Marcel the Shell with Shoes On and then see this!

5.5 out of 10

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So there you go. Have you seen any of these films? Let me know what you think! 

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[REVIEW] ‘Nope’ or Jordan Peele’s Sci-fi Epic Gets a Nope From This Critic

Especially in the big blockbuster space we don’t get many original films these days. I enjoy a formula film as much as the next person but it is exciting when you have a filmmaker consistently putting out bold and exciting new movies and studios giving that filmmaker the money to make their projects. Jordan Peele is such a director and writer, which is why it is disappointing I didn’t enjoy his latest film Nope more. I think I actually prefer his last release Us, and I was mixed on that. However, the zombie home invasion part of Us was more fun than anything we get in Nope.

Nope tells the story of a family of Hollywood horse trainers, OJ and Em (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) who start experiencing supernatural events at their ranch in California. The film is told through the perspective of the horses including a horse that is part of a Western show named Lucky. This show is run by ex-child star Jupe Park (Steven Yeun) and is introduced as a major set piece for the story.

The film seems to be commenting on the history of Black artists in entertainment with repeated references to the first use of film being a Black man on a horse (the ancestor of Em and OJ). The problem is it doesn’t really do anything with that fact. What is it trying to say about representation and diversity? We know this problem exists so merely pointing it out isn’t very insightful.

Then we get a long segment with Jupe and his trauma on the set of a show he was in during the 80s. This is strange because there’s no payoff for this entire plot. Like seriously someone explain to me what the point was with the monkey? There’s also aliens and a set up with an alien show at the Western park that goes nowhere. We meet a young man who works for Fry’s Electronics named Angel (Brandon Perea) and his character doesn’t have much of an arc. Perea has some funny lines but that seems to be the only point of his character.

Jordan Peele's 'Nope' Projected to Debut to $50 Million - Variety

Palmer’s Em is the true protagonist of the film, but they move away from her for long stretches making it hard to be invested in her story.  Palmer and Kaluuya do have nice chemistry, and I believed them as brother and sister, but I wish the script had given them more to do than running around avoiding crazy weather.

The movie looks incredible with fantastic cinematography from Hoyte van Hoytema and the sound design is also very strong. Unfortunately, great technicals can only take you so far when the story is so unsatisfying.

I keep hearing people say this is ”Jaws in the air,” and I honestly have no idea what they are talking about. Jaws isn’t just about a creature that kills people. It’s about a whole town that ignores signs and what a few brave people finally do to stop the shark from killing people. In this the characters experience a creature, but there’s no plan to defeat it, no building up of tension, or group think to fight against. Most of the other humans are watching what is happening as spectators (literally paying to support Jupe and his alien show. No skeptics to be found) not actively fighting against the protagonists (or doing anything positive or negative to move events along) like the mayor and other townspeople do in Jaws. Like I said, it’s more a weather phenomenon movie like Twister than a creature scares movie. Have these people seen Jaws?

Nope: First Reactions to Jordan Peele's Latest Thriller Arrive Online

Because the story was so scattered and the action so random Nope did not work as a sci-fi film and it certainly didn’t scare me like a horror movie should! When I left the theater I was meh on the movie, but the more I think about it the more glaring the problems are. It was slow, obtuse and plodding, wasting the strong work of the cinematographer and cast. You might say it’s a nope for me on Nope.

4 out of 10

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Blind Spot 79: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

When it comes to director Wes Anderson’s work I’m a bit of an agnostic. Some of his films I really enjoy like his animated films, with The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom being my favorites. Then there are others which I am more lukewarm on like Rushmore and The French Dispatch. This month’s Blind Spot entry belongs in the latter with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. It has some of Anderson’s quirky style but I mostly found it dull without an engaging story.

This film centers on Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) of the title who leads his eccentric group of explorers under the sea to film nature documentaries like a Jacques Cousteau type of character.

Included in the crew is Zissou’s estranged wife Eleanor (Anjelica Houston), his son Ned (Owen Wilson)  and a pregnant reporter covering the shoot named Jane (Cate Blanchett), among many other characters (Willem Dafoe, Jeff Golblum, Michael Gambon and more all have small roles on the ship).

For his latest documentary, Zissou is trying to hunt down a “jaguar shark” that killed his friend Esteban. Unfortunately, Anderson’s script meanders away from this central plot too often making it hard to stay invested. To be frank, I tried watching the film 3 times and each time found myself fighting sleep and I wasn’t that tired. The story just didn’t do it for me.

The production design of the ship is impressive and the cinematography by Robert Yeoman is full of whimsy but none of that matters if the story isn’t interesting. Same goes for the performances which are all well done.

I would recommend one of Anderson’s other films over this one like Moonrise Kingdom or Fantastic Mr Fox. Those have far better stories than this underwater tale.

4 out of 10

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Current Mini Reviews (Paws of Fury, Hallelujah, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, Love Accidentally, Zombies 3)

Hey everyone! It’s time for a quick update on the new films I’ve been watching.

First Trailer For Paws Of Fury | Movies | Empire

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank

My feelings concerning this movie are surprisingly complicated. Ever since I first started reviewing films back in 2014 I heard about Blazing Samurai and it seemed like a project we were never going to see. Now in 2022 we finally have it and considering the production history it’s not half bad. Then again I might be giving it too much credit because of very low expectations.

The strength of this film is the humor and the animation. I laughed quite a bit, and the animated action looks great. The downside is the plot is quite dry and slow. The pacing could have been better. Still it’s a harmless action comedy the family can enjoy (it should have gone to streaming).

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris: the fairy-tale myth that endures - BBC Culture

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris

In a world where the cinema seems crowded with superheroes and explosions it’s nice to take a break and watch a movie about human beings with simple dreams. Such is the case with Mrs Harris Goes to Paris.

The film stars Lesley Manville as the Mrs Harris in the title and she is a cleaning lady who decides to travel to Paris and buy a couture Dior dress. While there she meets Isabelle Huppert’s Claudine who runs Dior and doesn’t know what to make of this British woman who wants such a fancy dress.

Manville should get nominated for an Oscar for her performance. She’s so good in this role. You feel for her desire to be recognized and that she is worthy of great things like a Dior dress. The costumes are also obviously gorgeous and there’s a lot of escapism in all the fashion.

My only real flaw with the film is we don’t get to see much of Paris as most of the movie is in the Dior offices. Might have been nice to get out into the city more just to break things up. This is a movie you can take your family too and all have a great time. It’s a heartwarming tribute to dreamers.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Love Accidentally (2022) Freevee Movie | About, Cast, Wiki

Love Accidentally

Everyone knows I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy so I was excited to see Love Accidentally in the new service Freevee, which is associated with Amazon Prime. This is not a great romcom but it is serviceable if you are in the mood for the genre.

It mostly works because Brenda Song and Aaron O’Connell are charming and have decent chemistry. It’s about a couple working together who end up in a texting relationship without realizing who the other texter is. This story has been done many times but it almost always works for me. It’s romantic the idea of falling in love with each other’s words.

Still we’ve seen this all before and most of the attempts at comedy fall flat but it hit my romcom craving so I give it a mild recommendation.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Disney+ Debuts 'Zombies 3' Trailer (TV News Roundup) - Variety

Zombies 3

I consider myself a bit of a defender of the DCOM especially the musicals. I think they have an energy in choreography, music and casting I enjoy. One of my favorites is the first Zombies film. It’s a cute little metaphor for tolerance with talented young actors and some entertaining choreography. Then we got Zombies 2 and now to Disney Plus we have Zombies 3.

Each entry in this series adds a new group the residences of Seabrook must learn to accept. First, zombies. Second, werewolves, and third, aliens. I still enjoy the cast of this 3rd film with Milo Manheim and Meg Donnelly in the lead with new addition Matt Cornett as one of the aliens. I love him on HSMTMTS so was excited to see him get more roles.

Zombies 3 tries to tackle a lot and unfortunately the music and dancing get lost. It’s like Grease meets Wrath of Kahn meets Bring it On and that’s a lot for any movie, let alone a DCOM, to take on. The songs are also weirdly placed and not memorable. In the end, it’s too much and not enough at the same time.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song' Trailer | IndieWire

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song

I am always fascinated by creatives and the process by which they come up with great music or art. In Hallelujah we get to peek behind the life and career of musician Leonard Cohen who wrote the incredibly popular song Hallelujah (you definitely need to like that song to enjoy this film as you will hear it about 40 times!)

This doesn’t reinvent the wheel for this kind of documentary but I appreciate how thorough this one is. They even go into the process for how Hallelujah ended up on Shrek and how they completely changed the lyrics for the film.

If you like this song than you’ve got to watch this documentary!

6 out of 10

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[REVIEW] ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ or My New Comfort Watch

Before this Spring I had never heard of Marcel the Shell. Evidently he first appeared in a stop-motion short by director Dean Fleischer-Camp in 2010. Then in April we got the first trailer for a Marcel feature film and I was immediately captivated. There’s something so special and endearing about Marcel and his adventures that I couldnt help but become attached. At first I wondered if there would be enough for a feature film but Fleischer-Camp and team have made a truly charming film that should win over even the world’s biggest curmudgeons.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On tells the story of the little shell creature with one eye named Marcel who has been separated from his family by a careless human home owner who takes them when he moves away. Now it is just him, his Nanna Connie and the human tenant Dean (director Dean Fleischer-Camp). When Dean decides to make a documentary Marcel’s world opens up in ways he could never imagine, even eventually being featured on his favorite show, 60 Minutes.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On' returns in part three of this painfully adorable video series - ABC7 New York

Jenny Slate could not be cuter as Marcel, perfectly capturing what is needed for this character to come alive. So much of the character depends on the voice due to him having only one eye and a small mouth to capture emotion. Isabella Rossellini is also great as Nanna Connie.

Film Review:

I’m afraid in describing Marcel the Shell with Shoes On I make it sound more saccharine than it actually is. It is a very sweet film but it is also touching, tender and made me tear up more than a few times. It touches’ on serious issues like marital discord, family loss, death, and especially loneliness.

You have to wonder if the fact Fleischer-Camp and Slate divorced in 2016 added this layer to the screenplay they worked together on with Nick Paley and Elizabeth Holm. When Marcel asks Dean about his divorce it feels more than a little prosaic.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is getting a pretty decent rollout by distributor A24 so check to see if it is at a theater near you. It’s an absolute gem.

9.5 out of 10 I’m tempted to give this a perfect score. It charmed me!

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[REVIEW] ‘Persuasion’ or How to Not Persuade This Austenite…

I would like to start out this review by saying I am not a traditionalist when it comes to Jane Austen. I’m a huge fan but I honestly get annoyed when I hear my fellow Austenites nitpick the film adaptations to death. I don’t like the versions that are name only that Hallmark does but for the most part I like most of the films based on Jane Austen’s glorious novels. I even like the 2 versions based on Mansfield Park that it seems like nobody likes. I loved the recent version of Emma, which some took issues with and I was a big fan of Love and Friendship which is almost nothing like the book but was wickedly good fun.

Now we have a new version directed by Carrie Cracknell of Persuasion, which is perhaps Austen’s hardest novel to adapt because of the demur heroine at the lead and I held out hope even as others criticized the trailer. “Come on. Give it a chance!” I cried out! Unfortunately now that I have seen it I must admit it is as bad as the naysayers feared and I’m super bummed out about it. Darn!

Let’s start with the positives. First, the core story of the novel remains in tact with Anne rejecting Frederick Wentworth as a young woman and then them being thrown into each other’s company years later and being forced to reexamine their feelings now that he is successful and she is under regency customs an old maid. All those plot points are there.

The cast is also generally good with Richard E Grant stealing the show as Anne’s father Sir Walter. There is also some diversity in the casting with Nikki Amuka-Bird playing Lady Russell and Henry Golding (who is barely in the movie) playing Anne’s cousin, Mr William Elliott.

The problem lies with the adaptation and screenplay by Ronald Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow. (And again I am fine with non-traditional adaptations but there are limits). In their version of the story they have completely changed Anne from a sweet, shy and meek woman who is kind to a fault to a rebellious, outspoken wine drunk (literally at one point she pours a bottle of wine all over her head after sad-drinking all day).

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about how many Austen adaptations want to turn every character into Lizzie Bennett from Pride & Prejudice, which we can definitely see here but worse. They even condone Anne at one point for having too much pride, which is not her character at all. If you want to make another Lizzie Bennett than make another Pride & Prejudice! All that said, even Lizzie wouldn’t behave the way Anne does in this movie being a smart aleck and talking back to people.

I also had problems with the way they set up the romance. Dakota Johnson as Anne and Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Wentworth have no chemistry and they set them up as “friends” early on which gives no doubt that they will get together in the end of the film. In the book it seriously comes into question when he is so angry at her and  when he seemingly becomes engaged to Louisa Musgrove. It makes the ending with the letter impactful with the memorable line of “I am half agony, half hope…” In this version we don’t believe he is in agony because all he need do is propose and she is clearly his partner.

Persuasion' Movie Trailer: Dakota Johnson Stars in Austen Adaptation - Netflix Tudum

A lot of the other choices Cracknell makes are confusing. To begin with, Anne talks to the camera throughout the movie breaking the 4th wall. This is meant to give a saucy quality to her character but again, that’s not Anne’s character. It was very annoying. We also have her changing characters like making Golding’s Elliot a hero of love instead of a selfish villain as in the novel. The problem with this, like I said, is it takes away tension as he is clearly not an actual suitor for Anne or a threat to Wentworth.

In the spirit of Bridgerton they use modern music throughout, which I did not care for. In addition, Johnson doesn’t make any attempt at a British accent, which was a strange choice as many others do use one including her own family. The costuming is also a mess of periods and her hair is disheveled, often not pinned up, with no resemblance to any period I recognize. (All of these production details could have been fine if they got the characters right but they didn’t).

It’s all a bummer because what I wanted and hoped for is simple. We’ve never really gotten a great adaptation of Persuasion. Perhaps its heroine is too sweet and simple for cinema, but I was hopeful with the talent involved maybe they’d figure it out this time. Alas it is not the case. Instead I’d recommend the 2007 version with Sally Hawkins. It’s not perfect but at least has solid chemistry and the story I know and love. This is just not it.

4 out of 10

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[REVIEW] ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ or An Uneven MCU Storm

One thing I’ve noticed in the last few years is a lot of the biggest complaints I hear about the Marvel Cinematic Universe are actually the aspects I like best. For example, a lot of people seem to hate the quippy banter and I enjoy the lighter tone especially in a world where comic book movies often take themselves way too seriously. I also really enjoy the puzzle building aspect of the MCU. I like putting the pieces together from all the different movies and making it all work together. I like that a weaker film can be strengthened by a character returning in another entry or a story-thread that doesn’t come together in one film can be fleshed out in a new series or movie. I say all this merely to point out my opinion on Thor: Love and Thunder may be different than a lot of people (I don’t know) probably because my opinion on the entire MCU seems to be different.

Before talking about Thor: Love and Thunder I should say I really enjoyed the last entry Thor Ragnarok and found it to be one of the most joyous and energetic entries in the MCU. I love director Taika Waititi’s style of storytelling, and Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are the epitome of charisma as Thor and Loki. I know some people think the humor was too much in Ragnarok and to them I have to say “to each their own.” I really enjoyed it.

Now we have a new entry (the first 4th film for a character in the MCU) and it’s less successful than Ragnarok, but in the end the good outweighs the bad. I still love Hemsworth as Thor, and in this film he is recovering from his depression in Avengers: Endgame by spending some time with the Guardians of the Galaxy (not much so don’t have your hopes up there). Eventually he gets called to help the citizens of New Asgard when their children are abducted by a vengeance seeking villain: Gorr the God Butcher played by Christian Bale.

Thor: Love and Thunder: 11 Easter Eggs & Details You Might've Missed In New Trailer

Bale is excellent here as a wounded man who once had great faith in the Gods and then they let him down in a very personal and upsetting way. Some are saying he isn’t in the movie enough. I don’t agree because the scenes he’s in are powerful enough that we wouldn’t want to overdo it and lose their dramatic umph. I suspect spiritual people will enjoy his journey the most as he grapples with themes of faith, and what do we do when we feel God isn’t listening, or that He did listen and has seemingly abandoned us.

Thor: Love and Thunder” New Footage Unveiled - Sada El balad

We also have Natalie Portman back as Jane Foster except this time she is Mighty Thor and has the guns to prove it! This definitely the best she’s been in an MCU movie and her and Hemsworth finally have some chemistry, which was lacking in the previous films.

I don’t want to give anything away but Thor: Love and Thunder works best in its start and ending. I really liked everything involving the children and the way things wrap up with Gorr is genuinely moving. However, the middle is where the movie loses me. Everything involving Russell Crowe’s Zeus majorly dragged, and I found myself getting sleepy. He has a weird accent, costume and the dialogue was not engaging. I couldn’t wait for them to get out of there and back to the story with Jane, Gorr, and the kids.

The tone can be inconsistent at times and that is a fault in Taika’s writing, but I’d rather have that than other superhero movies that hit the same dark and brooding note over and over again. I’m sure it helps I’m already invested in Thor’s journey so they don’t have to do the character work other new films have to do but again that’s the benefit of the MCU.

Thor: Love and Thunder runtime just got revealed, and it's fantastic news | Tom's Guide

At the very least fans of the MCU should be pleased, and those constantly complaining about the color grading in these movies should be happy with the bright, bold color palate and a wonderful scene in a black and white world. It’s definitely one of the most visually impressive films in the MCU and my recommendation is to see it on IMAX if at all possible.

Naturally Thor: Love and Thunder will be compared to the recent Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and while MOM is messier there was never a part where I was bored like I was with the Zeuss section in Thor 4. Nevertheless, I enjoyed both of them despite their flaws, but your mileage may vary.

6 out of 10

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