Current Mini Reviews (Talk to Me, Puppy Love, Gran Turismo, Strays, Blue Beetle)

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well and enjoying what has turned out to be a pretty fascinating summer movie season. The studios have tried a lot and the experimental and unusual has won over the safe and expected. Make sure you are following me on instagram because I give my out of theater reaction of every movie and live theatre production I see. Let me know what you think of these films and what your favorite of the summer turned out to be:

Blue Beetle

Blue Beetle is our latest from DC (who knows whether it is still DCEU or the first of the DCU but I don’t really care…) and after their massive flop with The Flash (which I liked more than most even with its flaws) DC needed a solid likable film and that’s basically what they got here. It’s generic but thoroughly watchable and fun. I think a big part of enjoyment of this film goes into expectations. It’s not some kind of comicbook masterpiece but it’s cute and the cast is likable.

The story is by-the-numbers superhero origin story and the villain by Susan Sarandon is lame but Xolo Maridueña is likable and charming in the lead. Sometimes that’s all you need in a movie like Blue Beetle. The family and Mexican culture give the movie warmth and character but I wish there was more of it and less of the bland goings-on at Kord Industries. Still, I think most people will have a good time with Blue Beetle and I’d watch it again without much protest, and I can’t say that about all the DC films.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy


I rarely truly hate a movie, but Strays is an exception to that rule. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was a half second away from walking out of the theater midway through its 93 minute runtime. Naturally I know a raunchy comedy like Strays is not really made for me but I went into it with an open mind and hoping to find a guilty pleasure. The main problem was I didn’t laugh hardly at all and it’s just the same 2 or 3 jokes over and over again until I wanted to rip my hair out. It’s completely disgusting and its attempts to be sentimental feel so off-putting after the barrage of poop and dog-humping gnome jokes we’ve gotten. If you think a dog saying f*** a lot is hilarious than maybe you’ll enjoy this one. I hated it. Stay away!

1 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Talk to Me

Unlike with Strays, sometimes going out of my comfort zone pays off which is what happened with the indie horror film Talk to Me. Directed by youtubers Danny and Michael Philippou they have crafted a tight little horror movie about a bunch of stupid teens who commune with evil spirits using a supernatural hand device. This brings in themes of loss and grief naturally and anyone who has spent time with bored aimless teens will be able to relate (or been such a teen yourself.) The acting was mostly amateurish but it did the job it needed to do for this story and the scares are definitely there.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Gran Turismo

Remember when Disney used to put out those inspirational sports movies like Miracle and Million Dollar Arm? Well, that’s basically what we get with the new film Gran Turismo and I loved every second of it! This is a wildly entertaining film from director Neill Blomkamp starring Archie Madekwe as young teen who dreams of racing in a real race car but has to settle for the video game Gran Turismo. Then one day Orlando Bloom’s character Danny Moore leads a team to give the best video game rider a chance at the real deal. David Harbour is great as the salty ex-driver and the racing scenes are kinetic and exciting.

The only real flaw I had with Gran Turismo is at times it felt like a commercial for the game but everything else was so well executed I didn’t mind that. This is a real winner and one the whole family will love.

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Lucy Hale & Grant Gustin Meet On Bumble In 'Puppy Love' Trailer – Watch Now! | Grant Gustin, Jane Seymour, Lucy Hale, Michael Hitchcock, Movies, Nore Davis, Trailer | Just Jared Jr.Puppy Love

Some romantic comedies work almost in spite of themselves and Puppy Love is a good example of that happening. It’s a classic enemies to lovers type story where 2 people that don’t get along are forced to spend time together when their dogs fall in love. What worked for me in this movie is the adorable doggies and the performance by Grant Gustin. He is charming but in a nerdy very awkward kind of way. I completely bought this man would have trouble meeting women which is refreshing in these movies because most of the time I’m like ‘sure this movie star has a hard time getting a date…) He even felt on the spectrum at times, which made his character easy to connect with and enjoy.

Unfortunately the chemistry with Lucy Hale just isn’t there and the humor falls completely flat in the film. Still Gustin is good enough and the puppies are cute enough to recommend it.

6 out of 10

Smile worthy

Have you seen any of these films? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

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‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ or How this Enemies to Lovers Tale Stole My Heart

One of the most satisfying trends over the last 2 years has been the reemergence of the feature film rom-com. For many years the genre was relegated to the world of made for TV movies (MOTW) and usually of the squeaky clean variety (which of course I love and adore and cover on my podcast Hallmarkies) especially at Christmas. Partly due to the popularity of these MOTW films we have seen more feature film length rom-coms and we are starting to see rom-coms made for more niche audiences such as LGBTQ rom-coms. We have a near-perfect example of such a film with the new release of the delightful Red, White & Royal Blue. I am low-key obsessed with this film and highly recommend it to anyone who can handle its R rated content.

The film is based on the steamy but delicious novel (ad) by Casey McQuiston and it is a classic enemies to lovers story but told with nearly flawless execution. Taylor Zakhar Perez plays Alex the son of the US President and Nicholas Galitzine plays Henry the 2nd son British prince. At the start of the film Alex is questioning and discovers himself to be bisexual and Henry is closeted gay man. They begin hating each other because of an incident they had at a party years before. After a flair-up at the royal wedding they are forced to spend time together and ‘pretend’ to be friends and all this forced proximity sparks begin to fly.

There are so many things that work in this film but let’s start with the incredible chemistry between Perez and Galitzine. They are absoloutely perfect with each other, and I was rooting for them from the beginning. Enemies to lovers is a lot harder to pull off than people might think. It’s easy to make the characters too hateful and unlikable, so we don’t care about them finding love or getting together, but here the 2 actors work, and I bought them from frame one.

I also have to give director and screenwriter Matthew Lopez a ton of credit for adapting the McQuiston’s novel with  a panache that reminded me of the great romantic comedies of the past. The witty banter between our leads is the kind of repertoire Nora Ephron would have written and been a fan of. Combined with the chemistry, the back and forth between Alex and Henry make it a movie I have already rewatched multiple times and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Red, White & Royal Blue is a steamy movie so it won’t be for everyone, but I think they kept it all in good taste and since I liked the couple so much I was fine with it. Since Henry is a closeted character the film can also be moving as we follow his journey to accepting himself and feeling like he is worthy of being loved  by someone like Alex (and that the people will accept that love.) Both Perez and Galitzine are up for the more dramatic sections and it all felt believable to what a prince and the son of a president might experience.

Aside from a wonky accent by Uma Thurman (playing the president) I loved the entire supporting cast. I particularly enjoyed Sarah Shahi as Zahra, the president’s main campaign manager. She is such a funny, beautiful actress and I hope she gets more work after this role because she deserves it. Clifton Collins Jr and Rachel Hilson are also wonderful in their supporting roles.

There is a bit of fantasy in the film with the democrats ‘flipping’ Texas, which is a long way off but the film largely uses politics as a backdrop for Alex and not as messaging platform. We just need to buy that Alex is the son of a democratic president running for re-election and we certainly do.

It might sound crazy to some that a movie like Red, White & Royal Blue is my favorite movie of 2023 but it’s hard to overstate how happy it made me. It is so well crafted, swoonworthy and endearing. It is a totally winning and wonderful romantic comedy that anyone who loves the genre will enjoy. Anyone who loves movies should enjoy it. It’s that good.

Tomorrow check out Hallmarkies Podcast for full recap with my friend Joe of this wonderful film.

10 out of 10


Blind Spot 92: ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ (2013)

What people might not know about me is I love movies about work and work/life crisis. There is nothing I love more than an epic quit and a person who realizes their life is worth more than the misery of an unfulfilling job. Perhaps this is why I was attracted to the 2013 retelling (not really a remake) of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty– one of those films I had been interested in but had never gotten around to watching for some reason (what this blind spot project is for!) Well, not only did I see it over the last weekend, but I watched it and the Danny Kaye original with my good friends Jen and Stanford, and we had a wonderful time together.

I must admit was a bit distracted watching the 1947 original but from what I could gather it is quite different than the 2013 film and the only commonalities outside of the names are the daydreaming tendencies of the lead character. The new film is more of an existential crisis movie where the older movie is a screwball comedy meets mystery.

The new film gives us director and actor Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty who is unhappily working at Life Magazine where his only joy in life is his brief interactions with co-worker Cheryl played by Kristen Wiig. One day he loses a key negative for the magazine’s final print issue and he starts a journey through Greenland and Iceland to find the photographer played by Sean Penn.

The cinematography is a stand out (you’ll want to book your trip to Iceland after seeing the film) and like I said the themes of work and what motivates our lives always intrigues me and it was no different here. Walter is a character that is easy to relate with and there’s a voyeurism aspect to the film. We all wish we could find ourselves in Iceland in such a dramatic fashion don’t we?

The only thing I could have used more of in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is more insight into Walter himself. For a film about life and the human connection we don’t get in his head as much as I would like to. It’s funny the streaming service we watched the movie on suggested Stranger Than Fiction as a similar film, and I do think that film explores work in a more humorous and insightful way while getting more into the lead character, Harold Crick’s, inner-most thoughts and desires. We see the transition and growth of his character more than we do for Walter and so the experience is more moving.

Still, I’m glad I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Particularly with some changes going on in my career at the moment its themes hit home and it gave me some courage to be bolder, more willing to embrace change instead of wanting to hide from it. If you haven’t seen it I’d recommend it and maybe if you are lucky you’ll have good friends to watch it with just like I did. I’m certainly blessed beyond measure.

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