Sometimes I admit my job as a film critic can be a little bit strange. Especially as an animation expert I can find myself critiquing films that I am definitely not the target demographic for. Such is the case with the latest from Nickelodeon Movies, Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie. Not having any experience with the franchise I thought the original Paw Patrol: The Moviewas cute with a surprising story arc for little Chase who has PTSD and anxiety from trauma he experienced as a puppy. I have also gotten to know the director of both Paw Patrol movies, Cal Brunker, on social media and even had him on my podcast last month:
So now we have the new movie Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie and while it is a step down from the first film it has enough heart and positive messages to make it a worthwhile family film especially for the franchise’s fans of any age.
In this entry the focus is on little Skye (McKenna Grace) who was born the runt of her litter and always felt like she was lagging behind, smaller, weaker than all the other dogs. She basically has a giant case of imposter syndrome within the Paw Patrol and is very insecure why Ryder includes her in the group at all.
This doesn’t last for long, however, when the Paw Patrol pups get magic crystals that give them super powers. I’m not sure why this addition is necessary when you already have dogs flying planes and driving cars. Aren’t they already super powered? Nevertheless, it creates an effective story arc for Skye as she finally feels powerful and worthy of being on the patrol and she leads the charge against the evil ‘not mad’ scientist Vee Dance (Taraji P Henson.)
I do think the change in the franchise from regular super dogs to super superhero dogs feels generic and played out but the designs are still cute and like I said, Skye’s story is sweet enough to make it worth recommending especially for family’s of small children. The voice cast is all solid and the animation is bright and colorful. If you enjoy this franchise and liked the first film I’m confident you will have a good time with Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie
6 out of 10
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If you have been following my reviews for any amount of time you know I am a bit of a tough sell when it comes to the sci-fi genre. A lot of it can get too bogged down by world building and lore I don’t care about and forget the emotional core to the story. I was worried that would be the case with Gareth Edwards’ new original sci-fi film The Creator. It’s not perfect but the relationship at its center carried me through the weak sections and I found it to be one of the best movies of 2023.
The story is set 50 years in the future where AI and man are at war after a nuclear explosion took out a million humans. John David Washington plays Joshua Taylor a special forces operative who is take down the AI. His wife Maya, played by Gemma Chan, is pregnant and the 2 have a deep and abiding love for each other that is the motivating force for Joshua in the story. They aren’t together long but the chemistry was so believable between the two that I bought his choices throughout the film.
I don’t want to spoil much more but basically Joshua becomes responsible for an AI child that is also a weapon and all the while he is putting together clues concerning his wife an her disappearance. It seems like some people were underwhelmed by this script but I thought it did what it had to do to give the character motivation and an emotional connection to his wife and the child that gave hope and meaning to the action.
Speaking of the action that is more where I had issues with the film. Edwards’ gets a little too explosion happy with a giant ball of fire being the solution to most problems and the ending to most scenes. They start to lose their impact when they are happening ever few minutes. It also does get confusing on what exactly the little girl’s powers are and what Joshua needs to do to protect her (and why he was picked over everyone else to help her.)
Nevertheless, The Creator looks great and I honestly expect some convoluted elements in a sci-fi film like this. The score by Hans Zimmer was supplemented by lots of “Clair de Lune” segments which was an unusual choice for this genre (you’d expect something more synthesized like in the Blade Runnerfilms).
I personally enjoyed The Creator more than the Blade Runner films or the recent Dunebecause I cared more about the relationships at its core. They felt real and drew me into the story, made me invested on what was going to happen next. Some have compared The Creator to Edwards’ film Rogue One but that didn’t have the romance at its center to draw me into the film. It just had characters I didn’t care about that didn’t have a meaningful connection to each other. Both Joshua’s relationship with Maya and the little girl are more moving than anything I got in Rogue One. It’s also really impressive what Edwards’ did on a very small $80 million budget. If you liked the recent Avatar: the Way of WaterI bet you will like this. They are both immigrant stories with relationships at their core and I found both to be very moving and visually dazzling experiences.
8 out of 10
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Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. I’ve been busy as normal but wanted to take a second and update you on everything I’ve been watching. As I get ready to start both the holiday and Oscar season it’s more important now more than ever to support quality criticism. If you can support the patreon it means a lot. You can find more information here.
ERNEST & CELESTINE: A TRIP TO GIBBERITIA
The original Ernest & Celestine from 2012 is one of the most charming movies I’ve ever seen. So attempting a sequel was a risky enterprise to say the least; however, the team behind Ernest & Celestine have risen to the challenge and made something that’s still charming and has something to say about music, the rule of law and of course friendship.
Our pair head to Gibberitia so they can fix Ernest’s violin but unfortunately the city is under a martial law where only one note of music is allowed. Even the birds aren’t allowed to tweet or sing. This could be heavy-handed in the wrong storytellers but here it never tonally moves away from the sweetness of the original friendship story. We also get to understand Ernest’s family and how he became the crusty old bear we know and love.
I love the current era of hybrid animation that’s bold and crazy but it is also a welcome breath of fresh air to get simple sweet stories told with sketchy animation like we have here. I loved Little Nicholas earlier this year and this is its worthy companion. I think it’s great we are in a golden revival of animation where we get the best of all types and styles and this is about as perfectly crafted as you could hope for with this style. It’s one of those movies I can’t imagine anyone disliking. I’m sure there will be someone but it’s definitely not this critic.
9 out of 10
Dumb Money is one of those movies where the binary system of fresh/rotten or smile/frown prove difficult. It’s an ok movie. I didn’t hate it by any means but I do have some major problems with its storytelling. I,Tonya‘s Craig Gillespie (which I didn’t love as much as some but did recommend) tries his hand again at a creative take on a true story but in this case the story lacks focus and the screenplay feels very surface-level.
The main problem is he is trying to tell too many of the stories of investors impacted in the GameStop “short squeeze” of 2021. There are a dozen or so characters that all get arcs and all have stories but none of them are explored enough so it feels like we are watching people look at their phones for 2 hours and talking about should they hold their stocks or not… While very dramatic for them it’s not compelling for a feature film.
I can see why this would be more interesting as a documentary where you can spend more time explaining the complexities of a short squeeze and what was happening with the stock but that’s hard to do for a narrative unless you employ flights of fancy like they did in The Big Short. I would recommend watching that instead.
Also I really thought the music was strange and didn’t seem to fit with the characters or story.
5 out of 10
Ever since I first saw Baahubali 1 and 2 I have really come to appreciate the world of Tollywood and Bollywood cinema. I do not pretend to be an expert on the genres and I am sure there are many films I should see from India but it’s been a fun experience of movie-going so far. Last year of course there was RRR and now we have Jawan which is by director Atlee S. Ramanagirivasa. It’s a movie you have to be patient for but it is worth the investment and ends up being a ton of fun.
Jawan stars Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan in 2 roles- one in current time and one in 1986. The movie flips around between the 2 time periods and it can get a little confusing but if you wait it all comes together in a satisfying way at the end. It also takes a while for the first song and dance sequence to come in but I enjoyed them when they did.
There’s simply an awe and spectacle to these films that I love. The violence is big and bloody but so over-the-top that it’s not offensive or jarring. I love the energy and sincere desire to entertain in every frame and that’s the case with Jawan. It’s a blast.
8 out of 10
One has to wonder what the makers of Camp Hideout were thinking giving it a theatrical distribution. It screams Disney Channel movie (or DCOM) or Nickelodeon and probably could have found an audience there. The pre-teen protagonists at summer camp and the juevenile sense of humor would probably be very engaging for the 10-13 year olds that watch those channels but alas I have to judge it as a feature film.
The cast is pretty solid with Corbin Bleu and Amanda Leighton putting in nice work as the lead camp counselors and Christopher Lloyd piping in for a few scenes. The problem is they have a bizarre plot with mafia thugs that are following our lead teen Noah played by Ethan Drew. We even get the Home Alone style antics left over from the 90s with the thugs ending up in booby traps and covered in mud. Then they awkwardly try to wedge in faith-based heartfelt moments that seem like they belong in another movie. It just all doesn’t work.
4 out of 10
I was pretty excited when I saw a small stop motion animated film called The Inventor was coming to my local AMC. I had heard about it from Annecy Film Festival in France and usually such small films don’t get a big release (I usually have to go to the Broadway downtown if at all to see them.) I was hoping it would be a hidden gem but unfortunately I left underwhelmed.
There are things to like particularly the animation. The mixture of stop motion and 2D sketchy animation had an old UPA feel to it and I enjoyed the vintage aesthetic and tone in the film. Unfortunately the story just wasn’t there and I felt like I was watching those old education film reels I used to watch in elementary school. I like learning about da Vinci but even he has to be given something interesting to do. Perhaps this could have worked better as a short but I grew tired of it even with the enchanting animation.
5 out of 10
So there you have it! If you have seen any of these films let me know what you think of them.
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Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well. Time has been flying by as I am busy trying to keep my podcasting/critic career afloat while looking for a new full-time gig (If you ever thought about joining the patreon now would be an amazing time to do so here.) Nevertheless, I have a few films to catch you up on. Make sure you are following me on social media because I post on instagram and youtube shorts my out of theater reactions to every film and theatrical production I see.
But here we go!
Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe-
This is the kind of film that inspires me to read the book. I have no doubt the book is much better because so much of the content seemed tailor-made for a novel (particularly lots of time with the 2 leads corresponding via letters.) There were also elements of this indie film that felt a little sloppy with noticeable ADR flubs and some weak acting performances.
All that said, the core emotion of the story really works and the 2 lead performers have a lovely repartee together. I also really enjoyed Eugenio Derbez as Aristotle’s father (you can barely recognize it is him under a large bushy beard!) Some are saying this is a teen Call Me By Your Name and that may be a bit generous (also that was about a teen…) but it is a very sweet teen love story with a big heart. I’d definitely recommend it and I can tell you I will be reading the book right away!
6 out of 10
A Haunting in Venice
The Hercule Poirot films from director Kenneth Branagh are an interesting trilogy because nobody I know loves them (some have varying degrees of fun but they aren’t favorites to most) but they keep getting made with huge all-star casts in them. The latest gives a horror take on Agatha Chritie’s Halloween Party novel and sets in the most popular place for movies in 2023- Venice. The result is probably the best out of the 3 films but still has some of the same problems the other 3 have.
First of all Branagh has made a great looking film that makes good use of the spooky atmosphere the old house in Venice provides. The performances are also good with Michelle Yeoh stealing the show as a medium hired to communicate with the spirits of the house. Jamie Dornan also does a lot with a small role as a struggling father trying to help his son.
The problem these Poirot films have all had is instead of building clues organically we get random scenes followed by a long exposition dump at the end that is supposed to clear everything up but feels unsatisfying and dull. I guess this is the way the books are but if that’s the case Branagh’s job as the director is to make the stories more cinematic. Still, if you like mysteries you’ll probably have an ok time with this and it makes for a fun Halloween-time release.
6 out of 10
I hope all of you have the chance to participate in National Cinema Day on August 27th. I normally don’t go to films on Sunday but I wanted to participate in the national support of cinemas and with it being an educational film it seemed harmless. My choice for the event was the new bio-pic Golda. Going into it I knew nothing about Israeli prime minister Golda Meir and as an instructional tool it was insightful on that level.
It’s interesting seeing Golda so soon after Oppenheimer because they both have commanding lead performances portraying enigmatic real-life leaders but they also both left me a little cold, keeping their subjects at an emotional distance from me. Even though Golda is a lot shorter than Oppenheimer the pacing still dragged and the editing between personal scenes and supposedly tense war-room negotiations was off. Still, I did learn a lot about Golda and it was interesting enough for a mild recommendation. I tell you one thing Helen Mirren set a record for number of cigarettes smoked in a movie for this film! So many!
6 out of 10
I have to admit I knew almost nothing going into The Hill. I knew it was a baseball movie but I wasn’t even aware it is a faith-based film so I’m not sure if the experience will be different for those with proper expectations. I am not a traditional Christian but am open to faith-based films. I have particularly enjoyed films from the Erwin Brothers (I Can Only Imagine, I Still Believe, Woodlawn, American Underdog all got positive reviews from me.) Unfortunately other directors in the genre have struggled to find the same nuance in their scripts and The Hill is in that camp. A lot of the baseball elements in this true story worked well enough but the religious elements felt so heavy-handed and clunkily written it hurt my enjoyment of the film.
I also felt the acting, even from Dennis Quaid, was uniformly weak and seemed like it was more out of a low budget Sunday School video than a feature film. And it’s all a real shame because in Rickey Hill’s story you have a story of someone who beat incredible odds to barely make it as professional baseball player. It’s always interesting when the hero in the sports story doesn’t win the big game and that’s basically what you have here in Hill’s very brief professional career. Sadly the script isn’t interested in such a complicated legacy but is content with cliched scenes of the preacher father who doesn’t understand his talented son despite everyone else believing in him. A number of my Christian friends seem to be enjoying this one but the script let me down and I would recommend any of the movies I mentioned above far above The Hill.
4 out of 10
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3
Anyone who has followed my content knows I am normally not a big fan of wedding movies when it comes to rom-coms. They tend to bring out the petty and annoying side of characters and the conflict is frustrating. That’s why it is a miracle I enjoyed the first My Big Fat Greek Wedding as much as I did. In fact, it is one of my favorite comedies because it is a rom-com that doesn’t forget the com. It’s genuinely funny and the couple rises above the wedding chaos with great chemistry and heart.
Unfortunately the sequel I did not enjoy so I wasn’t super excited for a third entry in the series. Now that I’ve seen it it’s…ok. I do think it is better than the 2nd film because the dynamic of going to Greece for a reunion is funnier than bothering daughter Paris at career day. Unlike the first one, most of the comedy in this film comes right out of a sitcom and is generic at best. However, I laughed just enough to give it a mild recommendation. If you are from a big family you’ll probably chuckle at some of the silly antics and the family dynamics are still a lot of fun.
5.5 out of 10
So there you have it. Have you gotten to see any of these films? If you enjoy what I do please support me at my patreon here.
In a way it’s kind of amazing it has taken me this long to check off Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight in this blind spot project. It’s a movie I have heard about for years and is a favorite of many of my friends but I just never got around to seeing it. A lot of my blind spots are rated R films from the 90s and earlier because growing up I didn’t watch mature films. It really wasn’t until around 2012 that I realized the rating system was dumb and began challenging myself with more adult content in my media.
It’s funny because this trailer for Out of Sight makes it seem like it’s practically a rom-com and it is a very sexy movie but the relationship is more of a side-story rather than the main focus of the film. I would think of it more as a sexy version of Oceans 11 than a rom-com (Soderbergh also directed George Clooney in the Oceans films.)
It’s funny because Jennifer Lopez plays the least likely person to be named Karen ever in a film…but her role is as a US Marshall who is forced into a trunk with Clooney’s Jack Foley as he escapes from prison. They then end up in a tit-for-tat with each other over the course of several years. The two actors do have sizzling chemistry and the main sex scene is very spicy but it all works for the story.
One of the strongest aspects of this film is the atmosphere and tone Soderbergh along with his cinematographer Elliot Davis creates. It looks great and all the characters ooze with cool and a slick style that draws you into the story. It reminded me of Pulp Fiction without Tarantino’s more annoying qualities. These are people I am interested in that don’t seem concerned with crafting sound bites but instead making the next great deal and how good they look while doing it.
It’s interesting because Out of Sight was one of Lopez’s first roles and it showed a lot of potential she wouldn’t realize again (despite my enjoyment for her mostly terrible rom-coms) until Hustlers in 2019 (which I think was just an ok movie but she was good in it.) In this movie, however, she brings a strength to Karen that makes her a believable force alongside Clooney and the rest of the cast.
We also get memorable roles from Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Michael Keaton, Albert Brooks and more. Like I said, it’s a film that’s loaded with great atmosphere and panache which makes it a very engaging watch. I can see why it has gained a bit of a cult following and is a favorite of so many.
8 out of 10
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There is absolutely nothing more important to me as a critic than authenticity. Even if it is unpopular I will always tell you what I think about a film and do my best to explain why. Usually even if I don’t enjoy a film I can usually understand why it is working for some people and what the general appeal might be. However, occasionally I find myself on the outside of a phenomenon scratching my head and wondering what I missed that most everyone else seems to be loving in a project. Such has been my experience with the latest raunchy comedy Bottoms. This has been the summer for raunchy comedies and some I have enjoyed (Joy Ride) and others were not for me (Strays.) But with Bottoms I left truly befuddled at the appeal of this very strange movie. I suppose the appeal is the strangeness but not only did I not laugh much I didn’t even see where jokes were attempted?
I take that back. The big joke of the movie seems to be teen girls punching each other and I guess that’s hilarious? I’m confused. The film is about girls starting a fight club with the 2 leaders hoping it will help them meet girls to date and be with. That’s a fine premise but I suppose I don’t think people punching each other- girls or boys- to be all that funny? I admit I am in the vast minority here so fair enough…
The only part of the movie I found funny was surprisingly from former football player Marshawn Lynch playing the girls teacher Mr G. He actually had funny dialogue and delivered it quite well. Nicolas Galitzine also has a good time mugging it up for the camera as the cocky football player Jeff. Again he actually had some amusing scenes and dialogue. Most of the other characters it was them being mean to each other with very little witty banter or funny situations (unless you find girls punching each other inherently funny which I don’t.)
I guess I give the film a little credit for not shying away from the violence. We see blood and many a broken nose as a result of these fights. It could have actually been a compelling horror movie without many changes.
I’m sincerely glad so many are enjoying Bottoms. I am always happy when anyone enjoys films especially when it profiles a group like lesbian teenagers who could use more varied and interesting narratives than only the coming out variety. However, in the end I have to be honest when I just don’t get a film. This one was simply not on my wavelength and it certainly didn’t make me laugh. Your mileage may vary so if you see it I hope you have a better time than I did.
5 out of 10
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