Current Mini Reviews (The Killer, Rustin, Mars Express, What Happens Later)

Hey everyone! We are getting into the busy season both for my Christmas movie coverage at Hallmarkies Podcast and awards season for regular moviegoing. For this upcoming week I have a screening almost every night and in the case of tomorrow I could see 2 movies if I was interested in the new Hunger Games prequel. Crazy busy! Before all that starts I wanted to update on a few of the films I’ve seen lately:


I think one’s experience with The Killer will have a lot to do with expectations. If you are expecting a David Fincher masterpiece than you might be disappointed. If you are expecting a solid, well-crafted character piece you’ll be satisfied. Michael Fassbender gives a smoldering, near-solo performance as a hitman who’s plans go awry.

Fincher is definitely paying homage to film noir classics like Double Indemnity but the ever-present naration can be a bit  much. At times it even felt like self-parody it was so on-the-nose. Still, there are some great sequences like a fight mid-movie that is superbly staged.

With The Killer you have a slickly made film with a commanding lead performance but not one you need to rush out to see and fortunately you don’t have to because it’s for Netflix.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy


Also coming to Netflix we have the biopic Rustin based on the life of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. I have to admit this is a person I have never heard of so that’s on me and the film does a pretty good job introducing us to this enigmatic figure. Rustin is unique because not only did he do the groundwork coordinating the March on Washington in 1963 but he was an openly gay man at that time.

Colman Domingo gives an excellent performance as Rustin and the supporting cast is strong with a few exceptions (I’m talking to you Chris Rock.) I particularly enjoyed seeing Jeffrey Wright as Adam Clayton Powel Jr and Audra McDonald as Ella Baker. Da’Vine Joy Randolph puts in another wonderful performance after The Holdovers as Mahalia Jackson.

All that said, Rustin doesn’t do anything to elevate itself over the typical biopic but as I didn’t know anything about this person I was fine with it. Give it a watch when it comes to Netflix.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy


Unfortunately I was not able to attend the Animation is Film Festival in Los Angeles this year, but I did get to screen one of the films making its US Premiere there. It’s called Mars Express and is definitely something sci-fi and adult animation fans will want to keep on their radar.

It’s interesting because to see the similarities between this and the recently released The Creator (which I really enjoyed but most seemed underwhelmed by.) It’s hard to say what people will think of this sci-fi story, but I think its AI narrative is a little tighter and should be less problematic for viewers.

The animation from first time director  Jérémie Périn is stunning with a gritty yet immersive feel. It definitely takes inspiration from Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Blade Runner and more but the world he creates on Mars is unique enough to stand on its own. I particularly liked Aline as our lead character looking into the world of AI crime on Mars. I also loved the score as it gave the moody noir feel you want in a movie like this.

Mars Express is definitely one to keep an eye out for when it gets a mainstream release next year.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy


As the host of the Hallmarkies Podcast I am naturally a big fan of romantic comedies and for years we weren’t getting many of them in the theaters. This is why I was thrilled to see Meg Ryan not only coming out with a new movie (her first since 2015) but she directed and adapted the screenplay from a play. I’m a huge Meg Ryan fan and was excited to see her come back to the genre she hasn’t dabbled in since 2008. Now I have seen What Happens Later and it’s a mixed bag but I think worthy of a recommendation.

You can immediately tell this film is based on a play as it only as Ryan and David Duchovny are the only characters with vocal lines aside from an over-head voice. To be honest I thought for a while we were heading towards a twist that this was the afterlife and they had to reconcile their relationship before flying off to the spirit world (she’s even wearing white) but it doesn’t play out that way; although, there are surreal moments thrown in that make a person think this way (My friend Terry had the same feeling so I’m not alone.) I also felt like her character was a manifestation of the grown up Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which was interesting.

In the end What Happens Later comes down to the script. I’d say about 60% of the banter works and is charming. Duchovny and Ryan have nice chemistry and there are some sweet moments as they unravel their past. Unfortunately the other 40% feels very phony, contrived and the film definitely over-stays its welcome, having more endings than it should. Again, it’s a mixed bag but the stuff that works is pleasant enough for me to recommend. Hopefully this will inspire Ryan to make more rom-coms and keep the resurgence of the genre going. Welcome back Meg!

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it! Let me know what you have been watching and keep an eye on the site as we have a lot of screenings and reviews coming up!

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