[REVIEW] ‘Top Gun Maverick’ or How to Take This Critic’s Breath Away

Back in January of 2020 I did an episode of my podcast with my friend Jen on our Most Anticipated Movies of 2020. One of the films we mentioned for June we were both “super excited for” was Top Gun Maverick. We even chat about how we hope there will be a Meg Ryan cameo and that they will play a new hot beach sport like the beach volleyball in the original film.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/talking-our-most-anticipated-movies-of-2020/id1278536301?i=1000461440616

Who would have ever guessed then that Jen and I would finally get to see the film in a packed IMAX theater in May of 2022! And not only did we see it but we loved it! A lot of pandemic films have been disappointments such as Tenet and Wonder Woman 84 but not this one! I can’t remember the last time I was so engaged in a piece of blockbuster entertainment.

The story in Top Gun Maverick is admittedly simple but it does it’s job which is setting up for fantastic flight sequences and emotional character moments. Some of these involve nostalgia but in a way that’s meaningful not strictly fan service.

Of course I won’t spoil those moments, but suffice it to say we have Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) back to train the top recruits at Top Gun on how to perform a special mission against a mysterious foe that’s hiding a uranium facility. The actual mission feels like the recruits are basically being asked to destroy the Death Star but without the assistance of the force.

Top Gun: Maverick Review: Tom Cruise Soars Above Expectations | IndieWire

All of this is window dressing for some of the most thrilling sequences I’ve seen in a long time. I was gripping the armrest I was so tense!

The performances are all good led of course by Cruise who feels almost more at home in this character than in the Mission Impossible films. We get some heartfelt scenes in this we don’t get in that action-heavy series. I particularly enjoyed his interactions with Val Kilmer which are very well done.

The recruits are all up for the job including Miles Teler, Monica Barbaro and Glen Powell. Don’t worry we get our sexy football scene that lives up to the volleyball of yesteryear. Jennifer Connelly is also a good match for Cruise as a love interest (he sometimes struggles to find chemistry with his leading ladies for some reason).

Tom Cruise Refused to Allow Top Gun: Maverick to Debut on Streaming - IGN

Top Gun Maverick is a great date movie. I certainly wish I had a man to hold my hand during the tense sequences! It has something for everyone and it’s a pretty mild PG-13 so depending on the family it could be a good one to go and see together. It definitely demands to be seen in the theater with the incredible sound design and immersive flight sequences. This is what you go to the movies for! You won’t want to miss it!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’ or How to Make a Good Movie From a Show I Don’t Like

I must be honest I have tried to get into the television show Bob’s Burgers many times and have always failed. Being a big The Simpsons fan it seemed like something I should like, but I found the humor to be too gross and off-putting for my taste. I’ve heard from friends that the first season isn’t that great but then once it finds its footing it can be a real hoot so maybe I just need to try some random episodes  and I would love some recommendations if any readers have some.

Anyway, I say all this because I was not expecting to like this movie. I was open to liking it (otherwise what’s the point in going to the screening) but it seemed unlikely. Well, count me surprised because I ended up really enjoying it! In fact, am I now a Bob’s Burgers fan?

I think what won me over, where the show hasn’t, is how endearing the characters are and how likable the spirit of family is. The story is simple with a sinkhole blocking the entrance to the families famous eatery and them all working together to uncover a mystery behind their landlord Mr Fischoeder (Kevin Kline).

Not only is the movie sweet but it is also very funny with lots of gags involving each family member. I particularly enjoyed anything with Louise (Kristen Schaal) and her struggles to be brave towards bullies at school who tease her for her bunny ears hat.

I also really enjoyed all the songs (I guess music is a thing in the show which I didn’t know about). They were catchy and well preformed. All the vocal performances were great, and I appreciate an animated film that almost exclusively uses voice actors. I hate when movies like Lego Ninjago ditch the voice actors for celebrities.

The Bob’s Burgers Movie will be a real treat for any animation fan as it has scene after scene of glossy 2D animation. I loved in particular the segments in the last act of the film when they are being chased through an underground bunker in an amusement park. The dark browns and blacks and the speed of the cars was wonderful.

All in all this film has the potential to be the surprise of the summer. I laughed, bopped to the songs and enjoyed spending time with this quirky family. If you are on the fence give it a shot. It just might surprise you as well. My only critique of the film is there was a time with the villain monologuing that went on too long and started to drag but once the section was done it picked back up again.

7 out of 10

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Current Mini Reviews (Downton Abbey, Chip ‘N Dale, Along for the Ride, Top Gun OG)

Hey everyone! It’s that time again where I give some quick updates on the films I’ve been watching. Unfortunately I just don’t have the time to write up a full review on every film I see. It’s impossible!

Aside from Men, which I hated, it’s been a pretty good month of movie-watching. Particularly in animation we are getting a lot of creativity and innovation which makes me happy to see (especially since I didn’t like Turning Red from earlier in the year).

So here’s the reviews:

Downton Abbey: A New Era-

I was a big fan of the 2019 Downton Abbey film and the show so I came into this new film a little biased to enjoy it. However, I have heard from a number of friends who haven’t watched the show that they have enjoyed the movies so it might surprise non-fans. Either way, this new entry Downton Abbey: A New Era is everything I want in this very fun frothy continuing journey of the Crawley family and their downstairs staff.

Writer Julian Fellowes does a great job balancing a ton of characters and story-threads which is particularly difficult this time because we have the group splitting up- half going to visit a villa in the Mediterranean and half managing the house while a movie is being shot by new to the series Hugh Dancy playing director Jack Barber.

My only nitpick is with Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery). I wish they could have gotten Matthew Goode in the movie as her husband. What they came up with instead was frustrating. All the other plotlines I really enjoyed. It’s particularly fun when the servants get a chance to dress up to be in the movie.

The highlight is always Maggie Smith as Violet and she’s spectacular here. My advice is have some tea, take your friends and go back into time for a delightful experience at the theaters!

(And check out our catch up podcast on the series and first movie above)

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers Review - IGN

Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers

I have to say I was as skeptical as anyone going into this movie. I didn’t like the trailers and the images I saw looked like a lame nostalgia grab. However, count me shocked because I had a blast with Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers. It all comes down to the script by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand, which is chocked full of gags and laughs that particularly animation fans will go gaga for.

I don’t want to spoil the gags for you but evidently they were going for a Who Framed Roger Rabbit feel and I think they totally succeeded. We have cameos from not just Disney like in Ralph Breaks the Internet but from studios like Sony and Netflix. And there were just a lot of hilarious gags like I loved the setup of Dale doing the comic-con circuit and getting ”CGI surgery” to relive the glory days. That’s clever.

The voice cast is also excellent with John Mullaney, Andy Samberg, Will Arnett and more. This should entertain both kids and adults so definitely worth your time on Disney Plus. It’s a hilarious time with our dynamic duo.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Along for the Ride' Review: Netflix Dips Into Sarah Dessen Library | IndieWire

Along for the Ride

New on Netflix is the rom-com Along for the Ride. It is based on the book by Sarah Dessen and has lots of beautiful beach scenery but unfortunately that’s all I enjoyed about it. Teen love stories are usually not my favorite but this does try for some deeper themes with our lead Auden (Emma Pasarow) dealing with divorce, a new baby sister and trying to make friends in a new town of Colby.

I didn’t think Pasarow and her guy Eli (Belmont Cameli) had much chemistry and the plot dragged on without much to engage the viewer. i wasn’t invested in the relationship or much beyond her relationship with her Father (Dermot Mulroney) and Step-Mom (Kate Bosworth). Andie McDowell is also good as her Mother.

I hate to say it but this one was dull. It’s about insomniacs and it just about put me to sleep. Also the acting was weak at times. I’d skip this one.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Tom Cruise Top Gun Top Gun Maverick: film confronti Festival di Cannes. Foto | Style

Top Gun 1996

With the release of Top Gun Maverick coming soon I wanted to log my review of the original Top Gun for rotten tomatoes. I just had my friends over for a watching party and we had a great time. I can see why some find it too cheesy but in my opinion that’s part of the appeal. I like the posing, corny dialogue, and volleyball playing with the campy 80s music in the background.

The flying scenes still hold up with terrific sound design and music from Harold Faltermeyer. It also has a good mixture of light and heavy moments with a cast that has chemistry including of course a young Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards and Meg Ryan to name a few.

Everyone around me seems to be loving the new film but I will always have a fondness for the original Top Gun. It’s what you want in a big bombastic cheesy blockbuster.

7 out of 10

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[REVIEW] ‘Hit the Road’ or Take a Ride with This Wonderful Film

In this era of big spectacle and cinematic universes it’s amazing how simple making a great piece of cinema can actually be. In his feature film debut Hit the Road, writer/director Panah Panahi has taken the road trip movie and crafted a moving, touching, funny family drama that anyone should be able to relate with. It’s as close to a masterpiece as I’ve seen in a long time and the more I’ve thought about it the more it resonates with me.

The film centers on a family traveling through the beautiful Iranian countryside (seriously this movie makes you wish you could go visit Iran and just drive. Gorgeous). It is a typical crammed in suv but the occupants don’t seem to be on a vacation. In fact, they are racing to get across the border into Turkey, having left their hometown in a rush to try and smuggle Big Brother played by Amin Simiar out of the country.

Big Brother obviously has a great deal of anxiety given his situation but this is countered by the joyousness of Little Brother played by the adorable Rayan Sarlak. He steals the movie but he is also an important element providing laughter and joy into an otherwise tense film. Pantea Panahiha is the ideal Mother trying to keep her family together and both her sons hopeful but the fear behind her eyes is ever-present.

Then we have Hassan Madjooni as the Father who is struggling in the backseat with a fully-cast broken leg. It itches and it’s hot and miserable. He tries his best to be a team player but it’s obvious it is a tough situation to be in.

But the real star of Hit the Road is the script. Panahi has done such a great job crafting a family we care about, a story that surprises and dialogue that touches on so many important modern issues. It’s a film the entire family can watch together and be entertained and edified. I’m not sure what the roll-out is going to be but I can’t recommend it more highly. A moving family story you won’t soon forget and if there is any justice we’ll hear about it come awards season.

9.5 out of 10

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[REVIEW] MEN or How to Really Annoy this Woman…

Alex Garland's Horror Movie 'Men' Has Trailer With Jessie Buckley, A24 - Variety

It’s a little hard to formulate my thoughts on Alex Garland’s new movie Men. I know I found it very annoying and difficult to get through but explaining why is challenging. I’ll do my best. I should start by saying I liked Garland’s Ex-Machina but I did not like his scifi film Annihilation in 2018. The former was an engaging AI scifi while the latter was a pretentious slog. Now we have Men, which purports to give us a ‘folk horror’ movie, but instead serves up a pretentious, heavy-handed, non-scary piece of arthouse junk. No thank you!

Men' trailer: Alex Garland ditches sci-fi for his most human movie yet

I will start out by saying I love Jessie Buckley so much. She won my heart in Wild Rose and I’ve loved her in everything I’ve seen her in since. The failure of Men is not her fault. In fact, she does a great job in a challenging performance. The film also looks nice with some great cinematography and small-scale visual effects.

The problem is the story and the fact it thinks it has something interesting to say but it doesn’t. At least something like Promising Young Woman has an unreliable narrator that hates men for a reason and her toxicity along with the men played out in interesting ways.

In Men Garland doesn’t give us any such nuance or engaging story.  Buckley’s character Harper is grieving over the loss of her husband (Paapa Essiedu) when she meets Rory Kinnear’s Geoffrey when renting his vacation home. We don’t really get to know her well and only have minimal backstory or insights into her character. She’s a classic case of someone who doesn’t act but is acted upon within the narrative.

Spoiler Alert: Men Movie Review - THE HOLLYWOOD MIRROR MAGAZINE

Kinnear plays several characters and each one of them embodies different shades of toxic masculinity. There’s a petulant boy, a creepy vicar, and even Adam and the tree of knowledge of good and evil (yes they go way back…). I guess this treatise on gender could be interesting but it doesn’t have anything to say beyond the fact that toxic men exist. We already know that! Again at least PYW had a message about how we treat victims. This is nothing. It’s not scary and the screenplay just gets more annoying as it goes along.

If he’s going to comment on half the human race I’d think Garland could come up with something better than they are all terrible and selfish creatures? Then the ending is so dumb I almost left the theater. I guess I can’t say it because it would be spoilers, but I hated it and they repeat it 3 or 4 times!

There will be people who will claim this is brilliant but I don’t see anything great about what it was trying to say or do.  Why not have one sympathetic man so Harper is confused and doesn’t know who to trust? This would be scary and provide a more layered view of how toxic masculinity and abuse happens. Instead we get this pretentious “horror” film that fails in nearly every respect.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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Blind Spot 77: Barry Lyndon

There’s always something intimidating about a Stanley Kubrick film. You know you aren’t going to get something run-of-the-mill or mainstream. It’s going to challenge me and be fresh and inventive. He’s an impressive director because he tackled so many different genres from comedy (Dr Strangelove) to scifi (2001: A Space Odyssey) to the film we are talking about for this blind spot choice Barry Lyndon– a historical period piece.

To be honest, as a big fan of period pieces I expected to like this film more than I did. I came away from it feeling it is handsomely mounted and well-made, but emotionally distant and bland.

I’m not saying Barry Lyndon is a bad movie. It just didn’t do a lot to excite me or draw me into the story. I think it is one of those classics I’m glad I’ve seen but can’t ever imagine watching again.

It tells the story of Barry Lyndon who is a rogue in 18th century England who fights in war and then woes a rich widow to take advantage of her social status and connections.

Barry Lyndon is over 3 hours which usually isn’t a problem for me with period pieces. I recently watched the 2006 Jane Eyre and the 1995 Pride and Prejudice which are both over 4 hours with enthusiasm. The problem was I just didn’t feel that attached to Barry or any of the other characters. Again, it wasn’t bad. Just not that engrossing or interesting.

I can see why it won Oscars for score, costumes, art direction and cinematography. All of that is exemplary and very well done. The acting is also excellent by Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, and more.

I appreciated the intermission, and I did enjoy the second half more than the first because war movies aren’t my favorite but again the characters and story left me flat. Someday they should do a movie from Lady Lyndon’s perspective because she is treated terribly by Barry and others. The narrator (Michael Hordern) sometimes gives us insight into her and other characters, but I could have used even more.

I had read Barry Lyndon is “one of the best and most influential films ever made” so maybe my expectations were too high? I guess I can see production-wise but the characters and story were nowhere near on that level in my opinion. If it’s a favorite of yours let me know why and what I missed.

6 out of 10

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[REVIEW] ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ or Don’t Get Wanda Mad

One of the biggest critiques that seems to come for the Marvel Cinematic Universe is it has underwhelming villains. This is because the MCU is geared more towards families so the focus is on the heroes doing heroic stuff rather than the villains (with notable exceptions like Thanos, Loki and Kilmonger). The studios latest entry, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seems to want to change that impression with a strong, scary, and complex villain by the name of Wanda Maximoff aka The Scarlet Witch.

Director Sam Raimi makes his first superhero movie since Spider-Man 3 and adds his horror sensibilities all over the place in this MCU entry. We even get some zombie action which fans of Raimi’s Evil Dead movies will appreciate.

DS2 takes over from where WandaVision left us with Wanda abandoning Westview after her attempts to craft a perfect life fall apart and she is a desperate, angry woman. After she obtains the Darkhold (in the WV post-credit scene) she now has the power to create chaos on our planet but also in other dimensions- dimensions where she can be with her sons Billy and Tommy which she got to quasi-raise in WandaVision.

It is the combination of desperation and power that make Wanda a compelling character. Also we want to root for her because we loved her and Vision but the more unhinged she gets the harder that is to do. Very few Marvel villains have that kind of push and pull where we are repulsed by and hopeful for the character at the same time.

Then we have Stephen Strange who kind of plays second fiddle in his own movie (which I was fine with). He is outpowered and outplayed by Wanda at every turn, which makes for a desperate and compelling character. Also Strange sees him mess up and become very flawed in alternate dimensions (and in his dreams), which makes for an interesting character. Arguably he is a more conflicted character than in his previous solo outing Doctor Strange.

A new hero is introduced to the MCU named America Chavez who has the ability to jump between universes. We don’t get to learn much about her but I did like her performance by Xochitl Gomez. Marvel often introduces characters in ensembles and then gives them their own movies so this was fine for me (think Spider-man and Black Panther in Civil War). I’m sure we will see more of her going forward.

There have been some that have criticized Doctor Strange 2 for being too dependent on WandaVision but when Wanda is your main character I’m not sure how you get around that? Haven’t people been hoping the MCU would have more layered villains? Is that not what we got with Wanda? Much like Loki she’s going to swing between villain and hero but that’s fascinating and a lot of fun.

It’s also refreshing in this film to see Riami’s stamp and style all over the place- especially in the 3rd act. It was surprising and engaging and I loved the visual style of the multiverse. The cameos were also a lot of fun. They weren’t on a No Way Home level but I didn’t expect them to be.

As far as flaws, the plot did zip around a lot and it can feel messy putting all the clues from the shows and movies together but I also think that’s part of what makes the MCU special- putting the clues together and filling out the puzzle? Nothing in Doctor Strange 2 felt out of character, mean-spirited or frustrating like Spider-man Far From Home or Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2. Those are the worst films in the MCU for my money.

Why 'Doctor Strange 2' Showtimes Dominated Theaters Opening Weekend - Variety

Comparing it to Eternals, that film was messy in a different way. Jumping between timelines with 10 different characters didn’t work. With Doctor Strange 2 you are focusing on the same characters that are behaving the same but in different dimensions. With Eternals, especially Ikaris, one minute he’s a hero, the next he’s out to kill our heroes and then back and forth again. It didn’t work. Nothing with Wanda, Doctor Strange or America changes in this film despite what dimension they might be in.

With 28 films in, it isn’t reasonable to expect Marvel to make stand-alone movies. Again putting all the pieces together in the universe is part of the fun of the experience. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness had a lot of pieces but it’s an enjoyable ride. Riami’s style is bold and exciting. Wanda is terrifying yet relatable and Strange is a great guide into all this madness. If by some miracle you haven’t seen it yet, catch up with the MCU and give it a watch

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (18 1/2, AmbuLAnce, Father Stu)

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. I have been busy as usual.  The fun thing about doing my podcasts is there is always something new and fresh to talk about. Lately I’ve been covering a lot of television at Hallmarkies Podcast which has been demanding but exciting.

Anyway, I have some reviews to update you on. What have you been watching? There is so much it’s impossible to keep up with everything, so I would love your suggestions!

Sanditon Season 2

Anyone who knows me knows I was not a fan of Sanditon season 1. Based on Jane Austen’s unfinished novel the creators decided it was more important to be edgy than to provide a satisfying love story. I particularly disliked anything to do with Esther and her relationship with her “brother” Edward.

What’s so surprising is it is created by Andrew Davies who has given us great period piece projects like the 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. With Sanditon it’s like he has completely forgotten what makes for a satisfying romance.

Why did I watch season 2 you ask? Well, there was such an outcry at the terrible ending of season 1 I assumed season 2 would fix it all. Unfortunately that was not the case. Almost every love affair ends badly. Esther’s plotline is still awful, and we get another befuddling ending for Charlotte. What on earth! Jane Austen would not approve!

I hate this show!

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

18 1/2

I always enjoy a good historical fiction. It’s fun to go back in time and wonder what might have happened or what people might have been like? Such is the case with the new indie 18 1/2. In this movie we get a fictionalized portrayal of what it might have been like for a White House transcriber and her associate who find the 18 1/2 minutes missing from the Watergate tapes.

I liked Willa Fitzgerald and John Magaro in the lead roles and the simulated tapes with Bruce Campbell as Nixon and Jon Cryer as Bob Haldeman feel very convincing. Richard Kind also appears as a supporting role as a man who owns an inn where the transcribers are staying (it had the feel of It Happened One Night in those sequences, although not as much a romance).

The film does drag in the middle when Connie and Paul are trying to schmooze fellow guests (Sullivan Jones, Marija Juliette Abney) at the inn who also want the tapes. But overall this is an exciting and engaging time at the movies!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Father Stu

I admit I tend to be easier on faith-based films than a lot of my fellow critics. This comes partly because I recognize the audience they are creating content for and that often they are made on small budgets with good intentions. Nevertheless, I recognize the genre could do a lot better in making nuanced and engaging films certainly to appeal to more than just the hard core believers (which I am not a traditional Christian so I include myself in that group).

This is why I get excited about a film like Father Stu. It is far from perfect but it takes risks in the genre that excite me and I hope it is successful enough to encourage others to make similar attempts. The first reason Father Stu stands out is it’s strong R rating. This is not a one or two curse words R. It uses the f word frequently as well as other profanities. This is really surprising given the target market.

That alone wouldn’t make the movie worth seeing (of course) but I appreciate the film has flawed characters that aren’t paragons of virtue. The title character, Father Stu, played by Mark Wahlberg is kind of a mess and he remains a mess even when he gets an ASL-like condition and his body starts deteriorating.  His relationship with God is also refreshingly simple and free from theatrics.

Unfortunately I wish the movie was made better. The directing is very clunky with strange photo choices and odd pacing.  There are also some weird side-plots that don’t work like Father Stu’s girlfriend who he seems infatuated with until all the sudden he’s not and wants to be a priest. Also his priest roommate was maybe closeted gay man but it was handled strangely?

Nevertheless, flaws and all I think Father Stu is worth a watch and if someone were to ask me this is the way I would like faith-based films to go.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

AmbuLAnce

I have never been a big fan of director Michael Bay particularly his overbearing and annoying Transformers films. I did like his movie 13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi which perhaps was too politically charged to get the credit it deserves as an engaging action film but for the most part his style of directing isn’t my favorite.

Now we have AmbuLAnce and it is definitely the best movie Bay has made in a long time and while I had some issues it’s a fun action thriller.

The story centers around 2 brothers Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II who plan the perfect bank heist only to end up in a high speed chase around LA in an ambulance (hence the captialized LA in AmbuLAnce). This seems to be the year for movies set in LA and I think anyone who has visited or lived there will recognize the ridiculous nature of most of the chases in this film. Never has LA traffic been so free during a whole business day!

Gyllenhaal and Mateen do a great job playing off each other and Bay builds tension well as the day gets crazier with each decision Gyllenhaal makes. Eiza González is less convincing as an EMT trying to keep a cop alive in the ambulance but it works.

My problem with AmbuLAnce is the way Bay filmed the movie. The constant swirling drone shots and shaky cam made me nauseated. Honestly I’d recommend skipping this film in the theaters and watching it at home where you won’t be as sick. I know I’m more sensitive than most but it’s a long movie and all that movement was too much.

The movie also gets more ridiculous as it goes along with Gyllenhaal’s character getting more insane by the minute, which is fun, but also hurts the tension when its so unbelievable. It also vacillates greatly on how we  are to value human life. People are mowed over, cars are flipped, cops and thugs are killed and we are to be entertained where other deaths are treated with great solemnity.

There is fun to be had in AmbuLAnce but in the end the shaky filmmaking and questionable character/plot choices were enough to make it not enjoyable for me. Maybe watch it when it comes on streaming at home. Otherwise it’s a skip

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Colma: The Musical

This last review isn’t a ‘current’ film but one we are covering for The Criterion Project podcast I host that covers films on the Criterion Channel streaming service. It’s a micro-budget musical called Colma: The Musical and I loved it!

Made on a budget of only 15k in 2006 this labor of love from director Richard Wong and writer HP Mendoza (and lead actor) is a total delight. It tells the story of 3 friends graduating high school in Colma, California and trying to decide what to do next. The songs are the real highlight and it is full of bop after bop.

Naturally some of the production feels hyper-indie but it’s all done with such love and energy I didn’t care. If you have the Criterion Channel I highly recommend Colma: the Musical and look for our review to come on the podcast next week. It is a fantastic hidden gem more people should be talking about.

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (…Massive Talent, Everything…, Polar Bear, The Bad Guys)

Hi friends! I really wanted to write long reviews for each of these movies but alas I simply ran out of time. Shorter reviews will have to do because I want to get the word out (on most of them) as they are part of a strong April at the cinemas.

So here we go!

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

SXSW Review: 'The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent': Nicolas Cage –  Deadline

After years of making schlocky underwhelming films Nicolas Cage seems to be having a bit of a renaissance with films like Pig, Mandy and Spider-man Into the Spider-Verse. With this in mind it perhaps the perfect time to release a film like The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. In this comedy Cage pokes fun at his persona, Hollywood in general and tells an endearing story of friendship with the great Pedro Pascal (who was one of my favorite parts of Wonder Woman 84).

In this meta-story a version of Nic Cage, the actor, is hired by Pascal to come to his Birthday party and hopefully read his movie script. Unfortunately while there Cage gets recruited by the CIA to investigate Pascal who is involved with organized crime and abducting the daughter of a fellow mob boss.

The truth is I could have gotten rid of all the espionage plot and just had the movie been about Pascal and Cage becoming friends (make it a My Dinner with Andre but with these 2 dudes) and been perfectly content. They have great chemistry together and I bought them as friends. There are other strong supporting roles from Sharon Horgan, Neil Patrick Harris, Tiffany Haddish and more.

Something like Massive Talent could be smug and annoying but it never loses its sense of humor and spirit of fun. I had a great time with it and I agree with its conclusion that Paddington 2 is the best…

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) - IMDb

Everything Everywhere All at Once

If Massive Talent is too meta for you than you definitely should stay away from the new film from distributor A24 Everything Everywhere All at Once. To say this indie martial arts family drama is bonkers would be an understatement. Normally I don’t like movies which feel jumbled and confusing but for whatever reason I had a good time with this one.

The story of the film is about a woman named Evelyn played by Michelle Yeoh who stumbles into an interdimensional portal when visiting her auditor (Jamie Lee Curtis). This portal includes different versions of herself and her family (Ke Huy Quan who is so fun as her husband and Stephanie Hsu as her daughter). We also see the great James Hong as her father.

There are times when the multiverses feel like they are trying too hard to be edgy and weird but it was all in a spirit of fun so I enjoyed it. The weirdest one they have hotdogs as hands!

Such a bonkers film won’t be for everyone but I loved all the homages to classic films thrown in like a whole In the Mood for Love section. The music is also strong by Son Lux and I laughed throughout at the madness. If you are up for something weird give it a shot.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Polar Bear' Disney+ Review: Stream It or Skip It?

Polar Bear

Now we have for something totally different the latest documentary from DisneyNature Polar Bear. Like all the films in this series it helps us get to know a species of animal (in this case polar bears) and tries to teach kids about the world around them. While this one is harmless and has a good message, I must admit it is one of my least favorite of the DisneyNature docs.

For Polar Bear they don’t give the bear a name but they have Catherine Keener narrating the film in first person. This leads to lines like ”I had the best day of my life”. I mean come on. How could they possibly know that? LOL. These nature docs are always cheesy but this one laid it on especially thick.

Also the film is very heavy-handed on the climate change messaging. I suppose there is a place for that but it made it all less fun and was strange when put up against the cheerful ahtropomorphization of other sequences .

I guess this is harmless for kids but not one of my favorites.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Bad Guys Review: Heist Comedy Is One of DreamWorks Animation's Best

The Bad Guys

One of the most exciting trends in moviemaking today is the hybrid 2D/3D animation method. I love the flat, yet rich, designs of films like Spider-Verse, The Mitchells vs the Machines and The Peanuts Movie. Now our latest entry comes from DreamWorks animation with The Bad Guys.

Based on the graphic novels by Aaron Blabey The Bad Guys takes a simple concept of a group of ‘bad guy’ thieves and asks if they can be the good guys? It’s not so different from Wreck-it Ralph in that regard except for here you have more than one character who needs reforming and animation that is truly special.

There are a lot of reasons the animation is stunning in this film but I particularly loved the way the action was shot. I can’t think of a film that has better animated car chases and fight sequences except maybe the web-slinging sequences in Spider-Verse. It was a joy to watch.

I also really liked that it was set in LA with recognizable landmarks. Most animated films are set in fictional cities so that was a fun aspect here. The voice-cast is also excellent without being distracting. I loved Sam Rockwell as our lead Mr Wolf with Awkwafina stealing the show as the cute Ms Tarantula.

The story in The Bad Guys is a basic heist plot and it is definitely predictable but everything else was so great I didn’t care. I’ve seen it twice now and loved it both times. The whole family will enjoy following these bad guys on this very good time!

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

 

So there you have it. If you get to see any of these films let me know what you think!

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