Current Movie Reviews

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! I have a big update to give you of all the movies I’ve been watching lately. The awards season is upon us so I’ve been trying to get as many of the screeners/popular films watched as possible. I tried to write full reviews for as many of the films as possible but I ran out of time so that means it’s time for some mini reviews!

Here goes!

Bergman Island

Bergman Island Review: Mia Hansen-Løve's Scenes from a Marriage | IndieWire

I am not a Bergman expert (I’ve actually only seen one of his movies The Seventh Seal which I reviewed for Blind Spot a few years ago). I am sure fans of Bergman will enjoy this film even more than I did but I still thought it was a good watch. Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps play a writing duo who go to the island where Bergman shot his movies for inspiration. While there she tells him the story for her new movie which we see played out with Mia Wasikowska. I may like the movie within a movie better than a movie but the script was quippy and fun and everyone had good chemistry. A movie made for cinemaphiles.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza': Trailer, release date and everything we know about the Paul Thomas Anderson movie | What to Watch

I’ve noticed critics slightly older than me are really hyping up this movie. It definitely has that nostalgia for a time and place that will appeal to people who lived in that time and place. All that said, I still enjoyed it. It’s a meandering slice of life type of story that relies on its characters to get you through the film over the story. Fortunately, for the most part the characters are engaging. Alana Haim is great as the Jewish young adult who becomes friends with a teenage boy played by Cooper Hoffman. He’s only 15 but he seems older as he owns several businesses throughout the film and works as a teen-star on a show. Some parts felt a little played out like most of the goings-on involving his waterbed business but I loved everything when she is working for a local councilman’s campaign. It reminded me of Dazed and Confused but without Linklater’s snappy dialogue. Licorice Pizza isn’t a classic but it’s worth watching

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Mass

Mass' review: The emotional aftermath of a school shooting - Los Angeles Times

There are certain movies that are very well done that I have no desire to ever watch again. Mass is one of those films. It is a simple movie which feels more like a play: 2 couples sitting in a room talking about their departed children. However, in this case one son is a school shooter and one was his victim. All 4 actors are exceptional especially Ann Dowd and Martha Plimpton as the 2 mothers. It’s extremely intense and brutal but there is hope at the end. At almost 2 hours it’s a bit exhausting but I’m glad I saw it.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Hand of God

The Hand of God first-look review – Paolo Sorrentino's Cinema Paradiso

The Hand of God is a movie that tries to do what Licorice Pizza does but without as much success. It’s a slice of life coming of age story about an Italian boy in 1980s Naples. Like Licorice Pizza, it’s full of little vignettes of the young man growing up but they aren’t as charming or engaging. I honestly felt like I was watching Italian people amble about for over 2 hours. The account of Fabietto losing his virginity was especially strange. It is beautifully filmed by Paolo Sorrentino but there are so many better movies that conquer the same topic that this one is a skip.

Frown Worthy

4.5 out of 10

Pig

Pig,” Reviewed: Nicolas Cage Is the Only Reason to Watch | The New Yorker

This summer I heard a lot about Pig from my friends but for some reason I didn’t think it would be something I’d like. It just felt weird. However, now I have seen it and to my surprise I actually enjoyed it! Pig tells the story of a reclusive chef turned truffle hunter who goes on a quest to find his stolen truffle pig. These pigs can be very valuable but that’s not why he is on his mission. He’s searching because he loves the pig and misses it, which is sweet and more endearing than this movie had any right to be. I will probably select Nicolas Cage for my actor nominations I am voting for. He’s great and the movie is a winner.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Extinct

Extinct (2021) - IMDb

Extinct is an animated film I kept hearing about but it seemed like it would never actually get released. Now I’ve seen it and it’s…fine. The animation and the story are serviceable and the voicework is all well done, but there’s nothing exceptional or memorable here. The film is extremely exposition heavy. In particular the villain has a monologue at one point that goes on for at least 10 minutes and then we don’t see him again for until the end of the movie. Extinct isn’t actively bad but just bland and forgettable.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Tragedy of Macbeth

The Tragedy of Macbeth Review: Denzel Shines in Dream Shakespeare Noir | IndieWire

Next up we have newest take on Shakespeare’s most disturbing play, The Tragedy of Macbeth directed by Joel Coen of Coen Brothers fame. I am not a Shakespeare expert so I can’t tell you what they left in or took out in this adaptation, but all the main moments are there. The acting is excellent by Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Brendan Gleeson, Corey Hawkins and more. The whole movie was shot in black and white in a castle with seemingly cement walls surrounding it. The use of shadows and lighting is very effective in creating an almost silhouette motif to many of the shots. I can picture this version being used in high schools in coming years to come. Excellent

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Sing 2

Sing 2 Trailer Offers First Look at Bono, Halsey in Animated Adventure – The Hollywood Reporter

I am not the biggest Illumination fan but I didn’t mind the first Sing movie and I loved the soundtrack. Now we have the sequel and to my surprise I didn’t mind it either. It’s no masterpiece but it’s a pleasant animated film with another great soundtrack. In this sequel they take our troupe of singers to a Vegas-like city to try out for a show run by mogul Jimmy Crystal. The housewife Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) is still my favorite character (you don’t see many Mothers with their own character arcs in animated films. I like that). The story in Sing 2 definitely takes itself way too seriously and gets bogged down in heavy themes of depression, discouragement and rejection but I still overall enjoyed it and especially if you love the music you’ll have fun with it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World (2021) - IMDb

In another coming of age story this film is about a young Norwegian woman who decides to study psychology and become a photographer. She begins to date an older man who has a successful comic-book series called Bobcat. The best part of this movie is the chemistry between Julie (Renate Reinsve) and Aksel (Anders Danielsen). They have an age gapbut they fit well together and you are rooting for them as a couple. This is a pretty strong R rating but if you are up for this kind of story you’ll enjoy it.

7.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

8-Bit Christmas

8-Bit Christmas Release Date, Cast, And Plot - What We Know So Far

Most of the Christmas movies I watch for Hallmarkies Podcast are TV movies rather than feature films but occasionally we get a film that could be released in theaters like 8-Bit Christmas. This film has a great cast and while it borrows from many other holiday films (especially A Christmas Story) I found it to be a charming and sweet film. I loved Winslow Fegley in Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made last year and he’s great in this as well. All the kids are excellent (which is important as they are the main characters). Neil Patrick Harris is charming as the narrator (telling his story much like the narrator in A Christmas Story) and most of the humor and heart works. I can picture this becoming a holiday favorite for families looking to remember Christmas in the 80s like A Christmas Story did for the 60s.

8 out of 10

House of Gucci

House of Gucci' film: Plotline, cast, trailer and release date - RUSSH

House of Gucci I won’t log on rottentomatoes because I didn’t get to see the last 20 minutes. I was evacuated from my theater because of a fire! It was pretty surreal. All the sudden a loud siren started going and then the speaker said ‘this is an emergency. Please exit the theater’. So we made our way out of the theater and then were sent home. No end to the movie for us! From what I saw House of Gucci was mostly fun. I liked the camp especially from Lady Gaga. It’s definitely over-long and I’ve heard from others the ending isn’t good (but isn’t it based on true events so maybe they had no choice?). I’m not dying to find out how it ends so I guess that says something but maybe when it comes to a streaming service I’ll finish it off. Jared Leto gives a very strange performance.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Blind Spot 71: The Gold Rush (1925)

I have a lot of Oscar contender movies to catch up on this site but before that I want to give my thoughts on the November Blind Spot pick. Speaking of which if you have any suggestions for movies I haven’t ever reviewed please let me know in the comments. I will be coming up with my 2022 picks soon!

the dance with the dinner rolls is iconic

For November my selection is the Charlie Chaplin classic: The Gold Rush. What’s really interesting about this film is there are 2 versions (both on the Criterion Channel). There is the original film from 1925 and the re-release in 1942. It’s fascinating to watch them back-to-back as I did but I prefer the original film. They are pretty close but the 1942 film has Chaplin narrating the film which comes off as corny.

The Gold Rush tells the story of The Lone Prospector (Chaplin) and his love for a beautiful woman named Georgia. Of course other townspeople are interested in Georgia any trying to impress her. He dances with her and invites her on a date for a party, which of course goes disastrously wrong.

I am always impressed by Chaplin’s facial expressions and how he uses his whole body to sell a scene. Without dialogue it is essential the actor amplifies his emotions and feelings or it will lay flat and Chaplin is a master at this. I love this scene from the movie. In fact, all the actors stood out in the film:

The whole cast is strong here with a nice chemistry and great comedic timing. The idea of the cabin over the cliff is so well executed and Chaplin’s responses are hilarious.

The Gold Rush has a madcap energy that is terrific and hilarious. We start out seeing Chaplin go through cold, blizzards, and fighting other men for the gold and for Georgia. The action is shot with such pizazz. It still holds up quite a bit.

Whether you watch the 1925 classic or the 1942 re-release you are good hands watching The Gold Rush. It’s engaging,funny, romantic, touching (it’s great!).

8 out of 10

Smile Worhty

[REVIEW] ‘Belle’ or Mamoru Hosoda’s Stunning Defense of Modern Friendship

Hi friends! This review is about a month late but I really wanted to get my views on Mamoro Hosoda’s new film Belle out there as critics are doing their Oscar watches. Please make this stunning anime film a part of your awards consideration! It’s not only one of my favorite movies of 2021 but one of the best theater experiences I’ve had since maybe Avengers: Endgame.

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I was fortunate enough to see Belle at a screening at Animation is Film Festival which I attended in Los Angeles this October (read more in my travelogue here). The screening of Belle had a ton of buzz and when I arrived the theater was packed- every seat taken. The director Hosoda was there in attendance and he introduced the film. He talked about how the Disney Beauty and the Beast (which is 30 years old this year! Perfect timing for this fresh take) was something that helped inspire him to become an animator. ‘Now this is my take on the story” he said as he took his seat and the movie began!

And wow! What an experience! I can’t put into words how electrifying it was to be in a theater again where everyone was invested in every aspect of the film. It was so incredible. And fortunately it wasn’t just the moment but Belle is a stunning treatise on friendship, the internet and how we can still rescue each other in 2021.

Belle can be described as Beauty and the Beast meets The Matrix but that doesn’t capture the emotion of the piece. Hosoda is so great at capturing raw human emotion in his stories and this is certainly one of his best. The film tells the story of Suzu, a teenager who is traumatized by a life event and stops singing and interacting much with the world. Then one day she goes onto a virtual reality platform called U and she begins to sing again as an avatar named Belle.

One day Belle meets a dragon who is full of bruises that have powers which she becomes fascinated with. There is also a friend in real life that Suzu friend-zones named Shinobu and 2 brothers she tries to help that are being abused by their hateful father.

All these elements come into play with the gorgeous animation and music to make a very memorable experience. It’s so refreshing to have the story we all know and love but taken to a new and interesting place. This is not the story of finding the good in a monster as the Disney film does. It’s about finding good in the monster of the cyberworld. That it can be a tool to help us all reach out to each other and rescue each other. How needed and beautiful is that?

I know people exist who won’t give anime a chance. I will never understand those people. However, if you are open to the medium watch Belle. It’s a career achievement for Hosoda and one of the best films of 2021. If it gets snubbed for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars I will be outraged (the Academy has a long history of snubbing anime not done by Miyazaki although Hosoda did have his last film Mirai get a nomination). We can only hope.

Belle will be available for general audiences in January when GKIDS is releasing it but critics and selected audiences can see it now. Look out for it!

9.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’: Nostalgic Cash Grab or Love Letter From Son to His Father? Or Both?

Ah Ghostbusters...I don’t think there is a comedic/horror franchise that has developed such an ardent and devoted following. This is especially interesting as there has only been 1 universally well-received film in the franchise, the original 1984 film directed by Ivan Reitman.

I enjoy that film well enough but have never seen it as some kind of comedic masterpiece like others do. To compare it to the likes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is insane but to each their own I suppose.

We of course got the 2016 reboot with an all-female cast that made the internet implode with toxicity and now we have a new iteration Ghostbusters: Afterlife. And unfortunately a critic friend of mine had a supposed fan call him on his personal berating him for his negative review of this film, so the toxicity continues amongst extreme members of the fandom. Sigh…

But what do I think of this film? I suppose that’s why you are all reading this review! Honestly I’m of 2 minds about it. I enjoyed watching it and can tell Jason Reitman took crafting a love letter to his father very seriously. On the other hand, is it still a nostalgia porn cash grab by a studio desperate to keep an IP alive? Yes, yes it is….

In the end enjoying Ghostbusters: Afterlife will lean entirely on whether you can stomach the nostalgia or not. If you find that patronizing and annoying you will hate it. If you can smile at most of it than there’s lots to like here.

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE Parents Guide Movie Review - Guide For Geek Moms

One of the biggest differences in this entry is it is solidly made for children rather than adults like the original. McKenna Grace leads the cast as a quirky girl named Phoebe who is moved to the middle of nowhere by her Mother (Carrie Coon) to take care of her Grandfather’s dirt farm after his passing. Grace is very likable and endearing and I think boys and girls alike will really enjoy her performance.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife' review: Director Jason Reitman calls back to the original while adding a teenage twist - CNN

Paul Rudd plays Phoebe’s teacher and fellow  seismology nerd who begins dating Coon’s character. Then we have Finn Wolfhard as Phoebe’s brother Trevor. The action is well done throughout and there is a plucky feel to the adventure that will remind 80s kids more of Goonies than Ghostbusters tbh.

Where the nostalgia comes in is in a series of cameos and winks at the original that did make me cringe and weren’t really needed for the story but then I’m not a die-hard fan of the franchise so maybe they were more appreciated by the audience it was made for? You’ll have to let me know. The Annie Potts cameo was especially lame. Talk about giving someone nothing to do…

The score and special effects have an 80s Amblin-esque quality to them that I found charming and engaging. Others may mileage may vary on it. There’s also a moment at the end which you could feel Reitman’s love for his Dad literally on screen and it got to me. It was as raw and real as you can expect in a movie like this.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife' review: New sequel destroyed by fan service

I’m not going to tell you Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a classic and people who hate it are wrong. I get it. Still for me it was a sweet enough love letter by the director to his Dad and an engaging enough adventure for kids to recommend. I’d say if that sounds appealing to you give it a try.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Tick, Tick…Boom’ or the Glory in Never Giving Up

To be a creative…

So many of us have the dream but there is only room enough for so many authors, artists, poets, painters, actors and creators. Only so many people can satisfy their creative urges as a living but what happens to the people left behind who are full of unrealized potential? This is the question of Tick, Tick…Boom.

Netflix provides first look at Tick, Tick...Boom! musical film, directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda | WhatsOnStage

It’s ironic because this is also the message of Rent which is the famed Broadway musical written by the subject of Tick, Tick…Boom Jonathan Larson. In Tick we see Jonathan pre-Rent struggling with a science fiction musical called Suburbia he hoped to someday get produced on Broadway. Until then he is working as a waiter (all true details of Larson’s life) and trying to make progress with a workshop of his musical.

In the meantime, he has a girlfriend (Alexander Shipp) who wants to move away from New York and a best friend (Robin de Jesus) who has recently sold-out (or has he?) and become a corporate guy. Jonathan judges him but they both come to understand each other by the end of the film.

tick, tick... BOOM! – everything we know so far about the cast, music and plot - Classic FM

The musical Jonathan eventually writes in Rent is all about community and the value the individual misfits give to the new Bohemia. It’s about relationships and a horrible plague that seemed to especially strike at the dreamers of the time. So what do we do? How long do we keep going and trying? That is what Jonathan struggles with as a character in the movie and that’s what he expressed in his one-man stage show of Tick.

Lin-Manuel Miranda has captured Jonathan’s struggle so well and it makes for an impressive directorial debut. I think only a creative mind like Miranda could know what it’s like to keep trying to make something happen out of nothing. The musical sequences will speak to the dreamer and Jonathan’s blend of narcissism and love for life will ring true for most who have ventured down this path or they certainly did for me. Tick, Tick…Boom is the kind of movie you want to start again as soon as it is over because it’s such a cathartic experience to be a part of.

Andrew Garfield is tremendous as Jonathan and the rest of the cast supports him well. Shipp and Jesus are standouts as well as gorgeous singing from Vanessa Hudgens. There are also tons of fun cameos and Easter eggs the Broadway fan will adore.

The sad part is Jonathan never got to see his dreams come true as he died before the first performance of Rent. Knowing this will happen adds a layer to everything we see in Tick, Tick…Boom and it made for one of my favorite,, if not my favorite films, of 2021. It spoke to me on an emotional level and gave me courage to keep at my dreams. Keep writing, keep podcasting, keep being the best I can be.

9.5 out of 10

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[Movie 60] ‘Encanto’ (Spoiler Free Review)

Before I start my review I’d like to give a shout-out to the little monthly podcast called Talking Disney Classics I’ve been doing with my friend Stanford for the last 3 years. Each month we get together and talk about one of the Disney Classic films. For November I’m extremely proud of the fact we recorded our 59th episode and am now finished with the classic side of the Disney Canon. We have actually recorded Encanto but it won’t post until December.

Over the course of the 3 years we have had wonderful guests on and had great discussions as we let the random number generator determine what Disney film we would be discussing…and we threw in a few bonus episodes in for good measure. I love the podcast and I think you will too.

But let’s talk about Encanto:

Encanto is the 60th film from Walt Disney Animation Studios and their 2nd film released this year. What an incredible world we live in that we get 2 Disney films, plus a Pixar film in one year. I was lucky enough to go to a preview for Encanto when I attended Animation is Film Festival and it was a great experience. We heard from director Jared Bush about how they wanted to tell a multi-generational story and how careful they were to honor the rich cultural traditions of Colombia where the film is set.

I don’t know how others will feel but in this critic’s opinion all their hard work paid off. With Encanto, the Disney team has created a film which will relate to anyone and that should entertain and uplift the entire family.

The most approachable part of Encanto lies within its lead character Mirabel (Stephanie Beatrix). She lives in a magical house called an encanto in a family full of superpowers like her Mother can heal through food, and her sister has massive strength. The only problem is the magic seems to have stopped with Mirabel and she doesn’t have a gift. And yet despite this disappointment Mirabel is a positive and uplifting character that tries hard to keep her family happy.

Who can’t relate to that? Don’t we all feel like outsiders in our own lives and families from time to time? I know I sure did growing up. Despite coming from a loving family I felt different and that I didn’t gel with the people around me well. I remember one day screaming out to my family ‘I’m the normal one. You all are the weird ones”. LOL. While not the most effective way to communicate it put into words the frustration of being a teenager and feeling like the world wasn’t made for me. This is Mirabel.

But not only do we get to know Mirabel. We become acquainted with her entire family. And it’s not a squeaky clean family. These are siblings that squabble, parents who fail to communicate, and even a Grandma character that can be quite selfish at times.

I loved all the characters but I especially enjoyed super strong Luisa (Jessica Darrow) and the outcast uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo). These 2 characters also get the 2 best songs in the show with “Surface Pressure” and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”. The songs are of course by Lin-Manuel Miranda and in a very strong year it might be his best work yet. It’s also a standout to have 2 songs completely in Spanish, which has never happened in a Disney film before.

It probably goes without saying the animation in Encanto is stunning. The way the animators used light and color to create the atmosphere and tone is breathtaking. They also did an incredible job making the encanto home become a character within the film. Even something as simple as a floor tile becomes a way for the house to communicate with Mirabel. It’s both charming and engaging. The house also is bigger than the outside would let on. There are passageways to grand vistas and lands that Mirabel must conquer. This helps make sure the audience keeps getting surprised and delighted.

It seems some people had a hard time with Raya and the Last Dragon‘s themes of trust and forgiveness. I took it at face value and didn’t over-think it but I don’t think anyone will have problems with Encanto’s message. It’s themes are so universal focusing on family, self-confidence and accepting others flaws and all. Like I said, even the Grandma character is flawed and needs her family (and the entire town) to make it through the tough times.

We live in a special time for the art of animation. There are so many studios, films and voices fighting for our attention. I sincerely hope a lovely film like Encanto doesn’t get lost in the hustle because it is a wonderful cinematic treasure for the whole family.

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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[REVIEW] Home Sweet Home Alone or Keep Your Remake You Filthy Animal

Anyone who follows my content knows how much I love the original Home Alone from1990. I saw it when I was just about to turn10 with my grandparents in California and it was the first comedy I really connected with. The whole premise of a kid being alone and not only getting by but defending his home from bad guys was very empowering and hilarious. I still love it to this day.

Then we got a really solid if familiar sequel in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York which benefited from the presence of Tim Curry as most movies do. By the time the remaining sequels came out I was a teenager and I honestly have still never seen 3-5 but they seemed harmless enough.

Now we have a sequel from Disney on Disney Plus with Home Sweet Home Alone and I was actually optimistic this might help reinvigorate the series. I like young Archie Yates and the rest of the cast looked solid. I didn’t even mind the trailer which most of film twitter immediately rejected.

Unfortunately my hopes were in vain because Home Sweet Home Alone is one of the most misguided remakes of recent memory. It’s as if the makers had no idea what made the original special and make some of the most baffling decisions they could have made.

Home Alone' mayhem returns in Disney+ 'Home Sweet Home Alone' trailer

The biggest problem is they decide to make the focus of the film on the robbers, a couple played by Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney, instead of the young boy Max (Yates). We get a detailed backstory into why they need to break into the Max’s house and we meet their children and find out they might be losing their home. This is not what we want in a movie where we are going to spend a long time basically torturing these 2 individuals. They need to be bad guys who come close to killing Kevin in the original film. This is the only way that type of slapstick is funny.

Home Sweet Home Alone' Review: Lame Reboot Leaves Us Homesick - Variety

The other problem is everything is too easy for Max. In the original Kevin struggles both with his traps (which he almost gets caught several times and eventually has to be saved by the old man) and with being alone. He is scared of the furnace and steals the toothbrush because he is afraid of the store manager. This helps us become endeared to Kevin and we feel for him when he starts to miss his family.

In Home Sweet Home Alone, Archie faces none of that. Most of the traps are too elaborate for him to set up- like one where he would have to move an entire trampoline all by himself. You could make that claim about the original but most of the traps were pretty simple like ornaments and nails that a kid could orchestrate. Even when he puts his plan on the chalkboard wall he would need a giant ladder in order to draw all that. In the original it’s drawn on a piece of paper like a normal kid would do.

Some kids may have fun with Home Sweet Home Alone but in this critics opinion they missed the mark. Missed it as far as tone, laughs and especially family heart.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

 

My Thoughts on 3 Oscar Hopefuls (Belfast, King Richard, Spencer)

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. I have been so busy the last few weeks with the start of the holiday movie season and our coverage at Hallmarkies Podcast. Make sure you are following the podcast to get all the latest recaps, reviews and interviews for all things Christmas!

With all the madness I have also gotten a bit behind in my reviews- particularly for some of the Oscar hopefuls I’ve been privileged to see at critics screenings. I thought it would be fun to cover the last 3 I’ve seen together so we can compare and contrast and hopefully give you an idea if you will enjoy the film.

Here goes!

Spencer

Let’s get my unpopular opinion out of the way first. Spencer is the latest film from Chilean director Pablo Larraín. In 2016 he made a film called Jackie which was highly praised but fell flat for me and I’m afraid that’s the same here. I did like Spencer better than Jackie but both movies waste strong performances with a showy director more interested in gimmicks than good storytelling.

Spencer tells the loosely based on true events story of the Christmas holiday where Princess Diana decides to leave Prince Charles in 1991. I enjoyed the Christmas themes and Kristen Stewart is excellent in the role.

The problem with the movie is Larraín seems more concerned with standing out as an auteur director than telling a good story. The way the camera is always moving, the heavy-handed strange music choices, the weird flights of fancy all take me out of the story instead of adding to the experience.

I didn’t feel like Spencer told me anything new about Diana or the royal family. The production values are all strong and Stewart is good so I didn’t hate it but the whole thing left me cold and feels like a missed opportunity.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

King Richard

Next up we have another biopic this time from the world of sports. It is King Richard and it tells the story of Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams.

I honestly don’t have a ton to say about this movie. It’s fine. There are inspirational moments and Will Smith will probably win an Oscar for this role. We also have nice work from Tony Goldwyn and Jon Bernthal who are the tennis pros who have to put up with Richard’s antics.

The problem I had with the movie is I didn’t find Richard to be a very interesting character. I know it is based on his book, but I wish we could have heard more from the girls. There are some scenes but it is unclear whether they even like playing tennis. Do they agree with this plan of their fathers? Do they want to do something else and were stuck? Maybe they didn’t but I would have liked to have spent more time with them as opposed to their Dad. Richard sticking to his guns and not letting the girls compete in Juniors and other such conflict with the coaches also got a little repetitive and dull.

Nevertheless, this is worth watching for the acting and the chance to cheer on a family that together never gave up on their dreams.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Belfast

Now we end with my definite favorite of the 3 hopefuls I’m reviewing today: Belfast. In this semi-autobiographical tale director Kenneth Branagh bounces back from the failure of Artemis Fowl with perhaps his most personal and intimate film of his career. It reminded me a lot of Cinema Paradiso and captures the magic of childhood and how movies often narrate the key moments of our lives.

Jude Hill plays the lead little boy Buddy and he is growing up in the 1960s in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He loves going to the movies and spending time with his Granny (Judi Dench) and Pop (Ciarán Hinds). His father (a great Jamie Dornan) is often away and his Mother (Caitríona Balfe who I loved in Ford v Ferrari and she’s great here too) bears the weight of trying to raise her son in a dangerous neighborhood full of rebellion and mob violence.

I do have a few issues with Belfast that keep it from being one of my favorites of the year. Some of the artistic choices, particularly when we transition from black and white to colored didn’t make much sense and were more puzzling than uplifting. Also the music by Van Morrision, while pleasant, didn’t seem to fit the place, time or tone of the scenes. I didn’t get it.

Other than that I enjoyed Belfast. It will probably win best picture and I won’t be mad about that. It’s a lovely little movie about family, childhood and the magic of the movies.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] Clifford the Big Red Dog Reviewed by Someone Afraid of Dogs

Before I start this review I should make a confession. I’m afraid of dogs and have been since I was a little girl. My brother and sister are both super allergic, which caused some anxiety around animals but my best friend was also attacked by a dog when I was in 5th grade. As I have grown older I’ve gotten more comfortable around dogs but it still takes me a while to get used to them. I don’t think I will ever own a dog or be at ease with animals of any kind but I’m working on it (it was really hard on my mission where people had huge dogs all the time!).

Knowing my anxieties the trailer for Clifford the Big Red Dog looked more like a nightmare than a charming family film. I don’t know why they made it look like a regular dog as opposed to the animated look of the dog in the school books? It looks far less terrifying. Nevertheless, when I got the screener link I went into the film with an open mind and I have to admit I got used to the dog pretty quickly. I still would have gone with a more whimsical design but it’s fine and dog owners will probably love such a big sweet doggie.

As far as the movie goes, it’s okay. It is probably something that should have been released to streaming as opposed to the big screen. Kids will love it and it has many sweet moments but the entertainment for adults isn’t that strong.

Darby Camp plays Emily, a little girl who is struggling to fit into her new snooty private school and Jack Whitehall is her down-on-his-luck uncle Casey who is watching her when her Mother goes out of town for work. The two meet a collector of odd animals named Bridwell played by John Cleese and he gives them a normal sized Clifford.

To their shock overnight Clifford grows into the big red dog we know and love. Tony Hale plays the big bad geneticist who takes a fascination with the dog and David Alan Grier is the dog-hating landlord. It’s a good cast and they all know what movie they are in. It’s a family film with over-the-top shenanigans that also tries to touch the heartstrings. It’s by no means as strong as the Paddington films but more tolerable than the Peter Rabbit movies if you ask me.

The biggest disappointment of Clifford the Big Red Dog is how wonky the special effects are. Surprisingly small Clifford may actually look worse than big Clifford. The visual effects just aren’t good. I would also be way more terrified if I saw a giant dog like Clifford than anyone in this movie ever is!

Nevertheless, if you are a dog person and you have kids Clifford the Big Red Dog is a serviceable entry in the genre. It has a big heart to go along with the big dog and should make for a fun watch for the dog loving families out there. It’s big and wants to give you a kiss and lick you on your way out of the theater. Enjoy!

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

For what it’s worth I would watch Paw Patrol: The Movie before this.