Obviously the most important losses from COVID19 is the human life that was taken across the globe. Almost everyone knows someone who was taken too soon from the virus and this number would have been even more without the brave essential workers who helped treat the ill. However, this was not the only loss we experienced as a country. Movie theaters, restaurants, entertainment, theater and more were all shuttered down and in a lot of cases faced irreparable harm.
Marcus Mizelle’s new documentary Belle Vie showcases this nightmare through the perspective of Vincent Samarco who started 2020 running a popular bistro called Belle Vie.
Samarco is a cheerful fellow and he tries to do everything he can to save the bistro including building an outdoor patio area so patrons can be socially distanced. It even seems like they are going to be successful but then the second wave hit California and they were forced to shut down. This is all chronicled by Mizelle in as bright and happy a tone as is possible given the circumstances.
It’s ironic that Belle Vie lies between a McDonalds and a KFC. Such large corporations were able to weather the pandemic (of course) but it’s hard to not feel like we let the small people like Samarco down. They face not only bankruptcy but also in many cases deportation when they aren’t able to run their businesses like normal. It’s very sad but like I said Samarco is such a cheerful guy that it’s easy to forget the sadness while following his story.
For some people it might be hard to watch Belle Vie. The pain from the lockdowns and pandemic might be too fresh but I found it to be an enlightening and poignant documentary. Now that we are moving from a pandemic to endemic phase we need movies like this to chronicle what happened over the last 2 years and the price ordinary men and women paid for safety from the illness. Whether it was the right call or not is for others to decide but the cost was definitely a high one.
Hey everyone! It’s time to update you on a bunch of the films I have been watching. I am planning on doing a longer review for Everything Everywhere All at Once coming this weekend (my thoughts on that delightful insanity can’t be limited to a mini review).
There was also a really excellent Hallmark movie this month called Just One Kiss I highly recommend. It’s great for anyone not just Hallmark fans.
So let’s talk about some recent movies:
The cast was the big reason why I was interested in watching Moonshot. I am not the biggest scifi fan but I love Lana Condor who was in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved series and Cole Sprouse has been charming in films like Five Feet Apart. Now I have seen it they are the biggest draw but it has enough fresh about it to recommend especially for teens or romance movie fans.
Sprouse and Condor play young adults in 2049 who are trying to get to a colony that has been established on Mars. Condor is going to see her boyfriend where Sprouse is infatuated with a girl he has a meet cute with at the beginning of the film. The two become friends when he sneaks on board and she has to hide him from the space centers computer system.
The production design is excellent here and both leads have nice chemistry. The story is something we’ve seen before but I didn’t mind that because it’s executed well. I appreciate they did not have her emotionally cheating on her boyfriend and the conflict had real emotion in it. It’s definitely worth checking out especially for romance fans.
6 out of 10
If you have followed my content for any amount of time you know how much I adore Julia Child. I find her story of setting out on a second career in her 40s to be so inspirational and I think her and Paul Child had a marriage to be envied. It is for these reasons I will watch anything about her including the new series on HBO Max called Julia.
It’s tough to capture Julia Child in media because she was the definition of larger than life. Her voice is so unique. She’s so tall at 6’2 and had a charisma unlike any other. I must admit Sarah Lancashire leaves a lot to be desired in her portrayal especially in the voice. It doesn’t sound anything like Julia. However, I was able to get used to her choices after a while and embrace the project.
At first I didn’t like David Hyde Pierce as Paul Child. He was petty and jealous and from everything I’ve read that’s not who he was at all. They also seem to have combined Avis DeVoto and Julia’s sister Dorothy into one character but I didn’t mind that because I love Bebe Neuwirth who played her.
Eventually Julia was able to win me over and I enjoyed it. It’s not the Julia Child parts of Julie and Julia but it’s a nice depiction of Julia’s start on television.
6 out of 10
I am sure there will be many people who will be singing the praises of Robert Eggers new film The Northman and I can see why. It is very ambitious and well made with good performances from all involved. The problem is it’s so brutal and joyless that it becomes a slog. What happened to fantasy stories being even a little bit inspirational? A film like The Northman has no heroes let alone a heroes journey. It’s just one scene of brutality after another. That’s not entertainment to me.
The Northman tells the story of Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) and how he seeks revenge on the man who kills his father in the opening scenes. His mother is played by Nicole Kidman and Anya Taylor-Joy plays his love interest Olga.
The story brings in supernatural elements in some truly bizarre scenes and as I said the actors throw their all in it but it becomes exhausting. Eggers needs to allow some moments of quiet so we can get to know the characters and feel invested in their journeys. This was too much of everything and I grew weary of it (it’s 137 minutes!). If it sounds like something you’d like than go for it but it definitely wasn’t for me.
4.5 out of 10
One Road to Quartzsite
In 2020 Nomadland took the world by storm and it ended up winning best picture at the Oscars. In many ways the film felt like a documentary using real life modern nomads along with the actors to immerse you in the life of people who travel for a living. Now we have an actual documentary with One Road to Quartzsite that follows the same people and in many ways it feels like a companion piece to Nomadland. Q
One Road to Quartzsite is directed by Ryan Maxey and it takes a slice of life approach to following the people at Quartzsite, Arizona as they gather in camps and RV centers to share their life experiences together. It’s interesting to see people that are in many ways outcasts and loners find solace in community just like the rest of us do.
These kind of documentaries will be too slowly paced for some but if you are interested in the lives of these modern nomads you should be entertained. I also loved all of the folk music played throughout.
Have you ever sat with an elderly person and listened to them tell their stories? There’s something powerful about that experience even if the stories don’t particularly go anywhere. I know when my Grandparents were still alive I loved hearing them talk about what their parents were like, what cars they drove, food they ate, what it was like to serve in WWII etc. As they shared their stories I’d think about my own life and how despite the different eras we weren’t that different after all.
Sometimes film can capture this experience. Some might call it nostalgia, and it is, but when done well it can be a gift, helping to bind generations in a special and powerful way. This is the experience offered in Richard Linklater’s new film Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood. It’s nostalgia in the best sense of the word, and I adored it.
Some may watch Apollo 10 1/2 and want more plot but I’m glad he kept it simple and wistful. It’s interesting because both Licorice Pizza and Belfast from last year have similar story structures, but I prefer this film to either of those (I liked both of them). I think part of my response is because I love animation (even rotoscoped animation) but the other part is I connect more with a story of a big family in the suburbs than the families in the other 2 films.
As I said, the animation in this film is rotoscoped, or traced from live action. Linklater has used this style before in Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. I haven’t seen the latter but did a whole episode on Waking Life with my friend Stanford you can find here. It’s way more pretentious and existential than Apollo 10 1/2, but I still enjoyed it.
Linklater has long been a favorite filmmaker of mine. I loved Boyhood and the Before moves are transcendent. But Apollo 10 1/2 goes back to his early films like Dazed and Confused and Slacker. He does such a good job of taking you to a time and place and helping you see the glory in the small moments of every day living.
For example, there’s a great scene in Apollo 10 1/2 where the kids go from playing games outside on the lawn (statue tag) to playing games inside- board games like Life and Clue. As someone from a family that loves games this was so comforting to watch. It made me want to get my family together and play games again.
Such a yearning for a simpler time is the power of Apollo 10 1/2. I don’t know if that time actually existed but it’s comforting to imagine it did. The incredible soundtrack also helps in that escapism with bands like CCR, Johnny Cash, and The Byrds (much like Dazed and Confused which has one of the best soundtracks in movie history).
We also get to experience young Stanley’s fantasy about getting plucked into the space program for a secret mission to the moon. Plus, we see the stories of the NASA officials as they work on the Apollo 11 mission. This part of the story probably gives the structure and plot some will need, but I could have had the movie be just the everyday living and been perfectly content.
But in truth, I loved everything about Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood. It made me happy in a way few films have since the pandemic started, and I felt a desire to watch it again as soon as I finished. It’s on Netflix so gather the family together and watch a sweet film about a family of the past. You won’t regret it.
Those who are familiar with my reviews know I’m not a fan of garish violence. It can be used well but it’s usually not something I am drawn to or love. This is part of the reason I never saw the 2017 film Logan. At the time of its release I also wasn’t a full time critic so I didn’t see films that didn’t appeal to me. This is why Logan made for a good blind spot pick and one I can finally check off my watch list!
Logan tells the story of Wolverine (or Logan) played by Hugh Jackman. The year is 2029 and mutants have mostly been eliminated and Logan’s powers of self-healing are dwindling. One day he is responsible for taking a girl Laura to Canada who has special powers. He and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) take the journey and have all kinds of problems along the way.
My initial impressions of Logan as being an incredibly violent film are accurate. It’s one of the most violent films I’ve ever seen. However, I do think the violence is needed for the plot and it captures the spirit of a western well. The west was a brutal place and so is 2029 in this film.
I liked the bond between Logan and Laura especially as she became more animated throughout the film. Their fights with her talking in Spanish are really funny and the chemistry between the 2 works.
I also really enjoyed Richard E Grant as the villainous Dr Rice. Patrick Stewart is wonderful as Professor X as he always is but this time he is desperate and not the confident character we know and love.
All the production values are excellent in Logan and like I said it feels like a modern-day western, which is refreshing and original. The acting from Hugh Jackman is also the best we’ve ever seen from him portraying the character. It’s raw and intense and he does a wonderful job.
I still don’t think I’d ever watch Logan again because the violence is too much for my taste. However, I can see why it is considered a classic and why comic book movie fans love it so much.
There was no movie I was more skeptical about going into 2022 than Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. I didn’t like the first in the new Wizarding World series and I really hated the second film Crimes of Grindelwald. However, my thoughts began to change when I found out they had brought back writer Steve Kloves, who adapted almost all of the Harry Potter books into movies instead of JK Rowling (who should stay away from screenwriting!).
Just by chance, I had the opportunity to interview Steve’s wife Kathy Kloves for Hallmarkies Podcast last month. We talked about her 2 very popular Hallmark movie scripts from 2021 but then I also asked her about her husband’s experience writing for Harry Potter. It’s a neat interview. Check it out.
What a difference a writer makes! I’m not just saying that because I’ve gotten to know Kathy a little bit.
While not perfect, Secrets of Dumbledore is so far superior to the other 2 films I wish we could start over and have this one be the first of a different trilogy. I know they say they are going to have 5 of these movies, but I doubt it. I’d be surprised if we see any more (of this chronology at least).
I want to be careful to not give this movie too much credit for being better than the last one which was practically unwatchable. It can’t completely right all the wrongs. It’s cluttered with too many plot-points and some underwritten characters (also a very strange election that didn’t make sense) but it at least it has a mostly-comprehensible plot with some whimsy and heroics. I certainly think most Harry Potter fans will be happy with this entry.
The cast is all excellent with Mads Mikkelsen a big upgrade over Johnny Depp as Grindelwald and Jude Law playing Dumbledore. Unfortunately their gay romance doesn’t amount to much. It’s mostly just talking about the past, a love vow and holding hands. I guess it’s a start but it’s not much. I’ve always found Eddie Redmayne’s Newt to be tough to connect with, but I liked Newt’s brother Theseus played by the dashing Callum Turner. More of him please!
Most of the stuff with Alison Sudol’s Queenie and Dan Fogler’s Jacob has been ruined by choices in the last movie and Ezra Miller’s Creedence makes no sense. I’m also not sure what this grown-up trilogy in the Wizarding World is trying to say. Obviously something about tyranny but the Harry Potter stories were much more nuanced with characters like Snape and Dumbledore making complex choices and Harry learning to forgive them for those choices.
All that said, if you are a fan of this world than this will be the movie you are waiting for. I hate to use the word fun but this is. It jumps around the globe with our characters trying to defeat Grindelwald and for the most part does a good job at that. The action is entertaining. The banter is bubbly. One might say the magic is back.
So for the first time I am going to recommend a Fantastic Beasts movie. It’s no masterpiece but if you are looking for an energetic blockbuster this will do the trick.
Hi everyone! I wanted to take a second and update you on a few new releases I have been able to see recently. I still have to review Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore but I want to do a full review of that this weekend. (Sorry I’m so behind!). I also plan on watching Richard Linklater’s new animated film Apollo 10 1/2 this weekend so that will be coming soon.
Anyway, here’s my thoughts on a few films:
I just completed a trip of a lifetime to NYC where I saw 7 shows in 5 days, so needless to say I love a Broadway show. I also saw nearly 80 shows and concerts in my quest to support local theater in the last year. Can read more about that here.
Honestly this proshot of the London production of Anything Goes might as well be an 8th show on my trip. It was so well done I felt like I was there watching it live. The dancing is phenomenal. The singing outstanding. I’ve seen Anything Goes once before locally and absolutely loved it and felt the same about this production. The catchy Cole Porter songs are so much fun and the throwback characters are sweet and hilarious. Sutton Foster fills up the whole theater (and screen) with numbers like ‘Blow Gabriel Blow’ and Robert Lindsay is fantastic as a mobster pretending to be a priest in numbers like ‘Friendship’.
There’s honestly nothing I would change about this show. It’s perfect. If it counts it’s my favorite film of 2022 (I counted Hamilton in 2020?)
10 out of 10
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
I am in no way a video game person, but I enjoyed the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie and was looking forward to the sequel. What I liked about the original was the sweet friendship between James Marsden’s Tom and Sonic and the old-school villain antics of Jim Carrey’s Doctor Eggman.
Now we have the sequel, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and I for the most part enjoyed it as well. Like a good sequel should do, this film takes what worked in the original and adds on to it with Sonic not only having his friendship with Tom but he gets a new friend like him in Tails, who is so cute. They also have to face off against Knuckles (Idris Elba). Sonic is such an appealing character I have consistently found charming and likable. It’s ironic they had to redesign the character for the first film because it’s hard to imagine him any differently than he is.
There are problems in Sonic 2. It feels bloated and it tries to be more epic than it needs to be (do we really need another pillar in the sky superhero movie?). There’s also a long subplot involving a wedding where Sonic and Tails aren’t present and it drags. However, I still enjoyed spending time with Sonic and Tails and found Knuckles to be a fun antagonist. Take the family and I bet you will have a good time watching another sweet movie featuring our super-fast friend.
7 out of 10
Jujutsu Kaisen 0
I’m always excited to see the latest anime property but sometimes it can be challenging when I haven’t seen the accompanying series. Last year we had Demon Slayer: Mugen Train that was excellent, and all of the My Hero Academia movies have been great. Now we get Jujutsu Kaisen 0 which is actually a prequel to the anime series so it is more approachable than it might appear on the surface.
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is about a boy named Yuta who begins to study at a school for sorcerers who are trained to fight curses. When a villain releases a thousand curses on the city things get wild and it’s a visceral exciting animated experience.
I don’t think this film is good for anime newbies or people who turn their noses up at the medium. It’s too frenetic and all-over-the-place for them, but I had a good time. It was a raw and exhilarating watch and it definitely made me want to check out the show for the action alone. If you are open to anime give it a shot.
6 out of 10
This turned out to be a positive mini-review update! 3 movies, 3 smile worthy scores. Have you seen these films? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments sections. Thanks!
If you enjoy what I do please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks. We currently have a promo where new patrons can get entered to win a Hallmark hunk recording your voicemail message https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies
Last week I had the chance to see 2 action blockbusters- Morbius in the morning and RRR in the afternoon. The former is the latest comic book movie and the latter is the new spectacle entertainment from Indian director S.S. Rajamouli. While I didn’t hate Morbius as much as most, it pales in comparison with RRR and the contrast demonstrates what is so often missing from current blockbusters. Let’s talk about both films:
Morbius stars Jared Leto as Dr Michael Morbius (Marvel names always have that alliteration) who is a biochemist who at the beginning of the film gets a noble prize for his research into artificial blood and transfusion research. He needs this because of a rare blood disease he and a friend named Milo (played by Matt Smith) have- a disease which causes him to be isolated and depressed.
Much like a comic book movie from the past Morbius lets a science experiment go awry (this time with vampire bats) and turns into a vampire. Milo also becomes involved in a rather expected way. What works in Morbius is when it leans into the camp and particularly Smith has fun with monster movie silliness of it all.
Unfortunately those moments are too far between and Leto takes his role too seriously. I know many criticize the MCU for being too light and jokey but I could have used more of that here in Morbius. As it was it was dull and generic which is a real shame because the cast is talented and the premise has potential to be weird and exciting. In the end, it’s just forgettable.
Now let’s talk about an actual good movie, RRR. Like I said RRR is directed and written by S.S. Rajamouli who helmed my introduction to action Indian cinema Baahubali 1 and 2. Those films were fantasy action where RRR is based on a true story. It is set in 1920 when a girl is abducted by a British governor and 2 men, Ram (Ram Charan) and Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr) seek to find her and become great friends along the way.
As we follow the friends on their quest we are treated to incredible action spectacle and musical sequences I am still thinking about a week later. As I was watching I forgot about the 3 hour run time and was engrossed in one amazing moment after another. I don’t know if it is as good as either Baahubali film but all 3 films show Rajamouli is one of the greatest directors working today and is making something truly special. It’s cinema!
I especially loved a whole song devoted to friendship and another where they are dancing at ball challenging the British to a dance-off. Not only are both of these scenes a blast but they also serve as piercing commentary on colonization and traditional male roles. With all the bombastic energy of RRR it’s not just spectacle, it has something to say and characters that are easy to root for. The cinematography is big and bold and everything is done with gleeful abandon. It makes for a special film I expect will end up on my best of 2022 lists.
9 out of 10
So there you have it. One blockbuster that is forgettable with Morbius and one that makes a huge impression with RRR. Have you seen either? Let me know in the comments section!
Hey everyone! Before I head off on a little vacation tomorrow I wanted to log a couple of reviews for new films I recently saw. I wish I could write a full review for each of them but sometimes there just isn’t time.
So here goes!
Cheaper by the Dozen
One of my favorite books is the memoir Cheaper by the Dozen written in 1948 by Frank B Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey about their childhood in a family of 12 raised by Frank and Lilian Gilbreth who were motion study experts that had a large family. It’s such a funny, charming book that was made into a wonderful film in 1950 starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. Unfortunately this part of the story has been largely forgotten with the remake-in-name-only version starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt. Now we have this 2022 version and whatever good was in the story has been diluted into a family sitcom and not even a good one at that.
The casting in this Cheaper by the Dozen is good with Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union and the intentions were good with their blended brood of 12. Unfortunately the script was written without regard to nuance or authenticity. Especially when it tries to be topical it completely falls flat and often screamed of tokenism rather than any kind of diversity to be praised. People, especially within their family, don’t talk in speeches ready for a PSA on Disney Channel (this could have been a DCOM but a weak one at that). I also could have done without the entire plotline of Braff and his breakfast spot being franchised. It was badly done.
Instead I would watch the 1950 film, the original Yours Mine and Ours or if in a pinch the 2003 film before watching this…
4 out of 10
Going into SXSW the thriller The Cow was actually one of my most anticipated films of the festival. I like a tight thriller and Winona Ryder and Dermot Mulroney are usually strong in their projects. Unfortunately this film proved to be more groan than thrill worthy.
In the film Ryder plays a woman who rents a cabin with her boyfriend only to arrive and find a couple already staying there. After staying the night with the strangers Ryder finds her boyfriend is nowhere to be found with little clues to his whereabouts.
I know the movie The Cow is trying to be but with each reveal it gets more insane and ridiculous by the minute. Let’s just say it involves a cult and the cow of the title isn’t the animal. By the end I was rolling my eyes instead of being intrigued or scared.
There may be some people that will enjoy this insanity but it definitely wasn’t for me. Watch at your own risk.
2 out of 10
More Than Robots
It’s interesting there is almost an entire genre of ‘smart kids’ documentaries at festivals. With everything from Science Fair to Spellbound I expect to be introduced to geniuses each year at Sundance and the other festivals. This year’s entry appears to be More Than Robots which you can now watch on Disney Plus but was screened at SXSW. I always seem to enjoy these genius kid documentaries and this one is no exception!
More Than Robots tells the story of the child entrants in the FIRST Robotics Competition starting in early 2020. Obviously the teams and competitions were interrupted by COVID but even that was charming to see how the teens learned from the experience and served each other and the younger students coming after them. It can focus too much on the teams in Los Angeles rather than Japan or Mexico but I still enjoyed seeing the young inventors and the robots they create. This documentary should inspire lots of kids to try their hand at engineering and to build their own amazing machines!
(The FIRST Robotics tournament in 2020 and onward is sponsored by Lucasfilm, so the Disney Plus tie-ins with More Than Robots are present throughout which may annoy some viewers).
All of my regular readers know I love a good romance. This is true with all kinds of romances- comedies, adventure, tragedy etc. Unfortunately for me and other fans of the genre Hollywood hasn’t given us much to enjoy in the last few decades. This is what has led romance fans like myself to turn to Hallmark and Netflix to get our romance fix. The adventure romance is a particularly fun genre that plays on tropes of rescue, opposites attract and escapism. My friend Alysa Lucas and I just did a whole episode of Hallmarkies Podcast talking about 4 fun adventure romances:
It was with all this in mind I was extremely excited for the new film The Lost City starring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. I’ve been on a bit of a rough streak lately so I was ready for a movie I loved and as I’m a huge fan of this genre it seemed aimed to please.
And it did…
I don’t know how others will feel but this film did everything I needed it to do. It lets its 2 stars shine with terrific chemistry, the adventure sizzles and most importantly it’s laugh out loud funny. I particularly liked the way it pokes fun at erotica and romance novels without demonizing them or the joy they give many women.
And it’s not just Tatum and Bullock that shine in the film. Brad Pitt is extremely funny in an extended cameo (more Pitt in the inevitable sequel please!). I also enjoyed Daniel Radcliffe as the antagonist Abigail Fairfax (yes the name is a funny joke). Oscar Nuñez pops in for a few funny scenes. Patti Harrison (who I loved in Together Together last year) gets a few laughs and Da’Vine Joy Randolph does a good job as Bullocks exasperated publicist (although they probably do spend too much time on her subplot).
There is a long scene where we get to see Tatum’s tooshie, which I thought was hilarious, but more traditional romance viewers might take issue with. It’s also very silly and over-the-top so anyone expecting a realistic jungle story might be disappointed (but then why are you watching this movie?).
As I said, some of the subplots go on a bit too long but I didn’t care because I was laughing. It also wasn’t as much of a Romancing the Stone rip-off as I thought it would be. Pitt’s character is a riff on the Jack T Colton character from that film but Bullock’s character is more confident than Joan Wilder played by Kathleen Turner. Yes both films are about neurotic romance writers but they are executed quite differently. Plus, Tatum’s character Alan is actually quite shy and awkward, which I wasn’t expecting.
If you are like me and love adventure romances you will love The Lost City. It’s a great time at the movies I’ve missed! I’m also so glad to see Bullock back in rom-coms. She’s so good at them and it’s been a long time (since The Proposal in 2009!).