Current Mini Reviews (The Black Phone, RISE, The Outfit, Love & Gelato, Trevor: the Musical)

Hey everyone! I am back with some more quick reviews for a lot of new films I’ve watched this week. There is quite a variety and a lot of good movies so let’s get started!

The Black Phone (2021) - IMDb

The Black Phone

I’m normally not a big horror gal, but I also try to have an open mind to every genre. My friends told me The Black Phone was more of a thriller than horror and so I decided to give it a shot, and turns out they were right. Not only is it a supernatural thriller but it’s a darn good one to boot!

Director Scott Derrickson takes a short story by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) and crafts it into a tight effective throwback thriller. Ethan Hawke plays “The Grabber” a masked man who abducts and murders children. We also see his latest victim Finney (Mason Thames) use a mysterious black phone to help him get free while his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) channels her dreams to find her brother.

The Black Phone has classic beats we’ve seen before but done effectively with great child performances. However, it also has surprises especially using the supernatural elements to bring in heart as we get more anxious for Finney with every passing moment. There’s even a couple jump scares that certainly got my upright attention!

Even if you don’t like horror movies this one might surprise you. It certainly did that for me. Check out The Black Phone and have a great time with a summer horror with heart and chills!

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Rise | Disney+ Originals

Rise

Next we have Rise on Disney Plus. This continues the grand tradition of Disney Sports movies with films like Miracle, Glory Road and McFarland USA. This time we are learning about the story of the 3 Nigerian-Greek brothers from the Antetokounmpo family. Evidently Giannis is the biggest star at the NBA (I don’t follow sports or basketball)

The film starts when the boys are young and is really about the entire family emigrating to Greece and starting basketball. They end up trying out for the NBA and all 3 playing with Giannis getting drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013.

At just under 2 hours, there are moments where Rise can drag but I appreciate it tells more than just one underdog sports story. It’s really a family and immigrant story more than anything else.  Yetide Badaki and Dayo Okeniyi are good as the boy’s parents and 3 acting newcomers as the boys, Uche Agada, Ral Agada, and Jaden Osimuwa, all hold their own and do a good job in their roles.

Rise doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it’s a heartfelt family story that should inspire just about anyone to go for their dreams!

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Review: 'The Outfit' features strong acting values and smart plotting | Datebook

The Outfit

Mob movies are often films I admire more than I like. The pacing tends to be sluggish and the characters not anything I connect with. Well, The Outfit is an exception to that rule! Now playing on Peacock, The Outfit is a well-crafted, engaging story that will keep you guessing until the very end.

The film tells the story of Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance), a tailor of high-end suits in 1950s Chicago. Burling is happy to make suits for the mob bosses who frequent his establishment and all he asks is that they keep him out of their goings-ons. I’m not always the biggest fan of Rylance but he is perfect for this role- that’s 2 wins for me from him this month with Phantom of the Open also being great!.

One night his shop becomes the place of intrigue when mob boss son Richie Boyle (Dylan O’Brien) and his cousin Francis (the fantastic Johnny Flynn) come in looking for an mob informant in their area. The script kept me guessing until the very end and the acting is all first rate. Dick Pope gives great style to the cinematography and the costumes are stunning by Zac Posen and Mark Bridges.

The Outfit is a definite hidden gem, which I highly recommend on Peacock.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Watch Love & Gelato | Netflix Official Site

Love & Gelato

Meanwhile over on Netflix we have the coming of age romantic flick Love & Gelato. Based on the book by Jenna Evans Welch, this is exactly the kind of light breezy escapism you expect from the title. If it sounds like something you will like than you probably will. If it sounds like a tooth ache than it’s probably not for you.

Susanna Skaggs plays Lina a young high school graduate who has lost her Mother and as a result is forced to go to Italy for a summer and experience the Mediterranean transformation her Mother did 20 years before. She even has her Mother’s diary to guide her through her experiences as she meets 2 hunky guys: slick Alesandro (Saul Nanni) and sweet Lorenzo (Tobia De Angelis).

Naturally Love & Gelato pays homage to classic romcoms like Roman Holiday and 3 Coins in the Fountain and it’s loaded with Italian vacation porn but sometimes in the summer we need that kind of escapism! If you are in the mood to be swept away to Rome with a story of young love check this one out.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Is Trevor: The Musical on Netflix? (Where to watch)

Trevor: The Musical

I’m not sure what I expected from Trevor: The Musical but I must own to being quite shocked by what I saw. It’s mostly shocked in a compelling way but it was not what I was expecting especially on Disney Plus. This is a very intense and quite brutal pro shot of a coming of age, coming out musical recorded at Stage 42 in New York City in October 2021.

Holden Hagelberger has a daunting role of Trevor (who would later go on to start The Trevor Project for LGTBQ youth) where he is required to go to very dark places and also be light and bouncy with his hero Diana Ross who appears frequently on stage as his musical muse. I would certainly want to talk to my child before watching a musical like this where bullying, suicide and abuse are depicted.

I’m not sure they get the balance between the intense and the fun right and none of the songs outside of the Diana Ross hits stand out but it’s hard to not admire its sheer guts. It could be the start of some good conversations but just make sure you know what you are getting into and that your children aren’t triggered by the intense moments depicted in the film.

I tell you one thing. It makes me want to take any bullied child out of school and kept where they can be safe and loved. It can be brutal out there.

(It’s kind of insane that people are complaining about a milisecond kiss in Lightyear when this is way bolder in its LGTBQ representation on Disney Plus. Not that we should be complaining about any of it…)

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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All Smile Worthy today!

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

Smile Worthy

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[REVIEW] ‘Turning Red’: Pixar’s Puberty Metaphor Turns Sour (Maybe Mild Spoilers)

Going into 2022 one of my most anticipated movies of the year was the latest Pixar film Turning Red. In fact, when it was first announced at the Disney investor presentation I made the promotional image of Mei Lee and her panda my wallpaper on my phone because I thought it looked so charming.

Unfortunately now I have seen Turning Red I must own to being very disappointed by the film and in fact it is the first Pixar film I’ve outright disliked (yes even Cars 2 has a bonkers sensibility I mildly enjoy). I even watched it a second time just to make sure of my response and yep this one isn’t for me.

Let’s talk about the positives. First, I like the idea of a family film trying to tackle puberty and anxiety in an honest and straight-forward way. How they succeeded at that is another question but I am sure there will be a lot of people who will connect with Mei Lee and her family’s journey. I also love the representation and seeing not only a Chinese-Canadian family but also Mei’s diverse friend group.

Also the animation is outstanding as is usually the case with Pixar. I know its received lots of chatter online, but I enjoyed the anime feel especially with the eyes and transformation of the characters from human to animal. The fur on panda Mei is so lush and cuddly that I’m sure it will be the source of many plush Disney toys to come.

Part of my problem with Turning Red I must own to my aversion for whiney teen coming of age movies to begin with. Movies that others love like The Edge of Seventeen I find insufferable and annoying. If you love those kind of stories you’ll probably enjoy Turning Red more than I did.

But my personal taste aside, while bold, the whole metaphor Turning Red uses didn’t really work. The idea is Mei Lee comes from a family where upon her first period the girls turn into a red panda when they are upset. While the concept of a period making someone ‘turn red’ is a bit on the nose it could have been effective but the story has problems.

First of all, the mother, Ming, is unhinged and unreasonable. For example, in one scene she lambasts a convenience store clerk Mei has a crush on because Mei has drawings of him in her sketchbook. Not only would this be incredibly embarrassing it doesn’t make sense. Why should he be responsible for her drawings/crush and is her liking someone a character flaw? How could she possibly feel this is a correct response to a basic life experience? Also if you knew this was going to happen wouldn’t you try to prepare your daughter a little bit?

Mei is also a lot of personality and what some will find endearing I often found grating.

Such strange behavior made me annoyed with the characters and then the fighting between Mom and daughter got old real fast. But beyond that the metaphor doesn’t really work. So she turns into a panda when she starts her period but there’s a whole ritual that makes the panda go away? I realize this is a magical realism story but just inventing rituals for cultures and religion (Mei’s family owns and operates a temple) is a strange choice and then the plot of her becoming a party attraction for a bully’s birthday mixed in with the family drama fell flat.

The thing is none of the inspirations for the panda are within Mei’s control. She gets her period- can’t control. She deals with anxiety and emotions- can’t control. She goes through puberty- can’t control. Teens will relate to this but unfortunately they don’t have a ritual that will stop all of these tough things. Mei decides to embrace the panda but all of us normal people don’t get that choice. It’s happening whether we like it or not. Evidently Mei’s mother has been suppressing her panda for years but then why was the ritual necessary? The ritual allows her to bring it back when she wants to? But then again how does that connect with actual teen struggles who can’t make their ‘pandas’ come and go when they want?

It seems like most critics didn’t mind this murky metaphor but it bothered me and kept me from fully embracing the film. I also didn’t connect with the humor of Turning Red or the focus on 2002 boy band called 4*TOWN. It’s a shame they set the movie in 2002 because an Asian KPOP type band like BTS would have been a fun way to bring in the culture rather than just generic boy band.

At the end of the day, I admire what director Domee Shi was going for with Turning Red but the script lets down that ambitious premise making for more of a mess than a masterpiece.  I hope you all enjoy it more than I did but this puberty metaphor gets a pass from me.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

PS- Turning Red should still have been played in theaters!

[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

 

Pixar 45: ‘LUCA’ or Some Fun in the Pixar Sun

It goes without saying that any Pixar film is going to have a certain amount of buzz surrounding it. Their latest film Luca is perhaps getting the most discussion because it is not getting a theatrical release but going straight to Disney Plus. Some have seen this as a sign of a lack of faith by the studio in the project while others have deemed it a compliment as it is being singled out to market the streaming service, which is so key to their current business strategy. I guess it depends whether you see Disney Plus as more of a dumping ground or shining platform which side you land on.

VIDEO: New Trailer for Pixar's

Anyway, beyond its release let’s talk about the movie itself. What’s interesting is a lot of the feedback I am hearing I do not agree with. I know I’m in the minority but Soul wasn’t a favorite of mine. I still recommended it (and certainly don’t hate it) but the script became muddled and the message felt all over the place- particularly when it comes to the mid-section involving a cat. At one point it seemed to be saying to embrace your spark, find out what you are meant to do in life but in other ways it said that spark alienated you from other people and led to unhappiness: that a normal life is better than a creatively inspired one.

So Soul is a movie I admire for the music and animation but the script let me down. Now Luca, on the other hand, has much smaller ideas and it in my opinion does a better job in executing that simple vision. To put it simply Luca is a story about friendship, summer and growing up. That’s it. No big emotional punches or big action scenes. Just a simple sweet story.

To be more specific Luca tells the story of a young fish creature named Luca (Jacob Tremblay) who bristles up against his controlling parents and wonders what can be in the world above the ocean (obviously a plotline I love. The Little Mermaid die hard fan!). One day he meets a boy named Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), and he realizes they become human when dry on land and turn back into fish creatures when wet.

Both Alberto and Luca’s dream of racing around Italy on Vespas and when they meet a girl named Gulia (Emma Berman) they enter a race to win their own vespa. There’s a ‘villain’ Ercole who challenges them in the race and plays the part of the bully needed for this kind of narrative. The bigger threat is any of them getting wet from the ocean or even worse rain!

I can see why some think the story of Luca is too simple but I don’t agree. I liked being with Luca, Alberto and Giulia as they ate gelato and raced around the Italian countryside together. And it’s not like there aren’t deeper themes which can be pulled from the story. Obviously the idea of hiding who you are and being fearful of being discovered is something that will ring true for LGTBQ audiences and more.

But mostly it’s a story about friendship and I’m a huge sucker for those kinds of stories. There’s something special about the friendships we make as children. The free spirited nature and lack of agenda give a purity to the relationships that is tough to impossible to replicate as adults. Luca captures this magic, and I really enjoyed it.

And hey it made me want to go to Italy so nothing wrong with that!

Fortunately if you have Disney Plus you don’t have to decide whether to watch Luca or Soul. You can enjoy both to your hearts desire. Someday I hope to see both in a theater but for now I’m grateful for the artists at Pixar and their incredible track record of touching films.

Luca is a delightful tale of summer friendship the whole family will love

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Flora & Ulysses’ or Super Squirrels and Little Girls Are Adorable

One of the best things to come out of Disney Plus is the return of the mid-budget family film from Walt Disney Studios. With the exception of their Disneynature brand, the studio for many years only made giant blockbusters with over $100 million budgets. This was a real shame because I love the small live action Disney films from my childhood. Films like Newsies, White Fang, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken and The Journey of Natty Gann are practically as important to me as the Disney animated films. I’m so happy that a new generation of children will get films like these by way of Disney Plus!

Last year the best from Disney Plus in this department was Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. It is a sweet, well written film about an awkward child, dealing with trauma by setting up his own detective agency. It made my top films of 2020, and I absolutely loved it.

While not as good as Timmy Failure, this year’s first contender is the new film Flora & Ulysses. It is a very sweet film about a little girl named Flora who helps rescue (literally giving CPR)a squirrel named Ulysses that just might have superpowers!

Flora’s parents played by Alyson Hannigan and Ben Schwartz are going through a separation and obviously that is hard on everyone. Hannigan is fantastic as her mother who is also a romance novelist with writers block. They get a lot of laughs out of her book titles and covers and the fact she won the Jack and Rose from Titanic prize for writing.

Image result for flora and ulysses movie
I also thought Schwartz was warm and authentic as Flora’s aspiring comic book artist Dad. He is obviously very sad about what is happening to his marriage but not so much that he lets his daughter suffer.

The real star is young Matilda Lawler as Flora. She is so cute and I am extremely impressed this was her first film role. I predict we will be seeing a lot of her. Especially acting with a cgi creature is not easy and she did a fantastic job.

Parents of divorced kids might be a little annoyed by the ending of Flora & Ulysses and it is perhaps a touch too long but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It will be a wonderful movie to watch for family movie night and all enjoy together. It’s so enchanting it will make you wish for your own super-powered squirrel!

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

If you get to see Flora &  Ulysses let me know what you think. Do you miss mid-budget live action films from Disney?

Current Mini Reviews

Hey everyone! I hope you are having a great December. I have been up to my eyeballs in Christmas movies and creating content over at Rachel’s Reviews and Hallmarkies Podcast. Make sure you are subscribed to both to get my latest thoughts on many films!

Fortunately I have had the chance to watch some movies outside of Hallmark (and Hallmark-like content). Here are some quick mini reviews of some recent releases

Fatman


Obviously this film is not made for me, the Hallmark fan. However, I’m up for darker takes on holiday films but shouldn’t they still be fun? This film was so unpleasant and spurned campy action in favor of gritty realism, which was a very strange choice. Mel Gibson and Walter Goggins are taking the material seriously and giving good performances but it’s all too serious. Again aren’t most people expecting a campy action film with a wink at the camera? Not a mean spirited gritty Santa action movie like Fatman is? No thanks.

3 out of 10

Godmothered

As soon as I saw the trailer for Godmothered I was greatly looking forward to it. It looked funny and charming. I love movies like Elf and Enchanted, which it seemed to be falling in line with. Unfortunately the actual film, which debuted on Disney Plus, proved to be disappointing. In fact, watching it made me appreciate both Elf and Enchanted a lot more. They are both more than fish out of water stories but have good scripts that make you laugh throughout. Godmothered had one joke- amateur fairy Godmother in real world- and that’s it. And the movie is nearly 2 hours which felt way too long for what it is trying to do. Jillian Bell has yet to win me over in a role and Isla Fisher isn’t given much to do besides look tired. If I hadn’t been reviewing it I would have stopped watching it after about an hour. It’s proof concepts aren’t enough. You have to have good scripts

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Modern Persuasion

I have seen a lot of terrible adaptations of Jane Austen particularly of the made for TV variety. Oftentimes they are only adaptations in name only and have none of Austen’s charm and sass. It is for this reason I approached the new adaption of Persuasion called Modern Persuasion hesitantly. However, I watched it because it stars Alicia Witt who I enjoy and have actually had the chance to interview here. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. It doesn’t have a huge budget but I liked Alicia Witt in the lead and Shane McRae as her counterpart. The supporting cast is funny with Bebe Neuwirth stealing every scene she’s in. I’d buy this on digital when it comes out. It’s a charming new take on a classic story.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

All My Life

I actually got to see All My Life safely at the Megaplex theaters and being back at the theaters may have helped my experience but this is a movie that is exactly what you think it is going to be. If you watch the trailer and this brand of emotional weepy makes you grown don’t watch it. If it looked appealing you’ll like it. The stars Jessica Rothe and Harry Shum Jr have great chemistry and the sense of community they have with their friends was comforting and nice to see (especially in isolated 2020). The characters could be better drawn and it’s extremely predictable but I’m glad I saw it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

I Hate New Years

As big a fan of Christmas as I am, I’m not much into New Years. It’s such a couply holiday with the big kiss at midnight that I’ve never gotten much into it. This makes me the perfect candidate for I Hate New Years and for the most part I enjoyed it. It’s limited budget shows at times in both the acting and production but it has its heart in the right place. Particularly the second half won me over and I was rooting for the characters to find happiness. It’s a sweet and likable way to ring in the New Year!

6 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

Current Mini Reviews

Hey  everyone! I’ve got some more mini reviews for you of films I’ve been seeing over the last few weeks. I have certainly been extremely busy with content to make and movies to watch and it’s not even Christmas yet!

Lapsis

Lapsis is a film I saw as part of the virtual Fantasia Film Festival 2020. It is a very interesting sci-fi film starring Dean Imperial as a man in future dystopian-like world who is desperate for work. His brother is sick and the bills are piling up so he decides to get a job laying cable for a giant corporation. As he embarks on an Appalachian trail type odyssey he grows to realize the reach of the company is bigger and stronger than he ever imagined including little robots he must compete with who are also laying down cable along with the humans.

As you can tell this film has an intriguing premise and for the most part I enjoyed it. The only major flaw with it is the ending is very abrupt. It feels like they ran out of funding and couldn’t finish the movie. Up until then I was really digging the strange take on work in the gig economy. Still there is enough good before the ending for me to recommend giving Lapsis a shot.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe

I am only minimally familiar with the Phineas and Ferb program. I’ve watched a few episodes here and there and recently tried to get caught up with mos the first season. From what I’ve seen it’s a delightful show with a nice sense of humor and playful character designs.

Recently they released a new movie based on the show called Phineas and Ferb the Movie Candace Against the Universe. Despite my lack of familiarity with the characters I really enjoyed this movie. It had a lot of humor that worked, a playful sense of whimsy and as someone with 2 brothers a character in Candace I can definitely relate with. I didn’t feel confused as a non-watcher of the show. The animation is bright and colorful and the music is catchy.  Your kids will love it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Blech Effect

The Blech Effect is a documentary that tells the story of investor David Blech as he is about to go to prison for investors fraud. It was for the most part a fine documentary and it is interesting to see the preparation that goes into someone getting ready for a correctional institution. At one point they even have a prison consultant who’s assigned to tell David what the first day of prison life will be like.

The aspect I didn’t like is them painting him as a victim of the system. In particular the repeated use of his young autistic son as a reason to spare him punishment. I am sure raising a son with autism has its challenges but it’s not an excuse for committing crimes or a reason for leniency.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Lost Husband

On the surface The Lost Husband looks like a Nicholas Spark-like narrative with our heroine getting back to her roots while overcoming grief. Unfortunately it is missing key aspects that make those movies, sappy as they might, work.

The film stars Leslie Bibb as a widow who moves into a farmhouse with her aunt Jean (Nora Dunn). Farm living proves to be therapeutic for the city girl especially with hunky farm aid played by Josh Duhamel. The problem is the romance is barely developed and the big reveal does not pay off. It makes the entire film very bland and boring where it could have been good.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Shooting Heroin

When I finished watching the new drama Shooting Heroin I was left more than a little befuddled. The very dark film about a group of citizens that take back their small town from the ravages of addiction has the feel of a faith-based films but then it is loaded with f-bombs, drug abuse and violence. I can’t help but think who was this made for?

The story of the film revolves around Adam (Alan Powell), Hazel (Sherilyn Fenn) and Edward (Lawrence Hilton- Jacobs). All have lost loved ones to opioid addiction and they all do a good job with their performances. Addiction is a horrible blight on humanity and it impacts every family sooner or later. It took 2 of my cousins. So I was with this movie as far as messaging but the tonal shifts didn’t work. It’s not awful but just messy.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Stargirl’ or Manic Pixie Dream Girl Teenage Edition

In many ways writing a review for a movie like Stargirl is difficult. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. It’s fine but there are a number of  things about it that irritated me. If I didn’t have the binary requirements of rottentomatoes I would probably give it some form of meh but I must decide if it is good or bad so let’s talk about the pluses and minuses.

Before we start on the film I must own I was not a big fan of the book by Jerry Spinelli. I found it cloying and annoying but I know many loved the book. If you did, than you should love this movie. If, like me, you didn’t, than you will probably have mixed to negative feelings as they stick pretty close to the book (at least by memory. It has been a few years since I read it).

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Anyway, Stargirl is about a young man named Leo Borlock (Graham Verchere) who becomes fixated on a new girl at school named Stargirl (Grace VanderWaal). Stargirl is your classic free spirit that sings with her ukulele (with no microphone!) at the school football games and wears weird clothes. She’s basically a manic pixie dream girl but in teenage form.

Like any MPDG Stargirl exists to help our male character come alive and get over his demons. She has no personal goals or ambitions. We learn almost nothing about her as a character. Is she a guardian angel? Is she an alien or some other kind of mythical creature? Maybe but she exists to help Leo be a better person and I dislike that in female characters. I am aware the tough girl trope can be just as cringeworthy but females are not there to pluck up our lonely males. It’s such a groan-worthy trope that I dislike.

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That said, Stargirl has its heart in the right place. The film isn’t trying to make some grand statement on feminism or male/female relationships. They are just trying to make a movie about how a nice girl who see’s the good in people can make a difference. The film’s anti-bullying message is sweet and well done and should ring true to many teenagers.

I liked the chemistry between VanderWaal and Verchere and the supporting cast with actors like Giancarlo Esposito help make Stargirl more than the sum of its parts. The film also loves the Beach Boys just about as much as I do making the soundtrack very enjoyable.

Basically if you watch the trailer for Stargirl and it looks cute than you’ll probably enjoy it. If it looks super cringe-worthy than you probably won’t. It’s as simple as that. I’m in the middle on it but I think I was more annoyed than entertained.

5 out of 10

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