Current Mini Reviews (The Phantom of the Open, Mr Malcolm’s List, Father of the Bride)

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. I have been a very busy this week but I hope you enjoyed my review of Elvis. I have a few more movies to catch you up on, mostly smaller releases that are hopefully finding their way into your theaters and streaming services in the next week or so.   So here goes!

Bridgerton Fans Will Love The First Trailer for Mr Malcolm's List

Mr Malcolm’s List

You all know I love me a good period piece romance so I was expecting to love Mr Malcolm’s List but must confess I did not. It probably should have been a clue when I did not enjoy the book so perhaps this story just isn’t for me but alas I was still hopeful I’d like the movie because of the great cast but it didn’t work for me.

The conflict resides around the entitled Mr Malcolm (Sope Dirisu) who has a list for what he wants in a wife. When Zawe Ashton’s Julia is found wanting of the list she starts a plan with her cousin Selina (Freida Pinto) to expose the list by crafting the perfect woman matching his list.

I’m not the biggest fan of the ‘liar reveal’ trope where 2 people have gotten to know each other but there is a lie happening and when it is exposed the lied to partner huffs and puffs about ‘how dare she lie to me.” Any sensible person can see she wasn’t lying about everything and a good chat could usually settle things.

This, however, could be ignored if I thought the couples involved had any chemistry, which they dont. In fact, the entire project felt belabored with the acting strained and artificial. I tried but just couldn’t get invested in any of the characters or the story. The costumes and hair are impressive but I need more than that in my period piece romances. Unfortunately an item on Mr Malcolm’s List is disappointment for this critic…

The trailer also makes it seem like Ashley Park has a large role when she’s barely in it making for another disappointment.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Phantom of the Open Review: A Feel-Good Movie About a Bad Golfer | IndieWire

The Phantom of the Open

If you follow me on social media you know I’m not the biggest sports person; however, I do like the occasional sports related film- especially if it is about an underdog. I love a movie that makes me want to cheer by the end for the unlikely hero. The Phantom of Open is such a film. It’s a charming movie about the world’s worst golfer and one the entire family will enjoy (it’s rated pg13 but I think it’s fine for younger kids personally).

Phantom tells the story of Maurice Flitcroft played by a delightful Mark Rylance, who manages to gain entry into the British Open for golf in 1976. He then shoots the worst round in Open history and became a bit of folk hero as a result. Think of him as the Tommy Wiseau of golf.

But really the golf is only the window-dressing for the actual story of Flitcroft and his family. His loving wife Jean is played by Sally Hawkins, who’s wonderful as usual. Then his disco dancing sons Gene and James are played by Jonah and Christian Lees with his more conflicted adopted son Michael (Jean’s son from a previous relationship whom he adopts) is played by Jake Davies. Everyone is great and it feels like a real family we are rooting for.

I am sure there will be someone who dislikes The Phantom of the Open and finds it too saccharine but not this critic. Writer Simon Farnaby has taken his Paddington 2 magic and made another heartwarming crowd-pleaser that I thoroughly enjoyed.

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Father of the Bride' Review: A Remake With a Cuban Twist - The New York Times

Father of the Bride

Some stories and tropes just work- no matter the era or actors attempting the project. Father of the Bride is one of those franchises. I love the films from the 50s and the 90s and to my delight I really enjoyed this new version from 2022. I was worried with it going to HBO Max it wouldn’t be well done but it executes all the elements I love about the previous films and adds its own flair and spark to the story. A real hidden gem.

This time around we have Andy Garcia as the titular father and the bride is Adria Arjona who comes home from working abroad engaged and ready to plan a quick wedding to her fiancé (who she proposed to!) Adam (Diego Boneta).

We then get all the madness of a hasty wedding with Chloe Fineman camping it up as the wedding planner. Of course things get over-the-top but that’s part of the fun of this franchise (I mean last time we had swans and a caterer named Honk). In between all the madness, however, they make the proceedings unique with Garcia and his wife Ingrid played by the great Gloria Estefan going through a divorce (such a better conflict than the fiancé buying a blender LOL).

The script also has some nuance in the family being Cuban but Sofia wanting to work for a non-profit in Mexico and her fiancé’s family being Mexican.

It maybe gets a little too silly with natural disasters and bridge collapses coming into play but by then I was invested enough in the people to enjoy myself. I think fans of romcoms and this series will enjoy this Father of the Bride. It’s sweet and endearing lark about family, love, and the madness of wedding planning. Who can’t relate to that?

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

If you enjoy what I do please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks. https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

Current Mini Reviews (A Perfect Pairing, Spring Awakening, The Valet, Fire Island, Good Luck to You Leo Grand)

Hey everyone! It’s been a while since I did a mini-review post so I have a whole bunch of new movies to tell you about.

Let’s not mess around and get reviewing!

A Perfect Pairing

Perfect Pairing Trailer Shows Victoria Justice, Adam Demos' Netflix Rom-Com

This was honestly disappointing. Aren’t most people expecting a dishy silly romance? Instead we got a movie that takes itself seriously with tons of dialogue about wine production, family labels and running a family business. Even Adam Demos (who is one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen) isn’t allowed to be a hunk wearing long sleeve shirts in most scenes. I know I shouldn’t expect much from these Netflix romcoms but this one was a snooze.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Spring Awakening: Those You’ve Known

Spring Awakening: Those You've Known' Debuts On HBO - Metro Weekly

All of my readers know I’m a huge Broadway buff and that’s really the only people who will enjoy this movie. Of course, Spring Awakening was a Broadway phenomenon in 2006 and it is fun to learn about the origins of the musical and some BTS details from its stars Jonathan Groff, John Gallagher Jr and Lea Michele (although I don’t know if it helps repair Michele’s deva image much). The only disappointment is the film was billed as a pro-shot of the reunion concert they did in 2021 and you don’t get as much of that event as I hoped. Theater nerds will enjoy this. Everyone else can skip it.

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Valet

Disney+ unveils the first images of

2022 has been an amazing year for romantic comedies (finally!) and The Valet is another surprisingly affecting entry! Eugenio Derbez plays a parking valet who through various contrivances has to pretend to date a celebrity played by Samara Weaving. I love fake relationship stories and Derbez is very winning in this role. It also plays out a little more messy than most rom-coms with platonic friendship being taken seriously, which I always appreciate. The tone is a bit uneven but I overall found it sweet with a nice emphasis on family and every individuals self worth no matter if they are a movie star or a valet.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Fire Island

Fire Island' Movie Review: Joel Kim Booster's Gay Rom-Com

Another rom-com for 2022 comes just in time for Pride Month with Fire Island. Screenwriter Joel Kim Booster has crafted a very loose interpretation of Pride and Prejudice with gay characters all going to New York’s Fire Island for a week of fun. The story is a little over-crowded making it hard to connect with the various couples as much as I wanted to but it is made with enough energy and joy that I enjoyed it. It is, however, very raunchy and definitely won’t be for everyone. Mature audiences only but a good time if you are up for it. Margaret Cho steals the movie as the ‘Mom’ figure to the party animal boys.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022) - IMDb

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and I held off on watching it there because of the subject matter. However, I had enough friends recommend it to me I decided to give it a watch, and I’m glad I did. Emma Thompson gives a brave performance in this ultimately endearing story of a retired teacher ordering an escort with the name of Leo Grande. Daryl McCormack is super charismatic as Leo and the dialogue between the 2 feels authentic and genuine. Anyone who has been sex-starved in their lives will understand where Thompson’s Nancy is coming from. She’s harsher than I hopefully would ever be (especially towards her kids) but her loneliness and desire for passion and connection is easy to relate with. Don’t we all want more of that in our lives? This film obviously has mature content but many will probably be surprised how sweet it is (as I was!).

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it! Have you gotten to see any of these movies? If so, what did you think?

 

If you enjoy what I do please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks. https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

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

If you enjoy what I do please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks. https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

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

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

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

Sanditon Season 2

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

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

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

I hate this show!

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

18 1/2

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

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

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

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Father Stu

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

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

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

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

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

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

AmbuLAnce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Colma: The Musical

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

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

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

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

If you enjoy what I do please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks. https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

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

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

So here we go!

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

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

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

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

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

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

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) - IMDb

Everything Everywhere All at Once

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

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

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

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

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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

Polar Bear

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

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

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

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

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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

The Bad Guys

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

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

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

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

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

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

 

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

If you enjoy what I do please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks.  https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

Current Mini Reviews (Moonshot, Julia, The Northman, One Road to Quartzsite)

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:

Moonshot

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

Smile Worthy

Julia

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

Smile Worthy

The Northman

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

Frown Worthy

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.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (Am I Ok?, Rifkin’s Festival, The Royal Treatment)

Hey everyone! So we had my last day of Sundance today. I ended up with 24 films watched and a bunch started that I chose to not complete (I gave myself that out this year). In general, the festival was a disappointment this year. There were a number of films I enjoyed but nothing I can see ending up in my top 20 of the year. And a lot of my most anticipated were either disappointing or ones I didn’t finish. It’s a real bummer but I hope you enjoyed my coverage. I did the best I could to be fair and enlightening in my mini reviews each day.

Now I have one more Sundance film to review and a few other recent watches I’d like to talk about.

Enjoy some mini reviews!

Sundance: Tig Notaro's Am I OK? Takes Probing Look at Coming Out as an  Adult – The Hollywood Reporter

Am I Ok?

From the summary Am I Ok? looked like the sweet romance I’d been looking for at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Unfortunately, that was not the case. It’s instead a coming out story, which would be fine but the none of the characters in question were very appealing or likable.

Dakota Johnson plays Lucy, a woman who finally admits she is gay, after her best friend Jane is moving back to England (she’s from England originally so not sure why this is a huge surprise). It seems like the narrative is going to be a friends to lovers story but it ends up being a lot of quarreling, fighting and overall obnoxious behavior. Then most of the time is spent with Lucy dealing with a crush on a lady at work not on anything to do with Jane.

Am I Ok? has nice moments but it could have been a lot better. I feel like a lot of films at Sundance this year were rushed with half finished scripts. Maybe they will improve the films before wide-release? Who knows but this one didn’t work for me.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Rifkin’s Festival

While the festival was busy pumping out indie fare a new film from Woody Allen was quietly released entitled Rifkin’s Festival. Like most of Allen’s recent work it is a mixed bag of his best and worst tendencies.

The positives is with the film being set in a Cannes-like film festival in San Sebastian, Spain, Allen has a lot of fun commenting on the arthouse film crowd and prestige filmmakers like Godard, Fellini, Bergman and Orson Welles. He even has dream-sequences that recreate the iconic moments from these classic directors. That was entertaining.

Certainly the cast Allen has assembled is up for the challenge with people like Wallace Shawn, Gina Gershon, Richard Kind and more. However, the problem comes with the 78 year old Shawn playing the ”Woody Allen” role as the supposed pedantic lover torn between 2 beautiful young women. It was unbelievable to put it mildly.

In Allen’s previous film A Rainy Day in New York he had Timothee Chalamet in the Allen-esque role and I think that was the right way to go!

Still just for the cinema parts I’d give it a watch.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Royal Treatment' Review: A Noble Netflix Romp - Variety

The Royal Treatment

For people outside of the Hallmark bubble they may be unaware of the flourishing business that is the royal genre of films. Whether it is on Hallmark with movies like A Royal Queens Christmas or Netflix with another Princess Switch movie (and that’s only a few of the many releases) there seems to be a never ending supply and demand for what are essentially Cinderella stories at the movies. Now our latest is The Royal Agreement on Netflix.

This film stars Mena Massoud as Thomas, the prince of fictional Lavania who hires hairdresser Izzy (Laura Marano) to help with his arranged wedding preparations. Of course he falls for the hairdresser instead of his intended bride but movies like these are about execution not originality and for the most part this is executed well.

The Royal Treatment is a cute movie that reminds me of The Beautician and the Beast– a movie I love. I appreciate the charisma of both leads and the humor the script brings in. In particular Izzy’s friends Destiny (Chelsea Preston Crayford) and Lola (Grace Bentley-Tsibuah) are a lot of fun as they bring some spice to palace life.

If you are a fan of royal movies you’ll enjoy The Royal Treatment. It does not break the mold but I had fun with it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it. I was going to include a couple others but it’s late and I will save them for a future post. I hope you are all doing well and watching some great movies. Let me know what you recommend!

Current Mini Reviews (The Power of the Dog, Annie Live, and More)

Hey everyone! I would love to write full reviews of every movie I see, especially these prestige films, but there is only so much time. So, now we have one of my mini-review post to catch up with all the fun films I’ve been watching (for TV movies check out my weekly recaps and all my content at Hallmarkies Podcast.

So here goes:

Annie Live!

I have long loved the musical Annie. It has such a positive energy, a delicious villain in Miss Hannigan and songs that are fun to belt out. However, I did not care for the recent movie version from 2014 at all. They made the songs bland and had one of the worst performances in recent memory by Cameron Diaz. With this in mind I was delighted to see Annie Live! was being performed on NBC and now that I’ve seen it I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’ve enjoyed most of these live musicals (not much of a shocker if you know me) but I think this is one of the best. Aside from a bad bald cap on Harry Connick Jr it all went off without a hitch. Taraji P Henson was fantastic as Miss Hannigan and young Celina Smith shines as Annie. If you like musicals you won’t want to miss this delightful production.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Last Night in Soho

Now we take a hard left to Edgar Wright’s latest film Last Night in Soho which is billed as a psychotic thriller but in my opinion it had a lot more psychotic than thrills. It seems like the world-at-large enjoys this more than I did and I suppose it looks impressive but the plot made no sense. It felt like Wright was flinging stuff at the screen without any idea of telling a coherent story. I was exhausted after about 30 minutes and it is almost 2 hours long. It’s none of the actors fault but it definitely wasn’t for me.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog Review: A Stunning and Contemplative Western

Next up we have the new western from Jane Campion called The Power of the Dog. This stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a ruthless cowboy who resents the addition of Kirsten Dunst’s Rose and her son Peter played by Kodi Smit-McPhee into their home on the prairie. After a while he becomes fascinated with Peter and seeks to train him in the ways of being a cowboy.

The Power of the Dog is impressive with great performances, beautiful cinematography and a compelling script. It’s all a bit cynical for my taste but I can’t deny that it is all very well done. If you like westerns you should definitely see it.

7.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Being the Ricardos

Being the Ricardos' First Reactions: Nicole Kidman 'Incredible' | IndieWire

Over the last few years there always seems to be a bio-pic that gets a lot of love that I find completely mediocre. Last year it was Judy and this year it is Being the Ricardos. This one has the advantage of being written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. I am not now nor have ever been a member of the Sorkin hive. I respect much of his work but I have also often found his characters suffer in the wake of all that snappy dialogue he loves so much. That is certainly the case here but I actually found his script for this film to be very sloppy and poorly done.

The script for Being the Ricardos can’t decide what it wants to be. Is it about Lucille Ball being investigated for being a communist? Is it about her crumbling marriage? Is it about the writers room and an episode they are focusing on? Is it about Vivian and her weight struggles? I have no idea. All these ideas are brought up but not explored in a satisfying way. It also didn’t help that Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem look nothing like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

I am sure this will get tons of awards love but not from me. I was thoroughly underwhelmed by it.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

A Boy Called Christmas' Review: Kindling the Holiday Spirit - The New York Times

A Boy Called Christmas

Everyone knows I watch a lot of Christmas movies each year but most of them are not feature films. A Boy Called Christmas is an exception to that rule and it turns out to be a really fun and engaging holiday fantasy adventure.

Made in the UK (available for us to watch on Netflix) this film tells the story of a young boy who is trying to find his father who became lost searching for the mythical Elfhelm village. Along the way he meets all kinds of creatures, pixies, and elves.

A Boy Called Christmas has an incredible cast including Jim Broadbent, Sally Hawkins and Maggie Smith. It’s a little slow at points but most fantasy movies are. If you are looking for some Christmas magic this season it’s a great pick

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

 

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Current Mini Reviews (French Dispatch, Last Duel, Becoming Cousteau and More)

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well. I am writing this review update from Los Angeles, California. I am in town for the Animation is Film Festival, which showcases the best of animated films from this year. I am super excited to see Luca and Mitchells v the Machines on the big screen as well as new films like Mamoru Hosoda’s new film Belle.

In the meantime I have also been to a lot of screenings lately so I have some catching up to do on reviews. I wish I could write whole posts on each of these films but I am only one human and I simply run out of time. So here goes! If you have seen any of these films let me know what you think.

The Last Duel

The Last Duel Trailer Reveals Jodie Comer, Adam Driver, and Matt Damon in Ridley Scott's Epic Film

We don’t get many medieval epics these days so one has to admire director Ridley Scott and the team at 20th Century for even greenlighting The Last Duel. It is a sweeping story of war, revenge, friendship and betrayal. Unfortunately some decisions from the director with the storytelling kept me from loving the film.

The positives are like I said the scope of the filmmaking and the attention to detail with costumes, battle scenes and sets. I also thought Jodie Comer and Adam Driver did a great job in their roles. Matt Damon works hard but is miscast and given one of the ugliest haircuts of recent memory. Ben Affleck’s character and performance is very strange but effective.

The problem with The Last Duel is they tell the story of a rape 3 times and I don’t think there is enough to be gained from each perspective to make the storytelling choice worth it. It feels repetitive because it literally is repetitive. Plus, the fact they show the rape twice feels gratuitous and unnecessary. It’s not like each side has radically different takes. It’s clearly rape in both versions.

The Last Duel is not a terrible film. I am sure many will enjoy it but the story structure sank it for me. No thanks

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Becoming Cousteau

See the source image

For many of us the name Jacques Cousteau is synonymous with the ocean and marine conservation. During the 1960s and 70s ABC ran a series of documentaries from the French explorer called The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. Now we have a documentary about the Cousteau’s life and it is a fascinating look at both a media figure and the environmental activist movement.

Part of what makes a documentary like this work is the footage the filmmakers have to use. Fortunately for this film they have tons of footage, Cousteau being a documentarian himself. It’s sad to see the deuteriation of the ocean from when he starts filming to the 80s and even 90s. It’s even more sad to see the toll that causes for Cousteau who takes the polluting of the ocean as a personal failing on his part when even he could only do so much to prevent humans from hurting the ocean.

I assume Becoming Cousteau will end up on Disney Plus so you can wait to see it then or if it is a theater near you check it out.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch: Four stars for Wes Anderson's latest - BBC Culture

Wes Anderson is similar to Zack Snyder in the fact they both make very stylish films with a near cult of personality that devours their work. It almost seems futile to write a review on either of their films because their fans are already signed up to see them. What I say won’t matter.

Anyway we have the latest from Anderson, The French Dispatch, and it’s very Wes Andersony… It has all of his best and worst qualities and in the end I thought it was…ok.

To start with the production design in the film is immaculate. The camerawork is fantastic and the score does a lot of the heavy lifting. The cast is impressive but many of the actors feel underused. When someone like Edward Norton appears for under 2 minutes it’s distracting. We keep waiting for such a big name actor to appear again and when he doesn’t it’s disappointing.

The short stories in The French Dispatch are hit and miss. My favorite was the prison chef story with Jeffrey Wright especially the animated section but then others went on too long like the story of Timothee Chalamet’s rebellion with Frances McDormand overstayed its welcome.

Nevertheless, if you like Anderson than you’ll get something out of The French Dispatch. It’s uneven but worth watching.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Ron’s Gone Wrong

Ron's Gone Wrong review: A kid-friendly, tech-upgraded Iron Giant - Polygon

For animation fans the new film Ron’s Gone Wrong is an exciting release as it is Locksmith Animation’s first feature film and the only CGI animated film to come out of the UK this year. It is also a 20th Century Studios release, which is now a part of Disney.

My favorite part of the film is the animation and the design of the b-bots (named Ron in this case). I honestly would like to have one of these robots- and not the ones at the end but the ones that work the way they should at the beginning.  I also liked the lead character Barney and his Slavic old-fashioned family.

Unfortunately it is impossible not to think of Big Hero 6 when watching Ron’s Gone Wrong. The movies are so similar but Ron doesn’t hold a candle to Baymax. I mean who could? Barney also doesn’t have to deal with the same level of loss (at least on screen. His Mother has passed on but that isn’t a part of the plot like it is for Hero).

All that said, the film does get intense and may be too much for very small children. I would say 8 and up should be fine.

Despite its flaws Ron’s Gone Wrong has enough imagination, creative character designs and heart to make it worth a recommendation.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy