Current Mini Reviews (Devotion, Food and Romance, The Whale, All Quiet on the Western Front, An American Ballet Story)

Hey everyone! I am back to give you my thoughts on a bunch of recent movie releases. I wish I could do longer reviews on all of these but that isn’t possible. Here we go:

Devotion

Movie "Devotion" filmed in Statesboro opens at AMC Statesboro Nov. 22

Not every film is a masterpiece. In fact, most aren’t. Most are base hits instead of homeruns. Devotion is a perfect example of a base hit. It tells the heart-tugging story of Korean War hero Jesse Brown who was the first Black aviator in Navy History. He is played by Jonathan Majors who perfectly captures the confidence yet awkwardness of the character. This is especially true when compared with his suave wingman and friend J.D. Dillard played by Glen Powell (despite the similar career the role is actually quite different than his aviator in Top Gun Maverick.)

Devotion definitely drags in the middle as the pilots get to know one another on both sea and land (they spend a day flirting with Elizabeth Taylor at one point in the script.) It picks up towards the end as we know things are likely not going to go well for our soldiers but it earns its emotions, is well made and acted and for a conflict we don’t know much about I’m glad I saw it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Food and Romance

Tisdagsklubben - Bio.nu

Next on the docket comes out of Sweden and is a really sweet, pleasant romance called Food and Romance. Like Devotion, this doesn’t do anything new or exciting but what it does, it does well. It stars Marie Richardson as Karin who after 40 years of marriage ends up single and alone. To keep her spirits up she decides to take a cooking class, which is led by a grumpy unhappy chef named Henrik (Peter Stormare).

Of course they start up not liking each other but their bond grows as they cook together. That’s a very romantic concept and the 2 leads have lovely chemistry. The other classmates and friends are a lot of fun and it all makes for a delightful story of second chance romance.

7 out of 10

The Whale

The Whale' Review: Brendan Fraser in Darren Aronofsky's Film - Variety

I think most of America is rooting for Brendan Frasier. I don’t know all the details but it seems like he was bullied out of Hollywood, faced hard times and is working his way back into films. He certainly has received loads of praise for Darren Aronfsky’s The Whale, and will probably be nominated for an Oscar for his performance, which is great. I’m happy for him.

That said, I did not enjoy The Whale. His performance is fine and honestly not as fat shamey as I feared. He tries to bring humanity to the 500 lb man named Charlie he plays in the film. Unfortunately the script surrounds him with people who are so mean that it becomes a frustrating experience.

I particularly hated Sadie Sink as his miserable, angry teenage daughter. I understand being a teenager is tough but so often they are portrayed as practical robots to their rage especially here. Any humanity to her character mostly feels imagined by Charlie more than a real attribute to her character.

The whole experience of watching The Whale was excruciating and it felt like it would never end. No thanks.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front' Review: The Spectacle of War - The New York  Times

Coming from Germany onto Netflix we have the latest telling of the novel All Quiet on the Western Front. It’s been a while since I read the book or saw the 1930 classic but this new version can still stand alone as a worthy adaptation. It’s a brutal watch that I’m not sure we needed but it’s certainly one of the most well made of any of the Oscar contenders I’ve seen.

The movie follows Paul Bäumer as he and his buddies join up for World War 1 with excitement and even glee. Quickly they learn what they have gotten themselves into and each dies one by one in the most brutal of all the conflicts (it must have been intense to watch the 1930 version when it was all so fresh in their minds.)

There isn’t much relief from the brutality of war here and like I said I’m not sure this gives us anything we haven’t seen before in movies like 1917 just a few years ago. Still it’s a harrowing reminder of the horrors of war and quite masterfully put together.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

An American Ballet Story

May be an image of 10 people, people standing and indoor

I’m a sucker for documentaries about art and artists. Even if others find them dry I like learning about creative minds and what goes into their artistic process. That’s essentially what we get with An American Ballet Story. It’s a documentary that tells the story of the Harkness Ballet and its founder Rebekah Harkness that changed the world of dance in the 1960s.

A documentary like this is somewhat constrained by the footage they have to use (and archival interviews they can find) and that is the case here. A lot of the images are grainy and not as clear of the dancers as we’d like to see but director Leslie Streit gets enough personal stories to keep the narrative going.

If you have any interest in dance or the arts you will enjoy this informative documentary.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (Decision to Leave, Falling for Christmas, Spirited, The Menu, Weird: The Al Yancovic Story)

Hey everyone! It’s time to get you caught up on all the movies I’ve been seeing lately! I wish I had time to write long posts on all of these movies but I don’t. Make sure you check out my hard work at Hallmarkies Podcast where we are covering all things Christmas including lots of fun interviews and recaps.

So let’s get started:

Decision to Leave


Decision to Leave by director Park Chan-wook is one of the most impeccably made movies I’ve seen in 2022. And it’s one I think on a second and third watch I could easily go from liking to loving. There’s a lot going on and with the subtitles I struggled a little bit to keep up with everything on a first watch (I was also admittedly a little tired so that didn’t help).

Nevertheless I still really enjoyed this ‘neo-noir romantic mystery.’ Recently I watched the classic Double Indemnity for my AFI Passions Project for my patrons (check it out! You’ll enjoy it and would help me so much) and Decision to Leave reminded me a lot of that classic film. Both are about detectives that get into toxic relationships and both having that heavy noir atmosphere that works so well.

Definitely if you want to see one of the most beautifully made film of 2022 don’t miss Decision to Leave.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Falling for Christmas


If you need a break from the arthouse flicks we have a new Christmas movie from Netflix (which we are covering on the podcast this week) entitled Falling for Christmas starring Lindsay Lohan and Chord Overstreet. This movie is pretty simple. It’s a winter-themed remake of Overboard without some of that movie’s problematic elements.

Lohan plays an heiress who looses her memory and is taken in by handsome lodge owner Overstreet. Obviously as host of Hallmarkies Podcast I’m a fan of these kind of Christmas movies but that doesn’t mean I give them all a pass (see the A California Christmas movies for proof of that.)

Fortunately Falling for Christmas has all the elements I need to make a cozy holiday film work. The stars have chemistry, the silly antics work and the whole thing brings all the feels. I particularly liked any scenes with her over-the-top boyfriend Tad (George Young). The movie is a bit over-stuffed at times bringing in elements from Overboard, It’s a Wonderful Life, and a million other holiday films but it’s all done with such cheerfulness it worked for me. If you like these films you’ll enjoy it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story


People are going to end up in 2 camps about Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. You are either going to appreciate the risks it takes and find it refreshing or you are like me and find it more grating and annoying than brilliant. I say that fully admitting to not being a hard-core Weird Al fan. I admire his talent and I’ve enjoyed some of his song parodies but I am not a fangirl by any means.

Daniel Radcliffe plays Al in the movie and he gives it his all in a fun performance but the approach they take is to parody the biopic genre instead of giving us any kind of true story (they admit that in the intro to the film). The problem with this approach is the script just isn’t funny and the jokes become so repetitive, which is brutal when you aren’t laughing at them to begin with.

I can see why Weird will have an audience. I simply grew tired of it quickly and was ready for it to be over. It is free to watch on Roku if you want to give it a try but I can’t say I recommend it.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Spirited


Anyone who has followed this site knows I am a big fan of A Christmas Carol as a story and have reviewed many different versions of it over the years (see Scrooge Month). I also love the music of Benj Pasek and ‎Justin Paul (La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen, The Greatest Showman etc). So in so many ways the film Spirited was designed to please me as a viewer…and fortunately it did just that!

‎In the film Will Ferrell plays the Ghost of Christmas Present who is assigned a new ‘unredeemable’ patient played by Ryan Reynolds who fits your classic Scrooge archetype. However, as they go about their journey together things don’t play out as planned and we flip back and forth between Ferrell’s and Reynolds past.

Ferrell and Reynolds have terrific chemistry but the main reason to see this is the songs. If you don’t like Pasek and Paul’s music you won’t like this but I loved all the musical sequences (and there are a lot of them) and the incredible choreography and production values! It was a blast.

The story in Spirited is definitely overstuffed and gets too convoluted for its own good but this bright and bubbly musical is just what you need to get into the Christmas spirit this season. It has its flaws but still one of my favorite movies of 2022. (There was also a really good take on A Christmas Carol by Hallmark this year called The Ghost of Christmas Always. Check that one out also!)

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Menu


Our final film on this post is horror/thriller by director Mark Mylod called The Menu. I’ve been trying to push myself with horror this year and this is definitely one of the most squeamish ones I’ve seen so far! It’s very effective at what it does but buyer beware it definitely will make you squirm in your seat.

It probably helps I’m a big food network/foodie culture fan so a lot of the dark humor in the film works. I wish they had made the ending a little bit less cynical and more triumphant but I say that as an outsider of this particular genre. Fans of dark humor horror will probably love the ending. It could have used a touch more humanity for my taste but who knows.

Ralph Fiennes plays a chef who brings a group of special diners to have a special meal that gets more grisly with each course. Anya Taylor-Joy is roped into attending the meal at the last minute by Nicholas Hoult and she is our main protagonist for the story. All the acting is excellent in the film and I especially liked Janet McTeer as snobby food critic invited to the event.

Despite my not loving the ending the script for The Menu is very well done and it builds tension exceptionally well. If you like horror you’ll love this movie. It’s surprising, gross, and entertaining all at the same time.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (Murder Anyone, Empire of Light, My Father’s Dragon)

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well and enjoying this fall weather. I am super busy as usual. Make sure to check out the Hallmarkies Podcast as the Christmas movie season is well underway. We are reviewing all the Hallmark Christmas movies and as much of everything else as we can. 

I also have lots of other movies to talk about and review. Today I have 3 recent films to catch you up on. I wish I could do longer reviews on each one of them but am running out of time

So here goes:

Empire of Light

It’s hard to not hold a movie like Empire of Light to a high standard when it is chocked full of incredible talent. It’s one of those tribute to cinema we’ve been getting a lot lately from director Sam Mendes and you can feel his personal touch throughout the film. It also is shot beautifully by the great Roger Deakins and has an impactful score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Add to all that some of greatest actors working today with Olivia Colman and Colin Firth and this thing should be outstanding but unfortunately it’s not. The screenplay has nice moments including a lovely scene at the movie theater at the end but too often the scrip tries to do too much and be too much. It’s part romance, part political protest, part tribute to cinema, part exploration of mental health stigmas, and the list goes on and on. None of it feel successfully explored despite the best work from all involved. I certainly didn’t feel any chemistry between Olivia Colman and Michael Ward (who plays her young lover.)

There might be a few Oscar nominations that sneak out of this for score or production design but most are going to view this as on of the big disappointments of 2022.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Murder, Anyone

Sometimes I really enjoy a micro-indie film. I love the intimacy and the pull up by one’s bootstraps mentality to them. A fun example of this type of project is the new film Murder, Anyone from director James Cullen Bressack takes a screenplay written by his father the late Gordon Bresseck and executes it using 2 simple sets and mostly only 4 actors.

One set-piece has 2 writers (Maurice LaMarche and Charles M. Howell IV) working on a story- one wants it to be a movie, the other wants it to be a play. Then on another set we have the actors of the script (Galadriel Stineman who I recently interviewed along with her husband Kevin Joy) bringing it to life as the writers write.

Stineman is a lot of fun as the noir femme fatale and especially with the recent mystery resurgence the satire here is very relevant and funny. The movie also doesn’t wear out its welcome at only 81 minutes. Not all the jokes work but enough do for me to recommend the film.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

My Father’s Dragon

Everyone who follows my work knows I’m a huge fan of Cartoon Saloon especially the films by Irish animator Tomm Moore. However, I also enjoyed director Nora Twomey’s first film The Breadwinner. Now she has her latest that is going to Netflix called My Father’s Dragon.

As opposed to The Breadwinner, Dragon is a much simpler story with whimsy that will entertain the whole family, but seems designed for small children under 7. It is based on a book about a little boy named Elmer who runs away to Wild Island to help a captive dragon.

The animation is luminous and lovely. I also really enjoyed the music by Mychael and Jeff Danna. Cartoon Saloon always uses music so well. There is tremendous voice cast with Jacob Tremblay, Gaten Matarazzo, Whoopi Goldberg and more.

For some small children they may find sections alarming or upsetting but this should be managed by the many delightful scenes that will inspire their creativity and imagination.

I enjoyed Elmer as a character and a lot of children should be able to relate to his struggles trying to fit in in a new area and wanting to prove himself with a great adventure. The story does drag in spots but overall I really enjoyed My Father’s Dragon. It is an enchanting adventure for families and one of the best animated films of 2022

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (Railway Children, Bros, Amsterdam, TAR, Banshees of Inisherin, Lyle Lyle the Crocodile)

Hey everyone! I mean to update my reviews before I went to NYFF but it didn’t happen so here is my post catching up on all the movies I’ve been watching lately. Here goes!

Railway Children

This film evidently is being released under different names. It might be The Railway Children Returns. It is evidently a sequel to a popular 1970 film in UK and based on the novels by E Nesbit. I was unfamiliar with both and overall I thought the movie was just ok. It tells the story of a group of siblings that are sent to live in a small town in Yorkshire, England during WWII and the various trouble they get into with their guardian Bobbie (Jenny Agutter) and Annie (Sheridan Smith).

On one hand, The Railway Children is a sweet, harmless family film but on the other it tackles a lot for one film including war, death, racism, bombings, bullying and more. The child acting is also on a made for TV movie level not that of a feature film. I didn’t hate it but it was confused enough to not be able recommend unless you are previously invested in the series or the book.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

 Bros

While it is definitely not going to be for everyone (a strong R rating), I enjoyed Bros. In fact, I did a whole podcast on it at Hallmarkies Podcast (see above).

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Amsterdam

Amsterdam” Is an Exemplary Work of Resistance Cinema | The New Yorker

While my feelings on David O Russell’s Amsterdam aren’t nearly as harsh as most my critic friends I still can’t quite recommend the film and admit it’s a bit of a mess.

The aspects I like of the film is the friendship between Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington. Platonic friendship is rarely explored at the movies and there are moments where I enjoyed that dynamic here. I wish there had been more of it (the romance between Robbie and Washington falls flat. It’s so much better when it is the 3 of them as friends!) There is also some great cinematography from the always reliable Emmanuel Lubezki.

The problem is the story tries too hard to be funny without actually making the viewer laugh and the barrage of characters get little to nothing to do. Like I said, it should have just focused on the 3 friends but instead we get introduced to 2 dozen or so characters all with their own plotlines and eccentricities until it becomes too much.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

TAR

TÁR movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert

The Oscar season has officially started for critics like myself and one of the early frontrunners (for best actress at least) is Todd Field’s new film TAR. Starring Cate Blanchett, TAR tells the story of a composer/conductor named Lydia Tar who becomes embroiled in a ME Too-esque scandal just as she is about to lead the Berlin Symphony Orchestra in her dream concert.

Blanchett is absolutely tremendous in this film and her performance is the reason to see it. It also has terrific sound design and some engaging supporting performances from people like Julian Glover and Mark Strong.

My only issue with TAR is the script is unfocused especially the last 30 minutes where it became difficult to understand what is happening (why is she conducting in some kind of cult at the end?). It got extremely confusing and for a 158 minute film that’s a problem. Also, for a movie about a conductor I could have used more music. As the movie mostly focuses on rehearsals we only hear bits and pieces of the music and that keeps us from understanding Tar’s genius like something such as Amadeus gives us access to.

Still, it’s worth seeing for the positives even if I do think the huge praise I’m seeing is a bit much but that’s just me.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Banshees of Inisherin

How's The Despair: The Banshees Of Inisherin And The Emotional Fallout Of Depression [Fantastic Fest]

I wasn’t a big fan of Martin McDonagh’s previous hit film 3 Billboards so I went into his new film The Bashees of Inisherin with some hesitation. Now that I’ve seen it I can definitely say I liked it better but it’s not really my kind of film. I respect it and recommend it for the right type of viewer but I’m just not a cynical person and this film is extremely cynical and depressing while also being quite funny. It’s an unusual mixture.

In the movie Colin Farrell plays Padraic a man who lives on a remote island in Ireland when one day his best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) tells him he doesn’t want to be friends with him any more. He basically gets ghosted by his best friend but they have to see each other all over town leading to many funny instances. Colm wants to be left alone to write great fiddle music and he feels Padraic is a distraction from that work. This is devastating for Padraic as it would be for most people who value friends (also the island doesn’t seem to have many options for friends).

The war of words between the 2 men gets very bloody and mean-spirited (It’s honestly just gross!). The ending left me so depressed I wanted to cry. This is not a movie I will ever watch again or remember with any fondness but it is well done for what it is. If it sounds like your kind of thing you’ll probably like it. As for me I need some humanity and care for others in my films.

5 out of 10

Smile Worthy barely

Lyle Lyle, Crocodile

The Lyle, Lyle Crocodile Movie: 6 Things We Know About The Upcoming Shawn Mendes Film | My TV Online

Now for the complete other side of the spectrum we have the uncynical, sweet family film Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. Based on the popular children’s book by Bernard Waber this film tells the story of a special crocodile named Lyle who communicatees with all of Manhattan by singing. He has an owner magician Hector P Valenti (Javier Bardem) and a family with one child moves in to find him in the attic ready to be their friend. Constance Wu plays the Mom with Scoot McNairy as the Dad.

I love Winslow Fegley as a child actor. Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made was one of my favorite movies of 2020, and I loved 8-Bit Christmas last year. (Incidentally his brother Oakes Fegley was also great in Pete’s Dragon so I guess it runs in the family!) Winslow is lovely here and does a great job interacting with Lyle on their misadventures (especially when you think about how bad quality actors can be at acting with cgi creatures. (Need I remind you of the recent Pinocchio with Tom Hanks as an example!).

In the film Lyle is voiced by Shawn Mendes, and he wouldn’t have been my pick for the character but he does a fine job. The songs are terrific by Pasek and Paul of The Greatest Showman fame. And you all have read enough of my reviews to know how much I love musical sequences (even when sung by random animals like Lyle the crocodile).

In the end Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile doesn’t have a cynical bone in its body. Its message is about love, acceptance, kindness and family warms the heart and it shares these messages without apology. It’s a perfect film to take the whole family to, enjoy together, and then have a discussion about the way we treat people who are different. It also asks questions about how we confront new experiences when they might seem scary or difficult and it is hard to be brave. This is a sweet endearing movie I thoroughly enjoyed.

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (Barbarian, See How They Run, Everybody Dance, Don’t Worry Darling)

Hey everyone! I’ve got a few films to update you with (I’m woefully behind on current releases because of my D23 trip but doing the best I can). Here goes!

Everybody Dance

This is a very sweet and endearing documentary about a dance studio outside of LA that teaches dance to all kids (the name is literally Ballet for ALL Kids). This includes children with both physical and mental disabilities. The director Dan Watt does a good job balancing the stories of the kids with the philosophy behind the studio ran by director Bonnie Schlachte. I appreciate the program and film don’t patronize the special needs kids but teach them dance just like any other children but with reasonable adaptations of course.

Everything all leads to the big recital and by then we have gotten to know a bunch of the kids and their families and feel triumphant with them at a successful recital. In a world where the arts and dance are often removed from students curriculum this film makes a good case for how important and vital they are for both able-bodied and special needs children. In that sense Everybody Dance has a beautiful and important message.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

See How They Run

One of my recent discoveries in my support of local theater this year is the play See How They Run which I saw in April at the Pleasant Grove Players and found it to be absolutely hilarious. The play is a classic of English theatre having been written by Philip King in 1944 and it is still performed today (there have actually been 3 local theaters putting it on this year).

With this experience fresh in my mind I was so excited when I heard a movie with the title See How They Run was coming out and just assumed it would be some kind of adaptation. Unfortunately that was not the case. I guess that was an unfair assumption for me to make as they didn’t claim it was an adaptation. It just had the same title.

Anyway, maybe my disappointment played a factor in my overall underwhelming response but if it had been charming I could have put that aside. While the cast and style of this film is impressive the story never grabbed me. It felt bland and the mystery wasn’t intriguing. To be frank I found it rather dull which this kind of mystery should never be!

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Barbarian

You all know I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror but I’m also trying to stretch myself and see films outside of my comfort zone. Such is the case with the latest horror movie Barbarian directed and written by Zach Cregger and starring Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgard and Justin Long.

The casting goes a long way to make this film work. Especially the male casting because Skarsgard and Long carry expectations with their performances. We expect Skarsgard to be scary. We expect Long to be kind. This makes their choices in the film extra surprising.

Campbell plays Tess a woman who rents an Airbnb in a shady neighborhood in Detroit only to find Skarsgard’s Keith is already staying at the house and there are all kinds of suspect things going on there.

I enjoyed Barbarian. It is surprising and let the audience figure out what it’s trying to say rather than preachier horrors of late like Black Christmas 2019. It uses jump scares effectively and is the right amount of weird/gory. If you are a horror wimp like I am you might actually have fun with it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Don’t Worry Darling

Don’t Worry Darling is definitely one of those films that has gotten a lot of attention during its festival run and mostly not in a good way. Whatever drama there was on set has dominated the conversation as well as lots of shenanigans at press conferences and various tiffs between the cast.

With all of that how’s the movie? I’d say it’s ok, worthy of a mild recommendation. Olivia Wilde directs this sci-fi thriller that dusts off the well-used premise of the seemingly perfect yet actually toxic suburban life.  One can’t help when watching this movie think of other films like The Stepford Wives, Edward Scissorhands and American Beauty.

That said, there was enough style and panache to the production I didn’t mind the derivative nature. Florence Pugh is terrific as housewife Alice and she has great chemistry with Harry Styles’ Jack (who is very charismatic in the role). Chris Pine and Gemma Chan are also good as the leaders of the perfect world (made me think of Wrinkle in Time and  The Giver among many other dystopians).

The ending has some holes and it’s not perfect but my friend and I had a fun discussion about each reveal after the movie was over so I left having had a good time. If you are taking it super seriously you probably will be frustrated. See it for the cracking performances and the great style and you’ll have a blast. (Also the soundtrack is smashing good!)

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (3000 Years of Longing, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, Acapulco)

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. I have been super busy as always so it’s time to update you on what I’ve been watching lately. Just 3 updates today but I would love to hear what you are watching and what you thought of these projects.

3000 Years of Longing

Because I have been so busy I went into this knowing basically nothing about it, except that it is directed by George Miller. He of course directed Mad Max Fury Road as well as Happy Feet (which is a super weird movie if you rewatch it. Particularly the last act of the film that moves away from the singing penguins).

I didn’t even know that 3000 Years is about a genie but unfortunately my lack of knowledge didn’t help me enjoy the film much. Sometimes being green does but not in this case. I was totally overwhelmed by the project and found it both uninteresting and bizarre at the same time.

The weirdest part about the the project is what it seems to be saying about love. Each story the genie (Idris Elba) tells Alithea (Tilda Swinton) tells revolves around some kind of servitude. One character is literally kept as a prisoner for her husband to rape while she uses her wishes to not be free but to learn, which is very strange. Even Alithea and the Genie’s relationship ends up being one of servitude and control. Does Miller believe love is some form of slavery? I don’t understand what the point of such a message is or how that is supposed to be empowering or moving as the tone of the film would imply.

I suppose some will enjoy 3000 Years of Longing on a visual level but it was all so joyless and strange that even that didn’t work for me. This is a definite pass.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

In my experience anime franchises are the hardest films to convince average moviegoers to give a chance, which is a shame because they often have a lot to offer in both storytelling, animation and characters. Such is the case with the latest Dragon Ball entry: Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero.

Part of what sets this film apart is it focusing on some new characters: Gohan and Piccolo. We also get to dive into the Red Ribbon Army and its commanders Magenta and Carmine. These are younger, fun characters that teens will be able to easily relate with.

The animation is also a unique combination of the traditional 2D anime style with computer graphics to create a fluid and exciting action adventure. The music also adds a lot to the story and visuals.

There were parts of this film that dragged when the action stopped but if you’ve never seen a Dragon Ball entry this would be a good gateway into this vibrant anime franchise

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Acapulco

We all know there is enough gloom and doom in the world around us that we look for media to brighten our spirits with heart-warming stories. Such is what Apple Plus gave us with Ted Lasso but a smaller series from them is equally as crowd-pleasing: Acapulco.

This series stars Eugenio Derbez as Máximo a wealthy man telling his nephew about his early days working at a luxury resort in Acapulco. Young Máximo is played by Enrique Arrizon and he is just awkward enough to be charming. He immediately falls for the beautiful poetry-loving Julia played by Camila Perez.

The first season follows Máximo as he pursues Julia but also becomes more at home in the resort and seeks to help his mother out of poverty (and get a much needed pair of glasses).

If you are looking for a feel-good binge Acapulco is just the ticket. Don’t miss it.

8 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 (Crawdads, 13 Lives, SuperPets, Vengeance)

Hi everyone! It’s time to catch up with new releases I’ve been watching. I wish I had time to write long reviews of all of these films but alas I do not. Let me know what you think of these films, and we can discuss more in the comments.

Here we go!

Where the Crawdads Sing

Where The Crawdads Sing: Release Date And Other Quick Things We Know About The Movie | Cinemablend

Knowing this film was coming out this summer I read the novel by Delia Owens and enjoyed it. Owens does a good job capturing the North Carolina marshes in the 1950s and creates a compelling character in Kya. Now in the film version director Olivia Newman captures those strengths of the novel. It’s beautifully shot and Daisy Edgar Jones is just what I pictured as Kya.

The movie leans more into the love triangle (Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson) than the book. It’s never really a doubt that she loves Tate most in the novel. Also Chase is more smarmy to begin with in the book and his murder trial is more of a focus.

Still, if you like romantic dramas you’ll enjoy Where the Crawdads Sing. It feels like a glossy version of what you might get on Lifetime channel but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Maybe an affection for the book helped but I definitely enjoyed this more than other critics

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Thirteen Lives: First look at Ron Howard movie filmed in Qld | The Courier Mail

Thirteen Lives

It’s always a weird thing when we get a feature film based on the documentary. I almost always prefer the documentary over the narrative film (see Won’t You Be My Neighbor). The latest offering is a remake of The Rescue about the 2018 boys cave rescue in Thailand called Thirteen Lives. Do I prefer the documentary? Absolutely. Is this a solid inspirational film? Yes it is.

Thirteen Lives is directed by Ron Howard and it’s full of impressive set pieces including everything that happens in the cave and the spectacle of the rescue. The cast is also solid with the likes of Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell and Joel Edgerton. My only problem with the cast is they are all a little too “movie starish” where the actual guys were underdogs who dove as a hobby and now their hobby everyone thought was weird is coming in handy.

Still, if you are looking for an inspirational watch this will do the job. It would be a great film to watch for family movie night and all be inspired together.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Vengeance (2022) - IMDb

Vengeance

There are times when I watch a debut film from a celebrity and I can tell they called in all of the favors they could. That is the new film Vengeance from director B.J. Novak. And I don’t necessarily mean this is a bad thing. It’s just a little jarring to be watching a low budget indie and see Ashton Kutcher, Dove Cameron and other stars pop up.

Vengeance will probably be sold on its comedy when a lot of the teasing of Texas and its homespun ways in the film falls flat. However, the more dramatic parts dealing with Novak’s relationship with a former girlfriend who passes away and the podcast he wants to make works well. Most of the time podcasting is horribly portrayed in movies but this felt reasonably authentic for a show like This American Life or even Serial at times.

Novak’s character Ben is the right amount of likable while also being quite judgmental and selfish. This helps draw the audience in and keep the narrative surprising. Vengeance isn’t a great film but it’s a solid indie that shows promise for Novak’s writing and directing.

6 out of 10

DC League of Super-Pets' review: Lighter take of Justice League - Los Angeles Times

DC League of Super-Pets

There are 2 ways to look at this new film from Warner Animation: First, it’s a superhero parody film about the animals of superheroes, or second, it’s a cute movie about pets feeling insecure in their roles and hoping to be adopted. The second part succeeds a lot more than the first part.

In fairness the bar has been set pretty high these days in regards to superhero parody films. Movies like Teen Titans Go to the Movies, Lego Batman, Megamind, The Incredibles and even Deadpool poke fun at the comicbook movie tropes so successfully that you have to be really funny to make much of an imprint. Unfortunately, Super-Pets isn’t that funny, particularly the villain guinea pig Lulu (Kate McKinnon) is grating and bland.

All that said the parts with the animals particularly the dogs Krypto (Dwayne Johnson) and Ace (Kevin Heart) are sweet and work well. Krypto is Super-man’s dog (the movie starts off pretty dark for a kids film with Krypton being destroyed and baby Kal-El and Krypto being sent to earth) and he starts to get upset when Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde) comes into the picture.

This needy dog/toy dynamic has been done a lot but that’s because it’s a story that works and anyone can relate with. Kids and pet-owners will enjoy this aspect of Super-Pets and for that reason I give it a mild recommendation. The animation also has a sleek comicbook style to it I enjoyed.

My advice go see Marcel the Shell with Shoes On and then see this!

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

 

So there you go. Have you seen 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 (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