Current Mini Reviews (Zombies 2, Shaun the Sheep 2, The Photograph, The Call of the Wild)

Hello everyone! I hope you are all doing well. I have been busy as usual but still have managed to see 4 films I wanted to report here on the blog. It’s an interesting bunch so you will have to share with me what you thought if you get to see any of them. Sure love ya!

Zombies 2

zombies 2

A lot of people are really tough on the Disney Channel original musicals but I’ve enjoyed almost all of them. With the exception of Freaky Friday I’ve had fun with the energetic dance numbers and positive messages for teens they all offer. Now we have Zombies 2 and it is another entertaining entry.

Meg Donnelly and Milo Manheim are both charismatic actors and good singers that solidly lead the film and the new crew of werewolves in town have a cool slick style to them. Unfortunately they just recycled the message of the first movie again but it’s an important message of tolerance so I give them a little bit of a pass. However, Zombies 3 needs to be something different!

All that said, if you enjoyed the first Zombies film you will enjoy this.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Photograph

photograph

I really enjoyed director Stella Meghie’s last film Everything Everything. I felt she took a basic sick teen love story and elevated it with sincere performances and a clever atmosphere. So naturally I was excited to see her new film The Photograph which Universal decided to bury for some reason over the Valentines weekend.

I don’t know why they hid The Photograph from critics because I really liked it. If you are looking for a romance directed with tons of style it is the film for you. Stars Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae have wonderful chemistry together and Maghie does such a good job creating palatable romantic tension between our two leads.

The flashbacks telling the story of Rae’s parents isn’t as compelling but it’s still serviceable. If you are into romances The Photograph is a well executed film I definitely recommend. For the record, it is pretty steamy for a pg13 so you’ve been warned.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

shaun-sheep-2

It seems like I have been waiting for the sequel to the delightful The Shaun the Sheep Movie from 2015 for forever. We heard about it getting developed for several years and then last year it opened in England to acclaim only to be relegated to Netflix here in the States in 2020. Hopefully on Netflix will allow more people to see the film as it is a sweet and funny comedy for the entire family.

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon reunites us with our rascal sheep at Mossy Bottom Farm in England. Shaun and his friends are bored and making life difficult for the farm watchdog Bitzer. Then one day an alien arrives named Lu-La and all sorts of mischief occurs.

This movie is adorable. That’s all there is to say about it. Every minute on screen is super cute and I had a smile on my face. If you don’t think Shaun and his friends antics are funny it won’t be for you but I loved it. It has an old school silent movie appeal to it I really loved and kids will adore it. It’s a great film to watch as a family and everyone will laugh and enjoy the cuteness together. And of course the claymation animation is so well executed.

After a bit of a mistep with Early Man Aardman Animation is back with a real winner in Farmageddon.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Call of the Wild

call of the wild

Our last film is the new adaptation of the Jack London novel The Call of the Wild. I know I have read the novel but it has been a few years and I must admit I sometimes get it and London’s other popular novel White Fang confused. That said, I do think this version stays pretty close to the book, so that should make literary fans happy.

This version stars Harrison Ford as an adventurer who finds a dog named Buck who has seen many owners before landing on him (Ford isn’t in the movie much for the first 45 minutes). The only catch is this version of Buck is an all CGI dog instead of a regular dog and it arrives with mixed results.

Ford does a good job and the spirit of adventure throughout is compelling. There’s something old fashioned about this storytelling without wasted time on romances or unnecessary melodrama. The beautiful cinematography of the Yukon is also gorgeous and immersive.

However, the CGI dog is distracting especially when he is surrounded by other dogs (or any kind of group shot to be honest). Close up he fairs a little bit better but it is not a convincing visual. It’s especially a problem when we just got Togo from Disney Plus, which is also about a heroic dog in the Klondike and was soooo much better.

The other problem I had with The Call of the Wild was a very cringe-worthy performance by the usually reliable Dan Stevens. He plays an over-the-top bad guy named Hal who has a grudge against Ford’s John Thornton for the weakest of reasons. I am sure he was just doing what he was told but his insane bad-guy did not fit in with the leisurely paced choices in the rest of the film. It was really bad.

The Call of the Wild is also pretty scary for small children and I don’t know if the story will interest older kids. When it comes to Disney Plus it could be a nice way to introduce kids to the book but I don’t think I can recommend it in the theaters. It’s not awful but too uneven to spend the big dollars on.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews

Hello readers! I hope you are  all having a better start to the new year than I am. Unfortunately today I am sick with a wicked case of a sinus infection/virus. In fact, I didn’t get to go to the Doctor Dolittle screening this morning because I was so worried I would fall asleep/cough throughout the film. Nevertheless, I have 3 recent films I need to update you all on my thoughts so here goes.

like a boss

Like a Boss

Hollywood sure seems to struggle in understanding women. So much of what they make for female audiences feels out of touch with any kind of women I know or interact with. For example, so many seem to suggest women spend way more time worrying about their makeup than most do. Most women have a makeup routine and every once in a while try something new and that’s it.

I was one of the only people who liked 2018’s I Feel Pretty (also set in the world of cosmetics and beauty) because at least it had a little bit of a whimsy which appealed to me. But even I will admit the parts involving the beauty industry and supposed female empowerment fell very flat.

Now we have the latest entry, Like a Boss, starring Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish who run (you guessed it) a makeup company. I actually didn’t hate this movie. It had some laughs with Haddish and Byrne hanging out with their girlfriends  (an authentic relatable situation and probably helped by improv).

However, all the elements involving business fell flat especially Salma Hayek as an over-the-top beauty mogul. It is not surprising this film is written and directed by men because the complexities of the female experience in business as presented are so reductive and cringe-worthy. I’m not saying a movie like this needs to be realistic but come on? They can do better than this.

Even though I did laugh at the friends scenes in Like A Boss, I can’t recommend you spend the big bucks to go see it in the theater. Go see one of the awards caliber films in theaters instead.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

underwater2

Underwater

Next up we have another movie I didn’t hate but was pretty meh on: Underwater. This has its fair share of positives including a good performance by Kristen Stewart. They also do a great job in creating atmosphere with cool production and sound design. Everything felt on the same level as Ad Astra last year in that regard. I also liked that the action gets going right away without feeling a need for backstory or exposition to set up the world.

The problem with Underwater is it felt uneven in the storytelling. One minute the creatures would be attacking and then the next they’d be more quiet and observant. One minute Kristen Stewart would be fighting for her life and the next she’d be back on the ship looking through a locker. It felt like some needed transitions were cut in the editing room.

It is also a very derivative film of movies like Alien which takes some of the edge off of certain scenes. There’s definitely a feeling of ‘we’ve been there done all this before and better’.

Still if you see this airing on cable it’s not a terrible watch but I don’t think I can recommend watching it on the big screen. (Also the excuses they have to get Kristen Stewart in her bra and panties for long segments feels a little gratuitous and absurd).

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

marriage story2

Marriage Story

To be perfectly frank I have been putting off seeing the critically acclaimed film Marriage Story despite it being available to watch for several months. Especially at Christmas time the idea of watching a film about divorce did not sound appealing at all.

Well, now I have seen the film and while it isn’t my type of movie it is worthy of praise. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are both excellent as our feuding couple and the script doesn’t pick sides on the divorce. They are both petty and passionate all at the same time.

I’m a little confused at the high praise being given to Laura Dern for her performance as Scarlett’s attorney. She was perfectly fine in the role, but I didn’t see anything outstanding or Oscar-worthy but that’s just me. I do think it would be interesting to see this story from the perspective of people who can’t afford $25,000 retainers for their attorneys. Like what about a divorce between a couple who run a failing convenience story or are both teachers? That might be easier to relate with than these directors/actors.

But nevertheless, it’s a good film. I particularly liked Adam Driver singing ‘Being Alive’ from Stephen Sondheim’s Company both because I love that song but also I had no idea he could sing (what can’t the man do?).

I am sure if you have been through a divorce Marriage Story will have more emotional resonance. As for me it is good, just not a favorite or something I will ever watch again.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Current Mini Reviews

Hey everyone! Merry Christmas! I hope you are all doing well. As you all know I am deeply ensconced in all things Christmas right now with my work on the Hallmarkies Podcast. I have currently watched and reviewed 85 Christmas movies with 2 more weeks to go! It’s a lot of work but it is also very rewarding.

This naturally hasn’t left me a ton of time to write about the feature films I’ve been seeing (yes still making time to go to screenings). So, I hope you will forgive me for doing one of my current mini reviews posts and hopefully I will be able to expound upon them at a future date. There are just only so many hours in the day for one human to work and write about movies! 🙂

FROZEN II

I will obviously be writing more on Frozen II including my Disney Canon analysis but here is my youtube review. Basically I really enjoyed Frozen II. I loved how the story made Elsa and Anna deal with the messy truth of their parents and how they treated the people in the midst. I loved Elsa and Anna’s struggles to understand each other and thought the music was incredible. I am particularly in love with Jonathan Groff singing ‘Lost in the Woods’. The animation is stunning and the voice acting is outstanding. The plot has a few problems but overall I was very entertained by it.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Klaus

Speaking of youtube reviews I also recorded my review of the new Netflix animated film Klaus (see above) and boy did I love this movie. It’s basically an origin story of Santa Claus with 2D animation (a Rachel movie if I’ve ever heard it!) Going into it I thought it would be similar to Santa in Rise of the Guardians (which is a movie I love) but it actually proved to be quite different. Santa here is a wounded person who is closer to the father in Song of the Sea than our typical jolly old St Nick. I loved the journey of all the characters. I loved the 2D animation and how director Sergio Pablos used light and music to create tone. If you haven’t seen it you really should. I just wish I could see it in the theater! 🙁

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Good Liar

good liarI often jokingly talk in my reviews about the new demographic of ‘old people movies‘. This is a new category where Hollywood makes movies starring in and for senior citizens. The new movie The Good Liar is probably the most violent of the entries in this category but it’s an entertaining enough little caper. Helen Mirren stars as a retired professor who meets a charming bachelor played by Ian McKellen. The 2 begin dating, and it turns out they are both not what we initially believe them to be. I will say this movie requires a major suspension of belief as each reveal gets more ridiculous than the next. But if you can take that leap there’s fun to be had and the acting is of course top notch. It all makes for an entertaining if silly ride. (The film does earn its R rating so be prepared)

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

1917

1917

I really want to write more about 1917 because it is an incredible experience but for now this will have to do.  In what is definitely one of the best movies of the year, director Sam Mendes has created a war film that completely absorbed me and left me an emotional mess afterwards. It reminded me a lot of Hacksaw Ridge which is another film I love. Both this and Hacksaw focus on one human amidst the horrors of war and leave you rooting for this person’s success.

In 1917, Roger Deakin’s incredible cinematography makes us feel like we are seeing one shot photography, which is more than just a gimmick. It makes the viewer feel like they are the 3rd person in this risky mission across No Man’s Land in World War 1. It is violent but I was rooting for the characters and riveted by every turn in their journey. Definitely seek this film out. It’s worth the investment and you will leave inspired.

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Jumanji: the Next Level-

jumanji-the-next-level

I enjoyed 2017’s Jumaji: Welcome to the Jungle. It was a terrific way to do a remake of a beloved film. It has the bones of the classic but it’s own story and take on the world. More importantly it was funny. I will forgive a lot of problems in a story if I am laughing. This is where we run into problems with the sequel Jumanji: The Next Level: it’s not very funny. Or rather I should say, it has a few funny jokes they tell over and over again; thereby, weakening their impact.

This Jumaji film isn’t awful. The action set pieces are fun and the cast can be likable. However, there’s nothing new here. It’s like they got to old people jokes and gave up. Danny Glover and Danny Devito are fun enough but pretty cliched. Awkwafina is given nothing to do and Nick Jonas isn’t brought on until late in the 2nd act. I also did not appreciate the excessive profanity thrown in for no reason. It did nothing for the characters or story and makes it so I cannot recommend it as a harmless family adventure film. My advice is watch Dora and the Lost City of Gold instead. It had all the adventure and humor Jumanji: The Next Level fails to bring.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Playmobil: The Movie-

playmobil

Most followers of this site probably know about the epic failure at the box office that is Playmobil: the Movie. However, box office is not everything so I went to see this film yesterday with an open mind. Unfortunately cinema-goers didn’t see this film for a reason. The problem is there are too many ideas. At each turn we are presented with new characters, worlds, villains, motivations, and more. It becomes overwhelming. The film feels very shouty and especially the music did not work at all. I don’t even think small children will like it because most of the jokes are about dating, marriage and other adult topics. It feels like they put 1000 ideas into a bucket and picked one out each week to create the script. It so doesn’t work despite the animation being fine and the action quickly paced. Playmobil: the Movie is a definite skip.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Bombshell-

bombshell2

Bombshell is a bit of an oddity of a film. It’s an attempt to tell a story about conservative women who stick up for themselves. This is very unusual for typically liberal Hollywood, and I think that’s a great thing. If movements like #metoo are going to work we need to tell all women’s stories not just the ones Hollywood agrees with on politics. Some people will not be able to get over the fact that Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly work for Fox News but that wasn’t an issue for me. The makeup on Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman is incredible. Really all the casting is spot on. They all look so close to the original people!

I was drawn into the story of Bombshell but I do think there are some problems. I understand the need for the fictional Margot Robbie character as an amalgamation of a bunch of women (and telling Gretchen’s story she couldn’t tell because of settlements) but it felt inconsistent and inauthentic. Also there is something about the production and direction that felt on a made for TV level. I love made for TV movies but I expect a film with such performances to feel a little more cinematic. Still overall I enjoyed Bombshell and recommend seeing it for the story and acting.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

There you have it! My quick updates on what I have been watching at the theater. If you have seen any of these films let me know what you think. Thanks!

Current Mini Reviews

Hi friends! It’s time once again for one of my current mini reviews where I give my brief thoughts on some of the latest movies I’ve been able to see. Make sure you are subscribed to my youtube channel so you get all the latest videos from me including weekly family movie night reviews! I’m also excited to announce I have created separate podcast feeds for 2 of my monthly podcast series:

Talking Disney Classics- with my friend Stanford Clark where we discuss a Disney Canon film each month in random order.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/talking-disney-classics-with-rachel-wagner-stanford-clark/id1479958412

The Criterion Project- with my friend Conrado where each month we talk about a movie on the Criterion Channel.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-criterion-project/id1479953904

I know you will enjoy them if you give them a chance!

Anyway back to the reviews!

falling inn love2

Falling in Love-

It shouldn’t be any surprise to any follower of my work at the Hallmarkies Podcast that I will always be a defender of escapist silly romcoms and Falling Inn Love is certainly an example of the genre. It stars Christina Milian as a woman who goes to New Zealand only to find the big prize Inn she’s won is actually a money pit. Luckily she has hunky Adam Demos there to help her with the renovations. They spar at first and of course fall in love by the end. Is it predictable and silly? Of course it is. That’s all part of the appeal. I thought it was adorable and thoroughly enjoyed it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

overcomer

Overcomer-

I’ve been known to like my fair share of faith-based films. I recognize they have a very tricky task of entertaining a skeptical audience base while trying to tell an inspiring story. However, far too often they forget that the best preaching comes from a story well told, not by actual preaching in your film. The latest hit from the Kendrick Brothers is called Overcomer and is directed, written and starring Alex Kendrick and perhaps he bit off more than he can chew? This film should be a simple inspirational story about a girl with asthma who finds faith and the confidence to race cross country. Instead it’s a clunky, belabored story of the man who is begrudgingly forced to coach her. The dialogue is really bad along with most of the acting. There’s one moment where Priscilla Shirer literally compliments her own prayer and I laughed out loud. Watching this made me realize how good Breakthrough from earlier this year really was. Check that out instead.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

can you keep a secret

Can You Keep a Secret?-

I love the writer Sophie Kinsella but for some reason her books make terrible movies. The latest adaptation is Can You Keep a Secret starring Alexandra Daddario and Tyler Hoechlin. The elements that are charming in the book come across as forced and off-putting in this film. Hoechlin is super dishy but he and Daddario have no chemistry together. Most of the time it is awkward and uncomfortable which is not what you want in this kind of escapist romcom. The big reveal at the end is super underwhelming and the supporting cast is wasted. Honestly I wanted to turn it off it was so bad.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

promare

Promare-

Trigger Studios has long made some of the most arresting and eye popping anime on the market. Their latest film Promare is my first experience with one of their films and I must admit I was really impressed! It tells the story of a futuristic society where a band of firefighters protect the world from a mysterious race of mutants called the Burnish. As the two races fight they start to learn there might be more to the story than their leaders have told them. The animation in this film is intense, frenetic, crazy, whatever word you want to use but it is also exhilarating. I loved the unique geometric style and the electronic music. It’s an experience I highly recommend to those willing to take a risk.

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Abominable-

Please check out my youtube review for my thoughts on the latest film from DreamWorks, Abominable. This film marks the end of our multi-film trend of yeti movies in animation and to my surprise it is definitely my favorite. While the story of the little girl Yi finding a mysterious creature to protect may not be the most original, Abominable has huge heart with well-developed sweet characters. It’s also funnier than I expected with beautiful animation and music. This first collaboration between DreamWorks and Pearl Studio is a terrific film, and I hope people will go see it.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

judy

Judy-

Last up is the musical biopic based on Judy Garland’s last year of life, Judy. I love Judy Garland and think her life is so hauntingly tragic that it breaks my heart to think about it. Unfortunately this film pulls out every cliche in the musical biopic playbook. It’s generic, boring with a very surface-level script. Some might feel the same way about the recent Rocketman but at least that movie took some creative risks with its flights of fancy. To add insult to injury they make the choice to have the actress portraying Judy, Renee Zellweger, sing for Judy. What on earth were they thinking? She sounds NOTHING like Judy Garland! I’ve listened to the London concert recordings and that’s not how she sounds! Basically the poor singing choices, generic script and screaming-for-an-Oscar performances make Judy a big miss.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Current Mini Reviews

Hi friends! I have a very busy couple of weeks before me with D23 coming up but I thought before I leave you with another round of my mini reviews for new films out at the theaters or to stream. Here goes!

47 meters down uncaged

47 Meters Down Uncaged-

As someone who considered myself a bit of a champion for the original 47 Meters Down, this sequel in name only was a disappointment. The girls in the first were a little stupid but the shark action and the deep under water tension made for a fun ride. In this one the girls are still dumb but the cage has been replaced with tunnels and the sharks with ridiculous looking blind zombie sharks. The kills are on a Sharknado level making it all feel silly rather than tense. I was honestly bored watching it and its only 85 minutes.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

angel has fallen movie

Angel Has Fallen

I must admit I went to see Angel Has Fallen having not seen either of the previous films in the franchise. It seemed like I’d heard mostly bad things so I hadn’t gotten around to seeing them. That said, I had no problem understanding the plot of Angel Has Fallen. It reminded me a lot of a moderately entertaining episode of 24. Just like Jack Bauer, Gerard Butler is framed in a conspiracy to kill the president (Morgan Freeman). On the run he has to put all the pieces together, fight the bad guys and discover who the mole is feeding secrets to the bad guys. If that sounds like fun to you than you’ll probably enjoy it. If not than I would skip it. I like this kind of 90s-style action movie so I had fun watching it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Murder Mystery

Murder Mystery

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of most Adam Sandler movies. My friends like to joke that he is my movie nemesis and as bad as his feature films often were, his Netflix offerings have been even worse. The Do-Over and The Ridiculous 6 are 2 of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life. His new film Murder Mystery is nowhere near that level of awfulness. That said I certainly can’t recommend it.  Sandler and Jennifer Aniston star as a couple who while visiting Europe end up mixed in with a real life murder mystery situation. The problem with this movie is it’s just not funny. I don’t know if I even laughed one time. It wasn’t outright offensive like some of Sandler’s movies but instead it was bland and dull. Like many of his movies it seemed like another opportunity for him and his friends to take a fancy vacation under the disguise of making a movie with no creativity, wit or charm. It’s not the worst but definitely not worthy of your time.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

otherhood-2

Otherhood-

Another recent entry from Netflix is the ’empty-nester Mom’ comedy Otherhood, which despite its terrific cast may be just as bad as Murder Mystery. In this slog of a comedy Angela Bassett, Felicity Huffman and Patricia Arquette play Moms who can’t let their grown sons lead their own lives. They are upset they are forgotten on Mother’s Day so they barge into their children’s lives. I feel like you always see middle-aged women portrayed like this in the movies, but I don’t know any Mothers who hover over their grown children like this. Sure they might press them to get married or something like that but this does not feel authentic or emotional. Sometimes the actresses can elevate the material but most of the time they all feel like caricatures not characters. Also the costume designer must hate Patricia Arquette. She looked so frumpy! It was bad, very bad.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

hero_whered-you-go-bernadette-movie-review-2019-1

Where’d You Go Bernadette

I’m a huge fan of writer/director Richard Linklater. I’ve loved most of his movies including Boyhood, Dazed and Confused, the Before Trilogy etc. When he’s at his best his natural way of writing and filming dialogue in long uninterrupted cuts is magical. His characters feel real and earnest which helps bond me to their journey even if it is different than anything I have experienced. I’m not sure why Linklater ended up adapting the novel Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple but the results are not great.

I must own I have read the novel, and I hated it. I found every character to be selfish and insufferable. It took me many months to finish reading it because I could only stand the characters for short stretches. The movie is a little better than the book because of Linklater’s snappy dialogue and Cate Blanchett’s  performance, but I still hated ALL the characters. The little girl is ok I guess but I didn’t even root for her. I know we are supposed to care for Bernadette and her stifled artistry but I just didn’t. She was simply too irrational and self-centered to win any sympathy from me, which made the movie tough to get through.

However, if you liked the book, you’ll probably enjoy this movie as it is very accurate. It’s just not for me!

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Who would have thought out of these movies the one I’d recommend is Angel Has Fallen? LOL. Just shows how the movies can surprise us all! If you saw any of these I’d love your thoughts in the comments.

Current Mini Reviews

Hi friends! I hope you are doing well and enjoying the end of your summer. I have been writing a lot of reviews lately but, I still have a few films that I need to catch up on. This means it is time for one of my ‘Current Movie Reviews’ posts. If you got to see any of these films let me know what you thought of them.

Sure love ya!

apollo 11

APOLLO 11-

I was very disappointed I didn’t get to see the documentary Apollo 11 at Sundance this year but I missed it. Now catching up to it I think I prefer it more as an interesting experiment than an actual movie but it still has lots to recommend. What they do is they use archival footage, interviews, sound/video recordings merged together, to recreate the events of the Apollo 11 mission to land on the moon. They do it in a way that feels like real time including each step along the way from politicians, to training, to the accounts of the astronauts themselves. While I missed having a narrator to guide me through some of the moments it still is a fascinating documentary with a very unique approach.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

once upon a time

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

I honestly wasn’t going to see Quentin Tarantino’s new film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood because it didn’t interest me. It is only the 2nd Tarantino film I have seen; the first being Pulp Fiction, which I did not enjoy. I understand why other people love it but it was not for me. However, enough people wanted to know my take on Once that I decided to give it a watch. My thoughts? It was fine. It has a lot of problems but overall I think the good outweighed the bad. I loved Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in their roles. I love the sense of time and place Tarantino evokes and much of the dialogue and recreated media from the 60s made me smile. Julia Butters from American Housewife practically steals the film as a young actress who inspires DiCaprio’s character Rick Dalton to give his best performance. What I didn’t like was the exorbitant running time, the meandering story and the long sequences of driving and walking for no purpose at all. That said, it was a fun lark but mostly forgettable if you ask me.

As for the violence, particularly at the end, it is so over the top and ridiculous it didnt bother me much but I know others will find it alarming so you’ve been warned.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

scary stories

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

When I was in middle school I remember my friends reading the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. Being a scary movie/book wimp they didn’t interest me, but I definitely was aware of them especially their creepy illustrations. Now director André Øvredal has made a movie version of these stories with a pg13 rating designed for teens. I am no horror pro, but I found this film to be quite entertaining. I liked the 1960s throwback. I enjoyed the teen performances and found all the horror set pieces to be quite well done and scary. It’s the kind of scary you get going through a haunted house. You know it is silly and not realistic at all but it’s done with enough style to get you and make you smile. That’s how I felt watching it. Sure there are flaws but the overall experience was fun.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2

I had mixed feelings about the original Angry Birds Movie. I liked the animation and some of the characters but I felt the messaging was off and the story wasn’t my favorite. Now in the sequel they have improved upon the original in most ways. The story is equally as bland but the characters are better, messaging more nuanced and the humor is way funnier. I particularly liked any of the jokes involving music. Overall, I had a good time with The Angry Birds Movie 2 because it kept me laughing throughout.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it! I am quite the positive person on this week’s mini-review post. Smile Worthy for all of the films! Let me know what you thought about any of these films.

Current Mini Reviews

Believe it or not there are other movies out in theaters besides Avengers: Endgame. I have already reviewed Missing Link and Breakthrough on this blog but I thought I would give you my quick reviews of 5 other films that might be worth your time to check out:

Penguin Highway

First up the anime film Penguin Highway. Directed by Hiroyasu Ishida this creative and original science fiction mystery will delight audiences of all ages and shouldn’t be missed. It reminded me a lot of the Netflix show Stranger Things with a young boy investigating the strange appearance of penguins in his town.

The relationship between the boy and a woman who comes along with the penguins is a little strange but if you like unpredictable, fresh storytelling you’ll love this film

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Penguins

I will eventually do a full review of Disneynature’s latest film Penguins for my Disneynature series on this blog but until then you should definitely check it out. The penguins are so cute especially our lead penguin Steve who is perpetually behind all the other penguins. It’s so cute!

Ed Helms does a good job as the narrator and kids will love seeing this little penguin romance. Some of the music cues were a little much for me but that’s a minor flaw in a very adorable nature film.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

perfect date

The Perfect Date

Netflix continues in its attempt to take over the romantic comedy world particularly for teenagers with The Perfect Date. Noah Centineo is super charming, and I’d be in love with him if I was 16. That’s really who this movie is made for, teenagers who want to swoon over Noah Centineo. There’s nothing wrong with that but the script needed work.

He’s charming but the story is so strained and there is no chemistry between him and either of the leading ladies. It also feels like a cheap copy of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off without any of that movies emotional heft. If you’re not a 16 year old I’d say pass.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

okkos inn

Okko’s Inn

Penguin Highway isn’t the only new anime we’ve gotten this month. We’ve also gotten the sweet ghost story Okko’s Inn. Based on a series of mangas, Okko’s Inn tells the story of a little girl who goes to live with her Grandma at an Inn after her parents die. She soon learns the Inn is inhabited by a series of mischievous ghosts who want to get her into trouble.

Okko’s Inn feels very episodic and is definitely made for very small children. Adults may find it a little cloying but its heart was in the right place so I enjoyed it. If you want to talk to your kids about grief and how to set goals (Okko decides to become a junior Innkeeper) than this would be a fun one to show them.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

long shot

Long Shot

About 30 minutes into the new romantic comedy Long Shot I was groaning pretty loudly inside. The characters were annoying me and it seemed like the most tired of tropes to have the gorgeous blonde bombshell fall for the schlep who can’t seem to understand you don’t wear a hideous windbreaker to a swanky party. Ugh.

BUT…then something happened and it started to win me over. I think the key point is when they actually start a relationship is where it begins to work. The build up I was irritated but the actual balance of a liberal writer dating the secretary of state started to entertain me. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron have decent enough chemistry but it’s the script that makes it all work. The commentary on feminism, work, politics and dating feels believable and is very funny. I particularly thought the ending in all its romcom glory is earned.

O’Shea Jackson as Rogen’s best friend stole the show. Hilarious.

This is an R rated film with lots of language and some sexuality so be forewarned.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Current Mini Reviews

Hey friends! Just wanted to update you real quick on my thoughts on some recent films at the cinema. Some I have done full posts for and others I have reviewed on my youtube channel, so definitely subscribe to the channel to stay fully up to date. Let’s start with the newest release and go back:

WONDER PARK

wonder park2

If you have been following this blog for any time you know I like finding animated films to root for and tell everyone about. Last year it was Sgt Stubby: An American Hero. The year before it was Son of Bigfoot. People are too quick to shrug off this level of independent cgi animated film and I think it’s a shame.

Well, I was hoping Wonder Park would be such a film but unfortunately I walked away from it with very mixed feelings. What it does right it does really right. I really liked the lead girl June as a child protagonist. She’s flawed and allowed to be angry/bratty/sad. She reminded me of Lilo in Lilo and Stitch in a lot of ways. The script is pretty subtle in ‘teaching’ her things and it had nice heart. The problem is I hated the animation. It felt like it was made for 3D but in 2D with faces constantly coming towards the screen and trying to pop out at me. Also the screenshot selection was weird and I constantly wanted to tell the director to step back so I could see the complete face and body. It was very hard to get invested in a film where I hated almost every choice they made animation-wise.

I’m not going to say don’t see it because it clearly had a lot of effort put into it but I can’t really recommend it either. It’s a bummer and I’m sad.

4/10 grade

Frown Worthy

FIVE FEET APART

five feet apart

My friend Larry from LCScreenTalk mentioned in his review that 5 Feet Apart is the latest in this very strange trend of teenagers get chronic/terminal illness that keeps them apart and usually the romance ends in tragedy. Most of these are not for me (I’m one of few who didn’t like The Fault in Our Stars and I hated Me Before You). I asked my niece why her generation liked these films so much and she said she didn’t know and personally didn’t like them so it’s anybody’s guess!

Anyway, I’d say 5 Feet Apart is one of the better ones in this sick kids in love genre. It’s not perfect but I thought it had some solid acting from Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse with a nice chemistry between them. I also liked that the illness was portrayed pretty realistically. They look disheveled and you see the scars on their bodies from ports and procedures. It definitely made me tear up on more than one occasion.

Where it falters is in some big dramatic gestures that are put together very quickly and stuff the hospital would never allow including a slightly bizarre ending trip to see the stars that ends up with the sick girl in ice cold water. It was all a little much but overall I still enjoyed it. If it sounds like your thing you’ll probably like it!

I also liked this trailer reaction done by a patient with CF and he points out the many things the production is doing right.

6/10 Grade

Smile Worthy

FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY

fighting with my family

I have zero interest in the WWE or wrestling of any kind, so on the surface Fighting with My Family should be a skip from me. However, I do love underdog sports movies and it doesn’t really matter what sport it is. Whether chess, swimming or ice hockey I love rooting for our scrappy players and then seeing them succeed. Fighting with My Family provides that in spades and ends up being a really sweet pleasant surprise.

Fighting with My Family is set in England and tells the story of professional wrestler Paige Knight. The Rock is heavily featured in the advertising but he is basically a cameo. The story is about Paige and her family who are all obsessed with wrestling and run a gym to train young kids in England. Paige gets a chance to train to be a star and faces all kinds of challenges but her victory is also the cause to cheer of her entire family, which was great to see. The cast is all very strong including Florence Pugh as Paige.

If you have a family or ever dreamed big this is a good movie to check out.

8/10

Smile Worthy

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U

I already reviewed Happy Death Day 2U on my channel but I will summarize my thoughts for all of you. I was skeptical about this film from the trailers. Although I enjoyed the first one the idea of going back to the same time loop seemed like a mistake. However, they managed to pull it off. It was creative. It was funny. Jessica Rothe did a great job in the lead and there was some surprising heart to the film where she must decide what to do about a dear one who comes back into her life in the loop. I was surprised to see this got a divisive reaction because I think if you liked the original you will enjoy this. I certainly did!

7/10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it. Only a few this week but check out my full length reviews on other posts and let me know what you thought of these movies. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

Current Mini Reviews

Hey guys! It’s early in the morning and I can’t sleep so I figure I might as well give you one of my mini-review posts. I actually haven’t done one since Dec 7th but there have been some posts with thoughts like my best and worst films of the year lists. Like always, this will not include movies like A Dog’s Way Home that I have written full reviews for. Also I haven’t reviewed Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse on this blog yet but I have reviewed it (as well as several others on this list) on my channel and I have done a full podcast on it. I would like to do a full detailed analysis on it at a later date.

So, let’s get started with the most recently watched first:

glass

Glass

Anyone who reads this blog knows of my shaky career with director M Night Shyamalan. His self-indulgent style and fixation on twists is often not for me. With his latest Glass, I was not looking forward to it much. I didn’t like Split at all and Unbreakable I found was just ok. My ending thought was it was a mixed bag, which is probably a win for me and Shyamalan. The pacing is very mixed and Shyamalan’s usual pretentiousness is in full display. The ending isn’t really earned by the characters or the script but the idea of a reverse origin story was mildly interesting. It wasn’t great but I didn’t hate it, so there you go! James McAvoy was terrific and we didn’t have the weird ‘your worthy because you were raped as a child’ element that Split had.

5 out of 10

Smile Worthy (just barely)

dragon-ball-super-broly

Dragon Ball Super: Broly

It makes me very happy to say that anime has been on a bit of a roll lately with good original films like Mirai and well done serial films like My Hero Academia: the Movie. While I don’t think the new Dragon Ball Z movie is as good as either of those films it was solid film. It doesn’t do as good a job as My Hero in explaining the world for newcomers but after a few minutes I was able to catch on to what was going on. Broly is an interesting character and I liked that the villain Frieza is an old school, screechy maniacal villain. I miss those. These days it seems like every villain has to be conflicted with a tragic backstory, so how refreshing to have one that is just over the top bad guy. The animation shines and Super: Broly is an overall fun experience at the theater.

Overall Grade 7/10

Smile Worthy

mary queen of scots

Mary Queen of Scots

If you are looking for historical accuracy this take on Mary Queen of Scots life will not be for you. There are sections particularly near the end that are quite howler-worthy but I nevertheless enjoyed the film. It’s silly fluff but my kind of silly fluff. Both leads Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie are great in their roles (we see much more of Ronan than Robbie) and have just enough camp to make it fun. This is more The Other Boleyn Girl or The Tudors kind of historical film than something solemn and reverential like A Man for All Seasons. The makeup and costumes are tremendous so I can see why it got nominated in those categories. It’s not silly like The Favourite but I still enjoyed it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

if beale street could talk

If Beale Street Could Talk

Unpopular opinion time! A lot of people were upset that If Beale Street Could Talk wasn’t nominated for best picture. I’m not one of those people. While I acknowledge there is craft to be found in this film, I really was irritated while watching it. Nobody talked like a human being. It all felt like watching a bad off-broadway play where the talent is way better than the script. We are supposed to be invested in this couple but we hardly get to know them at all. I knew way more about Chiron in Moonlight in just the scenes of him learning to swim than I ever get about these 2 characters. The only character that was interesting was Regina King and her plotline going to Puerto Rico to try and exonerate her son-in law. Other than that, I found the movie to be an insufferable slog.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

modest heroes

Modest Heroes-

I really wanted to like this more than I did. The idea of Studio Ponoc releasing serialized anime shorts is very exciting but I found these 3 to be quite forgettable. You can read my full review for rotoscopers here. The only one that had any lasting value for me was the 2nd short about a Mom dealing with her son’s severe allergy. It ended weirdly but it is an urban modern setting and real-world heroism you don’t often see in anime and I appreciate that. I hope they keep making shorts and films but this first effort wasn’t my favorite.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

shoplifters2

Shoplifters

Another winner from one of my favorite directors Hirokazu Kor-eeda. He always has such humanity for his characters and that is no exception here. This story of a band of misfits that comes together to become a family in many ways feels Dickensian- like a fresh take on Oliver Twist. These people are technically breaking the law but we all know as viewers they belong together and yet it is clear their love has a ticking clock accompanying it. I loved every performance especially Lily Franky as the father and the stunning Sakura Ando as his wife. The two little children who play Yuri and Shota are also adorable.

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

second act2

Second Act

This is a perfectly pleasant romcom with JLo doing what she does with tons of charisma. There’s also a sweet message at the core about adoption and being brave no matter where you come from. The moviemaking is pedestrian but I like this genre so I enjoyed it. Could have used more romance and the lie feels a little stretched out but it’s cute watch.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

next gen

Next Gen

This animated film from Netflix is very derivative of films like Iron Giant, Bumblebee and even Terminator but it has a cool world and some nice moments of heart. The girl can be a bit too unlikable at times and gets pretty close to hurting her classmates in a disturbing way. The PG rating is pushed so it may not be for small children but overall I enjoyed it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

the mule

The Mule

From director Clint Eastwood The Mule wasn’t awful but it wasn’t what I hoped it would be. As a big fan of Gran Torino, I was hoping it would have that grumpy guy charisma we know Eastwood can bring but it was just bland and self indulgent. I think Eastwood called in a lot of favors because the cast is much better than the script deserves with Laurence Fishburne, Bradley Cooper, Michael Pena, and Dianne West all doing a good job. They elevate it but it’s just felt like something you’d see on TNT at night. Blahh!

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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Gnome Alone

This is another animated film that went straight to Netflix and I guess I went into it with very low expectations but I didn’t think it was that bad. It is a played out Coraline-lite story but the lead character was likable and it had enough sarcastic humor to be watchable. Not great but a passable babysitter for the kids.

5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

old_man_and_the_gun

Old Man and the Gun

Supposedly going to be Robert Redford’s last role and if so it’s a nice way to go out. They even find a very clever way of paying homage to some of his earlier outlaw roles in this story of him as a elderly bank robber. He’s a gentleman and leaves his victims with a smile on their faces. He’s just so charming. Director David Lowery continues his win streak with a slickly made movie with great performances from Redford, Cissy Spacek, Danny Glover and Casey Affleck. The clothes and production design feel steeped in 1970s so it has a nice sense of time and place. Pleasant watch.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

roma2

ROMA

Alfonso Cuarón is such a great director and he has another win with ROMA. Following Cleo as she works as a domestic for a family may be boring for some but I was engaged. I particularly thought anything involving Cleo’s pregnancy was devastating and compelling. Many of the characters are dynamic and feel easy to relate to. The cinematography and production design are perfection. It feels like something students will be studying in film school for many years to come and yet unlike many arthouse pieces it made me cry. I was invested in these people and their lives. It does have strong nudity so be warned if you are sensitive to that.

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

favourite

The Favourite

I was reticent to see this film because I did not like Yorgos Lanthimos’ last film The Lobster but happily I liked this entry much better. It’s a genuinely funny, wacky take on a historical drama. Like The Lobster, Lanthimos makes this film top heavy with most of the good jokes and fun scenes happening in the first 45 minutes. After that it becomes more repetitive and less interesting. It’s also probably too long for what it’s trying to be. However, the performances from Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are so much fun that it carries me through and I enjoyed it. Not one of my favorites (pun intended) of the year but still pretty good. This is a fairly strong R rating just so you know.

7.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

anna and the apocalypse3

Anna and the Apocalypse

This energetic indie sums up why I love going to the movies. To get such a joyful, creative experience is really special. I loved pretty much everything about this mash-up of zombies, musicals and Christmas movie tropes. ‘Hollywood Ending’ and ‘Turning My Life Around’ are the highlight sequences but I enjoyed all the songs and I thought all the performances were great. Ella Hunt could be a big star and Malcolm Cumming was very sweet as her best friend. I even liked the jock cool kid who turns out to be a pretty tragic character. I was shocked at some of the zombie kills and overall I just loved it. I will definitely make this a part of my regular Christmas viewing each year. That’s for sure.

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

once upon a deadpool

Once Upon a Deadpool

I have never seen anything Deadpool related and so I thought I would give this experiment of a PG-13 Deadpool 2 a shot (figuring I was the ideal audience for it). Unfortunately I did not care for this film at all. I didn’t think it was funny, mostly obnoxious and the action was underwhelming. Juliean Dennison who was so great in Hunt for the Wilderpeople was terrible as this strange bad guy, which was unfortunate when you have Josh Brolin doing a great job as Cable. Forming the X-Force felt like a waste of time and didn’t have the humor payoff to make it work. I was just thoroughly underwhelmed by this PG-13 Deadpool 2. A few of the Fred Savage jokes were good.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

bird box

Bird Box

This movie was frustrating for me to watch. I recently finished reading the book by Josh Malerman and it was an engaging thriller novel with well developed characters I cared about. The movie mostly loses those strengths in favor of schlocky moments and cheap laughs. The cast is great but all the stuff at the house felt like a cheap syfy channel movie. For example, in the book her sister dies at the house in a creepy, terrifying way that is devastating. In this she gets hit by a bus in the first 10 minutes. Not as good! In the book a character named Gary comes into the house for many days and Tom and Gary have different philosophies on how to live in this apocalyptic land and how to run the house. This builds tension and endears us to Tom. Here it is just a cheesy mad-man. However, I did like the scenes with Sandra Bullock and the children on the river. These were well shot and I was genuinely engaged. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read the book but that’s my thoughts!

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

blindspotting

Blindspotting

Everyone who follows this blog knows I did not care for this year’s Sorry to Bother You. It’s narrative was so over-stuffed that the compelling metaphors became muddled and exhausting. Blindspotting, on the other hand, does a much better job of keeping control of the script while still having madcap touches. Rafael Casal is particularly good as the leads toxic, erratic friend. He is always on the edge of insanity which kept me tense and worried for our lead character. The film has social commentary but it doesn’t distract from the narrative making it a quite mesmerizing portrayal of racial conflict and how even the most toxic people get free passes depending on their race.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it! Did you get to see any of these films? What did you think? I would love to see your reviews in the comments section. Thanks so much!