Current Mini Reviews (Ernest & Celestine 2, Dumb Money, Jawan, Camp Hideout, The Inventor)

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. I’ve been busy as normal but wanted to take a second and update you on everything I’ve been watching. As I get ready to start both the holiday and Oscar season it’s more important now more than ever to support quality criticism. If you can support the patreon it means a lot. You can find more information here.


The original Ernest & Celestine from 2012 is one of the most charming movies I’ve ever seen. So attempting a sequel was a risky enterprise to say the least; however, the team behind Ernest & Celestine have risen to the challenge and made something that’s still charming and has something to say about music, the rule of law and of course friendship.

Our pair head to Gibberitia so they can fix Ernest’s violin but unfortunately the city is under a martial law where only one note of music is allowed. Even the birds aren’t allowed to tweet or sing. This could be heavy-handed in the wrong storytellers but here it never tonally moves away from the sweetness of the original friendship story. We also get to understand Ernest’s family and how he became the crusty old bear we know and love.

I love the current era of hybrid animation that’s bold and crazy but it is also a welcome breath of fresh air to get simple sweet stories told with sketchy animation like we have here. I loved Little Nicholas earlier this year and this is its worthy companion. I think it’s great we are in a golden revival of animation where we get the best of all types and styles and this is about as perfectly crafted as you could hope for with this style. It’s one of those movies I can’t imagine anyone disliking. I’m sure there will be someone but it’s definitely not this critic.

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy


Dumb Money is one of those movies where the binary system of fresh/rotten or smile/frown prove difficult. It’s an ok movie. I didn’t hate it by any means but I do have some major problems with its storytelling. I,Tonya‘s Craig Gillespie (which I didn’t love as much as some but did recommend) tries his hand again at a creative take on a true story but in this case the story lacks focus and the screenplay feels very  surface-level.

The main problem is he is trying to tell too many of the stories of investors impacted in the GameStop “short squeeze” of 2021. There are  a dozen or so characters that all get arcs and all have stories but none of them are explored enough so it feels like we are watching people look at their phones for 2 hours and talking about should they hold their stocks or not… While very dramatic for them it’s not compelling for a feature film.

I can see why this would be more interesting as a documentary where you can spend more time explaining the complexities of a short squeeze and what was happening with the stock but that’s hard to do for a narrative unless you employ flights of fancy like they did in The Big Short. I would recommend watching that instead.

Also I really thought the music was strange and didn’t seem to fit with the characters or story.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy


Ever since I first saw Baahubali 1 and 2 I have really come to appreciate the world of Tollywood and Bollywood cinema. I do not pretend to be an expert on the genres and I am sure there are many films I should see from India but it’s been a fun experience of movie-going so far. Last year of course there was RRR and now we have Jawan which is by director Atlee S. Ramanagirivasa. It’s a movie you have to be patient for but it is worth the investment and ends up being a ton of fun.

Jawan stars Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan in 2 roles- one in current time and one in 1986. The movie flips around between the 2 time periods and it can get a little confusing but if you wait it all comes together in a satisfying way at the end. It also takes a while for the first song and dance sequence to come in but I enjoyed them when they did.

There’s simply an awe and spectacle to these films that I love. The violence is big and bloody but so over-the-top that it’s not offensive or jarring. I love the energy and sincere desire to entertain in every frame and that’s the case with Jawan. It’s a blast.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy


One has to wonder what the makers of Camp Hideout were thinking giving it a theatrical distribution. It screams Disney Channel movie (or DCOM) or Nickelodeon and probably could have found an audience there. The pre-teen protagonists at summer camp and the juevenile sense of humor would probably be very engaging for the 10-13 year olds that watch those channels but alas I have to judge it as a feature film.

The cast is pretty solid with Corbin Bleu and Amanda Leighton putting in nice work as the lead camp counselors and Christopher Lloyd piping in for a few scenes. The problem is they have a bizarre plot with mafia thugs that are following our lead teen Noah played by Ethan Drew. We even get the Home Alone style antics left over from the 90s with the thugs ending up in booby traps and covered in mud. Then they awkwardly try to wedge in faith-based heartfelt moments that seem like they belong in another movie. It just all doesn’t work.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

I was pretty excited when I saw a small stop motion animated film called The Inventor was coming to my local AMC. I had heard about it from Annecy Film Festival in France and usually such small films don’t get a big release (I usually have to go to the Broadway downtown if at all to see them.) I was hoping it would be a hidden gem but unfortunately I left underwhelmed.

There are things to like particularly the animation. The mixture of stop motion and 2D sketchy animation had an old UPA feel to it and I enjoyed the vintage aesthetic and tone in the film. Unfortunately the story just wasn’t there and I felt like I was watching those old education film reels I used to watch in elementary school. I like learning about da Vinci but even he has to be given something interesting to do. Perhaps this could have worked better as a short but I grew tired of it even with the enchanting animation.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

So there you have it! If you have seen any of these films let me know what you think of them. 

If you enjoy what I do and value quality criticism please support me at my patreon here.

Current Mini Reviews (Aristotle & Dante…, A Haunting in Venice, Golda, The Hill, MBFGW3)

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well. Time has been flying by as I am busy trying to keep my podcasting/critic career afloat while looking for a new full-time gig (If you ever thought about joining the patreon now would be an amazing time to do so here.) Nevertheless, I have a few films to catch you up on. Make sure you are following me on social media because I post on instagram and youtube shorts my out of theater reactions to every film and theatrical production I see.

But here we go!

Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe-

This is the kind of film that inspires me to read the book. I have no doubt the book is much better because so much of the content seemed tailor-made for a novel (particularly lots of time with the 2 leads corresponding via letters.) There were also elements of this indie film that felt a little sloppy with noticeable ADR flubs and some weak acting performances.

All that said, the core emotion of the story really works and the 2 lead performers have a lovely repartee together. I also really enjoyed Eugenio Derbez as Aristotle’s father (you can barely recognize it is him under a large bushy beard!) Some are saying this is a teen Call Me By Your Name and that may be a bit generous (also that was about a teen…) but it is a very sweet teen love story with a big heart. I’d definitely recommend it and I can tell you I will be reading the book right away!

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

A Haunting in Venice

The Hercule Poirot films from director Kenneth Branagh are an interesting trilogy because nobody I know loves them (some have varying degrees of fun but they aren’t favorites to most) but they keep getting made with huge all-star casts in them. The latest gives a horror take on Agatha Chritie’s Halloween Party novel and sets in the most popular place for movies in 2023- Venice. The result is probably the best out of the 3 films but still has some of the same problems the other 3 have.

First of all Branagh has made a great looking film that makes good use of the spooky atmosphere the old house in Venice provides. The performances are also good with Michelle Yeoh stealing the show as a medium hired to communicate with the spirits of the house. Jamie Dornan also does a lot with a small role as a struggling father trying to help his son.

The problem these Poirot films have all had is instead of building clues organically we get random scenes followed by a long exposition dump at the end that is supposed to clear everything up but feels unsatisfying and dull. I guess this is the way the books are but if that’s the case Branagh’s job as the director is to make the stories more cinematic. Still, if you like mysteries you’ll probably have an ok time with this and it makes for a fun Halloween-time release.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy


I hope all of you have the chance to participate in National Cinema Day on August 27th. I normally don’t go to films on Sunday but I wanted to participate in the national support of cinemas and with it being an educational film it seemed harmless. My choice for the event was the new bio-pic Golda. Going into it I knew nothing about Israeli prime minister Golda Meir and as an instructional tool it was insightful on that level.

It’s interesting seeing Golda so soon after Oppenheimer because they both have commanding lead performances portraying enigmatic real-life leaders but they also both left me a little cold, keeping their subjects at an emotional distance from me. Even though Golda is a lot shorter than Oppenheimer the pacing still dragged and the editing between personal scenes and supposedly tense war-room negotiations was off. Still, I did learn a lot about Golda and it was interesting enough for a mild recommendation. I tell you one thing Helen Mirren set a record for number of cigarettes smoked in a movie for this film! So many!

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Hill

I have to admit I knew almost nothing going into The Hill. I knew it was a baseball movie but I wasn’t even aware it is a faith-based film so I’m not sure if the experience will be different for those with proper expectations. I am not a traditional Christian but am open to faith-based films. I have particularly enjoyed films from the Erwin Brothers (I Can Only Imagine, I Still Believe, Woodlawn, American Underdog all got positive reviews from me.) Unfortunately other directors in the genre have struggled to find the same nuance in their scripts and The Hill is in that camp. A lot of the baseball elements in this true story worked well enough but the religious elements felt so heavy-handed and clunkily written it hurt my enjoyment of the film.

I also felt the acting, even from Dennis Quaid, was uniformly weak and seemed like it was more out of a low budget Sunday School video than a feature film. And it’s all a real shame because in Rickey Hill’s story you have a story of someone who beat incredible odds to barely make it as professional baseball player. It’s always interesting when the hero in the sports story doesn’t win the big game and that’s basically what you have here in Hill’s very brief professional career. Sadly the script isn’t interested in such a complicated legacy but is content with cliched scenes of the preacher father who doesn’t understand his talented son despite everyone else believing in him. A number of my Christian friends seem to be enjoying this one but the script let me down and I would recommend any of the movies I mentioned above far above The Hill.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3

Anyone who has followed my content knows I am normally not a big fan of wedding movies when it comes to rom-coms. They tend to bring out the petty and annoying side of characters and the conflict is frustrating. That’s why it is a miracle I enjoyed the first My Big Fat Greek Wedding as much as I did. In fact, it is one of my favorite comedies because it is a rom-com that doesn’t forget the com. It’s genuinely funny and the couple rises above the wedding chaos with great chemistry and heart.

Unfortunately the sequel I did not enjoy so I wasn’t super excited for a third entry in the series. Now that I’ve seen it it’s…ok. I do think it is better than the 2nd film because the dynamic of going to Greece for a reunion is funnier than bothering daughter Paris at career day. Unlike the first one, most of the comedy in this film comes right out of a sitcom and is generic at best. However, I laughed just enough to give it a mild recommendation. If you are from a big family you’ll probably chuckle at some of the silly antics and the family dynamics are still a lot of fun.

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it. Have you gotten to see any of these films? If you enjoy what I do please support me at my patreon here.


Current Mini Reviews (Talk to Me, Puppy Love, Gran Turismo, Strays, Blue Beetle)

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well and enjoying what has turned out to be a pretty fascinating summer movie season. The studios have tried a lot and the experimental and unusual has won over the safe and expected. Make sure you are following me on instagram because I give my out of theater reaction of every movie and live theatre production I see. Let me know what you think of these films and what your favorite of the summer turned out to be:

Blue Beetle

Blue Beetle is our latest from DC (who knows whether it is still DCEU or the first of the DCU but I don’t really care…) and after their massive flop with The Flash (which I liked more than most even with its flaws) DC needed a solid likable film and that’s basically what they got here. It’s generic but thoroughly watchable and fun. I think a big part of enjoyment of this film goes into expectations. It’s not some kind of comicbook masterpiece but it’s cute and the cast is likable.

The story is by-the-numbers superhero origin story and the villain by Susan Sarandon is lame but Xolo Maridueña is likable and charming in the lead. Sometimes that’s all you need in a movie like Blue Beetle. The family and Mexican culture give the movie warmth and character but I wish there was more of it and less of the bland goings-on at Kord Industries. Still, I think most people will have a good time with Blue Beetle and I’d watch it again without much protest, and I can’t say that about all the DC films.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy


I rarely truly hate a movie, but Strays is an exception to that rule. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was a half second away from walking out of the theater midway through its 93 minute runtime. Naturally I know a raunchy comedy like Strays is not really made for me but I went into it with an open mind and hoping to find a guilty pleasure. The main problem was I didn’t laugh hardly at all and it’s just the same 2 or 3 jokes over and over again until I wanted to rip my hair out. It’s completely disgusting and its attempts to be sentimental feel so off-putting after the barrage of poop and dog-humping gnome jokes we’ve gotten. If you think a dog saying f*** a lot is hilarious than maybe you’ll enjoy this one. I hated it. Stay away!

1 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Talk to Me

Unlike with Strays, sometimes going out of my comfort zone pays off which is what happened with the indie horror film Talk to Me. Directed by youtubers Danny and Michael Philippou they have crafted a tight little horror movie about a bunch of stupid teens who commune with evil spirits using a supernatural hand device. This brings in themes of loss and grief naturally and anyone who has spent time with bored aimless teens will be able to relate (or been such a teen yourself.) The acting was mostly amateurish but it did the job it needed to do for this story and the scares are definitely there.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Gran Turismo

Remember when Disney used to put out those inspirational sports movies like Miracle and Million Dollar Arm? Well, that’s basically what we get with the new film Gran Turismo and I loved every second of it! This is a wildly entertaining film from director Neill Blomkamp starring Archie Madekwe as young teen who dreams of racing in a real race car but has to settle for the video game Gran Turismo. Then one day Orlando Bloom’s character Danny Moore leads a team to give the best video game rider a chance at the real deal. David Harbour is great as the salty ex-driver and the racing scenes are kinetic and exciting.

The only real flaw I had with Gran Turismo is at times it felt like a commercial for the game but everything else was so well executed I didn’t mind that. This is a real winner and one the whole family will love.

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Lucy Hale & Grant Gustin Meet On Bumble In 'Puppy Love' Trailer – Watch Now! | Grant Gustin, Jane Seymour, Lucy Hale, Michael Hitchcock, Movies, Nore Davis, Trailer | Just Jared Jr.Puppy Love

Some romantic comedies work almost in spite of themselves and Puppy Love is a good example of that happening. It’s a classic enemies to lovers type story where 2 people that don’t get along are forced to spend time together when their dogs fall in love. What worked for me in this movie is the adorable doggies and the performance by Grant Gustin. He is charming but in a nerdy very awkward kind of way. I completely bought this man would have trouble meeting women which is refreshing in these movies because most of the time I’m like ‘sure this movie star has a hard time getting a date…) He even felt on the spectrum at times, which made his character easy to connect with and enjoy.

Unfortunately the chemistry with Lucy Hale just isn’t there and the humor falls completely flat in the film. Still Gustin is good enough and the puppies are cute enough to recommend it.

6 out of 10

Smile worthy

Have you seen any of these films? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

If you like what I do please consider supporting me on patreon. There’s some great perks and I sure appreciate it


Hi friends! I really wanted to post longer reviews on each of these films (I’ve been doing pretty good with that recently!) but I just ran out of time and wanted to get the reviews in. Overall it’s been a pretty uneven summer particularly for blockbusters, but there are some hidden gems worth seeking out.  So here goes:

Flamin’ Hot

Directed by Eva Longoria Flamin’ Hot tells the story of Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia) who invented the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos spice. Montañez works as a janitor for Frito-Lay but dreams of getting out of the factory and building more for his family and community.

One day he gets the idea for the hot spice and pushes until we have have the product many enjoy today. I know many have said this film plays fast and lose with the truth but my job is to review the movie presented not to become a research consultant on every ‘based on a true story’ I watch.

On the level of a sweet inspirational family story this fills the bill; although, I wish the script had gone through a few more passes. The dialogue is clunky and people talk more in inspirational quips than actual realistic dialogue. Still, all the performances are good and if you are looking for a quick pick-me up it’s serviceable and only 99 minutes. Available on hulu. (It’s too bad it didn’t go to theaters because we would have sold a lot of hot snacks at concessions.)

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Joy Ride

Every once in a while I try to go out of my comfort zone for movies and am rewarded with a hidden gem. The new raunchy comedy (and it is raunchy!) Joy Ride is such a film. It definitely won’t be for everyone but I found it to be hilarious and at its core a sweet story of friendship most will be able to relate with (particularly women and anyone who is adopted.)

Ashley Park shines in the lead as Audrey a business woman who was adopted from China by her parents as a baby. She was basically forced to be friends with the other Chinese girl in her school Lolo (Sherry Cola) and they love each other but also resent the fact they have to be friends. Then you have actress and diva Kat (Stephanie Hsu) and the awkward but wonderful DeadEye (Sabrina Wu.)

I’ve said it many times before but when it comes to comedies all that really matters is if I am laughing and this movie got me going loudly and frequently. I also loved the comradery between the women and how their relationships evolved. If you like a movie like Bridesmaids I bet you’d like this. (I know many of you are probably shocked I liked this, but I can’t tell a lie! It was just that funny!)

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

What’s Love Got to Do With It technically came out last year but I had never heard of it until my recent plane flight to Christmas Con in Kansas. Intrigued by the cast and premise I put it on and was delighted by a thoroughly entertaining little rom-com.

Lily James plays a documentarian who decides to follow her Pakistani neighbor as he pursues an arranged marriage put together by his parents. Sure this is all predictable but I enjoy a sweet rom-com (check out my work on Hallmarkies Podcast) and I appreciate it tried to have some nuanced conversations about marriage, religion, cultural and parental expectations and romance. The cast is also great with James having lovely chemistry with costar Shazad Latif and Emma Thompson grounding the entire production as James’ mother. If you like this genre I bet this one will be a winner!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

No Hard Feelings

With how much I enjoyed Joy Ride I was hopeful I would be on board for another R rated raunchy comedy with No Hard Feelings. Unfortunately this one didn’t do it for me and feels like a major missed opportunity.

My major problem with the film is I didn’t buy any of the characters choices and the script isn’t funny enough for me to ignore how illogical (and often mean-spirited they are). For example, Jennifer Lawrence (who does give a very brave performance, giving it her all) gets maced by Andrew Barth Feldman when she first tries to come on to him (she is hired by his parents to get him out of his shell.) Then just minutes after thinking she’s attacking him, he asks her out on a date. This makes no sense.

Like I said, this is the problem throughout the script, which would have been fine if I was laughing more but I wasn’t. The screenplay does try to tackle bigger issues of gentrification and modern friendship but I just didn’t buy the characters so none of that worked for me. I do appreciate they never break Feldman’s agency. His consent is always respected by Lawrence but it still feels more icky than funny and I grew tired of the tit-for-tat between the actors that went nowhere. I would definitely see Joy Ride if you are looking for a raunchy comedy this July.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

If you like what I do please consider supporting me on patreon. There’s some great perks and I sure appreciate it

Current Mini Reviews (Showing Up, Sanditon S3, Peter Pan & Wendy…)

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. It seems we are back in a full-blown movie release schedule because I’ve been so busy watching both indie and mainstream movies I haven’t seen much television- aside from one I will be reviewing on this post- there just isn’t the time!

I will have 2 full reviews this weekend for the latest Guardians of the Galaxy movie and for the endearing and wonderful Are You There God It’s Me Margaret adaptation.

But for now let’s have some mini reviews!

Showing Up

I think you will know from the description whether Kelly Reichardt’s new movie Showing Up is for you. Her movies are always minimalist when it comes to plot and exorbitant when it comes to pacing but I still enjoyed some of them like First Cow and Wendy & Lucy.

Unfortunately this one was not for me. When you do this kind of slice of life slow film where you follow a character around living their life the character or characters have to be compelling and I just didn’t find that to be the case here. It tells the story of a group of artists in Portland, Oregon who are forced to interact with each other even though they’d rather be doing their art.

Michelle Williams plays the lead Lizzy, and she never seemed moved by her art. At one point one of her sculptures is burned in a kiln and she shrugs it off like it is nothing. Why should we care about her artistic journey if she doesn’t seem to care? Hong Chau has some funny moments as Lizzy’s negligent landlord but it wasn’t enough to interest me in the story or characters. I simply didn’t care and the 107 minutes really dragged.

I know this movie has its fans. I’m just not one of them. I’d rather watch First Cow again any day.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

My Sister’s Wedding

On the other end of the indie spectrum we have an interesting little film called My Sister’s Wedding. This quasi-rom-com/family drama is written and directed by Kenneth R Frank and while flawed it creates compelling characters and situations that makes it worth a watch.

I do have to confess the dysfunctional family movie (particularly around weddings) is not usually my favorite but occasionally with works for me like Father of the Bride, My Best Friends Wedding and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This film is not on those levels but it does have something to offer and situations anyone can relate with.

The story follows a woman named Allison (Samantha Sayak) who is trying to keep everything together for her sister’s (Lauren A Kennedy) wedding. Her parents are married only on paper and the fact the wedding is a mixed race lesbian wedding provides all kinds of drama.

Jennifer Jiles steals every scene she’s in as the mother and the conflict with the Catholic priest was nuanced and moving.

I don’t think this film has a distributor yet but if you get to see it I think it is worth a watch

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Peter Pan and Wendy

Expectations are a weird part of movie watching. I try to go into every movie as objective and hopeful as possible but sometimes it’s hard to not be caught up in the hype of a new release. Such was the case with David Lowery’s new film for Disney Peter Pan and Wendy. It’s a perfectly enjoyable take on the Peter Pan mythos, but I was hoping for something more memorable. Still I do recommend it. Just go in with the appropriate expectations (it’s certainly on the better part of these Disney live action remakes but that’s not really saying much especially after last year’s disastrous Pinocchio remake.)

You all know I’m not a big fan of these Disney live action remakes but Peter Pan has been done so many times this feels like another entry in the series than a remake of the 1953 animated classic. Supposedly there is more of an emphasis in this version on Wendy (Ever Anderson) but the animated film gives Wendy practically as much screen time, even giving her a whole song to sing to the Lost Boys with “Mother” (Kathryn Beaumont’s vocals for Wendy and particularly that song are gorgeous.)

Jude Law makes for a grimacing and  scary Captain Hook and Jim Gaffigan is fun as Mr Smee. The film is also paced nicely at a lean 109 minutes.

Some people have said Peter Pan and Wendy is too green but I saw that as Lowery trying to place his indie stamp on the picture. I just wish he had brought some of his story choices from Pete’s Dragon (the best of the live action remakes by a long mile) into this film. It all ends up feeling fine. If you are in the mood for a take on Peter Pan it’s perfectly enjoyable version but nothing more.

6 of 10

Smile Worthy

Boonie Bears: Back to Earth

It’s always interesting to watch more populous mainstream films from other countries. I feel like because of the international Oscar we tend to get the more prestige projects the big action films or films for children that get a big following in other countries. This is part of the reason why I found The Wandering Earth movies so fascinating. It’s interesting to see what other people find entertaining. Such is the case with the latest Boonie Bears movie, Boonie Bears: Back to Earth, a phenomenon out of China, and I can see why. I haven’t seen any of the other Boonie Bears films but this latest is the 5th installment and there is evidently a television show in China that is the most popular children’s show in the nation.

The story is kind of similar to Kung fu Panda in that it is about a bear who Bramble who dreams of being a famous superhero but is forced into cleaning trash with his family. However, when an alien comes down to earth things start to change and he might learn being a superhero isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The message of Boonie Bears is fairly mundane one about having self confidence and believing in yourself but it’s still a positive one and the animation is bold and clear throughout the film. You can tell this film had some major money put into it especially in the action scenes.

This isn’t the kind of film that will appeal much to adults but I don’t think it is trying to be. It’s a well animated, bright, colorful, positive superhero adventure.

6 out of 10

Sanditon season 3

If you follow me on social media you know I have not been a fan of the first 2 seasons of PBS’s Sanditon. Especially with esteemed Austen writer Andrew Davies at the helm, the writing has been pedestrian at best and it is only my loyalty to Jane Austen that I felt a need to watch the 3rd season. This new season is a massive step up from the previous 2 but the whole series feels like a massive missed opportunity- particularly when they could have done anything with Austen’s unfinished novel.

The biggest bonus of season 3 is they do not have the incredibly annoying Esther back. It’s not the actress Charlotte Spencer’s fault but anytime the story came back to her it was like death to the series. Now they have more of Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) and her on and off again romance with Alexander Colbourne (Ben Lloyd-Hughes). The 2 have great chemistry and while their story should have been given more time it overall works. We also have Georgiana Lambe’s (Crystal Clarke) story of her inheritance being threatened and her deciding whether she should get married.

I never thought I’d be saying this about Sanditon but the season felt a little rushed and I could have used a couple more episodes. I also didn’t love the plotline with Lady Denham’s (Anne Reid) near-marriage to Mr Pryce but it wasn’t as bad as the Esther plots.

Still, this series could have been campy and fun but it just proved frustrating and clueless about what people want from regency romance (and especially Austen.) Still, I give it a mild recommendation because they did make noticeable improvements and with the chemistry of the leads I had a decent time watching it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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

If you like what I do please consider supporting me on patreon. There’s some great perks and I sure appreciate it

Current Mini Reviews- Prom Pact, Chevalier, Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

Hey everyone! I hope you all enjoyed reading my in-depth post on Suzume. Unfortunately I do not have time to write so prolifically for every movie but here are some quick thoughts on 3 recent new releases.

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

The Covenant Budget and Box Office Collection Prediction
They actually made a special announcement at the screening to make sure we included Guy Ritchie in the title. So there you go sir. It is officially your movie…

That said, I actually enjoyed Ritchie’s latest true story war film. It starts out kind of slow following these Afghan soldiers into several skirmishes before the plot starts going. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Sergeant John Kinley who is stuck in the Afghani desert with Taliban hunting him down. When injured his local interpreter Ahmed saves him through a series of miraculous and brave ordeals before making it back to the base and to safety. Then Kinley becomes obsessed with finding Ahmed and getting him and his family to the United States.

Some are going to be turned off by any kind of war story but once the film started going with the rescue I found it quite gripping. I was genuinely invested in Ahmed and John’s story and if they were going to make it to safety. The acting by Gyllenhaal and Dar Sajim, who plays Ahmed, is outstanding and I think no matter your political persuasion you’ll be rooting for these 2 men to save each other. It’s really a story of friendship more than a story of war. It’s the kind of movie my Dad will love and that’s a good thing! An inspiring true story.

7.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy


If you follow my content you know how much I enjoy a good costume drama. It’s for this reason I was looking forward to the new film Chevalier, which tells the story of 18th century Black composer, Chevalier de Saint-Georges or Joseph Bologne who at one time composed for Marie Antionette. Unfortunately despite the best efforts of star Kelvin Harrison Jr Chevalier is sunk by a mediocre script that can’t decide whether to be campy fun or serious melodrama and it ends up choosing tedium instead.

With this type of film you either want it to be over-the-top bodice-ripper like with Netflix’s Bridgerton series or take itself seriously like a Merchant Ivory film from the 90s. If it was silly I wouldn’t mind that almost none of the actors have French accents or speak in ways appropriate for a the time period. I wouldn’t mind the sloppiness of the costumes or the weakness of the production design. It would all be part of the escapism.

Instead I found myself getting both annoyed, bored and frustrated. The whole thing felt way longer than the trim 107 minutes. It’s a shame because there is a good story hidden in Chevalier. Just wish they’d gotten a better screenplay so I’d be either entertained or edified by it. Sadly it did neither and I left disappointed.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Prom Pact

Prom Pact | Disney+
As we’ve seen recently with the terrible The Whale teen characters in movies can be a bit of a sticking point for this critic. When they are continually portrayed as miserable, sulking creatures I become frustrated and disengaged with the story. I know it’s a tough time of life but at a certain point they start to lose their humanity when there is no kindness presented. This is why I found the latest teen rom-com from Disney Channel and Disney Plus, Prom Pact to be so refreshing and enjoyable. It’s definitely the best DCOM we’ve seen in a while and one of the best teen rom-coms of the last decade. I am a big fan of the To All the Boys… films on Netflix and this is as good if not better.

What I loved most about this film is the characters and how they start out as cliches of the genre (the nerd, jock, prom queen etc) and then expand out of those cliches as we get to know them. It’s what John Hughes did with his beloved teen movies in the 80s. Peyton Elizabeth Lee is fantastic as the girl who wants to get into Harvard so she befriends a jock athlete she thinks is a cocky jerk played by Blake Draper but there is more to him as they spend time together. There is also her best friend played by Milo Manheim and they have a nice character arc through the story. He has a crush on prom queen played by Monique Green. There are also adult characters: a guidance counselor played by Margaret Cho and Peyton’s Mom played by Wendi Mclendon-Covey (I love both of them and could have seen even more).

This is not the most unpredictable of scripts but it is so well executed and everyone involved has great chemistry. I love how it is about more than just romance but about friendship and growing up. These are teens I was rooting for and had to forgive each other on occasion- flawed yet pleasant and enjoyable to spend nearly 2 hours with. I’d say Prom Pact is a real hidden gem of 2023. Watch it! I know you’ll love it!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (Dungeons & Dragons, AIR, Rye Lane & More)

Hey everyone! I wish I had the time to write long full reviews for each of these films but unfortunately I’ve gotten behind and that’s not possible right now. I did have the chance to review some films for Good Things Utah a few weeks ago. You can check out my review of Creed III, Emily, Mandalorian s3 and The Love Club on Hallmark Channel here:

If you have seen any of these films I would love to know your thoughts.


Here’s a few more reviews:

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

It’s easy these days to be cynical about movies like Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Most of the time movies based on existing IP like D&D feel underwhelming and lazy but fortunately that’s not the case with this film from directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. I’m not even a big fantasy person and I still had a good time with this film.

Chris Pine brings his usual charisma playing Edgin, a man who becomes a thief after his wife is killed by a Red Wizard. He ends up imprisoned and the villainous Forge (Hugh Grant) takes his position including raising Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman.) Edgin then gathers a motley crew together including barbarian Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), Xenk (Rege-Jean Page) and Simon (Justice Smith).

I have no idea how well this captures the game but if you enjoy adventure stories like A Princess Bride or the first Pirates movie than you’ll have a good time with this one. It is PG-13 for “fantasy action/violence and some language” but if your kids can handle the latest superhero movies they should be fine with this.

I admit I was really tired when I saw this one at a morning screening but I still had a fun time. I look forward to watching it again and getting even more out of it. If you are looking for a grand adventure with a charismatic cast than this is the movie for you.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy


Movies about business can be an interesting enterprise. If done wrong they can be as dull as most business meetings are. If done right they can be some of the most compelling human dramas ever released. Of course people think of Moneyball and The Social Network but you can go back to movies like Broadcast News and Network. This year seems to be the year of corporate origin story movies with Tetris, Flaming Hot, Blackberry and this movie AIR.

AIR tells the story of how salesman Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) convinced Nike to bet on Michael Jordan and the Air Jordan line of shoes. The film is directed by Ben Affleck and he plays Nike CEO Phil Knight (I couldn’t help but think of poor Will Vinton and Laika Studios whenever they showed Knight) along with a terrific cast including Chris Tucker, Jason Bateman and a very memorable Chris Messina as Jordan’s agent David Falk.

As with most movies, AIR comes down to the script. Writer Alex Convery  has given us a very entertaining debut screenplay with characters that feel authentic and dialogue that pops. Aside from it being an R-rated, I think I could recommend this film to just about anyone. It’s so entertaining and engaging even though we know how it is all going to end. I could care less about basketball, Michael Jordan or shoes and I still really enjoyed this film because it’s not about any of that. It’s about people and the risks they take to make the big deal. Viola Davis is also great as Jordan’s mother.

I’m not sure why they didn’t release this last year so it could count for Oscars 2023 but I hope at least the screenplay doesn’t get forgotten for next year. It’s super fun. (They also spent a fortune on music for this movie. Get the soundtrack!)

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Rye Lane

One movie I missed out of Sundance 2023 is the rom-com Rye Lane. As a lover of the genre I was so disappointed to miss it but gratefully got to catch up with it this last week. While I don’t think I loved it as much as those who saw it at the festival I still recommend it and especially loved the lead couple of Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oprah.)

The two have a meet-cute when Yas finds Dom crying in a public uni-sex bathroom. As it turns out they have both recently been through break-ups and they decide to spend the day together strolling around London and experiencing all kinds of shenanigans.

I really loved both Jonsson and Oparah together and felt both actors had great chemistry together. I found myself rooting for both of them and being happy when they start to fall for each other, which is exactly what you want in a romantic comedy.

The humor was more hit-and-miss for me and the harsh lighting/fisheye cinematography was distracting but not so much to ruin the experience. Rye Lane is an R rated film and like I said the humor was  uneven but I’d still recommend it playing on hulu right now.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy


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Valentines is in the air and not only is Hallmark presenting their annual Lovuary slate (which the first one Sweeter Than Chocolate is excellent) but all the studios are embracing romance, which is so exciting after years of droughts in the genre.

So let’s talk about some romances!

Stars Fell Again

Back in January 2021 I had the pleasure of interviewing stars James Maslow and Ciara Hanna for their rom-com Stars Fell on Alabama. While I didn’t think the R-rated humor worked I overall enjoyed the chemistry between the actors and the story about friendship and taking a chance on love (friends to lovers trope.)

Now we have the sequel Stars Fell Again, and it is a definite improvement over the original film. I won’t spoil it but the ending is bonkers but most everything else is a fun frothy ride with multiple couples getting the romance this time around. We get another ‘friends to lovers’ story with Hanna’s sister Harper (Ali Faulkner) and Maslow’s Bryce is trying to find the perfect time to pop the question.

if you liked the last film you’ll certainly enjoy this follow-up, and you don’t need to have watched the original to get this one. Like I said, the ending is bonkers but if you like frothy fun romcoms you’ll enjoy this film.

Smile Worthy

6 out of 10

At Midnight

Paramount+ Sets Premiere Date & Releases Trailer For 'At Midnight' – Deadline

Moving over to Paramount Plus we have another fun rom-com called At Midnight. Borrowing from movies like Roman Holiday and Notting Hill (not on their level but the plots are similar), At Midnight is about a movie star named Sophie (Monica Barbaro) who is stuck pretending her relationship with her co-star is going great while their superhero movie shoots and then they can announce their break-up. Meanwhile she meets the friendly manager at her hotel Alejandro (Diego Boneta) and they become friends and sparks fly between them.

First of all, if you are coming to this movie for comedian Whitney Cummings you’ll be disappointed. She’s barely in the film. There are also parts mostly involving the movie shoot and keeping everything secret that dragged but the relationship between Barbaro and Boneta worked and they had electric chemistry. I particularly enjoyed the dancing scenes between the two of them. It’s not perfect but I think fans of the genre will enjoy it.

Smile Worthy

6 out of 10

Shotgun Wedding

With the release of Shotgun Wedding it was pointed out the very spotty career Jennifer Lopez has with wedding movies. Last year’s Marry Me, which was fine, looks like a career highlight in comparison to movies like Monster-In-Law and this clunker Shotgun Wedding. Basically this film is about a couple that has their fancy destination wedding ruined when pirates attack them and their friends.

This is supposed to be a rated-R, mature, action/romance but it ended up feeling bland and dull. The action is mediocre and the chemistry between Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Lopez is non-existent. Jennifer Coolidge fights for a couple but they are few and far between, which is a big problem in an action comedy. There’s a reason this went straight to streaming on this one because it is not good.

Frown Worthy

3 out of 10

80 for Brady

80 for Brady' review: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno and Sally Field suit up for a sweet story with a weak game plan | CNN
Our next film is a romance of friendship rather than lovers. 80 for Brady tells the based on a true story tale of a group of women who support each other and watch the New England Patriots together- and they particularly love quarterback Tom Brady. In 2017 they decide to go to the Super Bowl to cheer on their team and all kinds of shenanigans occur.

The reason why this movie works is because of the winning personas and chemistry of our 4 leading ladies (Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, Rita Moreno). I love a story about friendship and these women feel like friends, which makes them easy to root for.

Unfortunately the plot could use some work. It feels like they had this basic concept and then began grasping at straws for what could go around it. The humor isn’t great and Tom Brady is no thespian.

80 for Brady can probably wait for a rental to watch with friends but the ladies are pleasant enough that it’s a harmless watch

Smile Worthy

6 out of 10

So there you have it. What of these romances are you looking forward to? Would love to read in the comments section

If you like my writing please consider supporting me on my patreon. There are loads of cool perks including weekly exclusive AFI Passions reviews just for patrons. Learn more here.

Current Mini Reviews (Broker, Rickshaw Girl, Fairways to Happiness)

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well. I am deeply ensconced in Sundance Film Festival and will have reviews of all the films I have been watching (I am not doing daily logs like I’ve done in the past because I’m trying to enjoy the experience more this year.) So far it has been a terrific festival and I’m so glad to be back attending in person again.

If you missed it I was on Good Things Utah for the first time as their movie critic. Check it out

In the meantime, I have a few current films to update you all on.

Rickshaw Girl

It’s always fun when you see a film that helps you dive into a different culture and country. Such is the case with  Amitabh Reza Chowdhury’s new film Rickshaw Girl. It tells the story of a teenage girl named Naima who dreams of making it as an artist in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This is based on a popular children’s book and the director weaves together animation and live action to tell Naima’s story.

The film is helped by a vibrant and lovely performance by Novera Rahman as Naima and the animation is a nice touch when telling the story of an artist. I only wish the animation had been done in 2D instead of CG to make it feel more like Naima’s art.

They also make the choice to have some dialogue in Bengali with no subtitles and some in English. I’m guessing this is to add to the chaos of the city but it felt like chaos for chaos’ sake. Still, there’s enough here to enjoy in the sweet story and Rahman’s performance to recommend it. You can find it on amazon (ad) and other streamers to rent.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Fairways to Happiness

We can all use a little boost in our spirits every now and then, right? I know I can. Well, if you are looking for a quick motivational documentary than Fairways to Happiness might be a good choice. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel and could definitely be called cheesy but I like a self-help cheeseball movie every now and then.

In the film Doug Morrione is inspired by his move to Dubai to interview expats and people from around the world on what makes them happy. He also weaves in the struggles of an amateur golfer name Eugene, and examines why so many get joy out of the solitary peace of the golf. I don’t golf but I can understand the appeal. For me it is being in a lake surrounded by water that gives me joy. For others it might be art or hiking. Whatever it might be what is it that makes humans happy? That’s an interesting question Morrione dives into.

If you like this kind of motivational, self-help documentary than Fairways to Happiness is a fun easy watch.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy


The true gem of this group is the latest film from Hirokazu Kore-eda called Broker. Kore-eda is a filmmaker I love, and while his films always do well at Cannes and other international festivals I don’t think he gets enough credit here in the states. He makes lovely films full of humanity and Broker is no exception.

Like his 2018 film Shoplifters, Broker tells the story of a fractured family brought together by crime. It is set in Korea (Kore-eda’s last film was set in France called The Truth so evidently he can direct in any land or language!) but Broker is about a group of people that are operating a human trafficking ring where they sell babies to struggling couples that are left at a baby box in a church.

Song Kang-ho is fantastic as Ha Sang-hyeon, the leader of the trafficking ring and Lee Ji-eun is great as a young Mother who leaves her baby and then becomes involved in the enterprise. Obviously human trafficking is terrible but Kore-eda works hard to bring out the humanity in each character so by the end you at least understand where they are coming from even if you don’t agree with their choices.

I’d say Shoplifters is still the better of the two films but Broker is definitely worth checking out and supporting.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy