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

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

Everybody Dance

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

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

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

See How They Run

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

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

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

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Barbarian

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

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

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

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

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Don’t Worry Darling

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

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

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

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

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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

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

3000 Years of Longing

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

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

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

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

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

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

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

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

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

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Acapulco

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

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

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

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

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (Bullet Train, Easter Sunday, Luck)

Hey everyone! I’m about to go on a big trip out to California but before I leave wanted to update the site with my thoughts on some new releases I’ve been watching.

Here we go!

Brad Pitt's 'Bullet Train' Box Office Opening Weekend Estimates - Variety

Bullet Train

I must admit seeing Bullet Train is outside of my comfort zone but I’ve liked violent action movies in the past. I enjoyed watching Logan this year for my blind spot series, and I liked The Protégé last year with Maggie Q. And this film has its moments particularly as it introduces us to its large assortment of characters all on the aforementioned bullet train.

Unfortunately as the story keeps going it gets more and more ludicrous until it loses credibility all together. For the action to be exciting it needs some stakes but here we have characters jumping on moving trains crashing through thick glass windows injury free and then surviving all kinds of attacks from guns, swords and knives. There are also train crashes and scenes where characters are hanging out of the train that are completely ridiculous. It was too much to the point it became tiresome.

The cast does what they can to elevate the material but there are so many characters that they all end up feeling underserved. It’s a film that feels more in love with itself than we as a viewer are entertained. I haven’t seen the John Wick franchise director David Leitch is famous for but this one gets a pass from me. (Bullet Train is extremely violent but done in a cartoonish way that makes it less shocking to the viewer)

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Easter Sunday' Review: Jo Koy in Slapdash Filipino-American Comedy | IndieWire

Easter Sunday

I am blessed to have a number of good Filipino friends, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know their culture over the years. Unfortunately, it’s a group we don’t see often portrayed in movies or television. It is for this reason I was looking forward to the new film Easter Sunday. Everyone deserves to see their culture in both comedies and dramas. I must admit I’m not overly familiar with Easter Sunday’s star Jo Koy’s comedy, but the trailers looked fun, and I was hoping for a Filipino version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding but at Easter.

Now I’ve seen the film I’d say it mostly succeeds. It’s not reinventing the wheel but as someone who comes from a big loud family I connected with Koy’s family. You can also tell he called in a lot of favors from his comic friends like Jimmy O Yang and Jay Chandrasekhar. Tiffany Haddish (who I don’t always love) steals the movie playing Koy’s ex, a cop named Vanessa.

I do think the family stuff in Easter Sunday works a lot better than the crime plot, which gets very silly the longer it goes. However, I laughed consistently throughout and the message of family is sweet and endearing. Take your family and have a good time laughing with this crazy Filipino bunch.

(Also many holiday films are released off of their holiday going all the way back to Miracle on 34th Street released in May of 1947).

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Luck Trailer: A Talking Cat, A Magic Penny, And Some Really Bad Luck

Luck

It’s always exciting when a new animated studio comes on the scene- especially one with such ambitious goals as Skydance Animation. I am aware many are less than thrilled by the studio’s chosen head of animation John Lasseter but animated films are made by 100s of people so I’m not going to be tougher on all of their work because of the behavior of one producer at his previous studio.

All that said, what do I think of Skydance’s first release Luck?… Well, to be honest it’s an average, watchable animated flick but not one I will remember or want to rewatch again.

Luck tells the story of an unlucky girl named Sam (Eva Noblezada who is also in Easter Sunday.) who winds up in the world of good and bad luck where she becomes friends with a snarky black cat named Bob (Simon Pegg).

What works best in the film is Sam’s backstory of living in foster care and her undying optimism that her friend Hazel will be adopted. The whole reason she goes into the world of luck is to try and help Hazel’s luck.

The animation is also nice in Luck, and I see potential for the studio going forward. Hopefully next time they will take more risk and tell a story we haven’t seen a million times. This is the problem with Luck: it feels so derivative. With everything from Inside Out, to Storks, to Wreck-it Ralph, to the Emoji Movie, to Soul, we’ve seen the animated dive into the magical worlds a lot and the world of good and bad luck doesn’t have anything new or surprising to entertain us.

In the end, I hope Skydance comes out with something more exciting and memorable for their next film. If you have Apple Plus Luck is fine, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it if you don’t.

(Strange this week have 2 movies about characters with very bad luck with this and Bullet Train...)

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy (barely)

[REVIEW] ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ or My New Comfort Watch

Before this Spring I had never heard of Marcel the Shell. Evidently he first appeared in a stop-motion short by director Dean Fleischer-Camp in 2010. Then in April we got the first trailer for a Marcel feature film and I was immediately captivated. There’s something so special and endearing about Marcel and his adventures that I couldnt help but become attached. At first I wondered if there would be enough for a feature film but Fleischer-Camp and team have made a truly charming film that should win over even the world’s biggest curmudgeons.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On tells the story of the little shell creature with one eye named Marcel who has been separated from his family by a careless human home owner who takes them when he moves away. Now it is just him, his Nanna Connie and the human tenant Dean (director Dean Fleischer-Camp). When Dean decides to make a documentary Marcel’s world opens up in ways he could never imagine, even eventually being featured on his favorite show, 60 Minutes.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On' returns in part three of this painfully adorable video series - ABC7 New York

Jenny Slate could not be cuter as Marcel, perfectly capturing what is needed for this character to come alive. So much of the character depends on the voice due to him having only one eye and a small mouth to capture emotion. Isabella Rossellini is also great as Nanna Connie.

Film Review:

I’m afraid in describing Marcel the Shell with Shoes On I make it sound more saccharine than it actually is. It is a very sweet film but it is also touching, tender and made me tear up more than a few times. It touches’ on serious issues like marital discord, family loss, death, and especially loneliness.

You have to wonder if the fact Fleischer-Camp and Slate divorced in 2016 added this layer to the screenplay they worked together on with Nick Paley and Elizabeth Holm. When Marcel asks Dean about his divorce it feels more than a little prosaic.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is getting a pretty decent rollout by distributor A24 so check to see if it is at a theater near you. It’s an absolute gem.

9.5 out of 10 I’m tempted to give this a perfect score. It charmed me!

Smile Worthy

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[REVIEW] ‘Persuasion’ or How to Not Persuade This Austenite…

I would like to start out this review by saying I am not a traditionalist when it comes to Jane Austen. I’m a huge fan but I honestly get annoyed when I hear my fellow Austenites nitpick the film adaptations to death. I don’t like the versions that are name only that Hallmark does but for the most part I like most of the films based on Jane Austen’s glorious novels. I even like the 2 versions based on Mansfield Park that it seems like nobody likes. I loved the recent version of Emma, which some took issues with and I was a big fan of Love and Friendship which is almost nothing like the book but was wickedly good fun.

Now we have a new version directed by Carrie Cracknell of Persuasion, which is perhaps Austen’s hardest novel to adapt because of the demur heroine at the lead and I held out hope even as others criticized the trailer. “Come on. Give it a chance!” I cried out! Unfortunately now that I have seen it I must admit it is as bad as the naysayers feared and I’m super bummed out about it. Darn!

Let’s start with the positives. First, the core story of the novel remains in tact with Anne rejecting Frederick Wentworth as a young woman and then them being thrown into each other’s company years later and being forced to reexamine their feelings now that he is successful and she is under regency customs an old maid. All those plot points are there.

The cast is also generally good with Richard E Grant stealing the show as Anne’s father Sir Walter. There is also some diversity in the casting with Nikki Amuka-Bird playing Lady Russell and Henry Golding (who is barely in the movie) playing Anne’s cousin, Mr William Elliott.


The problem lies with the adaptation and screenplay by Ronald Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow. (And again I am fine with non-traditional adaptations but there are limits). In their version of the story they have completely changed Anne from a sweet, shy and meek woman who is kind to a fault to a rebellious, outspoken wine drunk (literally at one point she pours a bottle of wine all over her head after sad-drinking all day).

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about how many Austen adaptations want to turn every character into Lizzie Bennett from Pride & Prejudice, which we can definitely see here but worse. They even condone Anne at one point for having too much pride, which is not her character at all. If you want to make another Lizzie Bennett than make another Pride & Prejudice! All that said, even Lizzie wouldn’t behave the way Anne does in this movie being a smart aleck and talking back to people.

I also had problems with the way they set up the romance. Dakota Johnson as Anne and Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Wentworth have no chemistry and they set them up as “friends” early on which gives no doubt that they will get together in the end of the film. In the book it seriously comes into question when he is so angry at her and  when he seemingly becomes engaged to Louisa Musgrove. It makes the ending with the letter impactful with the memorable line of “I am half agony, half hope…” In this version we don’t believe he is in agony because all he need do is propose and she is clearly his partner.

Persuasion' Movie Trailer: Dakota Johnson Stars in Austen Adaptation - Netflix Tudum

A lot of the other choices Cracknell makes are confusing. To begin with, Anne talks to the camera throughout the movie breaking the 4th wall. This is meant to give a saucy quality to her character but again, that’s not Anne’s character. It was very annoying. We also have her changing characters like making Golding’s Elliot a hero of love instead of a selfish villain as in the novel. The problem with this, like I said, is it takes away tension as he is clearly not an actual suitor for Anne or a threat to Wentworth.

In the spirit of Bridgerton they use modern music throughout, which I did not care for. In addition, Johnson doesn’t make any attempt at a British accent, which was a strange choice as many others do use one including her own family. The costuming is also a mess of periods and her hair is disheveled, often not pinned up, with no resemblance to any period I recognize. (All of these production details could have been fine if they got the characters right but they didn’t).

It’s all a bummer because what I wanted and hoped for is simple. We’ve never really gotten a great adaptation of Persuasion. Perhaps its heroine is too sweet and simple for cinema, but I was hopeful with the talent involved maybe they’d figure it out this time. Alas it is not the case. Instead I’d recommend the 2007 version with Sally Hawkins. It’s not perfect but at least has solid chemistry and the story I know and love. This is just not it.

4 out of 10

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

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

The Black Phone (2021) - IMDb

The Black Phone

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

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

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

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

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Rise | Disney+ Originals

Rise

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

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

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

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

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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

The Outfit

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

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

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

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

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Watch Love & Gelato | Netflix Official Site

Love & Gelato

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

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

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

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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

Trevor: The Musical

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

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

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

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

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

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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All Smile Worthy today!

[REVIEW] ‘Coast’ and ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ or a lot of Teenage Struggles

Summer is alive and thriving and that means it is time to break free and live your teenage dreams. Two recent examples, a film and series, are worth checking out especially if you are going through those tumultuous years!

Here are 2 recommendaitons:

The Summer I Turned Pretty (TV Series 2022– ) - IMDb

The Summer I Turned Pretty

First up we have a new series on Amazon Prime where newcomer Lola Tung plays Isabel or Belly (reminded me of Baby in Dirty Dancing in a lot of ways). She evidently has had a magical year and gone from nerdy to pretty in that time. Now when she goes to her yearly summer home with a friend’s family full of hunky boys they all notice her in a new  way. It literally is the Summer she turned pretty.

The hunky boys in question include her long-time crush Conrad (Christopher Briney), dreamy blue-eyed Jeremiah (Gavin Casalengo) and kid who looks very similar Cam (David Iacono). All of these teens look like they are in college and behave like they are young adults but a show like this is escapism for teens, so I am fine with it. It’s nice when teens in shows behave in more authentic ways but there’s a place for aspirational characters in teen stories just like any other audience. Teens will love this sun-dripped romantic show.

The North Carolina beaches are gorgeous and the whole cast has a nice chemistry together that it works. If you are a fan of writer Jenny Han’s previous To All the Boys… series of movies you’ll enjoy this one. We are going to be covering it on Hallmarkies Podcast so make sure you are subscribed!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Coast (2021) - IMDb

Coast

In the world of movies we have an indie teen drama called Coast that is also worth checking out. This is set on the other side of the country on the California Central Coast and young Abby (Fátima Ptacek) hates living in the agriculture-based town of her Mother (Cristela Alonzo) and wants to stretch her wings. I much more relate to this feeling than the love woes of Pretty. I couldn’t wait to get out of my small town and experience the world when I was a teenager.

This need of hers is put to the test when she meets a boy named Dave (Kane Ritchotte) who is the lead singer for a punk band and he invites Abby to join his band. The relationship between Alonzo and Ptacek feels authentic without the theatrics you typically see in this kind of coming of age story. Even when Abby leaves her Mom is upset but she looks up at the sky and says a simple prayer her daughter will find her way back. Directors Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickart do a good job keeping scenes like this grounded and honest in and it makes the movie feel easy to relate with even if you aren’t a teen or into punk music.

It does feel derivative at times but it has the heart and the authentic performances to keep it going and make it a worthwhile indie to check out. You can rent it now on all the streaming sites. Oscar winner Melissa Leo has a memorable turn as a ornery hospital patient Alonzo takes care of.

7.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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[REVIEW] ‘Elvis’ or Baz’s Burning Love for Elvis Shines

Musical biopics have become so common these days that a director has to do something special to make his or her film stand out from the crowd. For example, the recent Elton John biopic Rocketman elevated it’s rags to rock n’ roll riches story with flights of fancy that enhanced each musical performance. In comparison Respect and Bohemian Rhapsody were saddled with clunky scripts that did nothing to bring any freshness to their subject matters of Aretha Franklin and Freddie Mercury respectively.

Fortunately the new movie Elvis has the style and panache of director Baz Luhrmann behind it which makes the film captivating even while acknowledging its more pedestrian elements.

Luhrmann tackles a lot in his retelling of the King of Rock and Roll’s life going from his time as a boy reveling at Black spirituals to his death in 1977. He also employs an unreliable narrator for the piece with Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, leading the piece played by Tom Hanks.

This is definitely one of Hanks’ slimiest roles and perhaps I have him too type-cast but I never quite bought Hanks in the role. It’s not a dealbreaker or anything but it felt like more of a caricature of a performance than a compelling character.

Austin Butler as Elvis is another story. He is absolutely captivating as the larger than life figure in pop culture. I wish the movie had taken the Walk the Line approach and focused on a small part of Elvis’ life but Butler is up for everything he is asked to do (which is a lot).

Elvis’ family has come out in support of the film and I can see why. It must have been an emotional experience to have seen your loved one portrayed with such grit and energy. If Butler isn’t up for an Oscar it will be a real shame as I found him to use the cliché to be a tour de force on screen.

For the most part the editing and flairs in direction Luhrmann uses to spice up the chain of events work especially when Elvis is on stage moving those hips (the movie comments a lot on women and how social morals stop us from experiencing pleasure so often. Elvis got that until he was required to be ”New Elvis” which he then rebelled from). Sometimes when Luhrmann used modern hip-hop music (as he is prone to do) it was distracting but over-all his style worked for me in the film and gave me something to pay attention to when the narrative was more by-the-numbers musical biopic.

A lot of time is spent on Elvis’ 68 Comeback Christmas Special where he featured the protest song “If I Can Dream.” I honestly think they could have ended the movie there and it would have been a triumphant and exciting end to the story but they go for the whole life approach and it’s mostly compelling.

There will be some who will complain Elvis is too basic but I disagree. I think Luhrmann brings a lot of personality to the production and Butler is outstanding in the lead. It’s worth seeing the film for those 2 reasons alone. One might say I couldn’t help falling in love with this film… (I couldn’t resist LOL).

7 out of 10

Smile worthy

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

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

Let’s not mess around and get reviewing!

A Perfect Pairing

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

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

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Spring Awakening: Those You’ve Known

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

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

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Valet

Disney+ unveils the first images of

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

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Fire Island

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

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

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

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

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

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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

 

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