Current Mini Reviews

Hey everyone! After catching you all up on my recent TV and series watching I have 6 movies to do the same for. It’s been a very busy time for me with theater, movies, television, books, podcasts, travel and more but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Here are my thoughts on 6 recent movies:


Old Review: M. Night Shyamalan Makes Another Happening - Den of Geek

I know there are many who vociferously defend director M Night Shyamalan. I am not one of those people. I find him to be a very gimmicky filmmaker who tries to outsmart the viewers rather than simply telling a good story. His latest Old has an intriguing premise about a group caught on a beach where they rapidly age including the children who we see as 3 different actors.

The problem with Old is it takes a 22 minute short and stretches it out to 2 hours. There’s not enough story here. The actors try especially Thomasin McKenzie who I have loved in many projects like Jojo Rabbit and Leave No Trace. But the actors aren’t given enough development for their characters and are strapped with terrible dialogue. I also really disliked the camerawork, full of extreme close ups and blurry one shots. It took me out of the movie every time as if Shyamalan wanted to draw attention to himself instead of the story. It also has at least 2 endings too many, so overall it’s a pass on Old for this critic. It’s not one of the director’s worst but that’s really not saying much.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Once I Was Engaged

Once I Was Engaged (2021) - IMDb

Back in 2015 there was a sweet little movie called Once Upon a Beehive. Ostensibly a faith-based film but one that focused on tolerance, kindness and acceptance by girls at a Latter-day Saint teenage girls camp. Now because we can’t have nice things we have a sequel called Once I was Engaged. While this film does take some narrative risks I admire, it did not work for me as a comedy.

It’s a little hard to talk about the story choices without giving away spoilers but let’s just say it sets up as a traditional wedding movie but there is always something off with the couple. It’s just not quite working the way it should. The problem is the jokes feel like a Mormon movie from the 2000s with easy jokes like watching The Princess Bride, eating tons of froyo or having Mitt Romney record a wedding congratulations video. I don’t know how funny jokes like that ever were but they certainly aren’t amusing now.

The problem with a movie like this is if the chemistry is off and the jokes aren’t working the whole thing feels very self-absorbed and tiresome quickly. A wedding is just a day. A marriage is what actually matters. These movies lose that.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy


Stillwater Is a Difficult, Curious Film About Havoc Wreaked By Americans Abroad | Vanity Fair

Director Tom McCarthy is certainly making a name for himself with one of the most eclectic filmographies working today. Of course, he has the Oscar winning film Spotlight from 2015 that I loved but he also has sweet dramas like The Visitor and family films like last years Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made that I adored. Now he has the new slice of life drama Stillwater starring Matt Damon that I admire more than I love but I’d still recommend seeing.

Stillwater tells the story of Bill Baker, a rough and tumble oil-rig worker from Oklahoma that goes to Marseille, France to try and help his daughter (Abigail Breslin) out of prison in an Amanda Knox type scenario. While there he becomes attached to a French woman and her daughter as they seek to find out the truth in his daughter’s case.

The strongest thing about Stillwater is the performances. Damon is fantastic and completely believable as Bill. Breslin is also good along with the entire cast. It feels like a slice of life with the highs and lows that go along with it. However, it also feels tonally disconnected and the story is all over the place. One minute it’s a light romance. The next a father/daughter family movie and then an investigative thriller and even horror. It’s a lot and the pacing is very slow. One can’t help but feel a lot of scenes are unnecessary and could have been cut.

Still, I recommend it for the positive attributes.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy


Annette (2021) - IMDb

I honestly don’t even know where to begin with Annette. This film opened the Cannes Film Festival this year and it is without a doubt one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s so strange it seems destined to become a cult classic and that’s probably where it belongs. It is only for the aggressively artistic filmgoer. Mainstream moviegoer beware.

The best way I can describe Annette is it is a musical by the Sparks Brothers as directed by Leos Carax. It stars Adam Driver as a controversial stand up comedian who has an opera-singing wife in Marion Cotillard. They have a baby named Annette who is depicted in various types of puppets. The music is not your typical Broadway style but wild rock ballads that accompany strange, sometimes shocking imagery. The plot is thin and at 139 minutes I became exhausted with the shenanigans on stage.

I have to say I didn’t hate the experience of watching Annette unlike some super artsy films. There is a charm to it that movies like The Dead Don’t Die or Film Socialism don’t have. Those movies pander to their audience. This puts audaciousness out as art and hopes the audience has fun with it.

However, I don’t really know what it is trying to say or why it had to be so inaccessible? Couldn’t it have even more of an impact if it had a cohesive story and narrative? A lot of the good parts feel wasted in an orgy of nonsensical imagery. That said, if you are up for something completely bizarre give it a watch. It has strong sensuality so be forewarned.

All the singing and music is really good. Cotillard didn’t need to be dubbed in La Vie en Rose. She’s a great singer along with Driver!

5.5 out of 10

An Artsy Smile Worthy

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins movie review (2021) | Roger Ebert

From a super nutty arthouse film to a standard run-of-the-mill action film we have it all on this set of mini reviews. By way of Hasbro and Paramount we have a new action film loosely in the GI Joe family called Snake Eyes. It is an origin story for the character of Snake Eyes played by Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians fame. I love Golding. He is a movie star in the making and may be the most handsome and charming actor working in Hollywood today. He’s definitely in my top 3.

And to be honest he is the main reason to watch this film. While they don’t take full advantage of his charisma and charm he’s still a solid leading man and puts up a good performance. The action is generic and uses too much shaky cam but it’s a serviceable fun martial arts style action movie. Not great but watchable. It left me mildly curious for the next installment. Hopefully in that one they will use Samara Weaving more because she is totally wasted here.

I’d say it is similar in quality to this year’s Mortal Kombat but this one has Golding so it gets the edge and the mild recommendation. I also liked Andrew Koji as Storm Shadow, who’s character is arguably a co-protagonist. Also I know nothing about GI Joe so can’t speak to that aspect of the film

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Ford v Ferrari’: Friends, Feuds and Fast Cars

Ford-v-Ferrari-IMAX-poster-600x751-1-600x364Sometimes with all the hubbub around the Oscars this time of year we as cinephiles can get a little snobby about what makes a great film.  Yes the art-pieces are an important and vital part of this artform we love but so is the crowd-pleasing entry that makes the audience stand up and cheer. This is why I am always happy when I see films like Hidden Figures and Black Panther received Best Picture nominations. Despite what some people say making entertainment for the masses is not easy and when it is done well it should be celebrated.

Such is my experience with the new film from director James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari. In this film, he has crafted an immensely satisfying story of an unlikely friendship (theme of 2019) and the battle to build the ultimate racing car that brought them together.

Based on a true story Matt Damon plays Carroll Shelby an ex-racer who is tasked by the Ford Motor Company to design a car that can compete, even beat, Ferrari at the Le Mans 24 hour race in 1966. He then recruits the more reckless driver and car-maker Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to drive the car and lead the team. Both actors are excellent in their roles but they are also surrounded by a talented cast including Jon Berenthal as Lee Iacocca, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Ray McKinnon and more.

Christian Bale and Caitriona Balfe in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.

I especially loved Caitriona Balfe as Miles’ wife. She was funny, unpredictable and brought a lot to a role that could have been a one-note long-suffering wife. Tracy Letts is also great as Henry Ford II especially in a scene where he unwittingly endures a test-run on the race track.

Most people will probably praise the racing scenes in Ford v Ferrari, and they are excellent, but  the real star lies in the script and performances. I was so drawn into the characters and story and by the end I wanted to stand up and cheer. I love underdog sports movies and Ford v Ferrari is a very satisfying entry in the genre. But add to it a story of the friendship between Shelby and Miles that felt real and authentic and we have a winner!


I even liked this movie despite watching it in a theater that felt more like a sauna. It’s rated PG-13 but a mild one. I certainly would feel comfortable taking the whole family and seeing Ford v Ferrari. It’s that good. The only major problem is it is a bit too long at 2 hr 32 min but I didn’t feel the length much. Other than that, it’s a wonderful film everyone will enjoy. The story is interesting, the acting is great, script is well done and the racing scenes work.

Go see it! It’s really good!

9 out of 10

smile worthy



Martian Movie Review

Guys I’ve got a great movie to tell you about!!

First, I want to say that I finished reading the book The Martian by Andrew Weir this week and loved it.  I normally don’t like a lot of modern novels but this book resisted the modern cliche of having the lead character be all brooding and conflicted.  It had the audaciousness to have a lead current-day character that is actually likable!!!  I seriously feel like that is so rare in modern books (even YA we get a lot of Bellas and dystopian brooding characters snooze…).

In both the movie and the book I loved the character of Mark Watney and found even the smallest victories compelling.  Plus, the overall story of his rescue is so exciting!

martianIf you don’t know The Martian is about an astronaut named Mark (Matt Damon) who is left in a storm by his crew on Mars.   Each day then presents Mark with a series of problems, which he uses his know-how as a botanist and scientist to solve.

martian8I never thought I would be so excited for a character growing potatoes but I’m telling you in both the book and movie it is so thrilling when he harvests crops on Mars just based on his ingenuity and smarts.

He’s also such a likable character.  In the movie and book much of his personality is presented through daily logs that he does.  In these entries he is serious but also extremely funny.  It feels like a well-rounded real person.  Matt Damon is just nerdy enough and cool enough to pass off both sides of Mark’s personality.  It really worked!

martian5It is perhaps easy to compare The Martian to Interstellar because both have Matt Damon as a marooned astronaut but they are totally different films.  One is a philosophical treatise on the meaning of life and the connection of individuals and the other is an engrossing action movie about a man trying to get rescued and survive.

It is perhaps closer to Gravity but that is really more of a thriller with Sandra Bullock’s character being much less of an expert and more a helpless pedestrian in space who has to figure out a way home. The tone in films is very different. I loved all 3 films so it is good company any way!

martian7The surrounding players around Damon really helped as well.  To me there wasn’t a single misfire in the cast. Director Ridley Scott did a great job and that is saying something considering some recent misfires like Exodus: Gods and Kings.   Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, and more play the crew that leaves Mark for dead.  For not being in that many scenes they are fleshed out characters that have to make difficult decisions about their lives verses one man left behind. Throughout the movie there is a looming question- ‘how valuable is one human being?’.

Jeff Daniels is great as the head of NASA. He has to deal with the bureaucratic side of things and could have been a one note bad man executive character but he’s not.  He’s practical but wants to do what is right as well.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is the mission director who becomes an advocate for Mark and in a way helps narrate the story back at home.  Kristen Wiig is the PR rep for NASA and she does a good job being practical like needing a good photo of Mark on Mars to sell the public on him while still intensely caring for him too.

Sean Bean is a director who refuses to see the practical, bureaucratic side of things and Donald Glover is a young astronomer who has a breakthrough that helps the rescue.  They all make such good use of their minimal screen time.

martian2I was totally engrossed in this picture.  It is the kind of film you want to finish and cheer.  And this works because Mark is such a good person.  You want to believe in the value of one person and that such effort would be made to rescue the one. A side of me kind of wishes it was a true story especially when the Chinese get involved.  Wouldn’t it be great if we were all rooting for the same humans?

With Gravity there is a sense of relief when she is free from danger but it’s the kind of relief that you get at the end of a thriller.  The bad guy (outer space) is defeated and the character can breath.  The Martian is a triumph of human being over insane odds so it has more a tone of a Rocky movie or a sports movie with the underdog finishing victorious!

martian3It’s a cliche but I literally was on the edge of my seat.  I was leaning as close to the screen as I could get I was so anxious for everything to work out.  I couldn’t have been more absorbed in the film.  And just as in the book each victory for Mark makes you smile.  It’s so satisfying!!

As far as content it is on a whole pretty tame.  There are 4 F words and a few other profanities.  You do see Matt Damon’s butt in a scene and he does surgery on himself that is bloody.  That’s it.  I have to say I would feel comfortable taking mature kids and teens to The Martian.  It actually could inspire kids to see so many creative uses for science and math used by a variety of different personalities.

I loved The Martian in both book and movie form.  I recommend reading the book first and then seeing the movie if you can.  I did not see it in 3D or on Imax but I am sure it is cool in those formats.

Definitely my favorite live action film of the year.  Go see it!

Overall Grade- A+ Content Grade – B-

Here’s my youtube review.