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

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

All Smile Worthy today!

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

Current Mini Reviews (Downton Abbey, Chip ‘N Dale, Along for the Ride, Top Gun OG)

Hey everyone! It’s that time again where I give some quick updates on the films I’ve been watching. Unfortunately I just don’t have the time to write up a full review on every film I see. It’s impossible!

Aside from Men, which I hated, it’s been a pretty good month of movie-watching. Particularly in animation we are getting a lot of creativity and innovation which makes me happy to see (especially since I didn’t like Turning Red from earlier in the year).

So here’s the reviews:

Downton Abbey: A New Era-

I was a big fan of the 2019 Downton Abbey film and the show so I came into this new film a little biased to enjoy it. However, I have heard from a number of friends who haven’t watched the show that they have enjoyed the movies so it might surprise non-fans. Either way, this new entry Downton Abbey: A New Era is everything I want in this very fun frothy continuing journey of the Crawley family and their downstairs staff.

Writer Julian Fellowes does a great job balancing a ton of characters and story-threads which is particularly difficult this time because we have the group splitting up- half going to visit a villa in the Mediterranean and half managing the house while a movie is being shot by new to the series Hugh Dancy playing director Jack Barber.

My only nitpick is with Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery). I wish they could have gotten Matthew Goode in the movie as her husband. What they came up with instead was frustrating. All the other plotlines I really enjoyed. It’s particularly fun when the servants get a chance to dress up to be in the movie.

The highlight is always Maggie Smith as Violet and she’s spectacular here. My advice is have some tea, take your friends and go back into time for a delightful experience at the theaters!

(And check out our catch up podcast on the series and first movie above)

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers Review - IGN

Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers

I have to say I was as skeptical as anyone going into this movie. I didn’t like the trailers and the images I saw looked like a lame nostalgia grab. However, count me shocked because I had a blast with Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers. It all comes down to the script by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand, which is chocked full of gags and laughs that particularly animation fans will go gaga for.

I don’t want to spoil the gags for you but evidently they were going for a Who Framed Roger Rabbit feel and I think they totally succeeded. We have cameos from not just Disney like in Ralph Breaks the Internet but from studios like Sony and Netflix. And there were just a lot of hilarious gags like I loved the setup of Dale doing the comic-con circuit and getting ”CGI surgery” to relive the glory days. That’s clever.

The voice cast is also excellent with John Mullaney, Andy Samberg, Will Arnett and more. This should entertain both kids and adults so definitely worth your time on Disney Plus. It’s a hilarious time with our dynamic duo.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Along for the Ride' Review: Netflix Dips Into Sarah Dessen Library | IndieWire

Along for the Ride

New on Netflix is the rom-com Along for the Ride. It is based on the book by Sarah Dessen and has lots of beautiful beach scenery but unfortunately that’s all I enjoyed about it. Teen love stories are usually not my favorite but this does try for some deeper themes with our lead Auden (Emma Pasarow) dealing with divorce, a new baby sister and trying to make friends in a new town of Colby.

I didn’t think Pasarow and her guy Eli (Belmont Cameli) had much chemistry and the plot dragged on without much to engage the viewer. i wasn’t invested in the relationship or much beyond her relationship with her Father (Dermot Mulroney) and Step-Mom (Kate Bosworth). Andie McDowell is also good as her Mother.

I hate to say it but this one was dull. It’s about insomniacs and it just about put me to sleep. Also the acting was weak at times. I’d skip this one.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Tom Cruise Top Gun Top Gun Maverick: film confronti Festival di Cannes. Foto | Style

Top Gun 1996

With the release of Top Gun Maverick coming soon I wanted to log my review of the original Top Gun for rotten tomatoes. I just had my friends over for a watching party and we had a great time. I can see why some find it too cheesy but in my opinion that’s part of the appeal. I like the posing, corny dialogue, and volleyball playing with the campy 80s music in the background.

The flying scenes still hold up with terrific sound design and music from Harold Faltermeyer. It also has a good mixture of light and heavy moments with a cast that has chemistry including of course a young Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards and Meg Ryan to name a few.

Everyone around me seems to be loving the new film but I will always have a fondness for the original Top Gun. It’s what you want in a big bombastic cheesy blockbuster.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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

Current Mini Reviews (Death on the Nile, Moonfall, Honey Girls)

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. I have 3 movies to review today and all 3 I have mixed feelings on. Even as I write I’m not sure whether I will go smile worthy or frown worthy on any of them. That’s the tough part of the dichotomy of fresh and rotten on rottentomatoes. Sometimes movies are in the middle but I have to decide where I land!

Anyway, I will do my best so here are the reviews:

Honey Girls

Honey Girls is a teen musical starring Ashanti that premiered on Netflix this month. I wanted to see it because it features Lilah Fitzgerald and Cindy Busby in supporting roles- both actresses I have interviewed and enjoy their work. The film stars Ashanti as a big pop star who is hosting a talent search to find a new teen star. She started out in a girl group but she left them to be a big star.

It’s obvious watching Honey Girls it is made for pre-teen and teen girls who enjoy franchises like High School Musical and The Descendants. Ashanti is believable as the star and the girls are energetic and fun. Enjoyment of the film will depend on how much you like the music because there are a lot of long songs. None of them stood out to me but I’m not the target audience.

This film kind of reminded me of Jem and the Holograms but better than the most recent live action version of that series. What drags it down is some of the acting is poor and like I said the musical sequences are really long and not that memorable. However, if it sounds like your kind of thing you will probably like it. If not it won’t win you over.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Death on the Nile

I wasn’t the biggest fan of our last mystery with Agatha Christy penned detective Hercule Poirot, Murder on the Orient Express. I think part of the problem is I had read the book and seen several adaptations so I was more aware and invested in the story (and knew the mystery beforehand). With Death on the Nile this is not the case so I was able to see it with more fresh eyes. I also think generally it is a better film than Orient Express despite them both having their flaws.

In Death on the Nile we meet up with Poirot in Egypt attending a honeymoon trip for a young heiress played by Gal Gadot. The problem is it takes so long for the story to get to the boat and the death in the title. We even get a very unnecessary Poirot backstory about why he has a mustache- did anyone need that?

It literally takes an hour to get to the mystery! That said, when it does I enjoyed it. The cast is great and I liked putting the clues together (it’s fairly obvious who did it but still fun to watch Poirot figure it out).

Given the filmmakers had 2 extra years to work on the film it’s surprising how sloppy aspects of Death on the Nile are. The green screen is badly done and the editing is choppy throughout. I also thought 2 scenes where characters were supposed to be sexy (dancing and then making out on a pyramid) were staged very awkwardly and not steamy at all.

All that said, I still had fun with the mystery of Death on the Nile and the cast elevates the material they were given making for an overall enjoyable experience at the movies.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Moonfall

I am not the biggest Roland Emmerich fan. His big, bombastic films are usually more boring than exciting. Even his biggest hit Independence Day is not one I love as much as most people. So needless to say I went into his new film Moonfall with some skepticism. Now that I have seen it I can say it’s not a good film but it is kind of fun in a nutty way.

Watching Moonfall reminded me of a 2 part, bigger budgeted episode of Doctor Who– especially the last half where it goes way sci-fi alien story on us. It’s about a world where the moon is getting closer to the earth and if they don’t find a way to stop it than everything will be destroyed. Patrick Wilson and Halle Berry play astronauts that had a falling out and must reunite to save the world along with a conspiracy theorist played by John Bradley. We also get Michael Pena, Charlie Plummer (who I love) and more.

The problem with Moonfall is not the nutty plot but the terrible dialogue. I kept laughing throughout at the lines Emmerich gave the actors. It’s bad and yet it kind of made it more campy and endearing at the same time. It’s hard to explain but I left the theater having been entertained and smiling. Sometimes it is nice when Hollywood goes big dumb spectacle and that’s what Moonfall does.

If you like Moonfall check out the Chinese film The Wandering Earth. The films are very similar.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it. Gave mild recommendations to all 3. Maybe I was just in a good mood? Who knows! If you seen any of them let me know what you think.

 

Current Mini Reviews (Am I Ok?, Rifkin’s Festival, The Royal Treatment)

Hey everyone! So we had my last day of Sundance today. I ended up with 24 films watched and a bunch started that I chose to not complete (I gave myself that out this year). In general, the festival was a disappointment this year. There were a number of films I enjoyed but nothing I can see ending up in my top 20 of the year. And a lot of my most anticipated were either disappointing or ones I didn’t finish. It’s a real bummer but I hope you enjoyed my coverage. I did the best I could to be fair and enlightening in my mini reviews each day.

Now I have one more Sundance film to review and a few other recent watches I’d like to talk about.

Enjoy some mini reviews!

Sundance: Tig Notaro's Am I OK? Takes Probing Look at Coming Out as an  Adult – The Hollywood Reporter

Am I Ok?

From the summary Am I Ok? looked like the sweet romance I’d been looking for at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Unfortunately, that was not the case. It’s instead a coming out story, which would be fine but the none of the characters in question were very appealing or likable.

Dakota Johnson plays Lucy, a woman who finally admits she is gay, after her best friend Jane is moving back to England (she’s from England originally so not sure why this is a huge surprise). It seems like the narrative is going to be a friends to lovers story but it ends up being a lot of quarreling, fighting and overall obnoxious behavior. Then most of the time is spent with Lucy dealing with a crush on a lady at work not on anything to do with Jane.

Am I Ok? has nice moments but it could have been a lot better. I feel like a lot of films at Sundance this year were rushed with half finished scripts. Maybe they will improve the films before wide-release? Who knows but this one didn’t work for me.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Rifkin’s Festival

While the festival was busy pumping out indie fare a new film from Woody Allen was quietly released entitled Rifkin’s Festival. Like most of Allen’s recent work it is a mixed bag of his best and worst tendencies.

The positives is with the film being set in a Cannes-like film festival in San Sebastian, Spain, Allen has a lot of fun commenting on the arthouse film crowd and prestige filmmakers like Godard, Fellini, Bergman and Orson Welles. He even has dream-sequences that recreate the iconic moments from these classic directors. That was entertaining.

Certainly the cast Allen has assembled is up for the challenge with people like Wallace Shawn, Gina Gershon, Richard Kind and more. However, the problem comes with the 78 year old Shawn playing the ”Woody Allen” role as the supposed pedantic lover torn between 2 beautiful young women. It was unbelievable to put it mildly.

In Allen’s previous film A Rainy Day in New York he had Timothee Chalamet in the Allen-esque role and I think that was the right way to go!

Still just for the cinema parts I’d give it a watch.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Royal Treatment' Review: A Noble Netflix Romp - Variety

The Royal Treatment

For people outside of the Hallmark bubble they may be unaware of the flourishing business that is the royal genre of films. Whether it is on Hallmark with movies like A Royal Queens Christmas or Netflix with another Princess Switch movie (and that’s only a few of the many releases) there seems to be a never ending supply and demand for what are essentially Cinderella stories at the movies. Now our latest is The Royal Agreement on Netflix.

This film stars Mena Massoud as Thomas, the prince of fictional Lavania who hires hairdresser Izzy (Laura Marano) to help with his arranged wedding preparations. Of course he falls for the hairdresser instead of his intended bride but movies like these are about execution not originality and for the most part this is executed well.

The Royal Treatment is a cute movie that reminds me of The Beautician and the Beast– a movie I love. I appreciate the charisma of both leads and the humor the script brings in. In particular Izzy’s friends Destiny (Chelsea Preston Crayford) and Lola (Grace Bentley-Tsibuah) are a lot of fun as they bring some spice to palace life.

If you are a fan of royal movies you’ll enjoy The Royal Treatment. It does not break the mold but I had fun with it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it. I was going to include a couple others but it’s late and I will save them for a future post. I hope you are all doing well and watching some great movies. Let me know what you recommend!

Current Mini Reviews (French Dispatch, Last Duel, Becoming Cousteau and More)

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well. I am writing this review update from Los Angeles, California. I am in town for the Animation is Film Festival, which showcases the best of animated films from this year. I am super excited to see Luca and Mitchells v the Machines on the big screen as well as new films like Mamoru Hosoda’s new film Belle.

In the meantime I have also been to a lot of screenings lately so I have some catching up to do on reviews. I wish I could write whole posts on each of these films but I am only one human and I simply run out of time. So here goes! If you have seen any of these films let me know what you think.

The Last Duel

The Last Duel Trailer Reveals Jodie Comer, Adam Driver, and Matt Damon in Ridley Scott's Epic Film

We don’t get many medieval epics these days so one has to admire director Ridley Scott and the team at 20th Century for even greenlighting The Last Duel. It is a sweeping story of war, revenge, friendship and betrayal. Unfortunately some decisions from the director with the storytelling kept me from loving the film.

The positives are like I said the scope of the filmmaking and the attention to detail with costumes, battle scenes and sets. I also thought Jodie Comer and Adam Driver did a great job in their roles. Matt Damon works hard but is miscast and given one of the ugliest haircuts of recent memory. Ben Affleck’s character and performance is very strange but effective.

The problem with The Last Duel is they tell the story of a rape 3 times and I don’t think there is enough to be gained from each perspective to make the storytelling choice worth it. It feels repetitive because it literally is repetitive. Plus, the fact they show the rape twice feels gratuitous and unnecessary. It’s not like each side has radically different takes. It’s clearly rape in both versions.

The Last Duel is not a terrible film. I am sure many will enjoy it but the story structure sank it for me. No thanks

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Becoming Cousteau

See the source image

For many of us the name Jacques Cousteau is synonymous with the ocean and marine conservation. During the 1960s and 70s ABC ran a series of documentaries from the French explorer called The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. Now we have a documentary about the Cousteau’s life and it is a fascinating look at both a media figure and the environmental activist movement.

Part of what makes a documentary like this work is the footage the filmmakers have to use. Fortunately for this film they have tons of footage, Cousteau being a documentarian himself. It’s sad to see the deuteriation of the ocean from when he starts filming to the 80s and even 90s. It’s even more sad to see the toll that causes for Cousteau who takes the polluting of the ocean as a personal failing on his part when even he could only do so much to prevent humans from hurting the ocean.

I assume Becoming Cousteau will end up on Disney Plus so you can wait to see it then or if it is a theater near you check it out.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch: Four stars for Wes Anderson's latest - BBC Culture

Wes Anderson is similar to Zack Snyder in the fact they both make very stylish films with a near cult of personality that devours their work. It almost seems futile to write a review on either of their films because their fans are already signed up to see them. What I say won’t matter.

Anyway we have the latest from Anderson, The French Dispatch, and it’s very Wes Andersony… It has all of his best and worst qualities and in the end I thought it was…ok.

To start with the production design in the film is immaculate. The camerawork is fantastic and the score does a lot of the heavy lifting. The cast is impressive but many of the actors feel underused. When someone like Edward Norton appears for under 2 minutes it’s distracting. We keep waiting for such a big name actor to appear again and when he doesn’t it’s disappointing.

The short stories in The French Dispatch are hit and miss. My favorite was the prison chef story with Jeffrey Wright especially the animated section but then others went on too long like the story of Timothee Chalamet’s rebellion with Frances McDormand overstayed its welcome.

Nevertheless, if you like Anderson than you’ll get something out of The French Dispatch. It’s uneven but worth watching.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Ron’s Gone Wrong

Ron's Gone Wrong review: A kid-friendly, tech-upgraded Iron Giant - Polygon

For animation fans the new film Ron’s Gone Wrong is an exciting release as it is Locksmith Animation’s first feature film and the only CGI animated film to come out of the UK this year. It is also a 20th Century Studios release, which is now a part of Disney.

My favorite part of the film is the animation and the design of the b-bots (named Ron in this case). I honestly would like to have one of these robots- and not the ones at the end but the ones that work the way they should at the beginning.  I also liked the lead character Barney and his Slavic old-fashioned family.

Unfortunately it is impossible not to think of Big Hero 6 when watching Ron’s Gone Wrong. The movies are so similar but Ron doesn’t hold a candle to Baymax. I mean who could? Barney also doesn’t have to deal with the same level of loss (at least on screen. His Mother has passed on but that isn’t a part of the plot like it is for Hero).

All that said, the film does get intense and may be too much for very small children. I would say 8 and up should be fine.

Despite its flaws Ron’s Gone Wrong has enough imagination, creative character designs and heart to make it worth a recommendation.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Current Mini Reviews (MLP: A New Generation, Lamb, Diana: The Musical and More)

So it’s that time again where I catch up on all the films I’ve been watching with a bunch of mini-reviews! Sorry I couldn’t do longer reviews but if you have any questions or would like more of my thoughts just ask in the comments section!

My Little Pony: A New Generation

My Little Pony: A New Generation' Review: A Fun Franchise Re-shoe - Variety

I was actually a fan of the MLP: Friendship is Magic and enjoyed the MLP movie based on that series. Now we have a new series with an introductory movie, My Little Pony: A New Generation. This is technically a sequel to Friendship is Magic (and we get a little intro from the FIM characters) but it is new characters with a new style and it is thoroughly charming.

In this story, Equestria has been divided into 3 lands with 3 different pony kinds- earth, pegasi and unicorns. One day a new unicorn named Izzy comes into town and they have to work to overcome prejudice and restore the unicorn magic. I love the bright and cheerful animation and the message is important and perfect for the whole family. It’s a great start to the new series

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Lamb

Lamb,” a Bittersweet Nightmare - Scraps from the loft

Whenever I see a movie from A24 I know I’m in for something different. The distributor prides itself on procuring strange eclectic films. Most of their films I enjoy like The Farewell, Minari and more. Others like The Souvenir or The Last Black Man in Francisco I did not care for. (or C’mon C’mon reviewed below is A24)

Now there is the movie Lamb, and I was actually looking forward to the film because the trailer looked like a fun horror movie. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver and was instead a pretentious dull marriage in crisis drama.

The trailer is one of the most deceptive I’ve seen in a long time because Lamb is not scary in the slightest. In fact, every time they showed the human lamb baby it looked so ridiculous it took me out of the movie. It was too goofy, and I honestly thought it was plain stupid.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Diana: The Musical

Netflix's 'Diana: The Musical' is a royal pain | Star Tribune

You all know I am a sucker when it comes to musicals. I famously went fresh on much maligned recent film adaptations of Cats and Dear Evan Hansen. So when I say a musical is terrible it’s really bad. Such is the case with the recent Diana: the Musical.

Everything about this filming of the new Broadway show about Princess Diana’s life is a complete mess. Maybe the costumes can be praised but the lyrics, music, book, casting, staging is all laughably bad. It’s almost worth recommending for the ‘so bad it’s good’ elements, but I can’t do that to you. I feel bad for whomever invested in the Broadway show starting in December because this thing is going to tank badly. I can’t imagine it lasting outside the previews…It’s so bad.

1 out of 10

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C’mon C’mon

C'mon C'mon' Review: Joaquin Phoenix Delivers His Mellowest Turn Yet - Variety

I saw C’mon C’mon as part of this year’s NYFF59 and director Mike Mills was there to present it to the crowd. The film is thin on plot but its characters are endearing enough to make it all work.

It tells the story of a man named Johnny who is asked to take care of his nephew Jesse while the child’s parents are dealing with medical care. At first he doesn’t know how to parent but over time he and Jesse become very close. As an aunt I can relate to the bond between Johnny and Jesse and the beautiful black and white photography gives the film a grounded, authentic feel.

It is slow moving and the interruptions with documentary subjects waxing philosophical didn’t always work but still a sweet movie worth a few hours of your time.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Returning to Reims

Returning to Reims

My second movie at NYFF59 is a very unusual documentary called Returning to Reims. This film takes clips from movies, interviews, and selections from director Didier Eribon’s memoir to tell a history of labor struggles in France. Normally such a subject would be dry but the approach was unique enough to keep me engaged. I think it would have worked better as a documentary short but still I’m glad I saw it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Muppets Haunted Mansion

Muppets Haunted Mansion Review - IGN

I don’t know if I mention it enough on this blog but I love The Muppets. I even have Muppet May every year over on my youtube channel. That said, the franchise has had a rocky road the last few years. I did not enjoy Muppets Most Wanted and the various TV series have not been good.

Now we have a new film for Disney Plus with Muppets Haunted Mansion. Fortunately it is the best project the franchise has made in a long time. I really enjoyed all the homages to the attraction (which is my favorite at Disneyland). Will Arnett is a lot of fun as the host to a great party Gonzo and Pepe are attending. We also get the adorable image of Piggy and Kermit dressed up as each other.

The only thing I didn’t like was a plot-line with Taraji P. Henson and Pepe getting married. It’s not that funny and took up a lot of the runtime I wish had been given to the rest of the Muppets.

Still, it’s definitely worth a watch especially for Disney parks and Muppets fans. It’s a gift from the Muppets for this Halloween season.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Baby-Sitters Club Season 2

The Babysitter's Club Season 2 Parents Guide Review - Guide For Geek Moms

I loved the first season of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix. It was so well written and cast and felt like an authentic portrayal of teens today.

Now we have season 2 and I loved it all over again. I loved the books growing up and even had my own babysitting club as a tween with my friends. This show so captures the experience of being a teen girl with the insecurities, joys and struggles. But you don’t need to be a teen girl to enjoy the series. If you like good writing and authentic storytelling you will like this show. It’s fantastic.

Particularly great this season is the story for Claudia who faces a great loss. It honestly made me quite emotional. Trust me on this one- you should watch it!

10 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Have you seen any of these films/shows? What have you been watching? Share in the comment sections.

Current Mini Reviews

Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing well. I have had a very busy week with my podcasts and other responsibilities. Of course you know that means some more of my mini-reviews!

Follow the Light

Follow the Light Review – Fantasia International Film Festival 2021

First up is a film from Japan called Follow the Light that I saw virtually as part of the Fantasia Film Festival. This is the kind of sci-fi I enjoy that’s sweet and gentle in its characters and messaging. It also doesn’t over-stay its welcome at under 2 hours.

The film tells the story of a young man named Akira who is trying to fit in a new school in a rural town that is falling apart. One day returning from school he notices crop circles and a girl named Maki is laying inside one of them.

The journey the 2 characters go on is beautifully filmed with a great score which reminded me of what Radwimps did in Your Name. It also had moments between Akira and his father that reminded me of a Kor-eeda film.

In a festival with lots of gore and horror Follow the Light is a welcome surprise.  It does take a while to get going so don’t give up on it!

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Paw Patrol: The Movie

PAW Patrol The Movie: Adventure City Calls - Outright Games

I am not very familiar with the Paw Patrol television series but I know enough to know it is for pre-k children under the age of 5. I am sure there will be a fair share of grown up people ranting and raving about this film. However, I enjoyed what this film. The animation is a definite upgrade from what I’ve seen in the show and the action is well done.

The best part of Paw Patrol: the Movie is the message of teamwork and accepting ourselves flaws and all. Many kids will be able to relate with Chase and his insecurities and Liberty and her desire to be part of the team. It’s a cute movie kids will enjoy and parents will find tolerable. I appreciate the villain had a Saturday morning cartoon buffoonery about him. That was fun.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist

Anime Director Satoshi Kon Honored in New Documentary – ARTnews.com

Anime director Satoshi Kon is such a fascinating character in the world of film. I love all of the films I’ve seen of his including Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers and Millennium Actress.

In this documentary we go through Kon’s filmography and look into how each film was made and the influence it had over other films. It includes testimonials from many other directors including Darren Aronofsky, Mamoru Hosoda and more. It might have been nice to learn about Kon’s upbringing and start into film but still for fans of Kon or anime it’s a must see.

This is also part of Fantasia Fest virtual screening 2021.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Last Letter from Your Lover

The Last Letter From Your Lover | Netflix Official Site

I actually wasn’t planning on watching this movie because it is based on a novel by Jojo Moyes who I can’t stand but I was asked for a podcast to give it a look. In the end, the cast elevates this material but it still drags on for far too long to recommend.

It tells the story of 2 women played by Felicity Jones and Shailene Woodley separated by many years. Jones finds some love letters between Woodley’s character and her lover (as the title would imply) from the 1940s. The chemistry between all the couples doesn’t work and there isn’t enough of a compelling story to draw the viewer in. It does pick up a bit in the last act but I found it mostly quite dull.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Resort to Love

Resort to Love age rating: Is it appropriate for kids?

Resort to Love is another Netflix rom-com that’s stuffed full of beautiful people at a beautiful beach but the script let’s them all down. My biggest problem is the humor is too broad and silly for the story it is telling. I found myself cringing more than I was laughing.

Christina Milian is an engaging actress and in a better script she can be great. I even enjoyed her previous effort for Netflix entitled Falling Inn Love. That was a sweet silly rom-com. This tries to hard with the antics and silliness for my taste.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

So there you have it. What have you been watching lately? I’ve got a lot of screenings coming up so get ready for more reviews. Thanks tons!

Current Mini Reviews

Hey  everyone! I’ve got some more mini reviews for you of films I’ve been seeing over the last few weeks. I have certainly been extremely busy with content to make and movies to watch and it’s not even Christmas yet!

Lapsis

Lapsis is a film I saw as part of the virtual Fantasia Film Festival 2020. It is a very interesting sci-fi film starring Dean Imperial as a man in future dystopian-like world who is desperate for work. His brother is sick and the bills are piling up so he decides to get a job laying cable for a giant corporation. As he embarks on an Appalachian trail type odyssey he grows to realize the reach of the company is bigger and stronger than he ever imagined including little robots he must compete with who are also laying down cable along with the humans.

As you can tell this film has an intriguing premise and for the most part I enjoyed it. The only major flaw with it is the ending is very abrupt. It feels like they ran out of funding and couldn’t finish the movie. Up until then I was really digging the strange take on work in the gig economy. Still there is enough good before the ending for me to recommend giving Lapsis a shot.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe

I am only minimally familiar with the Phineas and Ferb program. I’ve watched a few episodes here and there and recently tried to get caught up with mos the first season. From what I’ve seen it’s a delightful show with a nice sense of humor and playful character designs.

Recently they released a new movie based on the show called Phineas and Ferb the Movie Candace Against the Universe. Despite my lack of familiarity with the characters I really enjoyed this movie. It had a lot of humor that worked, a playful sense of whimsy and as someone with 2 brothers a character in Candace I can definitely relate with. I didn’t feel confused as a non-watcher of the show. The animation is bright and colorful and the music is catchy.  Your kids will love it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Blech Effect

The Blech Effect is a documentary that tells the story of investor David Blech as he is about to go to prison for investors fraud. It was for the most part a fine documentary and it is interesting to see the preparation that goes into someone getting ready for a correctional institution. At one point they even have a prison consultant who’s assigned to tell David what the first day of prison life will be like.

The aspect I didn’t like is them painting him as a victim of the system. In particular the repeated use of his young autistic son as a reason to spare him punishment. I am sure raising a son with autism has its challenges but it’s not an excuse for committing crimes or a reason for leniency.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Lost Husband

On the surface The Lost Husband looks like a Nicholas Spark-like narrative with our heroine getting back to her roots while overcoming grief. Unfortunately it is missing key aspects that make those movies, sappy as they might, work.

The film stars Leslie Bibb as a widow who moves into a farmhouse with her aunt Jean (Nora Dunn). Farm living proves to be therapeutic for the city girl especially with hunky farm aid played by Josh Duhamel. The problem is the romance is barely developed and the big reveal does not pay off. It makes the entire film very bland and boring where it could have been good.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Shooting Heroin

When I finished watching the new drama Shooting Heroin I was left more than a little befuddled. The very dark film about a group of citizens that take back their small town from the ravages of addiction has the feel of a faith-based films but then it is loaded with f-bombs, drug abuse and violence. I can’t help but think who was this made for?

The story of the film revolves around Adam (Alan Powell), Hazel (Sherilyn Fenn) and Edward (Lawrence Hilton- Jacobs). All have lost loved ones to opioid addiction and they all do a good job with their performances. Addiction is a horrible blight on humanity and it impacts every family sooner or later. It took 2 of my cousins. So I was with this movie as far as messaging but the tonal shifts didn’t work. It’s not awful but just messy.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy