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

Frown Worthy

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

Current Mini Reviews

Hi everyone! I hope you are doing well. It’s time to get caught up on a few movies I’ve been watching that I haven’t had the time to write up a complete review. In the next few weeks things are going to be very busy for me with new movies coming to theaters and VOD so reviews should be coming. Make sure you are subscribed to my youtube channel and my podacasts (here and here) to get all of my content!

SPUTNIK

sputnik

I’m not the biggest horror fan but I do enjoy a good alien story and a well done creature scares movie.  It is with these tastes I was hoping I would enjoy the new alien horror film out of Russia called Sputnik. Indeed, the film looks great and the scenes with the creature are chilling and quite gory. Unfortunately when they leave the aliens and focus on the humans it becomes a bit of a slog. This is a film I’d actually be interested in seeing a remake where they can have a bigger budget allowing for longer visual effects sequences. As it is, it’s too uneven to recommend; although I am definitely interested to see what the director Egor Abramenko does next in his career.

Sputnik is available to stream on VOD and in theaters.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

HOWARD

howard

I love me a fascinating person documentary, and I love the Disney Renaissance films so I was primed to love the new film about Disney Legend lyricist Howard Ashman. He was taken far too soon from the AIDS epidemic, but it is amazing to watch the impact he did have in the time he was given (it’s bittersweet to think of all he could have done in the many years following his passing. Tragic). The documentary doesn’t break the celebrity bio-doc mold but it’s a must-watch for any Disney fan. Especially the time spent on The Little Mermaid and behind the scenes on Beauty and the Beast is wonderful to watch.

Howard didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about Howard Ashman but it was still fun to see his talent. I particularly loved seeing him work with Jodi Benson and his performances of Poor Unfortunate Souls had such vibrato and energy. No wonder he got story credit on the The Little Mermaid! He invested his all into the film. It also all has special meaning now as we are going through this pandemic. I wonder what documentaries are going to be made of those lost too soon to COVID19? Howard is available on Disney Plus and I highly recommend it!

7 out of 10

THE WEIGHT OF GOLD

The-Weight-of-Gold

As a huge life-long Olympian fan this documentary The Weight of Gold is tough but important watch. Narrated by star swimmer Michael Phelps it profiles the challenges Olympic athletes face obtaining the proper mental health care they need to deal with the intense pressure of competition. The athletes interviewed include a wide variety of disciplines from both the summer and winter Olympics including Apollo Anton-Ohno, Lolo Jones, Bodie Miller and Shaun White. I have dealt with my own mental health crisis in my life so it’s a subject that means a lot to me.

This stigma against mental health care needs to stop and it doesn’t matter if you are an athlete or have any other type of job we need proper care. Help needs to be easily accessible and encouraged. We’ve lost too many to suicide and despair. Enough is enough! The Weight of Gold is available to stream on HBO Max

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

MAGIC CAMP

magic camp

I love live action family comedies and dramas but lately they have been few and far between. Aside from Disney Channel movies Disney has been happy to stick to live action remakes and sequels rather than the small family features they used to be known for. However, with Disney Plus they have been doing more of these films with Togo, Timmy Failure, Noelle and more, which I am very excited about. Now we get their latest film, the long in development Magic Camp starring Adam Devine and Gillian Jacobs.

Magic Camp has a nice message with a simple story of the misfit kids learning to be believe in themselves we’ve seen a lot. Devine is fun and has chemistry with Jacobs, and they both try to make the movie work. Where I fault Magic Camp is, I hate to say it, the kid casting. They are a very bland group of ,kid actors that I struggled to stay engaged with. This is especially true if you compare them to the kids in something like The Sandlot or even The Mighty Ducks. There is no comparison. It makes the movie drag and it’s never funny enough to work as an outright comedy.  I’d say skip this one on Disney Plus watch and just watch Timmy Failure again.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

So there you have it! Have you seen any of these films? What did you think and are you going to be going to the movie theaters to see upcoming films like New Mutants or Tenet? Let me know in the comments sections!

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

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

Zombies 2

zombies 2

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

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

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

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Photograph

photograph

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

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

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

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

shaun-sheep-2

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

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

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

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

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Call of the Wild

call of the wild

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Current Mini Reviews

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

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

FROZEN II

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

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Klaus

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

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Good Liar

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

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

1917

1917

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

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

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Jumanji: the Next Level-

jumanji-the-next-level

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

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

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Playmobil: The Movie-

playmobil

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

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Bombshell-

bombshell2

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

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

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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

Current Mini Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway back to the reviews!

falling inn love2

Falling in Love-

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

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

overcomer

Overcomer-

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

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

can you keep a secret

Can You Keep a Secret?-

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

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

promare

Promare-

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

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Abominable-

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

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

judy

Judy-

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

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Current Mini Reviews

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

47 meters down uncaged

47 Meters Down Uncaged-

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

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

angel has fallen movie

Angel Has Fallen

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

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Murder Mystery

Murder Mystery

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

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

otherhood-2

Otherhood-

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

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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

Where’d You Go Bernadette

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

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

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

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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