Current Mini Reviews (Devotion, Food and Romance, The Whale, All Quiet on the Western Front, An American Ballet Story)

Hey everyone! I am back to give you my thoughts on a bunch of recent movie releases. I wish I could do longer reviews on all of these but that isn’t possible. Here we go:

Devotion

Movie "Devotion" filmed in Statesboro opens at AMC Statesboro Nov. 22

Not every film is a masterpiece. In fact, most aren’t. Most are base hits instead of homeruns. Devotion is a perfect example of a base hit. It tells the heart-tugging story of Korean War hero Jesse Brown who was the first Black aviator in Navy History. He is played by Jonathan Majors who perfectly captures the confidence yet awkwardness of the character. This is especially true when compared with his suave wingman and friend J.D. Dillard played by Glen Powell (despite the similar career the role is actually quite different than his aviator in Top Gun Maverick.)

Devotion definitely drags in the middle as the pilots get to know one another on both sea and land (they spend a day flirting with Elizabeth Taylor at one point in the script.) It picks up towards the end as we know things are likely not going to go well for our soldiers but it earns its emotions, is well made and acted and for a conflict we don’t know much about I’m glad I saw it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Food and Romance

Tisdagsklubben - Bio.nu

Next on the docket comes out of Sweden and is a really sweet, pleasant romance called Food and Romance. Like Devotion, this doesn’t do anything new or exciting but what it does, it does well. It stars Marie Richardson as Karin who after 40 years of marriage ends up single and alone. To keep her spirits up she decides to take a cooking class, which is led by a grumpy unhappy chef named Henrik (Peter Stormare).

Of course they start up not liking each other but their bond grows as they cook together. That’s a very romantic concept and the 2 leads have lovely chemistry. The other classmates and friends are a lot of fun and it all makes for a delightful story of second chance romance.

7 out of 10

The Whale

The Whale' Review: Brendan Fraser in Darren Aronofsky's Film - Variety

I think most of America is rooting for Brendan Frasier. I don’t know all the details but it seems like he was bullied out of Hollywood, faced hard times and is working his way back into films. He certainly has received loads of praise for Darren Aronfsky’s The Whale, and will probably be nominated for an Oscar for his performance, which is great. I’m happy for him.

That said, I did not enjoy The Whale. His performance is fine and honestly not as fat shamey as I feared. He tries to bring humanity to the 500 lb man named Charlie he plays in the film. Unfortunately the script surrounds him with people who are so mean that it becomes a frustrating experience.

I particularly hated Sadie Sink as his miserable, angry teenage daughter. I understand being a teenager is tough but so often they are portrayed as practical robots to their rage especially here. Any humanity to her character mostly feels imagined by Charlie more than a real attribute to her character.

The whole experience of watching The Whale was excruciating and it felt like it would never end. No thanks.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front' Review: The Spectacle of War - The New York  Times

Coming from Germany onto Netflix we have the latest telling of the novel All Quiet on the Western Front. It’s been a while since I read the book or saw the 1930 classic but this new version can still stand alone as a worthy adaptation. It’s a brutal watch that I’m not sure we needed but it’s certainly one of the most well made of any of the Oscar contenders I’ve seen.

The movie follows Paul Bäumer as he and his buddies join up for World War 1 with excitement and even glee. Quickly they learn what they have gotten themselves into and each dies one by one in the most brutal of all the conflicts (it must have been intense to watch the 1930 version when it was all so fresh in their minds.)

There isn’t much relief from the brutality of war here and like I said I’m not sure this gives us anything we haven’t seen before in movies like 1917 just a few years ago. Still it’s a harrowing reminder of the horrors of war and quite masterfully put together.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

An American Ballet Story

May be an image of 10 people, people standing and indoor

I’m a sucker for documentaries about art and artists. Even if others find them dry I like learning about creative minds and what goes into their artistic process. That’s essentially what we get with An American Ballet Story. It’s a documentary that tells the story of the Harkness Ballet and its founder Rebekah Harkness that changed the world of dance in the 1960s.

A documentary like this is somewhat constrained by the footage they have to use (and archival interviews they can find) and that is the case here. A lot of the images are grainy and not as clear of the dancers as we’d like to see but director Leslie Streit gets enough personal stories to keep the narrative going.

If you have any interest in dance or the arts you will enjoy this informative documentary.

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

Current Mini Reviews (Decision to Leave, Falling for Christmas, Spirited, The Menu, Weird: The Al Yancovic Story)

Hey everyone! It’s time to get you caught up on all the movies I’ve been seeing lately! I wish I had time to write long posts on all of these movies but I don’t. Make sure you check out my hard work at Hallmarkies Podcast where we are covering all things Christmas including lots of fun interviews and recaps.

So let’s get started:

Decision to Leave


Decision to Leave by director Park Chan-wook is one of the most impeccably made movies I’ve seen in 2022. And it’s one I think on a second and third watch I could easily go from liking to loving. There’s a lot going on and with the subtitles I struggled a little bit to keep up with everything on a first watch (I was also admittedly a little tired so that didn’t help).

Nevertheless I still really enjoyed this ‘neo-noir romantic mystery.’ Recently I watched the classic Double Indemnity for my AFI Passions Project for my patrons (check it out! You’ll enjoy it and would help me so much) and Decision to Leave reminded me a lot of that classic film. Both are about detectives that get into toxic relationships and both having that heavy noir atmosphere that works so well.

Definitely if you want to see one of the most beautifully made film of 2022 don’t miss Decision to Leave.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Falling for Christmas


If you need a break from the arthouse flicks we have a new Christmas movie from Netflix (which we are covering on the podcast this week) entitled Falling for Christmas starring Lindsay Lohan and Chord Overstreet. This movie is pretty simple. It’s a winter-themed remake of Overboard without some of that movie’s problematic elements.

Lohan plays an heiress who looses her memory and is taken in by handsome lodge owner Overstreet. Obviously as host of Hallmarkies Podcast I’m a fan of these kind of Christmas movies but that doesn’t mean I give them all a pass (see the A California Christmas movies for proof of that.)

Fortunately Falling for Christmas has all the elements I need to make a cozy holiday film work. The stars have chemistry, the silly antics work and the whole thing brings all the feels. I particularly liked any scenes with her over-the-top boyfriend Tad (George Young). The movie is a bit over-stuffed at times bringing in elements from Overboard, It’s a Wonderful Life, and a million other holiday films but it’s all done with such cheerfulness it worked for me. If you like these films you’ll enjoy it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story


People are going to end up in 2 camps about Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. You are either going to appreciate the risks it takes and find it refreshing or you are like me and find it more grating and annoying than brilliant. I say that fully admitting to not being a hard-core Weird Al fan. I admire his talent and I’ve enjoyed some of his song parodies but I am not a fangirl by any means.

Daniel Radcliffe plays Al in the movie and he gives it his all in a fun performance but the approach they take is to parody the biopic genre instead of giving us any kind of true story (they admit that in the intro to the film). The problem with this approach is the script just isn’t funny and the jokes become so repetitive, which is brutal when you aren’t laughing at them to begin with.

I can see why Weird will have an audience. I simply grew tired of it quickly and was ready for it to be over. It is free to watch on Roku if you want to give it a try but I can’t say I recommend it.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Spirited


Anyone who has followed this site knows I am a big fan of A Christmas Carol as a story and have reviewed many different versions of it over the years (see Scrooge Month). I also love the music of Benj Pasek and ‎Justin Paul (La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen, The Greatest Showman etc). So in so many ways the film Spirited was designed to please me as a viewer…and fortunately it did just that!

‎In the film Will Ferrell plays the Ghost of Christmas Present who is assigned a new ‘unredeemable’ patient played by Ryan Reynolds who fits your classic Scrooge archetype. However, as they go about their journey together things don’t play out as planned and we flip back and forth between Ferrell’s and Reynolds past.

Ferrell and Reynolds have terrific chemistry but the main reason to see this is the songs. If you don’t like Pasek and Paul’s music you won’t like this but I loved all the musical sequences (and there are a lot of them) and the incredible choreography and production values! It was a blast.

The story in Spirited is definitely overstuffed and gets too convoluted for its own good but this bright and bubbly musical is just what you need to get into the Christmas spirit this season. It has its flaws but still one of my favorite movies of 2022. (There was also a really good take on A Christmas Carol by Hallmark this year called The Ghost of Christmas Always. Check that one out also!)

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Menu


Our final film on this post is horror/thriller by director Mark Mylod called The Menu. I’ve been trying to push myself with horror this year and this is definitely one of the most squeamish ones I’ve seen so far! It’s very effective at what it does but buyer beware it definitely will make you squirm in your seat.

It probably helps I’m a big food network/foodie culture fan so a lot of the dark humor in the film works. I wish they had made the ending a little bit less cynical and more triumphant but I say that as an outsider of this particular genre. Fans of dark humor horror will probably love the ending. It could have used a touch more humanity for my taste but who knows.

Ralph Fiennes plays a chef who brings a group of special diners to have a special meal that gets more grisly with each course. Anya Taylor-Joy is roped into attending the meal at the last minute by Nicholas Hoult and she is our main protagonist for the story. All the acting is excellent in the film and I especially liked Janet McTeer as snobby food critic invited to the event.

Despite my not loving the ending the script for The Menu is very well done and it builds tension exceptionally well. If you like horror you’ll love this movie. It’s surprising, gross, and entertaining all at the same time.

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

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

Everybody Dance

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

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

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

See How They Run

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

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

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

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Barbarian

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

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

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

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

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Don’t Worry Darling

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

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

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

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

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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 (Bullet Train, Easter Sunday, Luck)

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

Here we go!

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

Bullet Train

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

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

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

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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

Easter Sunday

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

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

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

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

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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

Luck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy (barely)

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

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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!